Australia…where is the kangaroo?

DAY ONE – September 17, 2011

It was a nice flight by Garuda Indonesia, departed from Jakarta at 10:25 PM. They distributed chocolate cupcakes, a bottle of plain water, a cup of apple juice, 45 minutes after took off. Later at 5AM, the stewardess started distributing breakfast (100% halal, guaranteed). I had “nasi goreng” (fried rice) with few slices of omelet and chicken. There was a cup of hot sweet tea with milk, also a cup of strawberry flavored yoghurt, small bread with butter and jam, fruit cocktails, and a cup of fruit juice. I feel quite full, alhamdulillah.

After 6 hours 20 minutes of direct flight, finally I arrived at Melbourne on 7:45 AM. I’ve passed the immigration check without any issue because I don’t bring anything “dangerous for Australian environment” (to be listed on passenger check list to enter this country).

First to do was bought Australian local number for my mobile phone. I chose Optus because it was the cheapest.
– Starter pack = AU$49.95, plus AU$10 (top-up).
– Phone calls to Indonesia = 16.67 cents per minute.
– SMS: Local = 29 cents, to Indonesian number = 50 cents per text (160 character max).

My number was valid for unlimited web browsing + messenger + push mail + social media on BlackBerry until 12 months in Australia.

Cheapest option from airport to city is using Skybus. Fare for single/return trips:
– Adult = AU$16/AU$26
– Family 1 (adult + up to 4 kids) = AU$22/AU$36
– Family 2 (adults + up to 4 kids) = AU$36/AU$56
– Kids (4-14 years old) = AU$6
– 10 trips tickets = AU$120

Special fares for combined package with Metcard (prepaid voucher that can be used for bus, similar with EZ-Link in Singapore, or Octopus in Hong Kong).
– Adult (one way) + 2 hours Zone One Metcard = AU$19
– Adult (one way) + all day Zone One Metcard = AU$22

Whenever stay in some listed hotel as Skybus’ partners (but none of them under $100 per night, I guess), there will be free Skybus Hotel Connection service that departs from Southern Cross Station:
– Monday to Friday = 6AM – 9:30PM
– Saturday and Sunday = 7:30 AM – 5:30 PM

I decided to purchase the return ticket (AU$26) to be used later on Monday afternoon when go to airport on leaving Melbourne to Sydney.

The scheduling was great, my bus departed exactly 9:30 AM from airport and arrived at city 20 minutes later as promised. I got off at Southern Cross Station and there was a free shuttle bus from there to my hostel (after register at the counter, showing my Skybus ticket).

I arrived at Melbourne Metro YHA at 10:20 AM (actually only 15 minutes from Southern Cross, but previously I was spending 15 minutes of being confused, LOL), then checked in to the receptionist desk. I couldn’t use my room before 1PM, so I stored my luggage in available lockers (AU$2 per daily usage), changed my dress and freshen up, also borrow a connector to charge my BlackBerry (left my driving license as deposit).

Directed by the nice guy at YHA front desk, I walked to Howard St Bus Station and bought Metcard (AU$11 for unlimited usage in a day until 3AM, on both Zone One and Zone Two).

I took tram 57 to Melbourne Central Station until Ringwood Station (45 minutes) then changed lane to another train to Lilydale Station. Arrived at 1:20 PM, then I took free shuttle bus (20 minutes) to Tesselaar Tulip Festival (not really free of charge, because I paid AU$3 as donation).

When I arrived at Tesselar (1:45 PM), although it was supposed to be “Turkish Weekend” (as published on http://www.tulipfestival.com.au/events/turkish-weekend/) but there wasn’t anything special other than a couple of young man and woman wearing Turkish dress at the entry gate, and old man was around carrying traditional Turkish flute. Well, perhaps the performance was already done previously in the morning.  Entrance ticket = AU$18.

Not all of the flowers already blossoming, some space even only empty space without any tulip planted. Some friends said better come on second or third week (yesterday was first week), I guess that it’s true. Would be more beautiful then. But shouldn’t come on fourth (last) week because some flowers might starting to die already.

Some counters selling freshly cut tulips (AU$1.5 each, AU$5 for 5) and the ones in pot (AU$6.5 each, AU$10 for 2). Could get food and drink easily around there but I couldn’t found any pray room or mosque around the location, some Muslim I’ve met there told me that they didn’t plan to do it in the festival area then no clue about it either.

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I left the place using shuttle bus to Lilydale at 2:50 PM. Again it was passing through some farms with cows eating grass (and some white birds also having fun on the green field), strawberry fields (offered “strawberry picking tour”), banana sellers ($6.99 per kg), a building marked as “Anthony Tesselaar International”, country houses (which has wooden walls or made from brick in natural appearance, unpainted). It must be a small city where nice to live because there was complete facility of gas station, gym, shopping centers etc. Not sure about working opportunity, though.

I travelled back using train from Lilydale Station heading to Richmond Station, departed at 3:17 PM. I had contacted Kencana (a CouchSurfing friend – an Indonesian who was studying for master degree at Monash University), she would be waiting for me at Caulfield Station, 4:30 PM. She asked me to text her soon as arrive at Malvern station (one station before Caulfield) but miserable thing happened at the time: Battery of my BlackBerry was completely drained and couldn’t be use at all. I didn’t have her number somewhere else either (only saved in this BlackBerry’s phone book) then couldn’t use the public phone to call.

I went to 7-Eleven nearby, but somehow couldn’t charge it, asked the storekeeper about available net cafe around, he pointed me to a game center 100 m away. Alhamdulillah finally I could get Kencana’s number from my own yahoo mail, and left her wallpost on Facebook about my situation and asked her to pick me at the game center (neighboring with a Sri Lanka restaurant, there was also “Nusantara” Indonesian restaurant nearby).

Finally she met me at 5PM, then we walked a while to another Indonesian restaurant where she has a friend (Adit, also master degree student at Monash University from Indonesia) who got a flat nearby. I prayed (zuhr+asr, jama’ takhir) at Adit’s place, tried to charge this BlackBerry but still failed. Later when leaving at 7PM, finally it got very small power (meant I’ve made the battery completely drained then took long time to refilled it) but kept it off anyway because worry that using it on that condition would damage the handset.

I had good time of going around with Kencana, she’s a nice and smart young lady who came to Melbourne one year earlier with her husband. Within 80 minutes of travel by tram from Caulfield (shouldn’t be that long, but we just enjoyed taking rounding lane and changed tram twice), we arrived at the city center (QV Center near Melbourne Central Station).

I enjoyed “roti canai” and curry (AU$4.90) with cincau soya bean (AU$3.90) for dinner at Kopitiam Mamak (a Malaysian restaurant) before got back to my room at 10:15 PM for night rest. My roommate was Andrea from US, later another girl (Frederica from Germany) checked in at 3AM. So it was three of us in this 4-female-only shared dormitory.

DAY TWO – September 18, 2011

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DAY THREE – September 19, 2011

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DAY FOUR – September 20, 2011

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DAY FIVE- September 21, 2011

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DAY SIX – September 22, 2011

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DAY SEVEN – September 23, 2011

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DAY EIGHT – September 24, 2011

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This is wallaby, not kangaroo!

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The Huge Australia

GOING IN AND AROUND

Australia is a continent. It is so huge. I never really realized it until traveled to Melbourne and Sydney, looked at the map wondering why it would take 2 hours flight (previously thought that it might be close like from Jakarta to Bandung, only 1.5-2 hours trip by car).

Not so expensive to go to Australia from Indonesia. From Bali to Darwin, flight will be as low as US$ 22.38 (plus tax etc = US$ 76.74 on May 28) by http://www.airasia.com/. From Jakarta to Perth could be only US$ 179 by http://www.jetstar.com/.

EXPENSES

Melbourne and Sydney were ones of world’s most expensive cities. As tourist, a person must prepare to spend AU$ 60-70 per day for basic expense (accomodation and meal). Actually minimum living cost for single person is AU$ 1,350 per month (including transport, internet etc) but not include transport between cities. Stay in dorm room at one of YHA (http://www.yha.com.au/) seemed like cheapest accomodation but whenever possible then better get travel mate(s) to rent an apartment, as low as AU$ 350 per week to be shared between 2-3 people.

My choice to save cost on meal was buying a pack of vegetable pie (should be halal, consists 4-6 pieces) at supermarket for breakfast, very cheap and can be prepared simply by reheat in microwave. My lunch was usually AU$ 2.00 for sushi, AU$ 5.00 for tuna sandwiches or other “big” menu. It’s quite expensive to buy canned/bottled softdrink or drinking water then I always brought my drinking jar and get it filled in any mosque or kitchen (the tap water will be very higienic and ready to drink anyway). KFC is halal, AU$ 5.90 for a package of chicken + french fries + drink. Monthly/weekly ticket is a good option. In Sydney, My Multi 3 (http://www.cityrail.info/tickets/which/mymulti) was only AU$ 57, valid for all of train/bus/ferry/light rail to go from/to anywhere around the cities for unlimited amount or distance within 7 calendar days. One day, I’ve ever used it for 4x ferry from Taroonga Zoo (return) and Manly Island (return) after previously used it to watch sunrise at Bondi beach.

WORKING VISA HOLIDAY

Wages are very good in Australia, for example: http://www.couchsurfing.org/group_read.html?gid=707&post=10895449, I wish that I was below 30 years old of age then could come there with working holiday visa. In summer (December-February), there would be fruit picking jobs for AU$ 10 per hour (AU$ 100 for full day of 8 hours, if work continuously for 25 days in a month then will get AU$ 3,000). In Western Australia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_Australia), a lot of mining and petroleum industry there (wages will be more than AU$ 25 per hour, 20 hours/week for part time, 40 hours/week for full time).