Today, we were booked in for a day tour which included Puffing Billy and Healesville Sanctuary. We booked this tour in Dhabi itself. A big bus came to pick us up really early in the morning and we were well on our way. Surprisingly, it wasn't raining like the previous day but it sure looked gloomy.
We drove far, far away through the beautiful Dandenong Ranges until we reached our first stop which was a restaurant known as Grants on Sherbrooke. Here, we had an Aussie Billy Tea and some yummy Lamington cake. For those of you who don't know, Lamington is coconut kinda cake that originated in Australia. Do not leave Australia without trying out this cake. This was included in our tour.
However, none of us had breakfast that morning and decided to have it here. I loved this restaurant because it was in the middle of a jungle. Next to it were a lot of birds flying around. Feeding the birds were part of our tour too, that's when it started raining like crazy. So, we sat inside just enjoying the weather and the surroundings. My review of the restaurant can be found here.
After an hour of so, we hopped on the bus again and headed to Belgrave railway station. It was at this station where we caught "Puffing Billy". Puffing Billy is not your modern day luxury train. Its a century old, steam train and puffs with that smoke and all. Hence the name Puffing Billy.
Inside the train, its all woody. The best part about this train ride was that we could keep our legs out of the window the whole while as it passed through the ranges. It was a beautiful ride and thankfully it didn't rain! We reached Menzies Creek in an hour or so where we had to disembark.
Our big bus, which was there waiting for us picked us up here and we were on our way to the next place which was Healesville Sanctuary. Healesville was the first wildlife sanctuary we visited while we were in Australia. The moment we entered inside we headed straight to a restaurant for lunch.
After that we had a choice of a guided tour of the zoo or exploring it ourselves. We chose the guided tour. The last thing we wanted to do was go around in circles. At he zoo, we had an opportunity to interact with native Australian animals such as kangaroos, koalas, emus as well as other animals. We witnessed a beautiful bird show called "Spirits of the Sky". They even have a mini wildlife hospital in there.
By the time we reached the city, it was already 5pm. Instead of heading back to the hotel we asked our driver to drop us somewhere near Chinatown where we saw this funky looking bar called Touche Hombre. Oh boy, the drinks they whipped up for us were amazing. This bar is definitely a must visit when you're in Melbourne. Make sure you have their "chicken jug". For more pictures and my review about them, click here. Dinner that night was at a nearby mall's food court.
Well, it was supposed to be 16 days (the first day being in Sydney) if Qantas hadn't ruined it for us. But that's a totally different story which I don't even wanna remember. Let me give you a hint though ... peak season? overbooking? yeah something like that.
So here we were in Melbourne ... cold cold Melbourne. We visited Australia in July, which is actually winter for them. We chose to stay at Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens as it was closer to the Central Station as well as it had some trams passing nearby. The plan that day was to visit Sovereign Hill ... which was 1.5 hours by train. There are other options too like a bus or car, but they are expensive. You can simply imagine how tired we were. We reached Melbourne after 17 hours (14 hours to Sydney + 1 hour from Sydney to Melbourne + some time at the airport ) and here we were travelling again. Not to mention running behind Qantas in Dubai for a day struggling to get on any flight to Australia! Okay, this was more like 17 + 24 hours! Anyway, when you're on a holiday, every minute is precious. We booked our tickets to Sovereign Hill while we were in Abu Dhabi itself. All we had to do now was just hop on a train!
The reason we chose to visit Sovereign Hill that day and not the next or after was because they had a "Christmas in July" thingy going on which was supposedly gonna end the day we reached. I really wanted to see it. When we reached the city of Ballarat ( the place where Sovereign Hill was located), we took a cab to reach Sovereign Hill. Gosh, it was just so cold, and gloomy that day. It just wouldn't stop raining!
Sovereign Hill is one of Melbourne's popular attractions. Its where Australia's history comes to life. You'll be transported to the 1850s ... an era of horse driven carriages, streets filled with costumed characters, steam driven machines .... an era when gold was discovered. Everything there was built based on that.
We visited a Gold Museum too (this was part of Sovereign Hill ) and saw some gold artifacts, coins ..basically everything associated with the gold rush. And about that "Christmas in July" thing - you always associate Christmas with winter. Since it was winter in Melbourne, they turned Sovereign Hill into a winter wonderful. There was Santa Claus, Christmas tree, mulled wine, snow, etc. Although Sovereign Hill didn't look like anything what we'd seen in the pictures ( because of the rain and all), we still had fun.
I remember having a lovely roast beef sandwich at one of the restaurants and lots of mulled wine.
We left Sovereign Hill around 4pm and reached the city centre at 6pm. All that travelling and walking had made us hungry. After hunting around for a place to eat, we finally found this Malaysian restaurant called Mamak. Oh my, those yummy curries and spicy noodles were just what we needed. Here are some of the things we had. For more pictures & my review, click here.
As if that wasn't enough, we thought we'd hit an ice cream place! Yes ice cream in a 4 degree freezing Melbourne. But N2 extreme was on my "TO-DO" list and we were lucky that it was just near our hotel. These were no ordinary ice creams! And those injections were WOW!! Click here to read my review about them.
Then, we headed back to the hotel and called it a day.
P.S. All my Aussie restaurant reviews can be found on Zomato.
Our holiday was almost coming to an end . Today we visited Jurong Birdpark ... one last place before heading back to UAE. The journey to Jurong Birdpark was a pretty long one. We used the train and bus to get there. Public transport is the best way to get around Singapore. It so much more cheaper than using a taxi. Just buy the EZ-Link card at the station and charge it as you go.
Once we reached the park, we got our tickets scanned and entered. If you intend to visit many parks like how we did, its always a good idea to buy the park hopper tickets online. It saves time and its cheaper.
As the name suggests, Jurong Birdpark is famous for birds ... all kinds of birds. Birds of prey, penguins, night birds, birds of wetlands, flightless birds and so much more! The feeling you get when you see all these beautiful birds around you and hear those chirps can be compared to no other.
We saw some big birds too. These were flightless birds and believed to be ancestors of the dinosaur like the double wattled cassowary and ostrich.
Jurong Birdpark isn't as big as Singapore Zoo. We finished it within 3 hours. However, the ups and downs while walking around can be quite tiring. If you're not comfortable walking around, you can use the tram for a small fee.
Do not miss out on the High Flyers show ... where you can see birds perform various acts. I still remember a lovely parrot sing to us. We didn't want to leave the park until we saw the show. If I'm not mistaken, they have 2 shows daily. Plan accordingly!
Some of my faves at the park were the pelican cove, parrot paradise and the penguin cove. Gosh, the number of different types of parrots at parrot paradise were unimaginable. You also have an option of dining with the parrots and penguins. We never tried that out though.
But ... we did feed some parrots!
And for the first time in my life, I saw black swans too.
I highly recommend a visit to Jurong birdpark. This was my second visit here. Too bad Mr. D missed it!
It was yet another beautiful day in Singapore. I had mixed feelings about today. Why? Because Mr. D would be leaving me in Singapore and heading back to the sandpit. How come? This trip was planned well in advance ... when he suddenly scored a new job ... and as a newbie he couldn't get many days off. Thank God for the rest of my family being around. If they hadn't joined us on this trip, I would have been touring Singapore solo!
Today, we were going to visit Singapore Zoo & River Safari which were right next to each other. Although the easiest way to reach there would be using a taxi, we used public transport. Click here to know how to get around. We reached the zoo around 10am and intended to leave by 3pm, so that Mr. D could reach the airport on time.
Singapore Zoo is not just another zoo. First of all, its huge! Do not be deceived by that map they give you. It makes the zoo look so small! I got lost twice. There are a lot of shows all through the day. We managed to see one show ... i.e "Rainforest Fights Back ", however we got lost trying to find our way to the other shows. Another thing we saw was the zookeeper feeding the tigers. I happened to see many animals that I've never seen in my life like a zebra (yes, I hadn't seen one until then), polar bear, Orangutan, kaola and more. For those who do not prefer to walk around the zoo, there's a tram.
It was almost 1.30 pm when we decided to have lunch. By the way, you have to try this delicious chocolate filled panda bun available at the food court. After lunch, we crossed over to the other side and headed to the River Safari.
The first thing we saw here were the pandas. They were so adorable ... like a bunch of teletubbies. This was the first time any of us had seen a panda.
Then, we went for the Amazon River Quest ride. We purchased our tickets for this ride online and in advance. You have to be there on time, or you'll miss your turn. In this ride, a little boat takes you along a river and you get to witness some amazing wildlife present in the world's largest tropical rainforest. P.S. If you are sitting in front, there are chances that you might get completely wet! Poor Mr. D & my cousin!
We also explored the Amazon Flooded Forest, aquarium and the rest of the place stopping at this little fruit sorbet stand on the way. Again, this is something that you shouldn't miss. They serve the sorbet in actual fruit shells/peels.
By the time we finished, it was 3.30pm ... just in time for Mr. D to bid goodbye to Singapore. We headed to the hotel, wished him a safe trip and proceeded to the shopping area of Singapore - Orchard Road.
Orchard Road is considered to be the entertainment hub of Singapore ... filled with a number of shopping malls. If you're looking for high-end or budget shopping, its here. We walked around sipping on fresh juices and other edible stuff on our way. After a walk that never seemed to end, we ended up somewhere near the area where I had stayed in when I first visited Singapore. Sure I didn't recognize the place, but I remember the name of the hotel .. and a chain of restaurants right next to it. We had dinner at one of these restaurants and proceeded for a foot message at a Chinese massage parlour nearby. Gosh ... everyone needed this after all that walking!
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