My first ever trip to Australia was business related, not that I am complaining. For two weeks I had an opportunity to experience and enjoy Australian lifestyle while handling work over there. Not a bad deal at all. Obviously two weeks in Australia does not make anybody an Australian expert, therefore this writing is more about observations and first time experiences in the country I had been dreaming of traveling to for decades! Finally I made it!
One of the first things to consider when planning a trip to Australia is the size of the country. Australia is huge! It is almost the size of Europe. This time I could use internal flights, so I avoided the long bus trips. At least when traveling on East Coast, there are plenty of flight options provided by companies such as Virgin Australia, Jet Star and Tigerair.
The itinerary was as follows: Hong Kong – Melbourne – Canberra – Sydney – Brisbane – Singapore. Qantas has direct flight from Hong Kong to Melbourne, which made traveling convenient for me. Yet, it is good to keep in mind that even from Hong Kong it is almost a 10 hours flight to Melbourne. Yes, it is a long trip to Down Under! In addition to Hong Kong, Singapore is also good location to find good flight options to Australia. The return flight was also direct Qantas flight from Brisbane to Singapore.
Both Qantas flights were good quality, no big complaints there. The safety instruction video at Qantas is definitely the best I have ever seen. Instead of showing some basic boring safety instruction video, Qantas had created safety video that was showing different places and parts of Australia. The safety instruction video was more like traveling tips to Australia, while still showing the important safety steps. On the way to Australia, the plane was more modern, with great touch screen entertainment system and quite sufficient leg space even for tall people. However on the way back, the plane was not that new, but still all right. The entertainment system had that annoying screen you have to press hard and many times in order to get what you want. Also the leg room seemed less spacious. Food and drinks were quite nice; don’t forget to enjoy the local Australian wines. The entertainment system had wide selection of movies. I liked the Australian movie section to see some local productions. I especially liked a movie called Last Cab to Darwin.
For the internal flights I chose Virgin Australia, as the price included 23kg luggage. The experience with Virgin Australia was very good. Both flights were on time and the service was ok. However, be careful with your luggage. If your luggage is over 23kg, you have to pay 70 AUD extra (about 50 euros). The prices for internal flights would have been slightly cheaper with Jet Star and Tigerair, but be careful. The cheapest tickets do not include luggage, so suddenly the prices are not that cheap after all.
Melbourne: My first observations of Melbourne were that there are gyms everywhere, as well as cafes. The Central Business District was matching my idea of New York given by TV shows and movies. As I have never been to New York, I cannot really compare, but anyway this is what I was thinking. Melbourne seemed quiet, especially in the evenings. However, it is good to keep in mind that after Shenzhen/Hong Kong most of the places feel quiet. Melbourne seems to have plenty of entertainment options, especially sports. Also there are plenty of museums and theaters. The riverside is nice to enjoy local drinks. As it was winter there, I could only dream about enjoying the beautiful beaches they have around Melbourne.
Canberra: Canberra is a very quiet city. I stayed there only one night, so there is not much to say. I arrived there on Sunday and it seemed like a ghost town to me. Where are all the people, was my initial reaction. Luckily the weather was sunny (yet cold, only couple of degrees at nights. It is winter here!), so I was walking around the city and checked the parliament house. Most of the restaurants, shops and cafes were closed, but luckily the parliament house was open until 5PM with free entrance. Other than walking and the parliament house, I could not find too much other activities in the city. If you are planning to use the public transportation, please check carefully the schedules in advance. The bus I was using ran only once per hour on Sundays and the service stopped somewhere between 6 and 7 pm. Taxis are available, yet the prices are rather high. I think the surroundings of Canberra could be very nice for hiking, mountain biking and such, as well as visiting the wineries that seemed plenty. However the city of Canberra is rather peculiar place if you don’t mind me saying.
Sydney: Sydney can be reached by bus from Canberra. The ticket cost 37 AUD and the trip took about 3,5 hours. Greyhound busses have free wifi, yet the quality of the connection did not really impress. It was nice to take a bus to see a bit of the countryside. There were plenty of horses, cows, sheep and kangaroos to see.
Sydney is energetic and full of restaurants, cafes, bars and sightseeing possibilities. Due to the focus on business this time, I did not have too much time to enjoy the possibilities in the city. There are plenty of options and possibilities in Sydney as far as your budget allows. Whale watching and climbing the harbor bridge sounded very interesting options. But like other activities here, have enough budget. As far I noticed walking the Harbor Bridge prices started somewhere around 150 AUD. Luckily I had a bit of free time, so I could check the harbor bridge (without climbing it), Opera house and Bondi Beach. Bondi beach is very pretty and it was very relaxing to walk there. I heard that this place gets a bit too crowded during the peak season. In case you want to find Asian food, the selection is not only limited to China town. There are also Korean town and Thai town with plenty of restaurant selections. Like all of the cities I visited this time, also Sydney has nice selection of theaters and musicals. One evening I had the possibility to check the Aladdin musical, which was very entertaining.
Brisbane: Brisbane is pleasant city, which is easy to explore. Check the south bank area with nice walking/cycling streets, restaurants and a lot of green areas. I don’t have words to explain how enjoyable it was to run at the South Bank, after China crowd/pollution/noise.
Hop on to a free city ferry and enjoy the riverside. I could not resist the touristy option to visit the Lone Pine www.koala.net to see the Australian biggest Koala sanctuary (including other animals as well such as kangaroo, Tasmanian devil, wombat, dingo etc.) Like the sightseeing and activities in Australia, this trip is not that cheap either. The ticket to this Koala Sanctuary costs 36 AUD (about 25 euros) and it can be reached by local bus. By the way, did you know that Koala’s exist only on the East coast of Australia? Or would you have guessed that Koala’s are struggling with Chlamydia? You can learn interesting facts about Koala’s when visiting the sanctuary.
What I realized in Australia is that there are so many places I want to see in the future and that would take plenty of time to do it. Byron Bay, Gold Coast, Great barrier reef and Darwin are just the beginning of the Australia to-do trip in the future. I am dreaming about Australian road trip by car, adventures through the Outback, diving, camping and enjoying the nature. Oh Australia, you really inspired my traveling dreams. I hope to see you soon again!