A riot in Central Melbourne

9 10 2011

Presenting the riot of sights and colours that is the Queen Victoria Market in Central Melbourne – a perfect way to spend an lazy Sunday morning:

Queen Victoria Market brings a riot of colours to Central Melbourne.

Green and Red Apples.

Bell peppers.



Some of the juiciest tomatoes I have seen.

Giant custard apples.


More oranges.


Love the variety at the deli outlets.

A tart - looks yummy!


Something fishy.

Selection of cheese.


Rose wine.

Popular doughnut van.



At a toy stall.


The reward for stealing a horse – holding $0.25M in her hand?

5 10 2011

It was to our horror that we discovered that we had a horse thief amongst us, just as we tucking into the main course of the lunch we were having on the Main Street of an early but already thriving Ballarat. It was midway into the main course when a man dressed in a blue uniform and armed with a sword – a policeman I guess, stormed into the quiet dining room in which we were seated and read out charges of horse stealing and furious riding to Deenise, one of the bloggers with us.

Firing of guns on Main Street. Were they aiming at a horse thief furiously riding down Main Street?

Main street in the Ballarat of the 1850s - where we found out we had a horse thief in our ranks.

Bills stuck on a wall - no 'Wanted' sign and no sign of trouble.

The horsethief in happier times.

Oh dear! Charges were read in the dining room just as we started on our main course.

It wasn’t of course at all real – but part of the fun we had at Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill where we were transported into the heat of the mid 1800 gold rush on which the city was built. Sovereign Hill, referred to as an outdoor museum, is a recreation of Ballarat in its early years, where one can have a feel of what it was like in the days of the gold rush, as thousands of migrants descended on a an area where one of the most significant finds of gold at that time was discovered. It was also at Ballarat that the largest nugget at the time and the second largest ever, the massive 69 kg Welcome Nugget, was discovered by a group of miners in an underground mine in 1858 and this is re-enacted in a replica underground mine which can be visited at Sovereign Hill.

It was all part of the fun of being in Sovereign Hill - a reacreation of the gold rush town of Ballarat in the 1850s.

The find of the second largest gold nugget ever found is reenacted in the replica Red Hill underground mine which visitors can descend to for a feel of the conditions the underground miners faced.

Walking down Main Street gives a feel of the dusty wild, wild west like town, where one can stumble on soldiers, miners, and townsfolk dressed in the costumes of the day, as well as shop at shops that are decorated very much like what one expects of the shops of the day. It is also possible to take a horse-drawn wagon ride around the area – past buildings that would not have been out of place on the set of a wild west movie.

A scene from the wild, wild west.

The Post Office.

Soldiers marching down Main Street.

Horse drawn wagon rides are available.

The view from the wagon down to Red Hill Gully Creek.

The ouside of the replica underground mine.

A church.

Livestock can also be found to add a feel of what conditions were like.

Candles from a candle maing shop.

Soda bottles in a grocery shop.

One of the more interesting activities that are available is at Red Hill Gully Creek where one can pan for real gold amongst tents and shacks that would have resembled the area during the gold rush days. It was quite interesting to do it – not that I was any good – it was Deenise and Yiwei who did find a few bits of the shinny metal. We also had the opportunity to dress up in costumes resembling the dressing of the period and have our photo taken – which was quite a blast.

Panning for gold at Red Hill Gully Creek.

An oldtimer demonstrating the technique.

The inside of a Chinese miners tent - Chinese made up a substantial portion of the miners' population then.

A replica Chinese temple.

The tent city.

The highlight of the visit was probably the gold pour for me. It was where we could watch 3 kg of gold being melted over a furnace and poured in light of the orange glow of the molten metal into a mould and cooled down – and after everyone had left, we had the opportunity to have a feel of that 3 kg of pure gold – worth close to a quarter of a million Singapore dollars! And for half a minute – I felt rich!

The glow of molten gold during the gold pour.

A quarter of a million in gold in the hands of the horse thief.

Australia’s foremost outdoor museum – Sovereign Hill recreates Ballarat’s first ten years after the discovery of gold in 1851 when thousands of international fortune-hunters rushed to the Australian goldfields in search of riches. By day, Sovereign Hill is where Australia’s history comes to life – from the hustle and bustle of Main Street where costumed ladies and gents parade their new-found wealth, to the excitement of the Red Hill Gully Diggings where you can pan for REAL gold.

Sovereign Hill
Bradshaw Street
Ballarat VIC 3350
Tel: (03) 5337 1100
Fax: (03) 5331 1528

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

And she sang, as we sat and waited til’ our billy boiled, putting a damper on the fire

5 10 2011

After two wonderful days in which I was able to develop a deeper appreciation of what Melbourne has to offer and experience an activity packed excursion to Phillip Island, I wasn’t sure if my choice of the third and final day’s activity, an excursion to Ballarat, was going to be a wise one, as I really wanted to have the chance to have a better feel of the city especially having heard about how much more Melbourne has on offer. I wasn’t to be disappointed though – as not only did it give me the chance to see (and feel) some of the well known creatures of the Australian Bush at the Ballarat Wildlife Park, but also take a step back in time to a world that existed in the mid-1800s in and around Ballarat.

The third day involved a visit to Ballarat Wildlife Park.

The blue skies we woke up to that morning may have been seen as a sign of good things to come, but then, the grey skies of the two previous mornings were not really an indication of the fun filled days we were to have. The skies were indeed blue – brilliantly so, so much so that they deserve mention. The ride of a little more than an hour was fairly pleasant, taking us past the apple and pear orchards of Bacchaus Marsh along the way, and it wasn’t too long before Tony Poletto of Tourism Victoria pointed a sign welcoming us to Ballarat out close to where we passed a medieval castle – Kryal Castle that’s probably worth a visit on my next visit to the area.

The road near Bacchaus Marsh - an area where apple and pear orchards can be found.

Kyral castle - a replica medieval castle on the road close to Ballarat.

At Ballarat Wildlife Park, we were welcomed by a curator Julia Leonard, who made a short introduction and led us to a cabin in the park where she had a little treat in store for us, right under the shade of what might have been a coolibah tree at the front of the cabin. Borrowing from the lyrics of that famous song Australian song Waltzing Matilda, it was there where Julia sang as we watched and waited til’ her billy boiled. What was boiling in the billy, was the famous billy tea – tea brewed in a billy, a tin can, suspended over a fire and flavoured by the addition of eucalyptus leaves, that was supposed to be swung around a few times to sink the leaves to the bottom of the can. Over the fire, we were also able to try our hand at baking damper – a traditional scone like soda bread prepared in the outback made of flour, water and baking soda, at the end of a stick. It was a good thing that there was pre-prepared damper waiting for us in the cabin, as I promptly got mine burnt. There was an assortment of condiments such as butter, jam and golden syrup and even vegemite that we could spread on the damper – much like a scone. I like it – as I did the strong eucalyptus tea that Julia poured out for us.

The cabin we had the damper and billy tea in.

Deenise Yang and Huang Kee Hong baking the damper, as Julia looks on.

The billy (it should really not have a spout!) and our damper being burnt.

Loved the aroma that reached my nose as the billy tea was being poured.

The pre-prepared damper with a selection of condiments which included vegemite!

After that very interesting experience, it was time to wander around the park with Julia. We were first able to feed some very tame kangaroos – ones from Kangaroo Island where there are no predators. It was quite a treat to get up close and personal with them – and have them eat out of my hand – as it was a treat to see two joeys in their mother’s pouches.

One of two very tame Kangaroo Island kangaroos we saw with joeys in their pouches.

Another joey in its mother's pouch.

The mother and her joey.

Other treats were in store for us – I stared right into the eyes of an emu, looked at the sharp and long fangs of the Tasmanian devil (the first time I had actually seen the famous Tassie devils), patted Koalas, including a baby Koala (one of the few places you can pat a Koala) and said hello to Patrick the wombat, as well as saw a host of reptiles including snakes. I enjoyed meeting Patrick in particular – wombats are a lot bigger than I imagined them to be – an adult wombat can weigh as much as 40 kg, but they did not look any less adorable than the cute soft toy replicas we often see being sold.

Staring into the eyes of an emu.

Close up of the feathers of an emu.

A koala at the wildlife park. The wildlife park allows koalas to be petted.

An adorable baby koala peeking through the fur ball that is its mother.

Patrick the orphan wombat, who weights 32 kg. A full sized adult can weigh as much as 40 kg.

Cute and adorable, but they do bite!

A poison gas breathing tortoise? A giant tortoise - the ray of light is a reflection off the glass panel.

Not a two-headed snake - but two rattlesnakes colied up together.

A lizard on a tree.

Going in for the kill! Lab mice being fed to a Tassie devil.

A Tassie devil baring its fangs.

The short visit to the wildlife park was one that I thoroughly enjoyed, not just for the unique experience of billy tea and damper but also for the opportunity it provided for me to see many of the iconic creatures of of Australian outback really up close and in the case of the koala and kangaroos – to pet them – something I am sure would appeal to visitors with children. For the four of us – the experience probably made us feel like kids once again – and I was certainly thankful for that. Next stop on the third day was Sovereign Hill – to hunt for gold, but more importantly to also stop for lunch.

Ballarat Wildlife Park is set in 116 hectares of beautiful peppermint gum woodland and is dedicated to the care and appreciation of Australian wildlife in its natural surroundings. Proprietor Greg Parker uses his considerable breeding expertise to develop an array of Australian fauna such as wombats, Tasmanian devils, goannas, crocodiles, birds and koalas. It’s a favourite with all visitors.

Ballarat Wildlife Park
Cnr Fussell & York Streets
Ballarat VIC 3350
Tel: (03) 5333 5933

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Flying on the new Star to Melbourne

4 10 2011

Together with nine other bloggers, I was jetted comfortably and efficiently on a new star to Melbourne – Jetstar that is (one of the very kind sponsors of the trip). While I would have, prior my recent experience, probably not have given thought to flying on a low cost carrier on what is a long-haul route, Jetstar’s long haul services would now be one that comes first to mind in considering the choices on routes served by the carrier. The Singapore-Melbourne route is a relatively new one, having been launched in December 2010, and is served by two of Jetstar’s widebody Airbus A330-200s on a daily service to and from Melbourne. This adds a choice of a no frills, low-cost, pay only for what you need alternative to full fare carriers serving the route.

Jetstar's Singapore to Melbourne service was launched in December 2010.

Boarding the plane was an efficient and no fuss experience, and making my way down the aisle, I soon found my seat and sank straight into it – having had a long day trying to get some errands done and packing for the trip. The seats were comfortable – and I had no complaints at all with the leg room on the standard seats – the neatly arranged cabin and the comfortable leather seats providing a clean, fresh and uncluttered feel to the cabin. Based on information on Jetstar’s website, the seating in the economy class cabins of the A330s, which are arranged in a 2-3-2 configuration, are pitched at 31 inches apart and at 17.5 inches wide, are comparable to similar non-budget airline seating arrangements.

Jetstar inaugural A330 service from Changi Airport (source: Jetstar's YouTube channel).

Again with little fuss, a short pre-flight safety demo by the cabin crew was provided prior to take-off, and we were soon airborne, with the cabin attendants distributing comfort packs – packs which included a synthetic fleece blanket and a zipped case (which can be re-used as a neat pencil case) with a very necessary set of ear plugs, an inflatable neck pillow, eye shades, a toothbrush and toothpaste – pretty useful items for the long journey – the toothbrush especially! These can be pre-booked with the flight (it was included in the ticket that Jetstar kindly arranged for us) or can be purchased on board. Also available on the flight as part of the in-flight entertainment service are Video-on-Demand (VOD) units which can be hired. Again, these can be pre-arranged or hired during the flight. Included with the VOD units are earphones which the passenger can keep – an adapter allows the earphones to be used for flights with other airlines as well. The VOD units provide a selection of the latest movie releases, TV programs, music videos and audio tracks – more than sufficient to keep one entertained on a long flight. I managed to catch an interesting Japanese movie, Rebirth, on the VOD unit either side of dinner that was served before catching some needed shut-eye the flight seemed to lull me into.

Video on demand units can be hired offering latest movie releases, TV programs, music videos and audio tracks.

Meals (along with snacks and beverages) which are also available for purchase on board or pre-booked as ours was, came nice and hot – the small portions perhaps adequate for some – may not be to the liking of those with a big appetite – but that does help to reduce waste as once again – one pays only for what one intends to eat. On the journey to Melbourne, I found it hard to resist having the stir fried beef with noodles. That was, to my surprise, tasty without being too soggy – airline meals are sometimes drowned in too generous amount of sauce or gravy. Also pre-arranged with the ticket was breakfast at the end of the outbound flight, and lunch and dinner on the return flight.

My lunch on the return flight. A range of hot food, snacks and beverages can be pruchased on board or pre-purchased with the ticket.

Based on my experience with Jetstar in which the flight on the whole was comfortable and comparable with that of a full fare airline sans the frills of full fare airlines in which baggage allowances (baggage allowance according to one’s needs can be pre-arranged with the ticket on Jetstar), meals, in-flight entertainment, pillows and blankets, in some cases similar comfort packs, and one that I would definitely consider for my next holiday to Melbourne – especially when it allows me some additional pocket money on the trip!

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Rush hour on Summerland Beach

2 10 2011

Leaving A Maze’N Things, it looked like we might be in for a cold, wet and windy evening, as we headed towards what would be the evening’s rush hour on Summerland Beach – that of the daily frenzied (if you can call it that) procession of individuals in black and white suits back from their day in the office. The rush hour is one that is one that certainly isn’t a pain to be caught up in – that of the Little Penguins of Phillip Island, returning from their daily duties in the office that is the cold waters of the Bass Strait.

A detour en route to the rush hour on Summerland Beach - a drive by the Nobbies with the promise of stunning views of the rugged western coastline of Phillip Island facing the Bass Strait.

With a wee bit of time to spare before we need to make our way to catch Summerland’s evening crush; we were able to take a short detour to the wild, wild, west of Phillip Island. It is on the western tip of the island where we find the rugged geographical features known as the Nobbies that overlook the rough white waters of the Bass Strait breaking over the rocks that dot the coastline. The stunning views we were treated to standing on the high windswept cliffs that are the Nobbies that evening were made even more dramatic by the storm that appeared to be brewing – the precipitation in the atmosphere painted a spectacular rainbow that seemed to promise a lot more than a pot of gold. It wasn’t just stunning views of the coastline that we got as we made our way to the intended destination – the heads of several wild wallabies on their evening’s forage through the tussock grassland that surrounded us were very much in evidence.

The stunning geographical features of the south western coastline of Phillip Island known as the Nobbies.

The spectacular view of the white of waves breaking on rocks to the setting of the sun.

The Nobbies and the wind tossed tussock grassland on the high cliffs.

The breaking of waves over the rocks that dot the coastline.

The rainbow over the Bass Strait that the precipitation painted.

View of the coastline on the approach to Summerland Beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival to the Phillip Island Penguin Parade’s visitor centre, as did signs prominently displayed that reminded drivers to look below their parked cars for penguins when they were eventually prepared leave after getting their fills of the evening’s procession. We were soon armed with a cup of hot chocolate and an MP3 player – an audio guide included with the tickets for Penguin Plus that provides commentary with information on the penguins, their habitat and their habits, and ready to brave the stiff breeze that brought a chill to the boardwalk that led us to the beach.

Sunset greeted our arrival at the Penguin Parade Visitor Centre.

The grey of the incoming storm mixed with the fading light of sunset.

Signs reminding drivers to check under the car for penguins.

Several options are provided to allow visitors to get up close and personal with the penguins – Little Penguins that at 30 centimetres high are the smallest penguins in the world. Penguin Parade provides general viewing from tiered seating on stands by the beach. The option which we got – Penguin Plus, allows a more private viewing at an area where more penguins come up the beach – this is limited to 150 people each evening. More private viewing options are also available. The popularity of viewing penguins at Summerland Beach has increased substantially since the initial viewings were organised in the 1920s (now attracting over half a million visitors each year) – and steps were put in place to minimise human impact and damage to the habitat in the 1960s with fences and boardwalks constructed, which today boardwalks allow visitors to get close enough to the penguins to be able to observe them at arm’s length. Photography in any form, with or without the use of flash is not permitted to protect the penguins.

The procession of Penguins takes place every evening on Summerland Beach (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

Getting up close allowed us to observe the habits of the penguins that waddled up in waves in the safety of numbers, with tummies full of the day’s harvest of fish that would be regurgitated to feed nestlings. Sensing danger the scout penguin pauses – preening with oil from glands to keep their feathers waterproof – the penguins in the parade behind the lead penguin doing the same. Despite the rain that came down as darkness fell and the stiff cold wind that blew across the beach and the boardwalk behind it, it was a wonderful experience getting that close to the adorable little creatures in their natural habitat – I had only previously come close penguins separated by the thick glass panel of the zoo enclosure.

The boardwalks allow visitors to get up close to the penguins without disturbing the penguins or their habitat (photo courtesy of Phillip Island Nature Parks).

To bring a wonderful day out on Phillip Island to a close, from Penguin Parade (after checking for penguins under the car), we made our way to Taylors Waterfront Restaurant where the scrumptious treat of a huge seafood platter that included oysters, lobsters, king prawns, mussels, octopus and calamari awaited. The restaurant is one that is situated on cliffs that overlook the Bass Strait and must provide spectacular views in the day time – the view that we got that evening was no less spectacular, with the full blast of the stiff wind from the sea sweeping over the cliffs driving the rain that was falling horizontally to the huge window panes as we dined to the sound of the weather cock spinning furiously on the roof. A couple of us – Pete and Valyn were crazy enough to brave the wind and the rain and take a walk around on the outside. The coffee and ice-cream that we finished with also brought to a close what was a long but thoroughly enjoyable day out on Phillip Island – a must visit for anyone visiting Melbourne.

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant by night.

The huge seafood platter was a wonderful treat!

The force of the wind coming from the sea over the cliffs blew the rain horizontally against the windows of the restaurant.

Two mad bloggers braving the wind and the rain outside Taylors - the cliff drop was just beyond the edge of the grass that you see.

Phillip Island Nature Park

The Phillip Island Penguin Parade, the star attraction of the Phillip Island Nature Park, has been delighting visitors for many years with little penguins making their way up Summerland Beach each night at sunset. Over 500,000 visitors make the Phillip Island Penguin Parade the third largest visited natural attraction in Australia.

Phillip Island Nature Park
Summerland Beach, Ventnor Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5951 2879
Fax: (03) 5956 8394

Taylors Waterfront Restaurant
5 Phillip Island Tourist Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5956 7371
Fax: (03) 5956 6540

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Delusion and illusion on Phillip Island

1 10 2011

A visit to Phillip Island provides one with the opportunity to live out one’s delusion, as well as have one’s mind stimulated (or confused) by some very smart optical illusions at a curious attraction, and this was just what we did after that lazy but refreshing after lunch stroll around the Phillip Island Heritage Farm. We first found ourselves at a Grand Prix Circuit – the Phillip Island Circuit, one that hosts a series of events each year which include a Superbike World Championship and the MotoGP and provides some rather spectacular views of the of the rolling hills in the area and of the Bass Straits that it faces. It is here that those of us with delusions of being a race car driver could imagine what it is like to be one by getting behind the wheel and racing down the circuit – well almost – it is on a 760 metre scale replica of the circuit in a Go-Kart.

The delusions and illusions offered by Phillip Island may have got to some of the bloggers.

That was just what four deluded bloggers did – Pete, I guess was the most deluded of us all – zipping down the track immediately out of the pit at a breakneck pace, lapping all of us at least twice in a ten-minute frenzy, completing nine laps. For the rest of us it was a little closer, Valyn, despite spinning out of control and hitting the tyre wall and Eric, both completed six laps and I completed seven.

A rainbow greeted us at the Phillip Island Circuit.

Tearing down the track - well almost.

Lap time print-out.

The next stop after getting a speed fix was where we stepped into a world where the mind finds it hard to comprehend what the eye sees. Stepping into the Illusion Rooms of A Maze’N Things – a curious but delightful attraction created by Mr. Geoff Moed, one’s perception of reality and what one sees is put to the test – nothing’s quite what you see here – Valyn for one looked a lot bigger than we thought she was and some of us looked like we flew. This was certainly one time that I thoroughly enjoyed being confused and one place that I would certainly be back to if I pass by the same way again. Besides the Illusion Rooms, A Maze’N Things offers visitors a chance to get lost in an outdoor maze with two kilometres of passageways (which takes an average visitor 45 minutes to complete) and several other activities. For more information on the Phillip Island Circuit and A Maze’N Things do visit the respective websites found in the information below.

It wasn't just Pete ... it seemed to get to Valyn too! Just what was she, and Pete in the first photograph doing? Scroll down to the last photograph on this post to find out.

A giant Valyn in the Shrinking Room (photo courtesy of Amaze'N Things).

Off the vertical? Han Weiding of omy.sg, Valyn and Pete.

A dainty dish?

Painted illusions.

The answer to what Pete and Valyn were up to - drinking from a magic floating tap.

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit

With a history of action on the track dating back to 1928, the Phillip Island Circuit offers visitors the chance to re-acquaint themselves with all aspects of motor racing, as well as get a glimpse of life on the island in times gone by. The island is hosts stages of the World Superbike Championship, the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and V8 Supercar Championship. When no races are being held, anyone can enjoy the thrill of go karts or hot laps in a HSV Holden.

Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit
Back Beach Road
Phillip Island VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5952 2710
Fax: (03) 5952 3160

A Maze’N Things

At A Maze’N Things you can marvel at the mental confusion of objects defying gravity, rooms flooding without getting wet, a huge magic tap floating in mid air, or giant people shrinking into tiny versions of their former selves.

A Maze’N Things
Cowes VIC 3922
Tel: (03) 5952 2283

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Amess next to Phillip

29 09 2011

Crossing over a bridge over wetlands that line the eastern tip of Phillip Island to tiny Churchill Island, one is transported back in time to a delightful world that existed at the end of the 1800s. It is a place that is significantly from a historical perspective being the first place in Victoria where European settlers first began farming in the 1850’s. There exists today a working heritage farm – an ideal place to pause en route to the attractions of Phillip Island and perhaps grab a bite at.

Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a delightful place to stop by on the way to the other attractions of Phillip Island.

A family of Black Swans seen at the wetlands on Phillip Island on the way to Churchill Island.

The passage over the road bridge provides magnificent views of the wetlands on both sides. Once on Churchill Island, one is welcomed by the greenest of meadows where highland cattle (no kidding!) and sheep are seen grazing. The cattle and several game animals that included rabbits, quails and pheasants were introduced by a certain Samuel Amess to the island to “maintain fond memories of the land of his birth” – the land of his birth being Scotland. Amess was a very successful stonemason and builder who became the Mayor of Melbourne. In 1872, Amess purchased Churchill Island, building a homestead as a seaside holiday home as well as maintaining a farm on it. The house, Amess House, has since been conserved along with the farm and is well worth a visit.

A road bridge connects Churchill Island to Phillip Island.

Highland cattle were introduced to Churchill Island by Samuel Amess.

A lamb chasing after its mother on Churchill Island.

For us, the visit started with the all important food stop at the café (which uses organic produce from the farm) where I had a good plate of fish and chips and a good warm cup of hot chocolate. And, while waiting for food to be served, we ventured down to a scented patch of purple – a plot of lavender that danced in the wind. The meal and the wide opened spaces must have got to some of us. First Eric Lim was spotted chasing a goose around the well-manicured gardens adjoining the heritage farm and then Peter, hilariously attempted to confuse a chicken that he was one of the gang! Fortunately for the chicken and probably for us, he failed miserably and we could continue on our tour of the farm.

A plot of lavender on Churchill Island.

Fish and Chips I had for lunch.

Eric chasing a goose down one way.

The terrified goose.

And up the other way.

Pete doing a chicken dance.

Amess House, left in a condition that it might have been in when it was first occupied in 1872, provides a good idea of the comforts of an upper class home of the era. Based on information provided at the house, it was occupied by three generations of Amesses, Samuel and his son and grandson, before being sold, passing through four other hands before the Government of Victoria purchased it in 1973.

Inside Amess House.

A child's bedroom.

Around the house and several other heritage buildings, the farm, which looks very much like it could have been used as a set for Little House on the Prairie complete with not just animals but farming implements of the day, is arranged. Sheds at the far ends of the farmyard include a blacksmith’s workshop and a sheep shearing station and it is here, that visitors to the farm are able to watch a host of farming activities such as cow milking, blacksmithing, sheep shearing, and working dog demonstrations. The farms also hosts a collection of farm animals and visitors get to meet clydesdale horses, highland cattle, sheep, ducks, chickens … and even non-farm animals such as peacocks. It is also possible for visitors to take a short horse drawn wagon ride around the farm.

The Churchill Island Heritage Farm is a working farm with chickens and other livestock.

Sheep at the farm.

A peacock in the heritage gardens.

Buildings within the Churchill Island Heritage Farm.

Heritage farm buildings.

Heritage farm buildings.

Visitors are able to take a horse drawn wagon ride on the farm.

The blacksmith's shed.

Valyn wandering around the farmyard.

With all the activities that await one at the farm, a visit there will be a treat not just for the children, but for everyone else – it was certainly one for me, and judging by the smiles on the faces of the other bloggers – it must have been one for them as well. More information on Churchill Island Heritage Farm can be found on the Phillip Island website.

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Low and slow at The Atlantic

22 09 2011

From the highs of the Eureka Skydeck 88, we moved on to our next stop where we explored the lows of The Atlantic – our dinner destination where we were to savour the low temperature cooking genius of one of Melbourne’s celebrated chefs, Donovan Cooke. The Atlantic, a restaurant sited at a prime waterside location at Melbourne’s Crown Entertainment Complex, draws its inspiration from the famous meat packing district of New York, as well as the hustle and bustle of the fish markets of yesteryear and may perhaps be the jewel of restaurants in the Crown. Donovan returned last year to Melbourne, a city that remembers him well for his previous stints there, after a spell as the chef de cuisine at the Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club, to helm The Atlantic as its Executive Chef and partner.

The Atlantic is set in a prime waterfront location in the Crown Entertainment Complex.

Donavan Cooke the Executive Chef of The Atlantic.

Walking through the bustle of the restaurant’s floor and past the open kitchen and oyster bar designed by none other than Donovan is enough to get the gastric juices flowing in anticipation. We sat down in a private room surrounded by fish nets, lit by the glow of the wine cooler that served as the wall on one end. Studiously examining the pre-selected menu, I saw that a four course dinner awaited us, starting with a Yellowfin Tuna Tartare – which I somehow couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into.

The open kitchen designed by Donovan Cooke.

Fishnets add to the ambience of the restaurant.

The reverse side of the menu. The Atlantic strives to provide the diner with a true ocean to plate experience.

As always, there was some excellent wine to accompany the meal – we started with a sparkling 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee selected to complement the started of raw tuna, horseradish and Iberian ham and the excellent company perfectly. Donovan Cooke then made an appearance; giving us the low-down on the low temperature cooking techniques that he employs which was to feature on the next two dishes on the menu.

We started with a 2006 Yarrabank Cuvee.

The Yellowfin Tuna Tartare we started with.

The first of the two, Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon, cooked at low temperature for a long eight minutes appeared on the table. Orange and served with a slice of orange, the piece on the plate bore the colour of raw salmon. Half expecting the taste of raw salmon, which I often enjoy, I was pleasantly surprised to bite into a very smooth textured piece of fish which was oozing with the rich flavours of the citrus marinade – a heavenly piece of perfectly cooked, albeit raw looking, salmon that seemed to melt in my mouth. The salmon was accompanied by 2008 Gioiello ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay.

The very raw low temperature cooked Citrus Marinated Olive Oil Confit King Salmon that melted in my mouth.

Next came another melt-in-your-mouth delight – Braised Wagyu Cheek, which did not just melt in the mouth, but provided me with a sensory treat, even if I thought it might have been a little too salty. The Wagyu cheek was another that was prepared with low temperature, braised for a total of eight hours until it literally dissolved as I bit slowly into each and every bite of it. This was complemented by a Shiraz – a 2006 Moortangi ‘Old Vine’.

The Braised Wagyu Cheek - another one that melted in the mouth.

The sommelier explaining the selection of wine.

Pete was his usual animated self, as Eric looks on somewhat bemused.

Donovan Cooke at work.

After that wonderful treat of salmon and beef, it was time for dessert – Vanilla Panna Cotta – my second panna cotta of the day. This was served with Persian fairly floss and strawberries and was perfect to bring what was a perfect end to a thoroughly enjoyable first day in Melbourne. There were to be two more days of adventure that awaited us, but for the moment – the meal was all that I wanted to remember Melbourne for.

A sinful end to a perfect evening - more panna cotta ...

... and coffee ... to keep me from falling asleep ...

The Atlantic
Crown Entertainment Complex
8 Whiteman Street
Southbank VIC 3006 Australia
Tel: (03) 9698 8888
Fax: (03) 9698 8899

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

The post has also been featured on the Atlantic’s website:

Off the Edge 300 metres up down under

20 09 2011

For a very brief moment in my life, I had a feeling that I was a thousand feet up with nothing but clear air space below my feet all the way down to those tiny objects moving far below. It was a feeling of fear mixed with exhilaration and one that came with standing metres from the edge of a building – not a result of doing something that comes with me being out of my mind (as some would probably have suspected), but from standing in a clear glass cube that had been extended some 3 metres beyond the side of a building, the Eureka Towers, on Melbourne’s South Bank.

Eureka Towers is located on the South Bank of the Yarra - just across the river from Flinders Street Station on the North Bank seen here on the pleasant spring evening's walk from the hotel to the Eureka Tower.

The Edge is a steel framed glass cube that is extended 3 metres beyond the side of the Eureka Tower some 285 metres above the ground (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

The Edge seen extended out from the 88th floor of Eureka Towers (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

That feeling was for me, the best part of a truly awesome Edge experience, one that a visitor to what is to the Southern Hemisphere’s highest observation deck, the Eureka Skydeck 88, would be able to do. The Skydeck is located on the 88th floor of a residential skyscraper, the Eureka Towers, some 285 metres above the ground and offers simply stunning views of Melbourne and beyond, as well as giving an opportunity for the visitor to have what is a one-of-a-kind experience with the Edge.

Eureka Skydeck 88 is the Southern Hemishpere's highest observation deck (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

A nighttime experience of the Edge was what nine other bloggers and myself got (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

The Edge experience was part of a visit to the Eureka Skydeck 88 that along with nine other bloggers, I made on the start of the first evening’s activities during a 4 day / 3 night adventure to Melbourne made possible by Tourism Victoria, Jetstar and omy.sg. Greeting the group at the reception area on the ground level was Ms Megan Peacock who provided the group with an interesting presentation about the tower. Interesting facts that came out during the presentation included the ability of the top of the tower to flex up to some 600 mm in high winds, and that two large water tanks have been placed at the top of the tower to counteract any excessive swaying movement – much like an anti-roll mechanism on a ship. Another interesting fact is that the glass on Eureka’s top 10 levels is plated with 24 carat gold!

Ms Megan Peacock of Eureka Skydeck 88 was on hand to greet the bloggers.

The glass on the top 10 levels of the Eureka Towers is plated with 24 carat gold (image: Eureka Skydeck 88).

At the end of the presentation, it was time to step into the lift, which at a speed of 9 m/s, are the fastest in the Southern Hemisphere. All it took was 40 ear popping seconds and we were up to take in the breathtaking panorama of Melbourne’s night lights through the safety of the large glass windows of the observation deck. There was also the opportunity to get out to the Skydeck Open Terrace, an open air terrace exposed to the elements, accessible through an air-lock. This is positioned next to the Edge, allowing visitors to observe passengers inside the Edge.

All it took was 40 seconds to reach the 88th floor on the fastest lifts in the Southern Hemishpere.

View from the 88th floor.

A close-up of Flinders Street Station as seen from the Skydeck Open Terrace.

Taking the magnificent night time views probably took the initial apprehension I had felt about getting on the Edge that had much to do with a previous experience walking on a glass floor at a similar height above the ground that I well remembered. Excitement rather trepidation seemed to overtake me as I slipped booties over my shoes (a requirement to prevent shoes from scratching the glass floor) and stepped into the Edge. The door soon closed and light and sound effects added to the growing sense of anticipation as the cube we were in was extended outwards (not that we could feel it), and once fully extended, we saw the light – the opaque glass that had surrounded us suddenly became clear. And that moment that I first described arrived as the ground below came into full view – a moment when legs immediately turned to jelly – before I realised I was actually standing on a 45 mm thick glass floor – certainly an experience that is not to be missed!.

Off the Edge! Ten bloggers, Han Weiding from omy.sg and Megan 285 metres over Melbourne.

The Eureka Skydeck 88 is open from 10 am to 10 pm (last entry 9.30 pm), 7 days a week. Admission to the Eureka Skydeck 88 is AUD 17.00 for adults and AUD 10.00 for Children (4 – 16 years). Prices for the Edge Experience are AUD 12.00 for Adults and AUD 8.00 for Children.

Eureka Skydeck 88
Riverside Quay
Southbank VIC 3006
Tel: (03) 9693 8844
Fax: (03) 9693 8899

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

Discovering Melbourne on a saddle

16 09 2011

After a thoroughly enjoyable lunch at the Merchant, it was time for some of us, perhaps the foolhardy ones, to get on a saddle and work some of the calories (especially from the panna cotta) off. A few of us who chose to might perhaps have had illusions (or delusions) of riding in the footsteps (or would wheel tracks be more apt?) of Cadel Evans, who rode through the streets of the very same city just barely a month before, in celebration of his recently concluded successful Tour de France campaign.

The Yarra River. Melbourne is a very bicycle friendly city and an ideal location to explore on a bicycle saddle.

There are many possibilities to see Melbourne on a bicycle, including Share a Bike or better still with a guided bicycle tour.

Melbourne does, fortunately for the mere mortals who would have struggled up a 1 in 10 incline, does not present the challenges that a climb that Cadel and his colleagues would have relished that Le Tour is well known for. It is in fact a relatively flat and very bike friendly city and one that is perfect (weather permitting) for a pedal powered tour of, and this is what five bloggers found themselves doing with the with the highly rated Real Melbourne Bicycle Tours. The bicycle tours are run by a journalist Murray Johnson, can be customised, and offers a quick but comprehensive way of discovering Melbourne. Routes would typically take participants through the many backstreets, colourful markets, cosy cafes, hidden arcades, little bike paths and and narrow laneways. It provides participants with a quick appreciation of the lush gardens, magnificent architecture, some of the many cultural icons and most importantly (from a Singaporean’s viewpoint), the many gourmet treats that awaits discovery.

Murray Johnson getting the bloggers ready for the ride.

The 20 minute walk from the Rialto Towers to Federation Square where the Real Melbourne Bicycle Tours is run from, gave a chance for lunch to settle. And the five brave souls: Aussie Pete, Huang Kee Hong, Karen Lim, Eunice Khong and myself, soon found ourselves equipped with a helmet – a requirement for all cyclists and a bike. First stop was under the shade of a lemon-scented gum tree by the Yarra, where Murray extended a welcome by offering leaves from the gum tree as well as from a eucalyptus tree. The offering of leaves, was, as Murray mentioned a traditional greeting which extended the freedom of the land to visitors.

A briefing before setting off.

Not far from the spot were we had our welcome in the Birrarung Marr, a park by the Yarra, a three legged and two headed beast confronts us. It is of course not one that is alive, but is the Angel, a creation of local artist Deborah Halpern, best known for her works of public art. It is from this point that the pace picks up, we head up a ramp (which Murray advised was the steepest incline we were to face), to a link-way from where we got an excellent view of the Rod Laver Arena – home of the Australian Open. The link-way then leads us to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) – home not just of cricket, but also of (Australian Rules) football, where a statue of Dennis Lillee – the renowned fast bowler greets us. The MCG with a capacity of more than 100,000 is one of the world’s largest sporting arenas and the largest in Australia. The MCG is home to the Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) which Murray mentions has a 16 year wait for membership. A quick check on the MCC’s website reveals that there are as many as 210,000 people on the waiting list.

The Angel by Deborah Halpern at Birrarung Marr.

An angel on a bike? Karen Lim, winner of the Best Lifestyle Blog Award.

The Rod Laver Arena.

Statue of Dennis Lillee at the MCG.

The MCG is the home of the MCC which has a 16 year waiting list for membership.

The MCG is also home to football.

Other places of note that we passed on a fast but manageable (with a exception of a few huffs and puffs upslope) ride included the Fitzroy and Treasury Gardens, the imposing State Parliament House, the gorgeous Princess Theatre, the Bohemian streets of Fitzroy, and Melbourne’s little Italy – the neighbourhood of Carlton with the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens. It was in Carlton where a reward, in the form of a cappuccino and a sampling of cakes at Brunetti’s – an institution in Melbourne, awaited us, and all too soon, it was time to head back to Federation Square, which we did through peak hour traffic.

It was a short but thoroughly enjoyable ride through the streets and one that the next time I am in Melbourne, would certainly want to do again. Returning the bicycle and helmets, it was now time to take that short walk back to the hotel, and prepare for what was to be an exciting first evening in Melbourne.

Continuing on the bike tour.

Aussie Pete, winner of the Best WTH Blog Award.

The State Parliament House.

Princess Theatre.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral.


Down the very Bohemian Brunswick Street..

Another view of Brunswick Street.

The Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton.

A burger joint at the corner of Lygon and Faraday Streets.

Enjoying the reward at Brunetti’s.

Real Melbourne Bike Tours
@ Hire a Bike
Vault 14 at Federation Wharf, riverside level below Federation Square
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: 0417 339 203

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.

The Merchant of Venice

15 09 2011

I am just back from an extended stay exploring the world’s most liveable city, Melbourne and the area around it, first with nine other bloggers on a 4 day, 3 night adventure courtesy of Tourism Victoria and Jetstar, and then on a self-drive adventure of my own. Although it wasn’t my first visit to Melbourne, I did come away with a collection of wonderful impressions, that included some of its best in dining, an appreciation of its friendly people, vibrant culture, and rich heritage, and the what lies beyond greater Melbourne and its environs. It is probably too much to really describe, but it will be something that over the next few weeks, I will try my best to do.

A selection of cheeses greets the visitor to the Merchant which is inspired by the culture of Venice and the Veneto.

The serving counter at the Merchant.

Some of the Venetian inspired fare on offer at the Merchant.

The adventure started with a delectable treat at an Osteria inspired by the rich culture of Venice – a perfect way to start the short, but what proved to be a thoroughly enjoyable time in a city which is informally referred to as the dining capital of Australia. The Osteria, the Merchant, was founded last year by one of Australia’s leading chefs, Guy Grossi and Grollo family, both of whom have links to the Veneto. The Merchant, set in a red brick historic building within the forecourt of the Rialto Towers which once served as a trading house, provides an ideal setting for the Osteria, and one that certainly provided a welcome to an excited group of ten bloggers. Accompanied by an excellent selection of wine, a three course meal awaited us, one that included some of the finest ingredients.

The Merchant is set in a historic red brick building which is now part of the Rialto Towers forecourt off Collins Street.

We started with a King Valley La Zona Prosecco.

Chrismont La Zona King Valley Wines accompanied the meal.

The choice of a starter wasn’t difficult – I can never resist a mouthful of prosciutto. That, Parsuto on the menu, came served on a wooden board and a tong – an interesting way to start the meal, and the rich flavour of thin slices of dry cured pork in the form of nothing less than Prosciutto di San Daniele seemed to be brought out by the prosecco which accompanied the starter. The main course for me was fish of the day, flat grilled – Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra – grilled to perfection – each mouthful was a pleasure. Dessert was Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but very sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Choice of a starter, Parsuto - Prosciutto di San Daniele served on a wooden board.

Choice of Main Course - Il pesse de uncuo alla piastra - flat grilled fish.

Spuma di Castagne con pera cotta, a delightful but sinful chestnut panna cotta served with slices of pear poached in amarone.

Bloggers and Tourism Victoria representatives were able to mingle over the wonderful lunch.

A double espresso that saved me from the effects of lunch.

With a belly full of scrumptous Venetian fare, fine wines and prosecco, it wasn’t had to be transported to the Veneto, and for a while, it did feel like I might have been floating through the canals of Venice in a Gondola and passing under the Rialto. But that did not last long as we all too soon had to make a move, not under the white arch of the Rialto Bridge, but the glass and steel of the towering Riato Towers – the next adventure awaited some of us braver ones – a bicycle ride through Melbourne, and that I will ride through in my next post.

A very satisfied customer - Valyn Lim, winner of the Best Fashion Blog.

The Merchant
495 Collins Street
Melbourne Vic. 3000.
Tel: (03) 9614 7688
Fax: (03) 9614 7211

This is a repost of my post on the omy Colours of Melbourne 2011: My Melbourne Experience site. You can vote for your favourite blogger at the My Melbourne Experience voting page. Voting period is from 15 September 2011 to 5 October 2011 and stand a chance to win prizes worth up to $3000 which include Jetstar travel vouchers and Crumpler limited edition laptop bags.