My first 24 hours in Australia have made me realize how drastic the differences are between the western world and Asia. Here are my first impressions of Melbourne, Australia:
- It’s quiet. Melbourne is a big metropolitan city full of sky scrapers and high rise apartment buildings. Cars and metro trams zoom by me as I walk down the street, but they make very little noise. Unlike in Asia, horns are not constantly honking. Street vendors do not fill the sidewalks, so no one is barking at me to buy stuff. I could hear feet pattering on the sidewalk, birds chirping, and train bells ringing. This was literally my first impression of Melbourne as I walked from the bus station to my hostel.
- It’s cold. And it’s hot. How do you pack for a trip to Australia and New Zealand? I need a heavy jacket, pants, and shoes for the south (all of which I wisely bought for cheap in Asia). Tank tops, bathing suits, and flip flops are the attire up north. This is my first time crossing into the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s confusing. Jake Schiff met me here packed for what looks like a month long beach trip. Aussie weather is strange, but I’m welcoming the cool, crisp Melbourne air after sweating for two straight months in Southeast Asia.
- Travel requires plans. As obvious as this may sound, it isn’t the case when traveling through Asia. We went from city to city and made plans on the fly. A cross-country bus trip in Thailand or overnight boat adventure in HaLong Bay required no more than a days notice. I expected to conquer East coast Australia the same way, but I quickly learned that style of backpacking doesn’t fly in the first world, especially with limited travel time. I walked into a couple different travel agencies in Mebourne, and was laughed at when I told them I had no plans but wanted to see Australia and New Zealand in five weeks. Eventually, we found a woman who laid out a possible itenerary for us. We could hit four major spots on the Aussie East coast, and get to experience both New Zealand islands in five weeks. I’m stoked about this plan because we achieved balance. Balance in terms of planning the trip while leaving plenty of time for spontaneity. More importantly, we allocated more time than expected for New Zealand, which tends to be everyone’s favorite spot in this part of the world.
- Raw meat is kept cold. This also falls under the category of things that sound obvious but are not done in Asia. Every city in Southeast Asia has a market, and every market has a putrid smelling corner for meats and fish that sit out in the 90 degree heat all day. I never understood how this fly covered meat and fish could be edible. In Australia, things are different. Melbourne is home to the largest outdoor market in the Southern Hemisphere. A couple observations about the Queen Victoria Market:
I cannot believe I’m in Australia right now. And I’m so freaking lucky to experience such different cultures and atmospheres in one long backpacking trip.