Reunite with White!
On July 9th, 2010, Brooke and I departed for our long anticipated trip to Australia! We were going to spend time with Brooke’s sister Jillian as she settled into her new home to begin a PhD program at the University of Adelaide. But first we traveled through Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia. Although much cheaper than other airlines, Air Asia has funky scheduling forcing one night-stopovers en route to Melbourne. We stayed one night in the Little India area of Kuala Lumpur, taking in the Petronas Towers and doing a little local sightseeing. The next morning we went for a run at a park near the Towers, which was a modern rubber running path circling some small lakes. It was an excellent find and not busy at 6am. Our hotel room at the Citin Masjid Jamek was clean and comfortable but super small, and the hotel itself was hidden behind the market in Little India, but a good place for a night or two to explore the area easily. But this trip was all about the Southern Hemisphere, so we didn’t worry too much about the accommodations in KL.
relaxed by the river in Melbourne
After a long wait to check-in at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Low Cost Carrier Terminal, (KLIA-LCCT), we embarked on an 8+ hour flight to Melbourne. Arriving at nearly midnight, we were met by a good friend from our Japan teaching days, Eric and his lovely wife Sachie. They were excellent hosts putting us up in their extra bedroom near the Central Business District, preparing delicious Japanese food and showing us around town. Each morning that we stayed in Melbourne I ran around the Botanic Gardens, a wildly popular area for local runners, joggers and walkers. With its rolling hills, wide paths and cool weather the park and the river paths nearby felt like Boston in October. We also toured the city on foot and tram, caught an Australian Rules Football game, and visited a few pubs in the evening. Eric and Sachie then treated us to a brunch at a fantastic winery in the Yarra Valley and took us to a second winery for a tasting. We also met up with friends from Thailand who hail from Melbourne, and visited Kellie’s parents in Ballarat, where Kellie made two desserts and a rice dish for us, and Brooke received some quality rabbit petting time. So lucky!
4 of us in the Yarra Valley
After three nights in Melbourne, we packed our bags into a tiny Hyundai Getz and headed for Adelaide. The 10 hour trip to Adelaide was a beautiful green drive complete with endless miles of farmland, sheep, and magnificent trees with root systems that are visible above the ground. We arrived in Adelaide in the early evening and set up camp in a small dorm room in the Royal Adelaide Hospital which would be our home for the next 7 nights. Two single beds were a bit cozy for three adults, but we managed until Jillian was able to find her own place. This hospital residence was a strange place, as many residents, mostly Asian, lived there for extended periods, so they bought their own refrigerators, locked them, and stored them in the common kitchen. Each evening one woman would occupy the whole kitchen and throw dirty looks our way when we’d come in to use the microwave or wash a dish. After we moved into Jillian’s new place, a three story town home near the Central Market, we were able to do a little more cooking. Well, Jillian did some more cooking for us, although I did cut vegetables on more than one occasion.
fun with friends in Melbourne
We stayed in Adelaide for just over two weeks, spending our days working in the library or planning excursions. Each morning we went running either in the Botanic Gardens or along the Torrens River Path. This path runs mostly uninterrupted from the Adelaide Hills east of Adelaide all the way to Port Adelaide in the west. It would have been unfortunate not to take advantage of this amazing resource, so we also hired free bicycles one day to see how far we could go on the path. Except for a couple of rainy days, the weather was almost perfect for running.
Brooke, Jillian and I took a wine tour with a company called Groovy Grape, which was a good day overall, even if the wine wasn’t fantastic. Our first stop on the tour was a tourist trap of a place which builds wooden toys. The company wasn’t attracting a lot of visitors, so to remedy this they constructed what they claim is the world’s biggest rocking horse. The irony is it doesn’t actually rock. There is also a small animal sanctuary here where we witnessed a couple of large grey kangaroos having a pretty intense boxing match. After a cup of coffee, a walk around the toy shop, and a couple rounds of roo boxing, we went to the first and biggest of the 4 wineries, Jacob’s Creek. This is a popular, fairly low cost cellar door which has a long history in the Barossa Valley and exports its wines around the world. The tour was informative and the winery beautiful and newly renovated, but the wine itself was mediocre. Our next stop was a boutique winery called Simpatico where we had a good chat with the gentleman there about wines in New York and Arizona and we tried some nice dessert wines. We stopped for lunch in a small town to eat at a local pub, where many people on our tour tried kangaroo meat for the first time. It was a little chewy for my taste, but I’m told it’s very healthy. A Cooper’s Pale Ale completed the meal. Cooper’s and James Boag’s out of Tasmania were my two favorite beer makers in Australia, and it was great to try the different styles since Thai lager beers are all very similar and not as flavorful as beers from other countries. We rounded off the day with two more wineries, but Brooke and Jillian had already thrown in the towel at this stage. None of the wines had impressed them, so rather than continue to be let down, they experimented with hot chocolate drinks instead. The third winery, Jacob’s Creek sister winery, was housed in a cool building like an old castle, and the fourth one, Seppeltsfield, allowed us to taste their premium dessert wines and their two microbrewed beers. The beers weren’t particularly good but the dessert wines were really interesting. They refer to these as fortified wines. In the end, we had a scenic tour of the Adelaide Hills, learned about the wine history of the region, but were not all that impressed with the quality of wines on this tour. Give us Bully Hill on Keuka Lake anytime!
On another day the three of us took the local train out to Port Adelaide to explore the art galleries and life along the port. We found a couple of nice galleries, a tasty but expensive lunch, a beer sampling at the Port Adelaide Hotel, and not much happening by the water. Being winter, we surmised it was low season and may be more exciting when summer comes around., which is January and February in Australia.
- beer taps in Port Adelaide
One other highlight of the Adelaide cultural district is free entry to the local museums. There is the South Australia Museum as well as the Art Gallery of South Australia. Brooke and I explored the Gallery together, taking in the paintings and photography exhibits, and then I went to other museum by myself, which turned out to be quite comprehensive and well-designed. It is mostly a natural history museum with several exhibits including whale bones, mammals of the world, giant squid, and a brand new area devoted entirely to the ecosystems, flora and fauna of South Australia.
When we weren’t touring and exploring, we were busy trying to find fairly inexpensive food, which was no easy task. Coming from Thailand, Brooke and I were shocked by the $10 lunches and $3 coffees, not to mention the $17 movies! We did manage to find cheaper eats at the Central Market, Adelaide’s Asian center, and we ultimately discovered coffee deals and Monday night $6 movies.
aboard the Overland
We had to get back to Melbourne for our return flight, and our options included renting a car again, flying, train or bus. We opted for the train which turned out to be a great experience with excellent service and hilarious commentary. The Australians are very proud of their country and rightly so, and we got to see this first hand on the 11 ½ hour train ride from Adelaide to Melbourne, called “The Overland.” We stayed one more night in Melbourne with Eric and Sachie, enjoyed one final round of Sachie’s home cooking, drank some delicious James Boag’s beers, ran in the park one last time, and flew back to Kuala Lumpur. This time we stayed at the Tune Hotel, which, based on its logo and business model (you pay extra for a towel and A/C) is run by the same company that operates Air Asia. Cramped and thrifty, but literally a stone’s throw from the terminal.
Then it was back to Chiang Mai, feeling good about spending quality time with family and friends, having visited the Southern Hemisphere for the first time, and being able to run on decent running paths in cool weather. Thanks to Jillian, Eric, Sachie, Dave, Kellie and the Oxlade family. Good on ya!
See more photos from Australia and other places here.