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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Australia 2011 - Day 2, Part 1 - Melbourne: Royal Exhibition Building

"I have opinions of my own -- strong opinions -- but I don't always agree with them." - George Bush

***

Australia 2011
Day 2 - 30th July - Melbourne: Royal Exhibition Building
(Part 1)

An elderly couple just in front of me ksised just after touchdown. Were they happy to be home? To have landed safely?

PRCs and Indians surged past me along the aisle, not letting me onto it. In the end I had to stick my stick out to extricate myself from my row.

I was last in Melbourne in 2004, and the airport now seemed to be a lot more welcoming of foreigners.

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A certain type of foreigner, that is.

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They were available in Simplified Characters too.
There were also arrival cards in Japanese, Korean, Malay, Spanish, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Indonesian, Italian and Arabic - presumably reflecting the makeup of visitors.

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Even the renovation publicity was bilingual. Notice the lack of a third language here and later.

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In less obvious ways, they were acommodating to PRCs.

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Bilingual signs

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Maximising your duty free allowance with 200ml bottles
1L of Bailey's was A$35. Which was more expensive than Singapore's duty free.

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200ml alcohol bottles in a rubbish dump

Australia was very vigilant in keeping the undesirable out. My visitor's card was checked 4 times (and collected separately), and there were dogs sniffing our bags individually, which I don't think happened in 2004.

MR signed up for a Grayline Penguin Parade tour, which was disocunted from $145 to $99 at the airport information kiosk. I'd been on the same tour in 2003, and it seemed to have improved from then (at least from the description).

I also paid A$30 for a local SIM card. This was the first time I'd gotten a local SIM on holiday. I really should've done this in the past, but I'd overestimated the bother and anyhow this was the only time I really needed data, as we weren't getting GPSes for the Northern Territory. I'd also not known, in March, that Whatsapp worked on a different SIM. Gah.

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'yes' Optus has been a bad boy

There was a café selling Singaporean, Malaysian and Northern and Southern Indian food. It was 100% Halal. Meh.

I saw an ad for "Awesome Thai Massage" at awesomethai.com.au. Uhh.

Sign on tram: "If you fare evade you shouldn't be here. More checks, more fines, more often". Hurr hurr. Incidentally I fare evade-d for one trip - because the guy at the hotel had told me the trams had no change for $20, but smaller notes should be fine: but when I got on I found out the machines only accepted coins (and who carries around $7 [day pass] in coins???). I figured that being fresh off the boat plane any inspectors might understand, as a glance at my wallet would show that I couldn't have paid.

There was a tea place called "chatime", which was a nice play on words (cha time / chat time).

One banner for a Gentleman's Club proclaimed that entry was free. Good luck getting anything if you don't pay.

I met PP for lunch and we went to an Italian place, Papa Gino's.

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A place that offers Primo/Secondo portions of pasta!

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The chicken pizza has ham. Hee hee.

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Aussie Pizza and Super Special

Foursquare tips said that this was the best pizza in the Lygon Street area (Little Italy). Based on this and my memory of the pizza I had in 2003, also in Little Italy, in a joint which was supposed to be good, I hereby conclude that pizza in Australia sucks. This is especially sad considering the history of Italian immigration to Melbourne; one can get much better pizza in Singapore. The crust was alright, but the blending of ingredients was not very good. The sauce was not notable and the pizza was quite overcooked and thus dry.

The medium pizza was quite small, so we ordered an entrée size pasta. Which was not small.

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Gnocchi with bolognese with bacon and diced garlic (Saltati)
This was actually not bad. Better than the pizza, certainly, with but one glaring fault:

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Sand grain PP found in her share

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An alley I liked. Goldspink Place

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Bobby Mullet

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Marxist poster on a post which read "Do Not Post"

I then headed for the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens - a World Heritage site I'd missed in my previous visits to Melbourne.

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No cycling - unless you're a family with a kid under 12
Discrimination! Ageism! Familialnormativity! Bigotry!

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Entrance to the gardens. The ugly building in the middleground is the Melbourne Museum.

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Royal Exhibition Building

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World Heritage Plaque

There was an exhibition going on at the museum which I'd seen banners for at the airport: Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. Besides being a Blockbuster Exhibition, it broke my personal records for most expensive museum exhibition ever. This prize had previously been held by the Uffizi Gallery in 2006, with an entry price of €9,50, a reservation fee of €3 and an online reservation fee of €5,70 (making €18,20 in all). The Tutankhamun exhibition cost A$35 during peak hours and A$29.50 during off-peak hours (office hours).

I asked if this exhibition was going to Singapore, as this had happened to me for the Lord of the Rings (I'd seen it in London and it'd come to Singapore at a very much lower price - though undoubtedly also information panels with very many more grammatical errors). I was told that officially this was going to be the last stop of the exhibition. There were rumours that it might go to Singapore but nothing was yet confirmed. I figured that it would go to the so-called ArtScience Museum and would be very expensive anyway if it did go to Singapore, so I shelled out for a ticket.

Normally there would be tours of the Royal Exhibition Building (which was closed otherwise) but there was an open house of historic buildings this weekend, so it was open till 4pm. So I strolled in.

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"The Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens... form Australia's only built World Heritage listed site"
I wonder what Sydneysiders would have to say about this claim. Really, Canberra is 103 years old - it's time to stop this petty nonsense!

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Interior: transept

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Dome

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Dome edge


Panorama of building

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Pillars

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"Carpe Diem"

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Main Body
The latter is an example of a proper ISO 100 image, in contrast to the Fuji FinePix F300EXR's output

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Off-centre main body

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Plaque on the Dome

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"One Flag, One Hope, One Destiny"
This sure beats "Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Lee"


Melbourne is very "charming"; it's a nice place to live and wander in, but I like to see *interesting sights* when I travel. Perhaps the "charming" place I like the most is Cinque Terre, but that is really a different level of charm (and contrawise a place not many would like to live in, money from fleecing tourists notwithstanding).

A very irritating thing about Melbourne trams (at least for the lines I took) was that the stop numbers were not announced or displayed on the tram, so if one was not familiar with the route one would have to look out of the window and count stops. This was very stupid, especially as the stop number couldn't always be seen when the tram was at the stop (only when it was pulling out). What made it even more stupid was that sometimes stop numbers jumped in steps of 2. For example Stop 28 would be followed by Stop 30, and sometimes Stop 1 by Stop 2. This was not even a suburbs/outskirts thing.

I saw more Asian than non-Asian (effectively, Western) food places in Melbourne. PP claims that this is because Western food is boring. I am more inclined to attribute this to immigration and students.

Usually on vacation I am practical and wear sports shoes, but this time I tried brown casual shoes. Which was a bad idea, considering that I was hiking. My jeans also still had light brown areas (the reason for which will be explained in a future post).

It seems ANZ has trademarked their shade of blue.

There's Formule 1 in Australia!

There was Krispy Kreme in Melbourne, but I'd shipped some in June and a shipment was coming. Also there were no freshly made donuts available (possibly one can find them in suburbs).
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