Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australia. Show all posts

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Trip to Phillip Island

 

Man, I’ve been busy. With all the work in office, calls and meetings and gym and yoga and what not, how many hours does one get for oneself ? I wonder how these Auzzies manage to do it. Now one of the reasons we had considered and decided to move here to Australia is to have fun. Enough of this ‘work yourself to death’ mentality they spread in India.  Have fun. See the world. Have some time for oneself.

So thanks to the Queen’s birthday, we got a long weekend to indulge in this time. Went on trip to Phillip island. Its a small part of the country, isolated in the sea, but now connected via bridge to Melbourne. The whole place is one big reservation basically.  Like a huge national park, for birds, animals. And maybe even trees. Theres hundreds of miles of coastline, beautifully preserved , clean of all those rubbish and eyesore usually seen on (Indian) beaches.  And the weather , don’t get me started on the weather. Even in the winter, the place gets a lot of sun, and its perfect for hiking ! Or in our case, lazily dragging feat through the sand.

The place is about 140 kms away from Melbourne, so under 2 hours of driving time. Tour operators run day services to the place, so no worries if you can’t drive. There are some hotels, but I think most people just stay on Airbnb if one needs to stay overnight. For some reason, there are huge surf shops, everyone is driving huge cars into the beach. There is a Koala reservation centre half way through, but all the one we saw were sleeping high in the trees. Also, they don’t let you hold and cuddle these creatures like they do in the zoo. The southern and western coasts of the island lie within the Phillip Island Important Bird Area, so identified by BirdLife International because of its importance in supporting significant populations of fairy penguins, short-tailed shearwaters and Pacific gulls. In addition, there is a wildlife park where wallabies and kangaroos roam freely amongst the visitors and can be fed by hand. Seal Rocks, at the western end of the island, hosts the largest colony of fur seals in Australia (up to 16,000). In recent years, other than local population of critically endangered endemic Burrunan dolphins or migratory killer whales, southern right whales and humpback whales are starting to show recoveries in the area long after commercial and illegal hunts by the Soviet Union with the help of Japan in 1970s, and the numbers using the area as nursery are growing rapidly, allowing a rise in hopes to establish commercial whale watching activities in the vicinity of the island.

But the real highlight of the place is the penguin parade. Every evening, a bunch of ~1000 penguins waddle up from the deep blue ocean, into their burrows on the island. They have been continusly studied since the sixties, so by now, they are used to being stared at. Again, they can’t be watched from close quarters, due to it being in the evening, and because the burrow area is restricted to visitors. It is amazing how the staff have taken care not to disturb these gentle creatures in any way, opting to let them enjoy life in the wide open.

We also went trekking to Pinnacles, its a 2 hour return hike at the southern most tip of the island. Blue, pristine waters. High in the air on the cliffs. The feeling cannot be easily explained.

Again, the way these sites have been preserved it astonishing. Auzzies really know mother nature, and have steps in place to preservce ancient sites like these. And visitors happily comply. Most of the hiking areas and beaches are free, and see millions of tourists annually. But there was no litter to be seen on the beach. Neither in the water. With only a few sign boards asking visitors to keep the place clean, they have managed to enforce a cleanliness lockdown.

 

Happy to have moved here. And there are still more places to explore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

New Lounges at Melbourne T2 !

 

For a long time, the tourist city of Melbourne was notorius for not having a general access lounge in its international terminal (or even domestic, for that matter.) except those for business class travellers. Well starting April 2018, they have opened multiple new lounges, and one by Plaza Premium. Looks to me they actually rearranged the ones they actually had, the AMEX lounge in T2 is now Plaza Premium.

Its a little watered down than what is generally expected from PP. But theres also another AMEX, apart from Etihad and Emirates lounges. They are all conveniently housed one level down from the international departure gates. With a selected range of foods, an open bar, and juices, they are visibly focussing on larger population of travellers. There were four dishes on offer, apart from the salad and cold cuts, and coffee and snacks. But if you walk through the path to the restrooms, you enter another section equally spacious, and with an identical buffet.

There are enough charging pods and wifi for everyone !

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Happy Journey !

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Winter in the city



Brrr…Chilling out there. Today the whole city was covered in a thick layer of mist. Only the bottom few storeys of each high-rise was visible. Checked the temperature; 5 degrees! Haven't seen these temperatures outside for the last...well..many years. That was when I was in Europe, where it went below zero in the winter. 5 degrees is what they call spring time. I started recalling the tricks we used to use during those frigid European winters, heaters on, warm fluids. Even the fill-the-warm-water-bottle-under-bed hack.


It is good to be away from the heat, though we still do get some sun, but its not that harsh. That was really missing in Europe, the winters there are long and dark. Even at peak noon, the sky just turns a little light blue. And for the rest of the day, it remains dark. Street lights are on all day. In office all the blinds were down, otherwise you just wouldn't feel like working. I used to carry a torch to use near my apartments back then.


So this is what a Melbourne winter feels like. I think I am going to enjoy the next few months.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Train-ing days

 

No, this is not about the latest training classes I am attending. I have been in Sydney for a few months now, and have been enjoying my time on Sydney’s excellent suburban train network. Get it ? Train-ing ? Sydney is a biig city, much more larger than I had expected. And the rail network is the fastest way to get from point to point. The average speed of the trains is still slow, but they are always on time. So if you factor in time to walk to and from the station, you will always be on time. Sydney’s bus system, though, is another story altogether. They are frequently late, the drivers are rough, and the major lines are always crowded. Its only good for last mile connectivity, you really should not use it to show up for an important meeting or interview at some distant place.

But back to the trains. In the field of urban transport, Melbourne beats Sydney by far. The Melbourne system appears much more modern and fast, despite the numerous level crossings. While Melbourne's overall coverage is better, the suburban rail system there is complemented by a huge network of trams, a type of transport almost absent in Sydney.  Ashamed to say, its only after coming here that I saw the double decker carriages. Never had the chance to get on one in India. It is an smart design, two levels of seatings in the space for one ! The coaches are mostly air conditioned, but some of the older coaches are still without them. At least in the mornings, the coaches are spank clean. They have used an innovative seating system, the back support of all seats can be flipped so that you can always sit in the direction of travel.

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There are led displays , and regular announcements before all the stops. If you are new in the country, all you need is google maps to navigate your way through the complex network.

Here is something missing on the trains, which really stood out for me. There are no sockets or plug points on any carriage. You know, to charge you cellphone or something. Sockets are now a standard feature on every Indian train. This stands out because for some reason, every on the train is carrying an iPhone ! Also there are only limited seating for people with disabilities or special needs. The standing area is confined near the entrance, that is usually where everyone with big bags end up.

However, the network still holds up to the challenge of daily commuting. Inside, there are no sounds, no jerks. Rides are smooth. I have already fallen asleep twice on the trains and missed my stop. I honestly don’t know why they get so much flak in the media. The new Opal cards for tickets can be used for all buses and trains, just tap on and tap off. Transfers within 60 minutes is considered a single journey. But sometimes I have seen the smallest trips attracting larger charges. It works out cheaper if you travel long distances every day.  The train network also eaves many areas of the metropolitan area without coverage, notably, the entire northwest, the northeast, as well as many parts of the southeast.

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I have been a fan of public transport since my younger days. Even after I learned to drive, I tried to take the bus or train as much as possible, except if the place has bad connectivity. That option shutdown in Bangalore where accessible public transport has essentially failed. So its nice to come back to my train-ing roots.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Black Panther

 

Another weekend. Lots of time. And nothing to do. It bothers me that all shops and malls in Australian cities close down sharp at 6pm, even on weekends. And only late night bars are open afterwards. There is nowhere to go in the 6pm - 9pm sweet spot, something we used to enjoy back in India.

A quick search showed that some movies were still open. Okay. So lets go there. And then we found there was hardly any choice of movies. Having read the rave reviews of Marve's Black Panther, we decided to catch it at the Crown in Melbourne.

The movie ? Meh. So-so. Things have come to a point nowadays that the only way to really enjoy a hollywood movie is to leave your brain at home. Marvel's cinematic universe is now larger than all the other sci-fi-fantasy stuff put together. And now they were moving towards secondary heroes, building up mythology in parts of the world other than..you know, cities in the US.

So as long as you not question logic, the movie is good. Though I still don't understand how people are comparing Killmonger to The Dark Knight's joker. Naah, not even close. Whereas Killmonger fights with force upfront, the Joker was all about brains. And for me the revenge story didn't make sense.

Wait wait, I got carried away. That was the kid in me talking.

I also found it really really wierd that everyone in Wakanda talks in English ! In that slow, clearly pronounced accent. Jordan's killmonger is the only one with his american accent, which made sense. But it sounded like everyone in Wakanda had a honors degree in English.

And what was Bilbo baggins doing in all of this ? And gollum was there too. Gollum and Baggins in a movie out of middle earth. That interrogation scene, I half expected Andy Serkis to go..."my precious !!" there.

But I liked the story of the reluctant king, hesitant to do the right thing, because it conflicts with his own conscience. There are some profound scenes of reflection and dialogue there. "You are a good man. Its hard for a good man to be a good king.". You know, absolute power and everything.

But the reason people are excited  about Black Panther is because the demand for media that centers minorities is far greater than the available supply.

 

 


PS: I think this is the first superhero movie I have watched in a theatre ! And maybe the last.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Rough start

 

This is crazy. Its only been a week into the new year and things are already to a rough start. Lets see..

First thing in the new year, this thing happened. First tweet of the new year !

Trump tweeted that he has a "bigger" and "more powerful" nuclear button than North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

A new book says Trump never planned on winning the election.

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Closer home, there were multiple fires in Indian capitals.

Access to the aadhaar database has been leaked. And UIDAI is crucifying the messenger. Lead by example.

The US is mulling changes to its visas. And this has got India rattled.

There has already been 34 terrorist incidents this last one week.

The US is freezing up, and it is simmering down under.

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Way to go, world ! Just 51 more weeks left.

 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

All roads lead the the Gym !

 

It has happened. The annual casual visitors to our building gymnasium. Since new year’s eve I have been seeing a lot of totally new faces. People I have never seen in the facility in the last few months. Suddenly I feel the gym is now crowded, there is someone always waiting at every machine, and most of the dumbbells are missing. There is only possible explanation for this new found fascination for the gym : new year’s resolutions.

Its a powerful thing, resolution. And its fascinating how everyone resolves to take exactly the same decision every year. Interesting to see how synced up we all are. I wonder if the whole world thinks like this.

Curios, I checked it out on google trends.

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Yep. Verified. Interest in these topics have definitely peaked globally in the last one week,  on New Year’s eve.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to ask this gentleman to get off the bench press.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year !

 

Happy New Year ! Hopefully this will be the year things change for the better. For me, 2016 was bad. 2017 was worse. But it was also the year many things changed positively in my life. After being left behind for years, I now feel I am on the fast track. And it was mostly due to resolutions. New Year resolutions.

Now I have never been a fan of resolutions. Maybe it was the lazy pessmistic in me. But it does work. Some years ago I took the resolution to change to a healthier lifestyle. It did work to an extend. My resolution for 2017 was to migrate outwards. I was getting fed up of the tech scene in India. It was why I left my last company.

And it worked, because I am typing this up in Australia.

 

This new year, my resolution will be to settle down to a healthier , more active lifestyle here. And to explore Australia as much as I can.

So once again, wish you a happy and prosperous New Year !

 

It all works out in the end, mate

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat

 

Taking small steps today. Hopefully things will work out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Got it. Finally.


Today is an important milestone for us. The date has always been special. But now its also the date we cleared a milestone. Slowly , very slowly, things we put in action almost a year back are falling in place. It could have been earlier, we could have achieve it sooner. But, you know..life.. There will always be hindrances. And better late than never, right ?

We are moving. We are leaving this company. This country. And moving for good. Abroad. Today we were granted our 189 independent visa for Australia.

After dreaming about and planning about this day for months, we have climbed one more hurdle. And something tells me there will be more hurdles  down the path for us.



We’ll take it one at a time.

Puttakke putaakkee karimeen puttakkeyy, we are going there ! All our dreams will come true. We will make them come true.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Auzzie Holiday

 

G’day to you ! Finally we did it. We took our first international holiday ! And it is to Australia. Yep, that large left-to-itself country near the south pole. After spending two whole weeks on this island-country, the thought of returning now breaks our hearts. For a change, it was a pleasure living in a properly planned city again. Melbourne, mostly. But we also visited the Gold Coast. Bangalore looks like a jungle and river of debris compared to this. A few years back if somebody had asked me, I would have said India can become a superpower in the future. But now I am convinced that dream is long lost. The level of development and ease of life in Melbourne astonished us. And the people are the freindliest people I have ever met in my life. So cheery, always ready to help.

Australia is truly a world apart. They seem to live in a parallel universe with no border disputes amond neihgbouring countries, no cross border violence, and no visible refugee crisis.  They don’t care about the US elections, or Brexit, or the geo-political turmoil of any other country. Here is a nation still focussed on developing itself and taking care of its people, and wildlife. Yep, we met the famous kangaroos and koalas in rea life. We also got a glimpse of its sunny weather and relaxed lifestyle.

Random Thoughts:

  1. The range of weather is as large as the country itself. While it is still chilly and raining in Melbourne, being in Gold Coast felt like Miami. It is much more sunny and warmer there, but without the humidity. And I have been told there are places here that still get snow !
  2. There are more chinese than auzzies in Australia. Specially in Melbourne. At first I thought they too were tourists like us. But then I saw them working and running their own shops. There were moments when we felt we were walking through Beijing instead of Melbourne. China is slowly taking over the country. But I am sure they comprise people from Korea, Japan and other Asian countries as well. And of course, Indians , Lankans and Banglas are also here, but not in that much numbers.
  3. Auzzies are always apoligizing. Most of the time, for no reason. If you run into them in a queue or step on their feet in a crowded tram, it is your fault. But always, they apoligize. “Sorry”, they say. I think this is too courteous. You don’t have to apologize if it is not your fault.  However, I like this culture. A few days of living among them has made me more courteous !
  4. Its raining Asian cousine all over the country. Seriously, I found more Asian themed restuarants than bars on the streets. Whatever be your preferred : Indian, Chinese, Korean, or just spicy Nando’s, you can find one in a two block radius from where you are standing in the city. And there are vegetarian and vegan options available too.
  5. This is the first time we are staying with AirBnb network.  We had some reservations about this in the beginning, but now we wonder why this idea did not take off earlier. It a fantastic way for budget consious travellers to stay and travel around new countries, while still being able to use the kitchen and make their own food. And did I mention it is much more cheaper ? But we did spoil ourselves a little by staying at a grander hotel for 3 days while in Gold Coast. We are thankful our hosts were very cool and trusted us completely, and we in turn tried not to mess up during our stay . Three cheers for AirBnB !
  6. There is free WiFi all over the city, beginning with the airport. Various establishments in the city have put up free to use Wifi which anyone can use to call, chat or check maps. I found it at muliple supermarkets, near restuarants, tram stations and even on the skybus. It was amazing how we were always able to get  an IP and the speed was fast too.
  7. Google has made travelling soooo much more easier ! Gone are the days of paying a travel agent to arrange and manage an itinerary for you. All the information you need to plan a trip is available on the internet. And the best way to get around in a city is via google maps. No more carrying a large foldeable mutlilayered paper map in the rain and sun. With google maps, you can navigate around the city via trams and buses, and it even points out restuarants in the area. We also found that google would read our e-mail and alert us about upcoming flights we are booked on, and our AirBnb bookings too ! Now ain’t that useful ? There wont’t be any travel agents in a decade from now.
  8. We Indians are addicted to selifes. But it looks like the selfie culture is yet to bite Auzzies. We looked everywhere we went in the city and gold coast, there were auzzies taking pictures of their friends and families, but no one was selfie hooked. In fact, while were trying to get a selfie ourselves, we go multiple offers of help from auzzies, offering to take our picture for us on our phone ! Again, respect. And courteous. We can learn something from them.

 

Thank you , Australia. We will be back soon.

Very soon.