Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Experiencing Melbourne CBD

This morning, we went into the central business district of Melbourne. We will be experiencing the hustle and bustle of the centre of a 3 million population metropolitan. We took our reliable Falcon and this time, an attempt to weave through heavy morning Melbourne traffic, in a little bit of rain. Of course, its chilly. The weather is very much typical London weather that I and the missus so accustomed of to.

Left: The Falcon and its crew

First, we stopped at Queen Victoria Market, again. We approached the Victoria Market from Flemington Rd. onto Peel St., the west side of the market. We found a 2 hour free parking zone and we waddled around the covered market in light drizzle.

Right: At the Queen Victoria Market

Then, after getting more souvenirs, we pushed of to somewhere near Swanston St. We managed to find a parking, somewhere in between buildings.

Left: Infront of the Arcade, on Bourke St.

When we got of the building above the parking, it was a Commonwealth Bank on Bourke St. The next block is the Melbourne General Post Office and Meyer and David Jones departmental stores. Across from that is the renown Melbourne Arcade.

Right: In the Arcade, infront of the Babushka Russian curiousity shop

There is a lot of nice things in the arcade. Mainly cafe, curious and specialty shops, embroderies, trinkets, jewelers etc. Its a great place to get presents for loved ones.

After waltzing along these nice shops, we exited the Arcade on Elizabeth St. Girl-Girl wanted a pair of ankle boots like her mom, so we stopped at a bargain shoe store.

Left: At the corner of Bourke and Elizabeth. Note the new ankle boots

By the time we had enough, the less than two hour parking a Wilson parking cost us AUD 29!

Right: The street were we do our daily grocery

Then we went to Macca Halal Meats on Racecourse Rd., to be some chicken. Its nearby where we stayed and my daughter has been having halal meats everynight for dinner. The Safeway mart nearby also sells Indonesian kicap manis and a lot other varieties, which include Maggi Mee.

Across from the Macca Halal Meats, there are Chinese restaurants, which serve Laksa and Chicken cooked in satay sauce as the menu.

Left: Girl-Girl on the stove

When we got back, while waiting for her mother, Girl-Girl wanted to prepare the meal so I assisted her in making her favourite Chicken Katsu.

Not bad, for her first attempt!

It is a great thing with the advancement of ICT. Nowadays I can make posting anywhere, almost real time.

Monday, May 26, 2008

An experience with Australia's past

This morning I took the liberty to wake Girl-Girl up early. It is because we planned to go to Sovereign Hill, Balarat. Sovereign Hill is a themed park dedicated to Australia's gold mining past. Its located in Balarat, Victoria's gold mining city 120 km west of Melbourne. That is about 90 minutes drive from our northern Melbourne inn.

Right: Photographed, infront of the 'Photograher's Saloon' on Sovereign Hill mainstreet. The white building behind us is the 'bank'. Across its the general sundry store

We left Park Squire Inn at 9.30am and proceeded on the highway towards Tullamarine International. Then we proceeded on the city link highway and exited south of Keilor into M8 west bound highway (This highway eventually will take one to Perth, after a few days drive!). We arrived at 10.45am, after passing through some of Victoria's fams and vineyards.

Left: Just about to board the Sovereign Hill stage coach

It is a very exciting theme park indeed. We were brought into Ballarat in 1855, where the gold mining industry was just about to boom, after the the gold rush of 1851. We saw the historical Australia which brought the influx of immigrants, mainly from Europe and the development of Australia's other industries, especially agriculture.

Right: With one of the 'redcoats'

We witnessed how Australia was still part of the Empire and the 'redcoats' were Queen Victoria's official law and order enforcer, as the Troopers were made of rift-rafts, some ex-convicts. There, we saw the gold miner rebellion of 30 Dec 1854, due to exorbitant increase in gold mining license (tax), anti-productive against the income earned from the dangerous prospecting vocation. There was a re-encatment of a squad if 'redcoats' and their officer's proclamation the victory at Sevastopol, during the Crimean War.

We also saw the destruction of the first aboriginal civilisation and nation, here in Victoria. All of these were captured in the Gold Mine Museum, adjacent to the park.

Left: The Damansara Utama gold prospector

My daughter, Girl-Girl had the opportunity to experience gold prospecting, at the creek where gold-panning is encouraged. She had loads of fun. We also saw bus loads of Australian school children, came with their teachers for the excursion.

Right: Having lunch in 19th century Australia

We also had a meal in one of the restaurant. It surely have the mid 19th century ambiance. While we were having lunch, there was a street fight involving a 'gentleman' and a 'woman of pleasure'. So the 'woman' was summarily arrested by the 'Troopers' and shackled.

We have been to similar themed park in the US before, like The Knotts Berry Farm in Buena Vista, near Los Angeles a few times. However, this is much different and much more fulfilling. We definitely had a lot fondest memories here and for a long time.

The Zakhirs in mid-19th century setting

By the way, if anyone in Tanahair thought I had been in "Trouble with the law" recently, I give you this picture. Apparently mid-19th century Ballarat 'law' got me first!

Left: 'Busted' at Sovereign Hill!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taking the Melbourne Tram experience

This morning, I took the posse on the Melbourne Tram experience, although we have a rented car. We took tram no. 59 right infront of our apartment on Flemington Rd. to the Queen Victoria Market on Elizabeth Rd. Since it was a lazy Sunday, it would be too much hassle waiting and going on the tram.

Right: In the tram, infront of the Melbourne University

I must say its a rather complicated experience. One has to purchase the ticket on the tram from the machine and slot into the ticket machine. Means you have to know when you are going and choose the right options.

Left: Figuring out the rather complicated ticket machine on the trams

We bought some souvenirs at the Victoria market. It is rather a good bargain, for souvenir hunters. Also some seafood for dinner. I think the food here is rather expensive.

Right: At the seafood section

Update as at 6.30pm Melbourne time (8.30pm Kuala Lumpur time), 25 may 2008

After Victoria Market, we went back to Park Squire Inn to unload. Whilst the missus did her research how to get to Mount Martha on Mornington Peninsula, I made this posting. Then, with a planned route and she do the navigating, we drove towards Frankston, at the south east corner of the Melbourne bay.

Left: Falcon navigator

So we took a drive along the suburbs of south east Melbourne, past the eastern gates of Melbourne University campus. I was awed the size of melbourne metropolitan. We drove for 1 1/2 hours from the city and its still surburbia.

Right: The Falcon cruising along east of Melbourne moving towards Mornington Peninsula

Eventually, after two hours, we finally got to where we wanted. The missus wanted to go the beach where the beach boat houses are painted in various colours. So went looking for it.

Left: The colourful beach huts

Then on the way back, we stopped to have lunch at Schnappers point. It was a pier at the edge of Mornington town. We saw few large stingrays at the bottom of the waterbed. Also some jellyfish. First time I saw these animals in their own habitat.

Right: At Schnapper's pier

It was awesome! There were some divers about to go around under the pier, looking for fishes. The restaurant's fish and chips and scones with thick fresh cream were rather good. It cost us AUD thirty bucks, though!

Left: Fish and chips and scones. Look how thick the hot chocolate is!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Meeting some of God's amazing species

This morning, I took the Rabbit and Cat Mom to the world renown Melbourne Zoo. This is one of the purpose of our visit here, this year's holidays. At 10am, after a hefty breakfast, we took a very short drive to the zoo, which is less than a mile away.

Right: Having morning coffee while waiting for the meerkat briefing

The first animal we saw was the meerkat. There was a Keeper's briefing at 11.00am and we waited for that. Next to that is the wallaby. This is smaller version of the kangaroo.

The pen across is the red panda. These are rare animals indeed.

Left: The rare red panda

After few other pens, we were at the Platypusary. We saw a couple of the amazing platypus. The egg-laying-infant-nursing mammal was swimming gracefully in the aquarium-like tank. The light was low, so photography with a basic digital camera was almost impossible as flash photography was completely prohibited.

Right: Outside the platypusary

Then it were the kangaroos. The kangaroos were allowed to roam free in their pen, with minimal fencing between them and the visitors.

Left: The Zakhirs and the Melbourne Zoo kangaroos

The Australian national bird, emu, was right next. The animal was kept in a Savannah like environment. This large bird appear on the Australian coat of arms, along with the kangaroo.

Right: At the emu pen

The more interesting species was the koala. We timed our visit there, to coincide with the Keeper's briefing. It was a really educational briefing. The eucalyptus eating marsupial was once a game animal, where it was hunted for its hide, especially for the European market. The last allowable shooting was the Open Season of 1927, where 700,000 koalas were shot in Queensland alone. That brought about a lot of notion that it should be a protected species.

Left: The koalas

Of course, we also saw the wombat.

It was a really educational and interesting experience for us. Our reason to come to Australia had met its main purpose. We saw with our eyes, the most amazing creatures indigenous only to this island-continent!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The land down under......

Its time for our annual holiday again. This time, impulsively, we decided to go to Melbourne. Why? We've been everywhere, anywhere above the Equator. But never Australia, nor New Zealand. Especially South Africa and South America.

So this time, we went. We boarded, as usual, a Malaysia Airlines flight to Melbourne last night. The attraction was of course the natural wonders this island-continent has to offer, which cannot be found anywhere else.

*Left: Daybreak on the skies of Southern Victoria, 60 miles northwest of Melbourne at the speed of 450 miles per hour

I was, as always, in awe flying on my most favourite jet liner, the B777-200. It was a bumpy flight as when we flew across Indonesia, especially Java, there were turbulences. Even when the meal was served, hot beverages were not, for safety reasons.

We made friends onboard. There was a nice elderly Aussie couple on the way home after a long holiday in Sabah and Sarawak.

*Right: Our traditional monkey-face photoshot, when we do our annual holiday

We landed just before daybreak, in Tullamarine International, 15 mins ahead of schedule.

Everything was pleasant, except the Australian bureaucracy. The landing embarkation form was rather tricky and the authorities, be it the immigration or the customs, were unpleasantly sticky. Of course, they protecting Australia's major agriculture industry. Not only food and agriculture products are not allowed in, handicraft and souvenir made from wood also must be declared.

*The first signage at Tullamarine International, Melbourne

Like all our previous holidays, we prefer to self drive to the places we want to go, especially on our own pace and space.

So, the moment we left the customs, we proceeded towards the Hertz car rental. We got ourselves a rather large Australian car, Ford Falcon. The clerk at the counter offered me Toyota Aurion but I refused. I insisted on an Australian car. That's why we did not go to our traditional Thirfty car rental, which in Tullamarine only offered Japanese and Korean make.

It is not exactly the Enterprise, but the Falcon was rather impressive. Its spacious and has a very repsonsive, but smooth engine. Befits its gas-guzzling 3800cc engine.

* Behind the wheels of the Falcon

And Melbourne, being a city-on-a-grid, was rather easy to manouvre. As usual, I'd be behind the wheels while the missus do the navigating.

We went straight to the inn, where we reserved an one bedroom apartment with full kitchen facilities. Then we went grocery shopping. The apples here are simply amazing!

When the sun sets in, after a hefty self cooked lunch and everyone caught their much needed rest, I took the posse shopping. We went into the Melbourne Central Business District to a factory outlet called DFO, on Spencer Street. Of course, my posse was very happy!

*The expression of typical Malaysian shoppers

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eye opening to Judaism and anti Zionism

I was fortunate enough to be acquainted to Rabbi Yishroel Dovid Weiss of Brooklynn, New York two days ago. He was accompanied by Rabbis Rosenberg and Cohen.

From left: Rabbis Weiss, Cohen, Rosenberg and yours truly

It was really an enlightenment experience. These orthodox Jews vehemently detest Zionism and the unlawful creation of the state of Israel, 60 years ago today. They consistently speak and even demonstrated against Zionism and Israel. However, non of the issues were ever published in any of the mainstream medias.

"Zionism is heretic and it is anti Judaism".

They felt that it was God's decree that the Jews were expelled from the Holyland 2,000 years ago, for their sins of impurities and they are not supposed to return to Jerusalem. However, Zionism fought for that and did atrocities to gain their objective.

Left: Rabbi Weiss showing the anti Zionism and Anti Israel campaigns and demonstrations, documented since the 1950s.

Rabbi Weiss also explained that Jews lived co-exist and complete harmony amongst the Muslims and Christians, for 1,300 years in various civilizations, namely Medina, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Spain. It was until Zionism came 100 years and all that changed.

I also had the opportunity to socialise with them. These gentlemen observe their Kosher very strictly. They only eat food that they are completely certain and confident being prepared according to Kosher laws. So, the usually bring their own food when they travel. They appreciate the hospitality that Asians offer them and often, had to reject the 'King's Meal' prepared in the honour.

Right: Rabbi Weiss. Note the anti Israel badge on his left chest

These learned men, who observe strict teachings of the Torah and Talmud also regard Reformed Judaism as adulteration to their religion, as they pick and choose what ever is convenient and suited them best and defied the rest.

I understand their religion much better and appreciate their detest of Zionism. Many people often made the mistake of equating orthodox Jews to Zionism.

Today is Nakba remembrance day. 60 years ago, a Haganah terrorist David Ben Gurion delcared the unlawful state of Israel and saw the Palestinians live in exodus. May God end their torture, suffering and allowed to return to their rightful homes, soon.