Hooroo, ‘Straya

I’m in my final hours in Australia, feeling both nervous and excited about my next destination, but that’s another post altogether.

This post is more about saying “Hooroo!” (goodbye) to Australia.  It’s the first country I’ve been to on this journey that I’ve felt thoroughly ready to leave.  I definitely did not want to leave India, and I was heartbroken upon leaving Southeast Asia.  But Australia just didn’t affect me in the same way and I’ll be heading to the airport tomorrow with a smile on my face.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not writing off the entire country.  I’d love to return some day and see more than just Melbourne, Sydney, and the surrounding areas.  But Aus just did not fill my soul and challenge my mind the way that Asia did.  I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with a few reasons why I think Australia didn’t capture my heart in the same way as Asia.

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Sydney: Australia’s Commercial Capital

What can I say about Sydney?  My stay here has been a bit underwhelming.  It strikes me as being just a big, ol’ city with a famous building.  Aside from the coastline (which is admittedly beautiful), I find nothing very interesting about Sydney.  It has been kind of a let down after coming from Melbourne.  Also, it is more expensive than Melbourne in every way (lodging, public transportation, food).  It’s one of the few places I’ve been to that I was ready to leave after just a few days, and I have no desire to return. That said, I haven’t had a terrible time here; it just hasn’t been amazing.  Even though it seems like an extremely international city (it feels like almost everyone here is from another country), Sydney seems to lack a real culture.  And it definitely does not have that cool vibe that Melbourne has.

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Melbourne’s Street Style

Melbourne, Australia is full of incredible street art and creative graffiti.  Graffiti is legal in Australia as long as you have the building owner’s permission and the content is not offensive.  This has made Melbourne one of the world’s greatest street art capitals.

Indeed, there seems to be graffiti or murals around every corner, and most of it is extremely good.  Walking the streets and laneways of Melbourne, checking out all the brightly painted walls, was one of my favorite things to do in the city.

Here are some of my faves:

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Melbourne (aka MEL-bun), Australia’s Cultural Capital…

But shhh… don’t tell Sydney.

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On June 1st I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, Australia to meet up with my dear friend, Carrie, who flew in from the States just to travel Australia with me for ten days!  We spent five days in Melbourne and these were the highlights in order of awesomeness:

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One Night in KL

En route to Australia, I had to spend one night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  One more stamp on the passport, although I don’t know that one night deserves it.  Fortunately, my friend from Elephant Nature Park/Vietnam, Vici, was also in KL at that time.  So we met up and did what most people do when they come to KL: We went shopping.

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On Leaving Vietnam

Viet Nam was never on my list of countries to visit on this trip to SE Asia.  I have other travelers to thank for strongly influencing me to go there, particularly Lauren and Natalie who invited me to travel with them there.  I stayed for the entirety of my 30-day VISA and feel like I really got to know the country as well as one can in only a month.  I don’t know if it was because I was there longer than the other countries I went to in SEA, or if it was the culture, the food, the people, the nature, the history… or most likely a combination of all those things… but Vietnam was definitely my favorite SE Asian country that I visited.  Followed closely (very closely) by Indonesia.  (If I had spent more than two weeks in Indonesia, it’s very possible that it would have been my favorite.)

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Vietnamese coffee is the shit

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While in Vietnam, you will frequently hear that Vietnam is the #1 coffee producer in the world.  This is a bit misleading.  Vietnam is actually the second largest coffee-producing country in the world after Brazil, but they export more Robusta beans than any other country.  Brazil exports more Arabica beans.  All of this came as a surprise to me, as I had never thought of Vietnam as a “coffee country.”  Being from North America, when I think “coffee”, I think of Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, etc.  But in Vietnam, the coffee industry employs more than two million people and has helped Vietnamese people rise out of poverty.  The central highlands, where I did my motorcycle tour, is the coffee capital of Vietnam because the majority of the plants are grown in this region.

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