The Great Ocean Road, You Will Regret For Not Going!

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The Great Ocean Road has always been on my bucket list and finally I get to visit it when I went on a business trip last October. I’ve seen so many photos of the Great Ocean Road on the social medias and it always feels like I’ve been there, but of course nothing beats the real thing!  The Great Ocean Road is known as one of the best road trips on the earth and YES it definitely claims it crowns!

Hence, if you’re visiting Victoria, make sure you take some time to travel the Great Ocean Road! You’re going to regret af if you miss it!

Since, I do not have much time in Victoria, I do not hire a car (which I’m pretty regret, but I’m definitely going back in the near future). If you are planning to do the drive properly, I would suggest you to go the full length plus stop at towns, try not to cramp everything in a day as it is definitely impossible, try to go for 2-3 days and book accommodation along the way. I’ve joined a bus tour >> click here for more information

Urquhart Bluff
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   Urquhart-Bluff-Great-Ocean-Road-Victoria-Australia

Leaving Melbourne, our first stop is one of the Great Ocean Road’s surf beaches, Urquart Bluff. Our tour guide is super thoughtful, she has prepared  us some hot drinks and biscuits. We then took our own sweet time and enjoy our breakfast while talking with each other at this beautiful spot. It totally feels like we’re on a school trip.

Don’t you sleep away your entire journey, as you don’t want to miss the picturesque ocean view along the way.

Memorial Arch

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After our breakfast we stopped by the Memorial Arch which is a popular destination to stop at, as it is the beginning of the Great Ocean Road. Many will take the opportunity to stop by to take a photo with the arch and the statue, commemorating their adventure.

Mt Defiance Lookout

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Mt-Defiance-Lookout-Great-Ocean-Road

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We then continue our journey and stopped by the Mt Defiance lookout which is approximately 10kms from Lorne. Here, is William Buckley’s First Permanent Resting Place where you get to know how fascinating William Buckley get to survive despite all the odds.

Kennett River

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Before lunch, we stopped by Kennett River to check out one of the most iconic animals, Koalas and Australia’s native Parrots, Lorikeets and even Kookaburra.

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Iluka-Restaurant-Apollo Bay-Great-Ocean-Road

These are the lunch we had at the Iluka Restaurant in Apollo Bay. And after our hearty lunch, we went to  Maits Rest Rainforest. Situated in the Otway Rainforest you will see some of the tallest Eucalyptus Trees in Australia.

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The drive along Port Campbell National Park where the well-known, magnificent 12 Apostles is situated is definitely another scenic stretch where you could see wild seascapes and lush greenery with goats and horses. P.S If you want to prevent the crowd and have the best view, visit during the golden hour such as sunrise or sunset! If you would love to enjoy the view from above, you could also go for a helicopter ride.

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After that, we went to  Loch Ard Gorge, which situated at the stretch of coast which is renowned for its collection of shipwrecks due to rough waves and indeterminable ocean. This place is definitely my favourite as there are many routes to discover, ranging from the geology of the region on a 900m return walk along the coastline to the limestone cliffs.

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Loch-Ard-Gorge-Great-Ocean-Road-Australia

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Before heading back to Melbourne, we went Gibson’s Steps which are carved into the limestone cliff face to view the 12 Apostles from the Beach.

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And I’m very grateful to witness a gorgeous sunset on our way back.

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Of all the books, in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport.

Brighton Beach : Things You Can Enjoy There

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On the third day of our trip, we head over to one of the most popular attractions in Melbourne, Brighton Beach! Brighton Beach is also known as the home to the famous 82 colourful bathing boxes.

From the place we stayed (Abbotsford) to Brighton Beach took us approximately one hour as we need to change from tram to train and 20 minutes of walk to the beach. But, I do enjoy the train ride as I got to see the breathtaking beach flew pass quickly through the window.

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After we have arrived at Brighton Station, we got to walk a distance to the beach. On our way there, we first passed by Church Street which is a good spot for shopping, food-hunt or simply taking in the atmosphere of the vibrant strip.

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Aside from that, Brighton also houses some of the wealthiest citizens in Melbourne with grand homes. Take your time to admire these gorgeous houses. Not to mention, these houses usually have gorgeous gardens!! Look at these beautiful florals we get to see along the way!

The picture below is a Presbyterian Church, which situated next to Brighton Library.

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After the scenic walk in the neighborhood, finally we get to see the beach. As we get closer to the beach, the breeze also gets chillier. After a few shots of the beach, we decided to sit on the bench and enjoy our packed lunch, homemade toasts.

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We are also lucky enough to observe how people do kitesurfing!

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After our lunch, we walked towards the bathing boxes for some instagram shots. If you have been to Whitby, England, then the scenery is not uncommon for you!

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After we have checked out the gorgeous colourful bathing boxes, we walked to the pier where you can see views of the Melbourne city skyline. Since Brighton pier is pretty far away from the city, you couldn’t see it that clearly compared to St Kilda Pier. However, it is still worth a walk to enjoy the ocean view, breeze, and check out how people fish.

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Of course how can we head back to the city without having fish and chips! I got to admit Australia has the best fish and chips! I’m not even joking! I remembered I once visited the most well-known fish and chips restaurant in the U.K and it doesn’t taste that good compared to the one I took in Cicerello’s, Fremantle. And during this trip, the one I took right opposite the Brighton Pier has once proven that Australia serves delicious fish and chips!!!

We ordered a pack for 2 person and we were so satisfied after the meal!! P.S the shop is a small takeaway shop. It’s nothing fancy but the food matters the most, right!

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Check out where we stayed in Melbourne – here

Check out what we did on the first day in Melbourne – here

The Earth Has Music For Those Who Listen

Shrine of Remembrance & Royal Botanic Garden

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On the first day of our Melbourne trip, we don’t want to cramp too much things in our schedule as we were still pretty tired after long hours of night flight. Therefore, we decided to go for sightseeing after our lunch. Since Shrine of Remembrance is located at Birdwood Avenue, right opposite of Royal Botanic Garden, we decided to visit both places on that day.

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The Shrine of Remembrance is one of Melbourne’s most crucial and iconic landmarks, as it was build to honour Australians who have served in armed combat and peacekeeping operations during the World War 1. The shrine opens 9am – 5pm daily (closed on Good Friday and Christmas). The admission is free. It also has Shrine Tours which run from the visitor daily at 11am and 12.45pm, and Services of Remembrance are held every half-hour beginning at 10.30a.m. You can also spot Eternal Flame that is always burning is the front of the building and The Man with the Donkey bronze sculpture.

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melbourne-cityscape-from-shrine-of-remembrance

Aside from soaking yourself in the rich history, feast your eyes with the breathtaking view of Melbourne cityscape and the 13 hectares of landscape parkland in Kings Domain as you walk up the stairs. I got to admit this is the first reason that attracts me to pay a visit!

P.S If you want to have some dramatic shots, visit during the sunrise or sunset.

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If you’re not in a hurry, take some time and sit on the grass to enjoy the sun and breeze.

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Aside from the breathtaking view from the stairs, you could have a panoramic view of Melbourne from the top of the Shrine. Remember to look up to the ceiling when you enter the building. It is absolutely marvelous, isn’t it?!

Royal-Botanic-Garden-Melbourne-Australia

Melbourne-Royal-Botanic-Garden

After visiting Shrine of Remembrance, we walked over to the Royal Botanic Garden. I really enjoy the walk as the time we went was early Spring so we get to see some of the tress are still in their winter mode,  which the branches look like reaching arms, while some have started to bloom.

Royal Botanic Garden was established in 1846, the gardens extend over 36 hectares and display an amazingly justify collection of over 50,000 plants from around the world, including rare and threatened species.

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Surrounded by palm trees and overlooking a clock made of colourful flowers, the bronze statue of King Edward VII on horseback sits in the Queen Victoria Gardens on a granite and basalt pedestal.

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Directions to Shrine of Remembrance -> here

Directions to Royal Botanic Garden -> here

Check out where we stayed -> here

We have nothing to lose, but a world to see.

 

Where to Stay in Melbourne: For Family and Friends

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I just got back from Melbourne and I’m so excited to share the place we stayed throughout our entire trip (I swear it is AMAZING). If you’ve already booked a ticket to Melbourne and not sure where to stay, keep reading! The place which I stayed would be ideal if you’re traveling with your family or friends.

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Playhouse Service Apartments is situated at Abbotsford, a strategic location for travelers. First, it’s near the CBD (approximately 3.5km), and it only takes you around 35 minutes if you’re traveling by tram. There are loads of trams down Victoria Street, so you could easily catch the tram. And you could easily top up your MyKi card balance in the cigarettes or convenience stores along the street. Second, it’s a Vietnamese town, and you could find delicious multi-national cuisines ranging from Thai to Italian. And not to mention, fantastic cafes and bars all within walking distance. If you prefer to cook, there’re Aldi, Woolworths, and Coles. Furthermore, you could also walk along the Yarra River which is just beside the apartment.

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The apartment we lived at is a 2 Bedroom Executive Apartment. The room consists of spacious living room with a couch, table, and 50″ LCD TV. The highlight of the living room is the floor to ceiling glass that enables you to catch the gorgeous sight of Yarra river and parkland views. P.S you can even spot some hot air balloons in the early morning!

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For those who love to cook, there’s a beautifully equipped kitchen. You could basically find anything and everything you need here! There’s oven if you want to bake, and also a microwave for you to heat up your food. P.S you can also find washer, dryer, iron and ironing board in the cabinets. It also has a small dining area for you to enjoy your meal.

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Melbourne-playhouse-apartment-two-bedroom-executive-apartment

Each bedroom consists of a queen size bed. And the room I lived has a wide glass window, which is definitely my favourite part. I just love to unwind my day by lying down at the bed and look out from the window.

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The master bedroom which my manger lived in has a queen sized bed, a 32″ LCD TV, and an attached bathroom.

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The apartment has two bathroom, one is attached with the master bedroom, while another one is beside the second room. The bathroom is considered spacious and it has a shower area and a basin area with large mirror. They do provide toiletries and hairdryer.

Below is a short room tour clip for my Instagram story. Pardon my giggling lol

You’ll never know until you go!

Things You Do Not Want to Miss in Nara, Japan

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Todai-ji

Nara, often bypassed by tourists either heading straight to Kyoto or Osaka, is Japan’s first permanent capital city and definitely a place not to be missed! Not only it owns a lot of UNESCO historical sites, such as Daibutsu, Todai-ji, one of the most majestic sights in Japan. Nara is also well-known for its wild and tame deers running everywhere (YES you can easily spot them)! Most important, Nara can be explored in a day or two! Hence, if you want to indulge yourself in a peaceful and scenic place, make sure you pay Nara a visit!

Check out my Osaka travel guide if you haven’t –> here

Nara Japan Manhole Cover
Everything in Japan is so beautiful. Look even their manhole is a piece of artwork!

Nara can be easily reached if you’re traveling from Osaka or Kyoto. There are two main train services that link Osaka and Kyoto to Nara. One is the Japan Railways (JR) train and the other is the Kintetsu train. I personally opted JR since I’ve already bought the JR pass and my hotel is just beside the JR station which is super convenient. However, if you only plan for a day trip and want to visit all the attractions right away, pick Kintetsu railway as the station is located closer to Nara Park (approximately 10 minutes walk). While it takes 20 minutes to walk to Nara Park from the JR Nara Station.

Wendy Quah Travel Blog Nara Japan By Bicycle
The bike I rent to travel around Nara.

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Getting around Nara – Nara can easily be explored on foot. However, you might need to take bus, taxi or train for some of the sights. If you want a more challenging and local way, rent a bicycle like me. ** But I’ve to warn you there are many slops and uphill for certain attractions, so your energy will definitely be drained by the end of the day!

wendy quah travel blog nara japan super hotel lohas jr nara eki

If you happen to stay in Nara for a day or two, I would highly recommend Super Hotel Lohas JR Nara Eki. As it is situated beside the JR station which is extremely convenient especially for those who are traveling with family and many baggages.

wendy quah travel blog nara japan super hotel lohas jr nara eki

wendy quah travel blog nara japan super hotel lohas jr nara eki breakfast

My stay at this hotel is absolutely pleasant. I loved how they make sure you have a great sleep by giving you the chance to choose your own pillow. Regardless you like it soft, or hard, you’re bound to find the perfect pillow here! Besides, this hotel also owns natural hot spring so you can definitely indulge yourself after a whole day of exploration in the city. Not to forget, their buffet breakfast is simple but delicious!

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P.S There is a seven-eleven on the first floor of building! You can easily grab snacks or meals there.

Without further ado, let’s jump into places you have to visit when you’re in Nara!

1. Tōdai-ji Temple & Nigatsu-do

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Todaiji Temple

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Todaiji Temple

Tōdai-ji is one of Japan’s most famous and historically significant temples and a landmark of Nara. In fact, its officially listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main hall of Todaiji, is the largest wooden building in the world. Daibutsuden also houses the largest Buddha in all of Japan at 15 meters in height. Aside from the magnificent architecture and buddha statue, the surrounded landscape including lake and garden is absolutely picturesque.

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Todai-ji

After seeing Todaiji Temple, make sure you check out one of its most important halls, Nigatsu-do. Tucked somewhat far away from the main tourism area, the beautiful Nigatsu-do rises quietly and majestically. Built into the mountainside, this building is definitely a great place to get a breathtaking view of Nara cityscape!

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Todaiji Temple

 

2. Kōfuku-ji Temple

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Kōfuku-ji Temple

Kofuku-ji is a very important temple in Nara. It was transferred from Kyoto in 710, and used to be a family temple of the Fujiwara family, the most powerful family at that period. There are two famous pagodas in this temple, three stories and five stories. The five stories pagoda is the second tallest in Japan. Continuing through the complex you’ll see the northern and southern octagonal halls, the Central Golden Hall, and a series of less eye-catching but still beautiful secondary structures.

3. Nara Park

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There was a huge painting of a deer in the road to remind the drivers that deer may make a sudden movement to cross! There were also circular warning signs along every road.

wendy quah travel blog japan nara park deers

Nara park is home to numbers of freely roaming wild deer. Considered in Shinto to be messengers of the gods, Nara’s nearly 1200 deer have become a symbol of the city and have even been designated as a natural treasure. Nara’s deer are surprisingly tame, but you have to be careful when you have any food as they might think you will feed them and become a littl aggressive. There were some small stalls where you can purchase deer crackers. As soon as you had the crackers in hand, the deer would come close to you and nudge your clothes and arms. Some of the deer even learned to bow to visitors to ask to be fed.

wendy quah travel blog japan nara park deers

wendy quah travel blog japan nara park deers

4. Isuien Garden

wendy quah travel blog isuien garden nara japan

Isuien garden is the most picturesque garden in Nara. Isuien means “garden founded on water”, and this garden’s name is derived from the fact that its ponds are fed by the small adjacent Yoshikigawa River. It’s a spacious stroll garden with a pond and plenty of blooming flowers and trees. This garden looks even more breathtaking during the Spring and Autumn. However, due to we visited during the late Spring all we spot are these greenery.

wendy quah travel blog isuien garden nara japan

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Isuien Garden
The neighborhood of Isuien Garden

5. Kasuga-taisha 

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Kasuga-taisha which was established at the same time as the city itself, is Nara’s most celebrated shrine which also famous for its lanterns – and the deer, of course. Even the shrine’s chōzuya is carved in the shape of a deer. wendy quah travel blog japan nara kasuga taisha

6. Naramachi walk

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In Naramachi you will experience the atmosphere of old times created by old “machiya” (historic merchant townhouses) and small alleys full of interesting sights. You can spot many cute shops that sell clothing, souvenirs, and food.

Food You Have to Try
1. Nakatani-dou 中谷堂 | Mochi
wendy quah travel blog japan nara Nakatani-dou mochi

 

After wondering around the streets, we came across this mochi shop, known as Nakatani-dou, 中谷堂. We were attracted by the crowd and the high-speed mochi-pounding performance without knowing its popularity! However, I’m glad we did try it!

The result of all that pounding action is soft, chewy yomogi mochi dusted with kinako powder. Kinako is roasted soybean flour and it has a slightly nutty taste that goes well with the natural flavour of yomogi. Since the mochi is made fresh, it was still warm when it handed to me. When you bite into it the sweet red bean paste oozes out!

2. Edogawa Naramachi 江戸川 | Eel Rice

wendy quah travel blog nara japan Edogawa Naramachi eel restaurant

Edogawa Naramachi is Nara most well-known eel restaurant. Despite the long queue for almost an hour, we decided to give it a try as we do not want end up regretting in the future. I must admit, I’ve never really been a big fan of eel, but after eating it here I have truly changed my mind! It is extremely delicious and worth the price. P.S if you’re on budget, make sure you consider before entering as it can be quite pricey.

3. Taiyaki

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When you’re in Japan, of course you need to get your hands on one of their famous dessert, Taiyaki. Taiyaki is a fish-shaped cake and it is usually filled with red bean paste that made from sweetened azuki beans!

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Nara was simply amazing and I’m glad that we visited here, a place which is so rich in culture, history and also nature! So, make sure you do visit Nara if you’re in Japan!

You’ll never know until you go!