November 15th, 2019

Phoenix

Melbourne -Nov 15

Only spent one week in Hobart. Small city didn't appeal to me; cold rain made hiking unattractive, as did increasing hay fever; figured two weeks left could be more happily spent in Melbourne, say.

Arrived in Melbourne Wednesday. Once again, the flight involved no ID checks, no shoe removals, no emptying of water bottles... Took 30 minutes to drop off my bag with Virgin Australia, no kiosks and only a few people to handle multiple flights. Also either luggage scales are shit or I've somehow acquired 5 more kg in my luggage.

Magnetized substances are considered dangerous items.

Virgin gives a bit of water and a cheap snack for free.




Like Hobart, there's a SkyBus to escape the airport, costing $19.50. Unlike Hobart, it runs every 8-10 minutes.

First impression: 8 or 10 lane highway, flatness, a building saying "Sexyland" but with high clear windows.

Second impression: mass of skyscrapers, like the Chicago Loop.

Ran into my host on the way there, lol. I'm actually staying with her old Chinese parents who don't speak much English. Friendly, though.




Melbourne transit is a mix of buses (not taken), trains (longer distance and lower frequency, I think), and trams, lots of trams. When I'd checked ahead on a Sunday afternoon they seemed to be running every 30 minutes, but on a weekday it's more like every 10. They have ROW (right of way), but not signal priority, so I'd put them in between buses and true light rail. Fares are high (4.30) but capped low ($8.60), not sure if caps are per mode (tram, train) or global. If you know you really want to travel, a pass is $44. But there's a free tram zone, which I can walk to in 8 minutes.

My host had a spare transit card and lent it to, but I decided to explore my phone's NFC capabilities, activating Google Pay. So in general I can now pay for things just by tapping, and I didn't have to pay $6 for a pre-paid card. I *also* have a Melbourne 'card' on my phone now, though that wouldn't have worked in the other cities. OTOH reading the phone card has been finicky.




Took to the tram to the east of the zone (I'm SW, in Southbank), explored Treasury Gardens a bit, explored Chinatown rather more. Melbourne has drinking fountains on some city corners, which is pretty novel, even Brisbane kept them in parks and campuses. The Chinatown seems mostly linear, along Little Bourke Street; I'd guess smaller than Sydney's but still decent. The gates had Persian title patterns, which is unusual.




Thursday

Went back to the same general area, aiming for FitzRoy gardens. There are botanic gardens but they look annoying to get to. Got diverted by St. Patrick's Cathedral, which is rather large, lots of nooks to explore. A class of small kids was there, I wonder if public and cultural trip or Catholic school and religious education trip. Gardens themselves decent, it's nice to be back with random subtropical plants.

OTOH I haven't seen any ibises or bats. Ditto for Hobart but I figured that was a different climate. I later saw mention of a Melbourne bat colony in the Yarra Bend golf course, relocated from the Botanic Gardens; that's like an hour away by transit.

I finally started looking at Meetup more, and went to a board games night. I introduced some people to Hanabi, and got introduced to Space Base.



Today: went to South Melbourne Market, bought some not exceptional dumplings, chatted with some artist girl with a dragon-shaped 'homeless' tent.




Past things

I'd mentioned all the bikers wearing helmets; it came back to me that Australia started mandating that some years ago, followed by the predictable drop in cycling.

Australian city definitions are weird, there'll be a tiny core like a US downtown, and suburbs right around that. E.g. the City of Sydney is population 200,000 (and density 8000/km2) in a metro area of 5.3 million. Artist girl indicated that housing policy is up to the individual suburbs/councils, but clearly someone coordinates public transit over the metro area much better than we see in the USA.

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