Thursday, September 29, 2011

Myer Melbourne awarded World’s Best New Department Store!

Congrats to the recently renovated Myer Melbourne winning the Store Design of the Year award! It is a proud achievement indeed as it’s the first time an Australian retailer has won a World Retail award.

Personally, I think Myer Melbourne deserves all the plaudits it is getting. The exterior is classic art deco with the interior feeling very classy and spacious. And the renovations are not even fully complete yet!

I love shopping there with its 6 floors (plus a basement) of different themes. It also has 2 cafes – including the brilliant Brunetti’s with their famous Italian cakes / pastry – and a posh champagne bar to take a break from shopping.
Also interesting is the “Galerie de Parfum” showcasing the world's most coveted, rare and original fragrances. This includes Australia’s most expensive perfume Amouage at $400 a bottle – drawing its fragrance from the rarest rose in the world harvested from the mountains of Oman – which was founded by the Sultan of Oman to be offered as a gift to his guests.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Things to do in and around Melbourne ..

A very common question I get asked is .. What are fun and interesting things to do in Melbourne?
"Love Never Dies" at Regent Theatre

Well, I could easily grab my latest Lonely Planet guide to Melbourne and shoot off a dozen of the top common attractions – like Crown Casino, Melbourne Zoo, Art Centre, Museums, Aquarium, etc. But let’s think a little bit out-of-the-box, shall we?

Here’s MY list of fun and interesting things to do in Melbourne that you may or may not find in your pocket travel guide:
  • Watch football megastar Harry Kewell play for Melbourne Victory in the A-League football competition. The opening round of the 2011/2012 season starts on 8th Oct at the 50,000 capacity Etihad Stadium with a pulsating derby against rival city Sydney FC!
  • Watch Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Love Never Dies" (sequel to "Phantom of the Opera") before it ends its Melbourne season in Dec!
  • Enjoy the Hot air ballooning experience over the Yarra Valley or Melbourne City. Not cheap but an experience you will never forget.
  • Have a walk along the Sunday market at St Kilda Beach and follow up with coffee/cake at the famous cafes along Acland St
  • Go up the Eureka Tower Skydeck and admire the views from the tallest building in Melboure. If you are really brave, you can try The Edge where you stand in a glass box that slides out of the building!
  • Take a boat ride from Southbank to Williamstown (a beautiful seaside village with fantastic restaurants and cafes)
  • Visit picturesque Altona Beach and do some fishing on the historic pier. And on a sunny windy day, you can enjoy the passionate kite surfers perform their tricks.
  • Take a walk along Little Vietnam (Victoria St in Richmond), soak in the South East Asian culture and try the best Pho in town!
  • Hire a bicycle and cycle along the Yarra River. Alternatively, you can make your way to Fairfield Boathouse for a scenic breakfast followed by a relaxing rowboat ride on the river. The kids will absolutely love feeding (they sell feed there) the ducks!
  • Hot air ballooning over Yarra Valley
    The Edge at Eureka Towers Skydeck
  • If you do not have a fear of heights (like myself!), you can try rock wall climbing at Hardrock Climbing in the CBD. Personally not for me but rave reviews from all my mates!

Last but not least, don't forget to check out my brand NEW website - - dedicated to all things about moving to Melbourne and life in general in the world's most liveable city !

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Royal Melbourne Show 2011 Opens Today !

The Royal Melbourne Show is a great family event that will entertain people of all ages and not to be missed by anyone new to Melbourne. It provides a fascinating insight to the history and culture of a major traditional industry of Australia.

Starting in 1848, this was originally an agricultural show where farmers gathered in Melbourne from all over Victoria to display their best livestock, goods and produce. There was also all manner of competitions and awards from farm animal contests to wood chopping. 

Since then, the event has gone from strength to strength and is now an annual event (held in September) attended by hundreds of thousands of Melbournians (and international/interstate visitors) over 11 days and nights.

Here are some of the key things that I love so much about the show:

  • The amazing best-of-the-best farm animals on show. You can walk around the stable, chat with the owners and get real up close
  • Various farm animal contests like dog obedience competitions, horse racing, etc.
  • Witnessing the miracle of birth – the farmers bring along pregnant pigs, sheep, etc to share this amazing experience with city-folk like me
  • Kids animal section where children can mingle among baby animals and touch / feel
  • The Showbags – over 300 different bags of lollies, toys, stationary, body products, etc costing from $1 to $240! Most popular are the children’s bags of course like Sesame Street, Hot Wheels, Star Wars, Spiderman, etc. My personal favourite is the Manchester United showbag that includes a gym bag, ball, pump, water bottle, keychain, etc.
  • Rides – I am personally not a big fan but there are a plethora of thrilling carnival rides that are unsurprisingly wildly popular
  • And many more!

A truly unique Melbourne experience not to be missed!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Hobbies & Special Interests : Comics, Collectible Toys and Pop culture !


These being a casual Friday, I think I will cover a more light-hearted topic today with this being the first article covering hobbies and special interests. 
After all, you may have just moved to a foreign land but that doesn’t mean you should put your pastimes on hold!

Hence I’ll start off with something I personally love which is .. Collecting comics and toys!
So where do you go to get your weekly fix? Here are the most popular joints in Melbourne ..

    • Located right in the middle of the city, it is really easy to get to and has a great selection of current and back comic issues. 
    • It’s quite a large spacious shop and I love to loiter and admire all the really old comics on the wall. Not to mention the gorgeous collectible toys and statues. 
    • The regular staff (Matt, Mark & Ryan) running the place are really friendly and always up for a chat. 
    • They also have another branch not far from the city as well along fashionable Chapel St. 
    • Comics R Us
    • Used to be packed on Friday and weekends but have since lost quite many of their regulars ever since their 2 best staff left to open their own shop! (see All Star Comics below) 
  • Classic Comics 
    • Situated on near the State Parliament building on the east end of the city. This is a tiny shop that has all the current comics but limited amount of back issues and toys on display due to a lack of space. They do a lot of business on Ebay so I guess shop space is not such a big issue. 
    • Their prices are the cheapest but the place isn't too comfy to hangout due to its small space. Anymore than a few people having at a chat at the counter and you are bumping bums here! 
    • So if you like cheap but don’t want/need to hang around, then this is the place to go. 
    • Off topic but if you do visit this place, do try the great Malaysian food at Laksa Me in the adjacent building! 
  • Minotaur Entertainment Megastore 
    • The biggest pop culture place in Melbourne, their selection of goods are by far the best covering everything from toys, comics, books, clothes, DVDs, etc. 
    • But BIG normally means impersonal and this place is no different. Their prices are also a lot higher than the others. 
    • All Star Comics
    • If you want variety and a one-stop shop, this is the place. Otherwise the others would be better choices. 
  • All Star Comics 
    • The new kids on the block! Just opened on Feb this year by 2 great guys – Troy and Mitch – who used to work at Comics R Us. 
    • I can’t comment much as I haven’t been there yet (it’s in a more remote part of the CBD and inconvenient for my personal situation). But from what I can see, they are going from strength to strength and building up quite a following! Which is great to see as these guys are genuinely nice blokes. 
    • I’ll definitely pay a visit sometime and update this blog post with more information.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How to choose a Suburb to live in ..

In an earlier post, I wrote about the various stages of the real estate journey and the different types of accomodation. 

But how do you go about choosing a location to live in that is suitable for you?

Being a city spanning a very large land area, Melbourne consists of many suburbs of differing traits and character. Comparing all the various areas can be mind-boggling for anyone, let alone a newcomer to Melbourne.

(Note: I use the term “suburb” loosely to cover all areas of Melbourne including the CBD!)

Here are some areas of considerations that might make your choice a little easier ..

  • Distance
    • A good starting strategy would be to draw a 10 km radius around either the Melbourne CBD or your place of work, and see which suburbs fit into your budget
    • Since you're only just moving to Melbourne, I would recommend you start off renting first so as not to commit to a big mortgage on a house until you are more familiar with the lay of the land and eventually find the suburb of your dreams. :) 
  •  Education 
    • If you have children, a key driving factor might be the location of a specific school
    • Many public schools (especially the popular ones) are “zoned”. What this means is that you must live within the defined neighbourhood boundary in order for your child to be eligible to study there 
  •  Lifestyle 
    • If you like a specific lifestyle then that may influence your decision 
    • If you like beaches, places like Sandringham and Altona might appeal to you 
    • If you like rivers, you can’t go past the scenic locations around the Yarra or Maribyrnong rivers 
    • If you enjoy shopping and a poshier lifestyle, South Yarra or Prahran might appeal to you 
    • If you like the artsy and hippie crowd, then Fitzroy would be your pick 
    • And many more!

Intersect the 3 factors above, and I reckon your list will be narrowed to just a few areas making your choice a lot easier!

Whichever suburb you shortlist, have a leisurely walk around the town centre, sit down for a coffee and soak up the area's ambience. Also do drive around the neighbourhood, visit the schools, chat with the locals, pay a visit both day and night, etc .. then decide.

As usual, local knowledge can help a lot so feel free to post questions on specific suburbs here and I will give you all the help you need.

Last but not least, don't forget to check out my brand NEW website - - dedicated to all things about moving to Melbourne and life in general in the world's most liveable city !

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rubbish Collection and the Case of the Missing Bin !!

I rolled out my bin this morning for the weekly rubbish collection and by the time I came home this morning .. it was GONE !! STOLEN !! AAARRRGGGGHHH !!

Since I’m here, I might as well share a bit of information about … Rubbish Collection! :D
If you live in a house, the council will provide you at least 2 bins – a plain coloured one for normal rubbish and yellow top bin for recyclables. These 2 are provided as part of the council rates that you pay on your house. And of you pay an additional fee; you can even get a green top bin for your gardening waste like leaves, grass clippings, branches, etc.

The council sends trucks around once a week to collect them and you have to roll out the bins to the nature strip. They came around quite early so most people roll them out the night before.

Not the most glamorous topic today, but hey not everything about REAL life is interesting. And this is the essence of what this blog is all about and why it is different from all the flashy guides that you find on the net – all fluff and no substance.

REAL and PRACTICAL information about REAL EVERYDAY living in Melbourne!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sports : Melbourne Victory Football Club – featuring Harry Kewell !!

If you are a recent immigrant to Melbourne and looking for a local professional football (sometimes referred to as Soccer like the USA) team to support, boy are you in luck! You definitely chose the right city to live in!

Melbourne has by far the most numerous and passionate football supporters in the country. This is clearly demonstrated both club memberships sold and average attendances. The premier football league in Australia is called the A-League and Melbourne has 2 teams in the completion – Melbourne Victory and Melbourne Heart.

Melbourne Victory is the older and much bigger of the 2 local teams. It has been around since the A-League’s inauguration in 2005 and is also considered the league’s most successful club in the league winning the domestic double twice in its short history.

Their home ground is at AAMI Park (popularly called the Bubble stadium due to its design) but the bigger games – like the Melbourne Victory vs Sydney FC derby which can attract up to 40,000 – are held at the larger Etihad Stadium.

This coming 2011/2013 season is the most anticipated yet with Melbourne Victory welcoming new signing Australia’s best ever player – Harry Kewell !!

He touched down to the cheers of 200 waiting fans and had his first training session. Harry Kewell is  only just 32 years old and though his speed has reduced over the years, he is still very much playing at a top level and in the National team. As a result, the maximum 18,000 season memberships (which only costs $195 for the cheapest level!) are very close to being sold out well before the first ball is kicked!

The season opens on 8th Oct with the sport’s biggest rivalry – Melbourne Victory vs Sydney. And to add even more spice, Sydney will also be showing off their new player – Brett Emerton (who was still playing with Blackburn Rovers in the EPL a few weeks ago!).

!!! PLAY BALL !!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Visa Categories – Getting into Australia and Melbourne ..

So you did your research, probably even stopped by for a visit as tourist and finally decided to make the big move and make Melbourne your new home city!

So what’s next? You’ll need a Visa that will allow you to stay and work in Australia! (Assuming you are outside Australia of course)

Well, there is a myriad of categories of Visas that will allow you into the country but I’ll touch on the most popular categories:

  • Subclass 457 – Business (Long Stay) 
    • Better known as the Temporary 457 Working Visa.
    • This is by far the most commonly used Visa category used by employers to bring in skilled workers from overseas
    • As such it is Employer sponsored – that means you’ll need a job before you come here which is not easy. Internet job sites are your best places to start. 
    • Also, the Visa is tied to your job – so No job = Go home! Don’t laugh as it almost happened to me! 
    • The term can be anywhere between one day to 4 years. But it’s quite ridiculous for an employer to go through all the effort for 1 day! More likely than not, it will be for 3 or 4 years. 
    • This is a popular immigration stepping stone to the coveted Australian Permanent Residency status (and onto full citizenship later)
  • Skilled – Independent 
    • This is will give you a Permanent Residency visa that is not tied to any employer or job 
    • This is the most common immigration path if you are applying for Australian Permanent Residency before you come to Australia 
    • Also, most people convert to a Permanent Resident visa from the Temporary 457 Working Visa using this category 
    • You basically compile points based on your age, education, skills, etc. Most importantly, your occupation must fall within the Skilled Occupation List (SOL). You will need at least 65 points or higher to be eligible to apply. 
    • A very popular path to Permanent Residency is for overseas youths to come to Melbourne using a student visa (see next category) for a course in the SOL and then apply for a PR visa using this category 
  • Higher Education Sector: Temporary Visa 
    • Melbourne is the most popular destination for overseas students in Australia and unsurprisingly, most of them are in this visa category 
    • It certainly helps that all the top Universities – Melbourne University, RMIT and Monash – have campuses in and around the Melbourne CBD area! 
    • This will also allow you to work for up to 20 hours a week during school terms and unlimited hours during school holidays

The above categories is only the tip of the immigration iceberg and there are heaps more categories that you can consider as alternate immigration paths into Melbourne Australia.

Last but not least, don't forget to check out my brand NEW website - - dedicated to all things about moving to Melbourne and life in general in the world's most liveable city ! 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11 - 10 Years On ...

Totally off topic but this is a personal message from me.
9/11 .. exactly 10 years on since probably the biggest World event in my entire life. I can still remember so clearly what I was doing at the time and the morning after. 
This is just my small little tribute to the innocent lives lost that morning - most of whom which were heroic Policemen and Firemen of New York putting their lives at risk in the line of duty .
Lest We Forget.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Medicare and Private Health Insurance ..

I’ve been quite sick past few days with a really bad cough & cold so it’s been a while since my last post. Only just starting to recover now and what better way to stimulate the brain cells than by – writing a new blog post!

And suitably, today’s topic is about medical bills and what financial coverage is available to you – other than cold hard cash of course! Medical bills can be exorbitantly high in Australia ranging from $50 for a GP consultation to many tens of thousands for major cases like premature births. 

So to prevent yourself from being bankrupted by medical bills, these are the 2 core components of the Australian Health System – Medicare and Private Health Insurance
  • Medicare
    • This is the government run, publicly funded (i.e. FREE) medical social welfare system. 
    • This is available to all citizens and permanent residents (PR). Sorry, but temporary student and working visas need not apply! 
    • When you get to Australia, you can step into any Medicare office and apply for a card. 
    • Once enrolled, medical bills (exclusions apply like medicines) are theoretically free! 
    • There is a catch of course and that is it is only totally free at public hospitals and certain (bulk billing) GPs. 
    • You can still go with your own GP but you will need to top-up any excess from the Medicare limit with your own money.
    •  Admittedly, the service and quality of free care is nowhere near what is offered with private services which are a lot of pricier. Which brings us to the next option ...
  • Private Health Insurance
    • Firstly, Private Health Insurance is meant to complement and not replace Medicare
    • You basically pay for additional coverage on top of what Medicare provides which is very limited 
    • If you are on a temporary student or working visa, this is the only option available 
    •  If you can afford the additional, I would definitely recommend taking up this option as well even if you are eligible for Medicare 
    • You don’t need to pay the 1% Medicare Surcharge Tax if you have a private health insurance plan 
    • There is a multitude of various combinations of private health insurance packages that can range from $15 to $55 per week 
    • But most people choose a Hospital + Extras cover that 
      • Allow them a higher level of care at public hospitals (e.g. private rooms) 
      • Cover for stays at private (i.e. posh!) hospitals 
      • Items not covered by Medicare like dental, glasses/contact lenses, ambulance services, acupuncture, hearing aids, etc. 
      • Some higher end packages even include rebates for gym memberships and exercise equipment! 
Obviously this is a HUGE topic and I am only giving a tip-of-the-iceberg summary here. Feel free to post any questions and I would love to help answer them. :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Getting around Melbourne ..

Melbourne is a city that spreads across a very wide expanse with the CBD itself relatively small – spanning just around 8 by 4 city blocks only! 

So you will probably find yourself in the car or on public transport a great deal of your time! :D

In any case, here is a quick summary of your transport options in getting around Melbourne:

  • Car 
    • While public transport is available, it is nothing to shout about especially as you get further away from the CBD. Not to mention, extremely expensive especially for short trips – this costs $2.90 even if you travel just 100m! 
    • So by far, Car is the transport mode of choice for most Melbournians and is pretty much essential! 
    • If you already have a driving license from your home country, you can drive a car without converting to a local license – at least for a while. The license needs to be in English though – if not you might need an official translation or an International Driving Permit. For more details, here is the official Vicroads website on this topic 
    • Note: I’ll be covering the topic of “Buying a Car” in a not-too-future post! 
  • Tram 
    • I personally love the tram network! They are an Australian icon, quaint, efficient, clean, great for the environment and runs quite regularly. 
    • Unfortunately, the coverage is very limited – basically covering only the CBD and some of the inner city suburbs. So that rules out most of Melbourne.
  • Train 
    • The trains run quite well during the weekday peak hours, but off-peak hours are a nightmare with the wait in between trains being horrendous. Expect to wait up to an hour if you miss your train! 
    • Also, train stations – particularly the ones further away from the CBD – are quite unsafe and not a good idea to hang around too long especially after dark. The locals generally time their arrival at the station not long before the scheduled train arrives to limit their waiting time at the station. 
    • Good news is that the recently elected new State government has promised to fix the security issue by deploying security staff at the stations. Previously most stations had NO SECURITY at all! :O
  • Bus 
    • Buses in Melbourne are generally a complementary service to the primary tram/train network. The tram/train network spreads straight out from the CBD with the buses covering the gaps in between. 
    • They are clean, efficient and safe. Frankly, it’s a wonder to me why they are not used more extensively to alleviate the public transport woes in Melbourne.
  • Taxi 
    • As mentioned in my earlier post, taxis are very expensive in Melbourne. For example, I took a maxi-cab from the Airport to the City and it costs AUD$99 ! :O
    • In addition, many of the drivers are new immigrants (mainly from India or Africa) and do not know their way around that well.
    • Having said that, if you don’t have a car, taxis are pretty much your best choice as it gets late – with the train / tram system being quite unsafe at night.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...