Recently I went on my first ever guided tour of Melbourne’s CBD. Along with about sixty others, mostly tourists, it was refreshing wandering through familiar city locations while listening to historical commentary from the Melburnian, blonde, university-aged tour guide.
It got me thinking: what’s so good about Melbourne? Why do I like living in one of the most livable cities in the world?
Moving back to Australia after ten years studying in Asia, I had less than pleasant encounters with Caucasians and Asians here as an Asian Australian. But I’ve learnt to look at the positives and today I like Melbourne very much for what it is.
With laneways all over the place, it’s hard to get bored in Melbourne. Venture down one and you may find a pop-up cosy café in this coffee connoisseur capital of a city. Maybe a hidden pub or gallery. One Saturday I was strolling around the back lanes of the Paris-end of the city and to my delight stumbled upon a café I had always wanted to visit. To my disappointment, it was closed. How unexpected. But I did walk away with a triumphant sense of discovery.
It’s fairly easy to get around Melbourne on foot with its overpriced trams. There’s practically a tram stop every one or two blocks in the rectangular-shaped CBD. Hop on a tram and take a short trip to quieter areas like breezy St Kilda Beach and hippy Brunswick. As the dinging bell of the trams filters through my opened bedroom windows on summer nights, I am reminded that the world is at my feet. Comforting.
History and modernity exist side-by-side here – there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes. For those keen on true-blue Aussie bush life, a couple of hour’s drive or train ride from the city will take you to places such as the Yarra-Dandenong Ranges where you can admire heritage properties and roaming kangaroos. For shopaholics, H&M and Top Shop are home in the heart of the city and up-market Chapel Street. While the footy is on at the MCG, there’s bound to be a cultural festival on elsewhere at the same time. On weekends, I love wandering through the city’s oldest buildings and later grabbing Asian food from Chinatown to fill me up.
The open acceptance and respect for creative expression around Melbourne makes it all the more welcoming. Graffiti alleys, balloon-makers and buskers adorn the streets. Even the weather is artistic – it’s fond of putting on four-seasons-a-day shows. Melbournians might stop and stare at abstract street art or listen to off-key singing but laugh at, they rarely do.
Not too long ago, I was trying to get a specific photo of the Bourke Street tram tracks for one of my blog posts, running back and forth to avoid getting mowed over by a tram. I did this for about half an hour. So many strangers saw what I was doing and purposely moved out of my way. Not one yelled at me to get out of their way.
At the end of the day, I guess Melbourne is a quirky little city with its tendency to both surprise and please. After walking 4.5 kilometres over three hours around Melbourne’s iconic city spots, the guided tour came to an end on the banks of the Yarra River. All of us clapped for the volunteer tour guide. Charlotte, her name was. It had been a very informative tour and the tourists took out their wallets.
“Thanks so much. That was really fun,” I said, dropping some coins into her hands.
“Thank you, thank you!” Charlotte said, smiling and beaming. She looked stunned at our generosity, at a lost for words. She really shouldn’t be. She was so generous herself.
Melburnians. Another reason why I love Melbourne.
What do you like about your city? What do you think of Melbourne/Australia?