The start of our trip to Australia had been so laid back that it was a major shift in gears when we were left to our own devices in Melbourne. Jackie’s visa appointment was over (and successful!) in less than an hour, which left us with two full days to explore the city. It’s been a while since I’ve been free to roam a completely new city and I was definitely rusty when figuring out the public trams. Luckily, once we got ourselves to the CBD (Central Business District), we could handle the rest on foot. Obviously, we organized our day around our appetites starting at the Queen Victoria Market. Earlier I mentioned that the Noosa Farmer’s Market reminded me of good ‘ol Santa Monica…this market was in a league of its own! I realize now that I never took a photo of the entire block but even if I tried, I wouldn’t have been able to capture it all. The market covers all types of food and gifts from fresh produce to souvenirs, and mini-shops with cured meats, specialty cheeses and honey, spreads, baked goods, desserts, flowers, the whole lot. I found myself jealous that Melbourne locals had food like this at their fingertips!
Melbourne’s RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) is right in the heart of the CBD so the sidewalks were bustling with students carrying around portfolios and art materials. RMIT’s buildings were imaginative and abstract…I loved being able to peek into open studios and observe students in the midst of projects. We also liked dipping into little shops and cafes – Melbourne has such a growing art community with LOTS of handmade crafts. I was in heaven! DesignSponge collected a list of Melbourne’s cutest shops in a convenient city guide a few years ago and I used it to make sure I didn’t miss anything good.
…and now to my favorite aspect about Melbourne: the food. We arrived in the evening and as we warily navigated our way to our hotel in St. Kilda through the CBD, I started to take mental notes of all the small restaurants with the key words “Noodle”, “Dumpling”, and “Bao”. After walking through Queen Victoria Market, we made our way to the wonton houses and ended up choosing Taiwan Cafe Street Food. We wolfed down a full plate of bak choy, pork wontons, soup dumplings and BBQ pork buns.
We rolled out of there happy and full and spent the rest of the day trying to rebuild our appetites for dinner. Lunch carried us to 9pm after a full day of wandering around the streets of Melbourne, and even then, it was difficult to eat again! During the day, we scouted out Mamak, an amazing Malaysian restaurant known for their roti canai. All the dishes were really affordable and I wish I could have eaten more – I’m still dreaming of that fluffy, doughy roti.
I don’t want this post to turn into a glorified UrbanSpoon review, but I have to mention Wonderbao. With a name like Wonderbao, there wasn’t a chance I was leaving Melbourne without finding this place. I innocently jotted down the address and cross streets before we hit the town but we spent almost the entire day looking for this little hidden treasure. We gave up on the first day and told ourselves that we would go back to the hotel and do more research…the next morning we finally found it hidden in the tiniest laneway. Six baos later, we decided that it was worth the trouble!
In conclusion, I’ll say that my visit to Melbourne was eye-opening. Now I know that there exists a place that has all the foods I like on every corner…it’s not too expensive…and they speak English!! It’s too bad Australia puts pets in quarantine for 4 months or else I might have to seriously consider a move. I’d have to give up some of my favorite American conveniences, but look what I’d be getting! Wonderbao! Chinese bakeries and wonton houses! Sushi stands! You sure do drive a hard bargain, Melbourne. I’ll be back.