two months ago, i went to Melbourne for a week to travel and visit my friends. Taliza bought a disposable camera to document the trip. (click for more of her photography works)
Mornington was a little more than an hour drive from Melbourne city. it was the morning right after i landed, and halfway through the drive in Austin’s car, we stopped at a McDonald’s (alternatively, Maccas) for breakfast.
Cape Schank and Flinder’s Blowhole (who is Flinder? what’s a blowhole? questions that remain unanswered to this day) were very windy which means there was a lot of hair in my mouth that day. but it was beautiful, and it was such a stark contrast to the past few months of incessantly mind-numbing book flipping that the scenes before my eyes took on an almost surreal appearance.
the same day, we had fish and chips lunch somewhere near the sea – but we weren’t the only ones hungry for food. with our fish and chips boxes in hand as we sat at a bench by the road, we were under constant vigilant (and annoying) surveillance by a humongous flock of seaside aves.
after that, Taliza, Austin and i wandered around the quaint streets and stumbled upon this old, vintage cinema-cum-dvd rental store. it almost felt like a scene straight out of a 90s’ coming-of-age film. or Stranger Things.
forgive me for positing this – but Melbourne is a strange amalgamation of a very hipster Western town and a heavily Asian-influenced immigrant district. which is not a bad thing at all, and which also means that there’s a “best of both worlds” situation going on.
we went to South Yarra for brunch on Taliza’s off-day and the brunch cafés and vintage thrift shops that lined both sides of the streets were heavily reminiscent of Manchester’s own Northern Quarter.
on one of my last nights in Melbourne, we were drinking and playing games at Unit 522 when Ken Fui said, “you think i don’t know you well? i’ve known you for more than six years already!” and it truly struck me that i’ve known this group of people for as long as i had had my secondary level education. for a quarter of all 24 years of my life. and there’s a special feeling of kinship when it comes to long friendships like this, which i will treasure for the eternity of always.
The formulation of my weekend trip to Liverpool was somewhat reminiscent of my Scotland trip, in the sense that I was texting Joe one night in the middle of procrastinating on my jurisprudence essay and when asked when I was actually going to Liverpool to visit her, I immediately checked train ticket prices and bought them on the spot for the next weekend, aka the weekend after my essay deadline and also when Rumin would be back in Malaysia.
The next Friday, long story short (and also because I don’t think I should post the details on such a public platform), I missed my train by a minute. As in, the moment I reached the platform, the train had just left. It was all a very dramatic affair that led to caps-lock texting multiple people in a frenzy but I got to Liverpool in the end, one way or another. Infer from that however you will (or if we meet in person I’d love to recap the entire dramatic adventure again with great enthusiasm).
Joe was already waiting for me at Liverpool Lime Street station when I reached and the first thing I thought of when I exited the station was: wow, Liverpool is so beautiful.
I dropped off my stuff at Joe’s place before she brought me to this quaint Thai restaurant with actual authentic deco (stainless steel plates, stone benches and chilli trays; God I miss Thailand so much). I ordered tom kha gai while Joe ordered green curry chicken. It was an amazing dinner.
After dinner, we walked around Liverpool ONE while admiring the festive decorations. I also got a scarf for myself from Primark.
The next day, Black Friday sales were still going strong so we spent a good first half of the day shopping at Liverpool ONE. I really, really liked Liverpool’s city centre in a way that is vastly different from Manchester’s. They call Manchester the second largest city in the UK but it somehow felt like Liverpool’s city centre was bigger and more comprehensive than Manchester’s. Everything was more concentrated in a single square in Liverpool, while Manchester had more roads and shops were more scattered.
After finally promising that I won’t spend money on clothes anymore until next year, we headed for Merseyside’s famous landmark, Albert Dock. We didn’t realise how foggy it actually was after spending the whole afternoon in shops until we reached Albert Dock and saw the heavy fog cover over the entire area. Everything looked like it had undergone VSCO’s T1 filter.
Not only did Albert Dock feel like a foggy ghost town, it was also very, very, VERY cold, even more so when you’re wearing skirt and leggings. I’ve been in the UK for a year plus and I still don’t learn.
We were starving by the time it got dark because our only meal for the day was toast before leaving the house. We walked one whole round around the dock searching for places to eat, found out they were all pricey as hell, and then subsequently proceeded to this Asian restaurant near Chinatown where we had Korean food. The moment I sat down I could feel my toes again – as well as the acid juices sloshing in my stomach. I had bibimbap and Joe had kimchi stew and it was honest to god one of the best meals of my life.
And then we went to Chinatown of course, to answer our Chinese blood’s calling.
That night at home, Joe introduced me to Yuzuru Hanyu and actual figure skating before I watched the new episode of Yuri on Ice while she caught up on Haikyuu!!
Joe made katsu curry brunch for us the next day. Our itinerary for the day included: Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool Central Library, Anfield Liverpool FC, Everton FC and then the Christmas markets.
And then like all good things, my trip had to come to an end. I left Liverpool with an incredibly heavy heart, having made good memories in this city for the past few days with lovely company.
The gap between my last Destinations post and this post is actually longer than the gap between my reaching Manchester from Scotland and then flying off from Manchester to Amsterdam, which was a mere four hours or so during which I swiftly replaced my luggage with fresh new clothes and had homecooked lunch at Q3 courtesy of Yee Lin and Nicole.
And then the five of us, Ash, Ernie, Jia Yang, CC and I took an Uber to Manchester Airport for our 8PM flight to Amsterdam.
It must be emphasised, before I continue, that the conception of this trip literally appeared out of nowhere. I still remember it was the evening before we went to Old Trafford to watch a football match; it was exactly the five of us having dinner at a Chinese restaurant when Ash suddenly said, out of the blue, “Let’s go to Amsterdam next week” and I actually entertained the idea, because I responded by saying “Let’s go” albeit not expecting a legitimate end result, and definitely not expecting the instantaneous formation of a Whatsapp group and then actually buying flight tickets and booking an Airbnb on the next day itself.
So that…was that. And less than a week later, we were off to Amsterdam.
White wine is the breakfast for champions.
This wasn’t my first time in Amsterdam; I’d been here during spring three years ago and I had nothing but fond memories of this picturesque European city that doesn’t give me pressure and stress the way a lot of cities do (see: London, KL). The city of Amsterdam by day boasted uniquely beautiful Dutch architecture and quaint canals, as well as confusing streets accessible by vehicular contraptions in the forms of bicycles, cars and trams.
Forget spring, fall is literally the loveliest and most scenic season. Not to sound fake deep but the yellow-orange hues of autumn leaves tell better relatable stories of a person’s aged experiences than the vivid multi-colours of spring’s floral blooming.
We had bottomless spare ribs at a “sports satellite” cafe near Centraal for dinner before exploring Amsterdam at night in search for the famous The Fault in Our Stars bench.
Alright, here’s the thing: I don’t think it’s entirely irrational to have high expectations for a landmark bench of a well-known young adult romance movie. After all, they shot a movie here. Here’s another thing, two things, in fact: 1) it may not look like it in the photo, but amazingly, it started pouring when we found the bench, so this photo was taken in a literal hurry 2) the bench faces the canal which means that in order to take a full frontal shot of the bench, you probably need to cross to the other side and be equipped with a camera of rather good quality so all this added up to a not-so-good impression of the TFiOS bench but really, am I qualified to make a statement like that? At least there wasn’t a single dull moment at Amsterdam, and that I can appreciate whole-heartedly.
Amsterdam at night is an antithesis of its day counterpart. You think you know what I’m about to say but I really love how different the canals look at night; when it’s bright out they’re cosy little streams of water but at night, the reflections of streetlights and the glow of signboards off the surface of the canals give off a distinctive vibe of being somewhere else completely different.
I fell in love with Amsterdam three years ago and I fell in love with it again, with different memories and experiences this time around to attribute to one of my favourite cities.
And alright, the city wasn’t the only thing that I fell in love with; I learned that by discovering the addictiveness of adventures and adrenaline, even right to the root of the spontaneous foundation of this trip itself. My default position in life has always been within the range of my comfort zone, and taking chances like this always reminds myself of how rewarding the act of not overthinking things and just doing it can be.
I was already supposed to pay Scotland a visit the first week I got back to Manchester, but because there was just so much stuff to do, the tentative prospect of a trip up north had to be postponed until a week before reading week when Ken Fui asked when was I ever going to go to Scotland and I promptly checked my reading week timetable and said, “next week”. So I went on Trainline and bought tickets and that was the first half of my reading week done.
That Friday, I only had a bowl of cereal after coming back from my seminar that ended at 2PM, and then I had to rush through packing before boarding the 5PM train to Glasgow. Hence, my 4-hour journey to Glasgow was spent 1) ignoring the consistent growl in my stomach 2) staring off into space because I couldn’t do any work on my laptop without feeling like I might puke 3) wondering how bulletpoints 1 & 2 even work when they clearly contradict each other in terms of the contents of my stomach (or rather, lack thereof).
But I did reach Glasgow eventually after what felt like eternity and Ken Fui was there to bring me to his place where he had cooked spaghetti for dinner and I was so hungry that I had seconds. MVP of the day, honestly.
We also watched Ao Haru Ride in the spirit of cheesy sappy Japanese teen movies after being inspired by Orange. Definitely laughed at the drama and ridiculousness more than anything else.
The next day, Ken Fui had a group project during the first half of the day so I got to hung out with Ming! The story behind how I knew Ming is a rather interesting one: we come from the same college albeit different batches but I only properly got to know her after accidentally coming across her on the Internet. I’d talked more to her on the Internet than in real life prior to that day, which may seem odd to many but not surprisingly, is how most of my friendships have transpired to be.
Our first Glaswegian destination is The Lighthouse, a quirky 7-storey arts centre with salty Brexit-themed modern art, trippy strobe flash videography and an overview of the rooftops of Glasgow at the topmost floor.
And then we went to visit Ming’s university, University of Glasgow, where some of the Harry Potter film scenes were allegedly shot at.
After that, we went to the Kelvingrove Museum to look and appreciate fine art like the civilised and cultured international students we are by coming up with captions for medieval portraits and uploading them on Snapchat.
Ming had to leave after 4PM so Ken Fui came over after that and he had no idea where else to go so he said, “Why don’t we go see the big ship at the Transport Museum” even though the museum closed at 5. It wasn’t like I knew what else to do either so I said okay, and then halfway through the 20-minute walk to the museum and the ship, it started raining. But we were already halfway there so there really wasn’t anything to do but continue moving forward.
We did get there in the end in one piece. The ship was pretty big, I guess.
My legs were already half dead by that time so I suggested getting an Uber back but the price surge was 2.0x so in the end I managed to drag my legs and torso all the way back home anyway.
ii. EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND
We bought train tickets to Edinburgh the next morning and after getting off the hour long ride, I bought a chai latte from a small vendor next to Edinburgh Waverley because it was one of my favourite drinks at that moment and also because it wouldn’t hurt to have some taste sensory enjoyment to go along with the sight sensory one, because Edinburgh is so beautiful.
We walked the Royal Mile all the way to the Palace, took photos of the Scottish Parliament and (half of) Arthur’s Seat, walked around city centre and ended up at the Scottish National Gallery to resume my cultured escapade.
And then it was already 4PM, which also meant sunset was upon us, so what more suitable time to go up Calton Hill than that
Every minute spent on top of the hill was so breathtakingly beautiful.
Aaron invited us for dinner after that and conveniently enough, Daryl also knew Aaron so it was a reunion of different friends from different stages of my life. Frankly, it was pretty bizarre, but the really good kind.
Early the next morning, I said goodbye to Ken Fui before departing for Manchester, where I would have a brief respite before embarking on my next adventure in Amsterdam.