Category Archives: Australia

Biking up that hill

After a weekend of drinking and concerts (plus the opening park party for a pride festival and a street festival for the lunar new year) it was time to recover outside the city with a bike ride to a few of the Yarra Valley’s wineries. At 33° and humid it was also very much not the day for serious exertion, but with wine tasting and country roads calling, there was no way not to go.

I sampled two of my favourite wines types, late harvest Riesling and port, and they were fantastic. Cycling up a steep dirt road may have contributed to my enjoyment.

With 43 kilometres of highway between to the wine path, it was convenient that the Melbourne Metro goes all the way to the trail head (literally, the trail started at the parking lot). The path begins in slopey suburbs and connects via a bridge with too much gravel, but it becomes a much more more rural-looking path afterwards though plenty of people were strolling through it even on a Monday afternoon, most probably from the suburbs just off the path. After a dozen kilometres and almost 2 hours of struggling up (and zooming down) hills and shading under forest we arrived in Seville. The three wineries offered some great ranges of wine, mostly the chardonnays and pinot noirs for which the Yarra Valley is (so the wineries said) best suited.

On the way back the late afternoon sun gave the forest a fantasy glow, especially where the path was bracketed by rock faces where the old railway had been dug in to the hills. The sense of going through a land out of time was reinforced by the many piles of horse poop that had to be dodged, left by the equestrian school.

Posted from Lilydale, Victoria, Australia.

The strait, the ocean, the river

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Graffiti is legal in designated alleys, but carrying spray bottles in public is illegal.

I arrived in Melbourne on Thursday after a depressing evening at Chek Lap Kok and a restless night of getting elbowed. I wasn’t in the best mood when I landed, and an afternoon walking with Melissa through hipster neighbourhoods and their gorgeous patisseries was a nice injection of excitement.

We’re in a suburb (read: neighbourhood) called Fitzroy which is awash in great cafes and restaurants; small shops selling vintage clothes and furniture; larger shops selling overpriced plastic and metal things; and surprisingly large shops selling much smaller clothing. Thanks to sale prices, I’m now the owner of a piece of much smaller clothing; I’ve been assured that the loss of flexibility in my knees will get worked away.

Hipster streets can be expected to have excellent print design, but I’ve been surprised by the number of places around here with great Googie signage. There are also a surprising number of spectacular Art Deco buildings and Beaux-Arts arcades, as though the International school skipped the city entirely and left it primed for some top-notch PoMo.

There’s a lot of great city to experience here and I’ll try to keep updating with more of it!

Posted from Collingwood, Victoria, Australia.

Sunrise over Russia

A long flight, a longer horizon

An hour of sleep in a bottle.

I’m in Hong Kong with a day to see and explore the old neighbourhood before hopping on a plane to Melbourne. I didn’t get much sleep on the plane, even after two glasses of wine, which is actually doing wonders for my jetlag.

I haven’t been here in 8 years and it feels like my sentimental side is taking a firm hold. I went to visit my grandmother’s old apartment building, back when she was (alive, obviously, and) still living here, near the complex in which I grew up. On the way, I stumbled on what I think is the playground at which I played giant plastic tic-tac-toe, and the city square on which I used to watch people do tai chi in the morning. I’m hoping to take a look around the old shopping plaza today, popping in to the wet market for that butcher smell.

Sunrise, about 400 kilometres west of Jakutsk

My past direct flights to Hong Kong took me over Korea and Japan, and watching the lights of the megalopoli pass was one of my favourite parts of the route. This time we flew over Russia and China (originally routed to be straight over Beijing) which meant two polar twilights. The colour, the feeling, of the sky is just different at high latitudes, and every peek snuck out the window bathed my row in pink and orange.

Kwai Sing Container Terminals

I’d forgotten the scale of things in Hong Kong. There are plenty of pictures of the nighttime downtown, but really they just evoke an image of a very, very big city. Here’s the port of Hong Kong. You can see about part of a quarter of it. Currently the third busiest port in the world, driving by it has a Burtynskyan appreciation for the sheer volume of modern international commerce. I was also struck by the giant apartment complexes: dozens of floors of thin building, a handful all wedged together. When I was here as a kid, living on the island, I I developed an image of Hong Kong as a tightly packed, slightly dusty city, buildings 5 or 10 stories high with nary an inch between them. The suburbs where I grew up were more similar, but they feel different from the road.  I’ve seen these before but it feels like there are a lot more of them, and now I’m consciously trying to square these different ideas of the city and hopefully I’ll be able to take a walk around a couple more of these developments in the future.

Okay, time to get ready to start the day and head onwards to Melbourne!

Posted from Tai Mo Shan, New Territories, Hong Kong.