Collection: Hop on, hop off
Seeking to escape the cold and rainy weather in Germany, I found an offer by Emirates Airways called "Hop on, hop off": A flight from Frankfurt via Dubai, Bangkok and Sydney to Auckland, and back via Christchurch, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur and again Dubai; and you hop on and off whereever you want. I'd already decided to go to Australia before, and to do a stopover or two, but their offer totally nailed it. I decided to visit Bangkok and Sydney, to drive through Southern Australia towards Melbourne, and to stop over in Kuala Lumpur on the way back. It was an awesome adventure!
09 Mar: Bangkok, Wednesday
After having arrived on Tuesday evening and having gotten a good night's sleep, I started out walking from the Hotel in the Pathum Wan District towards the older parts of the city. I'd previously been to Cebu City and Hong Kong, and lots of what I saw walking down the streets reminded me of a mix of the two: The vibrant, colorful and seemingly chaotic street life, the traffic, the power lines, colonial buildings blending in with old temples and highrises, street food stands, tuk-tuks, honking everywhere, run-down and ultra-modern right next to each other: Fascinating.
This album contains 177 images in 10 chapters - See more
10 Mar: Bangkok, Thursday
My second day started out at the Victory monument, from where I headed past the Dusit Zoo, the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall all the way to the riverside Phra Sumen Fort. Like the day before, I decided to do everything by foot - and was glad I'd chosen to take my hiking shoes with me on this vacation! On my way back, I experienced a curious situation at a railway crossing: Trains don't necessarily have right of way; instead, they stop and wait for cars, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and buses just as if they were a regular traffic participant.
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11 Mar: Day trip to Ayutthaya
The first day, I'd gotten to know a fellow travel enthusiast. We'd exchanged phone numbers and made plans to spend a day outside of the city. After meeting up for breakfast, we took the bus to Ayutthaya - roughly an hour's drive. In Ayutthaya, we visited the ruins of the old capital city of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and quite impressive with all the old structures. On the way back, we took a tuk-tuk to the train station - a fast and bouncy ride and we were glad not to fall out of the back - and from there continued by train back to Bangkok. For additional adventure, we decided to buy a third-class ticket!
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12 Mar: Bangkok, Saturday
On my last day in Bangkok, I decided to start out the day in Lumphini park right down the road from the hotel. It's a nice quiet place in the middle of this vibrant city, and in the late afternoon, when it cools down a bit, lots of people come there and do sports. From there, I walked through the Si Lom district.
My flight to Sydney left at seven in the evening, so it was only a short day.
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13 Mar: Sydney, Sunday
I arrived in Sydney around nine o'clock in the morning. I couldn't get into the hotel room right away, so I went to have some breakfast and then started walking through the downtown area towards Circular Quay, the location of the Sydney Opera and Harbour Bridge, and strolled around there. What a contrast to Bangkok: 10 degrees cooler, the traffic quiet and orderly, no tuk-tuks, no streetfood stands, everyone stopping at pedestrian lights (plus, there being pedestrian lights in the first place). After I conquered my jetlag by sleeping a couple of hours in the afternoon, I returned to Sydney harbor in the evening.
This album contains 88 images in 7 chapters - See more
14 Mar: Sydney, Monday
The weather forecast was predicting a hot and sunny day, so I decided to take the ferry to Manly and spend the day at the beach. Thinking of friends and family back in Europe with rain and frosty temperatures, I went for a swim and enjoyed lying around in the sun:-) In the early afternoon, it started clouding up, so I headed back. A nice and lazy day!
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15 Mar: Sydney, Tuesday
I started into this drizzly day by walking around Chinatown and Darling Harbor. By the time I'd reached the waterfront area, it began clearing up again. I walked up to Observatory Park and from there once across Harbour Bridge. The walkway is enclosed in a pretty high fence, so the view is not as enjoyable as for example on Brooklyn Bridge - there is, fortunately, a small gap to stick your camera through. After taking the train back across the bridge, I walked through the Royal Botanic Gardens to Mrs Macquarie's Point, from where one has a great view of the opera house and the bridge.
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After picking up the rental car at Sydney airport, I headed west towards the Blue Mountains. I'd driven on the left side of the road in Scotland three years ago, so it was only weird for the first couple of minutes. Along the highway, there are numerous road-side attractions, vista points and hiking trails, several of which I visited. In the evening, I ended in a small town called Bathurst. These roadside cities reminded me of those in America, out west: A broad main road with cars parked before the shops with Victorian facades to both sides of it, a post office, a barber, a saloon (or "hotel", as they're called here); and a gas station, fastfood restaurant and a motel on the way out.
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The next day, I headed back east towards the coast line, and Princes Highway, which I'd be following for most of the duration of my road trip. In the afternoon, I found an amazing kilometer-long beach with noone but me and three other people. I went in for a swim after two of them told me it was safe despite the shark signs. My day ended in the beautiful town of Kiama.
After a small excursion and hike in the mountains near Nowra, I continued south on route 1, stopping for an extended beach walk underways. I found a motel in Batesman Bay around five in the afternoon and decided to call it a day.
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Following a recommendation I decided to leave Princes and to head towards the Australian Alps. This included my first offroad experience: First, the asphalt turned into gravel, which was OK. Later on, the road crossed a small river in a fort. Then, it turned into a forest path. Eventually, it started curving up a steep hill through serpentines and I started wondering if this was actually a through road. In the evening, I learned it was a "medium level" 4WD touring route. Huh! Some new skills I've got now;-). The day ended in a small town named Cooma, where the temporarily abandoned museum railway station served as a neat photography location.
The next day I headed west on Snowy Mountain Highway, passing the ghost town of Kiandra, and after being forced to quite a bit of a detour when a side road was suddenly blocked by a fallen tree, ended up late that evening in Bairnsdale.
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When I got ready to leave, it was raining outside, so I started by heading east to the Buchan Caves. After an hour's tour the sun was shining again, and I drove towards Lakes Entrance and 90 mile beach. The narrow channel where the lakes flow into the ocean is quite impressive, and with the weather having turned again, made for some dramatic pictures. In the afternoon, I learned driving straightforward for 30 km is pretty exhausting! I found a motel in a small place called Yarram.
I started into a beautiful sunny day along South Gippsland Highway and stopped at Cowes on Philipp Island for lunch. In the late afternoon, I reached Mount Dandenong, from which one can overlook Melbourne and its suburbs.
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I headed southwest for a town called Torquay, the start of the Great Ocean Road. The road runs directly along the coastline, which transforms from sandy beaches to 50 meter sand and stone cliffs, with spectacular views of the water grinding away on it. On my way, I passed the Twelve Apostles - sandstone formations eroded out of the cliff coast by hundreds of years of wind and weather, and the Petrified Forest - "the forest that isn't".
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24 Mar: Road trip, part 6: Inland loop
The next day, I crossed the border into South Australia, passing Mount Gambier and its Blue Lake and then heading north to Naracoorte. The farther inland I got the more everything "stretched" - lots of open space there!
The next day, I drove through Little Desert National Park, past a salt lake and along Western Highway. In a small town called Dimboola, I wanted to give another 4WD track a try, and got stuck in deep sand! Lucky for me within half an hour a group of people came by and where able to tow me. On my way back to Melbourne I crossed over the mountain ridge in Grampians National Park.
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27 Mar: Melbourne, Sunday
I dropped of the car on Saturday morning and spent the afternoon with my feet up on the couch - after one and a half weeks full of action I needed a break. On Sunday, I started exploring Melbourne's downtown area - Flinder's Street Station, along the Yarra river, Southern Cross, RMIT, Carlton Gardens, Chinatown and the Docklands. Underways, I learned to check the small side alleys and lanes for interesting sights! Melbourne is a colorful, diverse and lively city, with lots of people out on the streets at day and night.
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28 Mar: Melbourne, Monday
On Monday morning I took the tram to South Beach, from where I walked along the beach towards St Kilda. From the pier you can catch some nice views of Melbourne's skyline. In the early afternoon, I returned to downtown, exploring the area around Flinder's street station some more.
After this short time I already felt comfortable with the city - it's a very liveable place! Its extensive tram network, walkability, richness in variety; all that makes me want to come back.
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29 Mar: Kuala Lumpur, Tuesday
The flight arrived in Kuala Lumpur early Tuesday morning. After taking the train downtown and sleeping off the rest of the jetlag in the hotel, I started out by walking to the Petronas Towers. From there, I made my way to the KL Tower, which I decided I'd visit again in the evening. After dinner, I walked there and came through Jalan Alor, a street buzzing with nightlife streetfood stands and restaurant all along it. The observation deck offers magnificent views of the downtown area from above, something definitely worth the money!
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30 Mar: Kuala Lumpur, Wednesday
On Wednesday I hopped on a bus tour through KL. It took me through Chinatown, Little India, to the Central Market, to the National Museum, out to the Istana Negara (the National Palace), past the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and the Istana Budaya back to the Petronas Towers, from where I walked back to the hotel in the Bukit Bintang district. I saw quite a bit of the city this way. Kuala Lumpur reminded me of Singapur, albeit with more Islamic influence.
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31 Mar: Kuala Lumpur, Thursday
The last day! From Central Station, I took the metro to its terminus, the Batu Caves, the site of the most popular Hindu shrine outside of India. There are caves of different sizes and with different interiors, an interesting visit! When I got back to the city, I took to some of the locations I'd missed on my way the days before: The old Kuala Lumpur station and the National Mosque. After dinner, I left for the airport, heading home to Germany.
This album contains 114 images in 7 chapters - See more