I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since we’ve arrived in Melbourne… if I’m being honest, it seriously feels like we’ve been here for a month or two already. Here’s the lowdown on the past two weeks…
Arriving in Melbourne
Remember that nice hot pot dinner we had two days before leaving town? Well, unfortunately, that cold from the dinner didn’t go away anytime soon so we started our 33 hour travel time with a cold.
For me, as I slept on the plane, my cold progressed into a small fever. I normally don’t mind flying but every little thing was irritating me since I had a cold. When we landed in China for our first layover, I failed the health screening and their machines picked up a higher body temperature and I was told to go into quarantine.
So, let me just tell you how scary it is to be sent to quarantine in a foreign country. Dan went through the screening first and was waiting for me on the other side. When I tried to go through the screening, the gates wouldn’t open and the guard pointed to the quarantine room after giving me a mask. I walked into the office and a female doctor was there typing away. She requested to see my passport and then gave me a thermometer stick to stick into my armpit to test my temperature. After a few minutes, she requested the stick back and told me in English that my body temperature is higher than normal.
I don’t speak Mandarin so I replied back in English that I don’t have a fever (like seriously, why would I admit to that in an unknown situation?) but I told her I did have a runny nose. She didn’t understand me and started replying in Mandarin so I told her I don’t understand her. We both stared at each other until she returned back to her screen, backspace a few times and recorded a lower temperature number for me. And with that, she let me go catch my connecting flight to Chengdu.
We left Vancouver on October 30th, 11:55pm. We didn’t arrive in Melbourne until November 1st, 6pm (local time). By the time we left the airport, we decided to just hail a cab to our Airbnb and the last thing I remember was sending a voice message to my mum and dad saying I’ve arrived and it’s 7pm and I’m going to sleep.
The first week…
Within the first week, we had our bank and cellphone set up. Can I just say that I can’t believe I’m paying $30/month and I have 18+ gigs of data?! Like, what do you Australians need this much data for?!?!?!?! If I was back in Canada and wanted 10gbs of data or something, I’ll be forking over $300.
We also noticed the Starbucks out here are soooooo much better than back home! Look at all these damn goodies they have in store…
During the first week, we started cracking down on some job and rental applications. I think we did two days worth of applications and decided to take a break and enter into the city to explore.
Job hunting with a restrictive work visa is hard and very discouraging. The Working Holiday visa only allows you to work for an employer for up to 6 months… so, you can only imagine how companies are reluctant to hire for such short terms. I took Kendel’s advice and started putting my CVs forward to agencies and contract roles only and not waste time for permanent roles.
Also, during my 1st week here, I discovered Target is big in Australia…and as a Target lover, I was extremely thrilled to see them. I needed a new eyeliner so I decided to stop by the one in CBD.
So, how are things going? Well… I feel a bit confident on the trains but not so much on the trams and buses yet. The CBD area is super walkable so I’ve been getting my steps in every time I head downtown. I’m starting to recognize and remember suburbs and wherein relations they are to the CBD.
Earlier this week, to get out of the house and take a break from job applications, we decided to head over to Southbank and check out the Korea Week festival. There were delicious food stalls, dance performances and a funny comedy performance by a well-known Korean comedy group.
To end the week, it was super sunny and hot in Melbourne so we decided to relax in the park. We also went to check out the Melbourne Museum.
Anyways, I realized how ridiculously long this post is so thanks to anyone that actually read it til the end… and I’ll try to keep the posts shorter next time!
Oh, and forgot to add… 2nd week included us finding a home! We’re moving out of the Airbnb on Saturday and even our Airbnb host said we got super lucky and found something in less than two weeks. The competition here is insane…
Earlier this September, I got to finally cross off San Francisco from my travel bucket list. San Fran has been on my list for a while because I’ve always wanted to visit Alcatraz. I swear, it’s the only reason why I am even remotely interested in San Fran.
I planned the trip a few months ago and the month prior to September, I was agonizing over this trip. I wasn’t as excited as I thought I’d be to visit a new city, and San Fran was the first city that never gave me the travel excited as any other city normally does. I contemplated cancelling the trip so much and expressing my concerns about savings and such. Ultimately, I decided to go anyways because I realized it’s such a hassle to cancel everything and at the end of the day, my trip to San Fran wasn’t as expensive as I thought it would be.
Before the trip, Dan and I went to Bandidas Taqueria for dinner. I enjoy Mexican food and tacos but I never saw the hype for Bandidas… I think they’re an overpriced hipster Mexican joint. I enjoy their chips and guac appetizer but aside from that… not a fan of anything else on their menu.
Day 1 – Sightseeing
It started with a 3:30am wake-up call. Dan was nice enough to wake up with me in the early morning to drop me off at the airport as well. I realized how sad it was to see drive off and felt a little guilt that I made San Fran a solo trip (don’t worry, I double checked with Dan and he has zero interest in San Fran and even agreed this was a good city to do alone).
The flight wasn’t too bad. Unfortunately, my entertainment system was broken so I ended up sleeping on the flight and woke up about half an hour before landing.
After checking into the hostel, I made my way towards Fisherman’s Wharf. I was looking at the map of San Francisco wrong and thought I’d be heading downhill… when in reality, I was supposed to head uphill! I’ve heard so many things about SF hills and didn’t think it would be that bad… but oh my god, why SF? Just… why?
Looking at this just makes me anxious thinking about driving in SF.
It took me about 40 minutes to walk to Fisherman’s Wharf and I loved every minute of it! I got to see the major streets of SF but also residential streets as well. I don’t know about you but I also love seeing quiet residential streets in new cities to really grasp the culture and the feeling of living in the city.
I dedicated this day to a day of sightseeing because Dan gifted me a voucher for those doubledecker sightseeing busses… I know what you’re thinking – seriously, Claire? But yes, I desperately wanted to try one out and SF was a great city to do!
The tour bus starts in Fisherman’s Wharf and circles around the SF area. It’s a hop on/off tour but I sat for the majority of it because the major points I wanted to catch were on the other side of the city. It was still awesome to see the major tourist attractions without having to walk or hop off!
If you ever want to try out these hop on/off tour buses… go for it! Get a Groupon because I wouldn’t recommend paying full price for the service. If you sit on the top, don’t expect to hear any audioguides because it’s so loud.
I got off just down the street from the hostel and decided to check in in hopes of getting there early with a lower bunk… sadly I got the upper bunk but the girl below me was a very nice Australian girl.
Now, call me a loser but I ended up taking a nap because when I settled into the hostel, I was sooooo tired… beyond tired!
I don’t care how lame it was but I took that two hours nap and felt sooo good. Mind you, when I woke up from my nap, I also felt so lazy and decided to just call it a day. I Facetimed Dan, read and watched Netflix until I fell asleep. I didn’t feel like I wasted a day or anything – my body really needed that and I knew I would have longer days to come. I still wanted to relax on this trip as well!
Day 2 – Alcatraz
On my second day, I walked over to the Painted Ladies. I love Full House and Fuller House so I was pretty excited to head over here. It wasn’t too bad of a walk from my hostel – just under 30 minutes or so. BUT, I had to talk through the Tenderloin in the early morning. Mind you, I’m just a 5″ little Asian girl so I was super nervous walking through Tenderloin. I could’ve avoided it but I was following my GPS and decided it was too late to take another route now that I’m committed to it… and I have poor sense of directions so veering off my GPS route would get me even more lost.
If any of my readers are from Vancouver, the only way I could describe Tenderloin is that it makes Hasting area look normal. I walked by a weed deal transaction and saw people shoot up between parked cars. It stunk of vomit, piss and poop. I saw a few fights/arguments, and drunk people stumbling down the streets. I was so, so happy to leave the Tenderloin area but I was clutching my bag so tightly, haha.
After Painted Ladies, I headed towards Lombard Street to see the famous turning street.
Finally, I made it down to Fisherman Wharf and the Piers! On Day 1, I only went down to redeem the voucher and didn’t see much of it.
Can I just say… I am in love with the Piers and Fisherman Wharf! I can’t believe SF has this on a daily basis to visit! I would love coming down here just to relax and watch people. Not to mention shop and eat as well.
I booked for the night tour which departed the Pier at 5:55pm. It’s about a 20-minute ride to the island and because it was a night tour, we had a live tour guide for the first bit.
It was one thing to see the island from afar on land, but it’s another to be on a ferry heading towards it. It’s almost an eerie feeling because you knew this was how prisoners and residents (and yes, residents! Children lived on the island as well) arrived. To make it even better, we were lucky and got regular SF weather where it was chilly and cold with fog. Our tour guide told me that this was the type of weather most prisoners endured and not constant sunshine.
The tour guide was amazing. He pointed out several things that I would’ve missed if I walked the island on my own. When we docked, our tour guide led us up to the building and told us some facts and trivia about the prison, followed up several programs that will be hosted after the tour.
Unfortunately, when I booked the tour, I thought it was an actual tour guide throughout the prison… it ended up being a self-guided audio tour as well. I wasn’t impressed. But, to be fair, the audio program was AMAZING! The emotions, background tracks, and acting, and the fact that it was voiced by actual prisoners really made it feel as though you were in the prison. There were so many times that I just had to turn around to make sure that there wasn’t a gigantic rowdy crowd behind me or that someone hasn’t slammed the metal door shut.
The downside of the night tour is that it’s freezing. I waited for the ferry back to the city for an hour and it was brutal… insane that people used to live on the island. But, seeing Alcatraz in the night was so haunting. If you picture the boat leaving without you and spending the night there… it’s pretty isolated, scary and cold.
When I got back to the island, I hitched a cab back to the hostel only because it would’ve taken me about an hour to walk back. The cab driver was soooo sleazy! He was hitting on me throughout the ride, and even tried to pressure me into cheating on Dan. Needless to say, I didn’t tip and he was upset that I was adamant about going back into the hostel and not coming out to a club with him.
Day 3 – Chinatown
On my last day, all I had left to see on my itinerary was Chinatown. I moved a few things around so I managed to do a lot of things on Day 1 and 2. I was bummed that I missed the Tenderloin Museum and walking tour because they weren’t open on Monday… not even because it was Labour Day, but they plainly just don’t open on Mondays.
I mean, I did walk through Tenderloin but I wanted to see the museum to learn about its past… oh well, perhaps next time if I ever came back.
I made my way towards Chinatown, North America’s oldest Chinatown. I love how every city’s Chinatown is different… but yet, so similar! Vancouver’s Chinatown is dying so it’s great to see how other Chinatowns are still thriving.
After Chinatown, I was blocks away from the shopping district where I went into Ross and Marshalls… and found an entire section on essential oils! If you recall from my previous post, I recently got into EOs and am obsessed with expanding my collection. Unfortunately, I decided to pass on them because I won’t be bringing my diffuser with me to Australia and it wouldn’t make sense to buy a bunch and have them sit in my mum’s garage for a year.
Eventually, I caught the train back into the airport and left for Vancouver. My commute back home was shit because Dan was already asleep and no Car2Gos or Evos were around the area… and to top it off, the moment I got off the skytrain, the bus that brings me just outside my house left. I ended up cabbing it home which was less than $20 but a car share or bus would’ve been cheaper.
So, all in all, my trip to San Francisco was pretty neat. If I’m being honest, if it wasn’t for Alcatraz, I wouldn’t have come down to SF. I’ll give this city a solid 3/5 stars.
I hate telling people that SF wasn’t what I thought it would be. It wasn’t because I travelled alone or anything, but I think it’s because I held SF on such a high standard for so long, I was ultimately disappointed when I visited the city. When I told my colleague how I felt about the city, I was surprised to see that she agreed with me as well and ultimately branded SF as just one of those cities you gotta see at least once in your lifetime.
I don’t have any tips for those visiting SF aside from…
Skip the night tour of Alcatraz… it’s not an actual live guide. Book the last daytime tour for a cheaper rate and you can still catch the prison in dark.
Even though it’s in California… it’s so windy and cold! Pack a jacket or a hoodie, even in the summertime.
Don’t stay overnight in the Tenderloin… and if you are interested in visiting that part of town, bring a buddy with you. I went in the morning but I can’t imagine how it would look like in the middle of the day or at night time.
When I tell people that I absolutely love solo-travelling and list some of the places I’ve been alone, I get two reactions:
“Oh my gosh, I love that you travel solo! I can never do it but kudos to you!”
“Oh… why?” *thinks, does she not have any friends or something?*
And in a way, #2 is half right… I don’t have many friends and the friends I do have, don’t travel much or don’t have the same interest in seeing the places I like.
In April, I have a big trip to Japan with Dan and some of our mutual friends – right now, it’s shaping up as 5 people in total. This Japan trip is my biggest friends trip ever and I’m excited, don’t get me wrong, but I’m craving for another trip that I can do solo.
It’s not that I dislike any of my friends to not travel with them, but solo travelling offers a different experience that group travelling.
During the times I’ve visited cities alone, I’ve come to realize this:
+ Solo travelling teaches you how to comfortably take selfies in public.
Umm, you think whipping out my selfie stick was embarrassing? Think again.
One of my solo trips was to NYC in the summer of 2016… yes, one of the busiest and biggest cities in the world and I chose to venture it on my own.
+ Solo travelling allows you to fully be in control of your itinerary.
Long gone are the days when you have to meet up with friends to plan the trip and accommodate everyone’s interest. Feel like hitting a museum instead of shopping? Go right ahead, girl!
+ Solo travelling teaches you to learn and accept being alone, and that being alone is not a negative thing.
When you got no one but yourself, you can’t help but slowly accept loneliness and when you accept that, you realize you’re not upset… because everyone associates being alone as unhappy and sad, right? Learning to live, accept, and cope with being alone is the best thing to learn for yourself.
+ Solo travelling lets you meet new people and build relationships when travelling.
When you’re travelling with a group of friends, you’re more inclined to just hang out with them and not meet anyone on the trip because why? You got a group of best friends with you already. Being alone allows you to meet new people because if you’re having lunch alone, or relaxing alone in the evening, someone will strike up a conversation with you. And, if not – being alone sort of forces you to talk to other people if you want to join in on the fun.
+ Solo travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone.
We’re all so afraid to be alone and do things alone that I bet you skipped out on a movie in theatres because none of your friends wants to catch it. Solo travelling pushes you out of your comfort zone by forcing yourself to do things alone and being alone in crowded spaces. Interested in that walking tour? Well, suck it up and buy your ticket because you got no one else by your side to drag along to!
+ Solo travelling allows you to learn more about yourself.
When you have all this time and opportunity to do what you want, you are bound to learn something new about yourself!
+ Solo travelling gives you a break from everyone and everything.
I love my friends, I do… but sometimes, you really have to take a break from them. I mean, just because you’re away from home doesn’t necessarily mean you’re taking a break from your friends. Hell, sometimes being on vacations with your friends breaks a friendship!
+ Solo travelling is cheaper.
It’s cheaper in a sense that you’re not wasting money on activities you don’t want to do, and at restaurants, you don’t want to eat. Fancy a quick grab and go meal instead of sitting down and chatting? Go right away!
+ Solo travelling builds confidence.
Listen, you don’t have your best friend telling the random guy you’re not interested, nor do you have your best friend asking the sales associate for a different size. Looking after yourself and seeing a new city builds self-confidence because you’re the only one looking out for yourself, and the only one guiding yourself through a new city and different transit systems.
+ Solo travelling is easier and hassle-free.
It really is. I don’t have to rely on any of my friends to pay me back for whatever they owe me, or how I have to wait for them at the airport or in the morning. It’s just easier because everything is done on your schedule based on your interests, and it’s hassle-free because you have to deal with no one else.
It’s 2018 – I think it’s time to break the stigma and fear of being a solo traveller. I’m itching for my next adventure, and I think my next solo adventure would be Mexico!
Remember when I went to Boston? Yeah, I nearly forgot because it felt like ages ago… meaning this blog post has been looooooooong overdue.
Boston, Massachusetts has always been on my travel bucket list… actually, cross that out. Literally. Salem, Massachusetts was the place I’ve always wanted to go as a kid, after watching a segment on witch hunting on Mystery Hunters (y’all remember that show on YTV?).
I remember coming back from my New Zealand trip wanting to travel more. The next thing I knew, I was looking into the East Coast and airline tickets while at work. I eventually settled on Boston because the airline tickets were so affordable and within budget.
That day, I took a Greyhound bus down to Seattle to catch my flight from Sea-Tac. Usually, when I travel to a State, I prefer to go down to Seattle and catch a domestic flight, rather than fly internationally because of cost. However, if the cost of saving isn’t significant, I’d skip out on the hassle of catching a bus down there.
Let me tell you about this – I forgot about the length of the journey AND the time difference. I ended up spending an entire day travelling via bus and planes. I did save a couple of hundred dollars but it was brutal… I remember how miserable and cranky I felt, and so, so tired.
That feeling of luckiness and blissfulness of having no one sitting beside you on the flight.
I think I eventually landed in Boston (after an hour or so layover in New Jersey) in the early mornings of 10ish. I checked in at HI Boston Hostel and all I wanted to do was take a nap because I was so tired from all that travelling. But, the idea of a new city gave me energy to quickly settle in and hit the town. If anyone’s looking at Boston, I really recommend HI Boston Hostel for accommodation – the place was clean, modern, friendly staff and so conveniently located to Downtown, shops and transit.
Chinatown was first as it was the neighbourhood adjacent to the hostel. Something about Chinatowns is always a place to visit for me when I travel because it holds a lot of cultural history (and cheap foods).
I eventually wandered off towards to the downtown of Boston. I can’t say I was very impressed by it – by the looks of what I remembered, it looked like any other downtown with high buildings and men in suits.
During my walk around downtown, I did come across this public fountain with animal heads as statues.
My walk led me towards Quincy Market and Faneuil Hall and my god, if I were to live in Boston, I’d be coming down here on a regular basis. It was so vibrant, filled with shops and delicious foods, and entertainment.
A lot of these shops were independent mom & pop shops which mean that anyone looking to grab a souvenir for someone, check the stores out at this marketplace. It’s a bit pricier than chain souvenir shops but the uniqueness and quality of it are worth it.
Inside Quincy Market.
Just before heading off onto the Freedom Trail, I remember sitting by the docks of Boston and glazing over the East Coast. It was a cloudy day but it was one of the most beautiful things ever… just a vast amount of ocean surrounded by old brick buildings.
I never thought much about the East Coast but this oceanview changed my opinion.
The Freedom Trail is essentially a self-guided tour of the city. As a history buff, I loved seeing original and historical buildings and learning about the Revolution. A volunteer gave me a map of the Freedom Trail but I think I eventually went off course because it was leading me into a part of town I didn’t fancy attending and a lot of people were saying the “important” stops on the Trail was central to downtown.
I also ended up in the Boston Common which was a pretty park… nothing spectacular, though. But, I’d admit – this is much more entertaining than Central Park in NYC.
Boston Common was across the street from the main shopping street and, um… let me just tell you my joy of seeing Primark in Boston. I follow a lot of UK bloggers and they’re always raving about Primark this and that, and even some Irish friends were telling me how great Primark was. I finally got to see the store for myself (the Hello Boston! picture at the beginning of this post was taken at Primark) and absolutely loved it.
Think Forever 21 but about 30-50% cheaper, messier and more chaotic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen clothes that cheap on a regular basis. However, as tempted as it was to purchase as many clothes as my luggage can fit, I only grabbed a few things as most of the items weren’t my style.
This ain’t Primark but Payless was right next door and couldn’t resist checking what they had in store.
And, of course, the sole reason why I happened to show up at Boston was to visit Salem, Massachusetts.
I didn’t drive to Salem; instead, I took one of their trains and it took about half an hour or so? I can’t remember but I did remember it was quite quick.
Salem’s info center.
I honestly felt like I wanted to cry when I got off the train and saw Salem. You guys have no idea how long I’ve dreamt about visiting Salem and seeing history with my own eyes. While I was making my way into town, I couldn’t help be feel so blessed and lucky to be able to afford an opportunity to chase one of my childhood dreams.
Salem was everything I ever imagined and more. It was a nice little town with a bit of magic to it. It was historical, rich, and tainted with horror. It was like, being transported back into time for a brief moment. It’s amazing how a town like Salem was a mere train ride away from Boston.
One of the gravestones in the Memorial Park.
Jonathan Corwin’s house – the only standing structure with direct links to the Salem Witch Trials.
A Bewitched statue – never saw the movie, though. Very cute!
There were a lot of witch museums, all with its own unique aspects. My best recommendation is just to use judgement on which one to visit because ultimately, they’re all about the same.
While in Salem, I also went to visit Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birthplace. It was such a unique experience and highly recommended to anyone in the area – even if you’re not a Hawthorne fan.
A feather pen used by Hawthorne… insane, isn’t it?!
Just standing the backyard of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s home, no biggie… jks. The birth house was relocated to this location. I believe his original house was just a block away from the museum, though.
Alas, my trip to Boston was coming to an end (in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I spent a few days here :P). On my last day, I went to visit Harvard and MIT before catching the bus to New York.
It’s honestly like a castle….
So, watch out for my next post on NYC! Boston has been a great experience and I would definitely come back here in a heartbeat. There were a few things I haven’t gotten to experience yet but looking forward to this beautiful coastal city again.
I did also think about moving out to Boston but overheard a few people complaining about the housing prices – curious, I did a quick search, and Boston is rated about the highest in America?
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you ever been to Boston or not and what you think about the place!
Come February 2017, it’d be a year since I visited New Zealand and I still feel like it was only yesterday that I was basking in the hot sun and tanning within ten minutes.
I’ve travelled across the ocean alone before but I met my family on the other side. New Zealand marked the first overseas trip I’ve completed by myself and marked the first solo travel experience (aside from those weekend getaways down to Seattle). I couldn’t have asked for a better place to start my travelling experience and couldn’t ask for a better way to meet Kendel and experience Auckland through a native Kiwi.
I can definitely see myself returning to New Zealand – for what? a vacation? a new life? Who knows. But I do see myself walking the streets of downtown Auckland again and revisiting Oriental Bay in Wellington, and definitely soaking the hot water on Hot Water Beach.
I had about a few hours left in Wellington before I was due to head back to Auckland. I spent it at Oriental Bay and contemplated about life because it was so peaceful in the morning.
After two days in Wellington, Kendel suggested we visit Coromandel because it’s a must for any visitors. We headed straight to Coromandel after she picked me up form the airport and… wow, just wow.
The coastline is beautiful. It was a rainy and foggy day when we drove up there but it was nonetheless, breathtaking. The roads were windy which gave me a slight dizziness but 10/10 would definitely go back to Coromandel!
Wellington International Airport
We arrived just around dinner time where Kendel’s family cooked a delicious lasagna dish.
The next day, it was raining like crazy. I absolutely love the rain, it’s really relaxing but I’m still not used to warm rain, if that makes sense. During my time in NZ, Kendel and I got hooked on Teen Wolf so we spent the day watching episodes of Teen Wolf, and going into the downtown area to try to catch a hockey game. We also spent the rainy day playing Sims 😛
Got bless the day after because the hot sun came out on my last day in Coromandel. We went to Hot Water Beach which is known for its hot water… in the beach, haha. Kendel told me it’s a popular area and thing to dig a hole in the beach and essentially relax in the hole because the water in this beach is just hot.
Look at the contrast from cloudy to sunny!
My favourite place in the world is the airport but New Zealand definitely changes my views on beach. I mean, I live by the oceanside as well in Vancouver but it’s nothing compared to this!
I’m not going to lie – my trip to New Zealand may have consisted of meeting Kendel but it was also a trip to scope out the country that I wanted to move (it’s still an option!). During my research, I fell in love with Wellington more so than Auckland and wanted to move to Wellington.
So, as you can imagine, my few days in Wellington was one of my favourite parts of the trip! Absolutely beautiful little city and would go back there in a heart beat.
THE BEST WAR MUSEUM I’VE EVER BEEN TO!
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
The famous bucket fountain on Cuba Street. The top bucket is missing when I was there!
If I lived in Wellington, I would, no doubt, take the Cable Car every weekend.
Seriously, can’t get over how beautiful Wellington’s harbour is….
2.5 days in Wellington is not enough! Good lord, I need to be back in Welly this moment.