544 miles from Sydney and a 17 hour bus journey is Melbourne, ‘Australia’s cultural capital’ and (what should be) my last destination before flying back home to England.
I was lucky enough to be invited to stay with a friend of a friend whilst in Melbourne, but for my first night I booked a bed at Base Hostel in St Kilda. I have grown to love hostels as they are a great way of meeting like-minded people and with Christmas approaching I felt it would be nice to meet more people. St Kilda is also Melbourne’s most famous beach and when I booked my ticket to go travelling the one thing I knew I wanted the most, was to be on the beach on Christmas Day.
When I arrived in Melbourne I was greeted by a dark sky and pouring rain. The bus dropped me off in the city and I had to make my way to St Kilda. I knew there was a tram that would take me there but having never used a tram before it was a long process. First I had to find the correct tram stop and then I had to find somewhere that sold tickets as you cannot buy them onboard. After a 17 hour bus journey, walking around with my backpack and 2 other bags in the pouring rain wasn’t much fun. But as soon as I arrived at the hostel I was greeted with a friendly face who let me check into my room early for a shower & change of clothes. When you have spent the past 2 nights on a bus and had your morning wash in McDonalds this is ‘Christmas come early!’
After a hot shower and a chat with the people in my dorm I set off to explore. St Kilda Beach reminds me of the beaches back in England. There is a theme park called Luna Park situated in front of the beach and although the sea is clean and clear it is more of a grey colour than a nice bright blue and with the dull sky, it really felt like England. I had met a girl from Brazil, Julia ,at breakfast and we were to go on a free walking tour of the city. Unfortunately we didn’t make the tour on time so we wondered around the city ourselves and came across the Exhibition Centre where a James Bond exhibtion was being held. We then wondered through the streets of Fitzroy, home to lots of quaint and quirky shops and cafes. It was then back to the hostel where I had a few drinks with my room mates.
At 10am my friends friend, Dan, came to collect me. Dan lives in Richmond which is about 5 miles from St Kilda. The weather was still dull and so we went to Chadstone Shopping Centre, the biggest shopping centre in Australia!
After 2 months in hostels, it was nice to be in someones home with a home cooked meal and a double bed in a room all by myself. But, the following day it would be back to the hostel for Christmas celebrations…
Byron Bay will always be in my memory as this is where I did my skydive. The town itself is a lovely beach town and has a very laid back hippy vibe. A lot of the people I met at my hostel, Backpackers Inn at $32 a night, had been in Byron Bay for a few months. No one seems to want to leave but it is easy to see why.
On my first night the hostel held a bbq which was a nice way for me to meet a nice bunch of people, but unfortunately I had to leave them all early as I had my skydive at 7am the next morning.
My adrenaline was pumping and I was bursting with excitement following my skydive but I managed to calm myself down and spent the day relaxing on the beach and exploring the little town. I only had 1 more night in Byron Bay so I met up with one of the guys I met in Fraser Island and along with 2 other girls he had met, we had a good night out. Despite a late night and a slight hangover I was up early to make the most of my last day. My bus was leaving at 5.30pm.
Byron Bay has a lighthouse and I thought it would be a good idea to walk for 3 hours up and down hills and steps in 35 degree heat. Once I got to the top I walked around the lighthouse taking photos of the lovely scenery and walked out onto a cliff which is the most easterly point of mainland Australia. Just as I was about to make the descent back, I spotted 7 dolphins jumping in and out of the water below. Such a beautiful sight to end my stay in Byron Bay.
Back on the bus and 13 hours later I arrived in Sydney. My bus arrived at 8am and my next bus to Melbourne was leaving at 3.30pm the same day, so I only had a short time in Sydney. I had chosen this schedule because I had been to Sydney before and so it just broke up the long journey to Melbourne from Byron Bay. Luckily the bus terminal allowed me to leave my backpack behind their counter so I could go out and make the most of my day. I found a free bus which took me to Circular Quay which is a great place to see the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. It was lovely being back, the sun was shining and I instantly felt that lively Sydney vibe. I was in Sydney at the begining of the year for a holiday with one of my best friends and we did the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb, saw Frankenstein the play at the Opera House and explored The Rocks, so this time I just wandered around enjoying the Sydney atmosphere.
Back on the 3.30pm bus for my longest bus trip yet, 17 hours to Melbourne in time for Christmas celebrations.
15 hours on 2 buses and I was back in Bangkok. My journey to Cambodia needed to start there as I had decided not to visit Laos as originally planned. I resisted the temptations of Koh San Road and had an early night – very wise decision! The following day turned out to be the most challenging of my travels so far:
Starting the day at 4.45am me and Katie jumped in a taxi to take us to Bangkok train station. We purchased our 50bht (£1 approx) tickets for the 3rd class train to take us to Aranyaprathet, the border of Thailand. The journey was supposedly 6 hours but it took 7. The train was clean and all the windows wound down so there was a nice breeze with nice views, just very uncomfortable after sitting on a train seat for 7 hours. Once off the train it was then an 80bht tuk tuk drive to the border. Once at the border we had to go through Passport Control and then it was a 10 minute walk to get our Visas. This cost $20 as expected but then there was a surprise 100bht to be paid, for what? No one that day was actually able to find out! Once the Visa was stapled into the passport it was then a further 5 minute walk to another Passport Control where yet another form was to be completed and finger prints and photo taken. This border crossing on foot took approximately an hour. Finally we were through to Cambodia, but it didnt stop there; it was then an official free bus ride to the bus station. For $10 we bought our bus ticket to Siem Reap and 3 hours later we arrived, but only in the town, it was then another tuk tuk journey to our pre-booked hostel, Mad Monkey. Time of arrival 6.15pm!! The journey ran smoothly thanks to some internet research we did, it was just made tough due to the uncomfortable transport, heat and heavy backpacks.
It’s times like this that make travelling alone rewarding. I treasure and appreciate experiences, whether good or bad and am able to deal with the bad. Travelling alone means you do not have your treasured experiences ruined by someone elses grumbling.