Melbourne - Street art

Melbourne streetart lanes
Nothing screams Melbourne as loud as colorful street art in approved locations.

Find a complete map of street art locations in Melbourne available here for download.

During the few days exploring the city, I started to wonder about the roots of the movement, which seem to relate to the visit of Keith Haring to Australia. Back in Q1 1984, he spent nearly a month in Australian shores undertaking a series of public works in town. Already an international art superstar and central to the New York art scene at the time, he accepted the invite from John Buckley, inaugural director of the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA).

The main remainder of this visit is the Keith Haring mural in Collingwood - the cool hood where we went for stand-up comedy, dinner and drinks on Friday night - but somehow its influence spread well beyond into many other walls in the city, leading to those colourful surprises which are found around the central area.

Hosier Lane may be the most famous (and crowded one) but there are plenty of pieces to admire, in the parallel streets to AC / DC Lane as well as in many other places in town - first picture is from Docklands area, as an example. There's something I love about street art. Maybe because of growing up in a hood where Graffiti was part of the culture or because of my admiration for Banksy, street art is so refreshing to me. In terms of scale, palette and social criticism, it remains the ultimate freedom of expression, as one can also note in Berlin, a city that suffered censorship but now thrives with a huge sense of individualism and expression.

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Melbourne - Brunch at Trunk

Melbourne brunch at Trunk

For a big fan of big breakfast, brunch is the perfect moment to meet friends over food. As time goes by, friends settle and get kids, it's also a good moment for them to socialize since nocturnal gatherings are not so appropriate for a 3 year old - regardless of how awake or sharp she happens to be. This is how I ended up with my good old Aussie friends from Japan and their lovely daughter at Trunk, a Melbourne brunch institution easily reachable by free tram (get off at Exhibition - La Trobe street).

In a relaxed-no-fuss atmosphere, we updated each other about the last 4 years. Amazing conversation over great coffee and food. Circumstances change but people stay the same. We talked about happiness, about balance, about change, about ash****s. As nostalgia takes over when meeting friends from the past it is important to turn it around. Time will not tick back, but we can leverage the memories as base to reach onto the next stage in our life.

I find it quite inspiring to see that three good friends of mine - my heroes - got daughters. This somehow turned them into stronger change drivers than they already were, maybe because they are now fighting not only for themselves, but to give their daughters a chance to grow in a better society than what we were brought up into. They do not get tangled on this women-compete-with-each-other-kind-of-bullshit that drags us all down collectively. Something I've been reflecting a lot recently... There have been some experiences - quite saddening, in which some female colleagues have treated me very differently than they would ever dare to speak to anyone else in my team - the rest is all men, for the record. Still, as my Aussie friend put it, women who think they should compete with each other don't have the right mindset to be in my team - if you ask me, they do not have the right mindset to be alive these days when more than ever, we shall stick together and fight for change.

For more interesting talks, great coffee and eggs - Wiz Kale Leaf-a pictured below,  drop by Trunk. During warmer days and evenings, there is an outdoor beer garden and al-fresco dining in the space  surrounding the instagrammeable sinagogue, a restored brick building from the 1850s.
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Melbourne - Street signs

Melbourne street signs

During the week I noted a major emphasis on the street number, whenever I heard people talking about meeting in one place or another. After spending the weekend exploring town, it became quite obvious that given the length of the main streets... Numbers matter a lot. Hence, they put them really really big, to make sure you don't miss it.

Similarly, Australian street signs are quite hilarious to me. Not sure if it is the wording or the mix between pictures and words... But they are quite remarkable, don't you think? Of course in the outskirts, you get to see the classic kangaroo or the watch out for crocodiles one. Even in the city, it is quite fun.

I did a bit of research. It seems that road signs in Australia are regulated by each state's government, so I guess each state has a bit of freedom within the common framework, leading to interesting combinations, some of which are featured below - do you also find them weird? Are these like in your country?
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Melbourne - Innocent bystander winery

innocent bystander winery in Melbourne
Can't say I am a foodie... But definitely a red winey.

Lunch at Innocent Bystander aka the coolest winery in Healesville seemed the perfect way to complement the naturist morning at the animal sanctuary. Bar seats on a cool industrial environment while the rain was pouring on the outside sounded like a plan. Innocent Bystander is highly advisable, great bang for the back and excellent options: an entire range of local reds, whites and rosées paired with share boards, paella or freshly baked pizza, always from scratch using local Yarra Valley ingredients.
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Melbourne - Healesville Sanctuary

healesville sanctuary

I have been fascinated by Australian fauna since our first trip to the remote yet huge continent island 7 years ago. Having a great colleague taking us to visit Healesville Sanctuary was an amazing way to spend a chilly Saturday. Started in the 1920s, this is a natural zoo set on a bushland environment, that has a long story of conservation being one of the two places that has successfully bred a platypus.

To get there, we took a train from Southern Cross station in Docklands and then were driven from there. If you plan to visit this area during your trip to Melbourne - highly advised as this can be combined with lunch at a lovely winery we'll talk about in a another post - maybe best is to rent a car.
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Noble Reflex - My home in Bangkok

costa boda make up collection
Siguiendo la tradición de mostrar nuestras casa de españoles por el mundo (por si os los perdisteis, aquí podéis cotillear cómo se vive en Södermalm, Stockholm y Daikanyama, Tokyo) os dejo un video de mi apartmento en Ari, Bangkok. El Miércoles entregaron el container, que pese a ser sólo 2m3 me ha llevado tiempo colocar, ya que quería hacerlo detenidamente y optimizar el espacio.

Después de pasar el Viernes por la noche y el Sábado casi entero colocando cosas, he terminado y estoy muy contenta con el resultado, principalmente porque mi visión se ha convertido en realidad. Antes de mudarme a Tailandia decidí en que durante este año, quería vivir en un espacio muy EXTRA, desde el que contaros nuestros viajes de 2017 (entre que se me rompió el iMac y lo movido del año, tengo un backlog considerable), vivir de una manera saludable pero no por ello menos fabulosa.

Livet leker como dicen los Suecos. Me he adaptado muy bien a Bangkok. Comparado con Tokyo o Seoul, incluso con Estocolmo, el supermercado esta genial de surtido y precios. Además, por 1€ te mandan la compra a casa en una motillo - 20min después de pagar llaman a tu puerta! Los compañeros de trabajo son muy majicos, siempre hay alguien que se está riendo o que trae comida para los demás, un poco como si fueran los españoles de Asia. Aparte del gimnasio, la piscina y los mil doradismos de mi hogar, tengo amigos con los que explorar Bangkok y he encontrado mis sitos de confianza para la manicura, el diseño de cejas, una escuela de baile que me recuerda a Headway y mi marca de ropa local - favorita hasta la fecha.

Espero que vengáis pronto de visita... Así que aquí os dejo un aperitivo!

Following the tradition of giving you a sneak peek into our expat homes around the world (see Södermalm, Stockholm and Daikanyama, Tokyo if you missed them), here comes a small video of my apartment in Ari, Bangkok. My container was finally delivered on Wednesday. After spending Friday night and Saturday unpacking, putting everything in place, I'm done - rather happy with the result. Before moving here, I had this vision of creating a SO EXTRA space, from which I would clear the posting backlog - someone asking about Stockholm tips made me realize I have not managed to share the routes we worked on back in April, summery days in Tokyo, the long Costa Rica escape, the amazing temples of Cambodia or half my Melbourne insights - while keeping up with a healthy-yet-fabulous lifestyle.

I've been following the Bikini Body Guide for a month now - started from week 10-12 though. This helped me sleep well again while dropping my body fat by 1kg since February - at least according to my smart scale, just unpacked.

Livet leker as the Swedes say, here in Bangkok. Grocery shopping is straight forward and delivered home for 1€. Colleagues are kind and cheeky. Besides the gym, the pool and some friends to hang out, I have found my go-to nail salon, my eyebrow spot, my dance school and my favourite clothing brand.

Just looking forward for some friends and fam to come over... Here's a teaser!

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eucalyptus leaves smell

Michael taught us how to experience an amazingly fresh and calming feeling:
  • Grab eucalyptus leaves 
  • Crunch'n'roll qith your hands 
  • Take a deep breath... And enjoy.
There were several things over last week that reminded about what matters in life, what truly makes you happy. It's typically more about people and time, than about spending or owning lots of money.

A walk in the nature, a beach day, a new city to explore, a bicycle ride under the sun, a dance class or some coffee and chatter, with old friends.

Life is amazing - get out and smell the Eucalyptus!

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Melbourne - Docklands to the Royal Botanic Gardens with bike share

Melbourne yarra river tour by city bike, Docklands to Kings Garden
One app, some friends, sunshine and a bit of time. All you need to spend the perfect sightseeing time along the Yarra river. The best about Melbourne Bike Share system is that if you manage to drop your bike at the next station before 30min have gone by, there is no need to pay more. You can get a new bike later on completely free! For less than 3€ it is therefore possible to cover large distances.

I never owned a bike as child, so I am not very good at cycling. In fact, I was quite scared to try this because of my past experiences in Stockholm, where I tried to learn but each and every attempt would be a super stressful event. Swedes are all seasoned on wheels but also completely unable to tolerate someone who would move somewhat slowly and in a relatively shaky way. However in Melbourne, people are chill. I did not have any trouble and enjoyed the ride - while feeling super accomplished after completing all the way from Docklands to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

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5 ways to experience Melbourne like a local

exploring Melbourne with the locals
Sophie, our local guide

Even if I came prepared with my Lonely Planet, the weekend turned out to be quite an experience thanks to the local advice and guidance provided by local colleagues and friends. Here are 5 plans to live Melbourne like a local:

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Krabi dinner on a budget - Jeseao, Ao Nang

Jesseao Ao Nang, East meets West
This was one of those nights when you plan for a fancier place, but end up just too tired to walk there. We passed by Jeseao in the main street of Ao Nang and decided to give it a shot, despite the mixed reviews. Some said it was great, some said it was terrible. We couldn't help but trying a place claiming to have Italian, Thai and Swedish food. All at the same tourist friendly menu.

By no means fine dining, we had a good experience there. Cheap drinks, tasty pizza bianca as replacement for bread. A mix of western style salad and Thai delicacies, all for less than 30€ for 2.

A menudo, la gente me pregunta si me gusta la comida local - ya que viajo mucho por Asia. La realidad, como he comentado muchas veces, es que independientemente de lo que me guste, suelo optar más por cosas Occidentales, ya que me resultan menos pesadas y me dan menos sed.

Tailandia, como cualquier otro sitio turístico, ofrece una mezcla amplia de restaurantes, donde pasar de la comida local no implica arruinarte. Quizás por eso o por estar demasiado cansados como para acercarnos a un sitio más lujoso, decidimos probar Jeseao - un sitio turísitico-casposo, con menú de fotos y reviews extremadamente contradictorias en tripadvisor.

Sin demasiado lujo, pero con limpieza y velocidad - un poco como cuando cenas en casa, pasamos una noche agradable, sentados en una terraza y cenando un mezclete de platos occidentales y Tailandeses. La pizza bianca recién horneada hizo de pan (y de naan para el curry de Enrique, que venía sin nada), nos sirvieron bastante rápido. Bastante satisfechos considerando la experiencia y el reducido precio que pagamos por todo esto (menos de 30EUR con bebidas). Os dejo esta dosis de realidad, para todos aquellos que andan preocupados por venir a Asia, pensando que no van a encontrar cosas que no sean locales o que no cuesten un riñón. Vivimos en un mundo Globalizado, para lo bueno y lo malo.
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Longtail: Las Góndolas del Sur

Barcos longtail de Tailandia, las góndolas del sur
Rua hang yao significa barco de cola larga (long-tail, en inglés). Estos barcos, a los que algunos se refieren como las Góndolas del Sur, tienen varias formas y tamaños a las que une un elemento común: el palo enorme que separa el motor (normalmente de un coche o tractor) de la hélice. Esta estructura es manejada con energía y habilidad por el capitán, que lo usa para dirigir el barco.

Los long-tail son muy característicos del mar de Andaman, donde los turistas y los pescadores locales los usan a partes iguales. Con su delgado perfil, son el medio de transporte ideal para navegar las costas llenas de rocas, corales, cuevas y Karst, que originan de la roca caliza que se encuentra en la costa de Krabi. No superan los 15 nudos ni los 20 pasajeros, son un poco difíciles de abordar pero aún así, ofrecen un viaje seguro y estable.

Su diseño origina en épocas pasadas, en las que los mercaderes Indios y Árabes navegaban las costas Tailandesas en barcos de este estilo a los que les colocaban velas triangulares. De esta manera se podían acercar a las islas y ciudades costeras para repostar, vender y comprar nuevas mercancías como perlas, que vender más adelante.
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Ice ice baby

Cuando viajas con un goloso, terminas descubriendo cosas tan curiosas como los ice rolls de Krabi. No son pancakes, sino una mezcla de helado con el sabor de tu elección - en la imagen el de galletas Oreo - que el chef deshace y extiende sobre una placa de hielo, hasta crear esta especie de rollitos congelados. Un postre curioso y al parecer bastante típico de Ao Nang!

Podéis encontrar varios sitios a lo largo de la calle principal, que se extiende en paralelo a la playa.

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5 reasons why Railay is the best of Krabi

railay, best spot in Krabi
Railay es un paraíso de arena y roca. La playa principal es el extremo de una península completamente aislada del resto por formaciones de roca caliza. La costa está plagada de Karst, de cuevas con estalactitas, palmeras que a veces cuelgan boca abajo y agua cristalina. Una maravilla al alcance de todos, ya que para llegar a Railay sólo se necesita un billete de longtail. Con 5€ estás en este paraíso a escasos minutos de Ao Nang.

5 razones por las que no te puedes perder Railay:
  1. Los barcos long-tail que ponen un toque muy auténtico y colorido a la orilla
  2. Tranquilidad en la arena - NO abundan los chinos - y smoothies de coco, al nivel de Imchan.
  3. Alquiler de SUP / Kajak  para admirar las maravillas de la naturaleza y moverte un poco
  4. Escalada en roca donde los expertos y principiantes pueden explorar esta disciplina
  5.  La puesta de sol, momento de cerrar el día con una bebida fría antes de volver a la realidad
Railay is a sand and rock paradise. The main beach is the final tip of a completely isolated peninsula, a strip of white sand kissing the Andaman sea. Railay's shores are decorated by pretty Karst, limestone caves with stalactites and sometimes palm trees that grow upside down from the Karst towards the water. Sand is white, water is pristine. A wonder that anyone can reach, provided you ot 5€ (150THB) to but a return longtail ticket from Ao Nang.

There are 5 reasons why you can't miss Railay... Continue reading!

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Krabi - Brunch at Coffee Club Ao Nang

Coffee club Ao Nang
Cuando la tarifa del hotel no incluye desayuno, pierdes un poco más de tiempo pero pruebas cosas nuevas. Así es como descubrimos The Coffee Club, la franquicia de cafeterías-restaurantes más grande de Australia, con presencia en 9 países. Unos precios muy razonables, un menú muy apetecible con ensaladas, fruta y cereales, batidos golosos y huevos de todas las formas y colores.

Yo que no soy de comer al mediodía en general - mucho menos con los calores de Tailandia - disfruto mucho de un buen brunch, la perfecta oportunidad de recargar pilas y despejarme con un par de cafés bien grandes. Si andáis de vacaciones pero os confunde dónde ir a desayunar, echad un vistazo a Google! Es probable que no estéis muy lejos de uno de ellos - sea en Bangkok o en los típicos sitios de playa como Ao Nang (Krabi), Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin o Pattaya.

The Coffee Club is Australia's largest home-grown café group with approximately 400 stores across 9 countries, Thailand being one of them. Brunch being my favourite meal of the day - often the only one when vacationing in Tropical locations - this turned out to be a great pick, given that no breakfast was included in our hotel rate. They also have shops around Bangkok as well as around other beach spots like Phuket, Koh Samui, Hua Hin or Pattaya.
Coffee club Ao Nang
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Krabi - Speedboat around Phi Phi

Phi phi one day speedboat tour

We were never keen on "guided activities". Whether it is a tour, a holiday or a museum visit. We rather do it on our own. Still, a guided speedboat tour is the only way to visit Phi Phi islands when staying in Ao Nang, so we decided to give it a shot. It was about 40EUR, including lunch, snorkeling and boat. They pick you up at around 8.30AM, you are back on time for happy hour at around 5PM.

The first stop is Maya Bay. The dreamy beach, from Leo's movie.

The back side of the island looks a bit more dreamy...

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Krabi - Easter in Paradise

Krabi, Railay beach
Many of you may not know that Enrique spent nearly 3 weeks in Thailand with two very good friends back in 2016. Due to his job as consultant, he ends up traveling too much, working too much and accumulating too many extra vacation days off. Same for his friends.Therefore, the three of them embarked in an amazing journey across the beautiful south seas.

While Thailand does not celebrate Easter,  having him over was enough reason to take an extra day off and plan for a weekend away. Here I have 20 days off per year, so I need to plan carefully.

We picked Krabi because it was the beach place he liked the most out of their tour 2 years ago. While Enrique commented to have found it quite changed - still unclear whether it is the fast development, the fact that he came in rainy season or a combination of both - we enjoyed a lot.

I can never get over on my astonishment over  how budget-friendly Thailand is:

  • Return flight Bangkok-Krabi with Air Asia (60EUR)
  • Roughly 50EUR per night in Wake-up Ao Nang
  • One-day boat tour visiting Phi Phi islands, with lunch, snorkeling and national park fee, 1600 THB (42EUR)
  • Return-boat Railay-Krabi, 150THB (4.5EUR)
  • SUP rental (1h) 300THB (7.5EUR) in Railay
  • 3h climbing, 1000THB (25EUR) in Railay
  • Huge dinner for 2 with drinks in Jeseao, less than 1200THB (30EUR)
  • Brunch at The Coffee Club, about 10000THB (25EUR)
  • Ice cream rolls, 100THB (2.5EUR)

I put together this small map to make it clear. While Krabi is located in the West coast of the peninsula, it is a perfect base to visit amazing surrounding spots like Railay or Phi Phi islands. Staying in Ao Nang Beach opens up for a quieter trip - Phi Phi is more of a party island, secures faster transfer to the airport & provides a base to visit both Koh Phi Phi and the amazing Railay Beach, my absolute favourite of the trip. You may wonder, why do we need a boat to get to Railay? It is surrounded by rocks and only accessible by sea.

I really thing you should consider to put this stop in your trip to Thailand before you hop over to some other island. Also remember that, if you are not super motivated to see the beach from Leo's movie aka Maya Bay, maybe it could be better to spent both days in Railay - I really loved the vibes of that place...

Krabi and Phi Phi map

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