Having such a long christmas break, after my Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos trip, I decided to take 4 weeks in Australia with another Edinburgh Exchanger – Lucy. Half the price and distance of flying home, so why not? I doubt I’ll ever have such a long Christmas break ever again, or at least for several years to come. The best time to go to Australia obviously is during their summer (our Christmas). And it’s only 6 hours from Singapore, rather than the 24 hour commitment I would have to make to fly from home to Australia. So on the 12th December we set off to have christmas in Australia! Sun, beach, surfing and sand wasn’t going to be anything like the christmas we have at home, and I was excited to see which I preferred.
Another significant thing about going to Australia was that I was going to be the first time in 4 months that I’d be coming back to western ways of life. I foresaw it was going to be a refreshing break from Asia – where the lifestyle and eastern habits are so different from back home – and that it was going to be nice to be back in amongst all my familiarities…. but the East Coast of Australia is just a bit more exotic than the UK!
Cairns down to Sydney in time for Christmas day and New Year was the rough plan, but the ins and outs of the trip we didn’t know – going with the flow once we got there. Then after Sydney, we’ll be heading to Melbourne for a final few days before flying back to Singapore in time for the start of Semester 2 classes.
Cairns: welcomed us to Australia with the famous Great Barrier Reef. Temperature up here in the north was above 35 degrees celcius. This can be on par with Singapore at times, but the sun is far more intense in Australia. Not anywhere near as humid as Singapore though, so that was extremely refreshing.
Next stop was the Whitsunday Islands, which are just off Airlie Beach. This is the most southern point of the Great Barrier Reef, and we went on a 3 day sailing trip with a bunch of backpackers that we’d met in Cairns. The people you meet travelling in the hostels is probably one of the most fun things about travelling. We had formed a group that we’d essentially be moving down the entire east coast with!
Next stop was Hervey Bay, from where we would take the ferry over to do a tour of Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island. This was definitely my favourite place in Australia: incredible landscapes, views and nature. The sand was spotlessly white and sea was bright blue. On the island we drove about in a 4 x 4 bus – unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The “champagne pools” were probably my favourite part of the entire island… they were just like outdoor spa baths!
Next stop was Brisbane – the third biggest city in Australia, and our final destination in the state of Queensland. This wasn’t my favourite place since there wasn’t a great deal to see or do, so we just stayed for one night. That’s the beauty of backpacking, you can really move on whenever you get bored… or if you love a place, you can take your time to really enjoy it.
We then hopped back on the Greyhound Bus and went down into the state of New South Wales. Unfortunately Christmas was soon approaching, and since we were staying with friends (actually, a girl who came to Edinburgh on exchange from Sydney – what a small world) we really needed to get down the coast. We went straight to Sydney, where we had planned to stay for 10 days. Sydney is a fantastic city, and such a great place to spend Christmas. I can’t believe my exchange to Singapore has even allowed me such a broad field of opportunities! The range of things I have seen, travelled to, tried and experienced was so unexpected when I first signed up to exchange.
In Sydney, obviously we saw all the major icons – the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge – and visited the famous sights such as Taronga Zoo, the Rocks, Botanic Gardens. We even ventured to the outskirts to the Blue M0untains (about 1-2 hours away) and a day trip to go wine tasting in Hunter Valley (about 3 hours away). Staying with friends was also a nice break from backpacking and it made me feel a bit more at home. Sometimes when you’re away on exchange for a whole year you do miss having some home time, and some family time, but this stay in Sydney more than made up for it.
We finished the trip in the stylish Melbourne: partying with the hipsters in St Kilda, shopping in the City Centre, topping up the tans on the beach, taking the old school city trams about to explore. Such a cool city, a nice size (not too big, not too small) and very easy to navigate. The shopping and restaurants were great and I could really foresee it as somewhere I’d like to come back to in the future. Just such a shame we missed the Tennis Open that would be happening not long after we left.
After the 4 weeks was over, I couldn’t believe Semester 2 was ready to begin in Singapore. On the plane back from Melbourne I was going over all my happy memories from my Christmas travels, getting excited to see all the full year exchange students again after the Christmas break, and of course looking forward to meeting the new batch of exchange students who would be coming in for Semester 2…. obviously I wasn’t quite as excited about re-starting work and studying in my new set of modules for Semester 2!