Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Bad things encountered in Melbourne/Australia Part 1

In our page Life in Australia, I promised a complete disclosure about the good and bad about life in Australia.

This shall be the first of a series of posts chronicling our observations...

Jams and trams

In Melbourne at least, during peak hours, there are quite bad jams. My ride from Tullamarine airport with R took over an hour, including some wrong turns here and there. That was for about 18km travel distance. Not much better than SG during morning peak hour.

The difference is that people actually give way when you signal, despite the slow-moving traffic. Signal, and people even BRAKE for you to cut ahead of them. It's unreal, for someone used to the Singaporean way of driving. People actually signal here! Not much horning heard too.

Then, there are the trams. Our friend J related to us how he once tio kan by an irate tram driver for not stopping behind/beside a tram which had stopped to disembark passengers. So when these trams stop, traffic comes to a standstill as well. Overtaking the tram is no easy task because usually parking is allowed on the left lane, and the trams travel in the middle of the road on a shared lane with cars. Thankfully, the tram streets weren't jammed today. And tram passengers don't seem to take their time unlike public bus commuters in SG. 

Trams and overhead cables in downtown Melbourne. Shot during our honeymoon in 2009.

Nevertheless, this level of jam is intolerable in the long run. Obviously we would not return to SG on account of such jams -  it's still way better than in SG where you can find traffic jams at 10pm on weekends. But we will probably take some time to explore and evaluate whether Melbourne is the place we wish to settle permanently in Oz. At the end of the day, we have a ton of options in this very country, something which in itself presents a problem. Since no one has told us to stay out of Adelaide, we really should go and recce soon...


Boy, does it get hot! The sun felt like it was really biting into my skin. I really need a hat and sunblock to protect myself from the UV rays. And a water bottle is a must with the low humidity and high temperature. The temperature was only 30, tops? But that was really something.

Of course, I'd choose this over SG any day. But it's still late spring. Summer is a different beast altogether, apparently. Wish me luck!

The view from J's apartment. No complaints here.

No Ah beng handphone shops

No kidding. Though we eventually found one just opposite our apartment, I do miss the convenience of the friendly neighbourhood ah beng (ruffian) handphone shops you get in the HDB heartland, where you can get pre-paid SIM cards from all mobile providers. Not a deal-breaker, not even a big deal, but I hope it makes you stayers feel better about your decision nonetheless!

Why you complain so much, what's good then?

On the flip side, pretty much everything people like about Australia holds true as well. Even the tap water tastes WAY better, I shit you not. I drank straight from the tap today and it tastes better than filtered tap water I got from SG, which tastes better than boiled SG tap water. I guess the water quality here is higher and they don't have to use as much chlorine for disinfection. No wonder the coffee here tastes so much better as well.

Gonna get another glass now!

- S


  1. u know, my friend swore that the water in adel tastes bad. i couldn't really tell the difference. even the water in sg just tastes like water to me.

    there are differences, but my tongue isn't able to quantify them. :p

  2. Hi it is me again. Just to share some of my thoughts.

    The issues you raise are merely perceptive in nature. Let me put it in another way why they are not issues.

    If you think driving in Melbourne is bad, Sydney is worse. Sydney has a terrible road infrastructure because of legacy city design issues. Having driven around in both cities for work, Melbourne is so much better as compared to Sydney. Besides, the cycling infrastructure in Melbourne is so much better designed than Sydney, most people will prefer to cycle to work, if not trams. Besides, you now can afford a car to get stuck in a jam huh? :) #firstworldproblem

    Weather in Melbourne is erratic, you should know this by now. This is what four seasons are all about, there is nothing good or bad about it. We take things in stride as we live through the seasons. Four seasons is what allows us to see the beauty of nature, from the blooming of flowers to the yellow leaves in autumn. You can have millions in SG, but you can never buy the experience in SG. One advice: Get a polarising sunglass. The UV will hurt your eye in the long run, so get protection for the eyes too. Tip: If you wear specs, first get a private insurance (Medibank, BUPA, etc) ... then use the insurance to buy subsidised prescription sunglasses.

    There is no need for ah beng shops to get pre-paid SIM cards. That job is undertaken by Woolworths/Coles/JB Hifi/Dick Smith/Handphone reseller shops ... so this is the difference between OZ and SG.

    As for which city to settle in ... ask yourself the following questions:

    1. What occupation are you in? IT, finance, audit, legal, marketing? Then it will have to be Sydney, Melbourne, Perth.

    2. What lifestyle do you want?

    Cosmopolitan - Sydney, Melbourne, Perth
    Nature - Sydney
    Beach - Sydney, Brisbane, Perth
    Art - Melbourne, Sydney
    Relax - Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth

    2a. To supplement 2, the issues in the various cities are what you need to consider:

    Sydney - High property price, bad traffic infrastructure, safety issues in the south-west region
    Melbourne - Erartic weather, very few scenic scenes as compared to Sydney
    Perth - Generally hotter and drier than the rest of the cities, also much boring
    Adelaide - Possibly the most "unhappening" place ... the pace of life may bore you to death
    Brisbane - Mixture of Adelaide and Melbourne ... slightly boring and fewer scenic scenes.

    2c. So what are the good about the cities?

    Sydney - Blue Mountains in West, Hunter Valley in North, scenic beaches in South, the state with most mountains, fireworks in Harbour Bridge + Opera House. 'Nuff said.
    Melbourne - Euro style cafes, artistic cities, civilized people, Great Ocean Road
    Brisbane - It's near to Gold Coast. 'Nuff said.
    Perth - Lots of SG folks there. Flying time to SG is so much shorter. Houses are bigger there for the same amount of money you spend in other cities. AKA Asian retirement village.
    Adelaide - Well, did I say it has a relaxed pace of life? :P Oh it has the cheapest property!

    You find the above considerations possibly daunting. My advice to you is to just settle down in one place for at least 5 to 10 years. You have a whole 40 years ahead of you, should you decide to move later there is really no issue. Don't be stressed that you die-die have to select the perfect city. There is no right or wrong, your preferences will change as you age. Think about it.

    Hope the above helps.

  3. Hey, like TM says.. you wanna relak, come to Perth. LOL!

    The traffic is not as bad as Melbourne or Sydney... yet... (but getting worse, with so many immigrants like us, haha!)

    Bus is free within CBD... this is a great feature ... if only Singapore had free buses within CBD, so many people would leave their cars at home.

    Cheers, mate


  4. JackRabbitt, you and Nix already ask me don't crowd your lovely city... Blegh... haha

    TM, appreciate your useful information once again. Don't mistake my post for whining or complaints. It's just highlighting the "bad things" I can see using a Singaporean Lens.

    We just spent over an hour waiting at the Centrelink office to register, only to leave before we were called due to our other appointment. No biggie, I don't even know why we didn't feel any frustration about that. I guess we have different expectations as migrants.

    On the flip side, in the very same office, Medicare registration went quickly and smoothly. Can fight with Singapore efficiency. Of course if you want to point out the fact that Singapore doesn't even have equivalents for Medicare and Centrelink, then Singapore can't even compare!

    Saw a few interesting posters at Centrelink/Medicare office today. I need to do a post on this. I can't say for sure that I will be "happy to finance the down and outs in society", but it's heartening to know that this society really cares for the less fortunate.

    As for where in Australia to live, I'm not ruling out Melbourne at this point, though I think Adelaide sounds like the best fit by far. Still very early days and we'll definitely give Melbourne a go. I hope no one tells me to "piss off" from Adelaide!!!

    - S

  5. Hi,

    How long does the process take?

    All the best!

    1. Hi Ann, please see Chapter 9 on migrating to Australia.

      Hyperlinked here for your convenience :)

      Can't say how long it will take you as it varies on a case-by-case basis. Heng suay lah.


  6. Hi, just wondering, did you have to pay for excess baggage when you brought in your bikes? How much was the additional cost? I'm planning to move over next year Sep, and intend to bring my MTB along as well...can't wait to try out Melbourne's off-road trails!! Thanks!

    1. Hi Anon 21 Nov 1209,

      As you may already know, Jetstar's basic luggage package for economy class is 10kg carry-on. We purchased 40kg each, making a total of 100kg between the two of us. Exceeded by about 3kg in total and were waved through. For SIN-MEL they are not too anal about slight excess.

      For Jetstar, they don't always weigh your hand-carried luggage, if you know what I mean. ;) Ours wasn't weighed but was over by just 1kg, at most. Our family and friends could help us bring home the excess if we couldn't bring in.

      For the rest of our stuff, I'm still trying to settle with the shipping company, so I shan't name them yet. Giving them the chance to get their shit together before I do a name-and-shame.

      Bikes flew with us. Some spares were shipped. We would be ready to cycle if we had the time to assemble our bikes.. Now busy house-hunting and settling admin.


  7. I have stayed 4 years Adelaide and now staying in between Canberra and Sydney for almost a year. Adelaide is not really boring city like most people think, and compare it to canberra, it certainly is no where as dead.

    Good about Adelaide:
    1) Nice beaches. Yes, they do have beaches there and some of the beaches are just 20-30mins drives from the city.
    2) Cheap property. When I living there, rental a big 3 rooms house with a nice yard for only $260/wk. Compare that to now my rental of 1 room townhouse in Canberra that cost $360/wk
    3) No road toll, hardly any traffic jam.
    4) Yearly biggest cycling event in the south hemisphere (Tour Downunder)
    5) Biggest music fest in Australia (WOMAdalaide)
    6) Fine wineries at Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale
    7) Remember Adelaide is voted by aussie themselves to be the most liveable city in Australia.

    Bad about Adelaide:
    1) Very dry and hot in summer (temp can reach upper 40s)
    2) Very wet and cold in winter (below 10. ok lah, not as cold as Canberra)
    3) All those happening events above are all packed during the late summer and early autumn, which left the rest of the year with pretty nothing much. (but what outdoor event really can you have during those cold wet winter)
    4) No big shopping. (there is only one Rundle Mall and 3 Westfields)
    5) BYO Bag. Yes, they don't provide free shopping bags there.

    1. Thanks Fred. Happy with everything you mentioned about Adelaide besides the hot summer. Worse than Melbourne? Spring is just a delight right now, but Adelaide seems very nice too, for now.

      I guess Summer will scorch most of Oz. Saw the temperature for Cairns today, max of 37... Ouch. And it ain't summer yet!


    2. Definitely, Adelaide is much hotter and dryer compare to Melbourne. Temperature during the peak of summer days can go as high as 46-48deg. But they are just for a couple of days or so.

    3. I just return from Adelaide yesterday and I must say Adelaide is really a good place to study. Lifestyle is slower and the place is rather serene.

  8. Congratulations on your move to Melbourne! Been here ten years and loving it! Invariably finding work and that happy balance is key. Melbourne offers so many living options to suit every preference. This is what makes Melbourne a reallygreat place to live. You''ll discover your "at home" suburb and very soon all of Melbourne's shortcomings become really bearable.

    1. Thanks for your comment. 2 months on and we can work around most of the issues, though we have discovered new issues (nothing too much, some are more amusing than anything, like paying $2 to throw a bag of rubbish at Eildon Transfer Station)

      Loving this city and this country more as the days go by. Have to thank SG for showing us something to compare and contrast with. Because we grew up in SG, we will always be grateful to be here.


  9. Congrats on landing in Oz! Hope you'll find time to ride the trails ard Melbourne after you have unpacked and settled down. I last rode in Alice Springs in 2010 when I took part in some MTB stage race...needless to say, the Outback terrain was a killer...sand everywhere! Nonetheless, it was a great experience and I'm looking forward to riding in Oz again next year. Great to know that you're a fellow MTBer too! :D

    1. Wow you race. Hardcore!!!

      I've done Lysterfield and Buxton. Buzz me again when you are here and hopefully by then I can bring you around. Still trying to figure out the trails because I am a directional idiot.

      I did Buxton and Lysterfield on the same weekend. Total over two days, of 46kms off road, 600m elevation gain. It felt so easy.

      In Sg in comparison, I'd be totally knackered after two quick laps of BT. SG trails are more technical and dangerous. Not anywhere near as enjoyable, but good training in some way.

      After you've tasted MTB here, you can never live in SG again. And after all this while, I still can't see the appeal in a road bike. :)


  10. Don't drive to city if you can help it, parking fees are horrible. If you have to drive, look for the 4P or 4 hour lots but they tend to be further from the city central. Alternatively, park at Docklands and take a tram .. whole day parking is $6 (unless it's gone up) .. or if you are confident, cycle to town. There's a nice scenic route next to the Yarra River ..

  11. Yes I have been cycling to town. Trams suck. Slower than cycling, and expensive, like Singapore public transport.

    The Docklands parking and tram option is one I will explore in bad weather. Thanks for your tip!


  12. Hi Can i borrow ur post to share my experiences in business here with type of people here. and wat to watch out for. Cos the burnt is so hot that we have to move back SG.