Friday, 26 June 2015

Hanoi, part I: why did the Necia cross the road?

Hanoi, Vietnam
As we had to rise early for our flight to Hanoi, we were exhausted by the time we checked into our hotel in the afternoon. Upon arrival, the unfailingly cheerful Tim at reception informed us that our room had been upgraded for a reason not immediately apparent. After dumping our backpacks (less than seven kilos, but still seven kilos of burden), we went in search of lunch. We had been advised by friends to eat the street food in order to taste real non-westernised Vietnamese food that the locals eat.  Only eating at restaurants is for rich ninnies. 
The streets were a dazzling complexity of motorbikes and signage, and we ended up eating bún chả from a street vendor, plucking rice noodles and pork from the broth while sitting on plastic stools small enough for a doll. The increase in temperature from Malaysia also meant that I was trying not to sweat into my bowl. For the remainder of the evening we rested, awaiting the onset of sudden vomiting and diarrhoea that we had been assured we would get due to the poor hygiene standards. When staying in Malaysia (where food hygiene is at a higher quality), we had asked Jarold if he ever acquired food poisoning in his home city and he said that it had happened to him once. One of his noodles had fallen onto the table and he felt it appropriate to employ the Five Second Rule, knowing full well that the cloth used to wipe down tables was so disgusting that it may as well have been a piece of old ham. Since hearing his story I was always mindful of this, however I knew that in Vietnam the food itself was enough to make us sick. 
Too tired to venture out for dinner, we finished the coconut dodol from Melaka and drank our complementary water. 
In the morning, we were both shocked to discover that we had not shit ourselves in the night. Happy too, of course, but we knew it was only a matter of time as we had seen street vendors cooking literally on the curb. No joke. And we were eating it. 
The map that the hotel had given us was astoundingly oversimplified and therefore didn't give us nearly enough information. Hanoi streets are complicated in nature, sometimes changing names three times though it's the same stretch of road. Hang Cot is where our hotel was located, but walk down a little and it inexplicably became Hang Ga, and down further Hang Dieu. Yannick decided to hand draw a map of the Old Quarter in order to catalogue the details, including a key for sights and foods we wanted to try. 
Breakfast was included in our room price, and I was excited to discover the selection of fresh fruits: pineapple, watermelon and dragon fruit. Paired with tea, that's a winning combination. Yannick drank the watermelon juice. 
Our first order of business was to see Hoàn Kiếm Lake, famed for being surrounded by scammers looking to make a quick buck off hapless tourists. It turns out that we are those hapless tourists, as a man implied Yannick's jandal was coming apart, promptly stuck superglue in it and then removed said shoe. I was confused as to what was going on, and his cronie got one of my shoes off as well. They went about glueing and cutting an additional piece of rubber into place, explaining it would improve durability. Yannick negotiated the price down, but we still had to pay for something we didn't want just to get our shoes back (obviously they wanted more to do the other jandal but we put our foot down (heh) and didn't let them, so we now have an extra piece of rubber glued to one of our shoes each). A woman also tried to squeeze us by sticking a hat on me, balancing a basket on my shoulder and insisting that photos of this would be free. Not so fast, lady! I smiled and repeated "no thank you" until I could push the items back to her. 
Though retaining constant vigilance (Mad Eye Moody would have been proud), we did get to enjoy the scenery of the lake with tree branches dangling in the water and in the distance Turtle Tower on a tiny island. 
Taking food recommendations mainly from TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet, we ordered bánh mì at Banh Mi 25. Bánh mì is a small baguette that is filled with pate as well as other fillings such as grilled pork or ham (referred to as jambon), and is a remnant of the French colonisation. For 20,000dong each (or about $1.30NZD) these are a great cheap and filling lunch option, and with Banh Mì 25 you know you're paying the same price as a local which is very unusual. Everywhere has a tourist price, often double at least what a local would pay. We forked out $4 per bowl of bun cha the day before - a large mark up, though still a good price by our standards. Speaking fluent English (another surprise), the owner of Banh Mì 25 said that a glass of iced green tea was included, and we could help ourselves to the bananas on the table. Score! 
Making our way to the marketplace, we stopped by the Old City Gate for a quick photo. Unfortunately there's not much information on the gate except that this used to be a gate to the city (if you couldn't tell that already by the name) and that it's been restored at some point. 
The traffic here was a flurry of wheels and honking. If you had to pick one sound to sum up Hanoi it would be the constant beeping of motorbikes and cars. This isn't due to road rage, instead it's an essential part of the Vietnamese road code, signalling your presence to other road users. I felt even more of an outsider when crossing the street because it was so out of my comfort zone yet I knew I was executing it correctly: you have to slowly walk out into the road and let the motorbikes flow around you as a river flows around a rock. I noped my way across every time. Yannick really got the hang of it though, so I explained to him how trepidatious I felt by using a pop culture reference: in Shaun of the Dead, the protagonists need to cross a sea of zombies somehow to enter their local pub and improvised safe house 'the Winchester'. They decide that if they shuffle along with blank stares and groan, they will pass as members of the zombie horde and not be eaten to death. That's exactly how I felt walking across streets in Hanoi - if I kept walking slowly and didn't panic, then no one would suspect I don't belong and run me over. A few times on the busier streets, I took to humming to myself as a coping mechanism, and once we reached the footpath I would exclaim "we made it!". Being not dead is nice. 
The market streets had less traffic, allowing me to get a proper look at the produce on offer. Normally it was a necessity to keep a close eye on what was going on around me and see if there was anything suspect on the ground in front of my feet (like a live chicken pecking at the gutter, a dirty puddle or food scraps).
The most interesting part for me was the fish vendors. I can't stand seafood - even the smell of it - but seeing writhing tubs of eels being fed by a crouched wrinkled lady held some charm I hadn't anticipated. 
Saw a rat scamper into a drain too. 
Wandering along, checking out the stalls on both sides of the street, we saw a temple squashed in amongst the market. In Vietnam, pagodas are Buddhist places of worship while temples are for the worship of ancestors, heroes, Taoist divinities and Confucius. 
After leaving the market we walked along some nearby roads and in contrast to the market streets and the area we were staying in, these streets were aimed strongly at tourists, selling boxes of Oreos, Western beers and old propaganda posters. 
Then we saw a woman burning ghost money. Only fifteen percent of the population of Vietnam is Buddhist (by religion rather than philosophy), eight percent Christian, less than one percent 'other' and the remainder are non religious or practise their own sort of religious activities such as ancestor worship. When I first saw someone take a $100USD note and place it onto a burning pile, I was bewildered and concerned. But as we walked on, little flaming piles of fake currency was a common sight. Most of the burnt money is an offering to the dead: ancestors or ghosts. 
When planning our Vietnam trip, we had desperately wanted to visit Hoi An in the centre of the country, but knew we wouldn't have time to take the long train journey. To console ourselves, we ate at Com Ga Hoi An which literally means chicken rice from Hoi An. I had set my expectations too high from reading outstanding reviews, and found that the chicken rice was average and not nearly as good as our Melaka chicken rice. It was back to street food for us! Electrolytes were on standby. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Melaka: Durian - never again

Melaka, Malaysia
Standing in line to purchase our bus tickets to Melaka, a German/American traveller Josi struck up a conversation with us and not only was also going to Melaka but had been before. She helped us figure out where to go in the bus station, and I watched the scenery go past on the way to Melaka Sentral. (I also watched the traffic with mild horror as everyone was lane straddling, seemingly a very Malaysian thing to do.) 
Josi started talking to a local once on the bus from Melaka Sentral to Melaka town. Jason offered to show us a good place for chicken rice, which Melaka is famed for, and we accepted (Josi departed for a nap). We first stood in the queue for the place with the best chicken. That sold out, so we moved to the place with the best rice, and chicken that isn't the best but still very good. 
Jason gave us a tutorial on how to eat it: take a rice ball (or half) and put a piece of chicken on it, then dip in the dark soy sauce and the chilli sauce. I don't have any other chicken rice experiences to compare it to, but it was really tasty! He then took us across the street to a tiny stall selling 'putu piring'. 
Made from ground rice, coconut sugar and grated coconut, these little pancake-like treats hit the spot. As they were too hot after we first ordered them, we browsed a shop selling local specialties and bought coconut dodol: a sweet, soft coconut block. I found it too sickly, but Yannick chewed on it routinely. 
Jason got a durian cendol to share. I had one bite and couldn't take any more. May I just say that durian is disgusting. It smells like rotten pineapples (the smell is so pungent that they are forbidden in cars or enclosed spaces), and tastes worse than it smells. Luckily for my tastebuds, we followed that up with the putu piring. Amazing! We went back the next morning for more to accompany my teh tarik and Yannick's sweet iced coffee. 
Durians are popular in Malaysia, but even more so in Melaka. This young girl would call out to passersby and offered us some too, but we knew what they tasted like and could not be tempted. Even though Jason had already showed so much hospitality, he offered to help us find our hotel as he was not meeting up with his brother until later on and had nothing to do for the afternoon. He asked many people, all who gave him different directions, and we ended up backtracking quite a bit. Everyone was lovely and did their best to help - an old man with two teeth even cycled up behind us to say that there was a shortcut to the directions we had just been given! At one point Jason called a friend of his who knew that area better, and we managed to find it. I was worried that we would be scammed so I kept my guard up, but he was just a nice guy! As a bonus, by the time we did find the hotel I had grown accustomed to the smelly streets; not always noticeable but now and again you would catch a whiff of sewerage from a grating.
Hot and tired from walking around in the sun, we rested in our hotel room. There were many hotels to choose from in Melaka, but this one stood out for the novelty themed rooms. One was completely decked out in Hello Kitty decor! It was pink - too pink.  Ours had an aquatic theme, including a surfboard on the wall and blue crocs. An odd thing happened when you ran the shower though - thin red worms crawled out of the drain. I found this creepy but thought it might be normal. When I mentioned it to Jarold later, he was disgusted and said that's definitely not normal! 
As it was the weekend, we were planning to meet up with Josi for the night market, but the wifi at the hotel didn't work and we had no way to contact her. Instead we headed out on our own to take in the sights. 
In the sixteenth century, Melaka was captured by the Portugese in an attempt to control trade routes through the area. Their plan failed, but evidence of the occupation still exists in ruins, descendants and food (popular are Portugese egg tarts, a kind of custard tart). In front of these fortifications I channel Guybrush Threepwood and say "I wanna shoot the cannon, I wanna shoot the cannon!"
A century later, the Dutch captured Melaka for their own purposes, and in turn they left behind remnants such as the Red Square and a waterwheel. 
Side streets off the square showcase the red buildings of the Dutch as well as the Chinese characters of modern day inhabitants. (Though I learnt later that they more recently painted nearby buildings red in order for the town to look more Dutch than what was actually left behind.)
Over the bridge from the square is the start of Jonker Street, where the weekend night market takes place. The street was packed full and it was difficult at times to see what was for sale at certain stalls. When we decided to get Taiwanese pancakes, we had a hard time of crossing the flow of traffic to get to the stall, and then while we waited for them to be made the crowd pressed in trying to get past. The small round pockets of dough and chocolate filling were tasty, but not as chocolatey as I would hope for. That being said, I'm sure they're better than the durian option! There's a choice for durian flavour for everything here. Too much durian. 
We also explored the surrounding streets which weren't as hectic, and at one point heard loudspeakers projecting a call to prayer for the Muslim populace from a tower with eerie green lights. The tower was part of Kampung Kling Mosque on what is known as 'Harmony Street' due to buildings of the three main religions in Melaka living in peace on one street. 
The oldest Chinese temple in Melaka is nearby, as is the oldest Hindu temple. 
Once the sun was fully set, the colourful tuk tuks came alive with flashing lights and the customary pop songs blaring from speakers. Hilariously, many were Frozen themed and one even played Let It Go for the town to jive to. Instead of taking a kitschmobile back to our hotel, we wandered along the waterfront, where more market stalls perched. I enjoyed seeing a toy stall that had a wind-up monkey riding a bike to the tune of Crazy Frog. 
The bus ride back to Melaka Sentral was mental, as the bus was crammed with people so I held my backpack (I'm so glad it's small enough for me to do that), the man next to me smelled like nasty toenails and the bus driver took the longest route that I could have imagined (and even doubled back sometimes) considering it's only about a five kilometer journey. Then the bus driver from Melaka Sentral to KL lane straddled once more and I'm so confused as to why this is such a big thing in Malaysia. Just pick a lane and get in it! I think he spent half the trip between lanes. Why dude? At one point I had to laugh because he was getting out his phone to play music and trying to untangle his headphone cables (with both hands I might add), jerking the steering wheel occasionally to avoid cars. We saw a truck that had careened off the road and I wonder if it was because of this sort of driving. Luckily no such fate befell us. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Kuala Lumpur: Teh 360 Style Life

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
We arrived in KL in the evening from Melbourne (and may I add that we never once saw a spider or snake except a fake one). Lucky enough to get a ride from a friend Yannick made a few years before, we sat back in air conditioned comfort while Jarold drove us to our hotel. The humid heat was a difference that we expected, but were still stifled by (in stark contrast to the chilly climes of Melbourne). After checking in, he suggested Sizzling Steamboat for dinner, which was a food truck serving celup: skewers of meat, seafood, vegetables and tofu that you submerge in boiling broth until it's cooked the way you like. Then you add sauces like satay, chilli or "savoury" as Jarold called it, which tasted kind of like gravy. Standing around eating potentially dubious meats, I took up my default stance of people watching and I admit I was a bit culture shocked. 
Having never been to Asia before except in Hong Kong airport on a layover, it was fascinating to see the streets buzzing but also shady figures loitering in alleys (not in a threatening way, I think that's just how they were standing), cats sitting on the sidelines and brusque waiters scraping chairs around. I felt that it may take me some time to get used to this change in culture, but I was sure that I would enjoy being in amongst it. What I did not enjoy so much was the cendol at a 24 jam (jam means hour in Malay) cafe: shaved ice with condensed milk, cubes of different flavoured jellies, red beans, and topped with tinned sweet corn. I know that corn is sweet but I cannot grasp the concept of it being in a dessert, it's just wrong! 
After our first night in KL we actually took the bus to Melaka, but that will be my next post. We spent two days in the capital, and there's nothing more iconic than the Petronas Towers. It was expensive to go up to the skybridge that links the 41st and 42nd floors on both towers, so we just gazed up at their inconceivable height from the street below. 
We also visited the adjoining shopping mall, containing a huge and absorbing book store as well as an art gallery that was temporarily showing an exhibition on comics from Gila Gila in their golden era in the 70s - a popular Malaysian humour magazine. Most of the comics were not in English, but a vast quantity of the jokes carried over between the language barrier. One I found amusing depicted a manager disparaging that his workers are never in the office due to so many holidays taking place; Malaysia is a melting pot with Chinese, Indian and Malaysian people all living together and as such they celebrate four different New Years and various other days off. While many events are tied to a certain group or religion, everyone gets a day off in order to embrace their differences. 
At KL Sentral, the main train station, we ate some pastries from a shop called Breadstory. I love to find strange words and phrases that Malaysians use. One that stands out is "Live 360 Style!" on a property, advertising that you too can have 360 degree views and live in style I suppose. The great majority of Malaysians  speak excellent English, and it is used almost as commonly as Malay. Another reason I read as many signs as I can with interest are the simplifications in letter usage in Malay. For instance pharmacy becomes farmasi, police becomes polis, and boutique becomes butik. It makes so much sense, as it does away with unnecessary letters and combinations like CH (as a C alone makes a ch sound), Y, PH, Q and X (in Makay you would use KS instead of an X as in teksi in place of taxi). 
On commuter trains, there are one or two compartments that are designated for women only (koc (coach) wanita), an interesting concept designed to improve the safety and comfort of female passengers. While I find it sad that these measures are needed, it's good to see that action has been taken. 
Using the train to get to Jarold's place was simple, and we made good use of the rooftop pool in his apartment complex. We swam with a view over the city, tinted orange as the sun hunkered down for the evening. To us, the water was refreshing and quite warm, but to Jarold it was like dipping into the New Zealand sea. I could imagine him fleeing from an Auckland shoreline, and found it interesting how the human body acclimatises to the temperature of the environment in which it lives.
Jarold took us to see Batu Caves, an impressive series of caves that holds Hindu temples and shrines. An enormous statue of Hindu deity Murugan stands at the foot of the stairs to the entrance, the tallest Murugan statue in the world. The climb was less strenuous than I thought it would be, and it was broken up by interludes in which I laughed at the behaviour of the resident monkeys. 
Constantly mischievous in their desire for food and shiny things, you would sometimes hear a shriek as one monkey got their little hands on a woman's handbag and she (upon realising) would flee up the stairs. We saw a monkey get ahold of a soft drink bottle and with both hands, a foot and his teeth try to access the contents. He did manage to make a hole with his teeth, but the fizzy liquid burst out and it almost knocked him off his perch. However, he did not fall and was able to enjoy a refreshing Malaysian "100 Plus".
Once at the top, the temperate did decrease slightly but the humidity shot up, meaning that not only was I drenched in sweat but my hair expanded to about five times its normal size. Not letting that get in my way, I watched people praying at various locations, vendors hawking postcards and cool beverages, a man letting off fireworks in order to try to scare the birds out of the cave, and of course tourists taking photos. 
Whenever a monkey did capture some treat, or was given it, they would horde it and try to eat as much as they could before other monkeys found out and tried to take it. These two fellows were enjoying a bag of chick peas before a lot of running and snatching took place and the chick peas went flying. Another monkey was given a banana and he swallowed it in three bites, leaving the peel lying discarded behind him - a cartoon tumble waiting to happen. 
The main cave explored, we took a tour through the neighbouring cave where we saw bats, spiders, centipedes and crickets. We had to wear helmets in case a snake fell on our heads, as the snakes in these caves would leap out over thin air to snag their prey as the fall to the ground would not hurt them. The bat guano fed many creatures including two types of cockroach, a smaller cave species and the urban roach that was accidentally introduced through development nearby. 
Speaking of roaches, it was pretty strange to eat scrumptious coconut ice cream while all around your feet were creepy crawlies and rats in the gutters! In the neighbourhood where uni students hang out, we stood with our plastic spoons watching the cockroaches scuttle around looking for something tasty. 
A sad sight was just down the road where a litter of starveling cats paced, mewling. I think the rats were bigger than the kittens, and I badly wanted to rescue them. Yet I refrained even from petting them as I suspected they had fleas. There I was, eating ice cream while they went hungry. Heartbreak ensued. I really can't hug every cat. 
Our hotel was smack bang in Chinatown, and we walked under the lanterns seeing fake designer wares for sale next to smokey food stalls with signs only in Chinese. Not knowing what kind of food we'd be ordering (and not being terribly hungry), we chose some fresh fruit from a vendor and returned to our air conditioned hotel room to eat from the plastic bags with toothpicks. Watermelon, mango and guava - the fruits here are ripe and full of flavour. And so many choices! I saw one fruit stand with five different types of mango.
The drinks are all very sweet to my palate. Juices are popular (the green one in the photo is lime and sour plum), as is tea. Though it was very sweet, I enjoyed sipping teh tarik ice, tea with milk and sugar served cold. From now on when people ask what Teh Travels means, I'll tell them that the Malay word for tea is teh. Tea explains everything. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Melbourne, part IV: Can't Hug Every Cat

Melbourne, Australia
On our fourth and last day in Melbourne, we still had a few things to tick off our to-do list. 
One of those was Messina, a chain of gelato stores that are highly recommended on TripAdvisor. We were a bit sceptical as to how good they could be while being a chain, but I reasoned that Grom is also a gelato chain and you know how much I like Grom. One branch is located in the famed hipster suburb of Fitzroy, which felt like a much larger version of the Wellington suburb of Newtown, with several more litres of hipster dumped in and fewer immigrants. Through a window of one of the first cafes we passed, we saw three separate people on their MacBooks and wearing sunglasses indoors. The cafe scene seems to be a big deal here. 
Once we found Messina, we saw that as well as the usual flavours such as coffee, mango and pistachio, Messina provides many atypical flavours like apple pie, caramelised white chocolate, bounty bar, and fondant (spiced dark chocolate). There was so much on offer, and then we saw the specials of the week!
Two of these caught my eye: the Messy Juliette (strawberry gelato with vanilla cream and pieces of sponge soaked in Marsala) and Old Gregg (Baileys gelato with a butterscotch sauce). They were both delicious and I'm glad I tried them. Messina chefs make all the ingredients, even going so far as to bake the apple pies, brownies and sponge cake themselves for inclusion in the gelatos. It's clear they put a considerable amount of effort into this enterprise, and great gelato is the result.
I love cats. I love every kind of cat. As such, another item on my agenda was Cat Cafe Melbourne. In the lead up to our visit, I had this song going round and round my head:
But crazy cat lady jokes aside, I really enjoyed the cat cafe. Most of the cats were sleeping, but the awake ones were very friendly and soft from many people petting them. We got to play with one who was more energetic and liked to chase feather toys. The only negative to this experience was that I suffered a freak laughing accident and got hot chocolate powder in my eye, but that was my own fault and though my eye was sore for a while, I did recover through intensive cat-petting therapy. 
A very special cat, Ruby lost one of her eyes to an infection when she was young. But that doesn't stop her having fun, as she cleaned my hand thoroughly when I started petting her (her scratchy tongue tickled!), and later on one of the staff members played fetch with her. He explained that if he throws the toy onto one of the tall cat structures (designed for feline climbing and sleeping) she will jump up and retrieve it, laying it back at his feet and turning around for a back scratch! It was funny to watch, as I've never seen a cat fetch. He said that her one eye doesn't affect her depth perception too much, but occasionally she does misjudge and topple off things. 
All the fifteen cats living here are from rescue shelters, and the cat cafe is keen to raise awareness of rescue animals. It costs $10 per person for up to one hour with the cats, which was plenty of time, and hot chocolates were $3. 
This weird structure juts out of a theatre building that sits next to NGV, the National Gallery of Victoria. If you tell locals you went to "the art gallery", they will not know what you're talking about. It's NGV. 
The gallery itself held some fascinating works, and even a Picaso. I was surprised to find a Monet of a quaint French village that I really liked, as well as paintings of Rome and Venice by Bernardo Bellotto in the 1700's (very realistic depictions which could have you believing you'd gone back in time). It's well worth a look, as is the largest stained glass ceiling in the world, which is in the main hall. They provide beanbag-like seating so you can lean back and stare up at it for a while. 
In the evening, we meandered along the Yarra River and watched all the bright lights twinkling on the rippled surface. You can't tell the water is brown in the dark. 
Every hour on the hour, huge bouts of flame erupt from tall columns by the casino. Who doesn't love fiery explosions? I can't help but wonder if the occasional passing bird gets caught in the fire and perishes, but hopefully they would feel the hot air before and move out of the way. I hear there are fountains by the casino but unfortunately we couldn't find them. Perhaps it was too late for them to be running. 
We ate dinner with a friend at Chin Chin, a restaurant and GoGo bar. Scoping them out online before arriving, I saw their website says "Looking for our menu? Sorry Mario, the princess is in another castle!" This remark kind of sums it up, as Chin Chin is trendy and a little mysterious. As such, I'll leave it at that. Go try it out, but do be prepared for a wait. For our table we waited 45 minutes downstairs in the GoGo bar, and I reccomend the Señor Chang cocktail. 
The next morning, we checked out of our AirBnB and caught a train, tram and bus to the airport. I reiterate that public transport here is easy to use, accessible, and much better than in NZ. We still had a bit of bread leftover so I held it, not wanting to squash it into my backpack. As I carried it down the street, I felt like a real backpacker. 

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Melbourne, part III: Borek - Cultural Learnings of Australia for Make Benefit Glorious Nutrition of Neciastomach

Melbourne, Australia 
The Queen Victoria Market is closed on Mondays and Wednesays, so we went on Tuesday (and again on Thursday once we found out how great it was). Originally Melbourne had two markets, an Eastern and a Western. When the Eastern was growing out of proportion, the Queen Vic was started as an expansion. It is now the oldest remaining market in the CBD after the closure of the first two. 
The first section we saw was filled with mainly souvenirs and other gimmicky goods. We passed by the boomerangs and leather belts and T-shirt stalls quickly, but did find a few interesting things, not to mention the sheer size of the place was awe inspiring. 
This stall held an array of vintage posters and colourful ads on embossed metal. It was fun to flick through and pick out hilariously old fashioned sayings like "SKI: the thrill of a lifetime". 
I also found a few stalls selling socks and hosiery, and was able to find a few pairs of replacement pop socks. We'll see how they get on. The vendor went through in detail how to wear them and care for them, which I was surprised about as they were just socks. It was nice that he took his wares seriously and spent the time to give me information without being asked. 
Another section of the markets sold fruits and vegetables, and further along sold meat and fish. I held my breath in this area and walked through quickly, but even so I enjoyed hearing the butchers calling out to potential customers about the freshness and affordability of their goods. It's not everywhere that you have butchers in such hearty competition. 
On to the best part of the markets: the deli section, where you can find all manner of ready to eat goodies like chocolates, Turkish boreks (bread cooked with fillings), pastries and cakes, olives, and confectionery. You also have the traditional deli items like cured meats, cheeses and pastas. For lunch we each bought a borek for $3. The spicy lamb option stood out the most for me, and it did not disappoint. It was very satisfying, and followed up by a fudge chocolate for one dollar, I was happy to have spent under $5 for a yummy lunch. 
While we ate, we listened to this cool busker dude who played really good accoustic versions of songs like the Godfather theme and Wild World. We gave him some coins and I hope he makes a killing, as he should be appreciated. 
When we went back to the markets for breakfast on Thursday, he was playing again and it was a wonderful start to the morning - listening to his music and eating pastries. I would honestly consider living in Melbs just for this market, I like it that much. 
Wanting to warm up a little on a cold day, we took a walk through the Botanic Gardens, where we discovered a clock made of flowers in front of King Edward VII. The clock displayed the wrong time, but it was still interesting and I liked it for combining the typical decorative flowers of a garden with a more practical timepiece. Someone needs to account for daylight savings and then I will be happy. 
We had started the day in the Queen Victoria Market, and we paid respects at said Queen's statue by throwing ourselves prostrate and humming God Save the Queen. 
We also had a look at the "fern gully" which reminded us considerably of a New Zealand bush walk, and I started talking about a childhood film I used to watch on repeat called FernGully: The Last Rainforest. I googled later and found out that Robin Williams voiced the bat character, and Tim Curry voiced the baddie! I need to rewatch this, as well as The Land Before Time because dinosaurs.
Hearing from multiple sources that St Kildas was a must-see, we ventured out on one of the many trams from the bottom of the Botans. While it was nice to walk alongside the water, I honestly don't see the appeal. It felt like a place for rich phonies to go on holiday with their yappy dogs and/or people who watch Neighbors. Maybe I'm being harsh, but the beach wasn't anything special and that's the main let down. We decided to get straight back on a tram to the city, and I debated whether I even wanted a photo. I sat on a park bench and made Yannick go take one. 
Feeling the need for Italian food, we ordered a bufala margherita at +39 Pizzeria on "Lt Bourke Street" for dinner. When I first saw these Lt streets, I thought it meant little. Yannick disagreed, saying that would be silly. (Lieutenant was another possibility.) But it turns out I was right! Running parallel to Bourke Street is Little Bourke Street, and the same thing happens for Lonsdale, Flinders and Collins streets. WHY?! It's to do with the grid pattern that streets in the CBD are built upon, and when allotments for blocks were divided and subdivided, new streets between the main ones were needed. The little streets each sit to the north and parallel to their big counterparts. 
By the way, the pizza was great and the tiramisu was fine but the pannacotta was superb.