If you’re looking for a place to hangout over the weekend that isn’t a crowded, cookie-cutter mall,drop by at Kedai KL, a cool hidden gem tucked within Mahsa Avenue in Petaling Jaya. A project by Mahsa Group (which owns and runs Mahsa University nearby), the artisanal market was launched in late 2019 as a space to “bring local entrepreneurs, artists, makers and designers together under one roof”, whilst also giving visitors a curated retail and lifestyle experience.
Kedai is located at Block B, and spans two floors, on levels two and three. Inspired by the concept of a street market, the spacious centre court (called The Lorong, or ‘alleyway’) hosts cosy beanbags and low tables and chairs that are perfect for lounging. On weekends, the space is used for pop-up booths, bazaars and activities.
There are about 60 shops at Kedai, mostly featuring homegrown products and businesses; you can find a hodgepodge of products and services here, from shoe shops to stores selling accessories and clothing, chic cafes, a tattoo parlour, a creative workshop space, a digital art gallery, and more. The shops are all really tiny by the way, measuring between 220 to 440 square feet.
Social media has changed many aspects of our lives, including how and why we travel – and the last couple of years have seen a rise in “Instagram destinations” – places that are designed to be aesthetically pleasing for the Gram (because Malaysians are obsessed with taking photos). Kedai is one such place: you’ll be hard-pressed to find an ugly corner. The folks at Kedai know this too, and they actively encourage visitors to take lots and lots of photos.
One of the shops that I found really interesting was Lampu.kl, because it was essentially a showroom with no staff. The shop sells customized neon lights, and there are a couple of setups within where visitors are encouraged to take selfies with. Next to the neon signs are QR codes that you can scan for more info on the pieces, as well as the price. Of course, you can find their social media handles on the posters around the room. Maybe this is the future of shopping.
A pink staircase and elevated walkway connects the two floors, and there are dozens of fairy lights hanging from the ceiling. Definite Insta fodder. Unfortunately, I did not have an Instagram boyfriend on hand during my visit.
At the far end on the 3rd floor is a Digital Art Gallery. The space showcases new media art from promising new media artists in the region. There was an audio visual exhibition going on called Guli, so I popped in for a peek. Entry was RM8. The show was basically a collaboration between local multimedia artist GrassHopper, who made the visuals, and musicians Iwan and Gan, who created the accompanying soundtracks.
All that walking made me thirsty, so I got takeaway from Degree. They specialise in Dalgona drinks. Prices are very reasonable – my Dalgona milk was only RM7.90.
I was actually surprised that the place was relatively empty during my visit, especially since it was a weekend. My guess would be that not many people know of the place yet; it opened late 2019, then there was the whole pandemic and movement restrictions throughout most of 2020.
KEDAI.KL is open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10AM – 6PM. You can park within Mahsa Avenue for RM5, but do note that parking spots are limited.
Block B, Level 2 & 3, MAHSA Avenue Jalan Universiti, Off, Jalan Ilmu, 59100 Kuala Lumpur
Opening hours:10AM – 6PM (*I made a mistake in my vid, it’s 10AM, not 11).
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I have a love-hate relationship with Manila.
On one hand, I love how culturally rich and historical it is, with its museums, churches and art galleries (And Jollibee, of course!). On the other, I’m not a fan of its insane traffic, the pollution, and the fact that its one of the most densely populated cities in the world. It’s extremely difficult to find a quiet space.
Having been here several times, I often get friends asking me if Manila is worth visiting (for many Malaysians, the Philippines is not as popular as other S/E Asian destinations like Thailand or Indonesia – and if they do visit, it’s usually to Boracay). My answer is always “It depends on what you like.” If you’re thinking the type of packaged cultural offerings you often get in Bali or Chiang Mai, or a beach getaway (because Manila is by the sea right? lol), then you will be disappointed. Manila is not a place to ‘get away from it all’. But if you’re up for a bit of urban adventure in a chaotic and colourful city…then Manila has a certain charm.
While quarantine restrictions are still in place due to COVID, that doesn’t stop you from planning for your next adventure. Since June 24 marks Manila Day – commemorating the 449th anniversary when Manila was proclaimed as Spain’s capital city in the Philippines – I’ve made a list of my favourite places to visit! For those who have never been to Manila, this will give you a good idea of what to expect.
If you’re new to Manila, Intramuros is undoubtedly the best place to learn about the city’s rich history. Dating back to the late 1500s, this old walled city has walls that are at least two-metres thick and six metres high, and is home to many historical landmarks, from churches and gardens to old mansions and museums. You can walk around the impressive stone ramparts, some parts of which have cannons on them, or ride around in horse-drawn carriages called kalesa.
SAN AGUSTIN CHURCH
One of my favourite places to visit in the area is the San Agustin Church, which was founded as a monastery by Augustinian monks. Part church, part museum complex, the building has a sad and haunting beauty, with austere stone hallways and sombre oil paintings. This is in stark contrast to the church proper, which features stunning architecture rivalling the grand churches of Europe. There are also galleries filled with religious artefacts and even a crypt. If you’re a history nerd like me, a visit to San Agustin is a must.
BALUERTE SAN DIEGO / SAN DIEGO GARDENS
The San Diego Gardens is one of those rare oases in Manila that offer a quiet respite, with tranquil European-style lawns and fountains that make it popular as a wedding photoshoot venue. The Baluerte San Diego, a small fort within the gardens, is the oldest structure within Intramuros. Its purpose was to ensure a clear view of the place and prepare against invaders. Back in the day it had all the facilities: courtyard, water supply tank, lodging and workshops – but all that remains of what must have once been a thriving fort are bare brick and stone.
The story of Jose Rizal fascinates me. I am no revolutionary, but as a writer, there is something very moving about how Rizal’s writing set a fire in the hearts of the Filipino people that eventually led to their fight for freedom against their Spanish oppressors. His story is a true embodiment of how the pen is mightier than the sword.
Fort Santiago is where Rizal was housed before his execution in 1896, and visitors to the fort will see a pair of bronze footprints embedded in the ground and leading out to the gate – said to retrace Rizal’s last footsteps. Inside the fort, you will also find a shrine/museum dedicated to this Philippine National Hero, which contains various memorabilia including poetry pieces, letters he wrote to family and friends, replicas of sculptures, paintings and more.
PLAZA SAN LUIS
One of the items on my bucket list is to visit Vigan, a town known for its Spanish colonial architecture. In Manila, you have Plaza San Luis, a complex that contains five houses, a museum, theatre, hotel, souvenir shops and eateries. Since Intramuros was nearly levelled during the war, many of the old homes were destroyed, and the homes here have been replicated to represent different eras in Filipino-Hispanic architecture. The overall colonial feeling of the place – with its quaint courtyards and staircases – makes it easy to believe that you are peeking through a window in time. You can almost believe that some rich young ladies in traditional Filipinianas, giggling behind their fans in the summer heat while out for an afternoon stroll, are just about to round the corner.
This cathedral was rebuilt a whopping eight times – it kept getting destroyed by fires, earthquakes and whatnot. While the architecture is not as grand as St Agustin, I like the stained glass art that it has, as well as the replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta in which Mary cradles the broken body of Christ.
A short distance away from Intramuros is Rizal Park, one of Manila’s few green areas. Like many old parts of Manila, it teems with history – hundreds of nationalists were executed here during Spanish rule, including Jose Rizal. It is fitting then, that the Philippine Declaration of Independence from America was read in this spot, and that the park was named after the revolutionary himself. When Pope Francis visited the Philippines and conducted a mass at the park, six million people turned up – that’s 1/5 of Malaysia’s population! While I wouldn’t say Rizal Park is the best park I’ve ever been to (litter is a problem), I think it’s a great place to visit if you’re sick of Manila’s endless malls. There are a few smaller parks within like the Nayong Filipino which are nice to explore.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ANTHROPOLOGY
With it’s tall, white-washed Corinthian columns and wooden doors, the grand-looking National Museum of Anthropology (aka Museum of the Filipino People) is hard to miss and is just a stone’s throw away from Rizal Park. Part of the National Museums of the Philippines, it houses the anthropology and archaeology divisions, spanning five floors. Coming from Malaysia where we have pretty lame museums (sorry, got to call a spade a spade), I was blown away by the quality of Manila’s major museums. The quality of the exhibits, as well as how they are arranged (with sections dedicated to indigenous art and culture, the history of the Philippines during the colonial era, etc.) offer interesting insights into the development of modern Filipino society.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS
Filipinos are artistic people – there’s even a stereotype about how all Filipinos are good at singing and dancing (these people have obviously never met my husband) – and art has always been a way for the people to express themselves, even in times of oppression.
The National Museum of Fine Arts, which is housed in the former Legislative Building, is a testament to this creativity and resilience, with works by national artists such as Juan Luna, Félix Resurrección Hidalgo and Guillermo Tolentino. In fact, when you walk in, the first thing you will be greeted with is an almost floor-to-ceiling work of Juan Luna Y Novicio’s Spoliarium – possibly one of the Philippines’ most popular pieces of art. The gallery is filled with artistic treasures, most of which reflect the country’s European-influenced past, and there are pieces that are so intricate and detailed, you can’t help but marvel at the level of craftsmanship that went into creating them. It’s definitely a place that you can get lost in for hours.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
Another must-visit is the National Museum of National History, which has a very picturesque central court that boasts a structure called the DNA Tree of Life, as well as loads of interesting exhibits on nature and geology in the Philippines. There are sections dedicated to botany and entomology, marine life, mangroves and more. Even if you’re not into natural history, the architecture of the building alone is worth dropping by for.
I try to visit the local Chinatown whenever I visit a foreign country. Idk, call it a subconscious need to reconnect with my roots or whathaveyou, lol.
Manila’s Chinatown, Binondo, is the oldest in the world, dating back to 1594. Its narrow, chaotic streets, with its haphazard signboards and buildings, can feel claustrophobic, but it has a charm of its own. What I like about Binondo? The food. There are legendary establishments here that have been in the same family for generations, such as Eng Bee Tin – known for their hopia (a type of pastry) and tikoy (sticky rice cake – in Malaysia we call it niangao). If you’re here, look out for a shop called Ling Nam, which serves mami noodles (plain or with pork asado) – I stumbled across this gem purely by chance. There are many restos around the area that I haven’t had the chance to try yet, so I’m looking forward to another visit!
One of Bangkok’s oldest temples, Wat Pho is a must visit if you love architecture. Built in the 16th century, this vast royal temple complex boasts a splendid design, with towering spires, colourful glazed-tile roofs and grand halls. The temple is home to the largest collection of Buddha’s images in Thailand (over 1,000), the most famous being a 46-metre-long giant reclining Buddha. It is also the birthplace of the traditional Thai massage, which is offered to visitors as a communal experience at an open-air pavilion.
The temple complex covers over 80,000 square metres, so it’s best to allocate several hours if you wish to fully explore the place. There are numerous pavilions, hallways, shrines and prayer halls to within, so tourist maps (located at various points throughout the temple) come in handy !
The ordination hall, or Phra Ubosot, is where monks perform rituals. The hall looked absolutely stunning, with maroon and gold floor to ceiling motifs and a glittering gold and crystal dais, upon which was seated a gilded Buddha dating back to the Ayutthaya period. The statue was ‘shaded’ by a golden, tasseled nine-tiered umbrella, a symbol of Thailand. The ashes of the ruler Rama I can also be found under the pedestal.
Making our way around the temple complex, we could see influences from various cultures, such as these Chinese-style stone pagodas. There were figures and statues of Chinese deities as well. The colour of the tiles on the roof differed from building to building, but most had orange/gold as the primary shade, accentuated by blue, red, white and green.
Chedis are an alternative to stupas in Thailand, and there are hundreds of these within the temple grounds. The smaller ones rise up about five metres, and are decorated with floral or geometric motifs from the base to the top.
Beyond being just a religious place, Wat Pho was also intended as an education centre, so visitors will find murals and engravings on granite slabs throughout the complex with texts and illustrations depicting subjects such as history, medicine, health, custom, literature and religion.
Marble towers called Phra Prang, which are found at the corners of one of the main courtyards.
Aside from the Reclining Buddha statue, I found the Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn – a grouping of four large chedis – to be most impressive. Located within a courtyard, their sharp spires towering over their surroundings, these 42-metre-high chedis are dedicated to the first four Chakri kings: Rama I, Rama II, Rama III and Rama IV. The chedis each have a distinctive look and are covered in beautiful tiles, in green, yellow, white and blue.
Inside one of the buildings called Viharn Phranorn, we finally came to the temple’s famed golden reclining Buddha. It was humongous, filling up one entire side of the hall, the statue’s long legs stretching from one end to the other. There were nooks all along the passageway for visitors to stop and take photos, while on the right were bowls where devotees can drop coins as part of a prayer ritual. The walls were decorated from top to bottom with elaborate murals, and there were artists doing touch up on places where they had faded.
The feet are decorated with laksana, Sanskrit symbols and texts, some of which have been inlaid with mother of pearl.
Wat Pho is located right next to the Grand Palace, so you might want to pair your trip with a visit there. The entrance fee for the Grand Palace is quite pricey, which is why we opted not to.
Thailand has a rich and colourful history, and it’s chronicled incredibly well at the National Museum in Bangkok. From the early days of its ancient Buddhist kingdoms of Sukhothai, Lan Na and Ayutthaya to the more modern eras under the Rama kings, the museum offers visitors a look into the history and various facets of what makes up Thailand today – and it’s absolutely fascinating. N and I spent six hours exploring the vast museum grounds, and would have spent more if it wasn’t for the fact that we had other items on our itinerary to go to :’D
The museum was about 1.5 kilometres from our hostel in Rambuttri, and it was packed with tourists, locals and students, despite being a weekday. From the outside, the museum didn’t look very large, but there were actually many buildings within. There was an entrance fee of 200 baht(RM27) for foreigners.
Our timing was excellent as the museum was running a temporary exhibition, “Qin Shi Huang: The First Emperor of China and Terracotta Warriors” during our visit. The showcase included historical artefacts and items from the rule of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, some of which were flown in from Xi’an.
QSH was a bit of an obsessive personality and during his lifetime, drank mercury in an attempt to prolong his life (mercury was believed to be the secret to immortality back then). When he died (presumably from mercury poisoning), he was entombed in a necropolis, complete with 8,000 life-sized terracotta warriors. The mausoleum, which was designed as a reflection of a palace / city so that QSH could continue ruling in the afterlife, has never been fully excavated due to fears of possible damage.
Although it said ‘life-sized’, I felt like the sculptures were actually taller than normal, averaging about eight feet.
The original statues that were discovered were actually coated in paint, so they weren’t all grey and dull looking. The paint evaporated into the air after the mausoleum was excavated.
Terracotta horse-drawn chariot.
Beyond just his odd practices of drinking mercury and burning books, SHD was an extraordinary figure who united China’s many warring factions under one banner. The exhibition also detailed this, explaining the economic and political reforms that took place during his rule, as well as cultural and historical impact that can still be felt two millennia later. On display to tell the narrative was advanced weaponry, decorative statues, household items, ritual objects, and more.
A distinctive stone armour worn by soldiers, made up of hundreds of interlinked stone pieces connected by bronze wire to offer more flexibility.
Decorative / ritual objects in the shapes of farm animals like horses, cows, goats, pigs and sheep; or scenes from everyday life like a rice mill, shrines and small houses.
N was fascinated, and I had to literally drag him out to the main courtyard (lest we stay there the entire day). We next ventured into the Buddhaisawan Chapel. Built in the early 18th century, the main hall houses one of the most sacred Buddhist images in all of Thailand, the Phra Buddha Sihing.
The vast hall had sleek wooden floors, with a red ceiling and walls decorated with images of the Devas, as well as old paintings telling Buddha’s story. Some of these were faded with age and were difficult to discern, but you could still see the meticulous attention to detail poured into creating each one.
The entrance to Buddhaisawan Chapel is guarded by garudas – mythical creatures in Buddhist and Hindu mythology that sport avian and human features.
Another building you can check out within the museum is the vibrant-looking The Red House. Constructed from teak, it was originally the private living quarters of a princess. Today, it houses items used by royals in the past, including those of Queen Sri Suriyenda.
A beautiful gold pavilion with intricate decorative features and exquisite detailing on the ceiling.
The halls within the museum seemed to go on forever – there were just so many things to see. There were sections dedicated to Buddhist art from Thailand and neighbouring regions, the evolution of the country’s monetary system and currency, paintings, weaponry, clothing worn by royals, palanquins which were used to mount onto the backs of elephants, war drums, dioramas and much more.
Royal throne. The colour gold is prevalent in Thai colour, as it is an important colour in both Buddhist and Thai culture.
Life-sized replica of an elephant with a palanquin strapped to its back. Elephants are the national animal of Thailand.
Students writing notes down as they observe a diorama, complete with war elephants, cavalry, foot soldiers and archers
Thai royals were a fashionable lot, with ceremonial and everyday costumes featuring rich fabrics, elegant colours, beautiful detailing and patterns, and slim silhouettes.
Everyone likes beautiful things – and there were sections detailing Thai art, such as how artisans apply mother of pearl to everything from furniture to sword scabbards; as well as a section for enamel pottery.
Another impressive section was a hall containing numerous royal funeral chariots. Built from teak, the chariots were ornately carved, painted and gilded in gold, with mythical / religious figures and decorative fixtures such as nagas and devas.
Thais have deep respect for their royalty (they have some of the world’s strictest lese-majeste laws), and they revere them as much in death as they do in life. When a member of the royal family passes, the chariots are pulled by hundreds of men in a parade down the streets with the urn carrying the ashes of the deceased royal sitting atop a tall roofed shrine.
Grand send off.
The Bangkok National Museum is, by far, one of the most impressive museums I have been to in Southeast Asia, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you love history and culture. Allocate at least half a day for the place if you’re planning to have a more in-depth experience.
BANGKOK NATIONAL MUSEUM
Na Phra That Alley, Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
The Melaka city centre can get pretty crowded with tourists, especially over the weekend and holidays. If you’re looking for a more relaxing (and educational!) excursion, consider the Melaka Butterfly and Reptile Sanctuary. Tucked in Ayer Keroh, about 15 to 20 minutes away from the city, this mini zoo of sorts was opened in 1991 and is home to hundreds of insects, small animals and reptiles, as well as some larger specimens.
For a 30-year-old park, the place is well maintained, spread over 5 hectares and set amidst lush, tropical surroundings. There are dedicated areas within the vast park for butterflies, reptiles, birds, etc. It’s also a nice place to escape Melaka’s blistering heat. Entry is RM22 per pax.
There weren’t many visitors when we came to visit on a Monday afternoon, so we took our time exploring the various exhibits and habitats. Some allow for you to get upclose to the animals, and when I mean upclose, I mean upclose. You can pet rabbits, the resident giant iguana, or take a selfie with the parrots and the cockatoos.
N and I had great fun trying to locate the different insects and creepy crawlies within their glass cases; most times they were camouflaged, so it was like a game to spot them.
Fat, colourful iguanas congregating on Pride Rock
Resident white cockatoo. Did you know that cockatoos are very smart animals? They are said to have the cognitive abilities rivalling a four-year-old human child, and in studies, can undo locks to get to food.
There were two sections dedicated to butterflies, and there were hundreds of them swooping overhead, some even flying into our faces, or landing on our shoulders. These pretty insects have a fleeting beauty, as they have a short life span lasting just 10 days.
Most of the butterflies were of the same species so we didn’t spot much variety, but they were still pretty all the same.
A beautifully landscaped section with a pond and artificial waterfall, stacked with fat, gold, red and white koi fish.
Venturing to the aviary, we came across this bird (I named it Sid Vicious) with beautiful blue plumage and a rockstar mohawk. It looked completely unafraid of humans and came quite close to us, before hopping back over the ‘fence’ into its habitat.
The sanctuary is also home to a pair of American alligators. They were absolutely huge and looked as if they could swallow my entire body whole, and then some. There were also some saltwater crocodiles, gharials and emus.
The sanctuary’s resident alligator snapping turtle. Dubbed ‘living fossils’, the species dates back to over 200 million years ago. An alligator snapping turtle can live up to 150 years old. They can weigh up to 220 lbs and are quite capable of literally snapping off your fingers.
At the reptile section, we caught glimpse of some beautiful snakes, including an albino python and a giant king cobra. I’ve always wanted to keep a small ball python, but I can’t bear the thought of feeding it live prey like mice (Apparently it’s best to feed them live prey to simulate how it is in the wild).
Bright and colourful (and poisonous) frogs. in the wild, the more vibrant the colour, the more likely they are to be poisonous. Kind of like nature’s warning signs.
If you’re travelling in a family with young children, I think the Melaka Butterfly & Reptile Sanctuary is an awesome place to take the kids on an educational (but fun!) excursion. Even without the kids, it’s great for the adults too. Kudos also to maintenance; you can see that the animals are all well kept and fed, rather than in horrid zoos where space is cramped and they all look half dead.
Hey guys! With the Christmas and New Year holidays approaching, I’m sure everyone’s feeling a little lazy (yours truly included). Just gotta kick my ass into gear and finish all these posts that have piled up 🙂
With that out of the way… here’s a blog on when we went to the Qing Xing Ling Cultural Village in Ipoh!
This is not my first time here, but on my last visit the place was closed (apparently because of complaints from residents on tourist buses). These days, there is a limit to the number of visitors allowed per day, and tickets are not sold on the spot (you have to buy them from a shop and collect them before you come), so crowd control measures are in place.
Where To Buy Qing Xing Ling Tickets
Tickets are sold at a furniture shop called Syarikat Perabot Kota (Address: 164-166, Jalan Sultan Nazrin shah, Taman Sri Rokam, 31350 Ipoh, Perak). The shop is just a few minutes away from the attraction. While you can do walk-ins, it is best to call them in advance (Phone: +605-312 4140) to avoid disappointment. The ticket is priced at RM10.
The ‘village’ itself is tucked deep within the hills, so you have to go through a housing area to get to the place. Entry is through a small side door where they have living quarters (they even had laundry hanging out to dry, and a pet baby goat in a paddock), but once you emerge, you’ll be greeted by a beautiful sight: a lake and quaint, colourful buildings amidst a backdrop of Ipoh’s emerald green limestone hills. There are also bicycles / tandem bikes / quadricycles that you can rent and ride around the grounds.
The buildings at the village follow a vintage theme and are designed to look like houses of old, filled with nostalgic paraphernalia. Close to the entrance, we popped into one of these wooden ‘homes’, complete with a living space, bedrooms and a kitchen. Black and white photographs adorn the walls, and there was also a wooden balcony overlooking the lake. You can buy fish food to feed the fish in the pond.
At the centre of the main courtyard is a God of Prosperity and a Wishing Tree, its branches weighed down by hundreds (if not thousands) of wishes written on red cloth.
I forgot to mention that N and I were here to take our pre-wedding photos! (coz we couldn’t afford a photographer lol we were hoping to save on some money). We both agreed that it would be more of a fun-day-out-and-good-memories kinda thing, rather than having to dress up, sweat and be cranky and uncomfortable in the sweltering Malaysian heat.
More vintage setups made to look like old-school photo studios, trinket shops, etc., filled with old machinery and items such as radios and TVs. They even have a (functioning) juke box!
Climb up the hill to an area called Memory Lane, a whole ‘street’ lined with ‘shops’ that harken back to a nostalgic past. Sandwiched between a natural gorge with limestone cliffs on both sides, this a great place for photos. When we went there was barely anyone so we could take as much time as we wanted. There are lots of mosquitoes though, so if you’re a mozzie-magnet like me, bring some repellent.
Makeshift cart peddling desserts. These were common in the 1960s to 70s. Note that the cart has wheels, which would have made it easy for the seller to pack up and move it when it was closing time.
The tranquil lake at Qing Xing Ling exuding Guilin vibes.
A resident drake preening its feathers under the shadow of an alcove. They also have a couple of geese and turkeys as well.
Guanyin and other deity statues inside a cave with a natural spring.
The weather was muggy but we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Qing Xing Ling – more so because there weren’t that many people, so kudos to the management for good crowd control. The last thing you’d want is for screaming, uncontrollable kids to hog every spot.
QING XING LING LEISURE & CULTURAL VILLAGE
22A, Persiaran Pinggir Rapat 5a, Taman Saikat, 31350 Ipoh, Negeri Perak
Just an hour’s drive from Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a popular weekend getaway spot for Melburnians who crave relaxation, nature and a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
One of the must-do activities while in the Mornington Peninsula is a ride on a gondola at Arthur’s Seat Eagle. The cable car takes visitors from the base at Dromona up to the peak of Arthur’s Seat – a 314-metre-above-sea-level hill which offers expansive views of the surrounding nature as well as Melbourne from afar.
Dromona Base station.
Originally, Arthur’s Seat had a chairlift service (the kind you see at ski resorts), which was opened in 1960. After several accidents and safety concerns, the service was closed and they decided to build a gondola system instead. The new service started operations in 2016.
The ride up was cool and relaxing, and we could observe the surrounding bush and countryside as we slowly made our way to the top. If you’re adventurous, you can actually go on walking trails, some of which take you through exotic and indigenous gardens complete with picnic and camping facilities.
Once at the top you will be rewarded with scenic views of the surrounding countryside, Melbourne in the distance, the Mornington and Bellarine peninsulas, as well as Port Philip Bay and its azure blue waters. Low lying clouds made it appear as if the sky was blending into the water – a spectacular sight.
While you’re at the lookout point – check out interesting plants indigenous to the region, like these kangaroo paw plants. No points for guessing how they got their name.
By car: Access is by the Nepean Highway or by connecting from the Monash Freeway (M1), to Eastlink (M3) [use Frankston/Mornington Peninsula Exit] and on to Peninsula Link (M11) [use Portsea Exit].
Exit off the freeway at Arthurs Seat/Dromana (C789) to access the Base Station or continue up Arthurs Seat to the Summit.
By Public Transport:
Take the Frankston Line Train to Frankston station. Catch the Portsea Passenger Service (Bus #788) to the Dromana Visitor Information Centre. The Base Station is a 15 minute walk away.
1085 Arthurs Seat Road
Dromana, Victoria 3936
795 Arthurs Seat Road
Arthurs Seat, Victoria 3936
As Australia’s hub for culture and the arts, it is only fitting that the city of Melbourne is also home to the country’s oldest, largest and most visited art museum – the National Gallery of Victoria. Located on St Kilda Road in the Southbank neighbourhood, the gallery was founded in the 1860s, and today welcomes over 5 million visitors a year.
You’d probably have to make a couple of return trips to fully appreciate the gallery’s mind-boggling breadth of exhibits, which number over 75,000 in total. Aside from Asian, international and Australian art, they also house a large collection of items such as artefacts, photographs, prints and other media.
The gallery regularly hosts special exhibitions, so there’s something new to see each time. I visited while they were running the Escher X Nendo: Between Two Worlds exhibition, which was absolutely fascinating.
Maurits Cornelis Escher (better known as M.C.Escher) was a Dutch graphic artist. A lover of mathematics, Escher’s pieces include intensely detailed woodcuts, lithographs (graphic prints) and sketches, and often incorporated his love for mathematics by applying concepts such as symmetry, reflections and perspectives. “Impossible objects” – a type of optical illusion where a 2D object appears 3D but cannot physically ‘exist’ in the real world – was one of his fortes. In fact, it was Escher’s works that partly inspired the creation of the world-famous Penrose triangle (ie the impossible triangle).
Escher’s works are immensely popular today, especially in Australia, but it was not widely recognised until much later in his life, when he was in his 70s.
Escher was reportedly a poor student at school, so it was amazing to observe the complexity of his designs, as well as how much precision there was in each stroke and detail. His work became, for good reason, very popular among mathematicians and scientists.
The exhibition also featured installations by Japanese studio Nendo, created specifically to complement Escher’s works. The installations were essentially physical manifestations of the world of Escher, inviting visitors into a glimpse of his mind. We walked through a series of ‘houses’, gradually changing colour and form from black to white, open to closed… or was it the other way around?
A series of separate black rods that appeared as houses and frames when viewed from just the right angle.
You can’t tell from the picture but the tunnel actually got smaller at the far end – an optical illusion.
One of my favourite rooms in the exhibition featured thousands of tiny die cast ‘houses’. When viewed from afar, they formed the dark shape of a larger house.
Escher’s last work, Snakes, 1969. Escher often took inspiration from nature, drawing insects, plants and animals. It somehow reflects the precise and mathematical nature of creation, where everything seems to have been ‘made’ with purpose – it makes you question if creation was really a random occurrence.
Drawing Hands, 1948.
Another exhibition that was running during my visit was by Julian Opie, an English visual artist. His hallmark consists of walking figures drawn with thick black lines and minimal detailing. After Escher’s detail-heavy pieces, Opie’s work felt a tad simple – but also kind of refreshing.
A video piece featuring moving figures
I moved on to explore the permanent exhibits, which are spread across four floors. Unfortunately, as I was pressed for time, I had to breeze through the sections, but it was still fascinating to see the many different types of art as well as artefacts in the gallery’s collection.
Ancient Greek vases
I don’t even know what’s happening here
A section dedicated to more contemporary art, using digital projections in a space
If you’re ever in Melbourne, I highly recommend a visit to the NGV – dedicate at least a whole day if you love culture, art and history. There’s just so much to see within, and I guarantee you’ll leave with more than you came in with. There is also a nice souvenir shop on the ground floor that has a great selection of books, trinkets, gifts and other items to take home.