We're back from our week-long jaunt in Tasmania and this is the holiday post complete with photos and videos!Day 1: Saturday
Our first day so we didn't get up to much mischief. We took the plane from Tullamarine to Hobart. Man, I used to think that international flights were cramped. Ugh. I hate flying.
Anyway, once we'd checked out of the airport we picked up our hire car and much to our dismay saw no apparent way we could plug in our iPods to listen to real music! We made do with some Tasmanina pop radio station as we drove to our hotel, the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel.
Since it was still early we had a couple of hours to kill before our room would be habitable so we dumped our bags and wandered down to the Salamanca Market. I rather liked it there. Lots of home-made things like fudge, baked goods, jams and relishes, soaps, jewellery, etc., as well as the usual touristy crap like cheap Tasmanian devil toys that were probably made in China. We stopped by the bratwurst truck and had some weisswurst for lunch accompanied by a refreshing fizzy chilli lime drink made and bottled by some people at a different stall.
By the time our room was ready and we were heading back to the hotel, it had started to rain lightly. Good thing the hotel is only ten minutes' walk from Salamanca.
Our room was well lush! It was an executive spa apartment
so it's got the spa (which we were using every couple of days with Lush bath bombs
), a kitchenette, nice big bed (too soft, and the pillows too flat), and even a washing machine and dryer tucked away in the bathroom! Nice.
For dinner we wandered back to the docks to try some local fish and chips at Fish Frenzy, and then retired to the hotel for a spa bath whilst watching a movie on a laptop (we brought both of our laptops with us lol).This is the view from our room
.Day 2: Sunday
First things first: hotel buffet breakfast! It was hardly as grand as the buffet breakfasts we've had in Hong Kong or China (the Novotel Beijing Peace had everything
!) but it was as much as you'd expect from an Australian buffet breakfast: a range of fruit juices, a few varieties of cereal/museli, some fruit salad and yogurt, croissants, bread (and toasters), and the cooked food like hash browns, bacon, poached and scrambled eggs, sausages, tomatoes, etc. Still, buffet breakfasts are awesome.
The plan for the day was to hit up the Tahune Airwalk
, about 90 minutes' drive out of Hobart. I discovered that I still remember how to drive a car, despite not having driven one in the last couple of years. Nic discovered that we could connect our phones to the car with Bluetooth and play our iPods that way. Phew!
We decided to stop at the nearby town of Geeveston to stretch our legs and look around. We encountered a guy walking a couple of dogs the size of bears. These handsome creatures were Tibetan Mastiffs
named Ben and Elsa
, brother and sister. The guy bought Ben on the condition that he take Elsa as well; she was born with only one eye and the breeder thought she'd be happier with her big brother around. Awww! They were incredibly calm and friendly (and hairy) and now I want one, ugh. Such gorgeous creatures.
After that we hit up one of those ye olde lollie shoppes for some snacks before continuing on up to the Tahune Airwalk. We walked amongst the trees and kept going until you actually feel your knees weaken when you look down. Impressive views though. I'm only a little bit acrophobic but I refused to go all the way to the end of the Cantilever; I reckon I did damn well just by being on the Cantilever at all!
Once we'd made our way back down from the airwalk we decided to continue along to the Swinging Bridges which made me feel a bit like Indiana Jones
. It's not altogether pleasant when the person in front of you is walking along and inadvertently making the whole bridge sway and bounce. It was a really nice day for this sort of bushwalking-esque activity and I think we both felt good for the exercise.The view of the Huon River and surrounding forest from the Tahune Airwalk
.Coming up to the first of the two Swinging Bridges
.Me crossing the second Swinging Bridge
.Riverscape from the Swinging Bridges
Dinner was at Me Wah Restaurant
which is supposed to be the
Chinese restaurant in Tasmania. It's quite a lavish-looking restaurant so we both felt a bit embarrassed and underdressed in our jeans and hoodies as we were shown to our table... until we saw a couple of Asian guys at another table dressed just as shabbily as we were.
I had a delicious abalone soup
to start ('shredded greenlip abalone, shiitakes, winter bamboo, sun dried conpoy, black fungus, rich master broth') and Nic tried the wonton soup
which was also really good (except that they call it 'Chinese ravioli' on the menu). Amongst a few other things we also ordered the pork belly
to see how good it would be. Nope, our pork belly is still the tastiest, crunchiest and juiciest.
(And, likely as not, the worst for you, but who eats pork belly to be healthy?)
As we dined we were painfully aware of the other non-Asian diners around us who have no idea how to eat at a proper Chinese restaurant. Silly gwai lo (鬼佬) think that it's like any other restaurant where each person orders one meal for their own consumption, so at Chinese restaurants you've got people ordering entire dishes of honey chicken or sizzling beef or steamed fish (that's a whole
steamed fish) for each person, thinking that that is their entire meal, when you're actually supposed to share everything and eat it with rice.
At one point one guy from a neighbouring table was talking to a waiter in a way that implied he was a semi-regular customer so I thought that perhaps he would know what he was doing. Turns out he didn't and even went to order two
of a particular dish because he liked it so much, at which point the waiter seemed a little taken aback and tried to explain how the whole 'sharing food' system works. He was not successful.
So that was extremely culturally painful for me.Day 3: Monday
Spent most of the day at MONA
, the Museum of Old and New Art. The museum of wanky art, more like. There were some interesting pieces but most of it came in varying degrees of wankery. There's the Cloaca Professional
; a machine designed to simulate the digestive system. It gets fed twice a day and does a poop into a glass dish every day at 2pm. The smell was quite powerful and I actually struggled not to upend my recently-consumed lunch. Another 'interesting' piece was a black and white photo of a naked man on all fours being mounted from the rear by a large dog. The curator's (?) thoughts on this was "This is absolutely fucking disgusting". It's good that they don't seem to take things too seriously at MONA; there was a piece that comprised of a plain ceramic dish with a kitchen knife resting in it, filled with water with two small goldfish swimming around and the caption for that was "Poor little bastards".
I like the way that they give you an iPod Touch and a set of headphones to go on your own self-guided tour of the gallery. There are absolutely no information labels or placards on the walls so you don't tend to have a dozen people crowded around one piece trying to read the tiny information panel. The iPod lists the artwork in your immediate vicinity and you can read up on anything you want, listen to the artist's commentary, read funny captions like the ones above, listen to music that is to accompany a video being displayed, etc. You can also vote on whether you 'love' or 'hate' a piece and the iPod will display statistics on how many people have liked/hated the piece and such. Really quite interesting. A bit annoying to have headphones clamped to your head and the iPod and cables flapping about your person.
Outside it was another spectacular day of blue skies
After we got back from MONA we decided on an impromptu trip up Mount Wellington
where it was chilly and windy and picturesque.
We were pretty tired after all that so we ordered room service for dinner and had another spa bath and watched a Harry Potter movie on my laptop, tee hee.Day 4: Tueday
This was a bit of an odd day. We had ideas of going to Me Wah for yum cha, only to read their website properly and learn that they only do yum cha on weekends. Bastards! I guess they don't have the population to be able to support yum cha every day? So we decided to put on a load of laundry (socks and undies) and looked up a Thai restaurant for lunch. We walked out to the place for lunch and found that the restaurant we were after had long been replaced by something else, so we wandered on and found another Thai place. It was okay.
After lunch we kept wandering, nosed about a second-hand bookshop and happened up on a Red Cross blood bank so Nic went in to donate some blood (being of a weaker constitution with a congenital heart murmur, I figured it wouldn't be wise for me to try to donate blood for the first time whilst on holiday).
We'd already booked our tickets for the Port Arthur ghost tour later that night so the whole day didn't get spent faffing about! We timed our dinner at the Ball & Chain grill so that we would arrive a little early for our 9pm ghost tour
. I did the driving out to Port Arthur (about 90 minutes) and we saw a number of pademelon wallabies (most of which had had an unfortunate encounter with a moving vehicle).
The ghost tour itself was great fun. Would have been better if a couple of the older people, mainly that one guy, hadn't spent most of his time making smart remarks. There were ruins of a nice old church that looks eerie at night with all the windows lit up with candles. Nic wandered off to look around and frightened another person from our group when he materialised out of the dark. We visited the parsonage that is supposed to be haunted by the late Reverend George Easterman - creepy disembodied footsteps in the night and all that.
In another building we went into an underground room
where dissections were performed and our tourguide told us an awesome story of a band of tourists on their ghost tour being frightened out of their wits by what turned out to be a mouse (that they couldn't see).
Our last stop was the Separate Prison
which is super-creepy in the dark. There are long corridors lined with doors, some of which opened into pitch-black cells. I took a blurry photo
of one of the corridors. What do you reckon? Is that white streak a ghost? I took a photo of the same corridor when we went back there during the day and there wasn't anything there.
In the end I wasn't sure whether I was relieved or disappointed that I (or anyone in our group) hadn't encountered anything spooky but it was a fun jaunt nonetheless. We heard some cool stories and got creeped out. Nic and I saw the small, round shape of a pademelon bouncing off into the dark.
Nic did the driving back to Hobart and on the way we saw more pademelons, a wombat (possibly dead), a brushtail possum mama crossing the road with a baby on her back, and a couple of rabbits.Day 5: Wednesday
The morning was spent at the Cadbury factory
! Too bad they no longer do the tours any more, and all you get to do is sit in a conference room while a guy talks about the history of chocolate-making and stuff (he was quite funny) before letting you loose into the 'gift shop' (a small shop area with a lot of Cadbury chocolates and sub-brands of lollies at cheap prices).
I jumped back behind the wheel to take us back to Port Arthur to see it again in broad daylight. We stopped by the Tesselated Pavement
on the way. It was another clear, sunny day
to be a tourist but all that walking and driving is exhausting. Nic drove us home so I napped in the car.
For dinner we had some yummy curry and lassi at Flavour of India.Day 6: Thursday
Up earlier than usual to go to Tasmania Zoo!
Unlike, say, Melbourne Zoo or Taronga Zoo, Tasmania Zoo is not actually in the capital city. It's in Launceston. Actually, it's at the back of beyond of Launceston. And it's a three hour drive.
So we were driving along some pretty small roads, many of which are dirt roads
, thinking "Is this seriously one of the two routes going between Tasmania's two biggest cities?" It's pretty dismal. I did get to swerve to avoid hitting an echidna that was waddling across the road.
Anyway, we finally reached Launceston and Google told me to keep driving, so I kept driving. The road became a lumpy dirt road and there's nothing but Australian scrub for miles and we started to wonder if there actually was a zoo there. Another echidna by the roadside, snuffling about for a meal.
Well, welcome to Tasmania Zoo
. It's... rustic. It's like a guy fenced off a slab of land out in the back of nowhere in Launceston, built some fences and sheds and stuff and put the animals in there. We actually came to like the, er, rusticity of the place though. Turns out you can buy a cup of pellets to feed the wallabies through the wire fence and because they're used to being fed by visitors, they'll come right up to the fence to check you out.
We saw a number of bird species including this chap with the vibrant greens
; an eastern quoll
catching some rays; a Bennetts wallaby
that came right up to the fence; a sulphur-crested cockatoo
that said 'hello' and 'hello cocky' as well as making woofing and meowing noises; a couple of Australian dogs
(dingo hybrids); one of the two wedge-tailed eagles
; and of course some of the Tasmanian devils
that are part of a species conservation/breeding program. We even got to see them fighting over some food
during one of the regular scheduled feeding sessions where the keeper talks to you about the devils.Video of the devils scrapping
Very long drive home, I napped while Nic drove the first leg of the journey. Ended up taking the route that actually runs along some real bitumen roads, so no idea why Google told us to take the dirt roads.
We had Italian food at Ciuccio on Salamanca Square that evening.Day 7: Friday
We couldn't think of anything much to do so we just kind of winged it. We went to TMAG
which I kind of liked a bit better than MONA but it housed an eclectic collection of modern art/sculpture, colonial-era portraiture, a small gallery of coins going back to ancient Rome and Australia's older currency, and an exhibit on Antarctic exploration. That didn't take long, so we continued onto Salamanca Place where there are a number of art galleries/shops, bought some souvenirs and had lunch at a little Vietnamese place. The afternoon was spent doing very little back at the hotel, and then we decided to go to Annapurna for dinner.
Pro tip: if you've got a hankering for Indian food in Hobart, go to Flavour of India. Annapurna just isn't as good.Final day: Saturday
Last-minute packing and stuff, final breakfast and checking out of the hotel. We bundled our bags into the car and left it in the hotel carpark while we wandered down to Salamanca Market to do our last-minute shopping. This was mainly Christmas presents for family and friends and were almost all in the form of something edible. We tried to take it slow because we were also waiting to go for some yum cha at Me Wah at 11am.
Yum cha was nice and I'd not be surprised if it's the best yum cha in Tasmania. Having had it in Melbourne more times than I can remember, though, it didn't impress me and young Nic has also developed some discerning tastes in yum cha. The selection of dim sum is limited and it was a little on the expensive side. The Satuday yum cha service is also à la carte which takes the fun out of the usual yum cha experience. The trolley service only runs on Sundays. I wonder if the selection is better then, or if it's the same stuff on the menu?
Nevertheless I really like the restaurant itself and the service is great. The toilets were really swish; they had shelves with little red cotton towels rolled up in case you didn't want to dry your hands with a paper towel like some sort of peasant.
We had two or three hours to kill before we had to be at the airport so we drove out to the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
to see some more cute aminals. See what I did there? At the admissions counter they give you a brown paper bag with some pellets in it so you can hand-feed some of the creatures there. The first enclosure we came across housed a potoroo who was very excited about pellets
. "Oh my god I love
There's a large pen where visitors can hand-feed small kangaroos and wallabies
, a few birds, elusive creatures like wombats and echidnas that we didn't see, etc. The Bonorong Sanctuary is also breeding Tasmanian devils so they had a number of those around, including this funny guy
who kept doing laps of his yard.
We still had an hour or so to kill so we visited the town of Richmond, where Australia's oldest bridge is (how exciting) and finally went to the airport.Final thoughts
Tasmania is picturesque and fairly quiet for a capital city. Can be a bit boring for a proper city slicker, I reckon, if you run out of touristy things to do. That said, it's still more interesting than Canberra.
Maybe it's because we don't know the area and were relying on internet reviews, but the range of restaurants seems very limited. It doesn't a Lygon Street equivalent (Melbourne's Italian district) or even a Chinatown, doesn't have a token 'trendy hipster' area like Fitzroy.
I really enjoyed going to the zoo (not so much the long drive) and the ghost tour, eating tasty Indian food and wandering through the Salamanca Market. Seeing the local wildlife hanging around the roadsides, sometimes even during the day, was a novelty. The Tahune Airwalk was great as well, especially the part where we met those Tibetan Mastiffs. <3
Now that we're home and unpacked, there's crap all over the living room and I don't want to go to work, ugh! If I stay in bed and pretend I'm sleeping, can I not go to work?