The flight took off from Bengaluru to Kuala Lumpur at half-past midnight – so, one can imagine my state of mind – I wanted to get as much sleep as possible on the flight that lasted 4.5 hours – the Malaysian airlines didn’t offer some of the luxury comforts that are available on Emirates or even the local Jet Airways/Kingfisher (like personalized entertainment package). The flight landed early in the morning but my body clock was still in Indian Standard Time – hence, I was walking around in a dazed state. The connecting flight to Melbourne was after 2 hours – something that I like, since that meant that I could slip off my shoes in the flight and go off to much-needed sleep. This flight was better, compared to the first one. I had my lunch on the flight at Australia time – making me adjusted to the new timings. Thankfully I had requested for AVML and hence, could find the meal somewhat palatable.
Finally, landed in Melbourne after 15 hours of travel late in the night – this was where I came in contact with the famous ‘Quarantine’. Since I had not taken any food-item, I was quite comfortable in declaring on arrival that I didn’t have anything that would cause an issue with the authorities. Apparently, it is a good practice to declare all the items that you are bringing into Australia, for they are very particular about this – why this practice is followed is something that I need to check on the net. Then, I took the cab to go to Darling Towers in Darling Street. I had a reservation for a service apartment (the hotels are pretty costly in Australia) and was given the same by the very helpful desk-person in an adjacent street, the Caroline Street. The apartment was pretty big with all the facilities that a standard service apartment can provide. I just crashed at the sight of the bed in the apartment – so tired was I, after my travel.
Next day morning, I managed to get up in the morning as per Australia time (I had to report to my office in the morning as well). Within the next one hour, I got ready for my office but I was feeling hungry. I had not eaten much after landing from the flight and there was nothing in the apartment to help – I should have done some basic shopping in the airport itself, but who would tell me? Anyway, I thought that I will pick up something near the office itself. I had picked up a card from the Cab-driver the previous night – that helped me in getting a cab in the morning. The cab-driver arrived at the door-step within few minutes, to my surprise.
The drive to the office was quite interesting – I had to pass the MCG, the Rod Laver Arena, and the Olympic Park, passing the Yarra river, on my way to the office. When I got off on Elizabeth Street, I walked in and noticed that my organization was on the 40th floor – good so far. I hadn’t asked anyone for the address before landing there – I don’t know how I could have been so careless, even after so many years of travel. But, I was lucky – there were no issues. On the 40th floor, there was only one organization – that of mine. I went inside and started my work for the day.
The cab drivers are a good breed in Australia – they are usually from Asia (mostly Indians), but one day I met a senior person from Russia – he had migrated to Australia almost 30 years ago – it was a very interesting experience talking to him; especially hearing his questions to me and the way he was trying to understand India and the condition of Indians.
There is a variety of choices for food in Melbourne – Indian, Italian, Mcdonalds, Subway, Pizza Hut, Hungry Jacks (the Ozzie version of Mac). Very interesting to note was the presence of dosas in the Indian restaurants – this is not so visible in the Brit Indian restaurants. All these varieties were present around my office – this was so helpful for me. That made my routine everyday – go to the coffee shop near the office, pick up my tea and start my work. Each day, one of my colleagues used to take me to his favorite eat-out – only requirement from me was that it should be vegetarian. Yes, there is at least one choice in the menu in any of the eat-outs that are vegetarian (except for Mac).
The typical practice of Australian businessmen is to meet up for coffee or lunch and discuss opportunities – I was party to the same. I found it to be a very interesting ritual – both parties have cups of coffee and discuss work, finalizing contracts that would otherwise take more than a month. One can see many businessmen talking work in the coffee-shops all over the town.
In the evening, did some shopping that would keep me alive in the service apartment – went into the nearby 7-11 store (there are hundreds of them in each street), picked up half-litre pack of Pura Milk, cereals, noodles, and other essentials.
The weekend arrived, and I was scheduled to travel to Sydney. Initially, the plan was to go to MCG. Since there was an AFL final, the ground was not accessible to any visitors. Hence, I decided to go over to Sydney on Saturday morning. The SCG was inaccessible on Sundays and that plan also went out of the window. Maybe I would plan for visiting them during my next visits to the continent.
The apartment given in Sydney was ‘BreakFree on George’ on George Street – this was the ChinaTown area, very close to the Darling Harbour – very happening place with lots of options for food and many Asian shops around. Saturday evening was spent in walking around these streets all the way to the Harbor. The walk had energized me enough and I decided that only an Indian dinner would re-energize me.
The next day, Sunday morning, was a very hot day – around 35 degrees and humid as well. I walked to the Harbor again and visited the major attractions present
· Sydney Aquarium – this was a good experience, with many fishes, sharks, seals doing various tricks to grab the attention of the viewers
· Sydney Wildlife World – the major attraction was that of the koalas and kangaroos – both very synonymous with the Australian continent
· IMAX – took the chance to view a 3D movie - Wild Ocean - once in a lifetime experience, definitely.
Office in Sydney had moved from York Street to Pacific Highway (North of Sydney) and I was not aware. Luck was not with me this time – I went all the way to the office in York Street only to see a different organization!!! Once I realized that the office had changed and had contacted someone from the office to help me out, I reached office in Sydney.
Sydney, obviously, is the bigger city and the change is very visible. Pacific Highway has many malls that offer varieties of food (once again) with Food Courts serving various cuisines. There is no dearth of variety in food here.
The people, overall, are very warm – there is a lot of US influence both in the business and personal life. This becomes visible when the major issues are raised in any TV debates – let it be the presidential campaign or the financial crisis. There is a major emphasis on the Green campaign – a report on this subject was released, which caused a lot of concern among the politicians.
The return flight was pre-poned by a day, because of cancellation of a meeting. The flight was delayed at Sydney because of oil-leak, by more than 2 hours. My connecting flight in Malaysia was less than 2 hours after I landed from Sydney – hence, I was worried whether I would land in India at the expected time. But, the authorities from Malaysian airlines were ready for issues like this – they ensured that the major connecting flights waited for this one. Hence, I was on the flight to India within no time – first time in my life that I didn’t have any wait-period in the airports.
Overall, it was a relaxing trip to Australia, fulfilling most of the tasks that I had set out to do. A trip to the MCG/SCG was not possible – I am sure I will have a glimpse of them in my next trips to Kangaroo-land.