Wednesday 29 June 2016

A day in winter at Federation Square

It is the time of the year again when mercury drops and autumn leaves fall. Bureau of Meteorology heralds climatic news of precious sunlight, howling gale, chilly wind and frosty night. Melbournians armour themselves in multiple layers in preparation of vigorous battles against notorious weather. It is the time again when forecasted temperature determines our daily schedule, electric heaters recommence their duties, and microfiber duvets find their way out from storage boxes. Winter, is here.

Undeterred by the formidable degree of Celsius, young skating rangers fully girded in bright orange helmets are all too eager to perform a spin or two at the pop-up River Rink. Interesting food stalls formed a delicious culinary line along the Yarra River, offering range of all-time favourite delights including Movenpick Swiss Ice Cream, Turkish Gozleme, Belgian waffle on a stick, German hot dogs, crème brulee, and French raclette.

Further north of the Square near the fancy East Shard building, the Leempeeyt Weeyn, an indigenous campfire, is burning and emanating welcoming warmth to a bunch of happy people.

At the northwest corner of Federation Square, right next to the translucent info-hub building, a seven-metre Giant Theremin sits in isolation like an obscure pyramid sculpture. Designed as a fun and interactive musical instrument, this gigantic object creates symphony of sounds when movement is detected within its close proximity. 

River Rink-                   from 18 June to 17 July, daily from 10 am to 10 pm

Campfire-                     from 2 June to 17 July

Giant Theremin-           from 1 June to 19 July

Wednesday 22 June 2016

St Collins Lane- the glamorous new lady

She is secretive and sophisticated. She is stylish and stunning. She is St Collins Lane, the glittering socialite who just arrived at Melbourne last month, ostentatiously and in all grandeur. Adorned in her seductive Cerrone flaming red ruby bracelet with gleaming diamonds, she charms the town in her casual Sandro Paris playsuit by day, and a tightly fit suede dress from Maje by night. Slinging a Coach classic black tote over her slender shoulder, She makes heads turn when she smiles and skips gracefully in her feminine Ecco long-lace leather trainers. She is classy and elegant in her timeless TAG Heuer diamond dial watch, playful and vivacious in her Kooples tanktop, sporty and jaunty in her Birkenstock pearl white sandals. She is the latest talk in town.

Flamboyantly connecting Collins and Little Collins Street in its inimitable luxurious style, St Collins Lane is a glorious addition to the city centre, colonized by famous brands and the most upmarket tenants. It is also the lavish home to several fancy eateries- the gourmet fast food Burger Project, the champagne and high tea venue Runya’s Room, and Mexican delights Los Vida.

Even if mainstream brands and expensive price tags are not your cup of tea, St Collins Lane is still worth a visit just to have a view of that gigantic light installation glistening mysteriously in its fifty shades of green. It is a wise design playing with the refraction effect and colour illusion produced as a result of the beautiful collision between the innumerable translucent cylinders, natural rays from the glass roof, and the stardust-equivalent LED lights.

It is a bold and fascinating piece of art sitting conspicuously in a modern retail precinct, a magical touch turning a contemporary shopping place into a tropical jungle of jade and emerald. 

Another highlight of the mall is the ground floor’s ceiling that resembles a bed of velvety white rose petals in gorgeous swirls, giving the boutique arcade a soft and romantic touch.


289 Little Collins Street, Melbourne
(between Elizabeth and Swanston Street)

Wednesday 15 June 2016

Tivoli Arcade - an unseen facet of Melbourne

Neglected by the upper-class locals and overlooked by tourists, Tivoli Arcade represents a different facet of Melbourne unseen by many and intentionally disregarded by more. Unlike the glorious and well loved Block Arcade located just a short distance away, Tivoli Arcade is gloomy and miserable by comparison. If Block Arcade is the marvelous ivory white Taj Mahal, then Tivoli Arcade is the pathetic slum sprawls incongruously in the middle of the city.

A blur of confusing neon signage illuminated from the ubiquitous nail arcades and hairdressing salons lined across the narrow covered passageway, competing with each other for customers in the most blatant fashion. This is a place where the general working class and university students come for quick and affordable haircut, manicure, massage and waxing services. Boring lightings, plain white ceiling, uninteresting tiled flooring, and furnishing at the bare minimum; Tivoli Arcade could have easily won the unsolicited award as the dullest place in Melbourne.

Yet, it is in this same unexciting arcade that many immigrants build their dreams and strive to make a difference to their lives. Tivoli Arcade is a face of Melbourne not usually viewable by outsiders, concealed beneath the glamorous façade of dazzling fashions, gourmet culinary, coffee cultures and fascinating arts. It is one of the most truthful and humblest features of Melbourne, where new and veteran migrants make ends meet in their new settled land through hard works and inimitable skills.

Silently, the Vietnamese beauty therapist removes cuticles and applies glittering nail gloss to a store of jam-packed lady customers. Happy patrons have their hair trimmed efficiently, and being charged a price at the lower end of the market spectrum. Roast duck Bahn Mi is served with crusty baguettes, adorned with classic pickled carrots, homemade pate, and creamy mayo. Office workers visit the place for a hearty and affordable Korean lunch box filled with rice, salad mix, and signature pork bulgogi cooked in flavoursome chilli sauce. South East Asian students with strong addiction to spicy sambal throng along the arcade for a cheap rice combo of Indonesian curries and dishes.

Without a proper ambience or any enviable top-notch service, Tivoli Arcade is a place where substance and value are highly valued to keep its continuous survival.  

By night, the arcade is turned into a dancing floor for the coolest b-boys in town. They headspin, swipe, kick up, do an airflare, then a windmill, and end with a back-spin on the arcade floor, all done at the trendy beat of the blaring hip-hop and funk music. 


235-251 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC 3000 
(Between Swanston and Russell Streets) 

Sunday 12 June 2016

A Taste of Portugal in the market

Today, the very well celebrated Queen Victoria Market was surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke emanated from the grilling extravaganza, all done in the true Portuguese-style.  The market-goers were privileged to experience the South Americans’ passion for flavoursome barbecue, fervently roasted over hot glowing coals and charcoals with no compromise on intensity of taste. Long queues were formed at each food stalls, and happy patrons were served with generous portions of juicy meats in a variety of cuts and types, from sausages, steaks, ribs, to roasted porks with huge layers of fat.

A Taste of Portugal Festival is another beautiful annual event in Melbourne celebrating the cultural diversity of this amazing city. Organized by the Portuguese speaking communities, the festival presents a rare opportunity for the communities sharing the same language (which include Portugal, Brazil, and East Timor) to showcase their historical links and intimate cultural relationship between one another. Queen Victoria Market, being the prime weekly rendezvous location of both locals and tourists alike, is naturally the perfect venue to bring up the fun.

It was a day filled with exquisite foods, special merchandizes and exclusive stage performances not usually found in the market. It was a carnival with numerous pop-up stalls serving and showing piping hot grilled meats, sweet cakes and unique condiments, handcrafted ceramics, hand-woven items, and other Portuguese-related products and information. Lively Brazilian music was played, acoustic guitar was strummed, songs and dances were performed, and the public was immensely entertained.

How can anyone stop loving Melbourne and its colourful cultures?

Saturday 11 June 2016

Block Arcade- a paragon of vanity


They are the alternative pedestrian routes connecting the main streets of Hoddle Grid. They are classier and brighter than most of the ordinary graffiti-covered laneways. They are the perfect hideouts during chilly winter season, favoured by Melbournians on frustrating rainy days, frequented by avid shoppers looking for anything rare and exclusive, and high tea lovers longing for a true Melbourne experience. They are the straightforward shortcuts, impressive zigzags, and interesting mazes. Amongst the network of covered passages scattered around the city, Block Arcade enjoys the sole regal status. In other words, it is the Queen of Melbourne Arcades.   

Like a proud peacock, Block Arcade is a paragon of vanity, and has absolutely no qualms showing off its irresistible glamour. Opaque glass canopy shadowing the full length of the elegant passageway, intricately designed arches of wrought iron, meticulously crafted stones in its nineteenth-century Victorian style stretching gracefully under the roof, warm lighting that enhances the luxuriousness of the interior, Italian mosaic tiled flooring of elaborate patterns, classical triangular pediments; Each and every elements in the arcade screams lavishness and demands to be deeply admired.

Save for perhaps the smaller space area and the not-as-grandeur glass dome, the arcade is an intentional copycat version of the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. Constructed between 1891 and 1893, the elegant arcade is closely associated with the fervent ritual in the late nineteenth century, where walking up and down Melbourne’s most fashionable shopping promenade on Collins Street for the odd purpose of being seen in one best and finest apparel was the favourite pastime of many. The people were “doing the Block”, as the old Melbournians affectionately called it.

It is almost impossible for any serious or casual visitors to miss this heritage-listed arcade. Location wise, its bent L-shaped connects the premier Collins Street shopping area on the South and the bustling Elizabeth Street on the West. A separate “T-junction” is formed on the north where the exit opens up to a romantic new world called the “Block Place” - a partially covered narrow lane lined with intimate cafes, al fresco eateries and pretty little European-style shops.

The arcade’s residents consist of a careful selection of prestigious retailers, whose classy styles and glorious taste are deemed to befit the Victorian theme of the premises. With history dating back to 1892, the charming Hopetoun Tea Rooms nestles comfortably at the front entrance of the arcade, patiently offering its patrons a taste of the bygone Victorian era with its sumptuous cakes, refined wallpaper in a splendor of green and gold, large etched mirror and mahogany chairs. The arcade also houses one of Australian oldest family owned chocolate makers since 1915- the Haigh’s Chocolates, a boutique offering range of exquisite alpaca yarn clothing, gallery of the legendary illustrator of children’s books and political cartoonist Dr Seuss, sellers of unique artworks, herbs and spices, collectable dolls, jewelleries and pearls, and the international brand Crabtree and Evelyn.


282 Collins Street, Block Arcade, Melbourne