Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Which Tour to Take in Melbourne, Australia? Part 1 - Penguins Parade & Puffing Billy

For Melbourne's sightseeing, we took the Penguins 'N' Puffs package from GrayLine Tour. Honestly, this is possibly the worst one out of the 6 or 7 tours we took during our last trip to Oz.

It is actually a combination of their two day tours which seemed pretty time-saving considering we wanted to go for those two activities and had plans for other days. To make sure of everything, we took the time to email and call their company rep all the way to Oz months before our trip and further confirmed with them all the details before our flight there. Sadly, despite being assured that we will have time in between the morning and afternoon tour to takeout some food before boarding the bus, it did NOT happen. In fact, we were rushed to the other bus and spent nearly 15 minutes waiting on the bus for other passengers when we could have gone to get something to bite. The trip to Churchill Island took quite a while and the only food we had was from the Lamingtons during the morning break (more complaints on THAT part later). We were hungry and uncomfortable during the whole trip to Churchill Island. Considering this package was one of their most expensive one, I would have expected better service or rather better planning on their part.

Initially for the first part of the tour, we were quite excited about it, as evidenced from our faces below, but the guide was a pretty grumpy fella who I feel shouldn't be handling the tour if he feels so annoyed by the various antics of tourists. After all, without the tourists, his company probably wouldn't be paying him his wages. Hmm, I could still remember my annoyance after all this time. LOL. Granted, some of the people from China (Sorry), were quite rowdy and their manners left a lot to be desired (you will know where the people of Chinese descent are from based on how they behaved as tourists and not all Chinese-descent people are like that, just mostly those from Mainland China IMO). Apparently to most Caucasians all Asians are Chinese from China which is a MISCONCEPTION. Anyway he was telling off some of the people in the group to be quiet and all that so it's quite a subdued atmosphere to start with.

The first part of the drive took us to the Dandenong Ranges where there are a lot of mountain ash tree around which can grow really high, practically 30' and some old ones can reach up to 70'. The drive stopped at Sherbrooke Forest which is right in the middle of the Dandenongs and we got to feed the King Parrots and some other mini parrots, Crimsom something I think ><
NOTE: Bird-feeding at own expenses

And our grumpy tour guide gave some performance with the hot tea in a bucket. OMG! And served some lamingtons and biscuits with marmite as adverstised together with hot coffee/tea/milo. Again, we did not take much because the China-people were grabbing a lot of the lamingtons and stuff so we did not feel like taking much especially after some comments made by the guide. Hmmph!

That aside, we had fun taking our own photos and keeping out of the way from the guide and the rough China people. :P

Then we went for the Puffing Billy train ride which was quite enjoyable despite the "puffing" smoke which is quite smelly. :S

From there we went to Sasafras, a quaint little town and after visiting some very pretty nurseries where they have a lot of bonsais (a passion of Dad so we took quite a few photos)

But the most amazing find is this nougat below. It's homemade and is simply NYUM! I got the white chocolate with raspberries.

After stopping the bus at Federation Square, we were hurried to another bus even though we asked the officer/rep there about getting some takeouts. The service was really quite disappointing.
When we started the journey, we were already hungry and grumpy but the only silver lining is that we got a different guide this time around. The boring ride took quite a while with only a packet of peanuts and a small bar of chocolate in our bags to share amongst four of us. @@ The countryside are pretty much the same so...

When we finally arrived at Churchill Farm, we didn't bother to listen much to the guide and the girl from the farm cos we were just plain hungry. It was about 4 pm already -.-"" with no lunch that past four hours felt really, really long. After another long queue at the cafe, we got their seafood basket and all that which we quite literally cleaned within minutes. LOL

The farm is basically that. A farm. But you get to see shows of sheep shearing, some free-roaming fowls and birds, pet some farm animals, and simply enjoy the sights of a farm life experience.

We went to the Koalas Conservation Centre next and together with all the other tour buses we all trotted over to the plankways to catch a few koalas snoozing during the warm summer day. The walk was quite alright but maybe with the heat and the long day previously we were quite tired already by this point. But there was always smiles ready for the camera! yay!

And we tried a lot of different bottled drinks we rarely see in Malaysia while we were there since it was hot and something sweet and cold seemed to be more attractive than just plain old water. :P Plus coffee to keep us awake and energetic! Yay to the power of caffeine~

And yep, it's me excitedly making more coffee!

On the way to the Penguins Parade, we stopped at the Nobbies Centre for early dinner or just drinks. We were still quite full so we just had some shakes and snacks.

Then it's off to Penguin Parade at the Summerland Beach. The second part of this day we did before with my bf last time so what the tour had was basically something you can do on your own if you have your own transport. We only took the tour because my Dad has not been here before and we wanted to have the transportation taken care of. Honestly, if not for that, this tour is nothing spectacular compared to some of the boutique tours we took. We did not know it then but now that we do, we think spending the same amount of money, it is more preferable to get a boutique tour as these smaller tour caters for better service and experience and the slight difference in prices more than made up for the enjoyment.

Anyway, back to the tour, when we went to the Penguins Parade, we got the VIP ticket that came with a free coffee/drinks. As it was summer then, the penguins only came up quite late as it wasn't dark until 8pm or 9pm. They were adorable but I preferred the normal seats where it was right smack in the middle of the beach rather than the VIP seats even though the penguins will be going up towards the VIP area. Also the amount of long grasses around the VIP area that helped keep out the wind sort of block your view if you happened to be seating in front of it. :S

We did not have any photos from the Penguins Parade as we were adhering to the rules of NO cameras. It is quite annoying how a lot of seemingly educated people couldn't seem to grasp that simple instruction. And you can see flashes of camera going on and they annoyed rangers trying to tell the tourists over and over again no cameras and all that. Oh well, I guess we can't teach the ignorant.

When we got back to the hotel it was already midnight and we were too tired already. We just bought some cup noodles and had a quick supper before going off to bed.

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