To Hayley, Melbourne and More

Melbourne weather, at the end of winter, shows moderation in small hesitant steps but reserves the option of reverting to change. In contrast, the cultural and retail vibes of the city and its surrounds do not stop but move in its idiosyncratic variety, delightful surprises and colour. On my most recent visit, I had celebrated the birth of baby Hayley but was also pleased to be drawn into the variety of food, shopping precincts and the human environment of greater Melbourne. It had definitely been a jazz of a time for me, albeit short, but intensely enjoyable.

I had the opportunity to catch up with the Yeap family in Wartirna South. On arrival at their house, it was always reliable Eu-Yane who carried my luggage to the room. Kim Leong and Suan provided me with a few days of feasting. Most memorable was the home cooking from Suan –she whipped up Straits Chinese delights, ranging from rendang and chicken curry to saffron flavoured rice and peach-moulded bean paste ang koos. Kim offered his speciality – pork brewed in soy sauce. Sheridan obtained the best of barbecued meats from a Hong Kong styled outlet and a quintessential Hainan steamed chicken concoction. These home gatherings were boisterously noisy and effective. Everyone felt comfortably loquacious but the centre of attention was Hayley, quietly taking it all in around the dining table. Eu-Wyne may have been the taciturn member of the family but he did his part in coddling Hayley in his arms after the meal.

I needed to see Chadstone again – the Chadstone that churns out the best retail revenues in Victoria, if not the whole of Australia. With delectable wares and delicate designs in such stores as Jimmy Choo, Louis Vutton, Prada and more, the shopping centre has maintained its premier status, but with a well-blended balance of offerings for other dimensions, wallet sizes and lifestyles. I found out that Knox had expanded in its capacity and built-up area. For southern Chinese yum cha, I took up the recommendation at South Vermont Chinese restaurant - amidst the predominating Cantonese spoken there, a waitress voluntered to us that she was Hokkien-speaking from Kuala Lumnpur.

It was a cold and windy evening (for a Wollongong resident) as nine tablefuls of guests gathered for a Cantonese-inspired dinner banquet on a Sunday evening in a Melbourne suburb. This was where Hayley’s parents, Mackie and Eu-Gene had tied the knot not long ago. Every dish offered had a significant positive meaning – the lobsters with noodles; steamed fish; prawns with their tails placed pointing up; sea cucumber prepared with abalone slices and other exotic ingredients; red coloured hard boiled eggs still on their shell; fish maw soup; roast chicken cuts; and more. It was a relaxed gathering, and I was fortunate to catch up with, amongst several others, Lucy, Ron and Ben.

Another day I had the occasion of visiting both Box Hill and Doncaster with Suan and Elaine, and these are obviously Asian dominated suburbs in capital city Australia. What impressed me was the modern and clean state of their shopping centres, swirling in the expected dynamics of a vibrant and business-minded demographic. I enjoyed the eel and herbal soup at a First Taste Chinese restaurant – and the Chinese sausage flavoured clay pot rice was especially aromatic. This was on a day when we dropped by into three outlets of the Hype DC retail shoe chain; strolled at Harbour Mall in the Docklands; experienced 60 cents an hour vehicle parking in Melbourne CBD; and rode care free and also for free on a City Circle tram.

Mary Poppins could be seen flying along the city’s main roads in an attractive red outfit, contrasting with the white fluttering banners which she apparently rode on. And finally, but not least, I discovered
where the Cosco store in Melbourne is.

There are so many people to say hello to and things to do in the Melbourne area – that will have to reluctantly wait, I thought, as I found myself on a Qantas flight back to Sydney.