Peering out the plane window, I could see what looked like virgin land stretching as far as my eyes could see. This was Australia, so distant, so mysterious, yet so alluring.
Australia is the world’s last frontier, the last of the continents to have been discovered by the great explorers of centuries ago (not counting freezing-cold Antartica, of course). Its strategic isolation kept it a big mystery, with only the original aborigines patiently trying to make do with the harsh, barren land until the start of the 18th century. Modern Australia came into being in 1901, but for decades, the country would remain as distant as the moon up above.
Thus, I wondered how the place would treat me as the plane prepared to land in Melbourne.
Melbourne was a bit moody. She welcomed me with a slight drizzle and tried to show me the 4 different seasons all in one day! Perhaps she knew I was there for only a brief stay, and wanted me to know more about her in a jiffy. But towards the end of my 4-day visit there, she loosened up, and showed me how warm and hospitable she could be to visitors like me.
One of the things that was evident upon my arrival in Melbourne was that Australia was clearly a melting pot of different cultures. Australia’s post-World War II immigration program had brought in millions of different nationalities, allowing the population to reach close to 25 million today. In fact, Australia has been quite progressive with population control, recently accepting large groups of Syrian refugees as a result of the bloody civil war in the country. Still, the population density is relatively low compared to other countries in the world today, considering the vast expanse of land Australia possesses.
Melbourne has consistently been voted by the Economist Intelligence Unit as one of the world’s most livable cities, with high marks in education, health care, research and development, tourism, entertainment and sports. Considered as the cultural capital of the country, her strong points are in Australian impressionism, Australian contemporary dance, and the Australian film industry. She carries with her a very professional air, perhaps owing to the fact that she used to be the country’s original capital city before this distinction was taken away from her by Canberra in 1927. Melbourne hosted the Summer Olympics way back in 1956, a testament to her stability and long-standing strength in basic infrastructure and professional manpower.
Sydney on the other hand, embraced me right from the start with her sunny disposition. Her charm was definitely more informal. If Melbourne was alluring in her business suit, Sydney’s stunning beauty can be found in the bikini’ed bodies in Bondi Beach. Sydney is the most populous city in Australia, despite the fact that she is one of the world’s most expensive cities to live in. Sydney has a strong market economy, with strong points in tourism, manufacturing and finance. Sydney hosted the Summer Olympics fairly recently – in 2000, underscoring her contemporary position as one of Australia’s leading economic centers.
Sydney’s Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are arguably the country’s most photographed icons today. Sydney has the distinction of being the first large city in the world that traditionally welcomes each New Year, and it is here at the Opera House and Harbour Bridge that the celebration is most keenly watched. You cannot claim to have gone to Australia without bringing home a selfie with the two icons.
In a country peopled by a diverse lot, each city is found to be similarly as diverse. Moody Melbourne was all dressed up for the office. Sizzling Sydney was ready to party. Melbourne was intellectual. Sydney was sensual. Melbourne was work. Sydney was play. Melbourne was mellow, and Sydney was sexy. Melbourne and Sydney. Two distinctly different peas from the same pod.
I had a most wonderful and enlightening time in Australia, mate. And I left feeling more intellectually sensual. Or should I say sensually intellectual?
Photo Credits to: Visit Australia, Victoria University, CNN.com, Hop on Hop Off Bus Tours, Live in Melbourne, Sabrina Must, Qantas, Booking.com, Travels of BBQBoy and Spanky, Velvet Escape, The Planet, Travel victoria, The Crazy tourist, Timeout.com and Insider Guides. Cover Pic: ImFree.com