Thursday, November 22, 2007

Melbourne: Sticker Shock, Stuck in a Lift

My flight from Singapore to Melbourne, Australia took about 7 hours. It was a red-eye and we left an hour late, so i arrived at about 8:00 am. The plane was a 747 "Jumbo Jet," with the the stair case. Though the plane is huge, the seats were cramped and I didn't bother trying to sleep.

- one of my seat mates was a 74-year-old French woman who was a retired chemist. Though she was now retired, she had worked for a company that flew her frequently to Boston. We conversed in French for a while.
- each seat had an excellent entertainment system. I was able to watch 3 decent movies. (on some systems, you can't start a new movie until everyone on the plane has finished with theirs. This system let you start any movie at any time). I watched the Simpsons movie (very cute), "Fight Club (very good)," and a tear-jerker whose name I can't recall that was also decent.


Being that the US dollar has been in the toilet for a while, my budget was shot to hell from the moment I got off the plane. This was by far the most expensive place I'd been to on my trip. Australian dollar is worth 95 cents, so you get only a 5 percent discount on purchases.

- crappy hotel room: $120/night (I got them to knock it down to $90. See "stuck in the elevator, below.) To stay another night would have cost $200. The hotel was centrally located and called something like the Quest on Collins.
- clean hostel with no a/c: $60
- bowl of noodle soup: $15 (this was from a chain called Wagamama. Total rip off. They also wanted to charge me $1.50 for a side of hot chilli peppers. The peppers weren't even that spicey, so I sent them back. I was getting comparable soup in Cambodia for $1; seriously hot peppers were provided free.)
- movie: $15
- visit to aquarium: $25
- pack of cigarettes: $12 (they cost $5.50 in U.S. and $1.25 in Asia. Incindentally, there are a lot fewer smokers in Vietnam and Cambodia)
- Low-end Chicken Parmesan dinner consisting mainly of french friest at Irish Pub: $15.

Other Negatives:
- People here are noticeably fatter and uglier -- even the Asians -- than those in Vietnam and Cambodia.

On the plus side:
- Melbourne is a nice, clean city.
- You can even drink the water out of the faucet
- lots of sky scrapers and a river running through it.
- lots of gyms -- the one I visited gave me free passes for 4 days.

Stuck in the Lift (Elevator)

As I mentioned, I spent my first night in a crappy suites hotel. The hotel had just been purchased by a chain and was undergoing renovation. (It needed it: the bathroom had broken tiles, the mattress sagged. The one plus: it had a/c, which my current hostel doesn't have.) I wouldn't complain if I was paying $10 a night, but at $120 a night, I was unhappy. When I asked about staying another night, the rate shot up to $200. As I was taking the elevator down to check out and contemplating what I would write on the customer feedback forms in the lobby, the lift got stuck. I could hear workman outside the door, so i called out to them. They told me to press the call button in the elevator. I did and was instantly connected to the elevator company. They asked a few questions, such as my location, and said they would have someone there in 10 minutes. I started to fume and then I decided I would ask for some kind of compensation for being stuck. It was starting to get hot in the elevator, but it wasn't unbearable. The workmen tried to open it to no avail. Then the technician showed up (within 10 minutes) and opened the door. I told the hotel manager that I was extremely unhappy with my whole experience there. She knocked 25 percent off the price.

Next Move:
The weather here has been cold and rainy, which is fine for sleeping. Being that my room at the hostel has no a/c, I'm flying to Brisbane and getting a room near a beach area called the Gold Coast. (Temperatures in Australia are supposed to soar into mid 90s over the weekend.) The room will be at a chain hotel and will include a/c. I'll be able to take surfing lessons and play on the beach for 8 days.