I finally got to visit what the Economist magazine ranks as “The most livable city” for multiple years consecutively. After spending seven days here I came to the unbiased conclusion that one magazine’s opinion does not qualify as any form of Cosmic Truth. 😛 Melbourne is certainly a fine place, but “livability” is definitely subjective to different people. So all you folks from Sydney shouldn’t be too miffed that your rival city kept topping the chart ahead of yours every year in the same chart. I just might prefer Sydney over Melbourne. 😉
An important aspect about Melbourne’s urban geography that needs to be understood is that unlike many other cities, it is highly disproportionate to evaluate Melbourne just by looking at its inner city or CBD. This is a departure from how we usually look at busy urban cities such as Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Seoul. In those cities, the characteristics and cultures of a large geographical region are evident within the urban city and its immediate surroundings. You could say that the urban city itself could almost be counted as a representation for an entire region or country, save for the obvious lack of representation for rural life and landscapes. But Melbourne is different, as daily life appears to be less urban-centric. Signs of an urban centre and towering buildings are concentrated in a conservatively-sized area in the inner city. With regards to the concept of an “urban metropolis”, Melbourne is somewhat under-whelming. Therefore it is criminal to judge Melbourne only based on what one sees and experiences in the urban centre. To appreciate what makes Melbourne, Melbourne, you really have to journey beyond its urban borders.
Which means that given that I spent the bulk of my time within the city centre, I do not consider this collection of images to be a good representation of Melbourne as a whole. Just consider these to be snippets from the urban centre of Melbourne.
One also can’t describe Melbourne properly without talking about the weather. The city lies in a region where hot inland air from deserts in the north and cold air (and waters) from the freezing Antarctica Sea in the south meets. This means a daily roulette of showers, strong winds, pleasant sunshine and cool weather. This roulette also get multiple spins in a day. There is good reason why Melbourne continues to be attributed as an inspiration for the song “Four Seasons In One Day”. Locals wisely organize their daily wardrobe in layers, ready to add or remove layers as the unpredictable weather demands.
Melbourne 2017: A Stroll Down Chinatown
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I visited at the start of Spring in September, where the weather isn’t tame enough for good images of the cityscape. As mentioned earlier, the cityscape itself isn’t a strong visual feature of Melbourne anyway. So I did not take many pictures of the urban city. The little streets and alleys would be where the visual appeal of the urban centre lies.
A visitor might also notice the homeless folks on the streets in the city. A surprising sight considering the “most livable city” honour awarded to Melbourne. In other words, indisputable evidence that magazine rankings are always subjective. An internet search reveals the usual culprits as the main causes of the homeless problem: domestic violence, broken relationships, alcoholism, drug abuse. I make a conscious decision not to take pictures of the homeless, so you will not find any here. However they are easily visible within the city.
Still, there are little alleys to explore, museums to visit, cafes to hang out at and places to look at in the city. Just remember to organize a couple of days outside its borders – otherwise I consider it an unfulfilling visit to Melbourne.
Melbourne has a good mix of different races and cultures, though I will say without hesitation that Sydney enjoys a far higher level of multi-cultural variety. I had a few run-ins with racist behavior in towns outside of Melbourne, but people within the city centre are very friendly and will voluntarily approach and offer help to tourists whom they perceive to be in need.
I’ll be posting part 2 of scenes from Melbourne’s urban centre a few weeks later while I collect and curate the images I took. In my next post, we’ll drop by the State Library of Victoria which surprisingly, is a really good sight-seeing destinations in Melbourne. -WY