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Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Flight of Fantasy


After a late night flight from Delhi to Hong Kong, I looked around at the terminal  and shopping arcade of HKIA bewildered by the mammoth size! I patiently sat down for the announcement of the departure of the next flight to Melbourne which was to leave in next half an hour. After a flurry of activity I boarded the aircraft for the next leg of journey. I had a window seat and soon a young girl about twenty years old came and occupied the seat next to mine. Dressed in a flaming red skirt and a white top, she wore a permanent smile. Her name was Susan Wong and she resided in Melbourne. She worked for a travel agency. I was in good company and soon found that the girl was fond of talking and had endless things to talk about. This was fabulous as I told her that I would be in Melbourne for four days and would like to go around seeing the place. She passed me her business card and said she could help readily. Wow! This was a dream come true!  After about nine hours of eating, drinking and endless chat, the ‘Fasten Seat Belts’ sign came on and we were advised to turn off all the electronic devices. The dark sky line soon gave way to twinkling of millions of lights as the beautiful city of Melbourne came into view. It was 'time to visit Melbourne , now'.
Melbourne International Airport

In a few minutes, the flight landed at the Melbourne International Airport. I gave my hotel address to Susan, which was located opposite the Flinder’s Street Railway Station in CBD (Central Business District). We agreed to meet at the hotel reception next day at 9 AM.  We shook hands and parted and I took a taxi which reached the hotel in about forty minutes. The city was decked like a fairyland and traffic moved smoothly. We crossed a small bridge on the Yarra river which flows through the city to reach the hotel. I soon checked into the lovely room and looked out of the window to admire the lovely Flinder’s Street Railway station across the road where scores of people were moving in and out. 
Flinders Street Railway Station

I had read an interesting story of how the design plan of Victoria Terminus( now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminal, in Mumbai) and Flinders Street Railway station in Melbourne had got interchanged. In late 1800s Fredrick W Stevens who was responsible for the designs got mixed up with  Melbourne station  which was in state of Victoria in Australia, and Victoria Terminus in Mumbai as they had similar names. Strange, though this fact is still contested.and both have almost identical design. I soon fell asleep.

I got up with a start the next day and saw that it was cloudy and likely to rain. I finished my breakfast and reached the reception. Precisely at 9 AM Susan walked.  We sat in the lounge for about half an hour as she shared the plan for the day. I told Susan that it may be difficult to spend the day outside due the overcast sky. She grinned and told me ‘Where in the world would you ever find all the four seasons in one day itself?’  I looked at her with surprise and she then explained me that one could see a brilliant sunrise with warmth in air and soon the sky turns cloudy. It rains!  By late evening it gets even darker and a sleet followed with flakes of snow greet you. Late in the evening the street is covered with a blanket of snow! Amazing is it not?

The City Circle Tram- Melbourne
After a while the weather cleared and she took me towards the maroon brown ‘City Circle tram’ station around the bend. The tram would take us for a free ride! The Melbourne City Circle Tram travels a rectangular route along Flinders, Spring, and La Trobe Streets, then Harbor Esplanade in Docklands — right around the Melbourne city centre. One can hop on or hop off at any station and then continue the journey by the next one. Within ten minutes the tram arrived. The seats were comfortable and a conductor greeted us on board. He kept explaining about the places we passed en route. We passed by the Aquarium and the Princess theatre, Federation Square and a host of other interesting places. 
My host Susan on Yarra water front

After , this beautiful trip we got down and walked along the River Yarra . It is associated with the Gold Rush in mid 1800 when ‘Gold was discovered in Warrandyte near Yarra . The city of Melbourne grew with the rush of migrants to settle here.

A number of people were jogging along the tracks on the River front and the place was vibrant’I could sense the love for sports in the air in this city!. The sky had cleared and the dazzling blue water and the manicured green lawns looked very inviting. I spotted the Melbourne Rowing Club just along the banks and asked Susan.  if I could try a hand at rowing! She smiled and then took me to the office where I was told that I need to join a Beginners course lasting 1.5 hours and I should be able to swim at least 100m. So my desire to row was unfulfilled but it was thrilling to watch the young well built men ‘Rowing ‘steadily and saw a number of rowing boats as we walked along the river.

After lunch, we walked to the Aquarium which is in the heart of the city to see an array of the stingrays, turtles and other marine creatures. A continent where the ten most dangerous animals live in the world, like the Taipan snake, Box Jelly fish, Blue Ringed Octopus, and Red Back Spider. It was a great opportunity to see the Sharks in glass domed tunnels and go on a tour in the glass bottom boat to watch the marine life. A truly thrilling experience!

Melbourne Cricket Ground
Rod Laver Arena
We returned to the Flinder’s Street tram station and took Tram No 75 to head to the Melbourne Cricket Ground , MCG, located in Eastern suburb, via the Wellington Parade. We passed by the interesting sights of the city to reach the place . The imposing structure of the stadia was very impressive. On the the other  side was the Rod Laver Arena , the mecca of tennis. A statue of Rod Laver greets you on arrival. My thoughts drifted to the times when I would hear the commentaries of the games of cricket and tennis being played at these venues. Little did I know that one day, I would come to visit them, We were just in time to take a guided tour of the MCG complex which lasted more than an hour with the guide taking us through the history.It has a seating capacity of 100000 and was built in 1861. In 1992 it was fully reconstructed. There are huge TV screens installed for update of the sports summary.. The Rod Laver arena was closed but we could admire the structure where the tennis tournaments, swimming championships and even rock concerts are hosted. One requires a full day to see and appreciate these lovely sporting venues! . As it was getting late, we took a tram back to the Flinder’s Street and bid good bye to Susan for a very rewarding day. Before leaving she had told me to get ready early the next day for some more excitement!
A stunning view at The Great Ocean Road


Next morning I was ready by 6 AM and was waiting for Susan when she rushed in and informed me that she would take me for a long drive to the Great Ocean Road and we would return by late evening!. I jumped at the offer in excitement. After all, one does not get an opportunity to travel a distance of 700 km in a day and that too to see the ‘Great Ocean Road’. I was thrilled at the prospect to undertake the longest road journey of my life! Susan had the valid driving license so rest of the logistics was fairly easy. We rented a car and took off for the trip! The roads were relatively free from traffic at Flinders Street as we headed towards Geelong. We pored over the map and charted the course as follows: Melbourne- Geelong- Torquay-Lorne -Appolo Bay-Otway National Park-Port Campbell and Twelve Apostles and return We estimated that the drive would take almost 7 hours ! So we would reach sometime in the evening as long as captivating sights do not delay us further!

The road was built by the soldiers between 1919 and 1932 and is dedicated to the war casualties of World War I and is the largest war memorial. This road is now included in the list of Australian Heritage sites.

A cute Koala  in its habitat
The Great Ocean Road is a 2 hour drive from Melbourne with a dual lane highway. From Geelong onwards the ride along the ocean offers some of the most breathtaking views of the coastal scenery with enticing giant sea waves giving company. There is a great variety of flora and fauna interlaced with local culture, history and a wide variety of wild life ranging from Kangaroos to occasional sighting of Koalas! There are certain stretches where one can see whales, if lucky! There are lighthouses and some traditional fishermen villages, shipwreck sites and maritime museums. It is literally a treasure trove to explore. There are scores of gourmet seafood restaurants, regional cheese and wine making centers en route. Wild berries, olives and citrus fruits grow in this region. At the Melba Gully one can see the glow worms in the dense foliage of rain forest near Otways, which look like a million twinkling stars descended from heaven. The rollicking fur seals and dolphins can be sighted in Port Philip Bay.

There are rugged cliffs, virgin beaches, and dense forests doting the long stretch of the Ocean road. The Twelve Apostles is a famous scenic spot to savor the panoramic vistas and sandstone cliff views. The drive was a rewarding experience of unsurpassed visual beauty and a feast for eyes as we proceeded.  After a late lunch we retraced our journey back to Melbourne. The street lights had come on and the euphoria of having seen some of the most captivating sights kept me enthralled!

Hot Air Balloon ride 
The next day, Susan had told me too be ready before sunrise! This was getting even more exciting than I had ever imagined. I woke up very early and at 5.30 AM Susan arrived in her car and took me to The Hilton on the Park, at Clarendon Street. The roads were deserted as we arrived through the Fitzroy Gardens! .A hot air balloon was getting ready for the flight! Never, had I experienced this before and for a moment the adrenalin rush took better of me! In 15 minutes we were airborne and soon heading skywards! The sight was breathtaking. For next one hour we drifted like a bird with the wings spread out as we kept admiring the view below! After a lovely breakfast we drove through the Botanical Gardens with a brief stopover. It has amazing collection of flowers and exotic plants! The serenity of the place is in sharp contrast to the lively city.
We then went to visit the Melbourne Museum which as a wide array of historical artifacts!
The next destination was the chaotic, multicultural, Queen Victoria market which is a shopper’s paradise! The market has been in existence for over 125 years and has more than 600 shops selling almost everything! A hot cup of coffee and some lovely cookies fresh from bakery were invigorating after a busy day! It had started to get dark, so Susan enquired if I would like to visit a Casino! This was perfect, as I had not seen one for very long now! We got into a plush hotel where the crowds in the casino were unbelievable! There were some very old people too! Obviously cash rich!! I tried a hand at Poker and Black Jack but just managed to break even!
A lovely day came to a perfect end!!

Luna Park- St Kilda
The day of departure came sooner than what I had expected. I woke up next day to be greeted by my lovely host Susan after breakfast! She insisted that I must visit, St Kilda beach which is just about 6 km from the city centre and has several other attractions like Luna Park a huge amusement park, the sprawling beach and Palais Theatre with a gigantic screen and Holy Trinity Church. It hosts a number of events ranging from St Kilda festival and even a Gay Pride March annually!  I returned back to my hotel by the evening to take the return flight back home after this amazing holiday ! The courtesy and friendliness of Australians and their immense love for sports and fitness had left a lasting impression.

PS- This is an imaginary vacation trip to Melbourne which is a pure fantasy and hopes it come true one day. http://www.visitmelbourne.com/in.
Images Kind courtesy Google

108 comments:

  1. Hey Rahul, that was such a comprehensive tour piece, complete with the picture of your host and all :) If this trip to Melbourne does not win you the prize, nothing will, I'm sure. All the best!

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    1. Such a lovely comment to read at day break, Zephyr!A huge thanks for those kind words!

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  2. Your imagination is so real like.
    May it come true, all the best :)

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    1. Thanks indeed Ghazala for those very kind words:)

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  3. I was confused if this was real.. in my experience, it is next to impossible to get such a lovely host.. but the dream story made a lovely read Rahul.. hope your dream holiday comes true!

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    1. Thanks Padmaja that you liked my imaginary hostess more than a real one:)

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  4. That was a great way of showcasing what you would love to do if gotten a chance to be in Melbourne! I wish this fantasy piece soon becomes a reality for you. :) All the very best!

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    1. Need all your wishes and your Midas touch on this post:)

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  5. :-) Rahul!! I actually thought it was an account of your trip. What a twist to the tale at the end! :-) All the best! I do hope you win the Melbourne trip! Cheers!

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    1. Fiction taking better of reality:) A very big thanks Vidya for being so kind!

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  6. Wow! This is one of the best travelogues ever!!!! Hope the fantasy becomes reality soon! Good Luck for the contest:)

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    1. A big thanks Akanksha for those lovely words!

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  7. Hey...that's a real detailed post. I could imagine the amount of research done for completing that. Hats off!

    Do read my post on melbourne too and comment, if you have time:

    http://himangshu-gentlemusings.blogspot.in/2012/08/melbourne-inception-of-dream.html

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    1. Am honored with your comment. Your post too is great!

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  8. Wow! it looks a real trip...great research....all the best for the contest.
    there s something for you: http://meintheblogosphere.blogspot.in/2012/09/the-blog-ribbon-award.html

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    1. Thanks a lot Priyaa for the double kindness in words and award! What more can I ask:)

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  9. That was more of a flight of reality than a flight of fantasy to me, Rahul. I loved your post and all the very best for the contest.

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    1. Sudha I treasure your comment dearly as it come from one of the best travel story writer.Learning from good writers like you still!

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  10. Rahul, what a story you wove. And, I thought that you were describing one of your jaunts. I really admire all the posts that I have read in this genre, and I sincerely hope that you get an opportunity to tell us the real tale too. All the best!

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    1. Thanks Rachna for that beautiful comment and best wishes:)

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  11. This did not look like fantasy at all! Such vivid description, with very specific details. Excellent post! All the best.

    http://lafemmenirvana.blogspot.in/2012/08/vacation-fit-for-god.html

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    1. Welcome to my blog! A sincere thanks for that nice comment!

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  12. damn good .....loved the way you have woven the story :) all the best

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    1. Welcome to my blog Vinisha and am happy you liked:)

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  13. Omigod Rahulji, I never relaised this was all imaginary and a part of the contest! All along I did wonder, how come you are travelling alone here and why not with your wife:-)

    The VT statios mix up story, that was amazing! And did you see, there are domes in the picture you have uploaded. Surely that looks so much more Indian isn'it.

    And all seasons in a day. oh wow!

    And the MCG and rod laver arena, reminds me of the time, when I visited Lords and Wimbledon on the same day in Londond. Tennis and cricket, both a passion in both the cities.

    Rahulji, you know what, all along I kepy on thinking of all the points I wanted to mention in the comment, and the last line stating all this is fanatasy is not going to stop me :-)

    If I am going to melbourne anyday, this will be my itenary. I only hope I find a Susan though :-) And do I need to mention it?
    This is an awesome entry and I hope you do win the tickets :-)

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    1. Such a sweet comment, Jenny:) You thought I am on a solo trip with a gorgeous host...:)There is a lot of resemblance in the two stations! London and Melbourne would be probably similar in the respects you mentioned! That is a dream itinerary :)A big thanks !!

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  14. Aha! I thought it was a real travelogue! Well, it was interesting even if were imaginary.

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    1. The difference between real and reel was a thin one in that case:)Thanks a lot, Kusum to have liked this fantasy

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  15. wowo wo wowo there is a luna park right at the sydney harbour too, the one i visited :)


    and this was fiction wonder how it will be to actually do it all .. All the best with the contest .. and now its making me yearn to go to oz again

    Bikram's

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    1. I too saw the Luna Park in Sydney!Thanks a lot, Bikram for the nice comment!

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  16. All this was a fiction ?? unbelievable!! A great imagination :):)
    All the best !

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    1. A big thanks Ramya for that kind comment!

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  17. Ha so funny as for a minute you really got me believing how lucky you are. That is what you call writing.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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  18. The great ocean road is beautiful!!
    Hope you get to see it soon :)

    ❤Not Just My Allegories❤

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    1. Welcome to my blog Anisha, and a big thanks for your wishes!

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  19. Hi Rahul, I feel that is almost impossible that you haven't been to Melbourne before, wow, your descriptions and narration of the exquisite imagery and the electric city is so real and vivid. You are a truly gifted writer, bringing this city to life from the creative depths of your imagination! I am amazed by this!

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    1. Sam like always what can I say except to thank you profusely for such kind remarks! I dream a lot:)

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  20. ¸.♫°`
    彡✿彡

    Boa semana!
    Beijinhos.

    ♡`°♫•¸

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  21. All seasons in one day! that makes me feel like visiting. I am uncomfortable even in a 2 hour flight that makes me hesitant; but yeah u are so lucky to visit so many places!

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    1. Thanks a lot Jerly for liking it! This was a post on imaginary travel:)

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  22. A wonderful imaginary tour of the great city.. wish you all the best for the contest

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    1. Welcome to my blog, Rayyan! Thanks a lot for your kind wishes!

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  23. I got a virtual tour of Melbourne, thanks to your travelogue. Bookmarking it for future reference.

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    1. Once you get time after settling down, hope you will see these exotic places,Purba:)Thanks indeed to bookmark!

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  24. Very well written, all the best to you!!

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  25. This is simply awesome, it feels like I'm in Melbourne right now and I know it!

    Alessia
    THE CHILI COOL
    FACEBOOK

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  26. OMG!!! I thought you really went and came and was wondering, how lucky of you to get such a wonderful host...hehee...very detailed and beautiful journey. Good luck to the contest :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Latha for having enjoyed this imaginary journey and your best wishes!

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    2. I really hope you win the contest and if you do, you are going to get back goodies for all of us...:)hehe

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    3. My sincere thanks once again, Latha and that is a promise:)

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  27. I lost track of time and moment while reading your post.Pretty descriptive,vivid and adventurous.
    Best wishes !!

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    1. Welcome to my blog Amit! Thanks a lot for your kind wishes!

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  28. I for one, would prefer to articulate a comment that is productive to furthering your writing aspirations. To touch upon areas that could help you from hereon to articulate your voluminous research into crisp and progressive narratives....

    Bullet your milestones - so you have a preview of the flow of the narrative, and it wil help you decide how much of the preamble can be cascaded into the individual sections, the size of the pre-amble will also be decided based on the total size of the narrative.

    Treat all the senses of the reader - The culinary senses were left untouched, the accommodation, the smell of the Australian air, the colour of the sky were among some of the senses missed by your narrative.

    Avoid colloquial usage in narrative - Unless the subject itself merits colloquial usage for pronunciation of emotions, reactions or ambience, avoiding erroneous conversational phrases such as 'Finished my breakfast' are the areas where you start losing grip over the reader's journey into your narrative. The temperature, flavours, variety or aesthetic appeal of the breakfast would have roped in the culinary senses and fetishes of the readers ass well.

    The devil in the details - If you had bothered to describe 'Susan' slightly more to the readers, even if it were to be punctuated through each sight-seeing date on your trip, romance is the lowest common denominator in terms of appeal and grip on the reader. A little more hinting of a growing bond, affection or awkwardness would have the readers glued to the story, creating a bated anticipation of some sparks by the end of the trip.

    Distinction of thoughts v experiences - The most interesting opportunity to grip readers is when you speak of beneath-the-surface aspects, like your thoughts. Almost all readers relish following the author's thoughts, which would have created room for invoking the readers' fantasies, aspirations or desires releasing Dopamine in their heads, making them fall in love with your story, and installing your story on their hard drives from their RAM space.

    Adjectives - The adjective 'Exciting' seems like a filler being used by you in an area where you were able to insinuate adjectives of your narrative skills in the readers' minds by being versatile with the experience adjectives.

    Research should gleam through, not be placed on the surface - Your focus on research and hunger to include all your research into the piece is evident from your lack of focus on articulation, the progressives were repetitive, the joinders, welds, and sequences were rough and the transitions, were crude like a draft fact-file, rather than free-flowing prose which visits all the researched and well-appointed tourism experiences in your narrative.

    Trimming Research - By drawing a priority table, and placing the main elements of your narrative in them, you are able to prune the not-so-spectacular features, to create enough room for you to describe the best few chosen features in the most vivid manner invoking the visual imagination of the reader through the well-folded words in your phrases.

    Re-write till your work turns you on - If the narrative does not turn you on, when you read it with the 3rd person's perspective, re-write till you fall in love with your prose.

    Hope this was useful. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks for your feedback! Appreciate your time for this!

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  29. You should start a travel blog. You have a lot to offer :-).Looking forward to more of your chronicles !

    -Stuti
    A Grain of Sand

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    1. So kind of you to say so, Stuti. Incidentally I have a travel blog which I now find difficult to update! Thanks a lot!

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    2. Please be more regular.I don't intend to be imposing here, but I really believe you have a lot to share :-)

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    3. Stuti, you made my day by asking for this:) I have already mentioned this in my comment to Saru below! I will surely endeavor to do this:)

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  30. Rahul, its very bad of you tell us that this was an imaginary trip. Sigh. And here my overactive imagination had conjured all sorts of things: from a holiday romance to first love.

    I must say that you should start a travel blog or start your novel right now.

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    1. Sorry Rachna, I did not give you a chance to be jealous this time:) I will soon head your advice!Thanks a lot for those words!

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  31. What a lovely trip - I hope it does come true one day for you!

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    1. A big thanks for those kind wishes Lady Fi!

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  32. I must say you are a very detailed observer!! Hope this trip becomes a reality soon!! :-)

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    1. I like to see the world around me with a child like curiosity, still, Radhika:) Thank you Radhika for your best wishes!

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  33. Wow! A great perspective on the Melbourne and its so fascinating, Rahul buddy!!

    Let your dream come true... and along with a pretty host like Susan to give company ;)

    Hugs n kisses
    Shilpa

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    1. A huge thanks Shilpa for liking this post and your best wishes:)

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  34. Rahul..." Un vuelo de la fantasìa "

    Mientras ibe leyendo tambien me imaginaba que iba a producirse
    un acercamiento con Susan...màs romàntico.
    Quizàs es tu viaje hecho realidad alguien te haga cambiar el rumbo de tu vida...si viajas solo jajaj
    ¡¡¡ atrapante relato !!!

    un beso

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    1. Ha Ha Doris! ¿Te gustó este y encontró un nuevo ángulo de romance a esto :)

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  35. Imaginary? With all the facts of stations and war memorials, I thought it was real. Too good Sir, I think now I have a lot of gyan on Melbourne. And as Stuti said, I remember you used to write for travel site. Please share any updates with us.

    Best wishes for the contest Sir.:)

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    1. Imaginary yes! for a change Saru:) I managed to con well and had to tell the truth in the end!I have a travel blog which I find difficult to update and readers like you and Stuti make my day by asking for more:) A big thanks for your best wishes!

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  36. It was as real as writing from your own experience and I couldn’t see it as a bit of imagination! It was so informative on the Melbourne.

    Best wishes :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Jeevan for liking and also for your best wishes:)

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  37. Nice post. Hope it will come true. Like you, I really like to visit Melbourne one day.

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  38. Thanks for your very kind comment, It made my day!

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  39. 彡♡` Olá, amigo!

    Bom fim de semana!
    Beijinhos.
    Brasil ♡彡.
    ¸.•°`♥✿⊱╮

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  40. A very interesting and informative travelogue!
    All the very best for the contest! :)

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    1. Thanks a lot Shilpa for devoting time to my blog and your best wishes:)

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  41. As I always keep saying. Next time I need not refer to any tourist guide to know about the place, I would come right away to your blog. Nice to see you had a wonderful time. Next to HongKong, Melbourne has always been on my wishlist :-), Hope it comes true some day :-)

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    1. Thanks a ton Ashwini for those lovely comments!

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  42. Congratulations on winning the contest Sir. I am super happy for you :)

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    1. Thanks a ton, Saru for breaking the news:)

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  43. A well deserved win, Rahul. Just came in and read this mind blowing entry. A wonderful armchair tour of historical Melbourne!

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    1. Thanks a lot Panchali for those kind comments!

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  44. Congrats on a well deserved win! Was a pleasure reading your post earlier, and re-reading it after the results were out!

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    1. A big thanks and welcome to my blog!I feel great that you read this twice:)

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  45. Had a great time reading this one... congrts for the win!!!

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    1. A huge thanks Manjulika! Don't forget to read my comment on your FB page:)

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  46. Yay Rahul! You won. Congrats on the win. You totally deserved it.

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  47. A huge thanks Rachna for being so supportive! The best wishes worked, collectively:)

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  48. Your post is worth reading. You have shared here worthy information and wonderful experience with us. I would like say you thank you so much for great and valuable information.

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