6 things I’ve learned in Melbourne in 6 months

As it is inevitably already August, I realized I am halfway through my (hopefully not last) year in Australia. I’ve lived mostly in Melbourne for the past months, trying to live somewhat ‘normal’ life, but with a refreshing one month holiday up north. I don’t think my Working Holiday experience has been like most backpackers’, but then again I don’t consider myself as one. Hopefully I’ll get to see more of my surroundings these upcoming months, but who knows. Here follows 6 things I have learned these past 6 months.

 

Got double suprised at work just because.
 People are extremely friendly. Of course this can vary from city to another and the outback is a whole other story, but in general Aussies and travelers alike are a friendly bunch with their “howyagoin” greetings and other funny stuff they say. One rather effective way of meeting people is the ever so popular Tinder-game. Just keep your expectations low and don’t expect to meet the love of your life, and you might end up with a few new friends (Or the awkward situation where you think you’re friends, and the other person has other ideas…)!

 

Keep your eyes open, you mever know what comes along
 Timing is everything. This applies to finding a job, a house, even friends! I met my best friends in H&m and on a tram, and I got my current job by walking past it before they had opened. When it comes to work, be persistent. If you are looking for hospitality jobs, even Instagram can help you (@cafejobs_melb)! I am still trying to figure out the sponsorship possibilities, oh dear, they do not make it easy. Some days I wish I was a radiologist or a brain surgeon, just to feel wanted here.

 

Sippin herbal tea in my yogapants before yin class
 Take advantage of cheap fitness trials. Or in my case, intro yoga/pilates passes. most yoga and pilates schools offer intro deals for about 50$ for (unlimited) 2 weeks. I have so far been to 6 different studios offering either only yoga or a combination of yoga and pilates. Besides the CBD, South Yarra is the mecca for stretching activities. At the moment I am doing a free 2 week trial at F45 Port melbourne, doing intensity interval group training, which is pretty much the complete opposite of yoga. I love it after the first class, but the location is rather inconvenient without a car.

 

All the things you learn by just walking around!
 Stay on top of your city game. There’s too many things to do and events to attend, new restaurants popping up, and don’t get me started on my endless “must go” cafe list. In terms of activities, I keep myself aware of my surroundings with newsletters from The Urban List, Broadsheet and TimeOut. If these three are not enough, Concrete Playground is a good addition.

 

My kind of supermarket
 Shop smart. Take advantage of the markets (Queen Victoria especially), and go there in the afternoon. Cheapest produce you can find, no doubt, and the experience is way nicer than going to Safeways or Aldi. I challenge myself not to drown myself in drink coffee every day, both to stay clear of the addiction as well as to save me some dough (to eat out more than ever before).

 

Brunch outside in the dead of winter, not freezing.
 The winter isn’t that bad (if you come from Northern Europe). I was dreading for Melbourne winter that everyone seemed to regard as being from hell, but seriously it’s not unbearably cold, and even during the chillest days you can always just layer up sipping your coffee.

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Tila Kaupungissa, growing organic food movement

It makes me happy to see that people in Finland too are starting to pay more and more attention to the (too often low) quality of their food. Even if going back to the roots and eating foods your grandmother knew to be good to eat is just for the sake of being oh-so-trendy and because everybody else is doing it, I still think it’s a win-win situation: small producers get much needed income and support, people get to know what real, near produced food is, and they maybe appreciate the valuable ingredients more. There is a big difference between frozen, prepacked and slices veggies to fresh ones straight from the farm. Some state that there is a difference between soy/corn fed and grass-fed meat, let alone wild game, too. Go figure! Once you know how you want to take care of yourself and others, the next thing is to figure out how to do it. Luckily, the options are growing and the selection is getting wider.

 

More farm fresh and organic products in Tampere
More farm fresh and organic products in Tampere

Yesterday I visited the opening of Tila Kaupungissa(Space in the City), a new sort of organic incorporated store in Tampere. For 100€ you can buy a share of the store, which entitles you to certain discounts as well as events. Some of the products come from owner farms, in addition to the imported organic items. The shop is open to anyone, not just the owners.

 

Got greens?
Veggies from a near-by farm

The opening of Tila was filled with people (mostly older), and I believe there is strong demand for this kind of action. Currently there are only few organic stores in Tampere, and not many of them sell organic produce. Somehow it seems like all the organic stores are located in the same small area, too; good for the customer to be able to shop in different places at once, but may be challenging for the entrepreneurs in terms of competition. Though the organic movement is improving, the majority of the supermarket chains still keep on advertising food like products as opposed to veggies, and they don’t offer substantial organic selection. The strength of these small, person-run stores lies in their personality and character. It is always nicer to go to a store where you talk to people, maybe have a cup of coffee or tea, and know that you are supporting a good cause.

 

Space in the city
Space in the city

In addition to Tila Kaupungissa, one can find good produce and great food ingredients as well as natural cosmetics and products around Tampere, for example the following:

Vegetarian/vegan stores

  • Ruohonjuuri, in Keskustori. Besides offering the most variable selection of packaged superfoods and organic food products for almost all possible needs, Ruohonjuuri has some organic frozen products as well as produce and dairy. The store also stocks a large selection of natural cosmetics, bodycare products as well as essentials for cleaning, babies and pets. The store has become my second home since moving back, because in the corner just happens to be my other workplace! So, with your shopping you can also enjoy delicious, organic raw smoothies, cakes and chocolates made on-site.
  • Runsaudensarvi, in Kauppakatu (behind the City Hall). My go-to place for bulk items: nuts, seeds, beans, flours, trail mixes and fruit treats, superfoods, etc. The bulks are cheaper than in other stores, and you can choose how much to buy, win-win! They have a great selection of other vegan cooking products, too. The staff is very nice, and there is a tea corner with some books and (vegan) magazines to read, too. 10% discounts to members of certain assocations (i.e Animalia), product samples and small gifts with a purchase over 5€!
  • Punnitse&Säästä, in Kuninkaankatu (Next to Anttila). Largest variety of bulk items, including candies, sugar coated fruits and non-vegan items. In my experience it is more expensive than Runsaudensarvi. The abundance of selection can make you go nuts over nuts, and besides getting sugar high you end up emptying your wallet.

Local food & organic stores

  • Ruokapuoti Lempi, in Tammelantori. Lovely interior and a cafe corner, this store offers produce, meat and dairy products as well as some bakery items from near-by farms. Great place to stop by when visiting the Tammelantori market. If you are in the area, also check out Kahvilla cafe, which is on the same street as Lempi.
  • Luomukauppa Ani, in Kauppahalli. If one visits Tampere, they simply must go to Kauppahalli (market hall). Just for the sake of the atmosphere.

Now is the best season for spending some time in the outside market – something I always want to do, no matter where I am. Too bad the season in Finland is so short, so you must make the most out of it! Nothing so far has beat the combo of sunshine and strawberries!

Moomin hut
Moomin hut

Best of Hong Kong

Everything good ends at some point. I have now been away from Finland for almost a year, living in another continent, speaking different languages and doing many things I could or would not do in Finland. Now it’s time to say hello to Finland for a while. Here are some of my favorites from the past 4 months.

Nature.

There is much more to the city than just skyscrapers
There is much more to the city than just skyscrapers

It is unbelievable how much more there is to Hong Kong than just millions of people cramped in narrow streets between tall buildings. One can easily find amazing nature, from mountains to beaches and natural reservoirs, even in Hong Kong island!

Atmosphere.

Perfect Sunday: Relaxing at the East Island Markets
Perfect Sunday: Relaxing at the East Island Markets

By far, my most favorite place in Hong Kong was the Sunday market in Quarry Bay. The market is closed down for the summer, but will return again in September. I wish there was something like this in Finland – this farmer’s market really reminded me of New York!

Events.

Perfect Tuesday night: art, bubbly and nibbles
Perfect Tuesday night: art, bubbly and nibbles

There is always something interesting going on, whether it is an art gallery opening, birthday party or pop-up store. The only thing is to know where, when and what is happening.

Random statues.

Teddies in Heritage shopping area
Teddies in Heritage shopping area

HK is a huge shopping mall. Usually the malls have huge, quite random statues, that change almost monthly. Often the motifs of the statues are rather interesting, and worth taking a picture (or two).

Random street art.

Noodle time!
Noodle time!

Rather than ugly tags, one can encounter rather interesting pieces of art from the streets and alleyways. Tin Hau and Sheung Wan are the best bet for finding something interesting.

Fruit selection.

Sousop and something else
Sousop and something else

The amount, quality and price of fruit in Hong Kong came like a gift from heaven, after being seriously fruit-deprived in Japan. Here I have eaten tons of various fruit every day: lately especially mangos, since they are ridiculously cheap and usually sold cheaper if you buy 3 or 4. Other than mangos, I’ve been enjoying papayas, pineapple, some durian, mangosteens, dragonfruit, melons and the conventional apples, grapefruits, kiwi and oranges. Time for some Finnish berries!

Coffee culture.

Teakha in Sheung Wan
Teakha in Sheung Wan

Little coffeeshops offering top quality coffee blends and single-origin beans are popping up around the city, and there are several companies offering coffee tastings and other events. In stead of the Pacific Coffees and Starbucks in practically every corner, some of the best places to get your fix are: Coffee Academics (Causeway Bay), Coffee Corridor (Causeway Bay), Common Ground (Sheung Wan), Barista Jam (Sheung Wan), The Rabbit Hole (Wan Chai) and those moving coffee companies that frequent for example the East Island Market: 8 Grams and Moving Coffee, for example.

Food.

Delicious Chinese vegetarian cuisine, mostly with mushrooms
Delicious Chinese vegetarian cuisine, mostly with mushrooms

There is abundance of international food in Hong Kong. My favorite restaurant is Mana!, which serves organic, vegan and gluten-free wraps and salads as well as raw desserts and smoothies. Besides Mana, there are few vegetarian restaurant, and plenty of Chinese vegetarian cuisine (which is textured soy and often rather slimy to my taste). Sushi buffets are aplenty and affordable, Western food is more expensive than Asian. The Asian desserts were also rather interesting, maybe I’ll dedicate another post to that.
Mostly I cooked myself: various mushrooms and sweet potatoes were my favorites. I did try veggie dumplings on few occasions, but most Chinese restaurants had meat in their dishes even if it is not announced in the menu.

Transportation.

Back to the old times
Back to the old times

I definitely am a walker, but when you need a different means of transportation, there’s plenty to choose from. My favorite would be the Star Ferry to Kowloon side – fresh air, nice views and less crowded than the mtr. MTR is by far the fastest way of getting from A to B, but sometimes you want to relax and watch the hustle and bustle; the old-fashioned tram is perfect for that. The double-decker buses can sometimes feel like being on a theme park ride, since the drivers are rallying like on a race. The taxi isn’t a bad option, either: super cheap and easy to catch – the only problem might be the language barrier. I would not bike in Hong Kong island, but in Shatin there is even a bike route!

These are just a few things I will definitely miss from Hong Kong. I could also list the great people and sports opportunities (mYoga with it’s views to Victoria Harbor, oh man). What are your favorites?

Hipsterin’

In a strange culture, sometimes you just want to escape all the exotic, weird stuff and need the comfort of familiarity. And when rye bread is not an option and Ikea isn’t enough to satisfy the cravings for something other than China life, what to do? In Hong Kong, there’s Sheung Wan (and some random streets in different neighborhoods) to the rescue.

Kapok in Sun Street
Kapok in Sun Street

Luckily there are few nifty places to go in Wan Chai (mainly the small strip of Sun Street and the surroundings), but most of the cool stuff I have found is elsewhere.
 

Creative street art/promotion for Secret Ingredient
Creative street art/promotion for SecretIngredient.com

 

Sheung Wan, west from Central, is a neighborhood filled with art galleries, pop-up stores and cool cafes, where hipsters flock for brunch on the weekends. Ice drip coffee is not unheard of, and most of the coffee places also sell some small designer stuff. All the international restaurants are nearby in Soho, Sheung Wan is more concentrated on some quality cafes/restaurants with quirky interior and fancy menus.

Common Ground, the place to be
Common Ground is the place to be, even for hipster babies

 

What I like about Sheung Wan the most is the cool decors, overall vibe and appreciation for uniqueness. And apparently there’s some kind of launch party/gallery opening/random happening every week – you just have to know where to go when!

Inviting entrance
Inviting entrance

 

The areas near Sheung Wan MTR (subway) station are dedicated to dried seafood, bird’s nests, and other Traditional Chinese medicine shops: my rough and random estimation is, that there’s easily over 100 different shops selling smelly, odd stuff.

This is just a few blocks from the hipster-haven of Hong Kong
This is just a few blocks from the hipster-haven of Hong Kong

 
So, when one wishes to explore the area where one can order made-to order aeropress coffee rather than shark’s fin soup, there are some steps to be climbed. Perhaps the altitude change and stairs are the reason why upper part of Sheung Wan is occupied by young people!

Sweet wheels
Sweet wheels

Eastern Easter

I have never celebrated Jesus in Finland (or anywhere else, for that matter), but Easter has had it’s place in my life, mostly in the common egg-shaped, chocolatey form. In Finland, Easter has always been the culmination of spring and everything that’s starting to bloom after the gloomy, harsh winter.

How are things in Hong Kong? Well, there is abundance of chocolate (Western brands leading towards sugar-rush and food coma), and restaurants do offer a variety of Easter brunch, buffets and lambs. My Easter? So far, I’ve gone to pay the rent, and to yoga, sushi buffet (by far the best so far) and a nunnery.

Flashback from Japan, only difference is the skyscrapers
This could be a flashback from Japan, only difference is the skyscrapers

The weather has been rather grey and depressing, lately. Nothing that a Finn hasn’t experienced before, though, so I decided to go out and explore Kowloon city (the rain beat me, Kowloon Walled City Park yet remains to be explored).

Nunnery amidst all the urban infrastructure
Nunnery amidst all the urban infrastructure

From the extremely tranquil and beautiful Nan Lin garden in Diamond Hill, I continued my pilgrimage to Sik Sik Yuen Won Tai Sin temple (yeah, I had to check the name).

Prayers and fortunes, most likely no Jesus involved
Prayers and fortunes, most likely no Jesus involved

What do you do when the rain just won’t stop? Go to have a cup of tea, to the cinema and/or shopping!

Not a bad location for a restaurant
Not a bad location for a (vegetarian) restaurant

Easter is not yet over, and the shops are still filled with bunnies. So far, I am very much pleased with the holidays, even though I haven’t seen the sun, I didn’t get to go to Macau as planned, not to mention Lantau (or finally get to try out my new bikinis!).

PS: I completely forgot that my blog is now 1 year old! Whoa, time flies! I have only 2 months left in Hong Kong…and then, who knows?

Two very happy girls having a very good Easter dinner
Two very happy girls having a very good Easter dinner

Happy holidays, everyone – no matter what, where and how you celebrate!