My Pursuit of Van Gogh: The True Story

Life is remarkably circular. Sometimes life works in ways you can’t even predict. Fifteen years ago, I encountered a story that little did I know will touch my heart in the most unexpected way.

In the early 00’s, encyclopaedias were still our default search engine as the ultimate source of information. Thick, hard-bound books shelved in glass cabinets, catalogued alphabetically according to the sets where it belongs. One day, it was one of those times I was hanging out with a life-long buddy at the library during lunch break when this person handed me an infamous story about a famed artist of the nineteenth century who cut off his ear and shot himself. My 12-year old naive, innocent and Catholic-oriented self was undeniably shocked. Back then, I looked up at these magnificent people from the past as glorious beings who ever walked on earth; Faultless, infallible and immaculate. A quintessence of an ideal human being.

“How could one of the most famous and influential post-impressionist painter lived such a life?”

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Image source: Holland.com

It was the time I was still obstinate and intolerant to the imperfections of life. The story was incomprehensible for me to accept and digest. From then on, I only focused on his works and refused to read about his life. It was simply unsuitable to take a young mind’s innocence and corrupt it with the dark intentions of human beings. So I thought.

Over the years, it has been my personal goal to expand my views and be more open-minded as possible. I allowed to put myself on someone’s shoes in every subject matter, remove all prejudice, breakdown every cultural norm and understand the root of such belief, behaviour and mindset. Since then, it has been my ultimate goal in life: To understand everyone and everything. Everything is a though word and impossible to achieve, but hey, we got to set the bar to the highest level.

One and a half decades later, I’ve pretty much achieved my goal in every subject that crosses my path. By removing personal preferences and inhibitions, I am able to dissect every detail of a fact, opinion or argument. It’s a very liberating thing to do. It’s the perfect time to go back to one story that I tried dancing around for quite a long time.

Life took its turn and presented me with the opportunity to revisit an old friend I’ve kept buried in my memory. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in partnership with Art Exhibitions Australia and independent art historian Sjraar van Heugten curated Van Gogh and the Seasons as one of its international exhibitions for 2017.

“Hey! It’s Van Gogh. Not to be missed for sure!” I thought. It’s true. It was a wonderful once in a life time experience to see such an exhibit that focused on the four seasons of his works. The storytelling of the exhibit was impeccable. One, if only he will allow to immerse himself to the experience, will clearly feel the connection with Van Gogh’s personal life; How he came to be as one of the most renowned artists of all time.

 

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Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story by Bernadette Murphy

After going through the exhibit, I exited into the souvenir shop without the intention of purchasing any merchandise. There was a large coffee table book, most likely 12″ x 12″ in size detailing the entire exhibit which I personally find above my budget to own. Everyone seems to have bought it. Besides, it was an exclusive publication for this particular exhibit. My best friend bought one, being a huge Van Gogh fan that she is. I personally wasn’t a huge fan of impressionist paintings so I gave it a pass. While browsing through the books section, I saw two copies of Van Gogh’s Ear: The True Story by Bernadette Murphy in paperback neatly placed on a table, seemed untouched. The title is very catchy, I scanned a bit, read a few pages and left.

Days later, the book seems to be calling out for me. NGV was conveniently located two blocks away from my workplace so I went back to the souvenir shop during my lunch break. I went back to the table where I last saw it but to my surprise, there’s none left. I saw an elderly man, around 70 years of age, intently reading the only copy of the book in sight. I wanted to wait for him so I can grab it for myself but he seemed so serious and wouldn’t put it down any time soon.

I asked the first staff I could find but I was told that it was completely sold out! I couldn’t accept it. “She seems like one of those staff who are lazy to get some stock.” The person I happen to asked must be a newbie. So I looked for the most easily swayed staff, younger than me, someone who looks like he doesn’t want to upset anyone, from the minority group, and asked again. I explained to him how badly I wanted the book. I know that I can purchase it online, but sometimes, you just want it right now.  I waited for some time and he came out with a bunch of new stocks. I was delighted and thanked him repeatedly. I got two copies and sent one to my best friend who lives in Sydney.

I started reading it as soon as I got the book. I couldn’t just put it down. The investigative, story-telling narration style was so captivating. The enigma of the book piqued my curiosity and I was completely sold. The story revolved around the pursuit to identify “Rachel”, the allegedly prostitute which Van Gogh offered his ear after cutting it off one night of December 1888. There were a lot of times while reading the book, my mind was impatient and furious, “Who the f*** is ‘Rachel’?!” But of course, I knew that her identity will only be revealed in the end. I didn’t want to skip anything! Every detail is vital to the story. I’m a lazy reader and I’ve got to say that not a part of this book bored me neither gave me a reason to give up.

Van Gogh’s mental breakdowns – why, when and where it happened – were all essential in understanding the ultimate act of insanity that went down to his story and eventually to history.

This book revealed so much from what I have expected. Bernadette Murphy took seven laborious years gathering information and ID-ing every single resident of Arles in every situation. She traveled in every place mentioned in the book to see first hand and imagine what it was like to live during Van Gogh’s time. Her effort in completing this book is truly amazing. This book explains the different medical diagnoses of the painter and uncovered the truths behind the sensationalised newspaper prints during his time. It also allowed us to see and feel the ultimate bond between two brothers despite the financial hardship they went through.

After all these years, I have finally able to embrace his story in perfect timing. It’s utterly overwhelming to have finished the book with a tragic end (as we all know) but it leaves a heartwarming experience that will forever linger in the soul.

 

 

NGV: Whistler’s Mother

Portrait of Artist’s Mother (1871), one of the most iconic paintings in the world, was exhibited in NGV, Whistler’s Motheralong with the artist’s and other Australian painters’ works that were highly influenced by Whistler’s art.

The original title of the famous painting is Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1, which refers to the exploration of form and colour rather than the portrait of his mother present in the painting. The original title was also inspired by the abstract form of music, with the use of “Arrangement of… No.1” a standard title commonly used in classical music.

It is quite surprising that a masterpiece popularly referred to as a portrait was not originally intended to be a portrait painting at all. The solid blocks of colours, the proportional alignment of each block, and the combination of warm and dark tones portrays Whistler’s strong geometric composition on this painting. It is also important to note that Whistler’s mother’s dress is a block of solid black colour, which is one of the abstract elements that he included.

Interesting though, Alfred Barr, director of MOMA in New York back in 1943, pointed out a mind blowing fact about this painting. He wrote that, without the image of the mother, this large-scale painting is, “a composition of rectangles… not very different from the abstract Composition in white, black and red [1936] painted by [Piet] Mondrian.” He then referred to this painting as a precursor of modern abstract art. 

IMG_6599Portrait of Artist’s Mother (1871)

All my life, like most people who have seen this painting, I looked at its biographical aspect and ignored its existing visibly abstract elements. It could be due to my lack of formal art trainings and my limited exploration of my interest to visual art which has always been finitely intrapersonal. Visiting this exhibit has sparked my curiosities of further understanding behind the visual elements of an art piece, the outspoken message it communicates and the admirable skill and personal history of the artist.

Staring at this large-scale painting alone, exhibited solely in one large room, while all spotlights illuminating only it, was so dramatic, it’s moving. The overwhelming feeling I had when I first laid my eyes on Juan Luna’s Spoliarium (1884) suddenly hit me again. Its grandeur, magnificence and emotional artistic value are undeniably present.

The layout of the entire exhibit itself was carefully crafted that it started introducing the early life of the artist, his life journey, his relationship with his mother and the meaningful backstories that eventually lead him to create such masterpiece. The layout was highly commendable for the dramatic effect it created for every visitor.


James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) is an American master artist who was born in Massachusetts, USA. His family moved to St. Petersburg, Russia in 1843 after the inglorious period of US Military Academy. In 1955, he trained in Paris as a painter for four years before moving to London. He created several works before his commendable masterpiece, Portrait of Artist’s Mother (1871), has been recognised as aestheticism, an art form which has a combination of realist and formalist elements.

Source: NGV Whistler’s Mother

 

 

 

Melbourne: Collins St x St Patrick’s Cathedral

In the arts and fashion capital of Australia, it is expected to see a long stretch of little Paris at the eastern side of Collins St, which is locally referred to as “Paris End”. Collins St. is major street in Central Melbourne that is notable for its history. It is still the home to all major designer and prestige brands, high-end retailers, and it used to be the centre of finance in Australia. The original architecture of every building is mostly preserved like any other streets in the city of Melbourne.

Walking along Collins St. towards St. Patrick’s Cathedral, I snapped a handful shots of the glamorous Collins St post-edited with creamy, vintage-looking effect as a reminiscent of its early history.

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Andy Warhol | Ai Weiwei

It is such a privilege and a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness a major international exhibition featuring the late pop icon Andy Warhol and political artist Ai Weiwei. Being the two of the most significant artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, I was so thrilled when I first heard the news (a year before the start of the exhibition) that the National Gallery of Victoria has teamed up with The Andy Warhol Museum, in cooperation with Ai Weiwei, to organise such event.

The major exhibition explores the influences of both artists in modern art and contemporary life, which focuses on the parallels, intersections and points of difference between the two artists’ practices. Due to transportation, gallery’s area and other limitations to consider, not all iconic artworks of the artists have been exhibited at NGV for this particular event. Nevertheless, over 300 artworks of both artists’ significant contributions that delivered evocative messages were curated, which lead to my cultivation towards their remarkable life-long journeys. (National Gallery of Victoria)

I’ll start exploring the journey of Andy, who’s art I’m the least a fan of amongst the two. Ai’s extensive, massive and evocative installations beat Andy’s flat, complacent and mass-produced paintings. Ai’s works cover as far back as Ancient China up to the latest societal issues. But to be fair, Andy’s audacity and unconventional art practices have defined a new era of revolutionary artists and may have majorly contributed to Ai’s bold, dissident style.

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andyAndy Warhol carrying a Brillo Soap Pads Box photograph by Billy Name

I first heard of Andy Warhol when I got into Advertising. I wasn’t talking about the time I majored in the field in college, but the time I got really interested in the history and admired the glory days of the industry back in mid-40’s. (cue Mad Men’s theme – TV Series) One of Andy’s famous paintings is called the Campbell Soup Cans (1962) series in which he hand-painted each can of the product, arranged each variety according to its date of release, and observed uniformity through merchandising in grocery shelves.

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The Campbell Soup Cans (1962) is the epitome of Andy’s style when it comes to paintings. Detailed, commercial, low-cost, and mass-produced, similar to the popular products he took inspirations from. His silkscreen medium allow him and his assistants to instantly produce similar huge paintings in a short period of time.

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Another famous series of paintings by Andy is his tribute to the late Marilyn Monroe, which he created after the iconic actress’ death. He used a single photograph from the 1953 film Niagara as reference to re-create an entire series as a form of “..memorial and as a reflection of the media’s insatiable appetite for celebrity and tragedy.” (NGV Label of The Three Marilyns 1962)

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The Marilyn Diptych (1962) contains fifty images of Marilyn Monroe. Twenty-five images on the left are brightly coloured while the other twenty-five are in black and white, that suggests the relation between the celebrity’s life and death. The particular painting above is currently owned by Tate and unfortunately was not part of the NGV Exhibit.

IMG_6169Andy Warhol – Filmography 

Most people would associate Andy with the expression “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” and his popular talk show “Fifteen Minutes” which aired from 1985-1987. Through my readings, I’ve seen at least three different interpretations for this famous expression:

  1. German art historian Benjamin H. D. Buchloh suggests that Andy’s style invalidates the hierarchies worthy to be represented, and once abolished, will be an opportunity for everyone to be famous; Or
  2. Fifteen Minutes represent the limited time a celebrity can only be famous; Or
  3. Due to the technological advancement and level of accessibility of today’s society, anyone can actually be virtually famous. (Wiki: Fifteen Minutes of Fame)

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I also came across different articles refuting the expression’s origin to be the words of Andy. The critics have suggested that the famous phrase was actually taken from the text of an exhibition brochure written by the curator rather than Andy himself. He tried to honestly confess the truth through interviews but it was too late. The society has already branded the expression as his and still continue to do so today.

Screen Tests (1964)

Throughout his career, celebrities, poets, musicians, socialites and other personalities posed for a short film at his legendary studio in Manhattan, the Silver Factory. The films capture the actions of the subjects at natural state and let the viewers interpret whatever narrative they desire.The Silver Factory has attracted many prominent people and has become a space for Andy’s social scene. In a span of two years, Andy has shot over 500 Screen Tests, which he prolonged to imbue a dreamlike stillness. Some of these prominent people include: Cass Elliot, Ann Buchanan, Bob Dylan, Donyale Luna, Billy Linich and Jane Holzer.

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Silkscreen Paintings of Mao (1970’s)

Andy’s repetitive paintings of Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong portrays media’s proliferations of the image and advertising’s promotion of consumers’ desire and identification. Andy created these paintings during the height of cultural revolution in China that has been a global media spotlight. Andy’s numerous works of Mao portray him as a pop-cultural icon during his time.

Andy’s other silkscreen paintings throughout his career that defines today’s definition of pop-culture.

The core of Andy’s career is the portrayal of American’s consumerism: Inexpensive, low-cost, mass-produced, charismatic and popular. His means and the final products of his works both satisfy his core, which are clearly seen through his inspirations and the media he utilised.

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Andy’s painting of Coca-Cola first appeared in 1961. Six years later, he coated Coca-Cola bottles with silver paint as representation of source material. Three years more,  Coca-Cola Company responded with a cease and desist letter when he expanded his project to 100 bottles and filled it with his own You’re In / Eau d’Andy’ (1970). Get it? You’re In…

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Andy did not only focus on the glamorous lifestyle of popular products and celebrities. One of his thought provoking artwork tackles the clash of American Dream and violence in America. Incorporating a tabloid style, gloomy and sombre, Andy replicated the photograph from a newspaper with a headline ‘Did a leak kill … Mrs McCarthy and Mrs Brown?’ referring to the two women killed due to expired canned tunas. In Tunafish Disaster (1963), Andy portrayed how consumer products actually failed its consumers.

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In Silver Clouds (1966) and Cow Wallpaper (1966), Andy expands his artistic style to a theatrical scale by offering an immersive experience that encourages participation through floating metalised polyester films propelled by air currents floating from the walls into space itself. This particular installation exemplifies his fascination with serial production and repetition of pop-cultural imagery. Andy’s deployment of modern manufacturing techniques served as an introduction to a whole new era of art installations.

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Ai Weiwei

A Chinese contemporary artist and activist, I first heard of Ai Weiwei during the preparation of Beijing 2008 Olympics when he collaborated with Herzog & de Meuron in designing The Birds Nest.

birds nestImage Source: MondoArc

However, my interest in Ai Weiwei’s life only began in 2011 when the international media caused a stir on his arrest at the Beijing International Airport. Initially reported as arrest due to incomplete presentation of documentation for travel, the media uncover his alleged tax evasion case. Ai Weiwei has been known for his online presence writing social commentary and criticising government policies aside from sticking to his autobiographies and thoughts on art and architecture. He has always been known for his bold and unapologetic nature which are then transmitted through his art.

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Personally, I believe that Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn (2015) is the quintessential artwork of Ai Weiwei. As one of his iconic works captured in both in video and photographs, this particular performative action of holding, dropping and smashing a cultural heritage clearly demonstrates his critical engagement with China’s violent cultural tradition. It draws attention to the continuous desecration of cultural heritage. As shown in the photograph, these images were re-created in plastic blocks representing pixelated forms for the distribution of his powerful message in the digital platform. He originally wanted to use Lego blocks for his other works as well but the company refused to participate in his political activism.

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During the dynastic changes in China in an attempt to erase the past and start over with the new regimes, much of Buddhist statues dating from the Northern Wei (386–535 CE) to Northern Qi (550–577 CE) dynasties were looted and only a few pieces survived today. In Ai’s Feet (2005)he sculpted stone feet on these remaining statues to show that the past cannot easily be erased and eventually catch up with the present.

IMG_6084With Flowers (2015)

At some point in his life, his audacity lead to his detention for 81 days. Every morning, he placed a bunch of flowers in the basket of a bicycle outside his studio and captured it on camera as a form of protest against his restriction to travel. He has posted images of these flowers on social media which emerged a movement called Flowers of Freedom.

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Ai Weiwei created this series in another art form through Bicycle Basket with Flowers Porcelain (2015) and Blossom (2015), this time, to protest against the restrictive rights of people through speech and human-rights. He collaborated with the skilled porcelain craftsmen from Jingdezhen province, whose predecessors once produced the highest quality of porcelain in Ancient China. Through this complex project, he has provided temporary employment to hundreds of people, whose livelihood has been declining through the years.

IMG_6087Blossom (2015) Bed of flowers made of porcelain

Ai Weiwei’s projects do not only focus on his bold actions against government policies and protests against restricted human rights, but he also continuously provides livelihood to the very victims of injustice. 

ai-weiwei-ruptures-faurschou-foundation-002Image Source: AI WEIWEI: RUPTURES MAR. 20TH – DEC. 22ND AT FAURSCHOU FOUNDATION COPENHAGEN

Another perfect example would be the Sunflower Seeds (2010) which he created for his simple yet poetic exhibition. The extensive project has been collaborated again with approximately 1,600 skilled artisans of Jingdezhen producing over 150 tons of man-made Sunflower Seeds out of porcelain. Each piece have been individually hand-painted comprising of 2-3 strokes per side by the locals of the community and the entire project lasted for two and a half years.

Ai-Weiwei-Sunflower-Seeds-Still-from-Tate-video-9Image Source: Ai Weiwei Seeds

An excerpt from Ai’s Sunflower Seed’s website – Ai Weiwei Seeds – perfectly expresses the multiple yet simple meaning behind this project:

“For Ai Weiwei, ‘Sunflower Seeds’ is one piece of art that is composed of 100 million pieces of art. As a singular tiny sculpture, every seed is submerged by a hundred million ones with subtle nuances, similar yet each unique, just as 1,600 workers in Jingdezhen performing repetitive duties; as 1.3 billion Chinese, silent in the crowd; as every fragmented individual in this digital era. Through a sunflower seed, Ai Weiwei triggers a Domino effect, enlarging the lengthy, complicated and exquisite process by 100 million times. Devoting unimaginable patience, time and energy, he brings into focus the significance of individuals, and the imposing strength when they gather together.”

The video below shows the extensive and laborious process each Sunflower seed went through for this project:


Video Source: Ai Weiwei: Sunflower Seeds by Tate

 Ai retells his detention for 81 days back in 2011 through a series of dioramas entitled S.A.C.R.E.D. Maquettes (2011). The acronym stands for  Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy and Doubt, which are the six parts of this series that are all made of fibreglass. It depicts scenes at the cell where he was imprisoned without charges that serve as evidences of oppression, denial of personal freedom and loss of dignity, he and several victims went through.

IMG_6141One of the dioramas in the series. It clearly portrays his lack of privacy and dignity throughout his time at the detention cell.

Ai do not only portray his messages through sculptures, print and dioramas, but he also take in consideration the type of material used in each masterpiece to deliver his evocative messages.

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In Surveillance Camera (2010), Ai’s practice of incorporating traditional materials in addressing contemporary cultural issues is evident. By using traditional marble to portray the elevated status of a significant artefact in this particular sculpture, this piece is very personal to Ai that relates back to his confinement at his studio while all his actions were being monitored.

handcuffsHandcuffs (2015) were both sculpted in jade and in wood. Jade is considered to be the most precious stone in China. Historically speaking, jade is worn only by the members of imperial family. Ai portrays the similar cuffs he wore during his imprisonment to address contemporary issues in the government.

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If there’s one project that clearly defines Ai Weiwei’s character and controversial career, I personally believe it’s the Study of Perspective (1993-2005). As seen in every photograph, Ai is giving a finger in every iconic location around the globe to express his disdain for authority. His audacious behaviour and poetic forms of powerful communication have inspired a new generation of artists in the 21st Century.

Andy Warhol x Ai WeiWei

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Some exhibits showcase a parallel in artistic value and in speaking social context beyond the world of art. In Neolithic Pottery with Coca-Cola Logo (2007), Ai portrays a pop-cultural imagery through the influence of Andy by painting a Chinese artefact and branding it with a logo that represents American capitalism.

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Myths are traditional stories explaining historical events or natural and social phenomenons. Ai and Andy both explore these myths through cultural archetypes from two different parts of the world. Circle of Animals (2010), is a reinterpretation of the twelve zodiac heads ransacked by French and British troops. It functioned as a water clock–fountain in the European-style gardens of Yuanmingyuan palace. “Ai focuses attention on the ethics of looting and repatriation, the role of the fake and the copy and power relations between China and the West.” (Source: Circle of Animals label)

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On the other hand, Andy presents the cultural archetypes in the American popular culture through a series of silkscreen paintings that run from Uncle Sam to the superstardom of Hollywood screen siren Greta Garbo and the innocent charm of Mickey Mouse. (Source:Narrative, myth and memory label)


Further Readings:

Masterchef x Australia

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The new season of Masterchef Australia starts tonight. It’s only fitting to post my snapshots inside the famous Masterchef Kitchen!

A little backstory about the show, Masterchef TV show was originally produced in the early 90’s and was re-developed in Australia way back in 2009 that propelled its international success (Ref). Having an avid fan of the show, I was delighted to have visited the Masterchef Kitchen, located in Metro Melbourne, where the show is annually shot.

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Among any other reality cooking shows, Masterchef got less drama and has more interesting challenges. Its format also allow a lot of information to be absorbed and learned from by the audience. It’s one of the best ways to subtly learn about culinary art while entertaining oneself. It basically showcases creativity of different culinary styles and innovating gastronomic skills. From then on, I’ve become more appreciative of the techniques and fusion of flavours in every dish I taste.

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White Night Melbourne 2014

In 2013, Melbourne is the first city in Australia to join the ranks of global cities producing all-night arts events. Melbourne is known as Australia’s international city of artistic innovation. It embraces the opportunity to showcase its commitment to art, music and diverse culture.

When my family moved in to Melbourne in 2013, we were still staying at the service apartment along Elizabeth St in the city. It was the time White Night Melbourne premiered in Australia. I can still remember looking at tweets of people all over the city exploring the different activities simultaneously happening that night.

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This year, I decided to join the fun and see by myself what was out there. I only had a few hours to spend since I needed to catch the late train going home on a Saturday night, so I wasn’t able to explore every activity that was happening.

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First stop, I watched the Moonlight Synchronised Swimming at the Melbourne City Baths. A lot of people were already queueing all around the block just to get in. I was able to see the show Almost an hour later and the queue was even longer than before! *Yikes*

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On my way to our next stop, we passed by this food kiosk catering Filipino food just for the event! Proud to be Pinoy! I wanted to try it out but the queue was so long. 😦

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Then I went straight to the State Library of Victoria where various light works were being lit up on the facade of the library.

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Just across the road is the Melbourne Central. We had a quick peek on what’s going on inside and found out that the iconic tower was also participating. Amazing!

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The event was city-wide extending up to the other side of Yarra River. Several artworks and light performances can be seen along every stop.

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There were also live bands performing in some corners in the city.

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One of the big universities in the city, RMIT, hosted the galleries for the exhibitions. We managed to get into one and snapped a few artworks inside. There were also short films being played over and over again for everyone to see.

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Sooner than we thought, the night was over. I needed to get leave to catch our train. The entire Swanston Street was literally filled with people. It’s like flooded with people all over the place. Took me at least 40 minutes to walk down from the library to Flinders Station, which is like only 6-8 blocks away!

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Good thing a stampede didn’t happen during the event. I pity those kids forced to be there at that kind of situation. D:

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Even the iconic Flinders Street Station was part of the event. Several light performances were being lit on different parts of its facade! Incredible works!

But the night wasn’t getting any younger for me so I headed straight back home. Too bad I wasn’t able to visit the activities past the Yarra River. Maybe next year then!

The Great Ocean Road Trip 2014

After moving to Melbourne for almost two years now, my family and I were able to go down further south west and drive the Great Ocean Road!

Generally, we love to visit tourist attractions to witness and admire the magnificence of natural wonders over spending hours sunbathing under the heat of the summer sun while sipping Piña Colada. We like to move around and hop from one destination to the other.

Through the service of Melbourne Costal Tours, we were able to drive all the way from Melbourne CBD and finish the 243km drive of the Great Ocean Road (GOR) Tour just in one day. How awesome is that?!

First stop, we headed to the Fairhaven Beach at Anglesea to see a glimpse of the stretch of GOR. We can’t swim though since sharks are having a feast, swimming around this area.

A few minutes later, we reached the Great Ocean Road Archway. Where the journey begins! We quickly stopped for a while to have a couple of mandatory shots with the archway. It’s a long day ahead of us.

After some mandatory travel photos, w were back on the road. Our tour guide and the entire tour itself was very flexible. We get to have a lot of quick stopovers to have quick glances and photo opportunities along the way. Perks of going in a small group tours rather than joining big companies in huge buses.

Along the Great Ocean Road, there were several lookouts on the way where you can have quick stops to have some photo opportunities with nature. The tour guide have chosen Teddy’s Lookout. From the lookout, you can see the view of the beautiful town of Lorne and the Bass Straight, the body of ocean between mainland Australia and the state of Tasmania.

Next stop, we pulled off at the carpark of Kennett River to find Wild Koalas resting on Eucalyptus Trees. We found three of them hugging thin branches on separate trees. They aren’t sociable herbivorous marsupials and sleep at least 20 hours a day. The Australian Government protects their species and touching them would cost you at least AU $10,000.00. Yikes! So better not get too close to them. A picture of them sleeping and their face tucked away from the camera is the most we could do.

Good thing, a group of wild birds were in the area and our tour guide gave us some bird seeds! These attracted the birds to come closer and be all friendly with our group.

Back on the road, we stopped by Cape Patton to look at the view. Everywhere you go at the Great Ocean Road, you will see the majestic sea and the powdery sands of the coasts! It’s so consistent.

While on our way to our next destination, our tour guide gave us the menu for lunch! Finally. Time to eat soon! We quickly chose what we want for lunch which is conveniently covered by the tour.

Then we headed to Apollo Bay Hotel at the town of Apollo Bay to have our lunch. All the meals were pre-ordered and were ready as soon as we got there. Cool isn’t it?! I never exerpienced having pre-ordered meals before. Not even in other tours around Asia! The Melbourne Costal Tours did a pretty good job on that one! How convenient! I ordered roast beef with roasted vegetables over Nasi Goreng and Fish & Chips to feel the ultimate Australian experience for the trip and it did not disappoint.

At this town, McDonald’s and other modern fast food chains weren’t allowed to operate including the big supermarkets in Australia – Coles and Woolworth’s – in order to support the local businesses of the town.

We had a few minutes left to move around and got ourselves local ice cream treats! Our tour guide recommended this little ice cream shop just near the hotel where we tried the famous Vegemite Ice Cream – a definitely must try!. Vegemite is an Australian product, food paste, a part of the Australian culture. It’s like butter or peanut butter used to be spread on bread or biscuits.

After lunch, we went to Mait’s Rest Rainforest Walk. As part of the tour, a temperate rainforest walk is necessary after all the heavy lunch we dug in.

Australia used to be part of the the supercontinent Gondwana before all the seven continents drifted apart. This rainforest still has plant species that are common in other parts of Asia. But in recent decades, Eucalyptus trees are taking over these plant species making the rainforest dry and prone to bush fire during summer.

The walking was just beginning. Our next destination is The Great Ocean Walk. We parked beside the road and started walking on the pathway all the way up to the cliffs in order to see the first few of 12 Apostles.

Our tour guide asked us if we want to do the 10-minute helicopter tour hovering the Great Ocean. A lot of tourists are doing it at that time. We can see several helicopters flying by the area.

For some time, we felt like Bilbo Baggins exploring the lands in The Hobbit with all the hills and grassy fields that surround me. It’s like standing on a cliff in the middle of nowhere! Amazing experience!

Not all tours pass by this area though so we felt extremely lucky to have the best tour guide in the area! Our itinerary was carefully and creatively planned.

Finally, we reached one end of the walk – The Gibsons Beach.

After reaching the edge of the cliff, we climbed down the 100-metre staircase to reach the powdery beach. Here we got a lot of photo opportunities with the few Apostles. *Hooray!*

The rest of 12 Apostles can be seen once you continue the Great Ocean Walk.

A few more sets of walks and we reached the Salt and Pepper Shakers. The two stacks in the middle were naturally formed by erosion over hundreds of years. Isn’t it amazing?!

Other natural formations include The Razorback – the big stack of land out in the sea.

The trip wouldn’t be complete without seeing Loch and Gorge. This area is known as the shipwreck area with hundreds of ships failed to set on land in 19th Century.

A family nearby is known to have acquired all the treasures from the ships carrying them from the coast up to the cliffs. Imagine how they managed to climbed the cliffs in 19th Century!

There used to be a heroic shipwreck in 1878 where an English man and an Irish woman survived.

Today there is a manmade staircase that allows tourists to go down to the sea almost enclosed by 60m high limestone walls. It is a natural pool tourists enjoy especially during the summer

Last stop was the famous London Bridge. It acquired its name after its similarity with the real London Bridge without knowing it will fall down too! In 1990, a couple was trapped in that stack in the sea after crossing the 15-metre wide bridge that used to connect the mainland to that stack.

It wasn’t 000 (Au emergency hotline) that came to the rescue. It was actually the Channel 7 (media) that went here to cover the collapse of the bridge and made a huge dramatic story out of it.

Though the couple refused to be interviewed for personal reasons. Some say the guy actually called in sick for work that day and went on to the GOR with the lover. It’s such an embarrassment to be interviewed on national TV knowing his boss would see his face after calling in sick. *Yikes*

And some say he was actually having an affair on that day and the woman with him was his mistress. *Insert ooooh expression here*

After spending our entire day out on the road, we had to leave and go back to the city. It was a wonderful experience getting in tough with nature again. ^^ Especially when our cardio were tested with all the walking uphill and downhill that we did.

And of course, the trip wouldn’t be this amazing without the awesome planning of Melbourne Costal Tours. I’ve always liked those companies that offer quality service rather than big companies that can’t consistently provide the service they promise to do.

Thanks Melbourne Costal Tours for the fun day! The tour guide, Campbell, was very informative and entertaining all throughout the day.  Non-stop chatting and telling us stories about absolutely everything we passed by while on the road. And most importantly, we managed to see a lot of places just in one day! ^^