Taiwan Trip – Accommodation & Transportation Tips

Ni hao!

I’ve recently been on a trip to Taiwan with one of my high school BFF’s. It was a 9-day trip around the island. Even though it wasn’t quite enough to explore all around the island, at least we got the chance to see some of their famous tourism objects.

In this post, I’d like to share as much information as I can recall: budget, itinerary and special tips.
I didn’t take notes on all the details, but I think this would be enough to give a clear picture of the trip and help you plan your trip.

1. Flight ticket
I booked Tiger Air round-trip flights from Jakarta to Taipei for 5 – 14 May 2016. I booked the ticket in October 2015 for Rp 7.2 mio for 2 persons (appr. US$ 550 with only 1 x 15kg luggage). There was a stopover in Singapore and the price did not include luggage transfer. So, we had to get our luggage after the immigration counter and check-in again at the check-in counter. Since we had to spend a night in Singapore before our early morning flight to Taipei (at 8.45 AM), we decided to sleep at the airport.

Waiting for boarding time

2. Itinerary
May 6 – 7 : Taipei, Energy Inn Hostel in Ximen Ding – US$ 59/ 2 nights/ 4-bed female dorm with private bathroom + breakfast
May 8 : Kaohsiung, Sunwise Hotel Kaohsiung, near  Kaohsiung Main Station (MRT & Train) – NT$ 780/ 1 night/ double room with private bathroom + breakfast
May 9 : Chiayi, Light Hostel Chiayi, near Chiayi Train Station – NT$ 1,300/1 night/ 4-bed female dorm with private bathroom + breakfast
May 10 – 11 : Taichung, Starship Business Hotel, near Taichung Train Station – NT$ 2,200/ 2 nights/ double room with private bathroom + breakfast
May 12 – 13 : Taipei, Backpackers Hostel, in Ximen Ding – NT$ 3,000/2 nights/twin room with private bathroom – no breakfast
May 14 : Singapore, 1-night stay at Bliss Hotel in Chinatown, in front of Chinatown MRT station – S$ 128/ 1 night/ twin room with private bathroom – no breakfast.
Energy Inn, Tapei (dorm beds)
  
Energy Inn, Taipei (bathroom)
Light Hostel, Chiayi (bathroom)
Light Hostel, Chiayi (dorm beds)
Starship Business Hotel, Taichung
3. Transportation within Taiwan
MRT in Taipei & Kaohsiung : NT$ 12 – 30/trip depending on distance. I recommend to buy Easy Card for faster access to MRT & buses and save transportation expense. The card costs NT$ 100, non-refundable.
Taiwan High Speed Railway (THSR) : take HSR for a long trip as far as Taipei to Kaohsiung (Zuo Ying station). I bought the HSR ticket at Backpackers Hostel and got 20% discount (normal price almost NT$ 1,500).
Taiwan Train : No need to book in advance for this. Just buy it at the ticket counter and ask for the earliest schedule to your destination. The train costs me around NT$ 100-200ish/ each trip with reserved seats. Sometimes they sell non-reserved seat tickets for short distance travel.
Bus : I took bus from Chiayi to Alishan and from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake.
Chiayi – Alishan : NT$ … /person/single trip. Bus station located in front of Chiayi train station.
Taichung – Sun Moon Lake : NT$ 189/person/single trip. Bus stop in front of Taichung train station.
Sun Moon Lake – Taichung : NT 500/single trip by taxi.
Taoyuan Airport – Taipei Main Station (city centre) : NT$ 125/person/single trip by airport bus. Buy ticket at a counter near the bus stop at airport exit.
4. Meals & drinks
You will never have to worry about meals in Taiwan. There is either street vendor or convenient store (7-11, Family Mart, Hi-Life) at every inch of Taiwan. At late night or early morning, the convenient stores are still open and provide sandwiches, sushi/onigiri, kuo tie, fried chicken, fish meatball and even bento box. The store assistants always offer to heat it in the oven. The prices are reasonable (around NT$ 20-100).
Snacks and coffee from convenient stores all over Taiwan 😀
By the time I stepped my foot on Taiwan’s ground, I already felt that something awesome was going to happen again. And yes, all the good old memories came back and I suddenly felt terribly happy and I think I fell in love with Taiwan all over again :”)
Cheers,
Ariesa

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Things People Don’t Tell You about Working Holiday in Australia

Hey guys,

It’s been a while since my last post, hasn’t it? 🙂 I have been wanting to write another post SO DARN BADLY! But I was quite busy trying to find a new job (YES, you got it right! A NEW JOB!) So, what happened with the Italian restaurant I worked before? Well, I will tell you about this in the next post since it’s not very relevant with the topic I’m going to talk in this post.

Recently, I have noticed that there are actually loads of positive experiences and reviews from working holiday makers about Working Holiday in Australia (WHV). It seems like 99.9% of them talk about how much money you can earn and save when working in Australia, and also how easy it is to get jobs here, and so on and so forth. I don’t think it’s healthy to only give sweets and candies to kids, as it is not fair to only give sweet dreams to all WHV prospects (people who are interested in WHV Australia) without letting you guys know the downside of WHV. Guys, believe me, EVERYTHING comes with PRICE! By writing this post, I don’t mean to discourage any of you to come for working holiday here. I just hope you will be more prepared (mentally and of course physically!) than I was before. Here we go!

  1. That so-called “accommodation”

Most working holiday makers, especially Asians, want to live in the city. And of course as the result of high demand, accommodation in the city center is very expensive. If you want to have a private room in the city, you have to spend around AU$300-400/week. Can you calculate how many hours you have to work only to afford your accommodation? For the sake of saving money, many of us (including me right now), must be willing to live in a shared room. And most of us usually have to share a room with 3 to 4 other people. Sometimes even 5! Trust me guys, it’s not the most comfortable accommodation we live here. Here’s the picture of my current room.

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For just a triple room, we pay AU$190/week. However the price may vary. For a triple room, it usually costs around $150 to $190 pp/pw depends on the building and location. Those accommodation that costs AU$120-140/week are usually shared between 4-5 people with bunk bed.

I currently live in the master room of a 2 bedroom apartment. FYI, there are 9 people living in our unit! So yeah, some people live in the living room. Here’s how it looks like.

20170717_175210 Yes, you got it right! Those people live just inside those curtains! Even living inside the curtain can cost you around AU$150/week, guys! Sometimes the landlord also rents out the sunroom in the apartment. It’s the small place with glass walls and ceiling where you can hang your laundry to dry it. Even this sunroom costs about $200 a week! (T_T”)

Now I believe you can start imagining how ‘clean’ you can keep an over-crowded house. Personal space is so damn expensive in Australia, guys! We have sold all our privacy and personal space in exchange for a few bucks.

2. Hourly wage in Sydney: EXPECTATION vs REALITY

From the rules set by the Australian government, standard hourly wage in Australia is about AU$18 before tax. OK then approximately we can earn about $15.3/hour after tax or maybe even $16. The former working holiday makers might have shared that they earned around $20 an hour and well, this actually made lots of people (including me), think that getting $20 an hour job is soooo easy peasy!

In reality, we never really know what kind of jobs they had been through before getting that decent-paid job. Right now there are just TOO MANY backpackers and also foreigners coming on student visa competing in Australian job market. Lots of our working holiday friends from Indonesia (and even from other Asian countries) work for $11-14 /hour cash jobs. If we don’t take the job, there are still many other job applicants willing to do it just for the sake of not being jobless.

It is even more challenging for us, girls. Our friends who claim they earn $20/hour mostly work as a kitchen hand. At least as far as I know, in Australia, employers prefer male workers to do this kind of jobs since it is SUPER exhausting! Selain itu, kalau menurut temen2 saya yang kitchen hand juga, biasa orang bule gak mau kerja jadi kitchen hand karena capek dan berat banget gilak! Jadi otomatis di kategori pekerjaan ini kompetisi nya lebih sedikit karena cewek2 dan bule2 gak ada yang mau atau mampu kerja sebagai kitchen hand.

At the end, jobs that are available for us, girls, are waitress and cafe all-rounder. I’m not saying this is the only job we can do, I’m just saying that this is the kind of job that is mostly done by female working holiday makers or students. And also the most common job advertised on Gumtree.

Nah, kalau ngomongin gaji sebagai waitress atau all-rounder cafe itu tergantung employer. Kalau boss nya orang Asia, kisaran gaji sekitar $11-15/jam. Walaupun pasti ada aja yang beruntung dapetin boss Asian yang baik dan murah hati dan dapat gaji sesuai minimum salary yaitu $18/jam. Sedangkan untuk western employers, biasanya sih sudah sesuai standard minimum salary, bahkan di atasnya. Buktinya, temen2 waitress saya waktu di restoran Itali kemarin bilang kalau gaji kita yang $19/jam di restoran itu tergolong kecil. Karena menurut pengalaman mereka, masih banyak restoran, kafe dan bar disini yang menggaji lebih dari itu.

Untuk job di bidang lain saya nggak bahas yah guys. Maklum pengalaman kerja saya disini terbatas cuma sebagai all-rounder dan waitress aja. Saya bukannya gak mau eksplorasi, tapi memang saya suka dengan bidang pekerjaan yang mengharuskan saya ketemu customer (salesman alert!). Saya happy bisa belajar ilmu barista, dan mau banget belajar bikin cocktail. Tapi saya gak bisa kerja di dapur dan cuma ketemu si kentang, bawang dan tomat tiap hari. Ughh, gak rela banget saya kalo gak bisa liat customer bule2 ganteng satu hari aja! :p

3. A casual job in hospitality actually requires 2 years of experience!

Or at least, that’s what is commonly written in job ads on Gumtree. At first, I was shocked and couldn’t stop thinking WHY do I need years of experience just to apply for a job as a waitress or cafe all-rounder (atau bahasa kerennya: babu serabutan kafe!). But after working in the industry for a few months, now I understand why. Hospitality is a very fast paced industry in Sydney. Customers only have a few minutes to get their takeaway coffee and an hour for lunch break. This is why rush hour in Sydney cafes and restaurants is very crucial for the business. Every cafes and restaurants want to get as much as possible and so they push their staff to the limit during these peak hours. And they really can’t bother to give extensive trainings to new staff for a very good reason too! Because most backpackers (including working holiday makers), won’t stay long term with them. Most backpackers don’t really care about doing the job well, and working holiday makers can only stay for 6 months to a year. So, why risk losing customers only for the sake of training inexperienced staff?

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Sample of common job ads on Gumtree

4. That never-ending working hours

To compensate the low salary, most employers would give long working hours to the staff. Many of our friends are also very happy to take a second and even a third job to earn more money. You may have heard these friends can earn up to AU$1000 a week in Australia. But, have you ever wondered how many hours and how many jobs do they actually work? What time do they get up to work and when do they come back home from work? Time is money in Australia, the more hours you work, the more $$$ you make.

Once again guys, I’m writing this post NOT to DISCOURAGE you to come for a working holiday in Australia. I just want to give you another perspective on this and hope you to be better prepared than I was. I mean, I was of course prepared to do a waitress job in here. But I just wasn’t prepared to do a long hour work and save money by sharing my room.

Thanks for reading, guys. If you want more article on working holiday in Australia, please leave comments and tell me what you want to know. Hopefully I would be able to answer in my next post. Ciao! (^-^)v

Working Holiday Australia – How Much You Need on Your First Arrival

As I’ve promised earlier, I’m gonna write another post on how much budget you need to bring for working holiday in Australia. Since the living cost, especially rent fee, varies across cities, this is probably most suitable for people who want to land in Sydney as their first point of arrival. Although in the visa requirement we are all required to have AU$ 5,000 in our bank statement, many of working holiday visa makers, as far as I know, don’t actually bring that amount of money on their first arrival, including me!

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So, how much do we actually need to bring when we first come here? Hmm, before giving you the answer to that question, I think it’s best that you answer this question yourself first:

What kind of accommodation do I want to stay and where?

This is a very crucial question since accommodation will contribute to a significant (if not most) part of your first expense. Some people want to live in the city and some others don’t mind living at outer CBD area. Some people need to have a private room while some others don’t mind sharing with a few friends. It all depends on your preference and of course, your budget. Now, here’s the budget you’re looking at when you make your choice.

  1. Private room, shared bathroom – CBD area –> min. approx. $300-400 pw
  2. Room share (2 person), shared bathroom – CBD –> min. approx. $200 pp/pw (per-person/per-week)
  3. Room share (3-5 person), shared bathroom – CBD –> approx. $125 – 150 pp/pw
  4. Private room, shared bathroom – suburb –> min.approx. $200-250 pw
  5. Room share (2 person), shared bathroom – suburb –> approx $120 – 150 pp/pw
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My room in Mascot

List of CBD area: Ultimo, Darlinghurst, Central, Chippendale, Pyrmont, Surry Hills, Haymarket, Redfern, Newtown, Darlington, Glebe, Potts Point.

List of suburb areas preferred by backpackers: Mascot, Ashfield, Marrickville, Leichardt, Eastern Suburbs (Bondi, Maroubra, Coogee, Randwick, Kingsford, Kensington) .

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Residential area in Mascot

Check on Gumtree and Flatmates to browse for accommodation. Some people also find accommodation through Facebook group, including me.

So, have you made up your mind yet? Don’t forget to budget the deposit you need to give to your landlord upon moving in. It’s usually 2-4 week of rent and refundable when you move out, given you’re well-behaved, of course!

SIM Card

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Now, when you arrive in Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport, you can immediately get your prepaid SIM card on the way to the exit. There are Optus and Vodafone’s counters that sell and help you activate your SIM card. I bought the Optus one for $20 (which worth $40 recharge voucher). With $20, I get a new phone number, 6GB internet data, unlimited calls & SMS to Australian phone numbers, and 90 mins international calls to selected 20 countries (the sales assistant will explain to you everything on this) for 28 days use.

First transportation to your new house

Ok, you’ve got that SIM card and now you have these big and small luggage and bags. Are you sure you can take bus or train with all these luggages? I couldn’t! So, I decided to take Uber instead. In Australia, you can only pay Uber with card (debit/credit). You don’t have your debit card yet, so it’s best to keep your old credit card active and use it in such emergency. I took Uber from the airport to my rent house in Mascot (near Rosebery) for $17. If you think you can carry all your bags and take the bus, the bus stop is not far from the arrival gate. Just ask some officers in the airport where it is. They’re very helpful.

Public transportation

OK, how about transportation budget during your first exploration days in Sydney? The transportation in Sydney quite expensive. For detailed information on Sydney transportation, check out: http://www.transportnsw.info/  . They don’t charge you for the new card, just how much money you want to deposit in the card. I put $50 for my Opal card balance, which lasted for a bit less than 2 weeks. I don’t hang out everyday, so I don’t spend too much on this. But if you hang out everyday, you’re probably going to spend around $40 a week for transport.

Groceries shopping

After you put all your luggage in your room, you might want to to a little bit of groceries shopping. My first groceries shopping at Woolworths cost me about $40 for rice, veggies, fruits, Greek Yogurt, canned fish, etc. And I also did a little shopping at Daiso for some household tools. Daiso’s one price for everything in Australia is $2.80.

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My first groceries shopping in Australia

Here are some groceries’ price examples:

Rice (1kg) : start from AU$ 2

Sugar (1kg) : AU$ 1.00

Chicken egg (6pcs) : AU$ 2.99

Milk (2 Litres) – homebrand : AU$ 2.00

Pasta (500 gr.) : start from AU$ 1.00

For more info, check out Coles & Woolworths websites.

Summary

To wrap up everything I’ve mentioned above, here’s the list of expenses on your first days in Sydney (with examples on value):

  1. Accommodation :  $800 (2 week deposit + 2 week rent)
  2. SIM card : $ 40 (for 28 days)
  3. Uber : $ 17 – 30
  4. Opal card : $ 120-150 (for 4 weeks)
  5. Groceries : $ 100 (for 4 weeks)
  6. Home supplies & tools : $ 40
  7. Meals (when you eat out) : AU$12-15 per-meal

Those add up to around AU 1,500 for the first 4 weeks of your stay in Sydney. And I believe that’s the minimum amount you will spend in your first month, because many people spend more than that. That, of course, depends on your lifestyle and how long you want to relax without working.

So, I hope this helps you plan your budget to move to Sydney and don’t hesitate to drop a comment if you have anymore questions.

Cheers,

Ariesa

Packing for Working Holiday Australia

Hey guys,

As you might have known, I’ve just moved to Sydney 3 weeks ago. In the previous post I have talked about my first impressions on Sydney, Australia. And in this post, I’d like to share some tips on what to prepare before your departure to Australia, especially if you’re coming to Sydney. I will talk about things to pack since it’s not a cheap place to live in, so you want to to be extra careful with money here. In the next post, I will talk about budget you need to prepare before your departure for Australia (especially Sydney).

What to bring and what to ditch

Many things are indeed expensive here. But, some things are not that expensive that you HAVE to bring it all the way across the continent just to save a very few dollars. Before doing all the packings I also did a little research from other working holiday visa makers, especially the Indonesian ones, just to get some ideas of the daily supplies that are expensive in Australia. But apparently, I made LOTS of mistakes. I bought and brought too many unnecessary things back in Indonesia that I couldn’t even manage to pack all of them into 30kgs baggage!

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Major packing drama

Here are some things I recommend you to bring from home and will help you survive on your first days:

1. Bed sheets –> OK, it’s probably also a good idea if you check with your landlord/housemates if these things are provided in the rent and if they are brand new. If you want to buy it here, its price is around AU$ 18 to $22 for a single-sized bed sheet. Compared to the price in Indonesia, I think it’s a bit more expensive since I can get something better in quality or bigger in size for similar or cheaper price.

2. Light blanket –> same with bed sheets, check with your landlord/housemates first if this is provided in the rent. But usually we’d rather bring our own blanket for hygiene reason. If you want to buy it here, in K-Mart and Target they sell it at around AU$ 10-12 for a fleece blanket. It’s soft and cozy enough for 18-22 degree evenings.

3. Light jacket/cardigan –> except if you come in winter. You’d want to bring your winter coat instead 🙂 If you come in the summer like me, you still have to bring at least 1 jacket and 1 cardigan. The weather is usually nice and sunny in Sydney, but it also gets windy and cool sometimes.

4. Lots of casual tee shirts/tank-tops, polo-shirts, shorts and jeans –> they’re wearable almost everyday and you don’t want to spend your AU$ on just casual wears like these.

5. Sneakers, thongs/flip-flops or girly sandals/flats –> you know: for beach, city strolls, Blue Mountain hikes, etc etc…

6. Other types of clothing –> it really depends on what kind of jobs you target. If you want casual jobs in cafes/restaurants, you won’t really need them. In my case, I brought quite a lot of business attires to prepare for job interviews.

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Pillow sheet, bed sheet, fleece blanket and Taylor Swift Perfume 30mL

And here are the things I recommend you to leave out of your luggage:

  1. Toiletries –> you can easily find toiletries here and buy them cheap at Chemist stores. One of the most famous for its competitive price is Chemist Warehouse. Check out their products and price on: Chemist Warehouse website.
  2. Perfume –> there are many brands of perfume with SUPER cheap price also at Chemist Warehouse. I bought my Taylor Swift perfume for just AU$ 10 (30mL)!
  3. Detergent –> although detergent is indeed a bit expensive here, around AU$ 5-10 (compared to the price in Indonesia), some landlords already provide this and other cleaning supplies in the property. You might want to check with your housemates/landlord first.
  4. Food supplies & seasonings –> this is what Asian fellows usually like to bring to Western countries 😀 But seriously, Asian shops and restaurants are EVERYWHERE in Sydney. You can even buy our all time national favorite Indomie goreng at Coles and Woolies for $0.65 😀
  5. Cutleries, dishwares & cooking wares –> I was about to bring these things! Don’t bother! Find them at Daiso or K-Mart IF you really have to buy them. Some landlords also provide these things in the property, so you have less things to worry about 🙂

If you want to compare other things’ prices in Australian retails, check out on their websites:

Coles

Woolworths

K-Mart

Target

Hope this helps you sorting out the things you want to pack for your trip to Sydney. See you in my next post 😉

Cheers,

Ariesa

A New Life in Sydney

Hey there,

I’ve been having a super hectic-but-exciting week as I just moved to Sydney, Australia. I’ll be living in Australia for at least 1 year on a work and holiday visa. Some of you might already know what kind of visa it is, so I’m not going to explain again in here. However, in this post, I’d like to share some surprising experience that I’ve had during my pre-arrival preparations and first few days in Sydney. By sharing these, I don’t mean to compare between cities or anything. Every city and country has its own specialties, cultures and way of living. I just hope to help people who wish to come visit Sydney for vacation or probably working holiday like I do 🙂

  1. Finding a private room is actually tricky if you’re not in the city yet

OK, maybe I was too early to start my room search. I started looking around the websites such as: Gumtree and Flatmates 3 weeks before I actually arrived in Sydney. Nobody on Gumtree bothered to reply my message AT ALL! 1 or 2 people on Flatmates replied only to say that they could not wait for 3 weeks. So, I waited until it was less than 2 weeks left before my arrival. Still only a few more people responded to my message. My friend who lives here also helped me texting some other people on Gumtree (via SMS). There was more response but still not more than 60% response rate. She also helped me do the inspection, but at the end, the landlord gave it to the person who’d move in sooner.

It is totally understandable why people don’t like to wait for the next tenant to move in. Room rent here is very expensive (the rate is per-week, not per-month!), less tenant in the unit means more costs (sharing bills and full-house rent) to existing tenants. More information on accommodation costs can be found on the websites that advertise them: Gumtree/Flatmates.

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view from my private balcony 🙂

After a lot of drama (read: almost got scammed 2x!) and anxiety, I finally found an ad on FB group. The ad was posted by an Indonesian male that looked like student.It was already 2 days before my arrival to Sydney. My friend helped me text the number on the ad and the landlord finally skyped me later that day to show me around the house and room. I immediately liked it and decided to book the room. FYI, the landlord is also an Indonesian. Coming from similar home country of course helps a lot in finding a room here!

2. Getting around by bus can be confusing

Well, actually the most confusing transportation system that I know by far is in Indonesia (read: Kopaja/Metro Mini/Mikrolet). In Jakarta, there’s no bus stop (except for busway), no schedule and no fixed route (sometimes bus drivers will skip some area just to make a shortcut).

However, bus system in Sydney is also challenging if you don’t have a smartphone with GMaps with you. The bus stops are nicely maintained. There is sign what stop it is and which bus stops there and there’s also timetable too (which I think is pretty reliable). But once you’re in the bus, you don’t know where you are right now and what the next stop is. There is no digital sign nor driver calls the name of the stop. In Taiwan, you’re not going to lose it since there’s at least a digital sign showing current and next stop in Mandarin Chinese and English.

  3. The city looks a bit like Singapore

There are some factors that make it look and feel like Singapore, except for the fact that people here are much more friendly.  First of all, it is a melting spot of people from many different races, cultures and countries. I hear a lot of languages spoken in the city and see varieties of food is sold in food courts and restaurants.

Second, the most famous tourist spot is located in the heart of the city, just like Merlion in Singapore. And there is also a restaurant/cafe by the quay that views the Harbour Bridge.

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Sydney Opera House

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CNY lantern in Circular Quay

Third, the city is very metropolitan with modern style buildings. Though there are also several old-style buildings that remind me of Europe, like the State Library, St. Mary’s Cathedral and a few hotels.

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Royal Botanic Gardens

       4. Fruits and veggies are pretty cheap super fresh!

I’ve done grocery shopping at Woolworths (or Woolies) twice and am satisfied! The veggies and fruits are fresh and actually cheap!! I bought 1kg of bananas for only AU$ 1,97 and mixed salad veggies (300gr or approx. 4 meals) for only AU$ 3! So, unlike in Jakarta, healthy food is not a luxurious thing in Australia 🙂

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Well, since I have been here only for 4 days, I think that’s all I’m going to share for now. I am thrilled to see what I’m going to discover next. So, make sure you follow my blog and my instagram: @ariesalie to wait for my stories 🙂

Cheers,

Ariesa