Melbourne is the world’s best place to live, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2011 and 2012 Global Liveability Surveys.
With 140 cities ranked according to stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education and infrastructure, Melbourne scored 97.5, slightly ahead of Vienna (97.4), Vancouver (97.3) and Toronto (97.2).
The highest-ranked Asian city was Osaka at 12th place (95.2). Manila ranked 105th (62.0), below Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok but above New Delhi, Jakarta and Hanoi. The lowest ranked was Dhaka.
It is impossible to get lost in Melbourne. Streets are arranged in a grid, with very clearly written signs and pedestrian signals are located at every intersection.
In Manila, traffic enforcers turn traffic lights on and off, buses and jeepneys carom haphazardly, MRT and LRT have too few carriages to decongest the streets.
We did not see any traffic cop in Melbourne. Multiple trams circle in and out of the city every few minutes, bus and subways run on time and taxis respect road rules. The City Circle tram is free and so is the Visitor Shuttle, patronized not only by tourists but also by locals.
Though not as spick-and-span as Singapore, Melbourne is green, with numerous parks and gardens and the flowing Yarra River. Pollution is nonexistent. The sun is intense but the air is crisp. We discarded asthma medication during our stay.
Only a few hours away from Melbourne are Great Ocean Road, Yarra Valley, the Phillip Island Penguins, Mornington Peninsula and other scenic wonders.
Low crime rate
According to the Liveability Survey, most places that scored high are mid-sized, with low population densities. (Hopefully we will get our population under control, with the passage of the reproductive health bill.) The survey says good cities have low crime, “functioning” infrastructure and accessible recreation.
The murder rate in the city is only 2.7 per 100,000 people (compared to 4.8 in the United States). When we walked home from the theater at 11 p.m., we did not worry. Streetlights were on and, though we were the only people on narrow lanes, we felt totally safe.
Hotels or malls had no guards and nobody searched bags or packages for bombs.
From January to June 2012, Metro Manila had 29,231 index and petty crimes, 57-percent higher than the 18,671 recorded for the same period the year before. The Philippine National Police attributed the crime rise to big population, though I am sure corruption and poverty are also to blame.
Melbourne abounds in culture, from graffiti art on city walls to museums of all sorts.
The theater scene is vibrant. In “War Horse,” stage horses built of wood, leather and metal took at least three actors to maneuver—think of dragon dance with horses. But production was so seamless that the actors somehow became invisible to us, and “War Horse” was even more moving on stage than on film.
In “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” the incomparable Australian actor Geoffrey Rush showed why he deserved his Academy, Emmy and Tony awards. A classic farce, the show boasts of music by Stephen Sondheim.
Proud of its diversity, Melbourne is home to people from 180 countries, with more than 200 languages and more than 100 religions. Everyone manages to live in peace, with none of the hate crimes so common in the West.
The food is fantastic: Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, French, American (steaks), English (pies), Australian (fish and chips). Even McDonald’s is lighter and tastier—fresh salads and chicken without hormones make all the difference.
What impressed us most were the friendly people. When taxis did not run on Boxing Day (Dec. 26), a lady offered us a ride to the outskirts of town to Werribee Open Range Zoo, where we saw giraffes and oryxes up close, safari style.
When we went late to the cinema, someone in the audience called out for people to raise their hands and point us towards available seats. On the trams, some teens gave their seats to senior citizens, something that seldom happens here anymore.
The only negatives were the high prices and the short store hours. But we certainly agree with the Global Liveability Surveys. Melbourne, take a bow!
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