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Your guide to Dandenong
Name: Preeti Jabbal Position: RACV Noble Park North shop manager Why she loves it: Eclectic, vibrant and multi-cultural Absolute favourite? The biryani at Chandni Chowk is amazing
Shri Shiva Vishnu Temple in Carrum Downs (13 kilometres from Dandenong) is the largest Hindu temple in Victoria. A collaboration between the Sri Lankan and Indian communities, it opened in 1994. Inspired by Dravidian architecture, it’s a building you cannot miss if you are driving down Boundary Road. People throng there for festivals and the in-house vegetarian cafe is popular. I’m not a Hindu but the temple is open to people from all religions to visit.
Foster Street’s Little India is Melbourne’s first official Indian cultural precinct. The cafes are reasonably priced and the food is authentic.
If anyone’s into Bollywood clothes or music, this is the place. There’s even a museum (Museum India, 3/85 Foster Street) with a large collection of artefacts.
The biryani at Chandni Chowk (72 Foster St) is amazing. Bikaner Sweet & Curry Cafe (5/52B Foster Street) does the best sweets and snacks and often run out of jalebis because they are delicious.
Visit the Drum
The Drum Theatre (Lonsdale and Walker Streets), is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
It is a contemporary performing arts space behind the heritage facade of the town hall, built in 1890. I once saw a performance in Tamil that was also translated into English.
The Drum is the home of the Dandenong Theatre Company, and you can do behind-the-scenes tours.
Go to market
Dandenong Market (corner Clow and Cleeland Streets) is Melbourne’s second-largest and second-oldest market, turning 150 this year. It’s very multicultural with about 200 traders catering for 150 nationalities. Opening four days a week (Tuesday, Friday-Sunday), it’s always very busy.
There’s a lot of competition between vendors and if you visit near closing time you’ll find they sell everything for ridiculous prices.
You can pick up a bargain if you’re not too fussy.
Splash of colour
Holi or the Festival of Colours was held in March at Sandown Racecourse (591-659 Princes Highway, Noble Park).
Holi is a popular festival in India. It has a religious background but now it’s more about celebrating friendship and having fun. You get colours to smear on each other’s faces and there’s dancing and singing. The festival is run by The Australian Indian Innovations Incorporated. The venue can change, so visit aiii.org.au to check details of Holi and other Indian events.
Enjoy a drive in
The Lunar Drive-in Theatre (115 South Gippsland Highway, Dandenong) is a great place to celebrate.
It’s $30 (Thursday-Sunday) (or $25 Monday-Wednesday) for a carload of people, so it’s economical. You can line up a few cars with family and friends, put some chairs out and have a little party. You tune your FM stereo to the right channel for the movie sound track. That’s what I’m thinking of doing for my birthday.
Melissa Bar Cafe, in the heart of Dandenong (225 Lonsdale Street) is a stylish modern place that specialises in Greek food and cakes and it’s also great for breakfast.
The original Melissa cafe started in Collingwood in 1969 and the Dandenong cafe is the latest addition. It attracts a mix of people. The weekends can be busy.
Hemmings Park (61-75 Princes Highwy), across the road from Dandenong High School, is a large complex with an adventure playground, BMX tracks and a skate park.
The skate park has ramps, jumps and blocks and caters for beginners, teenagers and adults with progressive levels of difficulty. My son goes there with his friends and he thinks it’s really cool.
The Afghan bazaar cultural precinct, based around Thomas Street, has about 20 shops including restaurants, groceries, Halal butcher shops and even a carpet shop. My Afghani friends really like Shams Restaurant (202 Thomas Street) because of the well-cooked, tender meat.
It’s authentic Afghani cuisine and often there are queues because it is so popular. Salang (343 Lonsdale Street) is a fancier restaurant to take friends. You can also do cultural tours of the precinct.
Take a walk
The Dandenong Wetlands has lots of walking and bike trails, plus there’s a bird hide and a playground. The bike trail that runs through it goes down and around central Dandenong before following EastLink to the Bay at Patterson Lakes.
In the other direction, you can follow trails and tracks to the Dandenongs.