Bendigo was thrust into the spotlight last year when Marilyn Monroe graced the town’s art gallery with her presence, but did you know that the true highlight of the town is made from papier mâché and only comes out once a year? As someone born in Bendigo, it’s my duty to get you all up to speed.
Once bustling with Chinese gold miners during the gold rush in the 1850s, Bendigo’s Chinese heritage rarely gets the credit it deserves. However, the annual Easter festival does pay homage to the town’s history. The highlight of the festival is Sun Loong, a 100 metre long imperial dragon. A delight of mirrors, colourful balls and Papier Mâché, Son Loong has been parading the streets of Bendigo since 1970. Every child who ever grew up in Bendigo has fond memories of Sun Loong.
To shed some light on the history of Bendigo’s gold rush and the town’s connection to the dragons, be sure to visit the Golden Dragon Museum. The dragons hold some sort of beautiful eeriness when they are asleep, and a team of volunteers (usually descendants of Chinese miners) are more than happy to tell you stories of their ancestors. Sun Loong is the longest Imperial Dragon in the Southern Hemisphere, and will be replaced by Dai Gum Loong next year if the funds are raised. You can bet this new guy is going to be pretty special.
The Bendigo Art Gallery has certainly made its mark in the art world. They are currently hosting the House of Mirrors, and boy is it trippy. Created by Melbourne installation artists Christian Wagstaff and Keith Courtney, the exhibition draws on a concoction of history, science and literature to create a sensory experience that will leave you very confused.
Bendigo has become a destination for foodies, so if you fall under this category be sure to visit The Wholefoods Kitchen. The staff are super friendly and extremely knowledgeable. The menu changes seasonally, with a quality array of vegan and carnivorous options. Everything is organically grown and locally sourced. Choose their takeaway option if you are pushed for time.
Bendigo is easily accessible from Melbourne, with trains running hourly from Southern Cross station. Alternatively, take a two-hour road trip up Calder highway. For the honour and delight of seeing Sun Loong, it’s more than worth the trip.
Maddie Kilby is a freelance writer amongst many vocations and is the type of person who gets bored easily and likes to find herself in weird places doing weird things.
The Golden Dragon Museum is open Tuesdays – Sundays from 9.30am – 5.00pm. General admission for an adult is $11. The Venue is accessible.