Radio Melayu: Exploring Singapore and Sarawak with DJ Wan and special guest the Consul General of Malaysia, Mr Ahmad Fikri

Kuching murals are a great reason to walk around the city

Having just returned from Singapore and Sarawak I was given a great opportunity to talk fast and furiously with DJ Wan on Radio Melayu about my experiences.

We also had the Consul General of Malaysia, Mr Ahmad Fikri, come on the show and talk about his experiences of Sarawak and what we had spoken about together at a recent Tourism Malaysia event.

From some destinations in Singapore you might not be aware of to Sarawak, a land of constant activity by day and night, it was a wonderful opportunity to describe my adventures and encourage listeners to book their flights!

The Vagabond Club in Singapore is small in size but enormous in luxury and intrigue

As Published in Have A Go News: Discovering the Joy of Main Streets

The Main Street of York is full of history, cafes, books and lollies

Growing up in a country town, the main street was a great place to walk down on a Saturday morning to see who else was out and about.

Main Streets of Western Australia continue to define the life of their communities. It might just be to go to the butcher or grocer, pick up the newspaper (maybe a copy of Have A Go News!) or some rope from the trading post. Or it might be that you’re on a road trip and want to buy the best sausage roll in town or look through a local museum.

Main streets are great reasons to get out and explore regional communities at any time of year.

Below is a story I recently had published about some of the best main streets in WA, and the best reasons for a walk down them:

Tom & Matilda Provide a Fathers Day Surprise on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast

I was all ready to go with Ro on ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast and get stuck into our topic for the day when all of a sudden she played a package recorded by Matilda and Tom.

It was all about Fathers Day and was the brilliant idea of ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast Producer, the amazing Ebonnie.

I didn’t know about it before the show but now I know it word for word, I can’t stop listening to it!

Enjoy the audio below:

Matilda & Tom

As published in Just Urbane: Just saying it is an adventure …. Malacca!

For the August issue of Just Urbane I’ve written a story about Malacca. The Straits of Malacca is one of those bodies of water that is famous for its pirates and spice traders. Malacca is more than a melting pot of culture, it’s a seething cauldron! The Dutch, Portugese, Chinese, Indian, Malay and British influence is in the buildings, it’s in the food, it’s in the craft and art of the little alley shops and it’s in the streets and on the river.

Enjoy reading my story below:

And if that’s not enough to get you on the next flight to Malaysia, here’s a couple of pics of my Malacca:

Quiet streets just waiting for you to wander down them
Late night cafes and bars by the riverfront

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast: Theme Parks from our past and present

Sharknado! Sunway in KL hosts this jawsome experience!

There are not many reasons better for a long day out, or a bucket list travel journey, than the fun to be had at a theme park.  The rides, the costumed characters, even the overpriced food and merchandise is an experience most of us will indulge in.

On ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we had a wonderful discussion about our theme park experiences which, it must be said, included some embarrassing moments. Enjoy the audio file below and then below that, just a few words to help with your own memories of theme parks:

My tv childhood in a four-word nutshell was:  The Banana Splits Show

Even better than the cartoons and antics of The Banana Splits were the opening and closing credits, much of which showed them having fun at Six Flags Over Texas, a 1960’s era theme park still going strong today.  Lots of log rides into water and stomach heaving roller coasters. It was the first place I ever wanted to visit.

Theme Parks From Perth’s Past:

  1. Atlantis: King Neptune and his trident watching protectively over his leaping dolphins.
  2. Dizzy Lamb Park:  Bumper boats, creaking ferris wheels, a few worn out kangaroos and from the footage I’ve seen, plenty of piles of yellow sand to throw sand boondies.
  3. El Caballo Blanco:  White horses goose stepping, dancing and prancing to shouts of Ole!
  4. Wanneroo Lion Park: Ex-circus lions with a warning sign, “Trespassers will be eaten”.
  5. Armadale’s Pioneer Village: Every kid could get a wanted poster with their pic on it and tough old boiled lollies would last the journey between Armadale and Albany.

The Overseas Experience:

  1. Legoland: Lego themed rides and even a driving school and Lego boats.  The only Lego experience they haven’t perfected is the walking on a Lego brick experience.
  2. Disneyland:  If the Banana Splits opening credits didn’t inspire your first travel bucket list item then it was most likely Disneyland, particularly when once a week the Wonderful World of Disney would come on the telly (I said telly) and the opening credits would show clips of Disneyland, including the monorail that looked like Captain Nemo’s submarine (I had the lunchbox). Visiting Disneyland was completely wonderful, particularly rides like the Jungle Cruise. The classic Tea Cups continue to boggle my mind.  How do they spin and circle around on a turntable at the same time?
  3. Movie Inspired:  Sharknado!  Perhaps it’s age inappropriate that Tom’s favourite movies are the Sharknado series so an opportunity to visit Sunway in KL to experience Sharknado was too good to be true and unexpectantly scary and gory. Sunway is gloriously full of water slides and aquatic themed fun.
  4. Waterbom Park is an institution for many people who visit Bali.  I did a slide that I got stuck in and the pipe had to be opened to let me out.
  5. Haw Par Villa: I’m looking forward to describing this in more detail at a later date.  Let’s just say this is a theme park like no other. It’s been frightening Chinese children in Singapore since 1937.  Be Good! Or else!

Theme Parks are Hidden Treasures because … just like the Banana Splits theme says; you can have a “mess of fun and there’s lots of fun for everyone” and no doubt you’ll come home with an overpriced fridge magnet or coffee cup with your photo on it, to always remember a great day out.

Mickey, Tom and Minnie at Disneyland. I can’t pick who has the biggest smile.

Quiet India … ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast heads offshore for Hidden Treasures

A very quiet India

Have you been to a popular destination but found somewhere secluded or unexplored?  Maybe you’ve been to an agricultural region in Italy or a little village in a busy country?  What about a small wildlife park in Africa that wasn’t the Serengeti or Kruger?

Every centimetre of Earth may now have been mapped by Google Earth, and footsteps are to be found everywhere as well, but there are still places that are less travelled and a very different experience than the representations we see in travel shows and read in books.

When Ebonnie and I were discussing this as a topic for ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast I gave her my example and she said she had been to this country and toured the famous Golden Triangle which for good reason is on the bucket lists for most people who travel or dream about travel.

We’re talking about India. We’re talking about Kerala.

I was drawn to India with radio cricket coverage of heaving grounds and the heaving stomach of Dean Jones making 210.  Cricketers tour diary stories talk more about the crush of humanity and the noise of car horns and blocked streets than the cricket being played.

Kochi is the capital of Kerala, a southern state of India and unfortunately lacks a team in the IPL.

The 300 year old Old Harbour Hotel represents a lot of India’s colonial history with the Portuguese, Dutch and English.  Across the road are the Chinese Fishing Nets, fresh food markets and around the corner are art galleries and studios.  And quiet streets.

I literally walk down the middle of streets and alleyways. I occasionally get the tinkling of a bell from a cyclist and on one occasion I help an old man push a cart that is blocking no other traffic but he needs a helping hand anyway.

As you meander and mooch your way through Fort Kochi you will discover that amongst the cafes, restaurants, churches and synagogues are beautiful local art galleries and textile shops.

To the south of Fort Kochi are the Allepey Backwaters.  Often described as the ‘Venice of the East’ I think it should be the other way around.  Venice should have to describe itself as the ‘Allepey of the West’.

Watch life on the banks unfold before your eyes. Old men discussing the problems of the world, children throwing sticks into the water for dogs to retrieve and women trying to wash clothes are getting wet by shaking dogs that emerge triumphantly from the river, stick in mouth.

I pull into a little shop by the side of the canal, reverse parallel parking my boat, and make friends with one of the locals, a crested goshawk, who decides to perch on my shoulder and watch me closely. I’m glad I’m not a mouse.

This network of interconnected canals and river systems are over 900 kilometres long. They are naturally occurring and have been created by tides, currents and waves. 

It’s one of India’s most popular getaway destinations and this is evident by the size of the houseboats that chug past me. These houseboats are called kettuvallams and most started life as grain barges until transporting tourists become more profitable than transporting grain. 

Some are very luxurious and most appear to be airconditioned and great billows of smoke erupt from the stern of many of these boats as tandoor grills prepare the next meal for those onboard.

Leaving the backwaters I head east to the hills of Munnar. A long, winding and ascending road with many waterfalls along the way to stop and cool the feet.

Stop in Munnar to buy the best quality tiffins you’ll ever find.

Accommodation is surrounded by tea plantations and jungle shrouded mountains.

As the morning sun and temperature rise, so too does the fog that has settled overnight in the surrounding gullies and valleys of the forest floor. 

In my bright blue Mahindra 4×4 I set about tackling some of the off-road tracks in the area and only stop to buy some fresh jackfruit from a roadside stall.

The beautiful Allepey Backwaters

This is a very different part of India and I’m reminded in many ways of what it’s like to live in my part of the world, Western Australia. 

When most people come to Australia the big-ticket items are Uluru, Kakadu, the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House.  In WA we know how good it is here but we’re both literally and metaphorically over the horizon for a lot of visitors.

Kerala is a hidden treasure because it’s not what you expect of India.  It’s better than your expectations and it challenges your perception of this wonderful country.  If I could find a local comparison, it’s a bit like the way we think of Wadjemup. 

That feeling of not needing a watch. Not because of anything romantic like time standing still, just because time doesn’t seem to matter.  In a bustling country like India this is why Kerala is a hidden treasure and most likely is India’s very own Bonnie Doon.

ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast finds that serenity and Bonnie Doon is all around us

How’s the serenity?  That question has a special place in Australian culture as a great line from the movie, The Castle.  The Kerrigan’s serenity was getting away to Bonnie Doon. It’s more than a great line though.  It’s an important part of life. We all need to seek out opportunities to experience the serenity and this morning on Hidden Treasure we want to know where you go to find serenity.  Where’s your Bonnie Doon?

Can we start with why serenity is a hidden treasure?

Serenity is a hidden treasure because it recharges us.  Serenity is what we all crave, either at that little café around the corner after peak hour, the park bench at the top of the hill at sunrise or sunset, the path around your local lake or an annual escape to a camping ground where flannel shirts and smoky green wood rule supreme.

Serenity in the Avon Valley

My Godfather, Uncle Mike, always says he wasn’t born in the Kimberley but when he’s there he feels home.  Serenity can be a sense of place as well as a sense of rest.

For me, the Dryandra Woodlands are an opportunity to let everyone sleep in while I watch the world wake up with a cup of tea and a gingernut biscuit, seeing how long it takes the rising sun to melt the frost on the grass in front of the woodcutters cottage.

Being on a boat always gets me as well.  Being on the water feels removed from the problems on land.  When I’m on travel jobs I always request opportunities to get on a boat; an old fishing boat, a ferry, a barge, it doesn’t matter.  I might tell my client it’s about providing a great description for my story but really, it’s just about me loving the serenity I feel for being on the water.   

Let’s look at some ways people find serenity:

Go small; local cafes and parks.

Go large; being overseas to escape the weather (poolside lounges and day spas).

Getting out of the city; this one time, in the Kimberley.

Camping; slow down the routine, slow down the heart rate.

Bushwalks; breathe deeper and rest awhile.

Being away from people

Sunrises and sunsets

Proving to Tom that the sun comes up every day and gives us a chance at a fresh start

I took my mate Dennis out in my dad’s boat once.  The mighty Red Witch.  I remember we caught fish, we caught the salty spray in our faces but what I remember most was the filling of the soul, the filling of the tank to get back into the fight to tackle the noisiness of life on land.  

Find your Bonnie Doon and you’ve found hidden treasure.

ABC Saturday Breakfast: Markets here at home and further away

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we’re talking about markets.  From craft markets, organic markets, wet markets and community markets, we’re sure we’ll find something for you to seek out this whenever your next weekend drive is planned.  

What’s more of a sensory overload wherever you are in the world than a good market?  We’re going to provide some good options throughout Perth but I want to start with some international market experiences as well. 

When we decided to explore markets, I was taken back through the humid mists of time to a market north of Khao Lak in Thailand. 

My kids were drawn by aisles of backpacks and shirts but all of a sudden we were slipping and sliding our way through the wet market which had all sorts of animal fluids on the concrete floor and the smells and sights of a different cultures cuts of meat opened my kids eyes wider than the cows eyes rolling around on the table.

If you get the chance to visit Kuala Lumper then a visit to Chow Kit and Jalan Alor will give you a night out you will never forget, full of tightly packed stalls with seafood ready to be grilled to order, high piles of rambutans, jackfruit and stinky durian. 

Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur

These are markets where the locals eat and buy their produce to eat at home.  These are markets that bring outsiders in and that’s what makes a good market anywhere in the world or anywhere in our suburbs; it attracts the locals and the outsiders.

In Hong Kong, Tom and I went to Cat Street which is full to the brim with curios which just happens to be one of my favourite words!  Curios!  Tables filled with piles of watches, Mao Tse Tung statuettes, brooches and badges.  It was a great market for that feeling that you have to dig to find the treasure. (Tom’s story about the dragon pocket watch).

Tom in Hong Kong at Cat Street Market

Here in Perth we have so many markets in Perth that I have come up with a collective noun for markets.

We have a Mooch of Markets in Perth.

Rockingham Rotary Sunday Market:  A Rotary Club run market and your donation when you enter the markets helps fund community projects. This is one of the great car boot style markets.  Handmade goods and crafts are on sale as well, as well as trestles groaning under the weight of piles of action figures and hot wheels cars  and soft toys. Tom is a collector of Garfield so he’s an expert rummager at these markets.

Vic Park Community Market:  Let’s go fly a kite in Vic Park!  A broad expanse of grass with kite flying for the kids and lots of backyard grown veges of interesting shapes and sizes and local music to tap your feet to while you have a fresh donut and coffee.

Perth Upmarket at UWA (every 3 months):  Handmade crafts and artists are what the Upmarkets are known for and these are probably the markets with the best atmosphere, being in the hallowed grounds of the university. 

Kyilla Community Farmers Market:  Each Saturday by Kyilla Primary School as an opportunity to make the school community part of the local community.  Stalls focus on healthy living options, the line for bread always winds its way through the stalls. Proceeds from the stall fees go to the school for resources and learning projects.

Provedore Markets:  If you’re pandemic shy about travelling but longing for Europe, head to the Provedore Markets in Mount Hawthorn for a bit of Italy. Cheeses, meats, wines, gelato, pizza and pasta and those Italian soft drinks in the little bottles and music and long communal tables to enjoy your culinary loot alongside new friends.

Scarborough Sunset Market:  The sunset winter markets are held on Saturday nights and with the sounds of local DJs and a cold winter sea breeze at your back, enjoy  hot spicy foods and a hot chocolate with extra marshmallows. 

Mirrabooka Community Markets:  Finished for now but look out for when this one resumes. It’s a brilliant market that is probably Perth’s most culturally diverse and make sure you skip breakfast as there’s a lot of food from around the world to try.

Kalamunda Artisan Market:  More than a market, it’s a tourism destination on our beautiful escarpment.  Typically over 150 stalls and is a great reason to head to the hills for a day out, buying some local ceramics or artworks and getting enough fresh produce to make a picnic in the nearby parks and bushland. 

Mount Claremont Farmers Market:  Every Saturday morning and is full to the fence with stalls of seasonal fruit and veges, cheeses, pastries and flowers and when nectarines come out at the end of the year get in line as quick you can.

City Farm:  Real gardens to explore like something out of Mr McGregor’s garden in Peter Rabbit and lots of organic opportunities not just to eat but to spray on things you’re growing to eat.  The only thing you’ll find that’s sweeter than the honey for sale are maybe an ABC Presenter and Producer grabbing themselves a coffee before the start of Hidden Treasures. Get there by train and get off at Claisebrook Station.

Moorditj Markets (Sunday at the footy): Honey, seedlings, art, clothes, jewellery and deadly denim shopping bags

Markets are Hidden Treasures because it’s not just about being cheap and cheerful it’s about the fabric of a community that’s on display.  When we’re overseas we’re fascinated by trestles of cows heads and odd fruits. While culture can sometimes be confronting in a market, particularly overseas, here in our suburbs and even at the footy,  they show us what we grow and what we make and they are a honeypot for getting us outside and bringing us together and that’s what hidden treasure is all about. 

What’s your worst travel experience? Come on, can you beat a few of mine?

On ABC Saturday Breakfast we like to keep things inspiring and exciting but sometimes to do that we have to remember those moments that were less than perfect.

There’s certainly been a lot of excitement about being able to travel again.  It might be time to reunite with loved ones, use that voucher for travel that was cancelled because of the pandemic or maybe it’s the first family trip overseas?

There’s a lot to be excited about but on Hidden Treasures we thought we’d look at some of the experiences that have become great stories but at the time might have caused a bit of anxiety or discomfort.  Have you been stuck in an airport sleeping on a plastic chair because of delayed flights?  Have you been bitten by something?  Have you had non-stop rain or got bogged with a rising tide on the beach?

Think about it!  What story are you more interested in?  The glistening toilet in a six-star resort suite or a bucket on a barge, one night on the border between Malaysia and Thailand.

I love any good story and I think some of the best stories in the world are survival stories.  Surviving storm tossed seas, stumbling over endless dunes in the Sahara, being attacked and left for dead by a bear!

But there are also those survival stories, those horrible tales that are told when we’re home safe and sound from our travels.

Having to sleep on a plastic chair in a busy airport with one eye open to guard your luggage.  Having to sleep on a plastic chair in a busy airport while they try and find your luggage.

To help us along I’ve come up with four categories:

Bureaucracy:

Travelling with my daughter and being detained in South Africa due to bureaucracy around child slavery laws.

Being stuck in an airport in the middle of the night with a toddler.

Events:

Attending the Indian festival of Deepavali in a far away land and feeling even further away after being hit in the head by a street lit firework that was aimed at my head.

Critters:

Being attacked by a flesh-eating spider in Borneo and forgetting my bedroom was split level.

Leeches! Just like the scene in Memphis Belle when they’re panicking over whose blood is all over the cockpit, my scenario was in a dinghy, deep in the jungles of Perak in Northern Malaysia.  We were wondering whose blood was sloshing around the bottom of the boat. It was all of us!

Accommodation:

Hotels in Rome are less hit and miss these days but I definitely got the miss on my first visit.  The pillow slip had been made in Ancient Roman times and barely held the mouldy pieces of foam where I was expected to rest my head. Nothing worse than a bad bed.

Houseboats.  For me, a category on their own.  I’ve stayed on a barge in the jungle with hygiene the Dark Ages would have been proud of and with a toileting task that required me to move my movements from the toilet on one side of the boat to the other. With a soup ladle.  I wasn’t eating anything that came out of that kitchen.

I’ve also stayed on what could only be described as a non airconditioned donger with floats, with two sets of my greatest friends who by the end of the trip were close to being my greatest enemies.  Tempers flared as temperatures rose. Lost items overboard. Bird sized mosquitoes.

Traditional Longhouse in Borneo.  Not so bad as a cultural experience but when you’ve had a few Tiger beers and you’re at the end of the longhouse and getting up for a wee in the middle of the night means walking on creaking bamboo slats that wakes everyone up it’s embarrassing and means you can’t get up again.

Motels by the side of highways.  If it’s not roadtrains going past it’s the the Peters Ice Cream truck parked outside with the genny on the truck running to stop the drumsticks from melting.  All night long …DRDRDRDRDRRDR.

Worst travel experiences are Hidden Treasures because as long as you’ve survived, you’ve got a great story and maybe a photo as well. Worst travel moments are hidden treasures because they’re character building.  God! I sound like my mother!

Picnic Spots for Mother’s Day, or any day really

For ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast we saw the need to take mum, or the aunties, out for Mother’s Day, or any day. While we could go to some of her favourite picnic spots, like Kings Park, Whiteman Park, Heathcote or the Cottesloe foreshore, we thought we’d keep her guessing and take her somewhere else.

We’ve decided to take mum to somewhere she’s never been.  We’ve decided to take mum on a picnic to a lesser known but no less beautiful spot to lay a rug down and open a sumptuous basket of goodies.

Enjoy listening to the discussion in the link below and reading the list below that:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/perth/programs/saturdaybreakfast/hidden-treasures-picnic-spots/13872014

Smiths Lake:

In North Perth and the baby brother of Hyde Park, Lake Monger and Herdsman Lake.  There’s grass, bbqs, little paths, little boardwalks and the best trees for climbing in Perth for little kids thanks to nearly horizontal branches close to the ground. 

Mardalup Park:

In East Perth between Claisebrook Cove and the Graham Farmer Freeway Bridge.  Picnic facilities and a tiny little beach and little jetty.

Bicton Baths Reserve:

BBQs, playground and next to the famous Bicton Baths which has one of the best jetties in Perth!  One of the best riverside picnic spots that might be fairly easy to get a car spot on Sunday.

Harold Boas Park:

Remember we discovered this park when we explored West Perth?  This is a wonderful park for Mother’s Day because it’s got secluded areas, noisy playground areas, water features that are shallow and great for toes and splashing and there’s lots of shady or sunny grass for the rug. 

Picnic Cove Park:

On the southwestern edge of Lake Joondalup is this great park that has the awesome criteria of being ‘out of the way’ and there are better known lakeside parks that get inundated on days like tomorrow. BBQ’s playground facilities and paths that are perfect for a bike ride to burn off the picnic feast you’ve made for mum.

Lake Jackadder:

In Woodlands, this is one of my favourite lakes and the slightly bigger brother of Smiths Lake but smaller than nearby Herdsman Lake.  This ticks all the boxes with shops and cafes if you haven’t got a picnic basket.  There’s a wonderful playground and lots of bbqs and swans and other birdlife and for Mother’s Day tomorrow I’m tipping the remote-controlled sailing club will hold a regatta for families who want to watch some clever sailing, just on a smaller scale.

Alkimos Playground:

We’re doing this for Mother’s Day but this picnic spot qualifies for lots of other reasons, including the Treasure Island Adventure Playground that is quirky, challenging and exciting.  Maybe this one is for mum to enjoy a nearby café brekky and multiple coffees while the kids spend some time in the playground.

Minnawarra Park:

This a wonderful park located in the historic precinct of Armadale.  It plays host to lots of community events and has plenty of grassed areas, picnic areas and a great little footbridge to trip trap over the Neerigen Brook, perfect perhaps for a Mother’s Day family photo.

Sullivan Rock:

About 30-40 minutes from Armadale on the Albany Highway.  There’s a nice little rest spot with table and bench seat on one side of the highway and a little brook to explore and is a great sport to hunt for taddys.  On the other side of the highway, crossing safely, is Sullivan Rock which is dog free and has a beautiful three-minute track through the bush to the rock which is easy to walk up, taking about 10 minutes though a bit quicker if you’re scared by scuttering lizards.  There are normally little rock pools on the top with beautiful reflections and there’s a great view over the top of the forest and out to Mount Cooke.

Get on the river:

With Nautipicnics you can drive your own boat without a Skippers Ticket and have a picnic on the boat, or the riverbank, or let someone else drive the boat with the Little Ferry Company and enjoy watching the life of the river.

Tomato Lake:

This great lake in Kewdale gets the award for the best named park.  There’s grass, water, playground, bbqs, trees, cafe and a one mile walk that includes a boardwalk, elevated over the lake that leads you to a gazebo. 

Picnic spots are hidden treasures because the environment around you plays the role of a stage in a play.  It’s just a setting for you to perform the way your family likes to, creating memories of a great day out.  It might be about the trees or the lake or the sweeping views, but most likely, it’s about time spent together with your family’s member of the most amazing club in the world, mums.

Smiths Lake … not as cool a name as Tomato Lake but one of my favourite spots.