On the Weekend Explorer for ABC Perth Saturday Breakfast, I recently explored space and rediscovered my memories of Skylab and discovered observatories, big dishes, astrotourism towns, astronauts in Carnarvon, emus in the sky and starlapse wonder by local photographer, Dan Paris.
Listen to the link below to learn more about Astrotourism and some really good music but really bad space jokes:
One of our best ever Hidden Treasures stories of all time! With special guest star, global writing superstar Molly Schmidt, we explored local books and the use of local locations and how they inspire our travels.
Listen to our chat below and learn not just what our favourite Western Australian books are but how important those local locations can be:
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!
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:
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.
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:
Atlantis: King Neptune and his trident watching protectively over his leaping dolphins.
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.
El Caballo Blanco: White horses goose stepping, dancing and prancing to shouts of Ole!
Wanneroo Lion Park: Ex-circus lions with a warning sign, “Trespassers will be eaten”.
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:
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.