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:
A few weeks ago, I spoke on the ABC about Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, and some of the tragic and heroic wartime history that connects Australia to Sarawak. Now, we’re going back to Sarawak to explore the streets of Kuching and discover the jungles, islands, wildlife and hopefully some food as well.
Enjoy listening to the audio file below, and maybe reading the words as well:
This is a part of the world that is adventurous and has that sought for wow factor of being remote and rugged but is also really easy to get to and get around once you’re there.
The story of Sarawak, just like the story of Australia, is about Indigenous tribes and culture going back thousands of years and learning to survive in their environment.
But we’re going to start in Singapore! It’s the 1840’s and let’s find out the connection to Sarawak, a land of blowpiping headhunters and pirates, to high collared and well-heeled English adventurers in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
Imagine the Raffles Hotel at this time. With stiff upper lips and trousers pulled too high, Englishmen drank too much and rallied each other with outrageous stories while surrounded by an odour of self-entitlement.
James Brooke was tiring of this game when he had a grand idea and bold plan all at once. He would sail his ship, the Royalist, up the Sarawak River at Kuching and fight the pirates that had taken control of the South China Sea and threatening the Straits of Singapore and Malacca.
He fought the pirates, was asked by local tribes to become their leader and so he became the White Raj, Rajah Brooke, and his family took the mantle when he died and until World War II the Brookes ran Sarawak as their own kingdom. Sarawak prospered under the Brookes but the relationship was also fractured due to the colonial style rule that we are familiar with.
The best things to discover:
Bako National Park: Take a boat up a long winding river, dodging crocodiles and traditional fish traps, coming up against soaring cliffs and entering a jungle filled with pit vipers, pitcher plants, proboscis monkeys and scuttling through the mangroves are the horseshoe crabs.
Santubong Wildlife Cruise & Satang Island: Spot Irrawaddy dolphins, more crocodiles, turtles, hornbills and enjoy snorkelling over pristine corals extending from remote tropical islands.
Kuching waterfront: My favourite city waterfront in the world! Water displays, wild characters, steaming laksas and grilling satays. Maybe a cool glass of Cendol as well!
Kuching Sunset Cruise: Nothing in this world, apart from my children’s love, is better than a Borneo sunset and add to that the joy of chugging along onboard the MV Equatorial. I’m only sad because while they let me in the wheelhouse, they wouldn’t let me take the wheel.
Cultural Village, brand new Sarawak Museum, Annah Rais Longhouse and Songket: Explore the history and diversity of tribal life in Sarawak. Different tribes, including the Dayaks, Ibans, Orangan Ulu and also the influence of Chinese and Malay culture. Be mesmerised by traditional Songket silk weaving.
Orangutans surrounded by jungle without a fence in site!
Murals and Cat Statues: The best reason to walk the streets of Kuching day or night.
Secret Bars! Actually, the real best reason to walk the streets at night! What are the tell-tale signs of a secret bar?
Food! Rooftop open air restaurants full of heaving baskets of fresh seafood, street level markets with steaming cauldrons of laksa and fresh vegetables, including my favourite the Midin, which is a tangled mess of exotic green fern tops found in the jungle and steamed with wild garlic!
Rainforest Music Festival: Held each year and featuring music from Indigenous groups all over the world. More than gigs and concerts, there are workshops in creating music and traditional instruments.
Sarawak is a hidden treasure because it’s far enough off the beaten track that you’ll get the thrill of lots of people saying, ‘Where’s that?’
You’ll enjoy exploring rugged and remote wilderness without getting malaria and exploring old laneways for murals, music, laksas and secret bars while surrounded by a community that is interested in who you are and just like you, enjoys staying up late.
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.
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.
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).
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.