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!
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.
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.
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.
Radio Melayu is such a wonderful community radio station and I love any chance to contribute to their programming.
If the link above works it may not take you straight to my discussion but if you scroll down through the posts then my latest chat was on October 18.
DJ Wan and I talked about KL nightlife and views, the pink mosque at Putrajaya and then we talked about my time off the coast of Semporna on Mabul Island and a bunch of other islands with high peaks, white beaches, sea gypsies and Nemo.
I was travelling on the Tourism Malaysia Mega Fam with a bunch of travel writers, journalists and bloggers from India, Hong Kong, Malaysia and New Zealand. We shared adventures and quickly felt like we were doing more than capturing moments we could write about or describe on radio. We became friends and fellow travellers, soaking up experiences that were genuinely breathtaking.
The land below the wind always takes your breath away, whether from the exertion of a trek or just sitting on a beach watching a Sabah sunset. The resorts are safe and friendly and the adventures feel undiscovered and exotic.
Make the most of your time in Malaysia. Whether its shopping, street food or hidden bars in KL or the tropical paradise of life on the islands off the coast of Sabah, there’s something for all travellers, all the time.
Mabul Island: All your days I will sing in praise of your forests, waters, your shining sands.
On Perth’s best talkback radio station, 6PR, I recently discussed with my fine friend and colleague Chrissy Morrissy some options for luxury abroad; the magnificent Apurva Kempinski in Bali and the distinguished Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur.
A bit closer to home I spoke about day trips through the Avon Valley, from bakeries to canola crops, from Bentley Blowers to the history of this beautiful part of Western Australia.
The featured image for this post is the Apurva Kempinski Bali, located in Nusa Dua. The inspiration for the design are the classic and iconic rice terraces found throughout Bali.
Above: The sumptuous lounges of the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur are perfect for high tea, gin and tonics or just resting between shopping sprees.
Above: What makes a beautiful resort that you will return to again and again? Water slides for the kids? Restaurants? Waterfront views? Rooftop bars? Maybe. The Kempinski has all of these things but I think it’s the people who work there that are the greatest influence on your enjoyment. Tom is holding a soft toy of the Bali Myna, an endangered local species of bird that the Apurva Kempinski is working hard to protect.
Above: The Library at the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur. Come for the atmosphere, stay for the food. An enchanting and refined menu full of passion for the flavours that represent the melting pot culture of Malaysia.
Above: The Avon Valley has rolling hills filled with wildflowers, rolling fields of canola crops and great towns with bakeries, museums, galleries and pubs.
Spend some time on a Sunday afternoon listening to Chrissy and ‘The Gentleman Traveller’ on 6PR 882, Perth’s only commercial talkback radio station.
Recently, we spoke about my week long adventure to Malaysia, spending some time in one of my favourite cities, Kuala Lumpur, before heading to the Malaysian state of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
ABOVE: THE SEA GYPSIES ARE ONE OF THE WORLDS TRULY NOMADIC COMMUNITIES THAT LIVE ON THE SEA IN THE CORAL TRIANGLE BETWEEN INDONESIA, MALAYSIA AND THE PHILLIPINES.
I travelled to the small island of Mabul and from there took daily boat trips to other islands in the area to experience pristine snorkelling, intriguing sea gypsies and awesome views after trekking the peaks of small but tall islands.
ABOVE AND BELOW: SIPADAN-MABUL RESORT LOCATED ON MABUL ISLAND. USE THE RESORT AS YOUR HOLIDAY DESTINATION OR A BASE FOR EXPLORING OTHER ISLANDS IN THE NATIONAL PARK, INCLUDING WORLD RENOWNED SIPADAN ISLAND.
Sabah is easily accessible from Perth with direct flights to Kota Kinabalu with Malaysia Airlines. Boat travel to the islands is well monitored and accredited by Malaysian park authorities.
Come to Borneo. Come to Sabah.
We also spent a few minutes offering some tips to travellers to Melbourne who are attending footy finals. Some of the ideas we suggested were to form a collective group of other supporters to get some bargaining power when booking flights and accommodation or considering flying to other destinations and making your way to Melbourne from there, including flying to Hobart and catching the ferry across Bass Strait to Melbourne or flying to Canberra or Sydney and driving down in a hire car. It’s too late to expect a cheap fare but you can avoid the most expensive fares if you think about what options work for you.
A wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon is to listen to Chrissy and Chris on 6PR 882, Perth’s only commercial talkback radio station.
For this chat, I described how luxury travel can be exciting and affordable.
We talked about the all new Apurva Kempinski in Bali and how its architecture sets the heart racing with awe and how there is so much space to hide away and relax or strut your gut in front of other guests if that’s your thing. Most of the Kempinski rooms have their own private plunge pool or access to small lagoon pool while there is also a massive lagoon pool and another good sized pool that includes a water play are for kids, including three waterslides.
ABOVE: APURVA KEMPINSKI NUSA DUA, BALI. ARCHITECTURE INSPIRED BY THE RICE TERRACES AROUND UBUD.
We then talked about my experience at the Ritz-Carlton KL, located in the heart of Bukit Bintang. With a level of refined luxury, complete with crooners and jazz bands around every corner, this hotel reminds you of travelling on a 1920’s ocean liner with its sumptuous lounge chairs and library restaurant.
ABOVE: THE RITZ-CARLTON KL, FULL OF SUMPTUOUS LOUNGES FOR DRINKING, EATING OR COLLAPSING IN AFTER A DAYS SHOPPING IN BUKIT BINTANG, JUST A MINUTES WALK AWAY.
The food options at the Ritz-Carlton’s renowned Library restaurant provide some of the best food available in Kuala Lumpur.
ABOVE: RITZ-CARLTON LIBRARY RESTAURANT EXECUTIVE CHEF WAI COMBINES MODERN AND TRADITIONAL CULINARY TECHNIQUES AND DEVELOPING FLAVOUR PROFILES THAT ARE FRESH AND LUXURIOUS.
If you’re considering a luxury experience, take advantage of offers that pop up on popular websites and I always recommend then contacting the hotel/resort yourself and making yourself known and maybe negotiating some of the inclusions. Maybe you want more golf and less day spa time. Maybe you’d like to give up the fine dining vouchers for pizzas and chips around the pool for your kids. Try making a relationship on your own that provides the inclusions that are important to you.
I recently spent a brilliant evening on Radio Melayu chatting about my recent adventures and how we all need to find a way to get packing and escape winter by getting overseas or embracing winter and snuggling into a gorgeous resort down south.
The link below features descriptions for a few of my new favourite things, including Bali’s spectacular new resort the Apurva Kempinski Bali, Hong Kong Star Ferries and markets, Hong Kong Disneyland, Pullman Bunker Bay Resort and amazing airlines for travelling with children, including Malindo Air, Batik Air and Cathay Pacific.
In the link above to Have A Go News enjoy reading my feature article on travelling, eating and shopping your way around Kuala Lumpur and making sure you stay somewhere amazing as well. You can also find Have A Go News in over 1800 outlets across Perth and regional Western Australia.
Love Lot 10! From the Hutong Food Court in the basement, amazing shops and activities in between and the cheesecake in Tokyo Restaurant at the top, you’ll be splashing your cash and loving every minute of it.
Travel from KL airport to Kl on the fantastic KLIA Ekspres. The best way to travel into KL and also the easiest and most comfortable.
Stay in the heart of KL’s shopping precinct, Bukit Bintang, at the luxurious and very friendly JW Marriott. If you’re not doing the shopping, this will be the perfect place to wait for your shopping partner to return. Look, they even parked my car under the hotel sign!