Is there anything better than meeting people? Even better than a sunset, even better than climbing a mountain. Meeting people fuels the soul and sparks the life in us.
On a media trip to Malaysia last year I met one of India’s rising stars of journalism, Yvonne Jacob. Yvonne is the Features Editor for Just Urbane, a fantastic magazine aimed at the market of Indian men but with something for all of us, anywhere in the world.
If you can’t get to your favourite newsagency in India, you’ll find the online version of Just Urbane on Magzter and subscriptions are as cheap as chips. If you look hard enough you might even find something in it that’s written by me.
There’s a little island off the coast that for quite some time now has attracted Western Australians, other Australians and increasingly the international traveller seeking a genuine sand-in-your-toes destination or maybe just an insta-worthy-pic with the worlds cutest animal.
Wadjemup (Rottnest) has just taken a couple of Red Bulls and is revved up for a summer that can still remain laid back or it can put you on your back with exhaustion.
Skydiving, fishing tours for kids, water parks, walking tours and new facilities like refreshment vans on the west end of the island now mean you don’t need to carry litres of water on your bike (plus, always remember that the various tour sites with volunteer guides carry lots of water that you can use to top up your water bottle ….. for free).
Tom and I began our day a bit differently for a trip to Wadjemup. Rather than Barrack Street, Freo or Hillarys, we head to the South Perth foreshore. Within minutes of our arrival, the Cessna Caravan from Swan River Seaplanes comes diving out of the morning sun and lands smoothly on the water in front of us.
Above: From South Perth to Wadjemup
The take off was more graceful than my graceless body surfing at City Beach. The aircrafts pontoons lift off the water in the direction of Crown Casino and the Optus Stadium before banking to the west.
There was time to take in the view of the city, the coast, the ocean and then Wajemup came in sight.
I was scheduled to go live on air, in the air, with 6PR radio to describe the experience but the flight was so fast we’d landed at Wadjemup before they could cross to me. Even with two laps of the island to take in the view the flight was only 20 minutes.
Above: Wadjemup from the air with Swan River Seaplanes
Meeting us on the island is the Rottnest Island Authority Executive Director, Michelle Reynolds, who has very generously accepted the challenge of showing us around the island. For the next few hours we are regaled with historical stories, modern day plans and have the opportunity to learn and experience the island like I have never done before.
A climb of the Wadjemup Lighthouse is 155 steps and because I’m a father I’m allowed to generate the odd dad joke or two so I asked Tom how many steps it was coming down. Easy. Remember he’s only ten.
Above: Wadjemup Lighthouse and one of the new refreshment vans
We visit the bays, inspect the beaches, salt lakes and tuart groves and watch as ospreys nest and seals bask and loll. We buy refreshments from the new vans and felt a bit guilty, as we entered Michelle’s airconditioned car, that we were possibly depriving a thirsty cyclist of a much needed peach iced tea.
Above: Refreshments from the van at Fish Hook Bay
When we parted ways with Michelle it was with a new appreciation for the work that is going into making Wadjemup better but also for acknowledging what people love most about the island experience, a laid back lifestyle where even sunburn and grazed knees just don’t seem to hurt as much as they do on the mainland.
Tom and I headed to the bakery to get a well deserved cream bun and a choc milk before making the ten minute walk to The Basin for a well anticipated swim. Along the way Tom met his spirit quokka. We didn’t attempt a selfie but first contact was made as Tom got down to eyelevel with a quokka and his outstretched finger was sniffed and touched by this amazing little animals nose.
At The Basin, a Christmas choir was singing from the waters edge and even the fish were joining in. As carols reverberated off the limestone cliffs Tom and I swam along the reef edge and spotted all sorts of fish that were bigger than my foot, in fact both feet put together! Bream, Trevally, Snapper and even a couple of retired old cods, just hanging out by a weed bank discussing the latest flotsam, jetsam and tidal trends.
The fast and comfortable journey back to Perth by SeaLink ferry was made even better by the opportunity for Tom to take the captains chair on the bridge and monitor the compass as we made our way into Fremantle Harbour. He was in his element, scanning from river bank to river bank and warning pelicans to get out of the way.
Above: Tom gets instructions from the SeaLink Skipper
On the ABC Perth Radio Breakfast Show we recently discussed the continued popularity of dark tourism.
It doesn’t have to be morbid but it does have to involve death in wars, disasters, murders, terrorism or assassinations.
The darker side of history has meat on the bone and the gristle as well. We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the fallen and maybe sometimes in the shoes of those responsible.
It’s about confirming our fears, confronting the reality of the history books we grew up with and perhaps providing closure on those images we’ve seen on tv’s in our own lounge room, like that Paris tunnel in 1997 or the New York City skyline in 2001.
The rise in tourist numbers at destinations such as Chernobyl, Fukushima, the concentration camps of World War II, prisoner of war camps in Sandakan and Ranau and the killing fields of Cambodia are all examples of a phenomenon that is attracting those seeking a broader understanding of the events that took place at those sites.
In Australia, many events and sites may be seen as dark tourism. Off the Western Australian coast on the Abrolhos Islands in 1629 the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia ran aground and the ensuing mutiny saw 125 men, women and children brutally slaughtered. The islands can be visited for an understanding of these events and there are also museum exhibitions in Geraldton and Fremantle, displaying grisly skulls marked with the slashes of the mutineers swords.
In Snowtown, South Australia, the little bank where the bodies in the barrels were discovered in the late 1990’s is a popular stop for people wanting to take a quick pic.
Most issues in our lives have a line that we decide we will or won’t cross. Dark tourism has many lines that cross in different directions, challenging our sense of morbidity, appropriateness and thresholds of respect.
It’s a great topic for publication and radio and sure to get you thinking about your own dark tourism bucket list.
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.
What a rollicking chat about travel toilets, kids travel bucket lists and we even found time to talk about some day trip options from Perth.
Kids travel bucket lists is a wonderful topic. When I was a kid I always wanted to visit India because of Rudyard Kiplings story, Rikki Tikki Tavi, the story of a mongoose and his fight with some evil cobras.
We had a wonderful caller, Eloise, who described how she wanted to go to Hawaii because of the travel shows she had seen and some influences from social media as well.
Kids have travel dreams, just like grown ups. I was able to take my daughter to Sun City in South Africa and on safari at Sanctuary Retreats Makanyane Safari Lodge because of her love for the romcom movie, Blended which featured South Africa and in particular Sun City Resort.
ABOVE: SUN CITY WHERE MUCH OF THE ROMANTIC COMEDY MOVIE, BLENDED, WAS FILMED.
Books, movies, social media posts by celebrities and even sporting events inspire our destinations. What a great way to decide where you’re going to go next!
Have A Go News newspaper recently published my list of the Top Ten No Tech Travel Accessories that you should have on every trip. They’re also all lightweight and easy to store.
Aquatabs are as close as I get to panic prep packing but because they are easy to tuck in your toiletries bag with other medications they’re worth having if you ever doubt the safety of the water you’re drinking.
Have a Go News is distributed throughout Western Australia to nearly 2000 community centres, recreation centres, supermarkets and more.
So, my Top 10, in no particular order but I must admit the first thing in any of my bags is a pen . . .
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 1984 comedy movie, Top Secret, the French resistance group has a member whose name is De Ja Vu. There is a scene in the movie where he is introduced to another character and he looks at him suspiciously and says, “Haven’t I met you somewhere before?”
Like deja vu, the sense of nostalgia can be triggered by an experience we are having. I was reminded of this recently when I saw an Instagram post of a Sydney ferry. Immediately I was taken back to 1983, pressing play on my red Sharp QT-12 cassette recorder to listen to Reckless by Aussie Crawl. The line in the song about the Manly ferry cutting its way through to Circular Quay came straight back to me just looking at the Instagram post of a Sydney Ferry.
It reminded me of how our senses are heightened when we travel. It works both ways as well. When I travelled through South Africa with my daughter we noticed the Jacaranda trees in glorious purple bloom and it reminded us of the streets around our home in Perth. Now when I see Jacaranda trees around Perth I’m reminded of travelling through South Africa with my daughter.
There’s so many other ways this can happen. Like the Instagram photo, I read a travel article the other day that included a photo of Polignano A Mare in Pulia, Italy. The photo was of a particular part of Polignano A Mare that I swam at, ruining many tourists photos. It’s one of the great joys of travelling; the years afterwards when you see the places you have been to in movies and the news or read descriptions of them in stories.
Ah! Cream buns. For me the sight and the smell reminds me of the Rottnest Bakery on a summers day. Perhaps it triggers a memory for you of the Dunsborough Bakery or the bakery in your local town.
The sights and smells of our travels throw us back in time and similarly, the joy of travel will be triggered for the rest of your life as you smell a cream bun or pad thai, check your friends social media posts or watch the latest blockbuster at the movies. Revel in it! Enjoy what travel can do to your senses and your memories!
In a recent Friday night conversation with Chris Ilsley on 6PR Perth Tonight we had a great conversation about undiscovered lands in well discovered countries, particularly Puglia in Italy and Kerala in India. If you’d like to listen, the link below should take you to the 6PR website.
Discover these regions before everyone else does. In Puglia do a walking tour with Exodus Travels through olive groves and ancient towns. In Kerala, explore the quiet streets of Fort Kochi and be surrounded not by the crush of congestion like India’s north but by the scent of spices being harvested and dried in the laneways of this peaceful and beautiful region known throughout India as ‘God’s own country’.
Pic above: Matera in Puglia is one of Europes most ancient cities and is the 2019 European City of Culture.
Pic above: As busy as traffic gets in Fort Kochi, Kerala. Visit the spice traders of Fort Kochi, watch the Chinese Fishing Nets be raised at sunset, recline in the gondolas of the Allepey Backwater canals and walk through the tea plantations of the Munnar Highlands.