Sunday, 31 March 2013

Happy Easter to you, however you are celebrating....

Happy Easter to you, for those who are celebrating! We are currently in Penang, Malaysia on a weeks family holiday. We had some Malaysia Airlines airmiles due to expire, and so took the opportunity for a quick trip to Kuala Lumpur....




With two kids now at University, we really enjoy these last family holidays altogether... especially having only just regrouped back in Australia after having kids studying last year in India and the UK. It seems like only yesterday that they were all very little and our Easter would always include lots of chocolate and of course the Easter Bunny and a massive Easter Egg hunt...




It is about this time of year that we recall one Easter in 2006 spent with family friends in China. We were in Yangshou, Guangxi Province, China and took a stroll after breakfast around the wet market that had appeared outside our hotel. The market was alive with all sorts of weird and wonderful fruits and veggies as well as chickens and rabbits.
We had an unfortunate experience which we refer back to as The Year when the Easter Bunny was slaughtered... The kids still talk about watching the rabbits and chickens being killed as the locals choose and ordered their fresh food for their Sunday meals!




Yesterday we took a 55 minute flight up to Penang Island. We decided to stay out of the Georgetown center and have headed to the beach resort of Batu Ferrangi. Penang is very diverse in ethnicity, culture, language and religion and our hotel the Park Royal Resort is reflective of this. So much so, that Easter is skipping us by this year....
With only 5% of the local population Christian and over 45% are Muslim, it is easy to understand why Easter is a low key event here...I love seeing all the ladies in their traditional burqas, and I am writing this at 5.45am awoken as our local mosque is in full chant...!




So I've cheated with my photographs today which were all taken last week at the Flower Dome in Gardens by the Bay in Singapore with their very over the top display including thousands of Easter eggs...
I saw this sign also in Singapore at a candy store on Sentosa...
message to family...




Happy Easter, however you are celebrating....Just off in search of chocolate... I wonder if the Mini-Mart is open at the crack of dawn, or is it just the mosque?!!
Little Wandering Wren

Location:Malaysia, Truly Asia

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Celebrate - A perfect weekend in Singapore


If you have not been to Singapore for a while you'll be in for a big surprise! Singers used to be the kid in the Asian class sitting quietly in the front row, glasses on, head in a book or frowning at the others chewing their gum...She is now all grown up, has let her hair-down and is ready to party, maybe even to gamble...

Yes Singapore used to be rather rudely called the safe, boring and soul-less place to holiday for those who wanted an easy Asian vacation - Asia on Training Wheels...But things have changed big time, helped by the building of two integrated resorts at Sentosa Island and Marina Bay. Singapore is definitely an exciting, wow, happening, and dare I say it even trendy place to hang out for a few days...

Hats off to the Singapore Government for allowing this ultra modern development and making Singapore a destination in it's own right rather than simply an easy place for a stop over...


View from our rooms at the Fairmont Hotel, out over Marina Bay.


There is so much to see and do here but (drumroll please....) after a lot of thought and planning this is what we did for a perfect weekend reunion celebration with friends in Singapore.... See if you agree?

Where to stay?
Fairmont Hotel - Executive Club. When you haven't seen your friends for ages and you are of a certain age when BIG birthdays have a lot of candles... you need to splash out right? There was also a requirement for French bubbles and the Executive club lounge obliged with Mo√ęt every evening between 5-8pm - very nice! As were the rooms, swimming pool, choice of three restaurants for breakfast, gym, tennis courts, spa etc etc A good choice and well worth the splurge.


Freshly squeezed juice and posh teas for breakfast at either Prego restaurant or the Executive Lounge on 23rd Floor...

DAY ONE:

Things for the boys to enjoy...
Having all arrived on many different flights from all over the globe, the girls started with a day of pure bliss and pampering..... and the boys went off to be boys. Well that was the plan until they were declined entry at the
I fly Singapore Skydive on account of past sporting injuries and dislocations, and the Go Karts weren't operating on a Friday morning...so they ended up having a blast queuing up with the school kids at Universal Studios for the scary rides!!!

Girls Spa day...
Singapore's world acclaimed ESPA have recently opened their first flagship Asian, and Singapore's largest spa on Sentosa Island. Our day there was a beautiful gift from dear friends. The best Spa I have ever been to... and there have been a few! From the moment we walked into the serene, beautiful grounds, everything was decorated and landscaped just the way you'd only seen in magazines before. From the outdoor bathing pools, the treatment rooms, the champagne lunch, the sleep zone, the take home body oil gifts... We couldn't fault a thing, it was very hard to leave...

Sundowner drinks and dinner
If you are staying at the Fairmont, not on the Club floor then this is the time to pop next door to the World famous Raffles Hotel for an equally famous Singapore Sling or two... before heading out to dinner at Flutes at the Fort
The restaurant is in a beautiful 1908 colonial black and white bungalow. There are so many special places to eat in Singapore, we picked Flutes as one of the best and it didn't disappoint.


Flutes at the Fort - dining on the balcony

DAY TWO:

Gardens by the Bay
Even if plants hold no interest for you, I defy anyone not to be impressed by the award winning Gardens by the Bay . The Singapore government's intention is to transform Singapore from a "Garden City" to a "City in a Garden" has worked! The park is 250 acres of reclaimed land and contains two massive cooled conservatories - Cloud Forest and Flower Dome. A fantastic innovation for a city whose tropical climate makes this a welcome relief from the heat for most of the year...



Climbing up to the top of Cloud Forest






Flowers from the Flower Dome...

Pollen restaurant, inside the Flower Dome offers a $70 luncheon menu and is fine dining at it's best...






Marina Bay Sands is a short walk from Pollen through the gardens or Pollen's private buggy can whizz you there in a jiffy if needed. The fabulous architecture was inspired by a pack of playing cards and dominates a newly developing skyline. It's an impressive resort. Take a wander around inside the hotel and maybe take a ride to the top of the building and see if you can get a quick sneak peak at the rooftop infinity swimming pool, that has got everyone talking.


Or visit the casino - it's free entry for foreigners, interestingly Singaporeans nationals are charged $100 entry fee in an attempt to discourage local gambling. If you have time treat yourself to some retail therapy, or at the very least window shopping, at the high end shops. Or perhaps take in a Cirque de Soleil show, ride in a boat inside the resort building, go ice skating, and see for yourself why this is often billed as the worlds most expensive casino...


The ice skating rink in the Marina Bay shopping Mall


Dinner at Hawkers market
By the time dinner arrives it's time to go cheap and local, so wander down to one of the various Hawkers markets and enjoy some local cooking... Satays, pig knuckles all washed down with beer... yummy!

DAY THREE

How about a trip to Resorts World Sentosa to take in the sights - here there are a myriad of options on how to spend your day. Our pick of the crowd was the newly opened, largest S.E.A. Aquarium in the world...





Dinner at Coriander Leaf has been consistently one of our favourite restaurants, afterwards wander around the historical riverside Clark Quay


Taster plates from Coriander Leaf

I hope this has given you some ideas for things to do and see when you next visit Singapore - do let me know if you have other favourites to share!



Little Wandering Wren

Location:Singapore

Saturday, 16 March 2013

A day in Darwin....

They tell us Darwin is a laid back tropical paradise, but you need to look beyond the pretty flowers and magnificent sunsets of the Northern Territories largest town, to really see what makes this place tick...


The sweet smelling frangipani flowers do blooming well in Darwin's tropical climate

They sure do breed 'em tough up here at the Top End... This thriving city has endured a hard and harsh history dating back 40,000 years. It is also the first point of entry into our promised land for those arriving from South East Asia, adding to the cultural melting pot...

Walking around downtown Darwin you can't fail to notice it's people are very multicultural.This rich mix is evident as more than 75 ethnic groups live harmoniously side by-side. Larrakia Aboriginal people make up almost nine per cent of the city population. This diversity is reflected in the shops and restaurants. around the city.


There are two major events that have shaped Darwin, the Japanese WWII bombings in 1942-43 and Cyclone Tracey. Both events led to the rebuilding of the city with an easy to get around grid layout. Even on days like today when the cruise ship Radiance of the Sea brings an extra 3,000 people into the town, it doesn't feel that busy...


Sundowners and sunset at Darwin's sailing club at Fannie Bay a perfect way to end the day.

Skycity Darwin is a hotel, casino, conference room blah blah but it also has four award winning restaurants. The Sunset restaurant serves up a very good value all-you-can-eat luncheon menu overlooking the rather gorgeous infinity pool and beyond are stunning views of the ocean...Ee by gum, it's just like being on holiday!


The 5-star Skycity Darwin Casino Resort is set on 30 acres of tropical gardens and has it's own private beach - altho' beware stingers, crocs and sharks!

After lunch, and hoping to get to know Dawin a little better, we head for the air conditioned comfort of the Darwin Military Museum which explains the story of Darwin's role in World War II. Here you are immersed in the bombing of Darwin in the 19th February 1942. A bomb siren sounds the warning of the first and worst attack by enemy forces on Australia's land, as you enter the doors close and the bombs are landing....

They warn you as you enter the Cyclone Tracey Gallery at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory that the noise of the cyclone may be disturbing. In a darkened sound room you listen to an actual recording of Tracey's roar as she tears off roofs, causing Darwin's total destruction on Christmas Eve 1974.

When you leave these two museums knowing how Darwin has rebuilt itself twice in the last seventy years, and look at the thriving city of Darwin, you can't help but admire the resilience, strength and recovery of the people of Darwin.

It's a tough life up here in the Top End. Whether it's fighting off the salty crocs in the billabongs, or living with a cyclone threat, or just going about your day to day life in this sweltering heat - it is a fascinating city and a great place to visit....

Little Wandering Wren

Location:Darwin, Northern Territories

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Kakadu if you can....

Welcome to the Aboriginal lands of Kakadu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, about 300 kms from Darwin in the Northern Territories.


We're here to explore Australia's largest and perhaps most beautiful and diverse National Park. We're here in mid March, typically the wet season but it's a real dry, wet season....no real need for a 4 wheel drive, although the locals say the weather can turn in an instant...They are hoping for rain, the full on 'knock em down' storms, the Aborgines call Bang Gerreng which flatten the long grasses beside the road....


The seasonal coming and going of water shapes the lives of the plants, people and animals. The current weather pattern is far from normal, and just like the extreme heat in Victoria, or the floods in Queensland, or even snow in Europe, everyone is out of sorts...

The land too has ever changing moods and as we travel through the National Park with the eucalypts and giant termite mounds, or cross rivers and fresh water steams with paperbark trees, we begin to understand the spiritual connection between the land and the indigenous people, that people love about visiting Kakadu...

There is lots to do and see here and we start at the Aboriginal art work at Nourlangie, an easy 3 km walk. The ancient rock art galleries are found in the countless aboriginal rock shelters and overhangs, the smooth rock making a perfect surface for the paintings.


We stop off at the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, a cool retreat to give us some more detailed information about the 50,000 year old Aboriginal culture in Kakadu.

Just down the road is the Yellow Water Wetlands. Our two hour sunset cruise finally got us up close and personal with three saltwater crocs - and one of them was a really big 'un! Mandy our guide was amazing at spotting the colorful range of bird and animal life in the distance. We listen fascinated she tells us about her Aboriginal heritage and customs. They say to experience Kakadu is to contact with it through the eyes of the aboriginal ancestors...Mandy helps us do this.


We return to our hotel the Gagudju Crocodile Holiday Inn which is a massive OTT crocodile shaped hotel in the township of Jabiru. The highlight being, apart from the air con, an amazing Barrumundi fish wrapped in paperbark, which we enjoyed for dinner.



The next morning Tim takes a one hour scenic flight over Kakadu for some spectacular aerial sightseeing to see Twin and Jim Jim Falls...



Kakadu is ....

an experience you can't get anywhere else in the world....



Little Wandering Wren

Location:Kakadu National Park, NT

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The silence of Crocodiles....

Ok get your suitcases out, we're off again! This time we're going to Darwin, at the top end of Australia, a four hour 30 minute flight north from Melbourne to visit Kakadu National Park.

Looking out from the airplane window on landing we can see the afternoon monsoonal rains have been through. The place looks green, like it's had a good hose down. "Welcome to Darwin where the local time is 5.15 pm and the temperature is 25 degrees celsius." Nice we think...until we step out and the humidity of the tropics hits immediately, it feels steamy hot.


We discover that we are in the lowest of low seasons in the Northern Territories, and if you are prepared to travel there at this time of year, there are benefits to be had. Like no-one around, and free up-grades galore.

We are soon driving off in our 4-wheel drive Nissan X-Trail. We booked a Holden Cruise - thank you Europcar! The car comes with only 100 km's per day included in our rate and with our journey ahead we're pretty sure we will cop an excess mileage charge....watch this space... However we are told with very few roads to take, they'd be impressed if we get lost...

It takes just over an hour to reach Mary River Wilderness Retreat and we are welcomed with advice to stay well back from any waters edge to avoid the crocs and an upgrade to a pool cabin! Our room key is attached to a torch and we are soon feeling very young explorer, searching for our cabin by torchlight.


The cabin is great and without a TV, wifi or telephone reception we think the word Retreat sums up any stay at Mary River Wilderness resort! We wake to the sight of the Agile wallabies lolloping around the pool area, as if they own the place. Clearly no-one has told them that we crept in under the cover of darkness...and they look a little surprised to see us emerge into the dawn...


We set off on the bamboo walk on a crocodile hunt...and come across a strange green door in the bush that leads down to the billabong. We push through the long wet grass, our socks are already ringing wet, and sloshing around in our shoes, the sun rises and the heat intensifies...


"Woah" we stop dead in our tracks. Ahead is a massive spiders web stretched out across from path from bamboo pole to bamboo pole, it is midst a humungus Golden Orb spider on guard with its thin yellow legs spread eagled across it's web. "Enter of your peril" it seems to be saying...


The chorus of crickets reaches a crescendo, the screeching of sulphur crested cockatoos, together with to the massive majestic wedge-tailed eagles which circle above us with a wing span of 2meters, their prey hidden from us.... is all like a natural animal drum roll, all adding to our sense of excitement about what we're about to discover....



We trek out onto crocodile bridge but sadly but the silence of the crocodiles is deafening........


This is just the way the locals at Mary River like it......nice and relaxing

Little Wandering Wren

Location:Mary River wilderness retreat, Northern Territories, Australia

Monday, 11 March 2013

Honey I'm home....

The Wanderer returns! At least for a short while... There is just time enough to gather everyone back into our Australian nest, before launching into the new year ahead (Australian Universities have incredibly only just started for the year)...We do however find the time to book some more holidays, so don't put your suitcase away just yet!

My last trip lasted 100 days, and took me from Australia to India, to Europe and back again. I certainly covered some ground....When I was in Bristol, UK I found this sign saying I was 12,489 N miles from Melbourne...


Before I went off traveling I bought this little bird below, which I thought looked a bit like a Wandering Wren. I left her on the kitchen bench looking after everyone. Today I thought my wren might like a trip out into the garden, so here she is!


It was a shock to be back because Melbourne has experienced some scorching weather in the past few months, many of the trees in the garden are looking burnt and frazzled. We went into a premature autumn as leaves turned brown and fell from the trees.



This record breaking spell of hot weather fortunately comes on the heels of a very wet winter. It has been over 30 degrees (celsius) for the longest period of time since records began. Today it is 36 degrees on the cars temperature gauge. Here is Mutt above trying to find a cool patch of green amongst the scorched leaves.....

Do you like my new look blog site? This is entirely due to my wonderful Blog Professor Neesie Natters who is so generous with her time, ideas and encouragement. Of course I have a long, long way to go to reach Neesie's dizzy heights... If you want to see what I mean, pop over to visit Neesie at http://neesienatters.blogspot.com/....

I've learnt a lot about blogging whilst I have been away. Although the more you do, the more you realise there is so much more to learn. I was determined to complete the whole trip with just my iPad and iPhone. Now I am back to view the photos on my old desktop I can see wot my brother was on about when he said 'your photos are naff'! I think I am loosing resolution transposing them from the iPad or iPhone through my photo collage site. But if any experienced bloggers have any tips to improve my photo resolution, do share!

In the meantime, it's good to be back....to blogging of course silly!!!

See you again soon!



Little Wandering Wren

Location:Melbourne Australia