Tag Archives: beach

It’s an Asia Thing

My first foray into Asia was to India. I marvelled at the temples of Tamil Nadu, spent Christmas in KodaiKanal and saw the sunset at Cape Cormorin. There was a visit to a strange circus in Kerala, a boat trip in Cochin and lots of ice cream in Goa. We went to markets, met Mormons, climbed Cape Rama Fort and left through the gateway to India in Bombay.

Next was a school trip to Indonesia where we were educated in all the traditional arts and crafts from batik to silver making. We travelled through Lombok, Bali, Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. The highlights were the vast Borobudur temple and the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

On the way home we went through Sentosa Island in Singapore. There have been many trips to the land of the Merlion since then to explore the food in Chinatown, the shops on Orchard Rd and visit friends, now expats of the city.

Close by is my favourite Asian destination of Malaysia. The fabulous food halls in Malacca, the life of Penang and the beautiful islands of course. So far I have visited Pulau Kapas, Pulau Pangkor and Pulau Tioman twice. Each island is special and interesting in its own way for the monkey in a hammock, the snorkelling or the sunsets.

The first time I went to Bangkok in Thailand I thought it was a big dirty Asian city. I thought Phuket was incredibly spoilt by tourism and I was sure I would never return. How wrong I was, as the island of Koh Lanta was to become the special place where I became engaged and later married. The little town of Ban Saladan and the beach at Kaw Kwang will forever have a piece of my heart.

Vietnam was a pleasant surprise, largely untouched by the greed of making a buck when I went there. I loved Hanoi, the city built around Haan Kim Lake and was fascinated by the other side of history as the story of Ho Chi Min unfolded before me. Halong Bay was undoubtedly beautiful and the little French colonial hill village of Tam Dao was a rare treasure.

When you think of places to go in Asia, South Korea is probably not at top of mind. However, I found I very much enjoyed discovering the two sides of Seoul. One deep in the traditions of markets, gates and palaces; and the other slightly crazy side of shopping centres, theme parks and off beat fashion.

I wish I had visited Hong Kong before the English handed it back to the locals, just to see how much it had changed. The modern world could clearly be seen here, but there were still the remnants of old. Like the Star Ferry and the fact that the city still had many large green spaces that had not yet been bulldozed by development. The smog of Victoria Peak reminded me that it was still Asia, but back on the ground there was always a drink in Soho to cool you down.

Yes, Asia can be hot, dirty and tiring; but it is also exciting, enticing and an assault to the senses. Riding in tuk tuks, bargaining with the friendly locals and appreciating the simple things in life. Asia has a lot to teach us and I sincerely hope that modernisation doesn’t engulf it to the point where it can no longer be recognised for the glorious cultural explosion it is.

Related posts: It’s a Sri Lankan Thing, Destination Thailand, 2010, Thailand, 2009, South Korea, 2008, Malaysia, 2006, Vietnam, 2003, Thailand, 2002, Sri Lanka, 1998, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, 1994, Indonesia and Singapore, 1994, England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988, India, 1987- 1998, Part 2: The Journey North, India 1987- 1988, Part 1: The Road South

Isla Mujeres and Cancun, 2011

Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, famous for the statues between it and Cancun on the mainland which were sunken for the pleasure of scuba divers.

The ferry over from Cancun was quick and the water was even bluer than Tulum.

My husband and I stayed in a lovely little hotel on Playa Secreto, the quiet side of the island, which had a sandy courtyard filled with hammocks.

No cars were allowed on the island, so people got around on golf carts, although the island was so small that you could walk everywhere and didn’t really need one.

The main street was short and lined with restaurants and gift shops. We took a seafront walk along Bahia de Mujeres to see the lighthouse and had lunch in a Cuban restaurant.

My husband wanted to go scuba diving while we were here and I was happy to join the dive boat to go snorkeling. The dive boat instructers were confident fellows and kept me entertained while we waited for the divers to resurface.

We saw the statues of so many different people- standing, sitting and engaged in all sorts of activities- it was like nothing I had ever seen before. We also saw a turtle in the wild, which I had never seen before and was amazing. He was so quick!

That night we ate in a seafood restaurant with tables and chairs on the beach and found a funky bar on the main street that had high ceilings and a mural of a rainforest. We also discovered the La Adelita Tequileria.

You could hire a deck chair at the busier Playa Norte by day, or sit on a swing in one of the many bars that lined the beach, by night. It was on one such swing that we got acquainted with a lovely Swiss girl called Jasmin who was travelling through Mexico by herself, but had met many like minded travellers such as ourselves along the way to keep her company as desired.

We discovered that we were staying in the same hotel and met in the sandy courtyard on occasion to play cards and have a few drinks between beach visits. Jasmin was travelling back through Cancun and didn’t really want to go by herself. We had already decided that we wanted to avoid spending too much time there; so the three of us travelled back to mainland together to stay one night in a Cancun motel.

Jasmin was on a mission to get a one-person hammock and we were happy to join her quest. We found one in a nearby market, squeezed between the many restaurants and closed nightclubs.

And so our Mexican journey came to an end. It really had been the best trip ever, maybe it was the place, perhaps it was the company or just that it was that blissful time between get married and having kids.

Related posts: Tulum, 2011, Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Tulum, 2011

My husband and I arrived in Tulum and went straight from the bus station to the beach.

We stayed in one of the separate huts on the beach in a hotel that had a mini statue of the Tulum ruins near the beach bar. The image was very familiar to me as it featured on the cover of our guidebook.

Tulum had the bluest water I had ever seen along with the whitest sand. I understood now why everyone raves about the Caribbean.

We went to an Italian restaurant in the fancy hotel at other end of beach as I had heard it was famous for it’s fresh lobster pasta. We took our sunset cocktails at the deckchairs on the beach before we headed inside the restaurant for dinner, where the floor was also sand. The waiter made us a prawn made out of palm leaves.

Thinking it the safer option, we walked back to the hotel along the road instead of the beach, but it was a creepy deserted country road at night. By day, there wasn’t much to do either, except to go to the local shops for supplies.

I discovered what a real taco was when we had the best fish tacos I have ever had on the beach. No Old El Paso hard shell tacos here, just small soft fresh tacos with fresh fish and some special sauce.

We spent a couple of days lazing on the beach, listening to the other travellers talking loudly, trying to outdo each other; and the regular fruit seller passing by with cries of “Piña, mango, coco.”

One night, we met a group of young Aussie surfers at the beach bar; and on another, an old surfer dude from America who had been living in Tulum for a number of years now. He introduced us to some local friends who proceeded to drink us under the table with double strength tequila happy hour cocktails. We declined their offer to head into a nightclub in town for further drinking.

Instead we went into town the next day for the freshest, loveliest tortillas I have ever eaten at a local restaurant near the bus stop, made while you eat. I really didn’t know what good Mexican food was like until I had been to Mexico. Even the guacamole is made differently here.

On our last day we went to explore the Tulum ruins. While definitely not the most culturally significant ruins, being the newest in Mexico; they are definitely one of the most picturesque as they overlook the beach and the blue waters of the sea.

There were huge iguanas everywhere that roamed around the tourists and the stones. Walls surrounded the site and a small cenote could be found in one of the ruined houses.

We saw the Temple of the Wind God, the famous El Castillo and walked down to the beach. There were many temples, platforms, a palace and a guard tower.

Next stop to continue our Caribbean adventure was Isla Mujeres, and if I thought the water of Tulum was blue, we hadn’t seen anything yet!

Related posts: Chichen Itza, 2011, Campeche and Merida, 2011, Palenque, 2011, Oaxaca, 2011, Mexico City, 2011

Australia vs New Zealand

There is a long-standing rivalry between Australia and New Zealand that I am sure goes deeper than if you play AFL or Rugby.

The first time I visited Auckland, I couldn’t help but see similarities between Viaduct Harbour and Sydney Harbour. Both cities also have tall viewing towers and a park called the Domain. I thought Auckland was basically Sydney, about 20 years ago.

Many New Zealanders actually come to Sydney to work for a while, and it was through these people that I learnt what Pinky bars were and discovered the differences in our accents.

Of course, you should never compare countries, but it’s human nature to do so.

They have kiwi’s and we have kangaroos. We have the better beaches, but they have the better snow. Historically, the New Zealander relationship with their native culture- the Maori’s- has been much more progressive than our relationship with the Aboriginals. Part of the New Zealand national anthem is sung in Maori and the haka is performed before rugby games.

They have Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and we have Hunter Valley Semillon. We have desert and they have glaciers. Australia was a well-known filming destination for movies such as The Matrix, but it seems like New Zealand has now cornered the market with productions like The Hobbit.

Australians are often accused for taking credit for New Zealand talent, such as Crowded House and Russell Crowe; but can we help it if global perception naturally attributes these to Australia?

After recently exploring more of New Zealand, I have fallen in love with the city of windy Wellington and the small town of Akaroa. Driving around the South Island, I was struck by the natural beauty of the country, and of the west coast in particular which reminded me so much of the west coast of Canada.

I would love to go back and explore Milford Sound and Mt Cook.

I hope that the rivalry between Australia and New Zealand is just skin deep. Personally, I like both countries and can see the advantages of each culture. Isn’t it time we all just got along?

Related posts: People vs Place, It’s all in the Attitude

It’s an English Thing

Whenever somebody asks me where I am from, I always pause to answer.

I was born in Weymouth, England to an English father and a Sri Lankan mother. We lived in and out of England for the first few years of my life, I went to pre-school there, and then we moved to Australia where I grew up in Berry, NSW and was brought up as an Australian.

However, my father never really lost his accent (I still pronounce garage differently to everyone I know), I received a UK passport at birth and have spent a few trips, including a gap year, back in England.

My grandmother never left Weymouth and I always loved going back to visit her. The green rolling hillsides, the little wishing well behind her house and the thatched rooved cottages. The typical English seafront, the rocky beach and the harbour filled with fishing boats. The gorgeous Dorset countryside of quirky towns, white cliffs plunging into the blue Channel and walks through fields picking blackberries along the way.

I also love the city of London. Red telephone boxes, double decker buses, Big Ben, the tube and my favourite Tower of London. I love the parks, the palaces, the plays and the feeling of being at the centre of the world when you walk down Oxford St. I like mixing with the hip crowd at Covent Garden, standing on the edge of Greenwich Mean Time and imagining what it would be like to live inside the houses of Notting Hill. I enjoy seeing the gold encrusted Buckingham Palace gates, Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square and the bustling Piccadilly Circus. It’s also fun meeting all your Australian mates in a London pub as they are living there temporarily too.

So of course, I am Australia, but I also identify with all things English.

I was brought up on Sooty and Sweep, Noddy and Blue Peter on the TV, Punch and Judy shows at the sands and reading Beatrix Potter and Rupert at bedtime. I enjoyed eating treats from grandma like Hula Hoops, Hob Nobs and Quality Streets.

It’s always fun to go shopping at Boots, Marks and Spencers, H&M and window shopping at Harrods. I love drinking at one of the many great traditional English pubs with the same names in different places like The Golden Lion, The Red Lion, The Swan, the White Hart, The George Inn, The King’s Arms; and running to get into a nightclub before lock out. I have seen people being out on the pull for a snog, have worn a thong on my bottom instead of my feet and flitted off to Europe for a long weekend to escape the long dark winters.

The English culture is not so different to ours which makes it easy to relate to and it’s those little details that help strike up a conversation with a visiting Brit come to Australia to escape the bad weather for a time.

So, I guess I’m not English, as you are from where you grow up. But it is nice to know that I have the experience and knowledge to morph into an English person if needs be.

Related posts: It’s a Spanish Thing,  Toys, People vs Place, England, 2006England, 1997

It’s a Spanish thing

I love Spain.

I love the colour, the life and the fact that people mistake me for being Spanish.

Flamenco dancing spectaculars, drinking Sangria and late night starts.

Tasty tapas, seafood paella and crème Catalan.

Nobody worries too much about owning property- why buy when you can rent right in the middle of the city where you want to live.

Parc de la Citadella where the cool kids hang out, Otto Zutz nightclub where the tourists go to party and Zara for all your fashionable needs.

The iconic La Rambla, the smells and sounds of La Boqueria and the friendly waitress in our local bar.

I love Barcelona, especially Parc Guell, and every time I go back I discover a new side to the city.

The brilliance of Gaudi, the deck chairs on the curving beaches and the famous 4 Cats bar.

The Moorish delights of the Alhambra, so many fountains and gypsies living in cave houses.

I am fortunate enough to have some Spanish friends who have shown me parts of Spain that I would not have otherwise explored.

The views from Mount Tibidabo, the sad story of Punta De Sau and the tradition of Plaza de Torres de la Maestanza.

Busy Madrid, beautiful Granada and cultural Seville.

I like the streets and alleyways of the cities and the gothic architecture of the churches.

A summer retreat in Xabia, white washed Spanish style villa’s and tall cliffs crashing into deep blue sea.

The lovely language, the good looking ladies and the passionate people.

It’s not just a country, it’s a way of life.

Endless fun, long summers in the cold climate of Europe and a no worries attitude that suits my Australian ethos.

I look forward to returning to Espana and discovering more about this wonderful country.

Related posts: It’s a water thing, People vs Place, It’s a French thing, Europe, 2003, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond Barcelona, Spain, 1997, Part 1: Barcelona

Fiji, 2008

In the Christmas of 2008, instead of celebrating at home, my husband-to-be’s (HTB) family decided we would all travel to Fiji for 5 nights. We stayed at the Radisson Blu- one of the large hotels on the mainland at Denarau.

I had never been to the South Pacific, never really stayed in a flash hotel before, and never been away with my HTB’s family, which included two brothers, so it was all a bit different.

It was the hottest time of the year, so most days were spent lounging by the pool after the breakfast buffet and swimming over to the pool bar for 11am cocktails. The Blue Marlin was the voted the favourite.

If we felt a little more energetic, we would slide down the fun waterslides or take a walk on the beach. We read, played cards and ate a lot. Every night the firelighters would come down to the beach and light torches that reflected off the beautiful picture perfect sunsets.

After a few days of this, my traveller gene kicked in and I dragged everyone away from the safety of the hotel for a waterfall tour. The bus picked us up and drove us up the coast and into the green hills.

We visited a little village called Biasevu with children running around and went to the community hall for a traditional cava ceremony- strong stuff. Suitably fortified, it was time to trek to the waterfall.

Unfortunately, half way through the walk, it started to rain. Heavily. But our tour guide Nadine lent a helping hand and everyone made it across the river to Sava Mate Laya waterfall intact.

It was flowing quite a lot due to the rain, but I was still determined to take a swim underneath and get my head wet. A little wetter and a little wiser about Fiji culture, we headed back to our little piece of luxury, to enjoy it while we could.

It’s a water thing

Growing up five minutes from the ocean, perhaps it was inevitable that I have an affinity with water. I love swimming in the ocean, particularly with dolphins, turtles or any other safe sea creatures I can get close (but not too close) to, and will take any opportunity to go for a dip.

I always enjoy going to the beach, walking along the sandy shores, dipping my toes in the water and running from the waves. I remember long summer days by the sea and had my first kiss on the beach.

Wide-open spaces leave me feeling restless for the feeling of the sea breeze in my hair again. I feel land locked and only sighting the ocean shore makes me feel at ease again.

I have been lucky enough to grow up near some of the most beautiful white sandy beaches in the world in Jervis Bay and visit other beautiful beaches in Mexico and Malaysia.

Even if you can’t get in the water, getting on the water by boat will do, or a walk down a promenade, or even a bar with a water view.

All of the best road trips I have been on have been along the coastline, like Big Sur in California, the Great Ocean Road in Victoria and pretty much the whole of the South Island of New Zealand.

My search for waterfalls is a bit obsessive. I have been to Iguazu and Niagara Falls as well as countless other less famous waterfalls. I plan not to rest until I see Victoria Falls, Gullfoss and a waterfall on the beach in Norway.

I also love a fountain, which is probably a lot of the reason why I love Spain, Rome, Versailles and all those other big gardens with lots of fountains. I mean, how can you not admire the Trevi Fountain?

Unless you were unlucky enough to go when they were restoring it, in which case there is always the Fountain of the Four Rivers and all those other gorgeous fountains in practically every square in the city.

So, yep, that’s me, water baby in search of any beaches, waterfalls or fountains I can find. I wander where my search for water will take me to next…

Related posts: It’s a French Thing, Random Public Holiday Ramblings, USA Road trip, 2007: Part 2, Malaysia, 2006, Canada, 2005, Argentina, 2005, Europe, 2003, Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence, Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond BarcelonaEngland, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988

Kid at Heart

I am a kid at heart. I always enjoy a theme park, animals or a museum; and now that I have a daughter it is double the fun.

I will be taking three weeks off from blogging from the end of this week (heading off on a trip to Sri Lanka). So, in the meantime, I will leave you with some fun Sydney activities for kids and kids at heart to keep you all amused over the Easter break.

Royal Easter Show- who doesn’t love a show? The rides, the food and the show bags. The Sydney show this year is on 26 March to 8 April at Sydney Showground, Sydney Olympic Park. It’s usually packed and can be quite expensive, but the free displays are pretty mind blowing and the wood chopping and other traditional show events (also free) are always entertaining. The kids will love the farmyard nursery, but I prefer the working dog demonstrations myself- how are they so clever?!

Taronga Zoo- a ferry trip to Taronga Zoo is a fun activity in itself. Although a little pricey to get in, a yearly pass may be worth the money if you plan to go more than once. Apart from the gondola ride and the free daily shows, there is also a kid’s area where farmyard animals and bush turkeys roam free through the park equipment and water play area. My favourite parts are seeing the elephants take their morning shower and the gorgeous views of the city.

Australian Museum- I went here late last year to see the Aztec exhibit. The display had a stamping activity (for kids) and iPad photo activity (for kids at heart). The rest of the museum was free, after paying for the feature exhibition, and is always free for children under 5. This includes a very scary dinosaur’s exhibition- they growl at you and I jumped ok?!- and a great little scientist area where kids can read, play and look through microscopes.

Royal Botanic Gardens- For a free and educational activity, a self-guided walk through the Sydney gardens is a great activity. They are iconic, waterside, beautiful and sometimes you will even find cockatoos feeding on the ground. There is also a Disney Fairy Trails app currently active where you can find and photograph cartoon fairies as you go- very cool.

Sydney Aquarium- not the cheapest, but great for a rainy day. The shark viewing tunnels are unique and the Great Barrier Reef display is very colourful. I love trying to spot the platypus and learning something new every time I visit. There is a touch pool for the little ones and dugongs, but no mermaids contrary to popular advertising- sorry to disappoint.

Museum of Sydney- with a very reasonable entry fee, this museum is at a historic location and not too large, making it easy to navigate. I recently went there to see the Towers of Tomorrow LEGO exhibition which was small but very functional with 4 large Lego troughs for kids to play in next to the awesome tall towers (like the replica Marina Bay Sands) that kids at heart will appreciate. The Lego exhibition is running until 12 July and look out for the Toys through Time display coming on 28 March- showing until 9 August.

Luna Park- for an alternative to the Easter Show (but probably just as expensive!), you can’t beat the location of Luna Park at Milson’s Point where you can gaze over the water at the Opera House, city and Harbour Bridge. The old English merry-go-round and dressed up characters such as Luna Bob are a favourite with kids of all ages. My personal pick is the mouse roller coaster where it feels like you are going to drop right over the edge into Sydney Harbour.

Australian Reptile Park- located one hour out of Sydney, this park has been around since 1948 and has an interesting history to go with it. I cringed at the funnel web milking demonstration, but the kids couldn’t get enough of it. The main attraction is Elvis the crocodile and the free range kangaroo area where an emu sneaked up on me. The dirt paths weave into the trees which lends to a nice bushwalk feel and there is a large play park for the little ones once they tire of the animals.

State Library- I went here last month to see the Lynley Dodd: A Retrospective exhibition. Lynley is the creator of the Hairy McClairy book series for children and the display was definitely designed with kids in mind- very interactive with TV, audio, drawing and book areas. The State Library itself is a beautiful old building with, funnily enough, lots of books. There is even a whole room filled with Don Quixote books. All exhibitions are free of charge and there is always some lovely photography on display.

The Beach- if the weather is good, the beach is the best free fun activity for kids and kids at heart. Water, sun, surf and sand castles provide hours of entertainment. I enjoy going to old favourites like Greenwich Baths and Boat Harbour on the South Coast; and discovering new beaches like Ettalong and Shoal Bay to the North. Just remember to pay attention to life guards and be sun safe.

Related posts: All things Disney, Happy Holidays,  All Creatures Great and Small

England, 2006

My first overseas trip with my husband-to-be (HTB) was to Weymouth to introduce him to my grandmother. My dad was also visiting at the time, so we caught up with friends old and newer. Alan and Viv cooked us the best roast I’ve ever had. One of Sarah’s brother’s friends had his 30th birthday at a local pub so we went along to share a few beverages with my old drinking crew.

I showed my HTB, Perry’s where I had worked the summer on Weymouth harbour and the sea front where I had spent my time off on the beach. We saw a very cool live band in a local pub as he loves live music.

We took my HTB on the usual tour of Tyneham Village, Corfe Castle, the Man of War at Lulworth Cove and Stonehenge. We also went to a few pubs including the Red Lion in Weymouth, The Cove House Inn at Portland and the Square and Compass in Worth Matravers for the warmest cider on the planet.

For a healthier alternative, we climbed up to Hardy’s Monument and visited the town of Cerne Abbas with its ancient monastery and large Abbey Farm House. We went to Cirencester to visit family, Bourton-on-the-Water and Bibury to see Arlington Row.

It was nice to show my HTB where I had come from and the places that were so much a part of my childhood and trips away.

My HTB had been to London before, but at a time when he had done more drinking than sight-seeing. So I dragged him around on a whirlwind tour of my favourite iconic sights- Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, St James Park, the River Thames, Oxford St and Covent Garden.

This time I got to go on the London Eye and we had a rare clear day affording great views of the city, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the new to me Millennium Bridge. I also got to see the awesome media centre at Lords Cricket Ground and sit in the captain’s chair on the HMS Belfast – two things I never would have done in London before meeting my HTB.

Between us, we had lots of family and friends living and working in London- both local and Australian. So, rather than spending days driving all around the city visiting people, we organised a night to meet everyone at once at The Horniman at Hays which had a view of the Tower Bridge and most importantly- lots of beer for more drinking.

Related posts: Europe, 2003England, 2002, England, 1997,England, Singapore and Malaysia, 1988