Townsville & Magnetic Island, Australia

Once upon a time, many countries ago, I set off around the world all bright eyed and bushy tailed, alive with adventure. This week I was reminded of that feeling by the most unexpected of things – traveling with two babies under the age of 2.

The joy in my toddlers face as she eyed up our simple twin room and gasped “We sleep in the hotel” was just gorgeous. Less joyace when she repeated it at 1am, 4am, 6am, but never the less we’re glad she’s a keeno travel lover.

We were only in Townsville for a few hours, between the late night flight and lunchtime ferry. My husband fondly reminisced about the time he lived here over a decade ago, and threw in the intriguing fact that there’s a bar with a round pool table (Flynn’s Irish Bar.) How did I not get to see this! Oh yes, because we’ve swapped Irish Bars for crack of dawn walks to kids parks instead.

The Strand was perfect for this with beautiful Gothic trees to hide-and seek around. Sadly we missed the (free!) water park and instead grabbed a lazy breakfast at a foreshore cafe with killer views over to Magnetic Island.

‘Maggie’ is delightful. We were here for a family wedding on Picnic Bay beach but easily filled 8 days here. I’m grateful for 3 new discoveries; 1) Winning a jug of beer at Trivia night at local backpackers – ah the good old days! 2) Adding the new word ‘Moke‘ to my vocabulary. And…

3) The unique experience of riding bareback and barefoot on a beautiful early morning trail ride of the aptly named Horseshoe Bay.  It was a fitting send off to remember my recently deceased childhood pony, and an achievement in itself squeezing into a stinger suit and galloping through the Australian bush 12 weeks after giving birth.

Where we stayed:

The Ville Resort Townsville – http://www.the-ville.com.au/

Bluehaven Holiday House, Horseshoe Bay

Horse riding – http://www.horseshoebayranch.com.au/

 

 

 

 

 

Caye Caulker, Belize

Our 7 days in Caye Caulker (“Key corker.” It sounds way better in a Caribbean accent) was the honeymoon before the wedding. I just love it where, within 10 seconds of arriving somewhere you just think; this is definitely our vibe.

The island reminds us of Rashdoo in the Maldives (but thankfully with alcohol) in that it’s a 3 street town where the only traffic is a golf cart for hire, or a propeller plane from Belize City buzzing down on the jungle fringed landing strip. After the Everest Lukla plane experience however, I’ll forever opt for arrival by speedboat.

Luckily, it’s a lot less Americanized than we expected. The houses are pained in typical Caribbean postcard pink and pastel blue, and a lot of the cheaper local restaurants are in people’s front yards where they sell homemade banana bread & quesadillas.  For the ‘upmarket’ the much-famed local lobster really is as good as the guidebooks say. We ate a $200 grilled mango lobster dinner with a couple of rums each for $35 USD – total for 3 people!

The nightlife is low-key, with most of the backpackers sticking largely to ‘The Split;’ a swim up bar near a shallow channel of sea. We snuck there during daylight hours with our 8 month old, just to prove we still could. :) For us oldies in our 30’s though a couple of the ocean front bars further south were much nicer, with hammocks and swing chairs to sip cocktails from.

The rest of our days were spent relaxing by Wheezie’s Cottages pool and private pier, all very idyllic, except for Caye Caulker’s dreaded downfall… an abundance of sandflies, even inland. Grr.

Getting there: Melbourne to LA with Qantas then an direct American Airlines flight to Belize City (Only available once a week. The alternative is an epic detour via El Salvaor or Dallas/Miami.) Then a 45 min speedboat from Belize City to Caye Caulker.  Boat schedule here.

Where we stayed: Wheezies Purple Bungalow

 

 

 

 

Brisbane & Byron Bay Revisited

Four years ago I passed through the Gold Coast midway through my round the world trip.  I was free-spirited, on a shoestring & probably a lot grubber. It feels like yesterday & a lifetime ago at the same time. Now in my thirties & a new mother, here it is again, through slightly different eyes…

  1. It turns out Brisbane is a lovely city! I was down on it last time. From the alfresco airport cafe to the Botanical Gardens to enjoying an outdoor glass of rose in St Georges Square on a warm August evening. It was great to inject a splash of summer to our Melbourne winter.
  2. The Gold Coast is where it’s at for beachy bridalwear. I was lucky enough to squeeze in an appointment in hippy wedding dress heaven; Grace Loves Lace. Behind their Balinese door lurks a little bit of Bohemia in the middle of Burleigh suburbia.
  3. I have a new appreciation of just how many steps there are to Byron’s famous Lighthouse  (with a pram). Spotting wild dolphins from the coastal lookouts is always worth it though.
  4. Traveling with a 4 month baby is a great family experience. Baby backpacker loved the flight as well as the sunshine & change of scene. Like everything in life, it’s never as scary as it seems.
  5. Circus acrobatics are the new fire-twirling for Gen Y travelers. Everyone who is everyone had a tight-rope tied to a Byron Bay tree, or a patch of public grass to get their Cirque Du Soleil on. I figure I’m allowed to affectionately mock backpackers, having been one for so long :)

Georgetown, Penang

Penang is a bit like Malacca’s bigger brother, only with less pavements and more traffic. Once a mainstay of the backpacker trail, in recent years it’s been bumped off for nearby Langkawi, the Perhentians and Thailand.

However it’s amazing how a tourist board can turn that around; step 1) Embrace street art, 2) Get imaginative with wrought iron and 3) Create the mother of all scavenger hunts around Georgetown’s alleyways to tick them all off your list!

Extra pub quiz fact; Shoe fasionista Jimmy Choo was born here. His first small factory is on Lebuh Leith.

Getting There: Singapore to Penang $60 with Jetstar.

Where I Stayed: The lovely Ryokan Hostel, Lebuh Muntri, 30RM dorm inc breakfast.

El Nido, Palawan, The Philippines

Nice one Philippines, you came through in the end. I love this place. El Nido is right on the Northern tip of Palawan, and a famous little party beach town where you can do tours to the Bacuit Archipelago. This consists of hundreds of cliff islands with tiny lagoons. Gwen (USA) and I opted on our boat from Alternative Cafe on the basis of Junior the owner using the following words “snorkel with sea turtles” and “secret beach.” The secret being it’s only reachable via a man-sized hole in the rocks that you can dive though to reach the shore.

It was here, whilst cruising on our boat that day, that we meet four tanned, bearded, castaway characters, also known as The Italians. Mauro, and Francesco 1, 2 and 3. Yes it’s a common name. The cliché’s don’t stop there. Through the next few days the boys parade around in Speedos, sang loudly & unashamedly, and educated us all on being naturally born foodies and the art of sharing all meals with almost everyone in a restaurant.  They also kiss each other constantly and everyone else within a mile radius, shouting “chio chio” all over town. As do we after a few hours in their company. Almost everything sounds amusing in the accent, and swearing was surely invented to be screamed passionately in Italian. You don’t tend to meet many Italians travelling. No one since the Naples mafia chicks in Beijing in fact. It was honestly like being in a flamboyant, infectiously fun scene from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin for a few days. Add to this my other new fave; Mark. He’s been to 64 countries, and co-founded our crab fortress on Las Cabanas beach. Honestly, you would not believe how long this kept us all all amused for; watching hermit crabs try and escape from a sand maze. We really do all have too much spare time on our hands. I also bumped back into Miro/Shelley from Manila who were friends with Rex from Cambodia, and a couple of Swedish girls and Argentine brother and sister, and American guy who taught us all about how to train cockerels for fighting (The National sport here.) So our nice big extended family, mixed with lots of football, sunsets, & bongo drums playing, and we had quite the blurred Tanduay rum filled few days. Bellisima.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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