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

 

 

 

 

The Maldives on a budget…

 

The Babymoon. My new favorite concept in travel. It’s that window between 12 – 24 weeks in your second trimester where you’re still energised. The ‘last time’ you and baby-dadda will ever have the freedom to holiday for while. Ha – Who are we kidding! But it’s the perfect excuse for country #62… The Maldives.

If anywhere lives up to the google image of itself, it’s here. #NoFilter – sums it up perfectly. We chose Rasdhoo island, because of it’s proximity to the hammerhead shark dive site. A place where you can see black tip reef sharks, turtles & sting rays whilst snorkeling at 5 meters. It reminded us of Malupascua and/or the Gili Islands. No cars, 6 guesthouses, 3 restaurants, 2 stray wooden sun-loungers & 12 or so tourists, max.

Our top 5 Maldives survival items; 1) A gripping book (Gillian Flynn’s brilliant Gone Girl) 2) Snorkel 3) Travel scrabble 4) deck of cards.

wpid-img_20141112_170129.jpgAnd 5) As it turns out…. an engagement ring for a surprise proposal on the beautiful Mandivaru sandbank island!

Come on, it’s the MALDIVES & we’re both beach-bums at heart. We had to really :) X

 

The practical stuff

wpid-img-20141112-wa0002.jpgOn a budget

When I say budget, I mean we spent less than $1000 USD  for 7 nights. (Total, not per person.) The price of an average resort is $1050 USD per night! It’s not quite backpacker prices but it’s definitely do-able on a budget. Not just because alcohol is banned, although this helps on the old purse-strings.

As a rough guide:

Flights: $280 USD return pp from Singapore – Tiger Airlines
Rasdhoo Island Inn $26 USD per room including all taxes. Highly recommended
Food: $5 – 6 USD for pp for noodles or rice (your only option!)
Ripple Beach Hulhumale $72 USD per night.
Seahouse Topdeck Villingili $50 USD per night.
Scuba Diving: $60 per dive at Atoll Divers. Great instructors. Ask for Ronny.
Day trip to picnic island: $20 USD per person

M3Which island to choose…?

The Maldives has around 5 ‘inhabitable islands’ which have recently opened up to tourism, meaning you can now DIY your own trip at guesthouses instead of the all-inclusive resorts. However piecing together the ferry schedules is half the battle in picking your island.

The public Rasdhoo ferry is dirt cheap at less than $5 USD for a 3 hour ride. It runs x3 times a week, just not in harmony with Tiger Airline’s flights. A private speedboat to Rasdhoo costs $450 – 500 USD or the seaplane similar at $250 USD per person. We booked a shared speedboat through out guesthouse for $40 USD one way pp, leaving 3 times a week from Male South West Harbour. Forget the chaos ‘Fiji/island time’, our boat (The Crystalline) was super smooth & super punctual, taking exactly 1h 20 mins Male to Rasdhoo.

wpid-img_20141108_195310.jpgMale, Hulhumale & Villingili…

Be warned; The entire country grinds to a halt for Muslim prayer time. Male has to be the only airport with zero taxis, since we arrived during Friday prayer. If you’re at a resort you get to do the super cool exit; dashing straight from arrivals into a speedboat, which practically meets you off the tarmac. If you’re like us, you’ll need a extra night in Male either side of your flight. It’s a good excuse to check out two more islands; Hulhumale and Villingili. Both are rustic, local, worth checking out for half a day, but somewhat overpriced at $60 USD+ for hotels. Villingili was the nicer of the two for it’s house reef & decent restaurant; xhi xhi.

Male city itself is tiny, busy, colourful, nothing to get excited about. Our only notable hour there was to hit up HSBC, which surprisingly only dispenses Rufiyaa not USD. You can use either currency everywhere and ask for change in whatever you prefer. Shops give a good rate of 14 or 15 Rufiyaa to the USD.

wpid-img_20141111_163614.jpgThe Verdict…

Traveling the Maldives independently was interesting, budget-friendly, and above all; easy to do! It’s a friendly, punctual and hassle free in a way that many South East Asia countries have lost over the years. What’s intriguing is that on the DIY islands locals absolutely don’t pander to tourists in anyway. You feel welcome but it’s not ALL about you, which is relaxing, refreshing or maybe just more real than most holidays.

As for the baby/pregnancy factor; it’s perfect, if you don’t mind the odd speedboat & reef shark! And besides, when in your life do you ever want to be on a tropical island and not mind that it’s alcohol free!

Croatian Island Hopping

Here are my top 3 Croatia spots;

Split
Ok it’s part of the mainland not an island, but along with Dubrovnik it’s the main jumping off point. It was our first gateway to Croatian heaven AKA; platters of red wine, prosciutto ham & olives. Mediterranean food bliss after two year’s living in Asia. We walked it all off climbing up the Marjan look out point over the old town, plus a rather perilous climb up the crumbling Bell Tower of Diocletian’s Palace; much like a scene out of Hitchcock’s Vertigo. I chickened out before the top!

Hvar
‘Party island’ namely due to Carpe Diam’s beachfront club on a private island just across the harbour. We went during the day when it was very Cafe Del Mar or Tanjong Beach Club in style; i.e pleasant, chill-out, with comfy bean-bag to lounge on for free untill the staff catch you. The absolute highlight of Hvar however (or in fact everywhere!) is to hire your own 10cc motor boat and explore the hidden beaches and coves of the Pakleni islands. Luckily the BF has a boat licence, but even without one, anyone can do it. The rental guys are as blase as hiring a scooter in Thailand. For 500 kuna they even fill it with petrol. Pack yourself a bottle of red, some bread and cheese and a hand drawn map (al la Leo’s on The Beach) and you’re away on the open sea for 10 hours. The best spots are the hilarious nudist beach, the popular ‘sandy beach,’ and well, anywhere you feel like dropping your anchor.

Korcula
Just when you think you’ve had your fill of super yachts and quaint medieval Stari Grads (Old towns) Korcula blows everything out of the water. Despite being the size of a postage stamp, it’s one of the downright prettiest places I’ve ever seen. Tiny, low-key and gorgeous. Perhaps we loved it so much because of the amazing grandma’s attic room where we stayed, with its own Romeo & Juliet style balcony terrace overlooking the harbour & old town ruins. Our host must have been in her early 90’s.

All of our accommodation for Croatia was found by rocking up at the port/station and being ‘kidnapped’ by the private pension touts (usually cute old pensioners) that invite you into their homes. Obviously it’s a bit hit and miss; we paid between 300 – 350 (35 – 45 euros) some required a 10 min walk, and one featured a bedroom full of Mary statuettes & biblical paraphernalia. But it’s a worthwhile gamble for a more authentic Croatian experience, but unfortunately we don’t know the name of anywhere we stayed. Sorry blog!

 

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Slovina’s picture postcard shot is the almost neon-blue Lake Bled. The gothic fairytale Church of Assumption island floats pretty in the middle, surrounded by a 2 hour / 6 KM round circuit. An old stone hotel on the West bank feels very ‘Great Gatsby-esq’ and it’s still hauntingly stunning even in the rain. You can hire gondolas, or for the brave, swim in the 20 degree clear water. Brr!

Where we stayed; 2 bed apartment at Jazz hostel – owned by the most helpful guy in the world! Amazing service.

Getting there; Direct mini-bus from Ljuijana airport, 30 mins, 13 euros.

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.

Blasts From The Past…

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 183 other followers