Farewell St Kilda. Hello Eltham.

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In two years I’ve moved from the the bright city lights of Singapore, to beach-side boho St Kilda, and now to a new family home in leafy suburb of Eltham, Victoria. Change is good! Here are 5 things I’m looking forward to in our new Australia neighborhood;

1) Having an open log fire

2) Being barefoot in the grass in our own garden

3) St Andrew’s bohemian local hippy market

4) Living across the road from Edendale community farm

5) Starting a veggie patch.

 

 

 

 

Travel with an 8 month old baby…

One of my favorite pictures. 8 months old, 30 degree heat, first holiday and she's happily asleep on a loud, choppy speedboat traveling to the islands from Belize city...

One of my favorite pictures. Our 8 month old daughter fast asleep on the back of a loud, choppy speedboat traveling to the islands from Belize city.

‘You’re traveling to Central America and Asia with an 8 month old?’ ‘You’re traveling by bus overland across the Mexico Chetumal border?’ ‘You’re taking a baby away for 6 weeks?’ were all questions people asked even more than ‘You’re eloping in Belize?!’

To anyone that knows us (my visit list is up to 65 countries now, hubby’s 35) the answer was ‘of course we are – our 8 month old will love it!’ And she did.

Our route was AustraliaLA – Belize – Mexico – UK – Singapore – Australia. 45 days, 8 different beds in 5 countries, 52 hours of flights, hundreds of new faces and experiences.

I’ve honestly never seen her more curious, more happy, or more adaptable. What surprised me the most is how natural it comes to them. She got more sleep on our long haul flights & dealt with jet-lag quicker than both of us! Watching her dip her toes in the Caribbean, charm Singaporean strangers on the MRT and scoff Mexican tacos till her heart is content was utterly worth it.

We found 6 weeks away with a baby a crazy, exhausting adventure, but most of all a huge bonding experience. Our daughter relished having both mum & dad (and grandparents) around her, as well as the overwhelming kindness of doting strangers. Everyone loves a baby. I’d of had one long ago if I knew how useful they are for nabbing the best seats on buses and cutting boat queues :)

There’s so much written about the negatives of travel with children, about baby routines, about jet-lag adjustment schedules etc. People often stress about whether such young babies will miss home or feel secure.

Before we left a friend gave me the following advice, which I absolutely love (in the context of travel and just motherhood in general); “You are their home. You are their safe place. Make all the lists you want of tips, advice, things to pack. All they really need is you. “

Beautiful. Simple. True.

 

Our Belizean Wedding…

20151228_191726.jpgIf we had a dollar for every friend and family member that asked ‘Why Belize?’ we’d be a very rich couple. Our wedding – or more of an elopement really – was low key, no shoes, no fuss, completely unique and absolutely perfect for us.

The answer is; because it’s slightly off the radar, it’s hard to get to, it’s legally straightforward (for an English / Australian couple) and home to one of the best scuba diving sites in the world at The Blue Hole.

Our venue; Xanadu Resort in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, was a rare combination of luxury and ramshackle. It was beachfront and rustic, with flawless customer service. Plus, we will forever enjoy singing the Olivia Newton John classic hit every time we fondly think of it.

Highlights included screaming with laughter as we jumped from the Xanadu pier into the warm Caribbean at sunset (i’m a less than $100 dress kind of gal.) Our wedding brunch was local jerk chicken from Robin’s roadside hut, and dinner featured rum chocolate cake & cerviche from the candle lit Hidden Treasures restaurant. We discovered it down a back alley the day before when they let us shelter from a thunderstorm. We successfully and gracefully perfected the art of releasing Chinese lanterns after many a glass of champagne. Finally our wedding photographer Efrain was all sorts of awesome in indulging my requests for NatGeo style travel shots in our location shoots in downtown Belize City and Mayan temple Altun Ha. I just couldn’t resist a cheeky homage to travel Instagrammer #followmeto.

 

 

 

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Our secret travel room…

Some people have craft rooms, some walk in wardrobes. Our latest indulgence for baby backpacker (who will join us any day now!) is a nursery filled with our trinkets & memories from flee markets all over the world.

1) World map decal from Korea 2) Books from England, Sophie the French giraffe & Buzzy Bee the New Zealand icon 3) Dreamcatcher from Manila in the Philippines 4) Cushions from Luang Prabang in Laos & Goa India 5) Tibetan prayer flags from Kathmandu 6) Turkish lamp from Istanbul’s Grand Bizaar 7) Photos from Machu Picchu in frames from Koh Tao Thailand 8) Our finger size Bolivian llama 9) Fish mobile from Rashdoo in the Maldives  10) Our Terracotta Warrior guard from China 11) ‘Eat Pray Love’ postcards from Pai in Thailand 12) The bookshelf of inspiration!

 

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!

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…

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