I have been to Australia a couple of times before but the experience has been terrible. Why? Think Exercise Wallaby.
So for the longest time, my wife has been bugging me for a holiday in Australia, I have been more than reluctant, to be honest. And I am ashamed to be so narrow-minded. Though Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth have already been populated by countless Asians for the longest time, pardon my late discovery of this wonderful part of the world. I was quite hesitant about how are we going to spend ten days in Australia, where everything closes by 5 pm.
Touch down administration
Upon touching down, the transition is relatively smooth. Before we get to the part where the customs officer decides randomly whether your luggage gets inspected, something to note here is that for Singaporeans above the age of 16, you can make use of the automatic clearance gate. No photos were allowed for obvious reasons, but the gantry is generally similar to what we have at Changi Airport, pretty self-explanatory.
The next order of the day is to collect our rental car and get a SIM card. I highly recommend getting your SIM card first (for Google Map). Car rentals are generally cheap in Australia. We paid a total of AUD$477.60 for a total of 12 days (our friend stayed an additional 2 days) for a Kia Cerato Forte from Avis. Pretty decent. The important questions that help in deciding on the type of car you need are:
- What is the size of your group? (obviously)
- Are you going to be traveling off-road?
If you are expecting to be going places that are mainly off-road, the suggestion here is to get a vehicle that is an all-wheel drive.
So off we go to our Airbnb accommodation, grab ourselves a quick Mexican dinner at Fremantle and turn in as we want to be up early for the farmers market.
Day 2 & 3
We spend our entire day 2 exploring our neighboring farmers market because it is a glorious Sunday. Our first stop is at Freo Farmers Market and they only open on Sundays. Different areas farmers markets do open on different days, so do your research before heading out. I must say this is a really small community market as compared to the others that I have seen.
This is my first time actually seeing someone making their own cheese and selling them fresh at the farmers market. How cool is that? One of the main reasons why I can never go full vegan, cheese.
A lot of us have heard of Herbal Black Chicken in a soup but have never seen a ‘live’ one. So there you go. By the way, they are fluffy and cute.
They have an area with animals inside a pen for kids to interact with, while the parents do their shopping and catching up with friends.
It is refreshing for me to see the small community selling what they grow, bake, cook, catch freshly themselves. After getting what we will need for the next few days of cooking, we headed over to the Fremantle market. You need to take note that this place screams of tourists. So beware. We ran into a group of Singapore students from a school trip. Nonetheless, it is still crowded with locals.
And my wife got me to try this super awesome food called Turkish Gozleme. We got spiced beef but they do have plenty more different fillings to choose from such as chicken, potato, salami and so on. Give it a try when you are there. I have never visited any Turkish restaurants in Singapore, I am pretty sure they have it as well. Most of us who are used to having bread with fillings will love it, especially the cheese lovers. Here is what it looks like. So good that actually you don’t need the dipping sauce.
After this, we headed back to our place to start preparing for dinner and our meals for the next few days. And this is me carrying out my duty as a general laborer and our spoils from the first day at the farmers market.
Fast forward to the next day, we visited Rottnest Island. You can purchase the ferry tickets and the bus tickets before you are even in Australia physically. So if you are planning to visit the place you should consider doing so. There are many different ways to explore this island. What we got are the unlimited hop-on, hop-off buses that go around the island in a single direction loop. This is the best option for the not so adventurous and not so physically fit friends. There are a lot of other options like bicycles, electric bikes, segway, even seaplane for hire. You can get your ferry and bus tickets and have more information such as maps, things to do, at the link below:
I recommend this ferry company as for some strange reason, the others are pretty packed and I have no idea why. And they are a new operator as of the time of my visit. You will need to get a lot of sunblock. And I mean a lot. Of course, the top thing to do at Rottnest will be to take a selfie with the legendary happiest animal in the world; Quokkas. They belong to the same family tree as the kangaroos but they kind of look like a cross between kangaroo and koala. Below are some of our photos captured from different parts of Rottnest Island.
So upon arrival, you see the visitor center immediately and you don’t have to walk far, you will start encountering these cute little quokkas. And my camera-shy wife spotted a naughty one feasting on ketchup which it shouldn’t be eating. Please do not feed them with anything at all. There were plenty of tourists trying to do so just to capture ‘that perfect shot’, which is really terrible.
After hanging around for a bit, we decided to trek in the unforgiving sun and heat to the nearest beach area, once again I highly recommend you slap on tons of sunblock if not you will regret it. But the sight of the beach makes it all worthwhile. By the way, if you are planning to visit in the summer, I do recommend getting a fly net to wear over your face as well.
This is my wife trying not to be burned alive by the heat:
I attempted at creating a story using my DJI Osmo mobile 3, but the soaring temperature overheated my phone and gimbal. The resolution is not as good as I expected.
Next stop we hopped onto the bus and stopped at Cathedral Rocks and Eagle Bay, where you can spot dolphins and New Zealand fur seals. We packed lunch and ate there because food options are very limited and only available at the ferry terminal.
By the time we were done with our lunch, we decided that we had enough of the sun so we get on the bus again to make our way back to the jetty. You can bring forward your ferry timing if there are available seats. All you have to do is check the next available ferry timing and get to the visitor center and asked to borrow their phone and call your respective ferry service vendors to request for it. They emailed me the new tickets almost instantaneously.
And finally, while waiting for our next ferry, I managed to get the money shot! Lucky me.
We managed to get back to our place and grab an early dinner at the recommended fish and chips place called Kailis. It is not just a fish and chips place but it has a very extensive range of seafood freshly caught. You can go over the counter and choose whatever seafood and how you would like them to be prepared. Fully customizable.
I ordered the standard fish and chips, they prepared it with whatever fish that is being caught that day. I believe it is trout. While my wife got the grilled version. The fish is fresh but my focus here is actually not the fish, but the chips. I discovered that the secret ingredient that they use in Australia to season their fries is chicken salt! It is basically what makes their fries taste so much better and you can actually get them from supermarkets. We got a clam chowder too that is super rich and creamy, but it has a bit too many ingredients in it, value for money though.
Right after dinner, we swung by a brewery called Little Creatures Brewhouse. As the name suggests they actually have their own brewery, not just microbrewery. Anyway, I was being greedy and tried to order a taster of 10. Bad choice. Cause after a while you will be too bloated to be able to taste anything at all. So my advice is stick to a pint or two of only two types of beer maximum.
We were probably too burned out by the trip to Rottnest Island so we decided to do only one activity today which is to visit The Pinnacles. Bad move though cause more ‘burning’ ensued. These are natural limestone formations formed many thousands of years ago when the sea receded. Again, I cannot stress enough here to buy a fly net for covering your face, no matter how much they cost. For your information, we finally bought ours at the souvenir shop at The Pinnacles entrance.
There are two ways to explore this place. By foot, which is a four to five kilometers walk, and you are advised to carry loads of water with you if you plan to do so as the sun is unforgiving and there are practically no shelter from the sun at all. By car, you will be driving from point to point where they allocated spaces for you to stop your car and explore the area, and jump back into your car and drive to the next vantage point. This is how it is captured from my 360 camera.
You can tell from the video that I am panting cause it is way too hot. And my phone and gimbal overheated again. It is not fun out there in terms of the temperature. For those who plan to drive, be very careful as the driving route is demarcated by large rocks, but at certain parts are narrow.
We stopped by a place called Lobster Shack located along the coast of Cervantes. I must say it is fresh. I am usually allergic to seafood that is unfresh and after the meal I am okay. But the place is quite touristy though. So be warned. The photo has a red hue to it because we were sitting outdoors under canvas, but the food is fantastic.
Day 5 & 6
We packed everything that we have bought over the last few days and proceeded on to our next destination, Nannup. On our way there we stopped by a place called Miami Bakehouse for some pies. It is quite nice overall, the only thing is that the pastry doesn’t taste like real pie pastry. But I guess that is because, at such a scale, it is impossible to be able to roll the pastry so meticulously.
We made a detour to stop at Busselton. Basically what is interesting to see at Busselton is this jetty, which is the longest tiled jetty that extends out into the open sea in the southern hemisphere. There were plenty of locals who were jumping off the platform into the open sea. I wanted to do the same but was unceremoniously stopped by my wife to capture this epic moment. And the resulting picture is only this.
Regretted greatly for not capturing more videos, but you can see from the background, it is where the ocean meets the sky and there is no obstruction at all. Visit and see it for yourself, and do bring a change of clothes, just in case you decide to jump off the platform into the open sea.
Our next accommodation is rustic and cool. It is called the bootmaker’s house. It was bought over from an old couple and carefully restored tastefully. Certain parts of the house have been modernized but for the better, especially the kitchen. This is by far one of the nicest Airbnb places I have seen in my years of travel. There are 2 separate bedrooms so it is suitable for up to 4 guests. And the host bothered to provide us with proper and nice shower foam. The kitchen is amazing with a complete functioning oven. And the host was nice enough to leave the air conditioning on for us knowing that it will be hot. There was a house manual with a complete guide to traveling around the area and things to do as well. And lastly, cause one of the bedrooms does not enjoy the air conditioning so it can get stuffy for some during the summer nights. But the host immediately brought over a fan for us after we told her about it the next day.
Apologies if the video does not do any justice to the place as I have difficulty capturing the entirety of the place with my phone. In case you are wondering, here goes the link: https://www.airbnb.com.sg/rooms/35467854?location=Nannup%2C%20Western%20Australia&adults=3&source_impression_id=p3_1577100045_JNCUINaSaEtIi686
After unpacking, we went for a walk around the town, when covered by foot, in just 20 minutes. It is a really small, close-knitted town. There is only one of everything; one park, one cafe, one bakery, one gas station and so on. And that is when we spotted some wild emus just walking around randomly. This is new as none of us has been this close to wild emus before.
We came across this catholic church that is so small, the total floor area is probably only 400 square feet. Talk about a small town. We spotted this little statue called Nannup Tiger. We are not too sure whether if it is a distant cousin of the Tasmanian Tiger but there is a volunteer group that is tracking their sightings.
The next morning we set off for The Margaret River Chocolate Company. They have all sorts of chocolate possibly imaginable for sale. But there is not much room for exploration and interaction, so we got whatever we needed to bring back as gifts and moved on. Afterward, we stopped by Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse. Once again, to be honest, it was not much to see. Thankfully the entrance fees are pretty cheap. The view is fantastic from the lighthouse of the vast Indian Ocean. I will only recommend for you to stop over at this place if you happen to have an hour’s extra time or so at hand.
This is me posing in front of the actual lighthouse:
We started bright and early to this place Valley Of The Giants Tree Top Walk. It is somewhat similar to our Tree Top Walk in Singapore according to my wife, though I have not been there. Not a place for people with an extreme fear of heights, but it is manageable. The bridges will sway a little if someone jump or run on it, we discovered it thanks to some kid.
So what is so special about these trees you may ask. Well, the photo below is what is so amazing and unique about them. The hollowed-out portion as you can see is so much larger than the both of us combined standing inside. The red tingle trees are identifiable by its large hollowed out bases, due to fire and fungal attacks. While most trees would have died if their trunks are hollowed out, what is amazing about these trees is that they are still alive and still growing as per normal! The beauty of nature’s evolution.
The tree was split almost into halves and it is still alive and growing.
After all of the monkeying around, we set off towards our accommodation with nowhere particular in mind, and that is where we passed by the most amazing place the entire trip (for me). Tingles Bakehouse. You can check out their Instagram on their opening days and hours. They are only opened for about six months every year. This is the single most legendary and godlike pie I have ever eaten in my life. I have no idea what kind of sorcery that the co-owner Jack used to bake his pies. I would drive two hours out just to eat this again and I kid you not. It is that good. So initially we ordered two of them. Braised steak, stout and onion pie, and free-range chicken and vegetables. I know nothing about baking a pie but I do know what is a good pie. The pastry is just perfectly done. My wife bakes quite often and I do know how difficult it is to roll out a good pastry.
It is so good that we ordered another pie to go and the flavor is Jarrah smoked beef rib with roasted potato, capsicum, and onion. It is so good that we devoured it once we reached home and there are no photos of it. But I attached one from their Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/B4ba89qJUks/?igshid=xgp9idj4u8ah
You definitely should try it, whether you like pies or not. Mindblowing goodness.
Next stop, we made a pit stop at The Colony Concept. They are basically a bee farm with a restaurant. They serve locally-made honey wine and beer, organic honey and products and also a bee education center for the public. We ordered a tasting paddle of their honey wines that comes with nuts.
Overall we enjoyed it but I guess it was because of the rich pies we had earlier, the honey wine tasted quite meek in comparison. But it is generally very light and refreshing for people who are not so much of an alcohol drinker.
As usual, we woke up early, all for the farmers market at Margaret River. This one is way livelier than the others we been to. The most memorable thing we saw was these two gentlemen. They are pretty senior in their age but they still got so much groove and vitality in them. If you are ever down at Margaret River, do check them out and follow them. For the older folks like myself who appreciate oldies and listens to Gold 90.5 FM every Sunday morning, these folks are right up your alley. You can follow them on their Facebook page where they will be playing next, though I suspect they are not very active in updating their page. https://www.facebook.com/Scott-Wise-and-Gary-Burke-acoustic-upcycled-music-344414296062518/
The food here is pretty standard stuff except the cannoli which I must say is even better than the ones we had at Pasta Bar. It is really super fresh and crunchy on the outside, and the creamy filling inside is just about the right amount of sweetness in there. It is pretty mind-blowing that a farmers market cannoli can even taste better than the ones that costs a bomb in a restaurant. Classic example that not all expensive stuffs are superior.
If you are a coffee lover, you might want to try Yahava KoffeeWorks. I can’t seem to find them on the vendors’ list on the website of Margaret River Farmers market so I am not sure if they are a regular feature there. Despite the horrendously long queue, their latte consistency is the same because I went for two cups of it. And for everyone reading this who has not heard of heirloom tomatoes before, or even hate tomatoes like myself, you might want to give this a shot. Trust me guys, you have never eaten a real tomato and know what a real tomato tastes like until you tried them. I believe he is the guy whom we bought from. https://www.margaretriverfarmersmarket.com.au/farmers/mario-mcleod-creeks-amazing-summer-vegetables and the resulting dinner is as below. They are so sweet and refreshing that we did not even season them. We simply cut them up and serve with some basil and lemon juice that is all.
He also sells zucchini flowers which for some strange reasons, my wife is very amused about. I have no idea what are they used for. But apparently they are popular in mexican and spanish cuisines. You can either eat them raw or fritter them.
Backtrack to after the farmers market, we went for a quick lunch at this burger joint called Burger Baby Margaret River. It is not mindblowing but definitely above average.
And we came to a joint called Squid Lips which is kind of like our Singapore version of Chippy British Take Away that sells fried stuff. But what I ordered is something you cannot find in Singapore commonly. Crocodile meat! The texture tastes like chicken meat although it looks suspiciously similar to fish meat. There is no gamey taste and pretty clean. And they are only available at random, so if you do see it I recommend trying it.
This day is only getting more epic with our next stop Surfers Point. The name says it all. The waves here can make even the most experienced surfers pee in their pants. To prove my point, just listen to the intense wind sound in the video. And I seriously have no idea how the guy managed to even windsurf out into the sea, but utmost respect to his skills and courage. If you look close enough, you will notice that at one point of the sea, the waves are coming in from two different directions, which again, is pretty insane.
After some scary site seeing, and a sudden intense downpour out of nowhere for about just ten minutes, we drove over to Voyager Estate. The entire estate looks vintage and colonial that has a very strong English influence on the architecture. This is a popular location for weddings and wedding photoshoots. Of course, we are here for the wine. But I manage to capture some parts of the interior. I can see why this place is a popular venue for wedding shoots.
They have tasting flights available for most of their wines, it is chargeable but if you make any purchases, it will be waived off. Most of the people who have been to Australia should be no stranger to visiting vineyards. Each of them is unique in their rights. Not too far from Voyager Estate, there is another vineyard called Leeuwin Estate. This place is more chic in the sense that they have an art gallery as well. And they have a stage and an open outdoor area where they actually host events such as operas, concerts, jazz events known as the Leeuwin Concerts. Notable performers in the past include Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Royal Danish Orchestra, Tom Jones, Sting and so on. This is me in front of the stage. It actually reminds me of our own Botanic Gardens Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage.
We did not go for any wine tastings but we bought a bottle for our dinner. That pretty much sums up our day up to pre-dinner. I went for a short jog before dinner and surprisingly, it started to rain moderately for a while and stopped. Next thing I know, when I look up into the sky, to my very surprise I saw this. What a way to end our last night at Nannup before we head out to the city.
Day 9 & 10
After checking in, we headed out to explore the city. It is quite typical although we saw some funny stuff in Chinatown. There is this funny grocery shop selling Yong Tau Foo which is atypical Asian. It is a dish that is made up of an assortment of vegetable and soybean-based products with fish paste. And also durian. It is not uncommon, especially there is a large pool of Asian students who live here in the city, but still quite a pleasant surprise.
Walked past another place which is a noodle bar and a laundromat together called Lucky Chan’s. The name of the shop is definitely Hong Kong-style, but combining a quick noodle bar while you wash your clothes at a laundromat is original I guess.
To top it all off, this is the single weirdest thing I saw in the city, with no explanations and no signs at all on what it is about. Perhaps an art piece? I have no clue seriously.
We managed to squeeze in one last meal of Nando’s before we fly off. The reason is that for some reason, Nando’s in Australia tastes way better than the ones we have in Singapore and I just don’t know why. And of course, they sprinkle chicken salt on their fries which makes it tastes so much better. Although the photo looks the same as any other Nando’s, but trust me, it tastes better. Try it for yourself.
There are quite a fair bit of things that I have experienced along the way which surprised me overall. It is not as boring as I thought, there were a few days when we literally eat at 5 pm and sleep by 9 pm, it is a good thing I guess. And I can see the appeal as to why many people from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore are choosing to migrate there. The slower pace of life, the food, in general, the lifestyle. Perth is relatively near to Singapore, no time difference, and now with the stronger Singapore Dollar, it is definitely worth going. The next place that I would like to visit in Australia is probably Tasmania. But for now, it is home sweet home with this little monster.
P.S. If you guys have a feline member at home and thinking of traveling, you guys can consider boarding them at Nekoya cat hotel. Their rates are pretty straight forward and they are very accommodating to your cat’s likes and dislikes. Most importantly they have a very high standard of hygiene and they do not let the cats interact with one another, which is very important to us as most cats do not like each other. I feel so much safer than engaging an independent pet boarding place.
*This is not a sponsored post by any of the mentions in this article. Solely based on personal experience.