Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Grand Margaret River Adventure - Jewels of Nature

Jewel Cave

The Margaret River region in Perth, Australia, is an extravaganza in natural scenic sites. With the region abundant in food resources of all types, it is only expected to encounter a view of nature that is unsurpassed elsewhere in the world. We were blessed to receive complimentary tickets from the Augusta Margaret River Tourism Board to visit one of the prized gems of the region - Jewel Cave. Australia's Southwest website describes the cave in this manner:

Jewel Cave is Western Australia’s largest tourism cave. Hidden in the beautiful Karri forest of the Leeuwin Naturaliste Ridge, about 37 kilometres south of Margaret River and nine kilometres north of Augusta, this cave sinks to a reachable depth of 42 metres and is 1.9 kilometres long. Only 40 per cent of the cave has been developed for tourism and the journey for the visitor is spectacular. Jewel has giant formations and little natural light. The first descent down a long, narrow tunnel which opens at the top of the first giant cavern makes for a breathtaking introduction to the rest of the tour. Jewel Cave gives one the sensation of being under the ocean without the water. It has a soft golden glow and the sheer magnitude of its formations dwarfs its visitors. This cave has one of the longest straw stalactites found in any tourist cave in the world, measuring 580 centimetres.
A magnificent sight of the cave greets all who enter.
Some of these rock formations have their origins from thousands of years ago.
This was the original entrance that the first explorers first descended into in 1958. 
The enormity of the cave can blow your mind away just by its immenseness.
You can see how the stalactites form over thousands of years. 
The "underground waterfall". 
The beauty of the rock formations lies in its intricacy and uniqueness.
Rock art!
The same scene, but under green light.
The rocks are striated and made up of different mineral compositions. 
Jewel Cave comprises several large caverns, each with different
interesting formations.
Our little family of explorers.
The 4yo bravely walked the entire journey with Daddy!
Here is our little one climbing and exploring on his own!
One for the road!

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse

The Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is one of the grandest in the region. Located at the southwesternmost tip of the Australian continent, the lighthouse boasts of gorgeous views from all around. The lighthouse's website provides this fascinating information about its history:

Historic Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse is situated at the most south westerly tip of Australia, standing at the point where the Indian and Southern Oceans meet - 8 kilometres west of Augusta. With a stunning blue backdrop of the ocean meeting the sky the lighthouse appears to glow in white splendour during summer, whilst during winter the awesome force of the fierce Southern Ocean and powerful Indian Ocean crashing against the Cape makes your visit a unique, awesome and contrasting experience year round.

A famous maritime landmark and important meteorological site from which data is collected, the tower stands 39 metres high from ground level and 56 metres above sea level. Its piercing beam, which has an intensity of one million candles, shines over the surrounding rugged sea and landscape for 26 nautical miles or 48 kilometres. 

Cape Leeuwin on which the lighthouse stands is also the start point for the Cape to Cape Track. Nearby is also the Old Waterwheel, a wooden water wheel that once supplied water to the lighthouse from a fresh water spring in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge. The water wheel has now calcified from the lime in the water, and although the wheel no longer turns, water still trickles over the structure, as fresh as the day the water wheel was first erected.
The lighthouse is an imposing sight from afar.
It's truly amazing that the lighthouse is still working after
more than a hundred years!
Our 4yo at the bottom of the 176 stairs. He walked up every step on his own!
Lighthouse keepers needed to walk up and down these spiral staircases regularly.
The piece de resistance of the lighthouse.
View from the top. These are the lighthouse keepers' cottages.
Mummy and son at the top.
This is the view of the large lighthouse light from the exterior.
Having a wild time!
Lovely ocean view from the top of the lighthouse.
Gorgeous views of the Australian coastline.
Enjoying time at Cape Leeuwin.
It was a rather chilly day, but the 4yo still kept his smiles for the camera.
Artistic shot of the Lim Family.

Kong Kong & Mama with Z. 
The grand Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
Situated at the southwesternmost part of Australia, the lighthouse has the distinction of being at the tip of two oceans!
The humble lighthouse keepers' cottage. In those days life along the coast was remote and possibly lonely.
2yos are not allowed up the lighthouse. The boy finally got some time with Mummy.
Sundown at Cape Leeuwin.
As the evening sun slowly made its way towards the horizon, we packed ourselves back into the car, for a long drive back north along the Margaret River region. What a splendid day it was for us! With the wind in our faces and the sun at our backs; we were truly having an adventure of a lifetime!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Malacca with the Kids: March 2015

Malacca has always been our go-to place for a short getaway. Most of the time, it's been without the kids. We love soaking in the ambience of Jonker Street and strolling by the river. Of course, the food never fails to draw us back to this laidback town with its sleepy atmosphere.

The facade of Malacca has, however, changed over the years. Imposing mega malls loom over two-storey shophouses. I would probably have not brought the boys along as the streets are narrow and traffic seemingly never ebbing, but when I googled "Malacca for Kids" this time round, there were quite a few options for the kids to enjoy.

Of course, the main reason why we decided to go was because we were attending my dearest  cousin's wedding dinner.
This brings back memories of how my cousins and I used to hang around at Chinese restaurants. We would be so thrilled to be on an actual stage...
And our choice of accommodation was largely influenced by the water play area which our hotel had. We have to admit that was the main reason we chose Swiss Garden Hotel and Residences. It turned out to be a fairly new hotel built next to The Shore, a new shopping and residential complex. The rooms were comfortable and spacious, and at what we felt was a good rate with breakfast included.
Our 2 yo's doggie gets to enjoy the comfortable bed too
Amazing - a hotel with a complete water play area!
Very happy boys
The morning after the wedding, our kind parents declared that they would take the kids for water play, and released Mark and I to explore the streets on our own. Our only requirement was of course to pack some lunch back for everyone.  So we headed down Jalan Bunga Raya, the same street our hotel was on, in search for the famous char siew rice which our cousin-in-law Danny Lim, a true-blue Malacca boy, had highly recommended. A bona fide foodie, we have asked his kind permission to include his directions in this post:

This is my must-eat place everytime I go back. Serves lunch-time starting 11am, everyday except Sunday. Finishes by 2pm.

Walk to Jalan Bunga Raya. (You'll have to walk because parking is almost impossible here). You will come along a side alley (on the right hand side of the traffic flow) which has been paved for three char siew stalls and a few other yong tau foo & porridge stalls. You know you're in the right place when at the front is a sugar cane drink stall.

The stalls that you want is the two stalls nearest to the main street. 
The right hand stall serves their char siew in dark sweetish-savoury sauce.
This is good for a pure Char siew experience. The left hand stall serves it with Chinese curry. They have a better variety of food to accompany the char siew, especially their omelette and Siew Yok. And I love their sambal, it's quite unique.

There is a third stall further in that also serves Char siew, but their only specialty is their sweet-and-sour pork which I also feel is world class, but it's not something impossible to find elsewhere.

What I have never found elsewhere which only the first front two stalls serve is the Char siew pun fei sau. You have to specifically ask for that, if not sometimes they just serve you the 'ordinary' lean Char siew. You can ask for extra plates of Char Siew pun fei sau. 

Trust us, it's worth finding.
Just as Danny said. Note the sugar cane stall in front.
This stall was further in. We found the char siew leaner and enjoyed the sides, especially the cabbage. 
The first stall. Char siew with a toasty burnt flavour, served with a deep sweetish sauce. So much flavour!
The char siew pun fei sau. Impossible to find anywhere else!

Madam Kim's popiah - on the same row as the char siew stall. Outside Madam King's Department Store. Each spring roll is prepared with much care. The queue grows long at mid day, so try to be there at about 11.30 am at least.
 In the evening, we decided to take a boat ride down the Malacca River and to give the boys a chance for a trishaw ride. We set off on the boardwalk outside our hotel, but realised that we had to take a taxi to the docking point at the other end of the river, nearer to Jonker Street. You can find more information about the river cruise here.
Always up for a walk in the outdoors!
Scenes of Kampung Morten in Meleka, a well-preserved living museum - a traditional Malay village which offers homestays.
Off we go! The little one was thrilled as he has been pestering me for a boat ride for the longest time.
The older boy was happy too!
A romantic boat ride for my parents :)
A gorgeous view of the theme park along the river 
Jonker Street 88 - amazing wanton noodles 
No. 1 Kopitiam Famous Nonya Cendol
It is "lemak" enough and with plenty of gula meleka. Yummy! 
Of course, no evening in Meleka is complete with a ride on one of these crazily decorated trishaws! This one had a "rojak" theme - a little bit of everything!
Our boys were pleased with the Frozen theme, naturally... 
Our trishaw driver wanna-be. Very pleased with himself. 
We ended the last day with our current favourite chicken rice ball shop in Malacca - The Ee Ji Ban Chicken Rice Ball Shop!
The balls are still handmade in this shop and the chicken is flavourful. The other nonya dishes complete the meal!
We will be back for more of these :)