Doing shots in Tasmania

This is a shot – Tassie style –

It’s an oyster shot –

– sake with wasabi, pickled ginger and a plump, fresh Tasmanian oyster … delicious!

The seafood here is so good –

– I devoured these six scallops cooked with brioche crumbs and herbs in about three minutes, in a little restaurant on the quay in Hobart.

I rapidly came to the conclusion that I absolutely love Tasmania, and I wondered why I’d never been here before during my trips to Oz.  The weather is perfect, the scenery is spectacular, the seafood is stupendous and the people are delightful – I’m just glad it’s so far from Europe, otherwise it would be as crowded as the Lake District, or probably even more so, as the weather is considerably better.

The beaches are wonderful – soft, fine sand and clear water – and totally empty –

We travelled up from Hobart to Wineglass Bay, on the East Coast –

– which is the most perfect crescent of white sand, filled with turquoise water.

The description in the guide book says that nobody is sure how it got the name Wineglass Bay.  I found that rather puzzling, because if anyone has ever seen a wineglass, they would surely notice its resemblance to the shape of the bay?

This is a wine glass –

And this is an aerial shot of Wineglass Bay –

And it’s not as though the Tasmanians are unfamiliar with wine.  They have some fantastic wineries, including my favourite Antipodean sparkling, Jansz –

– and hundreds of others in beautiful locations, where ladies who lunch can sit and enjoy a glass of wine in the sunshine –

and then nip into the appropriately signed ladies loo –

There’s a very down-to-earth quality about Australians, and it’s particularly noticeable at MONA, the Hobart art museum, described by its owner as ‘a subversive adult Disneyland.’  Where else but Australia, would the audio guide for the museum have a selection button thus labelled …?

It’s actually the selection that gives more information about the artist – but that doesn’t sound half so intriguing.

The museum encourages you to listen at doors –

watch goldfish swimming in a bowl with a knife –

and admire the tattooed back of a live exhibit –

This is Tim, and he sold his back to a German art collector in 2008 for $150,000.  Presumably the collector has to wait until Tim dies to get his artwork, and in the meantime, Tim sits in the museum listening to his iPod day in and day out … I think death might be preferable.

Cradle Mountain is billed as one of the last wildernesses on Earth.  It has ancient rainforests and alpine heathland, plus loads of wildlife and the iconic Cradle Mountain itself (I put my phone into the metal bracket next to the path, helpfully provided, to ensure that everyone can get the perfect shot!)

It was a beautiful day when we visited – like pretty much every other day when we were in Oz – and the views were spectacular …

We didn’t see any wombats, it was a bit hot for them that day, but a highlight of the trip was a night walk to see the wallabies at our Airbnb in the middle of nowhere next to Cradle Mountain.  Our host took us out walking in his paddocks and we saw the wallabies just the other side of the fence, feeding. thumping their feet in warning and hopping around.  Don had a bright torch and he balanced it on his head so that I could get my first shot of a wild wallaby –

It won’t win any photographic awards, but it’s a great reminder of a uniquely wonderful experience.

 

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Melbourne: trees in skirts

Having spent a few days in Melbourne, I feel just that little bit hipper and cooler.  I’ve been hanging out in bars with uber-cool names like …

which has a series of unusual collages on the walls –

And Melbourne’s the sort of city where you can get a Shiatsu massage in the market –

I don’t know of anywhere else that you can do that.  Certainly not in Bedford, that’s for sure – if you lay down in the market square there, you’d be trampled by the hordes stampeding towards the freshly-picked Brussels sprouts.

Because the Australian Open is on at the moment, there are lots of tennis-related promotions and freebies.  I was offered a free fan on a hot day, so I accepted it gratefully and spent the whole day happily fanning myself with what I assumed was a fan advertising sun screen –

– it was only later that I discovered it’s actually advertising condoms.

The food is pretty hip too.  The stall selling these whole, spiralled fried potatoes on a stick had a huge queue –

And so did the whole roasted stuffed pig –

– sporting a fashionable pair of glasses.

What I particularly like about Melbourne is the way it’s preserved its heritage – like the Victorian architecture –

Thanks to the 1850’s gold rush, it was the second wealthiest city in the British Empire, and the newly minted inhabitants wanted their houses ‘draped in an iron petticoat’. Apparently the British thought this was very brash, and Ruskin described it as ‘cheap and vulgar’ – but the Melburnians couldn’t have cared less.

I think they look splendid, and even those that haven’t been restored –

– have a dignified, faded grandeur about them.

And what’s with the trees in skirts?

They’re to stop possums climbing them and then destroying the trees by eating out the centre.  Like the other inhabitants of Melbourne, Possums are discerning eaters and only like imported trees, so the native species don’t need skirts.

And it’s not just in trees that possums are a nuisance.  My Melbourne friend, Gordon –

– drinking Pimm’s with me here at Naked for Satan – had a dead possum in his basement, which exploded and filled the house with noxious fumes for six weeks.

We have deer that damage trees in England, but at least they don’t creep into people’s houses and explode … and we should definitely be thankful for that.

 

 

 

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Question: What’s the weather like in Perth?

Answer: It’s Perth-fect!

I’ve never been in such a perfect climate … wall-to-wall sunshine with horizon-to-horizon blue sky all day, every day,  and with a slight breeze to stop it getting too hot.

This is what the sky looks like all the time –

So … apart from the flawless weather, what else is Perth like?

Well, it’s a clean, tidy and very relaxed city with extremely friendly locals – but if I’m being honest, it’s a bit staid and manicured for me.  I prefer a bit more urban grit and buzz in my cities.

But it’s not totally bland; Perth does have its quirks.

These birds, living in a suburban garden, are decidedly quirky –

And when I saw this woman relaxing in a park I thought, ‘Oh my, she has a dog with purple ears!’ –

But when they got up to go, I could see that she actually had two dogs and they were even quirkier than I’d thought –

And how about this cream, for yet another quirk? –

Is it made from placenta, or do you apply it to your placenta?  And why?

Perth is one of the remotest cities on Earth.  It is nearly 4,000 km by road to Sydney or Melbourne, and is so far from all the other populous parts of Australia that it has a whole host of unique plants.

This is a 750-year-old boab tree –

Spot that blue sky again!

And I finally got to stand ‘under the shade of a coolibah tree’ –

There was no billabong, but you can’t have everything.

Unsurprisingly, as the climate is so warm and sunny, it’s ideal for growing grapes –

– and the Swan Valley and Margaret River are famous wine-producing areas.

But please learn from my mistake, and don’t sign up for a full day of wine-tasting that starts off at 11 am with 15 different wines in the first winery –

with another 9  wines before lunch, then six after lunch, followed by 5 artisan ciders –

This was definitely a bad move, and I now know less about Western Australian wines than I did before I started.  The first ten were all wonderful, the next ten were ok, and after that it was all a blur.  I seem to remember that I liked the Fatt Granny –

but whether it was just the name I enjoyed, I have no idea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What a whopper!

To wrap up my time in Malaysia, we did a little strawberry picking up in the Cameron Highlands –

– it must be the unique climate that makes them grow so big …

The Highlands are ideal for growing tea, and in some places there are tea bushes as far as the eye can see in every direction –

And there is also cloud forest, which is a tropical forest at altitude, so it is often in the clouds.  The high moisture level means that there is an abundance of moss, and with a flash of inspiration, they named it –

– Mossy Forest.

It’s creepily atmospheric –

– and if the Black Riders had galloped around the corner, in pursuit of The Ring, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

We stayed in a rattan hut in the jungle –

accessed via a bamboo bridge over the river –

And I took the opportunity to hone my blowpipe skills –

It was a bit too back-to-nature for Anthony, who spent the whole time grumbling about how noisy the jungle is at night, and how few mod cons there are in a rattan hut.

On the way back to KL, I insisted that we stop for durian as it’s an essential part of the Malaysian experience, and it’s the durian season now.

This is Olivia demonstrating the typical beginners’ durian face –

– as she tries a dessert called cendol, with added durian garnish.

Whereas I’m an old hand and can eat it without grimacing –

In fact, if it wasn’t for the smell and the rotting-vegetation aftertaste, I’d happily eat it every day.

There was just one more experience to cross off my list before I left KL … a visit to the luxury screen at the local cinema, where you get a reclining seat and a duvet –

– a duvet might sound ridiculous in a city that’s 217 miles from the equator, but the airconditioning in the cinema is cranked down so low that you’d be at risk of hypothermia without it.

Then there was just time for a farewell dinner with all my chums from school –

who I’ll miss enormously – and then I packed up and left Malaysia.

Next stop – Australia …

 

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Krabi … but not Crabby

After a hectic Christmas day at the pool –

and an exhausting evening posing around the Christmas tree at the Majestic Hotel –

We were definitely in need of some R & R on Boxing Day, so headed off to the beach in Thailand.

Krabi was not quite what I was expecting.  Despite the severe penalties for drug use in Thailand, the first thing we saw on our boat to the hotel was a stringy, tattooed expat in a santa hat –

– smoking a large joint.

Surprisingly, he didn’t appear to work here …

– but there were plenty of others in town.

I also saw my first magic mushrooms, which were a bit of a disappointment –

– I was expecting them to look more like unicorns and fairy dust, and less like a tupperware full of compost.

But Anthony wasn’t put off and eagerly got into the queue for his supernatural cuppa –

And if I wasn’t expecting drugs, I was expecting crabs.  Why bother to call a place Krabi if there are no Krabs?  Just imagine going to Cheddar and not being able to buy any cheese.

But if there weren’t crabs, there was very good fish –

– salt-crusted barbecued red snapper is my new favourite.

And we took a cookery class and made some splendid local dishes –

Although the heat in the kitchen did make me look slightly mad –

The geology is spectacular, and very similar to Halong Bay in Vietnam.  There are all sorts of lumps and bumps rising out of the water –

– which are called Karsts and made of limestone from coral reefs which existed millions of years ago.

The karsts also form caves, and whilst I was slightly wary of visiting caves in Thailand, there was one at the end of the beach that was attracting a lot of attention, so I went to have a look.

It’s called the Princess Cave, and local people leave special gifts for the princess there.

She’s obviously not your average Disney princess. There’s not a tiara in sight … the whole place is full of rampant todgers –

I was interested to see that the description of the cave ended with a plea for appropriate gifts only –

It’s hard to imagine what sort of gift this particular princess would consider inappropriate.

But it wasn’t all hard work you’ll be pleased to hear.  As well as slogging along beaches for cave visiting and whipping up culinary delights, there was also time for a few beach massages –

and the obligatory cocktails at sunset –

So, here’s to an equally splendid 2019 …

… cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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