Fraser Island

Lake Mackenzie
Lake Mackenzie

The last time we came to Fraser Island was in May 1994 – a day trip from Surfers Paradise where we’d been honeymooning. Yes, that long ago.

I remember bits and pieces from that day. I remember the guide telling us that rubbing our jewellery in the pure sands of Lake Mackenzie would restore them to sparkling glory and I remember how I was thinking smugly just how bright and shining my week old wedding ring was. I remember the green of Central Station and I remember how terribly long the day was. Mostly, though, I remember thinking how much I wanted to come back and stay for a few days.

Since we’ve been in Queensland I’ve had fantasies about camping and four-wheel-driving up there – forgetting that:

  • I don’t really like camping
  • we have no camping equipment
  • Our RAV4 is not exactly equipped for serious off-road

Instead, we booked a mini stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort – and a 4WD Beauty Spots tour with Fraser Explorer Tours. After seeing the softness of the sand and the number of people in real 4WDs who were running into trouble in it, we definitely made the right decision.

Lake Mackenzie

The photos of this place on Instagram are amazing (check it out at #lakemackenzie) and although we weren’t lucky enough to have a clear shot of the lake as isolated as it is in those shots, it’s still mighty beautiful.

Lake Mackenzie is a perch lake – so called because the lake is “perched” on top of a sand dune. There’s no water source into or out of the lake – it exists purely on rainfall.

The water is held in place by a waterproof lining of decayed plant matter that has settled over many thousands of years. What’s even more fascinating is that there are only 80 or so of these perch lakes on the planet – and 42 of them are on Fraser Island.

The water is slightly acidic and the sand is white. It’s so clear that you can easily see the colour gradients as the depth increases.

Central Station

Fraser Island was heavily logged from the 1860s (when the originally gazetted status of Aboriginal reserve was revoked) until the early 1990s.

For a time, a thriving logging community was at Central Station. Nothing remains of that today.

We took a short walk through the valley, following one of the silently flowing creeks back to its sandy source. Speaking of which, the sand acts as a giant sponge – and filter. Rainwater is stored in the dunes, and gradually pushed downward and squeezed out by the pressure of the sand. What emerges is clear, fresh water.

The Pinnacles

The coloured sands of The Pinnacles have been formed by minerals leaching from the sands over hundreds of thousands of years.

pic by John

Of course, the Aboriginals have a much more interesting story about how the sands were formed. Their story is one of love and a rainbow serpent:

(It) tells of Wuru who was promised to an older man Winyer but fell in love with Wiberigan (the rainbow).  The older man threatened revenge after witnessing Wuru visiting Wiberigan on a daily basis.  Seeing her alone one day he chased and threw his boomerang at her..calling for Wiberigan help he stood in front of her and the boomerang of Winyer shattered the rainbow which spilled colour into the sand cliffs of the area.  Wuru escaped unharmed leading to the women of the Butchulla tribe believing that the coloured sands gave them luck that day.

The Wreck of the Maheno

The SS Maheno was on its way to a Japanese wrecking yard when it ran aground in a cyclone in 1935. It’s been on the beach here ever since. If you want to know more about the history of the Maheno, you can read about it here.

The back is a tad messy from where it was used for bombing practice in WW2, but that just makes it even more photogenic.

Eli Creek

Eli Creek is the largest of the free-flowing creeks on Fraser Island and pours up to four million litres of clear water into the ocean every hour. Yep, you read those numbers right. The same temperature (ie cold) all year round, the current is so strong that the best thing to do is follow the boardwalk upstream and then float down.

The day we were there (the last Saturday in December) it was seriously mobbed. So many 4WDs, so many people, so many flamingo and unicorn floats. I languished in the cool water so took no photos, these ones are courtesy of randoms from Instagram – obviously taken on a day much less busy than when we were there!

Where we stayed

There are two resorts on the island – Eurong Beach Resort (on the Western side of the island and accessed from Rainbow Beach) and Kingfisher Bay Resort (on the Eastern side accessed from River Heads). Other than that, there are also plenty of places to camp.

We stayed at Kingfisher Bay Resort in hotel style rooms overlooking the lagoon. I’ve always wanted to stay here and absolutely wasn’t disappointed. Our room had tea and coffee making facilities, but we brought a picnic bag and esky with us in the car and made our own brekky etc in the room. (Foot passengers are restricted to the amount of luggage they can bring in.)

The resort does have some self-catering villas – which we’d probably look at next time – and there’s a general store selling basic produce and supplies. Prices are inflated – mainly because we are on an island and everything has to be brought in by barge. There’s also a don’t miss photo gallery – a fab shot of Lake Mackenzie is now on our wall.

There are a few restaurants attached to the resort – although given the crowds and the time of year we were there (between Christmas and New Year) it would be unfair of me to review any of them. I’m sure that the food, the perceived value and the experience is different outside of peak times when both the crowds, the heat and the cost is inflated.

Getting there

…is half the fun. We brought the car over on the barge from River Heads – which is 20km south of Hervey Bay. It’s an easy 50-minute crossing, but a tad weird how you drive off onto the long and narrow jetty. The barge takes both cars and foot passengers and can be booked via the resort. We also checked into the hotel at River Heads – something that meant on arrival all we needed to do was pick up our keys and hit the pool.

The verdict?

We’ll be back – but preferably in the off-season when it’s cooler and quieter…and with a real 4WD to explore some more.

Have you ever been to Fraser Island? If so, what was your experience?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

The Travel Quiz

Thanks to Katherine from Bright Lights of America for this idea… You can check out her Couple’s Travel Quiz here.

We love to travel together, but no matter how close you are or how long you’ve been together, travelling together can be both a rewarding experience and a potential minefield.

Over the last 28 or so years we’ve learnt a lot about how to get the most out of a trip by respecting each other’s travel personalities:

  • We both need time apart as well as time together
  • I like to be by a pool or on a beach – even if I don’t want to spend a huge amount of time there – and he doesn’t
  • He likes to have a tv in the room and I don’t
  • I like art galleries and museums and he doesn’t
  • He likes to shop and I don’t
  • I don’t like to overindulge at breakfast because I don’t want to miss out on lunch – he’d prefer to have a big breakfast and manage with a snack at lunchtime
  • I like to get to an airport, do the check-in thing and sit down with a drink and a book to wait. He doesn’t like to get there early and once checked in will then want to chat about pretty much nothing – while I’m trying to zone out.
  • We both enjoy foodie walking tours
  • We both enjoy wandering and ending up somewhere we didn’t expect to
  • We both enjoy road trips
  • We both love produce markets
  • We both enjoy street food but will book one “special” night out each trip

Fortunately, he’s happy to people watch if I want to do the museum thing, and I’m happy to read if he wants to watch tv. We’re cool about each other’s personal space and as a result, he’s still my favourite person to travel with – even though he does do my head in at airports.

Where are you likely to find your partner in a new city you’ve travelled to?

Grant – Absolutely not in the shops or on the high street. I’d find her in a slightly edgy or grungey coffee shop with her journal. Probably somewhere with street art.

Jo – Sitting in a park watching the world go by…or waiting for me to take a photo or finish in a gallery or museum.

What’s the first thing your partner does in a new city?

G – Take to the streets on a walking tour. She hates those introductory city tours where at the end they take you to one of those gem/batik/craft/whatever stores. She has no tolerance for that.

J – Whatever walking tour I’ve booked us on.

What is your partner’s travelling downfall?

G – She’s so paranoid about missing planes that she’s always way too early. She’s a control freak and doesn’t trust bookings she hasn’t made herself.

J – He’s a “just in time” man and doesn’t allow for local traffic conditions. He tends to start getting ready at the time we need to be leaving. He worries more about the budget than I do – both a plus and a minus. He doesn’t really like to change destinations if it involves another flight.

What is your partner’s travelling personality?

G – She likes to have transport and accommodation organised, and a list of other things researched but likes to wander and have lots of unplanned time.

J – It’s about the people and culture for him. He likes to get under the skin of a place. He doesn’t like a fixed schedule and wants to be able to spend as long as he wants if it’s somewhere that’s interesting.

Why does your partner like to travel?

G – For the experiences.

J – For the culture.

What is the most fun about travelling with your partner?

G – She can laugh at nearly anything and likes to wander. She’s organised, but not restrictive with it. She doesn’t mind doing things on her own if I’m not interested in it.

J – He’s happy to do whatever I decide usually – or wait while I do it if he’s not interested. He’ll try anything.

What is the place your partner most wants to travel to?

G – I can’t answer that – she has a list that changes all the time. Probably wherever she’s booked to go next. Seriously though, it’s easier to talk about places that aren’t on her list. There are also lots of places she wants to go back to and explore more deeply.

J – He’d love to do a Cunard cruise out of Southampton. One that goes through the Suez or Panama Canal. He’d love to see the Northern Lights and would like to go to St Petersburg.

What is the place your partner least wants to travel to?

G – Probably the Middle East or anywhere where she feels her freedoms are limited or there are too many rules she has to abide by – or where she feels that she can’t go into a bar on her own and have a drink if she wanted to do that. She doesn’t have a burning desire to go to Africa either.

J – He’s not interested in South America, the South Pacific or any of the walks I want to do. His idea of travel hell is an isolated resort, “honeymoon” style islands, gated communities – anywhere advertising seclusion or luxurious privacy. he’s not a villa type of man.

What is your partner’s favourite part of a new country?

G – The photo opportunities. I sometimes joke that I’m on holiday with Jo and her camera. And the food.

J – The people watching and local street food. He’s not interested in how the wealthy live or eat – it’s about everyday life and food for him. He likes supermarkets – so he can see what the cost of living is.

What is your partner’s most annoying habit at the dinner table while travelling?

G – She has to take a photo of everything she eats and drinks.

J – Just choose what you want to eat already – it’s not that hard!

What does your partner dislike about travelling?

G – The crowds – she hates crowds. She also doesn’t like anything that’s too pristine or glitzy or non-inclusive and she doesn’t like feeling as though she’s controlled or heavily scheduled. She’s not big on the clichéd attractions or eating at places just because of a celebrity tag – she’s a bit of a reverse snob. Oh, and she hates queueing.

J – Hanging about airports and getting to airports

What is your partner’s travel superpower?

G – The planning and research she puts in. She has a knack for finding things that aren’t in the Lonely Planet Guide.

J – He can pack a suitcase and have it look the same when it’s opened as it did when he shut it. He also knows what’s going on around him – spatial awareness. He makes me feel safe.

How did we go? We got each other’s answers spot on. Why not try it for yourself with your travel partner?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas…

Store display in Fortnum & Masons

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve been playing the remember when game here in Chez Tracey. You see it’s two years since we were on our mega roadtrip around the UK, and every day another memory is popping up on the Timehop app on my phone.

One of the strongest memories we all have of that trip is just how much we enjoyed the lead up to Christmas over there. Especially in London. It was somehow more, I don’t know, how I’d imagined that Christmas would be.

It wasn’t just that it was grey and cold, or dark so early, it was also the smells, the lights, the decorations, the…you know what? I think I’ll need to list them all…

The Christmas markets

We were debating the other day which one we enjoyed the most – the one in Edinburgh with the carousel bar, or the one in London along Southbank…or maybe the one in Bath?

Edinburgh Christmas markets
Edinburgh Christmas Markets

One thing we all agree on is that the best part of the markets was the mulled wine and yummy things – and all the Christmas jumpers.

Christmas jumpers

at Notting Hill market

They really are a thing. There’s even a “wear your Christmas jumper to work day” day. Sarah bought 2 jumpers – which she actually does wear at Christmas…with the air conditioning going, of course. She really wishes she’d bought this one.

It’s not just about wearing Christmas sweaters though, check out this guy who had a whole suit made from Christmas themed fabric.

The ads

Oh how we loved the Christmassy ads. It wasn’t just the fabulous ads the major department stores do, but the ones you’d see on the Tube that would have you singing the tune with all the wrong words.

And my favourite? This one for Mamma Mia.

The store windows

So so so gloriously, luxuriously, decadently seasonal.

And then you step inside the store. Words and pictures just can’t convey how it feels to walk into these stores. It’s completely overwhelming.

As for the money that some people spend on things, well, that’s just ludicrous. We had a competition in Fortnum and Masons to find the most expensive pack of Christmas crackers. The ones in the pic below were 1000GBP – and not a paper hat or daggy joke in sight. Speaking of which, what do you call 50 penguins in Trafalgar Square? Lost.

The thing is, there’s only 6 crackers in this box and if you can afford to spend this on crackers, I’d like to bet that you’re having more than 6 people for Christmas lunch…just saying.

Then there was this heirloom advent calendar that for a ridiculous amount of cash you could pass down through generations of silver spoon-fed little darlings.

The lights and street decorations

Covent Garden

London does this well…really well.

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of AgeLifestyle Fifty  and, of course, me.

A long weekend in Wellington…

Ok, I’m going to say this up front – Wellington is one of my absolute favourite cities to visit. It’s got a harbour, it has great food, it has amazing views and it’s got soul. The advertising is right – it really is the coolest little capital, and I really do need to come up with a story that will showcase this fabulous city in a way that does it justice.

I’ve been coming to Wellington most years since my bestie first moved back – 2004? or thereabouts – and the colour (and weather) never ceases to amaze me. It’s the perfect getaway for when life gets a tad noisy, or I need some bestie time, or…just because.

I’ve posted heaps over the years, so if you’re interested, check out the Wellington posts here.

Flying into Wellington…

Flying in is part of the fun – if the day is clear the views as you cross the Sounds are incredible. The waters around New Zealand have a particular blue-green colour that is truly unique.  Of course, a photo out of a plane widow doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea.

Then there’s the airport itself – Wellington is known for its winds – why else would the rugby team be the Hurricanes? And those winds can give you an awful lot of landing for your money…just saying.

Where we lunched…

Where’s Charlie? I’m a huge fan of Vietnamese street food – you all know that, right? And one of the things I’ve missed since moving to the Sunshine Coast has been a decent pho – although Nguyen Brothers at Maroochydore has given me hope.

Walking into Where’s Charlie? on Lambton Quay, you’re immediately met with the smell of amazing beef broth – just like in Vietnam.

Yes, the pho is good.

Pho at Where’s Charlie?

Where we touristed…

The Beehive

Parliament. Yes, really. I love finding out about the political systems of other countries, and was surprised to find that New Zealand’s is so different to ours – and, in may ways, more progressive and inclusive than ours.

Even if, unlike me, you’re not interested in the political system, the buildings themselves are well worth seeing – even if it is just for the art and the architecture.

Without going too far into the history and the politics, the NZ system is responsible for a number of firsts on the world stage – including giving women the vote. As I said, well worth a visit.

Tours are free and run on the hour from 10am – 4pm.

Oh, one last thing, the tours take you down into the basement to show you how the engineers have strengthened the building in the event of an earthquake – bearing in mind that Parliament is just 400m away from the main Wellington fault line…or something like that. Really fascinating stuff. For more information, check out the website.

Where else we touristed..

Supreme Court of NZ

We called in and had a look at the Supreme Court. there was a rather riveting sounding case going on at the time – something about fluoride and water levels I think – so we couldn’t actually have a look at the chamber. We could, however, peek through the glass – and well worth a peek it was, even if the photo is crap.

Where we wandered…

Pukeahu – National War Memorial Park

The park houses memorials from a number of countries that New Zealand either fought with or in. There are still more to come.

The Belgian memorial was unveiled in October 2017 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele.

The Australian memorial is below…so is the spiel from the website.

“The rugged red sandstone columns represent the heart of Australia: the ‘red centre’. Each column stands on a band of the same red stone, between them bands of grey stone symbolise the New Zealand landscape: the interweaving is a perpetual reminder of the united destiny of the two nations.”

My favourite was the English memorial – Whakaruruhau, which in maori means to protect, shield and shelter. Essentially it combines an English Oak and a Pōhutakawato form one single leafy canopy – the shelter of the name.

Whakaruruhau, Pukeahu

Where we cocktailed…

At Hot Sauce, the the QT Museum Hotel (the old Museum Hotel). And spoiler alert – the cocktails were good.

Where we dined…


Pomelo, Oriental Bay. Ok, this place isn’t just good, it’s great. Really great. Seriously amazing Asian food.

Of the entrees we had I’d be hard pressed to pick a favourite – although if I could only eat one of them again I think it would be the soft-shelled crab…or the tataki.

If you do go, you absolutely must have the duck red curry – with roti and rice on the side. Fabulous.

You’ll find them on Facebook.

Afterwards, take a walk along the harbour front to work off a smidgeon of it and take in the colours of the long twilight.


Where we tasted the waters…

Te Puna Wai Ora – meaning the spring of life – is a public water fountain supplying pure untreated artesian waters from the springs running beneath the Hutt Valley.

Locals bring their water bottles to fill from the springs. Seriously cool…and good tasting water too.

Where we took a drive…

Makara Beach

Out to Makara Beach.

On Wellington’s west coast, this is a relatively narrow, but very pretty drive that brings you out at a windswept pebbly beach with everything a good windswept pebbly beach should have – views, driftwood, and blue blue water.

At this time of year the lupins and other wildflowers are out – so are the cyclists, as this climbing, windy road is a popular training choice for those preparing for the Taupo circuit…so keep an eye out for them.

Because it’s Thursday, we’re celebrating our happy. Wellington makes me happy, but what about you?

The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of AgeLifestyle Fifty  and, of course, me.


I’m writing this sitting at Brisbane Airport waiting for a flight out to Wellington for a long weekend. It’s one of those spur of the minute things that happened when I was messaging my bestie a couple of weekends ago. I’m more excited that I probably should be for a four day break.

I didn’t think I’d have time to get a post up today, but on the way to the airport this morning (at 5am thank you very much) my timehop app reminded me that this time two years ago we’d checked into our B&B in Burford, in The Cotswolds, for the first few nights of our seven week UK road trip. And I figured I might as well revisit that trip – as a way of transferring the posts to here…sort of… Then I read Debbish’s post about how she was contemplating a visit to the area and I figured it was meant to be…

Anyways, we ended up coming back to the Cotswolds for another week – a stay which gave me the inspiration for my book Wish You Were Here – but those first few days around Burford were all we could hope for.

Where we stayed in Burford

A B&B called Star Cottage, a 10 minute walk from town. I wrote about it here. It was everything an English B&B should be – complete with a spaniel that did circles.

Star Cottage, Burford

Out and about in Burford


I showed you around Burford in this post. It’s everything you want in a quintessentially English country town and more. There’s the old church and cemetery, the history, the oh so cute shopfronts, and the pubs. Oh the pubs.

Plus a river running through it and plenty of country walks. As I said, everything you’d expect it to be.

Out and about from Burford

From here we re-traced steps from our last trip – 20years previously – and went out to Bibury, Upper and Lower Slaughter, Bourton On The Water…and more.

For more pics and road trip ideas, check out this post.

Because it’s Thursday, I’m linking up with the LovinLife Ladies. Check out the happy in the links below.

Ten tips to a great Bali holiday

Rice fields at Wapa di Ume in Ubud

So you’ve booked your trip to Bali – and seriously, why wouldn’t you? It really is the Island of the Gods. To help you get the most and the best out of your trip, I’ve put together a tip or ten…


Yeah, don’t worry about it – it will slide right off your face the minute you step off the tarmac.

I remember one trip we watched a (obviously) newly wed couple at breakfast at the Padma in Legian. She’d obviously bought a “resort wear wardrobe” to wear on her honeymoon and was immaculately decked out each morning – from her freshly straightened hair to her fully made-up face. I reckon it lasted 3 days.

2. Hair

Speaking of which, bring your straightening iron if you wish, but with that level of humidity your chances of keeping your hair straight are as good as those of me ever running again. Actually, they’re probably a bit better than that.

Besides, do you want to be the one sitting beside the pool/beach because you don’t want to get your hair wet?

3. Pack a sarong

You’ll need it for temples. Don’t worry too much if you do forget – you can hire them from most temples.

While I’m at it, pack lightly – and preferably no man-made fibres.

4. Helmets and motorbikes

Ever heard Redgum’s ‘I’ve Been To Bali Too?’ Remember that line ‘as a motorcycle hero I guess I’m a failure?’ No? I wrote a whole post on motorbikes in Bali a few years ago. The link is here.

Anyways, my message is, just because you can doesn’t mean that you should. If you don’t ride a bike at home, it’s probably not super smart to learn in Bali. And if you do, don’t do it bare-headed in shorts and thongs.

While there’s no flash public transport, the Bluebird taxis are cheap, plentiful and, more importantly, metred.

If you’re getting out and about for the day – and you absolutely should – consider hiring a driver and an air-conditioned car. It will set you back about $80, but it’s safe, comfortable, and convenient.

5. Water

Don’t drink it. I even clean my teeth in bottled water. Just saying.

6. Bali Belly

Touch wood, I’ve never had it – and I eat local. I do follow some simple rules – such as looking for places with good turnover – and tend to avoid Western food. Why? Because the way we store and handle food is different.

Oh, and I carry a hand sanitiser, don’t eat pre-peeled fruit, and drink only from bottles that have been sealed. The usual stuff, really.

7. Beaches

As famous as they are, unless you’re looking for the elusive perfect break, the beaches mightn’t be as good as you have at home. Especially if you’re from the Sunshine Coast…just saying…but  don’t listen to me, I’m biased.

8. Haggling

Expect to haggle – especially in Kuta, Legian and in the ‘art’ markets or the stalls that are the Balinese equivalent to gift shops outside most major temples and other attractions.

If you want your shopping without a side serve of bartering, head to the boutiques in Canggu, Ubud, Seminyak and even parts of Legian. It’s in these places that you’ll find your designers, homewares, silver jewellery etc. Just don’t expect a bargain.

9. The name thing

Ok, this one can take a bit of getting your head around, but all Balinese share the same four names. Depending on their birth order, they’ll be either Wayan, Made, Nyoman or Ketut. And if there are more than four children? The cycle is repeated. It’s why most Balinese have a nickname.

10. Choosing your place

I have a belief that there’s a Bali for everyone:

  • If you have fond memories of schoolies, by all means hang out in Kuta. Actually, there’s now a great shopping mall on the beach down there that’s absolutely worth visiting – both for the High St brands and the food options.
  • If you’re more into beach clubs and boutiques, Seminyak might be for you. The restaurant scene up there is great too. Villas are very popular accommodation options in Seminyak.
  • Sanur is where many expats settle and has a much quieter pace. The beach is protected by reefs, so it’s preferred by many families with younger and older members.
  • Nusa Dua is known for its fabulous resorts and is also great for families. There are fewer touts too.
  • Ubud is in the mountains, has seriously good restaurants, great (but not cheap) shopping, and a laid back arts, yoga and new-age scene. Coffee is good and there are plenty of vegan and organic options.
  • Ulu Watu has two types of visitors – those who come for the surf breaks, and those who want to stay at the fantabulously sleek and stylish cliff top resorts.
  • Canggu is getting a following these days too – both for villas and laid back surfer accommodation.
  • As for Legian? There’s an adage that the people who went to Kuta when they were younger go to Legian when their families and their waists start to grow. I’m not so sure about that, but if you find the right place to stay here it’s a happy mix a little of the chaos of Kuta, and a little less of the polish of Seminyak.

Of course, these aren’t the only regions. Don’t overlook the East Coast, or the area west near Tanah Lot and Echo Beach. Then you need to choose between hotel, resort, guest house, or villa. Decisions.

Where do we stay?

We usually spend a week up in Ubud to unwind, and then come down to Legian – although find ourselves in a taxi most nights to Seminyak for dinner.

Sometimes we leave the resort and feel as though we’re running the gauntlet of touts, but at other times, it can be fun to banter with them. It’s a balancing act.

My husband’s worst nightmare would be a secluded romantic getaway, a gated resort, or even a villa. He likes the people watching aspect of a resort, and for me, when it comes to pools, size really does matter – as does a swim up bar.

Because we always eat outside the hotel, we need to be able to get out and about easily, so tend to avoid resorts in the middle of nowhere without a regular shuttle service.

But that’s us. Where should you stay in Bali? When deciding where best would suit you, don’t just ask your friends – everyone will have an opinion. Instead ask those who are into the same type of holiday as you – and at a similar price point.

If you’ve holidayed in Bali before, where do you stay – and why?

Because it’s Thursday, it’s also time to get our happy on with the Lovin’Life linky.

To join in the Lovin’ Life Linky, all you’ve got to do is: Link one post about what you’re currently lovin’ in life. Read two or three posts from other Lovin’ Life Linkers and leave a comment so they know you’ve dropped by. Spread the Lovin’ Life word and feel free to link back.

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | Debbish | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

The linky goes live at 7.30am every Thursday and finishes at 7.30am of a Monday (Australian Eastern Time). Click on the link below to join in…

Babi Guling – how to make a cheat’s version at home


babi guling at Ibu Oka

If you google it, there’s a lot of posts about where the best babi guling – Balinese roasted suckling pig – is in Bali. There’s apparently an unmarked doorway in a village called Buduk north of  Canggu somewhere thats open between 4am and 9am. There’s another listed in Sanur, and yet another in Seminyak that is supposed to be the best.

The best known, however, has to be Ibu Oka in Ubud. Is it the best there? I have no idea, but it’s absolutely certainly worth a visit. If I were to be pressed, hard, I’d say the one I had at Gianyar Markets might have been better, but let’s face it, a good babi guling is really not worth arguing about. It’s best just savoured. With a beer.

Ok, let’s be honest, there’s nothing that really replicates the taste of babi guling – Balinese suckling pig – that can be replicated at home in a commercial kitchen. For a start, in Bali it’s about a whole suckling pig. Without getting too much into the squeamish details, the base gede, or spice mix, is stuffed into the belly which is then stitched back up. The pig is then placed over a fire on a spit – which is hand turned…hence the name, turning pig.

Anyways, this recipe comes pretty close – especially if it’s been 18 months since you were last in Bali and dreaming and scheming about going back. The recipe comes from Adam Liaw’s After Work.

To get the best flavour out of it, you’ll need to start the day before.

For the pork

  • 2kg piece pork belly, skin on
  • 2 tbsp cooking salt

Basa Gede

  • 3 large red or golden shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 thumb sized knob of ginger, peeled
  • 1 large stalk of lemongrass (the white part), roughly chopped
  • 1 coriander root and the stalks (use the leaves for garnish)
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric (I prefer to use peeled fresh turmeric – a bit less than the ginger)
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp fish sauce

Throw the lot into a food processor until to make a rough paste.


  • 3 large red or golden shallots, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 large red chillies, finely diced
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 large stalk of lemongrass (the white part) finely sliced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • ½ tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp peanut (or other vegetable) oil
  • Mix it all together and let it sit to get t know each other for about 30 mins.

Cooking the babi guling

Score the pork skin with a sharp knife and spread the spice paste onto the meat side. Rub salt liberally into the skin and place on a rack (on a tray) uncovered, overnight in the fridge.

Remove the pork from the fridge an hour before you want to cook it. Heat the oven (fan forced to 190C and roast the pork on a rack for 30 mins.

Reduce the heat to 160C and roast for another 30 mins or so – until it is cooked through.

For good crackling, turn the grill setting on for the last 10 mins and wedge the oven door open slightly with a wooden spoon. This allows the steam to escape and helps the crackle, well, crackle.

Serve with the sambal, some steamed or stir-fried greens, and rice. Then book your next trip to taste the real thing!



How to make Bumbu Bali

ingredients at Ubud markets

At the base of any great Balinese dish is a good Basa Gede, or Bumbu Bali. Translated literally, Bumbu means spice, Basa means bases, and Gede means Big. Sometimes you might see it called a Base Genep. However it’s described, it is a complete spice mix that adds big flavours to any dish.

Anyways, the ingredients list in this all purpose bumbu is huge, but it keeps for a few weeks in the fridge and a couple of months in the freezer, so it’s worth making a batch, and popping it away in individual portion sizes of, say, 100g, or thereabouts. I’ve tried to use bought pastes in my nasi goreng or chicken curry, but it just doesn’t taste the same.

Besides, there’s not a lot that’s more therapeutic than popping on some loud music, pouring a glass of wine, and smashing down pastes in a mortar and pestle. Just saying.

A general rule of thumb is that you need around 25g bumbu for each 100g of protein, but don’t get too hung up on that. If you’re making a chicken curry, for example, and are using 4 chicken thighs, just dollop on paste equivalent to one of them. Too easy.

When it comes to a vegetarian dish, or a nasi goreng, use less, adding little by little to taste.

This recipe is a combination of one that we made at a cooking school in Ubud – Bumi Bali – and one that’s in Janet de Neefe’s fabulous Bali: My Island Home.

Ingredients for bumbu bali

What you need

  • 8-10 shallots, peeled and chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 3 long red chillis, seeded and chopped
  • 3 small chillies, seeded and chopped
  • 5cm galangal, peeled and chopped
  • 5cm turmeric, peeled and chopped
  • 5cm fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 stalk lemongrass. Smashed with the back of a knife and chopped roughly
  • 2 salam leaves(or bay or curry leaf)
  • 150ml coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 5 candlenuts
  • 2 teasp black peppercorns
  • 1 teasp white peppercorns
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 teasp belacan or shrimp paste. If you’re vegan, you can substitute oyster or mushroom sauce

What you do with it

  • Depending on what sort of day you’ve had, and how much time you have, pound all the ingredients (except the salam and the oil) in a pestle and mortar…or use a blender. I use the nutribullet when I’m feeling lazy. Add water as required to moisten. As an aside, making spice mixes by hand is amazing therapy. Don’t worry too much if it seems too watery- this will cook off.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or heavy pan and add the leaves and cook for a minute or so.
  • Add the spice mix and cook over a high heat, stirring frequently, until the excess water has evaporated and the mix is a rich golden brown colour.

How to make Balinese chicken curry

Using this paste to make a chicken curry couldn’t be easier.

Chop about 750g of chicken thighs into a dice. Do the same with a few potatoes and a couple of carrots. Don’t be too precious about the quantities.

Heat some coconut oil in a large wok or deep saucepan, add your curry paste  and fry over high heat for a minute or so until fragrant. Reduce heat, add a stalk of lemongrass that you’ve bruised with the back of a knife, and a couple of finely shredded lime leaves.

Stir it all together for another minute or so. Add the chicken and your veggies, and stir to make sure the spice paste has coated it all and cook for a couple of minutes each side to get a little colour. Add a cup of chicken stock – maybe more depending on how much chicken you have. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the potatoes are soft. Add a 400ml can of coconut milk and a few squeezes of lime juice and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Notes on the Ingredients

  • Shallots: Sometimes called golden shallots these are milder than normal onions, are a bugger to peel and chop, but an absolute must have in Indonesian cooking.
  • Candlenuts: Here in Australia, it can be tough to source candlenuts. We have a few good Asian grocers around us that we source ours from, but if you have problems getting them, or simply can’t be faffed looking for them, macadamias are a good substitute from a texture viewpoint – although, to me, the taste is more like a cross between a macadamia and brazil.
  • Galangal: One thing we can’t get here is a differentiation between greater and lesser galangal. You see, not all galangals are the same. Both look like ginger root, but are very different in taste. Lesser galangal appears more like young ginger and has a more concentrated flavour. Sometimes the galangal we buy is technically lesser galangal, sometimes it’s very obviously greater galangal. Either way, it’s sold simply as galangal. Most Balinese recipes will use both, but I’ve just simplified it to galangal. If you really can’t find it, substitute ginger, but it is worth seeking out.
  • Turmeric: I get fresh turmeric at the local markets, but used to find it a tad difficult to source when in Sydney. If you don’t use it all, it freezes ok for next time. Another root spice, it looks also a little like ginger in shape, but is bright orange inside. It’s the turmeric that gives the final dish it’s amazing colour. When peeling it, if you don’t wear gloves, it will also give your fingers an amazing colour – as if you’ve been smoking three packs a day for the last fifty years! It has incredible health benefits too, so please make the effort to find the fresh stuff. If you must, substitute with 2 tablespoons turmeric powder.
  • Belacan: is a foul smelling shrimp paste that is absolutely essential in Indonesian cooking. It’s made from fermented shrimp and…you don’t really want to know. We buy it in our local supermarket in pre-roasted sealed portions. Trust me, there’s no personal glory involved in roasting your own.
  • Salam Leaves: You probably won’t find these, so don’t bother driving around town looking for them. Substitute with bay or curry leaves.
  • Coconut Oil:  Coconut Oil has many health benefits (which I won’t go into here), but it also allows frying at a high heat. Any other vegetable oil (other than olive) is a good substitute.

Bali – 5 reasons why I’m hooked

Taman Tirta Gangga

We’ve all seen the reality tv shows and shock current affairs stories about Bali. Usually they’re based on people behaving badly – and all too often it tends to be about a mix of alcohol and stupidity and a disregard for the local customs. Mostly these stories are centred around Australians behaving badly in Kuta. As an aside, not all of Kuta is as it’s depicted in these shows either – but that’s for another post.

Shows like these and behaviour like that leaves an impression about Bali on potential holiday-makers and it leaves an impression on the Balinese about Australians.

But, just like most Australian tourists are unlike those in the reality shows, the real Bali is not like that little pocket of Kuta. The real Bali has a way of creeping in under your skin and before you know it you’ll be planning your next trip.

I first visited the Island of the Gods in March 2011 – and have been another six times since. I love it so much that I’ve (partially) set two books there – Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry.

Why do I keep coming back? I’m glad you asked.

The Culture

It’s everywhere you look and tread.

The daily offerings are the most obvious – the beautiful little palm baskets that are left around shrines, statues, doorways, roadsides, paths, steps…wherever.

Some are elaborate, most are not. Some contain a few petals, maybe some rice, a cigarette, a couple of tiny crackers, an incense stick. There’s something so peaceful and mindful about watching the (mostly) ladies as they carry their baskets of offerings on their heads, and then carefully place them, saying a little prayer as they complete the mini ceremony.

Who are the offerings to? The Gods of course – and there are many. The tributes are designed to both thank and appease. It’s also a sort of proactive if I give you this will you leave me alone and go away type of thing.

These days, as life is busy, this too can be outsourced – well, at least the construction phase can be – as complete offerings may be purchased at local markets.

It’s not just offerings though, religious ceremonies can be seen all throughout Bali on any day at any time with the whole family – from the oldest to the youngest – participating with pride.

One time on a walk through the ricefields in Ubud we followed the faint sound of a bell to a temple in the middle of nowhere and watched the ceremony taking place. Just beautiful.

The scenery

Jatiluwih, Tabanan

Oh my goodness, the scenery. It’s jaw dropping – but you’ll need to venture out of your resort to see it. From the rice terraces at Tegagalang near Ubud, or Jatiluwih near Tabanan to the lush green in the foothills of Gunung Agung in East Bali. And yes, that’s the volcano that’s grunting and groaning at the moment.

Mt Gunung from Bali Asli

You can hire an English speaking driver in an air-conditioned car for between $50-$80 a day, so why wouldn’t you get out and about?

The food

Sure it’s about nasi goreng and satay, but it’s so much more than fried rice and chicken on a stick. There’s the fabulous babi guling, or suckling pig flavoured with spices that taste like the island (and yes, I used that line in Baby, It’s You), and bebek betutu – roast duck.

Babi Guling

There’s also soto ayam, a flavourful turmeric spiced chicken noodle soup, and beef rendang – the Indonesian version is a tad different to the Malaysian. My favourite, though, is nasi campur. Essentially this is a mound of steamed rice surrounded by small portions of a meat dish, some vegetables, perhaps egg or satay, sambal. There’s no rhyme or reason to it – and it will differ from place to place.

nasi campur

Oh, I’m almost forgetting my favourite salad – sayur urab. It translates loosely to mixed vegetables. I like it so much I’ll post the recipe separately.

There’s a fabulous restaurant scene in Bali now – especially around Seminyak and Ubud, but my favourite is still Bali Asli. Owned by an Aussie expat, the menu changes daily depending on what’s in the garden or what’s come out of the sea that day. It’s traditional food, prepared traditionally.

Located near Amlapura in East Bali, it’s a couple of hours from Legian and Kuta, but only about 30 minutes from Candidasa – and is well worth the trip.

I’ve written about it a few times – here, here and here.


Pura Luhur Batukau

Temples are such an integral part of Balinese life. I could do an entire post on temples. I love them. Of course there’s the biggies like Pure Tanah Lot, but there’s so much charm in the temples you find in family compounds and in villages.

Pura Luhur Batukau, in the central mountains west of Kuta etc is one that’s worth seeking out. For a start there are no touts, but the serenity is what it’s all about. I’ve written about it here.

Take the time to read the signage. I was particularly taken by the extensive list of warnings that this temple in Sanur came with. I have no idea what crossed streak is – and hope that I’m not afflicted by it any time soon. Speaking of which, according to the Lonely Planet guide, Sanur is one of the “few communities still ruled by members of the Brahmana caste”…and is a centre for black and white magic. Perhaps I’ll refrain from flirting – and ranting.


Pura Taman Saraswati

Yes, Ubud. Sure, it has all the Eat, Pray, Love connotations (and I’m absolutely a fan), but Ubud is like a great big exhalation. Don’t just stop at Monkey Forest, stay a while and feel your stresses melt away to the faint sounds of the gamelan.


I’m having difficulty transferring my travel posts across from and anyways, so for the next few weeks, I’ll be re-hashing them here.

Because it’s Thursday, it’s also time to get our happy on with the Lovin’Life linky.

To join in the Lovin’ Life Linky, all you’ve got to do is: Link one post about what you’re currently lovin’ in life. Read two or three posts from other Lovin’ Life Linkers and leave a comment so they know you’ve dropped by. Spread the Lovin’ Life word and feel free to link back.

The Lovin’ Life team includes:

50 Shades of Age | Seize the Day Project | Debbish | Write of the Middle | Deep Fried Fruit.

The linky goes live at 7.30am every Thursday and finishes at 7.30am of a Monday (Australian Eastern Time). Click on the link below to join in…


That’s a wrap – the Bundaberg edition

sugar cane just outside of Bundaberg

So, the week that was…and a mini break to Bundaberg…

I could tell you about how busy the partition job was, I could tell you that I got my copy edit back for I Want You Back, and I could tell you about a new place we tried for lunch on Friday – Chances at Mooloolaba. It was good.

I could also tell you about the lecture I went to on Tuesday about the state of the reefs around the Sunshine Coast – it was put on by Reef Check Australia and it was seriously informative. But I’m not going to tell you about any of that. Instead we’ll talk about the mini break we took this weekend… Oh, and a warning…the weather was dull – really dull…so my photos are too.

Where we went

Bundaberg, or Bundy, as it’s known locally.

Originally a timber town, Bundaberg today is known for sugar and rum – and is the gateway to the southern islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s a few hours drive north from my home on the Sunshine Coast, and we could only manage one night away, but a break is a break, right?

What we came for

I wanted to see sugar cane. I had images in my head of fields of tall sugar cane against an impossibly blue sky. Sadly, all we got was grey skies and drizzle. I managed one shot with some blue sky behind it.

It’s not all about the sugar cane though. The soil around here is incredibly fertile and we saw fields of rockmelons, fields of berries, and fields of sunflowers.

Meanwhile back home in Buderim

The rain sheeted down. We’ve had 2 months worth of rain in 2 days – with more to come.

Where we stopped

All good road trips – even mini ones like this – need a good stop. On the way up we stopped in Maryborough. Yes, it was raining, but this town, on the banks of the Mary River, has some beautiful heritage buildings. One of its claims to fame is that PL Travers, who wrote Mary Poppins was born here.

We had breakfast at a little café in Customs House, A Spoonful of Sugar, and marvelled at just how high the floodwaters had got over the years.

This is a town that I’d like to spend more time in. The history fascinates me and, well, let’s just say I’d like to get under the covers some more.

Where we stayed

Bundaberg Spanish Motor Inn. It was clean, comfortable, blissfully quiet and a great price. The hosts provided a really friendly welcome. I’d absolutely recommend it.

Where we drank rum

Nope, I’m not a rum drinker – unless it’s in a cocktail by the beach. The thing is, Bundy is known for its rum and this weekend happened to be the Bundy Rum Festival – or something like that.

Despite the weather, they’d turned up in hordes to drink the stuff. Some dressed for the occasion, others just covered up in plastic ponchos.

Where we drank beer

The Bargara Brewhouse in Bundaberg. We each had a tasting paddle – and the beer was good. We were there a bit too early for lunch, but I’m told the sliders and chicken wings are worth sampling.

Where we sampled other fizzy stuff

Another thing Bundaberg is known for is ginger and, specifically, ginger beer. They do make other flavours as well – I use the lemon, lime and bitters to make scones, although apparently the ginger beer is good for this too.

I don’t really drink soft drink so the tasting was wasted on me, but you can really taste the fruit in their range – mostly because they use fresh fruit to brew the drinks. Yes, the soft drinks are brewed – just like beer is. At the end of the process though, the alcohol is heated off so you’re left with just the taste. Cool, hey?

Oh, and if you’re on their website, check out the recipes. I think they should turn the recipes into a cookbook…just saying.

Where I would like to spend more time

Bargara. Ok, the beaches aren’t like Mooloolaba but, let’s face it, I’m pretty biased about what I like to think is my beach. The black rocks are quite striking, and it’s a great foreshore area with, I think, the best ever playground I’ve seen.

We had breakfast at Rick’s on the Esplanade. I had the corn and zucchini fritters with bacon and eggs and it was good.

What I’m coming back some day for

The turtles.

Regular readers of the old and anyways blog know that I have a thing about sea turtles. They truly represent sea voyages and exploration and are the sign of the navigator. Anyways, female turtles also return to the beach where they were hatched in order to lay their eggs – and Mon Repos, just north of Bargara, supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region. I borrowed that last sentence from the website blurb.

The turtles nest between November and January and then 6-8 weeks later, from January through to late February/March, the little hatchlings emerge to scurry down to the sea. What makes this truly special is just how much the odds are stacked against these babies – just 1 in 1000 are likely to make it to maturity. I could go on, but I can see many of you glazing over already.

Suffice to say, I’ll be back.

How was your week?