This post is partly for recording our own travels again but also to give tips to family and any interested friends…even those wondering what to do with the huge mango tray they may have bought on impulse – like we do occasionally! Recipes at the end.
Our sons and their families love the tropics for a holiday (a photo below) but like us, prefer to visit rather than live there. We did live in tropical Nth Queensland for 4 years when they were in early teens which they mostly enjoyed but they were happy to return “home” in 2000…back to temperate climates of Australia with 4 Seasons.
Each school holiday break, we would make the most of “locals’ deals” to explore North and NW Queensland. One place I really loved related to food and Aboriginal culture was http://www.tjapukai.com.au/. Our visit was decades ago and even though a very touristy place, we all loved it – our sons particularly enjoyed the range of activities as well as the music and performances. We ended our visit with lunch at what was (probably still is?) a fabulous range of fresh foods…many inspired by Indigenous traditions as well as some modern twists by creative chefs. We would love to return one day.
We’ve now been home for a few weeks from our 2 months in Europe/Asia so have had family catchups; piles of washing done; pantry restocked etc. and back to blogging:)…
I’ll be swapping from present to past in this post so hope the headings/bold print helps if you’re in a hurry!…
TROPICAL TALES…1980s; 1990s and ideas for travelling on a budget:
We’ve visited Singapore many times over the decades + a many times recently and it must be our latest time in the tropics that has me reflecting on our years (96-00) living in/exploring tropical North Queensland (photos below) eg. Cairns…they’re both tropical of course + can be expensive!…especially Cairns and Port Douglas. I’ll write about ways to try and reduce the costs to help make a holiday possible without sending the average Australian working family bankrupt!
Firstly reminiscing about our first trip to Singapore in 1982 (mid 20s just before babies:)…
SINGAPORE A FEW WEEKS AGO (OCT 2018):
COOLING OFF ON A “CRUISE”…well my kind of cruising (about an hour or so is long enough for me!). A few photos…& more info below:
Singapore river cruise:
We took a river cruise as our walk along the river was getting hot and sticky toward late morning (Singapore wasn’t as humid on our way to Europe in August) – the breeze and views while on the boat for about 45 min were so pleasant – recommended!
We were surprised by how costly it now is – $25 pp for a 45 min cruise… 🇸🇬 ($ similar to our $A )…we saw many families checking price and walking away. The boat then left half empty!…had me wondering why some of these tourist attractions don’t lower their prices, particularly for young families.
There was a pre-recorded commentary on the cruise (in a variety of languages) about historic landmarks; interesting architectural sites, etc. I’ll try to do another post in the future as the architecture is fascinating – especially some of the newer buildings.
We decided to pack a small picnic and after the cruise found a shady spot to sit beside the river. There are also so many museums and galleries along the riverfront where you could go for a light lunch indoors if the heat gets too much (one possibility – photo below).
Possible places in Singapore for lunch/dinner:
On a budget/with kids?: pack your own picnics beside the river or near the beach (photo below) can be pleasant if you get there early…we found that the temperatures are generally better around 11 am so sometimes we took a brunch and kept breakfast very light. A photo below from a 2016 trip via Singapore when we stayed closer to the beach + the hotel pool was another place for a light lunch (see previous post if interested).
Feeling like a leisurely lunch with some luxury? + air con!?…
In Singapore, there are numerous Asian food courts and small restaurants (within large shopping complexes) that are well designed and appealing places to grab a quick lunch; occasionally we found a luxurious escape from the heat of the day was memorable, without blowing the budget on 1 meal so here are a couple of ideas:
Some of the big Singapore hotels have lunch deals, including where we stayed on our return trip from Europe, Concorde Hotel, on Orchard Rd – as part of the accommodation deal, a generous amount was included to use toward services in the hotel; we decided on spending it on lunch one day (photo below). It was beautiful and included lots of lovely fresh seafood including oysters, Japanese (Sashimi/Sushi etc) and many other dishes reflecting the multiculturalism of this thriving city.
Another “lunch deal” can be found at the historic/grand Fullerton Hotel (foreground of photo above) – they were serving an Indian Themed Lunch the day we visited this Hotel although we didn’t eat there; we just wanted to see how this beautiful old General Post Office (a landmark in itself) had been restored and converted into a very grand hotel.
We might try their lunch on a future visit to Singapore and we’re sure many other hotels now do similar lunch deals – often far more affordable than evening dining. However, if a budget isn’t one of your concerns, do let us know of any great finds eg. Top end dining or even Michelin Star – www.visitsingapore.com lists 29 of them now; even what was a Hawker Stall at Chinatown – more about that below…
Once the sun goes down we often try to get outdoors…perhaps strolling around the lights/sounds/smells of the casual yet equally delicious outdoor hawker stalls (a post in the near future including Chinatown) particularly if we’ve had an occasional splurge on lunch.
On those days we sometimes just share a plate of noodles + some Asian greens or similar…tempting to overeat when prices are so reasonable at some of these places but with my back issues, I’m mindful that I need to stay fit/active into older age (well fit enough if I want to keep travelling!) so we try to be good (well sort of 😋 😉).
Thinking about those days when keeping weight off was easier!…this was a boat trip we did in 1982 not long after 1st photo (above) in Singapore:
Like Singapore and many touristy places around the world, Cairns and Port Douglas is often $$$$ + has the disadvantage of being over crowded in parts. It’s possible to stay in lovely places for much longer – just 1-4 hours drive beyond these centres.
Singapore is similar…good for a quick stopover (a few days or longer if time/budget allows) as it helps with Europe-Australia jet lag problem, but any longer than that can be a drain on the travel budget; it might be worth considering other great places in the near vicinity (a post in the near future). Even back in 1982 on our first visit, Singapore was comparatively costly so we only had a few days and then moved onto other places in Asia.
If interested, see past posts for more photos and ideas related to travelling in Asia:
OTHER COOL IDEAS IN SINGAPORE (possibly with kids?):
Singapore is costly, especially if you’re travelling on a budget with children – here are a few ideas on how you might be able to cut costs in Singapore, while also giving your family a wonderful experience, with a mix of varied Asian highlights.
I had rarely thought of Singapore as “multicultural” but I was wrong…it has a fascinating immigration history which I encourage everyone, especially Australians (with Asia on our doorstep) to learn about.
Most Singaporeans (like most Australians) are also recognising the importance of embracing cultural harmony and Respect (with a capital R!)…this was highlighted when I visited the Singapore National Museum:
SINGAPORE NATIONAL MUSEUM – Museums are not what they use to be and can be fun for kids and adults + in many countries they have free entry.
Beside this National Museum (an historical colonial era building) was a fascinating sculpture that looks ok during the day (look to left of building in photo above) -stunning at night.
The National Museum also has a restaurant as well – expensive but they did have a set lunch menu that was reasonably priced.
CHILD FRIENDLY FOCUS OF MANY MODERN MUSEUMS:
IF FOOD IS MORE YOUR THING:
Children often need motivation to try new foods from different cultures (we try to avoid the boring chain food outlets eg. MacDs)…Singapore is a Multicultural Asian city so there’s a vast range of cuisines to choose from. The children’s book series from the National Museum are also a great way to engage your children in learning about Asian cultures. Here’s a set I’ll be purchasing…they’ll also inform us more on the multicultural mix of Singapore:
OTHER CHEAP AND CHEERFUL FOOD WE LOVED IN SINGAPORE:
A highlight on this recent trip was the Michelin Star “Hawker Stall” (now a small restaurant) in China Town (a post for another day)…if going, arrive early eg. 6 pm as the queue gets very long as night goes on.
Another centre (this one indoors) is Food Republic:
There’s a Food Republic outlet in Bencoolen Rd (see past post) but also near the hotel we stayed at on our recent return stopover…The Concorde Hotel (photo etc above). This Food Republic was located in a modern shopping mall (on…..? Street) but the interior design and fitout has been done very well; there are smaller eating spaces – unlike some of our mall food courts that feel like factory canteens! Thoughtful use of space has been used eg. Use of planter boxes, half walls and even the various kitchens/serving spaces divide the whole food court up into more appealing spaces – sometimes linked quite well to the servery area.
Best of all, there are numerous places selling more affordable, delicious Asian food from a variety of cultural backgrounds. If you’re adventurous after your main, try one of the ice desserts topped with sweet red beans (surely they’re a bit healthy??!) as so refreshing after a spicy meal!
Finally…Back to Mango Memories:
If you love mangoes…first of all a simple recipe that goes well with chicken or other BBQ’d meats
5 min/5 ingredient Mango Salsa:
Fresh Mangos: Diced; Red Onion – finely diced; 1 Jalapeno pepper – seeded/diced (add 2 if you like it spicier or green capsicum if you prefer no spice); Fresh Coriander (Cilantro) – finely chopped; Fresh lime – to taste…other additions might be finely sliced radish (as in pic above)??
Method: Once everything is diced toss it all together evenly; season to taste. Can be refrigerated in a sealed container for up to 2 days.
If cooking for children modify this of course depending on what you know they may like although I try to encourage our young grandchildren to be adventurous just like we did with our sons.
Mangos are just coming into season here in Australia. At first we get them from Darwin in the Northern Territory and not long after the crops from North Queensland (around Cairns and Townsville) start to arrive in our Southern cities and towns. We bought a big one last night – $3.50 each but that price will come down once we head into summer soon.
There are a range of these 5 ingredient recipe ideas on the Net now…get ideas and adapt them to your own tastes of course.
BUTTERMILK PANCAKES WITH MANDARIN AND MANGO SAUCE
Pancakes are a good thing to teach children to cook…the thicker variety when they’re younger and as skill increases many can learn how to even make crepes in early teens.
Mandarins: fresh is best of course but if out of season a can of segments is handy
Mangoes: I slice them up thinly and marinate in either OJ or juice from Mandarins; if using OJ I use very finely shredded slices of orange rind in marinade as well. If only adults eating I add some Grand Marnier or Cointreau.
There is a recipe on side of our Buttermilk cartons (Dairy Farmers?) but here’s another from Rick Stein’s Coast to Coast (P276):
50 g clarified butter (see note*); 225 g self raising flour; 2 teaspoons baking powder; 50 g caster sugar ; good pinch of salt; 175 ml buttermilk; 2 eggs; 175 ml full cream milk; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
*Clarified Butter – Place butter in a small pan and leave it over a very low heat until it has melted. Then skim off any scrum from surface and pour off the clear (clarified) butter into a bowl, leaving behind the milky white solids that will have settled on the bottom of pan.
Sift dry ingredients; Make a well in centre & add eggs/milk/buttermilk…whisk to make a smooth thickish batter; stir in vanilla; heat a pan over medium heat; brush base with clarified butter; add 3 large spoonfuls of batter spaced well apart, and cook for 2 min until bubbles start to appear on surface of pancakes and they are golden brown underneath. Lift onto a plate and keep warm while you cook the remainder. Serve on warmed plates.
Another sauce: Blueberry and Lemon Butter goes well with these: 150 g blueberries; 50? Gm caster sugar (I put in less & it tastes good:); finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon; 100 g unsalted butter at room temp.
Delicious for Brunch or Dessert!
OTHER RECIPES FROM RICK STEIN’S “COAST TO COAST” WHICH REFLECT A MULTICULTURAL SINGAPOREAN THEME ARE:
Mildly Spiced Potato Curry topped with Poached Eggs (P218)….a good 1 to introduce to children as well to get them use to spices; in this recipe cumin, black mustard seeds and coriander. This recipe would make a lovely dish at any time of the day!
Also…Scallops with Noodles P223; Asian inspired Mussels P202; BBQ Prawns P269
NOTE TO SELF: ADD MY MANGO/COCONUT ICECREAM RECIPE HERE; ALSO RECIPE FOR CHICKEN SATAY…like we had at Hawker Stalls near Singapore Airport. (Good Food Guide)
Talking mango memories makes me think of our years in Townsville (a few hours Sth off Cairns – Nth Qld) so I’ll pop a few old photos in here around Townsville:
TOWNSVILLE and SURROUNDS TODAY… including Airlie Beach to the South:
Back to September 2018 (photo below)…older son (on RHS) now 35 on holiday with his stepson (16)…and daughters…how the years fly + life changes!…he wanted to show them where we lived from 1996 – 2000. First time back for him so it was a very special trip full of memories too he said. I was very happy for the 5 of them❤️
Airlie Beach, gateway to Whitsundays (photo above):
is an easy half day drive Sth of Townsville (another great place to visit…I’ll post more another day). It has natural attractions that most parts of Asia can’t offer eg. Clean/white/uncrowded beaches (above photo highlights that) + access to the Great Barrier Reef.
Magnetic Island – short ferry trip from Townsville (approx 30+ min):
My granddaughter just told me “it’s still wonderful Gran!” …I was so pleased as I know the reef had been suffering along various parts of it. The message is…come and visit while it’s still “wonderful!”. The great thing about Townsville, Magnetic Island (off T’ville), and Airlie Beach and surrounds is that accommodation can be more affordable for the average income family eg. 3-star averaging $134/night, 5-star averaging $362/night. The apartments our son and daughter-in-law rented were all very good – with pool etc.
Lots of fun things to do with families including hiring a little “moke” – now modernised/safer with seatbelts etc. but still lots of fun our son and daughter-in-law said. Magnetic Island has lots of little bays and beaches; isn’t overcrowded with tourists; has a few nice cafes and restaurants etc. It’s worth staying a few days although you can just do a day trip from Townsville.
Magnetic Island koalas:
We hear that koala populations on Magnetic Island are thriving (unlike some other parts of Australia) as they’re protected from predators on the island. Our son and his family loved seeing them on their drive around the island in the Moke…or whatever the little pink hire cars are now called!
From Asia you can enter via Cairns International Airport and drive South or like many Australians do, fly up from Southern Cities eg. Brisbane or Sydney. If coming from Asia, try to include at least a few days in Canberra (our hometown) which now has an International Airport so we can fly direct to Singapore – approx 7 hours. It’s then a short drive to Sydney…which needs at least a week or more to explore (so many great “villages” + beautiful Sth Coast too) – post for another day! Time to stop writing and go for a walk as the Spring weather is glorious in Canberra today!