February 13, 2018


This was our family’s unanimous assessment of our 10 day trip to Singapore last July…

There is a very good chance that if you’re an avid traveller, and you live in Australia, that you have been to Singapore before. Changi Airport is world renowned, and is consistently in the top 3 worldwide hubs for very good reason. There’s also a high likelihood that you’ve never left Changi airport, and have been merely passing through on your way elsewhere. Singapore is so much more than just a stop over…it’s time to change your mindset, because Singapore is a brilliant destination for a perfect family holiday.

Our requirements of a holiday are simple; the destination needs to be hot, the food needs to appeal to all, and safety is as ever, of utmost importance. Transport there and on the ground needs to be safe and fast. Singapore more than satisfies all these requirements! Singapore prides itself on it’s efficiency; no traffic, no queues; no crime, no litter, no fuss, no worries!

Singaporeans are a hard working lot, and when they’re not working, they love to have a good time. As such, the opportunities for play are limitless. Eating is a national pass time, and dining options are unlimited, from cheap eats at hawker stalls/food courts to high end brunches at top hotels. Shopping is crazy good, and not just for fashion…I’ve been known to lose myself in local supermarkets, checking out the insane varieties of imported goods! If the great outdoors or thrill seeking is more your thing, Singapore has got you covered there too…naturally, if you just want to kick back on a pool lounge and read a book, that’s an option too!

Singapore is only tiny, and public transport is cheap, efficient and clean, so getting around is not a hassle, nor is it expensive. For the sake of convenience during this holiday we booked the Sentosa Sofitel Resort for the first half of our stay, and Raffles Singapore for the remainder of our time there. Many of Singapores attractions are on Sentosa Island, so it made sense to be stationed there; courtesy buses run between hotels and attractions and across to the mainland at regular intervals. The Sofitel is lovely, with wild peacocks roaming the grounds, and a complimentary fish foot spa which the kids have to visit several times a day. There is a large centrally located swimming pool, where the kids make friends easily. For families with younger children there is a kids club conveniently (considerately?) located adjacent to the spa! Our interconnecting rooms are gorgeous and spacious, and importantly, just a short walk to the main restaurant where the buffet breakfast is so extensive it snakes around the inside of the restaurant and outside it too! Asian buffets breakfasts are my favourite thing!

Staying at Raffles for the second half of our trip was very special for both Mez and I; for Mez because he’d stayed there with his family as a boy in the 80’s, and for me because as a child living in Singapore as an expat in the 90’s, it’s where my dad often took important visitors from out of town for Sunday brunch, and if I’d been good, I was allowed to tag along. It really evokes a sense of glamour and luxury of a bygone era…to stay there was such a special treat. Even though it’s luxurious it’s not stuffy; we never get a sense that our kids are not welcomed. Quite the contrary, the staff go above and beyond to engage with them. Our room was stunning; we shared a Palm Court Suite, and with a sitting room and large bathroom we were never cramped. The hotel turns 130 this year, and as a birthday present is getting a face lift…it will be partially closed for part of 2018, so even if you can’t stay there, it would be sacrilegious to not stop by for a Singapore Sling! (for info on the renovations check the website)

Here’s what we got up to…

Every time we go to Singapore we start our sight seeing here…it’s an exceptional aquarium, and as a bonus it offers a refuge from the humidity until we all acclimatise. Our faves here are the ‘Open Ocean’ exhibit, the jellyfish, and the interactive education corner, where you can have a touch and feel of some resilient specimens. Go early! It gets chockers!

Our kids have never been tall enough/old enough to go to a proper theme park, so this was a first for us. They loved it! Go early, and you may even be pulled out of the queue to open the park (we were! I think it’s because we were the tallest family lining up?!) It gets very hot very quickly once the sun is up, and there is not much shade whilst walking between attractions; go early and do it all then head back to the hotel pool!

What better way to keep cool on a hot day, than spend it floating on an inflatable tube, winding around a waterpark on a ‘river’? That’s my idea of theme park action; the kids have other ideas and want to go on every crazy slide! We do both, and yes, I end up with atomic wedgies more than once. I now know why some women wear boardies at these parks! Remember to be sun smart, and have sunscreen handy, as you still burn when it’s overcast.

The Yayoi Kusama exhibition was on whilst we were in town, so we booked an early session. The gallery itself is a stunning building and there are many activities set up for kids through out. (This exhibition is on currently at QAGOMA, if you get a chance GO! It’s super fun!)

We loved the birdpark! Geographically, it’s a bit out of the way, but we felt it was worth the 15 minute cab ride from the CBD. For a gold coin donation we fed lorikeets in one of the largest aviaries in the world (yes, we went to Singapore to feed Australian Parrots!) and African penguins too. The Birds of Prey show was particularly entertaining, a must see. Also, they have an Ibis enclosure, and the Ibis are PINK! Buy the ticket that includes the tram pass, very handy for tired, hot little folk.

No matter where we find ourselves on our travels, we always visit the local zoo. Singapore zoo is lush and verdant, the enclosures seem much bigger than average, and the animals are all engaged, happy and healthy. We find it impossible to pick our faves, but breakfast with the Orang Utan is a highlight, as are the white tigers.

Next post: EATING IN SINGAPORE (it really deserves a post of it’s own as there’s MUCH ground to cover!)

The Watts family would like to thank Singapore Tourism Board, Sofitel Sentosa Resort and Raffles Singapore for their assistance in making this holiday our “best ever”.


We slept at:



We played at:









June 22, 2017

There is a strong tradition of the road trip in Australia. It’s almost a rite of passage for most Aussie families; we all have a story of being bundled into the family car in the 70’s or 80’s, bickering with siblings the whole way, playing punch buggy and listening to whatever music your parents chose (for me this was Paul McCartney, Frankie Valli and random Brazilian music!) This country is huge after all, and there is so much to see, for a family it makes sense to take your time, and meander to your destination without the pressure of racing to make flights, stopping off and taking in the scenery along the way. The journey, as they say say, is just as important as the destination!

Sydney to Melbourne via the Hume Highway is hardly one of the greats. In fact I’d go so far as to say the the Hume is THE most boring stretch of road in Australia. It’s not all bad; there are beautiful old towns along the way, but sadly the highway bypasses most, and the scenery gets super repetitive after 3 or 4 hours.

An old friend of mine, Carlie, did the tree change from Sydney to Jugiong some years ago, and since then I’ve been Jugiong curious as we’ve zoomed past it on our cross country drives. This time, I decided to stop by, and I get it! I absolutely understand why she’s so taken with this little country town. It’s tiny, but picturesque, friendly, and for a small town it’s got a bit going on. Carlie owns The Curators Collective, a beautiful shop next door to the Sir George Pub. I met Carlie when she was fashion editor at the Sunday Magazine. With more than 10 years of styling under her belt, she was one of those girls who was effortlessly cool…so it follows that her shop in Jugiong reflects this. Everything is carefully considered, from beautiful Panama hats to lush Jac & Jack knits, stunning Nick Leary prints…pop your head in, say hi, I defy you to come out empty handed!

Around the corner, The Sir George Pub recently had a face lift, and is a top spot to stop with the family to stretch your legs and have a feed after a long drive. As well as the restaurant on site, it has a bakery, a nursery, a thriving kitchen garden, a petting farm, a cubby house and a huge lawn for kids to tear around on. Lunch is all about tasting plates and light meals, whilst the dinner menu features heartier fare. There are plans to add accomodation to the pub, but not until next year.

For another visit; the public pool, delightfully retro by all accounts, but closed for the season when we visited in April, and The Long Track Pantry…purveyors of fine regional produce and wine. A good reason to come back!

After having a feed at the pub, and re-merchandising The Curators Collective (thanks Kinga!) we needed a place to bed down for the night. Gundagai is pretty well the half way mark between Sydney and Melbourne, 30 minutes south from Jugiong. Kimo Estate is an easy 10 minutes out of Gundagai town, set on a 7000 acre working sheep and cattle farm. The property has several different accomodation options; the eco hut, set high on a hill with 360 degree views of the Murrimbidgee River flats and surrounding Kimo Valley (perhaps for a couples weekend away?) or a choice of 2 beautifully appointed family cottages (one with 2 bedrooms, another with 3) and the newly refurbished Shearers Quarters (6 bedrooms with a shared mess hall and bathroom). Kimo’s owner Emelia kindly showed me around the entire estate; in addition to the accomm, they also have a beautiful homestead and a cool old barn, where they host weddings and other private functions. We were in ‘Daleys Cottage’, the three bedroom option, and it was perfect. We had a picnic on the deck, taking in an incredible sunset (the light in the country is different somehow? Warmer? Beautiful!) before an early night…and an early start in the morning.



The Sir George, Jugiong



The Curators Collective, Jugiong



For enquiries please phone Emelia on 0421505949 (tell her I sent you!)



February 22, 2017

Following the resounding success of the inaugural “Ladies Weekend” to Halcyon House in October 2015, we agreed it should be an annual event (you can read about our Halcyon House trip HERE

For our next “Ladies Weekend” we all faced time constraints, and to maximise time together, we opted for a location that was easily accessible to all…The Mornington Peninsula. It was 15 years since I was down that way, and my memories of it were hazy at best; I remember it taking forever to get there, and once there we were at pubs or house parties. I never really got a good sense of the place. These days, with new roads it takes just over an hour from the city centre…and what a revelation; the combination of coast, bush and vineyards that I find so enchanting in South Australia, just a quick drive from Melbourne!
I enjoyed it SO much more than I expected.

Here’s how we spent our weekend…


There’s no shortage of excellent food options, for all budgets in Mornington…indeed lots of produce could not be more local with farms aplenty and lots of wineries having their own veg plots, so it’s all spanking fresh, and in season to boot. We arrived in time for brunch on the Friday morning, so headed to Foxeys Hangout, and got stuck into some tapas and a glass of Rose. It’s a very small restaurant, with views looking into a valley with perfect rows of vines…pretty special!

After driving around for an hour or so, taking it all in, we stopped off at Montalto, where we had a glass of perfect sparkling, whilst sitting in the sun in the gardens. The cafe menu looked delicious, but we were still full from Foxeys, and so have added it to the list for next time.

At Polperro the next day we had a sensational Mod Oz lunch, matched with their very special, very buttery Chardonnay. It’s really worth checking Polperro out, it’s such a beautiful spot, with views of vines and bush from every window.

My very favourite of the trip though, was Petit Tracteur, the French Bistro run by the folk at Ten by Tractor. The dining room is in a conservatory, with greenery everywhere, it feels like you could be in a French garden…a glass of Blanc de Blancs with oysters, steak tartare, the most perfect pommes frites…Heaven!

We grabbed some breakfast foods and a quiche and salad from The Red Hill General Store…be warned though; don’t enter the premises if you’re hungry! Everything is very enticing, and before you know it, you’ve bought way more than you can eat, and it’s not cheap! (but it is all DELICIOUS!)

795 White Hill Road
Red Hill, VIC, 3937
33 Shoreham Road
Red Hill South
VIC, 3937

150 Red Hill Rd,
Red Hill, VIC, 3937

1208 Mornington Flinders Rd
Main Ridge, VIC, 3928

141 Shoreham Rd,
Red Hill South, VIC, 3937


We thought it would be a bit of fun to hit up the Peninsula Hot springs, switching between pools, and relaxing in the warm water. To be honest, it was a bit weird. We had been allocated a time slot of 9am, and it was super busy when we got there. Several families (with children of all ages), what seemed to be a hens group, big groups of tourists with selfie sticks and little regard for personal space! Perhaps it’s a cultural thing, feeling self conscious when in a bath (in swimmers!) with strangers? I felt like I was eavesdropping on other peoples conversations, and likewise, they were listening in on mine. STRANGE! I did however, really like the Turkish Hamam, and plunging into the adjacent ice bath, but overall it was not as we anticipated. We later found out that there is a seperate, private bathing area, which you can enter at an additional cost. Maybe next time!

Springs Lane, Fingal, VIC, 3939


But not very far! We had hoped to do the Bushranger Bay walk from Cape Schanck Lighthouse (a 2hr return walk), but running low on time we did the very easy Cape Walk down from the lighthouse, to a pebbly beach below.
Next time, Bushranger!

We stayed at a friends house, but there are plenty of accomodation options at



November 24, 2016

I confess I’ve been to Newcastle many, MANY times… before kids; to see bands and go to parties, staying up late, sleeping in, and hitting the road without actually seeing much of the town. Even with kids in tow we’ve always stayed harbour side, and again, we never really got to know it at all. Last school holidays we found ourselves ‘up the road’ in Gloucester, an hours drive from Newcastle, and decided to do a 2 day pit stop in Newy (as the locals refer to it…) and get to know it a bit better.

We made our base at the Novotel Newcastle Beach (which is across the road from the beach) and when we weren’t eating/sleeping, we were at the beach! We spent an entire morning at the rock pools at Merewether Beach, collecting starfish, sea snails, seaweed, shells… and the whole afternoon at Newcastle beach, at the Ocean baths, where we found a shark egg, swam, spotted whales not even 40m off shore (a local in the know explained the slapping of the tail fluke we observed was likely to be a bull whale scaring off a shark that may have been trying to attack a calf! Exciting stuff!) had an ice cream and played in the sand. Perfect!

The beach esplanades feature wide footpaths, and are scooter/bike friendly, so we spent a bit of time scooting between beaches, and even down to the lighthouse at the end of Nobbys beach to watch a huge tanker come into the harbour. There is a pretty flash new walkway (The Anzac Walk) from the top of Strezlecki lookout all the way down to Merewether beach which is worth checking out too.

The food scene is flourishing in Newy… cafe culture has taken off in a huge way; and it’s not hard to track down an excellent coffee, or a great meal. We had perfect breakfasts at the Merewether Surf House and The Edwards (our all time fave!), authentic pizza at Napoli Centrale, and delicious seafood at Scotties, Newcastle’s original fish & chip joint (which operates a cute kiosk for take aways and courtyard eating, SUPER kid friendly, as well as a more up market restaurant) Spoilt for choice.

Two days was not long enough. We’ve fallen in love with this beautiful, family friendly town…our to do list still has much to be checked off; A visit to Hello Naomi cakes, a swim at the Bogey Hole (which was closed for reno’s whilst we were in town), a walk up Darby street to check out the shops… We’ll be back!

Huge thanks to Sophie and Jes for all their excellent local knowledge and tips! If you don’t already follow them on Instagram, check them out!


Novotel Newcastle Beach
5 King St, Newcastle


Scotties Fish Cafe
36 Scott Street
Newcastle East

Merewether Surf House
Henderson Parade, Merewether, Newcastle

The Edwards
148 Parry St, Newcastle West

Napoli Centrale
173 King St, Newcastle






















October 28, 2016

I always find that once one trip is done and dusted its a good idea to have another one in the works to keep everyone going. A carrot on a stick, of sorts. And so, upon our return from our last trip (to Vietnam), when our good friends asked if we’d come to the country next school holidays, we said YES!

They had found a great property in Gloucester, a 3 hour drive north of Sydney. Gloucester is in dairy and beef cattle country, surrounded by rivers (The Avon, Barrington and Gloucester) and in the shadow of the Barrington Tops national park. It’s a pretty little town, with pretty homes and cottage gardens. The cattle sale yards at the entrance to town are worth checking out, with all sorts of cows to moo at and fences to climb they were of great interest to the kids. For outdoorsy types there’s loads to do, from bushwalking in Barrington Tops, horse riding river side or kayaking on one of the three rivers.

The house we were staying out was near perfect! Set on a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys, with the Bucketts range looming over us in the background, it had a huge fire pit for bonfires at night, and a fenced in lawn for the kids to run free on, and a tire swing too! We were there with 3 other couples and a beautiful baby, and we all had plenty of space. The kitchen was well appointed, and having done a big shop at woolies in town we didn’t need to leave at all over the weekend.

There is a private path behind the property to the lower ridge of the Bucketts range, but failing to find it, we made our own path through grass trees and gums, coming to an abrupt end at a cliff face…time to turn back! Not before spotting a snake, coiled and poised ready to spring on a very wary king parrot guarding it’s nest nearby!

The kids loved running around, nature spotting (we saw a family of kookaburras, wallabies, cows, horses and of course, the highlight; the snake!) so much so that their Ipads barely made an appearance! Big city kids, getting back to basics in the country!

The Ridge
135 Thunderbolts Way
Gloucester NSW 2422
(02) 6558 4272



















August 18, 2016

The Japanese have a word for everything…’Hanami’ loosely translates as ‘flower viewing’ but really means much more than that. It refers to enjoying the transient nature of cherry (sakura) blossoms; these beautiful blossoms can only be enjoyed for a two week period, highlighting the beauty and fragility of life!

The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan is a huge deal, so much so that the Cherry Blossom ‘Front’ is forecast each year, in previous years by local meteorologists, and now by private agencies. It occurs in late March/early April.

A little closer to home, we can all enjoy the Sydney Cherry Blossom Festival, held annually at the Auburn Botanic Gardens. This year, the festival kicks off on Saturday the 20th of August and runs that weekend, and the following weekend finishing up on the 28th August. It promises Japanese food and cultural experiences such as Ikebana (flower arranging), Origami and Kendo (martial art) demonstrations along with live music.

Despite having lived in Sydney for 17 years, I had never been to the Auburn Botanic Gardens. Kinga and I headed out to check it out before the weekend and were pretty pleased with what we found. The park is super seventies, (which makes sense as it was indeed opened in 1977) and evokes a sense of nostalgia, as it’s so much like parks my folks used to take me to as a kid. It is a top spot, particularly for families with younger kids, and it’s pram and wheelchair accessible.

It features a traditional Japanese garden (where the cherry blossoms are located) a scented garden, a rose garden and an excellent equal access playground. Animals are always a hit with the littlies, and at Auburn there is a retro Aviary (located across the road from the Botanic gardens main entry) and a sweet fauna reserve, featuring plants and animals that were indigenous to the Auburn area prior to its development…native geese (with black and white striped goslings, super CUTE!) wombats, roos and wallabies…even an albino wallaby! At 10am and 2pm on weekends you can watch the keepers feed the animals.

The gardens are free to enter during the week. During the festival it is $5 per person, residents of Cumberland council, children under 16 and cosplay and kimono wearers get in for free!
Auburn Botanic Gardens
Chiswick Road, Auburn
9am -5pm
Saturday 20th & Sunday 21st August
Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th August
















August 11, 2016

I have a soft spot for Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. It was the very first place Mez and I holidayed at when we first started seeing each other, seventeen years ago! My brother-in-law and sister-in-law were married there, at a beautiful Tuscan styled villa…very romantic!

Spa Country is an hour and a half drive north west from Melbourne, located at the foothills of the great dividing range…Mez had been working in Melbourne, and being school holidays we took advantage to visit family, and leave the kids with Mez’s mum (thanks Nanny!) and run away to the country.

Here’s what we packed in to our 48 hours…


On the Hepburn Bathhouse and Spa website I found a deal for lunch, a massage and unlimited access to their ‘sanctuary retreat’. Starting with a light Ploughmans style lunch, we killed some time sampling mineral water straight from the source. There are several pumps set up, and you are welcome to try them all out. We noticed that several ‘grey nomads’ were filling up loads of water bottles; how thrifty! After our final pump, ‘Sulphur Springs’, we head back to the Bathhouse, where we have several hours of free time in the sanctuary retreat before finishing up with our massage. This is a private bathing area, with multiple baths of varying temperatures and mineral compositions, and you’re welcome to move between them as you please. At first I’m concerned that we’ll get bored, but floating around and chatting is so relaxing, time flies. We finish up with an hour massage, and it feels it’s over almost as soon as it’s begun; the mark of a great massage!

Hepburn Bathhouse & Pavilion Café
Mineral Springs Reserve Road
Hepburn Springs


We ate very well! Local restaurants and cafes really champion their local produce, and with all those minerals in the water it’s no wonder everything tastes so alive. We had breakfast TWICE at Larder, it was that good! An interesting array of breakfast foodstuffs, and perhaps most importantly, excellent coffee. I could have happily spent an afternoon at The Belvedere Social, going through their menu and wine list! A very cool spot in the centre of town, serving the best of local. Dinner at The Farmers Arms is a must; its a beautiful old pub on the road in to Daylesford, the servings huge, the food is hearty and delicious.

The Larder
57A Vincent St, Daylesford

The Belvedere Social
82b Vincent St Daylesford

The Farmers Arms
1 East Street


Spa country is surrounded by bush & forest, and it seems such a waste to me that it’s not better known for its walks. We did two, and the whole time we were walking we only came across wallabies and echidnas! Breakneck Gorge to The Blowhole took us a couple of hours, (just over 6kms return) and is an interesting mix of gorges, rocky outcrops and bushland interspersed with prickly pear cacti (leftovers from Swiss Italian migrants who settled in the area from 1850) We also did Breakneck Gorge to Golden Springs (4.5 kms returns) in an hour and a half.

We stayed at:

Breakneck Gorge
booked via DayGet


















July 28, 2016

Travelling with kids can be tricky for so many reasons. Meal times can be particularly stressful, kids can be fussy, unfamiliar food can be daunting, and in foreign countries it pays to know what the local specialties are before you go, and where you can find something to please everyone.

The golden rule applies; if a place is busy, it’s most certainly fine to eat there. When Mez and I travelled here before kids we were very adventurous, with kids in tow, we’re far more cautious. Having said this, we have never been sick from food or drink travelling through Vietnam.

Vietnamese food is light, healthy, fresh, bright.
Most importantly, Vietnamese food is DELICIOUS!

Here are a few ‘must try’ dishes…

Perhaps Hoi An’s most famous dish (legend has it that the noodles can only be made with water from the famous Ba Le well, any other water wont work!) features thick flat noodles with a splash of super rich pork broth (more of a sauce, not a soup) roast pork, fresh herbs and salad leaves, and a topping of crunchy crackling and friend wontons for texture.

Get it at:
The Market Restaurant and Cooking School
3 Nguyen Hoang Street, An Hoi Islet, Hoi An

Like Cau Lao, the dough for these dumplings can only be made with water from the well, so these are only available in Hoi An. They are delicate shrimp and pork dumplings, and they pair very well with a cold beer/lemon soda to have pre dinner. Every restaurant in Hoi An seems to serve them!

A crowd pleaser, much like it’s Hainanese cousin (Hainanese chicken rice), the Hoi An version of chicken rice is served with shredded chicken, mixed herbs, raw onions, pickled papaya and carrots and a super chickeny savoury broth. The rice itself is cooked in chicken broth. Winner winner, chicken dinner indeed.

Get it at:
Cơm Gà Bà Buội
22 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoi An

Banh mi actually means bread in Vietnamese, but in this case refers to a baguette filled with grilled pork/pork floss/pate/chicken/vietnamese sausage/egg (there are many possible variations!) with pickles, cucumber, chili, soy/chili sauce and herbs. Vietnamese baguettes are much smaller than their French counterparts, and are super crunchy, perhaps as a result of the addition of rice flour to the dough. In Hoi An, the most famous place to get your Banh Mi is at Banh Mi Phuong, a hole in the wall bakery made famous by TV chef Anthony Bourdain. When I went, the queue was 30 people deep! I bought 3 banh mi, and 2 cans of drink for a grand total of $5.40. Bargain!

Get it at:
Banh Mi Phuong
2B Phan Chau Trinh, Hoi An


Danang is right on the coast of the South China Sea, as such, seafood is plentiful and fresh and features heavily in the local cuisine. All along the coast there are pick your own/cook your own type restaurants and the variety of shellfish and seafood in general is incredible. There were many things I had never seen before! Ask how much before you commit! Our favourites were steamed clams with spring onions and peanuts, bbq sun dried squid with chili mayo dipping sauce and lemon white pepper dipping sauce, and huge sweet bbq prawns. The kids loved egg noodles stir fried with veggies and tiny prawns. The alternative is to pick your seafood (from aerated tubs and tanks) and cook it up at your table in a lemongrass, onion and okra hotpot. Served with chili’s in vinegar, rice noodles and veg, really good stuff! People watching at these restaurants is very good. Keep your eyes peeled for street vendors, with their motorcycles laden to the hilt with balloons and toys, our kids were mesmerised!

Get it at:
Ba Thoi 2 (for BBQ)
Duong Hoang Sa, Da Nang

Quan Be Anh (for hotpot)
Hoang Sa, Da Nang

















July 21, 2016

(A photo essay)

Hoi An is a beautiful small town in Central Vietnam wedged between the coast and the Thu Bon River. What makes it so special is it’s UNESCO listing as a world heritage site; among the heritage architecture stand Chinese temples and pagodas, a Japanese bridge, wooden shop houses, French colonial homes and an old canal system. These ancient buildings line the picturesque streets, having somehow managed to avoid the ravages of war.

Hoi An Old Town is a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of other large Vietnamese cities, as it’s small enough to explore by foot, and most of it’s narrow streets are pedestrian/scooter/pushbikes only, no cars!

Mez and I have been to Hoi An three times now, and a more comprehensive guide to the town can be found here.

We jumped on the complimentary pushbikes on offer at our hotel and headed off for a ride after breakfast, before it got too hot.

This is what we saw…
















June 23, 2016

I gave this post a lot of thought…I realise I may be in the minority thinking that Bankstown is an interesting destination, but hear me out! It actually is! This western Sydney suburb is a 30-45 minute drive from the CBD, but is well worth the drive. What makes ‘Banksy’ special is the Vietnamese population, and the Lebanese population, and how they’ve transformed this suburb into a cross section of life back home.

So on the first day of winter, my friend Lin, daughter Kinga and I jumped into the car, and headed off to ‘Saigon Place’ which is the south end of Chapel Road, a half a kilometre strip which may as well be in Vietnam! All the shop fronts are in Vietnamese; butchers, chemists, green grocers brimming with tropical fruits and herbs and other specialty stores. A few continental deli’s and butchers add to this mix. All around me I hear conversations, not in English, but in Vietnamese!

We’re on a mission, in search of a bowl of warming soup. Not the ubiquitous Pho (beef or chicken noodle soup) but the less famous, yet equally delicious Hu Tieu, a super savoury pork based broth with tapioca noodles, heavily garnished with celery herb leaf. Lin went for the original version, a combination of seafood and shaved pork, I went for straight up seafood. Kinga struggles a bit with the noodles, so she opted for a gingery, chicken congee. Washed down with hot tea, and Vietnamese lemonade; soda water, lemon juice and a heaped tablespoon of sugar that settles at the bottom and needs to be stirred between sips. Heaven.

We were spoilt for choice when it came to desert…there is the option of seasonal fresh fruit, (rambutans, dragon fruit, persimmon and pomelo, all of which the green grocers are happy to peel and chop up for you) or pandan waffles, green and coco-nutty hot off the waffles press, or a hot, strong, sweet Vietnamese coffee (though the coffee shop seemed to be the domain largely of older, smoking men!). We opted for pandan waffles, and enjoyed them sitting in the sun, watching the locals go about their business. Waffles scoffed, we had one last stop before heading home; the famous Lebanese El Bahsa Pastry shop. A bag of sugar almonds for Kinga, a kilo of mixed biscuits for Lin, and a slab of ashta for me. The ashta was a bit of a revelation, it’s milk that is boiled until it becomes thick like cream, crusted with semolina for crunch and texture, garnished with rose water syrup and pistachios…served warm, it’s comforting and very moreish!

A return trip is necessary, to further explore the Lebanese side of Bankstown…who would have thought that it warranted two trips, let alone one!

Do you have a secret food suburb? Please share!

We ate at:

Hu Tieu Thanh Van (for Hu Tieu soup)
327 Chapel Street

El Bahsa & Sons Sweets (for Lebanese pastries)
288 Chapel Road South

Huong Viet (for pandan waffles & sugar cane juice)
43 Bankstown City Plaza










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