Monthly Archives: April 2017

Here Best messy adventures for kids

Ditch your dirty laundry hangups and swap screen time for not-so-clean time with our round-up of the world’s most marvellous messy adventures.

Celebrating colour during Holi Festival, India

The world calendar is jam-packed with messy festivals but none quite make a mark (or leave a stain) like the Hindu spring festival of Holi. Aptly known as the Festival of Colours, the final day of Holi is celebrated by kids and grown-ups alike, who run joyfully through the streets hurling lurid gulal (powder) and dumping buckets of dyed water on anyone in the vicinity. It’s a rainbow riot that nobody can escape… but who would want to?

Parental pointer: Pack white clothes so the colours really pop but avoid wearing your favourite threads – gulal is washable, but removing stains may take more effort than it’s worth. Coconut oil works wonders in cleaning post-revelry rainbow skin.

Making a squelch in Sabeto Mudpool, Fiji

It’s almost impossible to read anything about Fiji without stumbling across words like ‘pristine’ and ‘pure’, but this paradisiacal island nation has a dirty secret: Sabeto Hot Springs. Home to three geothermal sulphur pools and one slurpy mud pit, this natural outdoor spa on Fiji’s ‘big island’ (Viti Levu) offers grubby giggles by the bucketload: wrestle in it, splash it on your travel buddies or indulge in some good old-fashioned mud-wrestling. Don’t fret, mum and dad: the mud is said to be therapeutic, and besides, it all washes off in the springs!

Parental pointer: Tons of tours depart from Nadi each day, or catch a taxi (about FJ$50 return) and go it alone. Don’t forget spare clothes!

Digging for dinosaurs in Colorado, USA

One of only eight US states to have an official dinosaur (in this case, the Stegosaurus), Colorado is the perfect place for budding palaeontologists. The Museum of Western Colorado operates frequent kid-friendly dino digs, fossil scouting hikes and palaeo lab experiences throughout the summer, all run by professional dinomaniacs. There’ll be dirt for days; fortunate fossil hunters may uncover bones from Jurassic giants such as Apatosaurus and Allosauruseven or even unearth remnants of one the smallest dinosaurs in the world – the tiny (just 65cm) Fruitadens.

Parental pointer: Bending over a prehistoric bonebed all day is sweaty work. But digs like these are a great gateway to science, not to mention a wonderful way to develop patience and enhance concentration.

Going gaucho in Argentina

Muck out the stables, frolic with farm animals and giddy-up on a real-life dude ranch (estanciadonjoaquin.com.ar/en). This working cattle station in Argentina’s southwest has a whip-cracking array of activities ideal for the cowpoke-in-training, including all-abilities horse riding, lassoing, livestock herding and cooking on a campfire oven. It’s rousing, rugged, fresh-air fun, and all of it is led by authentic gauchos, Argentinian cowboys who have been honing their skills for centuries.

Parental pointer: Though the kids may end up smelling of eau de horse, this estancia (estate) offers a wealth of grown-up luxuries; indulge in a spa treatment, try your hand at polo or saddle up to the bar to sample fine Argentine vinos.

Barefoot walking in Cornwall, UK

Mud squelching, sand squeaking, leaf crunching… going barefoot is a universal delight. In recognition of the joys of unshod schlepping, the UK’s National Trust have set up their first ever dedicated barefoot walking trail at Cornwall’s historic Godolphin Estate (nationaltrust.org.uk/godolphin). Introducing kids to nature literally from the ground up, the trail takes little feet across everything from scratchy woodchips and pinecones to smooth stones and sloppy mud; there are 20 textures to explore, with plenty of opportunities to stop and smell the daisies.

Parental pointer: Resist the urge to cover up your little one’s soft soles: podiatrists recommend lengthy stints of footwear-free time for kids, citing everything from muscle development to good posture as benefits.

Caving in Costa Rica

Creep and crawl through the tunnels and waterways of the Venado Caves (cavernasdelvenadocr.com) in Costa Rica’s tropical north. A limestone labyrinth winding beneath the earth for almost three kilometres, Venado gives young spelunkers a truly immersive introduction to caving: while some caverns soar to 35 metres, others require squeezing through super-snug passages (one is called The Birth Canal, so you get the idea). Besides the obvious thrills, Venado is chock-a-block with vampire bats, giant spiders, crabs and eyeless fish. Gross, grubby and totally great.

Parental pointer: A change of clothes and a towel are essential. The caves are best suited to kids aged eight and up, and aren’t appropriate for anyone with even the mildest case of claustrophobia.

Doll decorating in St Petersburg, Russia

A matryoshka (wooden nesting doll) is the classic Russian souvenir. But why settle for shop-bought when you can paint your own? Kids visiting St Petersburg can smock up and splatter away in a four-hour workshop hosted by a matryoshka master. Often called babushkas, these iconic dolls usually depict women in traditional dress, but creativity is encouraged: after all, this is the city that gave the world Dostoyevsky, Fabergé eggs and one of the world’s largest art museums, the majestic Hermitage.

Parental pointer: Allow time for a later pickup of your completed doll; the paint should dry for at least two hours. While you’re waiting, head to the nearby Museum of Zoology: kids go wild for its collection of 500,000 taxidermied critters.

Learning to cook in Rome, Italy

Never mind the piazzas: for kids, Rome is all about the pizzas. The Eternal City is packed with places hawking the local style of pie – crispy with simple, scrumptious ingredients – but why leave your hungry youngster to simply mangiare when they can make their own? Held in a luxurious 17th-century palazzo, kids-only cooking classes give aspiring gourmands the chance to create their perfect pizza from scratch; kneading dough, splashing on sauce, crumbling cheese and loading up on toppings from prosciutto to Nutella. Getting messy – think flour in the hair and sauce-smeared smiles – is half the fun.

Parental pointer: Classes also include gelato-making, traditional Italian snacks and, of course, the devouring of completed pizza creations. Come hungry!

Grubby gardening in Melbourne, Australia

Plant, paddle and play dirty in Melbourne at the Royal Botanic Gardens’ famously hands-on Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden. Educational and inclusive, the huge garden is packed with interactive places for kids of all ages to explore. Clamber under rocks in the Ruin Garden, make a splash in the water spout at the Meeting Place and go bug-hunting in the Wetland pond. Aspiring agriculturalists (or anyone who just loves dirt) will dig the Kitchen Garden, filled with seasonal fruits, veggies and herbs.

Parental pointer: The Children’s Garden is a safe place to let little ones wander, with a childproofed exit/entrance. Gardens are accessible to wheelchair users and parents with prams.

Pottery making in Siem Reap, Cambodia

If your mini-me is ready to make the jump from mud pies to something a bit more advanced, it’s time to take the pottery wheel for a spin. Held just down the road from one of the world’s great masterpieces – Angkor Wat – Siem Reap’s ceramics workshops help pint-sized potters create their very own Angkorian bowl, complete with Khmer flower carvings. You’ll get the clay out from their fingernails eventually, but mucky memories – and an impressive ‘potter’s diploma’ – will last forever.

You Will miss cuisine in South America

Exotic fruits in the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest’s famous biodiversity applies as much to food as it does to wildlife. Travellers with a sense of culinary adventure will discover bizarre-looking fruits which, for a variety of reasons, never make it out of the Amazon. The Amazon officially falls within the territories of nine nations, but regardless of which part you happen to be visiting, the best place to find a wide range of exotic fruits will be the local street market.

Two of the most intriguing fruits are cupuaçú and bacurí. Cupuaçú look like a dinosaur eggs covered in suede; break one open and things get even weirder. The meaty yellow flesh has a sweet-sour pungency that combines notes of banana, pineapple and nail polish remover. Bacurí are about the size of a large tennis ball. Inside the shell are 3-5 creamy white sections of pulp with a sweet aroma that will have you swooning. Look for these fruits and more at markets like Brazil’s centuries-old Mercado Ver-o-Peso (in the 17th-century Amazonian port city of Belem) or in Peru’s Belén Mercado in Iquitos, ‘the capital of the Peruvian Amazon.’

Meaty treats in Lima, Peru

Peru’s capital offers, arguably, the best dining scene of any city in South America. Blessed with an abundance of fantastic seafood, tropical fruits and other unique ingredients, Lima is home to some of the world’s top fine dining establishments as well as a host of street stalls and markets. And while the citrus-cured seafood dish of ceviche should be at the top of every visiting gourmand’s list, there are also some fantastic meaty dishes that should not be missed.

Anticuchos are skewers of spiced and marinated beef hearts, grilled over charcoal until tender. Anticuchos Grimanesa (grimanesavargasanticuchos.com) in the Miraflores district is a good option for first-timers.

Chanco al Cilindro is a dish of pork belly, smoked low and slow in specialised metal barrels. The end result is some of the most succulent, smoky, melt-in-the-mouth meat you’ll ever have the fortune to encounter. Go straight to Al Cilindro de Javi (alcilindrodejavi.com) if you can’t wait any longer.

Afro-Brazilian cuisine in Salvador, Brazil

Salvador, the original capital of Brazil, was once a major hub of the transatlantic slave trade. Today the African influence can still be felt in many aspects of life – the music, religion and the food. Whether waiting at a bus stop or exploring the region’s colonial town squares, the pungent aroma of unrefined red palm oil is never far away. Known locally as dendê, red palm oil is a staple of West African cuisine and a key ingredient in many of the must-try Afro-Brazilian dishes of the region (the dendê used in Brazilian cuisine has been grown locally for centuries and its production is not related to the environmental havoc being caused by the palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia).

Acarajé is a street-food dish made of mashed black-eyed peas, fried in dendê and stuffed with salted shrimp, a cashew-based sauce called vatapá, salad and chilli sauce. For a great intro to this dish, check out the no-nonsense local spot Acarajé da Cira on Rio Vermelho.

Moqueca is a rich stew of seafood, coconut milk, tomatoes, peppers and dendê. Served with rice, toasted cassava flour and a rich, fishy gravy called pirão, many consider this to be the most delicious of all Brazilian dishes. Grab a hearty helping at Restauarnte Paraíso Tropical (restauranteparaisotropical.com.br).

Colombian arepas on the grill with chorizo © William.neauheisel (CC BY 2.0)

Arepas and Bandeja Paisa in Bogotá, Colombia

Colombia’s increasingly stable political situation has drawn growing numbers of travellers to discover a startlingly beautiful country populated by some of the friendliest people in South America. Which is good news for foodies – Colombia has some truly unique local treats.

Arepas are corn patties sold on street corners across Colombia and Venezuela. There are countless variations, though some of the best are grilled over charcoal then stuffed with eggs, cheese, shredded chicken and salsa. They’re everywhere in the region – a great place to begin in Bogotá might be El Vecino on Calle 73.

Bandeja Paisa is a hearty dish perfect for active travellers looking to fill up without breaking the bank. Served on a tray in order to fit everything in, the dish consists of rice, beans, chorizo sausages, chicharrón (crispy fried pork belly), ground beef, smashed plantains, avocado, arepas and a fried egg. A favourite neighbourhood spot is Casa Viaja (casavieja.com.co).

Pizza in Buenos Aires, Argentina

You could easily spend a whole week in Buenos Aires eating nothing but world-class steaks and empanadas, but Porteños (as the locals are known) are at least as passionate about their pizzerias as they are their parrillas. Pizza purists should approach BA pizzas with an open mind – there are several styles unique to the city and woe betide anyone who dares to suggest these are in any way substandard.

Fugazetta is an obscenely cheesy, deep-pan pizza topped with onions, a sprinkle of herbs and a drizzle of olive oil (tomatoes do not feature). Two slices of this cheesy behemoth are generally more than enough. Try the good stuff at La Mezzetta (facebook.com/pizzeria.lamezzetta).

Fainá is technically not a pizza, but commonly accompanies the BA slice. This thick, chickpea-based pancake is cut into wedges and often served atop the pizza itself. Confused? See for yourself at Banchero, in the vibrant, tango-fueled neighbourhood of La Boca.

Salteñas in La Paz, Bolivia

Stuffed savoury pastries are popular in many countries of South America. Bolivia’s version of this convenient snack is the salteña. While not a million miles away from Argentinian empanadas, Salteñas are notable for being filled with rich, soupy gravy which can make them a gloriously messy affair to the uninitiated. Salteñas are primarily a breakfast snack – most places in La Paz sell out by midday. You can’t do better than Paceña La Salteña (pacenalasaltena.com) for authentic salteñas.

Seafood in Santiago, Chile

The Humboldt Current runs in a northerly direction along the length of Chile’s coastline, bringing with it rich nutrients which support a seafood-lovers dream. Fish markets and restaurants up and down the coast brim with the freshest seafood imaginable. Several varieties of shellfish stand out as extra special.

Picorocos are not for the faint of heart. These giant barnacles are sold alive and have a distinctly alien appearance as they move rather unsettlingly on the fish market stalls like those at Mercado Central. Once cooked in boiling water, they are removed from their casing and eaten whole. Caldillo de congrio, meanwhile, is a rich soup made with eel, tomatoes, white wine and cream. Many swear by its ability to cure a hangover. Try some at the corner hot spot Galindo

Now Exploring Melaka City’s regenerated riverside

Located on the southwest coast of Malaysia, Melaka City is arguably the country’s most historic metropolis. Its central historical zone, a crumbling set of colonial-era buildings in and around Chinatown, gained Unesco World Heritage listing in 2008, and the benefits are now spreading to the Sungai Melaka.

Snap street art along the riverbanks

In the early 1400s, Melaka City was one of the region’s most powerful trading states and a crucible of Malay Islamic culture. It was a prize target for European colonial powers, and the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British all wrestled to leave their mark on the city, making it a fascinating place to explore. Recently, the local government has pitched in too, spending hundreds of millions of ringgit on beautifying the riverbanks, cleaning the polluted waters and sprucing up the city’s vintage pedestrian bridges.

Attractive murals have been commissioned for walls facing the river. Melaka’s founder Parameswara and Ming Dynasty princess Hang Li Po now look down upon the waterway. A primary-coloured, pop art mural of a fairy-tale townscape, created by street artist Fritilldea, is another popular Instagram spot. It covers the side of an old warehouse partly occupied by the interesting Zheng He Duo Yun Zuan gallery, which focuses on Chinese art.

A history lesson from the water

River companies have started to feel the winds in their sails too. Covered Melaka River Cruise boats shuttle camera-toting visitors upstream from the Muara Jetty, near the Maritime Museum, where a replica of the 16th-century Portuguese galleon Flor de la Mar is docked.

The 45-minute cruise passes blood-red Dutch-era buildings at the foot of Bukit St Paul (St Paul Hill), going beyond the remodelled godowns (old warehouses) of Chinatown and to the gaily-painted traditional wooden houses of Kampung Morten. It even chugs past small stands of mangroves until it reaches its northern terminus, the Taman Rempah jetty.

Passengers will notice a monorail shadowing the riverside. This controversial project, which has been plagued with technical problems and was suspended in 2011, is rumoured to be returning to operation in 2017. Also in the works are river taxis, which will ply the route between the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex at the estuary and Melaka Sentral bus terminal, with five new jetties in between.

Wander the traditional homes of Kampung Morten

Bounded on two sides by a sharp bend in the river is the Malay village of Kampung Morten. This pretty collection of 85 mostly traditional-style homes is named after JF Morten, the British Commissioner of Lands who loaned money to the original settlers to allow them to buy the land.

The best way to learn about village and meet some of its residents is to join one of the free walking tours that start at Villa Sentosa. This lovely pale green painted house has been home to four generations of the same family, and it’s likely that one of its members will show you around pointing out heirlooms, including evocative old photographs, Ming dynasty ceramics, wedding ceremony items and a century-old Quran.

Around the corner from the Villas Sentosa, it’s impossible to miss Rumah Merdeka with the national flag painted on the main roof and flags of Malaysia’s 14 states and territories arrayed along its brown picket fence.

Find a bargain in the malls and markets

Contemporary Melaka abuts Kampung Morten in the form of the slick new Shore Shopping Gallery. Anchored by upmarket Singaporean department store Tangs and the Swiss-Garden Hotel & Residences, the mall also includes an aquarium and the rooftop Sky Tower viewing platform, which has an unbeatable bird’s-eye view of the town centre and the meandering Sungai Melaka. For an additional thrill, step out onto its glass floor balcony for a vertigo-defying photo op.

Across the river from the Shore, occupying the site of the former Melaka Central Market is yet another new mall. Vedro, set to open during 2017, will have a striking facetted facade covering a four level building with a rooftop garden and dining area. Further downstream the Trash & Treasure weekend flea market spills out of a riverside warehouse behind the Discovery Cafe. Ruthless rummaging is required here as old magazines, shop signs, bicycles and handmade leather goods sit side-by-side atop other vintage curiosities.

Bed down by the river

There are numerous opportunities to stay near the river. Bridge Loft offers five simply decorated rooms in three vintage shophouses near a pretty pedestrian bridge. Check in is at the cafe at unit 5 where visitors can also get breakfast. The Quayside Hotel, convenient for the estuary end of the Melaka River Cruise, offers more space, comfort and style in an airy, warehouse-like building; some rooms have riverside balconies. You can also sit out on a balcony overlooking the river at 1825 Gallery Hotel which takes its name from the completion date of the shophouses it occupies. The rooms offer Southeast Asian chic with mixed original architectural features and contemporary art.

If you do plump for a river-facing room, be warned that as lovely as the water is illuminated at night, this is also when pesky mosquitoes are at their most active. Don’t forget mosquito repellent or clothes that cover your arms and legs.

The Keong Saik Road’s best food At Singapore

Cutting through Singapore’s Chinatown, Keong Saik Road is a colourful one-way street of traditional colonnaded architecture. Originally made up of grocers, incense sellers and coffee shops interspersed with private homes, the area became notorious for prostitution in the 1960s as many of its beautiful two and three-storey shophouses were turned into brothels.

In 1991, the street’s transitional and art deco style shophouses were granted preservation status as part of the wider Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area, helping the area to attract fine dining restaurateurs, hip art galleries, boutique accommodation and old-school coffeehouses.

Today some of the best dining options in Singapore can be found along the short stretch of Keong Saik Road, offering everything from award-winning fusion feasts to signature cocktails in sprawling multi-level hangouts. From thick, drooling burgers to beef cheek bao (steamed buns), below are the best places to eat and drink along the street.

Bold brunches and cool cafes

LUXE Singapore (luxesydney.sg), housed in The Working Capitol (theworkingcapitol.com) shared work space, serves the road’s best breakfast. Channelling a touch of surf chic, this boisterous Australian café serves brunch until 4pm, plating up thick ricotta pancakes topped with juicy berries and cream or Tijuana breakfasts of pulled pork with poached eggs, potato hash and spicy chipotle cream.

In the same building is slick modern crêperie The Daily Round Up (thedailyroundup.com.sg), whose tantalising menu ranges from light pancakes drenched in lemon, sugar or yuzu-infused butter to delicious savoury galettes topped with duck confit, smoked salmon or chorizo.

Early risers should also try the bustling Neil Road for a caffeine fix. The Populus Coffee & Food Café (thepopuluscafe.com) is a specialty coffeehouse brewing local roaster Two Degrees North Coffee, while The LoKal (thelokalsingapore.com) does hearty comfort food like kaya toast or granola with roasted pumpkin and chia seeds and homemade vanilla yoghurt.

From fusion to slow food: stylish dining spots

For pure epicurean indulgence, head to Meta where South Korean chef Sun Kim prepares French-inspired cuisine with an Asian twist. The low-lit décor and bar-like seating is the work of award-winning designer Peter Tay, but it’s the artistic flair of the kitchen that turns the degustation menu (think: duck breast with kimchi and succulent lamb accompanied by Doenjang (a fermented soy bean paste) into imaginative works of culinary creativity.

Alternatively, chef Andrew Walsh has created the perfect slow dining experience at Cure (curesingapore.com), a relaxed and intimate restaurant with a fantastic five-course tasting menu. The food is seasonal, so expect anything from foie gras brûlée with cinnamon and barbeque sweetcorn to Australian wagyu ribs with burnt cabbage and chorizo. Wine pairing is available too. For something a little different, plump for the hearty Irish workers’ lunch which showcases meals from Walsh’s home country.

Rooftop bars and other hip hangouts

Art deco meets playful modernism at Potato Head Folk, an infamous institution spread over four floors. A drinking den, burger joint and tropical rooftop bar in equal parts, the venue is the epitome of cool Singapore. Peppered with wicker furniture, strange artworks, disco balls and bunting, there are quaint colonial nods throughout this Alice in Wonderland-like playpen for all things food, drink, design and art.

Nearby you’ll find The Library (47 Keong Saik Road), Singapore’s worst kept secret. Entry to this plush hidden bar requires a password (hint: collect it from The Study restaurant next door), but once inside drinkers have the choice of an extensive list of creative – and often daftly named – cocktails. The bar menu is decidedly Singaporean with treats such as Kaya toast ice cream and beef cheek bao (steamed buns).