New posts on the way about: . . .
June to August I was in BORNEO. So, blogs to come about the Rainforest World Music Festival, food, nature, jungle, orang-utans and much, much more!
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What does a planning day in the life of the kiwitravelwriter look like?
Often it feelings like juggling eggs and despite once attending a 3 day clown workshop, physical juggling is not something I’m good at despite having taught many friends the skills. (Beware the pupil who outstrips the teacher!)
However with ideas for travel, blogs, and bookings I seem to be able to keep them many in the air. A recent day saw me planning 3 trips (November, December & January) at the same time – two in the South Island of New Zealand and one an island off the coast just north of Wellington, here on the North Island: all very different.
This means some great blogs are coming up over the next few months (and in-between times I still have some amazing tales to tell, and an article, and an e-book to write, about Sabah and Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) AND re-writing a webpage about Christchurch for a UK travel company, while at the back of my mind is an October trip to Poland that will need sorting once I’m back from my January trip to Dunedin. I really love my life – doing what I love to do, writing and travel, a great combo.
So, if you could see this mental juggling it would be mini-globes spinning through the air while staying on their axis.
The result of the days planing means I have:
- Booked a rental car in Christchurch with Rental Cars NZ and will be staying at the beautiful historic Eliza’s Manor Boutique Hotel
- I’ve also booked a night with Kapiti Island Nature Tours … a trip I’ve wanted to do for ages so watch this space!
- My ten days in Dunedin is coming together with a NZ RentaCar booked there too and most of my accommodation is sorted: I’m staying the Stables of Lanarch Castle, in the city I’ll be at the Grand View B&B and for a couple of days out on the Peninsula in The Cottage in Broad Bay – an eclectic variety of beds to sleep in and views to see.
Check out the links and let me know if you have any questions about the different places so I can cover them in my blogs … or maybe you have suggestions of places or things for my to-do list.
Pepper (Piper Nigrum L) is an important foreign exchange earner for several countries: Malaysia is the fifth largest pepper producer in the world behind Vietnam; India; Indonesia and Brazil. Pepper is grown in small farms, averaging 0.2 ha (under half an acre) in Sarawak and is one of the significant crops in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo – making it an important source of income for about 67,000 rural families in the interior areas of Sarawak and – on the way to a long-house where I’ll spend a night – I visit one.
The little farm is owned and run by an Iban woman and her Chinese husband. I hadn’t really realised the plant is a vine, growing on stakes. Interestingly, for eco-reasons, the govt is experimenting with growing them on ‘decorative’ plants as farmers can no longer grow them on the usual long-lasting, and now protected native hardwoods.
Local research and development have also produced a simple device to separate the corns into first and second grades – this unpretentious piece of equipment has evidently doubled the small farmer’s income! I’m shown it working and it reminds me how often local inventors add modest but effective solutions to local problems. This ‘spiral separator’ is sort of like the cream separator my dad used on his Canterbury farm many years ago.
Malaysia grows some 25,672 metric tonnes and evidently 90% is produced in Sarawak meaning the commercial name for Malaysian-grown pepper is named “Sarawak Pepper” in the world’s marketplaces.
Although I knew it was used in food, on my trip to a small pepper farm I hear it’s also used in household products, medical products, and even in the cosmetic industry where pepper perfume can be found!
Black and white peppercorns are both the fruit of the same pepper plant, but are processed differently. Peppercorns are picked when they are almost ripe then sun-dried, turning the outer layer black. To produce the white peppercorns, the outer layer is removed before drying, leaving only the inner seed: they are soaked in water which softens the shells and which is then removed.
According to the experts these local white peppercorns ‘have a slightly musky aroma and a rich, winey, somewhat hot flavour that is used locally in soup, on grilled meat, or poultry’. I didn’t realise that white pepper tastes hotter than black and although freshness is key to good white pepper I have now added it to my pantry for cooking Southeast Asian dishes – until now I always just had black pepper in my grinder!
While black pepper is more common in many western kitchens with chefs using white pepper in light-coloured dishes such as white sauces for the look of the dish. However, white pepper is also used in some cuisines for its specific flavour. It is common in Malaysian and Chinese cooking, and evidently is always in aromatic Vietnamese soups and pork dishes.
Which do you use? Tell us (in the comments) about your favourite Sarawak white pepper recipes or tips.
“The world needs more wizards” the Christchurch wizard told me recently.
Loved or hated, the wizard has been part of the fabric of the city for many years – I even had a friend who lived with him in Cranford St, was Uk-born, spent many years in Australia, and he washed up on the shores of New Zealand in 1974 and where he continued his performances and oratory which had begun over the Tasman Sea … or over-the-ditch as we kiwi call it. (Note: it takes about 3-hours to cross that ‘ditch.’)
After a lifetime of events such as (Only a few, see more in his book, My Life as a Miracle)
- Printing his own money
- Arguing with the ‘bible lady’ in front of Christchurch Cathedral
- Forming Alf’s Imperial Army
- Declaring war on city fathers
- Becoming a tourist attraction the ‘the Square’
- Experiments with ‘slavery for women’, and
- Donating his body to the Gallery of Victoria
He’s now a daytime resident in the fabulous New Regent Street (city centre – on the tram line too) where recently, over a coffee, hetold me ‘the world needs more wizards’. As someone who does not understand wizardry, as the result of something The Wizard said, I even had to Google the topic of wizards and Lord of the Rings and where I found that “in the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Wizards of Middle-earth are a group of beings outwardly resembling Men but possessing much greater physical and mental power and that Gandalf appears as a wizard of the order known as the Istari.
I knew Harry Potter was a wizard, but that’s the sum total if my knowledge! Not much good to me when I talk with a flesh and blood wizard.
In Christchurch the latest work of The Wizard is to “keep the people of Christchurch informed of the TRUE situation concerning the future of OUR city’s icon, which is also a major tourist attraction.” Copied from his brochure which pleads to restore the cathedral ‘our city’s heart and soul.’
The land for the Cathedral was gifted in 1855 by the Provincial Council; building was begun in 1873 and opened in 1881. Over the years the council, and the people of Christchurch, (most of who are not Anglicans) have supported the maintenance of the building and I too support the rebuild of this Category 1 Heritage Building.
As readers of my blog and book know, Malaysia is my favourite SE Asian country so had to pass on this tidbit about flights from New Zealand, just in time for the Visit Malaysia Year 2014 year, with Malaysia Airlines’ flights daily from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland starting March next year. (Check out all my blogs under the category “Malaysia” on the right – i have lot more to write too after my recent visit to Sabah and Sarawak)
The press release reads:
“Zalina Ahmad, director of Tourism Malaysia in New Zealand, says 2014 is a year in which New Zealanders can expect an extremely hospitable welcome from all Malaysians and find a huge array of things to do.
“Malaysia is well known for its food and shopping, but New Zealanders can just about think of anything they would like to see and do and they will find it Malaysia,” she says
For active Kiwis there is the whole gambit of water sports, including international tournaments in sailing and fishing, world class diving locations and white water rafting, a myriad of golf courses, extreme 4WD and mountain biking tracks, Formula One motorsports, motorbike racing and car rallying and jungle trekking.
For families there are fun parks and theme parks like Legoland and Hello Kitty World, Kuching’s Cat City and opportunities to stay in traditional Malaysian long houses and explore the differing aspects of the many cultures that make the country so colourful.
Malaysia covers not only the main peninsular with world renowned beach resorts like Langkawi, but also Borneo with the states of Sabah and Sarawak. Some of Malaysia’s beaches are considered the best in the world.
“The announcement by Malaysian Airlines is the beginning of what will be an exciting year,” Zalina Ahmad says. “For New Zealanders who have thought about a holiday in Malaysia, Visit Malaysia Year 2014 will certainly be the time to make that dream come true.”
For information about visiting Malaysia go to http://www.tourism.gov.my/en/intl ”
So like the Nike advert .. just do it … and I’m sure you’ll love it just as I do.
PS: I have an e-book on its way about Borneo Malaysia which will be available late January 2014
Freedom of speech and Courage Day – read the above article – published in The Press, Christchurch New Zealand .. the link is to my blog!
Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, maintains several museums – all free to visit.
The Sarawak Museum, the oldest of its kind in Borneo, exhibits collections on the natural history of Sarawak: the beautiful building was built in 189 by the White Rajah, Charles Brooke. (Note: A film is soon to be made of his life which I’m sure will be fascinating)
Located behind ‘new’ museum is the Sarawak Islamic Museum which I had found hard to find – but well worth going to a few days later.
Other museums in Kuching include the Chinese History Museum, on the waterfront, and which is well worth visiting, the Kuching Cat Museum,( see my blog about it) and the Sarawak Textile Museum – opposite the Post Office and China Street. I found it a peaceful and informative place so well recommend it.
Another museum I just loved was the Art Gallery (beside the Sarawak Museum). Its beautifully and sympathetically restored – a great background to the local art work: I wish I had returned for a second visit.
See the Sarawak Tourism Board for more.
Here’s a media release I just got today … so passing it on as I know reduced entrance fees will be attractive to many – including me .. and the free ‘come back tomorrow” is fabulous.
Further details can be found at www.visitzealandia.com/freshlook
Zealandia’s latest enhancements and revised price structure, available from tomorrow, 18th October 2013, have been designed so that a greater number of Wellingtonians can visit the eco-sanctuary, and benefit from the unique opportunity to engage with nature in the heart of the city.
General Admission has been reduced significantly. Adult entry, previously $28.50 for entry to the valley and exhibition, is now $17.50 and Family Admission has dropped from $71.50 to $44 (two adults and up to three children). A new “come back tomorrow” system will include a complimentary next day return, allowing visitors to explore the many experiences available even when their time in Wellington is limited. Membership remains a great way for locals to support conservation and connect with Zealandia’s activities and now Zealandia’s members have more advocacy power, bringing up to five friends for half price on any day visit, as well as enjoying their existing discounts and privileges.
Denise Church, Chair of Karori Sanctuary Trust’s Board, explained the reason and timing for the change.
“Our conservation successes are widely recognised, from growing kiwi populations to the kākā which range widely over Wellington and our work with communities and schools in the halo project. But we’ve heard the feedback that, for some, our pricing was a barrier to visiting. We undertook research to explore what the right price would be and consulted with a number of Zealandia’s stakeholders. We’ve needed to think carefully about the balance between accessibility and meeting our obligations to generate a significant proportion of what it takes to run the sanctuary’s restoration, education, research and visitor experience operations. All our revenue goes to sustaining these critical activities.
“The formation of an Enhanced Partnership with Wellington City Council created the conditions needed for us to make these changes and we are grateful for Council’s funding support. Council recognised that Zealandia plays a key role in bringing birdsong back to our living city and that the benefits delivered to Wellingtonians are significant and wide ranging.
“With increased visitation from locals we hope to make an even bigger difference as part of Wellington’s natural capital, giving more people the chance to experience the natural benefits of our native flora and fauna and to support conservation action in Wellington.”
All General Admissions will now include entry to all parts of the Zealandia experience: the valley, exhibition, and tours and talks. Peter Monk, Visitor Experience Manager, explained “The exhibition is a vital part of our storytelling, helping to crystallise what visitors learn in the valley and put it in context. Our continent, Zealandia, is 80 million years old and our catastrophic loss of biodiversity and world-renowned conservation efforts are compelling stories that we can share, empowering people with the knowledge they need to make a difference. We want all visitors to have easy access to these powerful stories.
“Customers consistently comment that engaging with Guides as part of General Admission is key to the richness of a Zealandia experience. So, we’ve increased the number and variety of tours and talks to share more knowledge, tell more stories and enhance the sense of wonder and discovery for visitors of all ages. We’ll also roll out a series of new special activities and themed tours, starting with Kākā Week on 17 November, adding to our popular pre-booked guided tours such as Zealandia By Night. Two new tour products commence in December but are available to book now: Breakfast, Bubbles and Birdsong, and Walk the Wild Side.”
Raewyn Empson, Conservation Manager, described how the sanctuary offers a great deal more than a pleasant bush walk.
“Rare and endangered species are flourishing here, many of which have returned to the mainland for the first time in hundreds of years. Although our kākā range over the city, it’s only at the sanctuary you’ll encounter the unique combination of sights and sounds that includes takahē, tuatara, robins, saddlebacks, hihi and lots more. These species are living wild just ten minutes from the city, it’s incredible. We have an extraordinary living laboratory, with researchers developing knowledge that will benefit biodiversity throughout New Zealand. We’re doing what we can to turn the tide of extinctions on our unique natural heritage, providing a safe breeding habitat, enabling research, education and inspiring others to get involved”.
Church urged people to take a fresh look at Zealandia.
“The most common feedback we receive from people who come after a few years away is how much the place has changed – how much more bird life, things to do and see, fascinating and informative tours and of course the excellent exhibition and Rata Café. With fifteen years of restoration efforts behind us, the valley has a more established feel to it now and we hope you’ll come and see for yourself the progress made by our community of over 450 volunteers, committed staff and key partners such as the City Council and Victoria University of Wellington.”