Welcome to Life Images by Jill

LIFE IMAGES BY JILL............."Stepping into the light" and bringing together the stories and images of our world........
Through my writing and photography I seek to preserve images and memories of the beautiful world in which we live and the people in it.


Welcome to Life Images by Jill.........
I am a Freelance Journalist and Photographer based in Bunbury, Western Australia. My published work specialises in Western Australian travel articles and stories about inspiring everyday people. I have a day job, but my passion is photography, writing, travel, wildflower and food photography. For now my day job supports me until I can pursue my passions full time.
I am a member of South Side Quills in Bunbury, the Fellowship of Australian Writers Western Australia, Photography Group of Bunbury and the Western Australian Photographic Federation.

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Penang travel tips for first timer

I don’t profess to be a Penang travel authority. Far from it. The last time we visited was in 1995. We were there as part of a Western Australian team competing at the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival along Gurney Drive.  We didn’t do a lot of touristy things, mainly went for long sweaty runs along the roads and beaches, and paddled madly at the regatta, although we did have a few days after the regatta finished to have a look around.

Below are some pics from 1995. That's me far left in the front row of the group pic.  I was a lot younger and fitter in those days!

 Gurney Drive is nothing like this today. Although I think where we paddled (in the pic above) was further along than this new pic below. Now a main road runs along the waterfront and high rise condominiums dominate the skyline.  The International Dragon Boat Festivals are now held at Teluk Bahang Dam in the north west of the island. You can read about the festival here - Penang Dragon Boat Festival
 I rather liked this sea-gull sculpture along Gurney Drive you can see below. 

In early October 2014 we visited Penang again this time as a tourist. A lot had changed in the last 20 years as you would expect. You can see my blog post last week about some of Penang’s amazing tropical plants by clicking here – Penang in Bloom

We stayed at the Park Royal Hotel along the tourist strip along Batu Feringi in the north of the island. Here hotels cluster along the beach front, and shops and restaurants huddle together on either side of the main road. In the evenings hawker stalls set up along the narrow footpath along Batu Feringi selling everything from thongs and TShirts to watches and camera gear. It is a great place to buy gifts to take home.
To be fair, on this last visit we did a lot of laying by the pool. It is what we needed after the last few months. So there was a lot we didn't see. Next time. 

But it was a nice pool.....

 Remember when you read on below I am not a Penang travel authority, but here are my tips from an almost first timer Penang tourist.

  • Buses – Local buses are easy to use. The buses into the capital, Georgetown, from Batu Feringi are very frequent. Catch a 101 bus. Have correct change as they don’t give change. Should cost approx. 2.70 ringgit to get to Komtar tower in Central Georgetown.
·    Ask at your hotel desk how much you should expect to pay on the bus.
There is a bus interchange underneath Komtar Tower.  Or you can go down to the main bus terminal on the Georgetown waterfront. You can buy a weekly ticket.
  •         Komtar used to be the main shopping hub, but now there are several major shopping complexes interconnected to Komtar particularly if you are looking for western goods.  Komtar is a very tall round building - 65 stories high - so it is a good landmark if you get a bit lost walking around.  You can see Komtar in the image below.  Across the water you can see mainland Malaysia.

  •       Gurney Plaza – there is an upmarket shopping plaza along Gurney Drive.
  • ATM machines may not be readily available outside of Georgetown (look for a bank or ask at your hotel). Some places don’t accept a credit card for less than 50RM or don't accept credit cards at all, so always carry cash. We found that a travel card loaded with funds before we left Australia worked well for us, especially as it wasn’t connected to our main credit card. We used this card for paying for some purchases such as tours or entrance fees, and shopping in the major shopping malls, as well as for taking money from an ATM. You could also purchase some ringgit from your bank before you leave home.  Both of these methods avoid using a money changer. You can now buy security wallets and sleeves that protect your credit card from fraud while you are carrying them. 
  •          Cash – you will always need cash at markets, hawker stalls, food halls and local restaurants.   Preferably carry smaller notes ie 1, 5, 10, 20 ringgit.  Please carry your wallet securely in your front pocket. 

  •  Taxes - generally add 16% taxes to the advertised price. 
  • Food halls – a big open air food hall, Long Beach Cafe, on Batu Feringi was excellent for evening meals and much cheaper than restaurants. You can't go wrong if you pick a place that looks popular and this food hall certainly was. They open around 6pm in the evening and is great for families. There are plenty of choices from local favourites to western food and the food is fast, good, and cheap. 
The Sizzling prawn plate, you can see below, though a little more expensive (30RM or approx. $10 Australian) was excellent, also the Kashmiri curry and the satay and for a different dessert to share try the Tissue Roti. (it is the cone you can see lower LH corner here) There are good reviews for Long Beach on Trip Advisor. Long Beach, Penang

  • Night markets are a good place to buy cheap goods or gifts to take home. But the big shopping complexes in Georgetown may generally be better quality. Walking back to the hotel, if you stay along Batu Feringi, you have to make your way through the hawker stalls but the sellers don’t pester you if you say no, though I did feel pressured to buy if I stopped to look. They are all trying to make a living from the tourist trade.
  •      Taxis – always ask for the price before you get in. They might say the taxi is metered but generally you ask for a price first. You can book a taxi for several hours for approx. 40RM an hour which will take you where you want to go and then wait for you.  You can design your own tour like this.
  •      Toilet paper – for some reason I can’t fathom they don’t seem to have toilet paper in Penang toilets. So I suggest you take a roll with you in your bag.  

    *  Georgetown - you can do a walking tour around the old Colonial buildings of Georgetown.  I love old shutters. So many stories to tell behind them I am sure.
  • We also took a stroll to see the street art. Some of these are starting to fade due to weathering.  They are mostly clustered around one area and you can get a map from the Tourist Information Centre. I liked the way some incorporated actual pieces like a bike and a chair into the art.  This is also a good opportunity to see some of the older parts of Georgetown, shopfronts, and shuttered windows. 
You can find out more information here - Penang street art
and more great info here from the Occasional Traveller - Where to find Penang street art
  •  Penang Hill - is the coolest place in Penang is Penang Hill, affectionately known by locals as "Bukit Bendara", because it is also the highest place. The easiest way to get to the top is via the Funicular train which leaves the terminal every 20 to 25 minutes. Take a bus to the terminal from Komtar. The Funicular train takes you up to the top of the hill where there is a food hall and other attractions and panoramic views over Georgetown to mainland Malaysia.  The cost of the train includes admission to the hill. You can buy an audio guide when you get to the top.  If you are up to it, you might enjoy the walk paths through the jungle. You might even see monkeys and tree schrews as well as many birds.  
  You can find out more about Penang Hill by clicking here - Penang Hill

  •      Ke Lok Si Temple - The Temple of Supreme Bliss.   You can take a bus from Komtar Tower but it drops you a distance from the temple and you will have to walk up a steep winding road, or up the steps. In the tropical heat I wouldn’t suggest this. We took a taxi from our hotel which took us right to the entrance for 45RM. Ask for the price from the driver before getting into the taxi. We were able to get a return taxi by asking one of the taxi drivers waiting for his pick up at Ke Lok Si. 
     Entry to Ke Lok Si is free but there is a small cost to go into some sections - ie to go up the Incline Lift to the Kuan Yin statue, the highest point from where you have views over the city. There are  also great views from the top of The Pagoda of Rama V1 - The Pagoda of 10, 000 Buddhas. Towering over one hundred feet and seven storeys high, The Pagoda is currently the largest of its kind in Malaysia.

 Please respect requests to take shoes off, be silent, or not take photos.  When you have finished viewing the temples and gardens, there are many shops waiting to sell you souvenirs or a cold drink.
  •     Tropical Spice Gardens – Take a bus for about 2-3RM from your hotel along Batu Feringi.  It is too dangerous to walk as the narrow road winds around the mountain side and there is no footpath. Entry cost includes audio guide. The 8 acre garden displays over 500 species of tropical flora and fauna.  There is even a cooking school.  For more information click here - Tropical Spice Garden
Unfortunately the day we visited it rained, lucky we had umbrellas, but because of the rain we didn't give the Spice Garden the attention it deserved. But what we saw was lovely.

I wanted this old door for my garden at home

  •  Durian.  You can't take Durian on the bus - when you see and smell one you will know why. They put nets under the trees to catch the durians as picking them before they are ripe ruins them. You wouldn't want one to hit you on the head!  They smell awful but evidently are quite sweet to eat but are an acquired taste. We were told that eating too much Durian will cause you to become ill as the fruit heats you up. For this reason drinking coffee or alcohol is not advised when eating Durian.
     We were advised that the best time to visit the fruit farms is June-July, but this is also    the very busy tourist time.

     Although Nancy at Budget Traveller's Sandbox and Travel Photo Thursdays says she was recommended December to February. You can see her post about the Tropical Fruit Farm here  - Penang Tropical Fruit Farm 

  •      Some tourist attractions like the Spice Gardens and Penang Hill are FREE for disabled people - well done Penang!
  •      Walking – Always wear a hat and carry water. It is very hot in the humidity. An umbrella is useful for shelter from both rain and sunshine. Sneakers are recommended if you are walking. Be careful as often footpaths are non existent or cluttered with goods and you may need to walk out on the road to pass parked cars.
    An umbrella is even good on the beach in the rain or sun!

  •         Local mini parts – you can buy drinks and basic supplies. Buy your own drinks and put them in your hotel mini bar.
  •        There are water sports along Batu Ferringi beach such as jet skis, parasailing etc. How about this parsailer's sunset view!

  •      Friday afternoon traffic is very bad. It can take 2 hours to get from Batu Ferringi to the airport (usually 45-50 minutes). Our taxi driver instead took us around the top of the island via Teluk Bahang Dam and Balik Pulau which only took 1 hour. It was a scenic route, and much less hassle than through the city traffic. We had an informative driver so it was a really enjoyable drive back to the airport.
  •      There are plenty of business where you can buy a tour to places of interest in Penang or to the Malaysian mainland across the bridge. Or hire a taxi and design your own tour.

  Thinking of visiting and want more information?

 This looks like a great website for Penang information - Penang Vacations
     Another good place for Penang information from an expat who lived in Penang, is to visit Michelle at her Malaysian Meanders blog - Things to do with kids in Penang 
Thank you Michelle for sending me your travel tips before I left home. 

 I hope you have enjoyed this little trip to Penang. Have you been to Penang? Do you have some travel tips? Please share them in the comments. 

    ps - sorry about the font and formatting in this post - I don't know why it is doing it and my computer won't let me fix it!      
   I think I need to sit on this stool and have a moment of quiet solitude.

Thanks for stopping by. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. Have a wonderful week.

I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Travel Photos Monday, Our World Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, Travel Photo Thursday, and What's It Wednesday.  Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!

Mosaic Monday
Travel Photo Mondays
Our World Tuesday
Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global
What's It Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday



      Would you like another look at those sizzling prawns? Delicious!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Penang in bloom

We have just returned from a lovely week of R&R in Penang. After the emotions of the last couple of months the timing couldn't have been better for us. We must have known something when we booked in February!

I have always loved tropical gardens and the gardens of the Park Royal Hotel where we stayed were amazing. 
 Our first view - welcome -

I could easily have just laid by the pool and done very little. Nice? Wouldn't you just love to have just a little bit of this garden at home?

In the gardens of the Park Royal and around Penang there were flowers of just about every colour you can think of - 

You would expect frangipanis - nothing says tropical more than they - but check out these red ones!

and more red and orange and pink

I've seen these before in Singapore - isn't it amazing how a flower can grow like this -

 This hummingbird was really enjoying lunching on this flower - 

yellow - I would love the hibiscus in the top LH corner to be in my garden - 

and look at this delicate beauty - 

purple - even the leaves get a look in on this one 

 white and spidery -

water lilies  - in ponds and in pots - 

and the palm trees were not outdone by the flowers - I really loved this one with the huge fan leaves -I might have to see if I can buy one for the tropical "room" of my garden -

Can you see the creepers growing up the palm trunks? And this palm (center top) with the brilliant red stalks, but evidently I can't grow them in Australia - don't worry I've checked.

These bright orange leaves certainly brighten up a green garden. And don't you just love these little hanging hearts? -

I certainly didn't expect to see one of the Australian bottlebrush family! Not a tropical plant but growing very well in the tropical pool garden.

There was an avenue of huge shady spreading trees along a road where we waited for a bus one afternoon

At days end the sky was adding its own splash of colour

Do you have a favorite tropical destination?

I'll be back next time with my travel tips from Penang - but until then if you want to find out about the Park Royal Hotel located along Batu Ferringhi beach, please click here - Park Royal Penang - and no I wasn't paid to promote them. 

Thanks for stopping by. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. Have a wonderful week.

I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Travel Photos Monday, Our World Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, Travel Photo Thursday, and What's It Wednesday.  Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!

Mosaic Monday
Travel Photo Mondays
Our World Tuesday
Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global
What's It Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Mount Augustus walk trails, Pilbara, Western Australia

Have you ever been to Mount Augustus in Western Australia’s Pilbara region?  We hadn’t before this last July. I wondered why we had never been there before! If you missed my first blog post about it you can catch up by clicking here – Wildflowers that bloom in the red rock of Mt Augustus

Mount Augustus, or Burringurrah, as it is known by the local Wajarri indigenous people, is the largest rock in the world. 430 kilometres from Carnarvon via Gascoyne Junction or 360 kilometres from Meekatharra, via gravel roads either way, it is easy to explore Mount Augustus from the Mount Augustus Outback Tourist Park, located only a short drive from Mt Augustus National Park. If you stay a few days you can enjoy the numerous walk trails through Mt Augustus.
 A 49 kilometre circuit drive takes you around the base of Mount Augustus and gives you access to the walks.

Wallk trail maps are available from the Tourist Park, and there are maps and information boards at the start of each walk. Make sure you are aware of the degree of difficulty and the time it will take to do the walks. I recommend starting early in the morning before the day heats up and make sure you wear good walking boots, a hat and sunscreen, and carry plenty of water. Even on a cool day it can become very hot along the walks particularly with radiated heat bouncing off the rocks.


One of the easier more shaded walks is the Corella Trail (1.2km return) along the banks of Goolinee (Cattle Pool). You are likely to see water birds, corellas and other bird species. It is a pleasant spot for lunch and sunset views of Mt Augustus.
I thought this reflection (bottom left) in a pool along the trail was rather cool.
Here are some images of Pilbara birds that my husband took at Goolinee.
I will name some of them - middle top - Pink and Grey Galah, top R - Kestrel, Middle L - Budgerigar(they were nesting in a big tree by the river), Middle R - Corellas, and bottom R - an Aussie chick!
I will try to come back with some more identifications for you.

The Summit Trail (12km return – average 6 hours) should only be undertaken by those who have a high level of fitness. Please make sure you carry plenty of water and food.  The first part of the trail takes you to Beedoboondu (Flintstone Rock) which is a large slab of rock bridging the rocky stream course. If you crawl underneath the rock you can see engravings by ancient Aboriginal people.

Here is a pic of the trail, looking out from under Flintstone Rock, and a tree growing out of a small crack in the rock face. I am always amazed how they manage to do this.

Aboriginal engravings by the Wajarri people can also been see along the 200 metre Mundee trail and at Ooramboo on the Edney’s Peak access track.

We decided to give the Summit Trail a miss and instead did Edney’s Trail (6 km return, 2 to 3 hours) which leads to Edney’s lookout on the south east side of Mt Augustus. Parts of the trail are easy going but it also does include some rock clambering. Look out for the markers to keep you on track. From the lookout you have spectacular elevated views over the surrounding plains. The views were well worth the walk and give you an appreciation of the remoteness of Mount Augustus.

There were numerous wildflowers along the Edney's trail. These Mulla Mulla bushes were covered by lots of moths which flew up as you past by.

If you do the Edney’s Trail first thing in the morning you will still have plenty of time to do another one or two shorter walks in the afternoon.
The Saddle Trail (1km return) takes you past The Pound, a natural basin which was used for holding cattle in the early 1900s prior to droving them “on the hoof” to Meekatharra – a 10 to 12 day walk. At the end of the Saddle Trail you have views over the Lyons River valley.

On the northern side of Mount Augustus there are two walks which are both designated as Class 4 for more experienced walkers. There was certainly more rock scrambling on these walks.

The first part of the Goordgeela lookout trail (3km return – 2 hours) was across an open rocky expanse which was extremely hot on the day that we walked. The walk gets steeper as you go up to the lookout.

The shady Gum Grove Trail has an easy start before joining up with the challenging Kotka Gorge Trail (2km return – 2hours) which takes you up a dry rocky creek bed to the start of the Kotka Gorge. To go beyond this should only be attempted by very experienced bush walkers.

We thoroughly enjoyed our few days at Mount Augustus. On the last night we sat around the campfire with new friends from Busselton, toasted marshmallows (a campfire must) and chatted about past trips. And on the morning we were moving on we saw an amazing sight – the moon setting over Mount Augustus at sunrise. What a stunning end to our visit.

From here we travelled on south to the Kennedy Ranges – check it out next time on my blog. Here is a preview pic -

4 Wheel-Drive recommended. No camping, pets or fires allowed in the park. Keep to the tracks and marked trails. Be prepared. Carry plenty of water, wear a hat and good hiking boots on the trails. Bunk accommodation, powered and unpowered caravan and tent sites, fuel and water are available at nearby Mount Augustus Outback Tourist Park. Department of Environment & Conservation volunteers are based here during the winter months.

Thanks for stopping by. I value your comments and look forward to hearing from you. Have a wonderful week.

I am linking up to Mosaic Monday, Travel Photos Monday, Our World Tuesday, Wednesday Around the World, Travel Photo Thursday, and What's It Wednesday.  Please click on the links to see fabulous contributions from around the world - virtual touring at its best!

Mosaic Monday
Travel Photo Mondays
Our World Tuesday
Wednesday Around the World at Communal Global
What's It Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday