It is not easy travelling as a family with two seniors and a baby. Nur Zarina Othman shares her eight-day adventure in Perth
COLD, dark and very early in the day I start my eight-day trip to Perth, the capital of Western Australia, with my parents, brother and his wife and 15-month-old Damia reaching Perth International Airport at 1.20am.
The moment we agreed on Perth, I started a checklist, from purchasing flight tickets to making sure everyone had valid passports and visas. Going through details of our trip like getting the right accommodation, choice in mode of transport and itinerary paid off.
When travelling in a group — family, especially — we need to remember that everyone’s needs matter. An itinerary only serves as a guideline, we need to allow room for changes. But, why would I make two senior citizens and a baby travel so late?
Arriving late has its perks. With fewer people at the immigration counter, getting through is less of a hassle. Shorter time means less standing time (good for the elderly) and a lesser chance for the baby to get grumpy. The cool night weather makes it less irritating for us too.
Going to KLIA, we decided to make our way to Putrajaya Sentral from my brother’s house and it cost us RM31.50 one way. That was a steal from RM250 one way to charter a car to the airport.
Moving around with babies mean we have to give extra attention to their timing — feeding time, play time, nap time, among other things. Five adults and a baby can’t fit into a five-seater car, especially with all the bags. And going in two cars would only contribute a large chunk of money to the whole budget. If I’m not careful, a lot could be spent just on transport.
At Perth airport, getting a taxi is a breeze at this hour, there is hardly a queue. We manage to secure a ride to our apartment, all in one car. There are so many options to choose from — car rental, transfer service, or for us, the 13LCAB is perfect.
Nothing beats a good rest after a long journey. We put up in a two-bedroom unit on Washington Street in Victoria Park, which is only a 7-minute walk to Albany Highway — kilometre of shops, malls, restaurants and easy access to public transport.
Staying in a hotel would mean more expensive for a family.
With sites like Airbnb, securing a place to stay in is made easier. It is important that we stay in one place rather than different hotel rooms. This way we can organise our timings, plan our meals and save money all at once. An apartment with cooking facilities is definitely a bonus.
Without a doubt, driving would be easier but we love taking public transport in countries we visit. It can be a bit expensive but the time I spent studying Transperth, the local bus service, pays off.
Yes, travelling on public transport requires strict time management but remember to never pressure others. Allow delay, we’re not on army excursions. We’re here to have fun and enjoy the time together. Trust me, it is not easy but the time we spend moving around as a family is time well-spent, experience well-gained. If anyone asks me, public transport is one effective team building exercise.
Our very first bus ride in Perth is to Kalamunda, a town 91m above sea level. Kalamunda is a combination of two aboriginal words Cala (home) and Munnda (forest) so the name Kalamunda means “A home in the forest”.
It is surprising to see a ramp coming out to the pavement when the bus door opens. It is very convenient as we don’t need to carry the stroller and it is also easier for both my parents. We all know how high buses’ steps can be. The winding road to Kalamunda reminds me of the road to Balik Pulau, the climbing and the houses on stilts are definitely a sight to behold.
We are getting better at travelling on public transport after yesterday’s adventure. Just 10-minute walk from our place, we take the 910 bus and got down at the Elizabeth Quay Train Station where we change to train. We reach Fremantle at 9.30am, barely one hour from the time we left. Surprisingly, the train is empty.
The empty coach and closed shutters make me nervous but as we close in on the heart of Fremantle, the scene changes — people chatting, chairs and tables occupied, cups filled with coffees, sound of cutlery going against the half-full plates are heard as we walk down the Cappuccino strip.
We make one last stop for fish and chips. It’s been said if you come to Freo and not eat seafood, you don’t know what you’re missing. I concur. We decide to take a direct bus back to Victoria Park. Our family day pass can be used the whole day so we saved on transport by half.
FROM PORT TO HARBOUR
On the third day we go up North-West to Hillarys, home to the Aquarium of Western Australia (AQWA). A must-visit place if travelling with children. Despite being “spooked” by the giant fishes, Damia is quick to change her mood once we let her play with starfish, sea cucumber, and mermaids, yes mermaids.
Getting here requires a change of bus. Equipped with an app called “bus + train”, we can decide on the best combinations as the app offers a few selections in walking distance and estimates time of arrival.
We stay true to our Malaysian roots on day four spending the day at Watertown Brands Outlet, shopping. If you are expecting European luxury brands here, you’ll be disappointed because they are dominated by local brands but you can get real bargains. There’s no way we can manage to bring our shopping bags on a bus ride, so Uber XL to the rescue.
PICNIC AND ROAD TRIP
On day five we choose to travel by car. Do take note of the country’s laws and adhere to the safety requirements. We decide to rent a car from a nearby car rental company.
We pack leftovers from breakfast, empty the fridge, load the car and head off to the north. The wildlife centre is another place I seriously recommend for family and children. After Damia’s reaction to the big fishes the other day, we are quite worried how she would react here.
Surprisingly, she feeds the wallabies and kangaroos as if they are her pets to the extent that when some kangaroos start pushing each other, making daddy anxious, what she does leaves us speechless. Some joeys get an earful from the knee-high girl for fighting over food.
We’ve always been a family that loves to barbecue and it is an opportunity we won’t say no to. Most of the parks here are equipped with electric barbecue pits. The pit runs on one dollar for about 15 minutes. Too short? We cook all our meat and vegetables with only A$3 and that is four chicken kebabs, one and a half kilos of lamb, half kilo of beef, four Italian sausages and loads of vegetables. Just be aware of the crows though, they will try to claw your food any chance they get.
From land we move to the water at the Rockingham Marine Park. Perth is home to world’s smallest penguin — little penguins with an average height of 33cm. Ferry to the Penguin Island is available on the hour but suddenly, it’s raining.
The rain stops for a bit to allow us to go for cruise and we have fun spotting some dolphins surfing among the waves, showing us pink bellies.
When one door closes the other opens and so we have to cancel our picnic and nature trail plan, we make our way to Rockingham Centre. The 6ha establishment is a good alternative to keep warm.
Always be aware of facilities anywhere you go, especially when travelling with seniors and children. We don’t seem to have any problem spotting public toilets and changing rooms here in Perth.
Perks of having your own car is that you’re not bound to the timetable but when in Perth, having a car can be expensive. The rental is cheap but the parking is not. Parking at CBD on weekdays could set you back A$48 for a six-hour parking, you can rent a car for less.
It’s day seven and today’s plan is to check out Perth’s shopping streets — Hay Street, Murray Street and London Court, an open roofed three and four level shopping arcade built in 1937. The street reminds me of Diagon Alley, yes the one where Harry Potter was first introduced to the world of magic. The quaint street, the brick pavement, the dark wooden shop façade is not much different from that in Harry Potter movie.
Before parking our car at the neighbouring carpark complex, we make a stop at Perth’s best apple strudel at Corica Pastries. Is it good? Yes. Its famous apple strudels are sold at A$23 (for a 30cm strudel) each. If you happen to be around CBD, make a stop and try their pastries.
On the last day, we leave the house with one plan — to catch up on what we’ve missed. It starts off with finding the famous Blue Boathouse, and then Kings Park.
The sun is back so we spend a good two hours walking through the botanic gardens and, of course, the famous Federation Walkway. We also manage a small picnic near Tuart Lawn.
It’s my first trip to Australia and I can say that if you’re planning a family holiday, Perth is a good choice. It has everything Australia has to offer — the animals, nature and culture.
When I was doing the planner, I wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to do something they liked and activity that would be fun for us as a family.