Kick Back on Tioman Island

I am sure we have all experienced that feeling that you are being watched and this time I actually am.  A cheeky monkey is peering over the roof as we sit enjoying an early evening glass of wine, hoping there might be some food for them.  Monkeys are regular visitors across Tioman island, particularly early morning or evening but generally stick to themselves.

Tioman island is in the South China sea roughly 61km off the east coast of peninsula Malaysia, 39km in length and a resident population of 432 (there are way more cats than people and reportedly only 10 dogs on the whole island).  The island is pretty much covered in dense jungle clad peaks with small pockets of beach settlements that are  connected by boat, the roads and paths are few. The vibe is a a bit international back packers, local Malaysian families or more mature couples (e.g. us), wanting to experience something a little different.

The island is part of a carefully preserved marine sanctuary, fishing is illegal near it’s peripheries, although fishing charters are popular in the deeper waters. Marine protection funds have contributed to locals being trained in scuba diving and taught amongst other conservation skills, how to “grow” coral, thus preserving the coral gardens that are teeming with fish.  Yes there is some bleaching and dead coral but there is also an abundance of pink, yellow and violet hues, brain and stag coral, plus a plethora of sea anemones, home to families of clown fish.  Literally hundreds if not thousands of fish can be seen by simply snorkelling from the shore where there is coral, such as Tekek. For those keen to explore further there are snorkelling trips to other beaches and islands and of course dive trips and you can complete a certified dive course.  Our trip to Renggis island, only 10 minutes by boat from Tekek sees us snorkelling with small reef sharks, turtles plus all of the other expected tropical fish.
Over the hill (from Tekek) in Juara on the east coast, the staff and volunteers at a sea turtle sanctuary protect the frequent turtle nests, and ensure that they are well looked after until the hatchlings are ready to head to the ocean.  Watching 100 or so tiny turtles racing to the water is one of life’s amazing experiences.  The release dates and times are scheduled, visitors are welcome to come and watch.
The beaches on Tioman are blessedly quiet with the only sound to disrupt the lapping of the waves being the putt putt of dive or fishing boats as they do pick ups or return to shore. There are no jet skis, no water skiers and no crowds.  We find Tekek to be super quiet but a couple we chat to have come from Juara where life is even more laid back, zzz.  The local people are gracious and lovely, it is an island full of warmth.



Accomodation on the island is varied, from back pack to the more boujee resorts such as Japamala.  Bearing in mind that with few roads or paths once you arrive at a destination it is not always easy to move around, we forego a resort and head to the village of Tekek where we can choose different cafes to suit our mood, shop at the few local convenience (beer) or duty free stores (wine) and generally have more flexibility.  A high percentage of Malaysia has a strong Muslim faith and while you are able to buy alcohol on the island, some (not all) restaurants allow you to bring this with you and some request that empties are taken away.  Restaurants do not sell alcohol themselves.  We stay at The Station in Tekek, this is at the southern end of the beach, a mere 10 minute walk from the ferry terminal, it is so quiet and there are never more than a handful of others on the beach or in the water.  Our beach front bure is basic but clean and all that we need with air con, a small fridge, hot shower and a lovely hammock on our front deck to sit and gaze at the silky white sand and post card blue water. The days are balmy, with clear skies, some breeze at times and probably sitting around the mid 30s (celsius).   The air conditioning at night makes things comfortable.

Not prepared to give up all the comforts of home we soon find our local caffeine fix with Cabana cafe – they have an espresso machine.  Breakfast at Cabana is varied with eggs all ways and the local Kaya toast (coconut jam).  There is a music stand in a corner at Cabana so there may or may not be a night life, we were well tucked away in hammocks with our books by then, so oblivious to what evening entertainment may be on offer.

Coconuts are plentiful on the island and a refreshing coconut water easy to purchase. With the volume of small mango fruit hanging from above, I imagine mango season is extraordinary.  Due to the lack of arable land, most produce makes it’s way from the mainland.  The ferry from Mersing  (we choose the Cataferry option) runs the 2 1/2 hour journey at least once a day, stopping at villages along the coast, Genting, Berjaya, Tekek,  Air Batung (knows as ABC  etc…    Mersing itself is accessible by road from both Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with the latter usually being faster despite the slow ride through immigration.  Drivers from Singapore are easy to find online.
While the roads and pathways on the island are minimal, there is a 4wd drive (not motorbike safe) from Tekek to Juara and motorbike from Tekek to Air Batung and Berjaya.  Push bikes and motorbikes are available to hire. You can also hike across the island to Juara (3-4 hours) and get a “taxi” back again.  We opt for a jungle walk in the middle of the island with local guide Ari.  Although I was hoping for some excitement of spotting the much written about pythons and maybe a king cobra or even a mouse deer, our hike instead involved plenty of chameleons, butterflies, and some pretty jungle flowers.

You can imagine my disappointment after a hike to ABC (4.5km approx each way) to hear that python are almost always spotted in a the branches of trees hanging above a stream.  So much so that a makeshift sign has been posted asking people not to throw objects hoping to rouse the sleeping giants.  Despite no python spotting it is a lovely seaside walk and Mawar Beach Restaurant a good spot to stop for breakfast, lunch or a cool drink.  Also take time to spot the flying fox hanging form the trees in the park at the northern end of Tekek.

On the whole, island food is pretty simple and we find the best to be Malaysian local dishes such as curries, seafood fried rice, sambal everything, fried squid, sizzling bean curd and endless plates of sauteed kang kung (water spinach) with garlic.  Sarang Seafood (5 minutes walk away from the Station) quickly becomes our go to. The staff are lovely, the food quick to arrive and the flavours are good.   There are recommended restaurants in ABC but aside from the gate closing between the villages as 7pm and not feellng that keen on cycling at night, we are relaxed and happy to wander to our local.





Our days quickly pass and it is time to head back to Singapore and a day later home.  While there are so many places in the world to explore,it isn’t always an easy decision to return to a destination but we both agree this is somewhere we want to to return to.  Would our young adult kids like it?  Hmm not sure, you need to like reading to start with as there is only so much snorkelling and walking to do. :)


*whatsapp is essential for all communication so set this up before you.
*request a room with a refrigerator, great for drinks and also for any snacks you may want to bring along.  Alcohol is super cheap on the island so no need to haul this across the water.
* The tropical water can be slightly deceiving to the untrained eye so for those that suffer badly from sea sickness then ask and ask again before doing the 4-5 hour Coral island snorkel tour (from personal experience).  The water can be flat but it can also be rough.
* take insect repellant although the sandflies were not that bad.
* Reef friendly sunblock is the way to go and brands such as Skinnies is available both in Aus and NZ.
* If you have access to an underwater camera or go pro then take it as the photo opportunities would be magical.  We didn’t have this.
*cash is easiest and there is a one machine in Tekek, our meals are on average about $25 NZ for two, Tiger Beer around $1.50 and a bottle of rose around $17.  Our accomodation was approx $100 NZ per night for 2.

South Australia November 2023


Join me on a fabulous trip to South Australia  November 15th – 20th where we will be cycling, tasting wine and eating delicious food.
South Australia is renowned for its contrasting stunning scenery, wineries, restaurants and amazing produce.
With direct flights from Auckland that have you in Adelaide in time for lunch (and a cycle), it really is so easy and accessible.
Helen will be your guide for the 5-ish days and this tour has been carefully selected to showcase some of the best aspects of the area.

Please note, prices are based on single rooms, if you are travelling with a friend then we can offer an accomodation discount.

What you trip covers

*5 breakfasts
*5 lunches
*5 dinners
*All accommodation in single ensuite rooms
*Local transport
*All bike hire – e-bikes with a mountain bike option in Adelaide (its flat) and McLaren Vale (it is mostly downhill)
*most of the wine tasting

Not covered
*flights to Adelaide
*Insurance – this is mandatory
*Drinks aside from wine tastings

Price Per Person $3895

Day 1 – Wednesday November 15. (cycle 19km or less)
For those flying in we will arrive in Adelaide at 10:45am.  From the airport we will travel into town to drop our bags, have a light lunch and then pick up bikes for a cycle exploration of Adelaide city and its parks.  The city is flat with many designated cycle trails, this is a great way to shake off a flight and also to get to see this pretty city.

Dinner – Concubine
Accommodation – Majestic Roof Garden Hotel or similar

Day 2 – Thursday November 16. (cycle distance tbc)

After breakfast we will be picked up  from our hotel and head up into MclLaren Vale in the Adelaide Hills. This is about 30km from Adelaide CBD. McLaren Vale is far removed from city life and there is a high chance of spotting some new marsupial friends.
Here we will have a gentle downhill cycle through vineyards.  Today the scenery will be glorious as we cycle through National Park areas and off the beaten track.  The cycle is mostly downhill as we will start out cycle at the highest point meaning the hills have essentially been done for you.  There is an option of e-bikes or mountain bikes.
Today’s lunch is a picnic platter and we will stop to visit  at  least 2 wineries along the way.

Dinner – Fugazzi
Majestic Roof Garden Hotel or similar


Day 3 – Friday November 17 (cycle 12-15km)

Today we meet bright and early for a morning market tour at the wonderful Adelaide Central market.  The market is the heart of Adelaide and a melting pot of cultures, be prepared for total sensorial overload. We will have our market guide to escort us around the market and will hear interesting stories and discover and sample quality artisanal products.  At the end of our tour we will head to the market café for breakfast.

After breakfast we will head 25.8km to Handorf for the 12km vineyard loop cycle. This is a non guided cycle but we are only a phone call away from an assistance if needed. Today’s cycle is e-bikes and our first stop will be The Lane Vineyards.  Next is Nepenthe and finally we head to Handorf Hill Winery.  Before we head back into Adelaide we will take some time to explore the quaint German village  of Handorf.  Be prepared for chocovino experience at Hahndorf Hill wines, delicious cheese at Udder Delights, local olive oil and tubs of freshly picked strawberries.

Breakfast Central Market
Lunch tbc
Dinner Fino Vino
Majestic Roof Garden Hotel or similar

Day 4 – Saturday November 18 
Cycle 40km

This morning we will pick up pastries and coffee and head  to the Barossa Valley (88km) bright and early and ready to cycle.
The Barossa is world famous for its wine and also locally popular for its wonderful produce.  It is the home of Australian food celebrity Maggie Beer.  We will visit her farm shop.
First stop today will be the Barossa Farmers Market in Angaston where you are sure to be surprised at the array of products available.
From here we are heading west to Seppeltsfield and then return to Nurioopta for the night.
The cycle today is a mixture of quiet roads and cycle trails.
Seppeltsfield gin distillery

Breakfast – Market pastries and coffee
Lunch –
Dinner – Harvest Kitchen
Accommodation Vine Court or Similar

Day 5 – Sunday November 19 Cycle 40km

Another day in the Barossa with a new exploration today heading south to Tanunda, Krondorf and Jacobs creek.   There are lots of choices in the Barossa so we will be cycling in a completely different direction from Saturday.
At the end of today we will return our bikes to Nurioopta and then head back into Adelaide.

Breakfast –
Lunch – Harvest kitchen tbc
Dinner –
Majestic Roof Garden Hotel or similar


Day 6 – Monday November 20
The direct Flight back to NZ leaves at 11.45am so there is time for an early breakfast and then off to the airport.


March 2023

In trying to see some positive after our tumultuous summer, I am enjoying the early lime season (all that rain I’m guessing), our coriander has flourished as has the mint.
In preparation for a winter of expensive vegetable prices my dried out summer cosmos flowers have been replaced with spinach, cauliflower, rocket and broccoli.
Currently our feijoa trees are dropping mountains of lovely fruit and although it is fabulous, I do need a plan to fight back against the guava moth next season, ugh.  I am so happy with our feijoa shortcake and if anyone has any wonderful feijoa recipes to share then we would love to see them.

Cycle Otago May 2023

Has anyone else been meaning to get to Lake Dunstan and cycle the relatively new cycle way?  How about coming along with us and cycling all three of the main trails, Roxburgh, Dunstan and Clyde.

Trip starts with a pick up fro Queenstown airport on Thursday 4th May and concludes with a return to Queenstown on Sunday 7th May.
Our accommodation each night is at Dunstan House in Clyde.

E-bikes are all of a well maintained standard and are supplied by Shebikeshebikes.

Twin Share –  $2300
Single – $2595
*3 breakfasts
*4 lunches
*3 dinners
*3 nights accomodation at Dunstan House
*bike hire 
*boat trip
*wine tasting 



Thursday 4th May

Gibbston Valley – 8.7km

Pick up from Queenstown airport at 9.30am and delivered to the start of the Gibbston Valley cycle.  Bungy jump anyone?
Today is a very easy and gentle 8.7 km cycle.  We can provide e-bikes for those that want them but it isn’t difficult cycling and we are having lots of stops for wineries and food along the way so you may be just as happy on a regular bike.  We will make our way past Gibbston Valley Winery & Cheese Shop, to Peregrine and many more.  Our cycle destination is Gibbston Back Road where we will be reunited with our bags, leave our bikes and head off by a different van to Clyde.
Lunch, Dinner, Wine tasting
Accommodation Dunstan House

Friday 5th May

Lake Dunstan Trail 42km

Lake Dunstan trail is set to become an iconic NZ day cycle. It has outstanding scenery and a variety of technical grades from easy to intermediate. Remember we are not on thee Tour de France and as long as you are reasonably bike competent then we will be fine.
We will start our cycle at The Cromwell Heritage Precint and make our way on to Carrick Winery for a mid morning wine tasting.
From here we head on another 12km or so to Coffee & Burger Aflloat where we hope to have coffee and lunch. Plan B is a picnic lunch.
From here on it is another 20 km or so on to Clyde.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Dinner tonight is at The Post Office in Clyde.

Saturday 6th May

Roxburgh Gorge 33km approx
Discover another world cycling on the remote and stunning Roxburgh Gorge Trail. With 21km of cycling and a 13km boat ride in the centre to join up the two sections, this trail is all about the experience. The boat ride is on the Clutha River Cruise – Doctors Point to Shingle Creek boat jetty (approx 30 minutes), and includes a historical commentary while viewing the Doctors Point Gold mine, Herons Cottage and the various miners huts along the way.
We start our cycling from Clyde, the journey stretches out to approximately 33 km finishing at the Lake Roxburgh Lodge in time for a cuppa before our 3.30pm pick up and transported back to Clyde.

Breakfast, Winetasting, Lunch, Dinner
Accomodation – Dunstan House
Dinner – Olivers Restaurant


Sunday 7th May

Alex/Clyde Loop Ride 22km

This easy cycle heads along part of the rail trail loop to Alexandra for morning coffee and then we head back around the Clutha river to Clyde.
Lunch in Clyde and then head back to Queenstown airport to arrive late afternoon.

Breakfast, Lunch



How to Make the Best Chicken Sandwich


New Zealanders have long had a love affair with party style chicken sandwiches and I am almost thinking that we can call them our own.  By using the term “party style” I am meaning the type of elegant chicken sandwich that is produced at cocktail parties as opposed to the one that is packed into a lunch box.

The bread – sandwich sliced bread is, I think, unanimous.  The choice then lies between white, wheatmeal and multigrain with white coming out as a top choice.  Freshness is most important, with two friends saying that they will only buy bread on the day required and always from the bottom shelf in the supermarket bread aisle, as that is where the freshest bread is.  They check the expiry date.

The butter – most would agree that chicken sandwiches benefit from a thin spread of butter, this seals in the filling and prevents the bread from absorbing moisture and becoming soggy.

The chicken – probably the best chicken sandwiches are made from a roasted/rotisserie chicken where the crisp skin is chopped into the mixture.
Lauraine Jacobs, suggests roasting the chicken with “a very tasty herby stuffing”, this is chopped into filling as well.
Some others also suggest using the stuffing, whether it is homemade or from a store bought rotisserie chicken.

Mayonnaise – every chicken sandwich recipe I’ve seen includes mayonnaise, vital for moisture and also for flavour.  Best Foods Mayonnaise is a name that is repeated over and over again (which is why we invited them to sponsor this feature).
Recipes tend to use around 2/3 cup mayonnaise to 1 chicken.

Crunch – there is an expectation of some sort of crunch in a chicken sandwich with suggestions including celery, red onion, walnuts, pistachios, cashew nuts, pine nuts etc… (we did have one comment that pine nuts can go soft between sandwiches being made and then served).

What else – Other ingredients include; dried cranberries, rocket, mango chutney, tarragon, basil, parsley, basil, coriander, mint, chives.  All give flavour and the cranberries provide colour.

An electric knife is pretty much mandatory, nearly all party sandwiches are served crusts removed and to do this in any quantity without squashing the bread you will need an electric knife.  Failing this then use a very sharp serrated bread knife.

Damp paper towels are essential for keeping sandwiches fresh and soft.


1 chicken = 2/3 cup mayonnaise = 1 3/4 loaves bread 
2 chickens = 1 3/4 cups mayonnaise = 3 1/2 loaves bread
These are approximates and based on buying a rotisserie chicken or size 14 chicken


Di Eady’s reputation for amazing chicken sandwiches will be sure to live on through generations.  Her daughter Jo, shares these tips from Di;
Always used a roasted chook (chopped not shredded).
Mix with parsley, spring onion, chopped celery and salt.
Bind with Best foods mayonnaise and a sprinkle of the Masterfood’s steak pepper.
It is essential to have fresh bread bought on the day and an electric knife.
For a change Di would sometimes add the stuffing from cooked chook or add lemon zest and a little mint. Bread must be buttered. She liked to make the filling quite generous and cut them into triangles.

Di’s tip: Don’t be mean on the mayo!

Christine Horton and Di Eady were great friends and both famous for their chicken sandwiches.
Christine says;
Roasted chicken (cook in an oven bag) shredded
finely chopped celery
Best foods mayonnaise
Salt ( plenty ) pepper
finely chopped parsley
toasted pine nuts
Finely chopped spring onion
Electric knife essential!

Coronation chicken sandwiches are popular and vary from many of the usual chicken sandwich recipes.  Juliana Hilson’s chicken sandwiches are famous amongst her Christchurch friends.  The recipe is similar to Coronation chicken but with the absence of curry powder.  She adds mango chutney and also some chopped cashew nuts for crunch.
Juliana’s chicken sandwiches 



Jayne Morton is also known for her sandwiches to which she says;
I either poach chicken breasts or get a cooked chook.
I chop or break up all chicken and add:
Best foods mayo
Squeeze of lemon juice
Roasted pine nuts
Spring onion/ parsley/ chives/ mint ( whatever is around!)
Finely diced celery
Finely sliced iceberg lettuce
Cucumber ( if I have any!!)
salt and pepper

Penny Blundell’s chicken sandwiches are famous in Hawkes Bay where she is always asked to bring them to parties (even though she is renowned for being a great cook).

Penny says:
For a crowd l cook
1 chicken in a broth with herbs and spices.
Shred the chicken and add a bit of the broth.
Mix with Best foods mayonnaise (about 3/4 cup) and some cream (2-3 tablespoons)
curry powder
diced celery
coriander and or parsley
Spring onions
salt and freshly ground pepper.
Spicy chutney and sometimes a bit of chilli flakes for a bit of bite

Penny’s tip: Make the filling the day before you need it and then add more cream or mayo if too dry on the day.

Leanne Hegan’s chicken sandwiches get rave reviews.
She says she doesn’t pay too much attention to being specific with ingredient quantity and essentially it is;

2 rotisserie chicken, finely chopped
3 1/2 loaves sandwich sliced bread
1 3/4 cups Best foods mayonnaise (work out amount by looking at moisture content of filling).
1 red onion, finely chopped (not too big)
1-2 stalks celery, finely chopped
small handful parsley, chopped
small bunch chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Auckland Girls’ School St Cuthberts have a recipe in their cookbook that is named
“Best Chicken Sandwiches in the World.
These chicken sandwiches vary from those already mentioned else, using;
1 smoked chicken breast
1 can of reduced cream
1 tub of sour cream
1 packet of Maggi onion soup mix.
They also have a handful of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, dill, chives, chervil, coriander) and a good bunch of rocket leaves.
This makes enough for 1 loaf of sandwich bread.

One of my favourite fillings is
Chicken Pistachio and Avocado Sandwiches
with the pistachios offering crunch and the creaminess of the avocado making the sandwiches even more luscious.


Do you or someone you know make really good chicken sandwiches and if so what are your filling tips?




One Pan Weeknight Lasagne

This lasagne has had some recent popularity on TikTok and for good reason, it is so easy and makes a great lasagne.
There are plenty of versions and this one I think is really good, the clouds of ricotta join in with the sauce as it is served.
You do need a large 28cm (or bigger) frying pan, if not then you may have to go to oven baking.
I like the flavour of using combined beef and pork mince but that is entirely personal.
For a vegetarian version use lentils instead of mince.


There is something quite lovely in the transition from winter to spring, while all seasons have their charm, this year more than others I am so ready to ditch the casserole dish and light up the barbecue.  Asparagus is making its way into our stores although it will be a few more weeks before most of us will be dunking our spears in melted butter.
After many false starts we have 2 food focussed cycle tours between now and Christmas.  One is Nelson Great Taste Trail and the other Hawkes Bay, both have 2 spaces and I know they will be great fun.  It is more about the delicious food than it is about serious cycling. Please do email me with any questions.
Happy Cooking!