The last time we traveled as a family with my grandparents, it was almost a decade ago.
It was a trip to Perth, Australia, and among my starkest memories of the trip is a vision of my grandfather using a Eucalyptus tree branch to swat away mosquitoes in the sweltering summer heat.
This year, we decided to re-create memories, and make another voyage to Australia, but this time it was to cover Brisbane and some parts of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
A large family trip involving my entire family, together with my grandparents and Juan.
In my opinion, Asian grandparents tend to find their comfort zones among Asian foods and tastes, and rarely venture beyond the cuisines they are familiar with.
At least it’s that way with my grandparents, particularly Yeye (my grandfather). So it doesn’t really matter that we’re in Australia, where fish and chips rule and plenty of international cuisines abide – we still spent many of our meals searching for and eating at Asian restaurants, mainly to appease my grandparents’ taste buds, which had grown accustomed to the comfortable familiarity of Asian cuisine, especially Chinese food. There were a couple of exceptions to the rule, and once in a while, we sought out fresh Australian seafood and some other cuisines.
Kicking off our trip in Brisbane, we roamed Eagle Street Pier which beheld the breathtaking view of Story Bridge, which lights up spectacularly at night, illuminating the Brisbane River, the longest river in southeast Queensland. Settling in George’s Paragon Seafood Restaurant for an early dinner (Australians start eating dinner from 5pm onwards), our lovely waiter introduced us to a couple of dishes, which though normal by Aussie standards, were huge for us, sharing as a family of 7. Seafood chowder, which was a tad salty for my sore throat, an amazing Greek platter and then a humongous Seafood Platter (for 2, mind you) – our first dinner in Australia was breathtaking, but it left us almost too full to move.
I suppose the lack of Chinese food was already starting to unsettle my grandparents, so before driving up North to Sunshine Beach where we had rented our holiday house, we found ourselves exploring Chinatown in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, hoping we could chance upon some good Chinese food. Thankfully the large number of Asians living in Australia resulted in us quickly finding a good Dim Sum restaurant, where we feasted on a delicious Cantonese brunch.
Mostly, I enjoyed seeing how much my grandfather relished his Chinese meal, eating with a ferocity and velocity that words alone cannot describe. It was good to see him having a good time.
When we’d finally driven up to Sunshine Beach and met up with Juan who had flown directly to the Sunshine Coast, we found ourselves in a big dilemma.
Since Aussies eat early and shops close early (before 8pm the streets had gone lifeless in Noosa Heads), we had to eat before there were no more shops or restaurants open. It was quite a tough schedule to follow because at 6.30pm we had to start looking for restaurants for dinner while our stomachs were still trying to digest our large Dim Sum lunch.
We played around at Sunshine Beach, just 5 minutes’ walk from our rented house, before heading for dinner.
There is something really beautiful about being so close to a beach, with the salty sea breeze floating in the air, and warm hues from the sunset illuminating our faces. Perhaps one day I’ll be able to live by the beach, and catch sunrise and sunset where nature’s beauty is untouched by city lights and busy traffic.
We decided at last on Japanese food, which unfortunately, except for the roasted rice green tea, was pretty disappointing.
While the food looked good and well packaged, the taste of the vinegar rice just somehow didn’t cut it. Suffice to say we hadn’t gone to a top Japanese restaurant, but we had expected it to taste more Japanese instead of fusion.
Thankfully beautiful gelato from Gelatissimo made up for that.
Beautifully decorated tubs of gelato in all their glorious colors lined the storefront, tempting us with their vibrant tones and creamy texture. Delicious.
The next morning, we got up early and suntanned at the beach, before heading to Eumundi, a small town around 20km away.
It’s such a beautiful sensation to wake up at 8am in the morning and have the sunshine brighten up our faces, as we were cooled by the ocean winds. Seagulls and grass blades dancing in the wind made my morning.
Eumundi was holding its bi-weekly market fair which takes place every Wednesday and Saturday.
Arts and crafts, food, fruits and almost every other thing possible could be found at the fair. Being a sucker for fairs and markets, I had a blast wandering through the tents and stalls, feeling just like a child again. We nibbled on Dutch pancakes adorned with strawberries and cream, and churros stuffed with custard. And then of course, the local crafts and amazing quotes carved on wooden boards blew me away.
Then because my father always loves to throw in some educational visit for him to feel that we’ve learned something, it was Ginger Factory time.
At the factory we had a quick tour of the factory and saw how ginger was processed to make ginger products such as sweets, ginger beer and ginger ale. We also sampled a couple of ginger products, some of which were too strong in taste for our liking.
The following day, Noosa National Park, which was just a few kilometers from where we were staying, beckoned for us to explore it.
A gem made up of many bush trails and amazingly gorgeous views of the Pacific ocean – I believe it really is one of the highlights of Noosa.
When we finally drove back to Brisbane on Saturday, we spent the afternoon exploring Brisbane by foot, walking up and down the popular shopping stretch Queen Street and admiring Brisbane’s architecture.
And for our last dinner in Brisbane, we had to leave with a bang. And so, where else to have dinner but at a lovely Chinese restaurant?
Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), Peking duck in rice flour wraps, fried rice, sweet and sour pork, fish cooked in wine sauce and sliced beef..yum.
Goodbye beautiful Brisbane…see you next time!