WE set out for Perth, the capital of Western Australia, on an early morning AisAsia X flight.
The flight takes only 5½ hours and since Kuala Lumpur and Perth are in the same time zone, we are spared some jetlag and confusion on the time.
We land in Perth at 5.35am and are met after clearing immigration by Jules, our driver from Perth Luxury Tour. He will be driving us around until the end of our stay.
The six of us are on a media familiarisation trip organised by AirAsia X to introduce Perth as a halal-friendly destination for Malaysian tourists.
From the airport, we head to the city. Our hotel, Mantra on Murray, is located on Murray St. Our modern and contemporary four-star hotel room is priced from RM359 (AUD126).
First on the itinerary is lunch, which is at The Shoe Bar Cafe located at Yangan Square.
The cafe spoils us with an array of Western food including beef steaks and, of course, fish and chips!
After lunch, our guide Lola from Two Feet & a Heartbeat takes us on a private guided walking tour through Perth CBD (Central Business District), which is the heart of the city.
Lola takes us to explore the lanes and small streets of Perth and we get to see and enjoy the city up close. Street art and graffiti are on many walls of buildings.
We also get the chance to ride the Segway, a two-wheeled motorised personal vehicle. Using it, we explore Barrack Street Jetty, Elizabeth Quay and the iconic Swan River.
We end our day with sumptuous halal Indian food served the fine dining way at Sauma Northbridge Restaurant.
Its fish curry, lamb kofta, lamb rib masala and more make me nostalgic for home almost immediately.
The following day, we go on a drive to Busselton Jetty, roughly 225km or 2.5 hours from Perth.
Located over the protected waters of Geographe Bay, the jetty is the longest timber jetty in the Southern Hemisphere.
Visitors can choose to stroll along the 1,841 metres long jetty, fish, swim, scuba-dive or snorkel.
If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of dolphins frolicking.
It’s lunch time and we dine at the 'Walk to the Goose' which offers a variety of seafood delicacies that are caught fresh.
Our next stop is the much-anticipated visit to Margaret River. But first, we make a pit stop at the Sunflowers Animal Farm and Farmstay.
My childhood dream of seeing kangaroos is fulfilled. We even have a chance to carry, take pictures and feed the adorable Australian marsupial.
Apart from the kangaroos, there are also emu and more than 300 farm animals. Entry into the farm is only AUD11.
From the farm, we head to Mammoth Cave. There we go on a self-guided tour, exploring and listening to the informative audio tour through the headset provided. It’s a comprehensive nature experience as the tour finishes with a walk through the Marri Forest.
We finally arrive at the Margaret River township which is regarded as the oldest wine region in the continent. It is said that if you are looking to escape hustle and bustle of the city, this is the best place to be.
Local guide Ellie Tannock from the Walk, Talk and Taste Margaret River takes us on a stroll.
The cheerful Ellie gives us an insight on the town's history and what it has become today, from a region dependent on meat and wholegrains to the one that is home to the country's finest wines and chocolates. Some of the finest beef and lamb meat also come from Margaret River.
That night, we’re put up at Margarets in Town Apartments which is located in the tranquil forest. It’s the perfect place for a quiet holiday.
MANDURAH WILD SEAFOOD CRUISE
Before we head back to Perth, we hop on board the Mandurah Wild Seafood Cruise for a one-hour marine adventure cruise.
It takes us to explore Mandurah as well as the United Nations-protected Peel-Harvey Estuary.
As we cruise, we have a hands-on tutorial on how to catch lobsters which we also get to taste while on the lookout for dolphins. Concluding our marine adventure at Mandurah, we return to Perth and check in at The Adnate Perth (Art Series Hotel).
The memorable day ends with a halal Lebanese dinner at Chee Tayeb at Murray Street.
Back in the city, our plan is to visit Fremantle, the city’s port that is located just 16km away.
We make a quick stop at Botanic Gardens & Parks, better known as Kings Park. It’s the city's natural heartland, which sits on Mount Eliza, overlooking the city and Swan River.
The park is made up of 400 hectares of towering trees, natural bushland, beautiful lakes, sculpted botanic gardens and breathtaking lookouts.
The garden are home to some 3,000 of Western Australia's 12,000 species of plants.
After our lunch at Odyssea, a seafood restaurant in the city, we stop at St Paul's Anglican Church for Friday prayers.
The prayer is conducted in the hall located at the church where Muslims around the Freemantle area congregate on Fridays for prayers.
We then proceed tp Fremantle, a major port city in Western Australia.
Our tour includes a two-hour cycling tour on restored vintage bicycles, exploring coffee places, street arts, graffitti, iconic statues and historical monuments. Our guide, Michael Deller from Fremantle Tours, shares the history of Fremantle.
We also have the chance to visit the Fremantle Market selling a variety of local produce and food. We are then taken to the Twilight Hawkers Market back in Perth which is likened to our night market. The market is Perth's original and biggest street food market, held from 4.30pm to 9.30pm every Friday.
NOT RATS BUT QUOKKAS HERE
THE thought of going to a rat-infested island is gut-churning. I am disgusted and scared just thinking of our visit to the Rottnest Island, scheduled on the last day of our Perth trip.
Little do I know that the quokkas inhabiting this island are actually the friendliest of animals, not rodents at all.
We depart from Fremantle for Rottnest Island via ferry. The journey takes about 30 minutes.
In the 17th century, Dutch explorers thought quokkas were giant rats. The island was home to thousands of quokkas and the island was therefore named Rottnest or rat's nest.
Dubbed as the world’s happiest animal, the cute macropod (of the same family with the kangaroo and wallaby) is synonymous with the island, the region’s very own island gateway.
The island is an A-Class Reserve renowned for its high conservation efforts.
All plants and animals on the island are protected. Wildlife here should therefore not disturbed, only observed from a reasonable distance.
Upon arriving at the island, it is hard to escape encountering this furry marsupial, which looks like a cross between a rat and a wallaby.
The friendly quokka looks comfortable with the presence of people who are constantly taking pictures of it.
Like others, I also take the opportunity to take a selfie with the qoukka. To my surprise, they are quiet, accommodating and a little shy.
We’re advised to maintain a good distance with them as touching or patting them can make both sick.
Celebrities and A-list actors such as Hugh Jackman, Chris Hemsworth and most recently tennis superstar Rafael Nadal have joined the #qoukkaselfie phenomenon, which is all about posting Istagram photos and videos of the marsupial the right way.
Besides quokkas, there are guided tour options daily such as coach tours, historical tours, boat tours, segways and even sky-diving. Cycling is one of the best way to explore the island.
There are also 63 bays and 20 beaches of crystal-clear waters that are ideal for swimmming and snorkelling.