Trunk calls; night of the long noses in Bali

Room with a view.

It’s been a while since I’ve been woken up by an elephant. The last time was in the wilds of Kenya, when a massive bull elephant was busily ripping the forest outside my safari tent.

The second time was last night, and the location is central Bali. This time, however, the elephant was tethered, and it woke me by clanking its chain over and over again. Finally, risking being called a nuisance journalist who complains about everything (‘the birdsong is too loud in the morning!’), I rang reception who said they would immediately contact their mahout on call. Two minutes later: peaceful elephant, peaceful journalist.

Taro Elephant Safari Park is home to 30 Sumatran elephants, the world’s smallest elephant. However, they’re still seriously big beasts, and the view from my lodge room was of eight elephants, busily eating, snoozing and peeing, which sounds like a burst fire hydrant. The brief spurt of clanking aside, it was surprisingly quiet, sleeping beside eight elephants, save the occasional long, nasal snort.

Hats off to founders Nigel and Yanie Mason, who not only rescued the elephants from devastated landscapes and logging camps, but also envisaged such ideas as stepping out of your room and into a teak elephant seat, atop an elephant headed out for a night safari beneath the stars. A beautiful park and a wonderful chance to meet happy, healthy pachyderms.

Death becomes her: happy Balinese villages

A happy gong player in a cremation
ceremony, Tabanan.

We were pottering through the loveliest little village in west Bali when suddenly the street was blocked by a procession of about 100 people.

The procession was led by women in beautiful costumes bearing offerings, men playing gong (gamelan), a stick bearer and lots of folk walking behind them.

It was a pretty procession, and I wound down the window of my car and took plenty of pretty photographs. Everyone smiled and waved, happy to be snapped.

The procession finally finished and we started on our way again, and I asked Nata, my guide, what the occasion was.

“It was a cremation ceremony,” he explained.

But they all seemed so happy!

Words don’t describe beautiful Bali

Today, I was schlepping around the tourist-plagued Tanah Lot, a Hindu temple perched on a rock in the Tabenan regency, in west Bali. Avoiding the crowds that descend on the temple at sunset, it was still busy mid-afternoon, with a surprisingly large number of Indonesian tourists, out for a perve at their craziest island.

A schoolgirl from Jakarta stopped and asked me if she could take a photo of me for her English school project. No worries, I said. Her friends jumped in the photo, and so did their teacher, and the photographer snapped away with everyone’s cameras.

“Indonesians from Jakarta and other parts of the country like to come here to see the tourists,” explained my guide, Nata. “They go down to Kuta beach to photograph them and tell their friends back at home they met a foreigner.”

“What, in all their bikinis and Bintang beer t-shirts?” I asked. We giggled. Then a bloke walked past: bald, fat, grey goatee, a scrawl of tatts on both calves and a singlet that read: ‘Give me head until I’m dead: Bali’. I did not take a photo.

Twenty reasons to visit Fiji

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.
Castaway Island Resort in the Mamanuca Islands.

From white-water rafting to spa treatments, these are the top 20 reasons to visit Fiji.

1 Diving

The Great Astrolabe Reef is the world’s fourth-largest
barrier reef and curls around the sparsely populated southern island of
Kadavu. Snorkellers can cruise the reef’s coral gardens and divers can
swim with eagle and manta rays, turtles and wrasse and ogle the reef’s
drop-offs. Stay at the simple thatch bures of Matava dive resort (matava.com).
Astrolabe’s rival for the title of best diving, the Great Sea Reef, is
known locally as Cakaulevu. Off the northern island of Vanua Levu, the
reef was little explored before 2004 and is home to green turtles and
spinner dolphins. The closest resort is Nukubati. nukubati.com.

2 Sigatoka river and cave safaris

It’s a jet-boat safari, yet it’s also a great cultural
adventure. Take a 15-kilometre journey up the rich, green Sigatoka
Valley to visit one of 15 Fijian villages to learn of local customs and
legends on the Sigatoka River safari. There’s a kava ceremony at the
village chief’s bure, followed by lunch and traditional singing and
dancing. Costs from $140.80 adults, $69 children. The newest tour from
the same gang is the Off-Road Cave safari, which visits Fiji’s largest
cave system, Naihehe Cave, once the home of a cannibal tribe. Costs from
$131 for adults, $60 for children. Both tours depart from Sigatoka, 70
kilometres south of Nadi on the Coral Coast, and pick up from Nadi or
Coral Coast resorts, twice daily, Monday to Saturday. sigatokariver.com.

3 Mei-meis (Fijian nannies)

Cultural show ... Fijian fire-walking.
Cultural show … Fijian fire-walking.
Photo: Alamy

Fijians are renowned for their love of kids and every
hotel caters for them (save a handful of exclusive, adults-only
retreats) without busting your budget. Top kid-friendly hotels include
Outrigger on the Lagoon, which has 30 mei-meis (nannies), great for
families with babies, while Holidays with Kids magazine’s latest survey
found the top three family-friendly resorts are Shangri-La’s Fijian
Resort & Spa, Yanuca Island, the Naviti Resort, Coral Coast and
Plantation Island. shangri-la.com; warwicknaviti.com; plantationisland.com.

4 Fire-walking

Who knew that there are two types of fire-walking in
Fiji, not the commonly known one? There’s the indigenous Fijian
tradition of walking over hot stones and the Hindu purification ritual
of walking on ashes and charcoal. Fijian fire-walking can be seen during
cultural shows at many resorts across the country or at the Arts
Village in Suva, and Suva’s Mariamma Temple holds a South Indian ritual,
Trenial, featuring fire-walking, in July or August each year.

5 South sea pearls

At the top of your Fiji souvenir list should be South Sea
pearls, which come in a rainbow of colours from soft creams to
pearlescent greys. You’ll find earrings and necklaces at the big
souvenir shops such as Tappoo (tappoo.com.fj) or Jacks (jacksfiji.com)
but also from the lady sellers at most resorts. There’s also a daily
craft market in the centre of Nadi and Suva’s craft market runs every
day except Sundays. If you’re in Savusavu, be sure to visit the black
pearl farm J. Hunter Pearls for farm tours and shopping. pearlsfiji.com.

6 Tribal belonging

Maybe you never felt you belonged: maybe you belong in a
Fijian tribe in a cross-cultural social experiment. Spend a week or more
on Vorovoro island with the people of this remote community, helping
with sustainable community tourism projects that aim to bring positive
change. tribewanted.com.

7 Tropical spas

The award-winning Bebe Spa Sanctuary at the Outrigger on
the Lagoon is built high on a hilltop and looks over the main island’s
Coral Coast. The spa treatments use Pevonia and Pure Fiji spa products
and Bebe’s warm seashell massage is worth the journey south ($126/hour).
The founder of Pure Fiji, Daniel Anania, lists among his favourite spas
Spa Denarau at Denarau Marina, Harmony Spa at the Radisson Blu Hotel
and the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa as well as Bebe Spa. bebespafiji.com; radissonblu.com/resort-fiji; intercontinental.com.

8 Pure Fiji

Fiji’s own spa brand, Pure Fiji, puts into a jar all the
reasons we love to visit Fiji – papaya, coconut milk, pineapple and
kaffir lime – the scents of a tropical paradise. Bestsellers are the
coconut hydrating lotion and coconut sugar rub: the orange
blossom-scented rub is a winner. Find the products at the Pure Fiji spa
in Suva or at the airport on the way home. If you happen to be in Suva
on a Saturday, you can buy the products discounted at their factory
outlet. purefiji.com.

9 Rugby

Rugby is Fiji’s third religion and the locals are
obsessed. Almost every village has a team. Teams from the outer islands
compete in the Island Zone Championship in Suva every August, while the
beloved Farebrother-Sullivan challenge pits provincial teams against
each other from September 1 to October 13. Fijians go crazy supporting
their own province.

10 Blue lagoon

Children of the ’80s, remember when Brooke Shields rose
out of the crystalline waters in the 1980 shipwreck movie Blue Lagoon?
It was filmed on Turtle Island, in the Yasawas, a string of islands
north of the Mamanucas in western Fiji. Widely regarded as having the
best beaches in Fiji, they’re connected by inter-island flights, fast
catamaran and multi-day, languid Blue Lagoon cruises. Yasawa and Turtle
islands are home to two of Fiji’s top resorts, with a high
beach-per-guest ratio. bluelagooncruises.com; yasawa.com; turtlefiji.com.

11 Tropical golf courses

There’s nothing more delightful than dropping a
hole-in-one on a beautifully landscaped, tropical green. Fiji offers a
few green gems, including the home of the Fiji Open, the Natadola golf
course, designed by famed Fijian golfer Vijay Singh, Denarau Golf and
Racquet Club, and Pacific Harbour’s tough Pearl Champion course,
designed by Robert Trent Jones jnr, which has held eighth ranking
worldwide in the past. natadolabay.com; denaraugolf.fiji-golf.net; thepearlsouthpacific.com.

12 Kokoda

Fiji has two main cuisines – indigenous Fijian and Fijian
Indian. Fijian Indian is heavy on the rice, spice and chilli, and
indigenous Fijian features plenty of seafood and is easy on the spice.
Kokoda is the Fijian take on cerviche, a divine dish of local fish
marinated in lemon juice and coconut milk. Time your visit to include
lovo night in the hotels, where food is cooked in an underground oven.
Otherwise, try Indigo, at Port Denarau, which serves Indian fusion as
well as indigenous Fijian, or Sky Top, on the rooftop of Ohana
restaurant (Queens Rd, Martintar). If you’re self-catering, get down to
the morning produce markets, held in all the main towns, including Nadi,
Suvasuva and Suva, or just stop along the roadside to buy freshly
caught prawns, mud crabs or fish. Also, pineapple, papaya and mangoes
are plentiful when in season.

13 The Mamanucas

Castaway, Treasure, Beachcomber and Bounty islands: the
Mamanuca Islands are total showponies (literally: the Tom Hanks movie
Cast Away was filmed on Modriki). This handful of islands is beloved of
day trippers with good reason: the diving, snorkelling and surfing are
world class and busy Beachcomber has the reputation of Fiji’s top party
island. Lying west of Nadi, the islands are easily reached by boat from
Denarau Marina; South Sea Cruises does most of the day trips. ssc.com.fj.

14 Kula Eco Park

Get up close and personal with Fiji’s rare and endangered
animals in this environmental haven near Sigatoka, on the Coral Coast.
It’s a great stop for kids, with fruit bats, iguanas, an array of
rainbow-coloured parrots including the flashy Kadavu red-breasted musk
parrot, and the fluffy orange dove. It’s
also a pram-friendly set-up. fijiwild.com.

15 Glamour digs

Make no mistake: while Fiji loves its reputation as a
family getaway, its 333 islands hide deeply glamorous resorts sought out
by the international jet set. Mel Gibson owns an island in the Lau
group, and TV bachelorettes hang out at Anthony Robbins’s luxury Namale
Island. Dolphin Island was the private island of the owner of New
Zealand’s top lodge, Huka Lodge, but has been opened to guests – it can
be home to just four couples or one lucky family – and the new,
adults-only Tadrai Island Resort, which is just a chopper ride from Nadi
in the Mamanucas, has just five villas with their own plunge pools and
butler service. namaleresort.com; dolphinislandfiji.com; tadrai.com.

16 Sigatoka Dunes

When the sun is shining, why stay inside? The prehistoric
sites excavated at Sigatoka Sand Dunes give a glimpse into Fijian
history without having to trek through a museum, and you get to stretch
your legs, too. Archaeological digs are still turning up stone tools and
the area is one of the largest burial sites in the Pacific. You may
even catch sight of Fiji’s national rugby team, which trains down here.

17 Real ecotourism

Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort, on the northern island of
Vanua Levu, is home to Johnny Singh, Fiji’s first marine biologist.
Cousteau, an explorer and oceanographer, set his small resort away from
the bustle of the main island and it has won several awards for its
ecotourism projects. The family-friendly five-star resort has set the
benchmark for other Fijian resorts to follow, featuring organic gardens,
rainwater harvesting and edible landscaping without compromising on
comfort. fijiresort.com.

18 Island-hopping

In Fiji, “day tripping” doesn’t mean hours in a car, it
means lying on the deck of a yacht, smelling the sea breeze, seafood
banquets and snorkelling stops. Charter a private yacht and choose your
course or join a cruise to, say, Tivua Island on the tall ship Ra Marama
and spend the day snorkelling, glass-bottom boating, kayaking or
chilling on the beach in Fiji style. fijisafari.com; captaincook.com.fj.

19 World-class surfing

Most surfers head for the Mamanuca islands to hit the
waves – the permanent six-metre wave Cloudbreak, off the coast of
Tavarua, is a Fijian legend, and reigning world champion Kelly Slater
describes nearby Restaurants as “one of the most perfect waves that I
have ever surfed”. Taravua will host the Volcom Fiji Pro, featuring the
top pro surfers, from June 3 to 15. Off the south coast of the main
island, you’ll find little Beqa Island is home to the challenging
left-handed reef break Frigates, and Sigatoka Beach’s Sand Dunes stand
out on the Coral Coast.

20 White-water rafting

Fiji’s lagoons are brilliant for sea kayaking and the
waterways through its mangroves let you explore these mysterious
ecosystems. The local guides of Rivers Fiji take groups river-rafting
through the forests and past highland villages on the main island and
sea kayaking out to Benq Island, renowned for its fire-walkers and
surfing. riversfiji.com.

Source: Sun Herald newspaper

Curry up: get an appetite for Indian on Melbourne’s streets

Himanshi explains how to use Indian flavours on the Masala Trail.
Himanshi explains how to use Indian
flavours on the Masala Trail.


“And this … is dosa.” Himanshi Munshaw-Luhar holds up a wafer-thin
pancake the size of a small pony. “Of course, this is the family size,”
she adds, rather unnecessarily. The dosa is more than a metre long.

Himanshi is giving a crash course on eating Indian food
in Melbourne. The trick to successful eating out in any town is to know
what to order, so it’s with empty bellies and keen anticipation that a
small troupe of Indian-food aficionados has gathered this rainy night to
trail Himanshi around Melbourne’s city grid for an insider’s secrets on
great Indian food.

But first, a quick word about the origins of Indian cuisine.
“Chilli came from the Portuguese, in the 14th century,”
Himanshi says. “Before that, we flavoured with spices only.” She
continues. Potatoes, tomatoes and onions, “three things we can’t do
without”, also came from those far-travelling Portuguese. “The British
brought morning and afternoon tea; we don’t eat naan at home because we
don’t have tandoor ovens in our houses; and chai latte does not exist in
India.”

It seems Himanshi delights in smashing all my
preconceptions. I’m not quite sure what is left for Indians to call
their original cuisine, but the answer is to hand, in the form of a bowl
of bright yellow dahl (lentil soup); idli sambar, a steamed savoury
rice doughnut; and the paper dosa with coconut chutney.
This is the specialty of our first restaurant tonight,
Flora. At first view, you’d walk straight past the dowdy restaurant.
It’s a rather nondescript joint dominated by a welter of bain-maries
with the usual suspects – rogan josh, vindaloos and kormas – steaming up
the glass. But Flora is a haven for Melbourne’s southern Indian city
workers and inner-city families who want a taste of home.

We finish the entree with masala chai, black tea blended
with pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger and mint. “Every home’s tea is
different, everyone’s hand is different,” Himanshi says. The chai warms
my heart, though the trio of blokes in the group are happy to test the
coldness of the Kingfisher beer.
The next stop is Melbourne’s oldest Indian spice shop, a
tiny box on Russell Street. Inside, it’s stuffed to the eyeballs with
spice mixes, rose water, microwave meals and boxes of fresh okra.
There’s an awful lot of Fair & Lovely ladies’ ayurvedic skin cream
and Fair and Handsome for the men, and a slushie machine stirs icy cold,
sweet mango lassi that has us queueing for more.

“We don’t eat a lot of stuff out of a can,” Himanshi
says, pointing to a tin of just-add-water dosa, “but everyone has this
sitting in the cupboard.” She’s waggling a spice mix at us. “It’s the $2
fix-all that will make your dish taste like it was supposed to taste.
Great, especially when the mother-in-law is coming over.” I buy two.

Himanshi ticks off the spice rules and remedies on her
fingers: cumin for white meat. Mustard seeds for red meat. Cloves to
stop getting car sickness. Turmeric for cuts or sore throats. Coconut
chutney, incidentally, is also very good for hangovers, she says.

She also answers a few questions I have from
half-translated Indian recipes. Mirch is basically chilli powder and
khoya is a sweetening agent, sort of like a sweet cheese.

The last stop for the night is the main course and
dessert at an upmarket Indian restaurant about 10 minutes’ walk away.
Only a few tables at Nirankar are occupied and the place feels a bit
empty, even after the 12 of us settle in.
The waiters pour more Kingfisher beer, which I choose over the Haywards 5000: it sounds too much like motorbike fuel for me.

Later, I Google the name. “It is the language of
friendship amongst men who are proud of their masculinity and look
forward to a great time with their friends and peers,” the beer’s
website tells me. Lucky I steered clear.

These food walks started as a get-to-know-you for the
small tour groups Himanshi takes to India, but became tours in their own
right. So Himanshi is geared up to prep you for a trip to India, with
some home truths: “You can’t refuse food in an Indian house. It’s just
rude.” Sounds like my kind of place. We talk about wedding food,
tiffins, traditions and, inevitably, Test cricket.

As we chat, the dishes start to come: chilli-heavy
vindaloos for the men, paneer makhani for the vegetarians, and my new
love, a delicious coriander-heavy kadai chicken curry.

Meanwhile, the restaurant starts to fill as large,
boisterous groups pour in. “They’re Indians on tour in Australia,”
Himanshi says, “and they’re all very particular about their food.” Even
India has food nerds, as I spot a few cameras ready to snap the dishes.

The courses are broken up with a Bollywood boogie
courtesy of local Indian dance group Rang De Basanti. With their
movie-star grins and syncopated dance moves, the kids are sugar-sweet,
which is a suitable lead into dessert, with hardcore kulfi, a handmade
ice-cream so sweet it makes my fillings ache.
“This is an Australian version. I thought it was quite
plain,” Himanshi says with a wicked grin, noting my sugar shock. “You
wouldn’t be able to eat the Mumbai version.” Note to self: surely the
Mumbai version equals instant facial tic.

Disfigurement or no, the walk
has sated my appetite for food, but whets it for a return to India.

The writer was a guest of Masala Trails and The Prince hotel.

TRIP NOTES
Staying there
A deluxe room in boutique St Kilda hotel The Prince costs from $175 a night. theprince.com.au.
Eating there
Nirankar, 174 Queen Street, (03) 9642 1995, nirankar.com.au.
Flora, 238 Flinders Street, (03) 9663 1212.
Curry Corner, 188 Russell Street, (03) 9663 4040.
Touring there
Masala Trails run once a month on Saturdays from Federation Square, 11.15am-2.30pm, $75 a person. 1800 667 791, foodietrails.com.au.
 
Source: Sun Herald newspaper

PLAY BRISBANE: Fun and sun rolled into one

Streets Beach
The sun is shining, bronzed
people are bouncing about in bikinis and boardies…then everyone packs up and
goes back to the office. Don’t you just love a beach in the middle of the city?
Streets Beach, in South Bank, has got it all: sand, palms, lifesavers
and warm, crystal-clear waters. Open all year round, take a dip then coffee in
the restaurant strip overlooking the lagoon. Perfect. And perfectly Queensland.
Brissy loves its indie
culture and two of its best-loved contemporary performing arts spaces, the Judith
Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts
and the Brisbane Powerhouse, oblige.  The cosy little Judy loves a spot of cabaret
and shines a spotlight on local work, while the Powerhouse hosts film festivals, theatre and is a
major site for the Brisbane Festival. Upcoming visitors include Henry Rollins, blues
guitarist Harry Manx, comedians Judith Lucy and Candy Bowers and classical
pianist Sally Whitwell (judithwrightcentre.com, brisbanepowerhouse.org)
Get a grip on Brisbane and its
surrounds, with views to Moreton Bay, by climbing Brisbane’s architectural
icon, the Story Bridge, 80 meters above the Brisbane River. If you think
bridge climbs are for pre-schoolers, go one up and abseil down the pylons (storybridgeadventureclimb.com.au)
If jumping off a high bridge isn’t your idea of a cool time, instead,
work your photography and climbing skills simultaneously when you climb the bridge
with a professional photographer who’ll help capture the panorama, using your
own camera equipment. Photography climbs
are held monthly (blue-dog.com.au)
For aimless ambling in the sunshine, South Bank Lifestyle Markets
are flush with craft, food, fashion and homewares. Open Friday evenings, all
day Saturday and Sunday on Stanley St, the stalls get a decided fashion bent on
the first Sunday of the month with the addition of the Young Designer Markets, where you can buy direct from the designer
(southbankmarket.com.au, youngdesignersmarket.com.au). Saturday nights in the West
End get a whole lot funkier when the West
End Twilight Markets
are in town, with artisan stalls, providores and free music
by indie performers (cnr Wilson & Boundary St, 2nd and 4th Saturday of the
month, westendtwilightmarkets.com)
 
For the crush of your classic band pub or the roar of the
latest club, you’ll be asking your taxi to take you to Fortitude Valley. The
Valley’s spit-and-sawdust days are fading as the latest openings combine sexy
bites with well-crafted drinks: take a look at the late-night supper club La Ruche (680 Ann St) and its neighbour
the Bowery Bar (676 Ann St). Veteran Cru Bar is still regarded as one of the best wine bars in
town.
Oh Hello! gathers all the pretty
twentysomethings in one place (621 Ann St) while at ManaBar, you can drink cocktails (for the adult in you) while
hammering video games (for the inner child) (420 Brunswick St).  
Archive Beer Boutique
Keep an
eye out for Alfred
& Constance
, two heritage houses revamped to
include a gastro pub, underground cellar and late-night dessert café by the
Limes Hotel crew, opening July (cnr Alfred & Constance St). Other hotspots across the city include
Woollongabba for Matt Moran’s tapas and rum cocktails at edgy Canvas, its new little sister, Public Bar & Kitchen in the CBD (400
George St) and the West
End’s The End (73
Vulture St).
CRAFT
BEER REVIVAL
Real beer drinkers, rejoice! Brisbane is enjoying a
revival of craft beers, the charge is led by the West End’s Archive Beer Boutique (100 Boundary St,
West End). Add to your list The Scratch
for Gold Coast operation Burleigh Brewing’s My
Wife’s Bitter
(8/1 Park Rd, Milton) and newcomer’s Super Whatnot’s grunged-out wine bar, which keeps Brissy brewers
Bacchus on tap (Burnett La, CBD).

Travel Deals, Asia special report

Junk on Hong Kong harbour, traveltheworld.com.au

$ LAOS
Three
World Heritage-listed buildings make up the teeny 3 Nagas hotel, which
comprises just 15 rooms, in the ancient Laotian capital Luang Prabang.  The hotel is a showcase of traditional
architecture set amongst serene gardens, in the city’s Old Quarter. Stay three
nights, pay two, with breakfast and afternoon tea also in the deal, until
September 18. Costs from $147 a night, 0011 800
3746 8357, designhotels.com/3_nagas
$$ CAMBODIA
If you’re a seat-of-the-pants kinda person, you need to
get to Cambodia now, to experience local life by staying with a Cambodian family,
pedalling through the countryside and, of course, visiting Angkor’s magical
temples.  Save 25 percent on the 12-day
Cambodia Discovery small group tour which departs from Ho Chi Minh City on June
30. Book by June 27, was $745 a person, now $550, 1300
018 871, intrepidtravel.com

$ VIETNAM Anantara
You won’t be dodging mopeds amidst the quiet sand dunes
of Mui Ne beaches. Set on serene coastline four hours from Ho Chi Minh city, Anantara
Mui Ne Resort & Spa has taken 25 percent off rooms, including breakfast,
until June 30. Of course, you’ll find infinity pools, seafront dining,
dedicated wine rooms and the scents of spa as only Vietnam can do. Who needs to
find the gym? Costs from $569.25 a room for six nights, +84 62 3741 888, anantara.com

$$$ THAILAND
Heaven is on sale as Asia’s best destination spa of the
year, Kamalaya, offers free nights on extended stays. Detoxing never was done
so beautifully as at the Koh Samui World Spa awards winner, which has a
dedicated following for its spa cuisine, yoga retreats and weight-loss programs.
Stay nine nights, pay for six between June 30 – September 30. Includes a
wellness consultation, holistic activities, use of the steam cavern and fitness
centre and a body bio-impedance analysis. Save $656, costs from $1313 a
person for nine nights, +66 77 429 800 kamalaya.com
$$$ JAPAN
Three hours from Tokyo and you’re in Happo, amidst the
Alps; the Japanese Alps, that is. Luckily, snow has no language, so snap up a
family package with Hakuba Springs Hotel. Two kids go free in the deal which
includes a junior suite, six-day lift pass, airport transfers from Narita and
breakfast, as well as a steamy onsen to soothe ski-strafed muscles. Book before
June 30, travel from December 1- April 1. Save $2000, costs $3190 for two
adults, (03) 9017 1142, ski-resorts-japan.com
$$$$$ MALDIVES
Why rush the Maldives? All the things you do on the
islands take time – diving, snorkelling, spotting dolphins, taking the
catamaran or dhow out for a spin, or hours of beautiful beachcombing. Stay 14
nights, pay for 10 at Cocoa Island, which gives you plenty of time to explore
on land and underwater, or just relish the beauty of its overwater bungalows.
Includes complementary meditation and daily yoga. Travel until October 31, costs
$8850 a room for 14 nights, +960 664 1818, cocoaisland.como.bz 
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper 13/5/2012

SHOP BRISBANE: Indie vibe is right on trend

Brisbane’s
burgeoning fashion scene has a home in inner-city Paddington, a veritable
boutique-crawl up Given Terrace, with plenty of stand-out cafes in between for
stamina. The vibe is indie rather than lables, with an emphasis on good
cutting, great textiles and individuality. 
It all heats up one corner of Given
Terrace, where a cluster of Brisbane designers share the love: take a look at Surafina, where its design duo Laura
and Rechelle are responsible for Brissy’s smart and sexy mums in saucy
above-knee skirts and structured riding jackets. Five minutes and these two
will have your number pegged. 
Nearby, the mood in Maiocchi is too cute, but with tunnel vision, you can get
your geisha on, with her oh-so-ladylike Sino-fab prints in the sweetest dresses
and skirts. While you’re in the hood, check out happening Brissy bag label
LouenHide at Olive Home.
 
Further
along, Given becomes LaTrobe Terrace where you’ll find stalwart fashion veteran
Chercher La Femme with its delicate
silk and linens in whites, neutrals and naturals, where classic tailoring and
functionality are key. Take a sticky down the back of the shop for the sweetest
babywear in town. Straight across the road, the renovated Queenslander that is
home to La La La Trobe buzzes to a
younger beat, evoking saucy boudoir with its two own funky labels, She’s Gone La La and La La Luxe. The look is a little boho
rock star, a little naughty girlishness, courtesy of a blend of ethnic knits,
leopard pant and a splash of gypsy whimsy. 
The other
major haunt for local label lovers is Fortitude Valley, where the big, brash
fashion names bunker down with up-and-coming boltholes of gorgeousness. 
There’s
a certain sleek glossiness to the James St precinct, amply demonstrated by Nat-Sui,
whose vertiginous, handmade heels have been seen
garnishing the legs of such celebs as Delta Goodrem and Deborah Hutton, while
the scent is supplied by Libertine Parfumerie. This Parisian-style
little boutique stocks rare fragrances, many custom designed for royalty and
screen stars. Current best-sellers include Grace Kelly’s ‘Gin Fizz’, first
designed in 1955. 
Admirers
of handmade beauty will resonate with Incub8r, where crafty
artists showcase one-off pieces, from handbags to picture frames, jewellery to
clothing. Speaking of clothing, while you’re on a roll in the area, check out Drobe’s
racks range from the intense to the minimal, featuring local designer Kate
Anderson and Jessica T for accessories and bags. Brisbane milliner Felicity Boevink’s vintage-inspired creations can be found in the Brisbane multi-brand staple, Jean Brown, in the Emporium precinct.   
Homewares
hunters will find their soul’s delight in the vintage treasure troves of
Woolloongabba’s Logan Rd strip and the old Queenslander houses that line
Paddington’s main drag, Latrobe Terrace. 
Start with French-farmhouse
inspiration at Blake & Taylor, whose weatherboard Queenslander is
filled to the eyeballs with toile prints, cute signs, cunning coat hooks and
overstuffed chairs before continuing up the hill to the far more severely
edited AP Design House, which brings single, beautiful items from the
world into one warm space. Find beautifully blended gold micron jewellery by
one-to-watch Brisbane label Angle Diamond Dot mixed with Belgian linen duvets
and rugs from Sardinia. 
Put a few hours aside to wander the antique and vintage
shops along the strip until you hit Paddington Antique Centre at the top
of the terrace, with 45 antique dealers trading in anything from life-sized
models of cows to green glasswear, vintage jewellery and taxidermy in one
hyper-ventilatingly crazy mish-mash. Minimalists need not bother entering. 
BREAKOUT: Winn Lane
The
newest, coolest little shopping strip in town is Winn Lane, a tiny nook off Ann
St in Fortitude Valley. Barely six months old, it supplies rich pickings in the
form of Brisbane fashion luminaries Easton Pearson’s younger EP label, Sunday
Social
for rare and vintage threads, cute local accessories by Ruby
& Prankster
, spanking new Atavist Books for secondhand treasures and Flamingo Café, which creates the
coffee that keeps it all ticking along nicely (winnlane.com)
Address book
Chercher La Femme, 2 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, chercherlafemme.com
La La La Trobe, 21 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington,
lalalatrobe.com
Surafina, 204-208 Given Tce, Paddington surafina.com
Maiocchi, 216
Given Tce, Paddington maiocchi.com.au
Olive Home,
218 Given Tce, Paddington
olivehome.com.au
Nat-Sui, 19 James St,
Fortitude Valley, nat-sui.com.au
Easton Pearson, 60
James St, Fortitude Valley, eastonpearson.com
Incub8, 368
Brunswick St, Fortitude Valley, incube8r.com.au
Drobe, 669 Ann
St, Fortitude
Valley,
drobeonline.com
Jean Brown,
1000 Ann St, Fortitude Valley, jeanbrown.com.au
Libertine Parfumerie, 181 Robertson St, Fortitude Valley, libertineparfumerie.com.au
Subfusco, 61
Gray Rd, West End, subfusco.com
Tanya Mrnjaus, idcouture.com
Blake & Taylor, 11 LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, blakeandtaylor.com.au
AP Design House, 15
LaTrobe Tce, Paddington, apdesignhouse.com.au
Paddington Antique Centre, 167 Latrobe Tce, Paddington,
paddingtonantiquecentre.com
Hamptons Home Living, 180 Latrobe Tce, Paddington,
hamptonshomeliving.com.au
Source: Sun Herald 

TRAVEL DEALS: 13 May 2012

The Sunlander

$ SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The South Australian icon, Coopers Brewing, turns 150
this year, and that’s a good enough reason to visit Adelaide. Save on
accommodation so you have more to spend on beer when you check in at the
centrally located four-star self-catering Franklin Central Apartments. Normally
$320 a night, the newly refurbished apartments now cost $130 a night until end
August, 1300 662 288, franklinapartments.com.au

$$ VICTORIA

Got a penchant for little aqua boxes? The Rendezvous Grand
Hotel Melbourne is giving away $50 gift vouchers for Tiffany & Co when you
book a Romance package at the heritage-listed five-star hotel on Flinders St.
Also included is a three-course dinner for two at The Grill restaurant, valet
parking and a buffet brekky the next morning for stays until December 30. Costs
from $385 per deluxe room per night, 1800 088 888, rendezvoushotels.com/mothersday

$$ NSW
So
you’re not a grey nomad yet, but there’s nothing stopping you joining the
annual migration north. Stop before you hit the border at Byron Bay. Your
address, of course, is the the lush, five-star digs of The Byron at Byron, for
daily yoga, beach walks and rainforest ramblings. Stay three or more nights and
get 10 percent off spa, bar and restaurant purchases. Standard suites normally
cost $390 a night, this winter deal costs $285 a room a night, 1300 554 362, thebyronatbyron.com.au
$$$ NORTHERN TERRITORY
Do logs
have eyes? Play spot the croc in the Kakadu National Park, get down and jiggy
in Darwin, ogle Katherine Gorge and check out the Aboriginal rock art galleries
at Ubirr Rock on this four-day jaunt through the Top End. Save 25 percent, or
$276, on Intrepid Travel’s Total Top End tours departing 4, 11 and 13 June. Excludes
airfares to Darwin. Costs $829, 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel.com/trips/PISE#overview
$$$ QUEENSLAND
You don’t have to go to Europe to experience great train
travel. Kids travel, eat, and get a free cruise in the Whitsundays as part of
Queensland Rail Travel’s Whitsundays Family Getaway. The package includes flights
from Sydney to Brisbane, overnight on The
Sunlander
train to Proserpine and four nights on Daydream Island Resort
& Spa. Freebies include a round of golf for the family and a half-day
Whitsundays cruise. Kids get a free one-way flight to Brisbane, free train and
boat, accommodation and meals. Book until May 31, travel until Sept 30, Costs
from $959 per adult, twin share, 1800 872 467, queenslandrailtravel.com.au
$$$$ WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Bunker down in your luxury tent and listen to the shush
of the ocean and the quiet of Cape Range National Park, beside the World
Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef, where the whale sharks are playing until the end
of July. Just nine tents make up the luxury property Sal Salis, and packages
include all meals and drinks and daily snorkelling or kayaking trips and gorge
walks. Stay three nights, pay for two, saving $685 a person. Costs $1307 a
person for two nights, twin share, 1300 790 561, wildbushluxury.com 
INTERNATIONAL
$ HAWAII
Need a jungle or fantasy island? The Hawai’ian island of
Kauai’s movie credits include Jurassic Park
and its Wailua waterfalls are stars of the small screen. Stay at Kauai Beach Resort
and get a free car to explore its beaches, rivers and golf courses. Includes a
free upgrade to an Ocean View room. Travel until June 15, costs $180 a night, +1
888 805 3843 (toll free), kauaibeachresorthawaii.com
$$ INDONESIA
Beautiful Bali has shrugged off its reputation as a DVD
pirate’s heaven and home to Kuta’s sticky sinbins. Beautiful Uluwatu shares the
‘hood with the eye-wateringly glamorous Alila Villas Uluwatu. Normally $662++ a
night, its Spring Break deal includes a one-bedroom pool villa, in-villa
breakfast and dinner, 90-minute spa treatment for two and airport transfers
from USD$628++ a night. Travel until June 30, (+62) 361 848 2166, alilahotels.com

$$$ ZIMBABWE &
NAMIBIA
Watch Namibia’s hippos play and fish eagles hunt their
prey on a Chobe River cruise. It’s part of a seven-day safari of Zimbabwe and
Namibia, with three nights each at the luxe Victoria Falls Safari Lodge and Namibia’s
Chobe Savannah Lodge, and a cruise of the Zambezi River. Save $1850 when you
travel until June 30. Costs $1395 a person, 1300 195 873,
benchinternational.com.au
$$$ VIETNAM
Hoa La was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th century,
and its monuments and temples survived to tell the city’s story. Visit Hoa La,
as well as Halong Bay, Ho Chi Minh city and the Mekong Delta on Helen Wong
Tours’ special 25th anniversary tour of Vietnam. Prices include return flights
from Sydney. Book before May 31 for an extra $250 discount. Costs $2700 a
person, twin share, (02) 9267 7833, helenwongstours.com
$$$$$ ARCTIC
Get off the cruise ship and set foot and sleeping bag on Spitsbergen,
the biggest island in the Svalbard archipelago. Setting off from Longyearbyen, the
Sea Spirit takes up to 112 passengers around the islands, spotting walruses and
polar bears. Peregrine’s earlybird discounts cut 20 percent off nine Arctic
itineraries for 2013 including the 13-day Spitsbergen in Depth tour. Book by
June 29, normally $7690, now costs $6152, phone bookings only, 1300 854 500, peregrineadventures.com



Spitsbergen, Svalbad

TOURWATCH

May 2013 marks the sixtieth anniversary of the first
ascent of Mt Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. Don’t you wish
you’d done it first? Raise a glass to those pioneers when you dine beneath the
stars at the spiritual centre of Thyangboche, at 3800 meters. The soundtrack
will be the stories by top Australian and US mountaineers of their Everest
experiences. World Expeditions wil run five anniversary treks departing from
Kathmandu in May 2013, graded from introductory to challenging. Trek lengths
and routes vary from 12 to 23 days, to the base camp, around remote passes or
the Gokyo Lakes. Includes all meals, internal flights, jackets and sleeping
bags, supported by a local leader, sherpas, cooks and porters. Costs from $2750
a person, 1300 720 000, worldexpeditions.com

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald newspaper

Seoul … it’s out of this world, but also very familiar

EXPATS call it Planet Korea: and after a week in Seoul I know I’m not
in Kansas any more, Toto. Even my arrival at Incheon airport is
memorable. After battling Seoul airport’s personal-space-invading taxi
drivers, the luxurious airport bus does not take off until a tuneful
little ditty is played over the loudspeakers and our driver bows deeply
to us, his guests.

The city streets are awash with flyers of K-pop teen boys
with their glossy, pouting J-Bieber lips and names such as After School
and Super Junior. Meanwhile, naughty little girls in nine-inch
stilettos and hot pants catch the eye of stern, grey-suited businessmen
and my delighted male companions, who vote Seoul girls as having the
best legs in Asia.

Each sector of Seoul has its own personality: South Seoul
for fashionistas, Bukchon, pictured, in the north for gorgeous,
traditional tea houses, the city for mainstream shopping. And then
there’s Itaewon, the Kings Cross of Korea, for better or for worse, the
location of my hard-working hotel and also a club where my
American-gone-native friend is drumming tonight.

Itaewon is Seoul’s beating foreign heart, thanks to the
US Army base set in its midst. At midnight, young men with buzz cuts run
through the traffic in the rain laughing at their freedom. When they’re
not banging on my taxi’s bonnet or brawling at street corners, they’re
chatting up garishly painted hot-pants girls. The patient Military
Police are negotiating peace while touts grab my ear the minute the taxi
door opens to advertise shops selling “big-sizes” sportswear and
Trolex. (“That means true Rolex, madam.”)

With the army base there, it
makes perfect sense that Itaewon is also Seoul’s best-known foreigner
red-light district. Well, it’s Seoul’s “whatever-your-taste” district.
Itaewon’s social scene is dominated by two hills – Homo Hill, where
elongated Korean trannies languish on chaise longues in their downtime,
and Hooker Hill, a mix of dingy rock pubs and red doors and nail-filing,
pumped-up working girls.

It’s the first time I’ve seen overt cleavage in Seoul and
I now have renewed respect for the prostitutes of this city, seeing
them trip up and down this 45-degree-angle hill in killer heels.

The band pub is like any other old-school band pub across
the world; a nameless door, a dark corridor, sticky brown carpet and
cigarette smoke so thick you could lose a small Pacific nation in the
pub’s dingy recesses. My friend puts me in a corner beside the thrumming
aircon and the pool table, then heads off to the stage.

I realise that there’s not one Korean in the joint – the accents are a mix of American, Canadian and northern English.

While my friend’s mate, a Canadian security contractor,
tells me of meeting Aussie English teachers because his government pad
has a washing machine and a spa bath, a Mancunian pool player ambles
across and leans over me, hand on the wall behind my head.

“Haven’t seen you here before,” he says in a beery fug, ignoring the roll of my eyes.

“Are you new in town?”

It may be Planet Korea, but the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Source: Sun Herald newspaper www.smh.com.au