I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 



The big chill: embrace or escape winter

From sun-filled sojourns to log fire retreats, Belinda Jackson reveals the hottest last-minute winter holidays.

do you do winter? With hot chocolate and log fires surrounded by people
called Sven? Or by migrating north in a quest for eternal sunshine?

you like to escape or embrace the cold months, we have you covered with
these 20 do-it-now bargains, subject to availability.


WHERE Petitenget, the hip strip of Seminyak, Bali.

Check out of the office and into a week of surfing for an endorphin
rush, yoga to fight stress, and spa sessions to detox at Salt Retreats,
with cleansing organic menus by Pete Evans, from $1795 (saltretreats.com).
The seven-day getaways run weekly until the end of November, but with 30 degrees in July: why wait?
Toxic wage slaves and the vitamin D deficient.
STRIP DOWN For a daily massage to detox your body.


WHERE The Yasawa Islands, eastern Fiji.
Visit remote islands and villages and some of the world’s best beaches
on a seven-night cruise through the spectacular Mamanuca, Yasawa, Waya
and Sacred islands, from $1676 a person (captaincook.com.fj).
WHEN TO GO July and August.
GOOD FOR Explorers who enjoy five-star comfort.
STRIP DOWN Pack your diver’s card and the sunscreen for the back of the knees (the classic snorkeller’s plight).


WHERE Papeete, the capital of the country that invented the overwater bungalow, 10 hours via New Zealand.
Stay seven nights in an overwater bungalow at the Maitai Polynesia Bora
Bora, taking four-wheel-drive safaris and exploring the depths on a
glass-bottom boat costs from $4210 including flights with Air Tahiti Nui
If you can hold out that long, September is Tahiti’s driest month, with
temps of 28 degrees and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
GOOD FOR Francophiles needing winter sun.
STRIP DOWN Sarongs and sun hats: there is no need for more.


WHERE Sheltered south-eastern Phuket.
it up with the A-listers in the new Absolute Suite, complete with
yacht, butler and chauffeured Benz, from $1150 a night, or do just fine
in the newly refurbished Cape Suites, from $220, at the Cape Panwa
WHEN TO GO Phuket’s rain comes later than other regions, so winter’s just fine.
GOOD FOR All budgets: stay one day, get a second free. Stay two days, stay a month …
Pack a brolly and sunscreen: expect brief downpours from June to August
(and subsequent good hotel offers), compensated by balmy 30-degree


WHERE The island of Oahu, from Waikiki and beyond.
There’s more to Hawaii than just Waikiki Beach: the self-drive Hawaii
Drive-O tour gives you a car, GPS and six nights at the Waikiki Parc
Hotel from $1172 a person, with plenty of drive ideas, such as the
Diamond Head Crater hike or bodysurfing at Sandy Beach (creativeholidays.com).
WHEN TO GO July sees festivals for ukulele music, hula and of course Independence Day on July 4.
GOOD FOR Hawaii old hands seeking new experiences.
STRIP DOWN Temperatures don’t vary much in Hawaii – July to September sees 31 degrees tops.


WHERE From Mandalay to Bagan in central Myanmar, the must-visit country for 2013.
Go slow and savour the ancient skyline dominated by spires. This
seven-day cycling trip journeys past farmers, pilgrims and child monks,
through markets and alongside the Irrawaddy River, from $US2450 ($2595) a
person (spiceroads.com).
WHEN TO GO Mandalay remains hot and dry, with temperatures in the mid-30s, while the beach resorts empty as the rainy season kicks in.
GOOD FOR Temple tragics and pedal pushers.
STRIP DOWN Go tight ‘n’ bright in gear that covers you up while keeping cool: expect to sweat.


WHERE Port Vila, Vanuatu, a three-hour flight from Sydney.
Seven days of lolling on white-sand beaches. Poppy’s on the Lagoon is
on the beachfront. Get three free nights and two massages in
self-catering accommodation from $784 a person, July 15-September 20 (poppys.com.vu).
WHEN TO GO The cold, dry season runs May to October, where temperatures in the capital, Port Vila, hover around a delightful 24 degrees.
GOOD FOR Families wanting the beach at their doorstep (couples, there’s an adults-only pool, too).
STRIP DOWN Take a traditional outrigger canoe onto the lagoon.


WHERE Borneo and Kuala Lumpur.
Explore the wilds of the coral reefs and mangroves of Borneo, then fly
to Kuala Lumpur for its big-city vibe and spectacular shopping. There’s
no hardship involved: Gaya Island Resort and the Majestic Hotel Kuala
Lumpur (www.gayaislandresort.com).
WHEN TO GO Hit the sales, with the mega-sale carnival in July.
GOOD FOR Shoppers and floppers.
STRIP DOWN July in Malaysia is blissfully dry, with tops of 28 degrees in Borneo.


WHERE An hour’s flight north from Sydney.
AFL’s Brisbane Lions at the Gabba or the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
The new Punthill Brisbane serviced apartments start from $169 a night (punthill.com.au).
WHEN TO GO July has perfect weather for riverside walks or a boat trip on the CityCat.
GOOD FOR Admirers of indigenous art: QAGOMA’s new contemporary indigenous art exhibition runs until October 7 (qagoma.qld.gov.au).
RUG UP Or strip down? Go a bit of both, with pleasant 20 degrees tops.


WHERE Palm Cove, 25 minutes north of Cairns.
Stay at the boutique Reef House, which has just opened five new beach
house apartments, from $409 a night, standard brigadier room from $259 a
night (www.reefhouse.com.au).
WHEN TO GO There’s year-round swimming. Added bonus: July and August are also jellyfish free.
GOOD FOR Sun lovers who don’t want to pay for an international airfare.
STRIP DOWN Bikini, hat, sun cream: hey, it’s 25 degrees in winter!

New Zealand

WHERE Queenstown and Lake Wanaka.
NZ’s top snow city, Queenstown, lives for winter. The biannual Winter
Games NZ take place from August 11 to 25. Check out accommodation
packages with the Sofitel, MGallery, Novotel and Mercure from $119 a
night (wintergamesnz.com/travel).
WHEN TO GO Pundits say later in the season is better for a guarantee of top conditions, but Mother Nature is a hardened gambler.
GOOD FOR Ski bunnies, world-class snow athletes and those who like to watch.
RUG UP Time to flash your new-season snow gear, beautiful people.

Snowy Mountains

WHERE Lake Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains, five hours’ drive south of Sydney.
You can hit snow even on Christmas Day here: Moonbah stone huts are on a
private lake brimming with brown, rainbow and brook trout. Four people
can stay two nights from $390 (moonbahhut.com).
WHEN TO GO Now, for snowshoeing, bushwalking and big log fires.
GOOD FOR Fly fishers, snow babies and The Man from Snowy River fans (snowymountains.com.au).
RUG UP Forget thermals, warm up with a Wildbrumby schnapps at Thredbo Valley Distillery.

Southern Highlands

WHERE Sutton Forest, 90 minutes’ drive from Sydney, past Bowral.
The southern highlands goes crazy for Christmas in winter: we’re
talking roast turkey, hams and plum pudding galore. Southern highlands
retreats Peppers Manor House and Peppers Craigieburn are going
Christmas-tastic from $335 a night (peppers.com.au).
WHEN TO GO The whole month of July sees the highlands go completely Christmas-crazy.
GOOD FOR Mistletoe freaks and cash-strapped Euro-aficionados.
RUG UP Break out the reindeer knits and Santa hats: temps plummet to an 11 degrees average in July.

South Australia

WHERE The Flinders Ranges National Park, five hours north of Adelaide.
A four-day bushwalk covering 45 kilometres takes you around Wilpena
Pound, the Elder Range and through a private wilderness sanctuary. Add a
touch of luxe with a night at the 1850s Rawnsley Park homestead, $2150 a
person (arkabawalk.com).
WHEN TO GO Winter is perfect walking weather.
GOOD FOR Painters and photographers and those keen to spot a rare yellow-footed rock wallaby.
RUG UP Pack your flannelette pyjamas for the frosty mornings when you’re climbing out of the swag.

Victoria: Yarra Valley

WHERE The Yarra Valley, an hour east of Melbourne.
Drink top Australian pinot noir, ride the Puffing Billy steam train,
spot a platypus at the Healesville Sanctuary or go tobogganing at Lake
Mountain, Australia’s premier cross-country alpine resort. Stay at the
Balgownie Estate Vineyard Resort and Spa, in Yarra Glen, from $150 a
night until August 31.
WHEN TO GO Winter is top ballooning weather.
GOOD FOR Walkers on a post-Devonshire tea wander through Sassafras’ Sherbrooke Forest.
RUG UP Be sure to layer up for early morning ballooning: a worthy but chilly experience.

Victoria: ski fields

WHERE The high country ski resorts of Falls Creek and Hotham.
Good-value packages bundle lift passes and accommodation, such as the
“Ultimate Savings” offer at the Ultima Apartments, priced from $414 a
person for three nights (mthothamaccommodation.com.au) while the new QT Falls Creek costs from $429 a night (qtfallscreek.com.au). Check out the new two-resort Snow Pass (snowpass.com.au).
Hotham’s Frosty Fruits gay ski week starts on July 26, Women’s Week
runs from July 29. Beginners, catch a bargain in Learn to Ski weeks,
June 15-21, 2013, and September 7-13, 2013.
GOOD FOR Snowman makers, tobogganists and dog sledders (as well as skiers and boarders).
RUG UP Beanie, long johns, muffler, fleece, thick socks … we’re talking single-digit temps.


WHERE St Kilda is Melbourne’s beachside and home to Luna Park.
Shoot pool in the Prince of Wales’ authentically grungy front bar, dine
fine at the water’s edge at The Stokehouse or late-night fromagerie and
wine bar Milk the Cow, then walk it off with the pooch. Four-star
boutique dog-friendly stays across inner-city Melbourne start from $240.
WHEN TO GO Now’s the time to experience the cosy side to Melbourne.
GOOD FOR Pet lovers who don’t want to leave a family member at home.
RUG UP Pack the parka and power-walk the pier with the pups.

Lord Howe Island

WHERE Two hours off the NSW coast.
Scramble, slide and go cave snorkelling on a Wilderness Challenge
through rarely visited World Heritage-listed forests and beaches; or
take a gentler Wilderness Retreat, focusing on the island’s unique
WHEN TO GO Two Wilderness Retreats
run from July 15 to 19 and August 5-9 ($1415 a person), the Wilderness
Challenge week runs October 14-18 ($1715 a person) (pinetrees.com.au).
GOOD FOR Environmental explorers and back-country adventurers.
STRIP DOWN Pack hiking boots and binoculars for a very nice 22 degrees top.

Tasmania: Hobart

WHERE Heading down south to Hobart.
Why do human beings create art? The answer is at The Red Queen, the
newest exhibition at the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Stay five
days at a four- or five-star hotel, cruise Bruny Island, drink Moorilla
wine and visit the museum, from $660 a person (mona.net.au/create-your-stay).
WHEN TO GO The exhibition runs until April 2014.
GOOD FOR Lovers of dark arts.
RUG UP She’s a bit nippy: pack windproof and rainproof jackets and break out the pom-pom beanies.

Tasmania: Swansea

WHERE Swansea, 1½ hours from Hobart or Launceston airports.
Pull up the hot tub and ease right on in: Rocky Hills Retreat, on 101
hectares, overlooks Maria Island and costs from $500 a night.
July is festival season in Tassie, celebrating everything from truffles
to chocolate, pinot noir to the Festival of Voices
GOOD FOR Painters, bushwalkers and pinot lovers everywhere.
RUG UP You don’t need a lot for the tub, but pack hiking boots and binoculars for everything else.

Spotted by locals: Lisa Gorman’s Great Ocean Road

Lisa Gorman: fashion designer,
entrepreneur, mother

Melbourne fashionista Lisa Gorman takes to the Great Ocean Road.

Gorman’s childhood was spent traversing the Great Ocean Road, so when
this stylish Victorian recently went home for the weekend, her local
knowledge came to the fore.

fishing for eels, of all things, in the Erskine
River,” recalls fashionista Lisa Gorman of family holidays spent on the
coast. “Being from Warrnambool, we spent our holidays in Lorne, Port
Campbell and Wye River,” she says. “We’d do a little fishing before
breakfast, then we’d swim. We were always in the water.”

and her husband, Dean Angelucci, recently took their young family to
her favourite local places, and discovered new experiences, on the way
to seeing family in Warrnambool.

The chief drawcard along the
Great Ocean Road is undoubtedly the Twelve Apostles near Port Campbell,
while Cape Otway is the place to spot koalas. However, the addition of
African-style safari tents set on wooden platforms at Cumberland River
Holiday Park near Lorne also caught Lisa’s attention. “It’s a gorgeous
caravan park,” she says. “The safari tents are perfect for really bad
campers like me. You just turn up and they’re already set up for you. It
was a great discovery. We’re staying there next time.”

holiday, Lisa, Dean and their children spent a night at Azure, a beach
house in Wye River. “For a sheer, slick, high-end holiday residence,
Azure is amazing,” she says. Ocean views unfold from the balcony, and
the property is about a five-minute walk from the township, where the
family dined at Wye Beach Hotel.

“It was packed, with a good, local feel, not that holiday-tourist feel, with interesting hearty pub food being served.”

The riches of the Wye River General Store

breakfast the next morning, Lisa visited an old favourite, the Wye
River General Store. Recently refreshed and given a touch of city aplomb
by celebrity architects Six Degrees (think Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda
or the Boatbuilders Yard at South Wharf), the store showcases local
produce. The family stocked up on chocolates, Zeally Bay sourdough from
Torquay and the famed Irrewarra muesli, produced near Colac, about an
hour north of Wye River.

The store’s great coffee helped fuel
Lisa’s drive from the sheltered bushlands of Lorne to Apollo Bay, where
the family stopped for calamari at Bayleaf Cafe and took a walk on the
pier. But there was no swimming in the chilly waters of Bass Strait.
“Lorne and Wye River are quite protected where the bush meets the beach,
but after Apollo Bay it gets really wild,” Lisa says.

A night at
the chic Great Ocean Ecolodge, built in a conservation park adjoining
the Great Otway National Park, meant the family woke up with wildlife on
their doorstep, before driving on to Cape Otway Lighthouse to take a
tour of the building. “It’s two-and-a-half hours from Cape Otway to
Warrnambool, and the drive between the cape and the Twelve Apostles is
gorgeous. It just continues to roll, with fruit trees mixed with gum
trees,” Lisa says.

There were thousands of tourists at the Gibson Steps,
she says, and at the Twelve Apostles the wind was howling. “There’s a
photo of me there, my hair at an 180-degree angle across my face. I look
like Cousin It. But it was still a sky-blue day.”

From Port
Campbell, the family drove into the hills at Timboon, 16 kilometres from
the coast. The towns along the Great Ocean Road really know how to feed
their visitors, serving a mix of the ocean’s bounty and
western-district farmland produce.

A hot tip for foodies, Lisa says, is
to pack a portable cooler and make for Timboon Distillery, where the
shelves are laden with local fare – from Arabian-style pomegranate
dressing to pear chutney, goats cheese and freshly-baked loaves. Lisa
stocked up on L’Artisan’s Mountain Man organic washed-rind cheese and a
bottle of Newtown’s Ridge chardonnay. As she drove away, she realised
she’d forgotten to stock up on Parratte smoked eel, but that’s okay –
she’ll be back soon for another taste of her childhood region.

Lisa Gorman and her husband, Dean Angelucci, took their children on a
recent weekend break, a leisurely drive from Melbourne to Warrnambool,
Lisa’s home town, via the Great Ocean Road beckoned. The family spent
two nights on the road: one night at a designer beach house at Wye, the
other at a chic eco-lodge.

Azure (stayz.com.au/83824)
is a contemporary four-bedroom beachhouse that sleeps eight people and
has 180-degree views of the Great Ocean Road and the township of Wye
River. “Azure is immaculate, with spectacular views of the coastline,”
Lisa says. “It’s a really beautifully appointed house.”

The Great Ocean Ecolodge (greatoceanecolodge.com),
established and operated by the Conservation Ecology Centre, is
adjacent to the Great Otway National Park and hosts a welcoming communal
dining table.

Founded by Shayne Neal and Lizzie Corke, the
solar-powered eco-lodge’s ethos is impressive. “It’s a private business
and not-for-profit, taking care of wildlife and the bush: it’s a very
well-rounded concept, and they’re a multitasking gang,” Lisa says.
“Shayne will take you out at dawn to look for koalas or at night to look
at sugar gliders, then he’s pouring you a local pinot or two, while
chef Kylie is very conscientious and super-knowledgeable about local
produce. And her apple pie! It’s great for families, very educational,
with beautiful food and in a really beautiful environment.”

or winter, holidays with children usually include requests for
ice-cream and Dooley’s Ice Cream, made in Apollo Bay, recently took home
the gold at the 2013 Grand Dairy Awards for its liquorice variety. “We
always ate ice-cream as children on holidays along the Great Ocean Road,
but I think I’m eating more now,” Lisa says. Dooley’s liquorice is
very, very good.”

The tasting platter served at Timboon Distillery (timboondistillery.com.au)
was another foodie highlight, she says. The region’s artisan producers
are well represented in Timboon’s menus – think Old Lorne Road olives,
an Istra salami or ham, toasted sourdough, three cheeses including
Meredith goat cheese and a soft cheese from Apostle Whey – with Timboon
Fine Ice Cream to finish. In winter, soup shooters are added to the
menu. Many travellers also take the local food trail, known under the
umbrella of the 12 Apostles Food Artisans (visit12apostles.com.au), to sample everything from malt whisky to chocolates to berries and highland beef pies.

Wye River General Store (wyerivergeneralstore.com.au)
stocks a robust wine list that includes Bellarine Peninsula gems such
as Provenance pinot gris from Bannockburn, Lethbridge riesling and
Gosling Creek sauvignon blanc.

Great Ocean Road is not just about the views, it’s also about the food,
the walks. It’s about nature, and it’s about the ocean,” says Lisa.
Cape Otway Lighthouse (lightstation.com),
at the “junction” of Bass Strait and the Southern Ocean, has
self-guided and guided tours, including a ghost tour which takes you up
the spiral staircase to the top of the light tower. “It was crazily
windy when we were there. They tell you to take off your hat and
sunglasses before you walk out onto the balcony,” says Lisa.

A key
calling card of the Great Ocean Road are the limestone stacks of the 12
Apostles, an hour by car from Warrnambool. At nearby Port Campbell,
visitors take the Gibson Steps up a 70-metre cliffside walk for the
breathtaking views from the top. Another formation of stacks, the Bay of
Islands, is 10-minutes west of Peterborough.

Treasures can also
be found indoors on this coast, too. “Ten minutes past Warrnambool,
Mailors Flat Demolition & Antiques is a big treasure hunt,” Lisa
says. “The owner, Bernie, has some great old stuff – whole staircases,
knobs, parts of buildings.” (www.visitwarrnambool.com.au)

Spotted by Locals is brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. See more content from around Victoria on Twitter via #spottedbylocals

Source: Belinda Jackson, Good Weekend Magazine

TOURWATCH: Tall ships returning to Australia

Turn the clock back a century, to the era of the
tall ships. 

The 55-meter Lord Nelson (pictured) is sailing
the world, arriving in Australia in August. Join the barque
as it sails from Fremantle to Perth and across to the east coast before voyaging
on to New Zealand, where you can take the wheel as one of the voyage crew,
supported by a professional sailing team. 

Sailors must be over 16 years but no
sailing experience is required and some cabins are wheelchair friendly. 

from $1770 a person, eight days from Adelaide to Melbourne, departing August
17, or $4390 for the 20-day journey from Sydney to Auckland, departing October
8, which includes a cross-Tasman Tall Ships race.  

1800 331 582, outdoortravel.com.au.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald 

Shopping Seminyak: Bali beyond the basic

Eclectic treasures: Horn Emporium

Seminyak’s shopping is a treasure trove of fabulousness, as Belinda Jackson discovers.

girls are clad in a uniform of floaty tunics and kaftans, strappy
sandals and big sunglasses, each arm jangling with bangles and glossy
paper shopping bags.

I run into them at three boutiques in a row
and at each stop, someone’s pulling out a gorgeous gauzy shirt or new
belt to show the rest of the gang.

They’re on a serious boutique hop,
riding the pure, glistening wave of the retail high.

It’s not
Rodeo Drive, it’s not Milan: it’s Bali. Seminyak, to be precise.
Balinese shopping isn’t all Bintang singlets and dyed sarongs guaranteed
to turn your laundry cerise. The chic enclave of Seminyak is a United
Nations of designers lured by sun, sand and a culture that breathes
beautiful design.

you’re expecting cheap Billabong surfwear, forget about it. You don’t
go to Bali to buy the big international brands: they’re imported, so
they’ll be expensive.

Once you’ve jumped that mental hurdle, then
you can start to explore the real treasures of Balinese shopping:
handmade clothes made with a level of detail and finishing for a price
you’d never pay in Australia. Additional tailoring is also fast, cheap
and most boutiques can organise it for you overnight.

boutiques gather in clusters on Jalan Laksmana and in Jalan Raya
Seminyak, and you’ll see a number of names crop up on both, including
Magali Pascal for beautiful lacework (177X Jl Laksmana), and the
Brazilians, Lily Jean (102 X Jl Laksmana) and Lulu Yasmine, for sexy and
standout statement pieces (100 Jl Laksmana).

Haveli homewares

Australian designer
Penny Pinkster’s Mist boutique is a favourite for those after soft,
yielding kaftans in a subdued palette (42 Jl Raya Seminyak), Namu will
kit you out, from totally covetable lunching ensembles to killer
cocktail kit (234X Jl Petitenget) and pick up your saucy nix at niconico
(12 Jl Raya Seminyak).

Shop fashion with a conscience at
, owned by two Italian sisters, which produces all its bright,
easy-wearing cotton and jersey clothes locally, and supports Eco Bali
ventures (38b Jl Raya Seminyak). It also pays its staff fair wages with
healthcare, as does Buddha Wear, which also locally manufactures
gorgeous jerseys. Hot tip: nip upstairs to riffle through Buddha Wear’s
bargain racks if you’re on a tight budget (15X Jl Laksmana). Low-key
is a must-stop for the basics (tees, leggings) in black, white
and grey, at very reasonable prices, with alterations done in-house (49
Jl Raya Seminyak).

Bargain hunters will love the boutique
clearance shops: try Animale for end-of-season flats, sandals and
costume jewellery that won’t fall apart after the first hour (31 Jl Raya
Seminyak). Steer clear of the overpriced kaftans and tatty fashion in
Seminyak market opposite Seminyak square.

Men, all is not
forgotten: French designer Jacque Ruc’s Animale does more tailored,
pared-back men’s fashion suitable for Australia’s sober streets, while
Susanna Perini’s super-chic Biasa is a hot stop for deconstructed
layering for both men and women and also has an artspace for
contemporary Indonesian artists (36 Jl Raya Seminyak).

You can
snap up cheap, emergency sunglasses, big earrings and your shell
jewellery in the stalls at the front of Seminyak Square. Hit Aura for
handmade, customised leather goods (21X Jl Laksmana) while Tasmaniac has
a cult following for its, er, high-quality, less original handbags (501
Jl Raya Seminyak).

Another little pocket of fabulousness is Jalan
Kunti, not far from the intersection of Laksmana and Raya Seminyak.
Think of it as “the Paris end of Seminyak”.

Here, the beautiful
people cool down with cocktails at Word of Mouth‘s cafe in between
cruising its deeply gorgeous homewares and fashion (9 Jl Kunti). Then,
it’s a few short steps down to the beautiful interiors of Sydney
designer Natasha Welsh’s Allegra for floaty, girly statement frocks:
beware, they’re cut small, so strapping lasses should steer clear to
avoid changing-room angst (6 Jl Kunti).

Colourful White Peacock

Homewares hunters are in
paradise in Bali, and not just lovers of the omnipresent Buddha statues.
Jalan Kerobokan is the place to buy lighting. Rice paper, woven
branches, statement chandeliers: choose your taste point. Jump in a taxi
and kerb-crawl, then hit The White Peacock for super-colourful throws
and cushions, located obligingly opposite the Grocer & Grind for
good coffee or nearby Petitenget for a luxe lunch and cocktail option.

is chockers full of gorgeous homewares and trinkets (886 Jl
Petitenget), and an absolute must-visit is Horn Emporium, by Anita Horn,
whose unerring eye will steer you into unchartered territory (100X Jl
Petitenget). For homewares with an ethical bent, make for indi vie, in
the Made’s Warung complex, which stocks the cutest little dolls made by
Bali’s street kids, under a not-for-profit charity (Jl Raya Seminyak).
They’re also sold at Press Ban cafe, one of the few places you’ll find
nuevo-retro and vintage fashion (50 Jl Laksmana). Put Kody Ko on the
list for knockout artworks (C002 Jl Kayu Cendana).

Seminyak takes
its after-shop care seriously: it knows how to reward and rejuvenate the
jaded shopper, with a foot massage at Jari Menari (47 Raya Basangkasa)
followed by sunset cocktails at Ku De Ta (dress up), La Plancha (dress
down) or Potato Head Beach Club (dress however you want, except Bintang
T-shirts) to celebrate a job well done.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Space Villas.

Trip notes

Staying there Seminyak
is heaving with accommodation, from budget to break-the-bank. Try Space
Villas, No. 8 Jl Drupadi, Seminyak. +62 361 731100, spaceatbali.com.
Getting there Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com), Jetstar (jetstar.com.au) and Garuda Indonesia (garuda-indonesia.com) fly Sydney to Denpasar direct.
More information indonesia.travel.

Some like it hot: a chilli reception in Bhutan

Whipping up suja for breakfast on the farm.

They breed ’em tough in the mountains, so when the mountains in question are the Himalayas, you can expect a level of resilience not found in us soft seaside dwellers.

While the temps may be freezing on the mountains, the Bhutanese like it hot in their bowls. There’s no better example than national dish, ema datse. If you need to polish your Bhutanese, ema = chilli, datse = white cheese.

“You don’t come to Bhutan for the cuisine,” warns an old hand before I fly over. “Just name a vegetable and add datse,” jokes a local, reinforcing the theme: and thus a restaurant menu may well read: ema datse, kewa datse (potatoes & cheese) and shamu datse (mushrooms & cheese).
Take a look at the picture of ema datse, below. The green things are chillis, with the seeds left in. According to Tshering, my guide, these are the mild ones. The real hotties are tiny and bright green. Often, they’re served in a small, fresh salad, esay, that comprises chopped green chillis, red onion, ginger and coriander. The chilli mix is scattered over the chilli & cheese, to add flavour.

ema datse: chilli and cheese ‘stew’.

That’s not to say the Bhutanese are the world’s top chilli monsters: Tshering tells me of a Mexican group he led, who were delighted to discover the country’s crazy chilli culture. “They kept asking for more, and hotter,” he says. In the end, they broke him: they out-chilli’d him. He had to give up.

Kids start their path down the road to hellish fire when they’re about three or four. They start with the ‘mild’ large green chillis before working up to the little green devils, which the adults eat without working up a sweat. No wonder the Bhutanese are generally trim: they spend all their time walking mountain roads, then give the metabolism a turbo-boost with chilli served at at least two of the three main meals.

The Lonely Planet’s little list of phrases at the end of the book
include’ Di khatshi du‘ (‘this is too spicy’) and ‘Nga zhego ema dacikha
‘ (‘I don’t like food with chillies’ – hello, have these travellers no self-respect? It’s like going to Iceland and saying you don’t like the cold).

Farmhouse fare: dried beef and
turnip stew. Chewy, but tasty.

In contrast, one morning I breakfasted with some farmers, and was reassured to find they, too, eat cereal for brekky. Rice is roasted and popped to become dzow, sort of like Rice Bubbles. But instead of plain cow’s milk, it’s served with suja, tea made with butter and salt, which is frothed vigorously in a pot with a bamboo stick and quite red in colour (see Namgay making it, in the first photo). Not so much like Rice Bubbles.

They’re also big on local red rice, a short-grained, nutty rice, and buckwheat pancakes are a common carb as well.

Bhutan has just finished a no-meat  month which sees the country’s butchers shut shop and no meat on the menu, though tourist hotels are usually exempt (and the Bhutanese fill their freezers full of meat in advance, so I’m not quite sure of the benefits).

And, interestingly for the observant amongst you who were wondering about meat-eating Buddhists, they do eat meat, but they don’t kill it: it’s all killed in India and transported in.

I *heart* momos.

Apparently you lose less karma by just eating meat than you do by killing it as well. Take from that what you will.

The little landlocked country, wedged between India’s northern provinces
and Tibet, takes its food cues from nobody but
itself, though you’ll also find simply delicious momos, Tibet’s little steamed dumplings of minced beef or shredded vegetables, which I last ate in Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile out of Chinese-occupied Tibet.

These ones in the photo were made in a momo specialty restaurant in Thimphu, and I also tried a larger version, which was really a knot of dough steamed and served with a blob of minced chilli and a bowl of kewa datse.

A note: despite the walking, the high-altitude and the copious amount of chillis I ate, I have not come back waif-like.

Balinese food adventure, drink in the Napa Valley, hit St Kilda: travel deals June 9 2013

Go on a Balinese seafood adventure, drink it in the Napa Valley or hit St Kilda, flashpacker style in this week’s international and domestic deals.

Learn to love the snowflake
at the annual Hunter Valley Gardens ‘‘Snow Time in the Garden’’, main
picture, which runs through the winter school holidays. The festival
features ice skating, snow tubing and snowball challenges, and there’s
always wine tasting at the nearby cellar doors if you want to grow up.
Families of up to two adults and two children can stay at the nearby
Mercure Resort Hunter Valley Gardens during the festival and get tickets
to the festival’s evening Snow Time. Kids under 12 also eat breakfast
and dinner free. The festival runs from June29 to July 14. Costs from
$209 a room. (02) 4998 2000, mercurehuntervalley.com.au.

St Kilda is the hangout for Melbourne’s beautiful people, as well as
European cafe devotees, live music lovers and flashpackers staying at
Australia’s top hostel. Stay two nights in a private room at Base
Backpackers Melbourne, just off the beach, and get one free Great Ocean
Road day trip worth $125, a welcome drink and breakfast daily, between
June 1 and August 31. Costs from $240 a room, two nights. (03) 8598 6200,

Perth hotel scene is on fire with another new opening, this time a
five-star, all-suite apartment hotel overlooking the Swan River in the
CBD. The Fraser Suites Perth, pictured above left, has 236 apartments,
from studios to two-bedroom premier apartments that can be
interconnected, with kitchens, as well as a heated pool, sauna, bar and
restaurant, and 24-hour gym. Studios will cost from $420 a night, but
snap up an opening special with free wi-fi until August 30. Costs from
$245 a night (studio). 1800 099 465, perth.frasershospitality.com.

the onset of winter and head to Australia’s hot heart: Intrepid
Travel’s four-day Central Explorer departs Alice Springs for the classic
desert sights of Uluru, Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and the sandstone walls
of Kings Canyon. You’ll get a guided tour of local rock art by the
Western Aranda people at Wallace Rockhole and the last day is spent
exploring the western MacDonnell Ranges before returning to Alice
Springs. Book by June 28 for travel until June30 and save 25per cent.
Costs $776 a person. 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel .com/australia-sale.

the road with a trip from Cairns to …  wherever the dart hits the
map. Hire a Travellers Autobarn campervan for at least  10 days and save
20per cent. The fully-fitted vans include cooking equipment and
sleeping bags and can be returned to any mainland capital excluding
Adelaide. Book by June30 for travel August1-September 30, quote code
‘‘SUNH’’. Excludes insurance and any one-way fees. Costs from $437 for a
two-berth campervan for 10 days, travellers-autobarn.com.au.

of the truly great shopping destinations, Manila’s must-buys include
pearls, fashion and shoes (surprise!). The 538-room Dusit Thani Manila
is in the thick of it all, in Makati City. The “Just for two” deal
celebrates lovers with one night’s accommodation and lays on the
strawberries and pralines, rose petals in the bath, a couples’ massage
and dinner for two. Available until December 31. Normally $458 a night,
costs from $320. +63 (2) 238 8888, dusit.com.

far eastern coast is so quiet, it makes Ubud look like a concrete
jungle. Stay three nights at the homegrown Design Hotel Alila Manggis
and get a complimentary culinary experience for two: it could be a
Balinese cuisine and market tour with the chef, or a seafood adventure
on a fishing boat where you cook the catch. There’s also an organic
garden cooking program and a junior chef experience. Valid until
September 30. Costs from $510, three nights. +62 363 410 11, alilahotels.com/manggis.

time out like a local with a dip in the natural underground hot springs
and a glass of Napa Valley wine at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. An
hour north of San Francisco and 30 minutes from Napa, the iconic hotel’s
spa is one of the country’s best, and there’s also a Michelin-star
restaurant and championship golf course on site. Stay four nights and
pay for only three until August 30. Costs from $1077, virtuoso.com.au.

killer whales, visit fishing villages and admire Norway’s mountains on
this five-day, self-drive tour of Tromso and the Lofoten Islands,
pictured. The tour includes four nights’ bed and breakfast, car hire,
ferry tickets and return flights from Oslo to Tromso. Save 10 per cent
when you book by June 30 for travel until September 30. Costs from $1604
a person. 1800 221 712, bentours.com.au.

and the Big Five go hand in hand in South Africa in August. The 14-day
Wildflowers and Wildlife tour travels from Cape Town to Johannesburg,
guided by botanical artist Jenny Phillips, who’ll help you capture your
botanical safari on paper. Book by July 31 and save up to $1000 a couple
while solo travellers save $1867. Tour departs August 25. Costs from
$8395 a person, twin share, or $10,763 for solo travellers. 1300 336
932, botanica.travel.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

Spotted by locals: Ella Hooper’s High Country

Ella Hooper: singer, songwriter, musician.
“I seem to do more cultural stuff in the country.
In the city, it’s overwhelming.”
chanteuse Ella Hooper returns to her High Country heartland for a
girls’ weekend exploring the villages and towns of the Strathbogie
Ranges and beyond.

TOWN, about a two-hour drive north of Melbourne, is home turf for Ella
Hooper, who hit the limelight heading the rock band Killing Heidi with
her guitarist brother, Jesse, before going acoustic as The Verses. She
says Winter, her favourite song from the Verses album Seasons, is an ode
to going home. “It’s about healing there when you don’t know quite
where life is taking you.”

a solo artist with a just-released single, Haxan, Ella says she usually
takes the train to Violet Town. “I’m a public transport girl. I read,
veg out, listen to music. I get a lot of writing done.

inspiration in motion.” Ella’s recent weekend visit with friends also
took in Euroa, Benalla, Swanpool and Dookie. About 1000 people live in
Violet Town and it’s a quiet place, except on the second Saturday of
each month. That’s market day.

“There’s the bushies and the
artists from up in the hills, the pseudo-hippies who wear a lot of
purple and do a lot of yoga, and the townies. The market’s really all
about seeing who’s in town,” Ella says.

“I usually stock up on
Wallygrubb Soaps. This time I bought honey, vanilla and goat’s milk,
lemongrass and green clay, and “Jungle Jim” soap, which has patchouli,
clove and cedarwood in it. I also bought a bottle of riesling from Falls
Vineyard & Longwood Wines
, a winery in the Strathbogie Ranges, and
some sweet candied walnuts from The Honeysuckle Produce Store, which is
my mum’s nut company.”

Between Benalla and Shepparton is the
village of Dookie, home to about 250 people and the famed Dookie
Emporium & Cafe
. “I’m a bit of a vintage tragic,” confesses Ella. “I
love old clothes and I’m a fan of kitsch. I love the Benalla op-shops,
but Dookie Emporium is the creme de la creme. Everything is handpicked
by the couple who own it, both of whom have worked in film and theatre.
On this visit, I can’t believe I didn’t come out of the emporium with a
hat: I love pillboxes and bonnets. But I bought a beautiful, moth-eaten
silk blouse which is full of holes, but I had to have it. And a pair of
antique sailor pants, which I can’t stop wearing. The cafe also serves
the best coffee in the north-east.”

Another Dookie drawcard among
the region’s rich red volcanic soils is Tallis Wines. “It’s not a
well-known wine region, but the viognier is amazing and I bought a
really complex dessert wine, which I don’t usually drink. They’re so
passionate at Tallis, they’re really into their dirt and the vista’s
gorgeous.” Ella and her girlfriends shared a Tallis Wines’ cellardoor
tasting platter of local produce including caperberries, walnut bread
and olives.

Euroa Butter Factory

Benalla Art Gallery, housed in a modernist building,
and Swanpool’s historic arthouse cinema are also must-visits, Ella says.
“I seem to do more cultural stuff in the country. In the city, it’s
overwhelming. Swanpool Cinema is one of my favourites. People dress up
to go there, wearing bowties and black-and-white suits, which is kitschy
and cute. I used to dress up as a kid. The film selection is really,
really good, and there’s always a double feature. I dream of having a
party in full ’50s gear there one day.”

Summer visits to the High
Country include taking cool dips in local waterfalls. Polly McQuinn’s
, about a 30-minute drive south of Violet Town, is a favourite.
“It’s haunted,” says Ella, matterof-factly. Polly McQuinn was a settler
who fell in the water one night and was never seen again.
say the waterhole is bottomless. No one I know has ever touched the
bottom, and I’ve been swimming here since I was a little kid.”

Ella stayed at Ain Garth (”our home”), a self-contained cottage in Violet Town. (www.violettown.org.au).
Built in 1910, the cottage has pretty period features, including
pressed metal ceilings and polished baltic pine flooring, along with
modern finishes. Ain Garth has four bedrooms, several living spaces and a
large garden and is perfect for a group of friends or families who want
to stay within walking distance of Violet Town’s shops.

seeking a chic retreat should head to Beechworth’s newest
accommodation, the Stone Tryst Spa Villas. Three luxury self-contained
villas, each featuring hand-built drystone walls, polished eucalypt
floors, log gas fire and a spa bath built for two, are built on a hill
overlooking the town’s stunning gorge. Floor-to-ceiling windows in
villas showcase the views, and guests have free use of bikes and helmets
– a perfect way to explore Beechworth’s historic sites and lively
dining scene (www.stonetryst.com.au).

Built in 1901 on the banks of Sevens Creek, the Euroa Butter Factory (www.euroabutterfactory.com.au)
now houses a boutique B&B, restaurant, cafe and store. Ella and her
friends stocked up on cheesecake, muesli slices, corn fritters and
coffee from the cafe. The butter factory’s Delivery Room Restaurant has
built a reputation using ingredients from its own gardens and from
artisan producers in north-eastern Victoria.

“I’m a white-wine
girl. It’s less harsh on my throat than reds. I love pinot gris and
grigio. Oh, and riesling,” Ella says. One of her favourite locals
vineyards is Tallis Wines, in Dookie (www.talliswine.com.au), between Benalla and Shepparton.

Beechworth’s Bridge Road Brewery (www.bridgeroadbrewers.com.au)
serves hand-crafted beers and has a pizza kitchen turning out great
combinations, especially when matched with a tasting plate of beers.
Housed in an old coach house behind Tanswell’s Commercial Hotel on
Beechworth’s Ford Street, the brewery has a beer garden and children’s
play area.

Ruffy Produce Store and Cafe on Nolans Road (www.ruffy.com.au
in the Strathbogies, is famed for its lunches. It’s open Friday to
Sunday, so on this visit home, Ella and her friends dropped in, ordering
smoked lamb and horseradish sandwiches, zucchini fritters with haloumi
and poached egg, and a Japanese pancake – okonomiyaki. Ella recommends
the store’s pantry, too. “You can buy jams, preserves and pickles.
Ruffy’s got a real general store vibe, and its home-made stuff is

Where to picnic with produce from Ruffys? On the rocks at
nearby Polly McQuinns Weir, of course. The weir is on Seven Creeks
between Euroa-Mansfield Road and Merton-Strathbogie Road, where McQuinns
Road and Galls Gap Road meet.

Violet Town market has been running for 35 years on a ”make, bake or
grow it” basis. It is held on the second Saturday of each month from
8.30 am to 1 pm. Local produce, including regional wines, are a
favourite buy.

Benalla Art Gallery’s collection includes
paintings, prints, works on paper, textiles, ceramics and sculpture. The
gallery is open from 10am to 5pm daily. (www.benallaartgallery.com)

, on the Midland Highway at Swanpool, is a not-for-profit
community theatre, operated by volunteers. You can catch foreign and
arthouse flicks, from silent movies to new releases. Get in the mood and
don your best coat-tails and 1950s-style fashion, then settle in for a
double feature. (www.swanpoolcinema.com.au)

Hooper says Gooram Falls, on the road between Euroa and Mansfield, is
another waterhole popular with the locals. It’s faster flowing than
nearby Polly McQuinns Weir. “If you’re feeling brave, you can go behind
the waterfall, but it still freaks me out when there’s a lot of water,”
she says.
At Beechworth, the brave and ghoulish can check out a
site considered one of the most haunted in Australia – the former Mayday
Hills Lunatic Asylum
. The brave tour the site at night, but day tours
are available, too (www.beechworthghosttours.com).

Spotted by Locals is brought to you in association with Tourism Victoria. See more content from around Victoria on Twitter via #spottedbylocals

Belinda Jackson 

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travelsponsor1/spotted-by-locals-ella-hoopers-high-country-20130531-2ngif.html#ixzz2WAIP7SsV

This morning’s headlines from Bhutan: chillis, archery and elections

A Nepali-Bhutanese vegetable market trader.

Plummeting chili prices upsets Tsirang farmers: chillis (a national staple) have fallen from Nu 150 to as little as Nu 15. The Bhutanese currency is the Ngultru, which is tied to the Indian dollar. Nu 53 = AUD1.

Alcohol liver disease top killer (140 people died from it in the past year, making it the top killer). 

Full out to file in nominations: candidates for the upcoming national elections have till today to complete their registrations.

And the Film Association of Bhutan archery team defeated Dhen Truk 11 in two straight sets in the Silver Jubilee archery tournament.

According to the daily zakar (kind of like horoscope), tomorrow is a good day to conduct daily rituals only. It’s also a bad day to start military training, to hand and take over office, to shift house, start new business, marry or sell land.

It is also a good day for rituals (laza) for those born in the tiger and rabbit years, generally a good day (sogza) for those born in the monkey and rooster years, and a bad day (shedza) for oxen and dragons

Fags are going to pot and booze gets the boot in the healthy kingdom of Bhutan

Punakha dzong

It’s been a while between posts, because it’s been a while since internet. Hell, it’s been a while since electricity.

But what it lacks in power (ironic considering it’s selling hydro-electricity to India) Bhutan makes up for in enlightening ideas.

Here’s a few to consider:

must retire at 65 years, even the king. In any case, you’ve got to be able to get into the administrative offices, such as the Punakha dzong, pictured, a building
accessible only by what can be described as a rather beautiful ladder. Can’t get up it?
Can’t go to work (lordy, think of some of our Aussie fatties trying to edge their way up this one!)
The first
Sunday of the month is car free in the major towns. It used to be every Tuesday, but was overturned by public demand. Tuesday’s obviously a biggie for reform as…

…Tuesdays are ‘dry days’ which means no booze is sold in the country (except in tourist hotels). The locals just brew arrak – like whiskey – from barley at home. Wait, isn’t barley a

Pot grows
wild on the roadside, the government encourages school children to rip it out.
tobacco is illegal and you pay 200% duty on any imported fags. This is the
place to go when you’re contemplating quitting. I haven’t been hanging around the bars, so I have seen only three guys smoking; and two of them were hunched over like they were behind the school toilets, and the others were in a snooker hall, flagrantly ignoring the ‘no smoking’ sign.

Down on the farm, Bhutan style

My farmhouse, Phobjike valley

It’s seven
o’clock at night and the family has sat down for dinner. I can’t say the Jones
family, because Bhutanese don’t use surnames. But to draw you a picture,
there’s four generations in the room: granny and grandpa, mum and dad, their
daughter, her two-year-old daughter and seven-year-old niece.
They sit in
a large circle that includes me, my guide Tshering and driver Tensing. 
There are
no tables or chairs in the Bhutanese house. Everyone sits on thin mats around
the bhukhari (wood stove), and I admire the effortless half-lotus position that
the 79-year-old grandfather, Tshewangla, adopts for his light dinner.
The white
rice is sticky and is rolled with your hand into a tight ball and daubed with chilli cooked in
cheese sauce. Chilli is not a flavouring, chilli is a vegetable to be eaten at
every meal, including breakfast.
Until 18
months ago, the women did all the cooking on a two-ring gas burner and on the
wood stove. There was some light from the solar panels, but electricity has
changed all that. The warm kitchen is all very comfortable, with a fluorescent
light above and a home-grown soapie on tv. A little cat sleeps by the wood
stove, and I spot a rice cooker, microwave, toaster and fridge. Butter and
cheese are still often wrapped in rhododendron leaves to stop it from going
Namgay Pem and her husband Phub Gaytshey.
has changed our lives,” says Namgay Pem, the mother of the house. It’s helped
them to have better sanitation and everyone loves the soap opera, which won an
international award for its role in educating people about the dangers of HIV.
That night,
as a special guest in a full house, I sleep in the altar room. Namgay’s
husband, Phub Gaytshey, is a lay monk, and the room’s walls are covered in
elaborate paintings that pulsate with colour. One complete wall is taken up
with a deep altar which Phub attends carefully each morning.
After Phub
demonstrates his ritual of offering tea, incense, water and three prostrations
to the altar, the two little girls show me their new three-day-old calf, safe
in a manger attached to the kitchen, and we pop a few arrows: archery is
Bhutan’s national sport, and their obsession is comparable to, say, the AFL or
English league. 
We clamber
in the 4WD to slip and slide up the muddy driveway, waving to the family. There
is no word for ‘goodbye’ in Dzongkha, only ‘see you again’.

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