The hidden jewels of Sri Lanka

Ambassador House, Galle

Elegant villas dot Sri Lanka’s jungle and coast.

Petite and chic, the true gem of Sri Lanka is its rising wave
of beautiful boutique hotels and villas peppered throughout its wild,
lush interior and sublime coastal strips. The tiny island has performed a
staggering comeback – just three years after its 26-year civil war
ended in 2009, more than a million tourists came to soak up its sun, sip
its tea and savour its culture.

Sri Lanka and Bali are emerging rivals, sharing similar
climates, a guaranteed warm welcome and an innate sense of style and
design.


Many of Sri Lanka’s top villas are reinvented walauwas, the 18th and
19th-century manor houses of the ruling elite, with grand verandahs and
great halls.

You might see a Dutch colonial column, an English colonial
balcony, Portuguese whitewash and an Arabic inward-facing courtyard all
in the one building, as the country morphed from Serendip to Ceylon to
Sri Lanka.

This is also the birthplace of tropical modernism, al fresco
living invented by Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa and imitated
across the tropics, from Capricorn to Cancer. Book just one room or take
the whole villa: courteous Sri Lankans will tell you to make it your
home – you’ll just wish it was, permanently.

JUNGLE GLAM:CASA HELICONIA

Halfway between Sri Lanka’s current capital, Colombo and the
ancient capital, historic Kandy, Casa Heliconia is, like all the
country’s best villas, well hidden. The property comprises two king
bedrooms in separate pavilions, the Temple Angkor and Pagoda Gold. The
new villa’s pedigree is impeccable: its stablemates include The Kandy
House and one of the country’s bastions of design, Bawa’s The Last
House.
THE LOOK The villas are hidden among acres
of lush jungle with a little path leading down to a plunge pool and sun
loungers. The look is rustic timber doors and planter lounges, yet
there’s also Wi-Fi, a home theatre and aircon.
DON’T MISS For a special Sri Lankan touch,
you share the jungle with Casa Heliconia’s household pet, a (reportedly)
extremely placid, but extremely large white Brahman bull.
Rooms at Casa Heliconia start from $115 a night for the Pagoda Gold pavilion, including breakfast and dinner. See casa-heliconia.com.

AMID THE PADDIES: MAYA VILLA

Five is a special number in Sri Lankan villas: there are five bedrooms in Maya Villa, and you can book just one or the lot.
Ten minutes’ drive from Tangalle, on the south coast, and
about an hour from happening Galle, the villa is designed by architect
Pradeep Kodikara and Hong Kong-based interior designer Niki Fairchild.
The rooms are in two pavilions set around an L-shaped pool and open-air dining pavilion and lounge, perfect for sunset drinks.
THE LOOK In a former life, Maya was a
walauwa, a 100-year-old manor house built in the traditional local
style, with ornate woodwork in the main pavilion, which houses two
rooms.
The new wing has three bedrooms designed in contemporary Sri
Lankan style using cool, polished cement for the walls and floors and
massive doors that open onto a private courtyard.
DON’T MISS The villa is surrounded by picturesque rice paddies and hammocks on the lawn – surely there is no more serene match?
Rooms start from $265 a night for a room, $1140 a night, full villa, low season, including breakfast, mayatangallesrilanka.com. See mayatangallesrilanka.com.

COLONIAL SPLENDOUR: 20 MIDDLE STREET, GALLE

Embracing Galle’s Dutch colonial history, this villa was
originally a Dutch merchant’s house built in 1750, with English
additions in the 1800s.
Recently renovated by top Sri Lankan starchitect Channa
Daswatte and interior design by George Cooper, the four-bedroom villa
maintains its teak windows and perfumed gardens.
THE LOOK The modern luxuries of plunge
pools, snooker tables and home theatres are worked into a colonial
design with sweeping staircases, a zaal (great hall) and open-air loggia
with views over the historic, red-roofed seaside town. The villa is in
the centre of the UNESCO-listed town of Galle and comes fully staffed.
DON’T MISS The villa’s neighbour, Amangalla, is the spot for high tea with champagne or drinks on the terrace.
Full villa usage stars from $955 a night, including breakfast. See villasingalle.com.

OLD WORLD, NEW WORLD: AMBASSADOR VILLA, GALLE

One of Galle’s oldest buildings, the villa is located on one
of old town’s main streets. This is the place to stay when you want to
be in the thick of the old town’s great cafes, bars and restaurants, but
able to slip home and slip into the pool when the temps start to soar.
The house is built for entertaining, with a vast dining table and reception.
THE LOOK Step out of the sun, through the
pillars of the verandah into the cool salon lined with deep sofas. The
whitewashed villa sleeps 12 in five bedrooms on two levels: three
bedrooms open directly onto the pool. The rooftop terrace is a suntrap
that soaks up the Sri Lankan rays.
DON’T MISS Make like a local and walk the
Dutch ramparts to Galle’s lighthouse in the late afternoon. It’s a
promenade, so take it slowly. Nearby Fortaleza is a great lunch stop (9
Church Cross Street, fortaleza.lk).
Costs from $560 a night, full villa, including breakfast. See ambassadorshouse.com.

COUNTRY STYLE: KALUNDEWA RETREAT, DAMBULLA

This spectacular country chalet, four hours’ drive from
Colombo, is built around the natural beauty that surrounds it: the
retreat is on 36 hectares of sustainably farmed orchards and paddies.
It sleeps four in two beautiful open bedrooms, with another new chalet opening in early November.
THE LOOK The hero is an open-air lounge
filled with snowy sofas placed for lounging and contemplation. Split
over two stories, this chalet’s two bedrooms are set among the kumbuk
trees and a private lake.
DON’T MISS Kalundewa is a twitcher’s
paradise, with hornbills, kingfishers, kites, coots and storks on the
visitor’s list. Peacocks are de rigueur (this is Sri Lanka). Take time
to watch the butterflies and natural springs, or take a nature walk with
the on-site expert. Two of the country’s top sites, Dambulla Cave
Temple and Sigiriya Rock Fortress, are nearby.
Costs from $445 a night for the two-bedroom chalet, including breakfast. See kalundewaretreat.com.

SURF SIDE: HABARADUWA HOUSE, HABARADUWA

Languishing right on the beach on Galle’s south coast, this
glamorous beach house sleeps eight in four bedrooms with en suites.
Outdoor showers allow you to revel in the warm sea breezes.
THE LOOK The beachhouse has been renovated
recently, so expect four-poster beds and a polished finish. French
windows open out to the 20-metre infinity pool and the Indian Ocean.
Don’t expect First-World pool gates – children aren’t encouraged at this
fully staffed villa: the fully kitted games room has grown-up kids in
mind.
DON’T MISS Order a massage, a yoga teacher
or a guide on a morning bike ride. Staff can also arrange visits to
local markets and boat trips. Nearby Unawatuna beach frequently rates in
the world’s top 10 strips of sand.
Costs from $955 a night, full villa, including breakfast. See villasingalle.com.

SAFFRON & BLUE: KOSGODA

Think big at this contemporary villa, halfway between Colombo
and Galle, which sits 12 for lunch and sleeps eight in four bedrooms.
Relax on the terrace by the 12-metre swimming pool, set among palm and frangipani trees, overlooking the beach.
THE LOOK The three-story villa is designed by one of Sri
Lanka’s most renowned architects, Channa Daswatte. Guests can take over
the kitchen or barbie, or leave it in the hands of the staff and hit one
of the two outdoor jacuzzis. The den is kitted out as a games room.
DON’T MISS Just 15 minutes away are the gardens of Lunuganga.
The villa is next door to Kosgoda’s marine turtle conservation project.
Costs from $245 a night for a room or $745 a night, full villa, until December 23, including breakfast. See jetwinghotels.com.

The writer was a guest of Banyan Lanka and Mr & Mrs Smith. See banyantours.com; mrandmrssmith.com.


This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Sheraton Kuta Bali review: Calm amid the chaos

Child’s play: the hotel’s infinity pool at sunset.

Kuta is known for its traffic, its touts and its tattoos, but
as Belinda Jackson finds, there are pockets where families can chill
out. 

Arrayed in white linen, the Italian hotel manager glides
between tables, chatting while the DJ eases us into the evening with a
loungy beat.

A photographer snaps the poolside model, garnished in jewels
and tiny bikini, and staff watch on as small children splash in the
toddlers’ pool, which is awash with a coloured light display.

We’re in Kuta. Yes, Kuta. The much-maligned Balinese home of tie-dye
T-shirts, cornrow braids and misspelt tattoos. But stay with me. The
Sheraton Kuta Bali is a little haven amid the insane traffic and moped
touts, right across the road from the iconic Kuta Beach.

Nanny and charge during Sunday brunch. Photo: Belinda Jackson

The open-air foyer is capped by a massive faux grass-weave
roof and looks over the ocean. Each of the 203 rooms, suites and the
penthouse has a balcony, with 64 rooms interconnecting and kitted out
for travelling families.

Now two years old, the hotel is still in a state of evolution
that defies its location, from the handpainted plates of its Bene
rooftop Italian trattoria to the low-key Sunday sunset pool parties and
newest addition, the kids’ club.

I’m a novice at this kids’ club thing. In the past, I’ve used nannies
with Small Girl, timing it with her naps to slip out for a few hours of
grown-up time. There have been good times, there have been tears.

“We decided to open a kids’ club because we were hit with a
massive number of families last holidays,” says the hotel’s general
manager and father-of-three, Dario Orsini. “Parents are travelling with
kids much earlier than they used to. And we just didn’t expect people
would bring their kids to Kuta.”

The sparkling new Play@Sheraton Kids Club opens with a pretty
dance by a local Balinese ballet class, and we admire the unblemished
sand pit, slides and the paddling pool outside. Inside, the little
dancing girls all leap onto the computers to play a pink, fluffy game,
the boys tear up to the mezzanine level to bond with the PlayStation 3.
My child, through some genetic programming glitch, merely stands in
front of a three-storey doll’s house, gasping in shock and awe.

In a clever piece of marketing, the kids’ club is free to
hotel guests but also to anyone spending more than $35 in the hotel’s
Shine spa. See what they did there?

Indonesian desserts. Photo: Belinda Jackson

With my new freedom, I take the hotel’s advice and, an hour
later, erupt from the hotel’s spa with all nails newly painted an
extremely perky orange called “A Roll in the Hague” . It is a test
drive, it is a revelation.

General manager Dario’s three beautiful children have been
instrumental in the hotel’s many kid-friendly initiatives, including the
kids’ buffet. One section of the restaurant is set with low children’s
tables, unbreakable crockery, plastic cups and pint-sized cutlery beside
the kids’ buffet, where they can pick up their own breakfast cereal,
noodles, a pastry or the cutest little ducklings made from balls of
mashed potato.

I do mention to the (possibly childless) food and beverage
manager that a little fruit or some cheese could be squeezed between the
chocolate donuts, but Small Child seems perfectly happy with the
selection. In keeping with the local expat tradition for elaborate
Sunday lunches, the main restaurant, Feast, runs a Market Brunch.

What I love best is not the free-pour drinks package
(although that’s pretty good) nor the fact that a nanny whisks your kids
away to the kids’ area to make bracelets and drawings so you can eat,
unencumbered (also exceptionally good). No, I love the strong Indonesian
bias on the buffet.

Yes, you can have your sushi, your curry, your fruit platters
and your dim sum. But there’s also a flame grill on the terrace,
overlooking busy Jalan Pantai Kuta to the beach, where your hand-picked
monster prawn or local whole fish is grilled before your hungry eyes.

At another little trolley, an aged woman makes rujak, the
classic Indonesian salad of papaya, cucumber and sweet potato, tossed in
a salty-sweet, chili palm sugar dressing, and the bebek rica-rica, a
fiery duck curry, is the best I’ve tasted.

The dessert display groans with sweetly coloured ice-creams
and petite fours, sharing the limelight with cantik manis (literally,
“beautiful dessert”), a pink banana and tapioca slice arranged beside
green dadar gulung rolls and klepon, little balls filled with liquid
palm sugar that has my Indonesian colleague reminiscing of her
childhood.

The next day, I want to experiment to see if that
happy-kids-club thing wasn’t a fluke. Small Child runs toward said club.
Looking good.

I run toward spa. Even better. The masseuse slaving over my
densely knotted shoulders nods knowingly when I mention my young
daughter (“Ah, picking her up all the time,” she diagnoses
sympathetically as she drives a thumb beneath my shoulder blade, making
it stick up like a chicken’s wing. It feels surprisingly good.)

It’s also at this hands-free time that I discover another
hotel secret: walk out the front entrance and you literally walk into
Zara, in the Beachwalk shopping mall, which shares the same block of
real estate. Zara and Top Shop not your thing? OK, head for Armani, the
surfware shops, slick cafes.

If you’re in the market for exceptional local fashion, make a
beeline for Satu, which showcases Bali’s best labels including Natasha
Gan’s floaty dresses, chic, monochromatic pants suits from Uluwatu Lace
and bags by Jakata-based Soe.Hoe.

I also pop in to the beautiful Museum Kain, Bali’s first
cloth (“kain”) museum, well curated with excellent interactive displays
on the history of Indonesian fabric design.

It’s our last day, and Small Girl has spent every waking
minute either talking about or dancing around the kids’ club. I have to
pry her out to check out.

At the reception, the three-year-old drops to the floor and
turns on a spectacular tantrum. People turn to stare, disapprovingly as
her howls echo throughout vast lobby.

“Noooo! I want to go to kids’ club! I don’t want to go home!”

Dario, the general manager, passes us with a small smile: he knows I’ll be back.

The writer was a guest of Sheraton Kuta Bali.

TRIP NOTES

GETTING THERE Fly direct to Bali from Australia with Garuda Indonesia, Virgin Australia or Jetstar. See garuda-indonesia.com; virginaustralia.com; jetstar.com

STAYING THERE The Play@Sheraton family package includes breakfast, kids’
club, a play pack, kid’s manicure, free-flow bottle for juice or milk
and all kids’ meals from $215 a room, a night (two-night minimum) for
two adults and two kids under 12. Sunday’s Market Brunch costs from $25
for adults, $12.50 for children, and is open to non-guests. A Shine Spa
signature massage costs from $37 for an hour. Sheraton Bali Kuta, phone 1800 073 535; see sheratonbalikuta.com

MORE INFORMATION
indonesia.travel


This story by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.

Traveller: Takeoff travel news August 10, 2014

Zafara tented camp, Botswana

LANDSCAPE

Delta’s new dawn
Botswana’s Okavango Delta, a chain of lagoons and
floodplains in the Kalahari Desert, has been named UNESCO’s 1000th
World Heritage Site. From June to August, the delta trebles in size as it
floods, attracting Africa’s great wildlife. Explore on foot, game
drive, helicopter, on horseback or by dugout canoe. Best visited in the cooler
months from April to October, check out the new Dhow suites in the Zarafa tented
camp (1300 237 422, benchinternational.com.au) or the newly renovated ecological Sandibe
Okavango Safari Lodge (andBeyond.com). The
lodge reopens on September 1.
FOOD
Snuffle a truffle
Australian truffles are no flash in the pan – they’re
muscling their way onto the world’s tables, with a legion of fans including
many-Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal. Wander through the trees of Oak Valley truffle farm in Western Australia’s
Manjimup district, hunting with hounds for French black truffles. The new tour
aims to demystify the pricey fungus while you snack on freshly roasted
hazelnuts and trail a truffle dog. ‘‘People are fascinated by truffles,
particularly their rarity and expense,’’ says guide Peter Norris. Catering for up to seven guests, the tour ends  with a truffle lunch at
Watershed Premium Wines in Margaret River. The full-day tour costs $240 a
person, including lunch and wine. Phone 0411 186 430, see goinstyle.com.au.

The Paris Cat, Melbourne

APP

Drink up,
Melbourne


Let go of your Sydney sensibilities and walk down the
darkest alley in Melbourne – then go down the stairs. Basement bars are where
it’s all at in this town at the moment, from hip jazz cafes to boutique wine
bars. Half the fun is finding them (signs are for tourists), and the latest
edition of Melbourne’s Bars and Pubs is now free and spells out the dress code,
the average price of a meal, happy hours and even the average age of punters. This
is not a directory – expect a curated list that’s written and developed by
Melburnians. It’ll hook you up with the cool bar nearest you, with GPS, maps
and photos, weekly gigs and lets you check in via facebook or foursquare,
for extra bragability. Available on iPhone and Android, free. melbournesbarsandpubs.com.au.

 
KIDS

Tall tales from
small travellers
Young kids have a different perspective on the world, and
not just because they’re usually a foot shorter than you. Let local kids lead yours
around their home town, from Brisbane to Fiji or Glasgow, on the Bound Round
travel app for iPhone and iPad. In each location, kids aged eight to 12 years share
tips about great parks and sights to fun activities and food, with videos,
photos and games. Currently, there are travel guides and experiences for 20
locations worldwide, with the Pacific Islands, Darwin, Adelaide and Perth going
live by the year’s end. Next year, there’s a focus on the US and the UK, but
even if you’re not jetting off anywhere soon, it’s ideal to crack the conundrum
of what to do in school holidays in Sydney or Melbourne. Founded by Sydneysider
Janeece Keller, all content is vetted by a board of kids and the iPhone app has
also just gone live, free. See boundround.com.
The Travel Wallet by Bellroy

GEAR

Slim pickings
Pack your passport in your
pocket without ruining the line on your skinny jeans with the Travel Wallet
from Victorian designers Bellroy, who are evangelical about reinventing the
slimline wallet. The wallet is a favourite with bag aficionados and stockists
Rushfaster, who recommend it for the micro pen – essential when all the airport
pens at customs are dead.
It’s carefully designed not to crumple boarding passes. Costs $119.95. Phone (02) 8594 1100, see rushfaster.com.au.
On The Ghan

JOURNEY
Rock on over

Get right off the beaten track with the Ghan’s new
four-day journey into the heart of Australia. One of a new series of train journeys,
it departs Darwin and takes four days to reach Adelaide, stopping for a starlit
dinner in the MacDonnell Ranges and a day underground in the opal-rich town of
Coober Pedy. For an additional charge, you can even fly in to Uluru and still
have time to rejoin the train. The four-day, three-night Ghan
journey runs from May 23-August 22, 2015 and is one of the new offerings in the
2015/16 timetable.
Costs from $3199 a person, Gold twin share. Phone 1800 725 993, see greatsouthernrail.com.au.
KIDS
Creepy capers
Scaring the kids has never been so right: BIG4 Holiday
Parks is pulling out the cobwebs and pumpkins for its annual Halloween
camp-out to raise money for children’s cancer charity Camp Quality. Campsites
cost $20 in the 85 participating Big4 parks across Australia, with many
parks running additional activities such as BBQs, face painting and creepy
capers. Camp and sCare runs Friday 31 across Australia, and Friday October 24
in Victoria. Book online at BIG4.com.au.

Traveller: Takeoff travel news August 3, 2014

Bon Voyage shoes

KIT
World at your feet
Click your heels and find yourself wherever in the world
you want to be with the cutest women’s shoes from Venuzuelan brand Hot
Chocolate. Imprinted with an old-school map of the world, they have a rubber
sole for comfortable strolling and the soft polyester upper makes them easy to
clean. Flip the buckle and they’re an ideal inflight shoe, but if you’re not
travelling anywhere soon, just look down, map out your route and daydream. Bon
voyage shoes, $75. Phone 0499 116 659, see pimposaustralia.com.
NEWS
Fabric of life
Weave through India’s exotic Rajasthan with Christina Sumner, OAM, former principal curator at
Sydney’s The Powerhouse Museum and Indian textiles aficianado. You will watch
silk and cotton weaving in women’s charities, learn about ancient tribal dyeing
techniques, block-printing and visit renowned ateliers during this new 15-day
textiles tour. Other highlights include the 1st-century Buddhist
caves of Ajanta, sufi concerts, local village visits and the photogenic Rajasthani cities of Jaipur and Jaisalmer. Accommodation includes
Jodhpur’s Ajit Bhawan Palace and Samode Haveli in
Jaipur.  Threads of Rajasthan tour numbers are capped at 12, tour departs
February 7, 2015. Costs from $11,500 a person, twin share, including flights
ex-Sydney, meals and guides. Phone 1300 130 218, see classicsafaricompany.com.au.
Rajasthani woman
GEAR
Case closed
Choose zingy tangerine or strawberry and you can bet your
bottom dollar you won’t miss your luggage on the
carousel amid a sea of boring black. Online retailer Kogan’s new
budget-friendly three-piece luggage sets are lightweight with a hard-side shell,
and sit sturdily on four multi-directional spinner wheels. The set has two suitcases, 100-litre (4.2kg) and 65-litre (3.5kg), and a 40-litre (2.6kg)
cabin bag, with TSA-approved locks and a one-year warranty. Colour challenged?
Available also in charcoal. Kogan Hardside Spinner luggage set, $159, three
pieces. Phone 1300 304 292, see kogan.com.au.
viewretreats.com
TREND
Bespoke beauty
You’re the belweather, the pack leader, the one who swims
against the masses, and you’re demanding the hotel room decorated with street
art. You’re the epitome of the new traveller. “Curation is the future of
online travel,”
says Mat Lewis of new boutique accommodation booker View Retreats. Travellers are seeking
architectural statements for eye-popping travel snaps. “Our
most-viewed property is the Wollemi Wilderness Treehouse in the Blue Mountains,
followed by Campbell Point House on Victoria’s Bellaraine Peninsula and Alkira
Rainforest Retreat in the Daintree.” Romantic cocoons are the top request. See viewretreats.com.
KIDS
Taming travel with tots
A new travel website devised by
mother-of-two, Ingrid Huitema, is dedicated to journeys with babies. The site aims to take the grunt out of
travelling with young kids and give parents time to reconnect as a couple.
“Taking a few hours each day to eat lunch uninterrupted, walk on the beach or
try a surf lesson are things that usually don’t happen when you’re on holidays
with babies and toddlers,” says Huitema. “We want to change all of that.” Packages
in baby-friendly Bali comprise villas tailored for children, with pick-up at Denpasar airport, car seats and pool fences with nannies. A five-night stay in
Seminyak starts from $1895, with four days’ nanny service. Phone 0408 112 728, see babyandtoddlertravel.com.au.

GOT IT COVERED

That’s not your kids screaming all night on the plane. No,
they’re the ones cosily bedded down with their own neck pillows and eye
masks in cute-as jungle scenes or candy-pink babushka prints. The
Australian-designed travel products are kid-sized and include matching
passport covers and luggage, thus teaching kids that if they want to
bring it, they also have to carry it. Each item is sold separately so
you can build the collection as your kids’ needs change. Pillow, $19.95,
eye mask and passport covers, $16.95 each. Phone (07) 3018 3504, see bobbleart.com.au.
Belinda Jackson‘s weekly travel news column, Takeoff, is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section each week. Visit smh.com.au/travel  

Traveller: Takeoff travel news July 27, 2014

Budapest
AIRLINES:Budapest bound
In the aviation world, you’re nobody if you don’t have an
Airbus or 50. The Dubai-based Emirates airline has just received its 50th A380,
cementing its position as the world’s largest international airline. New destinations
connected by A380s include Kuwait and Mumbai this month, with Frankfurt,
Dallas, San Francisco and Houston coming online in the next five months. The
airline expects its cache of A380s to increase to 90 by late 2017. Emirates is
also adding three new European destinations to its network –Oslo and Brussels
in September and Budapest on October 27. 1300 303 777, emirates.com/au.

KIDS:Trump the parents
If your children are full of bright ideas, hook them up
with Donald Trump. No, really. The five-star Trump SoHo New York’s Young
Entrepreneurs program is open to hotel guests from 3 to 17 years as well as Manhattan
neighbourhood kids. Previous events including Children’s Museum of the Arts
film screenings, business and cooking classes as well as downtime in the spa
(for those busy kids, not you).  They’ll
also get business cards, free meals and a quarterly newsletter about NYC
family-friendly events. Kids get a monogrammed robe, candy buffets and
cocktails, local maps from a pint-sized point of view and free rollaway beds. A
new partnership with phil&teds lets you use their strollers and baby
backpacks during your stay. The NYC Family Getaway package costs from $687 a
night. +See trumpsohohotel.com/kids.  
FOOD: River courses
You won’t find 2009 Masterchef winner Julie Goodwin
hiding in the ship’s galley when she stars on her third Murray River celebrity
cook cruise. The PS Murray Princess paddlewheeler cruises the river while Julie
conducts three cooking demonstrations and hosts a three-course dinner for 120
guests on the four-night cruise between Mannum and Blanchardstown, SA. The
stately paddlewheeler journeys past redgum forests and limestone cliffs and
also pulls in to historic ports, a sheep station, a vineyard and a cellar door.
Departs March 9, 2015, but book early, she’s a lady in demand. Costs from $1229
a person, twin share. (02) 9206 1111, captaincook.com.au.
Mandarin Oriental Bodrum, Turkey
HOTEL: Turkish delight
The new Mandarin Oriental has thrown opened its
doors on Turkey’s south-eastern coastline, 30 minutes from beautiful Bodrum on
the Turkish Riviera. Each of the hotel rooms – the creation of Italian design powerhouse Antonio
Citterio -looks out over the Aegean, with terraces
and decks primed for sun soaking. The suites have plunge pools and
outdoor showers. Set on the waterfront on Cennet
Koyu (Paradise Bay), the hotel has 109 rooms and suites with a spa and
10 restaurants and bars. The Discover Paradise Bay opening offer
costs from $2587 for three nights,
and includes $215 credit to spend in the spa or restaurants, available until
December 31. Phone 1800 123 693, see mandarinoriental.com.
GEAR:Bag it

The Toby iMail laptop
bag.
Be prepared to suffer bag envy when you spot the Jackson
Casual Messenger slung over a hardened traveller’s shoulder some time soon. The
new range from Australian design company Zoomlite will be released in late
August, with the Jackson coming in olive, khaki or navy. The heavy-duty washed
canvas bag (25x32cm) features a vintage leather trim with a cross-body strap, leaving
your hands free for adventure. Keep an eye out also for the Toby iMail laptop
bag, for those who don’t need to shriek geek. The vintage-leather bag comes in
camel or deep brown and its padded section lets you truck a 13-inch laptop with
discretion (29x35cm).  Jackson Casual
Messenger, $69.95. Toby iMail, $229.95. zoomlite.com.au.
Designer Kash O’Hara
FASHION: Super styler
Get under the skin of chic Hong Kong and its
mainland cousin, Shenzhen, with Sydney fashion stylist and designer Kash O’Hara.
Kash will do a style analysis and help write your shopping list beforehand. She’ll even help you
design pieces that are then tailored in Shenzen. But it’s not all hard
shopping. The tour includes high tea at The Peninsula hotel, a swish dinner and
guided tours. “It’s partly a holiday, 
partly a shopping trip,” says Kash. From $3630 a
person, twin share. Includes international flights, four nights’ accommodation
in Hong Kong and one night in Shenzen. Departs October 1. Phone 0411 166 623,
see oharadesigns.com.
FAMILY: Self-catering in
Phuket

Face painting, Teen Idol and mini discos need to be balanced with
adult playrooms – and the swim-up bar and massage pods at Phuket’s two
Sunwing resorts, Kamala Beach and Bangtao, do the trick. Sunwing’s
Happy Baby Studios are designed for families with babies: the
ground-floor rooms have enclosed terraces and locking gates and all the
accoutrements, from pots to cots, baby recliners and unsmashable
crockery and cutlery. Happy Baby Studios cost from $138 a night,
off-peak (until October 31). sunwingphuket.com.

This weekly travel news column, Takeoff, is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section each week. Visit smh.com.au/travel