How to do Abu Dhabi with kids

Play Batman, colour in, or get cool in the pool – Abu Dhabi ticks all the boxes for travelling with kids.

I did a test-run with the 7-year-old in the United Arab Emirate, which is a natural stopover for Australians en route to Europe (or pretty much anywhere else in the world). With eight hours, three days (or even more) up your sleeve, there’s plenty to do in this super family-friendly town, even in the height of summer.

The highlights for us included the new Warner Bros Movie World, hot laps around the F1 circuit (for the teen in our gang), riding camels in the desert, and plenty of pool time at the five-star Saadiyat Rotana hotel.

If you’re after some pointers (or even a few tips for if travelling without kids), take a look at this feature I wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age Traveller section, and enjoy!

http://www.traveller.com.au/abu-dhabi-childrens-edition-h1fii4

Game on: kids in business class

ETIHAD Uniforms

Business class is out of reach of most travellers, and I had to hit my third decade before experiencing the delicious sensation of turning left on the plane.Some, however, are far luckier.

Recently, my seven-year-old daughter put Etihad Airways’ business class to the test en route to Abu Dhabi.

We’ve flown Etihad many times before, we’ve been scarred by its kids meals, most notably a long-haul economy nightmare of reoccurring cheese macaroni and UHT banana milk that comprises the kids menu – with no water served with their meals. I’ve ranted about it in the past – why load children up with a tray full of sugar, then complain when they turn into sugar-fuelled screeching monsters?

This time, in business, it’s a whole different ball game…

To read the full story on the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Traveller website, click here

Architecture tourism: The world’s inspiring new architecture

Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Courtesy TDIC, Architect Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Castles, towers, skyscrapers: all rich pickings for the travelling
architecture lover. Why not add a hill of garbage, a modern mosque or
the site of the world’s oldest drawings to your travels in 2017?

There’s some crazy, dreamy, ambitious and unexpected architecture
projects opening next year, from Denmark to Doha. Take a look at my round-up of a handful of the best, published in the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.

Architecture tourism: The world’s inspiring new architecture

Castles, towers, skyscrapers: all rich pickings for the travelling architecture lover. Why not add a hill of garbage, a modern mosque or the site of the world’s oldest drawings to your travels in 2017?

There’s some crazy, dreamy, ambitious and unexpected architecture projects opening in 2017, from Denmark to Doha. Take a look at my round-up of a handful of the best, published in the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.

AJN_HW_Abu_Dhabi_Louvre_04.jpg
The Abu Dhabi Louvre. Photo: Ateliers Jean Nouvel


The 16 must-see new architecture projects for 2016

An artist’s impression of WTC transportation hub, US

In what’s becoming an annual story for the Sydney Morning Herald, here’s my round-up of next year’s great architectural openings. Thanks, as ever, to Sydney architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walks, Eoghan Lewis. 

Who doesn’t love an architectural icon? While rising prices and
global uncertainty have slowed many building projects around the world –
the ambitious Grand Egyptian Museum is once again on ice – eyes are
open for key cultural offerings in Hamburg, New York and London.

Sure,
the skyscraper industry isn’t going out of business any time soon –
just take a look at the new Trump Towers going up in Vancouver, while
skinny is inny as New York discusses the rash of slim skyscrapers
overshadowing Central Park and the first super-tall skyscraper has been
approved for Warsaw. However, take your head out of the clouds to see
what’s trending in the world of architecture.

“Analogue seems to
be coming back … less slick, less same-same,” says Sydney architect and
architecture walking guide Eoghan Lewis. “Authenticity is trending, and
there is a new focus on refinement and simplicity.” (see www.sydneyarchitecture.org)

Click here to see what we’ve named the top 16 architectural openings in 2016. 

(This feature by Belinda Jackson was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newpapers.) 

Of Uluru, porridge and babes in paradise: Takeoff travel news

FOOD

The butler does
it
Lick the plates clean and eat your porridge: that’s the order when
you visit Scotland during its year-long celebration of the land and larder.
Merry May is Whisky Month, with the Isle of Harris’s first distillery opening
in Tarbert (see harrissdistillery.com), follow a seafood trail down the west
coast and discover Britain’s most remote mainland pub, The Old Forge, in
Knoydart (see theoldforge.co.uk).  Or
call on Jack Black, Scotland’s first picnic butler, dishing up the best
of Scottish fare with Forest Holidays in Ardgartan in Argyll, and Strathyre in
Perthshire. Jack lifts the
lid on your hamper to uncover Scottish smoked salmon, Arran oat cakes and the
tea cake with a cult following, Tunnocks. Drink pure Scottish springwater, the
lurid orange Irn Br soft drink or a glass of sparkling: picnics can be tailored
for couples or families. He can even help you go foraging, light fires
and survive outdoors (insider tip: you definitely won’t go hungry). See visitscotland.org, forestholidays.co.uk.
HOTEL
Uluru shines with indigenous design
Temperatures are dropping in the our central deserts as
peak tourist season approaches at Uluru. The self-contained Emu Walk Apartments greet the season with a
complete refurbishment embracing indigenous designs and artwork by local artist
Raymond Walters Japanangka. There are 40 one-bedroom and 23 two-bedroom
apartments, each with a separate kitchen and a laundry, set beside the resort
hub.  The refurbishment is part of Ayres
Rock Resort’s facilities upgrade which includes the five-star Sails in the Desert
hotel and a new reception. Travellers Uluru-bound
this week will be in time for the Tjungu Festival, with Australian indigenous fashion,
film, art and food on display, as well as an Indigenous Anzacs at War exhibition,
April 23-26. Upcoming events at Ayres Rock Resort include the Uluru Camel
Cup
in May, Australian Outback Marathon in July and the Uluru Astronomy weekend in August. Phone
1300 034 044, see ayersrockresort.com.au/emu.
MOVIES
Halls of fame
If you fancy frocking up for a right royal frolicking,
chances are you’re already glued to the BBC’s latest period drama, Wolf Hall by English author Hilary Mantel.
The series was filmed in the Welsh and English countryside, including in the
village of Lacock, in Wiltshire, south-west England, which has also starred in Pride & Prejudice and Harry
Potter
.  Explore Lacock on
Trafalgar’s six-day Best of Devon and Cornwall tour. Other highlights include
ancient Stonehenge, refined Bath, Buckfast Abbey in Devon and Tintagel
Castle, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. It also takes in Salisbury
Cathedral, which this year celebrates 800 years since King John signed the
Magna Carta in 1215. Trips depart between April and October 2015 and cost
from $1363 a person. Phone 1300 663 043, see trafalgar.com.
KIDS
Minors in the
Maldives
Pitched as the world’s ultimate honeymoon destination, there is
still a place for the results of that honeymoon in the Maldives. Children are
welcome at Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa, which has twice been voted
the country’s most family-friendly resort. Two children can stay and eat free and
also get free return flights via seaplane between the international airport at
Male and the resort when you book a ‘summer family offer’. Stay in a beach
suite or, if booking a one-bed pool villa, you’ll be upgraded to a two-bed
villa, and enjoy free activities such as swimming with whale sharks,
snorkelling, island tours and sunset cruises. The resort also has a kid’s club
and teen zone, free of charge, for a five-star family holiday. The offer must
be booked through travel agents between April 20-October 31. Costs from $6076,
2 adults and 2 children under 12 years, five nights. See centarahotelsresorts.com.
TECH
Slide night lives
on
Those mourning the demise of travel slide nights will
welcome this slide display case, which lends new life to your favourite photos.
Devised by New Zealand homewares designer Catherine David, the meter-long case cradles
and backlights slides for easy appreciation (and less fingerprints). Hung
horizontally or vertically, it can hold up to 21 of your favourite
memories.  David has reworked the light
to run on low-energy LED bulbs, so your slides will now shine sustainably. Costs
NZ$350. See catherinedaviddesigns.com.

NEWS

Abu Dhabi pitches for halal holidaymakers
With shopping, eating, women-only and adventure tourism
well and truly catered for, Muslim holidaymakers are now in the spotlight as
Abu Dhabi launches its new halal holidays aimed at Australian Muslim tourists.
The emirate has launched 18 new self-guided holidays for thrill-seekers,
families, chilling out or catching culture, adhering to the principles of the
Islamic faith. Highlights might include ladies-only visit to Yas Waterworld,
family fun at the Formula 1 Yas Marina Circuit, a visit to the ancient city of
El Ain or tour through the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (above), which can accommodate
40,000 worshippers and has the world’s largest Persian carpet. It’s estimated
the global market for halal tourism is worth around US$140m and rising 6
percent annually, and around 2 percent of Australians have a Muslim background.
See visitabudhabi.ae.

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published each Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 

Famous Flyer: Dawn Fraser

Water and her family inspire Olympic legend Dawn Fraser.

WHICH WAS YOUR BEST HOLIDAY?

Sun Peaks in British Columbia, Canada, with my daughter and grandson,
then aged 3. He was being taught to ski by my friend, world champion
Nancy Greene, and we stayed in a self-sufficient apartment in her lodge,
which is great when you’re travelling with kids (see cahiltylodge.com).

WHAT IS THE BEST HOTEL YOU’VE STAYED IN?

The Emirates Palace is owned by the sheikh of Abu Dhabi. It’s just
unbelievable, with its gold shower taps and toilets. I played golf on
their courses and drove a new Mercedes car on their F1 racetrack. I
reached 190 miles per hour, but you’re driving a safe car, heavens
above! The other hotel is the Dorchester in London. We loved being
spoilt and that’s just what they do. And they don’t mind having children
in their dining room.

British Columbia

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE WITH YOU?

My bathers – well, I’m a swimmer. I always have my training bathers and a two-piece, to get a sun tan. Oh, and my passport.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?

Taking too many clothes. You can always use the washing machine in
the hotel or have the laundry done, if it’s reasonable. In the early
days, I always did my own laundry, as I liked to have clean bathers and
towels. I have packed beach towels in my luggage, which of course you
don’t need in hotels.

YOUR BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE?

Always check your hotel and air bookings. There’s nothing worse than
turning up to the hotel and finding you don’t have a booking, not that
it’s ever happened to me. I always have my bookings printed and in my
little hand.

AND YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE ON HOLIDAY?

I slipped in the bath in a hotel in Monte Carlo and broke four ribs.
We were staying right beside the racing-car circuit and the noise coming
into my room was horrific, on top of the pain.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A PERFECT HOLIDAY?

Good weather and happiness. I usually take my daughter and my
grandson, now 11, with me. Recently, we were in LA and stayed at the
Lego Hotel for five days, building Lego, and spent four days at
Disneyland Anaheim in California. I never knew my grandparents, and I
said I’d always try to be the best grandparent I could, so he’s always
with me.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NEXT?

I’ve been pretty much everywhere, but on my bucket list is an
Antarctic cruise. I read about it every week in the papers. I believe
the colours of the water are incredible, and of course, water is my
passion.

Dawn Fraser is an ambassador for NRMA’s Living Well Navigator, livingwellnavigator.com.

This feature by Belinda Jackson appeared in the Sun-Herald’s Traveller section.

Top cities for new architecture in 2015

Philharmonie de Paris

Go just about anywhere around the world and you are
sure to find great examples of modern architecture.


The new
Louvre, Frank Gehry’s first Australian building, 140 pavilions at the Milan
Expo – it’s a big year across the globe for lovers of the big build. 

MIDDLE EAST
This year,
Abu Dhabi steals Dubai’s thunder with the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi,
finally, on UAE National Day, December 2. The emirate’s new cultural quarter is
on Saadiyat Island, and eventually plans to have five winners of architecture’s
holy grail, the Pritzker Prize, in the one ‘hood. 

Designed by Jean
Nouvel, who made first his mark in Paris with the Institut du Monde Arabe,
 its neighbours will include the Norman Foster-designed Zayed National
Museum (2016), Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017), the Performing Arts
Centre by Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando’s Maritime Museum. The Louvre is the first
of the big guns to open. Covered by an interlaced white, 180-metre dome
modelled on a traditional palm-leaf roof, Nouvel says its shifting “rain
of light” reflects the Arabic mashrabiya, or ornate window shutters used
in the Middle East. As a local aside, Nouvel’s Sydney skyscraper, One Central
Park in Chippendale, recently won the award for the  world’s best tall
building. (louvreabudhabi.ae)


Normally an
architecture fan’s go-to for wildly tall buildings, Dubai is resting on its
laurels following the opening of the world’s highest observation deck, SKY, in
Burj Khalifa in October, hovering 555 metres above ground. It’s now busy
working on a swag of new hotels including a lavish Palazzo Versace Dubai. If
that’s all too staid, check out the quirky Dubai Frame. Like it says on the
tin, it’s a picture frame, albeit 150 high and 93 metres wide, designed by
Mexican architect Fernando Donis, who beat off more than 1000 others in an
international competition. Set in Za’abeel Park, if the political argy-bargy
over its construction abates, by mid-2015, you’ll be able to take a lift to the
top to walk along a glass-floor bridge, with modern Dubai on one side, and the
older city on the other side (dubaitourism.ae)

EUROPE
The Jenga building, NYC

Speaking of
Nouvel, despite bloated budgets and blown-out timelines, the Philharmonie de
Paris, designed by the man-of-the-moment, will eventually open on January 14
with a performance by the Orchestre de Paris. You’ll have to trek out to les
banlieue (the ‘burbs) to Paris’ north-eastern edge and Parc de la Villette, to
view the metal-clad building, a deliberate ploy to spread the cultural love
right across the city. With the sound engineering by Australia’s Marshall Day
Acoustics, the main hall seats an audience of 2400 in suspended balconies
curled around the stage.(philharmoniedeparis.fr)


Architecture
fans, you have the opportunity to kill 140-odd birds with the one stone when
you visit the Milan Expo, which runs from May 1 to October 31, 2015. The theme
is “Feeding the planet, energy for life”, brought to life by a
pavilion from each participating country. More than 20 million visitors are
expected to visit:  your architect-spotting list should include Vietnam’s
pavilion by Vo Trong Nghia, Foster + Partners’ sinuous reinterpretation of its
sustainable Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and  the pulsating beehive by
Wolfgang Buttress for the UK. (expo2015.org)

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture …
it may come as a
surprise that modern architects are turning their eyes
towards Australia – Belinda Jackson
In Biel,
Switzerland, “emergency architect” and cardboard wizard Shigeru Ban
has created a gentle, curved, lattice tunnel from timber to create the headquarters
for the Swatch/Omega group. “Timber is the only renewable material for
construction in the world,” says Ban, “so this is also very important
for the environment of the future.” The architect, who is best known in
the southern hemisphere for his Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New
Zealand, also wove timber into the new Aspen Art Museum, Colorado. (aspenartmuseum.org

USA
Unless
you’re rubbing shoulders regularly with the ultra-rich, you won’t get to see
inside 56 Leonard, a skyscraper nicknamed “the Jenga Tower” for its
staggered, jutting layers. Comprised of 145 penthouses and glass lofts in New
York’s chi-chi TriBeCa, the prices are as stratospheric as its views – up to
$30 million for a penthouse, and its half-million dollar price tag for a parking
space makes Sydney look a bargain. The building is all but sold out – buyers
were obviously lured by the statement-making sculpture at the entrance by Anish
Kapoor as well as the kudos of living in a building designed by the Swiss
masters, Herzog & de Meuron who list the world’s most popular museum,
London’s Tate Modern, on their CVs. (56leonardtribeca.com)

Eminently
more approachable – on completion, you will be able to loll on its lawn – W57
is Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels’ first New York project. His firm, BIG, just
took out the Culture award in the 2014 World Architecture Festival for its
Danish Maritime Museum. In New York, BIG has created a 750-apartment
residential complex contained in a 142-metre pyramid that’s been squished and
torn asunder, angled to catch the light and breeze on the Hudson River
waterfront, to open this spring.

Calatrava’s World Trade Centre transportation hub, NYC

And to get
totally immersed in NYC architecture, all you’ll have to do is catch a train at
the World Trade Centre transportation hub, when it is finally completed after a
six-year delay and doubling of the budget. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, who
wears the phrase “neo-futuristic architect” with apparent ease, the
hub will connect 11 subway lines, as well as rail, ferries and underground
walkways as deep as five storeys below ground, with the WTC memorial site.
Roughly the same size as Grand Central Station, the Instagram angle will be its
white, ethereal skeleton, with 45-metre long, retractable wings that will open
on September 11 every year. “The building is built with steel, glass, and
light. The station appears transparent, and also guards you with its
wings,” says the architect, who was inspired by the gesture of child
releasing a dove into the air. (wtc.com)


While you’re
in New York, you might like to take a look at busy Renzo Piano’s new Whitney
Museum of American Art, opening in the Meatpacker District this spring. His
Greek National Opera House also opens in Athens in 2015 (whitney.org).
Otherwise, a talking point in Chicago is Beijing-based MAD Architects’
halo-topped Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which they say was inspired by Frank
Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. (lucasmuseum.org)

UNITED KINGDOM
Last year,
the London architecture scene was all about Renzo Piano’s The Shard, the
308-metre home of the Shangri-La and western Europe’s highest building. In
nearby Lambeth, London’s riverside precincts are still a-changing with the
long-awaited opening of shock artist Damien Hirst’s private gallery in Newport
Street, Lambeth. Architects Caruso St John, responsible for the elegant
renovation of the Tate Britain on the opposite side of the river, are binding a
row of neighbouring warehouses to create one long terrace to house Hirst’s vast
personal collection of works that include Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Banksy
(damienhirst.com).
Nearby, eyes are on the Tate Modern’s new extension, once again by Herzog &
de Meuron, due to open 2016. 

Always one
to watch, Living Architecture commissions architects to design houses in
Britain that are then rented out to holidaymakers with a keen appreciation for
contemporary architecture. There are two openings this year,  A House for
Essex by statement-makers FAT and Grayson Perry and Life House/ Ty Bywyd by
John Pawson.  Expect the unexpected in North Essex:  a quirky little
architectural folly covered in ceramic tiles, its gold roofs set with huge
sculptures – a chapel in the wilderness? In contrast, Life House, in central
Wales, tries to hide within the hills, one room even semi-submerged. Its three
minimalist rooms are designed exclusively for music, reading or bathing, Made from
handmade Danish bricks, its black exterior taps into this recurring
architectural trend. (living-architecture.com)

Sydney’s Goods Line

AUSTRALIA

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture (Roman Coliseum, Greek
Acropolis etc) it may come as a surprise that modern architects are turning
their eyes towards Australia. One of the most talked-about buildings is right
under our noses. In case you’ve been caught napping, the new UTS Dr Chau Chak
Wing Building is by international architecture heavyweight Frank Gehry, best known
for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Located on Ultimo Road, Haymarket,
this is the first Gehry building for Australia and will be the home of the UTS
Business School when it officially opens in February. The crumpled paper bag
look was achieved with 320,000 custom-designed, hand-laid bricks, bringing
artistry to the industry. (uts.edu.au)

Zooming
straight past the Gehry building, taking its cues from New York’s High Line,
the Goods Line is a shared pathway that links Railway Square to Darling
Harbour, via Ultimo, by Aspect Studios and CHROFI. The 250-metre Goods Line
North, which runs parallel to Harris Street from the Ultimo rail underbridge to
the Powerhouse Museum, also opens in February as the much-neglected south of
the city starts to feel some love. The “cultural ribbon” aims to link
up the city’s jewels, including Hyde Park Barracks, the Australian Museum and
the Art Gallery of NSW. (sydney2030.com.au)
If that
wasn’t enough, here’s a gentle reminder to keep the annual Serpentine pavilion,
in London’s Royal Park, on your list: each year, an architect who has not yet
built in the UK is invited to create a temporary pavilion. The list of previous
architects is a Who’s Who of the design world. And for those of you who don’t
mind getting your hands dirty, the IKEA museum opens on the site of its first
store, in Älmhult, Sweden (ikea.com), as does Legoland Hotel Florida. (florida.legoland.com

A final note
of warning: take this list with a grain of salt. Economies slow, building sites
flood, wars intervene and Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia still isn’t finished
(they’re tipping 2026, just a few years behind Our Bangaroo, in 2022).

FIVE GREAT ARCHITECTURAL GUIDES
SYDNEY: Take to the streets on foot or by bike with architect Eoghan Lewis, sydneyarchitecture.org.
NEW YORK: Bettina Johae leads tours Throughout New York, including Greenwich
Village and Chelsea & Meatpacking District, aplusnyc.net.
EUROPE: Guiding Architects is a loose connection of architects based
predominantly in Europe, with links to Dubai, Doha and Shanghai, guiding-architects.net
BARCELONA: Explore Gaudi and beyond with architect Miguel Angel, barcelonarchitecturewalks.com.
DUBAI: Discover skyscrapers galore, as well as the low-to-the-ground,
traditional developments of this brash town, ga-dubai.com.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald & The Age newspapers.

Ten travel experiences that will change your life


Characters of Egypt. Photo: Belinda Jackson.

If you’ve been living under a rock (or possibly not in Australia), you may have missed the launch of the fabulous new Traveller website, from Fairfax Media. To kick off, a handful of us were asked for 10 travel experiences that changed our lives. I nominated hanging off a glacier on Russia’s Mt Elbrus and watching the cultural puzzle click in India, but also experiencing the absolute inability to communicate (in South Korea) and travelling in the Middle East (oh, there are SO many ways this has changed my life). 

Here are my two published experiences below, and you can click here to read the full story, which includes seeing Rome’s Colosseum, going on safari on the Masai Mara and visiting the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.

There are holidays that help you relax and unwind, then there are
travel experiences that change your entire outlook on life. Here, some
of Traveller’s most well-travelled writers name the experiences that
changed their lives – and could change yours, too.

Where: South Korea and beyond

The experience: Finding yourself in a truly foreign culture
How it will change your life:
One
of the great joys of travel is connecting with a local without a tour
guide babying you through the conversation.There are those little
milestones – the first time you buy water, order a meal, score a date in
a foreign language.
I thought I was pretty slick: I could fumble
French, shout Spanish, read Russian. My mime skills were excellent, the
vocabulary list in my travel guides well-studied. But my global
communication skills foundered, profoundly, in South Korea.
I’m
sitting in an empty café in Seoul. According to the photos around us, it
sells noodles. I would like noodles. Every time I suggest a noodle
dish, the waitress shakes her head. So I point. She shakes. Point.
Shake. Point. Shake. I give up, I find a vending machine. (Later, I
learn I was sitting in a closed restaurant.)
Having the complete inability to communicate is a humbling experience. It is a reminder that the world is a far bigger place than just you and your orbit. – Belinda Jackson
More: english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto

Where: The Middle East

The experience: See life beyond the newsreels
How it will change your life:
They do things big in the Middle East: the Great Pyramid of Gizas,
Iran’s Persepolis, the Sahara desert and the Empty Quarter, to name a
few. Steer clear if you like orderly queues, traffic lights and 10pm
bedtimes.
The standard backdrop for the Middle East in news
bulletins is of tanks, screaming masses and men in epaulettes. The
reality on the ground – save a few war zones – is about traffic jams,
happily shouting friends and men in epaulettes (what’s not to love about
a good uniform?).
Men and women live in different spheres, pork
and booze are largely off the menu and if you’re foreign, you’re rich.
Yes, there are camels and shisha (tobacco water pipes) and you will see
belly dancers. Yet there are also chic beach resorts, the sneaky
late-night bars and saucy cabarets, the deep and abiding love of
football (that’s soccer). And while headscarves can polarise a nation,
from Iran to Oman, the passion for fashion is alive and kicking, with
the same obsession for black.
Let go: travelling in the Middle
East requires sinking deep into a rich, cultural morass. Deep down,
you’ll realise, we all just want the good life. – Belinda Jackson.

Boasters with the mostest: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s highest bar, Ozone, in the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

 Biggest, highest, most blindingly expensive. Belinda Jackson
rounds up the ultimate travel experiences, from super-luxe to just plain
boastful. 

LAND
Longest walking track

The Pacific Crest Trail runs 4264 kilometres from the US-Mexico
border to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Budget five
months to walk it entirely, or you can jump a pony, as the trail is also
open to equestrians. Yep, there are bears in there (pcta.org).

Longest train journey
The legendary Trans-Siberian generally wins this category,
with the 9289km journey from Moscow to Vladivostok via Lake Baikal
taking seven days. But as train guru the Man in Seat 61 points out (seat61.com),
the honour for the longest continual journey should go to the No. 53
Kharkiv (Ukraine)-Vladivostok route, about 9714km, another seven-day
epic.

The world’s highest train journey, on the Qinghai-Tibet railway

Highest train journey
More than 550km of the 1956km Qinghai-Tibet railway is laid
on permafrost. Every train has a doctor and enough oxygen for every
passenger, and the highest point is Tanggula Pass, at 5072m. It also
passes through the world’s highest and longest rail tunnels.

Highest bar

Drink in the views of Victoria Harbour at Ozone bar in the
Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Kowloon side. Set on level 118, it’s 468.8
metres above sea level (ritzcarlton.com).

Biggest building
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828
metres, with 124 levels. It also has the world’s fastest elevators and
highest restaurant (At.mosphere on level 122, 442m) (burjkhalifa.ae).

It holds the crown until 2018, when the 1000-metre Kingdom Tower in
Jeddah, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, is complete. Another design by
Burj architect Adrian Smith, expect fewer nightclubs (kingdomtowerskyscraper.com).

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen

Best restaurant
Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant (noma.dk)
is back on top, bumping Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca off the perch as
the 2014 winner of the authoritative San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants (theworlds50best.com). Judges name the winter potato cooked in fermented barley as chef-owner Rene Redzepi’s standout dish.


Best ethical travel destination
The Bahamas has been named Ethical Traveler’s greenest
destination, taking into account its environmental protection, social
welfare and human rights.
Others in the top 10 include Chile, Latvia and Mauritius (ethicaltraveler.org).


Most expensive tours
With a spare million dollars, you can spot 18 endangered
species in 12 countries, with one-tenth going toward conservation
projects (naturalworldsafaris.com). Otherwise, $1.5 million will let couples visit all 962 UNESCO
World Heritage sites. Put aside two years. Its other tours include the
10 best photo spots, for $130,000 (includes cameras), and the 10 most
luxurious suites in 21 days for $359,000 (veryfirstto.com).


AIR
Biggest airport
The busiest airport by passenger numbers is
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, US, handling 92
million travellers a year, but yet again, Dubai gets in on the act: on
completion in 2027, its $32-billion Al-Maktoum International airport
will be able to accommodate 160 million passengers a year (dwc.ae).

Best airport
Singapore’s Changi airport consistently rates one of the
world’s best, taking out first place in Skytrax 2014 World Airport
Awards, followed by Incheon (Seoul) and Munich airports.
Sydney Airport was ranked Australia’s best, at No. 21 (worldairportawards.com).

Best airline
Air New Zealand was named AirlineRatings.com’s 2014 airline
of the year, with Qantas the best economy airline, while Skytrax 2013
World Airline Awards rates Emirates as the world’s best, followed by
Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, with Qantas coming in at No. 10. (worldairlineawards.com).

Safest airline
Qantas holds the record as the world’s safest airline, with a
fatality-free record since 1951, says airlineratings.com, rivalled by
Air New Zealand, according to jacdec.de.

Most luxurious airline lounge
For those of us fortunate enough to get a look in, Lufthansa
first class lounges were named the world’s best first-class lounges
while Qatar Airways took the business class gong at Skytrax’ 2013 World
Airline Awards (worldairlineawards.com).

Longest flight
Like to watch movies? Qantas’ ultra long-haul flight from Sydney-Dallas is the longest flight by distance, at 13,804km (qantas.com.au).
Should Turkish Airlines enact its plans for an Istanbul-Sydney route,
it would take the crown for its 17-hour, 14,956km flight (turkishairlines.com).

Ultimate airline travel experience: A three-hour flight on
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost $260,000, taking you 100km
above the earth, travelling at three times the speed of sound. Includes three days’ space training (virgingalactic.com). For a more modest $128,300, you can fly around the world in 24 days on Four Seasons’ new Boeing 757 private jets (fourseasons.com/jet).

SEA

Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship

Biggest cruise ship
The godmother of Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship, is super-sized Shrek ogress Princess Fiona. At 362 metres long and more than 225,000 tonnes, it can take
6295 passengers. The liner has 24 elevators, the first Starbucks at sea
and Broadway hit Chicago on show.
Its position will be usurped by another RCI ship, as yet unnamed, in 2016 (royalcaribbean.com).

Largest superyacht
With two helipads and a missile defence system, you can hire
Eclipse, owned by Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman
Abramovich, for $2 million a week, excluding running costs.
At 162.5 metres, it’s the world’s second-biggest private
yacht after UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s new
180-metre yacht, Azzam, complete with armour-plated master suite.
The Azzam is not for hire.

Best beach
Brazil’s Sancho Bay on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha wins best beach, according to TripAdvisor.com.

Longest beach
Brazil wins again, with the 241km Praia do Cassino Beach. Gippsland’s Ninety-Mile Beach comes in fourth place. Whitest sand beach in the world: One for the home team,
according to the Guinness Book of Records, the whitest beach is Hyams
Beach in Jervis Bay, 2½ hours from Sydney.

Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW Australia

Best island
If money is your measure, you can rent the Caribbean’s
Calivigny Island in Grenada, for a cool $1.55 million a week. Sleeping
50 guests, it comes with a 173-metre yacht for your use (calivigny-island.com).More accessibly, the TripAdvisor community has voted Ambergris Caye, in Belize, its top island for the second year running (tripadvisor.com).

World’s highest pool
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s pool, is the world’s highest at 490 metres (ritzcarlton.com), towering over Marina Bay Sands’ dizzying infinity pool, 55 storeys, or 198 metres, above Singapore (marinabaysands.com).

World’s biggest pool
Running alongside the ocean, the lagoon pool at the San
Alfonso del Mar resort, in Valparaiso, Chile, is 1013 metres long,
earning its Guinness Book of Records entry. The 8 hectare, 250
million-litre saltwater pool is a pleasant 26 degrees and has a
100-metre waterslide (sanalfonso.cl).
Its sister lagoon, in the Egyptian resort city Sharm el-Sheikh,
reportedly covers 12 hectares and a Dubai project, under way, will cover
40 hectares.

The world’s largest pool, San Alfonsa del Mar, Chile

BEDS
Largest hotel
By room count, the three-star Izmailovo Hotel in Moscow,
Russia, with 7500 rooms, is largest. Most of the world’s mega-hotels,
with 4000-plus rooms, are in Las Vegas.

Most expensive hotel room
At $73,177 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel
President Wilson is on the banks of Lake Geneva, with views of Mont
Blanc. There are 12 rooms, 12 bathrooms, a Steinway grand piano and yes,
it’s bulletproof. More modest rooms start at $483 (hotelpresidentwilson.com).

Tallest hotel
Six of the top 10 tallest hotels are in Dubai, including the tallest, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which tops 355 metres (marriott.com). At 488 metres, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is taller but is ruled out as the building is not solely a hotel.

Smallest hotel
Central Hotel, Copenhagen, 2.4m by 3m, including a minibar and photos of Ronnie Barker (the owner’s a fan), $360 a night. (centralhotelogcafe.dk).


This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.