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

Emirates named world’s best airline

Ok plane nerds, here’s the list for 2016 – the world’s best airlines as voted by travellers in the annual Skytrax awards
Again, a battle between the Middle Eastern airlines versus the old fave, Singapore, and Australia’s own Qantas just scrapes in at number 9 in the world’s best. Note that it also took out the best Australia/Pacific airline, as well.
The top 10 best airlines:
1. Emirates
2. Qatar Airways
3. Singapore Airlines
4. Cathay Pacific
5. ANA All Nippon Airways
6. Etihad Airways
7. Turkish Airlines
8. EVA Air
9. Qantas Airways
10. Lufthansa
Other winners included:
Transatlantic Airline: Lufthansa
Transpacific Airline: Eva Air
North American Regional Airline: Porter Airline
Airline Staff in Asia: ANA airlines
Regional European Airline: Aegean
Airline lounge: Star Alliance
Airline in Southern Europe: Turkish Airlines
Airline in Northern Europe: FinnAir
Airline in Western Europe: Lufthansa
Airline in Eastern Europe: Aeroflot
Airline in Africa: South African Airways
Airline in Australia/Pacific: Qantas
Airline in Central Asia: Air Astana
Airline in China: Hainan Airlines
Airline in Central America/Caribbean: Copa Airlines
Airline in S. America: LAN Airlines
Airline in N. America: Virgin America
Airline in Asia: Singapore Airlines
Airline in Middle East: Emirates
Airline in Europe: Turkish Airlines
Low-cost airline in Australia & Pacific: JetStar Airways
Low-cost airline in Asia: AirAsia
Low-cost airline in Central Asia & India: IndiGo
Low-cost airline in China: Spring Airlines
Low-cost airline in South America: Azul Brazil
Low-cost airline in North America: Virgin America
Low-cost airline in Europe: Norwegian
Lounge dining business class: Turkish
First class lounge dining: Air France
Airline staff service Africa: Ethiopia Airlines
Airline staff service Aus Pac: Qantas

Airline review: Qatar Airways economy class, Melbourne to Doha

A street scene from Doha’s Souq Waqif. Photo: Belle Jackson

Qatar Airways, the newest Middle Eastern airline to service Australia, does the Melbourne-Doha (Qatar) route and recently started flying from Sydney, with Adelaide-Doha in the wings.

I flew Melbourne to Qatar on the way to Stockholm, and reviewed it for the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper. I never seem to draw the A380 card, so plane nerds please note that this flight was on its Boeing 777-300ER.
Great entertainment system (when it got working), good food (except that thing about stuffing kids full of sugar while in a confined space for 14 hours – um, why???) and timely arrival into Doha’s new airport, which is fantastic until you hit the maniacal bottlenecks at the transit area.
Click here to read my review of the rival to Emirates and Etihad.

Underwater clubs, living English literature, best kids’ travel destinations: Takeoff travel news

FOOD:  Up is down in the Maldives

The Maldives likes to turn
everything on its head: take, for example, Subsix, the world’s first
underwater nightclub. The club, which is 500 metres out to sea and six
metres under water, can be found at Per Aquum Niyama resort, which has
also just opened Nest treehouse restaurant. Dining pods are suspended
above ground, with wooden walkways linking the tables amid the jungle.
The restaurant serves Asian cuisines. Niyama is set on two islands in
the Dhaalu Atoll, named Play (think adventure sports and kids’ club for
12 months-12 years) and Chill (think spa). Other ‘‘altered reality’’
experiences in the Maldives include underwater restaurants (Conrad
Maldives Rangali Island, Kihavah Anantara) to overwater spas (pretty
much everywhere) and even government cabinet meetings (OK, that was a
one-off publicity stunt). See
peraquum.com 
.

 

GEAR Lather up for Sydney

 Ease homesickness for expat friends
by sending them a little piece of Sydney. These new shower gift packs
hail from our northern beaches, and comprise a body bar, a soy candle in
a tin and loofah in three of the company’s best-selling fragrances;
French vanilla, vintage

gardenia and coconut & lime.
Palm Beach products are Australian made and owned by a local family
company. Shower gift packs cost $24.95 each. See palmbeach collection.
com.au.
 

AIRLINE Fly north for winter

Southerners chasing the sun will
welcome the news that Tigerair is increasing the number of flights from
Sydney to the Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine. The north
Queensland town is a key jumping-off point for travel to Airlie Beach
and the Whitsunday Islands, including popular Hamilton Island. The new
Sunday service departs Sydney at 9.10am, and returns from Whitsunday
Coast at 11.15am with

a flight time of 2 hours 35 minutes.
The service starts October 25, priced from $89 for a Light fare, which
includes 7kg carry-on luggage. The airline has also increased flights on
its Melbourne-Gold Coast route, adding new Friday and Sunday services
from

September 18, just ahead of the term
three school holidays, with tickets from $79. The additional services
come as Tigerair cancels its Melbourne-Mackay route from September 7,
due to low demand. Tickets for the new services are on sale, see tigerair.com.
 


KIDS Have kids, will travel

Sydney Harbour has been voted
Australia’s most family-friendly destination in the newest edition of
Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children book. Sydney’s ferry rides,
picnicking on Fort Denison and catching the super-cat to Manly for a
surf lesson all add up to a top-notch staycation, says Lonely Planet.
Others in its top

10 top family-friendly destinations
include the theme parks of the Gold Coast and Canberra’s Questacon and
the National Arboretum Playground (nb: they also encourage knocking out
somersaults on the immaculate grass dome of Parliament House.) Tassie’s
ghoulish ghost tours get a guernsey, as does Brissie’s Streets Beach and
the kids’ activity rooms in

the Queensland Museum &
Sciencentre, Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art. The new
edition helps you take the brood to more than 80 countries, from Austria
to Zanzibar, with advice and tips for fun family travel. It costs
$29.99. See the new Lonely Planet Twitter and Facebook pages and lonelyplanetkids.com.

PICTURES In the frame

Celebrate Australian and
international photography at the month-long Ballarat International Foto
Biennale, which runs from August 22 to September 20. Central Ballarat
will host exhibitions by the 21 invited artists, with another 118 events
(and rising) in the fringe festival across the city. The festival’s
founder and creative director, Jeff Moorfoot, travels the world to bring
photographers’ work to the biennale. Those on show can be established
or emerging artists – the only criterion is that their works have not
yet been shown in Australia. Seven heritage buildings in the city centre
will host the major exhibitions, so you can skip between the Ballarat
Art Gallery and Mining Exchange to smaller galleries and bars for
projection projects and workshops, which cover subjects from light
painting to visual storytelling to Photography 101, from $79 to $475.
For the full program, see
ballaratfoto.org. For more photography festivals in the Pacific Rim, see
asiapacificphotoforum.org.
 



NEWS Crowded house

Wolf Hall, Poldark… Britain is on a
roll with silver-screen adaptations of some of its best loved
literature, showcasing its cities and villages. The latest is Thomas
Hardy’s romantic tragedy Far from the Madding Crowd, now in cinemas.
Filmed around Dorset, the novel is

set in the village of Evershot,
which Hardy renamed Evershead in his novels, a four-hour train journey
from central London. Hardy was also an architect, and in 1893 he
designed the drawing-room wing of what is now the Red Carnation’s
five-star Summer Lodge Country House hotel. Stays cost from $680,
b&b, double. Otherwise, wake from slumber in a four-poster bed to a
full English breakfast at the 16th-century Acorn Inn, mentioned in
Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Costs from $565 a night, double. See
summerlodgehotel.co.uk, acorn-inn.co.uk and visitbritain.co.uk

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

Cruise with Margaret Atwood, train bar in Melbourne, discover Aboriginal Sydney: Takeoff travel news

CRUISE: The Arctic explorer’s tale

Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale, The
Robber Bride and a dozen other novels, as well as short fiction, poetry
and children’s books, can sail through the Northwest Passage with the
celebrated Canadian author Margaret Atwood.
The cruise departs Kugluktuk, in
Nunavut, Canada, following explorers’ footsteps to one the northernmost
towns in the world, Qaannaq, Greenland. 

Other (non-human) guests include
polar bears and possibly the “unicorn of the sea”, the narwhal, a
tusked whale that lives in the Arctic waters. Highlights including
visiting Inuit communities, iceberg spotting and crossing the Arctic
Circle. “And it’s always a delight to see
the more foolhardy among us take a plunge into subzero Arctic waters,”
says Atwood, a dedicated conservationist and twitcher. This is her ninth
journey with Adventure Canada. The 17-day cruise departs September 5 and costs from $US8995 ($11,650) a person.
See
adventurecanada.com.
 



FOOD: Top spot for trainspotters

Love trains? Love Melbourne? Then
you’ll adore one of the city’s newest bars, in a Hitachi train carriage
perched atop a city block in the innercity suburb of Collingwood.
Easey’s dishes up burgers and coffee on the ground floor, but climb up
to the fifth floor into the train carriage and it’s bottoms up with
skyline views. The new burger bar is one of the few to have Melbourne
Bitter on tap, fresh from its neighbour, Carlton United Brewery. It also
serves local craft brews including

Holgate, from Woodend, and Mountain
Goat, brewed in nearby Richmond, as well as Victorian spirits such as
Melbourne Gin Company. The carriage ran on the Pakenham-Dandenong line
from 1972 until its retirement in 2012. The bar’s owner and art curator
Jeremy Gaschk says graffiti artists loved these silver Hitachi train
carriages, so it’s only fitting the train’s resting point is in the
midst of Melbourne’s street art heartland, 48 Easey St, Collingwood. See
easeys.com.au
 

TECH: Airport face-off

TripAdvisor contributors will have a
new target in their sights as the rate-and-review site launches its
airport pages this month. 
First off the ranks is Singapore’s
Changi airport, often ranked the world’s best for its shopping
galleries, efficiency and cleanliness. 

It will be followed by New York’s
John F. Kennedy and London Heathrow airports, to launch this Tuesday,
along with 10 Australian airports including regionals

Townsville, Launceston and Cairns.
In total, TripAdvisor aims to
include 200 major airports across the world on its website and app. The
company says more than 3 billion people use airports each year, with an
average time spent in them of 150 minutes. The site aims to help travellers
occupy that time with its “Near Me Now” feature, which uses the
phone’s GPS to hook you up with the airports’ facilities. See tripadvisor.com

GEAR: Real-time life in the frame

The next generation of compact
cameras makes it easy to dazzle your Instagram followers. With built-in
Wi-Fi, the new 16MP Canon PowerShot lets you snap, share to your phone
and upload instantly. It’s 50x optical zoom gets you up close and
personal, and even stretches out to 100x digital zoom, its ‘‘lock’’
function helping minimise camera shake (though a baby tripod never goes
astray). On the cute gimmick side, flip over to fish-eye mode, go
totally automatic, or take full control in the manual setting, and it’s a
one-button operation to start shooting 1080p Full HD video.

  
Hook your camera into your phone,

computer, printer or even your TV
via Wi-Fi or near field communication technology (NFC). Although it
weighs 128g, it’s 12x8cm, so it’s not a pocket camera, but will tuck
into a small handbag, and Canon also gives you 10GB in its new image
storage cloud,
irista.com 
. The PowerShot SX530 HS costs around $426.99. See canon.com.
 


TOUR: Secret treasures of our backyard

Did you know that Ku-ring-gai Chase
National Park has the world’s most concentrated collection of Indigenous
artefacts? Discover its secrets with local Aboriginal guides on a new
tour by Sydney OutBack, including the most famous, The Emu in the Sky.
The sophisticated level of Aboriginal

astronomy sees an emu carved in
sandstone match a constellation in the sky every autumn, when it’s time
to gather emu eggs. “The Guringai people were wiped out by a smallpox
epidemic in just 10 years,” Sydney OutBack’s Paul Pickering says, “but
they’ve left us a legacy to tell their story.” The full-day “Wilderness &
Aboriginal” explorer tour cruises on a private 15-metre motor cruiser
through the setting of The Secret River, the Kate Grenville novel and
recent ABC drama (film buffs note: it was filmed mostly in East
Gippsland’s untouched Lake Tyers). Cost $199 adults/ $149 concession
including Sydney CBD transfers and a bush tucker-inspired lunch. Phone (02) 9099 4249. See
sydneyoutback.com.au.
 


KIDS: Big fish meet small fry

A week into school holidays and out
of ideas? New zookeeper workshops let kids feed crocodiles and pat
pythons at the Australian Reptile Park at Somersby, on the Central
Coast, (see
reptilepark.com.au) while in the Hunter Valley, kids as young as six weeks have tickled
three-metre tawny nurse sharks at Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters,
all served up with a strong conservation message (from
$29.50/$19.50/$95, see
sharkencounters.com.au). If you’re on the Gold Coast, Whales in Paradise runs three trips a
day to witness the annual migration of 20,000 whales (from $99/$69/$267
family,
whalesinparadise.com.au), and humpbacks, minke and southern right whales are now holidaying
along the South Coast. Jervis Bay Wild runs two whale-watching tours
each day, seven days a week, departing from Huskisson, 2.5 hours from
Sydney ($65/$28/$165,
jervisbaywild.com.au).
 

 

Cruise Antarctica, shed light on the Philippines or find feathered friends: Takeoff travel news

CRUISE: Ship in Antarctica




Norwegian cruise company Hurtigruten has turned its eyes from its Arctic homeland to Antarctica, doubling
its capacity to become the largest provider of explorer travel in the
deep south. Currently, its small expedition ship MS Fram sails from
Ushuaia, Argentina, but in 2016/17 it will be joined by sister ship MS
Midnatsol. Carrying 500 passengers, the larger Midnatsol will start and
end its journeys in Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia, and will include
an interactive science lab and tailored children’s programs. Next
season, MS Fram will carry just 200 guests, seeking new locations and
extreme nature experiences such as camping among penguins and kayaking
in seal and whale habitats. More than 36,000 people visited Antarctica
in 2014-2015, the British base at Port Lockroy (and its famous post
office) receiving more than 10,000 visitors. Australians make up the
second-largest nationality of visitors to Antarctica after US citizens.
Journeys on the MS Midnatsol are 18 days. See
hurtigruten.com. 


GEAR: Shine a light on poverty

Help light the lives of those living
on less than a dollar a day when you buy a new Mandarin 2 solar light.
Australian manufacturer Illumination will donate one solar light to a
family

in poverty for every light sold. The
social enterprise company says a billion people don’t have access to
electricity, instead using kerosene lamps to work and study by.

“Buying fuel for a kerosene lamp can
take a third of their income, the kerosene fumes are toxic and
polluting, and the lanterns often start fires,” says inventor and
economist Shane Thatcher, whose BOGO (buy one, give one) offer gives
safe, clean, free light to Filipino families, in conjunction with
Kadasig Aid and Development (kadasigaid.com.au 
). 

Ideal for travellers going off the
beaten track, the pocket-sized Mandarin 2 weighs 160g, lasts up to 16
hours on a single charge and can be hung or stands as a table lamp.
Costs $25. 
See illumination.solar.
 


TECH: Daydreaming? Do it!

Sleep hanging from a tree in a
suspended tent, snooze in a Swedish silver mine or doss in a pop-up
hotel in a former prison. The new

Crooked Compass travel app lists
more than 1000 unusual experiences across 134 countries, with maps,
booking info and your own bucket-list creator. Developed by avid
Australian traveller Lisa Pagotto, it also hooks up to Facebook and
Twitter for instabrag capabilities and its ‘‘Experience of the Day’’ is a
wild card that may set you on the path to underwater photography
classes in Guam or horse-riding in Mongolia. The Crooked Compass app is
available for iPhone and Android platforms, free. See
crooked-compass.com.
 


FOOD: Cocktails at the ready

London is enjoying a torrid affair
with prebottled cocktails, in the swankiest possible way. For those of
us on the paying side of the bar, that means less construction noise
from blenders, a consistent drink and shorter waits. Leading the pre-mix
cocktail charge is London light Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, whose
third bar, Dandelyan, is in the Tom Dixon-designed Mondrian London (morganshotelgroup.com). In a stroke of genius, his little gems also appear in the hotel
rooms’ minibars – did someone say, ‘‘Martinis in bed’’? Other
bottled-cocktail bars to try while you’re in town include Grown-Ups,
which pairs World of Zing’s bottled cocktails and gelato in Greenwich (black-vanilla.com), and The London Cocktail Club in Shaftesbury Ave
(londoncocktailclub.co.uk). Otherwise, check yourself in to Artesian at
The Langham, three times named Drinks International’s world’s best bar.
Artesian launches its new cocktail list on July 2. The theme?
Surrealism. See artesian-bar.co.uk. 


KIDS: Bunker down with feathered friends

Warning: cute alert. Get down at eye
level with Phillip Island’s most famous residents, its Little Penguins,
in a new underground bunker that opens in mid-November. The tiny penguins stand about 30cm fully grown, and you’ll be able to eyeball them

one-way glass – as they come ashore at sunset after a hard day’s fishing. There’s also new above-ground
seating for 400 people being built into the dunes as part of a
five-year, $1 million investment by RACV into the not-for-profit Phillip
Island Nature

Parks. More than 600,000 people
visited the eco-tourism venture last year, with profits invested back
into conservation, research and education. The close-up Penguin Plus area won’t
be available during the construction period, so with fewer seats
available, visitors should pre-purchase tickets,

especially during school holidays.
The Penguin Parade is 90 minutes from Melbourne. General tickets cost
from $25.40 adults, $12.25 children 4-12 years, and $61.25 families. See

penguins.org.au.
 

AIRLINES: Leave your heart in San Francisco

Skip Los Angeles and head directly
for the Golden Gate city as Qantas brings back direct flights between
Sydney and San Francisco from December 20. The airline cut the route in May
2011, opting instead to fly to its hub at Dallas, Texas. Qantas says the
direct flights will be welcomed by Silicon Valley’s corporate
customers, but San Fran is also beloved by Australian holidaymakers.
Around 20 per cent of the 1.2 million Australians to visit the US pop in
to San Francisco, which

is our fifth most popular city after Honolulu, New York, LA and Vegas. Qantas will fly Boeing 747s to San
Fran six times a week, with lie-flat beds in business and a premium
economy section. The flight is estimated at around 14 hours, and goes
head-to-head with United Airlines’ daily flight. Meanwhile, Qantas’
partner and oneworld friend American Airlines will pick up an LASydney
route from December 17. See
qantas.com,
aa.com,
visitcalifornia.com.

 

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

World’s top 10 airlines announced


Who doesn’t love a good Top 10 list? Here’s one of my favourites: the top 10 airlines in the world, according to the Skytrax World Airline Awards.

Given I’m jumping on a Qatar flight from one end of the world to the other with then in a few weeks, I’m pretty happy to see Qatar top of the list – it’s hard to miss that all three major Middle Eastern airlines made the Top 10. And I did well with Australian pride to see Qantas just managed to make the list, and Turkish Airlines deserves a gong just for its food alone. Perhaps it was the Hello Kitty planes that put Taiwan’s Eva Air up there (with Hello Kitty painted on the outside, the inside, on the cushions, embossed on the loo paper).

1   Qatar Airways

2   Singapore Airlines

3   Cathay Pacific Airways

4   Turkish Airlines

5   Emirates

6   Etihad Airways

7   ANA All Nippon Airways

8   Garuda Indonesia

9   EVA Air

10 Qantas Airways 

If budget is your bag, then AirAsia was again voted the world’s best low-cost airline (and I’ve had genuinely cheap and fantastic flights with them), and Garuda Indonesia had the best cabin staff (hmm, this one is hit and miss, but this is not the first time Garuda has taken this award).

Great trails, pub grub and shooting on safari : Takeoff travel news

Port Campbell National Park. Photo: Mark Watson

TECH: Talk the walk


Hit the road on foot or by bike
throughout Victoria with a new website that shows 15 great walking,
cycling and mountain-bike routes, ranging from the iconic (Great Ocean
Road or Wilson’s Promontory) to the obscure (Gippsland Plains Rail Trail
or the Goldfields Track). The new website provides GPS data,
interactive mapping, beauty spots, trail descriptions and degrees of
difficulty. You can also click for accommodation, gear hire and, of
course, great restaurants, because trail mix doesn’t always cut it. See greattrailsvictoria.com.au.
 


FOOD: Best grub for pub lovers

Fight back against the demise of the
great English public house by settling in for lunch at Britain’s oldest
pub, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, in the Hertfordshire city of St Albans.
The pub’s kitchen is now headed up by chef Ian Baulsh, a St Albans local
recently returned from two years in Australia working with Melbourne
celeb chef Ian Curley.
Founded in the eighth century, the
pub’s signature dishes are freerange, house-made pork sausages and beef
burgers sourced by a master butcher, and a British cheeseboard, all
using local produce. Baulsh has added a summery touch,

with chicken liver pate, pan-roasted
monkfish and chargrilled tuna nicoise. St Alban was Britain’s first
Christian martyr, Oliver Cromwell sank pints in the pub, and it’s been
called home by Stanley Kubrick and Stephen Hawking.
The city is 25 minutes by train from London’s St Pancras station on the Thameslink line. See
visitbritain.org.


AIRLINE: Planes, gains and automobiles

Passengers flying Qantas can now
earn as well as redeem points on car hire with Budget and Avis in
Australia and New Zealand. And in a move that will have points
collectors smiling, travellers also will earn frequent flyer points even
when they are paying with points. ‘‘Members will still continue to earn
points for that booking at the same rate as they would if they were
paying with cash,’’ says the airline. Its rival, Virgin Australia, lets
you earn points with Hertz, Europcar and Thrifty car rentals through its
Velocity Frequent Flyer program, but allows you to use points to book a
car only with Europcar; see
virginaustralia.com.au 
. In other news, Qantas is ramping up flights to Hamilton Island,
including a new, twice-weekly Melbourne-Hamilton Island service from
June 27. See
qantas.com.au

SAFARI: Ready, set, shoot

Photographers of all abilities will
know the frustration of snapping a safari through sticky windows or
around a badly placed safety pole.
The new safari jeep at South
Africa’s Sabi Sabi private reserve has been customised for photography
tours, with tiered seating and swivel chairs, fixed camera mounts for
additional stability and cut-out side panels. The tours are guided by professional photographers and include tuition on shutter speeds and action shots, held over sundowners

back at the lodge. Would-be lion
paparazzi can also hire additional equipment including the big guns –
such as a 200-400-millimetre lens – to pap the Big Five as they roam the
fence-free range on the edge of the Kruger National Park.
Photography safaris at Sabi Sabi run on

demand, all year round and cost from
$1800, two days, includes photographer and vehicle for up to four
people. Stays at Sabi Sabi’s Bush lodge cost from $1030 a person,
sharing. See sabisabi.com.
 

AIRPORTS: Flying, beautifully

Life spent in airports is quite
possibly life wasted. Instead, use that time when your flight’s delayed
to become beautiful (within reason) at AMUSE Beauty Studio, which has
opened recently at Sydney Airport. The new store stocks some of the most
desirable names in the industry, including Tom Ford, Jo Malone and
Amouage. It also offers

free beauty quickies for brows and nails, and an express make-up service for that emergency smoky eye.
As well, it’s home to Australia’s first Hermes concept shop-within-a-store, stocking its homewares range, which has

never been available outside its
branded stores. The beauty store, run by the parents of the Newslink
chain, is now open in Sydney Airport’s domestic terminals, T2 and T3,
and comes to Melbourne in August.
See
amusebeauty.com.au.
 


BOOK: Propaganda paradise

So North Korea’s on your bucket
list? Get a taste for its altered reality with Anna Broinowski’s witty
book, The Director is the Commander. The filmmaker wanted to make a
movie that would stop the creation of a coalseam gas mine near her home,
in Sydney Park, so she

turned to the master of propaganda,
Kim Jong-il, the former leader of North Korea and author of the
manifesto The Cinema and Directing. 

The only Western filmmaker in the
world to gain total access to North Korea’s film industry, Broinowski
worked with local directors, actors and crews to create Aim High in
Creation! The Director is the Commander, $32.99,
penguin.com.au. NSW-based Guidepost Tours books
tours of North Korea with British-based Koryo Tours. A five-day tour
(including visa processing) costs from $2000 a person, departing from
Beijing.
See guideposttours.com.au.
 

Airline review: Scoot business class, Sydney to Singapore

Scoot's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

THE PLANE Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – the airline received its first Dreamliner
this year, for the Singapore-Perth and Singapore-Hong Kong routes. By
the end of 2015, all Australian routes will be serviced by Dreamliners.
THE ROUTE Sydney to Singapore.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME Scoot joined Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer frequent flyer program in April.
CLASS
Business class, seat 1H (aisle) but before takeoff, I shimmy down to
3J (window) to score two empty seats. The flight is less than half-full
today, and quite a few people seem to have been upgraded.
DURATION 7 hours.
FREQUENCY  Scoot currently flies Sydney to Singapore non-stop five times a week,
going daily from May 1. Conveniently, the flight leaves at lunchtime to
arrive in Singapore just in time for dinner (The return flight’s 1am
departure is less convenient.)

Scoot’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Supplied

THE SEAT A 38-inch (96-centimetre) pitch, 22-inch (56cm) width. There are 35 seats in ScootBiz, in a 2-3-2 formation.
BAGGAGE Checked luggage up to 20 kilograms and 15kg (two pieces) of carry-on.
COMFORT A Dreamliner is still a Dreamliner, no matter if it’s sporting
full-service or low-cost livery. That means low engine noise, cleaner
air and lower fuel consumption (and hopefully, lower ticket costs). The
seats are broad and comfortable, with an extendable foot rest to help
stretch out. Be prepared to pay extra for a snooze kit, which has a
fleece blanket, eye mask and neck pillow, or bring your own. Costs $17 
pre-booked or $21.80  on board.
ENTERTAINMENT As I’m sitting up at the bulkhead and gossiping, it takes a while to
realise there are no screens. To watch a movie, you have to download an
app beforehand and they’ll send the movie to the app. It’s far easier to
load your own movies onto your tablet or laptop. AC power is available
in every seat, no adaptors required. (Economy passengers have to pay
$7.60  for power). There are no USB sockets, crazy given they’re pushing
inflight Wi-Fi. You can go online once you hit 10,000ft and costs
$11.30/one hour, $16/three hours, or $20.80/24 hours and you can use any
remaining time on the return flight. There are no download limits.
SERVICE The pleasant, dignified staff hide any indignation at being referred
to as “Scootees” and one even shares his hot tip for the best Hainanese
chicken rice on the ground in Singapore. (I may have also been warned
off ordering the western breakfast on the return leg.) The pilots are
called Scooters and announce on takeoff: “We’re getting outta here!”
FOOD Lunch arrives shortly after takeoff. We have pre-ordered the soya
sauce chicken rice – braised chicken, Chinese mushrooms and quail eggs:
no marks for presentation and “saltiness” does not equate to
“flavoursome”. The meal includes a small Toblerone chocolate and is
presented on a tray that is broader than the narrow pull-out tables, and
slides dangerously. Quick, save that Wolf Blass chardonnay! The
ScootBiz fare includes one meal and one alcoholic drink. Additional
drinks can be bought with cash or credit card. Beers cost $8, $9 for
wine or pre-mix Singapore Sling. The peckish can order cup noodles (add
an instant egg for only $2), packet soup, biscuits or ice-cream. I
learn, too late, that the classic Singapore dish, Hainanese chicken
rice, is available only as a pre-order on the Sydney-Singapore leg.
ONE MORE THING Scoot is slated to start a Melbourne-Singapore direct service in November. 
THE VERDICT Apart from the spacious Dreamliner surrounds, this is not business
class as you know it. Think of it as premium economy. I’m good with BYO
amenities and entertainment, but the big let-down is the quality of the
food and wine, especially as Singapore prides itself on its cuisine. But
any qualms are far outweighed by the price: no-frills economy fares
cost as little as $219 and ScootBiz is priced from $499, with plenty of
sales available.

Tested by Belinda Jackson, who flew courtesy of Scoot. See www.flyscoot.com.


This Flight Test by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 

Snaptastic in Kakadu, Cape York hooked up and Queenstown communes: Takeoff travel news

TECH
Snap to it!
Ditch the hard drive of photos you’ll never look at and
go retro with Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 8 cameras, for instant gratification from instant
photos. The camera runs on two AA batteries and pops out instant pics at a wallet-friendly
62x46mm. Accept its limitations – no zoom, no macro mode and, incredibly, you
have to look through a viewfinder – it’s ideal for cute wedding snaps or of you
’n’ your bestie, and has a cult following that includes Katy Perry and Taylor
Swift.  Available in seven colours
including the new raspberry and grape, the camera come with a 10-pack of film,
and additional packs costs $15-20. Yes, it does come in macho black. The grape-coloured
camera is exclusive to Target, all other colours available in Ted’s Camera
Stores, Harvey Norman, Big W, Officeworks and Kmart, $99. See fujifilm.com.au.

AIRLINE

Cape York
Cape York once again is linked by air with Cairns following
the launch of new flights to the regional hub of Bamaga, population 1000. The
weekday flights are operated by Regional Express, running a Saab 340 to the Northern
Peninsula Area airport, 35km from the tip of Cape York. The flights will appeal
to time-poor travellers aiming for the northernmost point of mainland
Australia, choosing a two-hour flight over a two-day, 850km drive. The Cape is a
tourist hot spot in the dry winter months and renowned for its spectacular
fishing. The newly refurbished Cape York
Peninsula Lodge
(formerly the Bamaga Resort) has 44 suites, rooms
and eco-tents and is part-owned by ATSI communities, so all profits go directly
back to local schools, health programs and its hospitality training program
(from $309 a night, B&B, see cypeninsulalodge.com.au). Hire a 4WD in Bamaga, Weipa and
Lockhart, or ferry through the Torres Strait Islands and back to Cairns from
nearby Seisia, (phone 1800 424 422, see seaswift.com.au).
One-way flights from Cairns to Bamaga cost from $248. Phone 131 713, see
rex.com.au.
Photo: Paul Arnold
PHOTOGRAPHY

Shoot to thrill

Smile at a crocodile: it’s a snap with professional photographer
and bushman Paul Arnold, who is running new photography tours in Kakadu during
the dry season until November. Arnold will lead groups of seven out onto Yellow
Water Billabong for a two-hour cruise to spot crocs, learn to frame Kakadu’s
dramatic landscapes and capture its teeming birdlife ($250 a person).
Otherwise, join a two-hour walk to the billabong from Cooinda Lodge
Kakadu ($50)
or take a two-hour course that helps get your DSLR camera off auto mode ($110).
Arnold will also be holding photo nights, sharing tips and his secret locations,
at the lodge (one hour, $30). “I’ve spent the last 20 years exploring
Australia’s unique countryside, and that is where my interest in photography
began,” he says.  See paularnold.com.au or kakadutourism.com. Stays at the indigenous
owned Gagudju
Lodge Cooinda
cost from $179 a night or $41 for a campsite. See gagudju-dreaming.com. 

GEAR
Glam metallic

You can be sure that’s your luggage, shimmying down the carousel.
Amongst a sea of black, the new Altitude range from Australian luggage brand
Paklite is hard to miss, with its glossy copper or gun-metal metallic finish.
Made from lightweight polycarbonate composite, the range comes in
three sizes, large (weighs 4.2kg, packs 115l), medium (weighs 3.5kg, packs 85l)
and the cabin bag, which has a quick-access front pocket and padded laptop
compartment (weighs 2.8kg, packs 40l). All include heavy-duty handles, TSA
locks and combinations and four wheels, and the two larger bags expand generously
to accommodate in your shopping finds. Phone 1300 303 021, see
paklite.com.au.

FOOD

Beyond the cellar
door
Enter a wonderland of wine when you visit Vasse Felix, the
founding wine estate of the Margaret River region and the newest member of Ultimate
Winery Experiences Australia (UWEA).       Vasse
Felix has launched two bespoke experiences, the Vasse Felix Original tour, $45,
which goes through the history of the label and winds up with a private
tasting, and the Vasse Felix Epicurean, $185, which adds a three-course meal
with matching wines. Experiences at other wineries in the group include being a
winemaker for a day, taking a helicopter flight over Tasmania’s wine-producing
Tamar Valley or tasting and interpreting MONA. See ultimatewineryexperiences.com.au.
Vasse Felix winery, Western Australia

HOTEL
Community in
Queenstown
Recently named the top tourist destination in the South Pacific by
the TripAdvisor community (bumping off Our Sydney), Queenstown hotel newcomer
Sherwood pitches itself as a creative hub for travellers. The eco-friendly hotel’s 78 rooms welcomes
all comers, from lakeview studios to budget-conscious double-bed bunks in
dorms. Tapping into the clean, green vibe, there’s a wholefoods restaurant
fuelled by its own biodynamic garden, a yoga studio, bikes and winter ski hire.
Sherwood is unashamedly Kiwi, stocking local craft beers in the mini-bar, woollen
blankets from the South Island, manuka honey and myrtle soaps and local
artists’ work on the walls. The hotel overlooks Lake Wakatipu and the
Remarkables Mountain Range, is five minutes’ drive to the city centre and 30
minutes to the Coronet Peak ski fields. Rooms range from NZ$165 for a standard
king to NZ$285 a night for the two-bedroom terraced loft, which sleeps two
adults and up to five kids.  See
sherwoodqueenstown.nz.
Sherwood, Queenstown

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