From Rajasthani fortress to boutique hotel

FortBishangarh
Photo: Belle Jackson

Catching up on my poor, neglected blog. The reason for my neglect is
good: I’ve been tromping around the wilds of Rajasthan, specifically
Bishangarh, a little village about an hour north of Jaipur.

The lure was the opening of the new Alila Fort Bishangarh, a fortress turned boutique hotel. I went crazy on instagram – take a look.

It took seven years to convert the 230-year-old fort, and it still
retains a tang of military austerity. Happily, the dungeon is free of
bats, snakes and gunpowder: it’s now an Alila spa, and staircases lead
to rooftop restaurants or a little yoga platform. I did a little
housework, cooking flatbread over an open fire in a mud-floor house, I
cycled past camel carts and flocks of goats and took a brief pilgrimage
to a Hindu temple – interspersed with cool, scented towels, sugared lime
juice and dips in this pool (below) because hey, it’s monsoon season in
this part of the world, and why suffer if you don’t have to?

FortBishangarhpool.JPG
Photo: Belle Jackson

My first review is out, for the Sydney Morning Herald/Sunday Age Traveller: click here to read it. If you’re planning a sojourn to Jaipur in the near future, this hotel absolutely must be on your list.

From Rajasthani fortress to boutique hotel

Oh I’ve been bad – this poor blog! But the reason for my neglect is good: I’ve been tromping around the wilds of Rajasthan, specifically Bishangarh, a little village about an hour north of Jaipur.

FortBishangarh
Photo: Belle Jackson

The lure was the opening of the new Alila Fort Bishangarh, a fortress turned boutique hotel. I went crazy on instagram – take a look.

It took seven years to convert the 230-year-old fort, and it still retains a tang of military austerity. Happily, the dungeon is free of bats, snakes and gunpowder: it’s now an Alila spa, and staircases lead to rooftop restaurants or a little yoga platform. I did a little housework, cooking flatbread over an open fire in a mud-floor house, I cycled past camel carts and flocks of goats and took a brief pilgrimage to a Hindu temple – interspersed with cool, scented towels, sugared lime juice and dips in this pool (below) because hey, it’s monsoon season in this part of the world, and why suffer if you don’t have to?

My first review is out, for the Sydney Morning Herald/Sunday Age Traveller: click here to read it. If you’re planning a sojourn to Jaipur in the near future, this hotel absolutely must be on your list.

FortBishangarhpool.JPG
Photo: Belle Jackson

.

 

Japan’s Hokkaidō tops Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Asia 2016’ list

The travel lists are coming thick and fast today! Hot on the heels of world’s best airline lists, Lonely Planet has just issued its Asian hotspots for 2016.

Here’s what the Lonely Planet experts have to say:

“Lonely
Planet’s Best in Asia 2016
1.
Hokkaidō, Japan
Hokkaidō’s perfect
powder snow put it on the international map, but it has also blinded visitors
to the year-round charms of Japan’s northernmost island. Hokkaidō has
become a lot more accessible this year thanks to the new bullet train linking
its southern port city, Hakodate, to Tokyo.”
2. Shànghǎi,
China
“Looking
for the centre of the universe right now? It’s surely Shànghǎi.
This year’s a big one, with the first Disney resort in mainland China opening
here, as well as the completion of the long-awaited Shànghǎi Tower,
the world’s second tallest building.”
3. Jeonju,
South Korea
“Having long flown under the
radar as the country’s top foodie destination, Jeonju has
finally started to make mouths water further afield. The birthplace of Korea’s
most famous dish, bibimbap, now lures a younger crowd thanks to its
fast-emerging street food scene.”
4. Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
“This archipelago now ranks among
Asia’s hottest emerging destinations. With improved flight connections
from Ho Chi Minh City, there is no better place right now to feast on
fresh seafood, explore in search of a perfect beach and revel in a castaway
vibe.”
5. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is
focusing on its natural heritage – specifically, the
UNESCO-designated geopark, a 50-sq km region to the northeast. A shuttle
bus between the geopark’s Sai Kung town and its ancient rock
formations debuted this May, hard on the heels of a ferry service to Lai
Chi Wo Village.”
6. Ipoh, Malaysia
“Malaysia’s lesser-known food
capital has new flair thanks to a crop of boutique cafes that have sprung up in
its historic quarter. At the heart of Ipoh’s renaissance is otherworldly
concept hotel Sekeping Kong Heng.”
7. Pemuteran, Indonesia
“A double bay of beaches
near Menjangan … don’t wait until everybody arrives; catch the
buzz now from this alluring mix of art-filled resorts, inventive new
restaurants and the mellowest vibe around.”
8. Trang Islands,
Thailand
Trang Islands pack
the same knockout punch as their more famous Andaman Coast neighbours; all they
lack are the crowds. Go, now – while these sleepy islands bask in untouched
splendour.”
9. Meghalaya, India
“Opportunities for hiking,
climbing, caving and rafting abound. After decades off the tourist map, people
are starting to notice this backwater. Meghalaya won’t stay
this quiet for long; go before thrill seekers storm the Khāsi Hills.”
10. Taitung, Taiwan
Taitung is Taiwan’s
secret wild card. This cradle of indigenous culture is the place to party after
harvest with music festivals and sweet millet wine. Or take advantage of this
rural county’s superb whale watching, stargazing and cycling.”  Please
note: Typhoon Nepartak has caused recent devastation; however Best
in Asia
 is a collection of great places for the next 12 months and
Taiwan has already begun the rebuilding efforts and will be welcoming
travellers again soon.
Visitors to www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-asia can
also enter a competition for the chance to win a trip for two to Lonely
Planet’s
 number-one Best in Asia 2016 destination, Hokkaidō,
Japan
, valued at AUD $10,000.”

Singapore slings, Mystical India and train travel in Tassie: Takeoff travel news

West Coast Wilderness Railway

Recently, I had to sling a Singapore Sling in the historic bar of Raffles Hotel, and the history was palpable. From the ‘last tiger in Singapore found under the pool table’ stories to the gracious verandahs with their rattan chairs and high teas. It’s 100 years since the Sling was first slung – scroll down to find out more. 

TRAIN
Full steam ahead
Explore Tasmania’s remote, mountainous west coast on the restored
steam trains of the newly reopened West Coast Wilderness Railway. The copper mining
rail line closed down in 1963 before reopening as a tourist train for a decade
until 2013. A recent $12m government investment has since seen 12,000 sleepers
replaced on what is the steepest railway in the southern hemisphere, and the
full 34.5km length of the original track, from Strahan to Queenstown, is open
once again. The historical railway was built with hard labour in the 1890s by
teams of Irish workers, and serves up plenty of juicy historical tales of feuds
and swindling. You don’t have to be a trainspotter to appreciate the beauty of
the three locomotives, which date back to 1896. Choose between full or half-day
journeys through old-growth rainforest and over King River Gorge, from
$95/adult, $40 children or $220 families in the Heritage carriage, or fully
catered with High Tea and Tasmanian sparkling wine in the Wilderness Carriage. Phone
(03) 6471 0100, see wcwr.com.au

India’s mystical Brahmaputra River.
TOURS
Mystical India
Explore busy tea markets, visit silk sari weavers and sleep
on the world’s largest inhabited river island, Majuili, amidst the dramatic
Brahmaputra River on a journey through north-eastern India. The 14-day tour
begins in Guwahati and visits the tribal lands and spots the exotic wildlife of
Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. “It is the least explored, but easily the most
exotic part of India,” says John Zubrzycki, a foreign correspondent and author who
has set several historical biographies in India. Zubrzycki, a self-confessed
Indiaphile, leads the first-time Hidden Lands, Forgotten Frontiers tour from
November 19-December 3, 2015, departing from Kolkata. Costs from $7835 a person
(excluding international airfares), includes a $200 donation to the boat
medical clinics on the Brahmaputra River. travelonq.com.au.
The Singapore Sling
FOOD
Celebrating the
centenary
Singapore is in serious birthday mode: the little country
turns just 50 this year, but its national drink, the Singapore Sling, is twice
its age, celebrating 100 years since it was first slung. The pink drink was
concocted in 1915 in the Long Bar of Raffles hotel by barman Ngiam Tong Boon,
and is now served on the nation’s airlines and in bars across the city. Mix
snacking and shaking in a Singapore Sling Masterclass in the Long Bar, where
you’ll learn how to blend gin Dom Benedictine and Cointreau, snack on satay and
take home a Singapore Sling glass. Costs $83 a person. Otherwise, grab a slice
of the new SlingaPore cake – lime sponge with pineapple mousse, Singapore Sling
marmalade and cherry jelly – in the hotel’s Ah Teng Bakery. See raffles.com/Singapore.

KIDS
Iced escapades
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most practical, like
this Dripstick, which does exactly what it says on the tin – stops that lurid,
bubble-gum flavoured ice-cream from slopping down the back of the car seat. The
Dripstick’s plastic holder lets kids get a better grip on their iced treats and the
internal funnel fits pointed cones, great when the cone’s base inevitably dissolves.
But wait, there’s more: fill the hollow handle with juice and slip in the
accompanying popsicle stick, freeze and you’ve got home-made ices. An added
bonus – it’s made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic. Available in six colours,
$12. See thanksmum.com.au.

  
Papua New Guinea adventure on True North.
TECH
Online cruising
We Australians are avid cruisers, with cruising of all
persuasions the fastest-growing sector of our tourism market. Luxury travel
company Abercrombie & Kent has just launched a new cruise website in demand
for what it describes as consistent double-digit growth over the last few
years. Choose from a Papua New Guinea adventure on True North (pictured), a French barge holiday, an expedition cruise through the
High Arctic or a small-ship exploration of the Amazon. According to A&K’s
Sujata Raman, the polar regions are their guests’ most popular choice, followed
by Myanmar river cruising and the Galapagos Islands, for premier wildlife
viewing. The company’s newest product is the small luxury Sanctuary Ananda on
the Ayeyarwady river in Myanmar. See akcruising.com.au.
 
The historic foyer of The Victoria Hotel, Melbourne
HOTEL
The Vic gets slick
It’s been overrun by American troops, been a booze-free Temperance
League stronghold and been on business tycoon Christopher Skase’s assets list.
Now Australia’s largest 3.5-star hotel, the Victoria Hotel on Melbourne’s
Little Collins St, has had a $20 million facelift. Unusually, the number of
rooms in The Vic has decreased, from 464 down to 370 larger rooms, all with
free wi-fi in a tidy refurbishment across the entire hotel, including the
historic lobby and public bar (which replaced beef tea with bellinis in the
60s). The hotel turns 135 this year and kicked off Melbourne’s laneways coffee
scene as the Victoria Coffee Palace back in 1880. It joined Accor’s budget-conscious
Ibis Styles brand two years ago and is owned by the Schwartz Family Company,
who is also developing the Sofitel on Darling Harbour, to open in 2017. Rooms in
the Victoria Hotel cost from $98 a night when booked 20 days in advance. Quote
‘early booking offer’. Phone 1800 331 147, see victoriahotel.com.au.

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

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Christmas bell from Kashmir, India

This year, for the first time in many years, I’m really home for Christmas, so I unpacked all the decorations, many of which have been sitting in dusty boxes for years.

I’m not one of those people who lights up the front lawn with a carbon-blowing amount of electric Santas. And I’m terrible at sending out cards (sorry!) But my Christmas cache yielded a surprising amount of trinkets collected during my travels.

Pictured is the tiny little bell I bought in Indian Kashmir (not exactly a stronghold of Christianity, though there is a persistent rumour Jesus Christ is buried here). In a beautiful land often torn apart by war, locals do what they can to earn a living. One small firm makes these delicate decorations from paper mache, before painting and varnishing them and selling them to we few tourists.

There is also the set of happy little matryoshka dolls from the markets Andriyivskiy Uzviz in Kyiv, Ukraine (known as babushka dolls in neighbouring Russia), their sweet little faces peering out between the baubles. Heavens knows how I managed to fit them in my backpack, amongst the tent, camp cooking gear, filthy hiking socks and two changes of clothes. 

Matryoshka doll from Kyiv, Ukraine

There’s an elaborate glass Santa on a sleigh from the German Christmas markets, and a kind donation from my brother Rorie of glittering trinkets from Vienna’s many famed winter markets. Away from the Tyrolean mountain sausages and tourist kitsch in Rathausplatz, his top finds are stained-glass decorations from the Karlsplatz market. 

And finally, my most recent acquisition is a beautiful silver deer, which I bought from a seasonal waterfront shop in Bergen, Norway, where they really get into the Christmas spirit.

Wherever you find yourselves for the festive season – at home for an Aussie Christmas, on a Thai beach eating prawns or mainlining glühwein to ward off the cold in the wintery northern hemisphere – I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and 2015 brings your hearts’ desires,

Belle Jackson

The real trip advisors reveal their tips for travel in 2015

Mesmerising Myanmar: Ancient temples and an increasingly
modern infrastructure are the drawcards. Photo: Getty Images.

So – what’s the next big thing? Travel experts
reveal their tips for the coming year.
With an
eye on the hip pocket, we’re looking at hometown holidays in 2015, say travel
industry’s chiefs. And while Asia is back on top as our favourite playground,
Myanmar continues its stellar orbit as the region’s shining star.
Gary Bartelings, Captain’s Choice
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Gallipoli for the centenary, on unusual train journeys, South America,
Antarctica and our new Australian tours by private plane.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Iran and Myanmar. For safe and trusted, a British
Isles cruise or a train journey through Switzerland.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
 An unsettled world and the weakening
Australian dollar.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Chichen Itza in Mexico, Rio, Easter Island, Tahiti, Angkor  Wat,
the Taj Mahal and the Serenas, well as the UK and Europe.
Fearless
prediction?
Keep
travelling, so people across cultures, religions and countries can connect
peacefully. See captainschoice.com.au.
Simon Westcott, Luxe City Guides 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Myanmar: infrastructure is improving and there’s a sense it’ll all
change fast.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Bhutan: because it’s not going to change fast. A
purer and more controlled experience awaits.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Travel safety: the perceived threat of increased
terrorism and infectious diseases.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
London, Florence, Marrakech, Taipei, Tokyo and the USA.
Fearless
prediction?

 Wifi flights will become the norm. See luxecityguides.com.
Alan Alcock, Wendy Wu Tours
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Japan, now great value for money, and India.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Sri Lanka, which is rapidly healing after its
terrible civil war, the idyllic Maldives, and Myanmar for quaint, rustic
antiquity.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The potential spread of terrorism to our region, health
issues such as Ebola and the value of the Australian dollar. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
 Vietnam, Japan and Mongolia.
Fearless
prediction?

Self-drive three-wheeled tuk-tuk tours in India! See wendywutours.com.au.
Tom Walley, Flight Centre Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Philippines: budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air has just kicked off a
service departing Sydney four times weekly.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
London, for the Rugby World Cup! 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Airfares have never been more affordable and
unless the US dollar drops significantly, the only issue is choosing where to
go. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Whistler: snowboarding is my passion. We will thaw out on Hamilton
Island. Fearless prediction? Aussies are in a golden era of travel with more
accessible prices, services and routes. See flightcentre.com.au.
Sue Badyari, World Expeditions
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Hiking and biking Cambodia, trekking the Patagonia Ice Cap, Arctic
cruising to see the Northern Lights, Nepal’s Manaslu Circuit, walking Spain’s
Camino. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Trekking the Altai mountains in Mongolia, hiking
and biking in China, cycling Puglia, Italy. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Flight availability in peak seasons, more freak
storms and volatility in weather patterns due to global warming.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Italy’s Gran Paradiso Trek plus a self-guided cycling holiday from
Slovenia to Croatia!
Fearless
prediction for 2015?
The Great
Himalayan Trail – a five-month trek traversing Nepal’s high passes. See worldexpeditions.com.
Ann Sherry, Carnival Australia 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Cruising Europe, Alaska, and the Baltics. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Asia, cruising from Japan and Singapore, visiting
Vietnam and Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s Komodo Island. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
The falling dollar, sharpening travellers’ focus
on value.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Stradbroke Island, maybe an African safari and a PNG and Solomon
Islands cruise to test new destinations.
Fearless
prediction?
Weekends
at sea with Australia’s best food and wine. See carnival.com.au.
Caroline Kennedy, Cox & Kings Australia
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Italy and Greece for the food, wine, history and sites and Norway for
the Northern Lights.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
ANZAC centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, with
or without ballot tickets.
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Global safety issues and natural disasters.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
I would like to do The Ultimate Travelling Camp in India.
Fearless
prediction?

Experiencing destinations in 3D, such as enjoying the view from your
(prospective) hotel’s balcony. See coxandkings.com.au.
Anton Stanish, Stayz Holiday Accommodation
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
The Gold Coast, Darwin and fringe CBD; homeowners are realising the
viability of short-term rentals while travellers can immerse themselves in the
local neighbourhood.
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Dunsborough, Western Australia. Definitely a new
hot spot.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
A holiday rental in Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, near golf courses,
vineyards and beaches. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Low-cost air carriers continuing to open up new
markets, particularly in Asia.
Fearless
prediction?
Holiday
rentals becoming bookable online, like hotels. See stayz.com.au.
Karin Sheppard, InterContinental Hotels Group 
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
South-east Asia and the Asia Pacific, for snorkelling safaris, stunning
beaches.   
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
On ‘staycation,’ exploring your own city. Sydney’s
Double Bay has new eateries, bars, shops and the new InterContinental Sydney
Double Bay. 
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Truly personalised and local experiences. 
Where are
you packing your bags for?
Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, a diving holiday to Fiji and skiing in
Queenstown. 
Fearless
prediction?
More
marketing aimed at locals through social media, and brands rewarding guests for
publicising their trips via social media. See ihg.com.
Dave Boyte, Skyscanner
Where is
everyone going in 2015?
Safe, affordable Nicaragua, Central America and Mykonos, Greece. 
Where
should everyone be going in 2015?
Colombo, Sri Lanka is reinventing itself as a cool
foodie paradise. Flight searches to Bhutan are also on the rise.  
The
biggest issue in travel in 2015?
Online travel companies becoming mobile savvy, as
travellers use mobile phones to research, plan and book holidays.
Where are
you packing your bags for?
The coolest little capital, Wellington, and Tasmania.  
Fearless
prediction?

Meta-search websites – websites that aggregate information from all over the
web into one site – being an essential planning tool. See skyscanner.com.au.
This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller.

Takeoff travel news: August 31

AIRLINE
Greater Goode
The movement to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people in the Australian Constitution has just been boosted into the
skies as Qantas adopts the RECOGNISE logo on its new QantasLink Dash 8 Q400 aircraft.
Qantas Ambassador and Australian of the Year Adam Goodes says he is thrilled by
the new livery and urges Australians to sign up to the movement at
recognise.org.au. “It’s  so  important 
that  every  one 
of  us  plays 
our  part  in 
campaigning  for  this 
referendum  and  securing 
a resounding YES vote,” he says. Qantas is adding a RECOGNISE
logo to all its 31 Q400 aircraft flying within Australia and to PNG.
SHOP
Global Glamazons
Buy the world on a ‘glamcation,’ a luxe jaunt for ladies
who shop. The girls-only trips are tailored for women over 30 and include
preening beauty sessions, insider info on the best fashion boutiques and
red-carpet entrances into A-list events fashion and sporting events, from the
races in Hong Kong to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and Broadway shows. The
tours are also timed to hit the sales, including New York’s Black Friday sales and private shopping events at Hong
Kong’s Lane Crawford
.
Led by self-confessed bagaholic, perfume tragic and organisational queen
Justine Weller, the very first glamcation, Tropics Shopaholics Honolulu, gets
underway in September 7-15, $4299, followed by Fully Loaded Hong Kong (October
5-12, $3995) and Glam Apple New York (November 22-30, $4499). Excludes
airfares. Phone 0414 753 767, see glamaramagetaways.com.

KIDS

Apple of your eye
Plan a three-day active family getaway in Tassie in two
of the island’s iconic destinations, Cradle Mountain and Freycinet Peninsula.
Tasmanian Expeditions’ two new family trips are run in the school holidays, both
departing from Launceston. The Freycinet adventure includes three days’ easy
coastal walking around the officially beautiful Wineglass Bay, whereas the more
challenging Cradle Mountain journey sees you touch highs and lows, up to the
mountain’s summit and underground in Mole Creek Karst National Park. Accommodation
is in multi-share cabins, with savings for bigger families and includes
professional walking guides, park permits, packed lunches and hot dinners for
hungry hikers. Costs $1095 for adults, $895 for kids under 16. Phone 1300 666 856,
see tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.
GEAR
Carry on
Oh, the places you’ll go, with these travel accessories
from Kikki-k. Its new ‘Adventure Awaits’ range includes leather passport
holders, cosmetics bags and onboard bags that manage cables,
paperwork and tablets, all neatly packed away. Printed with the cheeky line,
‘I’m ok, carry on’ the sturdy clear plastic ziplock bags – ideal for carry-on
liquids – might even get a smile out of the Customs crew. The pink and navy
range has just hit the shelves. Canvas luggage tag, $12.95. Canvas onboard bag,
$34.95. Plastic pouches (2 pack), $9.95. Call (03) 9645 6346, see kikki-k.com.
TECH
Destination known
Squint no more for directions, Navman’s newest GPS is
easy on the eye, with a seven-inch screen and free lifetime map updates. The new
EZY GPS is Bluetooth handsfree, lists blackspots and landmarks including service stations and has logbook capabilities, helpful for tax
calculations. It also lets you search by keyword, rather than requiring an
exact address and is pre-loaded with Australian and New Zealand maps. European
maps can be bought outright or rented for 30 days from $25. The EZY270LMT GPS
costs $279. Phone 1300 628 626, see navman.com.au.
FOOD
Indian giver
Follow celebrated chef Christine Manfield through central
and west India for a cultural and epicurian feast: admire Rajisthan’s Kumbhalgarh
fort and the ruined city of Mandu in Madhya
Pradesh
, eat street food in Ahmedabad or taste a menu specially designed by
Christine and and the chefs of Mumbai’s top restaurants. The 15-day luxury journey
includes leopard spotting in Jawai and shopping textiles made by women
in charitable trusts. Manfield has had a love affair with India for more than 20 years and this is her eighth tour of India with Epicurious Travel. There are 10 places on
the tour, which runs February 2-17, 2015. Costs US$15,980 ($17,200) a person.  Phone (03) 9486 5409, see epicurioustravel.com.au.
TRACEY SPICER KIDS
Blobbing in Fiji
Blobbing out just got a whole lot more active with the
arrival of the Water Blob, a new rocket-shaped 
floater on Fiji’s Sigatoka River. Slip on a life jacket and blast into
the river, bouncing off the giant Blob. It’s the brainchild of Australian Jay
Whyte, owner of the Sigatoka River jet boat and village safari, who says the
Blob is a way to fly and play in the Fijian way. A three-hour Blob session
costs F$59 a person (over 10 years). See waterblobfiji.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

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  

Travel deals: Shizuka Ryokan

The Peninsula Paris, now open.

Go Japanese in Victoria or channel Peninsula style in Paris: the world is your oyster, so add garnish and drink it up in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
VICTORIA
Save on an airfare to a Japanese spa and instead stay at
Shizuka Ryokan in Hepburn Springs, 75 minutes from Melbourne: expect
green tea, tatami and spa cuisine. Book and pay in full by July 31 and
get $50 credit. From $179 a room a night, three-night stay. See shizuka.com.au.

INDIA

Do India in five-star style and save $1165 a person for
travel until September 30. Begin in Delhi and travel by private car to
Agra, the pink city of Jaipur and the city of palaces, Udaipur, staying
in Oberoi hotels. From $2785 a person, twin share. See abercrombiekent.com.au.

GO SOON
QUEENSLAND
Set in Brisbane’s CBD, the new Mantra on the Quay opens with a
bang – and a discount until August 31. The one, two and three-bed
self-contained apartments all have balconies, and facilities include an
outdoor heated pool and tennis courts. From $189 a night, one-bed
apartment. See mantra.com.au.

ZAMBIA
Save over $2600 a couple on an eight-day stay in six camps in
Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Travel includes walking safaris
and game drives. Departs Lusuka, travel by October 31. From $5487 a
person. Phone 1300 363 302, see africanwildlifesafaris.com.au.

GO LATER
FRANCE
The ultra-luxe Peninsula Paris opens its doors on August 1
and is celebrating with an offer that saves $580 from the standard rate.
Expect 360-degree views from the rooftop restaurant, a Rolls-Royce in
the driveway and an elegant spa. From August 1-31. From $1005 a night.
See peninsula.com.
NSW
Sneak in a staycation at one of Metro Hotels and Apartments’
four Sydney properties and catch a winter special until August 31. Stay
at the Metro Hotel Sydney Central, with breakfast for two and Wi-Fi
included. From $143 a night, saving $207. See metrohotels.com.au.

KIDS’ DEAL
SCHOOLIES GOT SOUL
Skip the hedonistic schoolies celebrations and channel that
new-found freedom into voluntouring in Cambodia. Spend five days
volunteering on community projects such as teaching English or working
in a team on a development project, overseen by an experienced
co-ordinator. Then reward yourself with some beach time in Cambodia’s
resort town, Sihanoukville, and take a guided tour of Phnom Penh and
Siem Reap’s UNESCO-listed Angkor Wat. Includes international flights,
transfers and 24-hour emergency contact. Departs November 22. From $2700
a person. 1300 559 527, travelpartners.com.au.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday. 

Travel deals: French Polynesia

A local woman from the Sacred Valley, Peru.

Take me to… Tahiti! Or Peru. I’m not fussy. Or perhaps one of the fabulous new hotels of the world, including the Sofitel So Singapore or Australia’s own new regional art hotel, The Schaller Studio in Bendigo. 

Check out their opening specials, as well as a Kids Do Paris tour, in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
VICTORIA
Ski two days free at Mount Buller with a seven-night package
at Buller Central hotel. Get a seven-day lift pass for the price of five
days, daily breakfast and one dinner. Book by August 31, travel June
28-September 7. From $1405 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 019 130, see
studentflights.com.au.

Moorea Pearl Resort, French Polynesia

FRENCH POLYNESIA

Spend 10 nights in an overwater suite for under $5000.
Includes five nights in the Moorea Pearl Resort, five in the Tikehau
Pearl Beach Resort, two in Tahiti and international flights. Travel
November 1-December 10, January 10-March 31, 2015. From $4790 a person,
12 nights. Phone 1300 858 305, see airtahitinui.com.au.

Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio, Victoria, Australia

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Stay at Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio and save $55 with its
opening special, from $125 a night, until August 30. A Stay & See
package includes tickets to Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions and midday
checkout. From $195, August 2-November 9. Phone 1800 278 468, see artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.

SINGAPORE
Check into the new Sofitel So Singapore, pictured, and save
40 per cent with a Weekends@So offer, which includes a Saturday-night
stay in the 19th-century French-style rooms, Saturday champagne brunch
and Sunday all-day breakfast. From $515 until December 31.See sofitel.com.

Sofitel So Singapore

GO LATER
SOUTH AMERICA
Grab a friend and book a South American holiday with flights
and your friend flies free with LATAM, saving up to $2800. Tours include
the 20-day Highlights of South America, from Santiago to Lima, from
$8695 a person, twin share. Book by September 30. Phone 1300 196 420,
see travelmarvel.com.au.

QUEENSLAND
Book a two-night midweek stay at the four-star Pelican Waters
resort on the Sunshine Coast and pay half price until November 30.
Includes a free night and a round on a Greg Norman championship golf
course. From $310, quote PEL019. Phone 1800 213 422, see pelicanwatersgolfresortandspa.com.au.

Tourwatch: Life in the Himalayas

Experience mountain life in the Indian Himalayas with a
high-altitude stay in Ladakh. Base yourself in one of six traditional
village houses, renovated to rustic luxury, and walk between local
villages, visiting schools, markets and monasteries.

Raft on glacial rivers the Indus and Zanskar and lose
yourself in a landscape of snowy mountains and serene lakes until end
September. Includes meals, private chef, guides, tours and private car.
From $5670 a person, twin share, seven nights. See shaktihimalaya.com.

Kids do Paris

Let your kids see what all the fuss is about on Paris’ famous
Left Bank with a three-hour family walking tour. Run by a Parisian
mum, options include pastimes such as sailing toy boats and riding the
merry-go-round in le Jardin du Luxembourg and a visit to the national
history museum. Join your kids or leave them with the qualified guide.
$164 for kids seven-12 years (max five children on a tour) and adults,
$128 for kids three-seven years. Search code 3151_KIDSRIGHT on viator.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.