The most amazing man-made structures in Asia

Faster, higher, longer and older: there’s no doubt Asia plays the one-upmanship game when it comes to architectural statements.

It’s a tough call, making a list of the top 10 architectural statements in Asia. You could go crazy on weird shopping malls or kooky skyscrapers, or totally old-school with a list of heroic monuments and temples.

I’ve earmarked some of the newest, such as Shanghai Tower and Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay, and sought balance with some of the oldest and (in my eyes) most beautiful, such as Indonesia’s Borobodur and the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Uzbekistan.

Would love to hear your thoughts on my list, which was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers’ Traveller section.

top10architecture
Sunrise at Borobudur temple on Java. Photo: iStock

The most amazing man-made structures in Asia

Bhutan’s Tiger’s Nest Monastery. Photo: Belle Jackson

Faster, higher, longer and older: there’s no doubt Asia plays the one-upmanship game when it comes to architectural statements.

It’s
a tough call, making a list of the top 10 architectural statements in
Asia. You could go crazy on weird shopping malls or kooky skyscrapers,
or totally old-school with a list of heroic monuments and temples.

I’ve
earmarked some of the newest, such as Shanghai Tower and Singapore’s
Gardens by the Bay, and sought balance with some of the oldest and (in
my eyes) most beautiful, such as Indonesia’s Borobodur and the
Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Uzbekistan.

To read the full list, click here. Would love to hear your thoughts/additions to the list, which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers’ Traveller sections.

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.”

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).

Buffets, I’ve had a few…

Small fry: mashed duck potatoes at the Sheraton Bali Kuta

Buffets, I’ve had a few…

I know I shouldn’t start a blog post on a negative note, but… a pet hate of mine is people who will never try eating something new.

Especially when they’re on the road. Truly, I have morphed into my mum when I hear myself saying, “But how do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never tasted it.”

Why, just today I found a list of what was sprawled across my breakfast table one bright, Balinese morning, in my recent past: admittedly I was sharing the table with a three-year-old (hence the donut, the Babybel cheese and the Vegemite).

Here’s a list of the table’s contents – it’s breakfast, remember:

Kankung (water spinach) with slices of roast duck and mushroom

I photographed it, but it may come as a surprise to learn
that I didn’t eat it. Strawberry cheesecake for breakfast? Really.

Vegemite and toast
A quail’s egg, boiled
One Babybel cheese
Pink yoghurt
Mango yoghurt
Eggs Benedict
A fruit plate
Cocoa Pops
A glass of tamarillo juice
A pot of Earl Grey tea
Churros (heavily sugared)
A flat white coffee
A chocolate donut.

What’s not to love? The hotel buffet: it’s a beautiful, dangerous beast. Where’s your favourite?

The 50 best travel finds of 2014 from around the globe

Miss Moneypenny’s, Noosa

Yeah, I know it’s already 8 January, but I’m still looking back… maybe it’s because Australia really hasn’t kicked back properly into work yet. Consensus is that next Monday is the day we all turn our brains on once again. I had many great discoveries last year, including the new COMO hotel in the Maldives, Maalifushi, a villa in Lombok and the newly scrubbed Tahrir square in Cairo, but  also a few fun finds locally, in Australia. Here’s my contribution to a recent round-up by the Sun-Herald‘s brace of writers on our best travel finds in 2014.

Miss Moneypenny, Noosa, Queensland

People
watching is a delight in Noosa, when the buff and the beautiful hit the
sidewalks. Take a ringside seat at Miss Moneypenny, one of the newest additions
to Hastings Street, and order up on the seafood share boards and an 80s cruise
ship drink, their signature pina coladas – we’re in the tropics, people! The
open-air bar-cafe-restaurant spills into the street, ideal for seafood Sundays
or Saturday’s late-night supper club.missmoneypennys.com

Jean-Paul Gaultier Exhibition, National Gallery of Victoria 

Playful, cheeky, self-deprecating: not the words usually associated with
fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier delights in smashing the mould; remember the
conical bra he strapped onto Madonna in 1990? Haute couture comes alive with
moving catwalks and interactive mannequins, the exhibition has already
travelled from San Fran to Stockholm. But in Melbourne, the only showing in the
Asia Pacific, Gaultier assures us, it’s almost perfect. Make a night of it with
the NGV’s fantastic Friday Nights program, with DJs and talks, includes
admission to the exhibition. Costs $22 adults/$10 children 5-15 years
(exhibition only), $28/$10 Friday Nights at Jean Paul Gaultier. Until February
8, 2015. ngv.vic.gov.au

Seahaven Resort, Noosa

A stalwart in Hastings St, Seahaven has enjoyed a $16 million refurbishment
and is unrecognisable from its former self. The resort eclipses the big names
for blockbuster location, bang on Noosa’s Main Beach. Accommodation ranges from
studio boltholes to two-storey penthouses, with fully kitted kitchens, rain
showers and laundries. Plan drinks on your balcony, overlooking the sea.
Seahaven’s three swimming pools and its beachfront barbecue.  It’s a
two-minute trot along the beach boardwalk for morning coffee or for dinner at
Noosa’s sensational restaurants. Sunrise yoga on the beach is de rigueur. seahavennoosa.com.au

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

Poh spice, hidden Indonesia and hotfooting it: travel news

The phinisi Alila Purnama explores hidden Indonesia.

CRUISE
Remote islands of Indonesia

Explore the rarely visited waters of West Papua on a truly luxurious sailing trip aboard the Alila Purnama. The five-star, two-masted Indonesian ship, or phinisi, sleeps just 10 guests and is owned by the Indonesian luxury hotel group Alila. The journey begins another world away, in teeming, buzzy Jakarta, before sailing through the remote Raja Ampat (Four Kings) archipelago, around 1500 islands in the Halmahera Sea. Discover golden beaches, lush jungles, expansive coral gardens and sea  life, framed by wild, beautiful scenery rarely seen by even the most intrepid adventurers. The seven-day journey departs once a month until March 2015 and costs from $14,600 a cabin (sleeps two). See alilapurnama.com.

Poh spice

AIRLINE
Poh spices it up
Taste Malaysia from the hands of one of Australia’s best-loved cooking sensations, Poh Ling Yeow, now the newest ambassador for Malaysian Airlines. The accomplished, Malaysian-born TV cook, author and artist will present her Nyonya chicken curry to economy and business class passengers on any of the 81 flights departing Australia and New Zealand to Kuala Lumpur each week. The dish features on the airline’s menus for three months from December 1. “Nyonya Chicken is such a definitive Malaysian dish and definite crowd pleaser,” says Poh, of the airline’s new signature dish. See malaysianairlines.com.

GEAR
Get off on the right foot
You know the old conundrum: pack bulky/daggy runners or find yourself jogging in unsupported ballet flats? Travel stylishly, yet still be ready to leap into a fun run at a moment’s notice with the ELLiE shoe, a hybrid fashion sneaker that is good for your sole and keeps you light on your toes all day long. Designed by Brisbane-based podiatrist Caroline McCulloch, the lace-up ELLiE has a leather upper and lower, a rubber sole, thermoplastic heel and multi-fit inserts that customise your shoe to your foot. Available in sand and black, it’s designed for the traveller who spends one day traipsing cobblestones streets and the next pacing a walkingtrail . Costs $199.95. See frankie4.com.au.

FOOD
From the kitchens in the heart of Italy

She’s not a chef, she’s not a trained cook, Silvia Collaca says she’s just Italian. But the very modest
Colloca is backed by a family of food lovers to produce her second cookbook, ‘Made in Italy’, which is released on November 11. Drawing from her homeland in Marche, Abruzzo and Molise, she shares
her family’s traditional recipes such as homemade spaghetti with stuffed mussels from Abruzzo,
while Marche yields a simple lemon-and-ricotta ring cake, ideal for dunking. Colloca is no stranger to
the spotlight: she is a trained opera singer and actress, is married to actor Richard Roxburgh and her
first television series, ‘Made in Italy with Silvia Colloca’, airs on SBS ONE on November 27. The
recipes and musings are rounded out with photography of beautiful scenery and equally beautiful
food by Carla Coulson and Chris Chen. Cost $49.99. See penguingroup.com.au.

KIDS
Bear north for a koala cluster

Hello Koalas sculpture trail, North Macquarie

Explore Port Macquarie and the surrounding hinterland with a koala as your guide – well, actually 50 koalas. The new Hello Koalas sculpture trail comprises 50 hand-painted, meter-high fibreglass koalas dotted around the region, and celebrates Port’s status as the koala capital of Australia. Visit the world’s only koala hospital, signposted by a sculpture painted by singer John Williamson and drop in on a few real, live koalas at Billabong Zoo, marked by a koala painted by artist “Shiner” Bruce Whitaker. Plans are afoot for a three-meter high Big Koala to add to Australia’s love of all things supersized, from prawns to pineapples. The trail runs until December 2015. To download a touring map, see hellokoalas.com.

TECH
It’s a wrap

Take control of your tangled jungle of cables and whip them into knot-free submission with the outrageously efficient cord wrap from Los Angeles designers This is Ground. This simple leather pouch will untangle your life as well as your headphone and usb cables, with a side pocket for stashing slimline adaptors or ear buds. Available in navy, black, tan and coral, the Ground Cordito cord wrap costs $59.95. See rushfaster.com.au.

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

Sheraton Kuta Bali review: Calm amid the chaos

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

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

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

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

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

Nanny and charge during Sunday brunch. Photo: Belinda Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indonesian desserts. Photo: Belinda Jackson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer was a guest of Sheraton Kuta Bali.

TRIP NOTES

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

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

MORE INFORMATION
indonesia.travel


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

Travel deals: Indonesia’s Gili islands

Flying to Fiji’s Mamanucas with the kids.

Those looking beyond Bali into the rest of Indonesia’s archipelago are finding themselves in the Gili Islands off the coast of Lombok, a two-hour fast ferry from Bali. Otherwise, we love Noos-aaah or pootling around Fiji by seaplane. 

If you’d prefer to play winter princess, check out a tour from Helsinki to St Petersburg, WWI battlefields or (dare we say it) Victoria’s Philip Island? It’s all here, in this week’s best international and domestic travel deals.
GO NOW
QUEENSLAND
Get two nights free when you book a seven-night holiday,
worth $950, at the absolute beachfront apartments at Seahaven Noosa until July
31. The 4.5-star property includes four heated pools, spa, gym and bbq. From $2375,
seven nights. (07) 5447 3422, seahavennoosa.com.au.
RUSSIA
Travel by coach and rail from Helsinki to St Petersburg
and Moscow on the nine-day Tsar Route tour and save $225. Includes transport,
accommodation in first-class hotels, breakfast and sightseeing. Available  August-September 2014. Costs $1891 a person,
twin share. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com.
The glamour of the Russian empire
GO SOON
VICTORIA
Take a
break on Phillip Island and get $200 of extras including dinner, wine and a
three-parks pass that includes the Penguin Parade when you stay two nights in a
studio spa room at the Ramada Resort Phillip Island. Costs $484, two nights,
until August 31. (03) 5952 8000, ramadaphillipisland.com.au.
The new Karma Reef hotel on Gili Meno, Lombok
INDONESIA
Tiny Gili Meno is one of a trio of hip isles of the coast
of Lombok, two hours by boat from Bali. The new boutique resort Karma Reef’s low-season
special runs from October 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015 (excludes Christmas).
Normally $315 a night, from $170 B&B for two. +62 370 642 340,
karmaroyalgroup.com.
GO LATER
NEW SOUTH WALES
Celebrate
spring by reconnecting with nature at the eco-accredited Paperbark Camp near
Jervis Bay, and save up to $440 throughout September and midweek
(Sunday-Thursday) in October. From $500, two nights, with gourmet breakfast,
bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddling. 1300 668 167, paperbarkcamp.com.au.
JORDAN
Discover the Roman ruins, Crusader castles and ancient
Nabataen civilisation of Petra on an 11-night tour through this beautiful
desert country. Book by September 30 and receive all entrance fees to sites
free. Departs March 30, 2015. From $4989 a person, twin share. (07) 3372
4833,  gypsiantours.com.au
KIDS
FIFO TO FIJI
Petra, Jordan
Travel is half the adventure, especially when you catch a
family fly-in, fly-out package to Fiji’s Castaway Island in the Mamanucas. The
five-night offer includes helicopter and sea plane transfers for two adults and
two kids from Nadi airport to the island. There’s also plenty of water action,
with snorkelling, a dolphin safari, sunset cruise and a ride on a banana boat
included. From $5470 for a family of four, available until March 31, 2015. +679 666 1233, castawayfiji.com
TOURWATCH
BATTLEFIELD TOUR
Follow a soldier’s footsteps on a guided tour of Europe’s
most poignant battlefields during the centenary years of WWI. The 12-day tour travels from London to Amsterdam
via France and Belgium to the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, the
battlefields of the Somme and Ypres’ Menin Gate. Highlights include the new
First World War Galleries in the Imperial War Museum in London, and lighter
moments are found in a wine tasting in Reims and dinner in a local’s home in
Amsterdam. From $3775 a person, twin share. 1300
663 043, trafalgar.com.

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

Flying the world’s best economy airline to warmer climes

Balinese dancer. Photo:Belinda Jackson

That special moment when you find your laptop isn’t charged and the sound on your airline movie screen is stuffed. Yes, that moment. All hail technology and dodgy electrical plugs.

I knew it was going to be a weird one, long before even boarding, when the airport customs officer kept shouting, “No-one loses their temper in Melbourne Airport!” Obviously, he’d missed the three-year-old’s tantrum in the insanely long queue. 
So back to my spectacular techno-fail: how did I occupy myself on a six-hour flight to Denpasar? Why, I cleaned spilt foundation out of my handbag. I read up on the encouraging indications that Japan may just ban child pornography (anime and manga excluded). I learned that Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudyoyomo was ‘flattered’ that Our Tony called him a ‘senior statesman…a great president…a good friend’. And I contemplated the gentle fondling of my seat’s undercarriage by the socked toes of the tall Croat behind me. 
After asking the staff to reset the electronics of my movie system, I sipped my tepid tea and started thinking about the airline ratings group Skytrax awarding Garuda Indonesia its 2014 World’s Best Economy Class award.
Perhaps it was the cold tea. Perhaps it was that the first whiff of a teabag came three hours into the flight. Perhaps it was, despite being a 9am flight (which everyone knows means you got up at 5am, left at 6 to make 7am check-in) there was nought but some salted legumes to keep us occupied for the first half of the flight. 
Don’t get me wrong, I like Garuda, with all its challenges (this morning’s being 30 minutes to clear customs queues and a 25-minute wait on the tarmac to take off, Melbourne’s parting shot for those of us leaving its gloomy skies). It is what it is. It got me here safely, hopefully (if it doesn’t read this), it will get me back home safely. But world’s best economy seat? 
Come to think of it, if you are reading, Garuda, the reset didn’t fix seat 31A.