|Mesmerising Myanmar: Ancient temples and an increasingly
modern infrastructure are the drawcards. Photo: Getty Images.
reveal their tips for the coming year.
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.
everyone going in 2015? Gallipoli for the centenary, on unusual train journeys, South America,
Antarctica and our new Australian tours by private plane.
should everyone be going in 2015? Iran and Myanmar. For safe and trusted, a British
Isles cruise or a train journey through Switzerland.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? An unsettled world and the weakening
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.
travelling, so people across cultures, religions and countries can connect
peacefully. See captainschoice.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? Myanmar: infrastructure is improving and there’s a sense it’ll all
should everyone be going in 2015? Bhutan: because it’s not going to change fast. A
purer and more controlled experience awaits.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Travel safety: the perceived threat of increased
terrorism and infectious diseases.
you packing your bags for? London, Florence, Marrakech, Taipei, Tokyo and the USA.
Wifi flights will become the norm. See luxecityguides.com.
everyone going in 2015? Japan, now great value for money, and India.
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
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.
you packing your bags for? Vietnam, Japan and Mongolia.
Self-drive three-wheeled tuk-tuk tours in India! See wendywutours.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? Philippines: budget carrier Cebu Pacific Air has just kicked off a
service departing Sydney four times weekly.
should everyone be going in 2015? London, for the Rugby World Cup!
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
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.
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
should everyone be going in 2015? Trekking the Altai mountains in Mongolia, hiking
and biking in China, cycling Puglia, Italy.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Flight availability in peak seasons, more freak
storms and volatility in weather patterns due to global warming.
you packing your bags for? Italy’s Gran Paradiso Trek plus a self-guided cycling holiday from
Slovenia to Croatia!
prediction for 2015? The Great
Himalayan Trail – a five-month trek traversing Nepal’s high passes. See worldexpeditions.com.
everyone going in 2015? Cruising Europe, Alaska, and the Baltics.
should everyone be going in 2015? Asia, cruising from Japan and Singapore, visiting
Vietnam and Cambodia, and even Indonesia’s Komodo Island.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? The falling dollar, sharpening travellers’ focus
you packing your bags for? Stradbroke Island, maybe an African safari and a PNG and Solomon
Islands cruise to test new destinations.
at sea with Australia’s best food and wine. See carnival.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? Italy and Greece for the food, wine, history and sites and Norway for
the Northern Lights.
should everyone be going in 2015? ANZAC centenary commemorations in Gallipoli, with
or without ballot tickets.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Global safety issues and natural disasters.
you packing your bags for? I would like to do The Ultimate Travelling Camp in India.
Experiencing destinations in 3D, such as enjoying the view from your
(prospective) hotel’s balcony. See coxandkings.com.au.
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
should everyone be going in 2015? Dunsborough, Western Australia. Definitely a new
you packing your bags for? A holiday rental in Cape Kidnappers, New Zealand, near golf courses,
vineyards and beaches.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Low-cost air carriers continuing to open up new
markets, particularly in Asia.
rentals becoming bookable online, like hotels. See stayz.com.au.
everyone going in 2015? South-east Asia and the Asia Pacific, for snorkelling safaris, stunning
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
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Truly personalised and local experiences.
you packing your bags for? Japan’s Cherry Blossom Festival, a diving holiday to Fiji and skiing in
marketing aimed at locals through social media, and brands rewarding guests for
publicising their trips via social media. See ihg.com.
everyone going in 2015? Safe, affordable Nicaragua, Central America and Mykonos, Greece.
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.
biggest issue in travel in 2015? Online travel companies becoming mobile savvy, as
travellers use mobile phones to research, plan and book holidays.
you packing your bags for? The coolest little capital, Wellington, and Tasmania.
Meta-search websites – websites that aggregate information from all over the
web into one site – being an essential planning tool. See skyscanner.com.au.
|Characters of Egypt. Photo: Belinda Jackson.|
If you’ve been living under a rock (or possibly not in Australia), you may have missed the launch of the fabulous new Traveller website, from Fairfax Media. To kick off, a handful of us were asked for 10 travel experiences that changed our lives. I nominated hanging off a glacier on Russia’s Mt Elbrus and watching the cultural puzzle click in India, but also experiencing the absolute inability to communicate (in South Korea) and travelling in the Middle East (oh, there are SO many ways this has changed my life).
Here are my two published experiences below, and you can click here to read the full story, which includes seeing Rome’s Colosseum, going on safari on the Masai Mara and visiting the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.
There are holidays that help you relax and unwind, then there are
travel experiences that change your entire outlook on life. Here, some
of Traveller’s most well-travelled writers name the experiences that
changed their lives – and could change yours, too.
Where: South Korea and beyond
The experience: Finding yourself in a truly foreign culture
How it will change your life:
of the great joys of travel is connecting with a local without a tour
guide babying you through the conversation.There are those little
milestones – the first time you buy water, order a meal, score a date in
a foreign language.
I thought I was pretty slick: I could fumble
French, shout Spanish, read Russian. My mime skills were excellent, the
vocabulary list in my travel guides well-studied. But my global
communication skills foundered, profoundly, in South Korea.
sitting in an empty café in Seoul. According to the photos around us, it
sells noodles. I would like noodles. Every time I suggest a noodle
dish, the waitress shakes her head. So I point. She shakes. Point.
Shake. Point. Shake. I give up, I find a vending machine. (Later, I
learn I was sitting in a closed restaurant.)
Having the complete inability to communicate is a humbling experience. It is a reminder that the world is a far bigger place than just you and your orbit. – Belinda Jackson
Where: The Middle East
The experience: See life beyond the newsreels
How it will change your life:
They do things big in the Middle East: the Great Pyramid of Gizas,
Iran’s Persepolis, the Sahara desert and the Empty Quarter, to name a
few. Steer clear if you like orderly queues, traffic lights and 10pm
The standard backdrop for the Middle East in news
bulletins is of tanks, screaming masses and men in epaulettes. The
reality on the ground – save a few war zones – is about traffic jams,
happily shouting friends and men in epaulettes (what’s not to love about
a good uniform?).
Men and women live in different spheres, pork
and booze are largely off the menu and if you’re foreign, you’re rich.
Yes, there are camels and shisha (tobacco water pipes) and you will see
belly dancers. Yet there are also chic beach resorts, the sneaky
late-night bars and saucy cabarets, the deep and abiding love of
football (that’s soccer). And while headscarves can polarise a nation,
from Iran to Oman, the passion for fashion is alive and kicking, with
the same obsession for black.
Let go: travelling in the Middle
East requires sinking deep into a rich, cultural morass. Deep down,
you’ll realise, we all just want the good life. – Belinda Jackson.
|Pelligrini’s bar & cafe, Melbourne|
If you were wondering where in the world to live, it’s official – yet again: Melbourne has pulled off a hat-trick as the world’s most livable city, three years running.
The Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual survey saw us bump Vancouver down to third place, and Vienna is in second. A note to those who haven’t yet visited: no matter how much we moan about winter, our winters don’t come with thigh-high snow.
We have a ridiculously good cafe scene, vibrant street art, leafy streets and a marked absence of tanks or chemical warfare going on, which no doubt helped us pip the 139 other cities in the competition, which finds poor Damascus, Syria, now at the bottom of the list.
So I take this blog to tell the current Victorian premier, Dr Denis Napthine, to stop carving the city up with his ridiculous, overpriced and under-researched road schemes. Just because you don’t like Collingwood, doesn’t mean you have to wipe it off the map with a freeway. One of the key considerations for the EIU is infrastructure (as well as stability, culture & environment, healthcare and education), and that means public transport.
|Street art, Melbourne|
If you were in doubt as to Melbourne’s livability, you could go for second-best and choose Adelaide, Sydney or Perth, who were also in the top 10. Aww, makes you proud to be an Australian, doesn’t it?
The top 10
Vienna, Austria (hello Andrew!)
Vancouver, Canada (um, cold, anyone?)
Toronto, Canada (yep, cold, too)
Calgary, Canada (possibly colder)
Adelaide, Australia (also very good coffee, thanks to all the Italians)
Sydney, Australia (yeah, yeah, whatevs)
Helsinki, Finland (see cold comment, above)
Auckland, New Zealand
The bottom 10 (most of which are on my hitlist except Lagos, which just sounds scarey)
Tehran, Iran (lovely, lovely city)
Port Moresby, PNG
Walking is the new cycling, which is of course the new golf, and one of the best walking destinations in the country is Tassie. The new Three Capes walk hugs the sea cliffs of the Tasman peninsula and out to Cape Raoul. This three-day tour also includes a visit to Port Arthur and a jet boat wilderness cruise (yes, you read that right). Normally $1095, book before March 23 and save 15 per cent on the April 24 departure. Costs $930 a person, three days. 1300 666 856, tasmanianexpeditions.com.au.
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY
Golf aficionados head far west for a putt in the sun, and non-golfing spouses will enjoy the diversion of staying a houseboat on the Murray River. Stay four nights on a deluxe houseboat and play Mildura’s two 18-hole courses, including buggy hire and get full breakfast provisions, dinner at the Gol Gol hotel and a gourmet barbeque. Normally from $900 a person, save $350. Costs from $550. 1800 800 842, willandrahouseboats.com.au.
It’s billed as the ultimate fishing safari, and when you spot the barramundi lurking in the shadows of the waters around the Kimberley Coastal Camp, you’ll have to agree. The remote camp is on the Kimberley’s Admiralty Gulf, and is offering half-price fishing safaris from March 19-22 or March 22-25. Includes air transfers from Kununurra, a scenic flight over the magnificent Mitchell Falls, all meals, accommodation and fishing tackle use. Costs from $3382 a person. 0417 902 006, kimberleycoastalcamp.com.au.
NEW SOUTH WALES
|Cabarita Ocean Spa, NSW|
You’re a healthier you, on the NSW far north coast. Book a health retreat at Cabarita Ocean Spa with a friend and save 25 per cent on all stays until March 23, and singles get 15 per cent off. Expect surfing and stand-up paddling, as befits an ocean retreat that’s moments from the coastline, as well as lashings of organic, locally sourced food and Sodashi in the spa. Costs from $1650 a person, twin share, three nights. (02) 6674 3111, cabaritaoceanretreat.com.au.
|Wind towers, Iran.|
Blow the myths out of the water and discover one of the friendliest countries on earth: Iran. This tour departs from Shiraz, reached easily from Dubai or Abu Dhabi, where there’s no drinking wine, but plenty of beautiful gardens and the astonishing ancient city of Persepolis. Highlights include the romantic desert city of Yazd and one of the world’s largest plazas, Naksh-e Jahan Square, in bejewelled Isfahan. There are hill villages, palaces and fine museums as well as plenty of tea stops and fine Iranian cooking to be sampled. The 18-day Highlights of Persia tour departs October 1. Costs from $3850 a person, twin share. (02) 9418 7803, byroads.com.au.
Sorry this blog is all about food at the mo, but travel search engine skyscanner has just told us what we already knew, that Turkish Airlines has the best food in the skies.
I’ve flown Turkish several times (last time, notably, to Tehran, which prompted a blog entry that had a Kevin Costner fan in a tizzzzz). What’s refreshing about this survey is that while Turkish might use Kev to suck some more American travel dollars into its coffers, it doesn’t use the big name chefs for its menu (eg. Singapore and potty-mouthed Gordon Ramsay, Qantas and old yellow fang, Neil Perry etc).
The airline simply relies on the simple fact that Turkish is one of the most fabulous cuisines on the planet. I have to say I’m surprised at finding Aer Lingus up at number four (the memory of hardened blood sausage and those strange little white, veiny bangers comes to mind) and Aeroflot one point behind Qantas, but am not surprised by the high-ranking Emirati airlines, Etihad and Emirates, though I didn’t expect Qatar to be so low. Here are the final scores:
I like Vancouver: the food is amazing, the scenery beautiful, snowfields and ocean close by. But if I had to choose between the two, I’d still choose Melbourne. It’s those extra 10 degrees. In Vancouver, joggers wear full bodysuits and having been there in December, I can tell you that Melbourne does not have snow drifts like Vancouver has snow drifts.
In the comments following this story in the Sydney Morning Herald, I note that no Sydneysider was begrudging Melbourne its position – Sydney was down in 7th place, just above two more Australian cities, lonely Perth and suburban Adelaide, in tied eighth place. That makes four of the top 10 cities as Aussie hotspots. In fact, most Sydneysiders were laughing at the idea that Sydney’s such a great place to live, quoting bad health and transport systems and outrageous costs of living: true, true and true. Those blissful beaches give a lot back to the city.
It could be worse, Sydneysiders. You could be living in one of the bottom 10: say Harare, Dhaka or perhaps Port Moresby. Poor Tehran, there it is as the eighth-worst city in the world, when it actually has good food, shopping and marvellous scenery nearby.
If you’re interested in the full story of the world’s most livable cities, click here to read the Sydney Morning Herald’s take on it all.
Click here for a link to this story in the Sydney Morning Herald’s travel section…
In the west, fashion has been dominated by the LBD (little black dress) for decades. When we want to look chic, we wear black. When we can’t find anything else in our wardrobes, we throw on the standby black trousers, black shirt and black shoes. Super easy, unless you’ve washed your black clothes into shades of grey, you can’t mess up the colour coordination.
In the East, however, it’s a whole different kettle of fish. Black is ultra-conservative: think the all-encompassing chadors of Iran, the face-obscuring niqabs in Egypt, how in Oman men wear white while women wear black gellibayas (the long shapeless gown that falls to the ankles think LBD again, but in this case, Long Black Dress). Here, to wear black is to state that you’re conservative, respectable, religious, even. It’s the flamboyant, fashionable girls who are mixing gold and purple, splashing spring green with white, as opposed to flashing flesh.
In both instances though, wearing black is conformity – conformity to fashion or conformity to conservative mores. Repeat after me: we are all individuals.
It is so disappointing to see the riots and subsequent deaths in Iran over the outcome of the presidential elections, which saw the incumbent conservative president, Ahmadinejad, re-elected with two-thirds of the vote.
Such a country – with an embarassment of riches from culture to design, landscape and natural wealth – deserves better.
Judging from the feelings of the people I spoke to in Iran until two days before the elections, nobody thought that a candidate would get the required 50% plus one vote on the first round, and would go back to the polls a few days later for another crack at filling the second-from-top spot. So for Ahmadenijad to get such a large majority is just sloppy, in my book.
Most of the campaigns I saw on the street supported the reformist candidate Moussavi, Amhadenijad’s followers were conspicious for their absence.
The Moussavi campaign attracted a lot of women as the candidate’s wife is a career woman in an prestigious Iranian university, and he has declared his support for women’s advancement, breaking such barriers as abolishing rules that see certain degrees, such as engineering, allowing only 20% women to 80% men. His popularity with women and students is undisputed.
In contrast, Ahmedinajad’s support is in the religiously conservative provinces, and I was told he has increased pensions exponentially to the elderly, thus ensuring their support (shades of Australia’s John Howard!) Inflation’s running at around 25%, unemployment at 11%.
One of the fears people had about the elections is that they remember the last ones in 2005, which were followed immediately by a crackdown on morality issues. The newly elected then Ahmadenijad demanded sleeves to go back down to the wrist (they were sneaking up to a risque elbow), a return to segregation between the sexes and, memorably, Iranians recall with a defiant giggle, even shop mannequins heads to be covered with scarves.
The population was caught unawares, back in 2005: one day last week, a woman in my shared taxi was arguing gently with the driver why she was going to vote for Moussavi. She told him: I remember my son being beaten for talking to a girl at that time. Why would people support a return to violence?
It’s not really fair to Iran for this to be the last picture I post before I fly back to Cairo – not fair on a country whose people have offered me tea, bus tickets and, memorably, the food on their forks.
But hey, I’ve posted a pic of one of the greatest exports, Persian carpet, here’s the other: Persian propaganda.
The ‘Death to the US’ murals are written on the walls of the former US Embassy, just up the road from my hotel. Word is that the hardline troops that have been occupying this prime piece of real estate since the 1979 revolution are getting ready to move, as relations with the US soften to the point of positive gooeyness, particularly with the possibility that the reformist candidate, Musavi, might topple Ahmadinejad in the elections later this week.
The streets are heaving with campaigners, which culminated in sheep being sacrificed for Ahmadinejad yesterday and a rather staid gathering for Musavi today in a large office block, due, it’s said to the fact that the government (ie Ahmadinejad ) wouldn’t give him permission to have a public rally.
I spent my last day cruising the fashionable streets of North Tehran, snapping the old US Embassy and finally visited the carpet museum. So that’s a nice note to end on, with a nicer pic too. See you all in Cairo, signing out from Tehran.