I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Hotel review: Swissotel Resort Phuket, Thailand

Poolside at the Swissotel Resort Phuket, Thailand. photo: supplied.

With Muay Thai in the gym, a broad sweep of beautiful white-sand
beach, poolside kid manicures and Phuket’s cha long liquor at the
poolside bar, what’s not to love about this family-friendly hotel?

Set on the broad sweep of Kamala Bay, on Phuket’s west coast,
Swissotel Resort Phuket is two minutes’ walk to the beach, within
driving distance of most of the island’s attractions, but away from the
sin bins of Patong. Ideal for families, it’s the great beach holiday,
Thai style.

You can read more about my review of this Phuket family hotel here on the Traveller website. The feature appeared in Sydney’s Sun-Herald and Melbourne’s Sunday Age newspapers.

In the raw in Phuket, Tiger trims down, checking out the Flying Doctors: Takeoff travel news

FOOD
In the raw on Phuket
The luxury Sri Panwa hotel on Phuket’s southern coastline
has opened its newest dining option, an authentic Japanese restaurant called Baba
IKI. Order from the sake cocktail list and get up close and personal at the
sushi bar with head Chef Haru, who trained under Iron Chef Boontum Pakpo. Top
picks include the toro sashimi (premium tuna belly) and sake
sashimi (Norwegian salmon). Seating 60 people, Baba IKI has expansive views
over the Andaman Sea. This is the fourth restaurant at the hotel on Cape Panwa including
Baba Soul Food, which serves traditional southern Thai cuisine such as as Hell
Chicken and crab and coconut curry.  The
hotel has been named Thailand’s best resort and its Baba Nest rooftop bar one
of the world’s best beach bars. A night in the pool suite ocean view costs from $800. See sripanwa.com.

AIRLINE
Tiger trims
carry-on kilos
Low-cost airline TigerAir is dropping its free carry-on luggage
limits to 7kg a person on flights booked from March 17 for travel from April
17. Currently, passengers are allowed to bring two pieces of cabin luggage
weighing up to 10kg in total. The airline said the move will help prevent
over-filled overhead lockers and save time both on the plane and at check-in.
Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Rex Airlines have 7kg carry-on limits on their economy
domestic routes, while Qantas allows two bags of 7kg, totalling 14kg. TigerAir
passengers can buy an additional 5kg of carry-on luggage, bringing the total to
12kg, with its new Cabin+ product, which costs from $18 in advance or from $36
at check-in. See tigerair.com.

KIDS
Backyard explorers
Teach the kids a love of the great outdoors, stylishly, with
a night under canvas in the new Joey tent. Created by outdoor goods
manufacturer Homecamp, the sturdy Joey is made
from canvas, has a waterproof floor and is fire and mould resistant. Pitching
at just under a meter high and 1.4m wide, it fits in the backyard or pitch it beside
the family tent for a kids-only zone on holidays. The Joey weighs 8kg and will
sleep three little ones. So all you have to worry about now is dead torch
batteries and marshmallow overdoses. Costs $325. See homecamp.com.au. 
BOOK
Gallipoli No. 1 destination

Travellers wanting to visit the battle sites of
Gallipoli, Turkey, are being advised to avoid not only ANZAC Day, on April 25,
but also weekends until mid-June. Lonely Planet named the Gallipoli Peninsula
the world’s number one travel destination for 2015, and its new Turkey guide
advises that massive crowds are expected to visit the Gallipoli Peninsula
Historical National Park this year, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the
Gallipoli landing. Author James Bainbridge adds that weekends in September are
another peak time, when vacationing Turks visit the region. Lonely Planet
Turkey (14th Edition), $39.99.See lonelyplanet.com.


NEWS
Check-up at the Flying Doctor
The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Broken Hill has opened
a new GP clinic beside its visitor centre, where travellers heading into
central Australia can seek medical advice and ensure they’re in fine form for
the road. The RFDS has visitor centres at Broken Hill, Longreach, Alice
Springs, Kalgoorlie and Dubbo, as well as Charleville, which also as a GP
clinic. Last year, its 63 aircraft flew more than 26 million kilometres caring
for 282,000 people, and says about a quarter of its emergency medical evacuations
are road warriors driving in the outback. Broken Hill is 935km from Sydney and
725km from Melbourne, and the last medical service until Alice Springs, so plug
the new Clive Bishop Medical Centre into your GPS: it’s at the RFDS Base on
Airport Rd, next to Broken Hill Airport, open 9am to 5pm, Monday-Friday. The
Bruce Langford Visitor Centre lets you go behind the scenes and into the RFDS
airport hangar, open seven days. For medical appointments, call (08) 8080 3780.
To donate to the not-for-profit service, see flyingdoctor.org.au.
GEAR
Indigenous inspiration
Wear your country with pride with this fashion range
designed by indigenous artists. The Community Unity lifestyle bag is painted by
artist Robert Levi and measures 45×36.5cm. It’s made from polyester drill by indigenous
clothing brand Bundarra which designs, cuts and sews all its garments
here in Australia. Levi, who is from Thursday Island in the Torres Strait, says
the bag’s design shows hope for indigenous unification. It’s one of several designs across Bundarra’s range, which includes fashion leggings and its new
singlets. Bags cost $39.95. See bundarra.org.



This weekly column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newpaper’s Traveller section.

Airline review: Jetstar business class

THE ROUTE Melbourne to Phuket.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME None unless you pay an additional $200 for a Business Max bundle,
which earns points with Qantas Frequent Flyer or Emirates Skywards Miles
and gives access to the Qantas Club lounge.
CLASS Business class, seat 3C (aisle).
DURATION Eight hours and 50 minutes.
FREQUENCY  Jetstar began flying three times a week between Melbourne (Tullamarine) and Phuket on the Dreamliner on February 9.

THE SEAT
38-inch (92.5-centimetre) pitch, 19-inch (48-centimetre) width. There
are just 21 business class seats with a 2-3-2 layout, and it’s fully
booked.
BAGGAGE Checked luggage up to 30 kilograms and two carry-on bags, each up to seven kilograms.
COMFORT  It’s a low-cost carrier, so don’t expect lie-flat beds. The grey
leather recliners are like business class of yore: they’re broad and tip
back to a snooze-worthy level, though it does become squeezy for the
passenger behind, working on their laptop. The Dreamliner offers decent
27 centimetre (10.6-inch) screens, big overhead lockers that I can
actually reach and windows that are nearly half as big again as other
aircraft. Instead of shades, Dreamliners have an electronic dimmer
which, when the afternoon sun hits the window, turns the cabin a curious
aquamarine colour, surely like snoozing in a fish tank? Despite the
captain’s warning of some bumps, the flight is mostly smooth, another
Dreamliner feature.
The middle seat: Jetstar business class.
Jetstar’s Dreamliner business class seats.
ENTERTAINMENT  Even at 40,000 feet, you can’t escape Two and a Half Men reruns. The new releases selection is extremely modest in size and the “summer blockbuster” section is dated (Avatar was released in 2009). Still, I’m happy with a new Maggie Smith film, My Old Lady,
and even test out the “health videos”, a blend of natural sounds,
orchestral music and seascapes of NSW’s Wattamolla Beach – a sort of
Enya-meets-Sharon O’Neill clip. I’m very surprised to find the R-rated Game of Thrones
available. I think I’ve selected one episode without full-frontal
nudity but I’m mistaken. Luckily, there’s a bulkhead between me and the
small children behind. I could turn on the “Seat Chat” feature to see if
someone wanted to chat online with me, but perhaps not …
SERVICE  We’re stuck on the tarmac for 25 minutes awaiting late paperwork, but
it’s no hardship in business class, where the Piper-Heidsieck champagne
is making a showing. The flight touches down just a shade off schedule.
Staff are informative (but not too chatty), though obviously still
becoming familiar with the new aircraft’s features.

FOOD We’re served dinner and supper on this afternoon/evening service. The
appetisers, two little savoury tarts, are dry and pretty unappealing
but the Chinese spiced duck leg tastes as good as it smells. The
Australian cheese plate finishes me off. But wait… the staff circle
again, this time with Baileys or a Rutherglen muscadelle and chocolates
and shortbreads. Bizarrely, supper arrives just two hours later, and
still only 4½ hours into the flight, for those who didn’t eat a
three-course lunch. The chicken BLT is so large that eating it just
isn’t ladylike, but I persist and it’s a winner. The Eden Road
chardonnay from Tumbarumba is a welcome respite from the sauvignon
blanc.

THE VERDICT Jetstar’s business class prices reflects the fact that it’s a
low-cost carrier, with seats priced from $949 one-way ($399 in economy).
The convenient day flight to Phuket departs 3pm and arrives at 8pm.
However, I pity those who draw the short straw and get the middle seat
in the 2-3-2 formation: it seems to defeat the purpose of flying
business.

Tested by Belinda Jackson, who flew courtesy of Jetstar. See jetstar.com.

This review by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.


Things to do in Phuket, Thailand: One day three ways

PENNY PINCH

Amble down to the food carts that congregate outside the mosque at
Bang Tao before 9am for a classic breakfast of lod chong (bright green
pandan noodles with coconut milk and red sugar) and sweet tea with
Carnation milk, served in a huge glass stein (THB40). Hitting the beach
is now a cheaper proposition since the government has stopped daybed
hires. Go early to nab a shady spot then call for a beachside massage
(THB500). Lunch is  hokkien noodles at third-generation run Mee Ton Poe:
order the fish curry in banana leaf, mee tom yum (tom yum soup with
noodle) and mee hokkien. Arroy mak mak! (Yum! THB100) Tap into Phuket’s
Buddhist roots at the Big Buddha overlooking Chalong, then stop into the
super-ornate Chalong temple (free) before winding down with a Singha
beer and sunset over three beaches (Kata Noi, Kata and Karon) from the
Karon View Point (THB80). Dinner is by the obliging women who set up
their food carts in Kalim Bay, till 9pm (THB100). Looking is free on
crazy Bangla Road, with its ladyboy and girl-a-go-go bars. Thus dazzled,
doss in one of the Old Town’s gorgeous, tiny guesthouses – try Na Siam
(171 Soi Soon Uthit, facebook.com/nasiamguesthouseandcafe, THB800/double).
TOTAL THB 1620 ($64)

Charming: Dibuk Road, Old Phuket Town. Photo: Getty Images

EASY DOES IT

Call for mango juice and house-made croissants at your digs, the
four-star Swissotel Resort Phuket, but go easy before you line up for a
quick Muay Thai session at the hotel (free). Hot enough for you? Cool
down with a dip from a longtail boat, which you can hire off Kamala
Beach and cruise to little Laem Singh beach (TBH1500). Lunch is a chance
to rub shoulders with Thai starlets at One Chun restaurant: order the
rich, creamy crab and coconut curry (48/1 Thepkrasattri Rd, Old Town,
THB280), then unravel the cuisine’s secrets through an afternoon at the
Blue Elephant Cooking School, (THB 2800, 96 Krabi Rd, Phuket Town, blueelephant.com/phuket).
After slaving in the kitchen, reward yourself with sunset drinks and
dinner at BiMi on the swank strip of Surin Beach: don’t go past the
whole grilled snapper with spicy jim jaew sauce. Pair with a mojito made
from local Cha Long Bay rum (THB820, bimibeachclub.com)
or grab a Sly Thai vodka/limoncello/lime cocktail next door at Catch
Beach Club (THB290), then it’s sweet dreams at the nearby Swissotel,
which has one, two and three-bed suites (From THB 4720 a night, one-bed
deluxe suite with breakfast, swissotel.com).
TOTAL THB 10410 ($413)

SPLASH OUT

Get the yacht to pick you up at Cape Panwa Marina for Thai-style
breakfast aboard its five-hour cruise – leap off for a snorkel and kayak
through the Andaman Sea (thailuxurycharters.com,THB130,000)
then jump ship at Kalim Beach for lunch by the seaside at the modestly
named Joe’s Downstairs, where chef Aaron Hooper has been named
Thailand’s top chef. Order his Blue Crab Cake and/or Joe’s Famous Burger
(baanrimpa.com
THB1500) but don’t go overboard: this afternoon you’re hanging from the
treetops on a zipline eco-adventure, and the weight limit is 120kg (flyinghanuman.com,
THB3250). Dust down and gloss up to rub shoulders with royalty and
Rockefellers at sunset drinks at one of Phuket’s best bars with a view,
Baba Nest, in the luxe Sri Panwa hotel. For real, undumbed-down Thai
food, take a table at the hotel’s Baba Soul Food restaurant or order the
luxe toro sushi and do a Phuket versus Canadian Maine lobster
comparison at its new Japanese Baba Iki restaurant (THB5100) then call
for champagne and party the night away in your private plunge pool (sripanwa.com, from THB22,400 a night, pool suite ocean view).
TOTAL 162250 ($6448)

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Swissotel Resort Phuket and Sri Panwa. 


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


Walking Phuket’s old town

Just back from Phuket, I absolutely fell in love with the colours and history of Phuket old town. It’s chocked with gorgeous cafes, guesthouses and weird trinket shops wedged between mechanics, junk rooms and people’s homes. If you’re following my Instagram feed
(@global_salsa), THANK YOU and sorry, you may well be sick of these
photos. If not, here are a few of my favourites. I’ll be posting up
more in the next few days, once this vicious cold abates (thank you,
also, Thai aircon, this is not the first time you’ve done this to me).

Gorgeous guesthouse

Raya restaurant

Snapped on Yaowarat Street (also spelt Yaowarad or even Yaowaraj – go figure)
There are some truly spectacular tiles on the doorsteps of the old town’s shops and houses.
I couldn’t get my feet out of the road, so you get the lot: tiles and toes.

Traffic tears past at a manic rate, but this grand little corner seems woefully neglected.

See what I mean about these tiles? They’re just fabulous.

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