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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Enter the Year of the Dragon! Celebrate the Lunar New Year in Melbourne

Kung Hei Fat Choi! The Lunar New Year is upon us, and we’re entering into the Year of the Dragon, and not just a dragon, but the wood dragon, which promises growth and prosperity for all!

Word is China is bracing for a baby boom in this auspicious year, says Chris Chun, the artist of this lovely green dragon and my guest on The World Awaits travel podcast this week.

Take Chris’ recommendation and visit Melbourne’s Chinatown to see the Lunar New Year parade followed by yum cha, then pop into the ⁠Museum of Chinese Australian History⁠ to say “Kung Hei Fat Choi” to the largest dragon in the world, the Millennial Dragon, whose head weighs around 200kg.

Also, ⁠@bookingcom ⁠releases its Top 10 Most Welcoming Places in Australia, and the @SunshineCoast and @VisitVictoria are shining bright – but who do you think got the top gong? Tune in for more Sunny Coast goodness, and to put its claim as Australia’s craft beer capital to the test.

And finally, let’s save money on travel insurance, says financial comparison site @mozo.com.au

Thanks to my co-host @kirstiewrites and sound producer @alaisdair for another great episode! And if you’d like to continue to hear more great pods, why not buy us a coffee? https://ko-fi.com/theworldawaits


Better than Bali? Why Malaysia should be on your travel radar in 2023

Some destinations are once-in-a-lifetime destinations – think Antarctica or Svalbard. Others, like Bali, receive an annual visit from many Aussies. Malaysia is one of those that falls in between – before the rise of the Middle Eastern hubs of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Kuala Lumpur (KL to its friends), Bangkok and Hong Kong were the trio of stopovers on our European sojourns.

This year, it’s back on my list, as I transited KL on a one-night stopover, went deeper into Langkawi and Penang and, now, find myself in the wilds of Malaysian Borneo, exploring the sta

te of Sarawak and all its exotic glories, from sun bears to head hunter tribes, orang utangs to jungle food.

While we can’t get enough of Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, Malaysia is still largely undervalued, if not ignored, by us, despite affordable direct flights from Australia, fabulous food, unique wildlife and unrivalled value for money.

Click here to read my story in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, and you can see plenty of of my snaps on instagram from Sarawak, including its capital, Kuching, on the Santubong peninsula and down on the Malaysia-Indonesian border, here in Borneo, click here.

 


ABC Radio interview: luxury train travel in Central Asia

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan: how romantic are the names of these Central Asian countries? Travelling in them has been a long-held dream of mine.

I travelled along the legendary Silk Road by luxury train, visiting these three, historic countries- exploring their history, their food and their glorious architecture. I don’t use the ‘trip-of-a-lifetime’ phrase lightly, but Golden Eagle Luxury Trains certainly steps up to the description. Take a look at their fabulous instagram account at www.instagram.com/goldeneagleluxurytrains/ or visit their website, goldeneagleluxurytrains.com

Click here to listen to my interview with Philip Clark on ABC Radio’s Nightlife program.

 

20 June 2022


Journey through three ‘Stans

I have just spent six days on the Golden Eagle – a private train travelling along the web of Silk Road routes, from Almaty in Kazakhstan though Uzbekistan and to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

I’ve long wanted to visit the ‘Stans, but as the song goes, it was just that the timing was wrong. So the chance to visit aboard a luxury train couldn’t be passed up.

Travelling along the Silk Road, my journey from Almaty to Ashgabat.

Of all the stops on this journey – Almaty, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Ashgabat, the winner of the beauty prize is Samarkand.

Its Registan Square, pictured above, is just so big, and so awe inspiring, it’s almost overwhelming to try to take in all its beauty in one day, let alone in one photo.

However, it was the quieter, more secretive streets of Khiva that possibly caught my attention. Even though its historic Old City isn’t lived in anymore, it just seemed to have more life. Maybe it was the fact it had more scarf and textile shops, each tucked into a picturesque niche lined with Uzbekistan’s trademark turquoise tiles.

This part of the world is no stranger to travellers – these oasis towns have been receiving new ideas, cultures, languages and religions since time began.

But they’ve slipped off the radar in recent decades, only to be coaxed back on by new, more lenient visa requirements and our desire – and ability – to explore further, with international flights now into all the major cities.

A few details:

I flew into Almaty and out of Ashgabat via Dubai with its low-cost carrier, fly Dubai.

The Golden Eagle is a luxury private train that started its great rail journeys on the iconic Trans-Siberian route across Russia, www.goldeneagleluxurytrains.com

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Golden Eagle Luxury Trains.

 

 


How to… give alms respectfully in Laos

Each morning in Laos, Buddhist monks receive alms from laypeople, traditionally rice. It’s a simple religious ceremony called the Tak Bat, says Brian Lingham, of Luang Prabang’s Buddhist Heritage Project, see buddhist-heritage.org

By giving alms, you are giving something of yourself, he says. However, many Tak Bat ceremonies in the major tourist areas are being bombarded by poor behaviour – using flashes in front of monks’ faces, crowding their route, talking loudly throughout, with little respect for the solemnity of the occasion.

Brian offers a brief guide to attending the ceremony respectfully, from maintaining silence to only making an offering if it does, actually mean something to you (and not just as a photo op).

You can read my full article, which appeared in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age. Click here, and enjoy!


Six of the best beach clubs on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula

Bali’s Bukit Peninsula is a haven for some of the island’s best beach and pool clubs. We tested six of the best (look, someone’s got to do it) for your bathing edification, from architectural statements at Uluwatu to the new hot in Nusa Dua. So pack the floaty kaftan and big sunglasses and skip our wintery shores.

This article was published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

To read, click here


Hilton Manila hotel review

Manila’s traffic is so bad a whole city of airport hotels has sprung up to service airline passengers coming into the city on their way to and from the Philippines’ fabulous islands. Newport City includes a Marriott and a Savoy, convenience stores and coffee shops, casinos and shopping malls, and now the city’s only Hilton, which opened in October 2018.
It’s the end of a tropical holiday, so of the five dining venues, it must be the swim-up bar for a lunch of mango mai tais, hot fresh pizza with buffalo mozzarella and fresh fish fingers for the small fry. Service is super-chatty and super-friendly, though not speedy, as the hotel is still polishing its act. Madison Bar & Lounge near the entrance is easy to overlook but chocophiles note: its patisserie serves excellent chocolate croissants. There’s also a well-stocked gin bar with knowledgeable staff and a jazz singer who croons into the wee hours.

Click here to read the full review, which was first published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.


Smoking hot: Volcano tourism

Fascinated by nature’s spectacular fireworks, a breed of adventurers chase volcanic eruptions around the world.

 

Peering into a chasm into the earth’s crust is the chance to peer into creation – pits of bubbling, boiling lava, deep rumbling voices from our planet’s core, plumes of sulphurous gases and the spectacular, powerful arcs of red-hot, molten lava shooting into a darkened sky.

For some, it’s a glimpse into hell. For others, it’s the perfect holiday.

“I guess we’re like storm chasers and people who want to see solar eclipses – we’re in the same family,” says Belgian geologist Dr Ingrid Smet, a guide for Volcano Adventures (VA).

My piece on volcano tourism was published in Paradise, the inflight magazine of Papua New Guinea’s national airline, Air Nuigini. If you’re not on an Air Nuigini flight any time soon, you can read the full article here.


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.

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Sunrise at Borobudur temple on Java. Photo: iStock


Hotel review: Swissotel Resort Phuket, Thailand

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.

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