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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Dubai floods & my eyewitness reports

Dubai floods – do those two words even belong together? It’s been a big couple of days, travelling from Melbourne to Muscat via Dubai.

I had 36 hours in Dubai – most of that spent at the airport – as the emirate was smashed by tumultuous rain and ensuing floods, which I saw first hand when I left the airport on a long layover.

I thought I would be the only one checking into my hotel barefoot, but most of the city is running around with their shoes off, as the water is so deep on the streets.

Dubai residents were told to stay at home, and we were not permitted to leave the airport, as the roads have been destroyed, so there was no way to get anywhere, should we choose to leave.

After 18 hours waiting for flights that were constantly cancelled, I slapped on the red lip for a live TV cross with  Joe O’Brien of ACB TV News channel  @abcnews_au while sitting on the floor of the business class lounge at @flydubai in Terminal 2.

And sending huge thanks to Hind and the rest of the team at the lounge for letting me in for a quiet place to talk to Joe, and for maintaining their calm even when passengers turned abusive.

Here’s another report for the Sydney Morning Herald, with all my footage of the wild ride from my hotel, Al Seef, back to the airport.


A traveller’s guide for new architecture openings in 2023

What does architecture need to get onto your travel wishlist? To be a record-breaker? To be cleverly reused and recycled? To be innovative and sustainable?

All these conversations are happening in Copenhagen this year, as the 2023 World Capital of Architecture. The triennial event includes Open House opening buildings normally closed to the public, a run through the city with architects from around the world, and a world congress on the UN Sustainable Futures theme, “Leave No One Behind”.

If you’re staying at home, the newly opened Sydney Modern by Japanese firm SANAA is ripe for exploration, while in Melbourne, the National Gallery of Victoria’s 2022 architecture commission, Temple of Boom – a re-imagining of the Parthenon by Melbourne practice NWMN, is open until October. See copenhagenincommon.kk.dk, artgallerynsw.gov.au, ngv.vic.gov.au

Recently, I rounded up eight great new architectural openings for the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers. It’s a mix of architectural stand-outs coming up in 2023, from super-tall skyscrapers to re-imagined historic sites and quiet, thoughtful conversation starters.

It’s always a tricky one to write – skyscrapers can be delayed (Merdeka 118 in Kuala Lumpur is a year or two behind schedule), museums unopened (we’ve been promised the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo for about eight years now). But 2023 is the year. It’s all opening in a flush of post-COVID exuberance.

Click here to read my story, and let me know what you’re looking at in 2023?


Podcast: travelling in the Middle East

Recently, I went to Saudi Arabia for a holiday. Is that a weird thing to say?

Travelling in the Middle East is a guaranteed dinner party starter: travellers either love it or swear they’ll never set foot in any of its countries – from Egypt to the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

I love the architecture, the languages, the desert landscapes and the blue waters that fringe the Arabian peninsula. I guess that’s why I keep returning.

I chatted to host Ben Groundwater, with Lisa Pagotto, founder of the awesomely adventurous travel company Crooked Compass on the Flights of Fancy podcast to tease out travel in this most misunderstood of regions.

Click here to listen to the full podcast. Go on, you know you want to!

 


On high on the new Ain Dubai: the world’s largest ferris wheel

Hello blog! It’s been a quiet few months as I hit the road for two months in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. My first story in this fresh new year has an appropriate high note – it’s my review of Ain Dubai (in English, Dubai Eye), the world’s largest observation wheel.

Ain Dubai’s opening coincides with the world fair, Expo 2020, which is currently running in Dubai, until March 2022. Remember that when Paris hosted the world fair, Exposition Universelle, in 1889, it built the Eiffel Tower as the main attraction. And it worked.

Back in Australia, there’s welcome news that the Sunday Traveller section in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers has returned after nearly two years’ snoozing, just as Australia welcomes the news that our international borders will finally be thrown open to tourists.

While we Australians were allowed to leave in November (necessitating a rush for the border – I can confirm that the few flights available were absolutely mobbed by those of us desperate to reconnect with our families, who we’d been separated from for at least two years), now, anyone vaccinated can enter the country.

Click here to read my story, which runs on the Traveller website and appeared in print in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) newspapers.

PHOTO CAPTION: Ain Dubai is the world’s largest observation wheel. Credit: Belinda Jackson


Airline review: FlyDubai to the Silk Road city of Almaty, Kazakhstan

It might seem weird posting a flight review in the midst of a global lockdown, but irrepressible travellers are already looking and booking deals around the world for travel late in 2020 and throughout 2021.

If it’s not on your radar, FlyDubai operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800s out of Dubai Airport’s Terminal 2. It’s currently still on the ground, but when in the skies, its destination list includes some intriguing cities including Prague, Naples and Dubrovnik in Europe, Tbilisi in Georgia and its new route from Dubai to Finland’s fun little capital, Helsinki. It also services the ancient cities along the Silk Road including the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat and Almaty in Kazakhstan, which is where I was headed on this journey.

The UAE is already opening back up, with sister airline Emirates flying from its Dubai base to Sydney and Melbourne, sprinkling hygiene kits around its cabins, which includes masks, gloves, wipes and hand santiser. Like Emirates, FlyDubai is owned by the Dubai government, and the two often codeshare.

Click here to read my review, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers. The print edition is currently in slumber, dreaming of its next destination.


Architecture tourism: The world’s inspiring new architecture

Louvre Abu Dhabi.
Courtesy TDIC, Architect Ateliers Jean Nouvel

Castles, towers, skyscrapers: all rich pickings for the travelling
architecture lover. Why not add a hill of garbage, a modern mosque or
the site of the world’s oldest drawings to your travels in 2017?

There’s some crazy, dreamy, ambitious and unexpected architecture
projects opening next year, from Denmark to Doha. Take a look at my round-up of a handful of the best, published in the Sydney Morning Herald/ The Age newspapers.


The 16 must-see new architecture projects for 2016

An artist’s impression of WTC transportation hub, US

In what’s becoming an annual story for the Sydney Morning Herald, here’s my round-up of next year’s great architectural openings. Thanks, as ever, to Sydney architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walks, Eoghan Lewis. 

Who doesn’t love an architectural icon? While rising prices and
global uncertainty have slowed many building projects around the world –
the ambitious Grand Egyptian Museum is once again on ice – eyes are
open for key cultural offerings in Hamburg, New York and London.

Sure,
the skyscraper industry isn’t going out of business any time soon –
just take a look at the new Trump Towers going up in Vancouver, while
skinny is inny as New York discusses the rash of slim skyscrapers
overshadowing Central Park and the first super-tall skyscraper has been
approved for Warsaw. However, take your head out of the clouds to see
what’s trending in the world of architecture.

“Analogue seems to
be coming back … less slick, less same-same,” says Sydney architect and
architecture walking guide Eoghan Lewis. “Authenticity is trending, and
there is a new focus on refinement and simplicity.” (see www.sydneyarchitecture.org)

Click here to see what we’ve named the top 16 architectural openings in 2016. 

(This feature by Belinda Jackson was first published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newpapers.) 


Top cities for new architecture in 2015

Philharmonie de Paris

Go just about anywhere around the world and you are
sure to find great examples of modern architecture.


The new
Louvre, Frank Gehry’s first Australian building, 140 pavilions at the Milan
Expo – it’s a big year across the globe for lovers of the big build. 

MIDDLE EAST
This year,
Abu Dhabi steals Dubai’s thunder with the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi,
finally, on UAE National Day, December 2. The emirate’s new cultural quarter is
on Saadiyat Island, and eventually plans to have five winners of architecture’s
holy grail, the Pritzker Prize, in the one ‘hood. 

Designed by Jean
Nouvel, who made first his mark in Paris with the Institut du Monde Arabe,
 its neighbours will include the Norman Foster-designed Zayed National
Museum (2016), Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017), the Performing Arts
Centre by Zaha Hadid and Tadao Ando’s Maritime Museum. The Louvre is the first
of the big guns to open. Covered by an interlaced white, 180-metre dome
modelled on a traditional palm-leaf roof, Nouvel says its shifting “rain
of light” reflects the Arabic mashrabiya, or ornate window shutters used
in the Middle East. As a local aside, Nouvel’s Sydney skyscraper, One Central
Park in Chippendale, recently won the award for the  world’s best tall
building. (louvreabudhabi.ae)


Normally an
architecture fan’s go-to for wildly tall buildings, Dubai is resting on its
laurels following the opening of the world’s highest observation deck, SKY, in
Burj Khalifa in October, hovering 555 metres above ground. It’s now busy
working on a swag of new hotels including a lavish Palazzo Versace Dubai. If
that’s all too staid, check out the quirky Dubai Frame. Like it says on the
tin, it’s a picture frame, albeit 150 high and 93 metres wide, designed by
Mexican architect Fernando Donis, who beat off more than 1000 others in an
international competition. Set in Za’abeel Park, if the political argy-bargy
over its construction abates, by mid-2015, you’ll be able to take a lift to the
top to walk along a glass-floor bridge, with modern Dubai on one side, and the
older city on the other side (dubaitourism.ae)

EUROPE
The Jenga building, NYC

Speaking of
Nouvel, despite bloated budgets and blown-out timelines, the Philharmonie de
Paris, designed by the man-of-the-moment, will eventually open on January 14
with a performance by the Orchestre de Paris. You’ll have to trek out to les
banlieue (the ‘burbs) to Paris’ north-eastern edge and Parc de la Villette, to
view the metal-clad building, a deliberate ploy to spread the cultural love
right across the city. With the sound engineering by Australia’s Marshall Day
Acoustics, the main hall seats an audience of 2400 in suspended balconies
curled around the stage.(philharmoniedeparis.fr)


Architecture
fans, you have the opportunity to kill 140-odd birds with the one stone when
you visit the Milan Expo, which runs from May 1 to October 31, 2015. The theme
is “Feeding the planet, energy for life”, brought to life by a
pavilion from each participating country. More than 20 million visitors are
expected to visit:  your architect-spotting list should include Vietnam’s
pavilion by Vo Trong Nghia, Foster + Partners’ sinuous reinterpretation of its
sustainable Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, and  the pulsating beehive by
Wolfgang Buttress for the UK. (expo2015.org)

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture …
it may come as a
surprise that modern architects are turning their eyes
towards Australia – Belinda Jackson
In Biel,
Switzerland, “emergency architect” and cardboard wizard Shigeru Ban
has created a gentle, curved, lattice tunnel from timber to create the headquarters
for the Swatch/Omega group. “Timber is the only renewable material for
construction in the world,” says Ban, “so this is also very important
for the environment of the future.” The architect, who is best known in
the southern hemisphere for his Cardboard Cathedral in Christchurch, New
Zealand, also wove timber into the new Aspen Art Museum, Colorado. (aspenartmuseum.org

USA
Unless
you’re rubbing shoulders regularly with the ultra-rich, you won’t get to see
inside 56 Leonard, a skyscraper nicknamed “the Jenga Tower” for its
staggered, jutting layers. Comprised of 145 penthouses and glass lofts in New
York’s chi-chi TriBeCa, the prices are as stratospheric as its views – up to
$30 million for a penthouse, and its half-million dollar price tag for a parking
space makes Sydney look a bargain. The building is all but sold out – buyers
were obviously lured by the statement-making sculpture at the entrance by Anish
Kapoor as well as the kudos of living in a building designed by the Swiss
masters, Herzog & de Meuron who list the world’s most popular museum,
London’s Tate Modern, on their CVs. (56leonardtribeca.com)

Eminently
more approachable – on completion, you will be able to loll on its lawn – W57
is Danish wunderkind Bjarke Ingels’ first New York project. His firm, BIG, just
took out the Culture award in the 2014 World Architecture Festival for its
Danish Maritime Museum. In New York, BIG has created a 750-apartment
residential complex contained in a 142-metre pyramid that’s been squished and
torn asunder, angled to catch the light and breeze on the Hudson River
waterfront, to open this spring.

Calatrava’s World Trade Centre transportation hub, NYC

And to get
totally immersed in NYC architecture, all you’ll have to do is catch a train at
the World Trade Centre transportation hub, when it is finally completed after a
six-year delay and doubling of the budget. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, who
wears the phrase “neo-futuristic architect” with apparent ease, the
hub will connect 11 subway lines, as well as rail, ferries and underground
walkways as deep as five storeys below ground, with the WTC memorial site.
Roughly the same size as Grand Central Station, the Instagram angle will be its
white, ethereal skeleton, with 45-metre long, retractable wings that will open
on September 11 every year. “The building is built with steel, glass, and
light. The station appears transparent, and also guards you with its
wings,” says the architect, who was inspired by the gesture of child
releasing a dove into the air. (wtc.com)


While you’re
in New York, you might like to take a look at busy Renzo Piano’s new Whitney
Museum of American Art, opening in the Meatpacker District this spring. His
Greek National Opera House also opens in Athens in 2015 (whitney.org).
Otherwise, a talking point in Chicago is Beijing-based MAD Architects’
halo-topped Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which they say was inspired by Frank
Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe. (lucasmuseum.org)

UNITED KINGDOM
Last year,
the London architecture scene was all about Renzo Piano’s The Shard, the
308-metre home of the Shangri-La and western Europe’s highest building. In
nearby Lambeth, London’s riverside precincts are still a-changing with the
long-awaited opening of shock artist Damien Hirst’s private gallery in Newport
Street, Lambeth. Architects Caruso St John, responsible for the elegant
renovation of the Tate Britain on the opposite side of the river, are binding a
row of neighbouring warehouses to create one long terrace to house Hirst’s vast
personal collection of works that include Francis Bacon, Jeff Koons and Banksy
(damienhirst.com).
Nearby, eyes are on the Tate Modern’s new extension, once again by Herzog &
de Meuron, due to open 2016. 

Always one
to watch, Living Architecture commissions architects to design houses in
Britain that are then rented out to holidaymakers with a keen appreciation for
contemporary architecture. There are two openings this year,  A House for
Essex by statement-makers FAT and Grayson Perry and Life House/ Ty Bywyd by
John Pawson.  Expect the unexpected in North Essex:  a quirky little
architectural folly covered in ceramic tiles, its gold roofs set with huge
sculptures – a chapel in the wilderness? In contrast, Life House, in central
Wales, tries to hide within the hills, one room even semi-submerged. Its three
minimalist rooms are designed exclusively for music, reading or bathing, Made from
handmade Danish bricks, its black exterior taps into this recurring
architectural trend. (living-architecture.com)

Sydney’s Goods Line

AUSTRALIA

If you
thought you had to travel to see great architecture (Roman Coliseum, Greek
Acropolis etc) it may come as a surprise that modern architects are turning
their eyes towards Australia. One of the most talked-about buildings is right
under our noses. In case you’ve been caught napping, the new UTS Dr Chau Chak
Wing Building is by international architecture heavyweight Frank Gehry, best known
for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Located on Ultimo Road, Haymarket,
this is the first Gehry building for Australia and will be the home of the UTS
Business School when it officially opens in February. The crumpled paper bag
look was achieved with 320,000 custom-designed, hand-laid bricks, bringing
artistry to the industry. (uts.edu.au)

Zooming
straight past the Gehry building, taking its cues from New York’s High Line,
the Goods Line is a shared pathway that links Railway Square to Darling
Harbour, via Ultimo, by Aspect Studios and CHROFI. The 250-metre Goods Line
North, which runs parallel to Harris Street from the Ultimo rail underbridge to
the Powerhouse Museum, also opens in February as the much-neglected south of
the city starts to feel some love. The “cultural ribbon” aims to link
up the city’s jewels, including Hyde Park Barracks, the Australian Museum and
the Art Gallery of NSW. (sydney2030.com.au)
If that
wasn’t enough, here’s a gentle reminder to keep the annual Serpentine pavilion,
in London’s Royal Park, on your list: each year, an architect who has not yet
built in the UK is invited to create a temporary pavilion. The list of previous
architects is a Who’s Who of the design world. And for those of you who don’t
mind getting your hands dirty, the IKEA museum opens on the site of its first
store, in Älmhult, Sweden (ikea.com), as does Legoland Hotel Florida. (florida.legoland.com

A final note
of warning: take this list with a grain of salt. Economies slow, building sites
flood, wars intervene and Barcelona’s La Sagrada Familia still isn’t finished
(they’re tipping 2026, just a few years behind Our Bangaroo, in 2022).

FIVE GREAT ARCHITECTURAL GUIDES
SYDNEY: Take to the streets on foot or by bike with architect Eoghan Lewis, sydneyarchitecture.org.
NEW YORK: Bettina Johae leads tours Throughout New York, including Greenwich
Village and Chelsea & Meatpacking District, aplusnyc.net.
EUROPE: Guiding Architects is a loose connection of architects based
predominantly in Europe, with links to Dubai, Doha and Shanghai, guiding-architects.net
BARCELONA: Explore Gaudi and beyond with architect Miguel Angel, barcelonarchitecturewalks.com.
DUBAI: Discover skyscrapers galore, as well as the low-to-the-ground,
traditional developments of this brash town, ga-dubai.com.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald & The Age newspapers.

Traveller deals: Seychelles bargain

All things Mexican are so hot right now, so why not join the locals and celebrate their dead? Otherwise, live (extremely) well in the Seychelles, escape winter in Dubai or our own Daydream Island, or embrace winter in Melbourne. Hope you find something your heart desires in this weeks’ international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
SEYCHELLES
Help Banyan Tree celebrate 20 years with its celebratory
three-night packages that serve up welcome cocktails, a 120-minute spa
treatment for two and 20 per cent off food and drinks until December 15.
Hillside pool villas at Banyan Tree Seychelles from $1490 a night. See banyantree.com
QUEENSLAND
Find your niche in the Whitsundays with a three-night winter
escape to Daydream Island Resort and Spa, with breakfast and a $20 spa
voucher for travel. Book by July 31 for travel until September 19. From
$339 a person, three nights. 138 833, sunloverholidays.com.au.

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Catch emerging artists at Melbourne’s The Windsor and save up
to $300 in a Victorian suite. The “Marvel at The Windsor” package
includes wine and cheese and a private tour of the exhibition, August 30
to September 14. From $399, deluxe room, save $100. Victorian suite
from $559. (03) 9633 6002, thw.com.au.
SWITZERLAND
Stay four nights and pay for three when you stay at The
Lodge, Sir Richard Branson’s mountain retreat in Verbier, until
September 29. Includes all meals and drinks. From $1075 a room, a night.
See thelodge.virgin.com/offers.

GO LATER
NSW
Celebrate winter in the outdoor hot tub of The Villa at The
Drawing Rooms of Berry. Stay two nights by September 18 and get a bottle
of sparkling wine, Belgian chocolates handmade in Berry, breakfast and
late checkout. From $700 for two nights. Quote “Get Going”. (02) 4464 3360, drawingrooms.com.au.
DUBAI
Save up to 28 per cent on a stay at the five-star Rixos The
Palm Dubai, on Palm Jumeirah island, until September 30. Breakfast and
Wi-Fi are included and you can deposit just $5 and pay the balance 28
days before departure. From $315 a room, a night. 1800 359 769, lowcostholidays.com.au.

Tourwatch

Day of the dead
From the macabre to the marvellous, join Mexico on the Day
of the Dead, when it celebrates the lives of those who have passed on.
The five-day tour includes a Day of the Dead ceremony, a Halloween
costume party, a visit to death-obsessed artist Frida Kahlo’s museum
and a trip to La Isla de las Munecas, an island full of disfigured
dolls said to be possessed by a drowned girl’s spirit. Departs October
30, 2014. Costs $760 a person. 1300 797 010, intrepidtravel.com.

DEAL
TOP DIGS FOR KIDS
Chic hotel booking group Mr & Mrs Smith has had a baby:
welcome little Smith & Family, a collection of hotels catering to
junior travellers, each road-tested by parents. Expect kids’ clubs and
menus, cots and toys plus the adult basics of great spas, kitchens and
to-die-for interiors. With 115 hotels currently on the list, book a
seven-night stay by July 15 for travel until December and get a week’s
free babysitting. Check out Tuscan villa Castello Di Casole, complete
with cinema, bikes, a croquet lawn and kids’ pizza-making classes. From
$390 a night. 1300 896 627, smithandfamily.com.

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

Boasters with the mostest: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s highest bar, Ozone, in the Ritz Carlton Hong Kong

 Biggest, highest, most blindingly expensive. Belinda Jackson
rounds up the ultimate travel experiences, from super-luxe to just plain
boastful. 

LAND
Longest walking track

The Pacific Crest Trail runs 4264 kilometres from the US-Mexico
border to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Budget five
months to walk it entirely, or you can jump a pony, as the trail is also
open to equestrians. Yep, there are bears in there (pcta.org).

Longest train journey
The legendary Trans-Siberian generally wins this category,
with the 9289km journey from Moscow to Vladivostok via Lake Baikal
taking seven days. But as train guru the Man in Seat 61 points out (seat61.com),
the honour for the longest continual journey should go to the No. 53
Kharkiv (Ukraine)-Vladivostok route, about 9714km, another seven-day
epic.

The world’s highest train journey, on the Qinghai-Tibet railway

Highest train journey
More than 550km of the 1956km Qinghai-Tibet railway is laid
on permafrost. Every train has a doctor and enough oxygen for every
passenger, and the highest point is Tanggula Pass, at 5072m. It also
passes through the world’s highest and longest rail tunnels.

Highest bar

Drink in the views of Victoria Harbour at Ozone bar in the
Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong, Kowloon side. Set on level 118, it’s 468.8
metres above sea level (ritzcarlton.com).

Biggest building
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 828
metres, with 124 levels. It also has the world’s fastest elevators and
highest restaurant (At.mosphere on level 122, 442m) (burjkhalifa.ae).

It holds the crown until 2018, when the 1000-metre Kingdom Tower in
Jeddah, in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, is complete. Another design by
Burj architect Adrian Smith, expect fewer nightclubs (kingdomtowerskyscraper.com).

Noma restaurant, Copenhagen

Best restaurant
Copenhagen’s Noma restaurant (noma.dk)
is back on top, bumping Spain’s El Celler de Can Roca off the perch as
the 2014 winner of the authoritative San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants (theworlds50best.com). Judges name the winter potato cooked in fermented barley as chef-owner Rene Redzepi’s standout dish.


Best ethical travel destination
The Bahamas has been named Ethical Traveler’s greenest
destination, taking into account its environmental protection, social
welfare and human rights.
Others in the top 10 include Chile, Latvia and Mauritius (ethicaltraveler.org).


Most expensive tours
With a spare million dollars, you can spot 18 endangered
species in 12 countries, with one-tenth going toward conservation
projects (naturalworldsafaris.com). Otherwise, $1.5 million will let couples visit all 962 UNESCO
World Heritage sites. Put aside two years. Its other tours include the
10 best photo spots, for $130,000 (includes cameras), and the 10 most
luxurious suites in 21 days for $359,000 (veryfirstto.com).


AIR
Biggest airport
The busiest airport by passenger numbers is
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, US, handling 92
million travellers a year, but yet again, Dubai gets in on the act: on
completion in 2027, its $32-billion Al-Maktoum International airport
will be able to accommodate 160 million passengers a year (dwc.ae).

Best airport
Singapore’s Changi airport consistently rates one of the
world’s best, taking out first place in Skytrax 2014 World Airport
Awards, followed by Incheon (Seoul) and Munich airports.
Sydney Airport was ranked Australia’s best, at No. 21 (worldairportawards.com).

Best airline
Air New Zealand was named AirlineRatings.com’s 2014 airline
of the year, with Qantas the best economy airline, while Skytrax 2013
World Airline Awards rates Emirates as the world’s best, followed by
Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines, with Qantas coming in at No. 10. (worldairlineawards.com).

Safest airline
Qantas holds the record as the world’s safest airline, with a
fatality-free record since 1951, says airlineratings.com, rivalled by
Air New Zealand, according to jacdec.de.

Most luxurious airline lounge
For those of us fortunate enough to get a look in, Lufthansa
first class lounges were named the world’s best first-class lounges
while Qatar Airways took the business class gong at Skytrax’ 2013 World
Airline Awards (worldairlineawards.com).

Longest flight
Like to watch movies? Qantas’ ultra long-haul flight from Sydney-Dallas is the longest flight by distance, at 13,804km (qantas.com.au).
Should Turkish Airlines enact its plans for an Istanbul-Sydney route,
it would take the crown for its 17-hour, 14,956km flight (turkishairlines.com).

Ultimate airline travel experience: A three-hour flight on
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will cost $260,000, taking you 100km
above the earth, travelling at three times the speed of sound. Includes three days’ space training (virgingalactic.com). For a more modest $128,300, you can fly around the world in 24 days on Four Seasons’ new Boeing 757 private jets (fourseasons.com/jet).

SEA

Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship

Biggest cruise ship
The godmother of Allure of the Seas, a Royal Caribbean International ship, is super-sized Shrek ogress Princess Fiona. At 362 metres long and more than 225,000 tonnes, it can take
6295 passengers. The liner has 24 elevators, the first Starbucks at sea
and Broadway hit Chicago on show.
Its position will be usurped by another RCI ship, as yet unnamed, in 2016 (royalcaribbean.com).

Largest superyacht
With two helipads and a missile defence system, you can hire
Eclipse, owned by Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman
Abramovich, for $2 million a week, excluding running costs.
At 162.5 metres, it’s the world’s second-biggest private
yacht after UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s new
180-metre yacht, Azzam, complete with armour-plated master suite.
The Azzam is not for hire.

Best beach
Brazil’s Sancho Bay on the remote island of Fernando de Noronha wins best beach, according to TripAdvisor.com.

Longest beach
Brazil wins again, with the 241km Praia do Cassino Beach. Gippsland’s Ninety-Mile Beach comes in fourth place. Whitest sand beach in the world: One for the home team,
according to the Guinness Book of Records, the whitest beach is Hyams
Beach in Jervis Bay, 2½ hours from Sydney.

Hyams Beach, Jervis Bay, NSW Australia

Best island
If money is your measure, you can rent the Caribbean’s
Calivigny Island in Grenada, for a cool $1.55 million a week. Sleeping
50 guests, it comes with a 173-metre yacht for your use (calivigny-island.com).More accessibly, the TripAdvisor community has voted Ambergris Caye, in Belize, its top island for the second year running (tripadvisor.com).

World’s highest pool
The Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong’s pool, is the world’s highest at 490 metres (ritzcarlton.com), towering over Marina Bay Sands’ dizzying infinity pool, 55 storeys, or 198 metres, above Singapore (marinabaysands.com).

World’s biggest pool
Running alongside the ocean, the lagoon pool at the San
Alfonso del Mar resort, in Valparaiso, Chile, is 1013 metres long,
earning its Guinness Book of Records entry. The 8 hectare, 250
million-litre saltwater pool is a pleasant 26 degrees and has a
100-metre waterslide (sanalfonso.cl).
Its sister lagoon, in the Egyptian resort city Sharm el-Sheikh,
reportedly covers 12 hectares and a Dubai project, under way, will cover
40 hectares.

The world’s largest pool, San Alfonsa del Mar, Chile

BEDS
Largest hotel
By room count, the three-star Izmailovo Hotel in Moscow,
Russia, with 7500 rooms, is largest. Most of the world’s mega-hotels,
with 4000-plus rooms, are in Las Vegas.

Most expensive hotel room
At $73,177 a night, the Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel
President Wilson is on the banks of Lake Geneva, with views of Mont
Blanc. There are 12 rooms, 12 bathrooms, a Steinway grand piano and yes,
it’s bulletproof. More modest rooms start at $483 (hotelpresidentwilson.com).

Tallest hotel
Six of the top 10 tallest hotels are in Dubai, including the tallest, the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, which tops 355 metres (marriott.com). At 488 metres, the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong is taller but is ruled out as the building is not solely a hotel.

Smallest hotel
Central Hotel, Copenhagen, 2.4m by 3m, including a minibar and photos of Ronnie Barker (the owner’s a fan), $360 a night. (centralhotelogcafe.dk).


This article by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

Global Salsa

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