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… 

Follow

 

Wildlife in the Top End, new hotels for Adelaide, chop-chop, shop-shop: Takeoff travel news


NEWS: Spike in tours to Top End

Go deep into the tropical Top End to
explore the wildlife of Kakadu and the Mary River on safari with
Australia’s most decorated ecotour operator, Echidna Walkabout Nature
Tours. ‘‘This is where nature is still in charge,’’ says director and
guide Janine Duffy, who lists bustards, wallaroos and short-haired
wallabies as her favourite finds, as well as crocs, wild pigs and rare
birdlife. ‘‘It’s slow travel; you need to spend the time to discover the Top End,’’ she says.

Echidna Walkabout Tours won gold in
London last year at the World Responsible Travel Awards, named Best for
Wildlife Conservation, and recently became just one of three responsible
tourism operators in the world to be awarded the highest rating in the
Ethical Travel Guide by Tourism Concern, a charity that campaigns for
ethical and fair-trade tourism (tourismconcern.org.uk). The Wild Top End tour runs from
August 3 to August 9, 2015, and again in August 2016. The maximum group
size for the six day tour is 16 people. Costs $3300 a person. Phone (03) 9646 8249, see echidnawalkabout.com.au.  

 


FOOD: The world at your table

It’s a dreary night, so why not walk
the streets of the world with this new cookbook exploring the world’s
great street foods. Spend the night dining on Santorini’s tomato
fritters, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches from South Carolina, Iran’s
moreish jujeh kebab (saffron chicken) or kara’age chicken from the
izakayas of Tokyo. More than 150 easy recipes are drawn
from the four corners of the globe, most for four to six people,
because it’s all about sharing. Don’t miss the handy little Tricks of
the Trade section, which gives simple, straightforward advice about not
overfilling woks, roasting stock bones before you boil them and how

refrigerating dough makes your pizza crusts bubbly and chewy. This is author Jennifer Joyce’s 10th
book and she is also a food stylist for London mags, so expect beauty
on every page. My Street Food Kitchen is out on July 1 and costs $39.99.
See
murdochbooks.com.
 


KIDS: Rock on, baby

For the tiniest babes on the go, the
new Sleeper portable bassinet from Dutch-born Puckababy is a snug,
secure portable bassinet suitable for newborns and babies up to four
months, or 6.5kg and 64cm long. The soft bassinet is lightweight and
swaddles the baby with a neat crossover fold that is also a handle for
easy carrying and gentle rocking. Made from 100 per cent cotton, the
fabric is fully washable and carries a 1.0 tog rating. Ideal for planes,
trains and keeping baby safe and sound at home. Costs $179.95. See
puckababy.com.au.


GEAR: Chop, chop! Shop, shop!

Navigate China without currency woes
with a new prepaid travel card from Australia Post and Chinese firm
UnionPay, which is underwritten by the Bank of China. Charge the
Load&Go China card up with

Australian dollars and lock in a
fixed exchange rate into Chinese yuan, then it’s time to go shopping.
You can use the card at ATMs and point-of-sale terminals, paying in the
local currency. The reloadable card goes where foreign credit cards
aren’t accepted and as it’s prepaid, your bank accounts are safe and
unlinked. The card can be registered and locked with a PIN, and any
unused yuan can be converted back to Australian dollars when you come
home, without commission fees. Purchase in Australia Post offices or see

auspost.com.au/loadandgochina
 


HOTELS: Sage advice for stayers

Adelaide is the site of a new hotel
brand, with the old Grand Chifley Hotel recently rebranded as
Australia’s first Sage Hotel. The four-star hotel targets business
travellers with an eye on the balance sheet: rates include free Wi-Fi,
and laundry and minibar prices it says are comparable to convenience
stores. The property is in the prime location of South Terrace,
overlooking the city parklands, and is close to Adelaide’s free tram.
The Chifley Wollongong will rebrand to Sage in August and a new build in
Perth opens in March 2016. Sage’s parent group, the Singapore-based
SilverNeedle Hospitality, has 55 properties in the Asia-Pacific region
including the Country Comfort brand and Next Hotels, which debuted
recently in Brisbane. The Sage Hotel Adelaide has an opening special of
$99 a night, deluxe queen room only, until July 31. See
silverneedlehotels.com

TECH: Van of your dreams

So you’re listening to the call of the open road, but don’t have the vintage Airstream caravan to tow along for the ride? 

Log on to the new website for
MyCaravan.com, which hooks up would-be caravanners with the wheeled home of their

dreams, including motorhomes and
camper trailers. Owners can rent out their vans when they’re not in use,
and renters can save themselves the headache of van storage,
maintenance and registration, while paying up to half the price quoted
by commercial rental companies. The new website rates and reviews
vans as well as owners and renters, and also has a no-tow, no-woe section
for on-site vans, saving tow-bar-less renters any hauling hassles. Some owners will also relocate their vans for you, for a fuss-free, affordable holiday. See
mycaravan.com.au
 

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper’s Traveller section.   


Exploring Bray: England’s most famous home county

Oakley Court hotel Bray Berkshire. Photo: Alamy

The river boat hums down the Thames. Lush green gardens and gabled
houses line the riverbanks as we pootle down towards one of Britain’s
most desirable villages: Bray, in Royal County of Berkshire. 

Tudor mansions and neo-Gothic piles; if the digs aren’t fabulous,
their present and former owners make up for it, from Sir Michael
Parkinson to Elton John’s mum. There are embassies of Far Eastern
kingdoms and off-duty houses for foreign royalty (the queen, of course,
lives in nearby Windsor) and you may spot residents from neighbouring
villages, including Terry Wogan, Natalia Imbruglia or Michael Palin.

Steve
Harris, our captain and owner of the 34-foot  Dutch motor
yacht Fringilla, delights in blowing our mind with deliciously colourful
real estate gossip: “There is no public money in Bray” and “Yes, £8
million for that one” as we cruise the ancient waterway.

Our river
journey starts at the ingloriously named Maidenhead Railway Bridge,
designed by the gloriously named railway engineer Isambard Kingdom
Brunel. Also known as the Sounding Arch, which sounds much better, the
brick bridge was created by Brunel with what was, in 1838, the world’s
widest arches. Its two broad spans inspired Turner to paint it in 1844
and London-bound trains still thunder over the bridge today.

The
natural end to the two-hour cruise down this little elbow of the Thames
is one of Bray’s three-Michelin-starred restaurants, of which there are
only four in Britain. There are two in the village of 5000: Michel
Roux’s Waterside Inn, which has a handy wharf out front, and Heston
Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck.

Bray is determinedly a village. Not a
town, not a civic centre but a bona fide parish, with hamlets and
greens, as mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. There are crests
galore atop the pubs, on private houses, through the picturesque
graveyard of St Michael’s Church, which looks like it’s auditioning for Midsomer Murders.

There’s
the sprawling red-brick Jesus Hospital, sporting a plaque that
describes how the almshouse was founded in 1627 by a loaded London
fishmonger who left it in trust to his guild, the Worshipful Company of
Fishmongers. Bray was also home to Hammer Films, and its neighbour, a
gargoyle-riddled Gothic folly, became Frank-N-Furter’s mansion and
hosted several zombie films. It’s now the very nice Oakley Court Hotel,
its car park exit sign reads a perky “Toodle pip!” We’re in Wind in the Willows territory here.

Then there’s the Heston factor.

Look,
I know you can buy his ham pies and puddings in Coles now, but that
doesn’t detract from going back to the master’s back yard. Heston owns
three eateries in the village: The Crown – think pub grub of fine fish
and designer salty chips; The Hinds Head – another 15th-century pub but
more refined, dishing up hashes of snails; and the
three-Michelin-star The Fat Duck. The world-acclaimed restaurant has
just finished its successful sabbatical in Melbourne’s Crown Towers
hotel, though it won’t reopen from its refit and antipodean sojourn
until later this year.

This wintry November eve we’re checking
into Lavender Cottage, the newest property by Malaysian group YTL
Hotels.Its Malaysian properties, Pangkor Laut and Tanjong Jara Resort,
do a mean line in super-luxury, so look past the doilies-and-fust
misnomer because this little three-bedroom cottage sleeps six in
top-of-the-line style.

Listing its features reads like an interior
design magazine: sounds by Bang & Olufsen, Peter Reed Egyptian
cotton bed linen, Turkish carpets and a Gaggenau wine fridge. The
massive food fridge is stocked with organic goods – cheeses, antipasto
and wine – despite Bray’s embarrassment of restaurant riches being a
three-minute walk away. The cottage even offers to send a chef in to
whip up brekkie. The bartender in the Hinds Head, across the road, sends
a couple of cocktails, which are the perfect end to our arrival
canapes of delicate smoked salmon and sandwiches, petit fours, perfect
strawberries and pots of afternoon tea.

Heston’s own Early Grey
gin is in the cupboard (and, I discover later, in the posh Waitrose
supermarkets) and I have a passionate affair with butter churned with
Anglesey sea salt from the Prince of Wales’ own organic label, Duchy
Foods.

Lavender Cottage is painted a dove grey, with exposed red
brick walls and a glass conservatory built onto the original 1600s
building. A fire crackles in the fireplace, lighting great beams
revealed and renewed after an ignominious 1980s renovation, slate floors
are warmed underfoot, the bedrooms glow with ivory silks, and there is
nothing wanting in the kitchen. In the garden, there’s even a little
greenhouse for spa treatments. If, for some bizarre reason, you find
yourself in England in November, there is no finer cottage to call
home.

Its sister properties are flamboyant party house Bray
House, the former stables of Manor House of Bray, built in the
1780s; and the tiny, beautiful, couples-only Dormer Cottage. Each is 
worth a night’s stay purely to see the envy on day trippers’ faces. We
waltz in for lunch at one pub, have dinner at another, walk through tiny
Tudor gatehouse, the 15th-century Lych Gate, to the mossy village
graveyard and take a day trip to Windsor, to check out the locals.
Later, I discover the M4 motorway roars just minutes away from Bray but
the village pays no heed: it just continues with its mission to achieve
professional cuteness.

After two days of bucolic luxury, it takes
but an hour to be jettisoned back into fever-pitch London. Sure,
there’s a king’s ransom of beauty in the capital but it’s tempered by
rashes of high-street betting shops, dilapidated curry houses and grim
public housing. If the capital has taken its toll on me, Bray is the
ultimate antidote.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of YTL Hotels. 

TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION visitbritain.com

GETTING THERE Bray is 10 minutes from Maidenhead, three stops from Ealing Broadway,
on the London Tube’s Central and District lines. Alternatively, hire a
car from Heathrow airport for the 27-kilometre journey to Bray. 

SEE + DO Take a two-hour cruise downriver on the Fringilla, a renovated 34-foot Dutch motor yacht. See boathiremaidenhead.co.uk.  
STAYING THERE Lavender Cottage costs £1000 a night; see muse-hotels.com/braycottages/en/lavender-house.php 

FIVE MORE DAY TRIPS AROUND BRAY
1 EXPLORE WINDSOR Wander around Windsor for the cutest old-world cafes and a classic British High Street.
2 SAFE BET Have a flutter on the horses at either Windsor or Ascot racecourses.
3  ROYAL TOUR Go
all-out royalist with a visit to the 900-year-old Windsor Castle’s
State Apartments and the tomb of Henry VIII and see the Changing of the
Guard.
4  PLAYTIME Legoland Windsor is aimed at kids 2-12 years: its Driving School is the most popular attraction.
5  CLASS ACT Even
princes have to go to school: take a tour of historic Eton College,
which taught  princes William and Harry their three Rs, and was the
backdrop for the WWI epic Chariots of Fire.

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published on the Fairfax Traveller website.


The outlaw in the frame: Ned Kelly tourist attractions, Victoria, Australia’s ultimate hipster

Hero or villain, Ned Kelly was Australia’s original hipster, writes Belinda Jackson.

 

I’m lying in bed and a masked man
hovers nearby, clad in armour, brandishing a sawnoff rifle. And then it
comes to me: Ned Kelly was the ultimate hipster. 

Unforgiven by Adam Cullen (Ned Kelly and Constable Fitzpatrick),
2011

He had the beard. He
had the country hideaway. He definitely had the anti-establishment
attitude, and he was into designing his own clothes, which are still
distinctly his own, even 135 years later.

  
 

It’s only fitting, then, that Ned is
celebrated in Melbourne’s hipster digs, The Cullen hotel, in edgy,
inner-city Prahran. 

He’s in the lifts, he’s in the corridors, he’s on my
bedroom wall, watching over my bed, a metal can on his head, Winchester
repeater aimed high behind me.

  
 

The Cullen celebrates the work of
Archibald prize winner Adam Cullen, who died in 2014, aged 46. ‘‘Cullen
was … interested in representing other bad boys, criminals and
bushrangers,’’ says Tansy Curtin, senior curator at the Bendigo Art
Gallery.

  
 

The Cullen Stormie Suite

 
Staying on the hipster theme, I
ponder: what would Ned drink? Probably home-made rum, so the guy was
obviously a locavore, eating and drinking from within 100 kilometres of
his home.

  
 

This guy was into fashion, sporting handcrafted clothing.

  
 
Following suit, I raid the
offlicence just behind the hotel for a pinot grigio from the King
Valley, prime Kelly country, and score handmade pizza from the famed
ovens of Ladro, nearby.

  
And this guy was into fashion,
sporting hand-crafted clothing. 

‘‘Ned was a dandy,’’ says art curator
Andrew Gaynor, who leads me through the wealth of Kellyinspired art at
The Cullen.

  
 

‘‘Beneath his armour at the Siege of
Glenrowan, he wore a silk waistcoat, pin-striped trousers and a green,
silk cummerbund. The gang cut a really good figure, and Ned had plenty
of sympathisers to his cause for a new, free state.’’

  
 

Hero or cop killer? Choose your fairytale, which is now overlaid with decades of research, turning up crooked judges, botched

investigations and plenty of gloves-off England versus Ireland racism.

    

‘‘There’s so much we didn’t know until recently,’’ says Kellyphile and guide Airi Repetti, at the State Library of Victoria.

   

The stately building is home to Kelly’s original set of armour, forged from a set of ploughshares.

   However, if you went looking for the
44-kilogram suit of armour, you’d find a polite note telling you to go
to Bendigo, where it’s the hero artefact in a new exhibition that
celebrates the Kelly legend, Imagining Ned.

  
 

The exhibition brings together some
of the most memorable images of the man, from the Kelly series by Sidney
Nolan and his contemporary, Albert Tucker, to one entire room dedicated
to

Cullen’s huge, rich works of the players in the Kelly saga.

  
 

Edward’s Bag of Fruit by Adam
Cullen

There are photos of the bushranger’s
commanding, handsome face in a portrait he had taken just days before
he was hanged, sporting a full bushranger’s beard and an oiled quiff.

  
And beside it, created just days later, the impossibly sad death mask of Kelly, clean-shaven and vulnerable for eternity.

  
 

His head was cut from his body to
create several moulds and, a week after his execution, the general
public could ogle the death mask in the Bourke Street waxworks museum
owned by the maskmaker, Maximillian Kreitmayer, who used it to link
criminality and lowered brows in

the crack science of phrenology.
While his bones were interred in a country town’s cemetery in 2013,
Ned’s skull is missing still, which only adds to the legend.

   

There’s a bound manuscript of Peter
Carey’s novel, The Secret History of the Kelly Gang; a reward poster
offering the fortune of £8000 for the four men at a time when a
labourer’s annual wage tipped £50; pictures of the siege printed on
chocolate boxes; and Ned’s Snider-Enfield 0.577 calibre long rifle.

   

It’s only 135 years, or four
generations back, that Ned Kelly was hanged in Melbourne Gaol. As I’m
driving back to Melbourne from Bendigo, an angry talkback caller is
blasting the radio, comparing executed drug

smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran to Ned Kelly.

  
 

‘‘It’s just this stupid Australian habit of turning criminals into heroes!’’ she fumes.

  
 

The Schaller Studio lobby, Bendigo

A week later, my child’s ballet
teacher mentions that her elderly mother knew the Kelly family. ‘‘It
seems no one wanted to know them, in the past,’’ I say. ‘‘Yes, but we
all know what the police did – the rapes, the harassment,’’ she says,
matter-of-factly.

  
 

Brought up by Irish Catholic nuns,
my sympathies can only go the way of the Kelly gang, with its backstory
of police harassment, the assault of his sister and the sentence of
three years’ hard labour for his mother, while carrying a newborn babe.

  
 

On the other side of the fence, he’s
a pathological liar, layabout criminal and unremorseful murderer,
preferring armed robbery to honest farm labour.

  
 

Criminal, anti-hero, cult leader or
Australia’s answer to Robin Hood? Despite the new exhibition and the
museums, the jury is still out.

    

Such is life. 

TRIP NOTES
STAYING THERE Images
of Ned Kelly feature throughout The Cullen hotel. Costs from $209 a night for a
studio suite, 164 Commercial Road, Prahran, thecullen.com.au. In Bendigo, its sister art hotel, The
Schaller Studio, costs from $115 a night for a Workspace Queen, cnr Lucan &
Bayne Sts, Bendigo. Phone 1800 278 468.
artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.
THINGS TO SEE AND
DO

Imagining Ned shows until June 28. Bendigo
Art Gallery (closed Mondays) has free tours at noon Wednesdays and Saturdays, $10
adults. Phone (03) 5434 6088, see bendigoartgallery.com.au.

PHOTOS: (Clockwise from main) Estate of Adam Cullen and Michael Reid Art Gallery
 

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers.  


Ski Victoria, prison sleeps and luxe trains in Ireland: Takeoff travel news

SNOW: Winter is coming

Victoria’s ski season opened on the
Queen’s Birthday long weekend (June 6), with more bang for its buck. The
state’s most popular resort, Mount Buller, begins with fireworks and
new snowmakers pumping out up to 30 per cent more snow (mtbuller.com.au) while nearby Mount Stirling’s renovated Nordic Centre ramps up its cross-country gear offerings (mtstirling.com.au). Mount Hotham has new two-hour ski and snowboard masterclasses and is
now linked with nearby Dinner Plain by the 12-kilometre Brabralung
Indigenous Interpretation Trail, a crosscountry ski trail that follows
an ancient route of the ‘‘first peoples’’ of the Alps (mthotham.com.au). Dinner Plain also has a new tubing Snow Park with night tubing,
while family-friendly Lake Mountain has expanded its Snowman’s Village,
with a fourth toboggan slope and new snowshoeing trails. Finally,
Victoria’s largest ski resort, Falls Creek, hosts the 25th year of the
annual Kangaroo Hoppet cross-country event on August 22 (fallscreek.com.au).
 


HOSTEL: Sleep tight in Freo’s lock-up

Spend the night behind bars and pay
for the privilege. However, you won’t have to rob a bank to sleep at the
new Fremantle Prison YHA, which costs from just $28 a night in a 10-bed
dorm (and half-price throughout May – that’s $14). 

The 19th-century jail first opened in 1855 and is World Heritage-listed, with the last prisoners checking out in 1991. 

You can sleep in a cell, still with
locks, spyholes, original walls and floors, in an eight-bed guard’s
cottage or in the (more spacious) new extension. Rooms range from
private twin and family rooms with en suites to dorms, with a
selfcatering

kitchen, Wi-Fi, laundry and games
rooms for all. There are also plans afoot for outdoor movie nights, a
volleyball court and giant chess. Twin-bed cells cost from $68, $120 for
a double with en suite, or $140 for family rooms. Phone (08) 9433 4305, see
yha.com.au.
 


TRAIN: The green miles

Are trains the new cruise ships?
Glide through the greenery of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland on the Belmond Grand Hibernian, the country’s first luxury
train, which is now taking bookings for its inaugural season, in 2016.
Aboard, there are just 40 guests in 20 en suite cabins, with restaurant
and observation bar cars, kitted up for two-, four- or six-night
itineraries.

  
The train visits the island’s beautiful cities, pausing for such quintessential experiences as

kissing the Blarney Stone, catching
traditional Irish music and visiting renowned castle gardens. Like a
cruise itinerary, you can also add

extensions to the journey, such as a day on the green for a round of golf or a tour of cultural Dublin. The two-night Realm of Giants tour,
from Dublin to Belfast and Portrush, costs from $4470 a person,
including all meals, drinks and excursions including the

Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Experience. Phone 1800 000 395, see
belmond.com/grandhibernian.
 

GEAR: Keep cool with military precision

You don’t muck around getting food
from the supermarket, do you? You’re more a hunt-and-gather type,
snagging barra, snaring crabs or chasing calamari. This new bin from the hard guys of gear, Pelican Products, is a prince among wheeled portable coolers. The new elite cooler can roll over the toughest terrain with its two large wheels and sturdy pull-along handle. It has a 75.7-litre capacity with a
built-in bottle opener and a fish measure that is moulded into the lid,
so you can ensure your catch is legal. Want more tough talk? 

Its military-grade insulation is
guaranteed to keep drinks at polar temps, it’s also certified grizzly
bear resistant (though we don’t know how it would stack up against our
koalas) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Ideal for the boat, the

beach or heading into the outback. The Pelican ProGear™ Elite 80QT Cooler costs $649.95. See
PelicanProGear.com.au.
 


TECH: Fickle pick-and-mix travellers can triple dip

Brand loyalty is so last century:
today’s travellers shop for the best prices and experiences across
brands and across the world. However, the pick-and-mix approach makes it
tough to rack up points on loyalty cards. Travel company Expedia has
launched its own loyalty program, Expedia+, which lets you collect
points on bookings made through its website. It also means you can still
claim points with your frequent flyer programs and also your credit
cards – effectively a points triple dip. Expedia+ members can get
benefits such as bar or spa discounts at hotels, and it promises to
price match lower quotes on flights, car hire, hotels, cruises and
packages. Book through its mobile app and snap up the launch promotion
of triple points. See
expedia.com.au.

KIDS: Littlest lifesavers

Teach your kids essential skills
with a First Aid for Kids class that could save your life. The one-hour
classes are hands-on to hold short attention spans, and are tailored for
kids as young as kinder age up to 13 years. Run by First Aid instructors (many of

whom are also parents), kids learn about dialing 000, managing asthma, what to do for bites or stings, CPR and blood loss. Trainers are based in all capital
cities and come to your location to teach groups (minimum 10 children).
There’s also a superhero certificate and stickers at the end of the
course. “Our age-specific kids’ courses give them self-confidence and
teach important development skills,” says director Mary Dawes. Ideal
preparation for the big round-Australia trip or backyard escapades. Costs $12 a child. Phone 1300 853 050, see
firstaidforyou.com.au. 


Singapore slings, Mystical India and train travel in Tassie: Takeoff travel news

West Coast Wilderness Railway

Recently, I had to sling a Singapore Sling in the historic bar of Raffles Hotel, and the history was palpable. From the ‘last tiger in Singapore found under the pool table’ stories to the gracious verandahs with their rattan chairs and high teas. It’s 100 years since the Sling was first slung – scroll down to find out more. 

TRAIN
Full steam ahead
Explore Tasmania’s remote, mountainous west coast on the restored
steam trains of the newly reopened West Coast Wilderness Railway. The copper mining
rail line closed down in 1963 before reopening as a tourist train for a decade
until 2013. A recent $12m government investment has since seen 12,000 sleepers
replaced on what is the steepest railway in the southern hemisphere, and the
full 34.5km length of the original track, from Strahan to Queenstown, is open
once again. The historical railway was built with hard labour in the 1890s by
teams of Irish workers, and serves up plenty of juicy historical tales of feuds
and swindling. You don’t have to be a trainspotter to appreciate the beauty of
the three locomotives, which date back to 1896. Choose between full or half-day
journeys through old-growth rainforest and over King River Gorge, from
$95/adult, $40 children or $220 families in the Heritage carriage, or fully
catered with High Tea and Tasmanian sparkling wine in the Wilderness Carriage. Phone
(03) 6471 0100, see wcwr.com.au

India’s mystical Brahmaputra River.
TOURS
Mystical India
Explore busy tea markets, visit silk sari weavers and sleep
on the world’s largest inhabited river island, Majuili, amidst the dramatic
Brahmaputra River on a journey through north-eastern India. The 14-day tour
begins in Guwahati and visits the tribal lands and spots the exotic wildlife of
Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. “It is the least explored, but easily the most
exotic part of India,” says John Zubrzycki, a foreign correspondent and author who
has set several historical biographies in India. Zubrzycki, a self-confessed
Indiaphile, leads the first-time Hidden Lands, Forgotten Frontiers tour from
November 19-December 3, 2015, departing from Kolkata. Costs from $7835 a person
(excluding international airfares), includes a $200 donation to the boat
medical clinics on the Brahmaputra River. travelonq.com.au.
The Singapore Sling
FOOD
Celebrating the
centenary
Singapore is in serious birthday mode: the little country
turns just 50 this year, but its national drink, the Singapore Sling, is twice
its age, celebrating 100 years since it was first slung. The pink drink was
concocted in 1915 in the Long Bar of Raffles hotel by barman Ngiam Tong Boon,
and is now served on the nation’s airlines and in bars across the city. Mix
snacking and shaking in a Singapore Sling Masterclass in the Long Bar, where
you’ll learn how to blend gin Dom Benedictine and Cointreau, snack on satay and
take home a Singapore Sling glass. Costs $83 a person. Otherwise, grab a slice
of the new SlingaPore cake – lime sponge with pineapple mousse, Singapore Sling
marmalade and cherry jelly – in the hotel’s Ah Teng Bakery. See raffles.com/Singapore.

KIDS
Iced escapades
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the most practical, like
this Dripstick, which does exactly what it says on the tin – stops that lurid,
bubble-gum flavoured ice-cream from slopping down the back of the car seat. The
Dripstick’s plastic holder lets kids get a better grip on their iced treats and the
internal funnel fits pointed cones, great when the cone’s base inevitably dissolves.
But wait, there’s more: fill the hollow handle with juice and slip in the
accompanying popsicle stick, freeze and you’ve got home-made ices. An added
bonus – it’s made from BPA-free, recyclable plastic. Available in six colours,
$12. See thanksmum.com.au.

  
Papua New Guinea adventure on True North.
TECH
Online cruising
We Australians are avid cruisers, with cruising of all
persuasions the fastest-growing sector of our tourism market. Luxury travel
company Abercrombie & Kent has just launched a new cruise website in demand
for what it describes as consistent double-digit growth over the last few
years. Choose from a Papua New Guinea adventure on True North (pictured), a French barge holiday, an expedition cruise through the
High Arctic or a small-ship exploration of the Amazon. According to A&K’s
Sujata Raman, the polar regions are their guests’ most popular choice, followed
by Myanmar river cruising and the Galapagos Islands, for premier wildlife
viewing. The company’s newest product is the small luxury Sanctuary Ananda on
the Ayeyarwady river in Myanmar. See akcruising.com.au.
 
The historic foyer of The Victoria Hotel, Melbourne
HOTEL
The Vic gets slick
It’s been overrun by American troops, been a booze-free Temperance
League stronghold and been on business tycoon Christopher Skase’s assets list.
Now Australia’s largest 3.5-star hotel, the Victoria Hotel on Melbourne’s
Little Collins St, has had a $20 million facelift. Unusually, the number of
rooms in The Vic has decreased, from 464 down to 370 larger rooms, all with
free wi-fi in a tidy refurbishment across the entire hotel, including the
historic lobby and public bar (which replaced beef tea with bellinis in the
60s). The hotel turns 135 this year and kicked off Melbourne’s laneways coffee
scene as the Victoria Coffee Palace back in 1880. It joined Accor’s budget-conscious
Ibis Styles brand two years ago and is owned by the Schwartz Family Company,
who is also developing the Sofitel on Darling Harbour, to open in 2017. Rooms in
the Victoria Hotel cost from $98 a night when booked 20 days in advance. Quote
‘early booking offer’. Phone 1800 331 147, see victoriahotel.com.au.

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published each Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 


Weekend in Kosovo, off to the Olympics, secrets of the Big Apple: Takeoff travel news

Palenque ruins, Mexico

ADVENTURE

Into
the obscure
Fancy a weekend in Kosovo?  There are few corners of the globe that are
not comprehensively explored, but Intrepid Travel has revealed four new
destinations it says will sate the appetite of the most adventurous explorer.
The tours are the first wave of unusual locations in its new Expedition range,
which could see you uncover your inner Indiana Jones in a southern Mexican
jungle, hike in the Svaneti region of the former Soviet republic of Georgia,
get in the thick of the Rabaul Mask Festival in Papua New Guinea or sail the
ancient Lake Ohrid on a journey through Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia. The 15-day journey
through the Balkan states costs from $1795 a person and departs September 5. See intrepidtravel.com/theme/expeditions.

GEAR
Crumpler off to
the Olympics
Melbourne luggage brand Crumpler is packing its bags for Rio and
joining our athletes as the official supplier of luggage to the 2016 Australian
Olympic Team. It will be kitting the team out with the Vis-à-Vis trunk
78 centimetre trunk, a hard-shell case bound by sturdy fabric belts and handle for easy,
secure hauling. Currently, the Vis-à-Vis range comes in a black shell, with red,
lime, black or clear handles. The Olympic colour range is yet to be revealed, and
will tie in with the team’s formal uniforms, designed for the seventh time by Sportscraft.
The competition and training uniforms, footwear and casual clothing will again
be designed by Adidas. Expect the big reveal around mid-2016. Crumpler’s
Vis-à-Vis range comes with a lifetime warranty, and the range also includes a 68-centimetre trunk, a 55-centimetre cabin bag and an
attaché case. The 78-centimetre trunk costs $545. See crumpler.com.au.

KIDS

Best seat in the
house
Intrepid families will love this simple bag, which is
designed to pack up your kid’s car seat and protect it when you’re on the move.
The bag is padded on all sides so you can include the car seat as checked-in luggage,
and is made from water-resistant fabric. It can also be worn as backpack for a
hassle-free, hands-free trek through the airport when you’ve run out of arms
pushing trolleys and reining in children. Great for those who prefer to
BYO car seat on driving holidays, the bag measures 45cm W x34cm H x45cm D. The
JL Childress Black Ultimate Car Seat Travel Bag costs $69.95. See
thestorknest.com.au.
FOOD/TRAIN
Silver service, gold-rush route
The scenery is fabulous in the Canadian Rockies, but the food can
be great, too. The Rocky Mountaineer train network is adding 840 SilverLeaf
Service seats to its Rainforest to Gold Rush route, which journeys deep into
the Canadian Rockies. This train route deviates from the best-known Rockies
route from Vancouver to Toronto, and instead veers north to visit the ski mecca
of Whistler and Jasper via the gold-panning city of Quesnel. The SilverLeaf
class lets you dine in style, with local beers and wines from the British
Colombia’s Okanagan Valley. A two-day rail journey from Whistler to Jasper (or in reverse)
costs from $1865 a person. See rockymountaineer.com.
HOTEL
Northern newcomer
Brisbane’s CBD is currently enjoying a wave of new hotel
openings and the latest, Capri by Fraser, threw open its doors on April 1. The
Albert St property blends hotel and residence with 239 studios and one-bed apartments,
pool and gym as well as a restaurant bar and cafe by celebrity chef and paleo
poster boy, Pete Evans.  Expect design
touches including vertical garden walls and art installations as well as
ergonomic workspaces in the rooms. E-travellers can check-in by iPad and the
e-Concierge, while the rest of us will appreciate the 24-hour gym, in-room kitchenettes,
room service and laundry with Xbox Kinect. This is Fraser Hospitality’s fourth
Australian property, with Fraser Suites in Sydney and Perth and Fraser Place in
Melbourne. Capri by Fraser’s opening special costs from $179 a night, which
includes wi-fi and parking (Friday – Sunday nights) on stays until June 30.
Located at 80 Albert St, Brisbane. Phone 1800 110 800, see capribyfraser.com.
BOOK
Big Apple secrets
If you, like half the world, have a passionate affair with
Manhattan, tuck this modest book under your arm before you decamp to New York.
Its title is self-explanatory; Seeking
New York: the stories behind the historic architecture of Manhattan – One Building at a Time
. The book is based on the blog Daytonian in Manhattan, written by Tom Miller, a NY police inspector
originally from Daytonia, Ohio. His curious mind digs into the histories of 55 of
the borough’s buildings (there are many, many more on his blog), describing property
speculation in 1820s Canal Street, the impoverished Lower East Side at the turn
of the 20th century, great real estate coups and architectural
intricacies. There are grand triumphs and small stories: it’s also a history of
the people that made the city. “Never stop being a tourist, never stop looking
up,” says Miller. Costs $29.99. See allenandunwin.com.

The Takeoff travel news column by Belinda Jackson is published each Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 


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.

Build the perfect family holiday: choose from these 6 LEGOLANDs (or do them all!)

If you’ve got kids, chances are you’ve also got
crates of Denmark’s most famous export, LEGO. In a classic case of
‘build it and they will come,’ this modest toy has built an empire. And
its theme parks are about to rake over the world. 

Empire building

LEGO is older than nearly all of its fans: the plastic brick was
invented in Billund, Denmark, in 1958. Fast-forward 56 years and there
are six LEGOLAND destinations across the globe: the Danish original, two
in the US, one in the quintessentially English town of Windsor,
Germany’s LEGOLAND Deutschland and the newest (and closest to Australia)
in Johor, Malaysia. The theme parks are designed for kids 2 to 12
years, and all have Duplo Gardens, with bigger bricks for smaller kids.

Try the original

Go back to where it all began. The first LEGOLAND opened in 1968,
just beside the first Lego factory. “My oldest boy wanted to go to
Lego’s heartland,” says Jacqui Davidson, who has taken her three active
boys, aged 12, nine and six, to the original LEGOLAND in Denmark, and
visited Malaysia’s LEGOLAND three times. “LEGO is more educational than
other theme parks,” she says. “The kids do building workshops, have
competitions and even robotics courses. It’s inspiring, and it’s not
just a boy thing.”

Eat, breathe and sleep LEGO

If too much LEGO is never enough, check the family into the LEGO
Hotel attached to your LEGOLAND destination of choice. The rooms have
either a pirate, kingdom or adventure theme.  “I would definitely
recommend LEGOLAND Billund Hotel,” says Jacqui. “There’s LEGO kitsch,
LEGO soap, LEGO shampoo, LEGO pillows, and the excellent, very
child-oriented buffet in the bistro.” The four-star Hotel LEGOLAND also
specialises in corporate teambuilding using LEGO (and let’s face it, if
you can’t team-build here, then where can you?!)

Water play

In Malaysia, Jacqui’s boys give the new Star Wars section a big
thumbs-up, while the grown-ups love Miniland (which reproduces Asia’s
top landmarks, such as Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the golden temples of
Burma, in Lego). “Be prepared with water and umbrellas for shade,” she
adds. The best thing is its waterpark, she says. “If you’re in Malaysia
for more than 24 hours, you’ll need a swim.” With balmy temps also the
norm in California and Florida, both of the US theme parks conveniently
have fabulously fun waterparks.

Enter the dragon

In comparison, Bernie Jackson took his three kids, aged 10, eight and
four, to visit LEGOLAND Deutschland over two rainy days, which kept the
crowds at bay. “The kids loved it. The park was manageable enough for
the older kids to explore by themselves, and there was plenty to keep
the four-year-old in awe. The biggest hit was Captain Nick’s Splash
Battle, and while our youngest was a late-adopter on the Dragon Coaster,
he rode it until the park closed.”

What’s next?

2014 saw the launch of the Lego Movie, featuring the voices of
Hollywood greats including Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson, about an evil
tyrant’s plan to glue the LEGO universe together. There are also
another three LEGOLANDs in development, across Dubai, Japan and South
Korea.

But wait… There’s more!

Not even the 2015 Super Bowl could escape the Lego treatment. Enter the Brick Bowl
– the brainchild of British animation house A+C Studios. The
three-minute clip is a journey through nine of this year’s Super Bowl
ads edited together to make a story – and it took them an incredible 36
hours to create. Watch the video now and be amazed. Because everything is awesome.

This article by Belinda Jackson was published on Art of Money blog by GE Money.


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.


On the road: Lang Co, central Vietnam

Well, today was the day that you do all the slog for: pay-off for all the rejection emails, all the silence from editors when you really need the cash, all the crappy deadlines and the ridiculous subjects you have to write about.

Today ran pretty close to my idea of nirvana: yoga with real yogi in a sala with windows open to catch the sea breeze. Organic cooking school amidst a garden of plenty, picking fresh herbs and lettuce before grilling and chopping amidst the greenery. Lunch and then more lunch with Vietnamese coffee. Massage that unknots, unties and unravels all those kinks down the spine. Swim in villa’s plunge pool. Dinner of local seafood, and a nightcap.

There may have been a little early-morning deadline (met), there may have been too much instagramming (see global_salsa). But in all, a spectacular day. Tomorrow, it’s back to Singapore.

Thanks to Banyan Tree Hotels, here in Lang Co, central Vietnam.


Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Youtube
Consent to display content from Youtube
Vimeo
Consent to display content from Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from Google