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Strange and wild ghouls and snow: travel deals 2 Sept

Morning at Machu
Picchu, Peru (Intrepid Travel)

It’s all strange, wild and ghoulish in Tassie and Dracula’s Romania, and the locals say it’s puking in Victoria’s Falls Creek (translation: it’s snowing heavily, so get on down!)
Mantra on Frome, in the centre of Adelaide, is throwing
open the doors on its new balconies, with a weekend package that includes
dinner for two and a bottle of wine at Mantra Hindmarsh Square’s Sq
restaurant  as well as late check-out,
saving $197. Costs from $219 a night for stays on Friday, Saturday and Sunday
nights until December 2. 131 517, mantra.com.au.
Melt the ice in your bones with a quickie getaway to Palm
Cove, a hop-skip north of Cairns. Stay four nights at the Reef House, a
colonial-style beach house, pay for only three. You’ll also get 20 per cent off
hotel meals, free wifi, breakfast, and a sunset Brigadier’s Punch in its Brigadiers
Lounge as well as free DVDs. Mention this page and get $25 credit in the
hotel’s spa. Stay until October 1. Costs from $129.50 a person per night, twin
share.  (07) 4080 2600, www.reefhouse.com.au
Hit the big smoke with a budget stay in town and catch
one of the many festivals keeping the city alive including Crave food festival
throughout October. Stay three nights at the 3.5-star Travelodge Hotel, near
the Thai strip on Wentworth Ave, close to Hyde Park and Oxford St, and save 20
percent when booked by October 7.  Costs
from $95 a night, minimum three-night stay. 1800 846 835, hotels.com
Eerie Port Arthur, Tasmania
It’s a strange and wild corner of the world, down there
in Tassie, and the Theatre of the World, a collaboration between the Tasmanian
Museum and Art Gallery’s Pacific bark cloths and Museum of Old And New Art’s
(MONA) treasures should have you panting to head south. A four-night Art &
Place package includes accommodation at the Mercure Hobart, priority access to
MONA Theatre of the World tickets, 30 per cent off its catalogue (normally
$80), Mona Roma fast ferry tickets, a bottle of Moorilla Muse chardonnay and a
Tasmanian Attraction ticket. Save $793, costs $662 a couple. (03) 6277 9900,
The snow has been falling thick and fast in the ski-in,
ski-out Falls Creek resort. Catch the last few weeks until the season ends and
save up to 50 per cent on peak season rates. Stay five nights at Trackers
Mountain Lodge White Space for $1130 an adult including bed, breakfast,
dinners, ski lift pass, ski lessons and snow equipment hire. Kids up to 14
years cost $720 and also get free Kids Club from 6-9pm. Also includes afternoon
tea, Winter Christmas on Wednesday nights (with turkey, eggnog and all the
trimmings) on stays September 7-30.  1800
453 525, skifalls.com.au.
Shoot the breeze in Broome, with sunsets over Cable Beach
and the Indian Ocean at your doorstep. Stay seven nights in a Shinju studio the
Pinctada Cable Beach resort and get airport transfers, welcome drink, daily
buffet breakfast, a five-course spice trail dinner and a one-hour couples’
treatment at the resort spa. Save up to $525 on stays before September 30.
Costs $2086 a room for seven nights. (08) 9193 8340, pinctadacablebeach.com.au.  
Novotel Saigon Centre
Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) is a city of extremes,
with a wild street food scene and ultra-glam sky-high bars. The 4-star Novotel
Saigon Centre is the newest digs in town, with a gorgeous open-air pool and
breakfast buffet worth the trip alone. Snap up an opening deal which includes
free wi-fi and 10 per cent off spa treatments until October 30. Costs from
USD$100++ for a superior room a night. +84 (0)8 3822 4866, novotel.com.
Pop in on the neighbours and see what’s going down in
Auckland. Stay three nights, pay for two at the five-star Langham Hotel
Auckland in a Classic room. The hotel is a short amble from the waterfront and
the main shopping areas. Includes buffet breakfast each day as well as a free
tour of Auckland’s city sights and wineries as well as airport transfers.  Book by January 17, 2013, travel until
September 30 and December 14 – January 20, 2013. Costs from $489 a person for
three nights, twin share.  1300 130 485, travel.com.au.

Brasov, Romania
Explore an untouched corner of Europe on a Taste of
Transylvania’s six-day private tour. Sleep with Dracula in medieval Sighisoara,
lunch with local farmers, visit the castles of Bran and Peles, explore the
gothic charms of Sibiu and Brasov and lunch at Romania’s two top wineries. In crazy
Bucharest, your address is the historic Athenee Palace Hilton. Book by
September 30 to save $150. Costs $2032 a person. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com 
Home of Machu Picchu and
Paddington Bear, Peru gets all the South American gems: tracts of Amazon
jungle, ancient civilisations and roasted guinea pig. There’s pisco sours to be
drunk, sand dunes to be climbed and the tour includes a homestay with a local
family on Lake Titicaca. Sign up for Intrepid Travel’s 21-day Peru Encompassed
journey, departing Lima October 18, and save $952. Costs $2828 a person, 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel.com.
If the blue waters of Capri are beckoning, answer the
call on an 11-day Bellissimo tour that starts in Rome then works its way down
to Pompeii and the divine coastline of Capri and Naples before delving into the
mysteries of Assisi, Venice, Florence and Siena. Includes first-class hotels,
dining in a Tuscan olive grove and a farewell dinner to say ‘ciao’ in Rome.
Book the September 24 tour to save $485 a person. Costs $3050 a person. trafalgar.com
Chelsea Flower Show
Next year, the Chelsea Flower Show celebrates its 100-year
anniversary. Australian-owned Botanica World Discoveries takes you to the show,
with five and 10 day tours of London’s premier floral display. “While the site
at the Ranleigh Hospital gardens is compact, the displays are just
sensational,” says Botanica founder Judy Vanrenen, who has been taking
Australians to Chelsea since 2005. “It’s a full-on floral experience.” The
five-day tour starts in London on May 20 and includes tours of London’s private
gardens, as well as four nights’ accommodation in the four-star Crowne Plaza
London, St James. The 10-day tour includes entrance to eight other beautiful
gardens in southern England and Wales. Costs from $2,655 a person, twin share (5
days) and $5795 a person, twin share (10 days) 1300 305 202 botanica.travel.
Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald

Frogs in the belly get you the jump on Saigon

Saigon’s jumping chicken: high in calcium.

I can’t even really look at this photo any more: not after knowing that one of these beasts is now part of me.

In a life spent putting weird things into mouth, Saigon’s ‘jumping chicken’ was a fairly thoughtless decision. It’s only now, afterwards, when I look at the photos, that I’m feeling the qualms.

The frogs (apparently, though they look like toads, they’re definitely frogs) are part of an after-dark tour on the back of vintage Vespas through the streets and alleyways of Saigon.

It’s a wind-in-your-hair, frogs-in-your-belly extravaganza, made moreso because of its simplicity: restore a few gorgeous old Vespas, grab a handful of punters and take them to a few out-of-the-way eating haunts and bars around the city, experiencing life as the locals live it.

The locals cruise the streets, shoulder-to-shoulder with their mates, slowing down for a chat. Long-haired girls in hot pants gossip and do phone. Mums charge determinedly between with kids in front. I even saw one family – mum, dad and a boy about 18 months, who was seated on a wicker chair, its legs wedged across bike’s the petrol tank to keep the little fella from toppling into the traffic.

Knee to knee with the rest of Saigon, cruising the streets on the back of a bike thrashes sitting in a sealed taxi, though a facemask would go down well in peak hour. Preferably one with a pirate’s skull-and-crossbones on it.

And if the thought of a little traffic bingle has your knickers in a knot, the frogs are allegedly high in calcium: so at least your bones would knit back quickly.

Trip details:
Saigon After Dark tour costs US$72 a person for four hours, includes Vespa, driver, guide and all food and drinks, Vietnam Vespa Adventures

Getting there: Vietnam Airlines flies daily from Melbourne and Sydney to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), costs from $1180, vietnamairlines.com

Staying there: The five-star Caravelle is the grande dame of Saigon’s hotel scene, and will be relaunching a new look over the coming year. Costs from VND660,000++/A$299 deluxe room/night (84-8) 3823 4999 caravellehotel.com Newest kid on the blog, the four-star Novotel Saigon Centre, has an opening deal which includes free wi-fi and 10 per cent off spa treatments until October 30. Costs from USD$100++ superior room/ night. +84 (0)8 3822 4866, novotel.com.

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