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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KNOW IT ALL: Singapore Five essential things to consider before you go…

Haji Lane, Singapore. Photo: Belinda Jackson
KNOW IT ALL: Singapore
1.      
Eat cheap on the street: hawker (street food)
stalls are carefully audited by the government and the people – a whiff of grit
or one bad review  and they’re toast.
2.      
Grab an MRT-bus card and skim the city like a
local. The metro system is super-fast and super-efficient, the only choice in
peak hour.
3.      
Forget devil-may-care Asia, it’s all seatbelts
and waiting at the traffic lights. Singaporeans also love a good, orderly
queue
4.      
The Singapore Sling turns 100 this year,
appropriate given Singapore is currently in the grip of cocktail fever, with
sleek new bars playing with everything from sake to bourbon. Pack a glossy
outfit, charge up the credit card and hit the chic strips of Ann Siang Hill and
Haji Lane (to name a few)…
5.      
…and if you overdo it, the tap water is
perfectly safe to drink. 
This article by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section.

Airline review: Scoot business class, Sydney to Singapore

Scoot's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

THE PLANE Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner – the airline received its first Dreamliner
this year, for the Singapore-Perth and Singapore-Hong Kong routes. By
the end of 2015, all Australian routes will be serviced by Dreamliners.
THE ROUTE Sydney to Singapore.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME Scoot joined Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer frequent flyer program in April.
CLASS
Business class, seat 1H (aisle) but before takeoff, I shimmy down to
3J (window) to score two empty seats. The flight is less than half-full
today, and quite a few people seem to have been upgraded.
DURATION 7 hours.
FREQUENCY  Scoot currently flies Sydney to Singapore non-stop five times a week,
going daily from May 1. Conveniently, the flight leaves at lunchtime to
arrive in Singapore just in time for dinner (The return flight’s 1am
departure is less convenient.)

Scoot’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Supplied

THE SEAT A 38-inch (96-centimetre) pitch, 22-inch (56cm) width. There are 35 seats in ScootBiz, in a 2-3-2 formation.
BAGGAGE Checked luggage up to 20 kilograms and 15kg (two pieces) of carry-on.
COMFORT A Dreamliner is still a Dreamliner, no matter if it’s sporting
full-service or low-cost livery. That means low engine noise, cleaner
air and lower fuel consumption (and hopefully, lower ticket costs). The
seats are broad and comfortable, with an extendable foot rest to help
stretch out. Be prepared to pay extra for a snooze kit, which has a
fleece blanket, eye mask and neck pillow, or bring your own. Costs $17 
pre-booked or $21.80  on board.
ENTERTAINMENT As I’m sitting up at the bulkhead and gossiping, it takes a while to
realise there are no screens. To watch a movie, you have to download an
app beforehand and they’ll send the movie to the app. It’s far easier to
load your own movies onto your tablet or laptop. AC power is available
in every seat, no adaptors required. (Economy passengers have to pay
$7.60  for power). There are no USB sockets, crazy given they’re pushing
inflight Wi-Fi. You can go online once you hit 10,000ft and costs
$11.30/one hour, $16/three hours, or $20.80/24 hours and you can use any
remaining time on the return flight. There are no download limits.
SERVICE The pleasant, dignified staff hide any indignation at being referred
to as “Scootees” and one even shares his hot tip for the best Hainanese
chicken rice on the ground in Singapore. (I may have also been warned
off ordering the western breakfast on the return leg.) The pilots are
called Scooters and announce on takeoff: “We’re getting outta here!”
FOOD Lunch arrives shortly after takeoff. We have pre-ordered the soya
sauce chicken rice – braised chicken, Chinese mushrooms and quail eggs:
no marks for presentation and “saltiness” does not equate to
“flavoursome”. The meal includes a small Toblerone chocolate and is
presented on a tray that is broader than the narrow pull-out tables, and
slides dangerously. Quick, save that Wolf Blass chardonnay! The
ScootBiz fare includes one meal and one alcoholic drink. Additional
drinks can be bought with cash or credit card. Beers cost $8, $9 for
wine or pre-mix Singapore Sling. The peckish can order cup noodles (add
an instant egg for only $2), packet soup, biscuits or ice-cream. I
learn, too late, that the classic Singapore dish, Hainanese chicken
rice, is available only as a pre-order on the Sydney-Singapore leg.
ONE MORE THING Scoot is slated to start a Melbourne-Singapore direct service in November. 
THE VERDICT Apart from the spacious Dreamliner surrounds, this is not business
class as you know it. Think of it as premium economy. I’m good with BYO
amenities and entertainment, but the big let-down is the quality of the
food and wine, especially as Singapore prides itself on its cuisine. But
any qualms are far outweighed by the price: no-frills economy fares
cost as little as $219 and ScootBiz is priced from $499, with plenty of
sales available.

Tested by Belinda Jackson, who flew courtesy of Scoot. See www.flyscoot.com.


This Flight Test by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald Traveller section. 


And the popular pick is? Poland. Takeoff: Travel news

Warsaw’s Rynek Starego Miasta (Old Town market square)

And the popular pick is? Poland.

Europe’s latest hot spot offers a stunning mix of history, architecture and natural attractions. Warsaw is emerging as a rising star on 2015 and 2016 travel
itineraries as Poland records a record high in tourist numbers. Key
sights in the former Eastern Bloc capital include the Old Town’s  market
square, Rynek Starego Miasta, rebuilt to its medieval design after its
destruction in World War II. The country is also famous for its
pilgrimage icon the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, Krakow’s historic town
square and Wawel Castle and birdwatching in its vast central marshes.
Eastern European specialist Beyond Travel has released its largest ever
selection of tours to Poland, including a new Polish Capitals tour from
Krakow to Warsaw. A four-night tour including accommodation, guides and
transport starts from $630 a person (excluding flights). Phone 1300 363 554, see  beyondtravel.com.au

GEAR: The good oilcloth

Your destination may not be exotic but your luggage certainly can be,
with this cheery Emerald Palms overnight bag. Made from oilcloth with a
white shoulder strap and handles, it measures 60 centimetres long by 28
centimetres high –  just big enough for a sneaky overnight escape from
the daily grind. The range also includes oilcloth bath bags, a lavender
eye pillow and Serengeti-inspired vanilla and peach soap, to complete
the picture. The MOZI overnight bag costs $79.95, phone (03) 9885 9789, see mozi.com.au.

WEBSITE: Give back

It’s said that when you travel, you should take nothing but
photographs and leave nothing but footprints. However, travelgiver.com
lets you also leave a donation to a non-government, community project in
one of 50 countries across the world. Log on to the website and choose
from more than 300 projects, ranging from schooling for Liberian refugee
children to hygiene lessons in Rwanda or spina bifida support in
Melbourne, then proceed with the booking through the travel provider.
Participants include Intrepid Travel, Etihad, Expedia, Lonely Planet and
Accor, who will automatically donate up to eight per cent of the
booking to your nominated community project. Travelgiver.com gives a
comprehensive outline of each project, as well as visiting details if
you’re travelling in that region. See TravelGiver.com.

BOOKS: Fowl play

The startling Mr Chicken visits his favourite city, London, in the
new book by author and illustrator Leigh Hobbs, also the creator of
Horrible Harriet. A regular visitor to London, the gigantic, yellow bird
always stays at the Savoy Hotel and rings the Queen before popping over
for morning tea (so she has time to do some extra baking). The inside
covers include a hand-drawn map of Mr Chicken’s route through London and
his checklist of things to see and do, which includes a full English
breakfast, a walk over Tower Bridge and a ride on a red double-decker
bus. A great planner for kids who are travelling to London, have been or
just want tea with the Queen. Mr Chicken Lands in London, hardcover, $24.99. Visit allenandunwin.com.

GOLF:Tee tour

Tee off on Hawaii’s top six golf courses on a new nine-day golfing
tour of Hawaii, curated by dedicated golf tour company Teed Up. You’ll
play the Royal Hawaiian, Ted Robinson’s Ko Olina and also Kapalua
Plantation course, consistently named Hawaii’s best course with ocean
views at each hole. The tour includes four games of golf on Maui, two on
Oahu, shared motorised carts and inter-island flights as well as eight
nights’ accommodation and competition prizes at the end of the tour. Led
by PGA professional Michael Mosher, the 2015 Hawaii Golf tour departs
August 25, 2015 and costs US$5848 a person, twin share. Call (02) 8458 9000, visit teedupgolftours.com.

KIDS: Hold the crackling

Want to hear four incredibly effective words? “Peppa Pig wears
sunscreen.” The ubiquitous pig could sell ice to eskimos, and now Peppa
has collaborated with the Cancer Council to encourage pre-school and
primary school-aged kids to slap on sunscreen specifically for sensitive
skin. Yes, it’s coercion, but it’s a whole lot nicer than telling your
sunscreen-hating toddler they’ll have to cut off bits of their nose when
they hit 40. The range, which has no fragrance and no colour, includes
Kids SPF 50+ 50ml ezi clip, $9.95, Kids SPF 50+ 75ml roll on, $10.95 and
Kids SPF 50+ 200ml finger spray, $14.95 from Coles supermarkets. Visit
skinhealth.com.au.

AIRLINE: Points to share

Singapore Air and Virgin Australia have linked their frequent flyer
programs, in a first for airline loyalty programs. From November,
KrisFlyer and Velocity Frequent Flyer members can convert their miles
and points between either airline to book flights, upgrade seats and buy
non-flight merchandise. The arrangement also allows Velocity members to
book on Singapore Air’s regional carrier, Silkair, visit
singaporeair.com and virginaustralia.com. Singapore Air will also begin
codesharing with Air New Zealand from January 6, 2015, with new direct
flights between Singapore and New Zealand to create a 30 percent
increase in traffic between the two countries. Codeshare flights are now
open for bookings, visit airnewzealand.com.

Edited by Belinda Jackson, Takeoff is published in the Sun-Herald‘s Traveller section every Sunday.

Travel deals: French Polynesia

A local woman from the Sacred Valley, Peru.

Take me to… Tahiti! Or Peru. I’m not fussy. Or perhaps one of the fabulous new hotels of the world, including the Sofitel So Singapore or Australia’s own new regional art hotel, The Schaller Studio in Bendigo. 

Check out their opening specials, as well as a Kids Do Paris tour, in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
VICTORIA
Ski two days free at Mount Buller with a seven-night package
at Buller Central hotel. Get a seven-day lift pass for the price of five
days, daily breakfast and one dinner. Book by August 31, travel June
28-September 7. From $1405 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 019 130, see
studentflights.com.au.

Moorea Pearl Resort, French Polynesia

FRENCH POLYNESIA

Spend 10 nights in an overwater suite for under $5000.
Includes five nights in the Moorea Pearl Resort, five in the Tikehau
Pearl Beach Resort, two in Tahiti and international flights. Travel
November 1-December 10, January 10-March 31, 2015. From $4790 a person,
12 nights. Phone 1300 858 305, see airtahitinui.com.au.

Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio, Victoria, Australia

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Stay at Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio and save $55 with its
opening special, from $125 a night, until August 30. A Stay & See
package includes tickets to Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions and midday
checkout. From $195, August 2-November 9. Phone 1800 278 468, see artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.

SINGAPORE
Check into the new Sofitel So Singapore, pictured, and save
40 per cent with a Weekends@So offer, which includes a Saturday-night
stay in the 19th-century French-style rooms, Saturday champagne brunch
and Sunday all-day breakfast. From $515 until December 31.See sofitel.com.

Sofitel So Singapore

GO LATER
SOUTH AMERICA
Grab a friend and book a South American holiday with flights
and your friend flies free with LATAM, saving up to $2800. Tours include
the 20-day Highlights of South America, from Santiago to Lima, from
$8695 a person, twin share. Book by September 30. Phone 1300 196 420,
see travelmarvel.com.au.

QUEENSLAND
Book a two-night midweek stay at the four-star Pelican Waters
resort on the Sunshine Coast and pay half price until November 30.
Includes a free night and a round on a Greg Norman championship golf
course. From $310, quote PEL019. Phone 1800 213 422, see pelicanwatersgolfresortandspa.com.au.

Tourwatch: Life in the Himalayas

Experience mountain life in the Indian Himalayas with a
high-altitude stay in Ladakh. Base yourself in one of six traditional
village houses, renovated to rustic luxury, and walk between local
villages, visiting schools, markets and monasteries.

Raft on glacial rivers the Indus and Zanskar and lose
yourself in a landscape of snowy mountains and serene lakes until end
September. Includes meals, private chef, guides, tours and private car.
From $5670 a person, twin share, seven nights. See shaktihimalaya.com.

Kids do Paris

Let your kids see what all the fuss is about on Paris’ famous
Left Bank with a three-hour family walking tour. Run by a Parisian
mum, options include pastimes such as sailing toy boats and riding the
merry-go-round in le Jardin du Luxembourg and a visit to the national
history museum. Join your kids or leave them with the qualified guide.
$164 for kids seven-12 years (max five children on a tour) and adults,
$128 for kids three-seven years. Search code 3151_KIDSRIGHT on viator.com.

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


Get going: a new Shangri-La

Sule Shangri-La, Yangon, Myanmar

To all ends of the world, from  Chilean Patagonia to the new frontier of
Myanmar, in this week’s Sun-Herald travel deals. Closer to home, eat and sleep all
things Manfredi on the NSW Central Coast or snap up the Novotel St
Kilda’s six-bottle special. Enjoy!

GO NOW
MYANMAR
Stay two nights at the newly rebranded Sule Shangri-La,
Yangon, and get $40 hotel credit and a one-way airport transfer until
July 31. The former Traders Hotel is in walking distance of the
2000-year-old Sule Pagoda. “Celebration packages” from $265 a night,
deluxe room. shangri-la.com.

NEW SOUTH WALES
Bushwalk, read, eat at hatted restaurants: stay three nights
and pay for just two on an escape to the Central Coast at Bells at
Killcare. Includes a Manfredi continental breakfast until June 30. From
$700 for the king spa suite for three nights. (02) 4349 7000, bellsatkillcare.com.au.

Novotel St Kilda

GO SOONER
VICTORIA
The Novotel St Kilda’s famous “wine and wind down” deal is
back: book a standard non-bayview room from $209 a night and get six
bottles of wine worth $200. Includes car parking and breakfast. Until
December 30, quote “wine and wind down”. (03) 9525 5522, novotelstkilda.com.au.

SINGAPORE
Transit passengers on Singapore Airlines and SilkAir passing
through Singapore’s Changi Airport can get $34 of vouchers to spend in
the airport’s shops, or to use the Ambassador Transit Lounges in
Terminals 2 and 3 for up to six hours. The offer is available until
September 30. See singaporeair.com.

GO LATER
CHILE
Book eight nights in two of Abercrombie & Kent’s Chilean
lodges on Easter Island, in Patagonia and in the Atacama desert, and get
two free nights in Santiago’s Lastarria Boutique Hotel, worth $1140 a
couple, until October 31. From $6484 a person, twin share. 1300 590 317,
abercrombiekent.com.au.

Patagonia’s Explora Lodge

WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Catch a “last seat superdeal” in the Kimberley and save on
15-day trips from June to September. Save $500 on the 15-day 4WD
Kimberley Complete tour, $8295 a person twin share including a
helicopter ride over Mitchell Falls and cattle station tour. Book by May
31. 1300 196 420, aptouring.com.au.

Tourwatch

ANZAC CENTENARY
Missed out on tickets to the 2015 Gallipoli centenary
commemoration? Tempo Holidays’ two tours let you watch it on large
screens from a ferry offshore. The tour starts in Istanbul and takes in
the ruins of Troy and Anzac Cove, Lone Pine Australian Memorial and
Chunuk-Bair New Zealand Memorial accompanied by military historians.
Departs from Istanbul on April 19, 2015 (eight days) and April 22, 2015
(nine days), from $3700 a person, twin share. 1300 558 987, tempoholidays.com.

CYCLE OF LIFE CAMBODIA & VIETNAM
Combine cycling, culture and kids in a new mountain bike
adventure from Angkor to Saigon. The seven-day trip covers an almost
flat 275 kilometres, departing Siem Reap monthly from July 19. The
journey includes a boat cruise down the Mekong River, visit to Can
Tho’s floating markets and the support van carries your gear and weary
travellers. Best for bike-riding kids from 10 years, with tag-alongs
and bike seats available. Costs $1930 for adults, $1544 for kids under
12, (03) 9016 3172, grasshopperadventures.com


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


Ultimate downers: ultimate travel experiences

The world’s most polluted city? Delhi, India.
Photo: Belinda Jackson.

Hi, travel stats lovers, as an addendum to the previous story on ultimate travel experiences, ‘Boasters with the Mostest, here’s five travel downers, from worst airline to most dangerous city.

1.      
Worst
airline
: Scat (Kazakhstan), Kam Air
(Afghanistan), Agni Air, Buddha Air and Tara Air (all Nepal) and Bluewing
Airlines (Suriname) (airlineratings.com)
2.      
Worst airport: Dilapidation and poor customer
service makes Manila airport the world’s worst, say travellers (sleepinginairports.net)
3.      
Most
polluted city
: New Delhi bounced Beijing down to second place as the most
polluted major city in 2013, says India’s Center for Science and Environment (cseindia.org)  
4.      
Most
expensive city
: Singapore has pushed Tokyo off the throne as the priciest
town. Sydney came in fifth, and Mumbai the cheapest in the 131 cities surveyed
by the Economic Intelligence Unit (eiu.com).
5.       Most dangerous city: San
Pedro Sula, Honduras, wins this award for the second year running, with 187
homicides per 100,000 capita in 2013, says Mexican thinktank the
CitizensCouncil for
Public
Security and Criminal Justice. 


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



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.

Get going: Singapore on the cards

Sentosa Singapore resort.

GO NOW
SINGAPORE
Sink into the five-star Sentosa Singapore Resort and save 18
per cent, with Wi-Fi and breakfast included. Book and stay by May 31,
and you can layby your holiday for a $5 deposit. From $1174 a room, four
nights. 1800 359 769, lowcostholidays.com.au.

VICTORIA
Stay in Kyneton – some say Victoria’s hippest country town –
and get two nights for the price of one, and a bottle of wine. The new
Piper and Powlett B&B can be rented as a one, two or three-bedroom
house. From $460, one bedroom, two nights midweek, until April 28. 0409 157 857, piperandpowlett.com.au.

GO SOON
GERMANY
Book your German Rail Pass by April 30 and save 20 per cent.
Choose German Rail Pass that gives you five or 10 days’ travel within
one month throughout the country. Available in first and second classes
for travel until May 31. From $253 a person, five-day pass, second
class. raileurope.com.au.

NSW
Hit the road to discover regional NSW in a Maui motorhome and
save up to 25 per cent on pick-ups or drop-offs in Sydney. The Beach
motorhome (sleeps four) costs from $146 a day, minimum five days. Book
by June 26 for travel May 1-June 30. 1300 363 800, maui.com.au.

GO LATER
USA

Lounging, lizard style: Lizard Island, Queensland.

Cosy up for four nights in midtown Manhattan in the newly
renovated Affinia 50 hotel, or any of the five Affinia hotels in NYC and
Washington, DC, and you can save 20 per cent off the best available
rate. Book by April 30 for stays until August 31; quote AUST14. 1800 174 962, affinia.com.

QUEENSLAND
See how the other half lives on luxurious Lizard Island and
stay five nights, pay four. Includes flights to the island from Cairns
and all meals and drinks. Book by June 15 for stays April 29-August 31.
From $3139 a person, twin share. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au.

TRAVEL WRITEAWAY
PEN PAL
Go old-school with this cute travel journal, which encourages
kids to write about their travel adventures, be it a weekend at the
beach or a round-the-world adventure. The hardcover journal prompts them
to record what they ate, animals they saw, cool landmarks and there are
stickers aplenty, to create a fantastic memento to look back over when
they’ve traded sandcastles and hopscotch for Santorini and bar hopping.
kikki.K Explore Travel Journal, $19.95.
See kikki-k.com, phone (03) 9645 6346.

Belinda Jackson‘s Get Going column is published every Sunday in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.  


Deals: relaxation on a Malaysian vacation

Giraffe Manor, Kenya

Breakfast with well-mannered giraffes in Kenya, motor across the USA, sleep like a king in Malaysia… what’s your mood this week? 

On the home front, it’s freshwater lakes on Fraser Island, going remote up at the Kimberley’s Faraway Bay or exploring Kakadu in all its green glory.

GO NOW
MALAYSIA
Modelled on a 17th-century Malay palace, the recently
refreshed Tanjon Jara Resort is on Malaysia’s east coast. Normally from
$350 a night, costs from $276 including all meals until March 31,
minimum two nights. tanjongjararesort.com.
QUEENSLAND
Take a dip in pristine freshwater lakes or swim in the Coral
Sea on Fraser Island. Save $126 on a two-night stay at Eurong Beach
Resort, with vehicle barge transfers included (normally $106), until
April 17. From $310 for two nights, quote “summer days”. 1800 111 808, eurong.com.

GO SOON

Motor across the USA with Apollo motorhomes.

US
Motor in the US for up to 18 days for the cost of fuel only
in an Apollo Motorhome from March 31-April 5, May 6-9 and June 2-6. Pick
up from Forest City, Iowa, and relocate to four cities, including Las
Vegas and San Francisco. April travellers also get $US500 ($570) towards
fuel. 1800 777 779, apollorv.com.
SINGAPORE
Book two nights in a club room in the new Rendezvous Hotel
Singapore by March 16 and save 30 per cent. Included is the mini bar,
internet, airport lounge access, airport transfers and a city tour. From
$185 a night. stayfareast.com/launch30.

GO LATER
KENYA
Go on safari for five nights at Sala’s Camp, Sasaab or Solio
Lodge and get one night free at the Giraffe Manor, outside Nairobi. Book
by February 28, stay until December 15 (excluding June 1-October 31).
From $503 a person a night, +254 (020) 502 0888, thesafaricollection.com.
WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Stay at the Kimberley’s Faraway Bay and save 20 per cent with
a free night in Kununurra or Darwin until April 30. Book by February
28, from $3464 a person three nights, includes meals, tours and flights
ex-Kununurra. 0419 918 953, farawaybay.com.au.

Ancient Athens

Explore the archaeology and culture of Athens, from the
crowd-pleasing Acropolis and the Agorato to Marathon, the shrines of
mysterious cults and the isle of Aigina in the Saronic Gulf.
Promenade Plaka, the city’s Old Town. The walking tour, led
by two archaeologists, also explores the city’s best museums and its
top tables, and your five-star accommodation looks out to the Acropolis.
The tour runs June 1-8, 2014. Costs $4210 a person, twin share. See petersommer.com.

KIDS

Explore art caves, spot wildlife and
watch the sun set with the kids over a remarkable, remote slice of Australia. Kakadu
is glowing green right now, and kids under 12 stay and eat free at the Gagudju
Crocodile Hotel. Stay three, pay for just two nights and get half-price Yellow
Water cruises and other tour discounts until February 28. The hotel is 3.5
hours’ drive from Darwin on sealed roads and up to two kids can share their
parents’ room. Costs $300 a room, three nights, 1800 500 401, gagudju-dreaming.com.

 

This column by Belinda Jackson was published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper.


Of dusty plains and no-fly zones: welcome to Cairo!

Sunset over the Nile tonight, Cairo. Photo: Belle Jackson

It looks
like the khamaseen has come early to Cairo this year. The fifty days of dust
storms that scour North Africa usually cover the city’s windows and put the grit in your teeth each
February and March, but a strange cloud hangs over the city and it’s still just
October.
Looking out
from the balcony, airplanes slip quietly through the early morning mist. Their
passing doesn’t seem to happen that often: Cairo’s international airport was pretty
low-key when we came through three days ago, with Singapore Airlines the only
international I spotted: the rest were Egyptair planes, codesharing where the
other big names don’t want to go.
The duty
free shop was bereft of customers, I saw a boarded-up Thomas Cook counter and
the tourism touts could barely raise an eyebrow when I walked past: they know
that most passengers are locals returning for Eid al-Adha, the great feast,
this week. Any tourists are well and truly on organised packages and I didn’t
spot a single backpack.
Our three
flights from Melbourne to Cairo (via Singapore and Dubai) were shared with a
woman in her late 50s or early 60s. We were both worried by the brief, 55-minute
transit time in Singapore, as our incoming flight was late.
“No
matter,” I said. “There are worse places to have a forced stopover than
Singapore.”

“Well I
wouldn’t like to be doing it on my own!” said the intrepid lady, with some
concern. Woman, I thought to myself, you’re going to Cairo…

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