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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Junior suites: best kids’ hotel rooms

The Plaza, NY, USA

From fire
trucks to cats, hotel rooms appeal to the senses of youngsters by ditching the
boring beige and daring to dream.
Accosted
by pirates and knights or wading in a sea of frothy pink: waking up in the
stomach of a Nintendo game may be your idea of hell … or heaven.
Kids may
not be holding the purse strings, but canny hotels know that thinking small can
make a big difference.
While interconnecting rooms are a given, you’ll now
find alcoves stacked with bunks and stuffed with toys and books that remodel
the room from red-eye traveller to pint-sized revellers.
Here are six of the best.
The Fire Station Inn, Adelaide.

RED HOT
Adelaide, South Australia
Got a wannabe firefighter on your hands? Book a
night’s stay at the Fire Station Inn, Adelaide’s first fire station built in
1866, now a boutique hotel in swish North Adelaide. There’s a fully restored
1942 fire truck at the end of the queen-size bed, a fireman’s pole, lights and
costumes for dress-ups. The room has a king bed and a double sofa bed. Costs
from $275 a double plus $45 for children over two years. adelaideheritage.com.
DREAM BUILD
California, United States
Lego-mad kids can choose to be a pirate,
adventurer, or perhaps a knight at the new 250-room Legoland hotel in Carlsbad,
California. The hotel is made up of millions of Lego bricks and guests get
early entry to Legoland’s rides and attractions. The best thing is you don’t
have to pick up all the Lego pieces. Rooms comprise a queen bed and a separate
sleeping area for up to three kids. Kids stay and play free when booked by
September 30 for stays until November 21. From $179. legoland.com.
EMPIRE OF THE CAT
Jeju Island, South Korea
She’s super kawaii (cute) and pink to the
gills: Hello Kitty hits new highs in the five-star Lotte Hotel on Jeju Island.
Off South Korea’s southern coastline, Jeju is the country’s party island thanks
to its beaches and warm summers. Being Korean, the activities include sauna,
karaoke and hunting, but if your focus is a white kitty cat with a pink flower
in her hair, who appears on the duvets, the carpets and the walls, maybe that’s
not quite your game. Suites from $726. lottehoteljeju.com.
Wanderlust, Singapore

OUT OF THIS WORLD

Little India, Singapore
Step out of the madness of Little India and into a
madness of a different kind at Wanderlust, a super-cool Design Hotel whose two
fabulous space rooms feature a red space rocket and a few friendly aliens. The
kitchenette and bathroom are downstairs, then climb up to the loft bed and
watch the stars as you orbit into sleep. Costs from $298 a double, includes
breakfast and Wi-Fi. Extra beds from $85. wanderlusthotel.com.

THINK PINK
New York
The Fifth-Avenue home for stylish little girls is
the Eloise suite at the Plaza Hotel, dreamed up by fashion designer Betsey
Johnson. As they say: “Think pink and lots of it”. Saucy Eloise, the
heroine by Kay Thompson, who lived at the hotel, was modelled on Thompson’s
goddaughter, Liza Minnelli. The two-bedroom suite is a swirl of zebra print,
sparkly pink and neon lights. The Eloise ambassador will escort guests to the
suite, get their autograph and take a portrait, before presenting you with a
monogrammed Eloise bathrobe and a $100 gift card to the Eloise shop. From $1395
plus taxes. theplazany.com.

CAPITAL KIDS
Canberra
Canberra’s top hotel is currently the swish East
Hotel. Its Kids Cubby connects with the East Apartment for a chic, two-bedroom
option. The cubby has bunks, kids’ furniture, a little dining table and an Xbox
360 as well as other games. Book their Questacon package and get admission for
two adults and two kids into Questacon (the National Science and Technology
Centre), as well as a free in-room movie and popcorn, parking and a half bottle
of wine. From $380 (room only), $410 (Questacon pack). easthotel.com.au.
FIVE MORE COOL KIDS’
ROOMS
SWISSOTEL, PHUKET, THAILAND
Legoland, California

Set by Kamala beach and a favourite with families,
the hotel can redesign the kids’ room, with age-relevant toys, food and games
for kids two to 17 years. From $154, two-bedroom suite, until November 1. swissotel.com.

FANTASYLAND HOTEL, EDMONTON, CANADA
Sleep in a pick-up truck, stylishly, in truck theme
room. There’s a queen bed in the back, a futon in the cab and fire-engine
toddler bunks. The igloo room has an icy-cool fitout. From $368. fantasylandhotel.com.
SHERATON MACAO HOTEL, MACAU
The largest Sheraton in the world’s two-bed,
two-bathroom suite has a kids’ room with craft tables, games, a Wii and bunk
beds. From $299. sheraton.com/macao.
THE PALMS, LAS VEGAS
For girls, as well as the girlish at heart, The
Barbie Suite is a very grown-up affair that sleeps six, and parties for 40.
From $3000. thepalms.com.
NOMAD XPERIENCE, GRANADA, SPAIN
Sleep in a yurt, a tipi or a gypsy wagon at this
property in the Sierra Nevada. €35 ($51) a person, €25 children three to 16
years. nomadx.es.
Source: Belinda Jackson,
Sun-Herald newspaper


Wheeling through South Korea, wining in dear old Lonnie: travel deals & kids’ gigs, August 25

New to travel: cycling in South Korea.

With winter just about out the window, you could be forgiven for thinking Tasmania’s raison d’être has also gone the way of the Australian tiger. That’s only because you haven’t been to Launceston, up on the north coast. Interestingly (well, ok, interesting to me), a Brit once said it should be pronounced Launston ( the ‘ces’ isn’t pronounced: think Worcestershire sauce). But I digress. Check out this week’s travel deals and kids’ gig, where smearing your nose along a window is encouraged – nay – obligatory.

TASMANIA

Visit Launceston and take in the art galleries, harvest
markets and Tamar Valley wineries. Stay in a one-bed Superior suite at The
Sebel Launceston from $219, and they’ll deliver breakfast in bed and a wee
bottle of champagne. Until December 31. accorhotels.com.
SOUTH KOREA
Singapore is about to roar: F1 racing comes to town.
Get ahead of the pack with South Korea’s new cycle
trails. Save 25 percent on the first, nine-day Korean Cycle trip from Seoul to
traditional Andong through unspoilt forests and villages. Departs October 26, from
$2590, 1800 107 060, adventuresouth.co.nz.
SINGAPORE
Head to the 2013 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix,
September 19-23. Packages include a three-day Grandstand race ticket, race preview
lunch, return international airfares and four nights’ accommodation. Save
over $500, costs $2595, 1300 888 858, sportsnetholidays.com.
Gentle luxury at The
Sebel Launceston.
KIDS
If squished noses on windows is a feature of your airport
visits, check out the Parkroyal Melbourne Airport’s Kids Plane-Spotting package
and watch the big birds take off right outside your hotel room. Includes
accommodation for one adult and one child under 12 (Friday and Saturday nights
only), breakfast and an activity package, from $269 until 31 December. Extra
adults from $20. 1800 192 144, parkroyalhotels.com. 

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun-Herald newspaper


Bargains and bright ideas: from Middle Earth to Malaysia

Fantasy: Sir Ian McKellen in The Lord of the Rings, New Zealand.

Are you a shopper, a temple lover, volcano hopper and or film fan? Here’s your escapade. 

Where to? New Zealand.
The experience: Hobbit hunting on the North and South islands.
Pack for: Middle-earth adventure in four-star style.
Who goes? Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans.
HighlightsThis 10-day tour is led by one of the dwarves from the Hobbit trilogy. The tour starts in Auckland and finishes in Christchurch, visiting the Hobbiton film set in Matamata, as well as Wellington (aka Wellywood) and dramatic film locations, including Mount Victoria and the uplifting scenery of Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo.
Watch the clock: It takes three hours to fly from Sydney to Auckland with Air New Zealand (13 24 76, airnewzealand.com.au), Emirates (1300 303 777, emirates.com/au), Jetstar (13 15 38, jetstar.com), LAN (1800 558 129, lan.com) and Virgin Australia (13 67 89, virginaustralia.com). It also takes three hours to fly from Christchurch to Sydney with Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia.
Costs: From $4790 a person for 10 days. Includes flight from Wellington to Dunedin, guides and some meals. 1300 888 225, odysseytraveller.com.
For more information: newzealand.com.
SUPping in the Cook Islands.

Where to? Cook Islands.

The experience: The islands’ first “Gathering Holiday”.
WhenMarch 16-22.
Pack forIslander glam.
Who goes? Single travellers aged 28-45ish wanting to broaden their social network.
HighlightsA mix of fun, relaxation and a few healthy activities: 4WD rallies, starlit cinema, cooking schools, a lagoon cruise, stand-up paddle boarding and a speed-friending event (like dating, but without compulsory romance). There’s also time to hit the local nightclubs and markets. The “donate time” program encourages travellers to spend a little time in the islands’ schools reading to local kids, to give back to the local community. Group size averages about 20 people.
Watch the clock: It’s a six-hour direct flight from Sydney to Rarotonga with Air New Zealand, departing every Saturday night and crossing the dateline to arrive at 5.30am, Saturday. 13 24 76, airnewzealand.com.au.
Costs: $2399 a person, twin share, for six nights, most meals, activities and transfers.
For more information: (07) 5408 0153, thegatheringholidays.comcookislands.travel.
Where to? Singapore.
The experience: Larging it up in one of the world’s most iconic hotels.
Pack for: City luxe.
Who goes? History lovers and hardened shoppers.
Highlights: A three-night stay in a Palm Court suite at Raffles Hotel Singapore (established in 1887) is the last word in colonial charm. The offer includes breakfast in the Tiffin Room, dinner in Raffles Grill, personalised bathrobes, spa treatments, a bottle of 125th anniversary Billecart-Salmon champagne and airport transfers in a Bentley. There’s also a voucher for one complimentary night’s stay, a butler on call 24 hours, and a history tour by the hotel’s resident historian. The hotel is surrounded by shopping malls, and the famed 2.2-kilometre Orchard Road strip is just a hop-skip away.
Watch the clock: It’s bang-on eight hours from Sydney to Singapore with Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com), Scoot (flyscoot.com), Qantas (qantas.com), British Airways (britishairways.com) and Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com).
Costs: From $3871 a person for three nights. +800 1 7233537, raffles.com. Quote “Celebrating Romance”.
For more information: yoursingapore.com.
Borobudur, Java, Indonesia.
Where to? Central Java, Indonesia.
The experience: Five-day “Cultured Treasures & Temples” tour.
Pack for: High-end luxury and natural beauty.
Who goes? Natural beauty and culture buffs.
Highlights: Borobudur, the world’s largest, absolutely breathtaking, Buddhist sanctuary, dating from the ninth century, and nearby Prambanan, a Hindu temple complex from about the same era. The backdrop is of mountains and volcanoes – visited at sunrise and sunset – including the “home of the gods”, the volcanic Dieng Plateau at an altitude of 2000 metres. Stay at Amanjiwo Resort or Plataran Borobudur Resort & Spa to immerse yourself in the local beauty.
Watch the clock: Garuda Indonesia flies daily from Sydney to Yogyakarta via Denpasar (7hr 15min, though expect a Balinese layover). 1300 365 330, garuda-indonesia.net.au.
Costs: From $US1670 ($1604) a person, twin share, for four nights. Includes private transfers and all sightseeing.
For more information: 1300 851 800, abercrombiekent.com.au.

Where to? Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The experience: Bargain hunting and tower climbing.
Pack for: Pounding the pavement.
Who goes? Hardcore shoppers.
Highlights: All of Asia knows KL packs a punch in the shopping stakes. The malls are glamorous and airconditioned – as befits the humidity – and they range from the world’s top fashion labels to fabulous local shoe designers, exceptional kids’ wear and great electronic goods. Stay for four nights and pay for only three (your first bargain before you even arrive!) at the four-star Parkroyal Hotel Kuala Lumpur in the compact city centre, close to the Petronas Twin Towers and the Bukit Bintang shopping strip.
Watch the clock: It takes 7½ hours to fly from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines (malaysiaairlines.com) and Air Asia (airasia.com).
Costs: From $349 a person, twin share, for four nights. Includes 20 per cent off spa treatments and in the restaurant, airport transfers and a half-day city tour. Book until May 31 for travel between April 1 and May 31. 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com.
For more information: (02) 9299 4441, tourismmalaysia.com.au.

Mt Yasur volcano, Vanuatu.
Where to? Tanna Island, Vanuatu.
The experience: Volcano hopping.
Pack for: Five-star adventure at three-star prices.
Who goes? Those keen on white sand and big fireworks.
Highlights: Get up close to Tanna Island’s Mount Yasur volcano. Easily accessible, the volcano was seen by Captain Cook when he visited in 1774 and is most active during the wet season, from late February to April. Stay for four nights in an ocean view room at the White Grass Ocean resort in Tanna and take a volcano safari tour, then spend three nights in Port Vila to soak up the turquoise waters of the south Pacific.
Watch the clockAir Vanuatu flies from Sydney to Port Vila daily (3hr 25min), and under an hour from Port Vila to Tanna. 1300 780 737, airvanuatu.com.
Costs: From $1873 a person for seven nights. Includes flights ex-Sydney. Book by February 15 for travel until March 26 and between April 23 and June 20.
For more information1300 370 792, coralseas.com.au.

White Christmas at either end of the globe: travel deals 9 December 2012

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Try Austria…or Australia (if Tassie turns on the cold tap) in this week’s best international and Australian travel deals. 

SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Quintessential
Adelaide experiences include coffee at Lucia’s in the Central Markets, where
you can shop for a beach picnic in the cool shade of the jetties on the
spectacular sweeps of Semaphore and Henley beaches. Save 25 per cent when you
stay at the Hilton Adelaide. Book by February 14, 2013 for travel until
December 31, 2013. Costs from $169 a room. 
1300 888 180, zuji.com.au.
VICTORIA
With the sun finally out, Melbourne’s laneways are bursting with tables for a perfectly brewed coffee or cheeky wine on the footpath. Stay four nights at the 4.5-star Best Western Premier Hotel 115 Kew and save 25 per cent in a one-bedroom apartment which includes a king bed, spa bath and full kitchen. Book by January 31, stay by February 28, 2013. Normally $299 a night, costs from $896 for four nights. (03) 8862 0200, bestwestern.com.au/hotel115kew.

NEW SOUTH WALES
The Metro Hotel Sydney Central is opposite the Capital
Theatre, which is currently showing the classic ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’. Stay
one night in a deluxe room in the Metro Hotel Sydney Central, which can
accommodate up to two adults and two children, and they’ll include a buffet
breakfast for the whole family and chocolates on arrival. Normally from $189 a
night, stay until December 20.  Costs
from $205 for two adults and two children 1800 00 4321,
metrohotels.com.au
.

NORFOLK ISLAND
Just 2½ hours flight from Sydney, Norfolk Island does old-school school holidays – horse riding, fish and chips and bush walks. Kids stay free on Norfolk Island this summer, with packages including flights from Sydney, seven nights’ accommodation at Hibiscus Aloha, seven days’ car hire, a round of mini golf and discount shopping cards until January 31, 2013. Costs from $1129 for adults and $589 for kids up to 17 years. 1800 1400 66, www.travelcentre.nf.

QUEENSLAND
The calendar of events at the Queensland Art
Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, one of Australia’s premier modern art galleries,
is worth the trip alone, including the current 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of
Contemporary Art, with 77 artists from 27 countries. The Brisbane Marriott’s
Discover Brisbane package includes one night in a deluxe city view room for
two, a $30 taxi voucher, free valet parking and breakfast buffet. Usually from
$199 room only, stay until January 31, 2013, costs from $249, quote promo code ‘ES2’.
(07) 3303 8000, brisbanemarriott.com.
TASMANIA
Hankering for a white Christmas without the international
airfare? It’s been known to snow in Tassie on Christmas Day, so maybe you’ll
get lucky. Or maybe you’ll get one of those perfect, blue-sky days and the
freshest air on the planet on this 11-day Best of Tasmania guided tour. Includes
a tour of thriving Hobart, MONA gallery and Christmas Eve at Cradle Mountain
Chateau. Travel on the December 22 departure and get an early Chrissy present
of $100 off. Costs from $3890 a person, twin share, excludes flights. 1300 228
546, aatkings.com.au.
SINGAPORE
You thought Singapore couldn’t fit one more new hotel,
but you’re wrong. Parkroyal on Pickering is set to open near Chinatown this
month. Designed by Australian architect Richard Hassel, it’s already earned the
country’s highest green rating, with solar power, water recycling and sky
gardens. The hotel’s opening special costs from $220++ with breakfast, from
January 1 – March 31, 2013. 1800 192 144, singaporehotels.parkroyalhotels.com/pickering/

THAILAND
Get organised for a winter getaway in southern Thailand
and save. Get four nights free in Phuket at the Phuket Graceland Resort &
Spa, near Patong Beach, when you book eight nights in a superior room. You still
get daily breakfast and airport transfers, as well as a two-hour Thai massage
for two, and the resort includes kids’ club and facilities and a day spa. Book
by January 31, stay April 1 – November 15, 2013. Costs from $351 a person. travelonline.com
VANUATU
Blue Holidays gives you an early Christmas present by
cutting $500 off its seven-night stays at mangoes Resort, in Port Vila. The
package includes return airfares from Sydney with Virgin Australia. Book by
December 31 for travel from now until December 21, and between January 10 –
March 31, 2013. Costs from $1171 a person, twin share. 131 516 or visit
virginaustralia.com/holidays.
UK & IRELAND
Tick off all the classics – the Blarney Stone, Loch Ness
and Buck Palace – on this 16-day tour through England, Scotland and Ireland. You’ll
also trail The Beatles through Liverpool on a local Magical Mystery Tour and
find what’s hip and happening in London, Dublin, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tours
depart March to October 2013. Book by December 27, save $228 a person. Costs
from $2061 a person, twin share, land only. 1300 266
845, contiki.com.au.
SOUTHERN AFRICA
You want it all: Victoria Falls, the Serengeti and Masai
Mara national parks, to wake up to Mt Kilimanjaro and, of course, Kruger. APT’s
Africa Highlights, which runs year-round, spends 29 days traversing southern
Africa including 15 nights in South Africa and 11 in Kenya and Tanzania. The
package includes all internal flights, game viewing and accommodation in luxury
camps and private game lodges, and is sweetened by a companion-free-flight
deal, where your mate pays taxes of $795, saving up to $2040 for a couple. Book
before December 31, 2012. Costs from $18,995 a person, twin share. 1300 229
804, aptouring.com.au.
TOURWATCH
Sleigh rides, mulled wine and cosying up in an Italian
castle: it’s the antipodean’s dream of a perfect white Christmas. This 10-day
tour departs from Munich and traverses the winter landscapes of Germany,
Austria and Italy, stopping at Innsbruck and Salzburg’s famous Christmas
markets,  popping in to Milan and Venice
for a spot of last-minute shopping. Too bad you won’t have time to post your
presents back home – oh well, you’ll just have to buy for yourself. The tour
includes four nights in CastelBrando, built in the first century and
continuously renovated to its current incarnation as a 4.5-star hotel. Set in
the foothills of the Dolomites, you’ll spend Christmas Day here, sitting down
to an Italian feast. Book by December 17 for travel December 18. Costs from
$3199 a person, twin share. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au.

Hey, big spenders! Shopping holidays in Asia.

Plastic loaded and flats on feet? Experts tell Belinda Jackson where the bargains are in Asia.
It’s official: Hong Kong is the hottest shopping neighbourhood in the Asia-Pacific region.
“The food, the shopping, the views, the energy, the noise, the waterways – HK’s alive and buzzing 24/7,” says design tracker Anne-Maree Sargeant, on our panel of shopping experts who share their secret haunts and favourite hot spots in the region’s top 10 shopping cities, according to a Global Shopper survey (globeshopperindex.com).
The cities were chosen based on their visitor numbers – Sydney is the only Australian city to make the list – and each city was marked out of 100 based on its affordability, shops, convenience, hotels, transport, climate and culture.

1. Hong Kong, 69/100

The insider Art and design journalist and hunter Anne-Maree Sargeant (thesnapassembly.com).
What’s hot Best in show for its fashion, electronics, watches and jewellery. 83/100 for the shops.
What’s not Pricey hotels that are permanently booked out. 58/100 for retail affordability.
The address book Hit Cat Street Gallery for emerging and mid-career artists (thecatstreetgallery.com) and the inaugural Hong Kong art fair (May 23- 26, 2013), run by the hugely influential new owners Art Basel and Design Miami (hongkongartfair.com). Stylish superstore Lane Crawford is stacked with luxury brands and designer offerings. Check the capsule store featuring furniture and lighting from favourite Brit designer Lee Broom (lanecrawford.com). Get your fix of Harvey Nicks at The Landmark, the Asian Harvey Nichols flagship store for revered luxury and designer offerings (blog.harveynichols.com.hk). Monocle Shop is the first of a new “retail/news” concept for British style tome Monocle (shop.monocle.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Hong Kong direct with Qantas (qantas.com), Cathay Pacific (cathaypacific.com) or Virgin Atlantic (virgin-atlantic.com).
Staying there The 117-room Upper House hotel, designed by architect Andre Fu, sits above Pacific Place Shopping Mall, Admiralty, Hong Kong Island (upperhouse.com).

2. Kuala Lumpur 65/100

The insider Belinda Jackson, travel writer and former international shopping columnist.
What’s hot Low prices in great malls and off-the-scale seasonal sales. 76/100 for shops.
What’s not Sticky climate and few attractions. 50/100 for climate and culture.
The address book Malaysians do shoes, led by the master, Jimmy Choo, in luxe mall Suria KLCC (jimmychoo.com). The new Choo is said to be Lewre Lew, found in Parkson department stores (lewre.com). Buy batik shoes from Jimmy’s fave designer, Fion Poon, in the Central Market (fionpoon.com). Brothers Charles and Keith Wong’s Charles & Keith are unmissable for affordable, high-style shoes and accessories (charleskeith.com). For stingray clutches, head to Klutched in Mid Valley Megamall (klutched.com). High-energy Low Yat Plaza has every computer invention at one-third of the price of Singapore, with one floor dedicated just to repairs (plazalowyat.com). KL is justly famous for its malls – hit the strip of Bukit Bintang for big-dollar Starhill and Suria KLCC, chic Pavilion, street-smart Fahrenheit88, Lot 10 and perennial bargain fave Sungei Wang.
Getting there Fly direct from Sydney to Malaysia with Malaysia Airlines (malaysiaairlines.com) and Air Asia (airasia.com).
Staying there The Westin Kuala Lumpur is at the start of Bukit Bintang, making it ideal for shoppers (starwoodhotels.com).

3. Shanghai 63/100

The insiders Fashion designer Alex Zabotto-Bentley and events director Anna Patterson of AZBcreative (azbthecreative.com).
What’s hot International brands, affordable hotels and long shopping hours. 84/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Nasty sales taxes. 59/100 for affordability.
The address book Spend a weekend afternoon at the iconic Dong Tai Lu Antiques Markets. Enter from Xizang Lu into Liuhe Lu, near Xintiandi, and haggle. Spin has amazing handmade ceramics: think industrial chic meets a Chinese art gallery (360 Kangding Lu, near Shanxi Bei Lu). Casa Pagoda is the ultimate in East meets West, with exotic fabrics, old lost-and-found furniture and homewares (casapagoda.com). We love Madame Mao’s Dowry for womenswear and Chinese kitsch for the home (madamemaosdowry.com). The streets Xinle Lu and Changle Lu in the French Concession have amazing women’s fashion, cafes and art deco furniture. Try The Villa for high-end international fashion (shopthevilla.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Shanghai direct with China Eastern (flychinaeastern.com) or Air China (airchina.com.au).
Staying there For immaculate location and architecture, stay at the Waterhouse at South Bund (designhotels.com).
More info cnto.org.au.

4. Beijing 61/100

The insider Still-life master and photographer Dieu Tan (dieutan.com).
What’s hot Long shopping hours, top World Heritage sites and good hotels. 84/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Limited foreign languages spoken and few deals. 49/100 for shops.
The address book Hunt hard for genuine Chinese antiques among the reproductions at Panjiayuan antique market (21 Dongsanhuan Nanlu, Chaoyang District). Spend a day or two in Dashanzi Art District’s galleries looking at Modern Chinese art. Most work is for sale, so visit the UCCA gallery shop (2 Jiuxiangqiao Lu, Chaoyang District). Sanlitun Village is one of the hippest areas in town, with ultra-luxe brands with a Beijing edge (19 and 11 Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District). The Gulou/Houhai area houses the traditional Beijing hutong style of architecture, some of which is converted into stylish shops for local art, home deco, tea, fashion and accessories (Gulou Dong Da Jie, Dongcheng District). The Sanyuanli food market is where many Western restaurants and international grocery stores buy wholesale (Shunyuan Jie, west of Sanyuan Dongqiao, Chaoyang District).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Beijing direct with Air China (airchina.com.au).
Staying there Hotel G is a 110-room hotel in the Sanlitun district. Workers’ Stadium West Road, Chaoyang District (mrandmrssmith.com).
More info cnto.org.au.

5. Singapore 60/100

The insider “House whisperer” and stylist Megan Morton (meganmorton.com).
What’s hot Safe, culturally diverse and convenient. 71/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Pricey hotels and high transport costs. 50/100 for affordability.
The address book Expect cups, trinkets and objects you didn’t know you had to have until you saw them at gallery-store Little Drom Store (thelittledromstore.com). Red Dot Design Museum’s Design Journey is an excursion to 18 of the city’s most design-oriented places (red-dot.sg/museum). Locals dress their spaces with Miles & Theodore’s modernistic offerings from Copenhagen’s Massproductions, France’s Revol and Carpet Reloaded floor coverings (milesandtheodore.com). Go for the rose-petal tea; go for the marmalade; go for the vintage selection: Carpenter & Cook is a tea room that trades vintage curios, furniture and kitchenware (carpenterandcook.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Singapore direct with Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com), Scoot (flyscoot.com), Qantas (qantas.com), China Eastern (www.flychinaeastern.com), British Airways (britishairways.com) and Virgin Australia (virginaustralia.com).
Staying there Every room in the New Majestic Design Hotel differs, the service is great and the rooms are energising. (31-37 Bukit Pasoh, newmajestichotel.com).
More info yoursingapore.com.

6. Sydney 58/100

The insider Style queen Melissa Penfold, author of Australian Style and co-author of Melissa Penfold’s Little Black Book: Sydney’s Shopping Secrets.
What’s hot Great weather, cultural attractions. 71/100 for climate, culture.
What’s not Short trading hours, costly hotels and tricky visas. Bargain central, it’s not. 34/100 for affordability.
The address book The Country Trader has hundreds of antique-look table accessories in silver, glass, china and wood (thecountrytrader.com.au), while Spence & Lyda’s glam new showroom is the place for Missoni Home linen (spenceandlyda.com.au). Double Bay’s Transvaal Avenue is hot right now: start at My Island Home for Caribbean living style, African home lovelies at Doveton Kay Interiors, or French pretties at Maison et Jardin. Jan Logan Jewellery has great taste at sensible prices (janlogan.com) and Anny Lada Jewellery is the celebs’ source of big, affordable, shell-based South Sea pearls (shop 37, 22 Knox Street). Top Australian fashion designers reside at The Intersection in Paddington, with Acne and Bassike for brill basics. At Robert Burton, get French Cire Trudon candles, fab Bensimon sneakers and Petit Bateau womenswear (robertburtonshop.com).
Getting there By cab or bus.
Staying there Everyone’s talking about Sydney’s newest hotel, QT in the heart of the city (qtsydney.com.au).
More info seesydney.com.au.

7. Bangkok 57/100

The insider Photographer Matt Burns splits his time between Australia and Bangkok (southeastasiaimages.com).
What’s hot Fun street markets, great hotels and spectacular food. 69/100 for affordability.
What’s not Dodgy counterfeits. 50/100 for culture and climate.
The address book Monte Carlo tailors isn’t a cheap option, but the staff do provide fantastic quality and service. Expect to pay $300-$1000 for a suit, depending on the cloth (mctailor.com). I can’t recommend Fotofile in the MBK Centre highly enough for its professional camera equipment and unsurpassed knowledge and service. Try and talk to Khun Kong for the best service (fotofile.net). Pantip Plaza has every piece of computer equipment you’ll ever need, but know your prices first (604 New Petchaburi Road). For clothes, homewares and pretty much everything in the world, visit the Chatuchak weekend market. Get in early before the heat and crowds (chatuchak.org) and shop for Thai silk at Narai Phand in the Royal Thai Government Handicrafts Centre (naraiphand.com).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Bangkok direct with Thai Airways (thaiairways.com.au), Emirates (emirates.com) or Qantas (qantas.com).
Staying there The new, wallet-friendly Aloft Bangkok is a quick tuk-tuk trip to Bangkok’s shopping strips (aloftbangkoksukhumvit11.com).
More info thailand.net.au.

8. Tokyo 56/100

The insider Melbourne/NY interiors stylist Glen Proebstel (glenproebstel.com).
What’s hot A great events calendar. 92/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Few sales and super-high hotel, transport and dining costs. 20/100 for affordability.
The address book Claska Gallery and Shop is the perfect destination to sample the best of local and international design makers and crafters (claska.com). New York fashion store Opening Ceremony opened a Tokyo branch that’s a must-visit (openingceremony.us). For beautifully chosen industrial vintage, visit Journal Standard Furniture (js-furniture.jp). As the name says, I Find Everything Tokyo (ifindeverythingtokyo.com). Fog Linen Work has been a recognisable brand in many boutique homeware stores throughout Australia, but nothing compares to visiting where it all began (foglinenwork.com).

Getting there Fly Sydney to Tokyo direct with Qantas (qantas.com) or with Jetstar, via Gold Coast or Cairns (jetstar.com).

Staying there The Park Hotel Tokyo is a soothing oasis amid the neon (en.parkhoteltokyo.com).
More info jnto.org.au.

9. Seoul 55/100

The insider Australian model Jessica Gomes, a bona fide superstar in Korea (iamjessicagomes.com).
What’s hot Good mix of old markets and new boutiques. 66/100 for hotels and transport.
What’s not Dodgy weather and a challenging hotel scene. 43/100 for retail affordability.
The address book The Galleria Department Store, in the Apgujeong-dong retail district, is super-modern and cool for international luxury brands. Dongdaemun Shopping Market is open from midnight until early morning. I love buying from young Korean designers who provide great quality at a good price. The Hyundai Department Store has a mixture of Korean and international labels, as well as a great food market. Green Street has cool hipster cafes and boutiques. Korea has great labels such as VOV (myvov.com) and really good up-and-coming designers in the boutiques in Apgujeong-dong.
Getting there Fly Sydney to Seoul direct with Korean Air (koreanair.com) or Asiana Airlines (flyasiana.com).
Staying there The IP Boutique Hotel is a quirky hotel in the expat Itaewon district (737-32 Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu,ipboutiquehotel.com).
More information visitkorea.or.kr.

10. Delhi 53/100

The insider Interior stylist, creative director and owner of The Society Inc, Sibella Court (thesocietyinc.com.au).
What’s hot Fabulous sights and haggling shopkeepers. 63/100 for affordability.
What’s not Weak for mall rats, tough visas and struggling transport. 40/100 for shopping.
The address book The Full Circle Bookstore has every book of every author who has ever spoken or been a part of Jaipur’s incredible literary festival (fullcirclebooks.in). The National Handicrafts & Handlooms Museum gives an insight into the skill and technique behind it all, and craftspeople sell their wares in the courtyard (nationalcraftsmuseum.nic.in). Anokhi is great for the travelling basics – scarves, cotton pants – all lovely and affordable (www.anokhi.com). I love the Chandni Chowk market in Old Delhi, especially the hardware section with all the vendors tinkering away. Kamayani has amazing handmade textiles from across India, selected with a superb eye (kamayani.in).
Getting there Fly Sydney to Delhi with China Southern (via Guangzhou) (csair.com/en), Singapore Airlines (singaporeair.com) and Virgin Australia via Singapore (virginaustralia.com).
Staying there The Manor is a stylish boutique hotel in New Friends Colony, with just 15 rooms and a lot of luxury (themanordelhi.com).
More information incredibleindia.org.com.


Lemme hear you go Woo! Travel deals 14 October 201

WooBar at the new W Hotel Singapore
Snap up the bargain of the century with six cases of wine when you bed down in St Kilda, or throw your hands in the air like you don’t care at the new WooBar Singapore’s new W hotel in this week’s travel deals.


VICTORIA
If you ever needed a good reason to stay in St Kilda (aside
from it having the town’s best band pub, great pizza cafes, awesome spas,
smokin’ beachside cafes), here’s another. Book a standard non-bayview room at
the Novotel Melbourne St Kilda until October 31, get six bottles of wine, worth
$200, absolutely free. The deal also includes free car parking and breakfast
for two.  Costs from $179 a room, a
night, quote ‘wine and wind down’. (03) 9525 6191, novotelstkilda.com.au.
NSW
Revel
in all things Polynesian, without leaving the state. The Sebel Resort & Spa Hawkesbury Valley’s midweek Polynesian
inspired special includes overnight accommodation in a deluxe spa room,
breakfast for two, $50 to blow at the restaurant and two hours of Polynesian
spa fabulousness at its Villa Thalgo. Start with a body scrub, lagoon water
bath and a Mahana massage using sacred oils. Just an hour from the city in the
Hawkesbury Valley, the 4.5-star hotel has been recently renovated. Worth $499,
pay $289 a room, a night, Mondays to Fridays until December 28. 131 515, sebelhawkesburyvalley.com.au.
TASMANIA
If you’ve got the time, then Tassie’s got the deal, with a
five Strange+Wild nights which includes accommodation for two, priority access
tickets to the Museum of Old and New Art’s (MONA) Theatre of the World extravaganza,
car hire, a ferry ride up-river to MONA, a bottle of Moorilla Muse chardonnay,
maps and tourist guides.  Save up to $796
a person until April 8, 2013. Costs from $915 a person, (03) 6277 9900,
mona.net.au/short-breaks.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Lovers of the tv series ‘McLeod’s Daughters’ will already
know Kingsford Homestead, a beautiful five-star historic home in the Barossa
Valley, just north of Adelaide. Accommodating just 14 guests in its suites and
cottages, stays at the homestead include three or five-course dinners and big,
hearty country breakfasts, as well as drinks and canapés at sunsets and
lashings of local wine. Costs from $1580 for two nights for two people. 1300
130 483, travel.com.au.

TOP END

Discover some of the most remote beauty spots in
Australia, spending 13 days exploring the Kimberley. The Kimberley Complete
tour starts and finishes in Broome, cruising Geiki Gorge, Emma Gorge at El
Questro and the beautiful Windjana Gorge, staying in wilderness lodges and
taking a helicopter flight over Mitchell Falls. Couples can save up to $1500 on
departures between April and October 2013 when they book by December 31, 2012. Costs
from $7145 a person, twin share. 1800 240 504, kimberleywilderness.com.au
SINGAPORE
I’d like to show you a room shot, but hey,
this is the ELEVATOR. W Hotel, Singapore.

Singapore
now has its own W Hotel, set on Sentosa Island, the city-state’s super-chi-chi
beach getaway. So naturally, the hotel’s three room types are classed as Wonderful,
Spectacular and Fabulous, normally priced from SGD430++ ($343) room only. Get ahead of the pack and
snap up an Island Glamour Welcome opening package, which includes one night in
the Wonderful guestroom, breakfast for two and cocktails, until March 31, 2013.
Costs from SGD$388++ a room. 1800 325 2525, wsingaporesentosacove.com.

INDONESIA

A magnet for surfers, Uluwatu is at the southernmost tip of the island of Bali and its famous sea temple. Nearby, the family-friendly Uluwatu Surf Villas looks over the high cliffs, down to the surf beaches, prime location for daily sundowners. Normally $290 a night, all accommodation bookings on TravelMob are 20 per cent off until November 10. Costs from $232 a room a night.  travelmob.com.


BALTICS

Get off the beaten track with a journey through the
former Eastern Bloc countries of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia,
finishing in the glamorous museum mecca of St Petersburg. Book and pay for the
11-day journey 12 months ahead and save 10 per cent. Book by December 27, 2012
and fly from $1754 a person with Emirates, with a free stopover in Dubai. Costs
from $2319 a person, twin share. 1300 230 234, globus.com.au.


SPAIN

It’s got Gaudi, Picasso, the Alhambra palace and then there’s tapas. Oh Spain, we love you. The 10-day cultural extravaganza, Treasures of Spain, starts in Barcelona, and visits Valencia, Granada, Cordoba and finishes in Seville. Includes accommodation, some meals, transport and tour guide. Book before October 31, save on seven departures between May 19 and October 13, 2013. Past Peregrine travellers also get additional discounts. Normally $5090, costs from $4581 a person, twin share. 1300 854 400, peregrineadventures.com.


USA

The Hyatt Regency Century Plaza, Los Angeles

Girls, get your
scarves and sunnies on and hit the road with the ultimate road trip, from LA to
Vegas. The package includes four nights’ accommodation at the Hyatt
Regency Century Plaza  in Los Angeles,
three nights in the Westin Las Vegas, return flights and eight days’ car hire.
There are also bonus tours including a tour of Hollywood, a helicopter flight
over Vegas, entry to Madam Tussards. Book by October 20, travel November 9-30,
February 1 – March 20, 2013. Costs from $2290 a person, twin share.  1300 000 872, myholidaycentre.com.au.

TOURWATCH
Many Vietnam
tours take you through the Cu Chi tunnels, the elaborate tunnels of the
VietCong, but this is a tour with a difference. The guides are author Jimmy
Thomson and Sandy MacGregor, a former ‘tunnel rat’ serving in the Vietnam War
who led the group that discovered the tunnels and the underground city of Cu
Chi. The tour also visits the Vietcong Caves in the Long Hai mountains and a
few days in the sin city of Vung Tau, a notorious town where troops went for
R&R. Oh, and there’s time for shopping, too. The Tunnel Rats tour departs
October 26, 2012.  Costs from $1900 a
person, twin share, land only. (02) 8229 4764, sapperswar.com.

Rest and recuperate: Singapore

Seven stopover cities where you can stretch your legs and beat the humdrum of a long-haul flight

Click here to read more of this story from The Age.
 

Why I love Changi airport: simply because I can get my luggage trolley into the loo – a bonus for solo travellers with no mate to stand guard.

The beauty of stopping in transit in countries as tiny as Singapore is that you’re smack in the city in the flutter of a fake eyelash; it’s just half an hour from the airport to whatever nirvana you’re looking for: theme park junkies head to Universal Studios, nostalgia buffs grab Singapore Slings at Raffles Hotel and label freaks gravitate to Orchard Road.

Want a bowl of steaming laksa? Head to Katong, where a battalion of Nonyas (Malay mammas) fight it out in a long-standing battle for the best laksa in town. There are mosques for Muslims and boutiques for Indo-fashionistas in Kampong Glam and in chaotic Little India, I watch an old fortune teller use a green parrot to pull numbers from a deck of cards. It’s $S5 ($3.80) a number for a series that might win you the lottery. The parrot is working like a demon as punters stop by the little table on the footpath to try their luck.

In the waterside bar quarter of Clark Quay, tiny Singaporean princesses totter into Shanghai Dolly, a Mando-pop bar. We say: avoid if you’ve just staggered off a long-haul flight with shiny skin and less-than-luscious locks.

Singapore caters to all comers. And come they do, to a country masquerading as one of the world’s great transit lounges, open 24/7/365.

Flight time About 8hr from Melbourne and Sydney.
Who stops over? Singapore Airlines, Qantas, British Airways, Jetstar and Emirates are among the major airlines to go there.
Taxi from airport to city Metered taxis from $S18 ($14), double from midnight to 6am plus a surcharge of $S3 to $S5. The journey takes about 30 minutes. Singapore Airlines has a free service between the airport, city centre and Sentosa Island for transit passengers, from $S6 for Singapore Airlines/SilkAir passengers and $S12 for others. See siahopon.com.
Where to stay The Crowne Plaza Changi Airport is linked to the airport terminals via walkways and people movers, from $S320. See cpchangiairport.com. The Ambassador Transit Hotel in the airport’s transit lounge (therefore no need to clear immigration) sells rooms in six-hour blocks from $S76/double or has single-person rooms with shared bathrooms from $S41. See athmg.com.
Visa Not required for Australian passport holders for a stay of up to 30 days.

Click here to read more of this story from The Age.

Hot to Shop: Singapore

The joke goes that Singapore is the only shopping mall that’s been admitted into the UN.  

Tiny Singapore’s shopping is defined by Orchard Road: 2.2km of malls that are linked by sub-subterranean passages, skybridges and subway tunnels so that you can actually visit the city and breathe only air-conditioned oxygen.

But would you really want to?

 Get in touch with your inner sweater and hit the streets of Kampong Glam (I loved it before I visited, purely for the name alone), the back streets of Chinatown and pumping Little India.

To read more, click here! You know you want to…


Things I like about Changi airport

Why I love Changi airport. Simply because the loo fits my luggage trolley in it. Singaporeans love their shopping and are happy to accommodate the trait in its visitors.

There are lollies on the desk of the customs clerk. I ask him if he eats them all day. “No,” he says. “Then I would be too sweet and nice to the passengers.”

The 24-hour GST refund desk and the Singaporean glam shoe company, Charles & Keith, with GST-free, sale-marked-down shoes right next door.

And the other thing I absolutely adore about Singapore? The fact my handbag gets its own seat, without question. And, to top that, when I go into a chilli crab restaurant, it not only gets its own seat, but has a cover draped over it so it’s not spattered with sauce. God, it sounds so uncool, but viva Singapore!


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