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… 



Ten great car-free towns: from Hoi An to Hydra

Is there nothing better than a car-free town? I’m thinking those little hilltop towns dotted through Italy, the ancient marketplaces of the Middle East, the pedestrian zones of the otherwise honking, fume-laden roads of South America’s great cities.

My top 10 list includes such greats as Jerusalem’s Old City, the Princes Islands off Istanbul and beautiful Hydra, one of the Saronic islands in the Greek archipelago, which holds a special place in my heart for its donkeys and vast, opportunistic orange cat population. There’s also lovely Hoi An, Vietnam’s town of tailors and, of course, the most famous of them all, La Serenissima, aka Venice.

You can click here to read my list, published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.

Just after it ran, I received an email from a reader telling me that Medina Malta should have made the top 10. Overlooking the fact he had an iconic Maltese surname, he’s definitely got a point – the so-called Silent City, which has been inhabited since 8th-century BC, was another beautiful film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and a worthy contender.  Do you have any suggestions?

Japan’s Hokkaidō tops Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Asia 2016’ list

The travel lists are coming thick and fast today! Hot on the heels of world’s best airline lists, Lonely Planet has just issued its Asian hotspots for 2016.

Here’s what the Lonely Planet experts have to say:

Planet’s Best in Asia 2016
Hokkaidō, Japan
Hokkaidō’s perfect
powder snow put it on the international map, but it has also blinded visitors
to the year-round charms of Japan’s northernmost island. Hokkaidō has
become a lot more accessible this year thanks to the new bullet train linking
its southern port city, Hakodate, to Tokyo.”
2. Shànghǎi,
for the centre of the universe right now? It’s surely Shànghǎi.
This year’s a big one, with the first Disney resort in mainland China opening
here, as well as the completion of the long-awaited Shànghǎi Tower,
the world’s second tallest building.”
3. Jeonju,
South Korea
“Having long flown under the
radar as the country’s top foodie destination, Jeonju has
finally started to make mouths water further afield. The birthplace of Korea’s
most famous dish, bibimbap, now lures a younger crowd thanks to its
fast-emerging street food scene.”
4. Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
“This archipelago now ranks among
Asia’s hottest emerging destinations. With improved flight connections
from Ho Chi Minh City, there is no better place right now to feast on
fresh seafood, explore in search of a perfect beach and revel in a castaway
5. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is
focusing on its natural heritage – specifically, the
UNESCO-designated geopark, a 50-sq km region to the northeast. A shuttle
bus between the geopark’s Sai Kung town and its ancient rock
formations debuted this May, hard on the heels of a ferry service to Lai
Chi Wo Village.”
6. Ipoh, Malaysia
“Malaysia’s lesser-known food
capital has new flair thanks to a crop of boutique cafes that have sprung up in
its historic quarter. At the heart of Ipoh’s renaissance is otherworldly
concept hotel Sekeping Kong Heng.”
7. Pemuteran, Indonesia
“A double bay of beaches
near Menjangan … don’t wait until everybody arrives; catch the
buzz now from this alluring mix of art-filled resorts, inventive new
restaurants and the mellowest vibe around.”
8. Trang Islands,
Trang Islands pack
the same knockout punch as their more famous Andaman Coast neighbours; all they
lack are the crowds. Go, now – while these sleepy islands bask in untouched
9. Meghalaya, India
“Opportunities for hiking,
climbing, caving and rafting abound. After decades off the tourist map, people
are starting to notice this backwater. Meghalaya won’t stay
this quiet for long; go before thrill seekers storm the Khāsi Hills.”
10. Taitung, Taiwan
Taitung is Taiwan’s
secret wild card. This cradle of indigenous culture is the place to party after
harvest with music festivals and sweet millet wine. Or take advantage of this
rural county’s superb whale watching, stargazing and cycling.”  Please
note: Typhoon Nepartak has caused recent devastation; however Best
in Asia
 is a collection of great places for the next 12 months and
Taiwan has already begun the rebuilding efforts and will be welcoming
travellers again soon.
Visitors to www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-asia can
also enter a competition for the chance to win a trip for two to Lonely
 number-one Best in Asia 2016 destination, Hokkaidō,
, valued at AUD $10,000.”

Farewell, toxic world: Takeoff travel news

Farewell, toxic
Learn to achieve true wellness in a world where we are
exposed daily to toxins, in a once-off retreat at the luxurious Gwinganna
Lifestyle Retreat. The two-night retreat on the Gold Coast hinterland is led by
Professor Marc Cohen, head of Wellness Discipline in the School of Health
Sciences at RMIT University. With simple solutions to reduce your exposure and
increase your wellbeing, ‘Wellness in a Toxic World’ runs May 22-24. The
weekend includes two nights’ eco-accommodation, all organic food and drinks, transfers
from Gold Coast airport and a 50-minute massage in the indoor/outdoor Spa Sanctuary.
Costs from $1175 a person, twin share. Phone 1800 219 272, see

Master host
Eat like a local, with a local, on a new food tour by
Masterchef winner and proud Tasmanian Ben Milbourne. Like armies, adventurers
travel on their stomachs and we have an appetite for Tassie’s burgeoning food
tourism scene, unsurprising given that the isle produces not only apples, but
also truffles, wasabi, rare-breed meats, single malt whiskey and chocolate. And
that’s aside from the staples of salmon and wine. On the One Degree Experience
tour, Ben wines and dines up to eight guests at his residence,
Fairholme, a 1920s farmhouse in Spreyton, 10 minutes from Devonport. You’ll hit
the big guns, such as Hellyer’s
Road Distillery and Anvers House of Chocolate, but also go off-piste in
north-west Tasmania to dig out boutique beer, ginseng and dairy from the hands
of the producers themselves. The tailor-made tours include lunch, a take-home
hamper, cooking demo and five-course degustation dinner. From $550 a
person.  Phone 0428 266 545, see benmilbourne.com.au.
Light and bright
The old design maxim, “Say it in French,
it always sounds better,” also rings true for visual appeal – the Lipault Paris
luggage range is sure to brighten the world’s baggage carousels with its two
new spring-inspired colours, duck blue and orange. Taking cues from Parisian
catwalks, designer François Lipovetsky has ultra-lightweight luggage cred,
having created baggage for Air France.
The Original Plume is a soft-sided wheeled trolley that comes in three sizes,
55cm (2.8kg), 65cm (3.4kg) and 92cm (3.8kg), from $229. Best of all, it’s
foldable, so your storage cupboards aren’t full of bulky suitcases between
jaunts. Match it up with the Lady Plume carry-all, $99. First launched in 2005
and recently purchased by Samsonite, the Lipault Paris range has been available
in Australia only since November. Snap up in all the best places; Selfridges in
London, Galeries Lafayette in Paris or Myer in Australia, or phone 1800 331 690.
Bird’s eye view
Think staycation, think walking past your office
on a weekend? Sail to a secluded island with world-class views, but still use
your metro card to get there when you stay on Cockatoo Island. The Sydney
Harbour Federation Trust has added a new two-bedroom apartment to the
accommodation on the UNESCO World Heritage site, which is on the Balmain ferry
route. The new self-contained apartment has a balcony facing the
harbour, an enclosed garden and sleeps up to four. Formerly a police station,
learn about the Federation-era building on an audio tour of Cockatoo Island’s
history or call for cocktails beneath striped umbrellas and watch the sun set
at the Island Bar. The Cockatoo Island Garden Apartment has a full
kitchen, laundry and all linen. Costs from $370 a night, midweek, or $280 as a
one-bedroom stay. See cockatooisland.gov.au.
That’s the Spirit
A new restaurant, more bars, two new cinemas and new
recliners are on the cards when the hardworking Tasmanian ferries, the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, undergo
major makeovers over the coming months. It’s the first time in 13 years the
ships will have had a major refit since they started working the Melbourne-Devonport
route in 2002. All decks will have changes, including refurbishment of the
deluxe cabins and a refresh in all other classes, a new kids’ zone and teen
area, and new lounge areas to showcase Tasmanian wines, ciders and beers. Some
things don’t change. “We’re still going to have the same ocean views, relaxing
atmosphere and sensational Tasmanian cuisine,” says Spirit of Tasmania CEO
Bernard Dwyer. The refurbishment will be complete by September. The Spirit of Tasmania ships are also increasing
day sailings this year, and offering half-price travel from May 16 to September
17 when you book by April 4. Day sailings cost from $43 one-way, night sailings
from $48 one-way in an ocean recliner. Phone 1800 634 906, see spiritoftasmania.com.au.
A novel idea
What’s the quintessential read of New York, Vietnam or
even Brisbane? Find a book that captures the soul of your destination with
tripfiction.com, which links up books and the regions in which they’re set. The
British website was born in 2012 with just 1000 books, and now has five times that
amount, covering fiction and non-fiction including memoirs, across 1100
locations. It’s free to register, which will allow you to create your own
must-read list. You can also add your own books and reviews, which are moderated
by the site’s founders, Tina Hartas and Tony Geary. The discussion board turns
up some interesting topics, from ‘best Scandiavian noir’ to ‘new Yemeni
thriller’, and is sure to guarantee itchy feet. For those who travel by
airplane or armchair. See tripfiction.com.
The Takeoff travel news, by Belinda Jackson, is published every Sunday 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.

Bali’s newest club has ‘em screaming for more

The screams were ear-splitting, and they rang out through
the vast hotel lobby.
“I want to go back to kids’ club!” shrieked Mme Three, as we
attempted to check out of the hotel. Happily, the general manager was within
earshot (it wasn’t hard).  At least
someone was smiling in the room.
We were test-driving the brand new kids’ club in the
Sheraton Kuta, in southern Bali. Traditionally the bastion of Bintang t-shirts
and bad cornrow braids, the hotel has carved out a chic niche within the most
maligned of Australians’ tourist destinations.
I’m not a kids’ club pro: my experience is limited to Fijian
nannies for very young babies (excellent, especially for new mothers who
haven’t slept in five months) and private nannies in the countries we’ve
travelled together, including Vietnam (where, in Hanoi, I came back to the room
to find the entire housekeeping division dancing to the cartoon channel along
with an ecstatic baby) and Sri Lanka (my older driver and de facto nanny would
have his afternoon nap along with Yasmine while I interviewed hoteliers and
The Sheraton’s kids club appears to have the lot, from a super-shallow
swimming pool and sandy beach and little playground at the front, separated by
the interior of the Play centre, with its computer terminals loaded with games,
books, babies’ wooden toys, farmhouse animal sets and the pinkest palace to
house all the Barbies. Upstairs, the playstation den is also a crash pad for
exhausted clubbers.
Mme Three played with happy little Indonesian and Chinese
children, united by a love of a pink world, pausing reluctantly only to eat
with her guilt-ridden mama (now sporting extremely beautiful orange nails). The
kids’ club is free to all guests (and anyone spending more than A$35 in the
hotel spa – clever marketing, eh?)
I always said I’d never do the big fun parks and razzed-up
amusement arcades, but I’m more than happy to become part of this club. Quite
frankly, both Mme Three and I were both upset to be leaving the hotel: I guess
we’ve just got to learn to say goodbye. 
Yep, I was a guest of Sheraton Kuta Bali. (62) (361) 846 5555, sheraton.com/balikuta.

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!

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.

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

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.

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.

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,

Patagonia’s Explora Lodge

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.


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.

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.

Get going: party on the Pacific Jewel

Explore Antarctica with Abercrombie & Kent

Hit the high seas or relaxing rivers with this week’s international and travel deals, featuring cruises from Broome to Botswana. 

Cruise the Chobe River on the African Queen and save $420 a
couple on a three-night adventure, until June 30. See water-loving
elephants and hippos and take a game drive. From $1865 a person, twin
share, $2295 singles, phone (02) 9290 2877, see benchinternational.com.au.

Time poor? Escape for a three-night sea break on the Pacific
Jewel. The ship features seven restaurants, nine bars and clubs, spa,
zip-liner and big screens galore. Depart May 30, save $150. From $339 a
person, quad share. Phone 132 494, see pocruises.com.au.

P&O’s Pacific Jewel.

Save 30 per cent on selected seven-night cruises on the
88-guest River Cloud II between April and August. Cruise the Rhine, from
Basel to Amsterdam, with all meals and a bottle of champagne to say
hello. Book by March 31. From $2195 a person, twin share. 1300 583 572, seacloud.com.

Cruise the Murray River in winter (June to August) and save
up to 25 per cent on three, four or seven-night cruises. Includes meals,
shore excursions and coach transfers from Adelaide to Mannum. From $674
a person, three nights. Phone (02) 9206 1111, see captaincook.com.au.

Save up to $3350 a person on three 2014-15 specialist
Antarctic journeys, covering climate change, photography or family
Christmas cruising. The 12-day Classic Antarctica journey costs from
$12,850 a person, twin share. Book by March 31. Phone 1300 590 317, see abercrombiekent.com.au.

Follow the historical Kunmunya Wilderness Walk, a shore tour
on three Kimberley cruises from Broome to Darwin on June 2, 13 and 23.
Book by March 31 and get a free stay and camel ride in Broome, worth
$500. From $7390 a person, 11 days. Phone 1800 637 688, see auroraexpeditions.com.au.

MV River Orchid on the Mekong River.

Mekong meander

Spend 15 days exploring Vietnam and Cambodia by land, air
and water including seven nights aboard the River Orchid on the Mekong
River. From Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, you’ll sail the delta of
southern Vietnam then head into Phnom Penh and the Tonle Sap river.
Includes flights from Siem Reap to Hanoi. Book by November 30 for
travel until December 23. From $5814 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 939 414, see flightcentre.com.au.


Alaskan adventures

Multi-generational travel – a fancy name for holidays with
the grandchildren and grandparents – is so hot right now. “Take the
grandkids to Alaska” is the call for families of four to join the
Disney Wonder in Vancouver and cruise up to Ketchikan, Alaska.

The nine-night tour includes two nights in Vancouver, all
meals, kids, teen and adult clubs, first-run movies and Broadway-style
Disney musicals. From $1899 adults, $1299 kids two-11 years, quad
share. Phone 1300 886 940, see worldwidecruisecentres.com.au.

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

Going, going, gone: last-minute summer holiday ideas

Still stuck for a trip this summer? Let us tell you where to
go with these last-second holiday ideas compiled by Belinda Jackson.

Throw the schedule out the window and cut loose. There’s
still time to plan and book a holiday this summer. Really. What about a
fancy weekend on the Gold Coast, or a touch of luxury in Bali?
Auckland’s sparkling harbour is calling or go on the hunt for powder in
the Japanese alps. Adelaide’s festival scene is about to kick off and
there are bargains to be had in the South Pacific’s off-season.

up, slackers, the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm, but you’d
better get your skates, fins or walking boots on, quick smart.

Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, Tallebudgera Valley

The deal Who doesn’t dream about getting away from it all?
Organic, low-tech, wellness, but with a hefty dose of gorgeousness.
Internationally recognised for its luxury spa offering, five-star a
weekend escape at Gwinganna includes all-organic meals, and activities –
think bosu balance training, indoor cycling, hiking or creative dance –
and a massage in its 33-room Spa Sanctuary. Save 15 per cent on
selected weekends from January 17 to March 30.

How much From $948 a person, twin share in an Orchards Suite.

Getting there Tiger Airways, Jetstar and Virgin Australia fly Sydney-Gold Coast.

More details 1800 219 272, gwinganna.com.


Five hotels including Novotel Canberra and Ibis Budget Canberra

The deal The National Gallery of Australia’s blockbuster
exhibit Gold and the Incas: Lost Worlds of Peru is now showing. Book a
Cultural Getaway package at one of Accor’s five hotels, with breakfast
and two adults untimed tickets thrown in, until April 21.

How much from $119 a night at Ibis Budget Canberra, from $165 at Mercure Canberra and from $195 a night at Novotel Canberra.

Getting there It takes less than three hours to drive from Sydney to Canberra.

More details 1300 656 565, accorhotels.com/canberra-art.


Dinner Plain village

The deal Summer in the Australian Alps is free from the
madness of ski season, which means plenty of seats in Bright’s shining
restaurants and cooking schools and discounted accommodation. Stay
three, pay for two, nights in a self-contained apartment. They’ll throw
in local wine and cheese and a 90-minute horse ride with Dinner Plain
Trail Rides.

How much From $235 a person, twin share. Save $70 until April 30.

Getting there Qantas, Virgin Australia and Rex fly Sydney-Albury (1½ hours). Dinner Plain is two hours’ drive into the mountains.

More details (03) 5159 6556, skiholidays.com.au.


Radisson Blu Plaza Resort, Phuket Panwa Beach

The deal Phuket is so hot right now, with sleek properties
giving it an injection of fab, including oceanfront beauties.. Some
things stay the same: there’s still the great beaches, fun shopping,
bars and fabulous Thai cuisine to soak up. Save 20 per cent on two-night
stays on Radisson’s Asia Pacific hotels, including Sydney for a little
stay, until December 30 when booked by February 21.

How much From $244 for two nights.

Getting there Jetstar flies Sydney to Phuket.

More details 1800 333 333, radissonblu.com.


From Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok, via Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang

River life, Cambodia

The deal The nine-day adventure takes in the glory of Angkor
Wat’s temples and Battambang, where French Colonial and Khmer
architecture mix, not to mention racy Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok’s
great shopping. Trips depart January 19, 22 and 29, 2014. Book by
January 12.

How much from $791 a person (was $1055)

Getting there Vietnam Airlines flies direct Sydney-Ho Chi Minh City.

More details 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel.com/tkse.


The deal Named one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 must-visit
countries for 2014, a good starting point in Malaysia to explore is the
UNESCO-listed heart of Malacca, once a kingdom, then a Portuguese
colony. Save $200 on travel on this seven-day journey with private car
until March 31, 2015. The tour departs daily from Kuala Lumpur.

How much From $1260 a person, twin share.

Getting there Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines fly Sydney to Kuala Lumpur.

More details 1300 295 049, adventureworld.com.au.


Shoreline Hotel, Waikiki

The deal With a 64 kilogram luggage allowance (oh, hello!)
Hawaii’s famed shopping is yours for the taking home. Stay six nights at
the newly renovated Shoreline from January 17 to March 25 (with more
dates later in the year) and get more than $550 in bonuses. Book by
January 31. We suggest upgrading to an ocean view.

How much From $1690 a person, including airfares with Hawaiian Airlines.

Getting there Hawaiian Airlines, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas fly Sydney-Honolulu.

More details 1300 004 292, myhawaii.com.au.


Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa

The deal Voted the best hotel in Australia in 2013 on
TripAdvisor, stay two nights in a Heritage Suite with a private pool,
all meals, some drinks and two activities a day, including horse riding
and save $390 a couple. They’ll also include pre-dinner cocktails and
canapes one night, and souvenir pool towels. Midweek guests get 25 per
cent off spa treatments, from January 6-March 31.

How much from $1680 a person for two nights (two-night minimum stay).

Getting there 2½ hours’ drive from Sydney.

More details (02) 9290 9733, wolganvalley.com.


Huka Lodge, Taupo

The deal The world’s biggest movers and shakers have
luxuriated in Huka Lodge, from Queen Elizabeth II (mover) to Bette
Midler (shaker), but the lodge loves families, too. It’s offering four
nights for the price of three in its suites or cottages, ideal for
multi-generational festivities, until August 31 (excluding Christmas
until January 5).

How much from $4125 a person, four nights, includes all meals, drinks, activities and transfers.

Getting there Air New Zealand, Jetstar,
Virgin Australia, Emirates, China Airlines, LAN Airlines and Qantas fly
Sydney-Auckland. Taupo is three hours’ drive from Auckland.

More details + 64 7378 579, hukalodge.co.nz.

Family getaways


Semara Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

Semara Seminyak

The deal Petitenget is Seminyak’s coolest strip of
restaurants, bars and boutiques and Semara Seminyak is on the golden
strip between Ku De Ta and Potato Head Beach Club. Its spacious
executive suites are great for families, sleeping up to four, and gold
stars for the kids’ Cubby House throwing a New Year’s Eve party, so you
can kick up your heels. Save 70 per cent on stays until January 31.

How much From $134 plus 15 per cent a room, a night.

Getting there Virgin Australia, Garuda International and Jetstar fly direct to Denpasar.

More details +62 361 847 6661, semaraseminyak.com.


Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury
The deal Adelaide goes off in summer, with the Tour Down
Under in January and the fabulous Adelaide Festival. Stay three nights
and save 15 per cent until February 28. They’ll give you a picnic
blanket, so stock up at the Central Markets and head to the Botanical
Gardens for a lazy lunch.

How much From $185 a night.

Getting there Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia fly direct Sydney-Adelaide.

More details 1300 633 462, adinahotels.com.au.

Skiing at Hakuba, Japan


Wagaya Chalet, Hakuba, Nagano Prefecture

The deal Spring skiing in the Japanese Alps means
deliciously blue skies, no crowds and an average snow depth of 2.5
metres. This new three-bedroom chalet sleeps up to eight and is 500
metres to the lifts, with runs from beginner to Warren Miller. Save 40
per cent on this and other Hakuba accommodation in March: get seven
nights’ stay, five-day multi-resort lift pass, airport transfers and

How much From $1200 a person, six adults sharing. Children’s discounts available.

Getting there Qantas, Japan Airlines fly
Sydney-Tokyo direct. Jetstar flies (via Gold Coast, Uluru). About four
hours bullet train and bus, Tokyo to Hakuba.

More details (02) 9905 6162, ski-resorts-japan.com.


Soul Surfers Paradise

The deal Soul shoots 77 storeys up and its luxe pool is
where all the chic families are soaking up the Queensland sun this
summer (when they’re not on the beach out front). Make time for its
two-hat restaurant, Seaduction by Steve Szabo, of Palazzo Versace fame.
Stay four nights, pay for three in a two-bedroom ocean view apartment
until March 31.

How much from $1437 for four nights.

Getting there Tiger Airways, Jetstar and Virgin Australia fly Sydney-Gold Coast.

More details 1800 737 444, peppers.com.au.


Soul Surfers Paradise, Gold Coast, Queensland.


Coconut Palms Resort, Port Vila

The deal A South Pacific getaway without busting the budget,
and only 3½ hours’ flight time. True, January is the wettest month,
but regardless of weather or budget, the waters are warm, the markets
are bustling and the islands are for hopping. Stay five nights, pay
four when booked by January 31, available until March 31. Includes
return airfares and breakfasts.

How much From $945 for five nights.

Getting there Air Vanuatu and Qantas fly Sydney-Port Vila direct and Virgin Australia (via Brisbane).

More details 1300 747 400, creativeholidays.com.


The Heritage Auckland

The deal Tap into Auckland’s Polynesian vibe, picnic at a
volcano’s feet and kick off your exploration of Middle-Earth as NZ goes
into Hobbit overdrive with the launch of The Hobbit: The Desolation of
Smaug this month. The art deco hotel offers a stay in a family deluxe
suite with free parking, breakfast for two adults and two kids, free
Wi-Fi and drinks until February 9.

How much From $NZ209 a room.

Getting there Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, China Airlines, Emirates, LAN Airlines and Qantas fly Sydney-Auckland.

More details 1800 141 780, heritagehotels.co.nz.

This article by Belinda Jackson was first published in the Sun-Herald newspaper.

Building Interest: architectural tourism

Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring
Resort, China.

Build it and they will come. Or will they? Belinda Jackson rounds up the best newcomers on the architecture scene.

Could you visit Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower? Or
miss the Blue Mosque when in Istanbul? The Tower Bridge is a London
essential and Cairo’s pyramids are possibly the oldest tourist site on
the map.

But tell friends you’re going to Oslo to see the new design
by Renzo Piano and chances are you’ll be tarred with a try-hard hipster
tag. “Architecture is the great public art,” says Eoghan Lewis,
architect and founder of Sydney Architecture Walk, in defence of
architectural tourism.

While not buying into the tallest-fattest-most-brightly-coloured
debate (“Do people really travel to see the new tall?”), he readily
admits to admiring Burj Khalifa, but describes Sydney’s Opera House as
“the most important 20th-century architectural moment”, matched only by
Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia basilica, in Barcelona.

The Cardboard Cathedral, New Zealand.

However, if you were so inclined, the battle for the tallest,
longest and shiniest building has just two serious contestants: the UAE
and China, with Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, at 829 metres, currently the
tallest building in the world. Pitch that beside Australia’s loftiest
offering, the Gold Coast’s Q1, and we come out looking positively puny
at just 322 metres high.

Architecture aficionados have their 2013-14 diaries full,
with a smorgasbord of beautiful little offerings from Britain and plenty
of Zaha Hadid curves in Asia.

Off the list is the tediously square new George W. Bush presidential
centre. And while we’d love to jet to Lima for sheer wackiness, its
cliff-hanging hotel is, unsurprisingly, still at the planning permission
stage, while Shanghai’s Songjiang Hotel, where two floors are
underwater, won’t open till 2015.

Back home in Australia, now is the time for quiet, beautiful,
subtle achievers. Read on for a baker’s dozen of great new
architectural statements going up around the world.


Here’s a statistic that will probably be outdated by the time we go
to print: nine of the 20 tallest buildings currently in construction
across the world are in China. But just because they’re tall doesn’t
make them fabulous: they have to be beautiful, too.

At heart, many travellers are mountain goats who need to
climb to the top for the birds-eye view of a new city. So take a look at
the new Shanghai Tower, which erupts from Pudong, one big paddy field
until a couple of decades ago.

he stats are impressive: the futuristic
skyscraper designed by American super-firm Gensler, was “topped out” in
early August at 632 metres, making it China’s tallest building; well
under Burj Khalifa. It is expected to be overtaken in the sky race even
before its completion by the ambitious Sky City, in Hunan, which aims to
scrape past the Burj by nine metres. Is it just me, or does this smack
of playground politics? Would it make you plan a trip to Hunan to see a
pointy tower that won’t fit in your camera lens?

Still big but less pointy, the new Sheraton Huzhou Hot Spring
Resort, also near Shanghai, is dominated by what’s unscientifically
been dubbed a “doughnut”. Perhaps “glowing horseshoe” is a kinder term
to describe Beijing-based MAD architects’ work: the ring is covered in a
metal skin covered with LED lights, which erupts 100 metres high from a
lake. The resort opened this year to the tune of about $1.5 billion and
should win dinner parties as the ultimate Shanghai weekender.

The Iranian-born, British-based architectural powerhouse Zaha Hadid
has been one seriously busy woman, with the new Dongaemun history and
culture park opening in Seoul next year. With her signature organic
curves, Hadid’s “urban oasis” is in the centre of old downtown Seoul and
includes a design museum and traditional Korean gardens. Detractors say
Hadid hasn’t tried hard enough to keep the old city but her admirers
won’t be disappointed (ddp.seoul.go.kr/eng/).

As an aside, while she’s not everyone’s cup of tea, Hadid’s
work definitely is admired by a group of Chinese builders, who have
pirated her Beijing Wangjing SoHo complex, in Chongqing. The copy may
even be completed before the original is finished, in 2014.

For more organic forms and materials, head to Kontum City in
Middle Vietnam for a cup of coffee at the waterside cafe in Kon Tum
Indochine Hotel. Designed by Vo Trong Nghia architects, the cafe’s roof
is upheld by 15 gigantic bamboo columns inspired by Vietnamese fishing
baskets. The cafe is on the shortlist for an award at this month’s World
Architecture Festival at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore (indochinehotel.vn).

Den Bla Planet, Denmark.

For most, the drawcard of Copenhagen’s Den Bla Planet (The
Blue Planet) won’t be the architecture, it’ll be the 20,000 marine
animals wriggling around on display at this new aquarium, designed by
Danish architects 3XN. The largest aquarium in Northern Europe, Den Bla
Planet holds seven million litres of water inside, is encircled by a
reflection pool outside, and the building’s form is inspired by a
whirlpool, a visual treat from the air when you fly in to nearby
Copenhagen Airport. Australian aquarium architecture specialists
Crossley Architects, who spent almost four years working on the project,
name the Amazon display as the best in show (denblaaplanet.dk). The aquarium has just won its category for display architecture at the 2013 World Architecture Festival.


Masdar City

Normally, we’d associate the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with excess:
the world recreated in man-made islands (“Anyone for Nigeria?”) or very,
very big, pointy towers, a la Burj Khalifa. Abu Dhabi’s new World Trade
Centre won’t disappoint on that count but for something completely
different, Dubai’s bankroller is also home to a sustainable,
zero-carbon, zero-waste, car-free city.

Set beside Abu Dhabi’s airport, Masdar City is designed by
British architect Norman Foster of Foster & Partners. A so-called
“arcology” project, which marries architecture and ecology to create
self-sustaining, densely populated cities, Masdar City runs on solar
energy – sensibly, given it’s built in a sunny desert.

super-modernity from the car-free city, which is connected by little
driver-less pods, but expect also lessons from the past, such as wind
towers, or barjeels, Iran’s ancient alternative to air-con (masdarcity.ae).

The Shard

feature consistently in the top 10 sexiest occupations, which must make
Renzo Piano, co-architect of Paris’s Centre Georges Pompidou,
absolutely irresistible. Britain is currently revelling in golden years
and Piano’s Shard, which opened in February, is the new jewel in
London’s skyline. Stats first: topping 310 metres, yes, it’s the tallest
building in Western Europe, with 11,000 glass panels and, amazingly, 90
per cent of its construction materials are recycled. It’s not just a
viewpoint, the tower will soon house a hotel, four restaurants and
residencies with a price tag from £30 million ($50 million) (the-shard.com).

Shard aside (and we haven’t even gone to Glasgow’s
Commonwealth Games build), this year’s top talking points are all
low-to-the-ground historical landmarks, led by the new Mary Rose museum
in Portsmouth, which opened in May. The Mary Rose, a 16th-century Tudor
warship, was built on these docks in 1510, sinking after 34 years’
service. She was raised from the bed of the Solent River and four
centuries and $56 million later, is now encircled by a modern museum
displaying her sunken treasure. The museum is designed by architects
Wilkinson Eyre, the name behind Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay and the
Crown Sydney resort at Barangaroo (maryrose.org).

Going further back into the mists of time, the new visitors
centre at Stonehenge is set to open in February next year, after two
decades and more than $60 million spent on planning and construction.
The building has sparked interest among the design community for the
hurdles it faced: the low-key design, by Denton Corker Marshall, sits
lightly on the ground so as to not disturb nor detract from the ancient
Salisbury plain (stonehenge.co.uk).

The Mary Rose.

Serious design aficionados already have their names down for
the chance to sleep amid the serene architecture of celebrated architect
Peter Zumthor, winner of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal 2013. The Secular
Retreat, which taps into the concept of “ecclesiastical architecture”
(read “monastic use of rammed concrete”) is located among the rolling
hills of South Devon and will be completed in 2014 (living-architecture.co.uk).

As a half-Tasmanian, here’s a sentence I never thought I’d
utter: “You must go to Glenorchy and check out this amazing piece of
architecture.” The Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park (GASP!) sits on the
banks of the Derwent River, just a couple of kilometres downstream from
another fine architectural statement, Museum of Old and New Art (MONA).

GASP, Tasmania

Designed by the young guns at Room 11, a boardwalk that curls around the
bay to MONA opened in 2011, followed in April by a new pavilion of rose
glass and concrete that juts out over the river. GASP! is already a
popular promenade and there are plans for regular art events and a new
social enterprise cafe and food truck. Ferry to MONA and hire bikes to
coast down to GASP or borrow free Art Bikes in Hobart and ride 30
minutes to GASP! (gasp.org.au, arts.tas.gov.au/artsatwork/artbikes).

Across the pond to New Zealand, the Cardboard Cathedral in
Christchurch officially opened in late August, already has a solid fan
base. Designed and donated to the city by “emergency architect” Shigeru
Ban after the Anglican cathedral was destroyed in the 2011 earthquake,
the temporary cathedral is an exercise in the resilience of faith and
community. Made from gigantic cardboard tubes, it has a life span of
about 20 years (christchurchnz.com/planning/cardboard-cathedral).

Architecturally, across the world there is no one trend:
there are small conversations and there are immense statements. With
Australia’s and the world’s top awards soon to be announced, the
conversation continues.

Found in Melbourne; costs $39, phone 0407 380 969; see meltours.com.au.
Costs from $30; phone 0403 888 390; see sydneyarchitecture.org.
Costs from $10; phone +312 922 3432; see architecture.org.
Found in Tel Aviv, Israel; costs $18; see bauhaus-center.com/tours.php.
Found in Scotland, phone +44 1620 825722; see edinburgharchitecture.co.uk.


Occupying the corner of Swanston and Victoria Streets, the
super-restrained Design Hub by Sean Godsell Architects is tipped to
clean up at this year’s national architecture awards, agree Eoghan Lewis
and Jerome Miller, of Meltours Architecture Tours. The building’s
“skin” is a grid of disks that can be rotated to catch the sun,
ultimately to power the building. Jerome also names 700 Bourke Street,
Docklands worth a look for its vivid “slices”, best seen from Southern
Cross Station.

Opened in February, the National Arboretum is 250 hectares
dominated by a dramatic amphitheatre with secret gardens, cork oak
forests and high-arched, stone-clad visitor centre overlooking Lake
Burley Griffin, designed by Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and
landscape architects Taylor Cullity Lethlean (nationalarboretum.act.gov.au).

The new Prince Alfred Park+Pool in Surry Hills is designed by
Neeson Murcutt Architects and Sue Barnsley Design. The 50-metre heated
outdoor pool lined playfully with palms and smart, sunny yellow
umbrellas, set amid grassy mounds that “fold” over the main building,
hiding it from street view (princealfred.org).

The Auckland Gallery Toi o Tamaki has just been named 2013
World Building of the Year at the World Architecture Festival. It was
remodelled by Sydney’s FJMT and Auckland-based Archimedia and reopened
in September 2011 (aucklandartgallery.com).

This feature by Belinda Jackson was published in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper.

Drink in the coffee, Rhone varietals or a Himalayan vista: travel deals 26 May 2013

Drink coffee in Brisbane, Rhone varietals in Rutherglen, or just drink in the view in the Indian Himalayas.

Discover the rich reds, Rhone
varietals and sweet muscats of Rutherglen at the Rutherglen Winery
Walkabout, Australia’s longest-running wine festival, on the weekend of
June 8-9 (winemakers.com.au). Stay at Tuileries and save 20 per cent on
Sunday to Friday nights until September 30. They’ll include a country
breakfast and three-course dinner for two at Tuileries Restaurant
including its unlimited wine buffet, which showcases the region’s top
drops. Usually $346 a night, now $276. (02) 6032 9033, tuileriesrutherglen.com.au.

New South Wales
or board Perisher and Thredbo from the central
location of the Snowy Mountains’ Lake Crackenback Resort & Spa,
which is 15 minutes from either ski resort. Normally studio apartments
cost from $250 a night but the resort has two-night stays with a hot
breakfast, $100 to spend in the spa or restaurant, discounts on ski
hire, day spas, and free shuttles to the Skitube to Perisher. Available
from June 7 until October 6. Costs from $593 for two nights in a studio
apartment (sleeps two), or from $1034 for two nights in a two-bedroom
apartment (sleeps four). 1800 020 524, lakecrackenback.com.au.

in to Brisbane’s new Traders Hotel and they’ll give you a coffee
machine. Yes, really. Book a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night stay and
get a Nespresso U machine, worth $299, along with early check-in and
late checkout and a $50 voucher. There’s free wi-fi, too. The hotel is
opposite the Brisbane Transit Centre on Roma Street and within walking
distance of the spectacular Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern
Art. Book by June 30 for stays until December 29. Costs from $298 a
night. (07) 3238 2222, www.tradershotels.com/brisbane.

new 277-room Pullman Phuket Arcadia is on Naithon Beach, 15 minutes
from the airport. It has sunken lounges with wine libraries as well as a
kids’ lunchtime restaurant by the pool, and spa aficionados will
appreciate the French Payot range. The hotel’s soft-opening special
means you can pay as little as $105 a night, saving 30 per cent off the
best rate on stays of three days or more, with breakfast and wi-fi
included. Valid until October 31. Costs from $315 for three nights. pullmanphuketarcadia.com.

coastline of Nha Trang boasts much natural beauty, and then there are
the hotels. The lush Evason Ana Mandara, main picture, sits on its own
stretch of sea, which obligingly issues lobsters for the table. Stay
seven nights and pay for five, with a villa upgrade, breakfast, airport
transfers and an hour-long massage for two in its spa. Includes return
international flights with Vietnam Airlines. Costs from $2032 a person,
twin share. Book by June 15 for stays until December 19. 1300 138 755, travelindochina.com.au.

exploring the Indian Himalayas in winter does it for you, this new
22-day Zanskar Ice Trek fits the bill. World Expeditions freely admits
this is one of its most adventurous treks, with minus-30-degree nights,
frozen river trekking and remote high passes. The tour departs from Leh
and includes all meals, internal flights, bilingual guides, sleeping bag
and jacket. Save 15 per cent off the second traveller when two people
book together; singles save 7½ per cent. Book by June 21 to depart on
February 2. Costs from $3900 a person, twin share. 1300 720 000, worldexpeditions.com.


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