Hong Kong and Macau food restaurant holiday: Wanton acts of eating

Macau shops selling dehydrated food Macau. Photo: iStock Signature roasted white king pigeon from Social Place restaurant, Hong Kong.
Shanghai night field

Spicy 10,000 years Duck Eggs from Social Place restaurant, Hong Kong.

Macau shops selling dehydrated food Macau. Photo: iStock

Macau shops selling dehydrated food Macau. Photo: iStock

Macau shops selling dehydrated food Macau. Photo: iStock

Food worms its way into the mind shortly after the Cathay Pacific flight lifts off from Sydney en route to Hong Kong. This could be because the bloggers on the trip whip out cameras at the drop of a caramel-coated peanut and breakfast has just been served, but in truth it’s because of the bloke just behind in business class row 20.

He’s sucking down a bowl of congee with the sort of noise you’d imagine a baleen whale makes sieving krill in the deep. It is, depending on your sensibilities, either intensely irritating or a glorious example of someone really enjoying their food.

I’m in the latter camp – though it must also be said I’m so inculcated in the Western diet that I’m unable to see congee as a breakfast food and have chosen a chorizo and pepper frittata with grilled asparagus from the in-flight menu. It tastes wonderful but cannot compete with the congee for sheer decibels.

Nine hours and one Turbojet ride across the water from Hong Kong International Airport later we enter Macau through the low-key ferry terminal.

It is here in what has been dubbed the Las Vegas of the East that, from my room high up in the swish Sheraton Macao Hotel (the largest in the world with 3896 rooms and suites), I can see the partly finished frame of the Eiffel Tower. Well, an Eiffel Tower; like the Venetian hotel and casino just around the corner this building site will eventually become a replica of the original Paris Las Vegas in Nevada.

This is because on this land, reclaimed from the surrounding seas, “Mega Projects” mean casinos, and lots of them. This is, after all, the only place in China where gambling is legal, and yet, if you can drag yourself away from the baccarat tables, there are nearby seaside oases that could easily pass for Mediterranean villages. A 10-minute drive from the Sheraton through leafy suburbs, for instance, brings us to Miramar, a bustling Portuguese restaurant perched on the edge of a beach in Coloane.

Inside, Caucasian and Asian families tuck into vinho verde and the sort of homely food – cod fish (bacalhau), sausages, sapateira recheada (stuffed crab) – that the Portuguese brought with them when they made landfall on this peninsula in the 1550s and stayed for 450 years.

Today, typical Portuguese food can be found in restaurants such as Miramar and the much-awarded Antonio’s in Taipa village where eponymous owner Antonio Coelho holds voluble and charismatic sway over dishes such as goats’ cheese with honey on rye bread, a salty, smoky pork sausage flamed in brandy, seafood rice, morsels of suckling pig and delightful clams in a white wine sauce.

Street food in the historic centre of Macau is a mix of Portuguese and Chinese, with every other shop stocking Portuguese egg tarts and the locals either tucking in to the simple but incredibly popular pork chop buns (essentially a pork chop in, er, a bun) or picking out multi-coloured “kebabs” of fish balls and the like to pop into their take-away hotpots. The more adventurous might also find themselves chewing on eye-wincingly sour pigs’ ear skewers.

Whatever else you do, don’t try the iconic Portuguese tarts at Lord Stow’s original bakery at 1 Rua da Tassara, Coloane. These warm, eggy delights (less sugary than the European originals), with their beautifully flaky pastry will just ruin you for any future tarts.

Macanese cuisine today, celebrated in popular restaurants such as Litoral on Rua do Almirante Sergio, is a result of hundreds of years of cohabitation and not a little slavery. An eclectic fusion of southern Chinese and Portuguese food, it is also influenced by south-east Asia and Africa.

Snare a table at Litoral and you’ll find yourself tucking in to prawn cakes, samosas, African chicken (spicy barbecued chook), chili shrimps, langoustine-like “devil” prawns stuffed with garlic, and stir-fried curry crab followed by serradura (aka Macau sawdust pudding), which is essentially a biscuit-layered flavoured mousse.

Hong Kong, on the other hand, is another kettle of congee. Just an hour away on the Turbojet, the food here is strongly southern Chinese, whether it be street food in the old working class district of Sham Shui Po or a more modern take on classics in trendy restaurants such as Social Place in Central or Hutong on the 28th floor of Kowloon’s One Peking building with its magnificent views across the harbour to Hong Kong island.

In a few hectic food-focused days we encounter warm pineapple buns that have never been near a pineapple, Yakult gin fizz cocktails and the silkiest, freshest tofu you’re ever likely to eat from a shop that’s been serving that and only that for 60 years.

A cafe just around the corner from the Sham Shui Po MTR station is the first stop on a Hong Kong Foodie Tasting Tour (hongkongfoodietours上海龙凤论坛m) which delves under the skin of Sham Shui Po and finds us in a breakfast hole-in-the-wall filled with locals who eye us suspiciously until we start sucking down deliciously slippery rice rolls and spraying the table with a hoisin and soy sauce. OK, that was just me but, really, they make you eat with oversized toothpicks.

After that it’s the bean curd shop where we sigh over a warm tofu dessert with ginger and sugar syrup, then mmmm over braised goose and pig knuckle in a roast meat restaurant before swinging by a bakery for walnut and almond cookies and finishing up at a popular noodle shop where queues of locals snake out of the shop as they wait to get stuck in to moreish egg noodles topped with delicate but pungent shrimp roe (ha zi lo meen).

In contrast, Hong Kong is also home to cutting-edge cuisine in places such as Ho Lee Fook (“good fortune for your mouth” in Cantonese), a funky subterranean restaurant in the trendy SoHo area.

Nothing much to look at from outside – the entrance is basically the kitchen – a set of narrow stairs bordered by an entire wall of gold money cats leads down to a hip basement where colourful, backlit paintings of the area by in-demand artist Jonathan Jay Lee pepper the dark walls.

Taiwanese-born chef Jowett Yu, who worked in Sydney for 10 years at places such as Ms Gs and Mr Wong as well as Tetsuya’s, says he wants to showcase the best of Chinese food as well as fusing other flavour profiles when he can.

And he’s true to his word. Our dinner tasting menu features a Hong Kong-style French toast made of peanut butter, condensed milk and/or maple syrup. We also tuck in to crispy chicken wings with a shrimp sambal, something called “Slightly Fires the Emperor” (a mix of garlic chive flower, chorizo, cashews and shiitake mushroom), the affectionately named Mom’s Mostly Cabbage (pork dumplings), and wagyu short ribs with roast jalapeno puree and green shallot kimchi which alone is worth the price of the air fare.

The only bad experience in three days of dining came up on The Peak at I See I See, a brightly coloured shop selling, among other things, durian flavoured ice-lollies.

In Macau our guide had described durian as smelling like hell but tasting like heaven. How wrong can you be? And turning them into ice-cream seems a peculiarly egregious sin if you ask either myself or my taste buds, which still cringe at the memory. Five other places to eat and drinkAberdeen Street Social

This swanky, convivial diner attached to the uber-trendy Police Married Quarters (PMQ) art and design centre is the latest offering from Michelin-starred British chef Jason Atherton. Housed in what used to be the Junior Police Clubhouse, the two-storey building now incorporates an intimate dining room upstairs featuring a modern British menu (snare a table on the balcony if you can) and a more casual all-day cocktail bar and café downstairs as well as an outdoor patio. Try the flatbread pizzas (Iberico ham, goats’ cheese) downstairs and whatever you do don’t go past the truffled popcorn bar snack. Their most popular dish is, believe it or not, two poached eggs and avocado on toast. Go figure.

PMQ, 35 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong. See www.aberdeenstreetsocial.hkSocial Place

In contrast to Hutong, which is dimly lit to take advantage of the harbour views, The Social Place is light and bright and cheery – think lightly industrial Martha Stewart – and hugely popular if the young crowd queuing to get in is anything to go by. The food is contemporary Chinese with plenty of small, dim sim-style dishes. Drunken chicken, spicy 10,000-year-old duck eggs, roasted white king pigeon (eaten with plastic gloves) and the signature chicken soup in young coconut are the standouts in an excellent and beautifully presented menu.

Social Place, The L. Place, 137-141 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong. See www.socialplace.hkM&C Duck

Tucked away in a shopping centre in Kowloon’s Tsim Sha Tsui district is the latest venture from the Maxim’s food company. No reservations, eat all day, lots of, you guessed it, duck. The vibe they’re going for, we’re told, is more ‘bistronomique’ than gastronomique and you’d have to say they’ve nailed it. It’s chic without being off-puttingly so. But it’s not all duck, duck and more duck. We might start with sliced duck with osmanthus pudding (oddly moreish) but we move on to sliced pork in garlic and chilli sauce and sautéed prawns with pepper and soya sauce, among others. There’s BBQ Peking duck, of course. And all very artfully presented on duck motif china.

Shop 3319, Level 3, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Xin Chinese Restaurant

Take breadcrumbs with you; not to supplement the food but to scatter along the way because finding your way back to your room in the cavernous Sheraton Macau hotel complex might be a problem – especially as you are guaranteed to be in a food coma from the astonishing hot pot buffet in Xin restaurant. Choose from a base ‘soup’ – laksa, Sichuan spicy chilli oil broth, Chinese herbal, traditional – and then help yourself to the cornucopia of fresh ingredients (meat, fish, veggies, you name it) on display. The broth boils away on a gas heater on the table and you chuck your choices in. Try the sour plum mojito mocktail while you’re there – delicious.

Xin restaurant, Sheraton Macao Hotel, Estrada do Istmo, Cotai Central, Macau. See www.xinmacau上海龙凤论坛mJW Marriott restaurant buffet

You might want to starve yourself for a day or two before getting stuck into this stunning buffet at the JW Café in the bowels of the JW Marriott but by gum it will be worth it. Lobster, crayfish, shrimp, pipis, abalone, sushi … and that’s just the seafood section. Too much choice? Then head off to the more traditional fare of Flint Grill & Bar where excellent house-cured salmon sits alongside organic sirloin steaks, squid ink tagliolini and milk-fed organic black chicken. And in the spirit of adventure, do check out the bar afterwards to try the hotel’s signature Holy Smoke cocktail, which is part drink (gin, orange, lemon juice, vinegar, among others) and part theatre as it comes with an Aladdin’s lamp of dry ice and rosewater.

JW Marriott Hotel, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Hong Kong. See www.marriott上海龙凤论坛m  TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

discoverhongkong上海龙凤论坛m/au

macautourism.gov.moGETTING THERE

Cathay Pacific flies four times daily to Hong Kong from Sydney and three times daily from Melbourne. There are 11 flights a week from Brisbane. Prices start from $882 return in economy; $1937 in premium economy and $6174 in business; phone 13 17 47, see cathaypacific上海龙凤论坛m.au. STAYING THERE

The Sheraton Macao Hotel is in Cotai Central, in the “Mega Projects” casino area, and has rooms from $220; see sheratonmacao上海龙凤论坛m. In Hong Kong, JW Marriott, at Pacific Place, has rooms from $755; see jwmarriotthongkong上海龙凤论坛m. EATING THERE

For a crash course in all that’s foodie in Hong Kong get along to the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival on the waterfront in downtown Central at the end of this month. The four-day festival features 300 stalls and runs from October 22-25. It also kicks off the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Month (October 22-November 30) which features food and wine-themed tours and classes.

The writer was a guest of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, Macau Government Tourism Office and Cathay Pacific.

Things that only happen in China: The 11 great Chinan blights

n country pubs lack the atmosphere of their UK counterparts. Photo: iStock Brisbane’s Southbank doesn’t work as a community gathering point.
Shanghai night field

‘s hospitality industry has a habit of passing on basic costs of business to the customer. Photo: iStock

‘s hospitality industry has a habit of passing on basic costs of business to the customer. Photo: iStock

‘s hospitality industry has a habit of passing on basic costs of business to the customer. Photo: iStock

‘s hospitality industry has a habit of passing on basic costs of business to the customer. Photo: iStock

It’s natural to hire a bike to explore in cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Munich and Copenhagen, but you wouldn’t dare in an n city, especially as a tourist unacquainted with the streets. Photo: Ken Irwin

Hotel check-out times are usually miserly. Photo: iStock

PUBS WITH NO CHEER

Faced with discounted booze at the bottle shop, city pubs have lifted their game with smart new fit-outs, bistro-style fare and a decent range of craft beers on tap. Sadly, many of ‘s historic country pubs have yet to follow suit. They are often a disgrace – run-down, cluttered and dusty. The ambience is chillier than the beer and the food indescribable. Contrast this with the atmospheric country pubs and bars in Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, USA and elsewhere.

Mark ChipperfieldJUST DON’T ASK

, can we please stop asking “Howz’ya day been so far?” in every restaurant, hotel, shop and ticket office? Our poor overseas visitors feel compelled to answer, no matter how often they are asked – which can be several times a day.

Jill DupleixTHE SLAP: THE SEQUEL

‘s hospitality industry has a nasty – and seemingly prevalent – habit of passing on basic costs of business to the customer. Adding 10 per cent to a restaurant and cafe bill due to paying staff weekend or public holiday rates is not on. As is slapping on three per cent for credit card payments on sums that are way higher than the amount of cash most people carry around. And far, far too many hotels are still charging often extravagant amounts for WiFi.

David WhitleyMARCHING ORDERS

Mean on early check-ins, ‘s accommodation industry, with some exceptions, is also miserly on late check-outs. The international norm, particularly in Asia, is for midday check-outs but in the land down under it’s still “outta here” by 10 am or, at best, 11 am. Let us linger a bit, will ya?

Anthony DennisMIS-GUIDED

You know the drill – the chambray shirt (with logo), chirpy manner, booming delivery and, yes, truly woeful jokes. Whether you are snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef, whale watching in South or tasting wine in the Hunter, the Aussie tour guide is always somewhere near, shouting at you over the PA. Davo – he’s often called Davo – is a bit of a larrikin. Actually, he’s a bore who wears an Akubra hat and chambray shirt.

Mark ChipperfieldRANK OUTSIDERS

Is it any surprise that ns have embraced Uber cabs with enthusiasm? Catching a normal taxi in any of the capital cities is a nightmare. Even with GPS, the average cab driver struggles to find their way out of the airport taxi rank. Shabby, smelly and bad-tempered the Aussie cab driver is the last thing you need after a long-haul flight. And luggage? If you’re lucky he or she might flip the boot open from the driver’s seat. Resentfully.

Mark ChipperfieldTHE WRONG TRACK

You can now travel from Paris to Barcelona on a high-speed TGV train in six hours and 15 minutes. It is fast, quiet, comfortable, punctual, and links a total of 21 cities. We have some great rail experiences in , such as The Ghan and the Indian Pacific, but the dream of moving speedily and easily from state to state on rail in this country of vast distances and relatively small population, remains stuck in the station.

Jill DupleixSERVICE, PLEASE

‘s service standards in its tourism industry are better than they’re perceived to be. But our approach to service tends to lack refinement, and too many operators in key tourism hubs resort to transitory labour, in the form of backpackers, which tends to form of an overall poor picture of service standards. And, from big city hotels to small town B&Bs, we need to develop our own style of service that effectively combines professionalism with our innate geniality and egalitarianism. The Kiwis, who take tourism seriously because their economy depends on it, do it a whole lot better.

Anthony DennisIN A SPIN

Head to European cities like Paris, Amsterdam, Munich and Copenhagen and it’s natural to immediately hire a bike to explore. Even the mighty metropolis of New York now has separated cycleways and bike stations dotted over Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. But arrive in an n city such as Sydney and you wouldn’t dare, especially as a tourist unacquainted with the mean streets, it’s too dangerous. Even the harbour city’s own sydneycycleways上海龙凤论坛 website warns “cycling on city streets requires patience, planning and positioning”.

Andrea BlackBLACK AND WHITE

You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of Indigenous experiences that have survived long term in . It can often be white ns telling stories of the dreamtime or digging out a witchetty grub. Yet the stars in the night sky, rock art paintings, animal tracks and even the landscape itself take on a whole new meaning when seen in the company of someone who has absorbed ‘s great open spaces through the soles of their feet.

Michael GebickiGOING PUBLIC

Think Europe, and images flood back of neighbourhoods gathered around public squares, terrace cafes spilling over the edges. Then there are the great promenading strips, such as Havana’s Malecon or Dubai’s Corniche. sorely lacks these public spaces – Brisbane’s Southbank and Melbourne’s Federation Square don’t quite serve the same function. Parks are all well and good, but they don’t work as community gathering points in the evenings like a buzzing plaza does.

David Whitley

India’s must-see city: Jaipur is a pink riot of colour and history

The famous Hawa Mahal, ‘Palace of Winds’, in Jaipur. The famous Hawa Mahal, ‘Palace of Winds’, in Jaipur.
Shanghai night field

The famous Hawa Mahal, ‘Palace of Winds’, in Jaipur.

The famous Hawa Mahal, ‘Palace of Winds’, in Jaipur.

Amber Fort, Jaipur.

Flower seller near Badi Chaupar.

Our chirpy driver Ram Niwas pilots the car through the dense traffic, tactically moving his way around the narrow Jaipur roads as our Pure India Collection guide Praveen Agarwal begins to deliver his Jaipur spiel. “This is the largest city in one of India’s most-visited states. There is much to see.”

I don’t doubt Praveen. My husband and I arrived into Jaipur at dusk the previous night and it was immediately obvious to us that Jaipur warrants, at minimum, a few days visit. Although we left Delhi in the morning, (Jaipur is about a five-hour drive from Delhi) by the time we stopped for creamy paneer curry at a roadside restaurant and then popped into Galtaji, the evening was beginning to set in.

The sojourn at Galtaji was worth it. Although the Hindi temple complex is just 10 kilometres from the centre of Jaipur, not many tourists venture here. It’s a little pocket of serenity where animated monkeys outnumber humans and the few locals that are around don’t seem to be bothered by a handful of tourists. We feed peanuts to the monkeys and watch a family of pilgrims bathe in one of the sacred natural water spring tanks (called kunds). It’s a peaceful start to Jaipur … and short-lived.

Exploring the old city of Jaipur is the opposite of peaceful. The chaotic racket of everyday life, the wafts of incense and camphor, and the scent of spicy curries brewing is intoxicating. Although Praveen has ideas on which route to take, I find the best way to soak it up is to explore with no specific intention, stopping in at street-side shops manned by chatty craftsmen, snacking on fried tidbits (try the spicy lentil-based puff pastries called dal kachoris and potato-and-onion cutlets called aloo tikki) along the way, and getting lost deliberately.

Although we’ve deviated from Praveen’s program, an hour or so later he starts his official tour. “Jaipur got the name Pink City in 1876,” he explains. “The Prince of Wales [Edward VII] was visiting and in his honour Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh painted all royal and official buildings pink.” Praveen pauses and chuckles watching us as we inquisitively gaze at the other pink buildings. “The locals decided to paint many of the other buildings pink too.”

Perhaps Jaipur’s most famous pink building, the five-storey crown-shaped Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds), is as pink as they come. The extension to the City Palace was constructed from pink sandstone in 1799, it was then pink-washed an even brighter pink with calcium oxide paint in 1876. That’s not the most interesting feature about the build, however. Hawa Mahal was constructed so that royal women could observe daily street life and the tiny, intricate latticework windows (which are said to resemble the honeycomb of a bee’s nest) were crafted slanting so that the royal women were able to see the main market and central boulevard, but passers-by could not see in.

We pass many buildings with tiny windows (none as elaborate as the windows of Hawa Mahal) and I attempt to glimpse inside. I know it’s a tad voyeuristic, but my imagination is running wild picturing life both present and past. Although I can’t see inside any of buildings, as we thread our way through the historic old town Praveen divulges stories about former maharajas and maharanis – feeding us a taster of what life was like once upon a time Jaipur.

I make do watching the people of today. Tittering women donning brightly coloured saris stride alongside each other, a kaleidoscope of vibrant hues swirling as their shiny trinkets shimmer in the hot sun. The men jump between haggling passersby, chatting to each other, and drinking endless cups up masala chai. Although it’s incredibly busy, traffic (humans, bikes, cars and cattle) seems to flow systematically.

Founded in 1727 by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, Rajasthan’s capital is India’s fist planned city. A mathematics and science enthusiast, the king designed the city layout following the principles of Vastu Shastra (an Indian design and construction discipline). Two blocks were allocated to governmental buildings and the remaining seven blocks were designated for public housing. It seems the methodical design still aids people today.

The City Palace is one of the old city’s marvels and a sector of it is still home to the royals today. The sprawling patchwork of sizeable courtyards, luscious green gardens and well-designed buildings is mix of Mughla and traditional-style design and is one of Jaipur’s most-visited attractions.

Away from the tourists and just a stone’s throw from the City Palace, the area surrounding Talkatora Lake is a pleasant place to take a leisurely stroll. The lake was used as alligator tank in times of maharajas, but recently it has been restored into a public space. It’s a charming spot anytime of day, but mid afternoon is particularly enchanting. As the sun drops low, so does the temperature, and with that the locals come out to play. Watching life unravel while snacking on bhujia (similar to soy crisps but made with gram flour) – well that’s real India.

We retire to our hotel, Taj Hotels’ Rambagh Palace, happily exhausted. Although we’ve spent the day negotiating the old town’s streets, we can’t help but continue on the same path, drifting through the grounds and moseying our way into every nook and cranny before it gets dark.

The Rambagh Palace is the former residence of Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II and it’s a spectacular example of architectural grandeur and plain old-fashioned magnificence. Jaipur is the city of palaces and forts and to be staying in a former palace so beautifully and thoughtfully restored – well that’s also the real India but in a completely different sense. Guests staying here are treated like royalty – pampered and their every whim attended to.

We carefully stride across the shimmering marble floors, taking in every minute detail in. Intricate Rajasthani motifs adorn the walls; we pass extraordinarily detailed stonework; admire beautifully carved pillars; and twist our heads upwards to appreciate the elaborate crystal chandeliers dangling from the high ceilings.

Retiring to our room with its four-poster bed, walk-in wardrobe, hand-painted wall motifs and decorative textured silks is surreal. We look out through our gold-tinted window over the courtyard and are rewarded with a serenade from the resident bansuri (bamboo flute) musician.

The next day Praveen wants to show Jaipur’s three main forts and he insists we visit the famous Amber Fort first. Ram drives slowly towards the massive complex so that we can appreciate the picturesque setting of the ancient former capital. Flanked by a lake on one side and rolling hills on the other sides, its exterior is made even more glorious in the morning sun.

Inside the fort is just as magnificent and we spend hours negotiating our way through the crowds. My favourite space by far is the dazzling Sheesh Mahal (Palace of Mirrors). The walls and ceiling are adorned with thousands of mirror fragments, colourful mosaics and intricate flower carvings. The mirrors reflect the flickering colours, which results in dancing illuminations. Praveen explains that the king ordered the hall to be built so that the queen would be able to stargaze whenever she so desired. The maharani wasn’t allowed to sleep outside, but thanks to the ingeniously designed space, the light from just one candle gives the appearance of a thousand stars.

We head to Jaigarh Fort, on the ridge overlooking Amber Fort, next. I amble around the estate while the boys examine the world’s largest wheeled cannon. Our last fort stop for the day is Nahargarh Fort. Located ona hilltop, it’s the smallest of the three forts, but the views of Jaipur city from here are unrivalled. As the day’s last rays of sun salsa over the pink city we all stand and gape. Even Praveen, who has lived in Jaipur for most of his life, looks impressed. A city painted pink for a prince, a king that built a room of stars for his queen… Jaipur is a truly impressive city. FIVE MORE THINGS TO DO IN JAIPUR AND SURROUNDS

SOAR OVER THE CITY

One thing no one gets sick of in Jaipur is the view. Float over the pink city in a hot air balloon and observe life from a bird’s eye view. See skywaltz上海龙凤论坛m.

SHOP FOR JEWELLERY

Jaipur is considered to be one of the world’s leading gemstone hubs and if you only visit one shop, make it the Gem Palace – jeweller to royals since 1852. See gempalacejaipur上海龙凤论坛m.

LEARN ABOUT THE SUN AND THE STARS

Built in the early 18th century, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Jantar Mantar was one of the most accurate astronomical instruments of its time.

VISIT INDIA’S MOST HAUNTED PLACE

It’s a two-hour drive from Jaipur, but if you’re into freaky stuff it’s worth it. The abandoned fort of Bhangarh is said to be so haunted that sightseers are only permitted to visit between sunrise and sunset. Locals have even moved their town beyond the vicinity of the fort.

CHILL OUT

At the end of the day take the time to nourish your body with the ancient Indian practice of yoga. Rambagh Palace guests can partake in Bihar School of Yoga classes at the yoga pavilion, focusing on breathing and meditation. See tajhotels上海龙凤论坛m. TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

incredibleindia上海龙凤论坛.

GETTING THERE

Air India flies to Delhi direct from Sydney and Melbourne and then onto Jaipur. See airindia.in or call 1800 247 463.

SEE + DO

Pure India Collection is designed to be the ultimate in enriching and unique luxury travel experiences. Itineraries are fully customised and include accommodation, activities, guides, drivers and transfers. See pureindiacollection上海龙凤论坛m.au or call 1300 365 060.

SLEEPING THERE

Stay at Taj Hotels’ Rambagh Palace and enter another realm, one where your every desire is fulfilled (I swear the staff are trained to read minds). See tajhotels上海龙凤论坛m.

The writer travelled as a guest of Pure India Collection and Air India.

Where to eat in the Maldives: Chef Nonky Tejapermana

Nonky Tejapermana enjoys the interaction with diners that open kitchens allow.
Shanghai night field

Nonky Tejapermana enjoys the interaction with diners that open kitchens allow.

Nonky Tejapermana enjoys the interaction with diners that open kitchens allow.

Passionfruit and sheep yoghurt cheesecake.

Born in Jakarta, Indonesian-Japanese chef Nonky Tejapermana​ has had a well-travelled career. She worked in high-end hotels in London and Dubai and in the air (for Qatar Airways). While working for P&O , she met n chef Luke Mangan​. Tejapermana now runs Lonu by Luke Mangan​ and several other restaurants at Amilla Fushi Luxury Resort. See amilla.mv, lukemangan上海龙凤论坛m.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN THE MALDIVES?

Can I say Lonu? It’s a little bit private, very cosy, very relaxed. In other countries, we need to make a fake view, but in Lonu everything is real: the ocean view, you can hear the waves, you can feel the sea breeze.

LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?

“Short eats” like finger food, mostly made with locally caught yellow fin tuna. The curry here is also very nice; it’s different to Indian curry because it’s made using Maldivian chilli and curry leaves, pandan leaves and dry tuna, which really add flavour.

WHAT IS THE MALDIVES’ BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?

The fresh produce, particularly watermelon, zucchini and pineapples. We’re planning to plant and grow organic herbs here, so I can pick everything from the garden for our adults’ and kids’ cooking classes.

FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN THE MALDIVES?

I don’t get much time off, because we’re still new, but whenever I get a chance, I go to a spa for a full-body relaxation massage. The spas in the Maldives are world-class, and I need to go regularly, because there is so much pressure in the kitchen, both mental and physical.

BEST TIME TO VISIT MALDIVES AND WHY?

There are two seasons, with the high season being December to March, but the low season is also very good, particularly June to July; it can rain a little, but the water clarity is good and it’s not so crowded.

WHAT KIND OF FOOD SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID IN THE MALDIVES?

Junk food, and buffets. At some resorts, it’s buffet, buffet, buffet at every meal. We follow United Kingdom public health standards, so food is thrown out after four hours at our breakfast buffet; everything else we make fresh to order.

WHAT’S HOT IN THE MALDIVES RIGHT NOW?

Open kitchens, where guests can see us cooking for them. There’s more interaction, so it’s not only service people who speak to the guests, and we can hear feedback from them. Resorts in the Maldives aren’t like city hotels; people stay at least four days, so we need to know what they like.

WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THE MALDIVES?

The views are very nice when you live on an island. Wherever you are, you can see the clear water: from the restaurants, from the jetty, even from the kitchen.

Best places to visit in China: The 18 best places to see in China in 2015

Margaret River region in Western . Moonah Golf Course Mornington Peninsula.
Shanghai night field

Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef.

Pellegrini’s Cafe on Bourke Street, Melbourne. Photo: Simon Schluter

White water rafting, Franklin River, Tasmania. Photo: Tourism Tasmania

Gordon River Cruise, Lady Jane Franklin II, Tasmania.

Snorkelling Great Barrier Reef.

Jack Rabbit, restaurant, vineyard, Bellarine Peninsula.

Kiss the sky: The bridge experience is in Sydney’s fabric.

Karijini National Park, Hancock Gorge, Western .

Swimming with whale sharks Ningaloo Reef Western . Photo: Tourism Western

LORD HOWE ISLAND

The word “paradise” cops a hiding these days. A few swooning coconut palms, a scrap of sand, a lurid sunset and “paradise” limps into view. Tired, overworked and underachieving, “paradise” has lost its punch, and so it is that I am left with no single word for Lord Howe Island.

Yet from the moment your plane sweeps low over the island’s cliffs, skims across the surf break on the edge of the lagoon and drops you in the shadow of two leaping green volcanic peaks you’ll be in no doubt. Paradise it is. Anchored 550 kilometres due east of Port Macquarie, Lord Howe Island is barely 11 kilometres from end to end and two across at its widest point, yet rarely is so much crammed into such a tiny pimple of dry land. Its shallow lagoon hosts the world’s most southerly coral gardens.

The interior is shadowed by dense forests of the miraculous banyan tree, the summit of Mount Gower is richly invested with rainforest and most of the island’s lower storey is blanketed by a rustling canopy of kentia palms. In the surrounding waters colliding warm and cool currents spawn giant clams, sea turtles, clownfish, lionfish, tuna, butterfly fish and the doubleheader wrasse.

The island is also a biological ark, a perch for exotic species of sea birds in migratory journeys that might take them to Siberia. Lord Howe is the only place where providence petrels breed and one of the greatest concentrations of the fabulous red-tailed tropic bird can be found along the island’s northern cliffs. So much natural bounty is mightily invigorating.

Everyone swims, snorkels, hikes, fishes, bicycles and takes up birdwatching. Lord Howe Island is also a potent personality-altering substance. Wherever you go on the island you’ll come across visitors sighing or whistling to themselves, or stopping to admire some particularly heartening piece of real estate. This is the way the world should be. Paradise, with brass knobs on. See lordhoweisland.info.

Michael GebickiSAILING THE WHITSUNDAYS, QUEENSLAND

Protected by the World-Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, and spread out across 74 tropical islands – of which only five are inhabited – the Whitsundays region is considered the world’s premier sailing destination. Why venture to the congested waters of southern Europe when you can anchor free-of-charge at deserted, calm-water anchorages beside some of the world’s best beaches (including Whitehaven Beach)? There’s any number of sailing options – from bareboat charters where you’re the skipper, to crewed sailing journeys. See tourismwhitsundays上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Craig TansleyBILL PEACH JOURNEYS, GREAT AUSTRALIAN AIRCRUISE

Have breakfast overlooking Broome’s sweeping Cable Beach on Western ‘s far north coast and by dusk watch the sun slip behind Uluru before dining under a blanket of stars. The beauty of a chartered aircraft is it makes crossing ‘s vast distances entirely plausible. And on the 12-day Great n Aircruise you tick off ‘s most prized landmarks – Kakadu, the Red Centre, the ancient Bungle Bungle Range, the mighty chasms of Katherine Gorge, the Buccaneer Archipelago and the Olgas – in one, awe-inspiring journey. See billpeachjourneys上海龙凤论坛m.au

Sheriden RhodesMARGARET RIVER DISCOVERY TOURS, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

Consistently rated on TripAdvisor as a five-star experience – of a total of 399 reviews at the time of writing, 395 awarded it top marks – Sean Blocksidge’s Margaret River Discovery Tours are one of the great small-enterprise success stories of n tourism. Sean runs all of his company’s adventure-cum-wine-tasting tours himself, and he’s a man who loves his job. Why wouldn’t he? It involves canoeing down Margaret River, hiking the Cape to Cape Track, four-wheel-driving through sand dunes, and tasting some of ‘s best wines.

Ben GroundwaterTHE HARRY REDFORD CATTLE MUSTER, QUEENSLAND

What could be more quintessentially n than mustering cattle across the outback by horseback (except perhaps wrestling a croc near Walkabout Creek)? There’s no more authentic cattle muster on Earth. You’ll lead over 600 head of cattle through drought-stricken west Queensland with a motley crew of local volunteers. It’s no tourist gimmick either: in 19 days you’ll cover 200 kilometres. It’s not a trail ride, this is real-life cowboy work. See harryredford上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Craig TansleySAIL DARWIN, NORTHERN TERRITORY

Sail Darwin’s three-night Turtle Dreaming and Tiwi Islands Adventure, aboard the 15-metre catamaran Sundancer, is as culturally rich, environmentally sensitive and relaxing an experience as you can have anywhere in the world. With young Larrakia guide, Shannon Lee, aboard, sharing spots from his childhood and leading you ashore on Bare Sand Island to witness turtle nesting, and quality time spent with Tiwi artists and elders on Bathurst and Melville Islands, this is unobtrusive indigenous tourism at its best. See saildarwin上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Daniel ScottWILDERNESS ADVENTURES, TASMANIA AND NATIONALLY

As you float down Tasmania’s Franklin River on a raft, there’s a point where you realise you haven’t seen a house, a field, a human structure or perhaps even a scrap of rubbish in days. It seems improbable that a capital city might be less than 100 kilometres away.

Few countries have ‘s wealth of accessible wilderness, or the adventures that open it so readily for inspection. Spend a week or more afloat on the Franklin River, and Hobart is never too far out of sight. Yet the river’s catchment contains not a single bit of cultivated land or settlement, and it wasn’t until the early 1970s that it was successfully rafted.

Today, rafting groups bob down the river each summer, sleeping under rock overhangs, wrestling with rapids and watching the river rise and fall in elevator-like proportions with the rain. Few rafting trips in the world run so long or so far from the human fingerprint – quite remarkable for a small island.

Elsewhere in , there are other remote and wild landscapes just as adventurous and approachable. Step out from Alice Springs onto the Larapinta Trail and it can be two weeks before you see a settlement again.

This 223-kilometre desert hike runs the length of the West MacDonnell Range, journeying through arid, rocky terrain interspersed with waterhole oases. It’s like hiking back towards the start of time, with the Finke River, crossed near the western end of the trail, often claimed as the oldest river on Earth.

‘s wilderness even comes coupled with luxury on a few remote adventures. At the southern foot of Wilpena Pound, the Arkaba Walk leads hikers through four days of spectacular, inhospitable country in the most hospitable way possible. Days end with hot showers, gourmet dinners and warmed swags that peer out onto ancient mountains. It’s outback opulence the equal of anywhere in the world. See worldexpeditions上海龙凤论坛m; arkabawalk上海龙凤论坛m.

Andrew Bain GOLFING, MORNINGTON PENINSULA, VICTORIA

It’s now one of the world’s premier golf destinations – comparable only to California’s Monterey region and Scotland’s Fife district. But the Mornington Peninsula has two very distinct advantages over both. First, you can play most courses here for under $60 a round. And the Mornington offers convenience: there’s over 15 courses located within a 30 minute drive of each other, including some of ‘s Top 50 courses built in amongst coastal sand-hills right beside Bass Strait. See visitvictoria上海龙凤论坛m.

Craig TansleySURFING, NATIONALLY

While ns fly off in ever increasing numbers to Indonesia on surf holidays, it’s worth remembering how many unridden waves we’re leaving behind. For this is a country with 36 000 kilometres of coastline, spread across three different oceans. While our most iconic waves might get crowded, there’s parts of ‘s coastline that have still barely been surfed – you’ll always paddle out alone along South ‘s Eyre Peninsula, or Western ‘s Goldfields-Esperance region or Tasmania’s lonely south-eastern coastline. See australia上海龙凤论坛m.

Craig TansleyTIWI ISLANDS, NORTHERN TERRITORY

Remote, but not too far from the big smoke, the Tiwi Islands are a 15-minute flight or three hour ferry ride from Darwin. We Aussies love immersing ourselves in other cultures’ lifestyles, from Thai to Turkey: why not look to our own? Go on safari to spot man-eating crocs or ancient turtles, catch and release a big barra or its many feisty friends, immerse yourself in a unique design culture or tap into the silence and stillness of island life. See travelnt上海龙凤论坛m.

Belinda JacksonNINGALOO REEF, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The whale sharks aren’t the only breathtaking sights to be found on Ningaloo Reef. In fact, this Western n wonder may be our most underrated natural attraction. Snorkellers can access extraordinary hard coral gardens teeming with fish right off the beach, or swim with elegant manta rays and an occasional dugong. The fun continues on dry land: explore dramatic gorges or spot kangaroos and echidnas in Cape Range National Park. See westernaustralia上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Ute JunkerTHE BELLARINE PENINSULA, VICTORIA

What’s it say about how much a country offers that an entire peninsula – that’s an hour from its second largest city – goes almost completely unnoticed, even by those who live beside it? The Bellarine Peninsula is home to some of ‘s best cool climate wineries with award-winning restaurants like Oakdene and Jack Rabbit Vineyard and golf courses rated inside the country’s Top 20 courses, (like 13th Beach), and yet it’s still largely ignored by all but the few who know it. See visitgeelongbellarine上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Craig TansleyTHE KIMBERLEY, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The Kimberley is where the Dreamtime began. It’s where one of the planet’s oldest people – the n Aboriginal – first came to more than 40,000 years ago, a place where human life on Earth stemmed from. You can feel it all around you here – it’s this extraordinarily long culture and it’s the reminder of the region’s link to our origins that gives the Kimberley a sense of isolated romanticism no other place on Earth can muster.

For ns seeking a journey into our indigenous past, there is no better destination. The Kimberley is an area three times the size of England (423,000 square kilometres) but with less than 40,000 inhabitants (England has 57 million people). There are fewer people per square kilometre living here than almost any other place on Earth. There’s nowhere that provides more of an escape from modern life.

The Kimberley’s landscape is amongst the most diverse on Earth. It’s much more than a desert, though many of us think of it that way – there’s more prehistoric sheer-sided mountain ranges than endless red sand plains. And there’s plunging gorges, waterfalls and rivers that flow fast with the tide. There’s even beaches – plenty of them – spread across the wildest and most beautiful stretch of coastline in , accessible often only by boat.

The landscape’s so steep that the Kimberley’s impossible to traverse from back-to-front, there are parts that have still not been seen by anyone – it’s one of the remotest, wildest regions left on Earth. But for all its harshness – it is a place of parched, red earth and dangerous rivers where salt-water crocs lie in wait for those naive enough to tread – the Kimberley exudes a gentleness you only glimpse at sunrise, and sunset, and under all those stars. If you like feeling lost on holiday, there’s nowhere on Earth you’ll feel quite as helpless. See australiasnorthwest上海龙凤论坛m; westernaustralia上海龙凤论坛m.

Craig Tansley MELBOURNE’S LANEWAYS

In many cities, a dark laneway or dead-end alley is the scene for strife. In Melbourne, it’s most likely the address of the hippest little bar in town. Put your walking shoes on to discover Japanese bathhouse Onsen Ma or American deep-frying restaurant Mr Big Stuff (Meyers Place), a sneaky rat by British heavyweight street artist Banksy (AC/DC Lane), old-school Italian cafe Pellegrini or top fusion cuisine at Gingerboy (Crossley St). It’s the world, ensnared in a nine-by-nine street grid. See thatsmelbourne上海龙凤论坛m.au; visitvictoria上海龙凤论坛m.

Belinda JacksonGREAT BARRIER REEF, QUEENSLAND

Nothing prepares you for seeing the hallowed Great Barrier Reef for the first time. Stretching 2300 kilometres, its astounding beauty, with its montage of jewel-like reefs, islands, coral cays and atolls, and more marine life per square inch than anywhere on the planet, is profoundly moving. To grasp our world heritage listed reef’s splendid magnitude take to the air on a scenic flight. Listed as one of the seven wonders of the natural world, it’s something every n should experience at least once in their lifetime. See hamiltonislandair上海龙凤论坛m; whitsundayscenicflights上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Sheriden RhodesPORT DOUGLAS, QUEENSLAND

In the 1980s Port Douglas was synonymous with excess. Back then it seemed inconceivable that this quaint frontier town would ever recover from Christopher Skase. But it has. Port Douglas today has everything that you might want in a tropical hideaway – a lively restaurant scene, great accommodation and a glamorous marina. A perfect base for trips to the reef or the rainforest, Port Douglas is better than ever: affluent, spotlessly-clean, laid-back and decidedly cosmopolitan. See queensland上海龙凤论坛m.

Mark ChipperfieldKARIJINI NATIONAL PARK, PILBARA, WESTERN AUSTRALIA

There are few places on the planet where you can be sandwiched between 100-metre tall gorge walls that are 2.7 billion years old. Hancock Gorge in Karijini National Park is one such place. As spectacular as the Kimberley but with far fewer visitors, Karijini is a natural wonderland of canyons, narrow fissures and Edenesque swimming holes located in the midst of the arid, remote Pilbara region. Visit soon to have Hancock and other primordial gorges to yourself, and bed down in an ensuite safari-style tent at the Aboriginal-owned Karijini Eco Retreat. See karijiniecoretreat上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Daniel ScottBRIDGECLIMB, SYDNEY

As a travel writer based in Britain and specialising in , there is no single n experience that I’m asked about more than the BridgeClimb in Sydney. That’s a pretty effective measure of global brand recognition. However, the query usually runs along the lines of “it seems incredibly expensive. Is it worth it?” To which my answer is usually along the lines of “Well, it is undoubtedly overpriced, but despite that and despite there being so many other good things to do for much less, yes, it is worth it.”

Seeing people in grey romper suits clambering over the Sydney Harbour Bridge is now such a part of the city’s fabric that it’s easy to forget how revolutionary it was when it opened in 1998. Founder Paul Cave – whose father-in-law bought the first ever ticket for a train crossing of the bridge in 1932 – had the idea nine years earlier. Getting the concept right, the logistics and systems in place, and the permissions granted took nearly a decade.

Given that effort, you can perhaps forgive BridgeClimb for being such a ruthlessly milked experience. It’s a superslick operation, with groups being processed and taken through the basics at precision-timed intervals. But the nagging feel of being factory farmed doesn’t matter all that much once out on the bridge.

It’s more of a walk than a climb, toddling along the arc once a few initial steep steps are out of the way. Fear of heights disappears fairly quickly too – you’re permanently clipped to a fixed cable running the entire length of the route and there are few gulpworthy moments of looking directly down.

Wisely, the magnificence of the bridge and the harbour are allowed to take centre stage. The perspective on the great handiworks of both man and nature is deliciously dazzling – especially from right at the top. Once seen, any doubts of the BridgeClimb being worth it are expelled. See bridgeclimb上海龙凤论坛m.

David Whitley

See also: ‘s best resorts and hotels in 2015 See also: ‘s best food and restaurants in 2015

Famous flyer: Singer Casey Donovan’s travel tips

Casey Donovan always travels with a backpack containing spare clothes in case her bag fails to arrive. Casey Donovan always travels with a backpack containing spare clothes in case her bag fails to arrive.
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Casey Donovan always travels with a backpack containing spare clothes in case her bag fails to arrive.

Casey Donovan always travels with a backpack containing spare clothes in case her bag fails to arrive.

WHICH WAS YOUR BEST HOLIDAY? 

I don’t get to take many holidays unfortunately, but my favourite was last year when I was over in New Zealand for work and then added a few weeks onto my trip for some time off. I ended up hiring a car and driving by myself from Auckland down to Wellington, stopping off at the stunningly beautiful Rotorua. I was so grateful to have some family friends living in Rotorua and I ended up staying there for a few days before hitting the road again and set off to Wellington to see family. It was so liberating and beautiful – driving down the winding roads and taking in the amazing scenery, all the while singing along to a Beyonce album I bought from the servo.

AND THE BEST HOTEL YOU’VE STAYED IN? 

I’ve stayed in many a hotel in the last 11 years, so it’s hard to pick a fave. But Blair Castle in Scotland was a stand-out. Everything about it was breathtaking, from the bedrooms to the dinners (trying haggis for the first time) to the beautiful lawns and surroundings.

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE WITH YOU? 

Too many undies. Haha. The worst thing when you’re on a holiday is thinking about washing, so I am always prepared in the underwear department.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A PERFECT HOLIDAY? 

No stress. I’m a fan of holidays that aren’t planned. I like rolling out of bed, relaxing by the pool and then going for a casual walk to see some sights or to find some food.

WHAT’S YOUR BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE? 

Always travel with a backpack or with some emergency clothes, just in case you get stuck somewhere or if your luggage doesn’t turn up on the carousel.

AND YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE ON HOLIDAY? 

Worst? Oh dear. It would have had to have been during my 21st birthday. I went on a cruise for a week. The cruise itself wasn’t that bad, but when we got off we found out that two people on the cruise had swine flu and I was put in quarantine and had to miss out on two weeks of work.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE? 

Packing way too many shoes. I have learned over the years that you don’t actually wear most of them and they take up a lot of valuable space, space which could be used for duty-free and other fun stuff.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NEXT? 

Anywhere. I’m not a massive fan of flying – to be honest, it really scares me. I’d love to head over to the States and do some sightseeing, as I’ve never been. And I’d love to sing at an open mic night in New York where nobody knows me and belt out some songs. That’s definitely something on my wish list.

Casey will be starring as Joanne in RENT at the Hayes Theatre Co in Sydney from October 8 to November 1.

Auckland Airport: Air New Zealand’s new lounge

Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounge upgrade is a strategic move to capture more n traffic. Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounge upgrade is a strategic move to capture more n traffic.
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Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounge upgrade is a strategic move to capture more n traffic.

Air New Zealand’s Auckland lounge upgrade is a strategic move to capture more n traffic.

Significantly larger than its predecessor, the new Auckland lounge can seat more than 375 customers.

Air New Zealand’s new flagship international lounge in Auckland is another milestone in a four-year, $NZ100 million ($91 million) lounge upgrade program. It’s also a strategic move to capture more n traffic. It will serve as a stop-over lounge for ns flying on Air NZ flights to North and South America via Auckland.

The new lounge has more than 2000 square metres of space, significantly larger and more modern than the old one and in a different part of the terminal. It can seat more than 375 customers comfortably.

The lounge was designed by Gensler, the same global architecture firm that partnered with Air NZ on its new lounge at Sydney Airport as well as the Star Alliance lounge it manages at Los Angeles International Airport.

Air NZ chief executive Christopher Luxon says the lounge was designed with feedback from customers in mind. “With a growing network and customer base, the number of high-value customers using our lounge has grown and one of the most common pieces of feedback we receive on our Auckland International Lounge is around space,” he says.

“Also recognising that our customers travel for different reasons and have different needs, we’ve created a mix of separate zones to offer the utmost comfort and convenience for those looking to relax, refresh or get some work done before they fly.”

There is a business zone with a range of seating and tables with electronic charging, Wi-Fi and printing facilities, a kids’ area modelled on a Kiwi tree house, a dining area where dishes are cooked to order at meal times as well as a buffet and a central bar area offering barista coffee, premium New Zealand wines and cocktails.

The New Zealand-centric design also features large-scale digital screens with looping time-lapse imagery of local scenery and a “digital ceiling” over the bar area reflecting the changing New Zealand sky.

The carrier also plans to upgrade its international lounges at Brisbane Airport and Melbourne Airport.

Silver Expeditions sounds the Silver Cloud south

Silver Explorer is to be refurbished and converted into an ice-class ship. A picnic on the lawn of the Celebrity Solstice.
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The Aqua Mekong cruises the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa is to perform during a Bravo! South Pacific cruise in October 2016.

Silversea Cruises has announced it will move Silver Cloud to its expedition division in November 2017. Destined mostly for polar waters, the 296-passenger ship that launched the luxury cruise line will be converted into an ice-class ship during an extensive refurbishment scheduled to start in August 2017.

The timing coincides with the introduction of the Silver Muse to the non-expedition fleet in April 2017, so overall Silversea will be operating nine ships. The company’s chairman, Manfredi Lefebvre d’Ovidio, has said Silver Muse is the first of three 596-passenger ships to be built for the line; its current flagship, the 540-passenger Silver Spirit, was launched in 2009.

Silver Cloud will join Silver Expeditions’ existing fleet of three ships – the 132-passenger Silver Explorer, 120-passenger Silver Discoverer, and 100-passenger Silver Galapagos. Collectively, they explore more than 500 far-flung destinations, from Africa, ‘s Kimberley Coast and the Russian Far East to the Galapagos Islands, the British Isles and the polar realms.

As an expedition ship, the all-suite Silver Cloud will accommodate 260 guests and also sail on itineraries to non-polar regions. When sailing Arctic and Antarctic itineraries, the passenger complement will be restricted to 200. Silversea is a member of the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators and the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators, and follows each organisation’s guidelines to ensure sustainable tourism. These include such measures as limiting the number of passengers going ashore in certain areas of the Arctic and allowing for a broader range of Antarctic landing sites for expedition ships that carry fewer than 200 guests.

According to IAATO, during the 2014-15 Antarctic season (which runs from November to March) 8399 Americans set foot on the frozen continent; 3496 ns made up the next-largest contingent of visitors, followed by more than 2000 Chinese and British travellers.

Silversea says Silver Cloud will be the only luxury ice-class expedition ship offering five dining options: The Dining Room, the Relais & Chateaux restaurant, La Terrazza, The Grill, and in-suite dining. The ship will have the highest space ratio and highest staff-to-guest ratio (nearly one to one) among luxury ice-class expedition ships. The ship will carry 18 rigid inflatable boats and expedition leaders will take a maximum of 12 passengers out at any one time.

The conversion of Silver Cloud follows Seabourn’s conversion of Seabourn Quest to an ice-class vessel two years ago. Despite the high prices and rough seas, the demand for Antarctic voyages is booming.

MEET THE CREW

NAME: Pili Vicente, from the Philippines.

POSITION: Lawn keeper on Celebrity Solstice.

MY JOB: Celebrity Solstice has half an acre [about 2000 square metres] of real grass growing on its top deck, known as the Lawn Club. It’s where passengers can kick off their shoes and have a picnic or play a game of boules. My job is to maintain the lawn for our guests’ enjoyment, and also ensure it meets and New Zealand’s strict biosecurity laws when Solstice visits your shores.

A TYPICAL DAY: I monitor the lawns from dusk till dawn and mow the grass to precisely 35 millimetres, as often as every day in warm climates. During the n summer, I also water the area a few times a day, plus I’m vigilant about pest control.

FAVOURITE CRUISE MOMENT: A barefoot wedding on the lawn would have to be the most memorable occasion I’ve witnessed on the ship. That, and being asked whether I speak to the grass.

FAVOURITE PORT: Hubbard Glacier in Alaska.

INSIDER TIP: Order a picnic basket to take out on the lawn for a relaxing lunch – you can enjoy terrific views wherever in the world you are.

TIP

Make sure you don’t miss out on your preferred ship-organised shore tour by booking ahead online, whenever possible, or as soon as you get on board.

NEWS

Happy birthday

Aqua Expeditions has introduced exciting new adventures to mark the first anniversary this month of Aqua Mekong’s cruises along the Mekong River between Vietnam and Cambodia. Aqua Mekong is the only vessel on the Mekong to operate private tenders – on its fleet of four aluminium launch boats – and now the company is offering tours by bike, kayak and tuk tuk. All excursions are limited to 10 people a guide and give passengers the chance to explore riverside villages and picturesque waterways, visit traditional craftsmen such as silk weavers and meet local people. See aquaexpeditions上海龙凤论坛m.

Dame Kiri headlines Bravo!

Choose Your Cruise’s Bravo! music cruises go from strength to strength and the 2016 outing includes more than 30 acts and artists from musical theatre, the classics and opera – with opera super star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa topping the bill on the October 17, 2016, cruise on board Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas. The world-famous soprano said, “I’ve performed at venues as diverse as Glyndebourne, Tanglewood and the Verona Arena – and in many unusual places – golf courses, vineyards, viaducts, the outback of and even a helicopter hangar – but this will be my first performance during a Bravo! South Pacific cruise and I’m really looking forward to it.” See chooseyourcruise上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Cruise Central Coast

To celebrate the opening of award-winning Cruise Express’ Central Coast cruise agency, you’re invited to morning tea at the new Erina office at 10am on Thursday, October 15. The local team will be offering special cruise deals on the day and Cruise Express is also offering free return transfers from the Central Coast to Sydney to board cruise ships or flights for the first 100 cruise bookings of seven nights or more made through the store. If you’d like to attend the event, visit cruiseexpress上海龙凤论坛m.au/centralcoast.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Ecruising.travel’s 2016 Alaska cruise packages combine land touring in Canada with seven-night cruises. There’s a range of departures and itineraries between May and August; one example is the 17-night Isolated Wonderland package, which includes a seven-day cruise on Star Princess, seven nights in Princess lodges, a railway trip and airfares – all for $6219. Phone 1300 369 848, see ecruising.travel.

MORE DEALS

Worldwide Cruise Centres’ latest 20-night fly/cruise/stay holiday includes a 14-night round-trip eastern Mediterranean cruise from Rome onboard Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess. Accommodation in Rome and Venice and return flights are part of the package. Departing May 30, 2016, from $6899; offer valid to October 31. See worldwidecruisecentres上海龙凤论坛m.au.

Sanctuary Retreats is offering 30 per cent savings on selected Nile River cruises from October to December 2015. Cruises are three or four nights on luxury river ships Sanctuary Sun Boat III, Sanctuary Sun Boat IV and Sanctuary Nile Adventurer and start from $US408 a night. Phone + (202) 23 947 820, email [email protected]上海龙凤论坛m.

Do Chinans pay too much for domestic airfares?

High volume domestic routes are priced reasonably competitively compared with similar distances overseas. Photo: Jessica Hromas High volume domestic routes are priced reasonably competitively compared with similar distances overseas. Photo: Jessica Hromas
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High volume domestic routes are priced reasonably competitively compared with similar distances overseas. Photo: Jessica Hromas

By most yardsticks, the answer is “no”. For example, a return ticket from Sydney to Cairns at the cheap end of the scale costs around $A350.

That’s a distance of 1950 kilometres, roughly the same as from Boston to Miami, and the cheapest round trip flight between those two is just over $US235 ($A335), which is only $A15 less than the Sydney-Cairns flight.

A return Melbourne-Coolangatta flight starts at around $A240. That’s 1680 kilometres, about 200 kilometres less than New York to New Orleans, and round trips between those two start at $US335, about $A230 more that a low-cost Melbourne-Coolangatta flight.

When you apply the distance measure to the European scene, travellers pay more in .

London-Malaga is practically the same distance as Melbourne to Coolangatta and the cheapest return flight with a bottom-tier budget airline costs just €68 ($A110), less than half the Melbourne-Coolangatta flight.

Frankfurt to Athens is not far short of the Sydney-Cairns distance and the cheapest flight is just €107, about $A180 less than the Sydney-Cairns flight, but that involves a one-stop flight aboard a budget airline with a travel time of more than 10 hours on the return journey.

Where n travellers fly between major cities and holiday hotspots they benefit from the cost savings that airlines achieve when they operate large, highly efficient aircraft in a competitive environment. Typically this does not apply to flights to regional centres, which is why a flight from Sydney to Broken Hill costs more than the cheapest flights between Melbourne and Singapore.

Danny Bhoy: Five places that changed me

Danny Bhoy: ‘I should really include at least one place in , right?’ Danny Bhoy: ‘I should really include at least one place in , right?’
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Danny Bhoy: ‘I should really include at least one place in , right?’

Danny Bhoy: ‘I should really include at least one place in , right?’

WASHINGTON DC, U.S

I’ve never been a fan of “government towns”. Whenever I tour a country the administration cities are never the best places to visit (sorry, Canberra). So, when I recently took a trip to DC, I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over. How wrong I was. It’s a seriously good place. I love me a bit of history and American politics, so I am a little biased, but it might be the most beautifully presented city in the world. All the major landmarks are within walking distance, and at night seeing all the monuments lit up is a beguiling experience. I found myself walking around humming The Star-Spangled Banner. It’s that good.

GALWAY, IRELAND

During my early years in comedy, there was one gig I used to absolutely love doing. It was on a Sunday night in Galway. They used to have a direct flight out of Edinburgh on the Saturday and back on the Monday. Galway is quite a small city on the west coast of Ireland, but it is ridiculously friendly. It never felt like a gig which was important for my career, it was just a lot of fun.

KYNETON, VICTORIA

I should really include at least one place in , right? Back in 2007, I did my first proper tour of . It was a long tour, and I remember getting to the point where I really wanted to quit. My tour manager sensed I was feeling the strain, and after a show in the quaint regional Victoria town of Kyneton we drove to a winery just outside it for a night off. I remember, sitting out on a veranda, sipping a lovely red wine while the sun set over the Macedon Ranges. I felt a stillness and calm serenity that was worth a week off in one of those aggressively relaxing “spa resort” places. I haven’t been back, because I don’t want that memory to ever change in my mind.

LONDON, UK

London will seem like quite an obvious choice to many people reading this. It will seem just as surprising to others. That’s why I love London so much, it brings out so many conflicting memories. It was the place where I learned my craft, and also the place where I had some of my toughest gigs. It was the place where I once slept in a bus shelter, and also the place where I have dined with some of the finest comedians in the world. It’s a magical, tragic and frenetic place. I could sit and talk about London for hours, which I can’t really say about anywhere else I’ve been.

SEVILLE, SPAIN

My visit to Seville was a spontaneous one last year. I was having a period of writer’s block which is typically fuelled by a lack of inspiration coupled with a palpable depression. I felt like I had forgotten how to even think about comedy, it was deep and worrying. I spent a long weekend in Seville wandering around cobbled streets and eating incredible tapas food in small bars. The Spanish have such a wonderful simple and optimistic approach to life, that it taught me to slow down, and not to force creativity, but just to let it happen.

Danny Bhoy returns to with his new show Please Untick This Box, Sydney only. Shows are at the Sydney Opera House October 25 and State Theatre, October 26, 27 and 28. See ticketmaster上海龙凤论坛m.au.