Kids’ holiday reviews: Kidzcationz

Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created the travel website Kidzcationz, where children give their ratings of holiday destinations and experiences.
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Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created the travel website Kidzcationz, where children give their ratings of holiday destinations and experiences.

Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created the travel website Kidzcationz, where children give their ratings of holiday destinations and experiences.

Is there anything more annoying than being outsmarted by a child?

Last week, I discovered a 12-year-old had developed a TripAdvisor for kids.

Bella Tipping, from Dubbo, created Kidzcationz after a holiday to the States.

“Mum was filling out a TripAdvisor review and she liked a hotel where we had stayed,” she says. “The fold-out bed I had was uncomfortable and the kids’ meals were the same old dried-out nuggets and pasta. To me, it was like the parents mattered, but the kids didn’t.”

So, I’ve taken a leaf from Bella’s book for this week’s column.

These are the top trips from 393 nine- to 12-year-olds on the Kids Board at app.boundround杭州龙凤论坛m.

SKIING IN NEW ZEALAND

Seeing the white stuff is a thrill, especially for kids more accustomed to beaches. Some of the best slopes in the world are only a short flight away, including Cardrona and Coronet Peak. “The runs are amazing, and so challenging, but there are also some great options if you’re not as experienced. Plus, you get to feel like you’re in Middle Earth!” says  Bound Round junior reporter, Isaac.

SNORKELLING IN FIJI

With warm locals, affordable resorts, and endless water sports, Fiji is the most popular international destination for n families. Kids Board member Daniel says, “With so many awesome experiences, you’ll never be bored. My ‘must dos’ are snorkelling with the manta rays, visiting the mud baths and going on the Sigatoka Off Road Cave Safari.”

CULTURE IN THE TIWI ISLANDS

While Uluru is often the first choice for families seeking an Indigenous experience, the Kids Board recommends the Tiwi Islands, off Darwin. Lucy from Bound Round says: “There’s nothing more n than visiting the Tiwi people on the Tiwi Islands. Your eyes get opened to so much of their culture, that we should all be so proud of.”

STAY SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT

Kids love staying in lighthouses, tree houses, or zoos. “There’s something really cool about going to sleep listening to sounds you don’t normally hear at home. A lighthouse off the coast of Victoria is one of my favourite holidays of all time, hearing the waves crashing beside us at bedtime,” junior journalist Paris says.

GO WILD IN TROPICAL NORTH QUEENSLAND

No matter how old they are, kids are intrigued by animals. Bound Rounder Mia says, “We’ve done a heap of holidays where we’ve come face to face with animals, but I’d have to say feeding a croc is high on my list of highlights. Oh, and diving in the Reef with all that amazing coral and fish of every colour!”

As for our kids, well, 10-year-old Taj reckons you can’t beat Club Med Kani in the Maldives because of, “all the awesome activities and beautiful beaches”, while nine-year-old Grace loves New Caledonia where, “you can practise speaking French, and eat delicious cheese”.

You might just have a budding travel entrepreneur in your family.

Maybe there are benefits to being outsmarted by kids…?

800 Words attracts 1 million viewers

800 Words is proving popular. Photo: suppliedDrama is alive and well on n commercial television. Well, one drama, at least. Because Seven has stuck to its promise of ending The X Factor before 9pm, more than a million viewers in the mainland capitals are able to watch 800 Words and still get to bed by 10.Other dramas aren’t so healthy – the next most popular is House Husbands, with 715,000 viewers in the mainland capitals. Seven’s much-trumpeted revival Heroes Reborn could only manage 444,000.
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But fantasy of a different sort is thriving on Ten, with The Bachelorette rising to 992,000 – much bigger numbers than achieved by most episodes of The Bachelor. It is now the most popular “reality” show on the box, with The Block averaging about 850,000 on weekdays and Celebrity Apprentice below 600,000.

This year’s AFL grand final was not the most watched AFL event of the century (that happened in 2005, with 3.4 million in the mainland capitals watching the match between the Sydney Swans and West Coast Eagles) but it did pull 372,000 in Sydney, suggesting aerial ping pong can make a serious claim to be ‘s national sport.

The NRL grand final was also not a record breaker (the most watched biffo-GF this century was in 2014, with 2.6 million viewers). Despite being an all-Queensland event, the NRL pulled 909,000 viewers in Sydney. But the 409,000 Melbourne people watching what is supposed to be a north-eastern game suggests it also has a strong claim to the title of national sport, especially when we learn that it had 1.3 million viewers on regional stations, compared with 900,000 regional viewers for the AFL.

OzTAM estimates these were the most watched shows in the week ending October 5:

#1 AFL grand final (Seven) 2.64m in the mainland capitals

#2 NRL grand final (Nine) 2.31m

#3 Seven News Saturday (Seven) 1.37m

#4 Nine News Sunday (Nine) 1.26m

#5 800 words (Seven) 1.16m

China’s best resorts and hotels: The 10 best resorts and hotels in China

Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania
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Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania

Saffire Freycinet, Tasmania epitomises what the modern traveller looks for. Photo: Tourism Tasmania

The pool at the One & Only Hayman.

Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa.

The Byron at Byron Resort Spa.

Arkaba Station, South .

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

Southern Ocean Lodge on South ‘s Kangaroo Island.

The view from one of the luxury tented rooms at Longitude 131 at Uluru.

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

The view from Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, South . Photo: Guillaume de Laubier/Southern Ocean Lodge

LUXURY LODGES AND CAMPS

Our early explorers knew that careful planning was required before venturing into the outback. Today’s safari camps may not rival the bizarre opulence achieved by the likes of Burke and Wills, but they do recapture the romance of 19th-century travel. Properties such as Bamurru Plains (Northern Territory), Sal Salis, El Questro, Kimberley Coastal Camp (all Western ) and Ikara (South ) have helped to redefine what “going bush” means in with freshly prepared meals, helicopter transfers and professional guides.

Like their counterparts in Africa, the purpose of these safari camps is to offer total immersion in the landscape without sacrificing too many creature comforts. You may be sleeping under canvas, but the bed is soft and downy, the sheets pure Egyptian cotton and, most of the time, guests have en suite bathrooms. Meanwhile, properties such as Uluru’s Longitude 131 and NSW’s One & Only Wolgan Valley have taken the safari camp concept to another level of luxury with elegant pavilions, formal dining, plunge pools and spa treatments – a far cry from the n camping holiday of yesteryear.

Thanks to the safari camp, remote places such as  Kakadu, the Flinders Ranges and Ningaloo Reef are now accessible to the adventurous traveller. This is sustainable, low-impact travel at its best. Safari camps also provide the perfect base for all kinds of nature-based activities, such as bird watching, hiking, snorkelling and kayaking. Although the concept was imported, the safari camp has been cleverly adapted to n conditions. Rather than simply imitating the East African model has developed its own unique collection of eco-friendly properties; each offering a distinct travel experience.

With their strict environmental protocols, highly motivated staff, tented accommodation, contemporary fare and stunning wilderness locations these safari camps provide a privileged taste of ‘s remote and beautiful places – from the red dirt of Central to the pristine waters of Western ‘s North West Cape.

See bamurruplains杭州龙凤论坛m; salsalis杭州龙凤论坛m.au; elquestro杭州龙凤论坛m.au; kimberleycoastalcamp杭州龙凤论坛m.au; ikarasafaricamp杭州龙凤论坛m.au; longitude131杭州龙凤论坛m.au; wolganvalley.oneandonlyresorts杭州龙凤论坛m

Mark ChipperfieldQT HOTELS, NATIONALLY

Launched in 2010, QT Hotels are filling a much-needed gap in the n hotel market. They’re quirky, with high emphasis on design and playfulness, and priced relatively affordably. Little themed touches such as the cockatoo-shaped lamps and retro beach chic at the Gold Coast property plus politician photo-framed mirrors in Canberra give distinct personalities. There are five in this gloriously un-chainlike chain, with three more on the way. See qthotels杭州龙凤论坛m.au

David WhitleyONE & ONLY HAYMAN ISLAND, QUEENSLAND

While the beauty of the most northerly island of the Whitsundays group speaks for itself, an $80 million refurbishment and the reopening of the resort as a One & Only last year – the first in the Asia Pacific region – has propelled this property into a new class of tropical sublime; no passport required. The room count has shrunk from 210 to 160 and turnedinto suites with extra living spaces or a bedroom. For further lounging, dive off your suite deck and swim across the gigantic pool to a private cabana and views of the Coral Seathat people travel the globe for. See hayman.oneandonlyresorts杭州龙凤论坛m.

Jane ReddyBYRON AT BYRON RESORT, NSW

The Byron at Byron is world class not because it tries to copy famous overseas resorts, but because it is very much part of the n landscape and culture. Sensitively built within  18 hectares of wetland rainforest, it’s full of uniquely n joys, like sharing the boardwalk to your villa with a scrub turkey or a tree frog. Add morning walks through the bush to Tallow Beach; a 25-metre infinity pool; spacious, lodge-style rooms along a living tidal lagoon; relaxed dining; and a special sort of charm from the chilled-but-professional staff, and you couldn’t be anywhere else by Byron Bay. Which is the point, really. See thebyronatbyron杭州龙凤论坛m.au

Jill DupleixARKABA STATION, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The remote and staggeringly beautiful Arkaba Station, a vast working sheep station on the edge of Wilpena Pound, takes the quintessential n bushwalk to a whole new level. Overlooked by the craggy Elder Ranges, think thirsty creek beds lined with magnificent river red gums, an historic 1850’s homestead and wildlife at every turn. On a luxury overland safari explore the outback’s rugged landscape by day with highly experienced guides; and by night dine by lantern light and watch for shooting stars from your comfy swag. See arkabawalk杭州龙凤论坛m

Sheriden RhodesSAFFIRE FREYCINET 

There’s no hotel on Earth that epitomises what the modern traveller looks for more than Saffire Freycinet. We’re no longer interested in ostentatious veneer or pompous ceremony,  we just want to feel comfortable in a place that allows us to see nature at its finest. Set in Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, you’ll wake each morning to the pink-granite rocks of the surrounding Hazards mountains and the blue water of Coles Bay in a place that feels as relaxed as home. See saffire-freycinet杭州龙凤论坛m.au

Craig TansleySOUTHERN OCEAN LODGE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Superb spas and outstanding food are par for the course at a luxury lodge. What sets Southern Ocean Lodge apart is the way an afternoon spent doing nothing is turned into a memorable experience. Swathe yourself in a cashmere blanket, grab one of the superb South n wines from the help-yourself bar, and curl up in an armchair to spend an afternoon gazing out at the mesmerising sight of the Southern Ocean pounding towards you. Unforgettable. See southernoceanlodge杭州龙凤论坛m.au.

Ute JunkerTHALA BEACH NATURE RESERVE, QUEENSLAND 

Combining luxury and impeccable eco-credentials, Thala Beach Nature Reserve has been leading the way in sustainable tourism since opening in 1998.  Close to Port Douglas’s glitzy resorts, and set on a coastal headland covered in rainforest, Thala offers something genuinely different, with nature tours, educational talks and star-gazing included in a stay.  Its 83 luxurious bungalows stand in between trees and tropical vegetation, and the top-quality Ospreys restaurant has the best views of all, over the forest canopy and the coastline.  See thalabeach杭州龙凤论坛m.au

Daniel ScottHOTEL HOTEL, CANBERRA

On his election nearly a year ago, Andrew Barr, the n Capital Territory’s chief minister, declared that among of his objectives was a desire to displace Wellington, New Zealand’s self-appointed status as “the coolest little capital in the world”. We’re not sure how the chief minister is progressing with his trans-Tasman scheming but even before he was elected, Canberra’s edgy 68-room Hotel Hotel  and the dynamic NewActon development  in which it is located,  was defiantly cooler than even relations between Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull. Along with the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart, Hotel Hotel ranks as the biggest game-changing hotel in an n capital. See hotel-hotel杭州龙凤论坛m.au; newacton杭州龙凤论坛m.au; visitcanberra杭州龙凤论坛m.au; hehenryjones杭州龙凤论坛m.

Anthony DennisQUALIA, QUEENSLAND

Qualia on Hamilton Island opened in 2007 amid much talk that it would redefine the luxury resort experience in . That proved to be no small boast after Conde Nast Traveller , the prestigious US travel title, named it the world’s best resort five years later. With its private plunge pools, vast rooms and stunning views, this is an n retreat that will make you feel like a member of Hollywood’s A-list. And with its large, Jurassic Park-style entrance gate, you won’t have to worry about anyone invading your privacy.

Craig PlattART SERIES HOTELS, VICTORIA AND SOUTH AUSTRALIA

Sleeping amongst great art doesn’t happen just in European castles. Art Series Hotels’ seven hotels in Victoria and South each showcase the work of one n artist, which is spread liberally throughout the properties, from shower screens to the lobby. The hotels are embedded in the local neighbourhoods, and with an eco-vibe thanks to electric Smart cars and gracious Lekker step-through bicycles for hire, and cheeky ploys to draw out our own creativity, including children’s paint kits. See artserieshotels杭州龙凤论坛m.au.

Belinda JacksonPUMPHOUSE POINT, TASMANIA 

There are pockets of lovely wilderness dotted around the planet, but where else in the world can you sleep, comfortably sheltered from the storms, not only in the middle of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, but bang smack in the middle of the spectacular lake itself? A pair of disused hydro-electric blockhouses have recently been converted to offer luxury accommodation for those who need a break from those leaky tents. From the outside they’re basic concrete blots on the landscape; inside, they’re hip industrial chic, with views to die for. See pumphousepoint杭州龙凤论坛m.au.

Richard Tulloch

Arctic cruises and a new Byron Bay resort: the best travel deals in town

Loire Valley.
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Loire Valley.

Loire Valley.

Loire Valley.

Elements of Byron.

POLES APART

Abercrombie & Kent has just released its program of 2016 – 2017 polar expedition cruises, operated on exclusively chartered ships and is offering great savings.

Save up to $US3000 ($4260) a couple on an Arctic cruise adventure when booked by October 31. For instance, the new 12-day ‘Iceland & Greenland: In the Wake of the Vikings’ trip is priced from $US10,495 a person (was $US11,995); the 15-day ‘Arctic Cruise Adventure – Norway, Greenland & Iceland’ trip is priced from $US13,495 a person (was $US14,995).

As well, save up to $US6000 a couple on Antarctic cruise adventures when booked by March 31, 2016. See abercrombiekent杭州龙凤论坛m.au

ROLLING ALONG

UTracks is offering early bird specials and one is on its Bike & Barge Tour of the Picturesque Loire Valley itinerary. Take 10 per cent off the usual price.  The eight-day guided tour involves cycling, touring and wine tasting through the region and relaxing and sleeping in private custom-built canal barges by night. Highlights include the 12th century Chateau D’Apremont, Chateau Pont Chevron, Chateau La Bussiere and lots more. You get all meals, use of bicycles and transfers.

Book by October 31 and pay $1521 a person (add $130 for high season August 27 – September 24, 2016). Call 1300 303 368. See utracks杭州龙凤论坛m

ELEMENTAL, MY DEAR

The new resort, Elements of Byron, is now taking bookings and will welcome first guests from February 1. The $100 million property encompasses two kilometres of beach frontage at Belongil Beach, Byron Bay. Every villa has a private terrace, Wi-Fi and iPad, and some have ocean and lake views, fireplaces and private bathing decks with large freestanding bathing tubs.

The property is offering a “First Glimpse” package, that includes accommodation for two people in a Signature One Bedroom Villa, continental breakfast in Graze Restaurant, an Essential Elements gift pack and morning beachside yoga.

The price is from $437 a night and is valid for stays from February 1 till September 15, 2016. Phone (02) 6685 6561. See elementsofbyron杭州龙凤论坛m.au

SLEEK SEMINYAK

Spend eight nights at the new five-star The Trans Resort Bali in Seminyak in a package valued at up to $6283 – but pay less than a quarter of that. The plush resort offers easy access to Bali’s best high-end shopping and fine dining and the package includes daily breakfasts, return airport transfers, nightly cocktails at the rooftop bar, a lunch at Mamasan restaurant, a degustation dinner, spa treatments and lots more.

The price is $1599 for two adults (with allowance for up to two kids, under five, staying free). The Luxury Escapes deal is valid for sale till October 16 with validity for travel until December 2016 with minimal blackout periods (travel is available during most of the summer holidays). Phone 1300 889 900. See LuxuryEscapes杭州龙凤论坛m

TWO TO TANGO

Book a trip for two to South America with Eclipse Travel and one of the two travellers flies for free. That’s a saving of up to $2500 a couple with the Companions Fly Free packages, which include a range of tailor-made tours to South America such as the 14-day South America Essentials trip. From $5150 a person, the tour takes in some of South America’s most famous destinations including Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro with plenty of great experiences.

Inclusions cover: accommodation, internal air fares, entrance fees, tours with English speaking guides, transfers and some meals. Valid for sale till November 11 for travel March – September, 2016. Phone 1300 575 752. See eclipsetravel杭州龙凤论坛m.au

Villa Trapp, Von Trapp family home, Salzburg: The Sound of Music and the site of history

Villa Trapp in Salzburg. Heinrich Himmler’s bunker at Villa Trapp.
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Hotel Schloss Leopold, Salzburg.

The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. Photo: G?nter Breitegger

The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. Photo: G?nter Breitegger

The Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. Photo: G?nter Breitegger

Villa Trapp in Salzburg.

Villa Trapp in Salzburg. str11salzburg Photo: Supplied.

When the Von Trapps, the famous musical family depicted in The Sound of Music, escaped the Nazis, the story of their Austrian home was far from over.

“After they left, Heinrich Himmler moved in here,” our host and building manager Christopher Unterkofler explains.

“He even built an underground bunker.”

Wait. What? Is this secret lair of one of the Nazis’ key leaders still here?

“Yes. Would you like to see it?” Unterkofler says. He seems almost puzzled by our interest.

After all, we’re at Villa Trapp in Salzburg, the former home of one of Austria’s most famous families, whose story was turned into one of the biggest Hollywood musicals of all time. This is normally a place that appeals to music lovers, not World War II buffs.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Sound Of Music and fans are flocking to the Von Trapps’ home town to mark the occasion (300,000 fans do a Sound Of Music tour in the city every year, but those numbers have increased this year).

On October 17, the city will play host to a celebratory gala in the Felsenreitschule theatre (itself the setting for one of the film’s famous scenes), with guests, including cast members, flying in from around the world. But right now, I’m more interested in the fascinating history of what happened to Villa Trapp after the Von Trapps left.

We’re shown to a small brick building in the grounds just behind the manor and take a flight of stairs down into the darkness. Himmler’s bunker – a series of dank concrete rooms – is being used as a storage space. It seems most visitors to Villa Trapp are much more interested in the stars of the musical than war history.

Villa Trapp itself is not the palace depicted in the film but a large, 22-room historic home built in 1863. Georg von Trapp and his children moved there in 1924 following the death of his first wife.

After the war, a religious group, the Catholic Missionaries of the Precious Blood, bought the property from the Von Trapps, who had had their ownership restored after the Nazis were defeated.

While he lived there, Himmler used the home as his summer residence, converting one of the children’s rooms to his office and installing a barracks for SS officers in the grounds.

Although the Nazi leader died in Germany, Unterkofler says the priests that moved in after the war could hear the creaking of the boots of Himmler’s ghost on the floorboards at night. They performed three exorcisms to get rid of his presence, but none was successful. In the end, the “ghost” was finally driven away after a carpenter fixed the boards.

The priests rented out the property in the 1990s and it became a hotel in 2008. Now, guests can stay in rooms that belonged to various members of the Von Trapp family and are labelled as such.

I stay in Martina’s room (many of the children’s names were changed for the film – Martina Von Trapp became Gretl, the youngest of the group).

Given the age and history of the building, it’s not all that surprising to find that the hotel is not quite at the level of a modern luxury stay, but feels more like a B&B. For example, there are no toiletries in the bathrooms, just a soap dispenser, and no tea or coffee in the rooms. It is, in essence, a bedroom, not a hotel room.

This is largely due to the nature of the property itself – it retains much of its original, old-fashioned charms and will mostly appeal to avid fans of the film. For those not wanting to stay at the hotel, guided tours are also available (see Trip Notes below).

Villa Trapp, home to the real Von Trapp family, is not as grand or luxurious as the property used for the film, the Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron – an enormous 300-year-old palace that became the home of theatre director Max Reinhardt.

This hotel offers 12 luxurious suites in the main building and next door the Meierhof, the property’s former administration building, has been fully renovated and modernised. It reopened to the public last year.

While The Sound of Music seems to be present in every corner of the city, the locals of Salzburg, we’re told, have little interest in the film. In fact, few have seen it. Although it has been a staple of television in the English-speaking world (and ns are the second-biggest market for Sound of Music tours here), it had little exposure in the country where it was set.

And having had a taste of the real story behind the film, it’s easier to understand why Austrians might not be that interested in the fictionalised version of the story. When put in the context of the true wartime history of the family and the aftermath, Himmler’s ghost included, it’s hard for Hollywood to compete with reality. TRIP NOTESMore information

salzburg.info/en

austria.info/auGETTING THERE

Austrian Airlines flies to Vienna from Bangkok with codeshare connections to n cities via Thai Airways; see austrian杭州龙凤论坛m. From Vienna, the train to Salzburg takes about 2½ hours; see oebb.at/en. STAYING THERE

The Villa Trapp has double rooms from $120 a night; see villa-trapp杭州龙凤论坛m. The grand Hotel Schloss Leopoldskron has double rooms from $270 a night; see schloss-leopoldskron杭州龙凤论坛m/en.

The writer was a guest of the Austrian Tourist Board.FIVE MORE SALZBURG SOUND OF MUSIC SITESMIRABELL GARDENS

A beautifully manicured park where Maria and the children sing Do-Re-Mi. ZWERGLGARTEN

Adjacent to the Mirabell Gardens is the “Dwarf Gnome Garden”, home to a series of somewhat grotesque gnome statues, supposedly based on real dwarfs that served in the court of the city’s archbishop in the 17th Century. The garden also features in Do-Re-Mi.GAZEBO AT HELLBRUNN PALACE

The gazebo for the Sixteen Going on Seventeen scene of the the film has been moved numerous times but has been at Hellbrunn since 1997. It’s now locked after too many visitors injured themselves trying to leap from seat to seat as Liesl does in the film. ST PETER’S CEMETERY

Although not actually seen in the film, the scenes in which the family hide from the Nazis were on a Hollywood set that is based on this cemetery near the centre of town. ST MICHAEL’S CHURCH

Outside Salzburg in the gorgeous village of Mondsee is the church where the wedding of Maria and Georg was filmed.

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.
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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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m  TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

discoverhongkong杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m. In Hong Kong, JW Marriott, at Pacific Place, has rooms from $755; see jwmarriotthongkong杭州龙凤论坛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.
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‘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杭州龙凤论坛 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.
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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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m. TRIP NOTES

MORE INFORMATION

incredibleindia杭州龙凤论坛.

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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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.
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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杭州龙凤论坛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.
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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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m; arkabawalk杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m; westernaustralia杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m.au; visitvictoria杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m; whitsundayscenicflights杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛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杭州龙凤论坛m.

David Whitley

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