Thursday 30 June 2011

Cool Blog of the Day: from Emma Gardiner.

SheGoes is a fun, honest and entertaining resource for anyone sitting at their desk, daydreaming about where they want to go next. With reviews, recommendations and tips from fellow travellers, SheGoes will deliver information and unbiased opinion.

Regardless of whether your next trip is a week or a year away, SheGoes will give you plenty of inspiration for places to explore in Sydney, Australia and the world.

Get Up & Go's Winter Warmer

The new edition of Australia’s premier magazine for the over 50s cashed up and ready to grow generation is now out and about – and we are loving the penguins on the cover!

We are doing the locomotion all over the globe – the big ‘train journeys’ special will have you choofing off sooner than later. There’s cruising in Europe; animal adventures in the Antarctica; discovering Myanmar’s Yangon; finding the parts of Phuket that are calm and serene; a road trip in Hawaii and a leisurely cruise in Fiji.

Australia is well and truly covered, as the editor takes off on an air touring trip across the top of Australia; a new art gallery in Tasmania has got everyone talking and we meet the family in the Blue Mountains in NSW – that’s the three sisters!

Subscribe to win an amazing holiday in Macau and there’s also a competition to take a trip to Thailand’s Phuket. Bigger and better than ever, Get Up & Go is going great guns . . .read all about it!

 Follow Get Up and Go on their Blog

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Te Vara Nuri Village, Cook Islands Celebrate One Year Anniversary with Family Deal

Te Vara Nui Village, Rarotonga's newest cultural attraction, is celebrating its one year anniversary all throughout July 2011 with great savings for all ages on its 4.5 hour Combo Package.

Te Vara Nui Village first came to life when the vision of owners Fodil Nair and Moana Hunter changed from a boutique hotel in favour of creating an outdoor venue to showcase Cook Islands culture.

A year into operations, Te Vara Nui Village, is one of the Cook Islands leading tourist attractions having launched a range of products to both the domestic and international markets including a cultural experience with the Cultural Village Tour, "Ura Po" Over water Night Show & Buffet and the optional Combo Package, combining the Village Tour and Ura Po Night Show.

The Cultural Village Tour consists of eight huts with the local Maori people sharing their stories, knowledge and heritage. Visitors learn about traditional medicine preparation, ancestral fishing, navigation techniques, legends and beliefs and local artisans and craftspeople will demonstrate carving, weaving, preparing local dance costumes and cook traditional foods. 

The "Ura-Po" Over Water Cultural Experience is set amongst luscious gardens and peaceful water features whilst Rarotonga's finest dancers and musicians perform by flaming torchlight on the floating and fixed stages of the waterfall garden. Visitors also enjoy the delicious traditional island night umu buffet, featuring local Island tastes from the world class Umukai (traditional feast) and experience the culinary skills of the local and international chefs.

Te Vara Nui Village also provides the ideal venue for a Corporate or private function. Restaurants can cater 20 to 250 seated guests and up to 300 for cocktails, with breathtaking views from every seat. With the options Te Vara Nui offers; they can deliver an excellent backdrop to achieve any goals - whether networking, a product launch, cocktail party, wedding, client entertaining, Christmas party, sales reward function or just wanting to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary with friends and family.

Te Vara Nui Village is open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and to celebrate its one year anniversary is offering a special Combo Package (Cultural Village Tour & Ura Po Night Show) rate of $99 for adults, normally $134 and $49 for children from 6-11 years, normally $70.

For further information visit

For booking and enquiries please contact: Fiona Wozney on P: 07 5524 5222 Email:

Nine Levels of Darkness has arrived

June marks Central Deborah Gold Mine's 25th year of running underground mine tours in Bendigo. In celebration of this milestone, an exciting new tour was today launched that promises to take the adventure tourism market in Australia by storm.

The new tour – called Nine Levels of Darkness – drops participants 228m below the surface and will officially make Bendigo home to the deepest underground mine tour in Australia.

Bendigo's Mayor, Cr Rod Fyffe, officially announced the opening of the tour at a launch held underground at Central Deborah Gold Mine.

"In recent years Bendigo has significantly improved its profile as a tourism destination and the introduction of new international quality products such as Nine Levels of Darkness will significantly enhance the offering for our visitors. This builds on the strong economic benefits that tourism brings to our region" said Cr Fyffe.

Aimed at the adventure seeker market, this physically demanding tour is guaranteed to take participants out of their comfort zones as they drop 228 metres underground in the original miner's cage to try their hand at being a gold miner from the 1940s. Participants will kit up in a full miner's outfit and will be put to the test by their Shift Boss as they experience all different aspects of olden day mining.

"The experience is guaranteed to be deep, dark and dirty, but the main emphasis is of course on having fun and doing something that you simply can't do anywhere else," said Karl Penrose, Central Deborah Gold Mine Manager. 

"It is fantastic to be celebrating 25 years of underground tours at Central Deborah Gold Mine and the launch of this tour reinforces our mission statement, which is to make Bendigo's history come to life," said Lloyd Cameron, Chairman of The Bendigo Trust which oversees management of the mine.

"Central Deborah is nationally recognised as a significant heritage site and we believe that the only way to keep the story of gold in Australia alive is by offering authentic experiences which serve to remind this generation of the role that gold mining played in the building of this nation," Lloyd continued.

Not only is Central Deborah significant at a local level, operating during the gold rush from 1939-1954, but it also captures an important facet of our national identity given that much of Australia's development is inextricably linked to our successful mining sector. With 25 years of experience developing underground tours, you can be assured that Nine Levels of Darkness is an experience that will soon become a "bucket list" item.

Nine Levels of Darkness Basics:

Tour Times: 10:00am daily

Duration: 4.5 hours

Cost: $275 per person

Numbers: Minimum of 3 people per tour and a maximum of 6

Age Limits: Participants need to be over 15 years of age

Bookings: Bookings Essential. Book online or directly

For more information please visit or call (03) 5443 8255.

Monday 27 June 2011

Motor over to New Zealand for a great value break with Apollo Motorhomes

Head across the Tasman this winter for a break in a cosy Apollo motorhome that will cost less for seven days than a weekend in a half-decent hotel.

Wake up to a different backdrop of spectacular mountains each day or maybe stop by a beautiful stretch of coastline. Go skiing, tramping, wine tasting, bungee jumping – all while taking advantage of Apollo Motorhomes' "pay five days, get two free" New Zealand winter deal.

Fly into Auckland and motor on to events such as the Auckland Food Show (July 28-31), before heading north for some sunshine in the Bay of Islands.

Or go south to the cultural hub and geothermal hotspot of Rotorua, on to popular Lake Taupo and then down to the happening capital of Wellington.

Apollo Motorhomes are also available at Christchurch. Happy campers could pick one up and zoom up to the Marlborough wine region, or down to the ski fields around Queenstown to catch the 100% Pure NZ Winter Games  (August 13-28), or both.

New Zealand might look small but its length from top to bottom means there's lots of miles to cover between major centres and some spectacular scenery to take in along the way.

Motorhome travellers don't have to bother packing up and checking out each day. They can decide their itinerary on the spur of the moment. The only connection they have to make is the one for the flight home.

Apollo Motorhomes are well appointed and heated throughout, so campers will be toastier than they might be in a draughty motor-inn.

They're also super economical.  Until August 31, a six-berth van for seven days is under $NZ600* (plus liability options and associated costs), including the two free days.  Smaller vans are even cheaper. Book a compact Hitop camper on the "pay five, get two free" deal for under $NZ300* for the week.

Clever campers who are happy to travel in winter will also beat the crowds that will descend on New Zealand in September and October for the Rugby World Cup, though plenty of great deals are available for travelling during these months as well.

Find out more about Apollo Motorhomes' range of vehicles and their New Zealand winter deal, call 1800 777 779 or visit the website - Conditions apply.

*NB: Prices vary depending on booking availabilities;

Accor Celebrates its 20th Birthday - and Everyone's Invited to Join the Party!

Image source Destination NSW - Darling Harbour

Accor celebrates 20 years in Australia with a 20% room discount and prizes for sharing 20 years of memories
Australia’s largest hotel group, Accor, is celebrating 20 years in Australia and everyone is invited to join the party.

Accor has set up a special website which features a video of people sharing their happiest, saddest and most life changing moments over the past 20 years from the comfort of an Accor bed.

People are invited to contribute to the blog, and those who share their reminiscences will receive a $20 voucher to use during their next stay at an Accor hotel. In addition, they will go into a draw to win one of 20 x $200 Accor Gift Vouchers.

Participating Accor hotels across Australia are offering 20% off rates* throughout the birthday period for stays from 3 July to 4 October*. For bookings visit

Accor was born at Sydney’s Darling Harbour with the launch of the pioneering Novotel in July 1991. It was conceived in the middle of the “recession we had to have”, a time of great economic hardship, airline collapses, Middle East conflict and ferocious competition in Australia’s hotel industry. But, in retrospect, it was the perfect time for Europe’s leading hotel group to take on the largely American competition and build their hotel network to over 150, by far the largest in Australia.

In the two decades Accor changed the face of the Australian hotel scene with the introduction of a vast range of brands from 5-star Sofitels and Pullmans to the economy and budget brands Ibis and Formule 1.

The Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour was where it all began for Accor in Australia, opening in July 1991 contributing significantly to the transformation from disused railway yards to Sydney’s most vibrant tourism, hospitality and entertainment precinct.

The Novotel was Accor’s flagship hotel for many years, and is now part of a network that reaches as far west as Ningaloo Reef near Exmouth WA, north to Darwin in the Top End and Palm Cove in Far North Queensland, and as far south as Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and including the great wine regions in the Yarra Valley, Victoria and Barossa Valley, South Australia – and everywhere in between!

“A lot has happened in 20 years and we want to share this moment in history with everyone,” says Accor Australia Vice President, Simon McGrath.
“We started with one hotel in Australia back in 1991 and – against the odds – grew into a dominant player in the Australian hotel sector. We have been a real innovator over the period, introducing new hotel concepts, particularly in the mid and economy sectors of the market, and not only helped establish Darling Harbour but also Sydney Olympic Park.

“Our guests and staff have been part of all these experiences and reaching 20 years is a time to celebrate, reflect and share some of the most memorable moments over the past two decades.”

Follow the unique #20yearsAU hashtag on Twitter for regular updates and visit for more information.

Hilton Brisbane Enters the World of Surrealism

‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’ is a major exhibition exploring the historical overview of Surrealism, charting its evolution from Dada experiments in painting, photography and film, featuring works from Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio De Chirico and Max Ernst; to the readymade objects of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray’s photographs. GoMA is the exclusive Australian venue for 'Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams', a landmark exhibition of surrealist works direct from the Musée national d'art moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Exclusive to Brisbane, the exhibition is showing until 2 October 2011 , and presents more than 180 works by 56 artists, including paintings, sculptures, ‘surrealist objects’, films, photographs, drawings and collages. 'Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams' is an opportunity to see important art works that rarely leave Paris, in an exhibition that will provide a fascinating and comprehensive overview of this important artistic movement.

Hilton Brisbane has partnered with the Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art to give you the opportunity to see ‘Surrealism: The Poetry of Dreams’ whilst enjoying the comforts the hotel has to offer. The ‘Surrealism Minibreak’ - includes deluxe accommodation for two – featuring a sparkling new bathroom, breakfast the following morning and two tickets to the exhibition, all this from $299 per room per night, twin share*

Heighten your experience and upgrade to our revitalised Executive Rooms for an additional $100 including access to the lounge, breakfast the following morning, refreshments throughout the day and pre-dinner drinks and canapés.

To make your reservation phone 1300 445 866 and quote PR44SM or visit

*Subject to availability
Stay period - 11June – 2 October 2011
Booking period – now until 31 August 2011

Bali Is Booming

Pulsating with life, Bali has traditionally been a popular destination for Australians, with its convenient flying options and close proximity to most Australian states a huge drawcard.

“Bali is booming right now”, says Aussie ex-pat General Manager of The Villas, Andrew Keating. “Visitors keen to take a “short holiday” without breaking the bank have pushed our occupancy rate up significantly this year. The strength of the Australian dollar is making Bali a wonderful location for travel.”

Renowned for its strategic location to upscale fashion boutiques, restaurants & bars The Villas is one of the most popular hotel resorts for travellers to Seminyak.

“We are also proud of our own Award-winning Prana Spa, the largest in Bali with 25 individual treatment rooms. Recently announced in the Top 10 in the Relaxation / Spa Hotels in all of Asia, Prana Spa provides guests with the highest quality day-spa experience in Bali,” Mr. Keating continued.

Designed in traditional Balinese style, with a relaxing poolside indoor/outdoor tropical living room under an exotic Alang Alang style roof, the private villas each with their own infinity edged pool within a walled tropical garden, blend harmoniously with the natural environment and culture of service for which Bali is renowned.

Flight Centre has put together a holiday package that includes return flights to Bali with Pacific Blue and six nights’ accommodation at The Villas with breakfast daily.

Guests will also receive a bonus welcome drink and towel on arrival, bottled mineral water in their Villa and use of the hotels scheduled shuttle service.

Prices start from $1565* departing Adelaide, from $1645* departing Brisbane, from $1679* departing Sydney and Melbourne, and from $1265* departing Perth.

Prices are per person twin share in a One Bedroom Villa and valid for travel from November 5 to December 19, 2011 and from January 15 to March 20, 2012.

The package is available for sale until July 31, 2011 unless sold out prior.
*All prices subject to change and availability at time of booking.

Phone Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 or for more details.

Travel with Topdeck to Europe this Winter and Save up to 25%

Holidaying with Topdeck in Europe this winter will save travellers up to 25% of the price of the equivalent summer tour, with Topdeck passing the benefits of seasonal pricing onto its passengers.

Europe in winter offers plenty of snow, postcard-perfect scenery, open log fires in cosy pubs and cafes, fewer crowds and excellent value for money.

Topdeck’s new Europe winter 2011/12 brochure features nine different itineraries, ranging from seven to 24 days, with accommodation options to suit all budgets.

The 18 day Winter Getaway trip is priced from $2135 and visits nine countries including France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. It includes hostel and bungalow accommodation with breakfast, four nights complimentary upgrade to hotel accommodation, all transport, eleven dinners, sightseeing tours, an experienced trip leader and ‘Topdeck only’ experiences, such as a bicycle tour of Amsterdam and a vaporetto ride in Venice.

Topdeck’s four day, New Year’s Eve short breaks in cities including Paris, Prague and London are priced from just $399, including accommodation, many meals, activities and a New Year’s Eve party.

New to Topdeck’s Europe winter 2011/12 brochure is a scanning feature to help travellers choose their trip. By scanning the barcode on the brochure’s cover with a QR scanner preinstalled in most new mobile phones, soon-to-be travellers can view videos on Topdeck’s YouTube channel.

By logging onto Facebook, Twitter or Topdeck blogs, travellers can seek advice from past travellers about which trip to take and get to know others booked on the same trip, before they’ve left home.

Winter trips depart from mid October 2011 to March 2012, with several departures of each itinerary 100% guaranteed to depart.

An Early Bookers discount of 5% off selected trips booked and paid for six months prior to travel represents a saving of up $139.*

For more information on Topdeck’s European winter trips or to request a brochure, contact Topdeck on 1300 886 332, visit or a travel agent.

Topdeck is 100% Australian-owned. It is a leading operator of holidays for 18 to 30 something year old travellers, throughout Europe, Egypt, Middle East, Australia and New Zealand.

*Discount applied to Topdeck’s 24 day Winter Spirit trip.

More Exposure for the Sunshine Coast in New Zealand

A Sunshine Coast trip will be given away each day this week in New Zealand. The marketing initiative by Sunshine Coast Destination Ltd (SCDL), Flight Centre, MORE FM Radio and Tourism Queensland has been designed to increase bookings for the remainder of 2011 and 2012.

The Sunshine Coast holiday giveaways will be promoted by MORE FM’s drive time program announcer, Clarke Gayford. This week , Clarke’s offsider, Stacey is exploring the best of the Sunshine Coast , promoting her experience to New Zealand listeners via a travel diary blog on the MORE FM website.

The promotion follows SCDL’s ‘Ray of Sunshine’ mission to New Zealand, held earlier this month targeting travel agents, wholesalers and potential holidaymakers through events and shopping centre promotions.

“This exciting campaign will continue to generate increased awareness of the Sunshine Coast in New Zealand and entice more New Zealanders to visit the region. This promotion follows the success of two Flight Centre tactical campaigns earlier this year.” said Gemma O’Brien of SCDL.

For the year ending December 2010, there was a 10 per cent increase from New Zealand visitors who spent 727,000 visitor nights on the Sunshine Coast.

Each daily prize is valid for two adults and includes return airfares from New Zealand to Brisbane and 7 nights accommodation on the Sunshine Coast. Prize winners will stay in Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Noosa and the Hinterland. The competition closes 30 June 2011.

People who enter the competition and are not lucky enough to win are being driven to the Flight Centre website, to capitalise on great Sunshine Coast package deals.

Orion Expedition Cruises Releases 2012 Season Brochure

Orion Expedition Cruises has released an expansive 2012 season brochure of year-round voyages for expedition cruise ships Orion and Orion II, featuring itineraries for 69 voyages to 17 countries and 174 destinations.

Stretching from Antarctica to the Russian Far East the extensive range of path less travelled itineraries incorporate the first full year of voyages for Orion II, as well as Orion, with signature expeditions well off the marine superhighway.

Borneo, Vietnam, Thailand, the Inland Sea of Japan, Russian Far East, China and Micronesia are included in Orion II’s itineraries; while Australia’s Kimberley coast, Arnhem Land, Great Barrier Reef, the Spice Islands, Antarctica and Papua New Guinea feature in Orion’s range of expeditions.

Individual destination summaries by region provide useful reference for potential expedition travellers, revealing the differences between typical mainstream cruising and the rewarding cultural interaction and intellectual stimulation to be had on Orion’s luxury small ship expeditions.

Along with a useful pricing supplement and early booking incentives the brochure includes a DVD depicting life onboard, highlights of destinations and typical cultural, historic and wildlife experiences encountered.

The luxury life onboard is exampled through Orion and Orion II’s range of accommodation (including floor plans for Staterooms and Suites through to Owner and Penthouse Suites) and onboard facilities that include boutique, massage, spa, elevator and lounges – along with Serge Dansereau's award winning cuisine.

2012 voyage highlights:

Orion II’s new sailings feature the islands of Micronesia and themed voyages to Japan with Art of Japan and Culinary Voyage of Japan itineraries. China is included for the first time with expeditions that includes the Yangtze Delta (Kobe to Shanghai) and Shanghai to Tawau (Yangtze, Taiwan, Philippines), while a visit to Java includes the long lost temples of Borobudur.

16 Kimberley Expeditions, all with inclusive Bungle Bungle flight-seeing Orion’s inaugural New Zealand Bay of Islands Voyage of Discovery Orion II’s Voyage of Discovery to the islands of Micronesia 7 voyages to Japan reveal fine art, cuisine and ancient cultures Russian Far East expeditions include rarely visited Cold War hot spots 15 Borneo voyages with various itineraries circumnavigate the island 3 Vietnam Explorer voyages each explore 4 UNESCO World Heritage sites 6 Papua New Guinea expeditions reveal untouched cultures A visit to Java includes the 8th century Buddhist temples of Borobudur 2 inaugural voyages that include China and a trip up the Yangtze River 3 Antarctic voyages to Commonwealth Bay (Mawson’s Hut) and the Ross Sea (Scott and Shackleton’s huts) 2 voyages to Thailandand Cambodia, include the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City and the temples of Angkor Wat

Further information on Orion Expedition Cruises can be obtained by visiting the website

For reservations or to obtain copies of the 2011 or 2012 brochures call Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate) / 0800 444 462 (New Zealand) or see your travel agent.


Additional information

An electronic version of the Orion 2012 brochure can be downloaded from or a printed version mailed directly simply by contacting Orion Expedition Cruises: 61-2 9033 8777 (Sydney callers) 1300 361 012 (regional and interstate), emailing
or through specialist expedition cruise travel agents.

A Divine World of Coffee, Chocolate, Tea and Spice at The Rocks Aroma Festival

Celebrate all things delicious at The Rocks Aroma Festival, where you can go on a one-day global adventure filled with flavour and indulgence in the scenic surrounds of The Rocks.

Australia’s biggest coffee event takes over the historic laneways of The Rocks from 10am–5pm on 31 July, where coffee lovers can sip hot brews for just $2 a cup. There are more than 100 stalls to explore coffee in hand, plenty of free entertainment and all kinds of goodies to indulge in.

Proudly presented by Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority, The Rocks Aroma Festival is one of Sydney’s favourite winter events and a truly decadent day you won’t want to miss!

Try exotic tea blends and chai at the Orient, steaming espresso and European sweets at The Continent, Turkish coffee and baklava at the Middle Eastern Oasis, and all the spiciness you can handle at the Latin Quarter. Not to mention free entertainment around every corner including live music, belly dancing, capoeira, Brazilian samba dancing, whirling dervishes, can-can dancers and more!

Increase your coffee know-how with Specialty Coffee Masterclasses by Toby’s Estate, where you can taste some of the best coffees from all over the world. Don’t miss this unique sensory experience where you can learn about the flavours and aromas of freshly brewed coffee and discover how to evaluate the body, sweetness, acidity and aftertaste of different brews. Sessions run at 10am and 2pm and tickets are $20 from (limited seats).

Wander between Aroma’s four global regions and taste coffee, tea, chocolate and spices from around the world.
The Continent will feature all things European with the best blends from Italy, France and Spain including Il Espresso, Southern Italian Milazzo and Bar Coco. Feel like you’re in the streets of Paris with French music and can-can dancers livening up your morning cuppa. Treat yourself to something European and delicious such as biscotti, gelato, handcrafted chocolates, sweet biscuits, crepes or nougat from the hills of Tuscany.

Soak in the colour and vibrancy of South America at First Fleet Park’s Latin Quarter as you go on a spicy adventure of hot chillies, unique teas and Guatemalan coffee. Indulge in handmade treats from Tejas del Solar with their fusion of fruits and nuts covered in luscious chocolate, or delicious chocolate mousse and rice puddings from Sabor Portugese Mousse. Spice up your Sunday with live Latin beats, capoeira, sexy Brazilian samba dancing and fiery tango performances.

Tantalise your tastebuds at The Orient in Kendall Lane where you can try exotic herbal teas, organic chai and aromatic spices. Stop for a bite of fresh sushi or yum cha with delicious dumplings, dim sim and pork buns on offer. Keep your eyes peeled for the Chinese lion dancers in this lantern-filled alley market.

Be magically whisked away to exotic lands at The Oasis with the taste of sweet baklava, Turkish coffee, Middle Eastern spices, gozleme, kofte, white teas and chai. Feast your eyes on the mesmerising moves of the whirling dervishes, Ferah the Bellydancer and enjoy traditional Arabic music.

Wander into the quaint lane of Nurses Walk to have your tea leaves read and learn what your future holds!

The wonderful Aroma experience continues with The Rocks Markets in Jack Mundey place and along the northern end of George Street.

For more information visit

WHAT: The Rocks Aroma Festival
WHEN: 10am–5pm, Sunday 31 July 2011
WHERE: The Rocks
COST: FREE entry

Sunday 26 June 2011

Introducing the Mystical MUTHI MAYA Forest Pool Villa Resort

Khao Yai, Thailand 

The Ultimate Escape from City Life – Immersed in Nature 

The stunning mountain retreat, MUTHI MAYA Forest Pool Villa Resort, in Khao Yai (Thailand) comprises 64 exquisitely private Forest Pool Villas (164 square meters) each with a 3 x 7 meter pool, large patio, and garden pavilion for ultimate privacy and relaxation.  MUTHI MAYA also includes a private Jack Nicklaus designed 18 hole par 72 championship golf course. 

Set in 800 acres of lush emerald green landscape, the resort borders the UNESCO World Heritage Khao Yai National Park (elevated at 1,328 meters) and enjoys fresh, crisp clean cool mountain air year round, making it perfect for a break from city life.  MUTHI MAYA Forest Pool Villa Resort is a two hour drive north east of Bangkok accessed via dairy farms, wineries and rich agricultural areas. 

Myth – the elevated open-air restaurant and bar is located on the upper level of the lobby, offers panoramic views of the National Park and Golf Course and mountain vistas.  Serving Japanese-Italian fusion cuisine, guests can also dine privately in their Villa poolside cabanas. 

Maya Spa offers a range of relaxing treatments to further enhance the magical Muthi Maya experience, either at the Spa, or in the privacy of guests' Pool Villas. 

Khao Yai offers a variety of day activities including:
  • Night Safari at Khao Yai National park
  • Bird Watching
  • Phimai Historical Park (an Archaeological site)
  • Elephant Trekking
  • Visiting famous wineries
  • Pakchong Night Market
  • Dan Kwian Pottery Village
  • Hiking
MUTHI MAYA Forest Pool Villa Resort offers a unique, memorable and relaxing break in an exquisite setting, opening up a whole new destination and range of experiences.  The problem will be leaving this paradise of nature, but that's what return visits are for!  It's a perfect destination for a regular retreat. 

Rates start from Baht 11,000 (USD 365) and are subject to applicable service charge and Government Taxes.   


Reservations can be made through the hotel's reservations offices direct as follows:  

Tel:     +66 2257 0455-7    Fax:     +66 2257 0459 

Khao Yai
Tel:   +66 4442 6000    Fax:   +66 4492 9888 


Friday 24 June 2011


As the chilly winter weather sets in, it's natural to feel like hibernating under the doona out of the cold and dark. But instead of wasting the season indoors why not pack a bag, grab your loved one and head off for a romantic mini-break in the seaside town of Lorne!

Located just two hours' drive from Melbourne, Lorne is the ideal weekend destination and gateway to Victoria's famous Great Ocean Road.

Fresh sea air and the soothing sound of waves gently crashing against the shore are the perfect remedy for the winter blues. So whether you're enjoying a long lazy breakfast in your luxurious modern apartment at Chatby Lane, or enjoying a relaxing massage together at endota spa, or even donning your thermals and going for a walk up to Teddy's Lookout, at least you're out and about enjoying the spoils of stunning Lorne. 

If you're looking to spoil your loved one with a luxurious mini-break, a stay at the La Perouse B&B is a must. Idyllically positioned a stone's throw from the beach and featuring stunning ocean views, La Perouse has a number of beautifully-restored guestrooms inside the main house, as well as a separate self-contained deluxe cottage complete with a fireplace. So whether you're enjoying a Parisian-style breakfast on the terrace while soaking in the breath-taking views, or wrapped up in a fluffy robe in front of the fireplace, La Perouse has you covered.

Other romantic touches at Around About Lorne studios include the double spa baths and private lounge with gas log fire. Centrally located- a ten minute walk to the main beach, cafes and shops, if you can't find a way to leave the kids behind, Sue and Darren will arrange a babysitter locally!

For something a bit more rustic and out of town, historic Allenvale is a fantastic accommodation option with a nineteenth century timber mill and classic-style cottages positioned next to the babbling St George River and the natural bush backdrop. As with the quaint and secluded Lemonade Creek Cottages, it is the perfect blend of nature and comfort with restored original country charm yet the luxury of modern life, all set in a tranquil natural setting amongst wildflowers, koalas, blue wrens and bower birds.

However if nature's not your thing, there are plenty of shops such as 35 Elephants, Beachouse Gifts and Tastes Lifestyles to peruse, as well as cafés, restaurants and bars to refuel in. For something a little different, head to the Qdos - a unique, contemporary gallery and performance space and take in a bit of culture.  Enjoy a bite to eat in the Qdos Café and really stop to savour the scene.

Of course no seaside escape is complete without a stroll along the beach at sunset while taking in the spectacular views. Take your pick from a number of fabulous restaurants- overlooking the water is the iconic The Grand Pacific Hotel, with a focus on regional produce and serving gorgeous French crepes is The Ovenhouse or set back from the beach in 'old' Lorne is Babalu Bar, which serves up mouth-watering Spanish-inspired dishes made from fresh local produce.

So breathe a big breath of fresh sea air into your lovin' relationship and book a weekend away in Lorne today!

Keep in touch with what's happening all year round in Lorne by visiting the Lorne Business and Tourism Association's (LBTA) website and signing up for the e-newsletter at, join Lorne on Facebook at Love Lorne or follow Lorne on Twitter at


Around About Lorne

Two night weekend stay $ 420 for two people including midday check out on the Sunday, double spa bath, lounge with gas log fire and either a bottle of wine to share in front of the fire or a plunger coffee and some complimentary chocolates. Mention our romantic package and we'll make sure you're treated!

endota spa

Experience your own double room and be treated - start with billabong footbath, followed by a one hour massage and lunch to follow 1.25 hrs $340 per couple (Sun/Public hols $374)


1 night midweek in an ocean view suite at La Perouse with breakfast Parisian style in our cafe & dinner for two people $295

2 nights midweek in an ocean view suite at La Perouse with breakfast Parisian style in our cafe & dinner for two people $465


New indulgences at Peninsula Hot Springs

Massaging falling water pool one of 7 new indulgences at Peninsula Hot Springs

Seven new bathing experiences including a massaging falling water pool and rejuvenating hand and foot baths have been opened at the multi-award winning Peninsula Hot Springs on Melbourne's Mornington Peninsula.

Peninsula Hot Springs, which now has 39 bathing experiences, has invested some $14 million in a magnificent complex which boasts Victoria's only naturally heated mineral water and day spa centre.

The seven new Southern Terrace pools add to existing social Bath House experiences which include mineral spring pools, a cave pool, underground sauna, reflexology walk, hydrotherapy pool and shallow pools and fun barrel baths for children. The Spa Dreaming Centre provides a separate tranquil bathing and luxurious treatment haven for patrons 16 years and older. 

A traditional Turkish steam bath (hamam), the first to be opened in Australia for nearly 100 years, was added late last year. Twice a day special one hour workshops are offered for groups of 4 to 14 to learn the exfoliation, massage and cleansing procedures of the Turkish bath.
Peninsula Hot Springs is open 7.30am – 10pm daily. Winter is the perfect time to enjoy the natural heat and health benefits of mineral waters, which have been used in therapeutic treatments in Europe for more than 600 years. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners are available a-la-carte or in packages making this and ideal option for a half or full day relaxation escape.

Here are two great deals to help enjoy some blissful relaxation at Peninsula Hot Springs:

·         An Escape Package, including two passes to Peninsula Hot Springs, one night's accommodation in a deluxe spa suite at luxurious One Four Nelson in Rye and a cooked breakfast for $285 per couple (normally $315 per couple). One Four Nelson is located right opposite Rye beach, and has 30 stylish suites overlooking a heated pool and spa.

·         A Mornington Peninsula Attractions Pass, which costs only $55 for adults (with more than $80 full retail value) and $40 for children, and includes entry plus bonus offers at Peninsula Hot Springs, Ashcombe Maze and Lavender Gardens, Cape Schanck Lightstation and Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Conservation Park. A 10% discount offer is also included at Sunny Ridge Strawberry Farm, Box Stallion Winery and the Rye Hotel. The pass saves up to 40% on admission and can be purchased at or at any participating attraction.

 Peninsula Hot Springs won the Health and Wellness Award in the 2010 Victorian Tourism Awards, the Best Natural Bathing Experience in the 2010 Australasian Spa Association Awards and is ranked in the world's top five Best Hot Springs by Frommer's Guide.

Thursday 23 June 2011

SAA wins two Skytrax awards at Paris ceremony

South African Airways (SAA) has won two Skytrax awards, presented in Paris yesterday. SAA's Head of Australasia Thevan Krishna said that SAA had outperformed other airlines to win two awards: Best Airline Africa, and Service Excellence Africa.

"This is the ninth year that we have won in the prestigious award Best Airline Africa category and reflects SAA's continued investment in customer service and world-class product serving the African continent," Thevan said.

"The Best Airline Africa title is given to the airline rated the best in the region for all the different types of front-line product and service."

Thevan said the Service Excellence Africa award was won by SAA for the second consecutive year. Judging criteria for this award reflects quality, unrivalled product and unwavering service standards as well as consistency experienced at the airport and on board the aircraft.

"A number of global airlines are increasing their focus on Africa, so winning these awards reflects our continuing position as the best carrier on the continent," Thevan said.

"These awards come when SAA is in the process of refreshing our approach to customer service. This is a key differentiator in the mind of discerning customers and all employees take service extremely seriously to ensure we maintain our status as a quality airline," Thevan said.

In a year in which we see continued pressure on the global aviation sector, we are very proud of these awards which will motivate us to even greater heights," Thevan concluded.

Peru's New Developments in the Amazon, Cusco and Lima

From new luxury riverboats in the Peruvian Amazon to luxury hotels in Lima and Cusco, Peru has a bounty of new products for the more discerning traveller to enjoy, while discovering this diverse South American country.

Start a journey by discovering Peru’s capital city

First Westin in South America opens in Lima

Libertador Hotels, Resorts & Spas, has added another property to its collection with the Westin Lima, which opened in May. This is the first Westin in South America and Libertador’s third new hotel in partnership with Starwood. The 301-room, 30 floor hotel is located in San Isidro, the heart of Lima’s financial and shopping district. There are 31 suites including the 3,261-square-foot Presidential Suite and all rooms offer Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed ® and Heavenly Bath ® as well as WiFi access.

Its Convention Center is the largest in Peru with capacity for up to 1,900 people and capabilities for everything from teleconferences to car shows. The Spa at Westin is the largest in Lima with nearly 20,000 square feet housing 14 specialised treatment rooms, a fully-equipped gym and heated swimming pool. Overseeing the fine dining Maras restaurant is Chef Rafael Piqueras whose resume includes Antica Osteria del Teatro in Italy, and the legendary El Bulli in Spain. There is also a more casual dining restaurant at Market 770, a lobby lounge and cocktail bar.

Atton Hotels to open its first property in Lima

In the second half of 2011 Atton Hotels will open its first property in Lima, the Atton San Isidro. Located in the financial center of San Isidro in Lima, this new hotel is ideal for both business and vacation travellers.

The new and modern nine-story building will have 252 spacious guest rooms, free internet access in rooms, outdoor swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, restaurant, lobby bar and five fully equipped meeting rooms with capacity for 208 people.

Mansion restored to become a luxury boutique property in Lima

Andean Experience is restoring a mansion in the bohemian coastal district of Barranco in Lima to be opened in 2012. The aptly named Hotel Barranco will feature 18 suites, a private Spa and a signature restaurant by Rafael Osterling, one of Peru’s internationally recognised chefs.

The 1914 styled Belle Epoque styled Mansion was a former summer residence for the politically attached Bedoya family during the Leguia Presidency. It complements the style of famed French architect Jean Claude Sahut, who during this time, was commissioned to work on many important buildings in Lima such as the Presidential Palace and Colon Theatre.

The Hotel will be operated by the Andean Experience Company who own and manage Titilaka, a five-star lodge located on private peninsular on the shores of Lake Titicaca in Puno.

Developments in Cusco

New Luxury JW Marriott Hotel Cusco to open in 2012

The luxury 153 room JW Marriott Hotel Cusco will open in 2012 with a customised design built around a colonial church and ancient Inca artefacts found on the site. Located in the heart of Cusco the hotel will include a museum of prominent artefacts, many of which will be preserved in-situ. Elegantly relaxed décor with a distinctly colonial feel will feature throughout the property with a stylish lobby lounge and a restaurant.

All 153 rooms and suites will be equipped with luxurious bedding and sumptuous bathrooms with soaking tub and separate shower, as well as the latest in in-room technology. At an elevation of 11,200 feet above sea level, the JW Cusco will be the first Marriott property to have an in-room supplemental oxygen system to relieve altitude sickness. The hotel will also help guests adjust to the altitude in spa treatment rooms.

Orient-Express to open Palacio Nazarenas, Cusco in 2012

Orient-Express is opening its latest and most ambitious project to date in June 2012, Palacio Nazarenas, a 55 suite hotel in a former palace and convent in Cusco. It will be an all suite hotel, with 16 chica suites, 29 suites, nine grand suites and one Nazarenas suite, many of which have fireplaces and views towards the hillside Inca site of Sacsayhuaman or Cuzco’s cathedral in the Plaza del Armas. All rooms have an oxygen infiltrated ventilation system to aid guests’ altitude acclimatisation. Each spacious bathroom will have under-floor heating and Peruvian travertine marble.

Amenities include complimentary WIFI, iPad for use during stay pre-loaded with Cusco city guides, newspapers, movies and restaurant suggestions, a mobile phone with city wide reception, espresso machine, in-room bar and Bose sound system. It will house Cusco’s first outdoor heated infinity edge swimming pool and an all day dining experience showcasing contemporary Andean cuisine. The indulgent Palacio Nazarenas’ spa will have four single treatment rooms and one double with private hot tub, which surround a patio reception area.

Amazon Experiences

Aqua Expeditions launches new riverboat

The new design-driven luxurious M/V Aria riverboat has joined its sister ship providing visitors with three, four and seven night itineraries to explore Peru's remote Pacaya Samiria National Reserve in the Amazon.

It features 16 specially designed cabins with floor to ceiling windows, a fully air-conditioned top deck as well as the Aqua Expeditions' signature Amazon Grill by award-winning Executive Chef, Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. Its top deck features an observation lounge, an outdoor Jacuzzi and sun deck and it also has an exercise room. To give guests an insight into Peruvian Amazon nature, the crew consists of four world-class nature guides and there is an Amazon Wildlife reference library and air-conditioned multimedia room on board.

Delfin Amazon Cruises refurbishes Delfin II

Delfin Amazon Cruises has two luxury classic designed vessels and refurbished its Delfin II at the end of 2010 to provide fourteen opulent large guest suites. This includes four master suites with 180 degree panoramic windows and ten suites, four of which can be interconnected to accommodate families. Aboard the Delfin II is a dining room on the second deck, an observation deck, bar, entertainment centre, library, and special hammock sun deck.

For more information about Peru, please visit

Gympie Muster: Humble Beginnings Lead to a National Iconic Event

Cutting the Muster for the Optus Gympie Music Muster 30th celebration!

 They say Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was the now iconic Optus Gympie Music Muster. With 2011 marking its 30th birthday, the event has had almost three decades to develop, grow, learn and evolve into what it is today.

Starting from a small celebration hosted by three local brothers as a basic fundraiser, word of it spread until it outgrew its original home to now welcoming over 60,000 ticket holders each year over its six days of music and celebration. It is from these most humble beginnings of a brother musical act coupled with passionate friends that the Optus Gympie Music Muster began and evolved into a 'must-do' on Australia's yearly event calendar!

It all started in 1982 after Gympie based country music trio 'The Webb Brothers', picked up a Golden Guitar for "Who Put The Roo In The Stew?" at the Tamworth Country Music Festival and decided a celebration was called for!

Enlisting the help of the local Apex Club of Gympie, famous for loving a good party, a celebratory fund-raiser was planned and held on the Webb's 100-year old property at Thornside. A ball and dinner on the Saturday night was followed by a selection of acts on the Sunday.

This was essentially the first ever Muster and had all you would expect from a one off concert event that was designed as a trophy win celebration. A Main Stage built out of bush timber and borrowed Queensland Rail tarpaulins, showers were jam tins with holes punched into them and drop-hole toilets sufficed. Drinking water was trucked to the site and patrons could buy a season pass for just $20. All up $9,600 was spent on entertainment (about two-percent of today's budget); a couple of thousand people attended and the club generated a surplus of around $12,000 for charity. The first Muster was deemed a roaring success and so began its journey.

After years of successful deliveries, the event had grown exponentially and the Gympie APEX Club decided that another site was essential along with permanent facilities to be established to ensure the ongoing growth of the event. The site chosen was an area of land owned by the Queensland Forestry Department. It was in 1985 that the Muster was first held at Amamoor Creek State Forest Park.

Fast forward to 2011 and the years since its inception have welcomed international superstars, increased patron attendance, new venues, talent searches, major sponsors, its own fundraising merchandise range, national and international media attention and a legion of Muster fans that return year after year alongside first timers that once initiated become hooked.

An experience and a musical feast of varied style and genres, the event now proudly boasts the biggest stars on its stages and continues to exceed expectation with its three decades of growth that has seen the Optus Gympie Music Muster make rising stars household names and elevated established major acts. Its 30th event will pay tribute to its history and heritage whilst returning to its country roots, its entertainment line-up guaranteeing fans will flock for six days to the site for what will be the biggest line-up the Optus Gympie Music Muster has ever offered. Even the original Muster Ball that started the event in 1982 has been reinstated for its 30th Birthday as a way to honour the history of the event.


Past acts that have shared the spotlight of the Optus Gympie Muster include SLIM DUSTY, TRISHA YEARWOOD, JIMMY BARNES, LEE KERNAGHAN, KASEY CHAMBERS, JOHN WILLIAMSON, TROY-CASSAR-DALEY, GINA JEFFREYS, SHANNON NOLL, MARCIA HINES, ADAM BRAND and BECCY COLE just to name a small selection of the thousands that have made the bill over the past three decades.

Whilst music makes up and takes up the days of the Optus Gympie Music Muster, it is a passion for fundraising and giving that has kept the event unique and inspiring. As Australia's longest running not for profit music festival, The Optus Gympie Music Muster has risen over $14million for charities and community groups across Australia. The Muster's 'Rural Aid' appeal continues with the profits from the dedicated merchandise range including a compilation album created each year increasing the more than $100,000 already raised.

The OPTUS GYMPIE MUSIC MUSTER will be held at Amamoor State Forest, 40km southwest of Gympie from Tuesday 23rd August to Sunday 28th August.  Encompassing ten stages and over one hundred and forty artists, the muster experience is an Australian adventure not to be missed.

Tickets can be purchased online at the OPTUS Gympie Music Muster website or


·         The 2011 Optus Gympie Music Muster will be presented from Tuesday 23rd to Sunday 28th August 2011.
·         2011 marks the 30th birthday of the OPTUS Gympie Music Muster.
·         The Optus Gympie Music Muster attracts over 60,000 fans to its Queensland site each year.
·         Presented over 6 days, the event is set in one of Queensland's most beautiful National State Parks, Amamoor Creek State Park.
·         The site is an easy and picturesque 40km drive from the city of Gympie.
·         Over the past 29 years the Muster has raised over $14m for Charity.  The Optus Gympie Music Muster's major beneficiary for 2011 is the Starlight Children's Foundation.
·         The economic benefit for the Gympie Community is estimated at $4.66m.
·         The economic benefit to the State of QLD is estimated at $6.25m.
·         Over 50 local Community groups are involved in the Muster and work with the Muster's management team and the APEX Club of Gympie in event critical roles.
·         Camping is available on site with a range of style and budget options available.
·         The Optus Gympie Music Muster works to honour the true spirit of Country Australia and the strength and resilience of regional communities.
·         A smorgasbord of diverse programs rich with our country's finest musicians, the event each year showcases award winning international and national artists. With a focus on the country music genre, this is complimented by artists of other genre's that are selected to add to the experiences on offer.
·         The event is family friendly and focused on continuing to provide the event experience as a safe and non-threatening event. With companionable patrons all set to simply enjoy themselves, "there are no strangers at the Muster, only friends you haven't met yet".
·         In 2011, a new children focused program will be introduced called The Kidz Klub (a special area just for kids)
·         In 2011, the following precincts within the event site will be ran: the Main stage (open from the Thursday), Blues Bar (open from the Tuesday), Muster Club (open from the Tuesday), , The Crowbar, The Wine Bar (the place to go to relax, catch up with friends and enjoy a meal, glass of wine or a coffee), Mustadance, The Talent Search, The Kidz Klub area (a special area just for kids – no adults allowed!), The Bundy area and The XXXX Retreat.
·         Whilst contained in a State Park, the event offers its patrons every luxury. Bars, Food Stalls, Barista's and five star camping; there is no need to skimp on quality when patrons make their way to the Amamoor State Park.
·         Artists include international award winners MONTGOMERY GENTRY and DOC WALKER alongside major domestic stars KASEY CHAMBERS, LEE KERNAGHAN, ASH GRUNWALD, JAMES REYNE and BECCY COLE to name but a few.
·         The event invites confirmed or potential 2011 event visitors to question themselves, "Can you Cut the Muster?" with so much on offer, the event is setting the challenge.

·         Tickets on sale now: or or phone: (07) 5482 2099.




Wednesday 22 June 2011

TAUCK EXOTICS - Inspiring Itineraries for 2012

Tauck has just released its inspirational 2012 Exotics itineraries featuring African and Asian journeys to tempt even the most seasoned traveller.

Tauck Exotics are journeys of discovery filled with ancient treasures, unique cultures and unforgettable experiences, weaving throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Tauck's seamlessly guided excursions make it easy to see the sights, offering personalised service, peace of mind, inclusive value and true hospitality.


Prices start from $7,691 per person for 13 days (plus on tour air)

Join Tauck in East Africa's renowned game reserves and national parks for an unforgettable Tanzania and Kenya safari. Observe huge herds roaming the Serengeti, the bird-life of Lake Manyara, the "lost world" of Ngorongoro Crater, and elephants in Amboseli National Park.

Guests will enjoy a hot air balloon ride at dawn over the Masai Mara, one of South Kenya's largest game reserves. Starting the morning with a champagne breakfast in the bush, Tauck will take you close to the native wildlife viewing rescued chimpanzees and protected black rhinos on an excursion to the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.

A three-night stay at the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club will see guests travel in exclusive open-top safari vehicles and enjoy the luxurious tented camps and safari lodges.


Prices Start from $5,444 per person for 16 days (plus on tour air)

For those wishing to explore Southeast Asia, Tauck has an amazing 16 day journey with an itinerary spanning Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Commencing the trip in Vietnam, guests will experience a Cyclo ride amongst wonders and ruins of Hanoi and Hué before spending the evening at a beautiful hotel along the Perfume River. In Ho Chi Minh, Tauck travellers will explore the fascinating 120-mile network of underground passageways, the former Presidential Palace and the Saigon River.

A morning flight takes Tauck guests to Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a two-night stay and a visit to the 12th-Century Khmer temple complex of Angkor Wat. After transferring to Chiang Mai, guests will enjoy three nights at the five-star Four Seasons Resort, flanked with an unforgettable trip to the local tribes and a remarkable Elephant trek.

Finishing the 16 day journey in Bangkok Thailand, guests will enjoy their last three nights at the deluxe Krungthep Wing rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel.


Prices start from $6,959 per person for 12 days (plus on tour air)

South Africa's ultimate safari tour takes travellers on a 12 day adventure across Cape Town to Sabi Sabi private reserve, National Parks, Game Drives and Historical Soweto with a final stop at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Commencing the journey in Cape Town, Tauck travellers will experience a private tour of Robben Island, a destination holding the history of South African freedom fighters including the cell where Nelson Mandela was held for decades. A memorable cable-car ride will follow to Table Mountain to enjoy 360-degree views of Cape Town. A highlight of the safari is Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve home to the 'Big Five' - elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions and leopards; wild dogs, cheetahs and over 300 species of birds can also be spotted here.

The final and most memorable destination in this amazing 12 day safari is the journey to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe where a privately guided bush tour will show you insights about African elephants from a naturalist during a hands-on visit to an elephant sanctuary.

(Note: Prices have been converted from USD to AUD using the indicative rate of 0.99)

For further information on TAUCK Exotics or to book one of the amazing itineraries please contact Travel the World on 1300 804 522 or visit -

Variety is the spice of life! And Four Kitchens has plenty of spice.


Lauren Shockey

Published by Hachette Australia, August 2011, $32.99

Life behind the burner in New York, Hanoi, Tel Aviv and Paris

Out of uni, Lauren Shockey took an entry level job for a PR company that did a lot of work in the food industry. For a food-obsessed young woman it was a way she could combine her love of food with a career her parents approved of. It wasn't what she wanted so she quit the 9-to-5 grind, took out massive loans, and started cooking school. At the French Culinary Institute, Lauren learned to salt food properly, to cook fearlessly over high heat, and to knock back beers like a pro. She also learned that a real culinary education begins once you're actually working in a restaurant. After a somewhat disappointing apprenticeship in the French countryside, Lauren hatched a plan for her dream year: to apprentice in four kitchens around the world.

Starting in her hometown of New York City, where she worked under the famed chef Wylie Dufresne, she then headed to Vietnam with Didier Corlou, then to Israel, and back to France, each setting presenting its own set of challenges, from language barriers to stronger-than-usual resistance to a woman in a professional kitchen.

Lauren Shockey is now a food writer whose articles have appeared in many print and online publications including The Village Voice, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Slate, and The Atlantic Food Channel, among many others. A graduate of The University of Chicago, Lauren also holds a diploma in Classic Culinary Arts from The French Culinary Institute and a Master of Arts in food studies from New York University.

The Newly Renovated Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa in Bali joins Summit Hotels & Resorts


Summit Hotels & Resorts™, a brand of Preferred Hotel Group™ and a collection of more than 150 internationally acclaimed hotels and resorts that celebrate local luxury, is pleased to announce its first member property in Bali, Indonesia – Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa.

Set in a secluded nine hectares of lush tropical and sculpted gardens with 150 metres of white sand beachfront, Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa was the first luxury hotel to grace Bali's southern peninsula. Just 25 minutes from Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport, the hotel was designed around the architectural principles of a Balinese palace, with 382 guestrooms and suites. In 2010, the hotel embarked on an expansive three-phase refurbishment program. The first phase saw the completion of 83 guestrooms, the spa, the main pool and a restaurant. The second phase, to be completed by mid 2011, will include 162 guestrooms. The final phase will be unveiled at the end of 2011.

The resort boasts a wide range of facilities, including three swimming pools, five restaurants and three bars, as well as a comprehensive sports center, watersports facilities, daily activity schedule, and a shopping arcade. Seven banqueting venues – including an open-air amphitheater and the beachfront – can cater for up to 1,000 persons for both MICE events and weddings. Families will find the resort extremely child-friendly with a kids' club, games room, outdoor playground, and children's pool as well as a dedicated family room. The Nusa Dua Spa has been completely rebuilt with 22 new treatments utilizing the island's local and natural ingredients.

"We are thrilled to have representation under our Summit brand for the first time in Bali, which is a very well-established and hugely popular global destination for the leisure and MICE markets," said Mark Simmons, area managing director, Asia of Preferred Hotel Group. "Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa, with its reputation, quality, and location in the prime Nusa Dua area, will be very well received by our clients worldwide."

"With Summit's reputation and experience in handling luxury properties, we know that we're in extremely good company," said Reto Torriani, general manager of the hotel. "And given that its mission is 'Catering to the traveler seeking something more,' we are sure that Summit is the perfect and, of course preferred, partner for us."

About Summit Hotels & Resorts
The Summit sensibility is world-wise with a local point of view. It is a global concierge, multilingual, and multicultural, providing guests in every location with an insider's knowledge of the neighborhood. Ranging from historic urban hotels to exclusive beach resorts, the distinctive hotels and resorts of Summit can be found in many of the world's most enticing destinations. Summit Hotels & Resorts is a member of the Preferred Hotel Group™ family of brands which also includes: Preferred Hotels® & Resorts, Preferred Boutique™, Sterling Hotels™, and Historic Hotels of America®. For reservations and a complete description of the Summit Hotels & Resorts collection, please visit

Summit Hotels & Resorts guests are eligible to enroll in the I Prefer™ Guest Benefit Program, featuring benefits such as early check-in/late check-out, space-available upgrades and more.

About Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa
The five-star Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa is 25 minutes from Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport. The hotel boasts 382 guestrooms and suites across its expansive grounds, along with five restaurants, three bars, three swimming pools, and the award-winning and recently renovated Nusa Dua Spa. With 150 meters of private, white sand beachfront, as well as access to world-class shopping and other attractions, the Nusa Dua Bali Hotel & Spa has been the accommodation of choice for royalty, celebrities, and discerning guests seeking an exclusive and unforgettable vacation experience.

Tuesday 21 June 2011

China a mecca for railroad fans

Rail travel is considered to be a romantic and historical mode of adventure. Yet in many western countries its development has stopped or faded away entirely in favor of air travel. China is a living example of railroad development in the modern era.

Those who are fans of railroads will find much to do in China.

If you are flying in or out of the Pudong international airport in Shanghai then you can ride the Maglev train between the city and the airport. On a test run the train achieved a record speed of 501kph and is routinely run at 430kph during the day. Even if you are not flying out of the airport you can buy a return ticket from the city and make the 8 minute trip in both directions.

From Shanghai you can ride the new high-speed train to Beijing. It makes the trip in 4 hours and 45 minutes traveling at a speed of 300km/hour (180 mph). The business class seats are similar to the same service in an airplane!

Once in Beijing a visit to the Railway Museum is on the itinerary. One of the best historical railway museums in the world, the warehouse holds trains manufactured in many different countries. Some of the trains are possible to board.

You can also ride the subway systems in Beijing and Shanghai, a very practical way to get around and avoid traffic on the surface.

From Beijing a trip to Xi'an on the deluxe soft sleeper train can be a romantic and fun adventure. With your own private 2 bed compartment including a private toilet, you can hide in your cabin and look out the window.

If you really want an epic railway journey, ride the highest train in the world, between Beijing and Lhasa. The journey takes over 50 hours and the train has oxygen outlets so guests can breath easy.

This itinerary can be combined with the usual tourist sights in China. Please consult one of the China travel specialists at The China Guide -

Cunard Announces New Zealand Royal Circumnavigation for Queen Mary 2

The world's most famous ship Queen Mary 2 will sail from Sydney on a history-making 12-night Royal Circumnavigation of New Zealand in March 2013, Cunard Line announced today. 

The roundtrip New Zealand voyage – a first for Cunard – is testament to the growing popularity of cruising in Australia and New Zealand. 

The special itinerary is a highlight of the cruise line's new 2013 world voyage program, which features three Queens, with both Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria visiting Australia.  

During her 104-night world voyage, the 151,400-tonne Queen Mary 2 will call at Cairns, Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide and Fremantle as well as Sydney – the departure point for her historic voyage around New Zealand.   

Priced from $3329* per person, the New Zealand Royal Circumnavigation will see the Cunard flagship visit Auckland, Wellington and the Bay of Islands, sail through the beautiful waters of Milford Sound and make her maiden call to Christchurch. 

Announcing the NZ circumnavigation today, Cunard Line President and Managing Director Peter Shanks said the voyage followed strong bookings for Queen Mary 2's Royal Circumnavigation of Australia in February 2012. 

"It's clear to us from the response we've received for our Australian circumnavigation that Australians and New Zealanders are very keen to cruise on the legendary Queen Mary 2 in their own waters," Mr Shanks said.    

"After cruising around Australia in 2012, we thought we would try something a little different and sail around the beautiful North and South Islands of New Zealand.  New Zealand is renowned for its stunning scenery and interesting ports and we think Australians will love the chance to enjoy it all from the comfort of Queen Mary 2." 

With interest in the New Zealand Royal Circumnavigation expected to be strong, limited bookings for the cruise will open at 8am on Wednesday July 13, with two options available - a 12-night roundtrip voyage from Sydney departing March 7, 2013 or a 19-night New Zealand voyage from Sydney to Fremantle departing the same day.  

Meanwhile Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria's 2013 World Voyages will go on sale at 10pm on Thursday July 14, with pre-registrations available from 5pm, Monday July 4.  All guests who book before December 31, 2011 will be offered discounts and onboard credits, while past guests will enjoy extra savings.  

Queen Mary 2's full world voyage will see her visit four continents in 106 nights with visits to the Mediterranean, Asia, the Middle East and South Africa, as well as overnight stays in Dubai, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Cape Town. Fares for a 15-night cruise from Fremantle to Cape Town start from $3869*. 

Her younger sister Queen Victoria will head west in a 105-night world voyage which will visit North and South Americas, the South Pacific, Asia and the Mediterranean with overnight stays in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney and Dubai.  Fares for a 20-night cruise from San Francisco to Sydney start from $5139*. 

Guests on Queen Elizabeth's Exotic Discoveries voyage, which is already on sale, will spend 91 nights travelling from the UK to New Zealand via America and the South Pacific.   

For more details and bookings call Cunard on 13 24 41 or visit

* Fares are per person twin share and are subject to availability. Conditions apply.

Azura to Visit Australia in 2013 - P&O Cruises Unveils Biggest Ever World Cruise Program

Australia will welcome the largest P&O Cruises World Cruising ship to visit its shores in 2013, when the 3100-passenger Azura sails Down Under as part of the biggest world cruise program ever launched. 

At 115,000-tonnes, the 290-metre long Azura will be one of the largest ships ever to visit Australia and is too tall to fit under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. 

Launched in the UK last year by the Australian-based prima ballerina Darcey Bussell, Azura is the headline act in the 2013 program which also features epic cruises onboard Arcadia, Aurora and Adonia. Azura will be the youngest member of P&O Cruises' seven-ship fleet to visit Australia. 

Announcing details of the 2013 world program today, P&O Cruises Managing Director Carol Marlow said the cruise line would enjoy a 'triple A' summer in Australia with three of the four world cruise ships - Azura, Aurora and Arcadia – collectively making 11 calls to Australian ports during February and March 2013.  

Ms Marlow said the 2013 program would be the largest yet for any cruise line, with the four ships visiting 94 destinations in 52 different countries and covering more than 130,000 nautical miles.  The program represents a 23 per cent increase in world cruise capacity compared to 2012 and comes as the cruise line celebrates 175 years' heritage of cruising. 

In addition to the four full world cruises, 18 line voyages between the UK and Australia or New Zealand are also available on Aurora, Arcadia and Azura.  

Fares on the world voyages start from:
  • $1949* for 13 nights cruising on Azura from Singapore to Melbourne, departing February 10, 2013. The sector is part of Azura's 110-night Grand Odyssey which sails from Southampton on January 7, 2013 and visits the Middle East, India, Australia and South Africa
  • $3519* for 22 nights cruising on Aurora from San Francisco to Sydney, departing January 30, 2013. The cruise comes during Aurora's 106-night World Circumnavigation departing the UK on January 7, 2013 and visiting the US, Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Australia, Thailand, Egypt and India  
  • $4199* for 24 nights cruising from Sydney to San Francisco on Arcadia, departing February 28, 2013. The sector is part of Arcadia's 99-night South America and Pacific Adventure departing Southampton on January 5, 2013 and visiting South America, Tahiti, Fiji, New Zealand and Australia while sailing by Cape Horn, Easter Island and transiting the Panama Canal.
  • $3819* for a 20-night cruise on Adonia from Rio de Janiero to Valparaiso, departing March 1, 2013.  The cruise is part of the ship's 85-night night exploration of South America visiting 17 countries with calls to exotics ports such as Salvador, Buenos Aires, Santiago and Lima as well as the Caribbean.

Ms Marlow said the 2013 program offered great value with early booking discounts of 10 per cent and onboard spending money of up to £2200 per couple available for those who book by December 31, 2011.  

Full world voyages and line voyages will go on sale on at 5pm on Thursday July 14 while sector voyages will go on sale from 5pm on Friday July 15. 

Ms Marlow said Azura would call at Fremantle (February 17, 2013), Adelaide (February 21) and Melbourne (February 23) on her maiden world voyage with an overnight stay in Sydney (February 25-26) before sailing to Brisbane (February 28) and Cairns (March 3). 

"Azura's maiden world cruise visits many ports of call for the first time – including those in Australia – the home of her Godmother Darcey Bussell," Ms Marlow said.  

"Her maiden call into Sydney will be celebrated in true P&O Cruises' style when we hope to reunite Darcey with her ship for the first time since performing her Godmother duties in April 2010." 

Ms Marlow said Azura's maiden world voyage was a classic itinerary featuring some of the most exciting and cultural destinations around the world.  

"The ship itself takes inspiration from around the globe, with an Indian fine dining restaurant, Sindhu, Italian inspired casual restaurants Verona and Venezia, and wines from all over the world selected and served by the glass in The Glass House wine bar.  

"These features combined with her variety of bars, restaurants, dance floors, spa, gym, shops, theatre and library make Azura the perfect ship for travelling the world and many of our passengers will be excited to hear that she will be offering her maiden world cruise so soon after entering service." 

For details of P&O Cruises World Cruising 2013 World Cruises program, see a travel agent, call P&O Cruises on 132 428 or visit  

*Fares are cruise only, per person in a complete twin cabin and include all main meals and entertainment onboard. Subject to availability, conditions apply.

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