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Monthly Archives: December 2018

Dates and sheikhs

Written on December 21, 2018 at 10:45, by

Land of intrigue: Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates. Photo: Mary O’BrienThe air is thick with sand and we can hardly see a thing as we speed out of Abu Dhabi’s gleaming white metropolis. Enjoying the morning cool after landing in a storm the night before, we’re keen to glimpse some local life.
Shanghai night field

We’re being driven by our guide, a rather stern-looking Mohamed al-Ameri, smartly dressed in traditional white kandura and headgear. But looks can be deceiving and Mohamed turns out to have a good sense of humour and a genuine interest in people. He ditched his engineering career to set up a tour company, Tent Tours, and is passionate about showing visitors his country.

First stop is his cousin’s camel farm, where my daughter is very taken with the camel calves. But these aren’t just any camels: they’re hot contestants in camel beauty pageants, which are taken very seriously by the locals.

For the Bedouin, the camel was life itself – transport, food, wealth and survival. Every December there’s a big contest where millions of dollars change hands as camels are judged on their lips, legs and ears. One of the camels, which I must admit exudes a certain charisma, is worth 500,000 dirhams ($130,000), according to Mohamed.

Also central to life in the United Arab Emirates are dates, which are everywhere, from the trays in hotel lobbies to the 33 million date palms lining the streets. Dates are also associated with many religious events. They are the biggest export after oil and the annual Liwa festival is a big deal here. A visit to date farms or Abu Dhabi’s date market is a great experience, and today I’m visiting the Al Foah factory, the largest date company in the world.

Set up by the government in 2005, the factory has the latest processing systems. It also has the largest organic farm in the world – in the nearby Al Ain oasis.

About 17,000 farmers supply dates from July to November. These are sorted, fumigated, graded, and stored or processed before being exported to 40 countries, including Australia. Date Crown is the best-known brand.

Al Ain, near the Oman border, is a popular retreat in summer and well worth a visit. Stroll through its tree-lined paths (look at all those date palms) and marvel at the ancient system of irrigation that is still in use. The Palace Museum gives a real insight into the people. It was the former palace of Sheikh Zayed – the founder of the United Arab Emirates (of which Abu Dhabi is the capital) – and was opened to the public in 2001. Locals seem to have a real fondness for their departed leader and the simple architecture points to a modest, down-to-earth philosophy.

On our way back to our hotel, Mohamed reveals he’s a music fan (the Script is his favourite band). Abu Dhabi is a great place for concerts, he tells us – another insight into a part of the world we’re still discovering.


FLY Etihad Airways fly Melbourne to Abu Dhabi from $2182 return low season.

STAY Eastern Mangroves Hotel, Abu Dhabi, double room specials from $140 a night. See abu-dhabi.anantara上海夜生活m; 97126561000.

EAT Al Sahari, Khalifa Bin Zayed Street, Al Ain, for typical local cuisine; Ingredients, Eastern Mangroves Hotel, Abu Dhabi, for its nightly Emirati banquet created by colourful local personality chef Hussain.

DO Tent Tours, 971554444962. Visit Al Foah and Zadina date shops in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. See

Mary O’Brien was a guest of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa by Anantara.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Go with the flow on the continent

Written on December 21, 2018 at 10:45, by

Illustration: michaelmucci上海夜生活mA deckchair by the pool or croissants at a sidewalk cafe? The strong Aussie dollar and cheap airfares make Europe a hot option for winter getaways.
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If you’re thinking about escaping winter, how does drinking sangria in Spain sound? Or how about island hopping in the Greek Isles?

This could be the year to skip Fiji and take a jaunt to Europe, with airfares low and the Aussie dollar still stretching a long, long way.

I found myself on a recent visit repeatedly saying “Wow, that’s cheap”, with everything from coffee to clothes to be found for less than here in Australia; a sharp contrast to all the times I have gasped in horror upon doing the conversion.

We are heading into the peak season for travel to Europe, yet fares are being advertised for less than $1500 return, putting them below the level of many of the early-bird specials released late last year.

You need to be flexible with dates and locations to pick up the bargains, but they’re definitely out there.

The chief executive of Travelscene American Express, Mike Thompson, says even with the recent dip in the dollar, travel to Europe is cheaper than it has been for a “very, very long time”.

“What may have once been ‘the trip of a lifetime’ has become a reality for many Australians,” Thompson says.

Examples of deals in the market include an eight-day, all-inclusive European river cruise from $2875 a person and a nine-day coach tour with accommodation and most meals from about $1800 a person.

“The strength of the Aussie dollar against the pound and the euro has unlocked some incredible opportunities,” Thompson says.

For independent travellers, the booking website lastminute上海夜生活 has shared its top tips for doing Europe on the cheap, from getting the best flights to finding eateries that don’t break the bank.

Flight bargains

General manager of the website lastminute上海夜生活 Kirsty Labruniy says flexibility is key to picking up a great deal, not just with travel dates, but also with alternative airports.

“I think Australians still have the mindset of going to London and then travelling around but if you start in Amsterdam, or Paris even, they have some of the best specials,” Labruniy says.

Alternative airports often have lower taxes as well as lesser demand, making fare specials more readily available.

Once in Europe, Labruniy says travellers should make the most of cheap flights around the continent but beware of baggage charges.

She also warns travellers to check the location of each airport, as the cost of transfers can negate the savings on the flight.

“Barcelona, for example, has three airports, but only one is near the city. This might still work for you, but it’s worth checking the cost to reach the city centre.”

Timing your trip

While Europe has an overall peak season in July and August, the most expensive times can vary, region to region. The best time to visit Central and Eastern Europe is July and August, with accommodation more expensive in May and September.

Istanbul and Athens are also cheaper in August, as many people are heading to the beach instead.

The Greek islands, however, are busy and expensive in July and August, so it’s better for the bargain hunter to visit in May or June.

Better beds

Lastminute上海夜生活 recommends looking for apartments as an alternative to hotels, especially for those travelling in a group.

European hotels are not only “a little squeezier” than what the average Australian traveller may be used to, but there are considerable savings to be found in doing some self-catering, even if it is only one meal a day.

Labruniy says travellers should also do their research on what events are coming up in their destination. This will enable them to avoid paying premiums on accommodation.

Tours on the cheap

Online information and mobile phone apps have made it much easier for travellers to skip expensive day tours and do their own thing, Labruniy says.

“It’s easier than ever to be an independent traveller,” she says, and recommends looking up lists such as the top 10 things to do in a city or downloading maps for walking tours, so you can take yourself.

“You don’t have to stalk a tour group any more; there are easier ways to be cheap,” she says.

Labruniy says travellers can also research public transport routes online. Often there’s benefit in buying a swipe card or pass for getting around rather than paying per trip.

Eating out

“Avoid restaurants on the main squares,” Labruniy says about finding meals abroad.

“Head down the side streets or try to find out where the locals eat, as that will be the best food without the big prices.”

Labruniy says making savings on tours and other aspects of your trip can give you greater freedom to eat out and experience the local scene.

“You’ve gone all the way to Europe, so you need to splash out on some things,” she says.

[email protected]上海夜生活

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Famous Flyer: Mandy McElhinney

Written on December 21, 2018 at 10:45, by

Mandy McElhinney loves it all, from Africa to Paris, New York and beyond … even if there is a bit of Bali belly and issues with spare tyres to contend with.
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What was your best holiday?

It’s a tie! Paris in summer in 2007 was stunningly beautiful: wandering along the Seine bathed in that infamous light clutching various pastries, I felt like I was living a fairytale. Christmas and New Year in New York in 2009 was also magical for a southern hemispherean: Central Park covered in snow and the city lit up like a Christmas tree brought out the little kid in me.

Best hotel you’ve stayed in?

The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco; a historic hotel built in 1907 and designed by the architect of the extraordinary Hearst Castle. It had so much old-world charm and a Tiki bar that’s been there since 1945. The bandstand floats on an enormous pool in the centre of the room and you sit in wicker chairs enjoying Pacific Rim cuisine, sip drinks with umbrellas and wait for the artificial thunderstorms.

What do you need for a perfect holiday?

Good footwear. Wherever I am, I’m going to be doing a lot of walking and getting lost, because I always think you make the best discoveries when you just set out with a map and discover things along the way.

What do you always take with you on holidays?

Books. Fiction set in the culture I’m visiting and factual guide books. I’m one of those nerds who’s always researching the place I’m visiting. And maps, I love maps! Real maps that you can unfold and put markings on, that will wear away as the holiday goes on, and that you can keep in a box with your photos and retrace your steps years later.

Best piece of travel advice?

Make sure your hire car has a spare wheel before you head off into the wilderness! Recently my sister and I did a road trip from LA to San Francisco through Big Sur national park. The first night we stayed in the park in a yurt, which was wonderful, but at midnight a cyclone hit and it was terrifying. We couldn’t wait to get out of there the next day, so we headed off when it was still storming. There were landslides happening so we ended up driving over a rock and blowing a tyre, which is when we discovered we didn’t have a spare! We had to pay an extraordinary amount of money to get a tow truck to take us all the way out of the national park, so we didn’t really see any of Big Sur.

Where do you want to go next?

Everywhere! I’d love to go back to Africa, Japan is high on the list and I’ve never been to Tasmania. I wouldn’t knock back a yoga retreat in India or a cruise from Saint Petersburg to Moscow. But I think Scandinavia’s at the top of the list – I’d love to see that countryside, the tall trees and the volcanic rock – it’s very evocative and so different to our landscape.

What was your worst holiday?

On my first ever trip overseas when I was 23 I went to Africa for three months. One day in Nairobi I let some locals shine my shoes and gave them money, but then they wanted more and when I said no they pulled a knife on me and said, “You’re going to give us more money, we know where you’re staying”. I gave them the money and kept walking, but from then on I was paranoid I was being targeted. It was quite a wake-up call because I’d been expecting Out of Africa, but of course there were toddlers begging on the street and tribal conflicts.

And your worst experience on holiday?

Waking up one morning violently ill in a beautiful coastal town in Kenya called Tiwi. But it was an interesting insight into privilege, because we’d visited the local community hospital the day before and the lack of facilities and amount of people waiting to be looked after was overwhelming. Then, when I got sick the next day, I was taken to the local five-star hotel, which had this extraordinary blood test lab and hospital facilities in it just for white, wealthy people. They were able to get fluids into me so I eventually recovered, but they never figured out what it was and it took me a couple of months to feel right again.

Worst hotel you’ve stayed in?

Nairobi wins again; the room wasn’t dissimilar to a toilet. It didn’t have any walls but it was the best hotel we could find. The first one we were taken to actually had faeces on the wall. This one was like a dormitory and there were so many bugs crawling around that I didn’t sleep at all. It opened onto a hallway so there were people coming and going and screaming all night. It was like sleeping in an insane asylum.

Biggest packing mistake you’ve ever made?

Using one of those plastic security ties on my luggage, which my mother had bought me. I arrived home from a holiday in the early hours of the morning after a horrendous, long flight and realised I couldn’t get the tag off without scissors, and my keys were in my luggage. It was too early to ring anyone to help me so I just curled up on my front doorstep and slept until I could call a friend.

What do you avoid on holiday?

Organised activities. I’m not much of a tour joiner, I just find they take the fun of discovery out of holidays a bit. I also just like travelling with the people I’m with and I like meeting locals. I don’t necessarily want to hang out with a bunch of Australians.

What do you hate about holidays?

That they cost money; otherwise they’d never have to end.

As told to Nina Karnikowski

Mandy McElhinney plays Rhonda in the infamous Ketut and Rhonda AAMI ads, and recently played Nene King in ABC TV’s Paper Giants: Magazine Wars.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Paradise without the price

Written on December 21, 2018 at 10:45, by

Just coasting: Daydream Island, Whitsundays. Safe swimming at Airlie Beach Lagoon. Photo: Sean Mooney
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Staying at Airlie Beach, Sean Mooney finds no barrier to doing the Whitsundays on a budget.

Close your eyes and imagine an affordable family holiday featuring islands, pools and kids’ clubs.

Chances are you’re thinking about a resort in Bali or Fiji. Now picture such a trip in Australia. I’ll give you a second. Still working on it?Yep, it’s not easy getting that kind of bang for your buck on our shores, but it is possible. Even on the Whitsunday coast, somewhere that many assume to be beyond their budget.

Queensland’s most tourism dependent region has long had a reputation for big boats and bigger bills. Major money comes in from cashed-up resource-sector workers taking a break from the nearby Bowen Basin,which happens to be home to Australia’s largest coal reserve. But there’s another side to the Whitsundays, especially the region’s mainland hub, Airlie Beach.

The seaside town still has its fair share of flash cash at one end of the spectrum and backpackers at the other, but there is a growing space for families who plan on enjoying a little luxury without the big expense.

As I look out over the sea from the terrace spa of our spacious apartment set high in the hills behind Airlie Beach, I can’t help but think the plan for my family of four is working very well.

Pinnacles Resort and Spa sits at the highest point of the very steep and rather exclusive Golden Orchid Drive, so I really do feel on top of the world as I watch a cruise ship glide between Hayman and Double Cone islands. A rain bow fades in and out of vie was sun showers cross the western ranges, while a light breeze ruffles the feathers of a couple of cockatoos hanging out on the terrace. It’s bliss.

But such luxury comes at cost, and that’s where our plan comes in: stay in top-end, self-contained accommodation while keeping the cost down by self-catering and taking advantage of the region’s many free and low-cost activities.

So far we’ve been bushwalking on coastal tracks, swimming at Airlie Beach lagoon and Boathaven Beach (both marine-stinger free), and wandering around the town centre (which should be a lot more pedestrian-friendly when a $20 million renovation is completed by September).None of that cost us a cent. We’ve taken day trips to nearby islands and flown over the region in a light plane. All amazing experiences; not free, of course, but hardly bank breakers.

Our next stop is the Whitsunday Sailing Club for a bit of twilight racing. We’re not watching, we’re taking part. This is something you can do for free every Wednesday afternoon as up to 30 yachts of various shapes and sizes compete in ‘‘round the buoys’’ races. Anyone over the age of five can join a crew, even certified landlubbers like us.

Heather is the skipper of La Quilta, the Moody 45 Deck Saloon that we’ve been assigned to.

The local quilting aficionado (hence the vessel’s name) takes guests out most weeks, as she’s keen to give sailing newbies a taste of life aboard a 14-metre cruising yacht. Today’s all-female crew consists of a pharmacist, a midwife and a theatre nurse from the local hospital.

Captain Heather has us all leaping from one side of the boat to the other as we heel, tack and jib around a triangular course. The day’s conditions are better suited to the smaller boats, and we are last over the line. Not that anyone seems to care; the bubbles and nibbles are soon out as we motor back to the marina. All of us, children included, are made to feel valued and welcome, and large doses of hospitality and good humour make this a holiday highlight.

Our next move may come as a surprise, as we voluntarily leave our apartment and head for a caravan park. But those who’ve stayed at BIG4AdventureWhitsunday Resort will understand. It has been owned by the McKinnon family (three generations thereof, no less) for more than two decades, and it is clear they appreciate the needs of holidaying parents and children.

They have won as wag of awards for their efforts, including the most recent best tourist and caravan park gongs at the Queensland and Australian tourism awards.

To be clear, we have no intention of toning down the luxury aspect of our trip. On top of the resort’s 120 caravan and camping sites, there are 45 self-contained cabins.

We settle in to a three-bedroom pool-view condo, which I’m told is a popular choice for intergenerational family holidays.

With a large, well-appointed kitchen, a barbecue on the balcony and a shopping centre just down the road, self-catering is easy. You can also order food packages ranging from lasagne and salad from nearby Marino’s Deli (highly recommended), to barbecue packs and breakfast hampers to keep you going during the first few days of your stay.

The resort’s piece de resistance is a lagoon-style swimming pool with two water slides, which the kids only leave for meals or games of mini golf.

There are also adventure playgrounds, pedal carts, basketball and tennis courts, an outdoor screen for movie nights, and a large inflatable jumping pillow. It’s basically child heaven. Plus there’s a kids’ club, toddler-time program and varied activity schedules, where regulars such as face painting are joined by special events such as the ‘‘Kids in the Kitchen’’ program, run by past contestants from Junior MasterChef.

Forme, it’s as simple as this: An Airlie Beach apartment is the perfect choice for families with teenagers who can independently enjoy facilities such as gyms and wet-edge pools, and who can stroll to town on their own.

For parents of younger kids, BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort combines a friendly old-school caravan park feel with as much self-contained comfort as you could want. And with plenty of affordable – often free – island, bushland and beach adventures on offer, the rest of the holiday will take care of itself.

Sean Mooney was a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland and Whitsundays Marketing and Development.

Keep costs down by …

Becoming a Marine Debris Removal Program volunteer. Excursions to clean island beaches are organised by Eco Barge Clean Seas. (07) 4946 5198, ecobargecleanseas上海夜生活.au.

Strolling through Airlie Beach community markets, which are on the town’s foreshore every Saturday morning. 0409 273 047,

Hiring a small car ($64 will get you a Honda Jazz for 24 hours) and driving to Cedar Creek Falls or Peter Faust Dam for a picnic and swim — and stopping at Whitsunday Gold Coffee Plantation on the way. (07) 4948 0489, funrentals上海夜生活

Trying the fantastic house-made ice-cream at Fish D’vine Cafe and Rum Bar on Shute Harbour Road in Airlie Beach. The chilli mud crab and mojitos are pretty good, too. (07) 4948 0088, fishdvine上海夜生活

Trip notes

Getting there

Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly daily from Sydney to Great Barrier Reef Airport on Hamilton Island. Fares start from $119 a person, one-way. This option requires a transfer to the mainland by light plane ($79, whitsundayscenicflights上海夜生活 or ferry ($45, cruisewhitsundays上海夜生活m). Both airlines also fly via Brisbane to Whitsunday Coast Airport, which is about 40 kilometres from Airlie Beach (shuttle service available for $18, whitsundaytransit上海夜生活

Staying there

Pinnacles Resort and Spa, 16 Golden Orchid Drive, Airlie Beach. Two-bedroom “seaview” apartment from $295 a night for a family of four. (07) 4948 4800, pinnaclesresort上海夜生活m.

BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort, 25-29 Shute Harbour Road, Airlie Beach. Three-bedroom pool-view condo from $290 a night for a family of four. (07) 4948 5400, adventurewhitsunday上海夜生活

Having fun there

Join the crew on a yacht for Wednesday twilight social racing. Free. (07) 4946 6138, whitsundaysailingclub上海夜生活

Do a day trip to Daydream Island — it’s only 30 minutes by ferry from the mainland (adults $32, children $21, under-4s free. (07) 4946 4662, cruisewhitsundays上海夜生活m). You can feed stingrays, sharks and barramundi at the Living Reef facility, but take your own snorkelling gear and food to avoid island prices. (07) 3259 2350, daydreamisland上海夜生活m.

Take a scenic flight over the islands. It costs $79 a person. It’s an even more justifiable expense if you choose to fly from Hamilton Island to the mainland (after flying from Sydney) via the scenic route over the islands ($109, including road transfer to your accommodation). (07) 5528 4177, whitsundayscenicflights上海夜生活

More information


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Kiwi chalet, Euro vision

Written on December 21, 2018 at 10:45, by

Rachael Oakes-Ash discovers a resort in the land of the long white cloud that’s an oddball tribute to the Euro chalet.
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Tom Dunbar is a man of few words. This Kiwi skiing pro lets his hair do all the talking.

Mention the guy with the big bouffant styling and South Island Cantabrians will nod and say, you must be talking about Tom. You will find Master Dunbar, his hair and his band of merry men, at the bizarrely named Neon Pompom ski chalet.

It’s surrounded by a golf course, on Terrace Downs estate, an hour from Christchurch. The four-bedroom wood and riverstone chalet sits in the foothills of the Southern Alps and boasts mountain peak vistas from almost every room. There’s the comfort of open fires, fine bed linen and en suites with heated floors. Think of it as your private home, only this one comes with staff.

The eccentric Guild family, together with Dunbar, host exclusive groups of skiers and snowboarders in the luxe chalet. There’s Simon Guild, a former Lion Nathan beer marketer-turned-hospitality host at High Peak Station (more on that later). He does the driving and the hosting of Neon Pompom clients.

Then there’s Amelia Guild, actress, artist and foodie who adds the little touches, from a sequinned deer head over the fireplace to retro laminated place mats on the dinner table. Amelia fell in love with Dunbar’s hair and married him to be close to it. As for Dunbar, he provides the ski guiding and instruction. As a former New Zealand free-ski champion and global pro athlete, he is well qualified. Plus he makes a mean martini and tells a good dry joke.

Neon Pompom is based on the European chalet experience, where groups of friends and family book in to the one lodge or chalet and have their own private chef, private ski instructor and private driver to take care of everything. Staff live in a neighbouring chalet so guests have complete privacy and simply wake up to fully cooked breakfasts (Amelia), are driven to the snow (Simon) and guided by qualified instructors (Tom).

We spend our first night dining on home-cooked venison from the Guilds’ own farm, with alcohol-soaked stone fruits and fresh custard to finish, and never-ending glasses of local wine. Simon has promised us a choice of Mount Olympus, Craigieburn and Broken River local club fields on which to point our skis.

Trouble is he didn’t let the weather gods know, so next morning after breakfast we reconvene in the hot tub on the deck, with its views of Mount Hutt. Despite our best efforts, we have neglected to “drink the sky blue” and are tempted to spend the day at our base camp instead of heading for the ski hills.

But our hosts have other plans. We head up the switchback shale road to Mount Olympus. This members-built ski field features a nutcracker rope tow, where skiers lock in to a moving cable by a hinged tool attached by rope to their belt. For first-timers like us, it’s not easy.

The locals heard the Neon Pompom crew was coming and have cleared a patch of frozen pond ice at the top of the first lift. A dress-up box is produced and grown men and women don tutus and tartan and head for a spot of mid-mountain curling. There’s an impromptu ice bar and shots of Scotch to numb the cold.

By the time the local lads bring out the kerosene to set fire to the ice pond for their version of extreme curling, it is thankfully time for us to head back down, skiing by headlamp, for an evening of dinner and dancing.

The beauty of New Zealand skiing is that when the resorts don’t open – and due to wind and weather that happens more often than one would like – there are other adventures to be had. The next day, with resort skiing on wind hold, it is time to meet the real Guilds.

High Peak Station is a working deer farm and hunting tourism operation owned by Simon and Amelia’s parents, James and Anna. Like all good farming families, even ones with a croquet lawn and private lake, hospitality is in their veins. Anna dishes up a feast of home-cooked delights, including fudge, and James proudly shows us his trophy hunting beasts mounted on a wall, surrounded by Amelia’s original artworks.

The only beasts we manage to cull after lunch are some clay pigeons, as we take to the high country in four-wheel-drives and gasp at the snow-laden mountain landscape. High Peak valley has no through roads and is completely private, making us the only folk for miles.

High Peak Station’s 4000 hectares were settled in 1856 and purchased by the Guilds in the early 1970s. Almost half of the station is dedicated to a game estate for horse riding, hunting, mountain biking and four-wheel-drives. The remainder is pastoral farming and the homestead’s landscaped gardens – and guests of Neon Pompom have access to it all.

The question remains – why Neon Pompom? When entering the Neon Pompom chalet we are confronted by Neon Leon, the patron of the chalet. The perfectly coiffed store mannequin is not dissimilar to Master Dunbar in the hair stakes. Dressed in retro neon ski gear and bright beanie with regulatory pompom, Leon doesn’t say much either. It must be a Kiwi thing.

Heaven and heli

Diehard skiers and snowboarders know that heli-skiing is the holy grail of snow sports but it doesn’t come cheap.

A week’s worth of ski passes will get you a four- to five-run heli-ski day in New Zealand, and if you want a multi-day experience in a remote lodge in Canada, prepare to hand over thousands. And in Alaska? Unless you are happy to mortgage your house, think again.

One can only dream, and New Zealand’s Southern Lakes Heli Ski has taken that dream even further this winter. Guests on multi-day heli-ski safaris can choose to bed down in a swanky en suite cabin on the private-chartered 24-metre Pacific Jemm on Queenstown’s Lake Wakatipu. Wake up each morning to a different remote mooring with stunning mountain views and prepare to board your waiting chopper to take you to heli-ski heaven. Return by chopper at the end of the day for canapes and gourmet dinners served by a private chef.

Expect to pay $7500 a person for five nights’ heli-skiing while staying on-board the Pacific Jemm and two nights at the Hilton Queenstown.

More information

southernlakesheliski上海夜生活.nz, pacificjemm上海夜生活.nz.

Trip notes

Getting there

Air New Zealand flies from Sydney to Christchurch daily. 13 24 76, airnewzealand上海夜生活

Neon Pompom is an hour’s drive from Christchurch; transfers are included in accommodation rates.

Staying there

From $NZ1395 ($1163) a person for three nights, for exclusive use of the chalet for six to eight people, including all meals, beverages and two days’ skiing.

More information


The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Twenty reasons to visit Cairns

Written on December 4, 2018 at 00:40, by

Tourists swim in the saltwater lagoon at Cairns Esplanade. Photo: Glenn Hunt Snorkellers on the Great Barrier Reef.
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Paradise: Palm Cove. Photo: Robert Rough

1. Winter sunshine

As the southern half of the country shivers and sniffles through the winter months, far north Queensland basks in glorious sunshine and light tropical breezes. Day after 30-degree day and sweet-smelling balmy night make this part of Australia a winter getaway par excellence. Think perfect beach days, long lunches in shorts and sun frocks, and relaxed evenings nursing drinks with umbrellas.

2. Esplanade waterfront

The Cairns Esplanade is bordered by the city centre and the Coral Sea and covers 12 hectares of public open space. The jewel in the crown is the 4800-square-metre saltwater lagoon pool with sandy edges and shallow areas for the youngsters. The precinct also includes cafes, restaurants and bars, a huge skate park, beach volleyball courts and fitness equipment. The nearby Muddy’s Playground has wet and dry play equipment, a flying fox, rope bridge, slides, playhouses, puzzle games and barbecue areas. cairnsesplanade上海夜生活

3. Kuranda Scenic Railway and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway

Take the railway to the hill-top village of Kuranda and the Skyrail down to enjoy two distinct experiences of the heritage-listed rainforest. The railway is an engineering miracle and winds through rugged mountains, tunnels and across skinny bridges in lovely timber carriages. The Skyrail gondolas slide 7½ kilometres across the canopy and down into the forest. Jump on and off at the two mid-stations along the way for a closer look, to breathe in the rainforest and to check out the breathtaking views of Barron Gorge. ksr上海夜生活; skyrail上海夜生活

4. Kuranda

The village in the rainforest attracts and inspires artists and artisans, and the local galleries and markets are surprising and unique. Wander through the town and surrounding trails, flitter through the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, meet feathered friends at Birdworld and get a cuddle at Koala Gardens. Plus crocs and other reptiles, a life-size allosaurus, gemstones and fossils. Stay overnight in camping areas, motels, cabins or B&Bs and experience the matchless sights and sounds of the nocturnal rainforest. kuranda上海夜生活.

5. Beach Shack, Kewarra Beach Resort

About five sun-soaked beaches up the coast from Cairns is the mainly residential Kewarra beach, home to the Beach Shack. Part of the Kewarra Beach Resort, the Bali-esque shack is a local favourite. Set on the sand among waving palms, it is the perfect place for morning coffee, an ice-cream or a lazy afternoon tipple. Friday night is pizza night. The best way to get there is by a long, thirst-building walk along the powdery sand. If you can’t relax here, see your healthcare professional. kewarra上海夜生活m.

6. Cairns ZOOm and Wildlife Dome

Located above the mid-city Reef Hotel Casino, this is a sure bet. Under a 20-metre-high glass dome, rope courses of varying difficulty and height challenge visitors and “ties” the experience to interactions with indigenous birds, wallabies, kookaburras, frogs, turtles, pythons, crocodiles and lizards. There’s also an outer dome climb, a 13-metre free-fall PowerJump and four flying fox ziplines, including one that glides over Goliath, the four-metre resident croc. cairnszoom上海夜生活

7. Cairns Botanic Gardens and Tanks Arts Centre

Wander the Gondwanan Heritage Garden and follow the 415-million-year evolution of the distinctive Australian wet tropics flora, just one of the 13 exhibits in the 38-hectare gardens that also showcases orchids, ferns, mangroves and Aboriginal plant use. Nature merges with culture at the historic Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns’ premier contemporary arts venue. Named for the three large World War II fuel tanks that comprise the centre, Tanks is a funky venue for art shows, music recitals and theatre.; tanksartscentre上海夜生活m.

8. Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park

Far north Queensland is a rich font of past and present Aboriginal culture and Tjapukai does heritage with style. Located at the foot of the Skyrail at Caravonica Lakes, Tjapukai celebrates the indigenous people of the rainforest by day and by night. Play a didgeridoo, learn about bush tucker and enjoy traditional dance and storytelling. At night you’ll see the Quinkan spirit performance and fire-making and join a corroboree. Dinner and drinks at the Boomerang Restaurant and art and artefacts at the gallery and gift shop. tjapukai上海夜生活

9. Markets

Nibble on mango and other fresh produce picked from local farms that morning or pick up some locally grown coffee. Rusty’s Markets in the city centre runs from Friday to Sunday, with more than 180 stalls offering luscious tropical fruit, vegetables, flowers, bric-a-brac, deli goods and food stalls. rustysmarkets上海夜生活 Jonsson’s Farm Market in Stratford presents similar fare every day. jonssonsfarmmarket上海夜生活 The Esplanade Markets operate on Saturdays with a more arty-crafty focus, including Aussie perfume, bottle clocks, homemade soaps, natural seed jewellery, sarongs and locally made skincare products. cairnsesplanade上海夜生活

10. Fine dining

Cairns has some of the world’s best seafood and a cornucopia of exotic tropical ingredients. Salt House bar and restaurant at Marina Point has a wood-fired grill that adds a smoky flavour to steak, fish and crustaceans. Linga Longa at Edge Hill specialises in Greek and South African cuisine and was named best new restaurant in far north Queensland in 2011. The Asian- and Mediterranean-inspired menu at Nu Nu Restaurant at Palm Cove is an institution. salthouse上海夜生活; nunu上海夜生活

11. Palm Cove

Cairns’ northernmost beach is home to luxury accommodation, superb restaurants and a peaceful sophistication. Just 25 minutes north of Cairns, this golden tropical strip is centred on an esplanade lined with waving, scented melaleuca trees and features boutiques, galleries and hair and beauty salons. Accommodation options range from top-end hotels to apartments to rental holiday homes. Reef, rainforest, golf, fishing, water sports and adventure excursions are all available here. tourismpalmcove上海夜生活m.

12. Angsana Resort and Spa

This five-star wellness and relaxation resort is a Palm Cove star. Listen to the Coral Sea waves wash onto the shore and share a Duet treatment, which features a 30-minute honey sesame body polish, 60-minute conditioning massage and 60-minute facial for her and a 30-minute Indo spice body polish, 90-minute body massage and 30-minute face massage for him. angsana上海夜生活m.

13. L’Unico at Trinity Beach

Chill out in the sunshine at this buzzy Italian trattoria right on the beach about 20 kilometres north of Cairns. Linger over an antipasti plate or indulge in a mouth-watering wood-fired pizza as you gaze out over the ocean. If seafood is more to your liking, you can’t go past the Moreton Bay bugs in white wine garlic. Set the children loose on the sand before refuelling them with something from the bambini menu. lunico上海夜生活

14. Great Barrier Reef

Cairns is the main gateway to our greatest national treasure. Scuba dive, snorkel or view the colourful majesty from a glass-bottom boat. Charters and ferries operate daily and there are many ways to experience the grandeur of the world’s biggest coral reef, including sailing, motorboat and even a skydive. New options include a stroll along the sea floor through the gardens of coral around Green Island (seawalker上海夜生活 and a yellow submarine ride around Fitzroy Island (gbrsubs上海夜生活

15. AJ Hackett Bungy

Hackett jumped into the headlines when he bungyed from the Eiffel Tower in 1987 and these days his 50-metre platform in the rainforest attracts thrill-seekers and spectators. There’s also a giant jungle swing – a 45-metre-high, 120km/h thrill ride for one, two or three at a time. Sunday afternoon “sessions” include bands and wood-fired pizzas. AJs was voted Queensland’s best backpacker activity in 2011 and 2012 and offers a photo-video to treasure. ajhackett上海夜生活m.

16. Paradise Palms Resort & Country Club

Lush fairways and verdant greens grow easily in the tropics and Paradise Palms is the best course in the area. Consistently highly rated, the course features 94 bunkers and six lakes, and is both challenging and spectacular. The resort has 96 accommodation suites, a restaurant and bar, and caters well to parents and children. Also on-site is the 2000-square-metre Pelicans in Paradise adventure park, comprising a 25-metre lap pool, toddlers’ pool, adventure playground (including a 21-metre jumping pillow) and an 18-hole mini-golf course. paradisepalms上海夜生活

17. Whitfield House

Cairns has a wide choice of places to lay your head, from backpacker to five-star hotels and everything in between. Two options offering distinctive and tranquil high-end experiences are the Reef House Boutique Resort and Spa at Palm Cove and Whitfield House Luxury Retreat at Edge Hill near the city, adjacent to the Botanic Gardens. Reef House has a luxury spa, yoga, three pools and a superb restaurant while Whitfield House has private spa facilities and marble bathrooms in every suite and will arrange an amateur ornithologist to guide you through the surrounding rainforest. reefhouse上海夜生活; whitfieldhousecairns上海夜生活

18. Cairns Festival

The city and thousands of visitors will sing, dance, create and play for nine days from August 24 to September 1 at the annual knees-up. The theme this year is “celebrating paradise” and will open with the popular grand parade and fireworks on August 24 plus jazz performances in the Botanic Gardens, a chalk art competition along the Esplanade, inflatable crocodile races across the lagoon and a lot more. Escape the southern winter for some frivolous tropical fun.

19. Day trips

The Great Barrier Reef, Atherton Tablelands and endless rainforest make Cairns the ideal base for life-affirming adventures. Download the free tropical north Queensland mobile app and explore the possibilities of the Daintree National Park, Cape Tribulation, Gulf Savannah, Mission Beach and Cassowary Coast, Cooktown and Cape York. In particular, check out Jungle Surfing, Flames in the Forest, Undara Lava Tubes, Chillagoe Caves, Billy Tea Bush Safaris and the Mossman Gorge Centre.

20. Port Douglas

A spectacular one-hour coastal drive north of Cairns, “Port” combines small-town intimacy with sophisticated fine dining and quality accommodation. Wander through the village shops, galleries, historic buildings and the seaside Sunday market. Hire a sun lounge and umbrella and spend a day at the pristine, palm-fringed and patrolled Four Mile beach. Although it’s only a five-minute walk from central Macrossan Street, there are no buildings in sight. Children can play with the local small crabs, frolic in the water and chill with an ice-cream.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Be an in-betweener

Written on December 4, 2018 at 00:40, by

Saffire Freycinet, Coles Bay, Tasmania. Celebrity Solstice cruise ship.
Shanghai night field

If you love sea days rather than visiting a port every day, have time to take a cruise of 15 or more days and are looking for a bargain, a repositioning cruise could be just the thing.

Many ships cruise in the summer in different regions around the world, so they have to be repositioned as one summer ends and another begins. This necessitates a one-way cruise from one country or continent to another, which means the ships are harder to fill – so fares are often cheaper on a per-day cost than for regular cruises.

When the weather cools down in the Mediterranean autumn (usually October), ships start heading across the Atlantic to “winter” in the Caribbean; and when European spring comes around again (March, April), they cross back.

As more cruise lines are sending ships to India, Asia and Australasia, an increasingly popular repositioning route is from Europe through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea at the end of the Mediterranean summer.

Cruise lines repositioning ships from the US to Australia on the transpacific route for the 2013-14 season include Celebrity Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises. Most sail in October from Honolulu, Vancouver or a Californian port to Australia’s east coast.

An 18-night transpacific Hawaii-to-Sydney voyage on-board Celebrity Solstice (from includes a one-way flight to Hawaii from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane plus a couple of nights’ accommodation in the Hilton Waikiki Beach.

Port calls on this itinerary include Maui, Tahiti, Auckland and Bay of Islands; however, with 12 out of 18 days of the cruise at sea, it might be worth forking out the extra for a balcony state room to really enjoy the ocean-going experience.

Package of the week is offering an 18-night cruise/stay/fly package from Sydney to Shanghai on P&O Cruises’ (Britain) Aurora, departing on February 16, 2014. Ports of call include Brisbane, the Whitsundays and Manila.

Priced from $3399 a person, twin share, the package includes airfares from Shanghai to Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane, the 15-night cruise, and accommodation and sightseeing in Shanghai. 1300 369 848,

Cruise news

• Diamond Princess will operate two 28-night circumnavigation cruises of Australia, departing Sydney in November 2014 and February 2015. The 2670-passenger ship will visit all Australian capital cities as well as Airlie Beach, Port Douglas and Bunbury, and will also call in to Bali.

• In 2014 and 2015, Carnival Cruise Lines in Australia is doubling the number of its short cruises and will be taking Carnival Spirit to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup. Spirit’s sister ship, Carnival Legend, arrives in Sydney in September 2014.

• At the same time that Royal Caribbean Cruises had to cancel five cruises on Grandeur of the Seas after a fire, it announced it had signed a contract with shipyard Meyer Werft to begin building its third Quantum-class ship. It is scheduled for delivery in 2016.

Shipshape: Orion

LAUNCHED 2003  PASSENGERS 106 REGULAR HAUNTS  Australia/New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Borneo, Antarctica BEST FOR  Adventurous couples, singles, families with older children THE DETAILS The 10-night ‘‘Camp Leakey — Faces in the Forest’’ voyage from Bali to Singapore, via the Camp Leakey orang-utan sanctuary in Borneo, departs on September 28, 2014. Fares from $8420. 1300 361 012, orionexpeditions上海夜生活m.

1. Orion was bought by Lindblad Expeditions in March and will be relaunched as National Geographic Orion in March 2014, after going into dry dock. The ship will be equipped  with new kayaks and a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) reaching depths of 330 metres, as well as snorkelling and scuba-diving gear.

2. Accommodation ranges from suites with French balconies to ocean-view staterooms and solo suites. All have marble bathrooms, flat-screen TVs, DVD/CD player, wi-fi and a mini refrigerator.

3. Dining is a highlight —  the menus are by Serge Dansereau of Bathers’ Pavilion fame and there’s an extensive wine list — but alcoholic drinks are not included in yourfare.

4. Highly qualified expedition leaders give excellent, in-depth lectures on board and when the ship is relaunched, National Geographic photographers will accompany most cruises.

5. After a tough day’s exploring, you can indulge in a variety of treatments in the spa. And if you need extra kit, the on-board boutique stocks clothing and equipment by Ship to Shore Traveler, a company that outfits professional expeditions.

Stop watch: Brisbane

Need to know Brisbane’s Portside Wharf cruise terminal  in Hamilton is about five kilometres from the city centre, on the Brisbane River. It is Pacific Dawn’s home port and the ship sails out of Brisbane year-round. During the October-April cruise season, most major cruise lines call in here.

Do not miss Board a CityCat from the cruise terminal to get your bearings — the trip along the meandering Brisbane River takes you through the city’s main ‘‘urban villages’’. The city centre is compact and easy to get around on foot; visit the recently refurbished 1920s City Hall, which houses the new Museum of Brisbane. Just across the river in the vibrant South Bank district you’ll find GOMA (the Gallery of Modern Art) as well as numerous waterfront bars and restaurants. As Queensland’s capital, Brisbane hosts dozens of festivals and events. visitbrisbane上海夜生活


Do I get a refund if a river cruise is stopped because the rivers are too high or low? – R. Ellis, Balgowlah Heights.

According to a spokesman at Avalon Waterways, cruise companies’ terms and conditions clearly state  they will not provide refunds for circumstances beyond their control, such as an ‘‘act of god’’ or ‘‘forcemajeure’’.It is worth bearing in mind that if water levels are too high because of excessive rainfall, some ships can’t fit under the bridges; and if levels are low, ships with a deep draft can be affected.‘‘If weather disrupts a cruise, we will always do our best to deliver the holiday itinerary to our passengers,’’ the spokesman says.  ‘‘For instance, we may use the ship as a base and organise transfers by road to the various destinations.’’ Bottom line: read the fine print.


Offer of the week

Cruise 1st Can you afford not to go? This eight-night Sydney-Brisbane-Sydney cruise on Radiance of the Seas departs on January 19, 2014, and calls at Newcastle and Airlie Beach. From $881 a person (website bookings). 1800 331 506, www.cruise1st上海夜生活


Clean Cruising Book quickly to join P&O Cruises’ new PNG itinerary on Pacific Dawn, departing Brisbane on September 10, 2014, and receive $200 on-board cabin credit. 1800 121 187, cleancruising上海夜生活

Creative Cruising Visit 10 ports in 12 days on Norwegian Jade’s Western Mediterranean (Rome round trip). Departs on March 22, 2014, fares from $1359. 1300 362 599, creativecruising上海夜生活

Uniworld  Save $400 to $600 a couple on 2013 Europe holiday season river cruises when you make a deposit at the time of booking. Valid until June 28.  uniworldcruises上海夜生活 or contact your travel agent.

[email protected]上海夜生活m

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Gothic charm and grandeur

Written on December 4, 2018 at 00:40, by

“Cruising out of Venice on our first cruise was pretty special, but we soon realised that every day was going to offer something incredible — it was icons all the way.
Shanghai night field

“Dubrovnik was our first stop and one of the highlights of the cruise for me.

“We opted for a full-day tour and were picked up and taken into the old part of Dubrovnik, which is a walled city.

“We did a tour of the city’s Franciscan monastery, which is located just inside the old town’s Gothic Pile Gate and has what is said to be the oldest pharmacy in Europe, operating since 1317.

“The pharmacy looks out onto a cloister with a lovely garden, and that’s really worth seeing.

“We then walked down the Stradun, which is the main pedestrian walkway through the city and is lined with cafes and shops [with] little narrow streets going off to the sides.

“We did a tour of the 15th-century Rector’s Palace, which is very elaborate and has great views from the upstairs windows. Then had some free time to explore.

“On our way out of Dubrovnik, the bus stopped at a lookout and we had a fantastic view back down onto the orange-tiled roofs of the city, largely unchanged since mediaeval days.

“We were then driven to an old mill that has been turned into a restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch under the trees, with the sound of the flowing water in the background. The river has been diverted to run through the mill and the old wooden wheels are still turning.

“The staff were all dressed in national costume and we had a traditional Croatian lunch.

“After lunch we went on to Cavtat, which is a town further along the coastline.

“I’d never heard of it but I read that it was a very glamorous holiday spot back in the 1920s and ’30s.

“Cavtat is a beautiful seaside resort with expensive yachts and luxury cars everywhere – you could almost be in Monaco.

“The harbour is lined with restaurants and the water is so clear you can see the bottom.

“Once I’d seen it, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t known about it.”

Value for money?

Princess Cruises’ Best of Dubrovnik and Cavtat excursion costs from $155 a person, including lunch.

“Shore excursions are not cheap in Europe but oh boy, are they worth it,” Pitman says.

“We started out thinking we’d do half-day tours but then we looked at what was on offer and decided that we needed more time, rather than a quick in-and-out tour.

“You don’t want to miss out on something that everyone else comes back raving about.”

WHO Gary Pitman, of Adelaide, on his first cruise.

WHAT A full-day tour of Dubrovnik, Croatia, on the Adriatic coastline.

WHERE Dubrovnik’s Old Town, a World Heritage-listed site.

THE SHIP Gary cruised with his wife Lesley and three other couples on Star Princess (princess上海夜生活m), for 14 nights from Venice to Rome, via Croatia, Greece and Turkey.

As told to Jane E. Fraser

Have you done an interesting shore excursion? Drop us a line at [email protected]上海夜生活

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

From bula to bonjour

Written on December 4, 2018 at 00:40, by

Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa, Denarau Island, Fiji.This Fijian resort is going Gallic in the name of fine cuisine, writes Caroline Gladstone.
Shanghai night field

Croque monsieur and pate maison are not exactly staples on the menus of Fiji, where holidaymakers are more likely to find mango and coral trout, but they herald a new French influence at the Sofitel Fiji.

 Jean-Marc Ruzzene, who arrived in April, is the resort’s first French executive chef and he wants to bring more of the tastes of Paris – such as the genuine buttered French croissant – to the casual eateries, fusing the French flair for garlic and cream with the local produce grown on the resort’s own farm.

The fine-dining V Restaurant will use imported delicacies such as truffles, French vanilla bean and brandy to add extra oomph to its offerings. Ruzzene says this mix of ingredients and French classical techniques is all about “dispelling those old cliches of bad Fijian dining”.

Hailing from south-west France, Ruzzene learnt his skills at renowned three-star Michelin establishment Yves Thuries before working in fine restaurants in France, Germany and London. He moved to Brisbane nine years ago, where the highlight of his Australian career was a stint at Queensland’s Government House cooking for the governor.

In what he is calling a French revolution, Ruzzene says he will fine-tune the menus and experience to present a “new era of world-class dining”- across all the dining outlets – V, the cute and casual La Parisienne cafe, the all-day waterfront Salt restaurant, and the buffet restaurant, Lagoon.

During my stay I dine at three of the four and can give the thumbs up to V’s entree of fresh crab and prawn dumplings scented with kaffir lime and my main course, Pacific mahi mahi (a local fish) grilled with a parmesan and caper crust.

And when I pull up a bar stool at Salt on my first night and order two entrees – the wonderful eggplant salad and a grilled calamari – I overhear a couple who have come from the resort next door to buy a takeaway pizza from Salt as they swear it’s the best.

Items that will grace the Sofitel’s menu include Nadi Bay prawns flamed with French brandy and garlic and dill-seared paka paka snapper (a type of pink snapper) and mango and peach samosa, and Fiji vanilla bean ice-cream and bitter-sweet chocolate.

Ruzzene’s arrival comes just months after the resort finished cleaning up after December’s devastating Cyclone Evan. Only the lush grounds, the hundreds of coconut trees and the beach were affected by the cyclone.

However, the clean-up has delayed the hotel’s planned renovation, which is expected to get under way later this year. It will include upgrades to the majority of the 296 rooms.

I have found the new luxury rooms, a collection of 10 rooms restyled in mid-2012, exude a subtle blend of the funky and the Fijian. Designed by Sydney-based The Carmody Group, they sit between the top-level suites and the superior rooms and have stitched leather bed heads, fresh furniture including corner sofas, timber and polished Fijian shell writing desks, and colonial-style shutters.

The Sofitel Fiji is one of seven international resorts at Denarau Island, an upscale tourist enclave that also includes private villas, a marina and port, which was fashioned from a mangrove swamp on the west coast of the main island of Viti Levu. Those with a bit of cash to splurge tend to stay at Denarau for a few days at the beginning or end of a Fiji holiday.

While some quip that the rarefied air of the enclave, and the nearby port with its Hard Rock Cafe, are “plastic Fiji”, there is no doubting that Australians, particularly families and wedding couples, love it.

During my stay, the Sofitel is nigh-on full and from my balcony I watch one of the two weddings that take place that day in the charming little chapel by the sea. Another seven are scheduled to be held over the week.

Many Aussies, who make up 80 per cent of the guests, spend their entire holiday at the property, venturing out for a bit of shopping or taking tours to zip over rivers and explore caves.

It is a cultural microcosm and a chance to bone up on Fijian folklore and life and pick up a bit of the language and knowledge before venturing out into the “real world”.

The hotel has a full range of activities, from weaving, pottery, wood-carving and learning to sing the emotional farewell song Isa Lei, mixed with a dash of afternoon sport and evening entertainment.

Nothing could be more Fijian (apart from kava drinking) than rugby, and that takes place in the afternoon on the beach.

Every evening one of the hunky “warriors” beats the lali (drum) as another runs through the resort lighting torches, often with a posse of children in pursuit, and on selected nights there’s fire dancing on the beach and a Fijian feast night when the lovo (food cooked underground) is served and dancing and kava drinking are on the menu.

All this activity winds down on a Sunday at a non-denominational church service at the chapel at the leisurely hour of 11am, when the staff sing heavenly harmonies in English and Fijian.

And for those who want to savour the fresh ingredients served at V, there’s a tour of the resort farm every Thursday.

Caroline Gladstone travelled courtesy of Captain Cook Cruises Fiji and Sofitel.

Drag yourself away: great day tours

The Sigatoka River Safari is a hair-raising jet boat ride, with quite a few 360-degree airborne spins. The boat whooshes past mountains and farmland on its way to a village for kava, a meke (concert) and lunch. sigatokariver上海夜生活m.

The Off Road Cave Safari is a fun half-day aboard an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) that bumps over rough roads through the jungle to Naihehe Cave. Wearing helmet lights, folks visit three dark chambers where unlucky captives were cooked and eaten by Fijian warriors back in the cannibal days. offroadfiji上海夜生活m.

A cruise on the white-sailed tall ship Ra Marama to Tivua Island in the Mamanuca group. It includes snorkelling and glass-bottom boat rides, lunch, morning and afternoon teas, beer/wine/soft drinks, a kava ceremony and Fijian entertainment. captaincook上海夜生活

Trip notes

Getting there

Virgin Australia flies direct to Fiji daily from Sydney. Return fares for this current high season are from $772. virginaustralia上海夜生活m.

Staying there

Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa is about 20 minutes south of Nadi Airport. The hotel is set on 10 hectares of beachfront and gardens and has 296 rooms and suites. Rooms from $F449 ($258) a night. sofitel上海夜生活m.

Touring there

To explore Denarau Island, hop on the Bula Bus that calls at all the resorts and the port/marina shopping centre for $F8 a day; or do as the locals do and catch the West Bus, between the resort and the port or travel into Nadi Town, for just $F1.50.

More information

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.

Pampering under the pines

Written on December 4, 2018 at 00:40, by

Serenity: Cemetery Bay, Kingston. The Tin Sheds at Norfolk Island.
Shanghai night field

Amy Cooper revels in the paradox of catering at a place called ‘Tin Sheds’, Norfolk Island’s first five-star accommodation.

I caress the manifold utensils. I ogle the shiny pots. I purr over the pans and the glassware.

 I play with the remote controls that command things to open and close. The kitchen at Apartment One at the Tin Sheds is, simply, a symphony of design and gadgetry and I am already seduced.

It’s even more enticing than the super king-size bed or the hot tub with a view. The fridge and freezer are hidden in drawers and can swap identities at the touch of a button. There’s even a top-of-the-range Nespresso coffee machine, a dishwasher with a high IQ and so many implements that I lose count somewhere between cheese grater and cocktail shaker.

This kitchen is a cook’s dream. But here’s the best part: you actually don’t need to use it. Like me, you can choose to marvel at its assets, then sink into a leather La-Z-Boy armchair and watch an accomplished chef come in and rustle up a feast for you.

The Tin Sheds, Norfolk Island’s first five-star accommodation, are technically self-catering. But if that thought makes you shudder, fret not. No finger need be lifted here. The three apartments, opened just six weeks ago, are designed to anticipate your every need, and any remaining wishes can be granted by an attentive but discreet manager.

Apartment One is 118 square metres of intuitive high-tech. More buttons operate the curtains and conjure a 25-inch flat-screen TV out of the bed base. A concealed laundry contains a washing machine with programs for every conceivable grime situation. The new Dyson vacuum cleaner is sweetly superfluous, considering your apartment is serviced daily – but if domestic goddess fantasies light your fire, the toys are all here.

All three apartments have private outdoor spaces and Apartment One’s is a lovely garden with a half-moon-shaped lawn fringed with coloured shrubs in vivid reds, violets and greens and a bright pink feature wall. The wide deck has a kitchenette, barbecue and table for four, and a timber bench seat with a wheel for easy manoeuvring into the sun. This, and all the timber furniture and fittings inside, were created by a local craftsman.

Other work from local artists includes a fish wall-hanging made from metal used in the construction of Norfolk Island Airport, sea-themed paintings, ceramic and glass mosaics, and islander Sue Pearson’s kimono-style bathrobes – one pink, one blue – in hand-printed cotton.

Tucked away at the end of a road in the island’s hub, Burnt Pine, the Tin Sheds puts you close to cafes, galleries, shops and the crucial Liquor Bond, the only place on Norfolk where you can buy takeaway booze. On a 3855-hectare island, nothing’s tricky to reach, but this is as convenient as it gets.

Beaches and cliffs are a short drive away, as are historic Kingston’s museums and archaeological remains. For these I can hop into a powder-blue 2013 model Fiat 500 auto convertible that comes with the apartment, fully insured. There are no traffic lights on Norfolk and every passing motorist waves hello.

I’m lured back to the Tin Sheds by the Pleasure Centre, the apartment complex’s decadent little heart with library, mini-gym, infrared sauna and an outdoor SwimSpa (hot tub with a teeny pool attached where you swim against a jet – the pool equivalent of a treadmill). There, I’m expertly massaged by Kim Nobbs, who brings pampering from her nearby Expressions Day Spa.

Hers is not the only treat to arrive at my door. I return to the apartment to find the table laid and Naomi Thompson, owner of the nearby Olive Cafe, busy preparing a spread of the island’s delicious local produce. I’m more than happy relaxing with a local shiraz and then devouring fresh fish, vegies and a heavenly white chocolate and macadamia cheesecake while Naomi cleans everything up so it looks as if no one’s been there.

All I need to do to perfect my day is languish in the spa then slide into the big white cloud of a bed. Self-catering, I decide, is at its best when done the Tin Sheds way: as a spectator sport.

Amy Cooper travelled courtesy of Norfolk Island Tourism, Air New Zealand and Spacifica Travel.

Trip notes

Where The Village Place, Burnt Pine, Norfolk Island. tinshedsnorfolkisland上海夜生活m, norfolkisland上海夜生活

How much Three-night packages including return Air New Zealand economy class flights (bag and seat) and three nights’ accommodation at the Tin Sheds including convertible car use and more, start from $1145 a person, twin share, from Sydney. Spacifica Travel, 1800 800 722, spacificatravel上海夜生活m.

Top marks It’s all in the details: the apartments are awash with thoughtful touches such as a mobile phone with $10 of calls, and a “toy box” containing snorkel gear, fishing tackle and tennis rackets.

Black marks A few more idiot-proof instructions for the gadgets would help slow learners like me.

Don’t miss Norfolk Island’s living history: many islanders are direct descendants of the Bounty mutineers and are happy to share stories about their intriguing past.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.