World Travel Diaries

Consultant of the Month - Eileen Hayse travels to Brazil, Spain & France

Thursday 14 August 2014 | By Eileen Hayse |

 

Round the World !!!  Brazil, Spain and Paris with a luxury stopover in Singapore.

I recently returned form an extended  holiday due to Long Service leave. WTP turned 20 and I have been there from Day 1.

Being an avid soccer fan, I visited Brazil for the 2014 world cup. What an experience. Rio was a riot of colour and excitement.  We stayed in a 3.5 star Tulip hotel right opposite Copacabana beach but the newly opened Belmond hotel, Copacabana Palace was the jewel on the beach. (FIFA delegates no doubt staying there as security tight). Belmond is the new name for the Orient Express hotel group…. So top of the range.

After 2 weeks in Brazil flew Iberia (economy class) to Madrid and on to Malaga.  Service was good and the seats were fine.

I had time share for a week before driving to Alicante and Valencia on the way to Barcelona. In Barcelona  I stayed at the hotel OMM  - a Design Hotel in the Eixample district  just a stone’s throw from the Paseo de Gracia…. The Rodeo Drive of Barcelona.  A cutting edge modern hotel – some rooms with little balconies allowed fresh air.

We had an innovative lunch at their Michelin star restaurant MOO – set 3 courses with glass of wine for EUR45 per person. Delicious with coffee and petit fours by the rooftop pool. Lovely way to end in Barcelona. 

Next, solo on the TGV to Paris … relatively new day service 9.30am till 4pm ending in Gare d Lyon and two Metro stops from St. Paul in the Marais. Here I had private apartment, but boutique hotels abound and Le Pavillon de la Reine has prime position on Place Des Vosges. A leisurely week spent doing walking tours of  Montmartre, Left Bank etc. and wine tasting - I enjoyed a 3 course  dinner with paring wines at Chateau O – not a chateau but good quality experience for eur95 per person. I can highly recommend Paris for the solo  traveller with many opportunities to meet and share experiences.

I flew home with Finnair, business class – flat bed and wonderful service, to Singapore where I stayed at the Pan Pacific. The hotel was so good I didn’t leave enjoying a views of Marina Bay and beautiful pool area.

Qantas Economy home… full flight and overnight so breakfast was fine as was the  Inflight entertainment.

In closing …. Go to Brazil…. Exciting vibrant place with warm friendly people and exotic wildlife.

Consultant of the Month - Jess Keene travels to Guangzhou and Tibet

Tuesday 15 July 2014 | By Jess Keene |



Guangzhou

As this was my first time to China, I had nothing but what I had read, and the stories of others, to guide my expectations.
I found Guangzhou to be a vibrant urban jungle, with a mass of huge skyscrapers, towering overpasses and throngs of smart, modern people. But amongst the seeming chaos, there are many, many hidden gems to be found. Wonderful, quaint parks are dotted amongst the high-rises, giving the city a strong sense of pride and community. The sparkling Pearl River meanders quietly through the city, washing the surrounding nightspots with a sense of calm and fun. And the blend of centuries old buildings, mixed with modern architecture, gives the impression that Guangzhou is proud of its past, but certainly is looking towards the future.

Lhasa
The magic of Tibet starts before you have even officially arrived. Flying over the mighty Himalaya ranges is a true treat in itself, and you just can’t help but feel excited for what you hope to find when you arrive.
After about a 45mins drive from the airport, through the Tibetan countryside, you arrive at Lhasa city. I guarantee, this will exceed your expectations. Years of public works have transformed Lhasa into a colourful and thriving city. Beautifully landscaped gardens line the streets, creating boulevards that invite promenading. Simple, but wonderfully decorated, buildings create atmosphere and charm. And of course, you cannot be in Asia without some chaotic driving to get your heart racing just that little bit.

Our first treat of the city was a visit to the Jokhang Temple and Barkhor Circuit. Located in the heart of Lhasa, the UNESCO site is an ultimate destination for Tibetan Pilgrims. Outside the Jokhang Temple, we see rows of people softly offering traditional prayers and prostrations to Buddha. As we shuffled our way inside with hundreds of Tibetans, we were met with the smells of yak butter oil and incense. A sense of anticipation grew, as we slowly moved towards the room that housed a beautiful, and incredibly sacred, golden statue of Buddha. As believed to be one of only three that were constructed in his lifetime, the awe of seeing this relic was incredibly humbling.

Next we slowly made our way around the holiest of Lhasa’s pilgrim circuits, the 1km Barkhor Circuit. Here we were fascinated by the true dedication of some pilgrims, performing a prostration every three steps. Moving together with the crowd, the sense of being part of something much bigger than ourselves was intoxicating.

Our second treat was a visit to the Potala Palace, the official winter residence of the Dalai Lama, and the highest ancient palace in the world. The grandeur of the palace was amplified by the fact that to get to the top, we would have to climb the 300 or so steps, which was not an easy prospect at this altitude. As we puffed our way to the top, we caught glimpses of Lhasa below.

The effort was well worth it, as inside was a true wonder. We toured the ceremonial hall, housing the magnificent throne of the Dalai Lama, and saw his private rooms and audience halls. All were beautifully decorated with murals, painted scrolls, carpets, canopies, and curtains. Inside we saw numerous sculptures of porcelain, jade, and fine objects of gold and silver. The palace was stunning, and would easily rival those of Europe. On our descent, we were treated with spectacular views of Lhasa, showing the bustling city surrounded by the mountains.

Gyanste
A rural town southwest of Lhasa, Gyantse is one of the least Chinese influenced towns in Tibet. The drive here is all about the journey, rather than the destination, as the 260km trip is a 6 hour drive up and over the mountains. You truly are on top of the world here, as the highest ascent reaches over 5000mts above sea level. Up here, we were treated to spectacular views of the world below, and crystal blue glacial lakes. So cold and high that rain turned to sleet, it was truly a memorable drive.

Gyanste is home to the Pelkor Chode Monastery, and ruins of a British built ‘Old Fort’ which overlooks the town and valley.

We visited the Monastery, which was an amazing sensory experience. We entered a dimly lit temple, and were surrounded by the overwhelming smell of incense and yak butter oil. The air was filled with the humming of mantras from the praying monks. Our gaze was drawn from bowls of brightly coloured powder, being carefully blessed (the monks were creating a floor Mandela), to the walls, that were decorated with 1000 individual paintings of Buddha. Wonder turned to great delight, when the monks cheekily carried out their work, laughing at their mishaps and pulling faces for our cameras. Outside the temples, the wonderful and welcoming nature of the monks was also seen, and their friendly smiles were heartfelt.

Shigatse
2 hours northwest of Gyanste, Shigatse is Tibet’s second largest city. Its main attraction is the Tashilhunpo Monastery, the proposed home of the Panchen Lama, or Buddha of Infinite Light.

This was the largest monastery we visited, and had a much different feel to it. Like the others, it was wonderfully decorated and full of magnificent and precious relics. But it was the monks that made this place special. At the time of our visit, almost every monk we saw was a young boy or a teenager. Much to our surprise, they acted far more like boys at a boarding school, than the humble and disciplined monks that we would expect. They laughed, played jokes on each other, play fought and gossiped like young boys would. They even had iphones hidden under their robes, as one nine-year-old monk sneakily pulled out as we were leaving one temple. This was certainly a lovely and memorable place.

China Southern
We were lucky enough to travel business class. I was pleasantly surprised by my experience. I found the cabin staff to be friendly, helpful and accommodating. The food out of Australia was delicious. The food out of China was good, but perhaps a bit more inclined toward the Chinese palate. The seats were spacious and comfortable, and the entertainment was extensive and easy to use. Considering their fares are VERY competitive, this airline is (in my opinion) great value for money.

Wendy Wu
Our tour completely met my expectations, as Wendy Wu is often held in high regard. George, our Chinese guide, was friendly, approachable and happy. He organised our every need, be it our transportation, lunch orders or hotel check-ins. His behaviour was exemplary, and he was a true delight to have on the tour. Our Tibetan guide, Tenzhen, is an incredible man. Not only was he professional, knowledgeable and helpful, he was extremely cheeky and funny. He also demonstrated the greatness of his religion, showing deep integrity and kindness. His nature made the trip extremely memorable and special, and it was a pleasure to meet him.
  

Client Travel Stories - Rennay visits Vietnam

Wednesday 11 June 2014 | By Tahnee Wherritt |

On of our fantastic clients Rennay recently visited Vietnam with her husband to celebrate her 40th birthday. She was kind enough to share her experience below:

Vietnam exceeded all our expectations.  My husband and I wanted to do something special to celebrate my 40th birthday and I couldn't have asked for a better experience than the Bhaya Legend private junk cruising on the incredible, romantic and mysterious HaLong Bay.

To experience the breathtaking and beautiful HaLong Bay in the tranquil surrounds of this luxury boat with a very professional and easy going crew made this trip very special.  We chose a two night cruise and I believe this was the ideal amount of time out on the bay.  The Bay is typically busy with a large number of cruise boats mostly doing one night cruises so the extra time we had enabled us to get away to secluded places and experience the caves, kayaking, beaches and bike ride by ourselves, which was a real privilege.

The food was generous and well catered and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the chef and watch him cook.  We were always informed of the options and activities available for us to do and we could choose to do as much or little as we wished, another benefit of being the only guests on board.  We truly relaxed and were spoilt on this holiday and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for that something special.

We spent a night either side of the cruise at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, which was the icing on the cake, a fabulous, international hotel worthy of its "Legend" status.  Our transfers and tour guides were friendly, on time and very knowledgeable which only added to the great experience we had.  Thank you Marion for your pulling this trip together for us and your recommendations helped make this a truly memorable holiday.





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