Asia

Three Life-Changing Things to Gain from Travelling Solo

Tuesday 18 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |


From 'time out' in primary school, to final exam study, to long walks on the beach - isolating yourself has always been a good way to take the handle on your emotions and give yourself the opportunity for growth and progress. It's no surprise that a journey alone can lead to life-changing gains.

  1. Responsibility

    The price of greatness is responsibility. Embarking on your journey, you will find yourself standing alone in a country that was so recently foreign to you. The challenge to take care of yourself and your possessions will force you to regain trust in others and build your own confidence.

    Much alike to your health, safety and possessions - Your experiences demand responsibility from you also. Taking the opportunity to create your own path is an important responsibility; it is your guide to self-reliance, independence and possibility.

    Weeks, months or even years later, when your journey has come to an end, you can look back and realise that every high point, discovery and memory was the work of your own actions.
     
  2. Future Dreams

    Time spent alone, particularly far away from the pressures of everyday life, provides an opportunity to reflect and plan ahead, which will help you determine what you want from life.

    With a clear and refreshed mind you can tackle the big questions and prepare to head home ready for action. Scribble, draw, write or record your thoughts and inspirations as you progress along your travels. Think of it as a tool for an enhanced outlook on your future or as reference points for great memories.
     
  3. Learning to Love

    When travelling alone you’re forced to adapt. Blending into places, situations and established groups becomes a priority, and inevitably presents opportunities for friendships and connections to develop. When you’re so far from your comfort zone, you develop a whole new level of appreciation for people, whereby gestures of kindness from strangers are felt with the deepest of gratitudes. The ability to view others in a new and positive light is a great way to recognise the value of a new friend.

    Travelling alone provides a platform for the acceptance of others, regardless of cultural differences. Discover passions for other places, cultures and people and in-turn discover your own character.

10,000 Free Round-Trip Tickets to Japan

Friday 14 October 2011 | By Maria Boskovski |

Here’s your chance to see Japan, with an opportunity like no other!

The country’s reputation has been tarnished by fears of earthquakes and radiation. In a desperate attempt to lure tourists back into the country, Japan Tourism Agency is giving away 10,000 free round trip tickets!

What’s the catch? All you need to do is be willing to publicise your trip through the use of blogs and social media sites.

In March this year, a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami triggered a nuclear disaster, having a huge impact on the number of foreign visitors to Japan. In the first three months that followed the disaster, tourism dropped as drastically as 50% compared with the same time in 2010.

Japan Tourism Agency has requested more than 10 billion yen to pay for the tourism campaign and plans to open a website to solicit applicants interested in free tickets. Applicants will have the opportunity to sign up as early as next April. All they have to do is submit a written application detailing their travel plans in Japan and what they hope to get out of the trip.

The successful candidates will have to pay for their own accommodation and meals. They would also be required to post a review of their travel experiences online. Influential bloggers who are likely to spread the word that Japan is a safe place to visit are likely to have an advantage in the competition.

So for social media gurus and lifestyle bloggers, this is a wonderful opportunity. A free round-trip to Japan is a great reward for an online hobby, and sharing your experience is a decent price to pay!

Bali, Indonesia

Thursday 13 January 2011 | By Rebecca Scaffidi |

Accommodation:Dynasty Resort, South Kuta
The Dynasty Resort has recently been renovated and had 312 newly refurbished guest rooms. This is a great family resort with plenty of activities for kids. The resort has 3 swimming pools, a spa and gym. There is also ‘The Den’ teen’s club and Kid’s playground. If you need some time away from the kids there is a child care centre and an adult area equipped with a Lazy pool and Sunset bar.

If you have a family and are looking to keep the kids entertained, this is the place for you.

Dine at:Ku De Ta
This is a beautiful bar/restaurant that is located right on the beach. You can go here for Dinner or Just cocktails and Nibbles. Either way, the time to get there is about 6pm as you will be in a prime location to witness a gorgeous sunset.

Ultimo’s
This is a fabulous Italian restaurant in Seminyak that has incredible food at very reasonable prices. You must book here as it gets very busy.

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co 
If you’re after something fun you must stop past Bubba Gump’s. They specialise in Prawns, but they also know how to cook up a mean steak. The staff are very friendly and if you order a margarita you’ll get a special surprise.

Best Buy:The Discovery Shopping Mall in Kuta has everything from Brand shopping to hand-made goods. This is a must see if you love to shop. My best buy was a pair of coral coloured Guess sandals.

Highlight:I had 2 highlights on this trip. The first would be spending the day at Waterbom Park.  This is a great day out for the whole family… You have adrenalin pumping waterslides for all ages, lazy pool for those who want to relax and a kid’s water playground area for the little ones. Waterbom Park will keep everyone entertained.

The second highlight would have to be going ATV riding. This was so much fun! You get on a 4-Wheeler motor bike and follow your instructors around the muddy and uneven terrain. Expect to get covered in mud.
You can organize this and many other outdoor activities through Bali Adventure Tours.

http://www.baliadventuretours.com/

A Hotel Review - Garuda Orient Holidays

Monday 4 October 2010 | By Kate Ashdown |

15 – 22 AUGUST 2010
INDONESIA - JAKARTA, SURABAYA, MALANG, MT BROMO, BALI

Airline – Garuda Indonesia
Class – Economy Class

Garuda Indonesia have fairly recently undergone an upgrade to their aircraft for flights between Sydney/Jakarta, and Sydney/Denpasar. I think I was expecting the middle-of-the-aisle-every-few-rows style TV entertainment, hard seats and feeling like a sardine treatment – wrong! Economy class passengers are provided with blue pillows and sandy-coloured blankets, matching the décor of the aircraft, waiting for them on their seats… along with individual on demand entertainment units in the back of the headrests. It felt like the standard economy class seat pitch and comfort – ended up with a bit of extra room to play with as there were quite a few empty seats around, so people were able to shuffle along to make sure everyone had some room.

Crew on the flights are friendly in the traditional Indonesian way, and speak fluent English on the services from/to Australia.

Hotel – Hotel Indonesia Kempinski, Jakarta

This hotel is spectacular, modern/contemporary style property located on the outskirts of Jakarta CBD. Its located right next to the new Grand Indonesia Shopping Town, for which there is a direct internal walkway to connect the hotel to the mall. The hotel features 289 rooms and suites over 2 wings – Ramayana and Ganesha, all of which have large LCD TVs, spacious bathrooms (with heated and electric toilets), and are quite tastefully decorated. Quite a few of the rooms overlook the Welcome Statue, the Bundaran HI Fountain and traffic round-a-bout, which is directly outside the hotel – great view! Numerous restaurants and bars are located within the hotel, including Signatures Restaurant, which is where breakfast is served, and all day dining is also on offer. There is also a spa and fitness centre on site, as well as a few meeting and function rooms – the Bali Room is a huge area perfect for conferences and wedding receptions.

Hotel – Surabaya Plaza Hotel, Surabaya

Surabaya is the 2nd largest city in Indonesia, located in East Java, and approx 1hr 30min flight from Jakarta. It was the site of a historic battle between locals and the Dutch, which was of great importance to the nations struggle for independence. Hence Surabaya is known as the City of Heroes. The symbol of the city is a shark and a crocodile in battle with each other, there are various statues depicting this scene around the city:

The above small statue is located right outside the Surabaya Plaza Hotel. The hotel is fairly basic, would say 3 star quality with 210 rooms. The rooms are comfortable with everything you need – bed, TV, lounge, bathroom etc. The room a couple of my companions were staying in ended up leaking water all over the bathroom floor, as did the “Presidential Suite” upon our inspection – we quickly let the staff know about this! The elevators also tended to close very quickly, and ended up causing some bruising to one of our party. Decent restaurant, decent little bar were probably the highlights. The main selling point of the hotel is that it is 100% non smoking in all rooms and common areas – with the exception of the smoking room at the back of the hotel.

It is highly recommended that conservative attire be worn when heading out and around Surabaya, as East Java is predominantly a Muslim area, especially if you plan on heading to any of the local markets or mosques.

Taman Safari Park, Pandaan

Enroute from Surabaya to Malang, we ended up making an unscheduled visit to the sister attraction of the Taman Safari Park Bali – only Pandaan was purely for the local market, very little English was spoken or written around the grounds. Taman is home of a truly fantastic up-close safari style experience – we were able to stay in our own vehicle to drive around the grounds (which took about 1hr), getting the chance to have all kinds of gorgeous creatures pop their head through the windows – plenty of deer, zebra, camel, who were happy to take our stash of bananas. The windows quickly went up as we got around to the bears, tigers and lions (oh my! Sorry, it had to be done!), and even though most of them were pretty active, they seemed familiar enough with people not to pose a threat to the vehicle. The tigers were quite happy concentrating their appetite towards the unreachable deer on the other side of the fence…


In the end we made it to the zoo attraction, where we were able to have lunch surrounded by 3 white tigers (behind glass of course), and then we were lucky enough to make friends with some zoo babies

Hotel – Tugu Malang, Malang

Malang is a popular tourist destination with the European market, and is approx 2hr drive from Surabaya. We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for the local Independence Day flag lowering ceremony in the afternoon, which took place at the Town Hall, situated opposite the Tugu Hotel.

It was amazing to see the whole town (not to mention, the whole of East Java), covered in red and white to mark the August 17 celebration!

The Tugu could be described as more of a museum – the standard rooms all have slightly different décor and colour, there is a good number of amazing suites all with a different story, and many rooms full of ancient 10th-15th century Ming Dynasty china and other priceless artefacts – at this point, my camera battery died and my mobile phone camera could not do any of the rooms or displays the least amount of justice!

We were served dinner in the Raja Room by 5 waiters who served us a 6 course mean individually, in the way that the Dutch royal family had been served their meals many years ago – we felt special!

Hotel – Bromo Cottages, Mt Bromo

Bromo Cottages are located around 2hrs from Malang, and 30min from the Mt Bromo viewing points. There is a fairly steep and unsteady mountain climb to get to the cottages, but the view from the property grounds alone are well worth it:

There are a number of motel style rooms grouped into the various cottages at the hotel – twin share rooms are available with bathroom and TV (no minibar or fridge), and there is only 2.5L of hot water available to each room every hour, so showers need to be done quickly. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, it can get quite chilly after dark due to the altitude so long pants and jumpers are recommended. You would only stay at Bromo Cottages or in the surrounding village if you intend on taking part in the sunrise/sunset tours to Mt Bromo itself and scaling the volcano walls to the edge of the crater – people do the trip departing Malang at 2am to arrive at Mt Bromo viewing points for the 4:30am sunrise, I would say this is too much for most people going up/down the winding and dusty road at this hour (we got car sick as it is), staying at Bromo Cottages and arising at 3am to the same destination is a lot more sane.

 

Hotel – Grand Hyatt Nusa Dua, Bali

I do have to admit that leaving Mt Bromo after breakfast to get ourselves on an earlier flight from Surabaya to Denpasar was a genius idea! We were quite pooped, and were looking forward to some luxury and familiar food in Bali. The Grand Hyatt is a huge property, with fish-filled ponds and rivers snaking around the resort. The total room number is 648 spread across 4 blocks, or villages, including 17 Grand Executive Suites, 16 Grand Suites, 3 Ambassador Suites, 1 Belibis Suite, 2 Presidential Suites and 2 Deluxe Villas – monstrous! A number of the lead in Grand King/Twin rooms (that we stayed in) have had a recent refurbishment without taking away the local Balinese feel, while I would still not hesitate to stay in one of the “older style” Grand King rooms – all of these rooms have a good sized day bed and balcony with views over the ponds. Several members of the group were put in Club rooms, which could probably be considered apartment/suite size with 2 toilets/bathrooms and a very generously sized lounge room separate to the bedroom (with 4 poster bed).

TERIMAH KASIH!

Singapore, Worth Exploring

Sunday 22 March 2009 | By Stephanie Harms |

Mandarin Oriental Hotel

The hotel is approximately 30 minutes from Changi Airport. It is situated opposite Singapore harbour and is linked to Marina Square Shopping Mail. The new Suntec Singapore and Esplanade are within a few minutes’ walk. The Singapore flyer (equivalent of the London Eye) is 10 minutes stroll and an excellent place to view the amazing city of Singapore and its harbour. Raffles is also only 10 minutes away.

The hotel is modern and stylish yet has a strong Oriental feel to its design. There are 449 luxurious rooms and 78 suites. All rooms are equipped with plasma TV and cable channels, mini bar, DVD player, CD and high speed wired and wireless internet. It has 5 restaurants and an amazing 25 meter pool, fitness centre and of course spa. Everything you would expect and more from a 5 star hotel. The rooms are huge and luxurious and the location is great.

Singapore City

Singapore itself is a vibrant and buzzing city. Definitely a place to explore. Taxis are frequent and reasonable. There are many city tours available which will show you China town including a Chinese temple, Little India, and of course the National Museum of Singapore. If travelling with children the Botanical gardens and the Singapore Zoo offers a great night safari. Sentosa Island offers a beach resort, Universal Studios and the Aquarium is one of the largest in Asia.

Evening: Restaurants and NightlifeThe main areas to head for are Clarkes Quay where you will find the harbour edge lined with an extensive variety of restaurants. There are also music bars and nightclubs. You can also visit the street vendors for a taste of local flavour. Another popular location is Chijmes which is a converted convent school with a great selection of various restaurants in a central outdoor location. For a slightly more exclusive evening you could head for ’Oosh’ for great Japanese or Malaysian cuisine in a lush outdoor setting and private dining. All of these locations can be reached by taxi in approximately 10 minutes. Singapore is very accessible and offers something for everyone  and is a great stop-over destination.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  
  

Eastern and Oriental Express

Sunday 22 March 2009 | By Stephanie Harms |

Choo, Choo, Chugga, Chugga. 

The train is as you would imagine with beautiful wood panelling and crisp linen table clothes with beautiful crystal glasses and fine china. There is also a bar car where in the evening a pianist will play or Thai dancers will perform. At the back of the train is the Observation Car which is partially open air to enable you to take in and view the passing scenery to its best potential.

 There are three cabin types. Each cabin has a private ensuite and is equipped with air conditioning, a hairdryer and safe. 


The Pullman:There are 30 Pullman compartments which are approx 62 squared feet. During the daytime the compartment is a private lounge provided by banquette style sofa. At night the seating converts to an upper and lower bed. A separate en suite shower, washbasin and WC is provided.

The State Cabin:

There are 28 state cabins which measure 84 square feet. A private lounge during the day with a banquette style sofa and fixed chair, and one moveable chair. Fixed daytime seating converts to two single beds at night. There is a separate en suite shower, washbasin and WC.

The Presidential Suite :Each Presidential Suite measures 125 square feet . The cabins are styled as a private lounge during the day with banquette style sofa and fixed chair, and two moveable chairs. Fixed daytime seating converts to two single beds at night. There is also the separate en suite shower, washbasin and WC. The extra facilities include an Ipod docking station and CD player. Guests in Presidential Suites enjoy the additional benefit of a complimentary bar in their cabin.

There are two sittings for lunch and dinner and there are 2 dining carriages where your table will be prebooked for you alternating between the two carriages to ensure you experience both carriages . You can dine on a table of 4 or a table of 2. If you are travelling as a party of 2 but wish to dine with other passengers this can also be arranged for you. 

Your Journey Begins
Day One
The Orient Express departs from Keppel Road Station where you will find the Orient Express check in desk and departure lounge. Your journey begins with a late morning departure. Your bags are brought to your cabin where your Steward offers you a warm welcome and explains all the services available to you. The train crosses into the peninsular of Malaysia via the causeway of the straits of Johor and the journey continues north whilst you savour your 3 course lunch. The passing scenery is vast oil-palms and rubber plantations and rural settlements.

Afternoon tea is served in your cabin, whilst cocktails are served in the bar or observation car. Your 4 course evening meal is a true delight with a beautiful menu, offering the most amazing western and eastern cuisine. Whilst you are having your evening meal your steward is transforming your compartment into a cosy bedroom.

After dinner the train stops at Kuala Lumpur railway station where you will disembark for a stroll along the platform.

Day 2
Through the night the train continues its journey through lush forest and rural west-cost towns of Malaysia. Breakfast is served in your compartment. At nine o’clock the train arrives at Butterworth station where you disembark for the ferry crossing to Penang and a guided introductory tour of Georgetown. Here you will walk through the local markets and jump on a tuk-tuk to explore the mosques, temples, churches, bazaars and colourful shophouses. You rejoin the train for lunch and afternoon tea. The train crosses into Thailand and the scenery changes to include Thai temples and bustling stations.

The evening is truly a chance to be wined and dined by the best chefs and attentive waiters. As you prepare for your last night on board.

Day 3
After breakfast in your compartment you disembark to see the famous River Kwai Bridge before cruising on the river. You are given the opportunity to photograph the Orient Express crossing the Bridge. There waiting for you is a local historian who is the creator of the museum who provides a very interesting overview of the railway and the bridge. At the landing point you travel by motor coach to the Thailand-Burma railway museum and the Don Rak war cemetery. It is truly an interesting and moving experience and extremely informative.

When you arrive back on the train there is time for one more delicious three course lunch as the train proceeds towards Bangkok arriving in the afternoon at Bangkok Hualampong Station.

Porters will take your luggage for you and on the platform, arrange for it to be taken to your taxi or next form of transport.

May we suggest continuing on your journey as we did and heading on to the amazing Oriental Hotel in Bangkok.  

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!  

Bangkok, A Sensory City

Sunday 22 March 2009 | By Stephanie Harms |

The Oriental Hotel

Bangkok is a city that attacks the senses it’s noisy, smelly, busy but exciting and vibrant. It takes 45 minutes to transfer to The Oriental hotel. Which is tucked down a typical Bangkok side street which opens up to show the Oriental Hotel. The lobby is a breath taking mix of eclectic modern and traditional furnishings with the most amazing fresh flowers.

There are 258 rooms and 35 suites. The rooms are large and luxurious, featuring a huge marble bathroom, plasma television, mini bar and internet. The beds are enormous and there is a butler on every floor to attend to every room not just the club floor.

But the most amazing aspect of this hotel is its location right on the Chao Phya River. The view from the rooms is amazing and the hotel uses its position to its full potential with terraces, restaurants and breakfast being served on the terrace to make the most of the view.

The hotel boasts some of the most amazing restaurants, including; Japanese, Le Normandie – French, Lord Jims - International Seafood, Ciao – Italian and Sala Rim Naarn a traditional Thai restaurant and cooking school, this is on the opposite side on the river and the hotels launch takes you across. Here you can also book into the hotels famous cooking school or just enjoy a great evening of delicious Thai food and be entertained by the Thai dancers... Oh and the cocktails are definitely worth a try!

After an amazing meal why not go to nearby Sirocco restaurant and bar, located on the 65th floor. Here you can see the lights of Bangkok for miles around you.

By day Bangkok offers shopping galore with Thai silk, tailor-made clothing, handbags, jewellery and of course the huge market of fake and copied items. There are of course the temples and floating markets or why not just experience a Thai massage either at the hotel or at a local parlour where a 2 hour back and neck massage is only AU$ 20.00. You will need it after visiting the great, big Zara store that is also here!! 

We travelled around the city by using the sky rail which saved time by avoiding the congestion. However it is also great fun to jump on a Tuk Tuk if you are feeling really brave - just hold on.

Sadly we only had one day in Bangkok which was not nearly enough. I can’t wait to go back but already I know it’s a great destination for a stopover.

For more information on any of the areas featured in this blog, contact World Travel Professionals to speak with one of our consultants. We encourage and welcome all user comments and aim to use our blog to interact with our interested readers!