Monday, July 11, 2016


Dive into the pristine waters off Sabah's Sipadan Island


The triangle between Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines is one of the most bio-diverse marine habitats in the world. Strong ocean currents, deep-sea trenches and sea mountains, combined with active volcanic islands have created a complex oceanographic environment that is paradise for nature lovers and divers alike.

The beauty of this region lies in its diversity, and the dive spots and marine life vary from island to island, but most people come for the world-famous Sipadan Island located off Sabah’s east coast.

Rising 700m from the sea floor and at only 12hectares, Malaysia's sole oceanic island is tiny, taking just 25-minutes to circumnavigate on foot. Declared a bird sanctuary in 1933 by the Colonial Government of North Borneo and re-gazetted in 1963 by the Malaysian Government, the island’s dense vegetation supports a large variety of tropical birds including sea eagles, kingfishers, sunbirds, starlings and wood pigeons. Exotic crustaceans including the amazing coconut crab roam the beaches and scurry among the undergrowth, with blue skies and tropical scenery Sipadan’s stock in trade.

But it is below the surface of the ocean where this island really excels. The late Jacques Cousteau, world-renowned oceanographer, once described the pristine waters around Sipadan as an untouched piece of art, helping to establish this dive mecca as the most famous scuba destination in Malaysia. The diversity of the island’s marine life is unparalleled, home to thousands of turtles, manta rays, schooling sharks, swirling barracuda, and awe-inspiring coral walls dropping more than 2,000m straight down to the sea floor. Its famed Barrier Reef is the largest in South East Asia and regularly voted by divers as one of the World’s top dive destinations.

So make sure you include this tiny gem – truly one of the last unexplored frontiers on Planet Earth, in any trip to Malaysia. Diver or nature lover, the experience is guaranteed to be unforgettable.

Getting There

The jump-off point for all Sipadan Island explorations is the town of Semporna, a one-hour drive from Kota Kinabalu, followed by a 30-minute speedboat to Mabul.

For information about tours of Malaysia, please contact:

Tourism Malaysia, Telephone: +612 9286 3055, Fax: +612 9283 8311, Email: malaysia@malaysiatourism.com.au or visit http://www.malaysia.travel

Top 10 Dive Sites

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Big Booze Heist

Steward's mini bottles maxi trouble

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, Get Up & Go guest blogger David Ellis says a 28 year old flight attendant has been charged in Memphis, Tennessee with stealing more than 1,500 minis of booze from flights she was working.

And rather than to simply enjoy herself or with family or friends in her time off, she allegedly pinched them to sell.

The attendant worked for Delta Airlines’ subsidiary Endeavour Air which sells minis to passengers for US$8-$10 each, and it’s claimed she regularly slipped the tiny bottles of whiskey, vodka, rum, gin and exotic liqueurs into her bag at the end of shifts, later putting them on classified ad websites for just a dollar each.

She was arrested when undercover liquor licencing agents made a number of online purchases, and subsequently charged her under American “profiting from crimes of opportunity” laws with Theft of Property Over $10,000 and Unlawful Sale of Alcohol, and the almost-bizarre Unauthorised Transportation of Alcohol and Unauthorised Storage of Liquor For Sale laws.

And even more weirdly while Endeavour Air could have earned $12,000 from the legal sale of those 1,500 minis on board, all she got from selling them illegally was $1,500… not very rewarding considering she could face from 3 to 15 years in jail when she appears in court again later this year.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

CARS: Rare Aston Martin’s Amazing Price

IN his continuing search for the more weird and wondrous in this world, Guest Blogger David Ellis says that a dilapidated and un-roadworthy 1949 Aston Martin DB2 sports car has just sold at auction in England for 679,000 British pounds – the equivalent of nearly AU$1,243,000.

But it is the car’s amazing history the new owner obviously thinks worthy of every penny of what he’s spent: after competing in the 1949 French Le Mans and Belgium Spa-24 endurance races, it raced for a few more years before being retired and eventually bought by an English enthusiast – from whom it was stolen in Hertfordshire in 2002.

Looking forlorn after being recovered from a storage shed in
Holland 14 years after disappearing, the famous Aston Martin DB2
sold at auction for the equivalent of AU$1,243,000. (Pic: Bonhams Auctioneers)
Two men were subsequently convicted of auto theft, but after being released on bail and ordered to surrender the vehicle, both disappeared… and not surprisingly the Aston Martin with them.

Then amazingly in March of this year Hertfordshire Police were tipped off that the car was in a storage shed in Eindhoven in Holland, and while it was recovered there in dilapidated condition, the two men who stole it have still never been found after absconding all those fourteen years ago.

The Aston Martin in action in its racing heyday over a half century ago.

And as the English owner died in 2003 – one of the last things him asking of a relative “has that nice policeman found my car yet?” – it was returned to his nearest of kin. Not able to afford the thousands of pounds to restore it, they put it to Bonham Auctioneers in late June of this year, where it fetched that amazing 679,000 pounds.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Lure of the Exotic East

Guest blogger Sally Hammond votes number one for Canberra's newest hotel - East Hotel.

An amazing set of coincidences and a love story meant that last week we were chatting to Italian-born Chef Francesco Balestrieri at East Hotel in Canberra.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Canberra has enough hotels, but Singapore Airlines has recently launched direct flights to Canberra. Now that the city is much more accessible to international visitors, a good hotel such as East Hotel (part of Bisa Hotels) is an important addition to the capital's dining and accommodation scene. Its central location, ten minutes from the City of Canberra, close to Parliament House and the National Gallery of Australia, as well as the vibrant hubs of Manuka and Kingston with their cafes, restaurants, bars and markets, adds to its value for overseas visitors.

Our accommodation in a Luxe One BR suite had all that we needed right at hand. Ideal for either business people or couples, there were all the extras that frequent travellers like: robes, slippers, kitchen, coffee machine, laundry, bath and shower, plus parking underneath the hotel.

Joe's Bar, the hotel's bar-restaurant, located just off the lobby is fast becoming a drawcard in its own right and, as an added lure for locals, it also opens on to the street. The night we dined, we could see this was a selling point, especially as the moody bar area serves as a perfect backdrop to the wide range of wines and cocktails served here.

At Joe’s the underlying principle is that locally sourced produce is best served in season and as fresh as possible and the menu is following the current trend of shareable plates and platters.

Before dinner, Chef Francesco sat and talked to us for some time and we asked him some questions.

We discovered that an amazing quirk of fate – a lucky career break ­– brought him to Australia a few years ago, and this led to him meeting his future wife. Now very settled in Australia, his Italian background makes him most comfortable serving quintessentially Italian dishes, with some smart and savvy twists.

But when we ask what he likes to cook, his eyes light up and, like any true Italian, he answers: 'pasta'!

East Hotel, 69 Canberra Avenue, Kingston, ACT, www.easthotel.com.au. Phone: +612 6295 6925.

(also Muse cafe and Joe's Bar, restaurant and bar)

Sally & Gordon Hammond stayed as guests of East Hotel.

Food & Travel: http://www.foodandtravel.com.au the first place to come for authoratitive information on food and travel worldwide.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


The world’s best in your own backyard

Guest blogger - Skyscanner’s list of Aussie-exclusive holiday hotspots
that won’t cost you an arm and a leg

Whether it’s a spontaneous weekend away or a week-long break, it’s common to gravitate towards the country’s best city spots. But for your next holiday, why not do something a little different and experience one of these uniquely Aussie landmarks?

Global travel search engine, skyscanner.com.au has sourced these Aussie-one-of-a-kind destinations that are not only breathtaking to witness, but also won’t make a huge dent in your savings account.

Commenting on Australia’s unsung heroes, Emily Callahan, Senior Marketing Manager at Skyscanner for Australia and New Zealand said: “Our search data confirms that city getaways are very popular amongst Aussies, with the majority of travellers flying into Sydney, Melbourne Tullamarine, Brisbane and Perth airports. Whilst you’re sure to have an amazing experience, we wanted to highlight that there is more to see than just our energetic city destinations. Australia has an abundance of ravishing, one-of-a-kind sights which will make for great holiday memories – and we show you the best ways to get there and possibly save some money too.”

1. 12 Apostles – Great Ocean Road, Victoria

12 Apostles – Great Ocean Road, Victoria
Created from millions of years of erosion along the Great Ocean Road on the Victorian coastline, the 12 Apostles are magnificent limestone formations that make up one of the world’s most captivating coastal drives. Unfortunately, only nine are still standing so make sure you see this world heritage listed site before more disappear. Take advantage of the trip and check out other attractions set along the coastline, these include Bay of Islands, Gibson Steps, Loch Ard Gorge and London Bridge.

While the Great Ocean Road drive will take about four hours, we recommend heading out early to see the apostles at sunrise. The changing hues of the sky brings out the natural tones of the rock, making it a feast for the eyes. You’ll also beat the tour buses. If you’re not an early riser, sunset will be just as spectacular too.

✈ How to get there:
Fly in to Melbourne Tullamarine airport (flights from $93) and hire a car from $25 a day. If you’re flying from Sydney, try flying into Melbourne Avalon airport, which will save you about $50 on flights* and reduce your drive time by about 45 minutes to an hour.

2. Green Island – Great Barrier Reef, Queensland

Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
One of the seven natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef spans over 2,000km and is the world’s largest coral reef ecosystem. It comprises thousands of reefs and hundreds of sand islands and hosts a plethora of marine life. Activities that can be enjoyed at the reef include snorkelling, scuba diving, helicopter tours, sailing, and whale watching.

Just a 45-minute ferry ride away from Cairns is Green Island, a 6,000-year-old coral cay and the only reef that has a rainforest growing on it. Sign up for a snorkel tour to see the beautiful corals and marine life such as turtles, clams, sea anemones, fish and eels, or opt to stay dry and board a glass bottom boat.

✈ How to get there:
While the Hamilton Island Airport (flights from $200), also known as the Great Barrier Reef Airport gives you access to the reef, flying to Cairns Airport (flights from $153) is not only cheaper, but is probably the best choice if you have limited time to explore this wonder. It is also the closest airport to Green Island.

3. Uluru – Red Centre, Northern Territory 

Red Centre, Northern Territory
Believed to be 700 million years old, Uluru is a sacred indigenous sandstone monolith in the heart of the Northern Territory’s Red Centre. The sandstone is approximately 348m high with most of its bulk lying underground and has a total circumference of 9.4km. It is commonly said that nothing can really prepare you for its grandeur and magnificence.

The nearest town and airport is almost six hours away, which makes this remote and isolated getaway a truly special experience. You can take a camel ride around the base of the rock and through the sand dunes or venture out by foot. Once the sun sets, a candlelight dinner under the stars will complete your spectacular time at Uluru.

This world heritage-listed icon holds great cultural significance to its traditional owners, the Anangu people. While at the Red Centre be sure to explore Alice Springs, Devils Marbles, Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta too.

✈ How to get there:
Fly to Uluru via Ayers Rock Airport (flights from $342). There are no taxis available so it’s best to arrange for car hire or take advantage of the free shuttle bus. Alternatively, if you’re up for a six-hour drive, land at Alice Spring Airport (flights from $374) with car hire available from $70 a day.

4. Ningaloo Reef & Coral Bay, Western Australia 

Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
If you’re after the best diving experience in Australia, make sure to take a trip to Ningaloo Reef and Coral Bay. Located in the northern remote and isolated part of Western Australia, Ningaloo Reef and Coral Bay is Australia's only fringing reef where the coral starts at the water's edge. It is also another UNESCO World Heritage listed site.

This natural ecosystem is home to some of the world’s most amazing marine life, including different reef fish, manta rays, green turtles, bottlenose dolphins, dugong, and reef sharks. There’s even an opportunity to swim with whale sharks, the biggest fish in the ocean.

✈ How to get there:
The closest airport to Ningaloo is Learmonth WA and then it’s a scenic 90-minute drive down to this isolated coral reef. Fly to Learmonth (flights from $483) via Perth (flights from $180) and then pick up a car from $107 a day.

For all six uniquely-Aussie destinations and tips on how to get there please visit: www.skyscanner.com.au/news/features/discover-australia-the-worlds-best-in-your-own-backyard/

*Based on average savings indicated by Skyscanner data that looked at actual fares paid by travellers when flight fares were cheapest.
Skyscanner compares millions of prices from airlines and online travel agencies to help travellers find the best deal on their flights with no added fees. Travellers search with Skyscanner and are redirected to book with one of over 1,200 global partners.

About Skyscanner:

Skyscanner is a leading global travel search company providing free search of flights, hotels and car rental. Founded in 2003, Skyscanner helps to meet the travel planning needs of over 50 million people each month. Skyscanner is available in over 30 languages. Skyscanner’s highly rated free mobile apps have been downloaded over 40 million times. The privately owned company employs over 700 staff and has 10 global offices in Edinburgh, Singapore, Beijing, Shenzhen, Miami, London, Barcelona, Glasgow, Sofia and Budapest.

For more information, please visit www.skyscanner.com.au and our blog, or join us on Facebook.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Scandinavia: Great Danes

‘Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, friendly old girl of a town’ . . . continues to enchant visitors with its traditions and easygoing personality. But there's more to explore as its varied and eclectic architecture ­– old and new – stirs 'for' and 'against' controversy, eventually melding into the visual fabric of the city, just as it always has.

If you're not walking, boat or bicycle is the way to discover Copenhagen. Denmark's capital city is a true, natural beauty that has, over the centuries, been designed, primped and polished to within an inch of its life. Always on show, and stepping up to the mark as a pretty, chocolate-box-toy-soldier presentation, the city on the water has burst out of its uniform ambience and over the past decade presented a collection of new buildings which have changed the face of the harbour shoreline, canals and through some of the quiet streets.

When you think of Denmark, what comes to mind? Hamlet, pastries, a little mermaid, fine china, a certain princess, Vikings, beech forests, Hans Christian Andersen, herrings and very down-to-earth sensible people? All of the above, but what shines the light on modern Denmark, the ancient centre of Scandinavia, is design. Everything in the country, and especially the city of Copenhagen is about excellent design. Whether it's mediaeval churches, Renaissance castles and country homes, ordered streets and canals, or pretty, colourful harbour-side storied houses of the cities' that flourished in the 'golden age' from 1588-1648, the element of design surprise continues to grow and be embellished to mellow into the 21st century.

A leader in industrial design for the last century or so, Danish design conjures names such as Bang and Olufsen (audio and stereo brand), Bodum (coffee chic), Royal Copenhagen (fine china) and Geog Jensen (the famous Danish silverware brand).

The essence of the country’s individual design is to be found in its timeless simplicity, quality materials and functionality.

Danish architecture, in Denmark and abroad is a standout on the international architectural scene. And it is often at the centre of public scrutiny and controversy. For example, take one of the world's most famous buildings, the Sydney Opera House designed by Jorn Utzon. This universally admired building was bankrolled by a public lottery, caused so much dissention within the ranks of the state government in the 1960s that the design was drastically modified, much to the architect's disappointment at the time.

Utzon designed beautiful buildings all over the world and in his own country. In the dock area of Copenhagen, the Paustian furniture store, also Utzon's brainchild is a place of inspiration. Contained in the stunning building is Denmark's largest collection of quality furniture and carpets, lighting and accessories and basically the best interior design from Scandinavia and the rest of the world. Perhaps not the best place to pick up some souvenirs but fine for picking up design and decorating ideas.

Two newish buildings that have had Copenhagen residents atwitter over the past few years are the amazing Copenhagen Opera House (designed by Henning Larsen), completed and opened in 2004 and the Royal Danish Library (known as the Black Diamond), a looming construction pressing the shoreline and designed by Danish architects Schmidt Hammer Lassen. It is named for its outside cover of black marble and glass.

The Black Diamond has a host of detractors and as many admirers. It leans dramatically over the waterfront and reflects the water and light, constantly changing its hue. This extraordinary building is an extension to the 19th century red brick Royal Library. It certainly catches the eye and the imagination as you glide by in the harbour.

Best view of these beauties before actually heading indoors to experience Opera and books is to take a canal boat trip and get your bearings of the harbour and all it offers. In fact it’s a lovely way to start your discovery of Copenhagen.

In and around town by foot or bicycle you’ll find beautiful old buildings from various eras that undoubtedly caused a stir in their time too.

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, a fine art museum is an imposing grand period design standing on Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard. This museum is full of wonderful items including Etruscan art, 19th-century paintings from Denmark and France and many sculptures than span 5000 years. There are a few starts on show here – but two favourites are the work of Paul Gaugain and more than 30 pieces by Rodin. Take a rest from art here and you’ll be having coffee and cake or maybe a meal at a beautiful tropical plant filled winter garden restaurant.

Also one of the oldies but goodies is the famous Tivoli Gardens, an amusement park that has charmed adults and thrilled children for more than 160 years. It’s not Luna Park or Disneyland, but an area with old-fashioned gardens, a host of food pavilions and rides galore from the innocent, romantic rides of the past to the modern Demon – a corkscrewing roller coaster and the dead drop Golden Tower. The Tivoli is at its best at night when the magic of lights turn the park into a fairytale enclosure. Kitsch and schmaltz rule the day and from the behaviour of the visitors this is just the atmosphere desired.

Along the waterfront the Amalienborg Palace is an austere standout as there are four ‘mansions’ in the square making up the one home for the royal family. The buildings surround the centre square and the royal precinct is guarded by sentries. There is a ceremonial changing of the guard at noon daily. Amalienborg is one of Copenhagen best examples of Baroque architecture ­that didn’t run riot with the curls and swirls.

Head inland to view the splendid Frederikskirken, the marble church with its glorious dome that can be seen from all over the city.

You can’t visit Copenhagen without a thought for Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. It’s odd that she sits patiently looking toward the shore and not the harbour, which could take her away from all the attention and fuss. Nostalgia aside it feels disrespectful to see tourists putting their arms around her and invading her tiny space on a rock.

If you still have a hankering for unusual architecture there’s Holmen’s red brick warehouses, barracks and foundries that were built on reclaimed land in the 17th century for the Danish military. Holmen is home to schools specialising in drama, film, architecture and music. For architecture fans the Royal Danish School of Architecture holds regular exhibitions in Meldahis Smedie in Holmen.

But brilliant design isn’t just about buildings. Copenhagen’s restaurant and café scene underwent an amazing transformation in the mid nineties. This modern Scandinavian revolution has produced, to mention the tip of the eatery iceberg, Café Victor, Dan Turells, Café Sommersko, Ultimo and Quote. These new and very fabulous eateries and wine bars made their name for their interpretation of Danish cooking as well as their good looks.

Window shopping shows the sophisticated design side of fashion, from men’s and women’s clothing to cutting edge shoes and accessories. Homeware shops have so many innovative kitchen implements and interior design items that the best advice you can get before travelling to Copenhagen is to pack your suitcase to half full, then take half out ­ - there’s serious shopping to be done here.


There’s good food, great accommodation, excellent transport and activities to keep you going for a week or so, but spare a thought and perhaps your appetite for what is considered by many to be Denmark’s crowning design glory ­– the open-face sandwich. Forget wraps, baps, filled croissants, bagels and foccacia – this is the real Danish deal, cheap and more than cheerful.

‘Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen, friendly old girl of a town’ song written by Frank Loesser for the film Hans Christian Andersen (1952) starring Danny Kaye.

By Bev Malzard

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Book now for Battlefield Tours in 2017

Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours to pay homage to

Darwin Bombing with 75th anniversary tour in 2017

Australia’s number one battlefield tour operator, Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours (MMBT) has launched a new commemorative tour to mark the 75th anniversary of the Bombing of Darwin in February 2017.

“For more than 20 years, MMBT founder and acclaimed Historian, journalist, TV presenter and battlefield guidebook author Mat McLachlan has been leading pilgrimages to major battlefield sites throughout the world, including the Western Front, Germany, Gallipoli, Vietnam, Singapore and beyond,” said Managing Director, Peter Smith.

“The Bombing of Darwin anniversary tour provides an ideal opportunity for Australians to learn the local impact of World War II whilst discovering one of the country’s most naturally beautiful regions,” added Mat McLachlan.

The Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942, was the largest single attack ever mounted in this country, with 242 Japanese aircraft attacking Darwin’s harbour and township, sinking eight ships and killing more than 240 people.

MMBT’s five-night 75th anniversary tour (16-21 February) will put visitors in the heart of the city for the emotional anniversary and commemorations, and visit key sites including Stokes Hill, Fort Hill Wharf, WWII airfields, Adelaide River War Cemetery and the Darwin Military Museum, as well as cruising Darwin’s iconic harbour.

The tour is priced from $1497 per person, twin share.

“Recent major battlefield anniversary celebrations, such as the 2015 Gallipoli Centenary, have driven heightened awareness of battlefield travel and significant growth in demand for tours. We’re constantly striving to develop fascinating new tours to diversify our range of memorable wartime travel experiences,” concluded Mr Smith.

For more information, please visit: http://battlefields.com.au/darwin-75th-anniversary-2017/

To view and experience Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours’ new look website, and the broad range of tours available to book now, visit: www.battlefields.com.au, call 1300 880 340 or visit your favourite travel agent.

Mat McLachlan Battlefield Tours is part of McLachlan Tours - a family company with a 30-year track record in the Australian travel industry. McLachlan Tours is accredited with the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS), a member of the Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) and Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA), and can customise itineraries for travel agents’ clients anywhere in the world.