Sunday, September 22, 2013

Get Up & Go: Brunei packs a punch

Get Up & Go: Brunei packs a punch

Brunei packs a punch

Tucked into the top of Borneo, this tiny Sultanate of Brunei sure packs a punch. This is the last Malay Sultanate which expresses its proud history through magnificent mosques and traditional water villages. 

1.       Land in Brunei after only a six and a half hour flight from Melbourne.
2.       Visit a stunningly beautiful mosque, the Jame ‘Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque which is the largest in the land. There are four main minarets and two golden (yes, real gold leaf) domes. Glowing during the day, and at night, illuminated, a fantastic sight.

3.       Transfer from the city to Ulu Temburong National Park.  Go by speed boat to Bangar (40 mins.) then transfer to a long boat and skip up the river, bouncing through lots of sets of shallow rapids. This is a stunning ride and an adventure into the wilderness.

4.       Stay at Ulu-Ulu Resort, a quiet out-of-the-way place to relax and use as a base for local activities. (No mobile or internet reception here.) And except for the background soundtrack of million bird songs, and a trillion insects, it’s peaceful and serene. On arrival, it’s the traditional lemongrass, lime and lemon drink to refresh.
5.       The nature resort was once a research station, so it is comfy rather than luxurious. Food is good curries and filling barbecues. Like elsewhere in Brunei, it is dry, although non-Moslem guests can bring their own alcohol into the country and the resort (customs limits apply).
6.       Wake up at 4.30am to cross the Temburong River for the jungle canopy walk. Clamber through tree-root steps, then up a steep flight of 850 stairs before a little rest then head up the amazing steel structure to take you to the clouds.
7.       Up ten aluminium ladders to walk across the ‘bridge’ aerial walkway, high above the jungle’s fruiting figs. After this adventure, go for a swim, or rubber tubing through the rapids or as I did, read a book in the shade.
8.       Back to town to sample the fine local cuisine, made up of a blend of Indian, Chinese and South East Asian dishes – damn good food here too. 

9.       Walk around town, drop in to the Chinese temple, the Royal Regalia Museum and view the Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.
10.   Visit the Water Village. (Most of Bandar Seri Begawan was a water village for living, fishing and trading for centuries before modern advancement 50 years ago.) Walk across little bridges and walkways between houses and the kampong community villages. The locals’ wave and you can catch the real life happening here.
11.   The Kampong Ayer Cultural and Tourism Museum will explain the life lived here over water.
12.   After Ramadan, the Moslem world is ready to eat, and Hari Raya is time for open house and the hospitality of Hari Raya extends to the palace,  Istana Nurul Iman, the largest residential palace in the world, home to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassannal Bolkiah, who opens the palace. And anyone (including me) can line up to meet the Sultan (men meet the Sultan) women meet the Queen (which I did). More than 30,000 people visit each day for three days and the royals shake our hands and the visitors are fed.  The choreography of organising 90,000 people and feeding them, and giving them a gift – turns out to be orderly and impressive. 

13.   After all that pomp and splendour head to the opulent  Empire Hotel & Country Club for a right royal treat. Beautiful grounds, lots of splendid restaurants, eight swimming pools, a bowling alley, the Zen spa, a Jack Nicklaus golf course and a private beach.
14.   For something and somewhere totally different, Brunei is the Kingdom of unexpected treasures.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fly for FREE!

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, Get Up & Go contributor David Ellis says United Airlines, America’s second largest carrier, is licking its wounds after accidentally giving away hundreds – or possibly even more – air tickets by mistake last Thursday. Ouch!
Social media went into overdrive when intending passengers booking flights online discovered they were being charged $0 for their journeys, paying only US$2.50 to $10 for airport Security Fees.

One man snapped up six tickets to take his family from Chicago to Los Angeles for the weekend, paying just $60 in fees and no $2,400 airfare, a New Yorker booked a weekend away in Honolulu for the $10 in Security Fees and no regular $689 fare for the 8000km flight, and a quick-acting Houston woman a mere $5 Fees for a return ticket at Christmas to see her parents 2000km away in Washington DC – something that would normally have cost her close to $500.

United won’t say how many tickets it gave away in the 15 minutes before it discovered Thursday’s error, which it said was a human mistake during loading of fares into its computer system.

And in an unusual gesture of goodwill, rather than challenge those still holding tickets, the airline announced it would honour all tickets bought during the hiccup – irrespective of whether for travel in the short term, or for months down the track.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Get Up & Go: Don't buy that crappy Bintang singlet . . .

Get Up & Go: Don't buy that crappy Bintang singlet . . .

Don't buy that crappy Bintang singlet . . .

Skyscanner reveals that one in three Australians do look a gift horse in the mouth

With summer holidays just around the corner, holiday makers who intend to bring back gifts for their family and friends take heed of these recent findings by leading travel search site Skyscanner.

Don’t buy crummy gifts

Unfortunately, Australians aren’t very good at putting this theory into practice, finding it hard to resist the urge to bring back naff gifts for their nearest and dearest.
22 per cent of Australians said that cliché nick-nacks and other ornaments were the most disappointing gifts given by a friend or family who had returned from overseas, with items of clothing (hello, Bintang singlets), and comedy t-shirts ranked as the second (17%) and third (9%) least desirable gifts.
So what’s all the fuss about? A gift from anyone should be appreciated, right? Wrong.
While 50% of Aussies kept the gift to avoid hurting the giver’s feelings, a shocking 18% re-gifted the items, and just over 12% cut all emotional ties and threw the gift away.
But it’s not just the receiver who regrets the wasted efforts of clothing items purchased overseas. 


One in five Australians surveyed suddenly remembered that pair of paisley drop-crotch pants from their holiday to Southeast Asia (now hidden deep in their bottom drawer) and admitted that they had bought an item of clothing overseas that they later regretted. 


12% of people admitted to buying an ornament or souvenir item they had no use for back at home and 8% admitted they had brought back weird local delicacies, but later wished they had been confiscated at customs.
A whopping 60% of Australians said that they had never bought anything from overseas that they later regretted.
Dave Boyte, Market Development Manager Australia and New Zealand said, “Rules of gift engagement! Try not to buy cliché overseas ornaments or t-shirts. Chances are they will be used as firewood or a spare t-shirt for work around the house. It may even be re-gifted and given back to you!”


Top 10 most unwanted holiday gifts:

1.      Ornament

2.      Comedy t-shirt                              

3.      Cheap jewellery                            

4.      Key-ring                            

5.      Magnet

6.      Food item

7.      Snow globe

8.      Fake DVD

9.      Local drink

10.  Airline branded toy
Skyscanner polled 500 Australians via OnePoll.

About Skyscanner

*   Skyscanner is a leading global travel search site providing instant online comparisons for millions of flights plus hotels and car hire.

*   Founded in 2003 by three IT professionals, Skyscanner is the no.1 travel search website in Europe and no.3 worldwide, receiving over 60 million visits per month.

*   Skyscanner is available in 40 countries and in 30 languages.

*   Skyscanner’s highly-rated free mobile apps are available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Windows 8 devices and have been downloaded over 25 million times.

*   The company employs over 250 staff and has its global headquarters in Edinburgh, with regional hubs in Singapore and Beijing. It will be opening a Miami office in 2013.