TRAVEL BLOG

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The Naka Island, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Phuket

I have been to Phuket numerous of times and frankly I’ve never stayed on any of its outlying islands. This time round, I had the opportunity to visit one of the Starwood Group’s properties, The Naka Ialand.

Located just off the eastern coast of Phuket, The Naka Island is perfectly poised along the southern portion of Naka Yai Island. To get there, simply arrange for a speedboat pick up from the Ao Po Grand Marina.

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Once you arrive at the pier, you are immediately picked up by the resort’s buggy and transferred to your villa for check-in. I love in-room check-in. No queues, no crowds, just you and the resort’s staff. The route to the villa was serene and was well greeted by passing staff. We checked into the Tropical Pool Villa and lucky for us, our villa was one of the villas that had the sea view.

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Each of the Tropical Pool Villas comes with your own private pool & sala, an open-air bathroom and if you’re not afraid of mosquitoes, an outdoor soaking tub. Coming from Singapore, I hate mosquitoes; therefore I didn’t take the risk of getting them biting me by willingly soaking myself bare-naked in the outdoor tub. But it’s definitely a romantic sight at night, when the housekeeping comes in to turn down the villa.

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After resting our feet for a while, we headed to the Z Bar to catch our first island sunset and pre-dinner drinks. Z Bar specializes in custom cocktails and offers enticing Asian style tapas and a stunning view of the surrounding island vistas.

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We then headed off to dinner at My Grill. My Grill focuses on fresh seafood and premier steaks, all deliciously prepared with a southern Thai twist. The restaurant only opens for dinner and offers the view of the infinite seascape.

Naka Island’s Chef de Cuisine does a mean grilled steak. We started off with a portion of salad and ordered the restaurant’s two specialties. It’s steak and codfish. Both items were cooked to perfection. The steak simply melts in your mouth and the fish was fresh and sweet. Dinner was perfect and we simply couldn’t wait to try more of his dishes.

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Twinpalms Phuket

Twinpalms Phuket has always been a favourite place to stay when I’m in Phuket. Located on the west coast of Phuket, it is a sleek and stylish abode that fits the lifestyle of a high-flyer.

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The lobby was spacious and check-in was a breeze. It’s good to know that the property has lagoon pool rooms that connects to the main pool. Nothing beats waking up in the morning and heading out to swim via your own private patio.

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The room itself was spacious and it came with a good size bathroom. Definitely a plus that the resort provides 2 sinks for their guests.

Twinpalms Phuket is one of the few hotels in Phuket that has their own beach club. As what I’ve heard, it’s one of the best. Catch Beach Club is open daily and hosts regular parties and beach BBQs.

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I’ve attended their beach BBQ and let me tell you that it has one of the best selection that I’ve seen in Phuket. There was an array of seafood, ranging from oysters, lobsters, crabs, prawns, all freshly caught from the Andaman sea. A good selection of grilled meats was available as well and even their dessert line was enticing. I ended my Friday night filling very stuffed and guilty but yet satisfied with the quality of food that I’ve ingested for the night. It’s a good way to end off the week and a good start to my holiday.

I’ve spent the Saturday relaxing by the main pool, tried a couple of the resort’s signature cocktails and worked on my tan. It was a good time to relax and take work off my mind. My brain just doesn’t stop working.

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Booked myself a spa session just before dinner and it definitely helped smoothed out the knots that I had.

Twinpalms Phuket is also known for their Sunday brunch. It starts from 12 noon to 3pm at their restaurant, Oriental Spoon where you can expect the freshest selection of seafood, oysters, salmons, lobsters, artisan cheeses and a variety of sweets including their famous creme brûlée. It is a popular choice among tourists so you definitely have to make your reservations for the brunch.

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Remember to bring along a hearty appetite when you visit Twinpalms Phuket.. Don’t say I didn’t warn you..

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Learn to surf

Honolulu’s Waikiki beach is renowned for its sparkling and gentle waves and framing the vista of the beach is the jaw-dropping panorama of Diamond Head. The beachfront and the surrounding boardwalk are sheltered by a multitude of high-rise apartments, hotels, shops and restaurants. Of all the hotels on Waikiki beach, one stands out more than any other and that is the Royal Hawaiian Hotel affectionately known as the Pink Palace. Most afternoons Waikiki beach turns on amazing sunsets and ‘The Pink Palace’ is the place to be while sipping a Mai Tai cocktail as the sun disappears and melts into the ocean.

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Gentle rolling Waikiki waves
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Learn to surf from Waikiki’s only full-time fully licensed female instructor
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Diamond Head
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The iconic Royal Hawaiian Hotel ‘The PinkPalace’
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Waikiki Beach
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Sunset Waikiki Beach

 

Elvis Presley made the Mai Tai cocktail very popular by featuring the drink prominently in the movie Blue Hawaii.

As I near the beach for the first time I see cameras flashing and tourists buzzing around a large bronzed statue of legendary Hawaiian surf God, Duke Kahanamoku. The Duke first surfed the waves of Waikiki beach in 1908 (approx) and is known adoringly throughout the world as the father of modern day surfboard riding. Little did the Duke know that one day Waikiki would be the mecca for tourists to learn to surf.

Just behind the Duke statue on the sand, you’ll find the ‘Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki’ where you can hire surfboards and also get lessons to surf by professional instructors.

One of the instructors is one of Waikiki’s most colourful characters, 64 year old grandmother Karen Shmidt who is Waikiki’s only full time female licensed surfboard riding instructor (there are other women instructors but none operate full time). I was introduced to Karen through a friend of mine and over a long lunch was soon to find out that this was no ordinary woman.

Karen was born in Chicago to a very strict middle class family. When she was a teenager, they moved to California’s Huntington Beach and it was not long before this wild and active young girl rebelled against her conservative family. This was the 60’s, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Free love was the norm and surfing and commune living was beginning to flourish. Karen quickly adopted her new lifestyle and as she quoted, “ I tuned in and dropped out.”

Karen immediately fell in love with the ocean and after leaving school got a job as a crewman on a 50ft yacht. Her love of adventure soon saw her heading to Colombia where she again found work crewing on a boat on the Buenaventura coast. In the early 70’s there were a lot of Americans living in Colombia and it is here that she met her future husband, who also happened to be the captain of the boat she worked on.

While in Colombia (1970-1978), Karen travelled the country extensively and eventually got married, had her first child and started up a yacht chartering business together with her new husband, taking tourists to Panama and the many surrounding outer islands.

During this time, their mutual love for partying led them to an exorbitant lifestyle that caused their lives to spin out of control, so eventually they packed up and headed back to California where they attempted to settle down.

They only lasted in California for one year and with their young child in tow were on the road again. This time they headed to Mexico where they once again started up a chartering business out of Club Med and as a bonus imported local weed to California. During this time her second child was born. They partied continuously made and spent lots of money but their lifestyle again got out of hand. Her husband was becoming very abusive which led to a marriage breakdown, so Shmidt packed up and headed back to California where they finally got divorced.

Karen stayed in California till the mid 80’s and then made a decision to move to Waikiki for a more serene lifestyle.

Landing in Waikiki with little money and no friends, Karen soon befriended the local beach boys due to her love of the ocean and instead of getting her life together as planned she started drinking and partying excessively yet again.

It was at this time in 1986 on Waikiki Beach that she met Hawaiian local beach boy legend Bobby Ah Choy. She first noticed him out in the surf taking photos from a stand up paddleboard, long before stand up surfing became popular.

After years of ‘being sick and tired of being sick and tired,’ Karen turned her life around with a complete healthy lifestyle change and commenced a relationship with Bobby Ah Choy. Surfing from this time on would become a major part of her life.

Ten years ago and with Bobby’s guidance, Karen became a fully licensed surf instructor, which proved difficult to achieve as she was a “Haole,”(a non local), but with her determination and perseverance she achieved this goal and today is the only full time, fully licensed female surfing instructor on Waikiki Beach.

Many years of challenges and tribulations has made Karen the most inspirational person I have ever had the privilege and pleasure to meet. So, whenever you are in Waikiki beach Honolulu and want to learn how to surf or just get some tips or a refresher course on surfing, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself to one of Hawaii’s premier surfboard riding instructors.

TIPS

*Pack plenty of sunscreen, as lots of time will be spent on the beaches of Waikiki, Wiamea Bay, Sunset and Pipeline

*To discover Honolulu at a leisurely pace take a Redline bus tour

*Ensure you visit Pearl Harbour

*There is so much to see and do in Hawaii I advise you seek assistance from hotel staff for best local attractions available.

WHERE TO STAY

www.paradisesonline.com for all your accommodation

HOW TO GET THERE

Jet set Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Photography and words Kelly Tang

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Pearl Harbour, Hawaii

Whenever Hawaii is mentioned, images of cloudless sunny blue skies and world famous surfing beaches come to mind.

So it is so hard to comprehend that one of the most historical World War Two catastrophes happened on this island paradise.

The attack on Pearl Harbour occurred in the early hours of December 7th1941. The might of the Japanese war machine led by the imperial Japanese Navy attacked the U.S. naval base in a surprise air raid on the unsuspecting Americans reeking devastation as never been seen by America in their history of war.

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Guided tour onboard the USS Arizona
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USS Arizona Memorial
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Pearl Harbour today
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Honour Roll of Entombed Crew of the USS Arizona
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Wreckage of the USS Arizona
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Oil still leaking from the USS Arizona

 

The damage and loss of life for the U.S. unleashed by the Japanese on this day was immense. By the end of the air raid this is what had happened:

  • 4 battleships sunk
  • 3 battleships damaged
  • 1 battleship grounded
  • 2 other ships sunk
  • 3 cruisers damaged
  • 3 destroyers damaged
  • 3 other ships damaged
  • 188 aircraft destroyed
  • 159 aircraft damaged
  • 2,402 lives lost
  • 1,247 wounded
  • Civilian casualties included:
  • 57 killed
  • 35 wounded

The result of this attack was a major Japanese tactical victory.

What came about after the Pearl Harbour attack was:

  • United States declaration of war on the Empire of Japan
  • Germany and Italy declared war on the United States

Visiting Pearl Harbour is quite a moving experience. There is a museum at the naval base including audio and visuals detailing this tragic day in1941.

There is also an informative and captivating movie you watch before being taken out by boat to the memorial that has been built above the sunken wreck of the battleship ‘USS Arizona.’

The USS Arizona was torpedoed by the Japanese and sunk with all 1,177 crewmen aboard. The ship remains untouched to this day and is now the tomb and sacred site to all those that perished on this vessel.  This memorial is also the viewing platform that you can walk on to and look down to see the wreck of USS Arizona. At one end is a marble memorial wall with every name of the deceased crew that was onboard that fateful day.

A naval officer is on hand to answer any queries that visitors have.

The attack on Pearl Harbour had a very profound effect on USA and President Franklin Roosevelt described it as “A date that will live in infamy.”

The Island of Oahu has so much to offer as far as sightseeing and adventuring goes, but a visit to Pearl Harbour is a truly amazing experience and should be on the top of your “to do” list.

TIP:

A clever way to visit Pearl Harbour is on an Aloha Double Decker touring bus. Prices start from $10 USD.

It’s a great way to discover a new city and the bus stops at every major landmark. You can get on and off the bus as many times as you like whilst your pass is valid.

HOW TO GET THERE

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Photography and words Kelly Tang

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Maui, Hawaiian Island Paradise

Maui is one of the world’s supreme holiday destinations and is renowned for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery and for the past 17 years has been voted the “Best Island” by the Conde Nast traveller magazine. When you are there, it is very easy to see why.

From the months of December through to May the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean turn on a display of whale watching that is mesmerizing. Welcome to humpback heaven! This is where these massive and beautiful beasts come to play, breed and for mother whales to teach their young calves ocean management skills such as: breaching, flapping, slapping and the exciting humpback sport of krill fishing.

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Glorious sunset Maui
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Breaching humpback Maui
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Wailea Beach
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Grand Wailea restaurant
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Stunning colours of Maui

 

From the beach you can see whales all day as they play and cavort in the distance. But to experience the best whale watching display that I’ve seen, I advise you go on one of the many whale watching boat tours that are available.

THINGS TO DO

There is so much to do in Maui, so in no particular order, here are my

favourite and fun things to do:

*Whale watching on one of the many boat tours (Dec till May)

*Take a beautiful drive to Hana (a must do Maui excursion)

*Learn to surf at the many surfboard-riding schools that are available

*Waimoku waterfall hike, Haleakala

* The Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Resort (for major pampering)

*Honolua Bay is great for swimming and snorkeling

*Makena beach; swim with turtles

*Wailea beach; relax and swim in this very friendly family beach and also enjoy a spectacular coastal walk.

*Wailea golf club (3 championship courses)

(Check with concierge of your hotel to help book some of these activities).

THE GRAND WAILEA RESORT

Accommodation was always going to be a difficult and important decision to make due to the huge amount of resorts and hotels that are available. After much research, I chose the Grand Wailea Resort for the following reasons:

Set in 40 acres of prime real estate, this Polynesian style resort sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by lush landscaped gardens and views to die for. In 2011, The Grand Wailea was voted ‘The Best Resort Accommodation’, ‘The Best Resort Restaurant’ and ‘The Best Resort Spa’ by Maui newsreaders. Not a bad rap coming from the local community considering the huge amount of amazing resort accommodation available in Maui.

The Grand Wailea has an array of accommodation to suit all budgets and at different times of the year they offer great deals.

WHAT TO DO AT THE RESORT?

*To ensure that you stay fit while you’re on holidays, the resort has a very comprehensive fitness center which can be utilized to keep the kilos at bay (personal and group training available).

*Pamper yourself at the Grande Spa that has beautiful facilities

*A 3km breathtaking coastal walk adjacent to the hotel emphasizes the island’s beauty. Walk in the afternoon while the sun is setting for spectacular views.

*The resort has two swimming pools available: one for children (noisy, slides and fun) and an adult pool where peace and serenity reigns supreme.

*Beautiful Wailea beach is the backyard of the resort and is also one of Maui’s finest and most popular beaches. It is the ideal beach to swim, relax, whale watch and sip a cocktail whilst watching the sun disappear into the horizon.

*The Grand Wailea has an array of cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from. One of the restaurants is the award winning and unusually named Humuhumukunuapua’a, which is actually the name of a local reef fish. The name alone is a conversation piece and the food is exquisite. A beautiful restaurant for that special or romantic occasion.

TIPS

*Ensure you have a camera for whale watching photos and spectacular scenery everywhere!

*Pack a good pair of walking shoes to enjoy the coastal walk

*Temperature is always warm, so ensure you pack your summer wardrobe and plenty of sunscreen.

HOW TO BOOK HOTELS

www.paradisesonline.com

BOOK FLIGHTS

Jetset Travel Rose Bay (02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Photography and words Kelly Tang

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Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawaii instantly conjures up images of swaying coconut palms, azure blue water, perfect waves and white sandy beaches. For the surfing enthusiast, it also brings to mind an icon that is always thought of and that is the legend of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern day surfing.

On the promenade adjacent to Waikiki beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Duke’s larger than life bronze statue with outstretched arms is there to greet all tourists who venture down to the beach for the first time. Images of the great Duke Kanamanoku and his massive old wooden board surfing off Honolulu’s Waikiki’s beach are well known around the world.

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Famous Duke Kahanamoku statue Waikiki Beach
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Royal Hawaiian Hotel ( the Pink Palace)
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Sunset cruise Waikiki Beach
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Sunset, Waikiki Beach

 

Waikiki Beach is famous for its gentle rolling waves and upon arrival you are not disappointed. The beach and promenade is a beehive of activity filled with surfers, sunbakers and day-trippers. It is a kaleidoscope of colours and activity and overseeing all of this is an array of high-rise hotels and buildings that line up and guard this famous strip.

If you take a stroll to the southern end of the beach you will come to the world renowned and iconic hotel The Royal Hawaiian (a.k.a the pink palace). At sunset there is no better or more tranquil place to be in Waikiki then here, sipping a cocktail and witnessing sunsets that will be etched in your memory for a lifetime.

Here are my top attractions in Honolulu in no particular order:

The north shore of Hawaii
The world mecca of surfing which includes Wiamea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach.  In the winter months you will be able to see the world’s best surfing some of the planet’s largest and most perfect waves.

*Hire a pushbike, a great way to discover the north shore.

Pearl Harbour
During WW11 on December 7th 1941, Pearl Harbour was attacked by the might of the Japanese air force. 360 planes carried out this surprise attack and nearly 92 vessels were destroyed including the USS Arizona. Today all sailors who were on duty on that fateful day on the Arizona are still entombed on board this vessel.

A historical and very emotional must do attraction in Honolulu.

Waikiki beach
Hire a surfboard and get out and surf some of the most famous small and gentle waves in the world. Surf lessons are available by some of Waikiki’s best surfing instructors including Waikiki’s only full time licensed female surfing instructor Karen Schmidt.

*Go to The Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki located just behind the Duke Statue on the sand.

Other major Honolulu attractions:

*Aloha Tower is an iconic Honolulu landmar

*Diamond Head, a very famous dormant volcano in Waikiki

*Aloha Moana Shopping Centre and the many shops on Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu Swap meet markets (near Pearl Harbour), to only name a few

*The oldest Chinatown in the USA

*Night time buskers on Kalakaua Avenue

*Redline bus tours will take you to nearly all the major attractions in Honolulu and is the best and fastest way to learn the layout of a newly arrived town

WAIKIKI RESORT HOTEL

Location, location, location… that’s what Mr. Hooker real estate legend used to say and that reason is obvious when you first arrive at the Waikiki Resort Hotel.

Only a 50 metre walk from the very impressive foyer and there you are standing on one of the world’s most iconic beaches.

Everything you need in Waikiki is in walking distance from the hotel including restaurants and shops.

The hotel has a great variety of accommodation available and the rates are very reasonable.

The hotel staff is very accommodating and friendly and can pretty much answer any question you may have.

WHERE TO EAT IN HONOLULU, HAWAII

*The Seoul Jung (Korean BBQ restaurant) at the Waikiki Resort Hotel

*The Cheesecake Factory : 2301 Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki

*P F Changs, 2201 Kalakaua Avenue, Waikiki

HOW TO GET THERE

Jetset Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Photography and words Daniel Resnik

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The Sheraton Full Moon Resort

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Hypnotic sunsets

The Maldives is situated off the west coast of India and is often described as one of the most beautiful places on earth. This 1,200-island archipelago that forms this majestic atoll is spread over 90,000sq kms that makes it one of the most dispersed countries in the world.

Male is the capital of the Maldives and this particular island is only about two kms long and one km wide. Approximately 90,000 people are crammed on this tiny metropolis and it’s the most populated island in the Maldives.  The Muslim religion dominates this culture and they abide by strict rules. Male is the only island in the atoll where alcohol is illegal and forbidden (including any hotel).

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Beachfront restaurant
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Magical Maldives

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Uncrowded sparkling beach
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Romantic Maldives

My destination in the Maldives was The Sheraton Full Moon Resort, which is located about 15 minutes by boat from the airport island and compared to most Maldivian islands is quite large. This exquisite resort is set in lush landscaped gardens that one would liken to the “Garden of Eden”. The resort has a variety of accommodation ranging from beach cottages, beach front deluxe rooms, water bungalows, water villas, water suites and ocean villas that come with their own plunge pools and decks (that have hammocks and day beds included). The ocean villas back onto the Indian Ocean, which on most days has perfect waves breaking right outside your back door. If you love surfing, the ocean villas are the perfect accommodation option. Ideal for honeymooners or couples that just want to get away from it all.

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Beautiful small waves outside your room

The beauty and charm of The Sheraton Full Moon Resort is what made me fall in love with this place. The highlight (and there were many for me) was the white sandy beach and the perfect temperature of the clear blue water. There were times when I could’ve stayed in the water all day and only returned to land due to my appetite calling, which mind you is quite often. The choice of activities available on the island is vast, ranging from high-octane activities that include big game fishing, scuba diving and surfing to just lazing around the beach on a banana lounge under an umbrella or a day bed or at one of the many moorish eateries available.

One daily activity I did religiously (besides lazing on the beach) was make my way to the Anchorage Bar (where day beds are strategically placed on a large deck by the waters edge) to participate in the 6 o’clock evening feed of the baby sharks and sting rays. With the kaleidoscope of colours emanating from the glorious sunsets, it made this daily ritual a must do activity.

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Maldives serenity

Spending time in the Maldives means many hours of being exposed to the extreme but glorious heat of the tropics, as most, if not all activities are watersports and therefore outdoor based. So to regenerate the body and soul, an indulgent highlight of the Sheraton is a beauty, health and wellness spa called The Shine Spa. To access the spa, you need to stroll down a long, quaint wooden walkway that crosses over the Maldives famous turquoise waters where brightly coloured tropical fish swim by. This walkway takes you to a very a small island dedicated for The Shine Spa. It’s the island’s version of the yellow brick road…

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Walkway to Shine Spa

An extensive menu and wide variety of spa treatments are available and all you have to do is layback and enjoy…

10 BEST THINGS TO DO AT THE SHERATON FULL MOON

Deep sea fishing

Scuba Diving

Snorkeling

Surfing

Tennis

Table Tennis

Tai Chi and Yoga

Swim/ocean/pool

Gym

Massage and spa

 

WHERE TO EAT

Sand coast…International cuisine

Bhan Thai…Thai cuisine

Sea Salt…seafood and steak

Anchorage Bar…snack bar

Feast…Main buffet restaurant available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

24hr room service available

HOW TO GET THERE

Jetset Travel Rosebay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

WHERE TO STAY

Go to www.paradisesonline.com for resort accommodation information

TIPS

Sunscreen, swimsuit, hat, a book are a must and most importantly ensure you are prepared to experience a holiday you will never forget!

When swimming at the beach, ensure that you share the water with the baby sharks and stingrays as they majestically and harmlessly glide by.

HOW TO GET THERE

Jetset Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Photography and words Kelly Tang

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SIGIRIYA – Elephant Safari, Minneriya National Park

Bouncing around in the back of an open top jeep being driven down a dusty dirt trail in Sigiriya on a sunny late afternoon, I’m on my way to Minneriya National Park located in central Sri Lanka. I’m about to embark on an elephant safari and I feel like John Wayne in his famous African adventure movie “Hatari.”

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Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka
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Elephant Safari, Sri Lanka
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Elephant Safari Minneriya National Park

 

Regulation requires that upon entry to the reserve every vehicle must be provided with a guide. At first I did not understand why a guide was required, but I would soon find out.

Our guide whose name was Sugath Liyanage, explained how he lives close by in a local village and all his life has loved elephants, which are a sacred animal in Sri Lanka. He is currently going through a voluntary five-year period of guide work before he becomes a fully paid guide.

Sugath informed us that there are up to 300 elephants that reside in this reserve and if we are lucky, today we may also encounter a herd of buffalos and many different types of birds such as storks, jungle fowl and the brown and black-capped bulbul. Also birds of prey including the grey-headed fish eagle and the white-bellied sea eagle also call Minneriya their home. Toque and grey Langur monkeys and herds of spotted deer can also sometimes be seen.

Look very closely we are told and you maybe lucky to see a Jackel or two lurking in the shadows.

If we do encounter these animals then that will be a bonus, but today we are on a safari and looking for elephants and for the first 20 minutes we see none. I have this horrible sinking feeling that today will be the day all elephants on this reserve will be in hiding and will not appear. I’m thinking, you know that old classic line, “you should’ve been here yesterday.”

Well 20 minutes into our hot and dusty trail ride and amongst the thick undergrowth we suddenly make out a few elephants, my heart skips a beat and a few moments later we come to the end of the trail and the park suddenly opens up, we now could be in any game park in the world. It is beautiful, miles of open land surrounding two massive lakes. Elephants, massive huge elephants are everywhere all sizes and ages. It was amazing to be so close to these majestic animals, some were in packs, younger elephants were playing, others were lying in mud baths and some were swimming. Further down the park elephants were roaming in the bush and there were little baby elephants sticking close to their mums and even some large males were hanging around. The reason they are hanging out, its mating season and the big bucks are hoping for some “elephant fun”. Generally the large males do not hang out with the herd unless its time to mate. Elephants generally live in close-knit family groups, led by a matriarch.

The dominant female is usually in charge and literally, when I say charge, get to close when there are young and baby elephants around and that is what they do, charge. Our guide explained to us that there were a few angry elephants in the reserve, that were known to charge quite often and from a distance at one time we witnessed one of these aggressive beasts charge a jeep that had encroached to close. As our safari continued, we got caught in a precarious position while we were a watching a group of elephants. Without our drivers or our guide’s knowledge another pack appeared from the bush behind us and were not happy we were invading their space.  For a moment we were eyeballed by two angry herds, there were maybe 20 massive elephants, then, suddenly two charged our jeep. Then I realized why each vehicle must have a guide on board because in that instance the guides experience saved us from maybe getting attacked, an incredibly frightening but exhilarating moment.

*When the elephants charged, our guide stood up tall in an aggressive stance and yelled out to let the elephants know that we were not moving and in that instance they both backed off and returned to their herd.

The herd moved on, our heart rate slowed and the safari continued. Seeing these magnificent beasts so close in an environment where they can roam wild and not locked up in a cage in a zoo is a truly wonderful experience

ELEPHANT SAFARI 
*We organized our elephant safari through the staff at the Sigiriya Hotel.
*Safari duration is approx. 4 hours.

TIPS
*Ensure you wear comfortable clothes, a hat, walking/trekking shoes, and take sun block, insect repellant and a camera.

STAYING THERE
Sigiriya Hotel

HOW TO GET THERE

Jetset Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Photography and words Kelly Tang

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A Sri Lankan Adventure

A Sri Lankan and Adventure

24/11/2011

A very exciting times for our new www.paradisesonline.com website and to celebrate I will take our regular readers and visitors to our site on a Sri Lankan adventure.

It was my first time to Sri Lanka and I knew it was a beautiful country from what I had heard, seen and researched over the years. But in reality, all I really knew about Sri Lanka apart from the internal civil war they had endured for years, that now has been resolved, was their passion for their number one national sport, cricket.

My plan for this trip was to visit the west coast of Sri Lanka, which would incorporate two resorts. First one in Negombo called Club Dolphin, which is approximately a 30- minute drive north of Colombo (capital of Sri Lanka) and the second one in Kulatara called Kani Lanka, which is approx. a 2 -hour drive south of Colombo.

I also arranged a visit to Sigiriya, which is located in central Sri Lanka and is famous for its ‘massive ancient rock fortress’ believed to be the 8th wonder of the world and is located in a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site. Another reason why I was so looking forward to visiting Sigirya was that I had planned to go on an elephant safari nearby.

From Sigariya, an adventurous 10 hour road trip would see me pass through and spend a short time in Kandy, one of Sri Lanka’s largest and most populated cities and on the way visit some spice markets and an elephant orphanage.

From the orphanage I continued on to Kani Lanka and finished off my Sri Lankan experience with an exploration of the eclectic capital of Colombo, culminating with a stay in one of Colombo’s most famous and historical hotels that calls the Indian Ocean shoreline its home; the world renowned ‘Galle Face Hotel.’

I will in the following weeks do blogs on all these areas, parks,reserves, orphanages, hotels and resorts.

Starting with the Club Hotel Dolphin…….  

THE CLUB HOTEL DOLPHIN, NEGOMBO

From what I had read, Sri Lanka was a tropical island of remarkable beauty and soon I was to discover a country full of a diverse mix of culture, people, food, wildlife and beaches.

After a 12- hour flight from Sydney via Singapore I arrived in Bandaranaike Airport. At immigration, a huge sign on the wall greeted me with the words: “Drug smuggling carries the death penalty.” That’s when I realized I was far from home. The airport was quite modern and clean but moments later, stepping off a travelator and in the blink of an eye, the airport suddenly turned from your average airport to a combination of a street bazaar and bustling middle eastern market, where all kind of wares were for sale, in a multitude of small stores. Touts lined up outside every shop attempting to draw you into their Aladdin’s cave in an attempt to sell you an array of eclectic goods such as washing machines, clothes dryers, vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances. Walking further on, hundreds of people, many dressed in Middle Eastern attire, were gathered around luggage carousels waiting for their baggage to arrive, loudly chatting and proudly displaying they’re newly purchased goods.

From the airport I was transported to my first leg of my Sri Lankan journey that entailed a 30 minute drive north of Colombo’s main airport to a hotel on the west coast of Sri Lanka. The hotel is a rambling resort called the Club Hotel Dolphin set in a 20 acre garden compound that has an 800 metre Indian Ocean beach frontage.

As there is not much else to do in Negombo, once settled I settled in at the Club Dolphin, a multitude of activities were available such as:

* Beach and pool volleyball
* Gymnasium
* Archery
* Bocce
* Tennis
* Ping Pong
* Darts
* Snooker
* Badminton
* Mini golf
* Kayaking
* Horse riding
* Seasonal dolphin watching

Or, my favourite activity of choice… Lazing by the pool with a book. Resort staff encourage group activities, the most popular being pool volleyball. I felt like I was at a Sri Lankan version of Club Med!

The beauty of this resort is that it can either be a fun filled family holiday or you can chose to just relax and do absolutely nothing. The Club Dolphin resort is quite dated, but once settled in, it has a wonderful feel and a vibrant energy. I had a great few days of relaxing and catching up on some needed rest here, but my exciting adventure was just beginning and that was a road trip to the centre of Sri Lanka to the historical and cultural town of Sigirya.

TIPS

Ensure you have a supply of quality sunscreen and insect repellant that contains deet due to the very warm and humid temperatures, ensure correct clothing is packed and don’t forget your swimmers!

WHERE TO STAY
The Club Dolphin Hotel
www.paradisesonline.com
All resort accommodation is available throughout Asia and the Pacific regions catering for all budgets.

TRAVEL INFORMATION
For any information on Sri Lanka and the Maldives email me at:
kelly@paradises.travel

HOW TO GET THERE

Jetset Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Elephant Safari

Peaceful Negombo
The Hotel Club Dolphin
Sunset In Negombo
Colourful Kani
Frescoes Sigariya

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Phuket, Island of Dreams

Less than 50 minutes by taxi from the airport and the magic of this island has already cast its spell on me. Normally I need a day or two to unwind after I arrive to a holiday destination, but on this occasion, the metamorphosis from stress-head to not a care in the world, occurred in the ride from the airport to my hotel.

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Giant Phuket prawns
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Glorious Patong Beach sunset
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Umbrella alley Patong Beach
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Rooftop restaurant La Flora Resort
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La Flora Resort

 

The beauty of Phuket is that it’s only approximately 8hrs flying time from Sydney. Of course this figure varies depending on which location you are flying from.

As I write this blog, I am outside my room adjacent to a magnificent 50 meter pool. From the end of the pool to Patong Beach is only 2 meters. It is mid morning and I have already walked the beach which allows me to have breakfast with a clear conscience, read the paper and contemplate a swim in the pool or a dip in the sparkling Adaman Sea.

Patong beach early in the morning is a beehive of activity. Coloured umbrellas are being erected in military precision, in ready for the influx of international guests who will make Patong Beach their home for the day. The sun is shining, the temperature is a balmy 26 degrees Celsius. Life is good.

 

HOTEL OF THE MONTH…..LA FLORA PATONG

I am staying at the La Flora Resort Patong on Patong Beach, which is the busiest and main area in Phuket. Hotel Le Flora Resort Patong is simply magnificent…….five star excellence.

There are more beautiful and peaceful areas to stay in Phuket. But for me, to be so close to the vibrant energy of Patong Beach, with everything available at your doorstep, is what I came for. Yet, when you enter Hotel Flora, the eclectic energy of the main street and town simply disappears.

Hotel La Flora Patong is a world class luxury boutique hotel and has a variety of stylish designed accommodation ranging from excellent to simply sublime.

“The La Flora Resort Patong is the only luxury boutique resort in the central Patong area that offers pool villas”.

The cuisine available in the Hotel is world class and the rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking Patong Beach is breathtaking.

I have to mention the staff, they were so professional and their attention to detail is just another reason that makes this hotel so affordable and exceptional.

The Hotel Flora is a few steps to the beach and 2 minutes away from Patong’s pulsating, raunchy and exciting entertainment/restaurant precinct and only 1 minute away from shopping and my favourite Asian pastime……. Massage!!!!

 

BANGLA ROAD

As the sun sets in Phuket, the main entertainment street, Bangla Road is shut off to vehicles and explodes in a plethora of loud music, beer bars, go go bars and dancing girls. Well, not all are dancing girls. What initially may appear to be beautiful sexy ladies in stunning evening gowns, big hair, gyrating to loud music on the street and draped in feather boas and costume jewellery, actually turn out to be not as “lady like” as they appear.

Welcome to the main “drag” of Phuket.

Top 10 best things to do in Phuket

1. Beaches, swimming, board sailing, jet skiing and para sailing.

2. Island tours.

3. Go Karting.

4. Day and night trips to Phi Phi Island and Krabi.

5. Temple Tours and a visit to the Big Buddha.

6. Restaurants (ranging from street carts and stalls to 5 star international restaurants).

7. Scuba diving courses and or snorkeling.

8. Massage (foot and body) Approx $10AUS for 60mins of bliss.

9. Cabaret Shows “Fantasea”….incredible entertainment which includes elephants, trapeze artists, comedians and much more.

10. Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)…International and local fights.

Phuket is unlike any other holiday destination in Thailand. It is colourful and has an incredible energy. Walking around town and the beach at night, where the markets and food stalls are, there is an amazing buzz and the smell of beautiful Asian food wafts through the air.

I have to be honest, there was one problem I had while I was wandering the markets and food stalls and that was what to eat. The variety of food is endless and all of it is so beautiful. The problem I encountered was to try not to eat to much. I failed, not only is the food so moorish its amazingly cheap.

I love Phuket and once you have been here, you will want to keep coming back.

For any more information on anything I have written, please email me on…..

kelly@paradises.travel

HEALTH AND SAFETY TIPS

Always travel with a small first aid kit which should include band aids, antiseptic cream, eye wash, tweezers and a small constricting bandage for any sprains that may occur on your travels, and always have some insect repellant that contains deet.

Its also wise to have a course of antibiotics and some medication for an upset stomach.

Ensure when in Asia that tap water is never consumed. Only bottled water to be drank at all times, also when cleaning teeth bottled water must be used.

At the time of writing this blog $1AUS =30 THAI BAHT

HOW TO GET THERE

Jet Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

www.jetsetrosebay.com.au

Photography and words Kelly Tang

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