daniel sigiriyaelephants

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.”

Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka
Elephant Safari, Sri Lanka
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

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

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

Sigiriya Hotel


Jetset Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

Photography and words Kelly Tang

daniel srilanka

A Sri Lankan Adventure

A Sri Lankan and Adventure


A very exciting times for our new 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…….  


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.


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!

The Club Dolphin Hotel
All resort accommodation is available throughout Asia and the Pacific regions catering for all budgets.

For any information on Sri Lanka and the Maldives email me at:


Jetset Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

Elephant Safari

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


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.

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



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!!!!



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…..


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


Jet Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

Photography and words Kelly Tang

daniel bearrescue

Bear Rescue Centre

“There’s a bear in there”

daniel_bearrescue_001 daniel_bearrescue_002

As of July 2011, there are 79 beautiful bears including two mischievous cubs that play, rest, walk, frolic, swim, socialize and live what appears to be a very relaxed and normal life. Although they are in an enclosed area at the Vietnam Bear Rescue Centre, these very lucky bears have actually been rescued from a life of misery. This facility is located in the Tam Dao National Park which is a 90 minute drive from Hanoi and was initially set up by a remarkable English woman, Jill Robinson. In 1993, a chance visit to a farm in southern China changed Jill’s life forever when she discovered the very cruel practice of bear bile farming and just how much the bears suffered from this inhumane process. “Animals Asia Foundation” was eventually formed in 1998 to protect these animals.

Before being rescued, these poor creatures were doomed to a hideous life of torture in a trade that extracts bile from the bear’s gall bladder, a practice that’s has been happening for hundreds of years for its use in traditional Asian medicine. Initially bile was collected by slaying wild bears and removing their gall bladders. The bile was then extracted and sold exclusively to members of high society for curing numerous medical ailments. This bile was thought of as the magic elixir for many ailments that cured everything from headaches, reducing fever, protecting the liver, improving eyesight, breaking down gall stones and also acting as an anti inflammatory.

Due to high demand, commercial farming of bile extraction from bears begun in the 1980’s so that bears had to be kept in captivity and milked for their bile on a regular basis.

The method of bile extraction is by needle and syringe through the gall bladder. Larger farms may use an ultra sound machine to locate the gall bladder but generally they just stab blindly damaging surrounding organs. Bears are sedated daily so bile can be extracted. Bears suffer horribly when bile is extracted in this way and have been seen banging their heads against their cages and chewing their paws from the extreme pain. These beautiful animals are kept in horrible conditions in cages where they can hardly move. Bears in captivity on these farms suffer ailments such as fur loss, stunted growth, malnutrition and muscle mass loss from lack of movement. This torturous method leads to nasty infections and these bears eventually become very sick and die. Bears in the wild can be expected to live for about 30 years. In captivity, some bears only live for about 5 to10 very painful years, Unfortunately some farmed bears can live for up tp 15 to 30 years due to the amount of antibiotics farmers use to keep the bears alive when infection is spreading.

With thousands of bears now in captivity, bile is also used for non medicinal purposes such as the making of soaps and shampoos. Everything that bear bile was supposedly meant to do in the past, can now be commercially and synthetically produced without having to put these animals through unnecessary pain and miseryAsian bears are now in perilous danger of extinction as ever increasing numbers of wild bears are captured to supplement numbers in bile farms throughout the region. More than 3,600 bears are known to be held in captivity in Vietnam alone and farmers admit that their animals do not breed in captivity, requiring them to purchase wild-born cubs from neighboring countries such as Cambodia and Laos. Faced with such massive numbers of captive bears, the Vietnamese authorities are struggling to enforce national laws which prohibit the trade in bile or the taking of further bears from the wild. In addition, only few a facilities exist to house these confiscated bears, leaving authorities unable to take action against traders.

When saved bears first arrive at the rescue centre, they are housed in an area where they are quarantined for 45 days. This is to ensure they do not carry diseases which could be passed on to the resident bears. They will have a health check where a full examination under anesthesia is completed by the vet. A thorough examination of the abdomen is performed at this time to check the state of the organs. If the gall bladder is too damaged, it will then be removed to avoid complications at a later stage. Teeth are another problem which often needs addressing during a health check. Poor nutrition on the farms will often cause their teeth to rot so they may need extraction. Other times bears would have caused the damage themselves, biting the steel bars out of frustration and stress from being permanently locked up in a cage, or their teeth have already been removed by the farmers.

Once the animal has passed the quarantine period, he will get moved to an indoor den. Here they will be able to move around freely for the first time on a solid floor. Once moved into a den, the bear will show whether it is interested in meeting other bears. Space between the metal bars will allow sniffing and gentle play with their paws. If all signs are positive and the new bear has settled in they slowly integrate them with other bears.

From here, they will move to a larger house which has outdoor enclosures. The bear will need to get familiar with this new environment. Some take to walking on grass immediately whilst others seem more nervous about the feeling of grass under their feet and prefer to stay on the concrete, near the safety of the dens. But eventually none of the bears can resist the tasty treats placed outside by the staff and slowly their confidence grows. This is the first time most of these bears would be in the open where they can enjoy life outside of an enclosed and confined space. “This is a wonderful moment when farmed bears venture outside for the first time” says the Senior Bear Manager of Tam Dao Annemarie Weegenaar.

Food is given every day in different ways to keep the bears active. Some food is hidden, buried, or placed up high to encourage climbing. The bears are given other treats which includes scattering nuts and seeds for them to find. The staff focus heavily on enriching each bear’s life as they would have come from a very deprived environment that creates unnatural behavior. Enrichment gives the bears a chance to express their natural and wild behavior which is essential for their physical and emotional well-being.

By the end of my visit, I was humbled by the amazing work that Animal Asia Foundation do on a daily basis for these mistreated animals. I hope that their great work is continued and through support from the Vietnamese government and the international community, this awful and unnecessary practice will be banned once and for all.

For further information please go to,


Vietnam Airlines flies from Sydney and Melbourne daily

Call 1300 888 028 or visit


Hanoi Westlake

More information on Vietnam hotels and resorts go to browser at top of the page


Photography and words Kelly Tang

daniel angkorwat

Angkor Wat

Sometimes known as the ‘eighth’ wonder of the world, Angkor Wat has always been a mysterious place that I definitely wanted to tick off my travel list and that came true for me recently….

Angkor Wat
Temple in Angkor Thom
Classic red sandstone of Banta Srey Temple


The town of Siem Reap Cambodia is home to Angkor Wat, built during the early years of the 12th century by King Suryavaram II. One of the world’s greatest historical and religious sites, Angkor Wat is UNESCO World Heritage listed.

Angkor Archaeological Park is located in north-west Cambodia and contains the remains of the Khmer empire. It is Cambodia’s number one tourist destination and is so famous and important that it is featured on the national flag. But as famous as it is, it represents only a small portion of this extraordinary site.The Angkor region contains many temples (built between the 9th – 15th Centuries) and include: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, The Bayon Temple, Banta Srey and many many more. Each temple is so different and unique in its architecture that I recommend at least a few days to take in as much of this breathtaking complex as possible. As there is so much to see, it is advisable to organize a local guide to show you around.


Banteay Srei is approx 25kms from the main complex of Angkor Wat and is a comparatively small 10th century temple. It has a pink hue due to the hard red sandstone and has extraordinary detail and exquisite sculptures. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful temples you will see in Siem Reap.


The Bayon stands the center of Angkor Thom which forms the heart of the Angkor  complex as it is today. The Bayon forms a three tiered pyramid with 54 towers, each dominated by over 200 enormous four meter high mysterious faces all looking out to the north, south, east and west. Each incredibly formed face has a faint smile and closed eyelids. As with most of this magnificent archeological site, the colours change due to the light, depending on the time of day. I advise early in the morning or late afternoon


Ta Prohn

Giant figs and silk cotton trees have embedded their roots so deep into this temple that they have been left untouched as disturbing them could mean the crumbling of this historical and magnificent structure.

Angkor Wat and the city of Angkor Thom are historical and majestic but Ta Prohm is by far the most dramatic and enchanting temple of all, making it the most visited and popular amongst tourists. The temple of Ta Prohm was used as the eerie and surreal location for the movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, making this site even more popular and well known.


Top Attractions at Siam Reap:

Visit Phnom Kulen Mountainand see Lingas (rock carvings in the river bed ), Sleeping Buddha and the Phnom Kulen waterfalls.

Ballooning….balloon ride above Angkor Wat.

Eating…Many restaurants catering for every budget and taste, but none better than “The Sugar Palm” restaurant and bar.

Bars/Nightlife…Pub Street and the Old Market area have establishments that cater for drinkers and diners either for a quite cocktail or a thumping night club.

Markets…In town there is the Old Market (Phasr Chas) and the Central Market (Phasr Kandal) and also the famous Angkor Night Markets.

Bike riding…both standard bike and mountain bike riding have become very popular in Siem Reap. There are many places to hire from.

Golf…Phokeethra Country Club, opened in 2007, was the first international golf course in Siem Reap. A very challenging par 72 hole course.

Other popular activities include; cooking classes, horse riding, spa and massage and also classes for painting, weaving and carving. There is plenty to do in Siem Reap.


*Due to amount of walking and steps you may encounter and the heat, ensure you wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear.

*Angkor Wat is so popular I suggest you start your tour early in the mornings for two reasons.

1. Less crowded

2. The light in the morning is perfect for great photography

Tuk Tuk driver and guide

Mr Pech Vanny English speaking driver….Tel+855 97 72 65 499

Email :

Getting There:

Vietnam Airlines Flies from

Sydney to HCM City /Hanoi….Daily

Melbourne to HCM City /Hanoi….Daily

HCM City to Siem Reap….5 flights per day


Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa Siem Reap – 637 60428

Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf Resort and Spa –

For any more information on where to stay and what to do,  plse email me at

Photography and words Kelly Tang

daniel panpuriorganicspa

Panpuri Organic Spa


Miller Street Pyrmont – minutes from Darling Harbour, the Sydney Fish Markets, the Rocks and nestled amongst some of Sydney’s oldest historical streets is not where you would expect to discover one of the most opulent and exceptional organic spa experiences.

From the moment you enter this establishment, the ambience is overwhelming. It is as though you could be in a six star resort in Bali or Thailand. The soothing music and the scent of aromatic oils fill the air and the decor dominated by black mosaics and gold detail adds to the exquisite atmosphere.

Upon entering Panpuri, the very professional staff welcome me with a warm greeting. I am soon led to a private area and seated in a reclining sofa and handed a Panpuri Organic Menu for the exotic treatment that I wish to indulge in. I’m offered a soothing herbal tea and a cool refreshing towel as my masseuse explains what each treatment involves.

The Panpuri Organic Spa menu is extensive.

After a brief consultation, I decide to indulge myself in the Mali Moonlight Massage (signature massage) and choose the Jasmine oil for my treatment.

Before my massage, I am treated to an Organic Tea Tree Foot Ritual that makes me feel like royalty.

The massage was excellent. However, the only low point was when I was informed that my treatment had concluded.

The experienced staff have all been handpicked from 5/6 star hotels around the world including exotic locations such as Dubai, Morocco, Thailand, Bali and many others.

I spend the rest of the day in a Jasmine haze.

For Reservations: Please Contact Panpuri Organic Spa,

Tel: 612 9660 1916 : Treatments are available from 10am-10pm

Photography and words Kelly Tang


Halong Bay

Though I’m not usually an early riser, here I am on the sun deck of a three level Chinese junk at 5:30 am,  contorting  and twisting my body,  while trying to follow a master Tai Chi instructor and at the same time witnessing a spectacular sunrise . Welcome to the Magnificent Natural World Heritage Site, HALONG BAY.

South China sea serenity
Glorious Halong Bay sunrise
Luxury cruising
Amazing Halong Bay rock formations


Three hours driving time from Hanoi and you arrive at Halong Bay which is situated on the South China Sea. It comprises of approximately 1500 square kilometers of coastline in the gulf of Tonkin near the border of China.  On arrival, it is not long before you are being ferried out to what will be either a two or three day cruise.

The vessel we are about to board appears and soon we are being introduced to our captain and crew. Our vessel is part of the Bhaya fleet and the three showpiece classic vessels offer an exciting insight to life on Halong Bay.

The fleet was designed by a gifted young French architect from Montpellier. He designed this luxury boat in the style of the ancient Vietnamese junks. On the bay at most times there are many other Vietnamese replica junks, but the elegance of the Bayha makes it a standout vessel from the others.

After our introduction to the captain and crew, we are shown to our cabins and the standard of accommodation on this particular vessel is of a high standard.

The dining room/ bar area is the perfect setting for aperitifs, serving a boutique selection of wines, lagers, liquors and exotic cocktails. This is where all the meals are served which comprises of a delicious buffet serving Asian and international dishes. They also serve light snacks late into the evening. The top sun deck is set up for the ultimate area to relax and unwind. While reclining on the sundeck, the mad world we live in is left well behind.

The boat has activities for all to do, that includes visiting floating fishing villages. There about 1600 people spread across four villages living on these floating structures. Halong Bay is rich in seafood. The local population which live on the bay, survive mainly from fishing. This is due to the fact that the rock islets that are scattered throughout the bay are poor in quality to support any kind of cultivation. Witnessing how these communities survive the twenty first century is quite amazing. Their whole life comprises of living on these floating structures, including schooling for the children, fish cultivation and selling of souvenirs.

Other activities also include visits to some of Halong Bays numerous and famous caves. Other adventures include being taken by row boats to an island to feed monkeys.  You can go swimming, snorkeling and kayaking or you can do nothing but relax and let the world drift away. That is what happens, you drift away. There is no noise, it is so peaceful and serene. This is the beauty of this cruise, you do whatever you want. If you are in need of rest and relaxation, Halong Bay is for you.

*Also available on board the cruise is an open air cooking class on the sundeck. It is the perfect setting to hone your culinary skills. The day I participated, the Chef had all the ingredients for Vietnamese spring rolls, which we prepared, cooked and devoured feverishly on completion by all who participated.

Halong Bay has over 2000 limestone monolithic islets, each topped with thick jungle vegetation rising spectacularly from the ocean. It’s a magical bay. The views are spectacular. Whatever time of day, be it the morning, afternoon or night time, the bay sparkles in a multitude of colours.

* Legend has it that when the Vietnamese were fighting Chinese invaders, the Gods sent a family of dragons to help defend the land. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. These jewels turned into islands and islets dotting the bay and linking together to form a great wall to defend against the invaders.

Many of the outcrops of rocks have been christened with some unusual names due to their strange shapes. They include: Dragon Island, Tortoise Island, Black Cloud Island and my favorite, for no particular reason, Fighting Cock Rock.

It was suggested that when on Halong Bay, you have to witness a sunrise. So in the morning, I was up as early as possible and made my way to the top deck, to witness the most beautiful sunrise that I have ever seen. The sun rising amongst these ancient monolithic islets, set in the romantic South China Sea, leaves you breathless.  With the sun rising majestically, it bathed the bay in a surreal golden glow. It was then during my Tai Chi class, I experienced my most profound spiritual experience.

I am not a religious person, but as I was taking part in my Tai Chi class, I had an overwhelming feeling that I was closer to a power greater than myself. Observing the instructor moving ever so gracefully and rhythmically, made him look like an alien floating in mercury. His movements were so perfect, accurate and precise. Just watching him, had me mesmerized. With the sun rising and the beautiful haunting music emanating from a ghetto blaster, it felt as though I was having an out of body experience, but reality was close, especially when I tried to balance on one leg. I started shaking uncontrollably. The slow movements in Tai Chi and the poses you set up for look so simple, till you try to do them, had me realizing what an uncoordinated human being I was.

I am sure that harmony and balance could become part of my life, if I incorporated some Tai Chi, exercise, rest and a healthy diet.

So, with time slowing down, all that was left to do was to lay down on the sun deck and let all my troubles drift away.

The bhaya has on board, an outdoor health and spa facility that makes this vessel even more appealing. After dinner I relaxed and prepared for my beauty treatments. Now, being a man, usually my life comprises of work, sport and mates. Beauty treatments are not normally on top of my to do list, but I waited with excitement for my time on the beauty table under the stars.

The spa area is located at the rear of the vessel. It is private and the perfect setting for all health and beauty treatments available. My treatment was a deep facial and mask ($23 USD) combined with a 60 minute oil massage ($29 USD).  With a gentle warm breeze blowing and the calmness of Halong Bay, I drifted away. At times I would open my eyes and with the twinkling of the stars in the night sky and the scent of frangipani oil, made this massage and facial, a memory I will cherish for a long time.

On board is an extensive spa menu, ranging from body therapy/massage, facial care, manicure/pedicure, eye treatments and waxing.

Had there been more time, I would have been tempted to try every treatment and leave the vessel a truly converted metro sexual. I now know why women put so much time and effort into having beauty treatments.

When it came time to leaving the boat, I did not want to leave. In such a short time I fell in love with the bay, the view, the serenity and the crew.




Ensure when on board you are familiar with all exits from your cabin.

Ensure you know where life jackets are stored and how to wear them in case of an emergency.

It is advisable before leaving home on any holiday that you are proficent in basic first aid.



*Vietnam Airlines flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Hanoi 10 times per week




*Hanoi salesoffice

*52 Hang Trong street Hanoi, Vietnam



Intercontinental Hanoi Westlake

Photography and words Kelly Tang



Go- Go Girls, Girlie Bars, Beer Bars… yes there are some. Ok, there are more than some. OK, RIGHT there are lots and lots and unfortunately Pattaya suffers from this reputation. The reality; there is so much more to this seaside town than meets the eye. Peel away ‘the reputation’ and you will find a thriving seaside holiday resort that caters for thousands of visitors each year from all corners of the globe.

Sunset over Pattaya beach
Early morning parasailors, Pattaya beach
Go Karting Pattaya
Views looking down over Pattaya
Dead skin eating fish
Four Seasons Place, Pattaya


Go down to the beach on a morning walk and Pattaya is alive with activity. Multi coloured beach umbrellas each with their own deckchairs are being placed along the beach in preparation for the throng of tourists who will invade the beach for the day. Unfortunately, the beach is slowly being eroded, but it will not stop the hundreds of erected umbrellas ready for the day’s crowd. Tour leaders and guides are busy organizing their parties to be ferried out to pontoons to start the early morning shift of parasailing. They all get ferried out from boats moored off the main beach. Look out to sea and tourists can be seen parasailing overhead all day.

Amongst all of this action, hawkers are trying frantically to sell their wares which include sunglasses, hats, drinks, food and anything they can sell to tourists who look unprepared for the morning parasailing expedition.

(Pattaya Beach is always busy and crowded, but if you want a quieter family friendly beach, which is wider and has whiter sand, is Jomtien beach which is four kilometers away from Pattayas main drag. Jomtien town still has lots of hotels, restaurants and bars and markets but the pace is not as hectic as Pattaya. More info on Jomtien coming soon…)

Women with baskets of food and small food carts are everywhere, getting ready to serve hungry locals and tourists. My favourite cart is always out on the street, early morning or late at night and that is the cart ladened with fresh fruit. You can buy water melon, rock melon, pineapple, papaya and many other varieties of local fruit. It is peeled, cut, sliced and bagged for as little as 10Bhat (30centsAus) a serve.

Fresh corn is also being cooked on most streets. It’s a country filled with food and smiles.

The variety of food is endless; restaurants of every international cuisine are available. All budgets are catered for. But my favourite restaurant (and they are all over Pattaya) are the ones that serve you a sumptuous Thai meal for around 70 Baht and that is equivalent on today’s rate of just over $2Aus.

For the best 100Bhat ($3Aus) breakfast in town, make your way to the area called ‘Soi Lengkee’ which is just a few streets back from the main beach where there is a little café/restaurant named ‘Juice’.

Of course, cheap breakfasts are available all over Pattaya, but for me ‘Juice’ has never failed to deliver delicious food.

Also in the same street are some cafes that organize golf days too. Golfers meet to have breakfast and get picked up in their mini buses to be taken away to any one of the fantastic golf courses that are available…

Every day, the mini bus takes you to a different golf course. The cost is amazingly cheap and each round of golf comes with a caddy who knows the course intimately.

The cost of a round of golf and hiring of clubs with a caddy included is very inexpensive.

There is so much to do in this thriving metropolis, but it is definitely not a town known for historical monuments or religious icons (although there are some). But if shopping for bargains, whether it is for clothing or souvenirs, eating, massage, manicures and pedicures, or… if zoos, aquariums and elephant villages and theme parks, pubs, clubs and variety shows are what you are looking for, then you are in the right town! There are some great new shopping malls, outdoor markets, indoor markets as well. Also, day and night markets are huge in this town. So, get ready to bargain (don’t go too hard on them!!) as bargaining is part of the Thailand shopping experience.

Pattaya also has the most massage establishments I have ever seen! Wherever you look and whatever street you are in, you are surrounded by them. I alternated on a daily basis; one day foot massage, next day body…. and at 300Bhat/$10Aus a massage you never want to leave Pattaya! Also manicures and pedicures for 150Bhat/$5Aus…. not too shabby.

Now for ultra excitement and fun I am going to mention the Go Karting. The carts are unbelievably fast and travel up to speeds of 80/90 kms. One word… exhilarating!

*There are two tracks available one is a full size track and a smaller one for beginners.

Pattaya has a harbor port where all tourists and dive boats leave from every day. It is teeming every morning with tourists boarding their vessels and awaiting to be transported to islands with beautiful white sand beaches and dive enthusiasts leaving for their daily adventures. The variety of areas to scuba dive is diverse and I have had many great scuba diving adventures leaving from this port.

One thing that intrigued me in Pattaya were tanks full of little fish which gorge on the dead skin of your feet. An unusual experience; you place your feet in a tank full of ravenous little fish as they feed on your dead skin. The reasoning is that it replenishes and revitalizes new cell growth and doesn’t hurt a bit!

Hotel of the month: Four Seasons Place

A few streets back from the beach is the luxurious boutique Hotel and serviced apartments ‘The Four Season’s Place.’

At first I wondered about the position of the Four Season’s Place, being situated in a very quite area of Pattaya, but soon realized that everything you need to see and do in this exciting town is only a few minutes away.

The Four Seasons is the one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in. The architecture and design of the building, furnishings and decor has an old world and luxurious feeling to it.

All suites are extremely spacious with pool/city views and private balconies. I was privileged to have stayed in a one bedroom suite which was 82sqm filled with French designer furniture and fitted out with an Italian designed kitchen….The fit out is exemplary.

The Hotel has a fitness centre with spa, cafes, bars and a pool that unfortunately does not bathe in sunshine all day, but exudes a beautiful ambiance. There is also an executive meeting room available for up to 20 persons.

This hotel is a hidden gem and the professional staff at the Four Seasons Place makes the visit here complete.

There is a wide variety of accommodation available to suit various budgets.

341/44 Moo 9, Soi Chalermprakiat 22, Pattaya 3rd Road, Banglamung,
Pattaya, Chonburi 20150, Thailand
Tel: +66(0)38 489446-9
Fax: +66(0)38 413775

My Top Ten Attractions in Pattaya

  1. Golf and Island tours
  2. Scuba diving
  3. Muay Thai Tournaments – (Thai Boxing)
  4. Food! Endless variety of restaurants, food carts, street vendors
  5. Shopping: Malls, day & night markets
  6. Zoos / Aquariums / Theme Parks
  7. Take a stroll down ‘Walking Street’ and check out the Beer Bars and Gogo bars
  8. Massages… foot and body
  9. Motor bike hire
  10. Go karting


Very Important Safety Tip

When travelling overseas and you intend to hire a car or a motor bike,YOU MUSTobtain an international license before you leave Australia or whatever country you are from. The reason being is that if you have an accident, whether you are in the right or wrong, you will NOTbe covered for medical or hospital expenses even if you have travel insurance.

*NRMA is where you get your international driver’s license in Australia

If you require any more information on any of my TOP TEN ATTRACTIONS please Email me on:


Jet Set Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

Photography and words Kelly Tang

daniel bangkok


Bangkok is the capital and the largest city in Thailand. It is a city rich in culture and heritage and has a population of over 9 million people. It is hard to comprehend that it was once a little village on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, renamed by King Rama (1st) as Krung Thep, which translated means: City of Angels. It is now regarded as one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world.

Bangkok was voted by Travel and Leisure magazine as the World’s Best City in 2010.

There is so much to love about this city. As soon as you disembark from your plane, your adventure begins!

Whilst being driven from Suvarnabbhumi Airport to your hotel (which takes about 30 minutes), you notice the streets are alive with activity, the traffic is chaotic, it’s colourful, dynamic and noisy.

Welcome to Bangkok!

Old Bangkok
New Bangkok
Beautiful Thai food
Floating markets
Chao River
Grand Palace Bangkok




Siam Area is home to the large shopping malls catering for all your shopping needs. It’s massive and is where you will find the following centres:

*MBK centre which has 8 levels of fashion (including every fake t/shirt known to man), handbags (all major labels, hmmm… possibly some are fake), luggage, jewellery, restaurants and so much more.

*SiamParagon: selling Ferrari cars (not fake) to designer shoes.

*Central World: designer clothes, designer furniture, bookstores and food.

*Gaysorn: if clothing and accessories from the world’s leading designers interest you, then this is where you need to shop.

*Platinum Fashion Mall: 6 levels of women’s fashion and accessories. It is a wholesale establishment so a few items may have to be purchased at one time. The cost of clothing is very cheap so I don’t think this should be a problem….

*Pantip Plaza: “I.T.” heaven specializing in computer and technology gadgets. It is a multi level building selling everything from mobile phones and accessories, computers to all the latest apple inventions. All are for sale here, including counterfeit versions of software and DVD’S.

*Chatuchak Markets: The beast of all markets! It’s a simple sky train ride away and get ready to walk your day away as its massive. One of the largest markets in the world stretching over 35 acres and comprising of over 8000 stalls selling almost everything you can imagine.

*Floating Markets: There are many floating markets throughout Bangkok. The most famous is Damnoen Saduk, which is about 100kms out of Bangkok. Best time to visit is early morning before all the tourists (that’s you and me) and crowds arrive.

This is just the tip of the Bangkok shopping iceberg. For more information on more shopping venues please Email me at


*Grand Palace and Temple visit: The Palace is set in a 61 acre complex where you will encounter one of the wonders of the world, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

*Also these three historical Temples are worth visiting;

1. Wat Traimat (which has a 3 metre, 5 tonne Golden Buddha).

2. Wat Pho (that houses the Giant Reclining Buddha).

3. Wat Benjabophit (an elegant temple, with a white marble façade with Buddha images).

*China Town: Is a wonderful area to visit as it is full of market stalls and street side restaurants. It also has the most shops selling gold in one concentrated area in all of Bangkok. It is an historical part of the city. Day and night time Chinatown always exudes an amazing energy.

*For some peaceful moments away from the maddening crowds, make your way to Lumphini Park where locals gather in the morning to jog, exercise, do Tai Chi and Yoga. It is an oasis in the heart of a very busy city. There is an artificial lake where boats can be rented and is also a great park to go cycling.

*The array of restaurants in Bangkok is endless, catering for all types of food including street vendors to five star Asian and International restaurants. Eating food from the street vendors (especially where there a lots of locals eating) is a memorable experience.

*If nightlife is what you want, then Bangkok has some of the best nightlife anywhere. “Sky bars” are now featuring prominently in a number of hotels throughout the city and some of the more cutting edge night clubs, featuring the world’s best DJ’s and sound systems are found in Bangkok.

*There is a dark steamier side to Bangkok (you know what I mean) and there are areas quite notorious for late night “entertainment.” One example of this, is the oldest red light district in Bangkok known as Patpong Road. Nana Plaza and Soi Cowboy are two other red light districts definitely not for family entertainment.


There are many world class golf courses in Bangkok and most are very reasonably priced. Enquire at your hotel or Email me the golf course that may suit you best.

Health, Beauty, Spa & Massage:

Bangkok is a massage (foot and body) wonderland with all types and forms of massage and health services available and all budgets catered for.

One of my many favourites is the one hour foot massage that you can find practically anywhere and only costs around $10 AUS…. Heaven!

Entertainment For Kids

Siam Ocean World is one of Southeast Asia’s largest aquariums, featuring sharks, stingrays and an incredible array of other species.

Safari World is an open plain zoo and leisure park and is an incredible outing for the family. Hundreds of animals from all over the world can be seen there. Highlights are many including: a safari drive, wildlife feeding shows and jungle cruise river rides.

Dream World is an amusement park set in beautifully landscaped gardens with castles, pools and thrilling rides.

Other attractions include the Children’s Discovery Museum, ice skating, bowling, boat rides, Imax…. the list is endless.


*To make life easier, bring the right clothing with you when traveling to Asia. Make sure you include: shorts for walking, togs for swimming and some light cotton shirts with quick drying fabrics (nothing polyester!), some t/shirts and a pair of good quality walking shoes. Remember to pack light as clothing can be bought very cheaply. Also when travelling in Asia, I always recommend you take a rain poncho as it is a tropical climate and may shower at any time and last but not least, a hat or cap for sun protection.

*Ensure you have photocopies of important documents ie: passport and all relevant travel documents (put these copies in separate areas away from your original papers in case any baggage is lost or stolen).

*Always take some basic first aid and insect repellant (containing deet, as the insects there are immune to regular stuff).

*Currency: Thai Baht as of the 18thJanuary 2011…$1aus = 30 Thai baht

If you have any queries, I will endeavour to inform you and help you make Bangkok one of your best holiday destination. Remember that the staff at hotels are also there to assist in any way possible!


Jet Set Travel Rose Bay

(02) 9371 8166

Photography and words Kelly Tang

daniel hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam

December 2010 is an exciting time for “” as we are now commencing a “live blog” and reporting to you from your favourite Asian destinations. Everything you want to know will now be available on line. Whatever information you require to make your holiday an event to remember, will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year as the “” blogger is now at your service.

For my first live blog, I could not be in a more fascinating and exciting holiday destination than Hanoi, Vietnam!

daniel_hanoi_001 daniel_hanoi_002 daniel_hanoi_003 daniel_hanoi_004 daniel_hanoi_005

I have only just arrived after a very comfortable flight aboard Vietnam Airlines from Sydney and soon I’m on a $5AUS cyclo tour charging through the narrow crowded streets of the old quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam. Pedal power comes courtesy of an old Vietnamese man with a leathery face and a heart of an Olympic cyclist, as he pedals frantically, dodging and weaving the incredible madness that represents the traffic in this area. What I am seeing on my cyclo, I would never see in the comfort of a tourist bus. Welcome to “The Old Quarter” Hanoi.

In such a short time I am falling in love with this city and its French Colonial influenced architecture, the people, the noise and the colour. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and witnessing the buzz of the old quarter, I now can see for myself why this is so.

There are so many historical, cultural and fun attractions in Hanoi. I will now endeavor to list them in no particular order.

*With the assistance of your “” hotel staff and myself you can now go on a discovery tour of Hanoi and what you will find is a city full of cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops; selling everything from local and imported clothes, traditional Vietnamese lacquered souvenirs to quaint music stores where you can buy quality guitars for under $50AUS. It’s a shopper’s paradise.

*Do the city tour at your own pace as I have, but I recommend you visit the Mausoleum of the great and legendry leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, who lies in a preserved and embalmed state. Uncle Ho (as Ho Chi Minh is lovingly known as) goes to Russia once a year for maintenance for about two months (around October and November), so pick your time to visit to avoid disappointment.

*The Army Museum is a major Hanoi attraction. It depicts the war history of Vietnam and gives you an insight to the remarkable fighting spirit of this country. For me, seeing the old B52 bomber (US war plane) that was shot down by the Vietnamese into a small lake during the Christmas bombings of Hanoi during the Vietnam War was a highlight. John Lennon wrote his famous song Happy Xmas (war is over) about this incident.

*Hanoi Hilton (Hoa Lo Prison) is a must see landmark. It was once used by the North Vietnamese army to house, torture and interrogate captured servicemen. Visually, the way they have set up the exhibition is very moving and gave me an insight into the horrific suffering that was part of this prison’s history.

*On a cultural theme, take in a show at the Hanoi Opera House. It is a small scale replica of the Paris Opera House and is a beautiful legacy the French have left in Hanoi. I would recommend that if you would like to see a performance, just show up and see what’s on.

*Also see the world famous Water Puppet show that is located near the Hoan Kiem Lake. The music is performed by a traditional Vietnamese orchestra and is a very comical show. The puppets act out stories that have been passed down from generations, with tales of harvesting, fishing and festivals detailing the history of Vietnam.

*The Hoan Kiem Lake is the historical centre of Hanoi. It is steeped in history and tradition and locals congregate there to exercise, socialize and relax. At about 5am each day, locals can be observed practicing Tai chi by the lake. It is a major scenic attraction and is a focal point for the local population. On most days, newlyweds are lining up to have their wedding photos taken there.

*When you visit Hanoi you must have a traditional Vietnamese Massage. It is very different from your standard massage. Your treatment starts with a soak in an old oak barrel filled with medicinal herbs, followed by a spa bath and a professional 90 minute massage. The massage incorporates hot bags filled with herbs that are placed on pressure points on your back. At the end of the treatment you are offered herbal teas and either a chicken or a fish rice soup. When you leave, you feel that the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. There are separate areas for men and women. Two hours of absolute bliss and the cost is just over $10AUS for the whole treatment!

*The selection of food in Hanoi is delicious and Cha Ca (meaning grilled fish) is a favourite dish. Located in Cha Ca Street, Cha ca La Vong is the famous restaurant that Hanoians as well as visitors from around the world frequent. Pho Noodle Soup is another traditional Vietnamese favourite and the ingredients are white rice noodles combined with beef or chicken sprinkled with aromatic herbs. So simple, perfectly put together ingredients that make this a local fave.

To really get the feel of this city, ensure you buy your Pho Noodle Soup from a local street vendor. It is such a treat when eating in Vietnam to eat meals on a little plastic table and chairs set up on the street with the locals. One tip I can give you is; whenever I buy food from the street vendors, I ensure it is busy so that fresh food is constantly being turned over. It has worked for me as I have never been sick practicing this method.

*What I have noticed in Vietnam is the lack of obesity. I can’t understand why as there is so much food available and the locals always appear to be eating. I am so engrossed with the local cuisine that when I get home I want to continue eating Vietnamese food, so I booked into a cooking school for a one day lesson. It was so enjoyable preparing, cooking and devouring my days work. The menu for our class included a green papaya with dried beef salad, followed by rice noodles with grilled pork and finished off with a black sticky rice sweet dessert that was mouth watering. The cooking school I went to is well known in Hanoi. Each year it takes in up to 500 young people aged between 16 and 25. This includes: orphans, street kids, children of poor families, children of war invalids, ethnic minorities and hearing impaired children and they are trained in the art of cooking, in the hope that they will be one day able to gain a career in hospitality and turn their lives around. I had a great day and this is one activity that I highly recommend.

*”Crappachinos and Rodents Roast!” Coffee beans collected from weasel droppings?  S_ _t sounds unbelievable! Well you better believe it. Coffee growers in Vietnam are feeding weasels with coffee beans and collecting the droppings after the beans pass through the animal. The beans are then ground and brewed. The process gives the coffee a musky, smooth flavour. Not only is this a bizarre process, but the coffee is very expensive and is proving very popular in the up market cafes that are fast replacing Vietnams street side coffee and tea stalls. Hang Hanh or Coffee Street is in the Old Quarter and is a favourite for those craving caffeine. “That’s me!”

An excellent café in Hanoi is the Kangaroo Café. It is located near the Hoan Kiem Lake and serves a great range of western and vietnamese food. The cafe is run by an ex pat named Max Hart who has an amazing wealth of knowledge of Vietnam. The cafe is situated at 18 Bao Khanh st. Hanoi.

*health and safety tip… to survive in Vietnam when crossing roads, be sure to cross at a steady pace, do not panic, do not suddenly stop or move backwards, ALWAYS keep moving forward and traffic will magically swerve around you.

For any information on currency, climate, cuisine, shopping or entertainment please leave a comment below….or Email me at…..


*Vietnam Airlines flies from Sydney and Melbourne to HMC/Hanoi 

10 times a week

Wishing everyone a wonderful and healthy 2011 and hopefully with the help of  we can make your holiday an experience to cherish for a lifetime

Photography and words Kelly Tang

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