fluffy towes
Carmen

Carmen Jenner is a travel, food, and lifestyle writer, wanna-be photographer and the founder of Fluffy Towel. She specialises in content creation, editorial coverage, writing, editing, copy writing, blogging, marketing and communications in the travel, food, arts and cultural industries.

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Smiles from the Teardrop Isle: Family Travel in Sri Lanka

filed15 Aug 2019 from

Like a jewel dropped into the ocean, Sri Lanka sparkles bright. Tamer than its Indian neighbour, the spicy isle is heaving with culture, wildlife, gems, adventure, welcoming locals, and exotic beauty every which way.

The figurative doors have flung open and tourists are invited in as one might welcome a long lost friend, or in this case a young friend.

Accommodating restaurant owners cater well to your cherub’s exacting food requirements. Often compared to Indian food, Sri Lankan curries use a wider spice base, less oil and a gentler cooking method to heighten the flavours. The secret is in the freshness and that combined with a high standard of cleanliness ensures safe eating for your beloveds. There are also excellent Italian restaurants, seafood just plucked from the ocean, plenty of Western and Chinese options, and if nothing else steamed rice and fresh fruit is a healthy option.

Beginning with the capital, and although Colombo seems like an unlikely family destination, it does have a certain charm about it. Built in 1877 and housed in an impressive colonial building, the National Museum is a fascinating starting point to Sri Lanka’s cultural history and the museum is on the south side of the city’s largest park, Viharamahadevi Park. Nearby is the air-conditioned Odel’s department store offering upscale fashion including a fantastic children’s section.

More intrepid families with lose themselves in the Pettah Bazaar and its clothes, jewellery, Ayurvedic herbs and fresh produce, and its best to avoid the early morning and after work crowds.

There are temples galore and one in particular worth exploring is the Gangaramaya Temple complex which was established in 1890 and includes a library, museum, hundreds of Buddha’s sitting in various positions, Bodhitree, and its very own elephant.

The elegant Galle Face Hotel makes the most of its westerly direction offering its guests crimson sunsets and high tea and cocktails. Take a break from the heat and relax like the colonials on the cool terrace and lawned area. In the adjacent wing is the refurbished Galle Face Regency with a salt-water pool open to the public for a small fee.

About 10 kilometres away is the Dehiwala Zoo and although conditions have deteriorated during the country’s hardships, the kids will love the monkeys and elephant shows. Nearby is the swanky Mount Lavinia Hotel for more of those sunsets and cocktails and a small fee gives access to the pool, its spectacular views and the hotel’s private beach. North of Colombo is the charming beach town of Negombo with several very good hotels and guesthouses, an old quarter and an interesting fish market.

Heading much further north is the Cultural Triangle and although the dusty ancient ruins of Anuradhapura (showcasing Sinhalese culture 2,000 years ago), Polonnaruwa (the former medieval capital), and Sigiriya (palace remains on top of a huge outcrop) may not hold the kids’ attention span for long, a safari will. Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park are in the region and host herds of elephants, deer, sloths bears, abundant bird life and the illusive leopard.

The hill town of Kandy is included in the Cultural Triangle and can be reached by a scenic train ride from Colombo.  Listed as a World Heritage City and hosting the Tooth Relic of the Buddha, Kandy is famous for its Kandyan dancing and drumming, and for 10 days over the months of July and August is the procession of Kandy Esala Perahera to honour the sacred tooth. The procession includes thousands of Kandyan drummers, dancers and decorated elephants; surely a sight your beloveds will remember for many years to come.

Another awe-inspiring activity is located 30 minutes from Kandy at the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage, which is home to 80 elephants who have been either abandoned, orphaned or injured. Interact and observe the elephants roaming freely around the sanctuary and the sight of them heading down to the river at bath-time is spectacular.

If time permits on your Sri Lankan adventure take a jaunt over to the tea plantations of Nuwara Eliya. As the mist lifts, green tea bushes weave over rolling hills and you could almost imagine you’re starring in your own Dilmah Tea T.V. advertisement. The mild temperature is a cool reprise from the flats and a night or two in a colonial hotel or converted tea-house is an escape from the maddening pace. Before heading to the south coast, break up the arduous journey at the pretty town of Ella and its stunning views through Ella Gap, temples and waterfalls.

The south coast awaits with its idyllic beaches, outstanding restaurants, and relaxing pace.

It won’t be hard to spot the foreigners who came for a visit and couldn’t bear to leave. The hippy surf town of Unawatuna hugs the coast and when you’re back home, don’t be surprised to find yourself longing for this spot. Restaurants and bars dot the palm-tree lined shore as locals and visitors alike frolick in the waves. Young families should head for the area beneath the temple where the currents aren’t as strong. Nearby are the quieter but equally gorgeous beaches of Tangalla, Weligama and the exquisite Mirissa.

A few kilometres west is the picturesque fort town of Galle and its Dutch-colonial buildings, artisans and its tres chic reputation. Unlike most of this region which was devastated by the tsunami, the fort was unscathed and a wander through its winding streets will enchant.

As the end draws near, the journey back to Colombo can be broken up with a visit to one of the turtle hatcheries in Kosgoda. See if you can pick the five different species of these cute critters? Spot the green, olive ridley, hawksbill, leatherback and loggerhead turtles make their perilous journey back to the water; much as you prepare for the journey back to reality.

The Lowdown:

Sri Lanka is the recent survivor of a 25 year war and a tsunami which devastated much of its south. There is still evidence of its tumultuous past as the following reveals:

Transport: apart from the roads in the south which were rebuilt after the tsunami, many are in poor condition or are in the process of being upgraded. As a result the traffic is hard going, time consuming and at best invigorating. Always allow more time than you think you will need, use a recommended driver and inspect the vehicle (particularly for seat-belts) before negotiating rates.

Tuks-tuks: a fun way to travel short distances. Check-out the decorations inside including the tame pin-up posters and take the time out to listen to the driver’s tales.

ilitary: there is a strong military presence and the frequent sight of guns can be a little alarming and there are frequent vehicle inspections.

Heat: the humidity is energy zapping and the sun is harsh. Don’t forget your sunscreen, cover up and rehydrate regularly. On the upside, the kids will be pleasantly exhausted and will sleep soundly; as will you.

 

Beach: The tidal currents are strong and the provision of life guards hasn’t exactly caught on yet, so always take care at the beach and if in doubt ask the locals.

Health: Sri Lanka is very clean, however consulting with a doctor before leaving home is highly recommended. The chemists and supermarkets are well stocked with medicines but may not have familiar brands. Clinics can be variable and consult with your consulate on the best treatment.

Utilities: with regular power outages air-conditioning and refrigeration are unreliable and water pressure is low.

Accommodation: can be hit and miss and it’s advisable to do your research.

Insects: the mosquitos are brutal and insect repellent is essential.

Pace: things move slowly in Sri Lanka and while this is part of its charm, the little ones might not understand why their lunch is taking so long. Be prepared for long waits in restaurants, at monuments, when touring and shopping.

Visit:

National Museum, Albert Cres, Colombo 7, 011 269 4767

Viharamahadevi Park, Ananda Coomaraswamy Mw

Odels Department Store, 5 Alexandra Place, Colombo 7, 011 268 2712, www.odel.lk

Pettah Bazaar, Pettah District, Colombo 11

Gangaramaya Temple, Sri Jinaratana Rd, Colombo 2, 011 232 3038

Dehiwala Zoo, Dehiwala, 011 271 2751

Mount Lavinia Hotel, 100 Hotel Rd, 011 271 5221-7, www.mountlaviniahotel.com

Minneriya National Park and Kaudulla National Park, arrange transport from Giritale 12km northwest of Polonnaruwa

Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage, Rambukkana Rd, Kegalle

Kosgoda Turtle Conservation Project, Galle Rd (beachside) just north of Kosgoda 091 226 4567

 

Stay:

Galle Face Hotel, Galle Rd, Colombo, 011 254 1010, www.gallefacehotel.com

Hilton Colombo Residence, (serviced apartments) Union Place, Colombo 2, 0 11 230 0613

Kandy House, Ratwatte Walauwa, Amunugama, Gunnepana  081 492 1394 www.srilankainstyle.com

Serendip Stone Bungalow, Natterampota, Kundasale, Kandy, 071 6820 700

Giritale: Deer Park, Giritale, Polonnaruwa  027 224 6272/6432/7685/7686  www.coloursofangsana.com

Amangalla, cnr Middle & Church St, Galle Fort, 091 223 3388, www.amanresorts.com

Thaproban Beach House, Thambapanni Leisure, Unawatuna Beach, Galle, 091 438 1722 www.thambapannileisure.com

Secret Garden Villa, Unawatuna, Galle, 091 224 1857, www.secretgardenunawatuna.com

Villa Araliya, 154/10 Porutota Rd, Negombo, 031 227 7650

Contact www.go-lanka.com for more options

 

Eat:

The Gallery Cafe (recommendation: Black Pork Curry),  2 Alfred House Rd, Colombo,  011 258 2162, www.paradiseroadsl.com

The Green Cabin (authentic Sri Lankan cuisine at an absolute bargain), 453 Galle Road, Colombo 011 258 5511 or 011 259 1841

The Fort Printers (fine chic dining), 39 Pedlar St, Galle Fort, Galle, 091 224 7977

Mama’s Galle Fort Roof Cafe (casually tasty with lovely views), 76 Leyn Baan St, Galle Fort 091 222 6415

Dream House (Italian food at its best at local prices) Unawatuna Beach, Galle, 091 438 1541

Published in Asian Geographic Passport issue 2/2010

For more Sri Lankan adventures read Liquid Gastronomy: Tea inspired cuisine and From Colombo to Galle: A Sri Lankan travel revival and Ceylonese Cravings

Originally published in CNNGo

Dardanup Art Spectacular Art Trail

filed30 Apr 2019 from

Who would have thought that just 15 minutes inland of Bunbury and about two hours south of Perth that the Ferguson Valley is awash with one of the state’s largest concentrations of art installations.

The Dardanup Art Spectacular Art Trail features sculptures, installations and quirky pieces of art throughout the Dardanup Region and over 40 exhibits are situated on the Follies Trail at the heavenly Peppermint Lane Lodge. The event is officially launched on Friday 3rd May at the …

Sex in a Sarong: the night I met Candace Bushnell, the real Carrie Bradshaw

filed21 Apr 2019 from

 

 

My floor-length is gown is hitched up around my thighs. Not quite the entrance I had envisioned for a soirée with Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City. Fireflies flit along the shoreline as I step out into the Indian Ocean where the water is as warm as the sky is midnight blue. The tiny island of Taprobane off Sri Lanka’s southern tip flickers in candle light as we wobble our way along the watery path …

Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West wins a GOLD IPPY at the Independent Publishers Book Awards

filed16 Apr 2019 from

I’m thrilled to announce that Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West has won a Gold IPPY award in the Australia/New Zealand Non-fiction category at the Independent Publishers Book Awards.

Although this isn’t my first IPPY rodeo after having won a Gold IPPY for Artists of the Margaret River Region and a Bronze IPPY for Permanent Impressions: a salute to contemporary heroines (also in the Australia/New Zealand Non-fiction category), winning always feels good.

As a writer, I don’t often get a lot of …

Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West hits the South West

filed26 Mar 2019 from

It seems only fitting that Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West tours the South West since this much-loved region features so prominently in the book. Starting at the Crooked Carrot in Myalup, this quick pit-stop was once used to break up the trip down south and has now emerged into an iconic gourmet outlet and unique playground. Next time you’re whizzing down the South West highway, stop and find out why there’s so many cars parked out the front.

I’m a little embarrassed …

Pre-order your copy of Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West – a Western Australian coffee table book like no other!

filed18 Feb 2019 from

Dispelling the myth that Western Australia comprises only of a slow pace, balmy northwest and its dinky capital Perth, Australia’s Extra.Ordinary. West reveals the essence of the nation’s most intriguing state, well at least in our opinion!

As natural wonders, quirky anecdotes and surprising revelations are shared, even the most zealot local will be compelled to dip into this unique book, with Western Australia playing the beautiful yet aloof protagonist.

Gaze up at sheets of bright night skies stretching from …

Luxury at the Viceroy Bali

filed13 Jan 2019 from

Heaven forbid you only had one night in Ubud, but if you did, then the Viceroy Bali is THE place. No need to negotiate the traffic, simply send for a helicopter to collect you from the airport and deliver you directly to your private villa suspended over the Valley of Kings.

Bali’s architectural grandeur goes without saying but it’s the small things which set the Viceroy apart. My bale perched over a heated infinity pool includes power points and by …

In Vietnam H is for…

filed11 Dec 2018 from

.

Hanoi, Hue, Ho Chi Minh, Hoi An, humanity, horns, honking, hovering, hammering, haze, haunting,…

Toots and motorbikes surround us on a honking Hanoi street as we bravely contemplate stepping out into the oncoming traffic. We don’t look left or right but instead directly ahead and careful to not make any sudden movements, we steadily walk in a straight line as though we are being tested for drunken behaviour. Given our mad jaunt onto the road, doubting our sobriety would …

Spirited Living at Trinity Gardens, Ubud

filed13 Sep 2018 from

Calling all you devoted Eat Pray Love fans, Spirited Living will set you on a path of self-discovery, or at least a bohemian stay in their rustic Trinity Gardens complex comprising of joglos (a traditional Javanese dwellings), The Den which is ideal for a couple or small family or The Mansion perfect for a lengthy gathering of like-minded souls.

Access is gained by a beautiful 15-minute walk along the Sari Organic path depicting rural life with a smattering of organic …

Culture with Como Uma Ubud

filed13 Aug 2018 from

No matter where you are in Ubud you’re never far away from an artisan whether they be painters, carpenters, weavers, musicians or those crafting batik patterns. Even the wafting incense in the open dining room at Uma by Como seems to sway in time to the smoky jazz playing in the background.

But beyond the handcrafted villas and lush grounds, are entire villages dedicated to creating exquisite art. Batuan Village is famed for its painting style of the same name …

Conscious travel with Kano Sari, Ubud

filed13 Jul 2018 from

Symphonies of cicadas and spine-tingling chanting echoing across the ravine come as part of the package at Kano Sari, along with the meditative snipping of grass by hand; the staff preferring tradition over convenience.

There’s no mistaking where you are as owner Karen Lewis helps support Kutuh Kelod village, where Kano Sari is located, by contributing to the community, embracing Bali’s seemingly endless ceremonies (she even has outfits for her guests to use), placing offerings around the property and hiring …

Careening around Colombo

filed20 Mar 2018 from

 

tuk-tuk pin-up

The swanky homes of Cinnamon Gardens and the Town Hall resembling the White House in Washington are hard to miss when careening around Colombo in a tuk-tuk. But many of the city’s secrets and surprises are hidden behind walled courtyards and held by the locals themselves. Breaking the ice is easy at the mere mention of the favourite national past-time of cricket.

Cricket Crazy. Even if you secretly don’t know Don Bradman from Ricky Ponting, you can fake it …

Six romantically remote WA destinations to woo your honey

filed13 Feb 2018 from

There’s nothing quite like being whisked away to luxury digs where the signature dish is your lover and dessert is, um, well I’m sure you can conjure up some scenarios. Crown Towers, Como The Treasury and Margaret River’s Cape Lodge are obvious choices, but why not go for gold and head to a remote pocket of our huge state where no-one will mind your cries of glory.

Esperance Chalet Village, Esperance

Esperance’s isolation already appeals to those craving an uninhibited …

Moonburra Stay: A place to breathe

filed14 Nov 2017 from

With towering gum trees and a quintessential colonial homestead, there’s no mistaking I’m in Western Australia, and despite the outback setting, only an hour or so from Perth. All that’s required is to slow down and succumb to Moonburra Stay’s outback luxury.

Elevated over the Avon Valley National Park in the Chittering Valley, the view resembles an exhibition of the Heidelberg School. The scene below could very well have been the inspiration for artists, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton or Tom …

The Trip to Spain

filed16 Aug 2017 from

The Trip to Spain

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are back on another epic road adventure fuelled by their witty banter and impersonations in The Trip to Spain.

If I could choose only one other writer to explore an exotic terrain with it would be Brydon for his comic genius, warm wit and wry smile. I’d even forgive him for not taking one note or photo during his restaurant reviews if only for his Marlon Brando and gay Nazi impersonations.

The Wild West, Balinese style

filed23 Mar 2017 from

It’s a wild ride to west Bali.

Invigorating is another way to describe the four hour drive from Denpasar. As trucks and motorbikes play dodgems I put all my faith in our trusty driver and concentrate on the spectacular scenery.

We pass a Hindu wedding ceremony, a religion which peacefully lives alongside Islam and Christianity; where pork and beef are revered by the other.

Thirty years ago the road wasn’t even sealed and it would take up to 10 hours …

All loved up in Koh Samui

filed27 Feb 2017 from

The night promises all the drama of a tropical storm as palm trees bow to the tumultuous weather gods holding court. Koh Samui’s serene skies make way for the approaching monsoon season as the rain pounds sideways into Manathai Koh Samui’s restaurant Waterline. Everyone takes cover as the wait-staff prepare the restaurant for the impending deluge. There was a time not that long ago when fine dining wasn’t a feature and Koh Samui, was famed for its fishing communities and …

The Artists of the Margaret River Region

filed04 Oct 2016 from

mrros_coverhr

Very exciting news! The Artists of Margaret River Region is due for release on 28th October 2016. Featuring 80 artists of the Margaret River Region in this beautifully designed book, which has been published in association with Margaret River Open Studios (MRROS), M&P Publishing and local photographers Elements of Margaret River and Crib Creative, it’s a celebration of creativity.

Inspired by the Margaret River Region Open Studios, the book is intended to showcase the work of the many artists who …

Why should you hire a professional freelance content writer?

filed05 Sep 2016 from

 

Even in this day and age of DIY renovators, when most of us have a plumbing or electrical issue we hire a professional. Sure, we could Youtube it or find a handy friend to help out but it’s often a false economy, usually with costly and inconvenient consequences. So why would you let someone who doesn’t write for a living write about your valuable brand? Doesn’t it make better business sense to hire a professional freelance content writer to …

Shreyas: A Indian journey of self-discovery

filed30 Jun 2016 from

shreyas statues

Shrouded in mist, the yoga pavilion sighs with guests working their way through the Sun Salutation routine. Despite the obscene hour and chilly morning, I’m in a state of bliss. Who am I? I don’t normally “do” early mornings, or even yoga for that matter, and yet I’m happily performing my poses in a dreamlike state.

We unravel our bodies into horizontal positions beneath our blankets with the intention of emptying our minds as our bendy instructor guides us through …

Truffle hunting in Manjimup

filed12 Apr 2016 from

On the 28th July in 2003 the first ever (well, the first documented one) truffle was found in Western Australia’s Manjimup. Thirteen years on, the Truffle & Wine Co. is so successful they now export to the US, Germany and France.

I went on a truffle hunt three years ago and I can still smell that earthy aroma. And as you can see below hunting for truffles is a very simple process…once you’ve selected the right plot of land, inoculated …

Gently Bentley

filed30 Mar 2016 from

driving

Pulling out of the Bentley showroom in Claremont onto Stirling Highway, I’m very much aware many houses cost less than the Bentley Continental GTC V8 S we’re test driving. However, given the craftsmanship on this elegant beast, it almost seems gauche to mention to money.

Our automatic seat belt presenter embraces us as we head up into the Perth Hills for a night of indulgence. It doesn’t take long to relax into the ventilated massaging leather seats with contrast cross …

Emergence Creative

filed18 Mar 2016 from

Function Centre Exterior wiht pots

It’s the conference for those who don’t do conferences. With the backdrop of Margaret River as their muse, some of WA’s most creative come together 16-19 March 2016 for Emergence Creative. I checked out the conference venue last weekend, and I have to say Willy Bay Resort is the epitome of what Margaret River is all about. Luxury villas set within the region’s famed vineyards and forest. Bliss!

For more information check out my article Meeting of Minds Meeting of …

The Colombian Cloud Atlas

filed07 Mar 2016 from

El Sauce 5

In one of the most dangerous countries in the world I stand on the side of the road with my thumb out. There is another woman striking a similar pose except she’s poured into the Colombian uniform of jeans tight enough to make out the lace on her g-string and, of course, the obligatory stilettos. This attire applies to women of any age, size or shape and I admire their fierce quest for sexiness as dust settles on my sneakers.…

ANZAC centenary Western Australia’s Great Southern Drive

filed22 Apr 2015 from

The approach into Western Australia’s Great Southern region is a mix of weathered scrub bordered by the rugged peaks of the Stirling Ranges hovering in the distance. This idyllic scene has been a fixture on the landscape for over one million years, but is a world away from how our ANZAC troops left the region to fight for Australia’s future.

The 25th April 2015 marks the ANZAC centenary and the 1st November 2014 marks 100 years since the first …

Stars in the Sand: touring Morocco with Jeff Martin

filed01 Apr 2015 from

MOROCCAN TOUR WITH JEFF MARTIN

 

coversm1

On the back of a mammoth year of touring and recording, including the release of the Tea Party’s first album in a decade, “The Ocean At the End,” Jeff Martin further delves into the exotic and Middle Eastern melodies on his return visit to Morocco.

Much has been documented about Jeff’s music and mystique, particularly his instrument collection from around the world, which includes the Hurdy Gurdy, Sitar, Harmonium, Oud and a 1916 ‘harp …

Mango madness

filed09 Mar 2015 from

mango boxWe generally associate mangoes with the tropics but about an east of Perth in Gingin, there are about 20 commercial growers handpicking their juicy fruit as I write this. The Mediterranean climate in the part of the world allows the fruit spend 120 days on the tree, which is one month more than in the tropics. The extra time before harvesting allows the sugars to become more developed, making them sweeter to eat, and the warm temperature also means minimal …

Wagin: An outback gem

filed06 Mar 2015 from

paddock art

Almost exactly halfway between Perth and Albany, the dusty outback town of Wagin toils away beneath a vast expanse of nothingness except for clouds swirling on a background of blue.

Wagin Little GemAs the outback scrub gives away to hills of faded gold, the Southern Wheatbelt region is dotted with cattle languidly grazing in paddocks while lorikeets and galas nibble on roadside picnics of seeds. The quintessential outback town of Wagin is at the crossroads of the Great Southern region; with Albany …

Far Out, Queensland

filed25 Feb 2015 from

Thala's private beach

Lonely footprints on sandy white beaches, swaying sugar cane fields and an outrageously turquoise sea. I’m starring in my very own travel brochure. Far Northern Queensland is the epitome of life in the slow lane and thankfully, I can’t see it ever speeding up.

The beauty continues at Thala Beach Lodge; it’s almost shameless. Located on a private 145 acre peninsula between Cairns and Port Douglas, you’re ideally situated to explore the hinterlands, Daintree rainforest, Cape Tribulation and of course …

Hola Colombian coffee

filed05 Feb 2015 from

Oh, the lengths I’ll go to for a decent cup of coffee. Like to the other side of world. I’ll soon be in the city of Pasto, in the department of Narino in south western Colombia, and bordering Equador.

It’s well and truly off the beaten tourist trail and yes, I promise to be careful of machete wielding drug lords cruising around the streets in search of random travel writers. This is generally the kind of reaction I’ve received whenever …

Barberyn Ayurveda: Sri Lanka’s Science of Life

filed19 Jan 2015 from

Deep sense of relaxation after the oil massage

There are few destinations as jam-packed as Sri Lanka with beaches, ancient civilisation, wildlife, spices, tea, culture, cuisine, gems, adventure sports, luxury hotels and the ancient philosphy of Ayurveda. Meaning the “Science of Life,” Ayurveda has been passed through the generations for over 5,000 years and is still practiced today. But I must confess, I’m slightly anxious about my stay in an Ayurveda resort, even though Barberyn is considered one of the most authentic and holistic healing retreats in the …

Houseboating through the backwaters of Kerala

filed12 Jan 2015 from

houseboats on river

Palm trees lean over the water’s edge to greet us as breaks in the foliage provide glimpses into a world of rice paddies. Every shade of green is startled by iridescent saris in blues, oranges, reds, and pinks. Escaping the hassle, wanna-be hippies and eye watering smog we board a houseboat on the backwaters of the state of Kerala. Located in the south-west corner of India and covering four districts Kollam, Kottayam, Alappuzha and Kochi, the waterways snake across 900 …

Uncovering the Peel region of Western Australia

filed27 Oct 2014 from

Just an hour’s drive from Perth and you can lose yourself in amongst the rugged scrub, a stunning coastline, rolling farmlands, majestic native forests, the languid Murray River, one of the world’s longest walking and cycling trails, waterfalls and Lane Poole Reserve; one of those special spots the locals would prefer you didn’t know about.

Uncover more here Uncovering the Peel region as published in Horizons Magazine August/September 2014

 …

Land in hot water: Japanese style

filed26 Sep 2014 from

In some cultures floating around naked with strangers would land you in hot water. In Japan it quite literally does, but this is not a story about exploits in a far flung destination but a story about Japanese hot springs.

PR hot springs l_159767

The Japanese have been soaking in hot springs (onsens) for over 2,000 years and it’s safe to say they know a few things about this ancient tradition. With over 138 million people visiting 55,000 onsens every year and …

Bali: Eat, lay, bend and write

filed18 Sep 2014 from

statue2On a recent journey to Bali’s tranquil Ubud I didn’t find myself and despite hunting high and low not even Javier Bardem frolicking in the rice paddies either, sorry girls.  I did however discover many enticing ways to eat, lay, bend and write, with a few naughty detours along the way.

Nestled into the hillside and offering flourishing views every which way, ONEWorld Retreats (www.oneworldretreats.com) offer unique experiences at Ubud’s boutique hotel Kumara Sakti.  There’s no questioning the …

Stay fit and travel

filed22 Aug 2014 from

Staying in shape while on vacation can be difficult especially with the changes (and temptations) in your eating habits, environment and sleeping schedules throwing your usual routine out the window. Although a departure from the norm is kind of the point of travel, you can still stay healthy. Work-out sessions can be difficult to squeeze in while on the road, high seas, mountain ranges, hot air balloon or exotic waves, but these tips by guest blogger Gavin Apter, innovator of …

Permanent Impressions: Independent Publisher Book Awards Winner

filed01 May 2014 from

I’m very proud to report Permanent Impressions: A salute to contemporary heroines won Bronze in the Best Regional Non-fiction category for the 2014 Independent Publisher Book Awards, also known as the IPPYs. It was an absolute honour to work on such an amazing project with the incredibly talented artist Jana Vosedil and dynamic Carina Hoang of Carina Hoang Communications, who incidentally won Silver for her Boat People book in 2012. Permanent Impressions pays homage to 50 of Western Australia’s …

Take five in Bali

filed12 Feb 2014 from

banana crepes effect

My day begins with a breakfast of sweet banana crepes wrapped around avocado, mango cream and sliced bananas topped with a fresh fruit compote and chocolate cream, followed by a flower facial tonic and virgin coconut oil body scrub, and then a recline in a private bathhouse lit by chromo-therapy lighting. All of these activities occur by the rambling rapids of the Ayung River in Ubud, Bali. Fivelements certainly dispels the myth that health retreats are gruelling.

For the full …

2013 in a camera case

filed31 Dec 2013 from

camera at sunset

I may be a writer, but as one specialising in travel, this online world demands pretty photos as much, if not more so, as words. Hence, most travel writers are also professional photographers by default.

When packing for a trip the bulk of my luggage is books, beauty products (yes, I know I have a problem) writing materials (including the old fashioned method as well as a laptop) and my Canon with an assortment of lenses. I never seem to …

Manila Madness

filed24 Nov 2013 from

We’ve all seen the heartbreaking photos in the wake of Haiyan. And while many of us probably won’t be rushing out to book our next holiday to the Philippines, it’s a shame, because not only do they need tourists more than ever, it’s a fascinating country.

The sprawling metropolis of Manila has many mini cities within its labyrinth and several years ago I took a walking food tour through Chinatown, actually it was more like an eating tour as I …

Bunker Bay, takes my breath away

filed13 Nov 2013 from

bunker bay

 

I recently had a glorious stay at Pullman Resort Bunker Bay and all the words and photos in the world can’t do this part of the world enough justice. No wonder all Western Australian’s get a dreamy look on their faces whenever you mention the Margaret River region. Read the full article published in Qatar Airlines inflight magazine here Pullman Resort Bunker Bay

 

 …

Finding Perth

filed29 Oct 2013 from

I’ve landed a great gig writing for Findery where I get to “find” cool stuff in my hometown Perth, Western Australia.I’ve seen dead animals at the Natural History Museum in Guildford, got my girls out with a Breastique Art workshop, braved a storm in a campervan in Denmark, discovered some great coffee at Love Thy Neighbour, unearthed why honeymooners once flocked to Ngilgi cave in Yallingup and even did some of my research in the horizontal position at Hidden Valley …

Truffle Time

filed29 Jul 2013 from

On the 28th July in 2003 the first ever (well, the first documented one) truffle was found in Western Australia’s Manjimup. Ten years on, the Wine and Truffle Co. is so successful they now export to the US, Germany and France.

I went on a truffle hunt last week and I can still smell that earthy aroma. And as you can see below hunting for truffles is a very simple process…once you’ve selected the right plot of land, inoculated the …

10 Reasons to Desert Yourself on Gaya Island

filed14 Jul 2013 from

yoga

 

As the speedboat zoomed towards Gaya Island Resort, I was already devising ways to never return to reality.

A few minutes off the coast of Kota Kinabalu on the Malaysian state of Sabah lies a refuge away from life as most of us know it. Located on the island of Pulau Gaya within the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, Malohom Bay sweeps majestically at the Gaya Island Resort’s feet.

Gaya Island villas

1. Lay down and weep

On the approach in it’s …

Ayurveda Unveiled

filed27 Jun 2013 from

Shirodhara with therapist -IMG_0849_small

 

One of the oldest forms of holistic healing in the world, Ayurveda promotes natural beauty, positive health and a long life. Sri Lanka heaves with Ayurveda practitioners and treatments vary from wandering into a centre for a relaxing massage to an intensive stay at an Ayurvedic resort where you’ll be revived physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Before booking your plane tickets and going all zen-like here’s the lowdown on life at an Ayurvedic resort.

1.       Up close & personal

It’s …

Author of Sex and the City, Candace Bushnell is coming to Perth

filed20 Jun 2013 from

Sex & sarong party

I don’t mean to name drop, okay maybe a little bit but Candace Bushnell, author of Sex and the City, is coming to town so don’t miss out on having Cosmos with Candace. She’s an absolute delight, a New York broad through and through and it’s like talking to the real Carrie Bradshaw.

I heard her speak a couple of years at the Galle Literary Festival, as above, at a wonderful event called Sex in a Sarong on the …

The Mexican Suitcase

filed19 Jun 2013 from

zocalo fish eye

How fortuitous for a suitcase containing thousands of lost negatives from the Spanish Civil War to be found by a film-maker. In fact, the story of the journey of the suitcase is interesting on its own, but not nearly as fascinating as its contents.

As war survivors share their horrific tales, The Mexican Suitcase incorporates many of the retrieved photos into the documentary with disturbing images of ravaged corpses, boy soldiers with rifles, women performing hard labour and sad-eyed children.…

The Artist and the Model

filed19 Jun 2013 from

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Set in the Pyrenees in occupied France during 1943, The Artist and the Model depicts a time where men dressed elegantly, creative types didn’t rely on technology to produce art and models had bodies that embraced their womanliness, body hair and all. So when model Merce, (Aida Folch) reveals the wisps of her armpit, it’s almost as shocking as the complete nudity she displays for much of the movie.

After escaping from a concentration camp Merce is picked up off …

Rooftop Comedy

filed19 Jun 2013 from

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As patrons perched on top of the Conservatory Rooftop Bar bathed in red light while giggling about the ridiculousness of life, it was easy to forget about the crisp night air. With a New York meets Miami vibe, the light changed to blue and then green to match the palms and turf flooring.

MC Dan Willis swifty carried the show and was surprisingly gentle on the “white collar crowd” considering he was no doubt more liberal with his previous performance …

Apache CLIP Award

filed19 Jun 2013 from

Svetlalana Baily_CLIP 2012 Winner

If photos of pretty landscapes are your thing then you won’t mind that the Apache CLIP Award is over. On the other hand, if you’re swayed by the grittiness of reality you’ll be watching this space, particularly the exhibition space of the Perth Centre for Photography (PCP) for its next exciting instalment.

CLIP stands for Contemporary Landscapes in Photography and the criteria of the competition was to create original and stimulating pieces to challenge traditional landscapes. The Apache CLIP Award …

BBQ-ing US style

filed07 Jun 2013 from

After the sun had long disappeared I pondered on how I ended up in a field in Lexington’s North Carolina passively smoking a beef brisket and drinking the local moonshine. RV’s with palatial proportions steamed into town for the BBQ-ing version of Woodstock at the Annual Capital BBQ Cook-off 28th-29th April 2012.  Heaving with 50 competing teams vying for the $15,900 prize money, many of the competitors were probably conceived at such an event, except for the …

Don’t look out the front windscreen

filed07 Jun 2013 from

ongoing truck in tuk-tuk

When travelling around Third World and developing countries I have a rule. It’s the only thing I have control over when being flung around the back of a stinky taxi in KL or griping onto the side of a tuk-tuk in India. DON’T look out the front windscreen. Trust me, its better that way. You don’t see the oncoming trucks or the cows who refuse to move away from a mad intersection. You don’t even notice the look of terror …

Sex in a Sarong

filed24 May 2013 from

 

snapshots of Sri Lanka book cover

 

 

 

The following story (edited to the conservative title of ‘Soiree in a Sarong’) has been extracted from ‘Snapshots of Sri Lanka.’ The book contains many wonderful stories about the teardrop isle and proceeds go to Samadhi Grove, an early childhood development centre in the village of Smagipura in southern Sri Lanka. Your generosity is appreciated and for a copy please go to Vivid Publishing

 

 

 

 

My floor-length is gown is hitched up around …

Sandakan: The Land Below the Wind

filed20 May 2013 from

 

While tropical adventures are aplenty in Sandakan, Malaysia, the former capital of the state of Sabah oozes a tumultuous cultural past.

The phrase “land below the wind” was coined a century ago by sailors to describe the Malaysian state of Sabah on the northern coast of Borneo because of its location south of the typhoon belt. American author and expat Agnes Keith brought notoriety to the phrase in her book of the same name. In fact, she wrote three books …

I think I’m stripping Japanese, I really think so

filed09 Mar 2012 from

Sadly, March marks the anniversary of the great Japan earthquake and tsunami and although the devastation and heartache is insurmountable, tourists are returning to Japan. Who can blame anyone wanting to explore the land of sumo wrestling and geishas, where everything is familiar and foreign all at the same time. A culture obsessed with rules and protocol and yet consumed by perplexing, and quite frankly kinky, pasttimes.


Photo 8 bride back

 

Luuuurve Hotels

Cheesy Love Hotels rented by the hour in Japan were …

Battle of the writers festivals

filed27 Feb 2012 from

Fireflies flit along the shoreline as I hitch my floor-length dress up around my thighs. Stepping into the warm Indian Ocean I wobble along the watery path lit only by fire torches towards the tiny Taprobane Island off Sri Lanka’s south coast. Waves crash as I grip the sand bank beneath my toes and friendly hands reach out to guide me to cocktails with Candace Bushnell, the author of a little well-known story called Sex and the City.

This …

Craft Beer Festival 2012

filed24 Feb 2012 from

Thirst quenching honey-hued bitterness satiates WA’s south west.

I must confess I’m not a beer lover. There I said it. I may be a failure at the Australian tradition of a downing a coldie, but after a tasting at Eagle Bay Brewery, I didn’t mind it. In fact, I even finished my sample of the German style Kolsch. Drank as a lager and likened to the crowd pleasing Little Creatures Pilsner, my Kolsch (note how I’ve already become a …

Sri Lanka’s wet ‘n wild south

filed28 Jul 2011 from

Some of the finest, least populated beaches anywhere can be found on the newly peaceful island of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean.

beach swirls

Foreigners, burquas, and children bob along to the rhythm of boats along the curvaceous bay of Unawatuna. The scents of coconut oil, incense, diesel, sunscreen, salt, and curry flirt with abandon in the gentle breeze. The idyllic scene is complete with swaying palm trees and sauntering bikini-clad bodies glistening in the humidity. Yet, the very sea that …

East of France

filed10 Feb 2011 from

Vietnamese girls glide by on bicycles much as willowy frames saunter along the streets of Paris. French colonial architecture stands resplendent in Siem Reap and the sultry streets of Saigon are dotted with patisseries. The tree lined boulevards of Hanoi are centred around Hoan Kiem Lake while the River Seine snakes through the City of Light.

Hue Part 1 506

 

Hanoi Metropole

The word Indochina came about with the French colonisation of Vietnam which soon expanded into surrounding regions, and most predominantly into Cambodia and …

Buskers of Fremantle: The Freo All-Stars

filed28 Dec 2010 from

THE BLUE STAR OF FREMANTLE

Fedora tipped over blue

Seductive plucking of tune

Street-side superstar

Freo presents Ivan Zar

Travel Photography Workshop 068b_edited-2

In amongst the throng of bohemians languishing along Fremantle’s capuccino strip, I’m immediately drawn to the man sporting a suit and fedora in mid-night blue. Oozing 1960’s glamour evocative of the Cuban time warp, I learn his name is Ivan Zar. A master of blues, the haromonica, and his unique metallic slide guitar, his style is gutsy yet unassuming. Influenced by …

Liquid gastronomy: Tea inspired cuisine

filed22 Dec 2010 from

While visiting Sri Lanka I had a spot of Tea Gastronomy and learnt all about tea-inspired recipes – and I shared a little more than inspiration with few chefs in Dilmah’s headquarters.

tea picker 2

Far from the maddening pace of Colombo and about three hours north of Sri Lanka’s idyllic beaches in the south, you’ll hit mountain ranges awe-inspiring enough to give any trekker palpitations even before their ascent. The chequered green ranges are dotted with women picking tea, many of whom …

Oprah’s wild west

filed09 Dec 2010 from

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Okay, so Oprah’s not gay or coming to Perth…but she did change her plans on a whim to visit Uluru care of singer and friend Paul Simon. Oprah and her entourage’s itineraries are shrouded in secrecy so you never know the world’s most isolated of cities, Perth may still feature in the limelight. So far Oprah hss hammed it up on Hamilton Island and has cuddled a koala, but here’s a few of Fluffy Towel’s weekend suggestions if she does …

Great Gourmet Weekends In Australia

filed25 Nov 2010 from

Okay, here’s a bit of shameless self-promotion. Great Gourmet Weekends in Australia has just been released by Explore Australia and its jammed packed with delicious options around the country. I was lucky enough to “research” and write the Western Australian content. Each state has in-depth coverage and is available in stores across the country and there’s giveaways too. Available to purchase online at Great Gourmet Weekends in Australia

Andy & Michelle 4

Here’s a little tease for your tastebuds,

Meet the Osbornes of Darlington

The hills are alive: getting back to nature

filed18 Nov 2010 from

“Beep, beep, beep,” drones the forklift. It reverses up and down the salvage yard next door, just a few metres from our lounge room. A grunting semi-trailer pulls up with a delivery of wood to be unloaded throughout the entire afternoon. Soon, the rubbish truck will arrive to empty the enormous bins with its noisy hydraulic lifts. A plane thunders above and if I run outside I can wave to the passengers. A train “toots”. On the other side of …

Contiki Tip 34: How to use a map

filed13 Nov 2010 from

So there we all were, waiting, waiting, waiting, and waiting for our ferry to take us to Venice. A very exciting prospect indeed as I was dying to see one of the most romantic cities of all time. However, there was nothing very romantic about our situation. We were at the very dodgy port of Patra, aka the Rats of Patras, waiting to board our ferry for a two night cruise to Venice.

We were about halfway through our 34-day …

Broome Vroom

filed11 Nov 2010 from

Broome Vroom was a finalist in The Purple Passport travel writing competition. If you liked my story please vote http://diary.thepurplepassport.com/global/other-global-cities/cast-your-vote

“My name is Roger and I’ll be your guide today. Welcome to the Mango Tango Tour,” drawls our driver as he caresses his white Harley-Davidson trike, our mode of transport. We climb aboard the curvaceous blonde and hit the highway to sip wine at a mango plantation.

This is our second trip to Broome and I can see why so …

Paris at the Hilton

filed08 Nov 2010 from

 

The harpist serenades us as lady-boys shoo away flies with white cloths, or are they merely surrendering to the scorching heat?  Celebrating our daughter’s sixth birthday, we’re having lunch at No Problem Restaurant in a wooden structure suspended on stilts over a mangrove on Mactan Island, one of the 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

We’re sampling the traditional dish of Sutukil, a term derived from three words Sugba (SU), Tuwa (TU), Kilaw (KIL) meaning to broil, …

What Race?

filed01 Nov 2010 from

 

I had lasted 11 hours in my silly shoes, but there was no way I could wear them for the twenty-minute hike back to the car. As my sandals dangled from my hands, the cool tarmac had taken a velvety texture beneath my bleeding feet.

The brisk air itched my sunburnt shoulders and ached every muscle as my hangover kicked in. However, I was healthier than many of the other punters we passed along the way. Some were in vomiting …

Holy Cow! Five Reasons to Not Bustle Past Cowaramup

filed28 Oct 2010 from

If you’re moo-ving around the Margaret River region three hours south of Perth, you may notice some life-size cow sculptures left-over from the CowParade Margaret River, an international event held in over 50 cities. The competition saw local artists hussling up the bovine creatures in all kinds of attire and positions. It seems only appropriate to start your cow hunt in the charming dairy town of Cowaramup, situated on the Bussell Highway and just 10 minutes north of Margaret River.…

Finding divinity in the bush

filed21 Oct 2010 from

New Norcia Sept 2009 162

Upon entering the elaborately decorated St Ildephonsus’s chapel, Bach’s Toccata and Fuge in D minor pipes out of the magnificent organ. This heart-stopping scenario doesn’t occur in rural Italy, but in the dusty Western Australian bush. As I settle onto the antique pew to admire the heavenly fresco the juxtaposition of a time-honoured civilisation plonked into the youthful Australian way of life isn’t lost on me. The head-turning town causes no end of intrigue as patrons fly along the Great …

Ceylonese Cravings

filed12 Oct 2010 from

 

 

Many a tear and blood has been shed over the tumultuous past of Sri Lanka. It’s of no wonder then that the isle of serendipity is in the shape of a tear. But this tale isn’t about the 25 year war or the tsunami. It’s about a quest for a decent cup of coffee in a land of tea bushes.

Despite holding countless culinary charms, Sri Lanka isn’t exactly prized for its cafes. I stopped asking for an …

Walk on the Tame Side in Paris’ Montmartre

filed17 Sep 2010 from

Made famous by the Moulin Rouge and its hedonistic revellers, Montmartre is well worth a wander during the day.

As you alight the Metro stop Abbesses, check out the Paris cityscape mural, and its unusual green wrought-iron arches and amber lights, which are one of the few original Art Nouveau stations in Paris.

After savouring the seediness of Montmarte’s adult outlets, browse the electic range of shops while heading up to the heavens of Basilique du Sacre Coeur either by …

Divine Diversity: Holier Than Cebu

filed16 Sep 2010 from

Photo 1 Magellan’s Cross looms above, a larger than life relic to Christianity on Cebu, one of the 7,000 islands in the Philippines.

There are Catholic icons everywhere: a crucifix hanging off the rear-view mirror in a taxi, a painting of The Last Supper displayed in a cafe, or a rosary pressed between fingers clutching a steering wheel while negoiating the mad traffic. All over the city there are churches and the country-side is dotted with tiny chapels. The city morgue is …

From Colombo to Galle: A Sri Lankan travel revival

filed01 Sep 2010 from

The palm-tree pattered isle formely known as Ceylon is recovering from its 25-year civil war and the devastating 2004 tsunami. Plenty of blood has been shed and oceans have been cried over the tear-shaped island of Sri Lanka. But now it is experiencing a resurgance, and nowhere is this more visible than in its Capital Colombo and on the road to Galle

Read more: From Colombo to Galle: A Sri Lankan travel revival | CNNGo.com

Published 1 September 2010 on …

Breasts Out West

filed30 Aug 2010 from

Jiggly giggles abound on this crisp winter’s day and with only the sun to kiss our skin, we smear body paint over our torsos. This is not the scene for some titillating fantasy, although the guy “working” on his roof next door may dream otherwise. We’ve gathered here today to celebrate the female form and to raise awareness for breast cancer by creating art with our breasts.

Breastique Art is the brain child of Shiona Herbert, “I came up with …

Philippines Aflame

filed24 Aug 2010 from

I have a confession. My attention isn’t entirely focused on the food whilst on the Big Binodo Food Wok Tour in Manila’s Chinatown. For starters, I’m a little bit star-struck as not only is our delightful tour leader Ivan Man Dy, a local celebrity in his own right, but I’m retracing the steps of Anthony Bourdain. And so my fascination with the rock-star of the culinary world continues – and in particular his obsession with pork products. I’m thrilled at …

Top 50 Restaurant Guide Western Australia

filed24 Aug 2010 from

The Top 50 Restaurant Guide Western Australia 2011 is due for release in November 2010. This guide is STILL the first and best independent restaurant guide for WA, and I’m proud to say I was a key contributor and restaurant reviewer to the guide.  To thank our valued supporters, the 2010 edition is available for free download at the Gourmet Godfather

 …

Guest Blogger Radames Ortiz

filed06 Oct 2009 from

Radames Ortiz has contributed to numerous literary journals including, Gulf Coast, Texas Observer, Open City, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cortland Review and Exquisite Corpse. His work has been collected in various anthologies which include US Latino Literature Today, Regeneration: Telling Stories from our Twenties, and Is This Forever, Or What?: Poems and Paintings from Texas. In 2003 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, awarded an Archie D and Bertha Walker fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and …

Eating out in Siem Reap

filed06 May 2009 from

 

Although many travellers come to Siem Reap to explore the marvels of Angkor Wat and the neighbouring temples, it’s the cuisine that leaves many staggered for words.  With an array of international tastes well catered for like Thai, Vietnamese, Indian and French, The Old Market area is a popular spot to sample traditional Cambodian cuisine, or also known as Khmer cuisine. For the uninitiated, Khmer cuisine is noted for its use of prahok, a type of fermented fish …