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Tuesday 5 March 2024

Gauteng hopes new flights will boost tourism numbers


The Kruger National Park and the wine regions of the Cape are probably the two major tourism drawcards in South Africa for Australian visitors. 

That said, Gauteng Tourism is hoping the new South Africa Airways Perth-Johannesburg direct route will open myriad African experiences for Australian travellers - including the much-maligned city of Johannesburg. 

The non-stop three times a week flight takes-off from late April and has already seen a keen uptake of seats, particularly in economy class. 

"We are really excited that this flight has recommended after a three-year hiatus," says Sthembiso Dlamini, CEO of Gauteng Tourism Authority, with takes in both Johannesburg and Soweto, 

"The route provides an easier and direct passage for both leisure and business travellers and promotes trade and cultural exchange between South Africa and Australia." 

She says the new flights give Australian travellers easier access to the rich tapestry of experiences that Gauteng offers – from its edgy urban lifestyle to natural landscapes. 

Having visited regularly, I can assure it is a fascinating destination if you take sensible precautions. 

"It is an invitation to explore the #GPLifestyle - a unique blend of adventure, culture, and gastronomy that the province is renowned for," Dlamini adds.
Among the attractions being touted are the Cradle of Humankind, the caves where early man lived; and Soweto, the former residence of Nobel winners Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, who actually lived in the same street in Dube. 

There is also plenty to thrill the outdoor adventurer and those hooked on adrenaline from bungee jumping, the world's longest SCAD freefall at the Soweto Towers, kayaking, mountain climbing, cycling and water sports. 

The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden is recognised as one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world; and there are multiple nature reserves and game reserves. 

The direct flights (SA 280) depart OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays and arrive at Perth International Airport, the following day. 

Flights from Perth (SA 281) are scheduled on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and arrive the same in Johannesburg.

Monday 4 March 2024

Gettin' Piggy Wit It

They do fast food just a little bit different in Bali. 

Depot Betty is a small chain that specialises in babi guling, also known as suckling pig. It is the only thing they serve. 

This particular Depot Betty is on the road between Denpasar and Singaraja. It’s pretty popular judging by the number of motorbikes and cars parked outside. 

You get a plate of different cuts of baby pig, some pickled veggies and chilli sauce. Along with a bowl of broth and some steamed rice. 

The verdict? Absolutely delicious. 

You order at the entrance and your food is delivered to you table steaming hot. 

The cost? Around $4 per person. 

Highly recommended. 

Legendary Bangkok Hotel reborn

One of the most famous hotels in Bangkok, the Dusit Thani, will reopen later this year after a complete rebuild. 

Dusit Hotels and Resorts has announced that it will officially reopen its flagship hotel in September.


Every room in the hotel looks over Lumpini Park, providing guests with uninterrupted views through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Situated in the same prime location as the original property, which dominated the Bangkok skyline from 1970-2019, the reimagined version of the Dusit Thani will offer a new experience while calling on "its predecessor's esteemed heritage".

With fewer rooms - 257 against the original's 517 - the newly built 39-storey hotel has a range of deluxe rooms and elegant suites.

Since it opened in 1970, the original Dusit Thani Bangkok boasted one of the city's largest, most elegant ballrooms. 

 The new version of the hotel continues this tradition with expansive banqueting and meeting facilities spanning over 5,000sq m. This includes one of the largest grand ballrooms in Bangkok. 

The original was the first luxury hotel and the tallest building in Bangkok for several years.

The hotel will soon announce a line-up of food and beverage outlets, including elevated dining experiences, while Devarana Wellness will be "a unique urban sanctuary concept designed to offer bespoke wellness experiences".

"The new Dusit Thani is more than just a hotel; it's a testament to our commitment to evolving with the times and leveraging our heritage to create unforgettable experiences for the future," said Suphajee Suthumpun, Group CEO for Dusit International.

Bookings for the new hotel will be available from May 1 art

Sunday 3 March 2024

Bali still offers great value

A free night in Sanur. 

A laneway warung recommended by travel writing colleague Christine Retschlag. 

An eclectic menu of Balinese dishes and western favourites. Including a couple of dishes I have not ordered for decades. 

Fast service. A couple of ice cold Bintangs.

So shrimp cocktail with avo. Delivered exactly what it promised. 

A tasty unspecified whole fish steamed with ginger and vegetables. Lovely but needed a chilli hit. Which was quickly delivered. 

And I finished with a classic banana split. A rare unhealthy treat.

The place to look out for; Warung Lilla, just a block off the main drag in Sanur. And there are plenty of others just like it - including many much cheaper.

The bill:  Rp 244,760. Which is around $25 Australian dollars.

One of the reasons why Bali is packed with tourists from around the globe. Folks who would pay five or six times as much for a similar meal in Australia.

New look for Melbourne CBD property

The Melbourne hotel space is one of the most competitive anywhere, with guests demanding both location and up-to-date facilities.

Oaks Melbourne on Collins Suites, a premier property in the heart of Melbourne, has just finished a complete refurbishment of its CBD location.

The hotel has updated the interiors of its 230 guest rooms, giving each room a fresh and contemporary feel.

Each guest room has a new look, including a refreshed colour palette, new flooring and enhanced amenities, and all hotel furnishings received an upgrade.

"We are thrilled to unveil the results of our hotel’s refurbishment," said GM Ivan Sunsanj.

"We always strive to exceed our guests’ expectations, whether [they are] visiting for business, leisure, or to celebrate a special occasion, we believe our renewed, stylish guest rooms will make Oaks Melbourne on Collins Suites the preferred choice for all types of travellers.”

Situated at 480 Collins Street, the hotel is well situated for exploring the city's attractions, dining options, and cultural experiences.

Oaks Hotels, Resorts & Suites is a member of the Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands and utilises GHA DISCOVERY, the world’s largest loyalty programme for independent hotel brands.


Saturday 2 March 2024

Walk, wine and dine with two famous Barossa families

Want to get up close and personal with two of Australia's most famous farming families?

As a one-off on Sunday, May 5, as part of Tasting Australia, you can walk with two prominent Barossa families - Henschke and Angas - on a stroll through Hutton Vale Farm in the Barossa’s Eden Valley.

Local Barossa chef Sam Smith of Otherness and formerly Fino at Seppeltsfield, will provide ‎appetisers paired to Hutton Vale and Henschke wines at intervals along the 5km trail, and then serve a Barossa-style lunch at Hutton Vale Farm.

The day begins at Henschke’s historic cellar door in Keyneton.

Meet the family at the heart of one of Australti'as leading family wine companies and then travel to Gnadenberg Church, alongside the world-famous Hill of Grace vineyard.

The Angas family will then guide you over the hill to Hutton Vale Farm’s classified Barossa Old Vine riesling vineyard; where a tasting of the region’s best white wines awaits.

Next stop; shiraz vines planted in 1912 by Ronald Angas - which produce the fruit for Henschke's Mount Edelstone and the starting point beginning of the two families becoming entwined as neighbours, collaborators and friends.

The next tasting awaits at the peak of Mount Edelstone with a trio of shirazes; Hill of Grace, Hutton Vale Farm and Mount Edelstone - along with 360-degree views of northern Eden Valley.

The it is a wander back to Hutton Vale Farm’s courtyard for lunch with a special selection of family wines.

The walk is called the Vino Camino and there is also an accommodation deal on offer.

The event can cater to vegetarian, vegan and coeliac dietary requirements.