Recipe: A Chocolate Fudge Cake Recipe from Azur Lodge

For Azur Recipe Article - CakeAzur Lodge is the Goway Stay of Distinction in spectacular Queenstown. It is uniquely tucked away on 3.5 acres of private hillside off Lake Wakatipu and is only five minutes by car from downtown Queenstown. Azur offers superb luxury accommodation with magnificent views of Lake Wakatipu and the surrounding mountains, there are nine freestanding, open plan villas and a main lodge that serves as the focal point for the lodge. Azurs take on service is personable, friendly and professional all the while catering to each guests individual needs. Nightly rates includes private return airport transfers and on demand transfers to Queenstown centre, full breakfast, afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks and canapés, complimentary WiFi, turndown service and full use of the Lodge facilities. Azur can also facilitate in-villa dining, spa treatments and itinerary recommendations – simply for starters. Whatever you need is no trouble at all at Azur. Here are the top 5 selling tips for Azur.

  1. All 9 identical villas offer uninterrupted views of Lake Wakatipu & the surrounding mountain ranges
  2. 5 minutes from downtown Queenstown by complimentary on demand transfer- between 7am-11pm
  3. Complimentary airport transfers on arrival and departure
  4. Full breakfast served in the main lodge or privacy of your own villa, homemade afternoon tea, pre-dinner drinks & canapés
  5. Guests dine at one of the fine restaurants in downtown Queenstown with door to door transfers or privately in their villa any night during their stay

This recipe’s a beauty from the fabulous Maria at Azur Lodges, she is responsible for the fantastic breakfast every day, the afternoon teas and pre dinner canapes.

Azur Lodge, Queenstown, NZ

Azur Lodge, Queenstown, NZ

Chocolate Fudge Cake Ingredients:

  • 250g Butter
  • 250g Chocolate
  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp of all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp of ground almond
  • 6 egg whites
  • 1/2tsp cream of tartar

Chocolate Fudge Cake Cooking Instructions:

  • Pre- heat oven to 180c, grease and line a 24cm cake tin.
  • Melt butter and chocolate together over double boiler pan. Put aside.
  • Beat egg yolk and sugar until light and creamy.
  • Fold in melted butter and chocolate, then fold in flour and ground almond, put aside.
  • In another bowl beat together egg white and cream of tartar, until soft peak (do not over beat – or cake will collapse).
  • Fold both egg white mixture and chocolate mixture together gently. Pour into greased pan and bake for 45 minutes.
  • Take out and let cool in pan, the cake will still be wobbly, and will set when cooled to a fudge like texture. Do not be concerned if the cake does not seem cooked after 45 minutes – it is supposed to be like that.
  • Sprinkle lightly with icing sugar, best served with fresh berries and whipped cream!

Enjoy!

For more information on Azur lodge, who sent us this recipe, please visit our webpage: Azur Lodge – Stay of Distinction

Posted in Australia & the South Pacific | Leave a comment

Winter Escape Ideas: 5 Top Countries

With September here, many North Americans begin to panic at the rapid approach of winter. We collected our thoughts on 5 awesome destinations to visit this winter.

Australia

Australia Koala_145270666The perfect destination for outdoor activity, classy cities, good wine and beaches – take Sydney for example, not only does it offer up culture, history, markets, shopping and  fantastic restaurants, but where else can you climb a bridge, jet boat in a world class harbor and learn to surf all in a day (or two)? Add to that snorkeling or diving on the world’s largest reef, ballooning, camel rides, sailing, bungee jumping, hiking, golfing and more – Australia has a lot to offer.  Being in the southern hemisphere guarantees warm temps ideal for beach time during the North American winter (although its VERY hot in the ‘Outback’).   Add to all of this an array of bizarre, indigenous animals found no where else in the world.  With the competition fierce on the airfare market there has been no better time to fly Downunder.  A destination that people used to head to for 4-6 weeks due to high air costs is now being packaged up for a quick 10-14 day visit.  Whilst longer is better, the trend towards shorter continues to grow as Globetrotters search for options beyond the Caribbean.  The must sees are Sydney, Cairns (for the Reef) and Melbourne and then if you can squeeze your trip to 14 days you can add in Kangaroo Island or even the Outback.   Check out these offers with Air New Zealand and Goway offering 6 Great Aussie Cities for 1 Great price.

South Africa

Often called the world in one country, South Africa continues to wow visitors with the Big 5 in game viewing, magnificent scenery ranging from stunning coastline to green valleys and mountains,  a world renowned wine industry and appetite for fine food that has created an innovative restaurant culture.  Visitors are always pleasantly surprised with how far your dollar stretches here, allowing for further indulgence.   If you’re a thrill seeker what better thrill than to dive with sharks, walk with elephants or track and tag rhinos? If you love culture and history you’re in luck. South Africa is the only country in the world to have 11 official languages – and many more unofficial ones! Its history is fascinating. Walk in the footsteps of Mandela, see the battlefields of Shaka Zulu and see where Ghandi started his passive resistance movement.  With all this, plus long balmy summer days, there’s never been a better time to visit.   South Africa is an ideal safari for any nervous first timer. It offers all of the continent’s wild beauty, incredible safari options and authentic tastes of African culture, balanced with modern, cosmopolitan cities and world famous wine regions like Stellenbosch. For some inspiring ideas and excellent savings check out our Africa on Sale webpage.

Thailand

It doesn’t get much better than Thailand, the food is to die for, the coastline is full of breathtaking scenery and white sand beaches, small island getaways abound, the shopping is fantastic, there is trekking, rafting, and world class diving plus you can’t go far without bumping into a historical site, temple or palace.  There is more than enough nightlife to satisfy those that love to dance the night away yet at the same time it’s not hard to find a quiet little spot to escape reality.  Although no longer the bargain destination of the 80’s and 90’s, you can certainly stretch your dollar here.   Perfect for a two week vacation from the dreary North American winter.  We recommend starting with Bangkok and ending with 4 glorious days on a beach in the Andaman Sea – the challenge will be what to see in between.  As Thailand receives about 16 million tourists a year there is no shortage of info floating around the web on Thailand and everyone knows at least someone who has been there, who almost certainly won’t stop talking about it! When you’re ready to plan out a trip, speak to an expert who knows their stuff.

Peru

A bucket list destination for just about everyone for good reason,  home to new seventh wonder of the world Machu Picchu, rugged mountain ranges, lush green valleys, wide open canyons, too many ancient ruins to count, and  a vibrant Andean culture with the best cuisine in Latin America.  Peru is quite possibly one of the best countries you will ever visit.   Adventure abounds for those that crave  activity from rafting, zip lining, mountain biking to the infamous Inca Trail.   The country is steeped in culture with museums, churches and fascinating architecture.   One could spend days in Cusco alone simply exploring the Plaza’s, churches, restaurants, cafes and artisan shops.  The Sacred Valley is home to several UNESCO world heritage sites and several excellent outdoor markets to explore.  With Peru being just one direct flight away from many major North American cities, with no time difference, you can have an incredible trip over 1 week you can do a quick one week vacation with next to no jetlag.

French Polynesia (Tahiti)

We couldn’t do a top 5 Winter getaway list and not include this island paradise! This year Tahiti tops the sun destination list, and has done for decades.  Long considered a dream destination for honeymooners, Tahiti is actually far more affordable and accessible than you might think.  Serviced with daily flights from Los Angeles makes it easy to get too – plus winter is actually their low season, meaning there are numerous specials and value adds (such as free meals, which on Tahiti can add up) at many resorts.  Considered to be the wetter season, this really shouldn’t be taken too seriously, and the islands themselves are lush due to the rainfall.  It rarely rains for longer than an hour or two here and there and the temps hover in the low 80’s.  Often overlooked is the capital and port city of Papeete which is well worth the visit if you like markets and are interested in local culture.  With the food truck industry now booming in North America the Tahitian’s have actually been dining from these local mobile eateries called Roulottes for decades, and we highly recommend a trip to Papeete just to dine at one of them!  With a distinct French influence combined with hints of Asia and definitely Polynesia, Tahiti takes fusion to a whole new level.   A night or two in Papeete can be easily combined with 5 nights in Moorea or Bora Bora for the perfect week long getaway.

Posted in Africa & the Middle East, Asia, Australia & the South Pacific, Idyllic Islands, Latin America | Leave a comment

The Venice of Hong Kong – Tai O & Lantau Island

Tai O Lantau Island Hong Kong China Asia_109646432Hong Kong is just one of those cities you have to visit, at least once, in your lifetime. There’s literally too much to do, to see, and to eat! It’s a city which can actually be a trip unto itself, a standalone destination full of culture (and even a healthy dose of culture shock), interesting history, impressive architecture (old and new), and brimming with progress.

The view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

The view of Hong Kong from Victoria Peak

As a travel company with a long history of promoting Hong Kong, we recommend that every traveller should take the funicular up to Victoria Peak (incredible views), hop on the Star Ferry to go from Kowloon to the Island, explore the Temple Street Night market, the Bird market, Stanley market (If there’s a market…go! You get the idea) and stop by the Man Mo Temple.  However – your average recommendations for Hong Kong will suggest the above, but what many first time visitors miss are less well-known activities that are just as impressive, potentially more-so. The above recommendations could be squeezed into a 2 day visit, but if you have the time, here’s how to easily add a 3rd day, or more!

Take some extra time to visit…

Lantau Island – The Venice of Hong Kong

Lantau Island Buddha Hong Kong China Asia_77460880The Island of Lantau is actually larger than Hong Kong Island, but with far less development, it has a totally different vibe. Tai O is a village on the west coast of Lantau and was once an important fishing and trading port for China up until about a century ago, with salt and fish being the main exports. Tourism has since replaced fish and salt as their most important revenue generating source, and as such it is a bit crowded during midday – but it is an interesting look at the life of a traditional Chinese fishing village. The village itself is the main draw, with many houses built on stilts above the water, and paints a picture of a people with a close affinity with the ocean. There’s an enormous Buddha which is a major draw for locals as well as mainland Chinese, and it is quite impressive.

Salt was the real wealth of Tai O, and some of the salt pans still exist today but most of them have been filled in, in order to build homes, land is the scarcest resource here. A large number of the people residing here still make a living by duck farming, small-scale commercial fishing, making shrimp paste (a village speciality), as well as salted fish. Hong Kong is a seaside city, and seafood is it’s lifeblood, and Tai O still remains as a top-quality area to buy both fresh and dried seafood.

Tai O village also spreads onto a tiny island about 15m from shore, and until the mid-90s the only way across was a tiny rope tow ferry which was pulled by elderly Hakka women. This and the high number of sampans earned Tai O the nickname “the Venice of Hong Kong”. There is now a small footbridge over the canal, but on some weekends the rope tow ferry is resurrected.

Some traditional style village houses are still standing in the centre of Tai O, including a few of the famous stilt houses on the waterfront. The stilt houses and the Kwan Tai temple were dedicated to a god of war and are on Kat Hing St. Along with Kwan Tai, there are a few more temples including an 18th century in honour of Hung Shing patron of fisher folk.

With even a few days in Hong Kong, you’ll have more than enough to do. But if you get the chance, break-off and checkout Lantau island, and the village of Tai O.

Hong Kong HarbourKowloon v/s Hong Kong – How to choose

HK Tourism Board Logo

 

Posted in Asia | 1 Comment

Fiji, beyond the beach

FIJI 023Fiji is a paradise of tropical beaches, coral coasts and tiny, private islands. The hotels here range from pretty basic all the way to sublime. It’s unique in it’s culture, which is a pleasure to discover and learn about, not to mention the friendly, smiling locals. Yet so many travellers come here just for the beach. Here are several activities which we definitely suggest to our travellers, to go beyond the beach in Fiji

  1.  Tracks and Trails

FIJI BLUE Lagoon Nacula island, Yasawa Islands, FijiThe Vidawa Rainforest Trail is great for the active traveller or photographer, it’s a full day guided trek that begins at Vidawa village, and passes through the fortified village sites of Navuga. There is ample bird life viewing as the trails lead deep into the rainforest. You’ll hike to the Tavoro Waterfalls which are stunning. If you want to do the walk with a guide (recommended, as they point out quite a bit on your surroundings and native flora and fauna) you must book in advance. The guides run Monday to Saturdays capped at a limit of 8 people for each group.

FIJI Kayaking at Qamea resort

  1.  Kayaking and rafting

The rivers in Fiji are perfect for the thrill seeker and the avid kayaker and even the novice kayaker. You can get some great kayaking and white water rafting trips that venture into the Namosi Highlands just north of Pacific Harbour. The trips are worth it for the stunning scenery, after the two hour trip you will paddle downstream by inflatable kayak for about four hours, to finish up the trip with a motorized longboat ride.

You can also fill your days with Four Wheel Drive trips, Whitewater rafting, Jet boating up the lush green Sigatoka River, and guided waterfall hikes.  Most trips run from either Pacific Harbour or Suva and last about 6 hours or so.

  1.  Caves and lagoons        

Bouma Falls Fiji South Pacific_177358154For those looking for an interesting place to swim and you are staying in the Yasawas, Fiji’s pearl necklace of Islands, Sawa-i-Lau is perfect (Remember Blue Lagoon from the 80’s, with Brooke Shields?– this is where it was filmed). It is a limestone island in the midst of a string of high volcanic islands. There is a dome shaped cave that is about 15m above the water surface that has created a natural pool. The sun shines through a hole in the top to create a beautiful scene and an amazing, secluded place to swim. You technically can go here without a guide, but we still recommend arranging one as they provide interesting commentary, and for the brave – they’ll show you an underwater passage you could swim through to an adjoined area with bizarre paintings and carvings of unknown meaning – it’s a fun afternoon!

For those staying on the mainland near Sigatoka you can also explore the Naihehe Cave, which is Fiji’s largest cave system and once the home of a cannibalistic, warlike tribe.

  1.  Culture and markets

FIJI075To immerse yourself in the rich cultural, political, archaeological and linguistic side of Fiji look no further than the Fiji Museum, located in Suva. The exhibits are arranged in chronological order, and provides a great story on the history of Fiji. The pieces include, musical instruments, cooking apparatus’, jewelry, weapons, which all provide a wonderful look into the traditional life of Fiji.  The average tourist never finds their way into the town of Suva let alone into the museum, which is a real shame as it is well worth the day trip if you are staying on the Coral Coast.

Stepping into the halls of the building you will find the influences of South Pacific and European cultures showcased. Within the displays is the chewed shoe of a Thomas Baker who was a Christian missionary. He was killed and cannibalized in 1867, for touching the chiefs’ head. Head upstairs and you will find displays showcasing the contributions made by the Indian workers and their descendants.

If museums are not your thing then head to the Sigatoka Sands Dunes to explore the prehistoric archaeological sites that give you a glimpse into early Fijian history.

FIJI 038If you do make your way over to Suva and you like to shop… be sure to check out Suva Curio & Handicraft Market. The market has a ton of craft stalls and can result in some great deals. Be sure to remember that the average price of “ibe” (mat) is about $45 to $75 depending on the weave quality so be prepared with some cash.

Navala is a small village tucked away in grassy mountains, each house is built with local materials. The village is a photographers dream, you must pay a $15 entrance fee and get permission to take photos. If arriving with a guide they will take you to the proper area to get such permission, if arriving alone just ask someone to take you to the turaga-ni-koro, which is the chief-appointed headman who will collect the fee.

For those that want to be independent, it’s easy to rent a car or hire a private car and driver. There really is so much more to Fiji than just the beach!

FJ_WORDMARK_ST_CMYKTourism FijiFijian Palm trees

Posted in Idyllic Islands | 6 Comments

Indulgent Overwater Bungalows in the Philippines

Overwater Bungalows PhilippinesSet on the emerald west coast of the island of Palawan is El Nido. More than a tropical paradise, El Nido is almost totally unspoiled with its wonderful beaches, clear waters, and stunning cliffs making it one of the world’s most beautiful resorts.

There are not many Asian overwater accommodations (like Tahiti) and Goway offers some of the best with the 3 El Nido properties that offer these private rooms set over the ocean.

El Nido Apulit Island Resort is for the clients that are seeking luxury and elegance. Truly a tropical paradise with sprawling white-sand beach lined with coconut palm trees, wildlife, colourful tropical fish, and scenic landscapes. The newest of the three El Nido resorts in the area, the El Nido Apulit features 50 water villas and no other rooms on its private island. This eco-resort has a long list of water sports and activities available, so it’s ideal for an active guest or for a honeymoon couple looking for an escape in paradise.

El Nido Bay, Philippines

El Nido Bay, Philippines

El Nido Lagen Island Resort set in lush forest and a calm and shallow lagoon it is an ideal resort for the client that want a private and tranquil island holiday. The El Nido Lagen Island resort offers 50 rooms of which 18 are water villas beautifully appointed using local materials, and are ideal for honeymooners. This resort occupies a secluded portion of a small island that is only accessible by boat. There are fewer activities available at this resort compared to the others in the group, so this is an ideal place to get away from it all and just relax while enjoying the amazing scenery.

Your slice of paradise

Your slice of paradise

El Nido Miniloc Island Resort is the perfect vacation destination for the young and young at heart is search of a fun and vibrant holiday. Tucked in a beautiful cove with limestone cliffs it is reminiscent of a coastal village. Great for snorkeling with its vibrant marine life and crystal clear waters. With a total of 50 rooms, 7 are Water Cottages built on stilts and 5 are Seaview Rooms. The most modestly priced of the El Nido Group’s three private island resorts in the Philippines, the El Nido Miniloc offers 5 water villas perched just out over its scenic bay. This is an eco-resort that honors its remote setting, using local materials to build and furnish all the rooms. There’s no TV or entertainment system, so this is ideal for those looking to escape the modern world. The best feature of this resort is its breathtaking location on its own island, just a short ride to several other small and gorgeous islands. The prices are also quite modest for such a place, making this one of the best value water villas in Asia.

The three El Nido resorts are close to each other and many guests choose to stay at more than one of them during their holiday.

Here’s just one testimonial one of our recent guests sent back:

Palawan and El Nido: Best treatment ever. Thank you for helping Tapio with the birthday arrangement. OMG. Unbelievable experience. They took me out on a night boat ride to see fireflies…on a secluded beach. Full dinner, wines, cakes, candles and all. Lots of see through crabs :D And the manager of the hotel sent me off and greeted me when I came back barefoot on the beach.

The best place ever to send honeymooners :D Lagoons, caves, boating, snorkling.

Annika from San Mateo County, California

IT'S FUN IN THE PHILIPPINES_UPDATEDThe 9 day Essential Philippines in luxury accommodations is a wonderful way to see the main highlights and a great add on to any one of these resorts starting from 3040CAD/2815USD.

For more information on Philippines programs, contact Goway Travel at 1-888-469-2988 or email info@goway.com, or visit our Asia Travel Ideas page on www.goway.com

 

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Recipe: Wok Fried Green Asparagus with Scallops

Peace hotel Shanghai 2This incredibly easy dish was developed by Steven Liu, MasterChef China judge and the Executive Chef of the Fairmont Peace Hotel, in Shanghai, where this has become one of the restaurants most signature dishes. You can easily prepare this at home, and it’s actually quite healthy!

  • Recipe Scallops and Asparagus Asia_87896689150g scallops
  • 50g green asparagus
  • 2g garlic
  • 2g ginger
  • 2g spring onion
  • ½ tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 clove star anise
  • 2 tbsp fish stock
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation and Cooking Instructions:

  1. Clean the scallops and remove the veins under cool running water. Pat dry with a paper towel.
  2. Peel the asparagus and cut into three-inch bits.
  3. Finely chop the garlic and ginger. In a pot, quickly blanch the scallops in boiling water for 10 seconds.
  4. Remove the scallops and cool in a bowl filled with ice water. Drain, and set aside.
  5. In a hot wok, add the vegetable oil and sweat the chopped garlic and ginger.
  6. Add the asparagus and the scallops. Fry for three minutes.
  7. Season the scallops with salt and pepper and star anise.
  8. Add the fish stock, sesame oil and sprinkle with the spring onions.

Finally, enjoy!

Peace Hotel, Shanghai

Peace Hotel, Shanghai

 

 

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10 days in Tahiti – The perfect honeymoon itinerary

Honeymooners on Bora Bora, French Polynesia (Tahiti)

Honeymooners on Bora Bora, French Polynesia (Tahiti)

Here’s our suggestion for a dreamlike 12 day itinerary in beautiful French Polynesia. This itinerary allows clients to experience Papeete plus three beautiful islands: Moorea, Bora Bora and Tahaa. We’ve included some exciting excursions, dinners and all transfers. We are certain newly weds, couples and celebrators will love this itinerary! 

Day 1. Arrive Tahiti (Papeete International Airport). Upon exiting the airport you will be met with a flower lei and taken to your resort for two nights in Papeete.  Spend two nights at the Radisson Plaza Papeete . Take this day to recover from jetlag, swim by the pool and relax. For travellers arriving on an early morning flight, we suggest they pre book early check in.

Day 2. Explore Papeete. Spend the day on an exciting tour around the island.  Take a 4×4 to the very heart of the island. Admire the valley of Papenoo, famous for its rivers, and enjoy the incredible waterfall and tropical plant views. This natural setting is the perfect place to experience the beauty of Tahiti. After returning to your hotel, head over to Les Roulettes, the popular Tahitian food trucks where you can taste local and international cuisine – and at a very affordable price!

Cooks Bay, Moorea

Cooks Bay, Moorea

Day 3. Transfer to Moorea. This morning, after breakfast, you will be met and transferred to the pier for your short ferry ride to Moorea. The heart shaped island of Moorea is only 16 kilometres/10 miles from Papeete is a beautiful island offering stunning scenery with its pristine, secluded beaches and lush mountains and valleys. Formerly of volcanic origin, the jagged mountain peaks give the island its unique character with Mount Tohi’e’a dominating the skyline. Upon arrival transfer to the Intercontinental Moorea for three nights. Take the remainder of the day to relax.

Day 4. Moorea.  The resort has a wide range of activities, including the Moorea Dolphin Centre, Top Dive Club, Hélène’s Spa, tennis, kayaking, canoeing, water skiing and guided Jeep tours.  The

The resort has completed a multimillion dollar renovation, including a gorgeous new infinity pool featuring a swim-up bar. Set within 17 acres of lush gardens, the resort provides a magnificent setting for a memorable South Seas vacation. This evening enjoy a delicious traditional dinner at the Tiki Village, a re-created Polynesian village. The highlight of the evening is the fire dancing performed by young native men from Moorea.

Day 5. Moorea. Today, set off on a safari experience and explore the volcano’s internal crater and incredible landscapes. Visit a pineapple plantation, Moorea’s Lycee Agricole (agricultural school) and its huge vanilla, banana, grapefruit and lemon plantations to name but a few. Then head to a marae before driving to the Belvedere for stunning views of Cook and Opunohu bays. The final stop will be the Magic Mountain. You will reach the top by following a little path lined with fruit trees. Up there, you will enjoy one of the most amazing view of the island of Moorea.

Day 6. Moorea to Bora Bora. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Bora Bora. This relatively small and incredibly beautiful island is a true paradise with its crystal clear waters and amazing sunsets. It is surrounded by a coral reefed lagoon. In the centre of the island is an extinct volcano with the two twin peaks of Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu towering over the island.

In many ways, Bora Bora is the ultimate romantic tourist destination. It has a casual and relaxed lifestyle suitable for honeymooners and travellers looking for a peaceful destination. A standard type of accommodation consists of overwater bungalows on stilts on top of the lagoon. Check into the 5-star Intercontinental Thalasso Resort and Spa for 3 nights.

Woman Tahiti over water bungalows French Polynesia 90136030Day 7. Enjoy Bora Bora. Today embark on a Shark and Ray Lagoon Safari to discover the sharks and rays, snorkel in a coral garden and in the aquarium before stopping on Motu Tapu for a delicious lunch with local specialties. After lunch relax and enjoy the afternoon on the white sand beach. This evening head to Bloody Mary’s, Bora Bora’s most famous seafood restaurant. Each evening (except Sunday) the daily catch of the local fishermen from Bora Bora is displayed on ice, where after an explanation of what is available on your particular evening, the host takes your order directly to the chef. You can choose from a vast selection of fine seafood plus crab, steak, chicken and seafood is also available. Your night also includes return transfers. This is truly a fine dining experience in a unique Tahitian environment.

Day 8 Bora Bora.  Enjoy spending time in your overwater bungalow. Swim into the lagoon and sunbathe on your private deck. This evening, head tothe MaiKai Restaurant which features international, French and Polynesian cuisine with elegant water views. With both casual and intimate dining options the MaiKai Restaurant embraces its surroundings to offer high-quality cuisine in an idyllic setting.

Day 9 Bora Bora to Tahaa. Transfer to the airport for your 45 minute flight to the island of Raiatea and connect on to Tahaa on a private shuttle boat. Check into the stunning 5-star Le Taha’a Private Island and Spa. Located on the secluded Motu Tautau islet, in the society islands  facing the lush island of Taha’a on one side and the majestic silhouette of Bora Bora on the other side, the resort, inspired by traditional Polynesian architecture and style, contains 57 remarkable suites and villas.

Day 10 Tahaa. This morning, try something different with a Tahitian Canoe Breakfast – breakfast delivered to your overwater bungalow in a personal canoe.  The rest of the day is yours to relax, and explore the 3 restaurants and 2 bars, Tennis court and swimming pool.

Day 11. Tahaa. Today why not try a scuba diving tour, or if you’re not a diver, or experience incredible “drift snorkeling”. This evening why not go on a sunset cruise.

Day 12 Tahaa to Papeete. Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Papeete. Upon arrival check in for your international flight back to Los Angeles on Air Tahiti Nui and say farewell to Tahiti!

A Tahitian sunset

A Tahitian sunset

Air-TahitiTAHITI DESTINATION BRA#3935C

 

 

 

 

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Animal Spotlight: Vicuñas – South America’s Royal Animal

Vicunas

Vicunas

Llamas can be cute, Alpacas definitely are, Guanacos – part of the same family – well, sort of… but what about their other cousins, the Vicuñas? Most Definitely! It’s common to find woven goods in South America made from these camelids (relatives of the camel), but as far as wool goes Vicuña wool is viewed as the best in the world! As you can imagine, the wool is rare and highly valued anywhere in the world. Of all the unique animals of South or Central America, this 4 legged altiplano cruising grass-eater is the most luxurious!

Vicuña wool is extremely fine, incredibly soft and very warm. It is also rare – partly due to the fact the animal can only be shorn (wool removed) every 3 years. So fine and exclusive was the wool to the ancient Incas, it was a crime for anyone but Incan royalty to wear clothing made from vicuna wool.

Today the animal is protected by law and several countries, most especially Peru have embarked on an aggressive breeding program as the demand for the top-quality wool increases around the world.

The shawl below is valued at $4900US and the coat at $3500. While bargains may be had when in Peru, be prepared to pay for the quality of a garment that will last you a lifetime and keep you warm on the cold in the coldest of Andean or North American nights. There’s little chance of finding Vicuñas wool in the many small open-aired markets in Peru and beyond, but there are some great, high-quality shops in major cities.

RUANAvicuña- 001

Coat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FACTS and SOME MYTH

  • Its warmth properties come from the tiny scales in the hollow, air-filled fibers
  • It is finer than any other wool in the world.
  • Due to its sensitivity to chemical treatment, the wool is usually left in its natural color.
  • The vicuña will only produce about 0.5 kg of wool a year
  • The vicuña was believed to be the reincarnation of a beautiful young maiden who received a coat of pure gold

Other Animal Spotlights:

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A Personal Observation on the Rise of Luxury Travel in South America

 

Iguassu Falls, Brazil/Argentine Border

Iguassu Falls, Brazil/Argentine Border

The following was written by Goway Travels Latin America Product and Marketing Manager, Don Forster:

Old-school Overland Buses, camping along the Andes

Old-school Overland Buses, camping along the Andes

As a former overland driver and expedition leader in South and Central America, I’ve witnessed over my lifetime seismic changes in South America, from coup d’etats, revolutions World Cups, the rise and fall of the drug industry of the 80’s, and most strikingly a shift in the quality of travel and accommodation in this wonderful part of the world. I can recall on those overland journeys arriving into many a city where we enjoyed the  “luxury” of checking into a simple, local hotel. Let me define luxury for a traveller who spends three or more months on a bus: hot water, a bed with clean sheets, and electricity. Mind you, we also camped quite a bit so any hotel was a nice treat. During those days, accommodation choices in even major urban centres were limited and low quality, except for the most exclusive hotels which were known more for their armed-security than for their amenities.

Awasi Atacama, Chile

Awasi Atacama, Chile

Oh how times have changed! I for one as a traveller have changed in my personal preferences and tastes. The world headlines have also changed, the violence and revolutions once typical of this region are gone and forgotten, and the entire region is experiencing years of stability, economic improvement and growth. The type of traveller to South America has also drastically changed. While there are still overland buses rumbling along the Andes, a new type of traveller is on the up-rise, a cultured, globetrotting traveller who’s been around the world and back has now pinpointed Latin America as very much on their bucket list, and as such there have been tremendous changes in the types of accommodation, touring, comfort, cuisine and style of travel here.

I am still an intrepid traveler at heart, so the choice of being “roughty toughty” during the day but relaxing in top notch accommodation at night is now an easy choice. My style now fuses hiking boots and local markets with exquisite cuisine and a private, local guide. I’ve traded the lurching overland bus to spacious air-conditioned vans with cold water and snacks on board… and I haven’t even begun to describe some of the well appointed train cars and rail travel options!

If you can’t already tell, I love all of Latin America, and arranging travel there is my professional pleasure. It’s a destination which still delivers excitement, even for someone like me who’s been there and everywhere, multiple times, and to do so in total comfort. The time is now right, as there has never been a better time to travel here.

The first destinations most globetrotters think of when considering South America are Peru and Ecuador, likely due to two world renowned sites: Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. To journey here in style is easy, and below Ill provide specific examples.  After that, Ill try and give a quick run-through of the leaders of experiential hotel and travel experiences in Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

In Peru, Belmond Hotels, formerly Orient Express, endeavour to set the benchmark of exclusive accommodation, with properties like the Palacio Nazarenas or the Monasterio in Cusco, historical buildings turned luxurious hotels. They’re so incredible, there’s a compelling case to travel all the way to Cusco just to see them (They’re also next door to each other within a beautiful plaza, you might just have to stay at both!). Competing alongside them are local boutique operations such as the Casa Andina and their Private Collection series, Aranwa Hotels, or Libertador. All of these hotels however are noteworthy not just for their service, their cuisine, historical or modern architecture, but in the locations of the properties themselves, like the Sacred Valley, tree-lined avenues of central Lima, the shores of Lake Titicaca or in the shadows of soaring condors with the Colca Canyon.

As the saying goes, “the journey is more important than the destination”, so considering a phenomenal arrival into Machu Picchu from Cusco aboard the well appointed Hiram Bingham train, famous for it’s top-notch meals within it’s candlelit vintage dining car. Considering dinner, step out of your hotel in Cusco to experience the forefront of Peru’s gastronomic scene at one of many fine restaurants, one of my favourites being the Cicciolina restaurant. One cannot get to Cusco without first visiting Lima, and I’ve been actively encouraging my travellers to consider a private tour of the fascinating Larco Museum followed by a simple but fine dining experience with a Peruvian twist. The words “unique dining experiences” are a dime a dozen in travel marketing lingo, but one such experience I recognize is to journey into the sandy deserts south of Lima (you could visit the Nazca lines, or simply for it’s natural beauty as many are unaware of Peru’s desert coast), where a ‘Bedouin Tent’ of sorts houses a gourmet spread while you daze into a warm fire or the cool star-lit sky.

Grand Odyssey - Galapagos Cruise

Grand Odyssey, a 16 passenger Galapagos ship

Peru is easily a standalone destination, as is Ecuador, but both countries combine perfectly well together, and little Ecuador easily competes with their next-door neighbour in providing exclusive travel experiences. It’s hard not to begin by mentioning the Galapagos, which most of our travellers experience by small cruising vessel (although there are some land-based alternatives). The smallest ships carry 16 passengers, while one of the ‘larger’ ships is the La Pinta (50 passengers), which I suggest for those looking for a bit more space while on-board, which has a library, large deck areas and great chefs.

I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve been to Ecuador, but take it from myself as well as my sales-team – you must experience Ecuador’s mainland along with the Galapagos – it’s totally worth the extra couple days, and a lovely contrast to the drastically different islands. Ecuador’s vastly improved their rail network as of late, and while there are a few noteworthy routes, one combines perfectly with the Galapagos, travelling by rail from Guayaquil (where all flights to Galapagos touch-down in) to the capital and international airport of Quito. The high-altitude capital has a vibrant gastronomic scene, and we often send travellers to La Ronda restaurant, which consistently ranks as one of the cities finest. To properly round off the ultimate Ecuadorian travel experience my personal recommendation, having now done the Galapagos, the train from Guayaquil to Quito, would be to visit the cloud forest of Mashpi Lodge, 1-2 hours drive from the capital, where this eco-conscious, award winning hotel has only recently opened, and then finishing in the Otavalo region, home to one of South America’s best open air markets (great for souvenirs, plus decent leather goods too). For accommodation nearby, consider nothing other than the 400 year old Hacienda Pinsaqui, which has unique significance in South Americas history.

Explora Patagonia

Explora Patagonia

Differing noticeably from Ecuador and Peru are the much more European like Chile and Argentina. I’ve already mentioned I do enjoy ‘roughing’ it in the day, so for those like me – you’ve got to experience Patagonia, which can feel like a prehistoric slice of earth. There are a range of accommodation choices in the area which spans both countries borders, but Tierra properties in Chile are a sure-bet, and the architecture and casual-adventure focus greatly impress me. There mountain guides will share a drink with you as you peruse maps and plan your following days experiences, from mountain treks to horse-rides over the Pampas… both great reasons to end up in their excellent Spa. In Chile’s North you’ll find the moon-like Atacama desert, set high amongst the Altiplano, where you might consider the brand new Awasi property, absolutely stunning! Far from Chile’s deserts and mountains, you’ll find one of the most exclusive travel destinations on Earth, the Easter Islands. Recognizable by their famous, stern-faced Moai statues, the terrain is quite interesting, and wild horses roam freely. Truthfully, accommodation choices on the island though are often considered ‘rustic’, but one of South America’s finest hotel chains, Explora, maintain a property here, and discerning travellers should consider this there only option, and totally worth it. One lunch to remember could be a private, picnic lunch beach-side on Easter Island, something we’ve received great feedback from.

Helicopter over Iguassu Falls

Helicopter over Iguassu Falls

Argentina might perhaps need no explanation for it’s quality travel experiences and accommodation, from Parisian like Buenos Aires to the wine lodges and gaucho ranches of Mendoza. Brazil appeals to me more often for it’s jungles – but foodies will know that Rio is home to one of the legendary Cipriani restaurants, set within the cities finest hotel, the Copacabana, where we’ve often arranged for our travellers to dine at the chef’s table. Brazil is one of 3 countries bordering the roaring Iguassu Falls where mere steps from the falls you’ll find the Das Cataratas, an oasis of luxury amongst thick, inhospitable jungle.

If you can’t tell – I could go on and on. With such advances in travel experiences in South America, I’ve simply chosen the most striking, stand-out experiences to list here. When you’re ready to experience South America, rest easy (no pun intended) in the knowledge of the rise of so many luxury travel experiences which I can promise you, were well worth the wait. If you’ve saved Latin America at the bottom of your bucket list, or hold it at the top, there has never been a better time to explore this phenomenal continent!

Peru meditation

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Goway First to Offer Luxury Inca Trail Hiking

Peru Luxury Inca Trail LIT lunch tent

Peru Inca Trail_160384967The Inca Trail hike is at the top of the bucket list for any adventurous globetrotting trekker. It is an ultimate experience most relatively fit travellers can enjoy, and if you have the time, anyone who has done it will tell you it is the only way to get to Machu Picchu.

To step back for a second, there are a few ways to get to Machu Picchu, in Peru. You’ll have to visit the colonial town of Cusco, where we advise at least a few days to explore, and acclimatise to the altitude. Then, to get to Machu Picchu, choose one of the following 4 options:

1. By Train – There’s a few levels of train, the best being the Belmond operated (formerly Orient Express) train, the Hiram Bingham, passing through the sacred valley to arrive mid-morning. The train passes through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a beautiful stretch of land you have to experience.

2. Trekking for 4-5 Days – This is the famous Inca Trail trek in it’s purest form. You can shorten it slightly, but it gives you less time in the ruins. Heavy bags are carried by professional porters, while trekkers carry a day bag. Simple tents, and simple but hearty food. There are few travel experiences which can rival the exhilaration of the final stage of the trek, where passing through a stone ‘Sun Gate’, the Lost city of the Incas is revealed, often enshrouded by mist.

3. The ‘Baby’ Inca Trail – A relatively new way to arrive, this trek involves being dropped off at trail which intercepts the main Inca trail, allowing trekkers to spend 1 night in tents before the climatic final leg of the trail arrives into Machu Picchu.

4. The ‘Luxury’ Inca Trail – This is the best of both worlds: The full Inca Trail trek, as it’s existed for centuries, with modern comforts, like hot showers! Trekking doesn’t mean you have to totally rough it. Tents are larger (Bedouin style) and include 2 ‘army-style’ cots (beds), meals are in spacious dining tents with candles, silverware, and crystal glasses, prepared by a skilled chef. A portable ‘tent-shower’ allows you to start or end night fresh and clean. And the best part is, on request, a professional masseuse can soothe sore muscles each night.

The Massage Tent, Luxury Inca Trail, Peru

The Massage Tent, Luxury Inca Trail, Peru

Make no mistake, the Luxury Inca Trail is a chance to physically challenge yourself, as you take on sections like Dead Woman’s Pass, the highest section (at 4200m). The days however aren’t just monotonous trekking, there are several smaller ruin complexes you’ll have the chance to explore. We feel though that the amenities of the luxury trek can allow for the evenings to be as memorable as the days. This is all about pushing yourself during the day, and rewarding yourself at night.

Peru Luxury Inca Trail LIT tent01Travel is, as the saying goes, about the journey, not the destination. This journey is one that will never be forgotten.

Below are some images of the equipment and facilities available to all of our Luxury Inca Trail trekkers

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