I discovered an unexpected peace in the middle of the Middle East

Petra's famous treasury, Jordan

Petra’s famous treasury, Jordan

This was originally published in the Globe & Mail newspaper in conjunction with Jordan Tourism, written by Heather Cleland. You can visit the original Globe article here, or visit Heather’s blog here for more stories. We’ve worked closely with Jordan for over a decade, and feel this message still strongly applies to this beautiful country.

A light breeze rustles my tent’s heavy canvas walls and I can tell, even in here, that the moon outside is full and brilliant. Crickets chirp just like they do back home. A few Bedouin men chat nearby in Arabic – a robust, tumbling language that, when you can’t make out the words, sounds more like a hummed, sombre lullaby than a conversation. If I ignored the news, I’d have no idea that I am in the middle of a country nearly surrounded by war and upheaval.

The Dead Sea continues to draw visitors for its health benefits and intrigue

The Dead Sea continues to draw visitors for its health benefits and intrigue

“The biggest problem Jordan has,” my guide Kamel al-Jayusi told us two days before, as we pulled out of Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, “is being in the middle of the Middle East.” He likens the country to a quiet house in a noisy neighbourhood. While Syria, Israel and Iraq – all of which share borders with Jordan – struggle through civil wars and political uprisings, Jordan has stayed relatively quiet, welcoming refugees from Syria at an astounding rate, and for the most part minding its own business.

Tourism in Jordan has waned in recent years in light of the surrounding tensions, but the country’s major attractions such as Petra and the Dead Sea still draw crowds (albeit smaller than they have been in the past). Despite my own hesitations about heading to the Middle East at a time like this, I wanted to see these wonders for myself. As it turns out, it was a quieter, more remote part of the country that revealed a peacefulness I had not expected to find in this part of the world.

After a couple nights in Amman, I head into the Jordanian wilderness to the Rummana Campsite in the heart of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, which spans 308 square kilometres of varied landscape, from rugged limestone and sandstone ranges to desert plains. The seasonal camp of 20 large canvas tents sits on a small plateau overlooking the Rift Valley.

The next morning, a bus drops my group 45 minutes from the campsite, beside a switchback road just outside the village of Mansoura. Eighteen kilometres away and 500 metres down, our next stop, Feynan Ecolodge, awaits. Our guide, Mohammed Daifallah, points out across a vast expanse of sandstone mountains that look like heaps of dried-up brown sugar, dusty and crumbling under a brilliant blue sky. That’s where we’re going, he tells us.

The bus takes off in the direction it came. It’s barely 9 a.m. and already the sun is daring us to do this.

We trek down the road until the pavement ends and the hills tower above us. Bushes of bright pink oleanders line the edges of the pebbled valley floor – two signs that the little stream that trickles down the middle has a feisty side. Rain, usually between January and March, can trigger flash floods that might raise water levels up to nine metres for a day.

This is Wadi Ghwayr (wadi is the Arabic word for valley and the country is full of them). We crisscross the stream and hop over boulders, and pretty soon the mountain walls close in on us as the stream leads us into a towering sandstone slot canyon. Walls up to 300 metre high block out the sun, bulging here and there, flowing around bends laced with swirls of oxidized sediment. At times, the stream pools and we trek through knee-deep murky blue water.

A couple hours in, we reach an impasse. The stream seeps under boulders that leave us at a 2.5-m ledge overlooking a three-metre-deep pool. A massive rock sits wedged between the walls of the canyon 30 metres above. The only way forward is to jump and then swim. Three local boys are already there and one assures me it’s deep enough, though his smile reads more like a dare than a promise. I hesitate, but take the plunge into frigid water. My toes don’t touch the bottom, but after a few strokes my knees brush rocks and I stand up again.

Just beyond the pool, the canyon widens again and palm trees reach down from above. The stream persists despite the widening wadi that now lets the sun in, but not for long. When the stream peters out as we leave the valley, we carry on without it. I trek along behind Mohammed until he points up a crevasse that juts into the hillside. It’s the continuation of the trail, but I would never have known it without him. I shrink into a patch of shade and douse myself in water. Mohammed clearly knows the lay of this land – he was born in a cave not far from here. He wanders off to the side, positions himself toward Mecca and prays as we wait for the others, so they don’t miss the exit.

It’s pushing 3 p.m., but it feels as if the sun has lingered at its noon-time height just to see if we’ll make it. We do, and just over the hill, just as Mohammed promised, we can see Feynan at the end of a dusty track.

Jordan Sunset Desert Wadi Rum Africa Middle East_173161586The lodge is seven kilometres from the nearest paved road, so most people don’t cruise by in their own car, but few arrive by way of Wadi Ghwayr. Most drive as far as the village of Qurayqura, where lodge staff transfer them the remaining seven kilometres on a dirt road through the desert. (I’ll go back that way in the morning.)

The 26-room lodge has little electricity – only in the bathrooms, at the front desk and a bit in the kitchen, and all of it is solar generated.

At night, Feynan is lit by candles made at the on-site candle workshop. Almost all of the 25 staff members are part of the local Bedouin community.

That night, on the rooftop terrace, we can hear a call to prayer echo off the surrounding desert hills. Once darkness falls, one of the staff sets up the lodge’s new high-powered telescope. We take turns peering through at what looks like a glow-in-the-dark sticker of Saturn, rings and all. We joke about how it can’t be real, it seems so cartoon-like.

Three-hundred kilometres away, Syria is fighting itself inside out as tensions leak out the north into Turkey and refugees spill out the south into Jordan. There’s unease to the northeast in Iraq and to the west in Israel. But here, in the middle of Jordan, in the middle of the Middle East, I stare up at Saturn and marvel about how something so far away, so abstract, can look so perfect close up.

Jordan Wadi Rum Africa Middle East_170064083

jordan-tourism

IF YOU GO

Royal Jordanian flies direct to Amman from Montreal, Chicago, Detroit and New York (JFK).

Staying safe: The Government of Canada advises travellers to Jordan to exercise a high degree of caution, especially in areas close to Jordan’s borders with Syria, Israel and Iraq. For more information or to register your trip to Jordan with Foreign Affairs, visit travel.gc.ca.

Where to stay:

Feynan Ecolodge: Recently selected as one of the top 25 ecolodges in the world by National Geographic Traveler. Rooms start at about $90, including breakfast. Lunch and dinner can be arranged, as can hiking and transport options.

Rummana Campsite: Managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN), and is open from March 1 to Oct. 31. The site is equipped with a kitchen (meals available with prior arrangements), showers and toilets.

What to do: Hiking in the Dana Biosphere Reserve can be arranged through the RSCN. Guests of Feynan can arrange guides and trips through the lodge. Some routes require guides, while others can be self-guided.

All Travel Ideas to Jordan

Posted in Africa & the Middle East | Leave a comment

The Poacher who became a Pastry Chef

 

Peter Andrew, Poacher turned Pastry Chef

Peter Andrew, Poacher turned Pastry Chef

This story was first published as ‘The Story of Peter Andrew

Sitting poolside at Singita Faru Faru Lodge at tea time, in the dappled shade of the acacia trees, our guests are treated to a feast of sweet and savoury delights before their afternoon game drive. It is a wonderfully indulgent spread; all manner of cakes, candies and confections are on offer, all washed down with homemade lemonade, iced coffee and exotic teas. It might be very hard to imagine that the hands of the pastry chef responsible for these heavenly morsels were also once those of a poacher.

Poolside, Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Tanzania

Poolside, Singita Faru Faru Lodge, Tanzania

Peter Andrew was born in a small village on the outskirts of Singita Grumeti in Tanzania. At the age of 15, with no apparent employment alternatives available to him, he started poaching. He was a skilled huntsman and extremely fast on his feet, which made it easier to escape from conservation officers. This deadly combination made Peter a force to be reckoned with but it wasn’t an easy or ethical way to make a living.

 

Singita AfricaIn 2003, Peter was approached by Brian Harris, former Wildlife and Community Development Manager of Singita Grumeti, who wanted him to stop poaching in exchange for a job at one of the lodges. He was hesitant initially due to his lack of education, but after further prompting from his grandmother, Peter was eventually persuaded and started off helping with the construction of Singita Sasakwa Lodge. The following year, he was accepted as an apprentice in the kitchen at Singita Sabora Tented Camp, where he excelled in his position. Peter also took it upon himself to specialise in pastry and learn English so that he could improve his situation further. He developed so quickly in fact, that in 2005, Peter was promoted to Commis Chef and then moved to Singita Faru Faru Lodge in 2011 as a full-time Pastry Chef, where he remains a vital part of the kitchen team.

Peter’s achievements are numerous: he turned his back on poaching, found himself a wonderful new profession, worked hard to overcome his circumstances and changed his life for the better. He is rightly proud of himself, and he is an invaluable member of the Singita family.

Peter at work

Peter at work

Watch this short video as Peter talks about his story:

Stay of Distinction: Singita Sabora

 

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Tom Hanks in Egypt

Tom Hanks on SetTom Hanks has finished shooting scenes for “A Hologram for the King “in Egypt’s Red Sea resort city of Hurghada. He left Egypt July 21, 2014. The film, based on the novel by Dave Eggers, is about a struggling U.S. businessman who travels to Saudi Arabia in a desperate attempt to secure an I.T. equipment contract with the King Abdullah Economic City being built near Jeddah.

Carvings on Columns, Luxor, Egypt

Carvings on Columns, Luxor, Egypt

Kamal Abdel Aziz, president of the Egypt’s National Film Center as well as a director of photography, confirmed that everything went well and that shoot had used underwater cameras in the Red Sea, a popular diving resort that has seen its international visitors number decline in recent years following Egypt’s 2011 revolution.

“We need to show that shooting film in Egypt is easy for foreign productions,” said Abdel Aziz. “We want to welcome international films to shoot by the Pyramids, the Nile, the Red Sea, the desert, Alexandria. We have a variety of locations.”

In addition to Hanks’ shoot, Egypt recently welcomed a team from Ridley Scott’s upcoming biblical epic “Exodus: Gods and Kings” to film in Luxor.

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Recipe: Moroccan Red Lentil Soup

Moroccan soup

From the book Art of the Slow Cooker by Andrew Schloss

  • Serves 6 to 8
  • Prep time – 10 minutes
  • Total time – 4 hours

Forget your “same old, same old” lentil soup and take a deep breath. Can you smell the cumin, the coriander, the whiff of cinnamon? Open your eyes and take in the burnt-orange glow of turmeric burnished with tomatoes and sweet paprika. Lentil soups may come and go, but this concoction will stick in your memory, not just for its heady aromas and hearty texture, but also for its ease and versatility.

Unlike dried beans, red lentils don’t need to be soaked before they’re cooked. You can substitute 2 cups small dried white beans, soaked overnight, for the lentils. For a meaty soup, sauté 1 pound boneless, skinless dark chicken meat or leg of lamb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, until browned; add the onion and proceed with the rest of the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large onions, cut into medium dice (see Note)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin, preferably ground from whole seeds toasted in a dry skillet
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp. sweet paprika
  • ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 7 cups vegetable broth (see Note)
  • 1 can (about 20 ounces) crushed tomatoes (see Note)
  • 2 cups dried red lentils, picked over, washed, and rinsed
  • ~ Pinch of red-pepper flakes
  • ~ Juice of 1 lemon (see Note)
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Steps:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, paprika, cinnamon, salt, and pepper, and cook for another minute. Add the broth and tomatoes and heat to boiling.
2. Pour the mixture into a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker. Stir in the lentils, cover the cooker, and cook for 4 to 5 hours on high, or 8 to 10 hours on low, until the lentils are tender.
3. Stir in the pepper flakes, lemon juice, parsley, and cilantro, cover, and cook on high for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

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5 Unique Dining Experiences in Africa for Globetrotters

 

The dining car aboard the Royal Livingstone Express

The dining car aboard the Royal Livingstone Express

For the true Globetrotter, travelling is about so much more than ticking off the ‘must-see’ places. It’s about discovering hidden gems off the beaten track, meeting the locals, trying out new experiences that take you out of your comfort zone, and it’s about tasting the food of the country, often in unusual and exceptional places. Here our Africa team share 5 special culinary experiences which will, as they say, not only tickle your taste buds, but all your senses!

1. Royal Livingstone Express (Livingstone, Zambia)
The Royal Livingstone Express offers discerning guests the ultimate fine dining experience going back in time to the age of steam train travel. This beautifully restored steam train (restored by Rohan Vos of Rovos Rail fame), consists of 5 air-conditioned carriages, 2 dining cars, a club/kitchen car, lounge car, and an observation car. Travel through the picturesque Zambezi Valley and the Musi oa Tunya National Park where guests may catch glimpses of white rhino, buffalo and other wildlife.

The gourmet dinner is beautifully presented and meticulously prepared, offering guests no fewer than five set courses (special dietary requests can be catered to with advance notice). Dress code is “smart casual.” No shorts are allowed

This unique dining experience is offered three times a week, it includes the 6-course dinner, wine, beer and soft drinks. The luxurious train leaves the station at 17h45 and dinner is served at 19h00. Guests will be returned to the Royal Livingstone Hotel at 22h00.

A Boma's Smiling Chefs

A Boma’s Smiling Chefs

2. The Boma (Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe)
When you’re planning the itinerary for your Victoria Falls holiday be sure to include an advance reservation at the often fully-booked restaurant, The Boma – Place of Eating (which we can certainly help you with!). Described as an unforgettable African experience infused with Zimbabwean cuisine, spirited performances and traditional African storytelling, The Boma has firmly established itself as a Victoria Falls highlight.

Partially open to the African skies, The Boma specialises in a superb selection of Zimbabwean dishes served on cast iron plates. The main course buffet offers mouth-watering grilled ostrich, buffalo curry, suckling pig on the spit, guinea fowl, game stew, kudu steak and even warthog fillet! There are also good vegetarian options and the adventurous are enticed with local delicacies, such as mopani worms.

Diners are treated to outstanding performances by traditional singers and dancers, and thrilled by a dramatic medicine man who will throw bones for you and tell your fortune. There is also a traditional storyteller who entertains guests with folklore tale. The acclaimed Zambezi Drumbeat provides a wonderful interactive drumming experience, encouraging all diners to take part in the evening’s festivities.

Chef Bruce Robertson's work

Chef Bruce Robertson’s work

3. Dine with Chef Bruce Robertson at the Flagship. (Cape Town, South Africa)

Chef Bruce Robertson at home

Chef Bruce Robertson at home

Chef Bruce Robertson is a legendary Cape Town character who is as known for his enormous personality as much as he is for his seafood. Robertson cooks a five-course gourmet lunch most days at his house, The Flagship. He only takes 16 people and you really are inviting yourself into his home for bubbly and conversation and a celebration of seafood. Everything is sourced from within 10 kilometers. For people who love seafood, wine and engaging with others, this is the place. Each course is meticulously prepared, paired with exceptional wine and hosted by Bruce. This is not a meal for those in a hurry, traveling with kids (they are not accepted) or seeking a traditional experience. It is, however, a meal you will remember. To see our prices and details of arranging a meal with Chef Bruce, check out our Boathouse Experience webpage
For a glimpse of the type of menu you can expect, see the following:

4. The Carnivore (Nairobi, Kenya)
Referred to as the ultimate ‘Beast of a Feast’, the Carnivore Restaurant serves a variety of meat including ostrich, crocodile and camel, roasted over charcoal and carved at your table. Since its inception the Carnivore has played host to over 2 million customers from across the globe including numerous celebrities. In fact the Carnivore visitors book reads like a global who is who! Whole joints of meat – legs of lamb and pork, ostrich, rumps of beef, sirloins, racks of lamb, spare ribs, sausages, chicken wings, skewered kidneys, even crocodile, and other tasty morsels – are roasted on traditional Maasai swords over a huge, spectacular charcoal pit that dominates the entrance of the restaurant.

The Carnivore doesn’t conform to the familiar restaurant traditions of passing out menus and waiting for people to order. Diners simply take their seats on the Zebra striped chairs and the movable feast begins. First comes the soup of the day then a sizzling cast-iron plate is placed in front of each guest along with a plate of home baked brown bread and butter. An army of carvers wearing zebra striped aprons and straw hats then move from table to table carrying the Masai swords laden with different prime meats deliberately carving unlimited amounts onto the sizzling, cast iron plates in front of each guest. Accompanying the meat feast is a wide selection of salads and vegetable side dishes, and also a variety of exotic sauces made from the Carnivore’s own recipes and stacked on to a double storey-revolving tray in the center of the table.

The feeding frenzy doesn’t stop until defeat is declared by the over-fed guests who signal that enough is enough by lowering of a white paper flag perched atop the central tray. This is followed by dessert and coffee. The full meal including a soup course is at a set price. A vegetarian menu is also offered!

5. Ricks Café (Casablanca, Morocco).
The spirit of the movie Casablanca is alive and well in downtown Casablanca. Rick’s Café is the fruition of a 2-year tourism project by Kathy Kriger, or Madam Rick, an American woman who has lived in Morocco since 1998. The interior of the multilevel former medina residence has been restored to resemble the era depicted in the movie, and is dominated by the central courtyard with its authentic 1930s Pleyel piano, where local pianist Issam Chabaa re-creates the ’40s and ’50s Tuesday to Sunday night; the Sunday night jam session regularly hosts international jazz musicians. If you’ve never seen the movie, it’s screened nightly in an upstairs dining room that’s decked out in movie memorabilia. The cafe is also Wi-Fi connected.

Lunch offerings include Moroccan standards such as lamb tagine, as well as chili con carne and even a good old-fashioned hamburger. A separate dinner menu is printed daily — and is encouraged to be kept as a souvenir — where six plats du jour accompany regular dishes that include a goat’s cheese, arugula (rocket), and fig salad; filet mignon with pepper sauce and sautéed potatoes; and the gloriously sweet Rick’s cheesecake. Saturday night is Oyster Night, which sees the oyster supplier’s son, resplendent in nautical attire, shucking out the fleshy meat for each guest. The bar is easygoing and satisfies every thirst, from the local Casablanca beer to French champagne. There’s also a rooftop pergola bar during the warmer months, offering sweeping views of the port. Note: Rick’s requires appropriate attire, with no shorts or flip flops.

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Flying Saucer?  No way…it’s a Tourism NZ dronie

NZ Drone ImageAny globetrotter planning a visit to New Zealand in the near future should keep an eye on the sky and lookout for a pretty cool way of taking a ‘selfie’… with  NZ Dronies!   This is an innovative new trend where selfies are shot using flying drones to create personal videos – will be hitting New Zealand’s mountain ranges this winter (the North American Summer – right now!). Tourism New Zealand’s drone begins by recording a close up portrait of the subject, then quickly pans out while flying up and away to show New Zealand’s breathtaking scenery, creating a short film about eight seconds long.    The resulting video can then be shared with friends on all social channels via #NZdronie.

The NZdronie will be travelling around key South Island destinations during July and August, hitting the ski slopes of Coronet Peak, Cardrona, Mount Hutt and Mount Cook ski areas. NZdronie will be available in both Queenstown and Lake Tekapo.  General manager of Tourism New Zealand in Australia, Tony Saunders said the drones will “add another dimension to the way people share their holiday memories”.

“New Zealand’s scenery is unparalleled so we wanted to give visitors the opportunity to show their spectacular surrounding to friends via social media, blowing a traditional selfie out of the water.

“If a picture says a thousand words imagine what a dronie can do.”

More information about where NZdronies can be found and a videos of them in action are available on the 100% Pure New Zealand Facebook (facebook.com/purenewzealand) and Instagram (instagram.com/purenewzealand), or Youtube pages, or check this promotion out below:

 

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Recipe: Gluten-Free Hazelnut Cupcakes – Radisson Blu Hotel Sydney

Radisson High TeaWe are happy to share a prized recipe from one of our favorite hotels in Sydney, the Radisson Blu Hotel.  This is offered as part of the hotels famous High Tea which is available daily from 10am to 4pm.

We thought we would share our top 5 reasons to stay at this wonderful hotel, but just visiting for high tea would be worth it too!

  1. Incredibly central and convenient location to Sydney’s iconic attractions and shopping areas – in the centre of everything!
  2. It’s actually a stunning heritage listed building
  3. Top 10 5 star hotel on Tripadvisor for Sydney
  4. Known for their exceptional customer service (and backed by the hotels 100% Guest satisfaction Guarantee)
  5. We left the BEST for last and that is …… FREE in-room wifi!

Enjoy the cupcakes, let us know how yours turnout!

The Radisson Blu, Sydney

The Radisson Blu, Sydney

Gluten Free Hazelnut Cup Cakes

Ingredients                              Quantity

  • Butter                                      120 gms (4oz)
  • Sugar                                       200 gms (7oz)
  • Whole Eggs                             200 gms (7oz)
  • Hazelnut meal                        500 gms (17oz)
  • Vanilla Essence                       a few drops (careful!)

Method:

  • Using an egg beater cream the butter until smooth, separate the egg yolks and add to the butter, continue beating till the egg yolks have blended with the butter, and the sugar and continue till the mixture has a smooth texture and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Mix in the Hazelnut meal and vanilla essence.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, fold the meringue into the hazelnut mixture gently.
  • Line a cup cake mould with paper cups and carefully pour in the mix until the cups are ¾ full.
  • Bake at 180 degrees centigrade (350F) in a pre-heated oven for 40 minutes.
  • Once baked, insert a wooden pick and it should come out clean.
  • Allow to rest for 10 minutes. Then remove and allow to cool on a wire rack before garnishing.
  • You can cover the tops with a variety of coverings, Chocolate, white fondant or flavored frosting.
  • This recipes makes approximately 25 pieces of 40 gms each

Tips:

  • Always pre- heat the oven to the set temperature before any preparation for a baked product, this maintains a proper even temperature.
  • Always use a dry cool bowl to mix ingredients.
  • All ingredients should be at room temperature.
  • The hazelnut meal should be as fine ground as you can find as this replaces flour and will not clump easily.
  • The cupcakes will not rise as much as a normal recipe with flour and baking powder due to the density of the meal.
Posted in Australia & the South Pacific, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tribesmen from Papau New Guinea Take NYC

PNG Papua TImes SquareCausing quite a Papua New Guinean spectacle in New York City in earlier this summer were Huli Wigman, Mr Mundiya Kepanga and New Ireland Malagan mask carver Mr Fabian Paino.

Dressed in their traditional ‘bilas’ they caught the attention of dozens of curious New Yorkers who brought out their cameras to take pictures of the odd but fascinating pair.

PNG Papua NYC Subway

On NYC’s Subway

Barefooted and wearing grass aprons, leaves, a bird of paradise head-dress and sporting an eerie Malagan mask Mundiya and Fabian were seen catching a train at the New York subway, peering through the ‘tower viewers’ at the Empire State Building and hanging out with famous New York characters at the Times Square – namely the Three Statues of Liberty and the Naked Cowboy.

Mundiya and Fabian were guests at the PNG Pop Up Village held on the 12th of June. The PNG Pop Up Village was an initiative of the PNG Tourism Promotion Authority’s North America Office to generate interest in the American market to visit Papua New Guinea .

Showcased at the PNG Pop Up Village were stunning arts and crafts from Papua New Guinea, including Highlands billums, carvings, mini-garamuts, kundus, including masks from the provinces of East Sepik, New Ireland, Eastern Highlands, and canvas paintings by local PNG artists and even burlap sacks of the best Highlands coffee.

Fabian looking for a taxi

Fabian looking for a taxi

PNG Pop Up Village guests were treated to a friendly and welcoming ‘Papua New Guinea’ reception that included a one-on-one meeting with Mundiya and Fabian who were happy to talk about their Huli and Malagan traditional ‘bilas’ and pose with guests for photo opportunities among the PNG Artworks and Crafts on display.

The schedule of events that followed the welcome began with a presentation on PNG’s famous Birds of Paradise titled ‘Curious Birds You Never Knew Existed’ by renowned American Ornithologist Dr. Bruce Beehler from New York’s Museum of Natural History & Smithsonian Institution on birding and culture in Papua New Guinea.

That evening a 100 guests were treated to a sold out screening of Marc Dozier’s documentary ‘Dancing with the Papuans’. The film documents the true story of three French Cabaret dancers who journey to Papua New Guinea for a unique mission – to join Mundiya’s village as they compete in the country’s largest tribal gathering using the feather-clad women as the tribe’s “secret weapon”. The viewing was topped off with an engaging Q&A with Mundiya and the director of the film Marc Dozier, where they discussed and amused the audience with their experiences in Papua New Guinea and France.

The New York night offered the ideal atmosphere for the last event of the PNG Pop Up Village – the Art Gallery. Here guests browsed the wide array of incredible art and craft works brought over from Papua New Guinea. Fabian brought the event to a perfect end with a live carving demonstration of a Malagan mask and explained the interesting stories behind the masks he created.

The PNGTPA North America Office and Head Office worked incredibly hard with trade industry partners to bring to life the PNG Pop Up Village in New York.

“We had quite a large task of bringing Papua New Guinea’s rich cultural diversity to North America but we were confident we could do it as Team PNG. It was a collaboration from everyone from our LA and NY offices, to our Port Moresby head office team, to PNG operators all around the country—we all came together to help build a bridge from Papua New Guinea to North America.

“Together we were able to construct a PNG Village to showcase Papua New Guinea’s world-famous art and film and it’s wide array of adventures such as scuba diving, surfing, cruising, sport fishing, trekking and birding. We were able to give New Yorkers a real “taste of PNG” with rich Highlands coffee at each of our events and we even partnered with a NYC top chef, Will Horowitz of Duck’s Eatery, to prepare a PNG-inspired mumu pig roast at his restaurant in the lower east side!” said Ally Stoltz, PNGTPA North America Marketing Manager

Last year 12,449 visitors from the United States of America and Canada visited PNG. As North America’s Downunder specialist, we’ve been sending travellers to PNG for decades, and know exactly how to arrange your dream trip there, give us a call!

All Travel Ideas to Papua New Guinea

Posted in Australia & the South Pacific, Idyllic Islands | Leave a comment

Being Up Front About Flying Up Front

BA Cabin Overview - centerThe following was written by Carolyn Weppler, Sales Manager at Goway Travel and travel industry veteran.

I’ve travelled a lot recently, and the last two times I’ve been lucky enough to be “upfront”, and have to say I’ve seen a lot change over the years, and for business class – its only for the better. Below I’ve collect some tips on booking ‘up front’, along with some observations as to how things have changed.

To begin with, there’s been a significant drop in price for business class in the last 10 years or so, plus there’s now the premium economy class available on most airlines, a middle ground between comfort and price. Finally, the ability to redeem frequent flier miles earned on credit cards for flights has led more and more of us being able to treat ourselves to comfortable travel.

business_premier_dining_0Flying up front is what flying used to be before we started to move around the world in mass numbers at the drop of a hat.  It’s interesting to think that flying hasn’t gotten really any faster, but the planes carry more people, are more fuel efficient, etc. (and in turn cheaper). But I strongly feel for anyone who’s never had the opportunity to fly in business class, then the next time you decide you have earned a vacation, you owe it to yourself to fly business at least once in your life. Imagine looking forward to long-distance travel, arriving fresh and alert, and ready to enjoy wherever you’re going the second you arrive. Business class achieves this, and this alone is worth it. The modern Business Class seats now feature all kinds of buttons and settings, allowing you to wiggle into that perfect position and, best of all, recline to a flat position giving you the closest thing to a bed at 30,000 ft and above. With less people around, there’s more room to manuveur around your seat, and it’s quieter. Attendants bring snacks, collect your menu-choices, and freely pour wine, liqueurs and spirits, coffee and an assortment of teas. Food is a mile above economy, with some room for variation across airlines, there are even some which have a trained chef on-board to oversee meal preparation, but in any case the food is quite good, typically paired with wine.

The main meal is typically followed by a cheese and port wine service, dessert (think warm home-made brownie with freshly whipped cream) and liqueurs, coffee and tea.  Most travellers will be locked into their own movie upon much larger screens than economy class, but I for one don’t fly for movies. Your attendants by this point will be ready to help you setup your ‘bed’, fully reclining your seat, and laying out your duvet bed spread while you don your provided pyjamas, eye shades and ear plugs. I personally love awaking in business class, as it’s often the smell of fresh coffee and croissants from the galley kitchen which brings you to. Having pre-ordered your custom breakfast, the hardest decision is whether you change out of your pyjamas before or after you eat.  Remembering past travel experiences, and waking up feeling like a human pretzel after a long night trying to get comfortable – business class really is worth it.

Now, obviously not every travel opportunity can allow you to fly business, and as such, we’re so lucky to now have Premium economy class – something relatively new. Often around $100 more than economy, you get at least 5inches more leg room and a few extra inches of additional recline in your seat. But Premium Economy varies greatly over airlines, with some being their ‘old’ business class seats (before the ‘lie flat’ pods), with a fully dedicated cabin and staff, top meals, and a great sleep. My experiences with premium have ranged widely and have cost me as little as $150 and as much as $1000 but in all cases have been worth every penny to arrive feeling great.

Some insider tips for getting more comfy and minimizing the hit on your wallet.

1.  Book far in advance, many carriers off deep discounted business class fares for those that book months in advance. (Sometimes close to 1/2 the price)

2.  Have your travel agent or Goway air specialist keep an eye out for seat sales as these happen in premium economy and business class now, but be ready to jump when the opportunity arises.

3.  Some carriers guarantee if you buy a full fare economy they will upgrade you (please note this is not the normal economy fares we are all used to but rather the ones that have no restrictions).  Feeling lucky? Some carriers will sell business class fares and automatically upgrade you to first with space!

4. Upgrade when you check in, but not the same day…many airlines offer the ability to buy up at online check in, I recently flew on a flight that offer an upgrade at $1000 but 23 hours before flight take-off, but when I went back on to print my boarding pass the same day it had crept up to $1600!

5.  Airlines that have yet to upgrade their seats to the ‘lie-flat’ pods often have far better prices in business class and the service is still excellent even thought the seats don’t fully recline.

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Exploring Turkey’s Aegean Coast

The Galata District, Istanbul, Turkey

The Galata District, Istanbul, Turkey

The following was written by Carolyn Weppler, Sales Manager at Goway Travel

With near perfect blue skies, warm temperatures, and minimal rain, the Aegean Coast in Turkey is a great holiday choice year round. For sun lovers the very best times to visit are April to October. But for those seeking to escape the North American winter, then November through March can offer some terrific low season deals to take advantage of.

With a population of 90 million, Turkey has daily internal flights to connect you from Istanbul to a multitude of small cities and towns along the coast, easily allowing you to fly into one and out of another,  minimizing backtracking and maximizing your precious vacation time. Turkish Airlines is a star alliance member with huge reach into North America and very competitive rates that offer excellent domestic prices when sold in conjunction with an international ticket – so if you know you’re coming to Turkey, strongly consider Turkish Airlines (aka ‘Turkish’). With above average service on their new fleet of aircraft and arguably one of the best Premium Economy classes out there (It rivals the business class of yesteryear for an excellent value). It should be noted that advance purchases is a must for any deals, as they are priced aggressively and sell out early ( the premium economy in particular). What this means is, Turkish Airlines and in turn Turkey has great savings – but only if you book early.

Ephesus, Turkey

Ephesus, Turkey

For a Mediterranean Turkish itinerary, I personally suggest starting in Izmir to visit world Unesco site Ephesus. Source a local guide to get the most out of the visit. I would recommend either an early morning start or a late afternoon visit, for three reasons: crowd size, heat, and lighting.  Turkey attracts a tremendous amount of visitors and Ephesus is one of the most significant ancient sites in the world. The temperature is far more bearable at the above times, due to a lack of trees and little shade, and finally because the light is best for photography.

Turkey has a thriving economy with a travelling public that enjoy their luxuries. As a result there are numerous unique boutique hotels as well as up scale hotels that not remotely cookie cutter but rather full of interesting architecture, art and ambience. Many have rooftop terraces furnished with comfy sofas and deep chairs to sip evening cocktails or share a romantic tapas style meal on while enjoying the sunset or star gazing. Turkish wines are a surprising delight to explore and rival many of their European competitors. Food is a focal point of life here and restaurants are plentiful and packed with locals and tourists alike. Turks don’t even consider eating until at least 9pm so if you want to escape the crowds head out prior, but if you want to join in the fun it is well worth the wait.

Kusadasi is an ideal spot to spend a couple of nights and explore surrounding area and ruins by day, and enjoy a great restaurant, cafe and bar scene at night. If the bar scene is not your thing then don’t despair all the boutiques and artisan shops stay open until at least 1am. Kusadasi has a great beach too, perfect for people watching.

The Bay of Bodrum

The Bay of Bodrum

Not too far down the coast is Bodrum, and nearby Priene founded in 350 BC – little visited by the average tourist but more than worth it to see the site of the last Greek home of Alexander the Great. Another noteworthy site to spend some exploring the ancient world is Didyma which was the cultural centre of Miletos and home to the majestic Temple of Apollo.

Bodrum boasts not only a great vibe for night-life, shopping and restaurants but one of Turkey’s finest museums, the Museum of Underwater Archaeology that is housed in the 15th century Bodrum Castle of St Peter.

Turks are very fashion conscious and have a style flair that has produced numerous local clothing designers that have unique products that you can’t find anywhere else, and they sell for decent prices. If you are after high quality goods then Turkey (particularly Istanbul) will be a big draw as the prices are lower and you can claim the tax back at departure. Here if you’re interested in the real thing, Chanel, LV, etc., Istanbul is the place to shop. We can help you arrange a private shopping tour at certain times of the year with early access to annual sales. Email carolynw@goway.com for more details. Buyer Beware, they also have a huge market for high end “genuine fake products”. If the price seems too good, it probably is, and you’re buying a knock off, not the real thing.

Tombs of Lycia near Kaunos

Tombs of Lycia near Kaunos

Moving further south along the coast takes you to Kaunos and the Lycian tombs that are carved into the cliff face above the Dalyan river. The only way to visit these two sights is by boat. Kaunos was founded in the 9th century and has remnants of an acropolis, an amphitheatre and an impressive Roman bath all boasting fabulous views of the surrounding countryside. The ruins are about a 3/4 mile walk from where ships dock but an industrious old Turkish farmer has set up a small stand about 1/2 way selling ice cold fresh pomegranate juice that is a treat to your taste buds!

The picturesque harbour town of Gocek is well located and offers town homes for the long stay apartment rentals, equipped with modern kitchens I imagine are rarely used as there are so many great restaurants lining the waterfront. The rich and famous have discovered Gocek and there are many unique little boutiques selling beautiful clothing that ranges from super high end to somewhat affordable.

Finishing off in Fethiye, located on the ancient city of Telmessos where the ruins can still be seen at the Hellenistic theatre near the main quay.

There are so many things to see and do along the Aegean coast one could spend weeks in the area and this year we will introduce a long stay program already available in Australia, New Zealand and the Cook Islands to Bodrum and Gocek so you can do just that.

Turkey really is a destination with something for everyone. It’s a unique blend of old and new, eastern and western culture, great cities and gorgeous scenery. It’s not a one-time vacation but somewhere you can return again and again, yet always discover something new.

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