Hangzhou, Suzhou and Wuxi – China

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Travelling within China needn’t be all about the Golden Triangle of Shanghai, Xian and Beijing as this is one country which encompasses a mammoth area in terms of touristic sites to visit and it’s worthy of going outside the ‘triangle’. Art, food and theatre play a major part of China’s cultural heritage and traditions which can be easily seen in other more tame cities such as Hangzhou, Suzhou and Wuxi.


However, there are some destinations which are best I feel to be a part of an organised tour when it comes to learning from local guides about what’s interesting and historical in that region. In particular, quaint smaller cities you might otherwise miss if travelling independently. Additionally, it takes away the stress of traffic congestion, having decent hotels already sorted with all transfers included and language barriers overcome.

Overall, distances are huge within China and there’s a plethora of airlines, trains and buses servicing the country. However, a packaged tour is generally regarded as value for money allowing you to take in the sights without too much fuss.


In the area around Hangzhou, Mei Jai Wu Village is a tea growing district and here we learn about the differences of green and black tea – and anything else in between.


Hills and fields of green as far as the eye can see, with little Chinese workers’ heads bobbing throughout the rows and covered with cornical hats to ward off the heat, which in turn, is lovingly soaked up by the precious bushes producing one of the world’s most enjoyable beverages.


Tea leaves which are really quite delicate are harvested by hand before being dried and crushed to give many of us our first hot drink of the day. Well mine anyway …


Hangzhou’s West Lake has influenced poets and painters throughout Chinese history for its natural beauty and historic relics. It’s among one of the most important sources of inspiration for Chinese garden designers. If you look on the back of all Chinese paper notes, you’ll find all the heritage-listed natural wonders of China are revered here, rather than other past prominent rulers.


And onward we go with plenty of sites to see along the way. Distances between these three cities by bus is anywhere between three and five hours depending on the traffic.


China is known for its silk and Suzhou is most famous for producing its silk. Here at a factory we’re  able to see how intricate and fine the technique is for yielding quality products from these small cocoons.


Here silkworms are munching away on mulberry leaves as if it were their last meal, and yes it really is … What’s so amazing about the silk-making process is that the silkworm creates its cocoon out of a single silk thread that is continuous for approximately 3,600 feet.


Among the processes, making cocoons to skeins is especially important to produce quality goods.


For an extra couple of Yuan, take a very quick boat ride around the perimeter of the factory. Really have to capitalise on those tourists coming in …


Xue Fucheng’s former residence, also known as the Xue Family Garden, is the biggest of its kind in Wuxi our next stop. Once belonging to the late Xue Fucheng, a famous ideologist and diplomat during the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), the garden was built in 1894 and covers an area of 21,000 square metres.


The magnificent residence with its gardens had been restored and is open to tourists to admire a bygone era. Obviously it’s in the middle of Wuxi’s central business district and thankfully had been saved from developers.


All around when motoring between cities, you’ll witness some amazing architecture, waterways and bridges.


Beautiful gardens at Panmen Gardens in Suzhou and if you’re a guest of the Pan Pacific Hotel it’s entry is free. Only a six-minute walk from the scenic garden and five kilometres from the Tang Dynasty-era Shantang Street.


The Pagodas in the Gardens are located on the south-west corner of the Main Canal, or the encircling canal of Suzhou. Originally built during the Spring and Autumn period in the state of Wu, historians estimate it to be around 2,500 years old.


Suzhou Culture and Arts Centre is regarded as the landmark of the development of the city’s culture and arts.


End of the day, a cool breeze and understanding some feng shui will help keep you balanced and ready for the next part of your journey.


Airports in China are not really any different to most when it comes to security and safety. However, I’ve not seen a Ladies Only line before. Didn’t make too much of a difference with long lines anyway. Ensure you have plenty of time to make it to the airport if travelling independently as the traffic is horrendous and language barriers can take time for explanations to departing passengers.

Let the tour company’s guides take all the hassle out of your travel by taking a packaged tour such as this one which included our flight as well and seemed great value; especially when short on time …

Next stop Beijing.

Shanghai – China


Shanghai China; big, bold and growing faster by the day. In fact, in terms of size, the whole population of Australia sits within this city alone.

Cruising the River Huangpu alongside The Bund, Shanghai’s cosmopolitan cultural district, an evening tour of the waterfront is a must see. Dazzling lights allow you to see the city’s most significant landmarks cloaked by the atmospheric cover of darkness.


The Bund area is  one of the most visited shopping centres within Asia and commands consumers to spend up – even if you don’t want to you’ll be hard pressed …


Stretching for almost five kilometres from the Bund through to Jing’an Temple, Nanjing Road features massive modern multi-level shopping malls, historic stores and specialty stores. It dates back to the Qing Dynasty and many of the same shops are still trading today which is a major drawcard.


I’d read an article which stated strollers should be left at home if visiting the shopping areas. It seems this mother and child never made it out …


Peking Duck features throughout the city’s crazed food markets and outlets. The Chinese have appreciated the finer qualities of roast duck for a millennia and in that time, they’ve refined their cooking techniques into a virtual art form. Over the centuries, the specialty evolved to become China’s national dish. And, from my observation, each restaurant claims to have the best and it seems to me once a diner has found their favourite eatery, that’s where the family and friends will congregate for their national treasure when it comes to food.


According to the pricing system of the rail traffic network, approved by the Commodity Price Authority of Shanghai Municipality, the ticket price is calculated on a multi-level which is based on mileage. For passengers travelling between 0-6 kilometres, the ticket price will be RMB3. Should you be travelling more than 6 kilometres, then add RMB1 for every 10 kilometres. A ‘Shortest Path Method’ is adopted to calculate ticket prices. For instance, when there’s more than one transfer path between two metro stations, the ticket price is calculated based on the path with the shortest mileage.

As for ‘getting around’ Line 2 will take you all the way from Pudong International Airport to Hongqiao Airport Terminal 2 and Hongqiao Railway Station at the opposite end. The train on this green line also stops along the way with the major sights such as Jing’an Temple and The Bund if need. This is the fastest and easiest way of going from one place to another within Shanghai as the traffic is horrendous with cars only allowed on certain days on various main roads; depending on whether the registration plate ends in an odd or even number!


For sightseeing I’d recommend take a Hop On, Hop Off Big Bus to view as many sights as possible in a short time. Shanghai is one of the Chinese cities whereby the 72 hour transit visa is applicable for Australians should their forward journey be outside of China. For example continuing onto Europe or the USA. With this particular visa an Australian passenger cannot enter through/via Hong Kong on both their inward and outbound itineraries to China. However, if your itinerary departs from Australia to Shanghai  (or other allowable Chinese cities) and then onto Hong Kong once before returning home; this is permitted.

Check with the Chinese Visa Application Centre or Consulate as the information here was correct at the time of posting this blog.


Emerging Hongqiao is an area where the very stylish Meliá Shanghai Hongqiao have recently opened its doors in late March this year of 2017.

If you’ve ever hopped into a new plush car on the showroom floor, that’s what this Melia Hotel feels like when you enter its expansive reception area. Polished and ready for its guests to be treated with precision and guaranteed service.


Upgrade to the sophisticated Grand Suites which boasts a generous and very spacious 75 m²  lounge featuring neo-Chinese décors and includes a massive TV of which delivers a multitude of stations from around the globe.

The delightful bathroom with a separate bath and rain shower will keep ladies from leaving it in a hurry. But once you remember the room rate includes entry into the lofty Club Lounge, it might be the incentive one needs to ‘move on’ from the mirror for some cocktails and canapés to enjoy in the early evening.


Love this note pad as a gift given to guests at this level.  I’ve not seen anything similar given by other hotel groups of which I thought was quite clever and thoughtful.The slogan on the cover states: Clearing your mind is relaxing, but filling it with colour is even better.


Oh and did I mention the Spa Treatments which complement the sauna and steam room within the hotel’s premises? In record time the award-winning Spa had me rested like a soothed babe encased in a May Gibb’s Gumnut – one of which I didn’t want to leave!


But at the end of the day, this hotel offers peace and quiet in an area which is fast becoming the cultural hub for meetings and events. Meliá Shanghai Hongqiao is one of the premier convention and meeting hotels being only five minutes from Shanghai’s National Exhibition and Convention Centre. However, the hotel provides 700m² of conference space of its own with multi-function meeting rooms to cater for different needs of conference and incentive planners – in addition to guests wanting a more intimate space to conduct their business.
Check the Melia’s website for more details https://www.melia.com/

Guangzhou, China


Trains in China are fast and speed past crawling traffic in the bigger cities. The train to Guangzhou from Shenzhen takes about an hour and fares are approximately CNY40 Economy and First Class CNY80 one way per adult. Upon arrival at Guangzhou Station the signage is clear in both Chinese and English.

Guangjiu (Guangzhou-Kowloon in Hong Kong) Railway stretches from Guangzhou in the north to Hung Hom, Kowloon in the south and is 119 kilometres away if you’re considering returning to Hong Kong.

On today’s exchange rate A$1.00 = CNY 5.24
Traditional cuisine tea drinking with fragrant dried chrysanthemum flowers are steeped in hot water (usually 90 to 95 degrees celsius after cooling from being boiled) either in a teapot, cup or glass.  This has become quite a habit for me now, not to mention addictive!


First up on a Gourmet Tour is a spicy beef  noodle soup and is a perfect luncheon for a full day of sight seeing around Guangzhou.


There’s a myriad of restaurants which are well patronized with hoards of locals coming in with their families for a treat of some of the best and most traditional dishes.


Built in the memory of the Founding Father Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall is reputed as one of the most outstanding landmarks of Guangzhou.


As an art for more than 3,000 years, Chinese calligraphy is regarded as an illustrious tradition in its culture. It’s neither just writing Chinese characters nor writing well. It’s actually an art to express spirituality and this artistry carries with it the calligrapher’s personality, thoughts and ideas.


19th-century architecture shown at the Chen Clan Academy and story telling of traditional and ancient times is replicated here.


Chen Clan Academy, also known as Ancestral Temple of the Chen Family, was built as a college in 1888 and was designated as the Guangdong Museum of Folk Art in 1959.

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Oh really, more food! Local street specialities are found everywhere, just need to know what it is you like and then have it cooked in front of you … Thought I’d give the sponge-like loofa looking things a miss …


Time out to reflect. In China, Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism are the three main religious beliefs, with others being supplementary to them.


Noodles ready for sale. Long noodles mean having a long life. So don’t eat any short ones! The picturesque environs of Lizhiwan Canal and a variety of goods at the Qingping Market make for a lovely day out.


Tree struggling for space in an ancient land being built out with modernisation and technology.


Five Ram Statue built in 1959 to give the local farmers a means of praying for prosperity and a sizeable yield from their crops when droughts have been prevalent in the past.

You can wander through the expansive green oasis of Yuexiu Park and explore the highlights of the park, including Zhenhai Tower and Temple Of The Five Immortals.


After lunch – out and about with all the Aunties and Uncles. Theatre in the park is where retirees gather for some afternoon delights, and in particular traditional performances which only require a small donation which keeps themselves entertained.


Gourmet dinner stop, ideal for an authentic meal of Southern Chinese cuisine before sailing off for an hour-long cruise along the Pearl River. Quite spectacular with brightly lit up buildings and bridges constantly changing colours.


Buildings which are easily recognisable at night such as The Canton Tower, or Guangzhou Tower. It’s a 604 metres tall multi-purpose observation tower in the Haizhu District and here showing itself off whilst we’re enjoying the river cruise.


Bright in light – Liede Bridge opened in 2009 crosses over the  Pearl River and the 4.3 kilometres (2.7 miles) bridge connects Pazhou Island in Haizhu District with Tianhe.  


More spicy fish – yum!

Guangzhou, formerly known as Canton is the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine, one of the eight traditional culinary cuisines of China. As a major trading port, Guangzhou / Canton has many imported ingredients, as well as fresh ingredients from farms or fisheries. Guangzhou Street Food shares many similarities with Hong Kong cuisine as the two cities are located relatively near each other and has a cross influence.

There’s a myriad of flights from both Shenzhen and Guangzhou to all other destinations within China.

 

Shenzhen, China


Breakfast at The Langham Hotel in Shenzhen is one favourable reason to hop out of bed and face the day with more eating. Especially when it’s a Gourmet Tour you’re about to embark upon; not to mention taking in some of the sights around the city …


Symbolism of Shenzhen’s early days; the city was established in 1979 and is a modern, highly-technological metropolis of China having been a fishing village which was transformed and soon established as the fourth highest economical region in China. In August of the following year, the country’s first special economic zone was established here.

‘Being China’s largest port city and window of opening up to the outside world, Shenzhen saw 239 million people traveling across the border in 2015. The policy of allowing mainland citizens to travel to Hong Kong and Macau on an individual basis made Shenzhen an intermediate point for people’s trips to Hong Kong. Statistics show that more than 60% of people travelling from mainland cities to Hong Kong or overseas destinations via Hong Kong choose to make a stopover in Shenzhen.’ Source: http://english.sz.gov.cn/


Dongmen Place in Shenzhen is a commercial shopping area in Luohu that’s been ticking away for over 300 years. Truly a maze of streets and buildings and on weekends it’s incredibly busy (just to let you know). If you like relaxed shopping, try going during the week and early with most stores opening between 10 and 11 am, closing later in the evening between 9 and 11 pm – depending on the time of year and day.

Tips: Be mindful of pick pockets, it’s a large area spread across several blocks and you won’t see everything in one day, double check the quality.
Cooling off with a refreshing mist in Dongmen Place is my guide Lisa who knows the humidity during the Summer months can cause heat exhaustion – especially if you’re buying up big in a very busy shopping precinct.

It’s a short walk from Laojie Station on Line 1 of the Shenzhen metro.


Meeting some locals in the park ‘advertising’ for their children to hopefully find them a partner. You can come and check out the profiles of those who don’t have time to spend here during the day. However, it seems these Mums do have the opportunity and possibly keen to have their ‘adult’ kids move out by promoting them to others who are in a similar situation. Some youngsters are like sticky rice and very hard to separate!


Hongfa Temple is located in Xianhu Botanical Park which is about a 20 minute cab ride from Luoho in central Shenzhen. Buy your ticket at the gate, then either walk through the park (30 minutes or so) to the temple or take a shuttle bus up. However, be aware the buses do not operate in the latter part of the day and a walk down is definitely easier than going up. Just don’t leave it too late as the lighting wasn’t operating at the time of writing this post.


Buddhist Monks at the Temple whereby you’ll see numerous believers praying and burning incense in its assembly.


Fledging Buddhists Monks counsel a newly-wed lady who believes her husband may be cheating on her … Of course, not being privy to the conversation, I was quite keen to know what advice had been given by inexperienced, never married men and what they believe might be the right path for her future? To stay or not to stay …

 


Afterwards walking around the Fairy Lake Botanical Gardens, (referred to as SZBG or the Garden) it includes biodiversity conservation, scientific research, science education and tourism. First constructed in 1983 and then opened to the public in 1988, it’s relatively new and has received international recognition.


The China Folk Culture Village is located adjacent to the Splendid China theme park and features displays of the daily life and architecture of China’s 56 ethnic groups (including the minorities) and opened to the public in October 1991. An insight to the many regions of China of which most tourists only wish to visit the Golden Triangle of Xian, Beijing and Shanghai – not realising there’s so much more the country has to offer, especially in terms of natural beauty and an ancient civilisation which had lasted for centuries. Much of the Chinese culture has endured, even in today’s modernism.


A lot of fun to be had by youngsters and all the ‘aunties and uncles’ who accompany them at the Culture Village with various activities.


Once the Culture Village lights up, it’s a beautiful setting in the evening with families drawn to it like fireflies. Featuring throughout the year there’s several cultural festivals such as the Water Splashing Festival of the Dai, the Shawm Festival of the Miao, the Torch Festival of the Yi, the  Huaxia Great Cultural Temple Fair, the Xinjiang Cultural Festival and the Inner Mongolia Grassland Cultural Festival.


Dinner, ah yes there’s a reason I’m here on this Gourmet Tour. More food and the offerings are of the local cuisine with a very spicy fish dish on this occasion with seasonal vegetables on the menu.


In the performance called The Dragon and Phoenix, the entire troupe of entertainers combine their efforts to produce an outstanding and dazzling spectacle for both young and old. The costumes are amazing and set in a versatile theatrical setting and undoubtedly worthy of seeing.

Next stop Guangzhou, China.

Hong Kong to Shenzhen, China

 


If there’s no other reason to visit Hong Kong than to hang out with friends, then you’ll always enjoy a Herbal Tea tradition dating back as far as anyone can remember – either made at home or being sold on the street in ancient days. Here with my mate Polly who is enjoying  a Dampness Expelling Tea and mine a Five Flowers Tea  for the princely sum of HKD10 each in Mong Kok.

In the 50s and 60s Hong Kong, there wasn’t too much influence from the West, beverages such as coffee and English tea was mainly served for high society with British Government officials and merchants in hotel coffee shops. The economy was blooming, people started to have more leisure, but there still wasn’t too many places for people to ‘hang out’. Herbal Tea Shops were the places which first installed TVs and radios, so it was similar to a chilling place for the youth at that time. Afterwards it started to be replaced by coffee shops starting from the 1980s.


And, it’s even better when your friend Polly knows where to take you for Yum Cha!


If you’ve seen Ladies and Flower Markets in Hong Kong,  a trip to Men’s Market might be of interest to the people who patiently tread the shopping mill with their partners; maybe sifting through and snatching an odd reward in Apilu Street will appease them.


Some of the finds here are truly intriguing. Perhaps it’s one way of keeping your man (or lady) extremely happy and that’s not to say there’s some useful items to take home. Never know when you might fancy an antiquated movie projector because you’re tired of the remote-controlled TV at home? Nothing like a bit of nostalgia …


The Jade Market is the largest offering I’ve ever seen and if gems are your thing then take the MTR to Yau Ma Tei.  Exit C and walk south down Nathan Road and after passing under a road viaduct turn left into Kansu Street. The market is located near the junctions of Kansu Street and Battery Street (fourth on the left) almost opposite the attractive colonial Yau Ma Tei Police Station. You’ll find other interesting items as well …


Lunch on the go is cheap and additionally there’s a plethora of small traditional restaurants serving authentic cuisine.


Later during my stay, it was time to catch up with friends Alex and Gwynne from Sydney who were visiting family in Hong Kong. Here at Ladder Street, we’re making our way up to Sheung Wan, which consists entirely of stone steps.


We also navigated our way up onto the Mid-Levels Escalator which crosses Hollywood Road and heads up towards Shelley Street. Although the people movers go on and on upwards, bear in mind, they do not operate coming down and the walk can be a little steep. But the good news is that you can stop along the way at a myriad of bars and restaurants; and if it’s later in the day, perhaps stop for a couple of cocktails within ‘happy hour’ to ease the burden of a long walk downwards – you won’t even notice how far you’ve traipsed after some bevvies … Check out Lan Kwai Fong for a lively smart area to chill out.


So, I’m heading off next to Shenzhen in China which borders with Hong Kong and easiest for me whilst staying here is to take a train across. Takes about an hour from Mong Kok East Station and the cost one way for an adult is HKD40 in economy and HKD80 in First Class which has its own dedicated queue to board. On today’s exchange rate A$1.00 = HKD6.21


On the Hong Kong side of the border is Lo Wu station and Luohu Station at Shenzhen, China with  a number of stops en route. However, a new faster express train is currently being developed for the near future and will take approximately 17 minutes I’ve been advised.


Australians require a visa to enter China and if seeking a 72 hour visa-free stay, then check with the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre for updated information. You can go online and make an appointment prior to going into the Centre to speed up the process.
Address: Level 5/299 Elizabeth St, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9475 8800
Hours: Open Monday to Friday 9am–3pm

At Luohu Shenzhen, there’s an underground subway which is also a major rail station and the border crossing immigration point is here – all in the one place. It’s a mix of old and new buildings and though the signs can be a little vague, eventually you’ll find your way out … You can fill in the arrival form found on the counters before progressing to the Immigration line up.


Checking into The Langham Hotel in Shenzhen had been made a breeze at the Club Lounge which is  inclusive of internet access and VIP welcome amenities. My advice is to upgrade and treat yourselves to take advantage of the Club privileges which include daily breakfast for two, afternoon tea, evening cocktails with canapés and additionally all-day coffee/tea with light snacks.


Rooms are beautifully appointed with natural light streaming into the room and it’s just what Aussies love – bright, stylish rooms. Classic European style in the heart of modern Shenzhen – you may not want to leave the hotel once settled in!


And at the end of the day, why wouldn’t you want to relax and soak up the classy atmosphere at The Langham …

Somewhere out there on the left is Hong Kong and it’s easy to see why the residents come in droves for a short break away when you can experience luxury at an affordable price in an elegant five-star hotel such as this one.

Next blog post – Shenzhen sights and Gourmet Tour.

Port Arthur and Hobart, Tasmania – Australia


The Port Arthur Historic Site is one of Australia’s most important heritage sites and tourist destinations. Located on the scenic Tasman Peninsula in the south east of Tasmania, it offers a unique and essential experience for all visitors to the area and an open-air museum. It’s approximately 100 km south east of Hobart and allow about one and half hour’s drive.


Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most visited tourist sites due to the building of a penal colony which had the British Empire send its prisoners to the other end of the planet to pay their dues during the 18th and 19th centuries on fertile Australian coastal strips.


The Penitentiary was constructed in 1843 as a flour mill and granary. In 1857 it was converted into a penitentiary, capable of housing over 480 convicts in dormitory accommodation and separate apartments.

The buildings remain intact but careful consideration has been given to the upkeep and ongoing maintenance. Upon closer inspection, the walls have been preserved for any further decay as the architecture is some of the earliest as you’d expect in Australia from the British Empire.


The Convict Church is surrounded by manicured gardens and open spaces.


The Church was destroyed by fire in 1884 and has undergone repeated conservation work throughout the 20th century. The outer walls are all that remain of the structure, making it a popular choice for weddings and community events.


Grounds are plentiful with beautiful garden beds, shrubs and native trees.

The Government Gardens were reconstructed using an 1858 survey. Extensive research of historical photographs, soil analysis, geophysical and archaeological investigations helped establish the convict-period plant species, the type and location of paths, fences and other landscape features.

Source: http://portarthur.org.au/


Further along is the Separate Prison which was built at Port Arthur in 1850. Cruciform-shaped, each of the four wings comprised a central corridor flanked by rows of solitary confinement cells. Separated by thick sandstone walls, it was hoped that the convicts would benefit from contemplative silence and separation.

Source: http://portarthur.org.au/activities/separate-prison/


Inside the prison From 1833 until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals,  those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here.


If these walls could talk. Additionally, Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.


Take a boat ride around the sheltered harbour. Heaps of cruise ships dock just outside of it. Situated on one of the most scenic harbours in Australia,  it’s becoming a popular destination for cruise ships in its own right and tendering passengers across to visit. A courtesy buggy service is available for visitors who have limited mobility.

The facilities were being upgraded whilst I was there and due to the large number of tourists, millions of dollars are being spent to accommodate the growing numbers.

http://portarthur.org.au/tickets/


The Isle of the Dead tour takes you across the harbour to the cemetery island and gives you a fascinating insight into the lives and deaths of some of Port Arthur’s past residents. The tiny island cemetery holds the remains of over 1,000 people; convict and free.

Source: http://portarthur.org.au/activities/isle-of-the-dead-cemetery-tour/


A quiet place of reflection has been made for visitors to pay their respects. A shooting took place In 1996, it was the scene of the worst mass murder in post-colonial Australian history. 28–29 April 1996 was a massacre in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded at this site.

Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old from New Town, a suburb of Hobart was found guilty of the shootings and given 35 life sentences without possibility of parole. Following the incident, it emerged in the media that Bryant had significant intellectual disabilities.

Following the spree, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard introduced strict gun control laws within Australia and formulated the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996.

Source: Wikipedia


One of those rare opportunities where there’s car parking within Hobart CBD.  Woolmers self-contained apartments are in Sandy Bay and the suburb is known as one of the city’s more prestigious areas. Once you’ve parked your car as a guest, it’s a breeze to walk to a myriad of restaurants,  antique shops and craft stores in a trendy part of Hobart.


Double Studio with a kitchenette, Woolmers offers studio double, studio twin and two bedroom, self-contained apartment style accommodation in the habourside suburb. Maybe you’d prefer the idea of staying in and cooking for yourself; it’s handy if you’ve had a big day out like Port Arthur to relax and not worry about having to go out again. Turn on the TV, cook up a treat with kitchen facilities making it an easy night in. Just drop and flop, comfortable, clean and accessible to all amenities nearby.


End of the day and my trip – I’d covered 1,518 kms in total in a hire car. I’d only planned to stay in Tasmania for seven nights, but  because the weather in April was so divine, the people so friendly and the ease of ‘getting around’ in such an incredible part of Australia had me stay on for a total of 14 days.  The coastline shown here is only a glimpse of what you will enjoy if you follow the main highways around the perimeter of the state where possible.

My recommendation for anyone planning a trip to our southern-most state of Australia, is to take much longer than a fortnight as there were many more opportunities to visit and experience a plethora of other activities and local attractions – not to mention seeing the natural fauna and native wildlife in its own habitat. Will I be going back to Tassie? Without doubt!

Melaleuca and South East Cape, Tasmania


I’ve flown out with Par Avion Wilderness Tours to the Southwest World Heritage Area at South East Cape, Tasmania’s most southern point and then made our way west onto to Melaleuca.

The aircraft shown here will fly you into this remote area via the south west coast. Departing Cambridge Airport, we flew via the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, past the mouth of the Huon River and on to Recherche Bay.


At the start we’re looking out over the city of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital and as we gain altitude, we can see how spread out and far reaching the residents live in Australia’s smallest state and least populated state capital.

Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales.


Beautiful clean coastal estuaries in a pristine part of the world can be seen from above, and thankfully it’s part of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage area.The 85km South Coast Track runs between Melaleuca and Cockle Creek. There are no roads to Melaleuca, so walkers must either fly, sail or walk in and out.


Extremely rugged coastline as well – no pathways along this particular region of the state. It’s recommended you gain experience on other Tasmanian walking tracks before attempting the South Coast as you will be a long way from help should you need it.


I’m not even sure if hardy goats could live here… extremely desolate.


We’re now approaching the landing strip at Melalueca in the Southwest Cape of Tasmania. And, as much as I love being in the front seat, sometimes I just have to close my eyes …


Once we’d landed, we could take stock from a ground level the vast, raw beauty of the somewhat dramatic scenery – any film maker would be proud to include this in a set for wild imagery.

This is not the warmest day in April, but then again, I don’t believe even in the Summer months the South East Cape would reach high temperatures. As long as we’re clear for take off later in the day, I’m happy to be here to view the majestic surroundings for the next couple of hours.


Welcome to Melaleuca in the Southwest National Park which is the southern most national parkland in Australia. The southern and western reaches of the region are far removed from any vehicular access and therefore the area is largely unaffected by humans.


Don’t you love these kind of maps which show ‘you are here’? Incredible to see the actual scale of the region.


Giving a bit of a wave to earlier arrivals in the day for a boat outing towards Melaleuca Inlet, then into Bathurst Harbour and Port Davey.


While here on the ground you can witness the wilderness from a viewpoint being at a grass-roots level with the cleanest air you’ll ever have the pleasure of breathing.


Serene yet spectacular all along the waterways towards Bathurst Harbour in our little boat. Glad they know where we are at HQ!


What sometimes appears to be freshwater on a map may turn out to be brackish if close to the sea.


There’s the opportunity to take an informative stroll along the Needwonnee Walk as well which is an award-winning Aboriginal interpretive experience and then visit the Deny King Memorial Bird Hide.


Readying for our departure, we reboard our aircraft and return to Cambridge Airport via the spectacular Eastern Arthurs and Federation Peak, then continue down the Huon Valley and over Hobart city for an overall bird’s eye view.


At South Cape Bay, there is no track down to South East Cape (the southernmost point of the continent). There’s no point leaving the South Coast Track either to try and reach it as it’s an impassable coastline in most parts. Additionally,  if you’re ever walking along narrow or rocky beaches at high tide, beware of large wave swells as they are treacherous.


Heading back into Cambridge Airport (close to Hobart Airport), we’re now navigating over farmland and small communities which are on the outskirts of the city.


For bookings with Par Avion services, visit  http://www.paravion.com.au or telephone (03) 6248 5390  as you won’t be disappointed – especially if you’re short on time – there’s half and full day outings with weather permitting at different times of the year.


At the end of the day, you’d probably want to treat yourself to a cocktail and relax in the warmth of the very regal Lenna of Hobart Heritage Hotel and savour the day’s experience in having seen one of the world’s greatest national parks – both from the air and being on the ground.


And yes, the accommodation is  beautifully appointed in a modern spacious room with spectacular views up to Mount Wellington. Plenty of bench space to work from if need with free wireless internet (WiFi). Individually controlled heating and cooling and a Nespresso coffee machine is just perfect. Complimentary onsite car parking is a big plus if you’ve been travelling around like me.


This landmark hotel is a 1874-built sandstone mansion which puts you right on the historic doorstep of Hobart’s vibrant waterfront. The Lenna Hotel Hobart is within walking distance to Salamanca Markets and the harbour whereby there’s a myriad of restaurants including fresh seafood and many other culinary regional delights.

For bookings check availability  http://www.lenna.com.au/

Next stop Port Arthur.

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania – Australia


Heading onto Cradle Mountain from Strahan as a self- drive itinerary, it crosses the Alpine Plateau which also passes through old mining towns that still produce silver, lead and zinc. Stopping at Black Bluff gave a magnificent overview of the forestation in the region.


Scenery all along the way is stunning, even when the weather has turned cooler.


The drive at a leisurely pace was under three hours with some photo opportunities taken like this one.


Practically at the turnoff for Cradle Mountain National Park is the Cradle Mountain Hotel. No doubt easy to find and located in a quiet position. Noticeably the hotel has been designed to fit into the natural surrounds with subdued colours and low-height levels which make it an attractive consideration to stay within the area.


Loved the balcony whereby you had the ability to step out and enjoy the view. The smell of eucalyptus is one of my favourites. For bookings http://www.cradlemountainhotel.com.au


And this is the amazing view from my room – now this is what I call meditation at its best. With a cuppa in hand why would you want to do too much else but relax and enjoy it?


After settling in, it’s time to drive again and see Cradle Mountain for my very first time while the weather is still feasible. You can buy your National Park entrance at the hotel reception desk. At the time of writing this post the fee was A$16.00 per adult per day.


The road is quite narrow in different parts and if you’re driving your own vehicle then take it easy as it’s difficult to see what’s coming from the other direction. You will need to pull over, stop and at times allow the other vehicle to have precedence.

However, at a check point near the tourism office, there are shuttle buses which take visitors back and forth to alleviate the traffic congestion. They run over scheduled times and are quite frequent.


Your first time seeing a glimpse of Cradle Mountain makes you want to hurry around to the viewing platforms. But it’s best to go a bit slower and marvel at the scenery within the Lake St Clair National Park; itself is a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.


The wild landscape with its ancient rainforest, alpine heathlands, buttongrass and stands of colourful deciduous beech provide some of the best walking tracks.


Speaking of walking tracks, there’s a myriad to choose from and each individual should take into account their level of fitness and the weather conditions. For all snow and road closure or condition advisories, please contact the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre: Phone (61) 03 6492 1110.


Registration of walkers is a must as it helps in locating those who may have gone off the beaten track.


Cradle is the starting point for the world-famous Overland Track – a magnificent six-day walk that will take you through the heart of some of the finest mountain terrain, mirrored here in the still clear waters.


And yes, it is stunning to see first hand Cradle Mountain which has witnessed incredible changes to the landscape over centuries. Postcards and photos don’t do this area justice. Go and see it for yourself!


Icy streams cascading out of rugged mountains and a wealth of wildlife ensure you remember one of the best National Parks in the world.


Well look who has turned up  in its natural habitat! A wombat going about their daily business taking a stroll and checking out the food scene. As an Australian, I’ve never witnessed so many native animals out and about as what I’ve seen in Tasmania and in particular within the Lake St Clair National Park.


Brrr … Back at the Cradle Mountain Hotel, nice and cosy. It was a great afternoon and glad to see the Mountain and surrounds. But it’s time for a glass of vino!

Travel Gracefully on 2RRR FM 88.5 Thursdays 11:00 am

A little announcement today 15th June at 11:00 am my time Sydney EST Australia, I’m going to chat on air 2RRR 88.5 FM with a friend Maree who is a Flight Attendant and has some funny little stories to tell us. There’s a ‘Listen Online Now’ link on http://www.2rrr.org.au  for the Travel Gracefully program on Thursday mornings over the next few weeks.

Listen in as Maree tells us what are some of the requirements these days for being a Flight Attendant.

I remember waiting to attend an interview in the lobby for a Flight Attendant position many, many years ago and whilst we were all nervous, a fellow returned from the men’s room and sat opposite me. As we smiled at each other, I went over and said quietly to him, “I think you’d better do up your fly”.