FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

STO­RIES abound of ho­tel mini-bar mo­ments, al­most all to do with guests feel­ing ripped off for pay­ing about the same for a row of Toblerone choco­late alps as they would for a hol­i­day at a Swiss ski re­sort. Sea­soned trav­ellers no doubt sneer at those who get caught this way: the trick is to nip down to the near­est 7-Eleven and bot­tle shop and stock up on your own sup­plies. Some guests even take out the ho­tel’s cold can of, say, tonic wa­ter from the mini-bar fridge and re­place it with the warm su­per­mar­ket-bought one.

Sounds sim­ple, if sneaky. But some ho­tels have wo­ken up to such trick­ery and in­stalled mo­tion sen­sors that reg­is­ter ‘‘ pur­chases’’ on front desk com­put­ers, even if you have just taken out a pack­aged item to look at its con­tents or in­gre­di­ents.

But ac­cord­ing to web­site giz­modo.com— which comes with the cute tag of ‘‘ so much in love with shiny new toys, it’s un­nat­u­ral’’ — the Wynn Las Ve­gas ho­tel has taken things a das­tardly step fur­ther. Giz­modo’s geeks re­port that the trays on top of its mini­bars are fit­ted with scales and sen­sors, so if you so much as ab­sently move that packet of mixed nuts or bot­tle of wa­ter, your bill will be au­to­mat­i­cally deb­ited.

So look, don’t touch, is the mes­sage, al­though there is prob­a­bly a ho­tel some­where do­ing tri­als on eye­ball sen­sors.

HAV­ING a dig at ho­tels re­minds Depar­tureLounge of a list com­piled a few years back by Andrew Harper of US-based Harper’sHide­awayRe­port in which he looked at ‘‘ what ho­tels said’’ ver­sus ‘‘ what I found’’. A few of his ob­ser­va­tions were: Warm am­bi­ence: No air­con­di­tion­ing. A world apart: Con­ve­nient to noth­ing. Un­hur­ried lifestyle: Slow room ser­vice. Ex­press check­out: We’ll over-bill you later.

Lounge has been in­spired to com­pile her own list, which in­cludes: Tra­di­tional plumb­ing: The bath­room is down the hall. Con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion: Un­der the flight path. Home cook­ing: We can’t af­ford a chef. Trop­i­cal at­mos­phere: Mould. Vic­to­rian style: It’s near Melbourne. Au­then­tic: We ran out of money for the re­furb.

EV­ERY­ONE’S favourite trav­eller Michael Palin has recorded an­other se­ries of quirky ad­ven­tures. NewEurope, his 20-coun­try pas­sage across the east­ern, south­east­ern and cen­tral re­gions of Europe, from Al­ba­nia to Es­to­nia, has just been re­leased here on a three-disc DVD set (Road­show, $79.95). Oddly, the Seven Net­work, which has the screen­ing rights, is yet to show the sev­enepisode se­ries. Palin spoke to The Aus­tralian’s television critic Graeme Blun­dell late last year and re­vealed some­thing of the iso­la­tion he feels re­turn­ing to Eng­land from his com­plex jour­neys.

‘‘ You be­come a kind of so­cial out­cast,’’ he re­vealed. ‘‘ Just be­cause you have been around the world, not ev­ery­one wants to talk to you about it. It’s more of a so­cial em­bar­rass­ment; no one re­ally knows what to ask. They are more in­ter­ested in telling me about how hard it’s be­come jour­ney­ing into Lon­don from Northamp­ton now there’s a sin­gle-line track.’’

Hap­pily, though, many want to read about Palin’s trav­els. Ac­cord­ing to the Jan­uary 2008 edi­tion of the Bri­tish mag­a­zine TheBook­seller , the book of the NewEurope se­ries sold 239,431 copies in 2007, sec­ond on the list of top-sell­ing travel ti­tles. The most suc­cess­ful book last year was LongWayDown by those cheery mo­tor­bike chaps Ewan McGre­gor and Char­lie Bor­man (also a TV se­ries tie-in). Fel­low telly types Jeremy Clark­son, Griff Rhys Jones and San­jeev Bhaskar also did very well in Bri­tain with travel books last year.

NEWS to hand that a Ger­man travel agency has un­veiled the world’s first sched­uled nude flights. From Lounge ’ s ex­pe­ri­ence at sundry re­sorts, the Ger­mans rather like ‘‘ nud­ing up’’ (as Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson are wont to put it). David Let­ter­man said it all on telly on Mon­day night when he re­marked: How of­ten do you look around the econ­omy-class sec­tion of a full air­craft and think how at­trac­tive it would be if ev­ery­one were naked?

Lounge has only a few bare facts to hand, in­clud­ing the fact that pas­sen­gers can strip off on board but will have to dress be­fore dis­em­bark­ing.

Ap­par­ently a cloth­ing-op­tional char­ter flight was op­er­ated re­cently by Texas-based Cast­aways Travel. All naked pas­sen­gers were sup­plied with com­mem­o­ra­tive tow­els to sit on.

IN Lounge’s in-tray this week, ad­vice from Kiri Braid of Queens­land Gold Coast­based Get­aways for Girls that the book­ing dead­line has been ex­tended for its Cherry Blos­som tour to Ja­pan in late March. The 11-day itin­er­ary in­cludes a night’s ac­com­mo­da­tion in a tra­di­tional ryokan and a visit to Tokyo’s Tsuk­iji fish mar­ket (see Lounge’s ac­count of a re­cent dawn visit at www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel). The tours are, as the com­pany name her­alds, de­signed for like-minded fe­male trav­ellers. www.get­awaysfor­girls.com.

Ray­mond Hall, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer for Six Senses Re­sorts & Spas, has news of the fast-ex­pand­ing group’s latest open­ings, in­clud­ing Eva­son Hideaway & Six Senses Spa at Zighy Bay, north­ern Oman (eas­ily ac­cessed from Dubai) and, due to open in May, Six Senses Erawan on the is­land of Naka Yai, 10 min­utes by boat from Phuket. The lat­ter is a des­ti­na­tion spa with 61 vil­las and suites (all with private pools) and an em­pha­sis on well­ness and lifestyle man­age­ment. No Bo­tox in­jec­tions, scalpel wield­ing or route marches: just ther­a­pies, many based on East­ern heal­ing prac­tices, nu­tri­tious spa cui­sine and ab­so­lute re­lax­ation. www.sixsenses.com.

FIND of the week: On a visit to Bali last week, Lounge had a look at Sukha­vati, a re­mark­able es­tate of six vil­las owned by mu­si­cian and song­writer Bruce Wood­ley of The Seek­ers fame. Lo­cated be­tween Ubud and Seminyak, Sukha­vati has to be booked out as one rental, which is per­fect for a house-party stay, but it’s some­times pos­si­ble to book just one villa on a last­minute ba­sis. Lounge stayed at the su­perb Con­rad Bali at Tan­jung Benoa next to Nusa Dua; more in our Travel&In­dul­gence Bali spe­cial on March 29-30. www.sukha­vat­i­bali.com; www.con­rad­ho­tels.com.

LOUNGE loves: Con­rad Bali has a Fizzy Kids menu for ju­niors at its Jiwa Spa. Lit­tle ones can even help paint on the foot masque; it’s never too early, it seems, to be­come a spa sprite.

LOUNGE loathes: Not still be­ing in Bali, where ho­tel oc­cu­pan­cies are av­er­ag­ing 80 per cent and there’s a tan­gi­ble feel of bus­tle and re­newal in the trop­i­cal air.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Igor Sak­tor

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