The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel - Susan Kuro­sawa

MAD-ABOUT-FIJI De­par­ture Lounge was in Lau­toka last week for a day be­fore board­ing Queen Vic­to­ria. Just long enough to dine at Saf­fron, the ter­rific In­dian restau­rant in Nadi Town that lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike seem to agree serves the best cur­ries, tan­doori and north­ern In­dian fare on Viti Levu is­land.

Lounge had told her din­ing com­pan­ions that the wait­resses at Saf­fron cus­tom­ar­ily present a tray strewn with bindis for fe­male din­ers to pop on their fore­heads. On her first visit, Lounge mis­took the lit­tle red stick-on spots as the world’s most mi­cro­scopic ap­pe­tis­ers and was on the verge of eat­ing a hand­ful. This time, thank­fully, Lounge did not em­bar­rass her ta­ble; the wait­resses came around with an ad­he­sive sheet and did the hon­ours, look­ing slightly fear­ful of Lounge as she did so.

Saf­fron is off the main street of Nadi Town, near Jack’s hand­i­crafts em­po­rium.

Ask your ho­tel concierge to book a ta­ble: 670 1233.

NEWS from Karen Hoski­son of My­ola Plan­ta­tion, a one-villa hideaway on the Fi­jian Coral Coast that she runs with hus­band Ian and a won­der­fully at­ten­tive team of lo­cal staff, that it has won the unique ac­com­mo­da­tion cat­e­gory in the 2008 Fiji Ex­cel­lence in Tourism awards. Lounge is thrilled for the Hoskisons that such a small but per­fectly re­alised prop­erty has won against much big­ger and bet­ter-known con­tenders.

To mark the oc­ca­sion, My­ola Plan­ta­tion has a Cel­e­bra­tion Stay and Cui­sine Pack­age for March, April and May: stay five nights, pay for four, and at­tend a com­pli­men­tary cook­ing class. Also in­cluded are re­turn road trans­fers from Nadi air­port, meals and bev­er­ages. www.black­la­bel­re­treats.com. Also see Travel&In­dul­gence ’ s cov­er­age of a visit to My­ola Plan­ta­tion last year: www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel.

Sof­i­tel Fiji Re­sort & Spa at De­na­rau picked up the best restau­rant gong in the Fiji an­nual awards for its pop­u­lar out­door eatery, Salt. And win­ners in other cat­e­gories in­cluded the Heav­enly Spa at the Westin De­na­rau Is­land Re­sort.

CON­TIN­U­ING on an ac­com­mo­da­tion theme, fol­low­ing a men­tion in Lounge (Fe­bru­ary 9-10) that there will be a Travel&In­dul­gence Bali spe­cial on March 29-30, a flurry of read­ers have writ­ten in with de­tails of their favourite ho­tels. Mar­i­lyn and Peter Fuller of Melbourne say they have been trav­el­ling to Bali for the past 12 years and have made ARMA Re­sort (Agung Rai Mu­seum of Art) in Ubud their sec­ond home.

‘‘ This beau­ti­ful small ho­tel and villa re­sort is set in trop­i­cal gar­dens on ei­ther side of a small river,’’ the Fullers write. ‘‘ Each of the 10 vil­las has its own pool and gar­den and the ARMA com­plex also con­sists of two large gal­leries that house the private art col­lec­tion of Agung Rai. He spon­sors many of the lo­cal chil­dren in learn­ing tra­di­tional dance and game­lan mu­sic. The lessons take place at ARMA ev­ery af­ter­noon af­ter school fin­ishes and on Sun­day morn­ings. Guests are al­ways wel­come to watch the chil­dren at their classes and we are par­tic­u­larly im­pressed that a con­sid­er­able pro­por­tion of the tar­iff guests pay is al­lo­cated to main­tain­ing Ba­li­nese cul­ture.’’ Sounds de­light­ful. www.ar­mare­sort.com.

THE pres­ti­gious Lead­ing Ho­tels of the World group has re­leased its 80th birth­day di­rec­tory in cel­e­bra­tory gold bind­ing. In 1928, there were just 38 mem­bers, in­clud­ing the Ritz Madrid, which of­fered guests the un­think­able lux­ury of a tele­phone in ev­ery room; a sin­gle room at the Ho­tel Ne­gresco in Nice cost a princely $US4.

To­day’s roll­call is just shy of 450 and, in tune with 21st-cen­tury de­mands, there are sup­ple­men­tary cat­e­gories of Lead­ing Spas and Lead­ing Small Ho­tels. The group prides it­self on not solic­it­ing mem­bers; like all the best clubs, one must wait to be in­vited. New to the mix are Karma Sa­mui and Bo Phut Re­sort & Spa on Thai­land’s Koh Sa­mui is­land.

Dur­ing the an­niver­sary year, there will be var­i­ous pro­mo­tional tar­iffs, con­tests and char­ity auc­tions. www.lhw.com.

AN­OTHER ter­rific ac­com­mo­da­tion col­lec­tion, Small Lux­ury Ho­tels of the World, has re­leased its 2008 edi­tion and it’s a whop­per. There are 440 prop­er­ties in­cluded, 74 of which are new mem­bers. Small Lux­ury Ho­tels is in­creas­ing its reach to emerg­ing and even un­likely des­ti­na­tions such as Gu­atemala, Mon­go­lia and Bul­garia. In Aus­tralia, mem­bers range from the top-drawer Qualia on Queens­land’s Hamil­ton Is­land to the 39-room, ul­tra-con­tem­po­rary Smiths Beach Re­sort be­tween Cape Nat­u­ral­iste and Cape Leeuwin in West­ern Aus­tralia. Lounge rather likes the name of this Mar­garet River re­treat’s cham­pagne bar: it’s called Bouzy. www.slh.com.

FIND of the week: An amus­ing list from Scott Lam­ing of on­line mar­ket­place AbeBooks cov­ers ‘‘ the world’s weird­est travel books’’. The site’s users have rated Trav­el­byCar­goShip by Hugo Ver­lomme (1995) as the nut­ti­est (prob­a­bly fits neatly into the pocket of a ship-spot­ter’s anorak). An­other nifty hand­book that polled well was Oth­er­Peo­ple’sBusi­ness: AGuide­book­to87Com­pa­nyand In­dus­tri­alToursi­nandNearOhio writ­ten by Jane Ware (1993).

EX­PAN­SION is rife at Kiwi Col­lec­tion, too. This one-stop ac­com­mo­da­tion site re­ports 50,000 unique vis­i­tors a day, a 460 per cent in­crease in traf­fic in the past 12 months. More than 2100 of the world’s best ho­tels, re­sorts, lodges, inns, camps and cas­tles are fea­tured. For some time Lounge imag­ined this group dealt in New Zealand prop­er­ties but the name was cho­sen, ap­par­ently, as it’s easy for all na­tion­al­i­ties to re­mem­ber and pro­nounce. www.ki­wicol­lec­tion.com.

Lounge ’ s vote would have gone to Flat­tenedFauna by Roger M. Knut­son (1987); it’s a guide to iden­ti­fy­ing road­kill on those long and un­event­ful driv­ing hol­i­days. www.abebooks.com.

LOUNGE loathes: Spas that take the ho­cus-pocus approach; some­times one would sim­ply settle for a mas­sage rather than a yin-yang, re­newal-of-life, awakethe-mer­maid-within marathon.

LOUNGE loves: The clever Luxe Guides style-set­ters have added Chicago, Florence and Los An­ge­les to the range. Th­ese con­certina guides, full of info and sassy opin­ion, look set to span the globe. $14.95 a pop. www.lux­ecityguides.com.

All smiles: Sheila and Rosi are among the at­ten­tive staff at My­ola Plan­ta­tion, which has won the unique ac­com­mo­da­tion cat­e­gory in the 2008 Fiji Ex­cel­lence in Tourism awards

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