SAKURA LOVE BLOS­SOMS

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - TRAVEL NEWS - SU­SAN BUGG AND MELINDA BROWN­ING

For­get the Taj Ma­hal or Angkor Wat, there’s a new bucket-list sight that Aussies can’t get enough of. Ja­pan’s an­nual cherry blos­som blooms have be­come a huge draw­card for Aus­tralian trav­ellers, with tour op­er­a­tors re­port­ing a huge spike in book­ings to co­in­cide with the sea­son.

Book­ings for Wendy Wu Tours’ Ja­pan cherry blos­som itineraries are up by 62 per cent year on year.

“While cherry blos­som sea­son has long been a must-see for lo­cals, the se­cret is out, and Aus­tralian trav­ellers are plac­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence firmly near the top of their bucket list,” says Wendy Wu’s head of prod­uct Ber­nadette Holmes. “Up there with Angkor Wat and the Taj Ma­hal, Ja­pan’s cherry blos­soms have be­come a pil­grim­age for those who want to ex­pe­ri­ence the re­gion’s trea­sures – with one dif­fer­ence; the fleet­ing, and at times un­pre­dictable, sea­son, with its sig­na­ture ro­man­tic sweet scent and pale pink colour, in­cludes an el­e­ment of luck for those who make the trip.”

Travel search site KAYAK also re­ports a 26 per cent in­crease in travel searches for Ja­pan in this pe­riod. “We’re def­i­nitely see­ing a grow­ing trend,” says Aus­tralian KAYAK spokesman Robin Chi­ang. He says the cherry blos­som ef­fect has spread be­yond Ja­pan, too, with a 30 per cent in­crease in year-on-year searches for Tai­wan also recorded dur­ing Taipei’s cherry blos­som sea­son (late Jan­uary to late Fe­bru­ary).

Ho­tels and cruise lines are join­ing the trend, spruik­ing cherry blos­somthemed pack­ages. Cruise ship Nor­we­gian Jewel is jump­ing on the band­wagon to head to Ja­pan for the sea­son. “We’re ex­cited to be of­fer­ing guests an op­por­tu­nity to ex­pe­ri­ence this for the first time,” says Steve Odell, Nor­we­gian Cruise Line se­nior vice pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for the Asia Pa­cific.

Mean­while, Tokyo’s Penin­sula Ho­tel is cel­e­brat­ing the sea­son with cherry blos­som ex­pe­ri­ences in­clud­ing a spe­cial Sakura-themed af­ter­noon tea, take­away cherry blos­som pic­nics and a “cherry blos­som cer­e­mony” spa treat­ment.

MORE CAP­I­TAL KIWI ART

Kiwi cap­i­tal Welling­ton is known as a city that em­braces the arts. Now it has a new $8.4 mil­lion gallery space to show off more of the 40,000 art­works in its na­tional col­lec­tion.

The new gallery, Toi Art, opened to the pub­lic yes­ter­day and oc­cu­pies two lev­els of Te Papa, the na­tional mu­seum on the Welling­ton waterfront. It is the first part of a ma­jor re­newal of all Te Papa’s ex­hi­bi­tion spa­ces as the mu­seum cel­e­brates its 20th an­niver­sary year. Te Papa’s an­nual vis­i­tors al­ready num­ber about 1.5 mil­lion. Most re­cently they have been com­ing to see the Weta Work­shop-gen­er­ated ex­hi­bi­tion, Gal­lipoli: The Scale of Our War, which fea­tures eight gi­ant, life­like sculp­tures of Ki­wis in­volved in the in­fa­mous WWI cam­paign. It’s open un­til April next year.

if I was plan­ning a short trip to Welling­ton in the near fu­ture, I’d time it to see The Jim Hen­son Ret­ro­spec­ta­cle (April 27 and 28), a fab cel­e­bra­tion of the Mup­pets with the NZ Sym­phony Orches­tra and Flight of the Con­chords’ Bret McKen­zie (the one with­out glasses). TEPAPA.GOVT.NZ

FREE NIGHT IN DUBAI

As Emi­rates pre­pares to in­tro­duce a fourth daily A380 ser­vice to Syd­ney and in­crease seats by up­grad­ing its third daily Mel­bourne ser­vice to an A380 air­craft on March 25, Aus­tralians fly­ing through Dubai can get a free night’s stopover.

Econ­omy trav­ellers who book be­fore March 27 get a night at Rove Down­town, Rove City Cen­tre or Rove Health­care City, Dubai, in­clud­ing bed and break­fast. First and busi­ness-class pas­sen­gers can stay at the 5-star JW Mar­riott Mar­quis. Fares start from $1269 to Lon­don, $1319 to Barcelona or $1329 to Paris. EMI­RATES.COM/AU

NY’S LEAD­ING LIGHT

The ar­rival of day­light sav­ing is be­ing marked in New York City in a way only the Big Ap­ple can. LED lights at the top of the Em­pire State Build­ing now twin­kle nightly for five min­utes ev­ery hour between sun­set and 2am. The land­mark build­ing can cus­tomise its lights from a pal­ette of over 16 mil­lion colours and has used these spe­cial ef­fects to cel­e­brate key events since 1932, when a flood­light marked the elec­tion of Franklin D. Roo­sevelt as pres­i­dent.

NGUYEN SPREADS WINGS

He’s al­ready an am­bas­sador for APT river cruis­ing, but celebrity chef Luke Nguyen is ex­tend­ing his in­flu­ence to the air.

Vietnam Air­lines has an­nounced that Syd­ney chef and TV pre­sen­ter Nguyen will be cre­at­ing meals for busi­ness-class pas­sen­gers trav­el­ling from Aus­tralia to Vietnam.

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