THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES
2018 proved yet again that there’s nothing like a holiday. Escape’s team of travel writers shares favourite moments of the year
It takes something pretty spectacular to supersede the skylines of Manhattan and Paris but the sparkling neon of Shanghai is now the number one spot on my list of best cityscapes. The impeccably maintained Concession-Era sandstone buildings on one side of the Huangpu River, and the steel and glass skyscrapers on the Pudong side, are the most seamless example of old meets new I’ve seen.
It helped that the ship I was on, the Scandinavian beauty Viking Orion, had the rock star dock on the Bund, plus I happened to be starboard so as I went to sleep I could watch the Vividon-steroids light show that goes from sundown ’til late from my balcony.
This, along with Byron Bay’s Splendour in the Grass, the inaugural Qantas Perth-to-London flight, a few nights at the new Six Senses Duxton in Singapore, and a dinner at downtown LA’s Nomad were my travel highlights of the year.
JANA FRAWLEY, NATIONAL TRAVEL EDITOR
ENOUGH WITH THE PLASTIC
The message that taking your own bags to supermarkets and saying no to plastic straws just isn’t enough to help the environment crystallised further for me this year through travel.
First, on a weekend at Elements of Byron resort in northern NSW, Aussie marine warrior Lucas Handley screened his passion project, a doco called Blue showing the sorry effects we’ve had on the world’s oceans.
Floating off Byron Bay the next day, migrating humpback whales moving around and under our tiny Go Sea Kayak boats was a thrill only eclipsed later in the year by seeing the same species repeatedly bubble-net feeding in group symphony in the currents where Canada meets Alaska.
The natural world never ceases to amaze and we have to look after it.
SUSAN BUGG, ESCAPE DEPUTY EDITOR
It’s hard to go past the day I had just jumped out of a helicopter and was standing on a mountain peak surrounded by untouched powder snow, about to fulfil a lifelong dream of heli-skiing. And the best bit – I didn’t have to go to North America to do it. Southern Lakes Heliski is based out of Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island, just a three-hour flight and short drive from Sydney but with access to hundreds of perfect runs.
After a day of carving powder and fielding face shots, locals tell you to head to their best-kept secret, Maude Wines cellar door. With cheap flights and a favourable exchange rate, our Kiwi neighbours prove you don’t have to go far for a world-class experience.
ROWENA RYAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR
I’d never understood airport lounge obsession, but my first visit to a Qantas First Lounge (hello, massage with a view!) converted me. Qantas First isn’t my usual travel reality, though, which is why I was almost as excited about my first pay-per-use lounge experience. A refreshing shower, decent buffet and quiet space for a cuppa were enough to transform me from long-haul economy zombie to fresh, fed and feeling fantastic.
Pay-per-use lounges are popping up everywhere, and from about $40 for two hours (shower-only from $10), it’s a game-changing “upgrade” for long-haul low-cost flights.
MELINDA BROWNING, ESCAPE SENIOR CONTENT PRODUCER
My memorable trips of 2018 are united in theme: physical challenge. As someone who hates gyms, hiking Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island, and to the top of Mt Sonder at the end of the NT Larapinta Trail, was as far out of my comfort zone as it gets, which amplified their beauty and my sense of achievement. Surfing a “secret” break in the Maldives with one other person was also a VIP experience I’ll remember for life.
One thing I’ve been sure to do this year is to book Uber and Airbnb via Qantas to stockpile frequent flyer points for a big, fat future upgrade.
CELESTE MITCHELL, ESCAPE COLUMNIST
Seeing a polar bear pull a narwhal ashore was an unforgettable Arctic cruise surprise, visiting Canada’s
KIWI NEIGHBOURS PROVE YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO FAR FOR A WORLD-CLASS EXPERIENCE
Baffin Island with Lindblad Expeditions. Floating past grizzly bears eating salmon in Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest was another bear dream come true this year.
As for lessons learnt, my biggest tip from the year is always be considerate and kind when things go wrong. When you’re the person who genuinely smiles at the staff member who’s been screamed at by others in the same boat, not only are you being a needed friendly face, but guess who they’re likely to help first?
AMANDA WOODS, ESCAPE WRITER
BRUNEI IS TRES BON
Brunei was easily my highlight for 2018 on a cruise with French-flagged Ponant where I learnt French by osmosis – dual language announcements can do that.
My mate, Francis Wong, arranged for his sister, Mary, who lives there, to show us around. As well as Brunei’s floating village, lavish palaces and so on, Mary took us to her favourite riverside coffee shop, home for lunch with her family, then to the palatial Royal Brunei Polo Club for a drink. There, she bumped into a friend who was the chief of police, on duty because the sultan was playing polo. Suddenly we were whisked to the front row of the VIP box. Being shown around by a local? Priceless.
BRAD CROUCH, ESCAPE CRUISE DEALS EDITOR
TURN UP THE RADIOOOOO
There’s a reason why Baltic cruises are a good option for those who haven’t cruised before – you’re in port almost every day and in very different destinations; Russia, Estonia and the Scandi countries. My advice for anyone cruising these ports (mine was an eight-day itinerary with Norwegian Cruise Lines) is to hire a bike at each dock and research to plan your route. A travel app (of sorts) I have been loving is Radiooooo.com, where you can click anywhere on a world map and choose a decade and it will play songs from that geographical location and time frame. It’s perfect for finding the music of your destination.
ANDREA BLACK, ESCAPE LINER NOTES EDITOR
This was the year I finally got to visit the Norwegian fjords. After 25 years of dreaming and wondering, the landscape was far more spectacular than I could have imagined and I’m looking forward to seeing more of Norway. This was the year I also learned to never, ever fly if you have a sinus infection (two C-sections were a walk in the park by comparison), and I finally got to say “I told you so” to friends who’ve long laughed at my insistence on travelling with, and using, a rubber door stop. My $5 buy twice prevented late-night intruders from entering my hotel room.
DILVIN YASA, ESCAPE WRITER
Stress and anxiety can be a hazard of travel, but in 2018 I finally managed to minimise both.
I learned to inhale and exhale my way through crowds and maddening security, and I’m now prepped in advance with departure and gate changes (thank you, TripCase!).
In a similar vein, this year I visited the Himalayas for the first time and it was the ultimate anti-anxiety balm; equal to a few months of yoga. It was also great preparation for what happened on my most recent overseas trip, during which both my wallet and phone were pinched – the latter containing three months of unsaved travel pics.
Which brings me to my 2019 travel resolution: though great snaps are, well, great, losing those painstakingly curated photos in an instant reminded me to live more in the moment – and stump up for a full iCloud account.
PAUL EWART, ESCAPE WRITER
PHO AND AWAY
If I could eat only one thing for the rest of my life, it would be pho. But on my first trip to Vietnam this year I discovered there are many soups and street eats that don’t get nearly as much attention outside of the country. Beyond the belly, I was moved by the grace and tenacity of the people, despite their complex history.
A couple of stays really wowed me this year. With its Bill Bensley-designed colonial-era themed tents and whimsical decor, Capella Ubud in Bali is a mind-bending adventure. Meanwhile, the orb-like Bubbletent Australia in NSW’s Capertee Valley is a starry dream you don’t ever want to wake up from.
My top travel tip is to travel solo, for yourself. You’ll meet new people, make lifelong friends and step outside your comfort zone, plus there is much more catering to this market now.
JENNY HEWETT, ESCAPE WRITER
THREE, TWO, ONE
Standout 2018 experiences included: 3) Summer in the Swiss Alps where I drank melting glacier water from the Matterhorn. I call it Toblerone juice. 2) Japanese city Akita for Kanto Matsuri, the pole lantern festival, where competitors balance 50kg, 20m-high bamboo sails strung with lit paper lanterns, on foreheads, necks, hands and butts … it was bonkers. 1) Egypt, I’m in love. I spent 11 days exploring tombs, walking through valleys, and floating the Nile with an Egyptologist guide who was clear with me, despite my insistence, that aliens did not build the pyramids.
Travel tip: I learned that not watching inflight entertainment makes a 23-hour flight feel like three hours. My brain slowed and with no units of measurement (ie, movies), time ceased to exist. Trust me, it works.
REBECCA ANDREWS, ESCAPE WRITER
If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s flights matter. If you arrive rested and relaxed, the world is your oyster. Pick times and routes that suit you, not the cheapest fare if it has multiple stopovers – you’ll regret it. If you don’t want to fork out for business or premium economy, at least check to see if there are two or more empty seats you can move to. We did this on our way home from Rome in August and got three rows of four for our family of five – the perfect finale.
In Italy, we retraced our family history, ending up in the earthquake-ravaged Sicilian town of my grandparents. We escaped the tourists, living like locals, with locals.
LISA MAYOH, DOC HOLIDAY
The Himalayas proves the ultimate anti-anxiety balm. NEPAL
CANADA If you want to fulfil a dream of seeing grizzly bears in Canada, head to the Great Bear Rainforest.