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

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - 2018 TRAVEL HIGHLIGHTS -

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

POW WOW

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

LOUNGE AROUND

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

PHYS­I­CAL HIGHS

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

ON TRACK

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

FULL FJORD

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 REDRESSED

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

AR­RIVE RE­VIVED

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

PIC­TURE: IS­TOCK

The Hi­malayas proves the ul­ti­mate anti-anx­i­ety balm. NEPAL

PIC­TURE: ALAMY

CANADA If you want to ful­fil a dream of see­ing griz­zly bears in Canada, head to the Great Bear Rain­for­est.

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