Arrivals & Departures Weekly Travel News & Views 13 February 2024

Iceland's Blue Lagoon.

England's rainforests, Iceland's top tourist spots, celebrity appearances and the sound of silence... Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield packs a lot into another week in Travel


There’s a chance that visitors to some parts of the US this April may need earplugs. For the first time since 1803, two broods of cicadas are due to emerge at the same time. There will be trillions of “periodical cicadas”, and that could be deafening. The cicadas have spent more than a decade in underground burrows as, unlike the more common cicadas which emerge each summer, periodical cicadas spend either 13 or 17 years feeding on roots, before emerging. The 17-year brood will emerge in Illinois and the 13-year brood in south-east US. The two broods overlap near Springfield, Illinois.


Planes and airports can be noisy places, and sometimes I use plain, old fashioned earplugs just to shut things down. But even they are subject to development and change. Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs are a good example (and it’s just sold its 250,000th set). Made from hypoallergenic and comfortable soft silicone, they are designed to be worn for long periods. They are expected to reduce noise by 21db. They have attenuation filters. These are also called a “low-pass filter” which passes signals with a frequency lower than a selected cut-off frequency and reduce signals with higher frequencies. This maintains the full spectrum of sound. In other words, harmful noise levels are cut without sacrificing sound quality. They come with two shell sizes and have pull tabs to help put them in and out. I’ve found them between $74 and $86 online.


In England, The National Trust is planning to plant more than 100,000 trees in north Devon to create a temperate woodland, as a home for plants facing extinction. Temperate rainforests once covered lots of western Britain. Major temperate rainforest regions in England are in the West Country, the Lake District, Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales and Pennines; in Snowdonia and the Elenydd in Wales; and on the west coast of Scotland.


Iceland is Europe’s second-biggest island after Great Britain and before Ireland. And a friend at Tourism Iceland tells me that the famous Blue Lagoon, pictured at the top of the page, began when a man sought an alternative treatment for psoriasis in a geothermal power plant’s milky-blue silica-rich run-off waters. Today, Blue Lagoon is a top tourist destination alongside Sky Lagoon and Hvammsvik Hot Springs. All are a short drive from Reykjavik.

+ Much as I’m thrilled by Taylor Swift’s Grammy success, I’m also pleased for Icelandic musician Laufey Lin Jonsdottir who won the 2024 Grammy for best traditional pop vocal album for Bewitched, and for a personal favourite, Olafur Arnalds, for being nominated for a Grammy. I love his neoclassical compositions, which conjure up the Icelandic landscape.


British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran is heading to Thailand and UOB LIVE Bangkok — a huge new home for live entertainment experiences which opens on Monday. (Ed, of course, was the opening act at our Optus Stadium.) UOB LIVE Bangkok is on Sukhumvit Road, close to Prompong BTS station. The cutting-edge, 6000-capacity venue is on the sixth floor of Emsphere.


Thailand’s Cabinet has endorsed a Bill aimed at improving the country’s increasing air pollution problem. The capital, Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai were among the most polluted places in the world for several days in 2023. The country’s air quality is usually very poor between January and March each year, largely because of smoke from stubble burning. This causes so-called PM 2.5 dust that contains a very high concentration of fine particulate matter.


A big event in Hong Kong has just backfired. Inter Miami fans booed during a friendly soccer match, when Lionel Messi didn’t play. The former Argentina World Cup star, who had a hamstring injury, sat on the bench as Inter beat the local League XI 4-1 in front of 40,000 fans. A speech by Inter Milan co-owner David Beckham was drowned out by booing and chants of “refund”. It is reported that the Hong Kong Government jumped in to say that the match organisers could face a reduction in funding. Just as the WA Government sticks our taxpayers’ money into events (mainly to benefit commercial hospitality and tourism operators), the Hong Kong Government’s major sports events committee granted $3m for the event.


After a judicial review, the Indonesian Government has scrapped plans to increase the entertainment tax there between 40-75 per cent. The tax increase would have included spas, wellness centres and entertainment venues. But a new Provincial Tourism Tax of $US10 ($15.30) starts on February 14, which travellers will need to pay upon arrival in addition to the Visa-On-Arrival fee.


Still in Bali, Alila Villas Uluwatu has appointed Derrick Walles as its new executive chef. From Sri Lanka, he began his culinary career more than 15 years ago at Hilton Colombo, then spent a decade working at various resorts in the Maldives. He was last at Six Senses Zighy Bay, on Oman’s Musandam Peninsula.


+ A new luxury hotel has just opened in the Japanese hot spring town of Atami, 45 minutes from Tokyo. The Atami Izusan KARAKU is on a hill overlooking Sagami Bay. It has an open-air onsen bath in all guest rooms and the hotel is set in the pretty Izusan’s landscape.

+ The new Radisson Safari Hotel Hoedspruit is Radisson Hotel Group’s first safari hotel in Africa. It is between Kruger National Park and Blyde River Canyon nature reserves, in the grasslands of the Limpopo province, with views of the Drakensberg mountains.


Viking Cruises has opened registration for its free Explorer Sessions at Crown Perth on Thursday, March 21. The information sessions will cover river, ocean and expedition journeys across seven continents and are each from 45 to 75 minutes long. Register at


Perth Airport’s new express pick-up and drop-off zone came into effect on Monday — and drivers who loiter for more than six minutes can be fined. Drivers will be given another four weeks to get used to the changes at Terminals 3 and 4 before being charged a minimum of $7 for overstaying the new time limit.