Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield delivers his last travel column for 2023 with some sage advice
My heartfelt good wishes go to all those affected by the “bomb cyclone” in the US — an arctic blast that brought extreme cold, heavy snow and intense winds just in time for the holidays. Cold, dry air from the north collided with warm, moist air from the south. There were a lot of deaths, and thousands of flights were cancelled.
I’ve finished planning a January assignment to the US. The key story is the longest flight in the world, as I am doing the five-hour hop to Singapore, then flying Singapore Airlines direct from Singapore to New York — a flight time of about 18 hours, 40 minutes. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeves for stories while I’m on the east coast of the US — all will be revealed in these pages early in the new year. And the trip plays a key role in a preparation for our Round the World Dinner on March 16, which is in partnership with Singapore Airlines. westtravelclub.com.au/events
DROPPING THE BALL
I’ll spend a night in a pod hotel near Times Square — mainly for the sheer joy of seeing how my faithful suitcase, Casey, goes in there. (He’s a luxury-boy.) At least he didn’t get caught up in the baggage pile-ups in the US over Christmas. He prefers to socially distance in every circumstance.
The “ball drop” in Times Square is surely one of the most iconic events of any New Year’s Eve. On roof of the building, One Times Square, the ball descends down a special flagpole — starting at 11.59pm and coming to rest at midnight to mark the new year. The first was organised by Adolph Ochs, owner of The New York Times newspaper, in 1907, to bring attention to the publication’s home building.
ALL IN THE ACCENT
I’m looking forward to hearing that New York accent again. There’s a rumour that, rather than set an alarm clock, New Yorkers just slick up their bodies at night if they want to wake up oily.
PICTURES & WORDS
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in New York with photographer Annie Leibovitz. It’s more than a decade since she was asked which camera to buy and famously suggested an iPhone. Even then, she said it was “the snapshot camera of today”. In 2019, she shot a collection of portraits of people “changing the landscape of their time” exclusively on a Google Pixel phone.
Mogens Johansen and I will lead PhotoWalks with Phones in Perth on Sunday, February 12 — a chance to learn the tricks of your camera and refine your photographic eye. It is from 9-10.30am, $49 per person, and includes our Tips & Tricks booklet. Places are limited. westtravelclub.com.au/events
And the Travel team is running the annual New Norcia Weekend on April 29 to 30. There is a photographic course with Mogens (12 places, $450 each), or a travel writing course with Will Yeoman (12 places, $450 each), or a chance to just relax, look around New Norcia and spend time with the team (12 places, $400 each). We have the renovated New Norcia Hostel for Saturday night and all meals are included. Full details of the three packages, and bookings, at westtravelclub.com.au/events
TIME TO TALK
With families and friends getting together, it’s a good time to talk about, and plan, travelling together. It’s “part of the journey” to enjoy this stage of it – all sitting down together and talking honestly about the sort of things you all like and what you’d like to get out of it.
To get an idea of what everyone in the group wants, you can put together a sort-of family travel quiz . . .
- Relaxation or activity (or what’s the blend of both)?
- North America or South America?
- North America . . . big cities or national parks?
- Europe or Asia?
- Europe . . . north (Scandinavia to Paris) or south (Athens, Greek Islands, then Turkey, to mix it up)?
- Europe blockbusters (London, Paris, Rome) or just concentrate on, say, Italy, from Rome to Amalfi Coast.
- If Asia, double destination (Singapore and Siem Reap) or fly and flop in Bali?
- Africa north (Morocco or Egypt) or south (Zambia, Botswana, Tanzania, wildlife)?
- Out of the box — i.e. Madagascar, Maldives?
. . . you see where I’m going? Once you have honed it down, you may just find that you have a pretty straightforward game plan, even though there are a lot of players involved.
Geoparks WA has had a good 2022, with four active groups working to support, promote and encourage the development of geotourism and geoparks in WA.
Geological Survey WA recently launched the John Forrest Geotrail — a walk up to and through the old railway tunnel, in the geology of the Darling Scarp. The walk, created by Mike Freeman, is now a self-guided tour.
The Nannup Geopark project has is being driven by a committed local team and has been incorporated as a not-for-profit organisation. The group has developed plans for geotrails.
Peel Development Commission has funded preliminary work to identify and establish a Binjareb/Peel geo-drive trail in the Mandurah, Pinjara and Waroona region, taking in the coastal plains and Darling Scarp.
The cities of Joondalup and Wanneroo are committed to establishing an urban geopark. The area has linear and circular lakes, karst topography and caves.
From January 8, there will be no more quarantine for international travellers arriving in China. Since March 2020, there has been mandatory centralised quarantine, but the length of time has progressively reduced, from three weeks to the present five days. Under new rules, COVID-19 will be downgraded from a Class A infectious disease to Class B, meaning that quarantine will no longer be enforced, in the latest of a number of restrictions being lifted as China abandons its zero-COVID policy. The country has an explosion in COVID-related infections.
LUXURY IN DUBAI
The Address Grand Creek Harbour in Dubai welcomed its visitors on December 22. It was a landmark moment in the development of Dubai Creek Harbour. The hotel has two towers with an observation deck in between. There is a panoramic alfresco terrace and infinity pool overlooking the Dubai skyline. The hotel is launching with up to 30 per cent off the “best available rate”, inclusive of complimentary breakfast, for those who book before February 28, 2023. I’m looking at prices at the end of January at $450 a night. firstname.lastname@example.org
ACCESS IN MALDIVES
Amilla Maldives Resort and Residences, a five-star resort in Baa Atoll in Maldives, has become the world’s first Inclucare verified resort. It has the facilities and trained staff to be able to welcome guests with a range of physical and sensory disabilities. UK-based IncluCare offers inclusive and accessible travel training, assessment and accreditation for the tourism industry. One in five people globally have a significant mental or physical disability, according to IncluCare. London’s Great Scotland Yard hotel is IncluCare’s first certified hotel.
Amilla had to undergo an audit by IncluCare to make it accessible to those with mobility, sensory or cognitive requirements. The resort already had ground-floor villas, a beach wheelchair and light-up phones for the hearing impaired, but has added adaptive yoga and snorkelling, sensory experiences for vision-impaired guests, calming spaces designed to reduce anxiety and stress for guests who are sensitive to high-sensory experiences, and deaf-alert systems. amilla.com
There are about 2000 people with disabilities in the Maldives who are currently unlikely to get a job. Amilla Maldives is trying to find ways to open up employment to them.
It will be three months until a reader whose finger was pricked by a used and discarded syringe obscured by the sand on a Fremantle beach will know for sure whether or not she’s contracted something serious. The finger quickly turned black. Please be careful and have a happy new year.