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We’re funny (usually), controversial (sometimes) and insightful (always!). Our travel experts share their experiences below in hopes of hearing back from YOU. So read, comment and enjoy!

Posts in ‘Things to do in Australia’

War Memorial Museum in Auckland

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The museum traces the history of Auckland before it became a major metropolisEstablished in 1852, the Auckland War Memorial Museum is New Zealand”s oldest museum.

From humble beginnings (it started in a two-room farm cottage in the central Auckland suburb of Grafton), the museum today is home to millions of objects.

It also provides educational services to more than 60,000 school children annually, and is one of New Zealand”s most popular tourist attractions with around half a million visitors every year.

The museum tells the story of New Zealand, its place in the Pacific and its people.

It is also a war memorial and houses one of the country”s top three heritage libraries.

Visitors can enjoy the museum”s Maori and Pacific collections, the major social and military history items on display, as well as decorative arts and pictorial exhibitions.

Open daily from 10:00 to 17:00, visitors can enjoy late evenings at the museum on Wednesdays.

Admission is free of charge.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.
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South East Asian night market in Wellington

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On August 16th, a South East Asian night market will be held at the TSB Arena in Wellington.

Running from 14:00 until 22:00, it offers visitors a chance to experience the warmth, fragrances and flavours of a typical South East Asian market.

So while you may be visiting New Zealand, you will feel like you are in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia or Vietnam.

Highlights include Wayang Kulit puppeteers from Indonesia, martial arts demonstrations from the Philippines and Vietnam, traditional Batik from Malaysia, as well as continuous music and dance from South East Asian countries.

Meanwhile, the Singapore High Commission and the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society will hold a charity raffle.

In addition, you can taste a variety of delicacies from the different food stalls, and can even buy things like spices and souvenirs to take home with you.

So bring along the whole family to enjoy the food and culture of South East Asia.

Culture and Sightseeing – City Tours – Whichever city you are in these tours will help to ensure you do not miss a thing.

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Sydney Opera House named Modern Wonder of the World

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The Opera House beat the Eiffel Tower to reach the top spotSydney”s Opera House has been named as the top Modern Wonder of the World in a poll by Halifax Travel Insurance.

The famous Australian building beat the Eiffel Tower, which came in at number two, as well as Rio de Janeiro”s iconic Christ the Redeemer statue, which was named number three.

Situated on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour, close to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the building and its surroundings are one of the best known in Australia.

Construction started in 1959 and work was finally completed in 1973.

The Opera House is the home of Opera Australia, the Sydney Theatre Company and the Sydney Symphony.

It is administered by the Sydney Opera House Trust, under the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts.

Last year, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site and was also amongst the 20 finalists in the New Seven Wonders of the World project.

Sydney – Take a cruise of Sydney Harbour or relax on the white sands on Manly Beach.
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Horeke in Hokianga, New Zealand

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Holidaymakers to New Zealand should make sure to visit Horeke, the first European settlement in the Hokianga region in the country.

The town is also the second oldest in New Zealand, making it a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the country.

Horeke sprang up almost overnight when an Australian firm established a shipyard in 1826.

Visitors can enjoy the old buildings of the town which were mostly built over water, because there was no land for sale at the time they were constructed.

One attraction is the Wesleyan mission station which was established to the west of Horeke around 1838.

The Wesleyans had started their work ten years before with the support of Chief Eruera Patuone, who is believed to have had some contact as a small boy with members of Captain Cook”s crew.

While the old mission church has gone, the churchyard with its gravestones remains.

Seniors – Historic Tours – From the Roman Empire to the second world war, these tours bring world history to life.
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Globe trotters unite: a journey with a purpose.

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Our ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest entries have been rolling in! A few of you got very creative with your responses, crafting globe trotting itineraries with inventive themes. Here are some of our favourites thus far:

1. ‘Southern Music Odyssey’, by Greg Davies

A road trip with a difference—i.e. not your usual ‘Route 66’ or ‘Coast to Coast’ American Dream. Due to my late grandfather’s musical obsession that he passed onto me, my dream holiday would be to drive the southern United States, visiting and enjoying some of the famous sights and sounds of Country music—the Grand Ol’ Opry, Memphis, Tupelo, Austin, Nashville—all in an old convertible…staying at old-style motels along the way and enjoying southern hospitality and good ol’ time music, the way it’s meant to be enjoyed!

2. ‘A Taste for Travel’, by Lydia Houghton

I’d have lobster in Cancun, cocktails in New York, A balti in Bombay, A Guinness in County Cork, coq au vin in Paris, a pizza in fair Rome, a chop suey in Beijing, and Swedish meatballs in Stockholm.

It would be such a treat to take a break from all the cooking, but the only problem is… my tummy might need tucking!

3. ‘Natural World Wonders’, by Chris Woodroofe

My Perfect Holiday would be a tour around all of the natural world wonders: Serengeti Migration, Galápagos Islands, Grand Canyon, Iguazu Falls, Amazon Rainforest, Ngorongoro Crater, Great Barrier Reef, Bora Bora Cappadocia and Victoria Falls. All I would need would be a backpack, a diary, and a camera…this would be my perfect holiday—very simple, but very rewarding, as the natural world wonders are being destroyed…

That’s all for now!

The official shortlist will be posted on the isango! website very soon. Be sure to vote!

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Fashion festival in Sydney

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The festival is a great way to discover new trendsThe first ever Rosemount Sydney Fashion Festival takes place from August 13th to 17th.

Organised by the same team as Rosemount Australian Fashion Week, the festival is a great chance to catch upcoming trends from top designers.

Fashionistas can catch a glimpse of the spring and summer collections from Australia”s biggest fashion names including Alex Perry, Charlie Brown, David Lawrence, Kirrily Johnston, Nicola Finetti and Lisa Ho, as well as Sydney”s most fashionable retailers like David Jones and General Pants Co.

Other events include celebrity appearances, styling workshops, fashion films and exhibitions.

In the evening, don your trendiest outfit and join well-heeled crowds at festival parties in bars around the city.

Of course, only the most fabulous crowds head to the festival”s own bar, constructed in Martin Place especially for the event.

Events may be free or ticketed – find out more from the festival”s website.

Sydney – Take a cruise of Sydney Harbour or relax on the white sands on Manly Beach.
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Parliamentary Special Train in New Zealand

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the train will run from Wellington to AucklandFrom August 6th to 8th, visitors to New Zealand looking for historic entertainment can find just that.

To commemorate the centenary of the North Island Main Trunk, there will be a re-enactment of the Parliamentary Special.

Organised by rail operator ONTRACK, the train re-enacts the first passenger rail service between Wellington and Auckland when 44 parliamentarians travelled to see the visiting American navy’s ”Great White Fleet” in Auckland in August 1908.

The train will stop for events in Ohakune, Horopito, Makatote, National Park, Raurimu and overnight in Taumarunui before continuing on up to Auckland.

ONTRACK chief executive William Peet said the opening of the North Island Main Trunk was an important moment in New Zealand”s economic and social history.

“The line vastly improved the movement of people and goods around the country. It is also the reason a number of settlements were established where they are in the North Island,” he said.

“We are planning centenary celebrations with Toll NZ, local communities, and rail heritage groups to recognise the importance of the North Island Main Trunk.”

Seniors – Historic Tours – From the Roman Empire to the second world war, these tours bring world history to life.
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WIN YOUR ‘PERFECT HOLIDAY’ (Seriously!)

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Ok folks, it’s finally that time of year – the time when you wake up on a rainy, chilly ‘summer’ morning and realise that you were a fool for economising in ’08 and using your holidays to visit Auntie Maeve in Birmingham for her mid-August birthday…boring!

There’s still time to plan an adventure, and there’s a way to do it…and cheaply.

Here’s how:

1. Dream up your wildest, most intriguing/ creative/ exotic/ romantic/ adventurous/ whimsical holiday EVER.

2. Write it down (before you share the idea with any of your friends/family—they will just think you are crazy, thus stifling your creative genius/globe trotting aspirations. For example, my mum wasn’t so keen on my brilliant idea to become a Bollywood dancer in Bombay, so I had to settle for a 4 week course in Mayfair. If only this contest had existed then! ).

3. While we are certain that you would all make fantastic novelists—and would love to jumpstart your careers as travel journalists—we ask that you please reduce the text to 200 words or less and come up with a short, catchy title.

4. Go to the contest website, paste your text in the entry window, and enter to WIN £500 of isango! credit towards your dream holiday.

Click here to enter the Isango! ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest.

We will be posting our favourite entries on the blog throughout July/August, with the shortlist posted here for public voting in early August.

The Grand Prize Winner of the £500 isango! voucher will be announced at the end of August!

Good luck!

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What’s your ‘perfect holiday’?

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Ladies and gentlemen, get excited!

TOMORROW (July 11th, 2008) marks the start of our first ever ‘PERFECT HOLIDAY’ CONTEST.

Basically, you will get the chance win a £500 isango! credit towards your dream holiday by sending us your inventive description of what, exactly, constitutes your ‘perfect holiday’.

Watch this space for more details.

***Update – 14 July 2008***

Official ‘Perfect Holiday’ Contest entry site:

 

http://www.isango.com/PerfectHoliday.aspx

In the meantime, to get your creative juices flowing (because I know you’ve all been dreaming of that perfect, exotic and adventurous getaway and thus will be entering the contest), here is a sample list of some perfect, exotic and adventurous ways that you could cash in that grand prize!

isango!’s 2008 Staff Picks…

1. Diving in the Red Sea

Diego’s love of wetsuits has drawn him to the warm waters, beautiful coral reefs and colourful exotic fish of the Red Sea. A haven for divers, the Sinai Peninsula coast offers some of the world’s finest underwater excursions; the chance to explore this rich biodiversity tops many travellers ‘must do’ lists. A truly unforgettable experience!

2. Golden Triangle Tour in India

This vibrant, picturesque journey takes you to three of India’s most fascinating cities, bringing the colourful history of the country to life. Delhi’s heady mix of cultures enthrals visitors, while the ‘pink city’ of Jaipur (which matches most of Bernie’s clothing—his reason for selecting this fine tour) is thought to offer the finest examples of Hindu architecture in the world. The unquestionable highlight is, of course, the magnificent Taj Mahal.

3. Amazon River Cruise

Single and sassy, Sarah likes to make the most of her (exotic!) holidays. Aside from Brazilian men, she enjoys a fair bit of rainforest adventuring.

Covering half of Brazil, the Amazon Rainforest is the largest tropical rainforest in the world and home to over a third of the world’s species. At its heart, the lifesource of the rainforest provides the intrepid traveller with a pathway through this region’s rich ecosystems.

4. Helicopter Ride Over Grand Canyon

When he’s not lounging in his leer jet, Ranjan likes to take fancy helicopter rides across America! He reports that photos, guidebooks and superlatives cannot do justice to the overwhelming landscape of the Grand Canyon. The only way to truly appreciate the scale of this natural wonder is to soar above its cavernous depths and majestic colours on an exhilarating flight.

5. The Inca Trail: Cusco and Macchu Picchu

An anthropology geek (yes!), Carrie’s excursion of choice must be, she reports, ‘enriching’ and ‘educational’. Among millions of other culture-hungry travellers, she is enthralled by the sacred legacy of Peru’s Inca civilisation.

This fascinating journey begins in the ancient city of Cusco and continues through the most significant of Incan archaeological sites (sigh!). Its climax and undeniable highlight is the dazzling, mountain top “lost city” of Machu Picchu.

6. Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Crater

Ajay and Amrit are up for an African safari adventure!

Arguably the world’s finest nature reserve, the Serengeti National Park and the magnificent Ngorongoro Crater provide a refuge for a fascinating variety of wildlife. After encountering some wildebeasts, zebras, lions and elephants on a guided land excursion, take to the skies on a breathtaking hot air balloon ride! You will come to understand why the term Serengeti, meaning ‘endless plains’, is so apt.

7. Diving with the Sharks in Cape Town

This is one for the thrill seekers, like our globe-trotting Emma!

Leave behind Cape Town’s white sands, blue skies and rolling green mountains and dive deep into the ocean for an experience that is sure to stay with you forever. Nothing can prepare you for the rush of adrenaline you will feel when you come face to face with one of nature’s great predators (so we assume that she would have reported).

8. Great Barrier Reef Cruise

Like Sarah, Jess is constantly on the move. On a quest for friendly adventure (and Aussie love!), she has most recently set her sights on the coast of Queensland.

The largest single structure made by living organisms, the Great Barrier Reef stretches for over 2000km along the northeastern Australia. Home to an abundance of plant and marine life and blessed with year-round sunshine, the reef and nearby tropical islands attract divers, snorkelers, swimmers and cruisers from around the world (providing the perfect backdrop for some romantic dinners!).

9. Adventure Cruise in the Galapagos Islands

When Daniele is out of the office, we suspect that he is hiding on an exotic island with his blackberry. It was thus no surprise that he selected this remote archipelago off the coast of Ecuador.

Boasting some of the world’s most unique animal species, the Galapagos were long untouched by man until made famous by Charles Darwin’s natural selection studies. And though many have followed in his pioneering footsteps to explore the islands’ unique ecosystems, the natural habitats have been well protected and preserved.

Escape the office to join Daniele, and you may encounter some giant Land Iguanas and Blue-footed Booby birds!

10. Giza Pyramids Tour

Rish’s macabre fascination with embalming fluids has made Egypt his destination of choice. His obvious starting point: the alleged tomb of King Khufu.

Travellers will delight in the mystery and legacy of the Pyramids of Giza! Surrounded by a necropolis of ancient monuments, including the world famous Sphinx statue, the Pharoah’s tombs envelop some of the world’s fascinating secrets, as preserved for over 5000 years.

Excited? Inspired?

The isango! ‘PERFECT HOLIDAY’ CONTEST starts tomorrow! Stay tuned!

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What’s for Breakfast?

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Good morning! Awake yet? Hungry? Ready for some stir fried noodles? How about some blackened cow’s blood? Some fried, mushed up pig’s ears?

Mmm, mmm, mmmm…..

I’ve noticed that, when I am traveling, breakfast is often the most difficult meal for me to compromise—it’s early, I’m tired, I may or may not be hungover, and I just want a bowl of Cheerios and a skinny cappuccino to go (yes, to go!). The morning is not the best time for me to be testing my gastronomical limits…..

I find that it’s easier to psych myself up for an exotic, adventurous dinner—or even a crazy lunch—but there’s something sacred about breakfast foods and morning rituals.

Just think about it—we all like our AM dosages of caffeine to be prepared in certain ways, whether small and concentrated, medium and diluted, or large and in charge with 3 added flavors, Starbucks style.

Take a New Yorker out of his or her nest, and you will be hearing about H & H bagels for weeks.

Go on a coffee date with an Aussie, and you’ll doubtlessly depart well-versed in the delightful nuances of ‘flat whites’ and Gloria Jean’s hazelnut lattes.

How do you start your day? One man’s commonplace routine can be another’s most memorable adventure (or worst stomach ache). I’ve surveyed some colleagues and friends, and here are some of the interesting breakfast destinations (Breakinations?) that we came up with……

1. Anchovies, anyone?

Forget your Frosted Flakes …how about a fresh bowl of sweet rice…topped with anchovies?

Yum…

If you’re craving new and exciting cultural and culinary experiences, take a jaunt down to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and kick off your travel adventure by stopping at a roadside stall to delight in the country’s most popular breakfast dish: nasi lemak. The sweet, coconut creamy rice base is typically served with eggs, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, roasted peanuts, spicy sauce, and, of course, anchovies!

2. It’s spicy, it’s sweet, it’s deep fried…it’s Delhi!

If you’re hungry for more adventure, skip over to Delhi, India to sample one of their most popular mid-morning snacks: kachori with aloo dum.

One of my colleagues, originally from Delhi, describes this as one of his favourite breakfast dishes. Basically, a kachori is a deep fried, hollow bread made of wheat and lentils. Kachoris can be filled with various different meat and vegetarian ingredients; in this case, they are stuffed with spicy potato concoction and typically followed by an orange, spiderweb-shaped sweet called a jalebi.

Mmm…

4. Health nuts to Sydney.

Are you turned off by all of the fried, spicy, sweet aforementioned craziness?

Then I suggest going Down Under for some healthy, beachside cooking….

Start of your Australian beach holiday with a traditional Sydney breakfast: smoked Tasmanian salmon on sourdough bread, served with spinach, poached eggs, OJ, a shot of wheat grass, and, of course, a skinny ‘flat white’ (glorified term for a latte). You will be feeling fit in no time!

Heading back home…

Right, so, exotic destinations aside, I can’t get over the English tradition of black pudding, which tends to accompany the full English breakfast (of toast, jam, marmite, fried eggs, sausages, bacon, baked beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms…). It’s fried blood, for crying out loud! Who thought that one up? Weird (but actually…not so bad.)

And to finish on a note which is close to my home and heart, I present to you an American delicacy that most of the world has never heard of: SCRAPPLE.

A patty of finely chopped pork scraps and cornmeal, typically fried and served in a breakfast sandwich. Scrapple is unique to the US Mid Atlantic region (Delaware, Maryland parts of Pennsylvania).

Here, folks, is a segment of the typical ingredient list for this breakfast dish with a cult-like following:

Pig tongue, skin, brains, eyes, ears, head, heart, and liver.

(The hog entrails du jour will vary from patty to patty…)

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