150 reasons to celebrate at Travel Writers Radio

This week Travel Writers Radio celebrates its 150th episode.   In a little over three years the show has amassed about 1000 interviews and more than 800 of them are now available to download at https:/soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio.

Travel Writers Radio is produced and presented by the Professional Association of Lifestyle and Travel Writers (PALAT) Travel Writers Radio is a weekly program covering the “flavours” of travel – food, beverages, wellness and lifestyle – plus all forms of travel and tourism experiences whether for business or leisure.  Travel and tourism is a vital economic activity for many countries and we are Australia’s only prime-time radio program covering the business events/MICE sector.  Importantly, we interview the people making a difference in our industry, people who love their jobs and happily share their stories, their interesting destinations or the serendipity of simply wandering the world.

Heard every Wednesday drive time ( from 5 pm to 7pm ) on J-AIR 87.8FM radio in Melbourne, Travel Writers Radio also broadcasts live via the Internet at http://www.j-air.com.au. We have iOS and Android smartphone apps and we have a podcast facility, now hosted on our own SoundCloud site – https:/soundcloud.com/travelwritersradio

As a PALAT member we invite you to contribute editorial content to the show. If you are a member of the travel industry we welcome your story suggestions on topics you believe would be of interest to our audience. Just email us – info@travelwritersradio.com.

PALAT members are professional journalists, authors, photographers, videographers and broadcasters – all storytellers working across a range of media from print to online.  If you fit one of these categories, or are studying a recognised tertiary degree course in any of these disciplines we welcome your inquiry about membership. We currently have members across Australasia, USA, and Europe. We’re a small but growing organisation with local experience and a global perspective of the benefits of travel to broaden the mind and enlighten both reporter and listener.


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Travelling with a Twist – Health and Fitness Holidays

Samantha Lippiatt spent quite a few years in the ‘mainstream’ of the travel business; a few years she had this idea about health, wellness and travel so she went in search of an opportunity and found it with a business called Health and Fitness Travel.  Samantha is now an entrepreneur, healthy lifestyle advocate and co-founder of Australia’s first speciality wellness travel company Health and Fitness Travel. She has an unbridled enthusiasm for all things travel, health and fitness and is committed to providing healthy holidays options that not only enhance but change lives.

Peace and harmony
Peace and harmony

I caught up with Sam  – on the Travel Writers Show -on Melbourne’s J-Air just few days ago and asked her first:

How did you get into the Health and Fitness Travel Business?

I wanted to combine my passions for wellness and travel, originally I was looking to set up my own retreat and in doing so I noticed there was no platform on which to market these types of holidays even though my research showed it was becoming increasingly popular. My personal experience and market research showed me that travellers, particularly within the wellness sector, wanted a trustworthy, knowledgeable and localised contact to help guide them through their booking experience and to help them explore the many options on offer.

During my research I came across Health and Fitness Travel in the UK, the “experts in tailor-made healthy holidays”; and after studying them and their business model I knew I had to bring this business to Australia. It was immediately well received with many travellers calling in and telling us how they had been on the lookout for such a business and booking up their healthy holidays and it continues to gain popularity and followers month-on-month.

Wellness tourism is a fast growing market segment – up so 35% over the last few years is that what you see in your business:

The local wellness tourism sector is growing every day with more and more Australians seeking better ways to take care of themselves and to improve their lifestyle. There is a growing segment of travellers who are even taking trips specifically focused on maintaining and improving their personal health and well-being. This is driving the growth of wellness tourism and we can’t wait to see Wellness Travel go mainstream.

What sort of holidays are people buying:

There is a big focus early in the year on fitness and overall healthy lifestyles to kick-start the New Year, and lots of de-stress and relaxation holidays booked for later in the year to give travellers something to look forward to as they move into another busy year.  A big trend we have identified is the Yoga fusion holiday where guests combine yoga with another interest such as Yoga and spa to de-stress, Yoga and Stand up Paddle-board for fitness and fun. There are others who want to explore the country in which they are travelling, so they look at our bespoke Discover Recover range.
One property in particular is very popular with Australian Travellers and a personal favourite of mine, Kamalaya in Koh Samui Thailand and I believe that is due to the wide range of programs on offer. From detox to fitness and even a program tailored especially around embracing major life change there is something on offer for every wellness traveller.

Tai Chi in the Mountains
Tai Chi in the Mountains

You have a great website; does that drive a lot of traffic:

We are really proud of our website, it is easy to navigate, provides the option to browse by destination, specific health and fitness holiday experiences or preferred time of year to travel. We also have a great blog attached to it with lots of wellness industry information and industry experts including personal trainers, sports instructors, nutritionists and yoga teachers, as well as local destination specialists will often share advice for our readers. This year we will be adding more functionality and creating a mobile friendly version as we know lots of our clients like to research on their lunch-break via their hand held devices.

You seem to have a very full range of holidays on offer:

Health and Fitness Travel provides clients with a huge range of bespoke active and wellness getaways worldwide; from fitness, to detox and de-stress programs through to comprehensive well-being spa and rejuvenation retreats, and we can tailor make the perfect health and fitness holidays to suit our clients goals and interests. We have even created our own exclusive range “Fusion Fitness” holidays that allows us to create a program unique to the traveller with many leading properties where this option did not exist before.

So whether people want to be active on holiday and learn a new activity such as kite-surfing, mountain biking, diving and tennis, or simply relax in a spa, meditate or participate in a yoga class, detox or fitness program, we’ll find the perfect health and fitness holiday for them.

Morning fitness with a view
Morning fitness with a view

Do you regularly have special offers available:

Yes we do – We promote all of our latest offers via the website, and as part of our negotiations we are often able to include special bonus inclusions exclusively for guests of Health and Fitness Travel.

Do you have a personal favourite H&F destination:

There are so many, we have a just partnered with a fantastic collective of luxury walks in Australia (Great walks of Australia) and I am about to join one to explore down in Tasmania and I am really looking forward to it.
Some of my all-time favourites very close to home are:

Aro Ha Retreat, perfect for a detox and fitness holiday located just outside of Queenstown, New Zealand offering an all-inclusive eco-friendly retreat where you begin and end your days with yoga and in-between explore the stunning scenery with sub-alpine hiking, my husband loved this property and we both felt so revitalised after our stay.  COMO Shambhala in Bali, is fantastic for a de-stress and relaxation holiday where you can focus on your total wellbeing, Guest teachers and practitioners fly in from all over the world to this spectacular wellness sanctuary. The spa is world class and the food is so healthy but delicious. What more could you ask for?
San went on to offer a couple of specials for our listeners on J-Air and they are in fact still available for any readers who wish to take advantage of them: To find out more go to the website: www.healthandfitnesstravel.com.au

Peter Watson

For those who want to read more about the global growth in wellness travel, there is a comprehensive report available on the Global Wellness Summit http://bit.ly/1641rVg

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Culinary “sensei” reveals secret to great sushi


It was on a push bicycle tour of Japan, with little more than a sleeping bag and his notebook, Kengo Hiromatsu decided he would become a chef.

From East to West, North to South, Kengo quite literally ate his way around his home country, taking notes as he went.

With each region having its own signature dish, he decided food was such an important part of every day life, he’d like to be a part of that.

He tried cooking school, but left before completing the degree and turned to a hands-on education instead, working his way diligently from front of house, to back of house, before returning to specialise in Japanese cuisine and get the obligatory qualification.

Kengo honed his trade in various restaurants around Japan for some 20 years before he came to Paul Mathis’ Tokyo inspired restaurant and bar, Akachochin (www.akachochin.com.au) in the newly developed South Wharf precinct of Melbourne.

It’s no surprise he was chosen for Akachochin, whose specialty sake range comprises 50 different varieties matched to the region from which dishes originate – allowing you to eat and drink you way around Japan.

From sushi to specialised Japanese dishes – you’ll find it here.

But Kengo’s top pick? The Hiramasa Namerou, or kingfish tartare .. a signature dish in east coast Japan .. and now a signature dish at Akachochin.

To speak with him you’d never know that just a matter of months ago he was living in the western part of Japan unable to speak any English.

“I like Australia, it’s actually quite similar to my home town and the people are very kind. They really like the authentic Japanese cuisine.”

So what’s this culinary sensei’s secret to cooking the best sushi?

“Don’t put it in the fridge” he says.

“It hardens the rice, changes the texture and when you put fresh fish on it, it tastes much better if it’s room temperature.”

It’s the simple things that matter, he tells me.

His other tip – pour sushi vinegar in the rice straight after cooking the rice, when it’s hot, not cold, and don’t stir it, but instead use a cutting action through the rice to separate it.

Fresh fish is imperative at Akachochin, and it’s something Kengo lives by, going to the fish markets and choosing his own fish every day.

Besides his travel epiphany to become a chef, there was another influence – his mother.

“My mother loved cooking and introduced lots of dishes to us, I have sometimes tried to make dishes like her.”

“Do you succeed?” I ask.

“No, no”, he says, “just try.”

Looking at the dishes he’s preparing for the day, I’m guessing she’d be well impressed.

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Melbourne Minute – Docklands Arts, Laughs and Blues Festival

There’s still a couple of days left of school holidays and if you’ve run out of ideas to entertain the kids, never fear, as today marks the start of the Docklands Arts, Laughs and Blues Festival, which you guessed it, features all things arts, laughs and blues.

Running for five days until Sunday, the Wonderland Spiegeltent will be the centre of the action where one of the major highlights will be Michael Boyd’s Spellbound Illusion Spectacular on daily.

Wonderland Fun Park will host family day on Saturday featuring Snap’s Kakadu Club with ventriloquist Lindi Jane, and mini puppet show performed by Lana Schwarcz, The Tiniest Show on Earth.

For adults, there’s the Docklands Arts, Laughs and Blues Comedy Gala on Saturday night starring funny men Peter Helliar and Bob Franklin.

And on Sunday, there’ll be a free, all-day music festival with 20 Blues bands on five stages.

For more information and to book tickets visit docklandsartsandlaughsfestival.com.au.

And that’s the Docklands Arts, Laughs and Blues Festival for the Melbourne Minute.

Melbourne Minute – Royal Melbourne Show

The Royal Melbourne Show kicks off this weekend at the Melbourne Showgrounds and while I highly recommend the planning app to make the most of your visit, here’s a guide to this year’s Show in a minute.

If you’ve got little ones then the Jayco Animal Nursery is the place to be, housing more than 450 animals and a patting pen.

For foodies, visit the Tastes of Victoria Pavilion, which is home to the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Deli and pop-up restaurant featuring dishes from some of Melbourne’s hottest restaurants.

If you’re a fan of MasterChef then take a behind-the-scenes look at the show on a Kitchen Tour – you may even bump into a former contestant!

Justice Crew and Dami Im are just some of the music stars that will perform in the Herald Sun Entertainment Dome, and finally, you simply can’t leave the Show without a show bag. This year there’s 385 on offer including the $2 iconic Bertie Beetle show bag.

The Royal Melbourne Show runs until Wednesday, 1 October.

For more information and to book tickets visit royalshow.com.au.

And that’s the Royal Melbourne Show for the Melbourne Minute.

Walking Saigon

“You want cheap ride Saigon River”, is what the Rickshaw man is shouting, although it takes me a few minutes to work it out properly, his lack of front teeth and his very fractured English make him a tad hard to understand.  But I do get it in the end.  In fact cheap rides to the Saigon River seem like the special of the morning because it was what I am constantly being offered on my early morning walk through the streets, towards (yes – you guessed it) the Saigon River.

It is overcast, a bit misty, already quite warm, even at six thirty on a Monday morning, but not yet oppressive, that will, no doubt, come later.  I thought I might, just might, beat the Rickshaw boys by being out this early.  I really thought that I might escape the constant barrage of offers, suggestions and questions about where I am from; but no, silly me, of course they are there out and about touting for business as good self-employed workers should, they were clearly taught, as I was, that “the early bird catches the worm.”Mind you, this worm has not been caught, well not yet anyway, because walking is the thing and the actual destination does not matter.  

The square near the Ben Tanh Market
Traffic in the square near the Ben Tanh Market

I do not know about you but I like watching cities wake up, they are all different, and they all rub the sleep out of their eyes in their own special way.  Saigon sort of drifts into consciousness, it does not explode at a frantic pace like New York; it does not stretch, yawn and belch like Cairo and it certainly does burst into life with the very British bustle of London.  Saigon wakens slowly, sluggishly a little bit like the Saigon River that drifts slowly past but with a purpose and with a lot of people moving about.

The big event of the morning appears to be breakfast on the street, everywhere there are locals partaking of Tea, Coffee; both the hot and the iced versions or some other concoction that looks suspiciously like beer but I am sure is not, whilst squatted on small stools, or just on their heels Asian style (how do they do that by the way, and seem so comfortable); or sitting in doorways or even just standing around.  The drinks are very personal with each person having their own little pot or cafetiere in which they brew their own drink.  Then they serve themselves in their own cup, mug or glass; so they are not served as in a Melbourne coffee shop and it is much more like a home brew.  The food is a bun of some sort stuffed with a variety of fillings – or fruit.  It is all consumed at an unhurried pace before the business of the day begins.

As I walk things sprung to life all around me, lottery ticket sellers are everywhere, spruiking their wares at the workers, cigarette and postcard sellers are out and about pushing their products, working men head to work in an unhurried but purposeful way, while a few “working girls” (out late) hurry home, maybe they have to get ready to work their day job.  The traffic increases as I approach the river, the noise level also, as the car horns start up their almost endless cacophony, a noise level that will last all day.

Just step out - don't blink - just go
Just step out – don’t blink – just go

The traffic around the river is getting busy, cars, bikes, rickshaws, pushbikes and even hand pushed barrows all compete for space along the main road and I need to cross through it all to get to my (self-imposed) destination, the river.  So with total confidence I step off to cross the street, a Rickshaw Man (the one with no teeth) immediately jumps out between me and the traffic, to protect me (completely unneeded) is what he wants me to think but more to impress me is what I guess.

 Just a word about Rickshaw Man; he has been following me now for the 30 plus minutes that I have been walking and a single word springs to my mind: “sequencing”!  Matthew Reilly in his first book “The Contest” used the word “sequencing” to explain how the strange collection of creatures who were all involved in the contest could follow one another before the battle officially began.  They could not touch one another but they could follow; he called if “sequencing”.  It adequately describes Rickshaw Mans behaviour.

River reached I walk along the waterfront heading away from my hotel for 10 more minutes then I will turn and walk across town going home via a different route.  He is still sequencing me, his efforts to get me on board increase and they are becoming tiresome and wearying.  As I turn for home I reach into my Billy Connelly book of quotations and use his (and my) favourite expression for “Go Away!”  The two word expression, of which the second word is “off”, has the desired effect, he understands it, mutters something in Vietnamese, I suspect not dissimilar to what I have just said and goes; but we are fated to meet later in the morning; but that indeed is another story.

Slow moving traffic on the river
Slow moving traffic on the river

Through the increasing traffic and increasing numbers of people I walk, at a leisurely pace back to my hotel, the Sheraton Saigon, when I finally arrive the girl on the door greets my like a long lost friend, “enjoy your walk sir” is her question; “most of it” is my answer, “ but Rickshaw Man was a bit of a pain”.  She does not get it, of course, and just smiles sweetly and welcomes me into the blissful cool and relative quiet of the hotel lobby.

Walking Saigon first thing in the morning is great fun, quite educational and a good way to start to your day, just try to stay away from Rickshaw Man!   If that fails then perhaps put my Billy Connelly vocabulary, or your own personal equivalent of it to work first off; it might not be PC but it will get you some peace, for a while!

So its over to you – Tell us about waking up in your favourite city – and your experience – just reply here with a contact and we will get back to you or send us an SMS to 0479 355 566 – and we just may call and talk to you on the Travel Writers Show

IFWTWA Australasia launches Travel Writers radio show

ifwtwaAUST-smlsqThe International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA), a global network of journalists who cover the hospitality and lifestyle fields, today launched the Travel Writers radio show, an initiative of IFWTWA’s Australasia division.
The program will be heard on Melbourne’s newest FM station J-AIR and via the Internet to a mobile and a global audience (www.j-air.com.au).  J-AIR is a community-based broadcaster with a narrowcast commercial FM licence to transmit for 10 km around Caulfield to a potential audience of almost one million people.  J-AIR has been broadcasting via the Internet for 18 months, but its FM signal is expected to be live later this month at 87.8 FM. The Travel Writers radio show airs Wednesdays at 1pm (AEST), hosted by industry veterans, Graeme Kemlo and Peter Watson.
Announcing the move, IFWTWA Australasia chair, Graeme Kemlo, said the program covering both leisure and business travel topics as well as culinary and wine tourism.
“It is designed to entertain, inform and inspire”.  It features IFWTWA members from across its global membership base reporting the latest travel news, interviews, travel tips, reviews of destinations, food, wine and unique experiences for travellers around the world, or around the corner in Australia’s cities and regions.
“We have a wonderful network of experienced travellers who cover the globe in words and pictures and will provide first-hand accounts of their adventures.  It will be a collaborative effort co-ordinated from Melbourne with reporting by members across Australia, South East Asia, the South Pacific, United States, Canada and Europe,” Graeme said.
“The ‘wireless’, as we once described it, is a wonderful medium that allows a listener to dream of exotic locations and aspirational experiences.  So, alongside the expertise of our writers in food, wine and travel – many have their own columns, travel apps, books, websites and blogs – we’ll supplement their radio reportage with information and images posted to the IFWTWA website (www.ifwtwa.org) and the blog – foodwinetraveltips,” he said.
Peter Watson, who spent many years as a senior executive in the Australian travel industry, said the program was also designed to lift the veil on the industry for travel consumers and would cover topics such as: should you book everything on the Net; how far out should you buy an air ticket/ hotel/cruise; how (not) to get an upgrade; travel health; the best travel technology; how to identify and avoid travel scams; should you believe online hotel reviews; and how to choose from the myriad of travel money options.

Here’s a link to the podcast of the first episode –

– Graeme Kemlo

Garuda Golden Chefs

The Garuda Mystery Box
The Garuda Mystery Box

Have you ever eaten, or more correctly sampled, nine separate two course meals,  prepared by some of our best chefs, over nine hours.  I can tell you its both a challenge, tasting so much great food, over an extended period; and an genuine educational experience, one that gives you a small insight into the behind the scenes action in the kitchens of some of our finest restaurants and the skill of our top chefs.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I did just that, when I rocked up to the Comcater offices in South Melbourne early on a Monday morning.  Comcater, who are major sponsors of the prestigious Golden Plate Awards had provided their stunning kitchen complex as the venue to host the Garuda Indonesia – Chef of the Year cook off for the 2013 awards and I was one of the judges.

Nine chefs had qualified for the cook off, three from each of the regions (Ballarat-Daylesford; Greater Bendigo and Geelong-Otway) in which the awards are contested.  First each chef received a nomination from the two judges who judged their restaurant during the course of the competition, and then all those nominees received further consideration from the full judging panel.

Each chef arrived at the venue aware of the challenge ahead, which was the Garuda Mystery Box, but of course without any idea of the contents of that ‘mystery’ box.  Everyone had 45 minutes prep time and a further 45 minutes cooking time to prepare an entree and main course that was then judged and scored by our panel of four judges; which was lead by industry legend Rita Erlich.

Salmon on Pumpkin and Ginger Puree
Salmon on Pumpkin and Ginger Puree

Chef Richard Mee from Mercato (Daylesford) started us off with an entree of duck and a main course of salmon, and he turned out to be the odd man out for the day as everyone else went the other way.  Over the course of the next nine hours we watched as chefs chopped and diced, carved and sliced, blended and pureed, roasted and sous-vied; and then delivered nine delicious meals to our judges table.

Two plates for each course was the order of the day, so consistency (between the two) was important and the variety of colours, styles, tastes and textures was amazing.  After our fourth or was it fifth main course of duck, a line from an episode of that immortal show ‘Fawlty Towers’ popped unprompted into my brain, I confess that it stayed there for the rest of the day.

The episode is called Gourmet Night and the line offered by one of the guests after (as usual) everything has gone wrong is:-”so it’s just the duck then Fawlty”? to which Basil replies “yes Major but duck done three extremely different ways”!  You may recall that on offer that night was duck with cherries, duck with orange and duck surprise; which prompted this question: “and pray what is duck surprise Fawlty”? – and this response: “that’s duck without orange or cherries Major”!

Well none of our ducks had cherries though a couple did have orange, but all of our chefs delivered plenty of surprises in their wide and varied presentation of both the duck and the salmon.

Duck Anyone
Duck Anyone

We judges had our work cut out for us picking our regional winners from which would emerge our overall champion, who will be crowned the Garuda Indonesia – Golden Plate Awards – Chef of the Year.  Who is it – you will just have to wait until November 11th when the announcement is made and the prize presented at a gala evening in Geelong.

Potsdam – Walking in History and a Great Lunch

Schloss Cecilienhoff - site of the Potsdam Conference
Schloss Cecilienhoff – site of the Potsdam Conference

Potsdam, is around 40 minutes from Berlin by train, and is an important part of European cultural history.  Not only is Potsdam the site of some famous country estates that belonged at one time or other to various Kaiser’s and Kings; including the World Heritage listed Sanssouci Palace and Park.   Potsdam is also famous for the Potsdam Conference – held at Schloss Cecilienhof in 1945; which sealed the fate of Germany after WW2.

It was a pleasant and relaxing 40 minute train ride from Alexanderplatz to Potsdam, and we alighted at Park Sanssouci and took a short walk to the Neues Palace, sadly it was closed for the day, which was perhaps just as well as it is looking very much in need of both a good clean and some extensive repair work.  We then embarked on a longer and more energetic walk through the magnificent parkland, it covers almost 300 hectares, heading for Schloss Sanssouci.

Sanssouci was commissioned by Frederick the Great of Prussia in 1745, because he wanted to live sans souci (outside the city), which in Frederick’s case, meant outside the hated city.  The palace and grounds are both magnificent and extensive.  and there is a guided tour available.  Departing Sanssouci we headed for our second (and lunchtime) destination Schloss Cecilienhof.  The schloss is now a luxury hotel and we first sought out the well respected and much talked about restaurant, after all it was herself who had said; “the best part of sightseeing is a long lunch”!

Having found said restaurant we settled in and enjoyed a leisurely and delicious lunch.  We started sipping a delightfully tasty and tangy German Rose, which came from Syrah Grapes and was almost a soft blush, it was so good we stayed with it through lunch.

German Rose - A Syrah Blush
German Rose – A Syrah Blush

We went straight on to main courses, calves liver (her) and stuffed guinea fowl (me) and followed up with cheese.  The calves liver, enjoyed by the famous eater of offal, was a superb meal, served with mash and caramelized onions, it was topped off by three lightly fried onion rings  and was pronounced by both the eater and the taster as perfection.

The guinea fowl, which is a dish I had never previously eaten, was served as leg (you would call it Maryland if it was chicken) and breast, stuffed with forcemeat, on a base of potato gnocchi, with tomato, spring onion and a very delicate foam sauce.  In a word; delicious! If you want more words, then I quote: “one of the best bird meals I have ever eaten, anywhere.”  We finished with a shared cheese platter, which was five different cheese, two different breads and condiments; it looked great  and tasted the same; and coffee – good coffee, real coffee, proper coffee – you get the drift.

Guinea fowl – tasted as good as it looks
Calfs liver - superbly presented
Calfs liver – superbly presented

After lunch we explored the grounds, had a quick look at the conference venue (from the outside) and then headed for the station and the trip home.  It was a great day out, and one I am happy to recommend – and not only because a good lunch awaits – but the sights are great, the gardens brilliant, you are walking through history and the train journey itself a bit of fun.

Peter Watson

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