January, 2019

The five places that made me: Ray Chen, virtuoso violinist

Ray Chen: Discovered his affinity with violin aged 8. Photo: SuppliedJAPAN
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I was eight years old when I first realised I wanted to become a violinist for the rest of my life. I was invited to play at the opening ceremony of the 1998 Winter Olympics which were held in Nagano, Japan. It was everything a boy could dream of: an exciting new place to explore, new friends to meet, and amazing food to try. I’m still in touch with the people I met back then, and every year when I go back to perform we get together and catch up. Violin had been a fun hobby up until that point, but then this event made me realise that this little wooden instrument could give me amazing experiences. All I had to do was spend time with it every day.  UNITED STATES

The move from Australia to anywhere is usually a long one, both in distance and time. We are just so far from the rest of the world, that even with modern-day travel it still takes almost 24 hours to get from Europe or the US to Australia. My move to the United States at the age of 16 was the beginning of a new chapter of my life, one that would be filled with obstacles and challenges that were not always enjoyable, but moulded me into the person I am today. Not to mention a constant pressure to prove to everyone that I wouldn’t have to go back home with my tail between my legs. America is a place where people judge you not based on your age or experience, but rather your ability and talent. For me, this was a place that could make my dreams into a reality.  BELGIUM

A place that most people don’t give much thought to except when it comes to beer and chocolate, but in the world of classical music it is where the biggest international violin competition is held every four years. The Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition is the equivalent of the Olympics for violin. I spent a whole month at the competition, plus another month after, performing concert tours in the country, yet managed to learn zero French. This was the place that launched me into the international concert stage – the fast track so to speak, and it will always have a special place in my heart. THE CARIBBEAN

If there’s one thing I love more than travelling and performing, it is going on cruises. I absolutely love the ocean, and there’s no better way for me to relax than spending a week on a boat, waking up each morning in a different exotic place. They can be also such good value – sometimes in the off-peak season you can get a full week for only $600 a person, and that includes all non-alcoholic drinks and meals, room, and on-board entertainment and facilities. You couldn’t even get a hotel for that price.    VENEZUELA

Venezuela. The birthplace of the El Sistema music program which was conceived to keep kids off the streets and away from drugs and violence. It has grown now to more than 700,000 kids playing musical instruments and has spread across the world and inspired similar spin-off programs. I visited last October for the first time and it completely blew my mind to meet so many young people who loved classical music so much. It is their sanctuary, a place to get away from the daily troubles of life. Venezuela has many problems with their economy and general safety. Kidnappings happen daily. Yet among all these troubles something beautiful was created which inspired the rest of the world.

Ray Chen plays Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra  in Hamer Hall on March 10, 11 and 12 at 8pm. Tickets: (03) 9929 9600. See mso南京夜网419论坛.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Deals: Bargains of the week

Stay and play golf at The Datai Langkawi. Photo: SuppliedYOU AND VAN GOGH
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The Peninsula Chicago Keys to the City – Van Gogh  Experience  is a chance to get private access to a special exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago. This package gives up to 10 people entry to the museum prior to opening or after closing, a private guided tour of the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibition, a curator-signed catalogue, two nights in a suite at the Peninsula Chicago, return transfers to the museum, special themed amenities, Wi-Fi, access to the Fitness Centre in The Peninsula Spa, and complimentary use of a chauffeur-driven Mini Cooper for a three-hour exploration of the city.

It costs from $3100, which includes $1000 for accommodation and $2100 a person for the Van Gogh Experience. Offer valid for sale and stays till May 8. See chicago.peninsula南京夜网..


Save 30 per cent with this golf package for a holiday at The Datai Langkawi in Malaysia.

The Datai Els Golf Package combines two-nights’ accommodation with golf at the Els Club Teluk Datai course, designed by Ernie Els. Accommodation is in a Canopy Deluxe room, and you get breakfast each day, return airport transfers and return transfers to the golf course, two rounds of golf at the Els Club Teluk Datai course, including a caddie and two lunches at the Els Club Teluk Datai, Wi-Fi, two pre-dinner drinks at the Lobby Lounge or Beach Club, two dinners at the resort restaurant of choice, a guided nature walk with the hotel’s resident naturalist, and 3pm check-out (subject to availability).

Available for travel April 1 – July 5 and September 1 – December 23.

The price is from $1462 for two nights a room for up to two people. Phone +60 4 9500 500. See thedatai南京夜网.


Save $1600 a couple on Uniworld’s India’s Golden Triangle & The Sacred Ganges river cruise when if you book and pay in full by June 30.

Visit Delhi and the tomb of Emperor Humayun, as well as the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. See Jaipur, the Taj Mahal and visit Mother Teresa’s home and tomb.

It includes a seven-night Ganges River Cruise in a riverview suite on board the all-suite Ganges Voyager II, five nights in Oberoi Hotels & Resorts properties, and specified meals and beverages.

Priced from $12,409 a person twin share, and the deal is for travel January 12 – March 13 and September 30 – December 9, 2017.

Phone 1300 780 231. See uniworld南京夜网.


Preferred Hotels & Resorts has some bed and breakfast offers going for Thailand’s annual Songkran celebrations. Taking place in 2016 from April 13, Songkran (also known as Thai New Year) is the largest water festival in the region – and one of the most spectacular.

The deal gives best available rates with breakfast for two people at properties such as The Siam, a beautiful art deco-inspired boutique luxury hotel, alongside the Chao Praya River. Rates from $573 a night.

Another is the Landmark Bangkok on Sukhumvit Road close to a Skytrain station. Rates from $167 a night.

See preferredhotels南京夜网.


Scandinavia specialist Bentours has waived the single supplement on the following Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands Hurtigruten expeditions: the 19-night Antarctica and the South Atlantic Islands cruise departing October 28; the November 15 departure of the 13-night The Frozen land of the Penguins; and the May 22 departure of the 10-night All About Iceland: Land of Fire & Ice.

Bookings must be made by March 31 to receive the deal. Prices starting from $12,236 a single, representing a saving of $8564.

Phone 1800 221 712. See 梧桐夜网bentours南京夜网419论坛.


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Slow travel: It’s about the journey, not the destination

When we say “long haul” nowadays we’re talking about 24 hours flying time. Often we do it in a monstrous jet in which we barely feel any turbulence. But think about what that might have meant in the past.
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Over the last few years, besides gallivanting around the world in large aircraft, I’ve been writing a novel set in the 1920s and 1930s. That means I’ve had to do a significant amount of research about how people travelled in the early days of leisure transport and commercial aviation.

In the late 1930s, if you had the wherewithal to fly from Sydney to London, you may have done it on a luxury Empire Class flying boat, a journey which took eight days, with 31 stops for refuelling, including Brisbane, Darwin, Surabaya, Singapore, Rangoon, Karachi, Basra and Cairo. The plane lumbered along at 160 miles an hour.

The upside was that there were only 15 passengers, you could get up from your lounge chair and roam around (or smoke) at any time, and there was an observation deck. And imagine how exhilarating it would have been to have visited exotic Surabaya or Rangoon in such style.

For less well-healed mortals it took 40 days to take a steam ship from Australia via the Suez Canal to Europe and most passengers were not afforded the luxury of balconies or even the landscape windows we leisure cruisers demand today. Crowded shared cabins with barely a porthole were the norm in steerage.

In the novel I’m writing, I needed to send a character from New York to Hollywood in 1933. She boarded the 20th Century Limited at Grand Central Station then changed to the Super Chief in Chicago for the 58-hour trip to Los Angeles. Sharing a sleeping compartment with several other Hollywood hopefuls, she amused herself by playing gin rummy in the baggage car.

It’s not much quicker these days, and she would be happily occupied with games on her smartphone, although gin rummy sounds fun.

There are a number of opportunities to travel by train in the style of yesteryear, including the Belmond Hibernian, which launches journeys through Ireland in September. Such trains represent “slow” travel, where you can actually experience where you are going.

Yet 21st century commuter trains can be astonishingly fast, such as the Shanghai Transrapid, which runs between Beijing and Shanghai at a brisk 431km/h. It’s the world’s fastest commercial train, although the Japanese, not to be outdone, have created a prototype for a bullet train that reached 603km/h in trials. We’ll have to wait until 2027 though for the Tokyo-Nagoya service.

See: On board the world’s fastest passenger train

In our century, unless you’re on a round-the-world fare or taking a leisurely world cruise, most travellers wanting to get from point A to point B try to do it as quickly as possible. Fast trains, fast planes. Our anxiety to arrive has overtaken the pleasure of journeying.

When we travel these days it’s often hermetically sealed, with the blinds drawn, headphones on. It’s nice sometimes to get down and dirty.

Recently, in Myanmar, I took a pony trap ride from the bank of the Ayarwaddy River to Ava, the ancient Imperial capital of Burma. Rattling along rutted and dusty roads in the back of the old cart wasn’t exactly enjoyable (I thought my teeth would fly out of my head) but the slow pace of travel meant we could engage with the locals and observe details of daily life we’d miss if we’d gone by in a bus.

In Shanghai, I zoomed through the historic parts of the city in the sidecar of an old World War II-vintage BMW motorbike. At that level, you’re part of street life.

In Ho Chi Minh City, I took a ride through the streets at night on the back of a vintage Vespa. Saigon’s traffic is terrifying but going with the flow in such an intense way was invigorating.

See: How Ho Chi Minh City has changed

I dislike small planes, or thought I did, but taking an eight-passenger seaplane from Colombo to the tea plantations was mind-blowing, looping through the clouds and drifting over the mountains. It felt very much what it might have been like to travel in a biplane in the 1930s.

One could argue that the latest fad, hoverboards, get you down and dirty too. (Maybe a little too dirty if they explode.)

I’m all for modern technology, but sometimes being close enough to smell the daisies (or pig stys) is a trip all by itself.

See also: Why we feel the need to travel

See also: Obsessions: Places we feel compelled to visit

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


How do I get an upgrade in my cruise cabin?

Cruisers who have demonstrated loyalty to the cruise line are more likely to receive favourable consideration. Photo: SuppliedJust as with airline upgrades, there is no sure-fire way to shoehorn yourself into a better cabin than the one you’ve paid for but there are strategies that can swing the odds in your favour.
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Cruisers who have demonstrated loyalty to the cruise line are more likely to receive favourable consideration if there are better cabins available.

During off-peak season, a cruise line might not drop its prices but it might have empty cabins in superior categories, in which case the upgrade might be a bargaining chip to secure your booking.

Travel agents who make a lot of bookings with a particular cruise line carry more weight than agents who only book the occasional cruise.

Passengers who book through the big spenders can benefit from their power to persuade.

There is nothing wrong with asking.

When you board, approach the purser’s office with your best happy face and put in your request.

Guarantee cabins are usually the lowest price, but they come with the guarantee that at the very least the passenger will be assigned the lowest cabin in that category, however in many cases their cabin will be better than what they’ve paid for.

Don’t set your heart on an upgrade.

Even if the upgrade fairy waves her magic wand in your direction, your new cabin might not be the luxury lotus land you’d dreamed of.

You might get an upgrade to a better class of cabin, but to an undesirable location within that class.

For example, close to a noisy catering area, or – heaven forbid – under the disco.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Where to eat in the Barossa Valley, South Australia: Chef Ryan Edwards

Ryan Edwards likes going for bush walks in his spare time. Photo: SuppliedExecutive Chef Ryan Edwards grew up on a small mixed farm in the Barossa. He has a genuine connection to the land and a love of real food and food traditions. He worked in deluxe resorts in Far North Queensland and the Gold Coast before returning to the Barossa in 2004, eventually joining the team at Appellation at The Louise in 2008. Under his hand, the restaurant has received many accolades and is considered one of the best in Australia. See appellation南京夜网419论坛. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE TABLE IN THE BAROSSA VALLEY?
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The Barossa offering for dining is becoming a varied and ever-expanding one, however, as a chef and a keen Barossa Farmers Market attendee, there is no second for the market burger on a Saturday morning. Barossa Heritage Pork free range bacon, Waechter’s free range egg, caramelised onion, Al’s baby spinach, Eleni’s delicious bun and Farm Follies chutney is a glorious combination of local produce, and the sense of community at the shared tables. See barossafarmersmarket南京夜网419论坛. THE LOCAL FOOD DISCOVERY OF THE PAST YEAR?

My local food discovery of 2015 would have to have been picking muntries in the Adelaide Hills. A friend of mine, John from Cornucopia Olive Oil asked if I wanted to join him for the day in a hunt for the small native apple. It was a great experience and it went into making some of the best chutney and jam I have ever made. WHAT IS THE BAROSSA VALLEY’S BEST-KEPT FOOD SECRET?

There is a little old lady, but don’t let that fool you, who makes the best jams, jellies and preserves – possibly in the world. She is a CWA hero and has probably never lost at cooking in her life. She is so protective of her recipes that during the making of a documentary about her, she locked the cameras in a separate room during some of the processing. The evidence is there for all to taste at the market quite often, and her plum jam and mustard pickles are out of control. PLACE TO GO ON A DAY OFF?

Kaiserstuhl is a conservation park in the Barossa Ranges. It has panoramic views of the Barossa Valley and has two great short bush walks that are full of flora and fauna from this region. It’s a great spot to takes the kids for a picnic and the likelihood of seeing a kangaroo is pretty high. See environment.sa.gov419论坛. FAVOURITE INDULGENCE IN THE BAROSSA VALLEY?

We are fortunate to have many great cellar doors, and many different subregions and winemaking styles that it could be a nearly endless search for the best wines in the Barossa. Most of these places offer great food offerings for lunch. You could indulge for as long as your body can keep up. PLACE TO GO FOR A BIG NIGHT OUT?

Big arvo out is what I look for, a Sunday Funday with live music and great food at Gibson Wines is probably the most enjoyable way to spend a very rare Sunday off and best way to relax with family and drink some great wines. See gibsonwines南京夜网419论坛. BEST TIME TO VISIT, AND WHY, FOOD-WISE, IN THE BAROSSA VALLEY?

In mid-April every second year we have one of the best food and wine tourism events in Australia happening, with the Barossa Vintage Festival. With 95 events over five days, with everything from foot-stomping grapes to long lunches and serious wine education, it has something for everyone. It also draws some of South Australia’s best chefs, showcasing all of what this state has to offer. See barossavintagefestival南京夜网419论坛. WHAT SHOULD A VISITOR AVOID, FOOD-WISE, IN THE BAROSSA VALLEY?

Lukewarm pies from the petrol station – no matter how much you indulged the day before.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.