August 19, 2010

From John Cleese aboard Queen Mary

Greetings land-bound friends!

Here's a little postcard from my deck chair on the Queen Mary 2. I had a simply delightful time crossing the Atlantic from New York to Southampton recently. Just like Michael Palin on a freighter, I worked for my supper too. I wonder if his menu ever included Crab & Baby Shrimp Thermidor?

Performing on board is like visiting with old friends. I played an episode of Fawlty Towers, showed some film clips and told stories, which thankfully, the kind audience found amusing. It really is one of the most enjoyable experiences. Here's a clip of a show on the QM2 from a few years ago that you might enjoy.

Now that I'm back in the UK, there are only a few more weeks before I'll be out on tour again in Scandinavia. I'll need to brush up on my Norwegian and continue rehabilitating my bionic knee, which is feeling much better, thank you. So much better, in fact, that when I return from my Nordic tour, I don't know whether I should book a trip to Fatima or visit Haggis.

Finally, one of my minons found that someone was asking if I was the funniest man alive. It was good to see that people on that site are no longer asking if I'm alive.

Until next time,

Admiral Cheese

P.S. The minions have asked me to remind you that the UK and US shops are bursting with stylish togs to display your good taste and intelligence.

August 17, 2010

Sabah, Malaysian Borneo: An adventure paradise close to home

With ample opportunity for diving, jungle trekking, wildlife spotting, mountain climbing, caving, rafting or four wheel driving, Malaysia offers a zenith for adventure seekers and the island of Borneo, is often considered Malaysia’s adventure capital.

Malaysian Borneo boasts 16 of the nation’s 19 national parks and Kinabalu Park, with the towering Mount Kinabalu is undoubtedly the island’s biggest attraction.

Even for those not wishing to climb the mountain itself, the park has numerous walking trails with spectacular views. The area is a botanical paradise; over 1,000 species of orchids grow, insectivorous pitcher plants are at home in the park, as are dozens of species of rhododendrons. Nearly 300 bird species live in the park along with multiple other animals from squirrels to snakes. Lucky visitors may even catch a look at the Rafflesia, the world’s biggest flower.

Responsible for most of the accommodation in Kinabalu Park and Asia’s first fully integrated lifestyle resort in Kota Kinabalu, Sutera Harbour is a popular choice for visitors.

Sutera Harbour Resort is a 384-acre fully-integrated property development on the coastline of Kota Kinabalu city centre in Sabah, Malaysia.

Sutera Harbour’s upmarket Magellan or affordable Pacific Sutera properties are located just ten minutes from the airport and five minutes from the heart of Kota Kinabalu and are a great base to spend a few days discovering Kota Kinabalu, gaining strength or braving other soft adventure activities such as white water rafting on the nearby Padas River.

Both hotels are located in the one resort with 14 restaurants, spacious rooms, two luxurious Mandara Spas and world-class recreational facilities including a 50 metre lap pool, a fully equipped gymnasium, bowling alley, squash and tennis courts.

Operating most of the accommodation in Kinabalu Park, Sutera Harbour can easily organise a three night adventure for climbers. Sutera Harbour run cosy accommodation at Park Head Quarters, the Laban Rata rest house at 3272 metres on Mount Kinabalu and accommodation at the therapeutic Poring Hot Springs where many climbers soak their weary muscles after the climb.

For climbers who seek a little additional adrenaline and a physical challenge, Mountain Torq’s Via Ferratta experience offers brave climbers the chance to hang off a mountain at 3776 metres with little or no mountain climbing experience.

Mountain Torq’s Low’s Peak Circuit is the world’s highest Via Ferratta at 3776 metres or there is the lower and slightly less arduous Walk the Torq route at 3520 metres. Climbers who attempted the Via Ferratta have preference to stay in Pendant Hut, a cosy and eco-friendly alpine lodge located on the Laban Rata rock face.

Even the hardest adventurers need time out to rest and rejuvenate and Sabah’s pristine white sand beaches, luxurious resorts, designer golf courses and blissful spas offer idyllic downtime.

With an engaging range of outdoor activities, including a Nature Reserve, Orang Utan education centre and an ecologically friendly championship golf course, Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort is the premier luxury resort in Kota Kinabalu that offers the best of Sabah in a lush, 400-acre tropical setting beside exquisite Pantai Dalit Beach.

For some purely indulgent luxuriating, the Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort is a beautiful place to spend time at sea level. Stretching along a white sand beach on the South China Sea, the resort boasts some of Kota Kinabalu’s best restaurants, lush recently refurbished Ocean Wing Rooms, two pools, an orang-utan sanctuary and a fabulous spa where a traditional massage will relieve tired muscles.

When travelling around Malaysia or to other parts of the world, a few days in Malaysia’s vibrant capital, Kuala Lumpur is a must. Mouth-watering food, affordable accommodation, exceptional shopping, spas and a lively multicultural environment, make KL a popular stopover destination for Australians.

The KLIA Express high-speed train service costs 35 RYM one way, or around $AUD 12.00, takes visitors directly to the city centre where a range of great value hotels are conveniently located close to efficient transport.

For active appetites, sampling Malaysian delicacies derived from Malaysia’s three main ethnic influences; Malay, Chinese and Indian, will be a highlight. Spicy aromas and exotic fruits greet you at every turn and the delectable flavours are complemented by very palatable prices.

Along with indulgent eating, pampering and relaxation, Kuala Lumpur boasts a range of unique attractions including the majestic Petronas Twin Towers, fun parks, the KL Lake Gardens, the historic National Museum and the royal Istana Negara (official residence of his majesty The King of Malaysia).

A tower of zest and charm, this hotel is centrally located in the heart of the business and shopping district of Kuala Lumpur.

Centrally located in Kuala Lumpur, the Berjaya Times Square offers a convenient base to get the most out of a stopover in Kuala Lumpur.

To book a holiday to Malaysia, call Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 to book or see

Malaysia airlines flies 47 times a week from Australia to Kuala Lumpur and has regular
connections to Kota Kinabalu

For more information visit


Deals available from Flight Centre

Flight Centre has a two-night package that includes accommodation at the 4-star Berjaya Times Square in a Deluxe Suite and breakfast daily. Priced from $149* per person twin share.

Valid for travel from August 16 to December 14, 2010, and from January 4 to March 31, 2011 and valid for sale until September 30, 2010

Phone Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 bookings or see

Flight Centre has a two-night package that includes accommodation at the 5-star Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort & Spa in a Superior Rainforest View Room and breakfast daily. Priced from $239* per person twin share.

Valid for travel from September 1 to December 20, 2010, from January 5 to 31, and from February 8 to March 31, 2011 and valid for sale until September 30, 2010

Phone Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 bookings or see

Flight Centre has a two-night package that includes accommodation at the 4-star The Pacific Sutera in a Deluxe Golf View Room and breakfast daily, plus a welcome host, a welcome tea, a tropical fruit basket, a welcome gift, and nightly turn down service. Priced from $189* per person twin share.

Phone Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 bookings or see

Flight Centre has a two-night package that includes accommodation at the 5-star Magellan Sutera a Deluxe Garden View Room and breakfast daily, plus a welcome host, a welcome tea, a tropical fruit basket, a welcome gift, and nightly turn down service. Priced from $205* per person twin share.

Phone Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 bookings or see


Return economy airfares to Kota Kinabalu with Malaysia Airlines are priced from $1069* per person, departing Sydney.

Price includes airfare taxes and is valid for travel between September 1 to December 8 and from January 15 to March 31, 2010.

Phone Flight Centre on 1300 939 414 bookings or see

Britain Calling: August 2010

Roald DalhBritain
Roald Dahl Day celebrates the work, life and legacy of one of the world’s best-loved storytellers.
It takes place on his birthday, 12 September, at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre and in the nearby Gipsy House garden in Great Missenden in the south of England, where Dahl lived and worked. The museum’s special events and activities will be overseen by Miss Trunchbull, a character from one of his best selling books Matilda. Behind-the-scenes archive tours will offer a rare chance to view original Matilda manuscripts. Peter Bentley, author of The Great Dog Bottom Swap, will be running workshop sessions. Members of the Royal Shakespeare Company will entertain visitors with Matilda-themed storytelling in anticipation of the RSC’s production Matilda, A Musical opening in Stratford in November. Other events will include guided village trails, magicians and face-painting. Roald Dahl’s garden at Gipsy House, a short walk from the Museum, will be open free of charge for the day. Visitors can take a peek inside the author’s famous Writing Hut (above) and explore the maze and gypsy caravan that inspired Danny the Champion of the World. As well as Matilda, Dahl’s books for children include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach and The BFG. Dahl died in 1990. Roald Dahl Day events and activities will also be taking place nationally throughout September.
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, 81-83 High Street, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire HP16 0AL

August 16, 2010

The Changi Brownlow: Roland Perry

ISBN 0733624642
RRP $35.00 August 2010
Hachette Aust Paperback
A moving and powerful story of a group of Australian POWs who organise an Australian Rules Football competition under the worst conditions imaginable - inside Changi prison - and then step into history as they live and die building the infamous Thai-Burma Railway.

This non-fiction book is about Peter Chitty, the farm hand from Snowy River country with unfathomable physical and mental fortitude, and one of seven in his immediate family who volunteered to fight and serve in WW2. The story includes 'Chicken' Smallhorn, the Brownlow-medal winning little man with the huge heart and of officers and doctors like 'Weary' Dunlop, who care for the POWs as they endure malnutrition, disease and often inhuman treatment.

After Singapore falls to the Japanese early in 1942, 70,000 prisoners including 15,000 Australians, are held as POWs at the notorious Changi and adjoining Selerang prisons in Singapore. To amuse themselves and fellow inmates, a group of sportsmen created an Australian Football League, complete with tribunal, selection panel, umpires and coaches. The final game of the one and only season was between 'Victoria' and the 'Rest of Australia'. This attracted more than 12,000 spectators, and a unique Brownlow Medal was awarded in this unlikely setting under the curious gaze of Japanese prison guards.

The match was to be the last one before, in April 1943, Australian POWs were sent from Changi to Thailand to construct a railway and road to be used for the Japanese assault on India. This book follows Peter Chitty and many of the other players on this journey. Half of them would be victims of the brutal conditions, never to return. A total of 23,000 Australian men and Allies died in the trying, depressing circumstances of incarceration and slave labor.

This is a story of courage and the invincibility of the human spirit. The Changi Brownlow highlights not only the Australian love of sport and its power to offer consolation in times of extreme hardship but an unsurpassed strength that helped many of them survive the four-year ordeal.

Roland Perry is well known as the author of a number of cricket books - ranging from biographies of Donald Bradman, Keith Miller, Steve Waugh and Shane Warne, and also accounts of other great tours and teams. Author Location: Melbourne, Victoria.

Tour information on Changi Prison

Struth! Venice's first female gondolier

STRUTH !    

IN his continuing search for the more weird, wacky and wondrous in the world of travel, David Ellis says its taken 900 years, but Venice has finally got its first-ever fully-licenced female gondolier.

Blonde mother of two, Giorgia Boscolo (24) last week passed her final exams after 400 hours of instruction that included propelling a traditional 11-metre, 500-kilogram gondola with a single oar, memorising the names of the extraordinary maze of hundreds of canals around which Venice is built, the quickest routes from point-to-point and to major landmarks, and even having to learn "tourist English."
Mrs Boscolo was tested by a panel from the 425-strong Gondoliers' Guild which has been custodian of the ancient skills and traditions of the gondolier since being formed in the year 1094 – and which has previously rejected a number of female applicants, including most-recently a local Venetian and a German-American who has been fighting for twelve years to get a licence (and who recently won court approval to work for a private hotel ferrying its guests only.)

Mrs Boscolo said she learnt her love of working gondolas from her father who spent 40 years on the boats, and said that as a child she would rather spend the day with him on the waters of the canals than playing with friends.
And she said that when questioned by her examiners about her physical ability as a woman to propel the long and heavy craft, she told them: "I've given birth to two children, and that was far more difficult and painful."

Gaining her licence means Mrs Boscolo is now qualified to don the traditional white-and-blue striped shirt, black trousers, straw hat and regulation gondoliers' shoes.

And all that remains is to see if she will serenade her passengers with "O Sole Mio" as she ferries them around the canals of Venice, or if she'll have some other surprise up her sleeve.


David Ellis

THINK Hawaii and the theatre of the mind conjures up pictures of bustling Honolulu, ice-cream stands and T-shirt shops, outriggers off Waikiki, surfboards and sunset cocktails, cornbeef hash, and prime rib topped with lobster tail…

And high-rise hotels and resorts sprawling to the horizon.

But close the eyes and imagine an Hawaii of a yesteryear. An Hawaii of over a century ago with quiet island lanes, beaches with nary a footprint to be seen, a place of lazing back in wicker chairs and rattan lounges, and for taking cocktails in cool breezes on shaded verandahs of gracious plantation homesteads amid palms and banyans…

If the idea appeals, then go back in time on Hawaii's movie-making isle of Kauai: At the Waimea Plantation Cottages, its possible to holiday in a one-time plantation manager's house, take walks on those beaches, sit out under the banyans, or fire up the gas barbecue for lazy evenings watching sunsets straight from a Hollywood props department.

Waimea's cottages go back to the late 19th century when vast sugar plantations enveloped tens of thousands of hectares of Kauai, each with its resident manager, assistant manager and an engineer overseeing the properties and the local Hawaiian and Chinese labor forces.

But with the motor car replacing the horse and sulky, time and distance between plantations were eroded, and by the 1940s with modernisation of mill plant and machinery there was little need to employ managers, assistants and engineers on all properties. Centralisation meant one small team could run a half dozen plantations.

Thus the late-1800s and early-1900s cottages and homesteads fell idle. Until the Waimea Plantation Cottages company came up with the idea of turning them into retreats for those looking for the unusual in self-catering holidays. At first it was thought that each property could operate as a stand-alone holiday unit, but the needs of maintaining and servicing just two or three cottages on each plantation proved too costly.

So it was decided to instead move the disused cottages to one property, with all services at one central point, and local Kauai residents awoke one morning in the 1990s to the sight of the first of several dozen old homesteads and cottages rumbling through their hamlets on caterpillar-like low-loaders enroute to Waimea on the island's south coast.

Once at Waimea they were set down amid 15ha of ocean-front coconut grove next to an historic sugar mill, all nicely spaced apart from each other, and with the coconut grove landscaped with hibiscus hedges for privacy, mown lawns and all myriad manner of tropical plants.

Each cottage was totally refurbished, maintaining the best of their yesteryear traditions, but with mod-cons demanded by latter-day holidaymakers. Original mahogany, rattan and wicker lounge and dining furniture was restored, kitchens fitted with fridges, microwaves, and cooktops, cupboards outfitted with everything needed for a self-catering holiday, master bedrooms equipped with ensuites, and original bathrooms/toilets modernised for other bedrooms.

Cottages and homesteads range from one- to five-bedrooms, with phones, weekly housekeeping, cable TV, 3m-wide verandahs with gas barbecues that can be wheeled out onto the lawns, selections of local magazines, a black-sand beach for walking and casting a line, a guest's pool beachside, and days of local sightseeing by car… from the vast Waimea Canyon, to the sites where over 100 movies and TV series have been made here on Hawaii's so-called Garden Isle.

There's also an excellent informal restaurant on the property – and for a cold drink on a warm day, its own boutique brewery.

The restaurant offers island favourites of beef and seafoods, as well as pizzas from a brick oven, island luau (underground oven) special evenings… and will deliver "sunset dinner" meals to your bungalow, or pack you a picnic lunch to take on a day's drive to one of Kauai's movie sites or national parks.

And to slake the thirst, the plantation's Waimea Brewing Company serves handcrafted home-brews in a yester-year pub atmosphere with multi-ethnic "plantation era" Polynesian, Asian and European light meals available (including wondrously sinful desserts,) and on select nights Hawaiian or blue grass country music.

There is also a full spa on the property.

Waimea Plantation Cottages can be booked through Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays, 1300 79 49 59.   



[] YESTER-YEAR Hawaiian plantation manager's home updated with all

    today's mod-cons


[] LARGER cottages are ideal for families


[] WAIMEA Plantation Cottages even has its own boutique brewery – and

   a restaurant


[] CURL up beachside in your hammock with a good book




See Vancouver by water: Vancouver is surrounded by pristine, shimmering water. Don't let it go to waste! Take a tour on a jetski or seadoo and indulge in the unrivalled glory of Vancouver in summer. Its mountainous skyline and the beauty of Stanley Park on the water's edge is the stuff of postcards. You've got the wind in your hair, the waves at your feet and Vancouver Water Adventures gives you the best motorised personal watercraft excursion possible.

Attend Bard on the Beach: There's nothing like a little Shakespeare set against the dramatic backdrop of mountains, city, sea and sky. Vancouver Shakespeare Festival runs from 3 June through 25 September, 2010, in the lovely Vanier Park. See all the old favourites: Much Ado About Nothing, Antony and Cleopatra, Falstaff ( Henry IV parts 1 & 2) and Henry V. It's a magical combination of Shakespeare with sand and surf for the ultimate summer evening.

Stroll through Richmond Night Market: Find a bargain, bring home a treasure, fill your tummy with delicious cuisine from every corner of the globe, or just sit back and watch the people go by. With all the wonder and exotic allure of the famous night markets across Asia, the Richmond Night Market is a bewildering, ever changing array of activities, competitions, celebrations, performers, vendors, and food stalls. Never the same place twice and open every weekend from May through September.

Circumnavigate Stanley Park: Walk, run or cycle around the 9 kilometre Stanley Park Seawall, enjoying spectacular views of the city, North Shore Mountains and Lions Gate Bridge. It is hard to believe this incredible park, with its ancient red cedar forest and amazing wildlife sits smack bang on the edge of the downtown precinct. Visit the park's famed Vancouver Aquarium to see belugas, sharks and alligators.

Visit Granville Island: Go bright and early to grab the best in local produce and seafood, or late at night to absorb the local arts and theatre community. This beautiful waterfront setting is a hub of galleries, artisan shops, cafes and local clothing designers. This is one spot that will be a hit with kids and oldies alike.


Every fan of the vampire-themed movie saga "Twilight" will know that both the blockbuster "New Moon" and "Eclipse" were filmed in Vancouver. While the Twilight cast was in town, they enjoyed some of the city's best restaurants, including:
Glowbal Grill & Satay Bar: If you love Robert Pattinson, you probably already know this Yaletown hot spot was his favourite place for Kobe meatballs. It's also where the star celebrated his 23rd birthday.
Miku Restaurant: The whole cast (especially Kellan Lutz) loved the sushi at this cutting-edge Japanese eatery.
Blue Water Café: Yaletown's destination for seafood, Blue Water Café hosted the "New Moon" wrap-up party as well as the kick-off for "Eclipse."
Elixir Restaurant at Opus Hotel: Both Pattinson and Stewart partied with friends at this chic downtown hotel.


You can't beat the indie vibe of Vancouver designers. See for yourself at Shop Cocoon on Cambie Street, where various designers operate mini-boutiques under one roof. Check out handbags with attitude at Gaya, organic creations at Nixxi and artfully designed classics at Schaart Clothing Company. Kitsilano is home to west-coast style makers like Nicole Bridger, known for her use of sustainable materials. Just ten minutes from Canada Place, from Burrard to Jervis Street, lies the shopping district of Robson Street. We're talking dozens of fashion stores, restaurants and souvenir shops. It's here you'll find Armani, Banana Republic, Body Shop, Club Monaco, Gap, Guess and Zara. Splurged on the basics? Go cheap on accessories. Vancouver's Chinatown, the second largest in North America, is packed with stores peddling inexpensive silk slippers and teeny purses, faux pashminas and jewels. To dazzle is divine!

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