Buy Australian. I did

It’s the Australia Day weekend this weekend. Monday is the day we celebrate our nation and – if the clichés are to be believed – overindulge in both beer and barbecues. I’ll be doing a little of each, but not too much.
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Patriotism – being proud of your country – is a worthy thing. It’s a banner under which we can celebrate and promote community, our common interests and those values and ideals we aspire to as a nation. Of course, like anything, it can be taken too far sometimes, but that doesn’t undermine its positives.

Patriotism was behind one of the better known marketing campaigns in recent decades – to buy Australian Made products. One organisation even went a step further, to encourage us to buy Australian made products and from Australian owned companies.

It’s fair to say there’s a good element of self-interest behind those campaigns, of course – the jobs and profits they create are, on the surface at least, good for the country. Unfortunately, as most economists would tell you, we benefit far more by international trade – buying some of theirs and getting them to buy some of ours – than it we only ever bought Australian.

But there’s another element to buying Australian. And it’s less to do with patriotism than with pure self-interest.

What would Warren (Buffett) do?

You see, back in the shadows of the GFC, Warren Buffett penned an op-ed piece for the New York Times, titled Buy American. I am. It was his clarion call to investors that although the GFC was tough, it was by no means the end of the US economy or its stock market.

It was a compelling case, and shamelessly taking his lead, with attribution, of course, I wrote Buy Australian. I am. That was in April 2011. Anyone taking that advice – and just buying an index-tracking ETF – would have earned a 38 per cent return since then, including dividends. That’s a pretty handy annualised return that comes in pretty close to 10 per cent – and almost smack bang in line with the long-term average for shares.

Just under four years on, it’s easy to forget the feelings of worry that surrounded both the physical economy and the sharemarket. Would we plunge into recession? Would there be a ‘double dip’ recession in the US. Would the PIIGS economies of Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain cause a global meltdown that we wouldn’t recover from?

Now, the US is still in recovery mode, Europe is still muddling its way through, and Greece still pops into the headlines every few months. So it wasn’t like the last four years have been smooth sailing, and I’m not suggesting that the waters will be calm from here on, either.

Ignore the doomsayers

But that’s exactly the point. Despite all of those things, Buying Australian was a very good move. Those who reacted in fear to the geopolitical goings on ended up missing out on a near-40 per cent gain … and likely settled for 3 per cent interest rate in a term deposit for a gain of around 12 per cent. And don’t forget, if those shares paid dividends, you had a much reduced tax bill, compared to the person who paid tax at their full marginal rate on that 12 per cent.

The spoils of investing have gone not to the high-flyer, the risk-taker or the market-timer, but to the person who steadfastly – doggedly – invested, year-in and year-out in quality businesses when they were available for good prices.Who ignored the naysayers and the doom-and-gloomers. Not because bad times didn’t arrive, but because the share market’s long-term wealth creation has been achieved across decades of both booms and busts.

Foolish takeaway

So, almost four years later, and on this Australia Day weekend, my message remains steadfastly the same. I don’t know where the market will go in 2015, no-one does. (Someone will inevitably guess right, but someone will win lotto, too!)

But what I do know is that over many decades, the Australian stock market has steadfastly built significant wealth for those who hold their nerve, and those who find market-beating Aussie companies do even better. Happy Australia Day!

Investors, don’t miss out: If you haven’t taken the opportunity to view my brand-new report on Warren Buffett and 2 ASX shares Buffett could love, now is the time. Click here to claim your free copy and discover 2 top ASX picks now.

Scott Phillips is a Motley Fool investment advisor. He owns shares in Berkshire Hathaway. You can follow Scott on Twitter @TMFGilla.The Motley Fool’s purpose is to educate, amuse and enrich investors. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691).

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Winston Churchill tour, London, England: The man behind Britain’s great wartime leader

Born into grandeur: Blenheim Palace was Churchill’s childhood home. The library at Chartwell, the home of Churchill from 1924. Photo: NTPL
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Born into grandeur: Blenheim Palace was Churchill’s childhood home.

Born into grandeur: Blenheim Palace was Churchill’s childhood home.

The library at Chartwell, the home of Churchill from 1924. Photo: NTPL

Born into grandeur: Blenheim Palace was Churchill’s childhood home.

The library at Chartwell, the home of Churchill from 1924. Photo: NTPL

The library at Chartwell, the home of Churchill from 1924. Photo: NTPL

The black-and-white photo of the lithe young boy in a somewhat ridiculous nautical outfit requires context. It’d be nigh-on impossible to guess who it was otherwise. The near-universal mental image of the older Winston Churchill – the hunched, pugnacious bulldog with a cigar in his mouth – is so ingrained that any deviation from it elicits a double take. But Churchill – who died 50 years ago on January 25th, 1965 – wasn’t quite the man of the people he’s frequently portrayed as. The striking childhood photo is collected alongside many of his letters and other possessions from his early life inside Blenheim Palace.

This was where Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill was born, surrounded by grandeur in the Oxfordshire countryside. His father was Lord Randolph Churchill, an MP who would later become chancellor of the exchequer, and his grandfather was the seventh Duke of Marlborough.

The palace now houses an exhibition on Churchill as an hors d’ouevre for the lavish decorative splendour of the state rooms. But it quickly becomes clear that this was the closest thing the young Winston had to a home.

That the picture of his early life is painted through letters to his parents is telling. He didn’t see all that much of them as they lived a somewhat peripatetic existence. He would spend much of the year at boarding school, then return to Blenheim for the bulk of the holidays.

One letter, from an eight-year-old Winston, describes to his “dearest mama” how much nicer the park at Blenheim is than Hyde Park or Green Park in London. He tells of making pretend camps with an umbrella and riding his pony  around the grounds.

Another to “dearest papa” tells of him seeing a snake and being forbidden from killing it by Nanny Everest – a woman who seemed to play a bigger part in raising him than his parents did.

Churchill was hardly a star pupil at establishment favourite school Harrow – though nor was he as hopeless as he later pretended – and it took him three attempts to pass exams to get into Sandhurst military college. Letters from there show off Churchill’s energetic tirelessness and competitive streak. Always ending with “I remain your ever-loving son”, they tell of working hard to become fencing champion and going out to fell trees.

It would be his writing that got him noticed, though. He used family influence to ensure he was repeatedly sent to where the action was, and then did substantial moonlighting as a war correspondent for the British newspapers. Within five years he ended up in Cuba, Afghanistan, India, Sudan and South Africa. He was captured during the Boer War, and his escape from a prisoner-of-war camp in Pretoria made him a national celebrity.

If Blenheim Palace is the best place to get to know the young Winston, then the Churchill War Rooms in central London give the best insight into Churchill the politician. This stuffy network of rooms and tunnels under the Treasury building in Whitehall was where much of Britain’s World War II was directed from.

The maps, beds and desks are left as they were when the war ended and the biggest surprise is how low-tech and functional the whole set-up was. It’s typified by Room 63, which has a “Keep locked” sign on it. Almost everyone working there assumed it was the only flushing toilet in the complex, reserved for Churchill’s private use. But it actually housed the trans-Atlantic hotline phone that allowed Churchill to talk to United States president Franklin D Roosevelt in secrecy.

Life in the bunker is cleverly portrayed through quotes from those working there. One of Churchill’s personal secretaries, Elizabeth Layton, tells of how she’d often receive sharp reprimands for the tiniest of errors. But she still felt privileged to work for him – even though he’d expect staff to keep up with his own exhausting 8am-to-3am workdays.

General Sir Alan Brooke sums it up best, saying: “It was in every way an excellent battle headquarters, with only one fault, namely its proximity to Winston.”

It’s fair to say he drove his war cabinet and military commanders barmy, with frequent enthusiasms for seemingly unworkable plans and a tendency to selective deafness. Interestingly, though, he never once overruled them.

Churchill stayed overnight in the War Rooms only three times – he preferred to risk it out in the real world and would occasionally stand on a rooftop watching bombs fall. He was an irascible, eccentric personality, and not one easily wrangled.

This comes through in the sections exploring Churchill’s career in politics before and after the war. He was an MP for 40 years before coming prime minister. He crossed the floor twice, moving from the Conservative to the Liberal party, then back again. He was behind the first National Insurance unemployment pension legislation and the introduction of the minimum wage. He was First Lord of the Admiralty during the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, and resigned soon afterwards to join the troops in the trenches. He later spent 10 years in the political wilderness, being regarded as a cranky loose cannon with an overzealous penchant for warning about Hitler. That, of course, would see him become the embodiment of the war spirit and only logical choice as wartime PM in 1940.

The  most moving exhibit is the video footage of his state funeral. About 300,000 people filed past his coffin, and 400 million around the world watched it on TV. Typically, he had planned many of the arrangements himself under the codename “Operation Hope Not”.

Great statesman he may have been, but his personality was what endeared Churchill to the world. And that’s best explored at his home, Chartwell in Kent.

Through the landscaped gardens that Churchill rolled his sleeves up to help create, past the ponds of goldfish that regularly entranced him as he sat on a little chair at the edge, is a stout red-brick house, very different from the grandeur of Blenheim Palace. The visitors book is signed by the likes of Harry Truman, Charlie Chapman and Lawrence of Arabia, but they would get homeliness rather than high society. Family photographs were scattered throughout, beloved pets got their own graves, there’s a stuffed toy panda in his study and the furnishing skirts close to chintzy.

The library has bookshelves clambering up every wall.  He may have been born into the aristocracy and have held key positions of state, but Churchill became wealthy only through his pen. He compiled multi-volume works on topics ranging from the world wars to the first Duke of Marlborough, and won the Nobel Prize for Literature on the back of it.

The house is also full of paintings – many of which are Churchill’s own handiwork.

The studio where he painted is across the lawn from the main house, and many of the 500-plus paintings he produced  are there. The favoured topics are revealing. They’re not of high-office trappings, world leaders or globally renowned friends, but the black swans of Chartwell’s lake and his beloved goldfish. The international colossus was never happier than when lost in the trivialities of home. Five more stops on a Churchill itinerary

1 Churchill may not have been the most diligent student but his former school, Harrow, is one of the most prestigious in Britain.  It’s open for public tours a few times a year. See harrowschoolenterprises整形美容医院m.

2 Tours of Sandhurst  are available for groups of 10 or more. It’s still where most of Britain’s military top brass start out – and the same applies to many Middle Eastern leaders. See sandhursttrust整形美容医院.

3 Nicknamed “the parish church of the House of Commons”, St Margaret’s Church in Westminster was where Churchill married Clementine Hozier in 1908. It’s not as impressive as neighbouring Westminster Abbey, but the 16th-century stained-glass windows are among the decorative trinkets worth popping in for. See westminster-abbey整形美容医院/st-margarets-church.

4 To find Churchill’s grave, head a few miles south-east of Blenheim Palace to the parish church of St Martin in Bladon, Oxfordshire. The relatively circumspect  tomb is also the final resting place of his wife, who died 12 years later.

5 The Hyatt Regency in London has a Churchill Bar, with a specially commissioned bronze of the former PM, a humidor selling his favoured cigars and a food menu tailored to cover most of his favourite dishes. See london.churchill.hyatt整形美容医院.uk. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

visitbritain整形美容医院m.auGETTING THERE

Major airlines offering one-stop flights to London from Sydney and Melbourne include Cathay Pacific, Etihad and Emirates. See cathaypacific整形美容医院m; etihad整形美容医院m; emirates整形美容医院m. STAYING THERE

As the name suggests, the Hilton London Paddington is handily located outside London’s Paddington Station. Doubles cost from £194 a night. See hilton整形美容医院m. SEE & DO

The Churchill War Rooms (iwm整形美容医院.uk/visits/churchill-war-rooms, £17.50) is in Central London. Chartwell (nationaltrust整形美容医院.uk, £12.50) is to the south in Westerham, Kent. You ideally need a hire car to get there. Alternatively, take the train from Charing Cross to Sevenoaks, which takes 33 minutes and costs £22.60 return. Beeline Taxis (00 44 1732 456 214, sevenoakstaxis整形美容医院m) will run you to Chartwell and back, with return prices around the £40 mark.

For Blenheim Palace (blenheimpalace整形美容医院m, £22.50), again a hire car is most useful. Otherwise, take a train to Oxford from Paddington Station (58 minutes, £24.20 day return) and then the half-hourly S3 bus from outside Oxford train station to the palace gates. It takes 42 minutes and costs £5.90 return.

The writer was a guest of Visit Britain.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Papua New Guinea cycling tour: This is not the Tour de France

Welcoming party: Local children are excited by the arrival of tourists. Photo: Inga Ting Welcoming party: Local children are excited by the arrival of tourists. Photo: Inga Ting
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Welcoming party: Local children are excited by the arrival of tourists. Photo: Inga Ting

Scenic route: Cycling in New Ireland. Photo: Inga Ting

Traditional thatched roof houses in Papua New Guinea. Photo: 123整形美容医院m

Scenic route: Cycling in New Ireland. Photo: Inga Ting

Traditional thatched roof houses in Papua New Guinea. Photo: 123整形美容医院m

Scenic route: Cycling in New Ireland. Photo: Inga Ting

Traditional thatched roof houses in Papua New Guinea. Photo: 123整形美容医院m

Scenic route: Cycling in New Ireland. Photo: Inga Ting

Traditional thatched roof houses in Papua New Guinea. Photo: 123整形美容医院m

Welcoming party: Local children are excited by the arrival of tourists. Photo: Inga Ting

It usually begins with one kid. His eyes widen. His face, his posture, his whole body, come alive as he musters every ounce of energy into a single intake of breath.

“Turis! (Tourist!)” he screams. His cry has the kind of urgency that kids where I grew up reserve for truly life-changing events, like sightings of the ice-cream man.

“Turis! Turis! Turis!”

And so begins the madness.

Heads pop out from door frames. Women cast aside half-washed laundry. School children abandon books. People start to run: toddlers chased by mothers, children balancing babies, men and women of all shapes and ages, with the sick and elderly bringing up the rear.

Men and women rush to pick flowers for you. Children queue to exchange high fives with you. Everyone is smiling and calling out, until the entire village is a cheerful chorus of “Moning! (Good morning!)”, “Apinun! (Good afternoon!)” and “Halo! What’s your name?”

It’s like the Tour de France but at a fraction of the speed and much less skill.

It is the second day of our cycling expedition along New Ireland’s Boluminski Highway. I am a smelly, ragged excuse for a tourist. Yet this does nothing to dampen their excitement and even though this circus happens at nearly every village (and there are dozens), I still feel like I should do something, well, amazing. Or at least slightly more interesting than cycling very slowly and sweatily through the crowd. I summon the energy to ring my bell and call back, smiling and waving as though I am moderately fit and not at all bothered by the blazing heat.

Cycling in New Ireland is ideal for those looking for a cheap, eco-friendly way to experience the charms of village life and the natural beauty of Papua New Guinea’s islands. Surfaced for the first 200 kilometres with guesthouses scattered conveniently along the way, the highway is almost perfectly flat and surprisingly traffic-free.

Which makes it perfect for those who like getting outdoors but aren’t hardcore cyclists, and certainly don’t want to wear Lycra on holiday (or ever).

The journey from Kavieng to Dalom, roughly 180 kilometres, is our first attempt at a multiday cycling trip. We’re running late, having spent half our first day hiding from the teeming rain in a bamboo shelter by the side of the road.

Conscious of needing to make up serious distance, I am trying to pick up the pace.

“Stop riding so far in front of me!” This distant protest comes from my partner, who less than  24 hours earlier had declared 90 kilometres was not too far to cycle each day. I am carrying all our luggage, food and water in the (apparently false) hope that the lighter Kris’ load, the faster he’ll ride.

When I am not trying to work out if I could jog faster than Kris is cycling, the ride is supremely peaceful. From the saddle of an 18-speed, I watch scenes of island life slip by: clusters of thatched-roof houses by the beach; men and children fishing from banana boats; sleepy shopkeepers manning roadside stalls offering two-minute noodles, cigarette lighters and greasy pink donuts. (Who says all your island needs can’t be found in one place?) For long stretches, the only sign of civilisation is the odd buai (betel nut) stand: a dozen or so neatly arranged nuts on a plank of wood, no vendor in sight.

By 11 o’clock the vortex of tangled trees and vines around us goes still and gusts of hot air rise from the asphalt like the road itself is breathing. Time for a swim.

Rarely are we more than 200 metres from crystal clear water, gentle swells and white sandy beaches. We stop for lunch at a tiny village and immediately pick up a small entourage of women and children. As we lay out a towel under a coconut tree, we’re approached by a round, shirtless man with curly grey hairs on his generous belly.

Johnson has come to see what all the fuss is about. He shakes our hands; we exchange names. There’s an awkward pause as everyone falls silent. Somewhere, a tumbleweed rolls by.

Ah-ha! I realise what is going on. Johnson is the village bigman (leader) and we are visitors on their turf. We rummage around for a gift but all we come up with is tinpis (canned tuna) and a mangled packet of dry crackers. They make for a rather sad-looking gift.

But our embarrassment finds quick relief: Johnson nods his approval. “Please stay for lunch. The women will look after you.” And with that, he breaks the three crackers in the packet into tiny pieces and distributes them between the dozen or so villagers standing around us.

Johnson is the first bigman we’ve ever met and our brief interaction, as absurd as it might seem, felt remarkably genuine. Generosity, exchange and kinship are the backbone of Melanesian culture and this unexpected roadside encounter is like a first glimpse into its soul.

New Ireland is one of the few places in the world where people still live much like they did 100 years ago, and their warmth and curiosity is impossible to resist. Instead of cycling, we find ourselves chatting to school teachers, bathing in the river with students, learning to weave baskets and staying up late listening, wide-eyed, to tales of witchcraft.

In the end, we do make it to Dalom – on the passenger seat of a truck with our bikes stashed in the tray. Better to slow down, kick up your feet and let the island tempo take you, than tear past it all at 40km/h just so you can say you made it in time.

After all, it’s not the Tour de France. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

newirelandtourism整形美容医院.pgGETTING THERE

Kavieng is 1.5 hours from Port Moresby by air. Air Niugini operates daily flights. Phone +675 327 3396, see airniugini整形美容医院m.pgSTAYING THERE

Locals will tell you it is possible to stay in any villager’s house (just ask!) but staying at guesthouses allows you to phone ahead. Since most guesthouses generally host only a few guests each month, advance notice is much appreciated – and probably means you’ll be better fed since your hosts will have time to go fishing/shopping/bush gathering. The only time New Ireland gets crowded is when students from Melbourne do their annual cycling trip (usually in July). At other times, you’re likely to have the entire guesthouse to yourself.

Accommodation is basic. Most guesthouses rely on rainwater, cook on wood stoves and run a generator in the evening. The standard guesthouse price for two people is K240 ($A113)  a night, including dinner and breakfast. Village stays are about K160 ($A75) a night, including dinner and breakfast.

New Ireland Tourist Bureau (+675 984 2441; +675 7271 7426; newirelandtourism整形美容医院.pg) can arrange bookings. Recommended guesthouses include Tabo Meli’s Guesthouse at Lauan (about 48 kilometres from Kavieng; +675 7322 2645; no website) and Dalom Village Guesthouse (about 176 kilometres from Kavieng; +675 7220 4031; no website).  SEE + DO

The Boluminski Highway runs the island’s east coast from the province capital Kavieng to Namatanai, roughly 260 kilometres away. How far you ride is up to you – you’ll need four to five days to cover the entire stretch. Kavieng is the only place on the island where you can withdraw or exchange money, and the only place you’ll find (relatively) large supermarkets, so stock up on water, lunch supplies and snacks for your entire trip before heading off. It’s a good idea to take a few items to offer to either your hosts if you’re at a village stay or to the village bigman for redistribution. Canned fish, rice, salt, sugar and other long-life condiments will win you friends.

You can hire an 18-speed mountain bike with a helmet and cushioned seat cover (for which you will be grateful by the end of your first day) for K60 ($A28) a day from John Knox, Noxie’s Place (+675 7369 3331; facebook整形美容医院m/NoxiesPlace). If you’re planning to go one way, he’ll pick up your bikes from anywhere along the highway for K40 ($A19) a bike, and drop off any luggage you don’t want to take cycling at no extra charge.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

India wildlife adventure: Watching tigers in the jungle

The holy grail: A Bengal tiger. Photo: 123整形美容医院m
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The holy grail: A Bengal tiger. Photo: 123整形美容医院m

The holy grail: A Bengal tiger. Photo: 123整形美容医院m

Welcome to the jungle: Green tea plantationsin Munnar, Kerala, India. Photo: iStock

Trekking at Chinnar National Park. Photo: Julie Miller

Tourist boats at Kerala backwaters in Alleppey. Photo: iStock

I’ve just encountered the most terrifying creature in the Indian forest. It rears before me, ready to attack, riled by the scent of my blood. I back off slowly, hoping if I give it space it will capitulate. But I soon realise that my assailant is not alone – and there is no escape.

Fortunately, help is at hand, in the form of a brown tobacco powder. On contact, the dozen or so leeches crawling over my purple sparkly Converse recoil back into the mud, quelled until a less-prepared victim passes by.

Phew, crisis averted. It’s a jungle out there.

Here, in the dark, misty wilds of Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala, southern India, every animal, from the smallest insect to the largest predator, is part of the food chain – including the most invasive presence, man. And while I long to see the jewel in this park’s ecosystem – the Bengal tiger – I’m quietly relieved that so far, we haven’t had to make a dash for our lives.

We are on an early-morning walking safari through the reserve – yes, on foot, not in a jeep: hence my reticence. But I’ve been told we’d be extremely lucky – or perhaps unlucky – to spot a tiger in this large, dense terrain, with the big cats extremely elusive, well camouflaged, and of course, extremely rare.

According to the latest census conducted in 2014, India’s tiger population has risen by nearly 30 per cent in three years from 1706 to 2226 – great news indeed and a triumph for wildlife conservation. The state of Kerala’s tiger population alone has increased from 71 to an incredible 136, based on data sourced from the latest technology, including camera traps, digital imaging of pug marks, tagging and satellite data.

The tiger’s wide territorial range, however, does make it difficult to pinpoint exact numbers, and our guide on this safari – a tribesman named Thankappan who has lived in this forest all his life and now works for the Parks Service – believes there could be as many as 55 tigers roaming Periyar Tiger Reserve, a 925 square kilometre wilderness.

Clearly, however, he’s not concerned about a close encounter; he doesn’t carry a gun, and his only weapon against rampaging wildlife is tobacco powder to deter ferocious leeches. He does, however, have excellent hearing, and reads this jungle like a book, spotting flitting birds, shy deer and canopy-dwelling monkeys without the use of binoculars.

Periyar Tiger Reserve is one of 47 designated areas governed by Project Tiger in an attempt to protect India’s vulnerable population of about 1700 tigers. At the heart of this mountainous terrain in the Cardamom Hills is a lake, created in 1895 when the Periyar River was dammed. The land has been a protected zone since 1899; it became a tiger reserve in 1978. While the preservation of the tiger population is paramount, the reserve also boasts a huge biodiversity of animals, with 66 species of mammals including Asian elephants, sloth bears, guar, sambar and leopard, and more than  300 species of birds.

The most popular way of viewing wildlife is on a boat trip along the lake; but with at least 100 shouting, jostling tourists clambering for photo opportunities and no interpretative information, this proves to be a fairly frustrating exercise.

“Did you see anything?” I overhear one tour guide ask his group on their return. “Nothing,” they collectively sigh. In other words, they didn’t see a tiger, a leopard or elephants. Despite the fact that our cruise had, indeed, glided past herds of grazing sambar, wild pigs playing in the mud and egrets nesting on submerged trees. To these visitors, only the “big” animals – the popular kids in the playground – seem to matter.

Our morning hike, fortunately, proves a stark contrast to the cruise debacle. Apart from a group of Munnan tribespeople – who retain hunting and gathering rights in the forest – we are the only humans venturing through this section of forest; and instead of incessant chatter and yelling, we are treated to the sounds of the jungle as the rising sun pierces the canopy – the buzz of cicadas, the caw of birds and the shiver of leaves as a giant squirrel leaps from branch to branch.

As well as having a sharp eye for watchful barking deer and being able to identify the distant whoop of a mating black monkey, our guide Thankappan delights in the small creatures, pointing out spindle-legged spiders in gossamer webs, iridescent dragonflies and resplendent birds, including rocket-tailed drongos, orange-chested rufus treepie, and lesser hornbills. By the end of our two-and-a-half-hour walk, we have become veritable twitchers, as excited by the feathered inhabitants of this pristine wilderness as the furry variety.

Two days later, we visit another Keralan national park, Eravikulam. The closest wildlife reserve to the hill station of Munnar, it provides sanctuary for a creature almost as rare as the tiger but certainly not as infamous – the nilgiri tahr. A type of mountain goat, there are fewer than 2000 left in the wild, with Eravikulam boasting almost half of them.

It’s raining as we set off from the national park ticket office on a shuttle bus, which winds its way up a perilous road to the small section of park open to the public. En route, we spot a herd of elephants trudging through a tea plantation, camouflaged amongst tall trees between sculpted emerald terraces. It’s certainly a good start to the day, and we’re feeling optimistic as we approach the ethereal, rocky slopes that the tahr is said to inhabit.

As it turns out, the nilgiri Tahr is as brazen as the tiger is shy, with several herds bounding over the slippery rocks without a care in the world. A proud buck eyeballs us fearlessly from his elevated throne, an ungulate Brad Pitt with his coarse grey coat, amber eyes and arched horns; while a couple of youngsters wander down the bitumen pathway, posing for photo opportunities and head-butting us to shift out of their way.

As awesome as it is to be this close to an endangered species, the nilgiri tahr’s bold behaviour has historically been its downfall, hunted and poached to near-extinction. Strict monitoring within the park now ensures the remaining herd’s survival, with the tourist zone closed during kidding season and private vehicles prevented from entering park boundaries.

Just north of Munnar, bordering the state of Tamil Nadu, is a very different wildlife preserve called Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary. Falling in the rainshadow of the Western Ghats, its terrain is as scrubby, thorny and stark as Periyar and Eravikulam are lush. This park is home to elephants, gaur, sambar, macaques, endangered grizzled giant squirrels and a small population of tigers; it also has the most reptilian fauna in Kerala, including the mugger crocodile.

Average rainfall in Chinnar is just 500 millimetres a year – all of it seemingly bucketing down on us during our afternoon walking safari. Within minutes, we are soaked to the bone, the monsoonal downpour relentless for more than an hour as we shelter, miserable, beneath the spreading branches of an Indian almond tree. Rather than continue our trek in such inclement conditions, we decide to cut it short, returning to base via a watchtower with views across the river to Tamil Nadu.

As quickly as the storm commenced, however, so it clears; and as we climb to the viewing platform of the metal tower, we are rewarded with expansive views of the scrubland rejuvenated by the life-giving waters. In the distance we spy a herd of sambar, on high alert and seemingly looking our way; while some spotted deer dart from beneath bushes, skittish in the oozing mud.

Still dripping, we allow the warm breeze to dry our soaked clothing as we gaze into the far blue yonder, absorbing every flutter of a leaf, or stirring of grasses. From being cranky, wet and defeated, we are suddenly as invigorated as the landscape around us, our “failed” safari turned on its head into a beautiful, unexpected and positive experience. Five other Indian sanctuaries

1. Corbett National Park, Uttarakhand: The oldest national park in mainland Asia, this dense forest boasts a large population of aboutaround 200 tigers as well as leopards, elephants and langur.

2. Ranthambore, Rajastahan: This is arguably the most reliable place to spot tigers, with good visibility in the dry, scrubby terrain. Other creatures include sloth bear, jackal and leopard.

3. Kaziranga NP, Assam: An important stronghold for endangered Indian one-horned rhinoceros as well as home to manylarge numbers of elephants, water buffalo and tigers.

4. Sunderbans, West Bengal: This UNESCO World Heritage site bordering Bangladesh is a massive wetland where tigers have adapted to life in the saltwater mangroves. Tours of the wetland are by boat only.

5. Gir, Gujrat: This is the last bastion of the endangered Asiatic lion, of which there are only 411 left. It is also a popular bird-watching destination with more thanover 300 species of avifauna. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION


mantrawild整形美容医院m.auGETTING THERE

Air India flies daily from Sydney via Melbourne to Delhi, with domestic transfers to Kochi.  STAYING THERE

Spice Village offers 4-star cottage accommodation near Periyar Tiger Reserve, see cghearth整形美容医院m. Mantra Wild Adventures’ 11 day package to Kerala includes accommodation, activities and safaris in Periyar, Eravikulam and Chinnar National Parks from $3199 per person twin share. See mantrawild整形美容医院

The writer travelled as a guest of Mantra Wild Adventures.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Grasse, France: The world’s capital of perfume

Olfactory factory: Parfumerie Fragonard is one of the largest in Grasse. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m
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Green Grasse: The hilltop town is only 30 minutes from Cannes. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m

Olfactory factory: Parfumerie Fragonard is one of the largest in Grasse. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m

Olfactory factory: Parfumerie Fragonard is one of the largest in Grasse. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m

Green Grasse: The hilltop town is only 30 minutes from Cannes. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m

Green Grasse: The hilltop town is only 30 minutes from Cannes. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m

Old town charm: In the Middle Ages Grasse was known for its leather tanning. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m

Green Grasse: The hilltop town is only 30 minutes from Cannes. Photo: 123rf整形美容医院m

Grasse smells. Not in the same way as Roquefort, a town whose cheesy aroma hangs on the breeze many kilometres before you actually get there; no, Grasse smells … nice.

Stroll past the shops in the meandering streets of the old town, which slumps insouciantly against a hillside in southern Provence just north of Cannes, and it’s like walking through cloud after scented cloud. After all, this is the perfume capital of the world, where you can buy pretty much anything that can be “perfumed”. You can even buy perfume.

But I’m not here for the fragrances. After a youth spent wafting around London in an eye-watering miasma of Hai Karate, Brut and Kouros –  not all at once, of course – it’s no longer my thing. I’m here for sun, wine, good food and to celebrate a friend’s 50th birthday.

We are staying at La Rivolte, a 19th-century belle epoque villa overlooking the town and with views across the plains to the Côte d’Azur beyond. Old Grasse itself is a short walk away – just close enough to make painless the quest for fresh croissants and pain au chocolat every morning.

The villa, a pale yellow riviera beauty with eggshell blue shutters, sleeps 16 and is set in two hectares of tumbling terraces and garden, including a petanque court and a swimming pool. There is also a gravel drive at the front of the house which sports a long communal table. This is where we gather to eat every night, feeling very old Hollywood and decadent, sipping aperitifs as the sun goes down over the Bay of Cannes and the lights flicker on in the town.

There is also an old toy train track that chugs down through the gardens and on which little locomotives used to deliver G&Ts poolside but despite our best efforts it remains inoperable.

Grasse wasn’t always known for perfume. In the Middle Ages it was famous for leather tanning and leather products. Which means it still smelled, but really bad – as did the gloves that went out to the nobility. Then a local tanner, one Jean de Galimard, came up with the idea of masking the noxious odour with the scent of flowers.

Pretty soon scented gloves were all the rage among the aristocracy. This eventually caught the attention of the government which, as governments tend to do, saw a way to bring in more money. The resulting tax hike on leather saw the tanning industry evaporate, leaving the perfumeries behind.

Galimard, founded in 1747, went on to become one of the biggest names in the perfume industry and – along with Fragonard and Molinard – still has a large presence in Grasse. All three have perfumeries and museums in the town where you can take guided tours and even create your own perfume.

Today there are dozens of perfume companies in greater Grasse, employing about 3500 people. And that’s without the 10,000 locals employed indirectly by the industry.

But you don’t have to be into perfume to enjoy Grasse. Quite apart from the hours spent lazing and reading around the pool at La Rivolte, we also waste away afternoons just poking around the narrow, winding streets of the vieille ville. Here the fun is in getting lost (though you can’t, not really) and taking tiny, arched alleyways which eventually lead to precious, restaurant-fringed squares that we determine to come back to but can never find again.

One of the larger squares we come across quite by accident is the Traverse St Martin, at the back of Notre Dame du Puy, the old cathedral. Here, under the watchful eye of the cathedral’s 18th-century clock tower, a lookout boasts panoramic views south and a small square of grass has been fenced off and scattered with deckchairs for public use. Above, hung from the houses on either side and weaving through two trees, thin black piping sends out occasional puffs of cooling water spray.

It’s a thoughtful civic exercise that is repeated often through the more popular shopping streets. For although Grasse doesn’t get as steaming hot as its coastal neighbours it can get pretty sultry by noon in July.

The cathedral itself was originally built in the 12th century and if its basic construction – ribbed vault, no buttresses, 1.7m thick walls –  is a little primitive the same can’t be said of the artworks within, which include three paintings by Rubens, a Louis Bréa triptych and the only religious work (Christ Washing the Feet of the Apostles) by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, the son of a Grasse glover and after whom the perfume company was named in 1926.

Our own capitulation came in the Rue de l’Oratoire and the understated, almost spartan, boutique parfumerie of Gaglewski. Originally from Paris, Didier Gaglewski is a slight, gentle man with a Nose – and by that I mean un nez, someone with a highly developed sense of smell.

We cannot help noticing that he also has for sale a fragrance called Journaliste. Far from smelling of yellowing paper, ink and desperation, Gaglewski describes it as “boisee and epicee” – woody and spicy, with hints of cedarwood and cinnamon. This will, he promises in his literature, “transport you to the door of an elegant and mysterious world”.

I don’t know what Gaglewski’s on but I want some of it so we buy a presentation box of the stuff. Turns out the main ingredient is alcohol, so he’s not too far off the mark after all. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION


La Rivolte villa sleeps a maximum of 16 people and is available to rent as a holiday home or for bed and breakfast throughout the year. It has five bedroom suites, all with views. B&B prices start at $150 a night (two-night minimum). See larivolte整形美容医院m. GETTING THERE

Nice (about 45 minutes away) and Cannes (30 minutes) are the nearest airports. Buses from either airport drop off at the bus depot in the centre of Grasse, right outside the Tourist Office. Take bus number 500 from Nice and numbers 600 or 610 from Cannes. There is also a 25-minute regular daily train trip (Grasse-Cannes-Nice). See ter-sncf整形美容医院m/paca. SEE + DO

The Fragonard perfume factory at 20 Boulevard Fragonard is in the heart of the old town and has been in use since 1782. Free guided tour and museum; fragonard整形美容医院m.

Parfumerie Galimard is a little outside town at 73 Route de Cannes. Free guided tours here and at the company’s Studio des Fragrances (appointment only) you can design your own perfume; see galimard整形美容医院m.

For a boutique parfumerie, visit Didier Gaglewski’s shop at 12 Rue de l’Oratoire, Grasse; see gaglewski整形美容医院m.

The writer travelled at his own expense.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

The Shipping News: Volga Dream II launches in Russia in March

Sailing away: Windstar’s Wind Spirit in French Polynesia.
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

Sailing away: Windstar’s Wind Spirit in French Polynesia.

Sailing away: Windstar’s Wind Spirit in French Polynesia.

Sailing away: Windstar’s Wind Spirit in French Polynesia.

Canal travel: Volga Dream II will cruise between Moscow and St Petersburg.

Canal travel: Volga Dream II will cruise between Moscow and St Petersburg.

Canal travel: Volga Dream II will cruise between Moscow and St Petersburg.

Canal travel: Volga Dream II will cruise between Moscow and St Petersburg.

Czar attraction

Volga Dream II launches this March in Russia and will carry 160 passengers between Moscow and St Petersburg, stopping at highlights such as the mediaeval churches of Uglich, the trading city of Yaroslavl and 14-century Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery. A cruise on Lake Onega takes in Kizhi Island for a walking tour to the open-air museum, noted for its domed wooden churches, before navigating the Svir River to Lake Ladoga, Europe’s largest freshwater lake. Volga Dream II will be chartered by several tour companies, including Abercrombie & Kent as part of its 12-day Russian itinerary. Phone 1300 851 800. See abercrombiekent整形美容医院m.auNew two

Travelmarvel has acquired two additional river-cruise ships for Europe this year. MS Travelmarvel Sapphire debuted on a few dates in 2014 but is now entering full service, sailing on “European Gems” itineraries between Amsterdam and Budapest, as well as on Danube cruises. It hosts 164 guests and features French balconies on all category C staterooms and above. Meanwhile, MS Excellence Queen will sail on the Rhine River; it carries 142 guests and has three lounges, a sundeck and restaurant. Though neither ship is new, both have been newly refurbished. Phone 1300 196 420. See travelmarvel整形美容医院 along

Hapag-Lloyd’s Europa 2 has a new offering: mountain bike excursions with a dedicated bike guide. Guests can borrow the ship’s bikes and pedal off into the surroundings of some ports of call, opting either for an easy tour on flat ground at a comfortable speed, “active lite” tour, or a more fast-paced off-road experience over rougher terrain. All tours are between four and five hours long and a bike guide provides personal advice and is part of all excursions. The tours cost €59. Phone 02 9977 7100. See hl-cruises整形美容医院mAncient wonders

Seadream Yacht Club is offering a nine-day cruise from Istanbul to Athens aboard SeaDream I in May, visiting Gallipoli, the ruins of Ephesus, and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos and vehicle-free Hydra, where locals still get about on donkeys. There’s also the chance to see the recently excavated Terrace Houses and House of the Virgin Mary near Kusadasi, the Monastery of St John on Patmos Island (said to be the place where he wrote the Book of Revelations) and Bodrum’s Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven ancient wonders. Phone 02 9958 4444. See seadream整形美容医院m. Pacific pleasures

Windstar Cruises has announced year-round voyages in Tahiti starting in May. Itineraries include the seven-day “Dreams of Tahiti” voyage, as well as a new, extended 10- or 11-day journey with stops in the Tuamotu Islands, notable for their excellent snorkelling and diving. Windstar is also expanding shore excursions to include bespoke adventures such as private snorkelling at a black pearl farm in Raiatea, followed by a champagne sunset cruise along the coral reef. The voyages are aboard the renovated, six-sail, 148-passenger Wind Spirit yacht, whose cabins have just undergone renovation. Phone 1300 887 590.  See traveltheworld整形美容医院

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Shannen Francis Riggien now ‘dancing on streets of gold’

Shannen now ‘dancing on streets of gold’ Funeral of Shannen Frances Riggien held at Generate Church, Singleton. Picture: Simone De Peak
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

Funeral of Shannen Frances Riggien held at Generate Church, Singleton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Funeral of Shannen Frances Riggien held at Generate Church, Singleton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Funeral of Shannen Frances Riggien held at Generate Church, Singleton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Funeral of Shannen Frances Riggien held at Generate Church, Singleton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Funeral of Shannen Frances Riggien held at Generate Church, Singleton. Picture: Simone De Peak

Funeral of Shannen Frances Riggien held at Generate Church, Singleton. Picture: Simone De Peak

TweetFacebookHER faith and that of her friends and family were a force to be reckoned with at the funeral service of 17-year-old Shannen Francis Riggien in Singleton on Friday.

Her sudden death was devastating, but there was joy in knowing she was now ‘‘dancing on streets of gold’’, said her friend Betina Hughes in a tribute song titled: A Friend to All (Shannen’s song).

The teenager’s five brothers each placed a white lily on Shannen’s white coffin which lay at the centre of Generate Church before two of the eldest boys spoke about their love of Shannen.

Her friend, Amy Lawrence, who was with her when she fell from the back of a ute, said her friend was forever putting other people’s needs before her own.

‘‘Even when she became unconscious, she never wanted us to worry about her ,” Miss Lawrence said. ‘‘She gave us the thumbs up.

“She said we were her greatest discovery, but the truth is, she was ours.”

Shannen died in John Hunter Hospital on Monday morning after suffering severe head injuries when she fell from the back of a moving vehicle at East Maitland three days earlier after a teenage movie night.

Through music and spoken tributes, Shannen was celebrated for her adventurous nature, her can-do attitude, her love of music and her passion for helping others.

A journal which she bought to record her thoughts said on the cover:

“Today I will be happier than a bird with a French fry,” and that was her outlook on life, said pastor Susan Fellowes.

In her journal, she wrote about various scriptures and readings from the Bible, including a reference to a particular story about Jesus Christ washing the feet of others.

“This shows Jesus wants us to serve each other,” she wrote.

“See a need, fill a need.”

Family and friends signed and wrote messages on the coffin at the end of the service before her brothers and father helped carry the coffin to a waiting hearse.

Her father, James, walked away slowly, looking back at the coffin, before pausing.

He went back, bent down, and kissed his daughter one last time before turning back to the church.

‘‘Even when she became unconscious, she never wanted us to worry about her”. Picture: Facebook

Celebrate Australia day with one or all of these suggestions

Australia Day Live concert 2014, Parliament House, Canberra. Fairfax image.It’s a day when we as Australians get to reflect on what it means to live in this great country and why we love it. It is also a day of celebration and the accompanying food, friends, fireworks and fun. So slip into your thongs, whack on some sunscreen and see which one of these fab ideas suits you.
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

Dress in Australian colours

Gold man Harrison Steed and Green man Pat McLucas get in the spirit at Whitehorse Australia Day concert. Picture by Chris Hopkins

The beauty of this wide brown land is we actually have some choice with this.So if green and gold isn’t good for your colouring you can always do the traditional red, white and blue.

Cook Australian food

Lamingtons for nibbles. Fairfax image.

Australia is a land of the gourmet delight and no more so than when we are eating our traditional cuisine.

Have a go at the humble lamington, pavlova, triffle or ANZAC biscuit – not just for the 25th April – for a sweet treat.

There is also a plethora of savourydishes that we all love such as meat pies, sausage rolls, and prawns any way you like them.

Hang with lots of mates

Chelsea Newton, Elisha Amos, Emma Foreman from Warners Bay at Speers Point Australia Day celebrations. Image supplied

It is traditional to spend Australia day with as many mates as possible, so get a gang together and enjoy.

Fireworks – a must if you can find them

Fireworks in Canberra. Image supplied.

Fireworks are one of the best ways to celebrate any event. Seek out where your closest fireworks will be this Australia Day.

Sport, sport and more sport

Australian fans cheer on during the first round match between Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Federico Delbonis of Argentina during day one of the 2015 Australian Open. Getty Images

Play it, watch it, and accept it. It’s the Australian way. Whether it is cricket, tennis, soccer or hockeyfind your game and go hard.


Australia Day Live concert 2014, Parliament House, Canberra. (From left) Sharon Mathers, Robert Mathers, Kevin Keen and Tamara Keen. 25th of January 2014. Fairfax image.

From concerts to top 100 songs of the year, Australia day is a musical day.

Get nationalised

A nationalisation day ceremony. Fairfax images

The final step in the journey to become an Australian citizen, for most people, is to make the Australian Citizenship Pledge at an Australian citizenship ceremony. What better day to do this than Australia Day.

Airline review: British Airways World Traveller Plus (premium economy)

Proper meals and generous baggage allowance: British Airways. Roomy ride: British Airways’ Premium Economy seats.
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

Proper meals and generous baggage allowance: British Airways.

Roomy ride: British Airways’ Premium Economy seats.

Proper meals and generous baggage allowance: British Airways.

Roomy ride: British Airways’ Premium Economy seats.

Proper meals and generous baggage allowance: British Airways.

Roomy ride: British Airways’ Premium Economy seats.


London to New York THE PLANE

Boeing 747-400. British Airways operates 57 of these planes, the greatest number of the type in operation with any airline. THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Executive Club. Passengers can also earn points toward other Oneworld Alliance airlines’ programs. UP THE BACK OR POINTY END?

World Traveller Plus (BA’s name for Premium Economy), seat 28D TIME IN THE AIR

Seven hours between Heathrow and JFK Airports THE SEAT STUFF

38 inches (97cm) pitch, 18.5 inches (47cm) width. There are 30 Premium Economy seats in a mostly 2-4-2 layout. BAGGAGE

Two checked bags, each up to 23kg in weight. As carry-on luggage BA also allows one cabin bag and a smaller personal bag, each (believe it or not) up to 23kg in weight. COMFORT FACTOR

Our Premium Economy seats are in a small area between Business and Economy Class, with an air of exclusivity once the curtains are drawn. Unlike some airlines’ Premium Economy offerings, BA’s version feels like an incremental step up from Economy rather than a budget version of Business. Our exit row seats, with their fixed armrests, seem snug, however, the headrest can’t be raised quite high enough to match my height. There’s plenty of leg room though, and the seat has an extendable footrest and lumbar support adjustment. As we’re in a bassinet row and there are no babies present, we’re able to fold down the table for our own use. THAT’S ENTERTAINMENT

Entertainment comes via a tiny screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio, which swivels from beneath the armrest. The picture quality of my screen menu is occasionally dodgy, with interference lines, but movies look fine when played. There’s an impressively long and diverse selection of new release films, from Godzilla to The Grand Budapest Hotel via Muppets Most Wanted. A smaller kids’ section contains such British heroes as Postman Pat. The TV section includes such gems such as the aptly trans-Atlantic comedy series Episodes. A pleasant change of pace under Audio is a collection of spoken-word books, ranging from classics such as Moby Dick to Jennifer Saunders’ Bonkers. THE SERVICE

The cabin staff are a friendly and cheerful multinational crew who respond quickly and efficiently to requests. FEEDING TIME

Lunch is served an hour after take-off, and it’s reminiscent of Business Class with its cloth napkins, metal cutlery and wine glasses. I go for the seared fillet of British beef, which is pleasingly tender, accompanied by a decent French merlot cabernet sauvignon. My wife Narrelle opts for the most tongue-twisting dish I’ve ever seen on an airline menu: chicken malagueta with biro biro rice, roast peppers, okra caruru and chimichurri sauce. We joke about the airline making up some of the words, but Narrelle reports that it’s a tasty dish, moist and tender. She still doesn’t like okra (to which I reply “Don’t watch her show then”), but is positive about the orange chocolate mousse for dessert. I like it too. ONE MORE THING…

Sofitel has a comfortable upmarket hotel connected to Heathrow’s Terminal 5, so if you don’t fancy an early morning trek from central London it can be worth staying on-site. THE VERDICT

Though not a substitute for Business Class, BA’s World Traveller Plus is a notch above Economy and would be worth considering if you had the pounds to spare. THE FREQUENCY 

Nine times daily

Tested by Tim Richards, who paid for his flight but was upgraded to World Traveller Plus by British Airways.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.

Hakone Open Air Museum, Japan: The prefect arty escape from Tokyo

One of Henry Moore’s reclining figures. The museum has 26 Moores on rotating display.One of the joys of spending time in a mighty metropolis is getting out of it, discovering the green, scenic havens where locals go to recharge.
Wuxi Plastic Surgery

For Tokyoites, a weekend escape means mountains, lakes and onsens – the perfect recipe for relaxation, bundled into an enchanting, bento-box town called Hakone.

Less than 100 kilometres and just an 85-minute train journey from central Tokyo, Hakone offers scenes straight out of a classic Hiroshige  ukiyo-e woodblock print: distant Fuji views across a misty lake, flanked by dramatic rocky bluffs and deciduous forest reflecting the glory of the seasons. Terraced high altitude gardens provide nooks for quiet contemplation; while an ancient Shinto shrine, marked by a bold red torii gate rising from the waters of Lake Ashi, pays homage to the deities of nature.

Hakone first came under notice of travellers during the Edo period (1603-1868), when it was a checkpoint on the Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo) route known as the Tokaido Highway, established to “control incoming guns and outgoing women” –  in other words, to detain the wives of feudal lords attempting to escape from their shogun captors in Edo. More happily, it was also used as a base for pilgrims en route to Mount Fuji, revitalising weary bodies in the healing waters before they tackled the challenging ascent.

There are 17 sources of hot mineral waters surrounding the town, with 25,000 tonnes gushing from the volcanic bedrock each day. Most hotels and ryokans (traditional Japanese inns) in the area have private indoor and outdoor spa facilities; there are also several public bathhouses, including the themepark-like Kowakien Yunessun, which offers novelty sake, green tea, coffee and red wine baths as well as Roman-style baths, water slides and traditional Japanese outdoor rock pools.

With such indulgent temptations, you could forgive Hakone’s 20 million visitors a year for doing little more than soaking away the stresses of city life. For those seeking respite from waterlogged extremities, however, there is a wonderful cultural surprise at hand: a world-class open-air art gallery displaying some of the world’s most significant modern sculpture.

Established in 1969, the Hakone Open Air Museum is intended as a “dialogue between nature and art”, and has more than 120 grand-scale works scattered around 70,000 square metres of manicured lawns and gardens vying with misty views of forest-clad hillsides for the visitor’s attention.

This is the antithesis of a stuffy museum, and the perfect introduction to modern art for children, who can run around and play in interactive exhibits designed to be touched and climbed on. Even for those indifferent to art, it’s a pleasant place to linger, with an excellent gift shop, a cafe and a fabulous hot spring footbath to soothe weary soles.

For modern art lovers, however, the museum is a revelation, with a staggering collection of some of the world’s most important pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries. Overseeing the museum’s stark entry plaza, for instance, is Rodin’s Balzac, its stern gaze surveying a Henry Moore reclining figure (one of 26 Moores on rotating display, the world’s largest collection) and a towering podium where Carl Milles’ Man and Pegasus take dramatic flight.

From here, a concrete path winds down a terrace, a veritable yellow brick road of discovery, past a pond of floating sculptures, a mesmerising golden globe (Sfera con Sfera by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro), a garden maze and a colourful Joan Miro to the delightful “Woods of Net”, an architectural interlocked wooden nest in which children swing on a giant knitted jungle gym.

At the base of the hill lies a Picasso pavilion, an indoor gallery containing 300 paintings, sculptures, photographs and ceramic works donated by the artist’s daughter and revealing personal insights into one of history’s most enigmatic creators. There are also several other indoor spaces at the museum with smaller works by Brancusi, Giacometti and Medardo Rosso.

One of the most popular exhibits at the museum is Symphonic Sculpture by Gabriel Loire, a steel and stained glass tower rising 18 metres and topped by an outdoor deck with spectacular views of the distant mountains. Once again, the kids can run riot, yelling and giggling as they clomp up and down the spiral staircase, footsteps echoing around the structure.

From here, it’s just a few short steps to the museum’s piece de resistance, the steaming footbath. Here, under shadecloth sails for protection from the elements, you can soak in steaming mineral waters scented with floating oranges and lemons, massaging your tootsies on raised river pebbles. This surely must be the most practical and thoughtful addition to any art museum in the world – there are even tiny towels available from a vending machine with which to dry off before you continue your artistic exploration.

Of all the jaw-dropping pieces in Hakone’s collection, there are two that impressed me most with their whimsy and humour. Miss Black Power by Niki de Saint Phalle is an ode to strong and powerful women; while at her monumental feet sprawls Close by Antony Gormley, a naked bronze figure spreadeagled on the emerald lawn.

English sculptor Henry Moore, famed for his semi-abstract human figures, once stated “sculpture is an art of the open air”. Hakone Open Air Museum provides the perfect natural forum for these large-scale creations, bringing art to the people in the most enjoyable and fanciful way imaginable. TRIP NOTESMORE INFORMATION

jnto整形美容医院.au  Getting there

Japan Airlines flies from Sydney and Melbourne to Tokyo daily, see au.jal整形美容医院m/aul/en/.

From Tokyo, catch the Odakyu Railway from Shinjuku station to Hakone-Yumoto station. An 85-minute journey costs $21.50 STAYING THERE

A double room at Hotel de Yama, on the shores of Lake Ashi in Hakone starts from $155 a person a night. See odakyu-hotel整形美容医院.jp/yama-hotel/english  MORE INFORMATION 

Hakone Open Air Museum is open daily from 9am to 5pm. Tickets $17 for adults or $15.50 purchased online; $8 for school children. See

The writer travelled as a guest of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu Tourism Association.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Wuxi Plastic Surgery Hospital.