November 24, 2010

Melbourne a city you can’t get enough of!

My love for Australia goes back a long long way, but my recent visit has left me completely speechless. My first sight of Australia was Melbourne’s dazzling skyline, the soothing Yarra River and colonial trams! Like a child excited about going to Disneyland for the first time, the 15 hour flight to Australia and the wretchedly long queues through immigration didn’t pull me down! The delegation was escorted for dinner to a Chinese restaurant called Shark Finn’s Inn. As absurd as the name suggests, the food is spectacular!!! For sea food lovers, you can even pick your food from a live fish tank! Our agenda after dinner was to get a phone connection and crash for the night.

Day 02 of our trip was big and believe me, it totally was worth the hype! After getting well acquainted with our cars and the driving rules especially the legendary hook turn, we rolled out of Hertz and headed straight out to Ballarat. Our first stop was the Ballarat Wildlife Park. Well, I’m biased towards Australia so I loved the place, but if strolling in a park with kangaroos, feeding Tasmanian devils and chilling with wombats and koalas is your thing, then this is the place for you. Our next stop was Sovereign Hills. Contrary to the boring historic impression we have of the place, it’s really quite fascinating. Imagine a make believe township with actual bakeries, horse carriages, gold mining, making and panning, this open air museum is flanked with the most hilarious ‘residents’ dressed in Victorian outfits, who randomly begin entertaining themselves by singing or arresting people! After our bout of touristy experiences for the day, we started out to Warrnambool. Take my advice and travel the inland route, stretches of mustard fields, lazy cows and quaint farm houses, are a verdant side of the exuberant Victoria State. We ended our day with dinner at Pippies by the bay and a night spent at the Sebel Blue Hotel.

Day 03 was undoubtedly the highlight of our stay in Victoria. The Great Ocean Road Drive – something we were all looking forward to even before we commenced our journey. The 200 odd kilometer drive from Warrnambool to Queenscliff was absolutely picturesque. With the lush Port Campbell National Park on one hand and the pristine coastline on the other, the drive is definitely one of the most spectacular in the world. Limestone formations like the London Bridge, Loch and Gorge, Blowers Hole and the world renowned 12 Apostles are definitely a great photo opportunity, and the best way to capture images is by taking a chopper ride over the rugged coast. The mighty formations standing tall amidst the ocean, the flawless beach, the froth of the waves and the opulent ocean collectively make a picture that one frames in their mind for eternity. Dotted with numerous small towns like Lorne, Apollo Bay and Torquay, the region personifies an easy way of life. Open air cafes, bistros, boutiques, motels and B&B’s, the life here is to die for! We boarded a passenger ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. An hour later, we arrived at a place which definitely features on my list of immigration destination options! A local favourite in the Mornington Peninsula, this beach town is ravishing! Stretches of flawless white beaches, crystal blue water and colourful beach shacks, Sorrento caught my attention almost instantly. Besides being famous for surfing, sailing, fishing and other water related activities, Sorrento is also known for its trendy stores, gourmet restaurants, vineyards and strawberry fields! Ladies, for those of you who are looking for a chic haircut, locals in Sorrento are borderline fanatical about hair!

On day 04, we were scheduled to visit the Phillip Island. A popular weekend getaway for families, couples or friends travelling together, it’s got something to suite every visitors taste. From koala conservation centres, penguin viewing stands and grand prix circuits to stylish restaurants, local pubs and bowling alleys, the island will not disappoint you. We headed back to Melbourne on day 05. After having dropped off our cars and checking into our hotel, the evening was ours to explore Melbourne in our own way! This cosmopolitan city has a fervent love for art, culture, food, wine, fashion and of course sports! The grandeur of the Flinders station, the lively buzz at the local bars, pubs and the legendary Crown Casino, the swanky boutiques and street stores, our Friday evening in Melbourne was racy!

Dramatic as I might sound, leaving Melbourne on day 05 and travelling to Sydney left me with that hollow feeling at the pit of my stomach! The region was just so me – well trimmed green parks, a blend of Victorian and modern structures, the intertwining trams, the chugging of trains the peaceful river, Melbourne is a city you can’t get enough of!

Story by Devanshi – Beacon Team.

November 15, 2010

Back from the beach on Hamilton Island!

If you have time on your side I would recommend a week’s stay in an apartment where you have access to your own kitchenette , this way you can enjoy going out when you like and staying in on the days that have been action packed !

The variety of marine life to see is breathtaking… we took a trip out the great barrier reef during our 4 night stay up there and I can truly say it is an experiences of a life time if you choose to snorkel or scuba dive you have some great views of the reef. Nevertheless, if your less adventurous you even have the a trip out in a glass bottom boat. To name a few things we saw a baby reef shark, a little sting ray, sea cucumbers, thousands of fish or the likes of “Nemo” and all his friends, unbelievable corals and much much more. We went with H20 and they were really great.

Some of the Beacon team have just explored Hamilton Island, and this is what they have to say…..

If you would really like to get away and see some of the bluest of blue waters the Whitsunday islands is the place to go.

We took some amazing day and sunset cruises on sailboats and enjoyed seeing the island turtles swimming about. If you like activities the Island SPA is quite popular, though we spend all our time out on the boats so I can’t report back on the SPA first hand.

Food on the island is a mix or café style and fine dining, you can even enjoy room deliveries for the pizzas down at the marina. There is a fair bit of good seafood around. I do recommend a drink down at the stunning yacht club and dinner at manta ray café to try their calamari entrée (it was Devine). Islanders do recommend lunch at the golf course club house (which is on the neighbouring island) even if you’re not into playing golf as the views from Dench Island are magnificent.

It’s is a stunning place to visit and I would give it an absolute 10/10 for that however you do end up spending a fair bit on money on the island. As everything added up from the food to the buggies works our quite expensive.

We stayed at the Reef view hotel on Hamilton Island…look at some of the views from our room.

October 5, 2010

Masala Trails…Spicy side trips off the road less eaten


Culinary enthusiasts now have the unique opportunity to take one-of-a-kind, cuisine themed trips through India! Beacon Holidays, the travel company synonymous with niche travel, and Celebrity Gastronome Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal today announced the launch of their luxury culinary food tours of India – a country in which the cuisine changes with every fifty kilometers!

The tours feature a smorgasbord of boutique culinary experiences of India, a country where food takes a priority; and yet the explorations of its most delicious and undiscovered culinary secrets are overdue

Called Masala Trails, these tours aim to take the food traveller off the ‘eaten’ track into lesser-known regions of India, showcasing local cuisines through the street food, home kitchens and fine dining experiences. On the menu are dozens of carefully selected experiences designed to bring out the full flavour of India.

The Masala Trail will wind itself through some of the most vibrant culinary cities such as like Kolkata, Hyderabad, Cochin, Goa, Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

The tour will feature culinary experiences that will span the gastronomical spectrum – from market tours and street food to private kitchen experiences and demonstrations with

expert cooks and chefs. Our clients will interact with and learn from, local food artisans, and experience a very different side of India through intimate contact with local regional cuisines, food customs and traditions.

“At Beacon travel is a passion and this is a legacy that we as Heena Munshaw’s daughters have inherited; putting all the elements together to create a perfect holiday, discovering the unique experiences that will really transform that holiday from a mere tour to a memory, these characteristics are in our blood. Having grown up in India, selling Indian holiday experiences to the world is a personal project for me and with a Foodie in the family, this culinary tour was a given!

The Masala Trails product enables us to take the next step into experiential travel, offering access and encounters only the right pairing of travel and food knowledge can provide with the quality and consistency consumers can expect from one of the travel world’s most trusted brands. It’s taken us a year to ‘cook’ it up travelling all over India, trying out all sorts of things but finally we are ready to dish it up and I can’t wait!” says Himanshi Munshaw – Luhar, Director, Beacon Holidays (Australia).

“Indian cuisine or spices, it is hard to say which is the more abused! Both have been eulogised and exoticised to such an extent that their reputation precedes them, inspiring – at the very least – a reluctance to try them and – in extreme cases – ABJECT FEAR!” Says Celebrity Gastronome Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, the other half of the sister duo behind Masala Trails. “And much of what is best of India’s vast and incredibly diverse cuisine is hidden from the visitor’s eyes in home kitchens and street corners across the country. Masala Trails has been simmering for a long time; it just needed the right ingredients to become a perfect offering. Through it, I hope to realise a lifelong dream of showcasing the rich culinary heritage of my country”

Visit us at

October 4, 2010

Kerala – Gods Own County

Beacon HouseBoatBeacon Ayurveda

Where do I start, I landed in (Kochi) Cochin, and Fort Cochin is a pleasure to walk around. The Chinese fishing nets, smiling coconut men at their stalls, and the backdrop of water and greenery – Kerala is definitely a unique part of India.

Stay at the charming heritage hotels of Brunton Boatyard – as the name suggests it used to be a boatyard and they have preserved a lot of their Portuguese and British influence or try Malabar House, and if you’re after something a little more personal the Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel is the perfect option.

The drive from Cochin to Thekkady is on a bit of a windy road, but when you get there the plantation hotels make it all worth it. Stay at the Spice Garden, appointment amidst a mangos, nutmeg and cardamom its natural environment and friendly staff with a restaurant serving high quality Italian food amongst other cuisines is special place.

The other property that really comes to mind is the Spice Village, run by the CGH group you can’t really go wrong. Make sure you take a walk around the property with their naturalist and eat at their 50 mile restaurant – All the ingredients are from within a 50 mile radius.

By Far my best ever experience was the Houseboats. Once I boarded it was like time stood still….and I was instantly relaxed. Cruising around the lake and being waited on for evening tea took all my troubles away. The beast meal I ever ate in Kerala was on this houseboat. Cooked in the traditional fashion, it was simple food, healthy food and food I was literally liking off my fingers. If you have a choice, choose the traditional houseboats. The experience of sitting outside is much better than sitting behind a window. You cruise till sunset and then docked by the edge of the lake sleep comfortably in an air-conditioned cabin.

Of course being in Kerala one has to have an Ayurveda treatment, this is after all the capital of Ayurveda. Though after the houseboat you might not need it. Ayurveda is a gentler form of massage so remember to let them know if you would like a bit more pressure. Relaxed, rejuvenated and I was ready to go again….

Kerala truly is Gods Own Country.

June 4, 2010

Queenstown Part 2 – What to do there!

One of the most exciting things to do in Queenstown is to visit the Remarkable rocks. There are a number of ways to do this. You can take a scenic flight over the area and land on the snow…big thumbs up for this one… or your can drive up there , take a coach up there , or do what I did and take a Nomad Safari.

Nomad Safaris have custom build vehicles that they use for their various tours and one of them is the Lord of the Rings tour. Now if your not a Lord of the Rings fan don’t worry it’s only part of the experience. The tour starts by driving you to various parts of Queenstown from Coronets peak to the Remarkable rocks, and along the way your charming guide will stop and show you the various places where some of the scenes of the movie were shot, it must have been hard job for the location coordinator to settle on the locations because it’s all beautiful.

The best part of my tour was the stop half way up the Remarkable rocks where I got to play in freshly fallen snow. To some of you that might not be a big deal, but for me this was almost my first experience. It’s soft and pure white and so easy to make snow balls out of, and of course throw at each other! From here we went to Arrowtown to drive through a river – which by the way is a public road, my recommendation get a 4WD and go nuts!

And here are another few things to try, for some more amazing views of the city take a ride up the Gondola, once you get there have a go on the Luge – race down and slopes for a bit of a thrill. If that’s not your thing, here’s what perked me up.

It’s called the ZIPTREK. Flying fox is just the funnest experience, but do it with these guys and in this backdrop, they have the perfect recipe. It runs every day rain or shine, it’s incredible, and currently there are 4 ziplines at various heights. Some of the best views and a very cool way to see them… and while you’re at it, try a few stunts…perhaps do and upside down star. ZIIPPPPPPPPPPPEEE!

June 2, 2010

Queenstown, New Zealand Part -1

Wonderful Queenstown
So I’ve just returned from my very first trip to Queenstown and let me just tell you, every picture you’ve seen of that fantastic view is really what it is. It’s not Photoshop and it’s not edited. Most places die down in the winter, but Queenstown is just waking up. A few days away from the snow season and the locals are practically up the mountain, and boy are they REMARKABLE.

There are 2 major ski areas in Queenstown Coronet peak and the Remarkables. In my understanding they offer equally exciting ski runs for beginners and experts alike, since they have such a varied terrain.

But let me tell you about my experience of Queenstown…..the most amazing flight in, and I’m not talking about a scenic flight, I’m talking about the regular Air New Zealand flight into the city. When you’re landing the flight crew says “Please remember that you are not permitted to take photographs or use your mobile phone till you are inside the terminal”. This is the hardest thing to do… I guarantee that when you get your first look at Queenstown you will fall in love with it….the beautiful back drop of the Remarkables that just roll on with the beautiful white peaks, the cold breeze that hits you in the face and wakes you up and if your lucky enough to get the clear blue sky – you’re a gonner!

I spent the rest of the day exploring what the city had to offer, a delicious lunch by an open fire and an exceptional glass of pinot noir at Amisfield Winery, followed by a thrilling jet boat ride over the Shotover river, a quick scenic flight over the area and finished up with a steam cruise (TSS Earnslaw) in a boat as old as the Titanic across to Walter peak for a hot soup and varied selection of salads and food. All in all a perfect day in Queenstown.

March 17, 2010

East African Encounters… Tell us about yours….

Massai WarriorsSo like most travellers to Kenya , our family also decided to go to the Masai Mara. If you haven’t been there you should definitely put it on your wish list.

It’s endless planes of beautiful land and the most amazing sunsets…. The perfect picture , the single Acacia tree in the orange backdrop of the sunset or sunrise…

The safari is the most exciting thing… We wake up before sunrise to go out…because it’s cooler at this time you are likely to see more animal about. We started the drive with the Zebras…..I’m not talking about 1, or 2 or 3, I’m talking about over a 100! Safaris as they are in East Africa are no where else….They are just blessed with numbers here… driving around for a few more minutes and there we see giraffes and buffalo, a little more into the drive and we encounter the Elephants…. The most adorable creatures are their little ones…. struggling to stand ever so playful learning to use their trunks and all the while being protected by their family.

But something that will definitely get you to stop and stare are the Kings of the Jungle! They sit there looking glorious, the lionesses surrounding the lion and his big main. They were 6 that we saw together. Our 1st time and 6! i can’t begin to tell you about our excitement. Sitting around a bush and doing their thing. They must have fed recently , because they didn’t look like they wanted to move anytime soon. We just sat there and enjoyed watching them for a while…

These are moment you can’t capture on a camera so don’t even try (unless of course you have a fabulous one with a big zoom)

March 9, 2010

Beacon Holidays India Brochure

Our India Brochure for 2010 is now released.... Let me tell you a little about the behind the scenes.

The Brochure is like a coffee table book. Unlike most travel brochures, it is not full of itineraries and prices. It's meant only to give you information and a feel for the destination.

Written by the famous Travel writers Jeroo and Gustasp Irani and images by Gustasp Irani it is turely a master piece. Also find among it's pages inspirations for culinary journey's with Food Writer Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal.

Order your copy and get a fantastic discount on your holiday.

February 3, 2010

Our Holiday to India

Dear Himanshi,

Thank you so much for organising such a wonderful trip for us. The planning, booking and travelling was made so smooth and easy by all your hard work. We enjoyed all of the cities we visited and we deeply appreciated your suggestions for areas we did not know.

The 4 star hotels around India really allowed us to explore different styles as each hotel really represented the city in which it was located. We loved Jaipur and Goa. The different lifestyles of each city and state really helped bring India alive for us.

The mini food tour in Mumbai was also a great. It was a real chance to understand the food and the people. Rushi is so passionate about Indian regional food that it really is something unique and special.

Most of all we just want to thank you. From the moment we started talking about the trip to when we finally arrived back in Melbourne, you made everything as smooth and easy for us as possible. The India team were very professional, and the service was good in every city and every location. The personal guides and drivers allowed us to really get to know the Indian people and the local cultures in more depth.

With deepest regards and affection


Dr Marion Steel

Course Coordinator / Lecturer

January 26, 2010

Traveling The Golden Triangle in India

The Golden Triangle is probably the route most travelled in India. starting from Delhi , the fantastic city where old world meets new, the Mughal architectural monuments , the fantastic bazaars…. have you ever been to Khan market? Yes of course there is shopping but the FOOD! It’s amazing…freshly cooked in front of your with all those lovely spices…mouth watering.

Go ahead to Agra., of course to see the Taj Mahal, the romantic times of royal love, only for the same powerful Ruler to be imprisoned by his own son in the Agra Fort. While you are there most of the hotels have excellent spa facilities and beautiful restaurants like the ITC. Or if your really out for the Luxury splurge stay that the Amarvillas for the beautiful views of the Taj from your room. Even enjoy the evening entertainment.

Jaipur – The Pick city, with all the lovely Rajasthani carving it’s no wonder the designs have transferred to the beautiful clothing and materials….shopping paradise for everything Indian. This is where you can stay in Royal homes “haveli’s” and interact with the locals…. For a completely out of this world experience stay at the Samode palace or bagh.

If you need a hand planning your trip of want some information from someone who loves everything about it give us a shout.