Category Archives: Australia

Marvellous Melbourne: 10 reasons to visit

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Local markets, eclectic architecture, cool cafes, global cuisine, graffiti splattered walls and much more, ANURAG MALLICK finds out 10 cool reasons to visit Melbourne

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A planned city laid out around a central grid north of the Yarra river, Melbourne is a vibrant, multi-cultural place known for its love of art, culture, music and food. In this buzzing metropolis the old and the new meet in a delicious blend of architecture ranging from the classical to the whimsical. Bylanes are abuzz with the chatter of bars, restaurants, shops and theatres. With regular events and exhibitions at National Gallery Victoria, Victorian Art Centre and Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the city’s cultural calendar is packed. There’s lots to love about Melbourne and here’s what makes the city so cool.

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In CBD, the trams are free
The best thing about the Central Business District is that tram rides are free. When you are about to leave the Free Tram Zone, there’s a voice alert! Walking around the streets and bylanes is a delight as lovely ornate buildings dot the entire CBD area. In the rectangular grid, every street has an immediate equivalent lane from north to south – Flinder’s Street, Flinder’s Lane, Collins Street, Collins Lane, and so on.

From the western end, you have Spencer street named after the influential Spencer family to which Winston Churchill and Lady Diana belong. There’s King Street named after King William, Elizabeth Street after Queen Elizabeth and so on… As the local adage goes, if you get lost, all you have to do is think about the old dead monarchs of England.

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Laneway Dining
It’s a bit of a Melbourne thing to have bars and restaurants tucked away in alleyways, often without any prominent shop front or signage. Bar Americano is a tiny joint at Presgrave Place that serves good cocktails and seats only ten people at a time. Melbourne’s best Spanish fare can be found at Frank Camorra’s MoVida restaurant in the graffiti-splattered Hosier Lane.

Pastuso, the Peruvian grill and bar serving ceviche and pisco is tucked away on ACDC Lane. Adam DySilva’s Tonka presents Indian cuisine with a twist in a back alley at Duckboard Place off Flinders Lane. What they save on real estate goes on to your plate! Duck into any laneway and you’ll stumble onto something exciting…

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Street Art
Wherever you go in Melbourne, the streets are alive with art as if the entire city is one giant canvas. Corporation Lane was renamed ACDC Lane as tribute to the legendary Aussie rockers who hail from the city. Lined with funky artwork, fans painted the band’s trademark lightning bolt over the street sign because the city officials refused to change the nomenclature format.

Rather than chase kids spraying walls with aerosol cans, an entire lane was given to them in 2008 as a graffiti mentoring project. Union Lane, tucked away between David Jones & Book Building, is a great place to see local street art, besides Hosier Lane and Presgrave Place, which is known for its funky three-dimensional installations.

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The buskers of Bourke Street Mall
If you’re a busker, your ultimate platform is Bourke Street Mall. The popular location, thronged by the young and restless, has been running the sonic gauntlet for years and is Melbourne’s premiere spot for busking. But you can’t just land up here with your regular busker license and plonk your gear on the sidewalk.

Buskers must go to Melbourne Town Hall where they are screened, almost like Australia’s Got Talent or Australian Idol. The scene is very well managed and they can’t play all at once. There are three major points – off Elizabeth Street, Swanson Street and right in the middle. Unlike other street corners terrorized by wannabe musicians clanging away at pots and pans, the musical talent here is topnotch.

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Rooftop honey
One of the coolest things about Melbourne is its Rooftop Honey. All over the city 80 swarms of honeybee colonies have been ‘re-homed’ at unused roofs, balconies and gardens. Located at hotels, restaurants and coffee shops, the bees were resettled after their unwanted colonies elsewhere were saved from extermination. Being an agriculture driven country, Australia understands the importance of honey bees for a sustainable food supply chain as they pollinate agricultural and horticultural crops.

The reason why urban bee farming took off is the diverse flora growing in the city in comparison to the countryside which often has mono cropping. The result – truly ‘local’ produce of delicious honey unique to each site – Melbourne CBD, North of the Yarra to South of the Yarra. Buy test tubes or small jars for $14.95. www.rooftophoney.com.au

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Local sayings inspired by streets and buildings
Melburnians find a lot of inspiration for their aphorisms and adages from their cityscape. If you get out of a car or a tram onto a bustling street, people often remark “It’s busier than Bourke Street.” If you met ‘under the clock’, it was outside Flinders Street Railway Station. In the 1870’s it was fashionable to traipse down Collins Street in your glad rags and this fad was called ‘doing the Block’. When a shopping complex was built there in 1892, it was called Block Arcade.

Then there’s the building Buckley & Nunn, which gives rise to the phrase ‘Buckley’s chance (or none)’, rhyming slang for no chance at all. One of the biggest names in retail, (Sydney) Myer came in 1900 as a young Russian Jewish refugee who began by renting a small shop and within 18 years, he bought over everything. The 7-storey tall Myers runs all the way across Little Bourke Street to Lonsdale Street. If you are talking about someone who is too full of himself, they say “That guy has more front than Myer.”

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Reclaiming old buildings
One of the most charming aspects of Melbourne is the ability to take pre-existing unused spaces and reinvent them into hip venues. Like the switchboard room of the Manchester Unity Building where the controls were housed has been transformed into the tiny Switchboard Café. Postal Lane, an alleyway between Meyer and the General Post Office, was where delivery trucks took their mail in and out for 150 odd years.

When the Post Office shut down, some enterprising people started a few European style restaurants. Walk past the cast iron gates and dine next to signs that say ‘Beware of Motor Cars’ and ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted.’ Center Place, between Majorca building and Center House, used to be a rundown laneway where hawkers sold stamps, coins and knickknacks until it was converted into a warm intimate European style, lamp-lit alley. Today, it features in all publicity material of Melbourne!

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Exploring Vic Market
Established in 1878, the Queen Victoria Market is the largest market in Australia and the oldest Victorian era market in the southern hemisphere. Spread over 7 hectares in the heart of the CBD, its façade bears the figures of the Melbourne coat of arms – fleece, bull, ship and whale, representing the four major activities on which Melbourne’s economy was founded – wool, livestock, shipping and whaling.

Take a 2-hour guided Hunt and Gather Tour for $49 through The Meat Hall the oldest building with lively butchers and fishmongers who have been around for four generations. As the sign at Jago’s proclaims “We don’t yell to sell”. Walk through the Art Deco Dairy Hall and Deli for tribal flavors of kangaroo meat, fresh oysters, local cheese, handmade chocolate at Koko Black, Greek stuffed olives and more. Closed Mondays and Wednesdays. Ph (03) 9320 5835 www.qvm.com.au/tours

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Irreverent architecture
From the modern interpretation of Federation Square with shards to the slender spire of the Victorian Art Centre dubbed the ‘mock Eiffel Tower’ (it’s actually shaped like a ballerina’s tutu), Melbourne’s architecture is rich and diverse. All the wealth from the gold rush triggered a construction frenzy and in the 1870s, the city was hailed as ‘Marvellous Melbourne’.

Perhaps the most irreverent piece is the large clam shaped ladies’ purse made out of locally sourced pink granite and stainless steel by local artist Simon Perry. Created from contributions of the public purse, it’s a bit of an artistic joke that the installation is called the Public Purse. Pose for a selfie here or wait for a tram.

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Coffee culture
Melbourne is easily Australia’s coffee capital. While Pellegrini’s on Bourke Street started in 1912, is one of the earliest cafes to open in town, Melbourne’s coffee craze dates back to mid 20th century. After the second world war, several Italians and Greeks moved to Australia and Melbourne in particular. Aided by the timely invention of the piston-driven espresso machine by Achille Gaggia in 1945, the Italians brought the café culture to the city and Melbourne took it to another level.

With its laid back vibe, multi-cultural air, small independent roasters and love for the beverage, the stage was set for a coffee obsession that was only fuelled by the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Today, you could try The League of Honest Coffee for their single origin brews, the same blend of Vittoria beans served for the last 60 years at Pellegrini’s, grab a quick cuppa at Market Lane Coffee or try Manchester Press, Everyday Coffee, Proud Mary or Brother Baba Budan. As the sign at 1932 Café in the Manchester Unity Building states ‘More Espresso, Less Depresso.’

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FACT FILE

Getting there
Singapore Airlines flies from India to Melbourne (13½ hrs) via Singapore – 4½ hrs to Changi Airport and 7½ hrs to Melbourne. www.singaporeair.com

Stay
Melbourne has great accommodation options – Citadines on Bourke Street is a great hotel centrally located in the CBD. www.citadines.com

Eat
There’s excellent global cuisine on offer in Melbourne – Italian fare at Grossi and Florentino, American Diner and CBD’s biggest beer garden at Trunk, Indian cuisine with a twist at Tonka, Hellenic ‘filthy food’ at Gazi and great breakfast platters at Heirloom Japanese restaurant in Citadines Hotel.

For more info, visit www.tourism.vic.gov.au

Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared in the January 2017 issue of JetWings magazine.

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The globe on a platter: Melbourne cuisine

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Cuisines from around the world as well as a menu of native dishes converge on Melbourne’s infinity platter, writes ANURAG MALLICK

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“No, not an Indian restaurant! We want to eat local,” we implored, walking down the graffiti-lined ACDC Lane, wondering just what we were doing in a dark Melbourne alley. Despite our guide Tony Polletto’s reassurances about Tonka’s rave reviews, the backdoor entry didn’t do wonders to our confidence. But, by the time we finished with chef Adam D’Sylva’s ‘gourmet Indian restaurant with a twist’, we were eating more than our words.

Named after Honkytonk, an earlier establishment at the same place, Tonka’s food can be best described as… honkytonk. The incredulous menu seemed like the handiwork of some mad scientist in a lab. Fremantle octopus, rasam, vermicelli upma, pickled papaya! Port Phillip Bay scallop, Jerusalem artichoke, Kashmiri chilli and chana dal chutney! Smoked corn-fed chicken betel leaf with garlic chutney, pomelo and sweet papaya pickle! Chicken liver parfait, honeycomb, spiced peanuts and charred pav! And these were just the starters.

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It was irreverent, daring our taste buds to go where they had never gone before… The delectable spanner crab salad with puffed rice, green mango, peanuts, coriander and green chilli was basically a crab bhel. For mains we had rotis, Avani’s lamb curry, Duck korma and barely had space for Tonka’s gulab jamun with saffron syrup and silver leaf.

Over the last few decades Melbourne has emerged as an exciting and innovative food and drink destination. Be it street food, fine dining, a quick coffee, cool places to grab a drink after work or a specialty dinner, there’s astonishing variety in Melbourne. Hell, you could even have a three course meal on the world’s first travelling tramcar restaurant. The Colonial Tramcar Restaurant with its conspicuous burgundy boxcars moving about the city is a great way to enjoy the sights and bites.

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One big contributing factor for the city’s exciting cuisine is its ethnic diversity. A Greek Precinct, Little Italy, Chinatown and its own Little Vietnam; Melbourne has it all. The city’s multi-cultural mix started with the 1850s Victorian gold rush attracting Chinese prospectors and immigrants in droves. Melbourne’s Chinatown, centered around Little Bourke Street between Swanston Street and Spring Street, is the longest continuous Chinese settlement in the western world and the Southern Hemisphere. The neon lit avenue has top restaurants like Dahu Peking Duck, Hutong Dumpling Restaurant and the Flower Drum, hailed as the best Chinese restaurant in Australia.

Melbourne also has the largest Greek population in the world outside of Greece and much of the migration happened after the Second World War. The Greek Precinct, adjacent to Chinatown on Little Bourke Street, is abuzz with eateries like Tsindos, Kalamaki and Stalactites, one of the city’s oldest restaurants. We headed to celebrity chef and Masterchef Australia judge George Calombaris’ restaurant Gazi. Named after a food quarter in Athens, it offers Ethnika Vromika or ‘Hellenic dirty food’ – hawker style tastes in a plush setting.

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Greeted with ‘Kalispera’, Greek for ‘good evening,’ we sat under a ceiling dominated by 3000 inverted terracotta pots. Opposite the kitchen two open suitcases hung on the wall; the names and date are of George Calombaris’ grandfather and grandmother and the year they migrated from Greece to Australia. Instead of the 10-course $69 tasting menu called ‘Doing It Greek Style’, we tried all the dips with our pita basket – tzatziki, melitzanosalata (eggplant), cauliflower and beetroot besides the finest souvlaki in town.

The royal blue plates bore a huge eye in the centre and we learnt that what we had been calling Turkish evil eye was actually a 6th century BC Greek symbol called mati that once appeared on drinking vessels.

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Between the gold mining boom and two world wars, many Italians too moved to Australia. They brought with them the culture of coffee and cafés. The stretch of Lygon Street between the intersections of Elgin and Queensberry streets in the suburb of Carlton is known as Little Italy. The Lygon Street Festa every November is one of Australia’s largest outdoor street festivals and celebrates Melbourne’s vibrant Italian culture and cuisine. Toto’s Pizza House here was the first pizzeria established in Australia.

One of the earliest cafes in town, Pellegrini’s on Bourke Street began in 1912 and has been serving the same blend of Vittoria beans for the last 60 years. However, Melbourne’s café scene exploded only in the 50s, owing largely due to the piston-driven espresso machine invented by Achille Gaggia in 1945 and the Melbourne Olympics in 1956. We dropped by at the troika of Italian establishments on Bourke Street run by Guy Grossi serving coffee, wine and antipasti. The Cellar Bar was a typical Italian bar while Grossi and Florentino had quintessential Italian fare.

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Besides reinterpreting cuisines from around the world, Melbourne’s uniqueness lies in transforming unused spaces into fashionable dining venues. The tiny switchboard room where the controls of the Manchester Unity Building were housed was reinvented into the Switchboard Café. Center Place, once a seedy bylane between Majorca building and Center House where hawkers sold stamps and coins is today a European style, lamp-lit alley with outdoor dining. When the General Post Office shut down, the Postal Lane for delivery trucks was converted into a clutch of restaurants, still bearing signs like ‘Beware of Motor Cars’!

Housed in a brick building at the corner of Exhibition and Little Lonsdale streets, Trunk was built in 1859 as the Mickveh Yisrael synagogue and Hebrew School. It later became a state school, social welfare and child care centre, Salvation Army labour bureau, creche and eventually an Italian restaurant in 1980. Taking its name from a 150-year-old heritage listed Coral Tree, Trunk has one of the largest courtyards in CBD. Their pizzas and seafood risotto paired well with excellent Victorian wine. Staying at Citadines on Bourke Street, we were well located in Melbourne’s Central Business District.

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The hotel had an excellent French-Japanese restaurant downstairs with a sake bar called Heirloom. Every morning, the orange juice and fried breakfast of sausages, eggs, bacon, toast and coffee had become a ritual. Another Melbourne tradition is Koko Black hot chocolate, blended and brewed over two hours to achieve its signature smooth velvety texture.

Be it Mocha, Hazelnut or Orange, each drink comes with a recommended chocolate pairing – Chilli hot chocolate with caramelized coconut, Classical Belgian with salted caramel dark praline and Cinnamon with raspberry purée praline. After a pitstop at their Royal Arcade outlet on a Melbourne Secrets walking tour, we encountered them again at the Dairy Hall in Queen Victoria Market.

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Started in 1878 and spread over 17 acres, Melbourne’s much loved ‘Vic’ Market is the oldest and largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere. Land up on an empty stomach for the 2-hour Hunt & Gather Food Tour ($49). Our eager guide Mandy Ho started off from the oldest building the Meat Hall lined with butcher shops.

At Seafood & Oyster Spot, the livewire fishmonger Yianni almost force fed us fresh oysters. At the Art Deco Dairy Hall, we tried peppered kangaroo, kilishi (West African style beef jerky) at Tribal Tastes, cheese at Curds & Whey, Rooftop honey and stuffed olives and dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) at Hellenic Deli. From bratwurst (German sausage) to börek (Turkish baked filled pastries), Melbourne offers the globe on a platter…

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Like alchemists, Gewürzhaus mixes various herbs, spices, sugars and salts from around the world for their artisan spice blends. Drawn by the tantalizing aroma of spices in the air, we took whiffs of Australian Bush herbs to Black Lava salt from Cyprus.

Flying back from Melbourne on Singapore Airlines, instead of using the regular salt pepper sachet I pulled out the recently procured black truffle salt for my cheese and crackers. The flight attendant was curious. “Your own secret spice blend, Sir?” “No”, I smiled back, “It’s a pinch of Australia.”

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FACT FILE

Getting there
Fly from India to Melbourne (13½ hrs) via Singapore on Singapore Airlines – 4½ hrs to Changi Airport Singapore and 7½ hrs to Melbourne.

Where to Stay
Citadines on Bourke Street
131-135, Bourke Street, Melbourne Ph +61 3 9039 8888 www.sitadines.com.au

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Where to Eat
Trunk
: 275 Exhibition Street Ph +61 3 9663 7994 www.trunktown.com.au
Heirloom: 131 Bourke Street Ph +61 3 9639 1296
The Cellar Bar: 80 Bourke Street Ph +61 3 9662 1811 www.grossiflorentino.com
Gazi: 2 Exhibition Street Ph +61 3 9207 7444 www.gazirestaurant.com.au
Tonka: 20 Duckboard Place Ph +61 3 9650 3155 www.tonkarestaurant.com.au
Queen Victoria Market (Closed Mon & Wed) Ph (03) 9320 5835 www.qvm.com.au/tours

For more info, visit http://www.australia.com, http://www.tourism.vic.gov.au or visitmelbourne.com

Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared on 20 November 2016 in Sunday Herald newspaper.

Stags Only: The best bachelor holidays

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Planning a bachelor party with the boys? Skip Las Vegas and Bangkok and try these holiday ideas from ANURAG MALLICK and PRIYA GANAPATHY.

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So you’re getting hitched and your wild lifestyle is threatened by an Extinction Level Event (read marriage). Mad drunken parties with the boys, binge eating, dirty weekends, scanning dance floors and bars for fun, checking out the ‘scene’, ah the joys of bachelorhood… All this might seem history to the groom apparent, however, your friends couldn’t care less. They just want you to ride into the sunset of marital fidelity with all guns blazing. The idea is to go out and have fun. Here’s how to make it a bachelor party to remember… or forget!

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Get high in Dubai
What better way to celebrate with your mates than getting high together? And what better place than the world’s tallest building and the loftiest observation deck? Just short of a kilometer (828 m, 160 stories) At The Top in Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is as high as it gets. Make it special with a signature taster menu (caviar, truffles, foie gras) at the stylish SKY lounge and Atmosphere restaurant at level 148, manned by top chef Jerome Lagarde.

But there’s no reason you can’t get higher! Feel the adrenaline rush as you skydive from 13,000 ft over Palm Jumeirah or get on a hot air balloon, chopper, gyrocoptor or a Sea Wings seaplane for an aerial tour. Dubai is the place for bad boys to have a good time, with dune-bashing, belly-dancing and adventures like Ski Dubai (Middle East’s first indoor ski resort) and iFLY Dubai (indoor sky diving and wind tunnel experience).

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Easy rentals make it easy to zip around in your dream luxe car or set sail on the Persian Gulf in a luxurious yacht with Jacuzzi, barbeques and champagne. Pimp it up with model hostesses, resident DJ and bouncers. And if you don’t mind getting wet, strap on a hydrojet equipment and get set for shred sleds, jet packs and jet blades.

Stay in style at Palm Jumeirah at Anantara Resorts as you go party-hopping at Sanctuary in Atlantis nearby, Zero Gravity, White Dubai, Trilogy, Rattlesnake, Ku-Bu, Cyclone or Ibiza club Blue Marlin, a weekend-only beach bar. With Dubai’s diverse expat mix, it’s like attending the UN’s sorority bash.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi

For more info, www.visitdubai.com

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Get lucky in Hong Kong
For King Kong fun, head straight to Hong Kong. Terrific street food, night markets, rooftop bars, a vibrant ‘scene’ and the world’s largest permanent light and sound show Symphony of Lights; what’s not to like? The central party district of Lan Kwai Fong, Wan Chai and SoHo buzz with bars and clubs like Magnum, Volar, Play, Dragon-i, Ce La Vi, the world’s highest bar Ozone at Ritz Carlton and Aqua Spirit rooftop bar overlooking Victoria Harbour.

To up the ante, take the hour-long ferry to Macau, a mecca for boys who like to party hard. Like HK, a Special Administrative Region (SAR), the Portuguese presence in Macau over four centuries gives it an exotic appeal – from its food, culture to architecture. Having the world’s highest population density (20,497 people per sq km), two islands south of the mainland Coloane and Taipa were joined in a massive land reclamation project to form the Co-tai Strip, a 5.2 sq km gambling haven.

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In 2007, it turned the tables on Las Vegas as the world leader in gambling revenue. Most of the 30 million visitors to Macau are drawn by 24-hour gambling at the 33 casinos and integrated resorts – Venetian Resort, City of Dreams, Sands Cotai, Galaxy Macau Resort and Wynn Palace, which opened this year. Event planners like Ludih can help you organize the ultimate stag bash with stretch limos, VIP access at clubs and private parties in luxury hotel suites.

Jet Airways flies to Hong Kong

For more info, visit www.macaotourism.gov.mo

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Go beer guzzling in Germany
Beer by the tankards or ‘ein mass’ (one measure in a large mug), pigging out on red meat (sausages to steaks) and busty bier mädchen (beer maidens) dressed in dirndls (Alpine peasant costume) and tight-fitting bodices that make Hooters seem like a church choir; Germany is custom-built for a boys’ week out. Beer Bike Tours combine two of the best German specialties – beer and engineering – plonk with your pals on stools around a small bar and quaff beer while pedaling your beermobile. It’s a good way to burn off what you’ll put on.

Drive from north to south Germany on the Deutsch Fachwerke Strasse (Half-Timbered House Road), checking out local brews at the 1200 breweries between Bremen and Munich. Pop in at Munich’s famous beer hall Hofbräuhaus and the Bier & Oktoberfest Museum. Or head straight to Berlin, legendary for its hedonistic club scene and endless party hours. There’s hardly a block in Berlin without a bar though the top spots are in the hipster district of Kreuzberg.

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Check out Berlin’s oldest biergarten Prater or rent a raft and float down the Spree River. Go dancing at the open-air Club der Visionaire off the Spree or Matrix in an abandoned train station – almost every club in Berlin is built in an abandoned something! Split up into smaller groups to get into clubs like Sysiphos or the infamous techno haven Berghain.

The German love for kink is apparent in strip clubs like Golden Dolls or CP Club and adult entertainment venues like Artimis and Kit Kat Club. For a mad time, visit during the 16-day long Oktoberfest (mid-September to first Sunday in October)! Don’t forget to take home a stein (no, not a stain but a stoneware mug) as a memento.

Jet Airways flies to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, from where its codeshare partners Etihad and KLM have several connections to Frankfurt, Munich or Berlin.

For more info, visit www.germany.travel

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Rum tasting in Mauritius
If you were considering Mauritius for your destination wedding or honeymoon, your bachelor party might be a good way to scope it out. Sensuous Sega dancers and fire-eaters by the beach, endless rum tasting sessions at rhumeries like Chateau de Labourdonnais, Chamarel, L’Aventure du Sucre and Saint Aubin and riding out to reefs for diving or snorkeling with the boys; Mauritius is not your average lazy tropical paradise.

There’s a lot for the adventure enthusiast – SeaKart, UnderSea Walk, Sub Scooter and Submarine tours with Blue Safari (the only sub operation in the Indian Ocean), the world’s third longest zipline and Quad Biking at La Vallée des Couleurs and Casela Nature Park. And if you’re into golf, there are over a dozen world class courses.

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With all the action packed in a relatively small island nation (65km long, 45km wide) and plush beachside resorts like Shanti Maurice, Sofitel Imperial and Radisson Blu Azuri, no adventure is far away. Dine on the best of French, Caribbean and Creole cuisine and wash it down with rum macerated with tropical fruits and spices.

Jet Airways flies twice a week from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to Mauritius

For more info, visit www.tourism-mauritius.mu

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Bar hopping in Dublin
Few cities have the pulse and vibe of Dublin where the pub, the poet and the pint are seemingly inseparable. The Irish are a friendly lot and it’s easy to strike up a conversation, make new friends and party like a local. Start your pilgrimage with a visit to the Guinness Storehouse and their St James Gate Brewery where they teach you everything from how to pour the perfect pint o’ Guinness and how to drink one!

For a traditional Dublin pub experience with a live band, Irish music and food, The Merry Ploughboy Irish music pub is a must do. Wowing audiences since 1989, they even have a pick-up and drop facility from town. Go on a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl with quirky book-themed tours in the footsteps of famous authors through Dublin’s cobbled streets. Professional actors double up as guides performing from the works of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett.

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Sounds too dense? Hit the Temple Bar area to wet your whistle at Kitty O’Shea’s, The Hole in the Wall and The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub that opened in 1198. Not into beer? Take the scenic Giant’s Causeway Coastal route and head for an Irish whiskey experience at The Old Jameson Distillery (reopening after a makeover in March 2017).

Jet Airways flies to London, from where you can fly to Dublin or Belfast.

For more info, visit www.ireland.com

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Go Down Under in style in Australia
If you’re all set to change your FB status from Single to Married (or It’s Complicated), go down under in style by celebrating Down Under. Base yourself in Melbourne’s Central Business District (CBD) and you’re just a hop, skip and jump from all the entertainment – bars, restaurants, gentleman’s clubs and a variety of shows. Plus, in CBD, the trams are free!

Stay at Citadines on Bourke Street or check into luxe tents at St. Jerome’s with scenic views and bespoke brewery tours run by the Temple Brewing Co. For whiskey tastings, there’s The Humble Tumbler, Bar 1806 and Whisky & Alement. Australia is the perfect place for XXXX fun and we don’t mean Castlemaine!

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Take the fun out to sea with a stripper cruise or have a poker party with topless barmaids and nude waitresses. Drive out of town with your mates to Philip Island for surfing and to watch penguins, seals and wallabies in the wild. The Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit which hosts the Moto GP in October also has a 720m go-karting track. Continue the party on the Great Ocean Road past the Twelve Apostles to Sydney if you have more time… and stamina!

Jet Airways flies to Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Qantas flies to Melbourne and Sydney

For more info, www.visitmelbourne.com

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Island hopping in Indonesia
Imagine this. The moment you land in Bali, you and your Wolf Pack is whisked from the airport to your private pool villa in Semenyak where party girls welcome you with chilled Bintangs. Your pool party has its own DJ, with VIP access to top clubs at night and cruising on a luxury yacht with your bevy of beauties. Yes, in Bali, everything is possible.

If you don’t want to depend on an event planner, DIY, but don’t DUI. Choose a regular hotel in the main tourist hub of Kuta so you’re never far from action. Catch the sunset at beach shacks like Ku De Ta, Potato Head, Cocoon or Mozaic, then go late night clubbing at Sky Garden in Legian. The next day, recover with Balinese massages and foot reflexology. In the posher precinct Semenyak, you can have your own pool villa with party spots like Bounty, Mirror and Koh close by.

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Fly out to Labuan Bajo in Flores, where you can go diving and deep sea fishing or head out on a boat trip to Komodo Island to watch giant reptiles. With getaways like Sulawesi, Lombok and nearly 18,000 islands (of which 8844 are named and 922 permanently inhabited), you are indeed spoilt for choice.

Jet Airways flies to Bangkok and Singapore, from where its codeshare partner Garuda Indonesia flies to Bali

For more info, visit www.indonesia.travel

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Glamping in Oman
Oman may not seem like the most obvious choice for a bachelor party, but if you’re looking for good clean fun, the Desert Nation has quite a few surprises. Smoke sheeshas on the sands like a Bedouin, swim in wadis with barbecue parties at Wadi Bani Khalid, trek in the Al Hajar mountains or go dune bashing, quad biking and sandboarding with your buddies at Sharqiya Sands.

But perish the thoughts of basic ‘Abdullah and the Camel’ sort of tents, Desert Nights Camp will spoil you silly with glamping (glamour-camping). Tents fit for sultans dressed up with plush rugs and drapes, the nomadic strains of the darbouka (stringed instrument) and oud (percussion) and the tantalizing aroma of barbecued meat, Oman is as sensory as its aromatic frankincense. Fly from Muscat to Khasab for 4X4 drives across rugged terrain and luxury dhow cruises with dolphin spotting and snorkeling at Telegraph Island.

Jet Airways flies to Muscat

For more info, visit www.omantourism.gov.om

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Explore the coffee shops of Amsterdam
Amsterdam has all the ingredients to threaten your marriage, so go at your own peril. A lot of the stuff illegal elsewhere is legit here. Much as the city likes to shrug the tag, over half a million tourists are drawn by visions of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Amsterdam’s legendary coffee shops, currently trimmed down to 220, come with elaborate menus offering everything from Moroccan Ice to Malana Cream for a Cheech & Chong stoner holiday.

There’s no better example of Amsterdam’s drug tolerance than Bulldog Leidseplein, formerly a police station, decorated with criminal artifacts! Scour the top forty listed in the local Mellow Pages: A Smoker’s Guide to Amsterdam and pop by at the award-winning Green House, The Grasshopper or Barney’s for a hit. The Cannabis Cup in November used to be a great time to visit until the recent clampdown. Another mandatory pitstop is Amsterdam’s red light district De Wallen, where you’ll learn a new meaning to the term ‘window shopping’. For those racked by guilt, look out for the “Pimp Free Zone” sticker.

Jet Airways flies to Amsterdam

For more info, visit www.holland.com

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Get unreal in Montreal

With its trendy bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, every sort of club, Montreal is not called Sin City of the North for nothing. Get party girls to go clubbing with you, visit lap dance bars, try naked sushi or get your freak on at Kamasutra Club and Club Supersexe. St Laurent is a buzzing entertainment quarter while Crescent Street has great bars like Mad Hatter and Churchill’s, which has daily happy hours.

Montreal has a certain French flair and many time their bachelor parties in time for the cold winter sports season (thus justifying the need for warmth) or events like the jazz festival. Looking for an all-expense paid pre-arranged tour? Connect with www.connectedmontreal.com

Jet Airways flies to London Heathrow from where its codeshare partner Air Canada flies to Montreal, Toronto and other destinations

For more info, visit www.canada.travel

Authors: Anurag Mallick & Priya Ganapathy. This is the unabridged version of the article that appeared in the October 2016 issue of JetWings International magazine.

Melbourne: Hidden Secrets Tour

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ANURAG MALLICK goes on a Hidden Secrets Tour through Melbourne’s Central Business District with local artist Nicholas Jones. The Lanes and Arcades walk uncovers the secrets behind the city’s most iconic buildings and bylanes.

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‘Meeting under the clock’ at Flinders Street Railway Station
Dominating Federation Square, is the Art Nouveau building of Flinders Street Railway station, built in 1909-10 in Edwardian style. The pattern of striped bare red brick and white plaster is interestingly called Blood and Bandage! One of the longest railway platforms in the world, running over four city blocks, its western end has a ballroom and there’s a jogging track on top!

A row of clocks in front earlier displayed various train timings so that people returning from Sunday Church could see what time their train was. It became a bit of a Melbourne tradition to ‘meet under the clock’. Though the building is beautiful, it is not as grand as India’s Victoria Terminus, leading to an apocryphal lore that the plans for the train stations in Mumbai and Melbourne got mixed up in the post!

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Eureka Tower and the Gold Rush
The 91-storey Eureka Tower is the tallest completely residential structure in the Southern Hemisphere. Many are fascinated by its appearance that looks like a calculator or ruler – Melbourne in the 1880’s was the wealthiest city in the world, rich from its gold trade. The skyscraper was built in memory of the 1854 Eureka Stockade at Ballarat, where miners revolted against unjust taxation and were eventually killed.

The blue and white represents the Eureka flag, the building’s 24 carat gold-plated exterior represents the gold rush while the red strip symbolizes all the blood spilt! SkyDeck, the 88th floor observation post offers dizzying views.

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Why St Paul’s Cathedral is twin-coloured
Built at the site of the first ever church service in Melbourne, St Paul’s was originally a small wooden church later rebuilt out of loose stone. The present edifice was designed by ecclesiastical architect William Butterfield. Unfortunately, the architect was so busy the plans were shipped from England and the church ended up askew – 90-degree off axis!

Built as a flat top church out of locally sourced blue stone in the 1870s, the top spire of St Paul’s cathedral was added later out of Sydney sandstone. The difference in shades is apparent and tourists often remark, “It’s great they’ve cleaned the top part, when are they going to clean the rest of it?”

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‘Having a drink with Chloe’ at Young & Jackson pub
The site of the Prince’s Bridge Hotel (named after Prince Albert), where the Young & Jackson Pub now stands, was purchased for £100 at the first Melbourne land auction in 1837 by John Batman, the city’s founder. A stone tablet outside the pub commemorates the incident. The pub’s famous inhabitant is Chloe, an 1875 nude painted in Paris in the Salon style by French artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre.

Back in the day when Melbourne was a puritanical colonial backwater, the painting was put up in the National Gallery leading to clergymen demanding that she be removed as it affected the social moral fiber. She was taken down and kept in storage between 1883-1907, until the pub owners bought it for 800 pounds; today it is independently valued at $5-6 million. Since women were not allowed into pubs those days, a naked woman gave the impression of a Gentleman’s Club and ‘having a drink with Chloe’ meant a visit to the pub.

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Platform 2 Artist Project & Sticky Institute
The subterranean Campbell Arcade was built just before the 1956 Melbourne Olympics (dubbed as the Friendly Games) to take pressure off the train station. Forgotten for many decades, in 1995 local artists formed an initiative called Platform 2 Artist Project in the Degraves Street Subway (Platform 1 was on Spencer Street, Southern Cross Station) where the display cabinets served like an art gallery!

In the small clutch of shops is the legendary artist-run Sticky Institute. If you write a book of poetry, a comic book or fanzine on your favourite band, you can print it, staple it and put it up here like a locally produced mag.

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Use Melbourne’s first escalator at Manchester Unity Building
In 1932, in the middle of the depression, Melbourne was hit badly and thousands of young men were desperate to find work. The result was Manchester Unity Building. Running three eight-hour shifts with non-stop construction, nearly one storey was built a week and the whole building was finished within a year.

Marvel at its copper elevator doors, mosaic tiles and relief work on the ceiling (depicting gold mining, farming and the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932). Walk past the Latin motto on the floor Amicitia Amor Veritas ‘Friendship, Love & Truth’ to the first escalator in Melbourne.

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The Newspaper House mural
Rupert Murdoch’s father Keith Murdoch built Newspaper House in 1933 for the Murdoch family. The mosaic tiled façade features a quote ‘I’ll put a girdle about the earth’ taken from Shakespeare’s The Midsummer Night’s Dream – pretty accurate for the Murdochs’ sense of ambition.

It was designed by local muralist Napier Waller, who also did the murals at Myer, Melbourne Town Hall, State Library of Victoria and the T&G Life Building. Not many know that Waller served in the first World War and his right arm got blown off in 1916 in France; as a result, he had to retrain to work with his left hand!

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Checking the time at Royal Arcade
The oldest arcade in Australia, the 1869 building with ornamental Italian architecture was based on Galleria in Milan. The faint lettering on the exterior ‘1912 BATH’ indicate its use in the past. Beautiful hand made tiles lead into a hall lined with premium shops. It’s only when you turn and look back you see two seven feet giants.

Gog and Magog have been striking the clock – built by Thomas Gaunt & company – since 1892. This was where gentlemen in the past would stop to check their fob or pocket watches to make sure they are on time. On the far end in the corner is a figure of Father Time keeping a watchful eye.

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Flinder’s Lane
This was the hub of Melbourne’s garment industry, so anyone who wanted a suit, a hat or boots came here. The number of clothing firms in the ‘Lane’ reached 610 in 1939, right until the early 1960s. When people took clothes out into the Lane they had to cover it with calico to stop people pinching the design. The Lane is home to luxury French label Chanel who have a flagship store at the fashionable “Paris end” of the city.

Full of structures related to the textile industry but now known for its SoHo atmosphere, boutique hotels, cafes and bars, it connects to smaller lanes like Degraves Street and Manchester Lane, where a piece of public art pays tribute to its textile history – a giant zipper running down the laneway.

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Presgrave Place’s 3D graffiti
Melbourne is a city that teems with graffiti, be it AC/DC Lane or Union Lane, a tiny alley between David Jones & Book Building given to local street artists in 2008 as a graffiti mentoring project. But at Presgrave Place off Howery Place, you’ll find no space for aerosol cans.

After someone put up a framed artwork and stuck it to the wall in 2007, the alley became a bit of an artists’ shrine. Strange arrangements, curious collections of plastic dolls, installations of rats with parachutes, 3D graffiti to a miniature Mona Lisa with 3 plastic soldiers pointing guns at her. It even has its own Banksy – except he’s called Kranky!

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Author: Anurag Mallick. This article appeared on 26 July 2016 in Conde Nast Traveller online. http://www.cntraveller.in/story/melbournes-10-secret-experiences-hiding-in-plain-sight/