WATCH: How to make the national dish of Laos

Laos last week completely reopened its borders to foreigners, paving the way for the travellers to return to this small, extraordinary South-East Asian nation.

This is a country that has long been the ideal destination for those wanting something a little different to the traditional South-East Asian experience. Gorgeous waterways wind their way through dense forests like arteries throughout, with rope swings and bars abundant on the water’s edge. Long gone are the booze and narcotic filled tubing days of the early 2010s, but a slightly toned-down tubing experience is definitely still possible, and worth it.

Kuang Si Waterfall

Adventure isn’t hard to find here. Trekking through paddy fields and jungles, zip-lining from tree to tree. It’s also a place at the intersection of a heap other Asian countries, meaning not only is it easy to go and visit those places, but there’s a patchwork of different people and cultures you’re unlikely to come across anywhere else.

As well as being a bit different to other countries in terms of experience, Laos does things a little differently in terms of food as well. Although there are some influences owed to a 60-year French occupation, Lao cuisine is much more similar to Thai, although with a greater love for sticky rice.

Saengthong Douangdara of Saeng’s Kitchen is a celebrity Lao chef who describes Lao cuisine as “aggressive…really spicy, really funky and really delicious.” Just another

Laab is the national dish of Laos, and there’s a heap of different variations of it – see below as Saeng runs us through how to make Laab Diib. We can definitely see ourselves smashing a bowl of this in a little street-side stall in Luang Prabang some time soon…

Gorgeous George: Appropriately named jazz-luxury in Cape Town

Forget King George or George Costanza – there’s a new George in town….Cape Town, that is.

Centrally located in the upmarket St Georges Mall, Gorgeous George has its own inimitable style that sets it apart from other cool stays, a style that could best be described as a kind of chic, jazz luxury.

The focal point is the leafy rooftop that looks out over a hip neighbourhood, with sun beds surrounding a gorgeous (there’s no other way of saying it) wading pool.

The pool is perfect for pool parties, bikini-clad influencers, people that tan, and people looking to soothe their muscles after a big day climbing Table Mountain or in Cape Town’s renowned surf.

There’s a retro-style radio in each room and funky nude artwork adorns the walls in most rooms and corridors, pleasing both sophisticated connoisseurs and pervvy people. There’s a jazz bar on level one that heaves with stylish people (but closes quite early).

But it’s the rooftop that is the highlight. Get there as the sun rises, and get the braaied boerewors – little South African sausages that pack a heap of punch in a small package. Just like George.

That’s one nice Korean noodle

If you’ve never heard of Paik Jong-won, you clearly haven’t been to South Korea.

The celebrity chef has an extraordinary 5.5 million subscribers, and about 3,000 stores worldwide. But you don’t have to go to Korea to experience this man’s brilliance – he’s opened up a couple of stores down the road from each other in Melbourne.

Tucked away almost secretly down Little Lonsdale Street alongside some other excellent Korean restaurants, Paik’s Noodles and Paik’s BBQ Grill are only about 100 metres from each other. get lost took on the Noodle restaurant but if the queue is too long (and it gets pretty long) then head up the road to the Grill.

The first thing you notice about Paik’s is the size of the man’s thumb on the cartoon sign that you walk under as you go in. We’re unsure if this is to scale (see below, you be the judge) or if it would help him in the kitchen, but one things for sure – the people in this kitchen know their stuff.

Plate after plate of delicious, flavoursome cuisine fills the table – from delectable deep-fried pork to spicy noodles laced with oyster sauce that are cut with noodle scissors prior to eating, and a dazzling array of fresh vegetable dishes.

There’s also poktanju, where you drop a shot of soju into a beer and drink it quickly, like a Korean Jager bomb. It’s not too potent…unless you drink heaps of it.

Paik’s is an epic spot for dinner, a date, late-ish eats and more, and it’s pretty affordable too – a little more than a tenner will get you a dish. Just get there early – there’s often a queue out the front during busy times.

French Polynesia in a cargo ship

Not long before the pandemic hit, get lost’s man on the ground Roberto Serrini got to experience the truly majestic collection of islands the Marquesas Island, a section of French Polynesia/Tahiti.

He did it in true get lost style, too: hopping around on a hybrid cargo ship, a mode of travel that was close to home, due to an old family story. 

“As a kid, one of my favourite stories was about how my grandfather came to New York City,” Roberto wrote for get lost.

“Travelling from Panama at the age of 12, he was stowed away on a cargo ship, tucked among ropes and crates as a hidden human package. Each time he told me the tale, I hung on every word with the same wide-eyed grip as the first time I heard it.

“It’s this story that peaked my interest in Aranui 5 – a cruise with a beautiful identity crisis; half cargo ship and half luxury cruise liner.

“The difference to my grandfather’s story, however, is I’m trading the Manhattan metropolis for the tropical Marquesas Islands, a handful of extremely remote, pristine islands within Polynesia. And I certainly don’t have to hide behind any crates. If the concept of Aranui 5 sounds a little unorthodox, it’s because it is.

“Sure, it’s a cargo ship that transports much needed supplies to these remote outposts of Polynesia, but it doubles as a luxury cruise ship where I’d be sleeping within the comforts of a delightfully appointed room, and spending my days sipping a cold Hinano beer next to the pool.

“When I first spot the ship, my jaw drops. It’s as if some mad scientist has Frankensteined commerce and tourism into some half-baked, late-night metal explosion. From the front, Aranui 5 doesn’t resemble the grandeur I’d expect. The bow masks its deep belly, which stores everything from cars to livestock, while two spindly cranes breach its sharp hull like a floating praying mantis. When I look to the stern, however, the scenery changes to a manicured amphitheatre of suites surrounding a beautiful open-air deck and pool, and balconies are decorated with colourful chairs inviting us into happy hour.

“It’s this brackish melee of sophistication and rustic culture that captures the intrepid spirit for any traveler willing to make the journey.”

Eating in Style in the Maldives

If you’re looking for a decadently tasty daydream to drool to, we’ve got just the ticket.

The Maldives has long been the leader in luxury resorts, and Soneva Fushi has long been right up the top of the list. And sure, there’s a bunch of breathtaking overwater retreats, but where Soneva has taken it to a new level in recent times is its dining options.

Soneva has added Out of the Sea to it’s list of restaraunts, the appropriately restaurant sitting literally on the water, where you can probably spot some of tomorrow’s seafood swimming beneath you. You literally can’t get any fresher than that.

The restaurant, like other offerings at the resort, features award-winning chefs serving mainly Mediterranean flavours, wok-fried dishes and tapas-inspired light bites. There’s also an intimate, rustic style of luxury that makes you comfortable straight away. 

The restaurant has recently opened, and adds to the 11 other tasty dining experiences on offer at the resort. We’ve selected our five favourites – check them out below:

Soneva Fushi, Maldives top five dining experiences

Bateman’s Bay Luxury Motel

Luxury and motel aren’t usually words that go together.

But a new wave of upmarket retro motels have been springing up all over western travel routes, and the trend has reached Bateman’s Bay.

Isla Motel is one of these, 18 retro-inspired rooms in what was previously a run-down motel, catering to a new generation of travellers looking for affordable luxury. It’s the best of both worlds.

The outside of the motel is Byron Bay-chic, but hardly pretentious. The fact that the motel is a drop punt away from Bateman’s famed shoreline is another tick – the perfect place to come back to after grabbing a few waves.

You don’t even need to get to the beach – take it easy by the pool, which doesn’t look like someone’s been murdered in it like all the other motel pools you’ve ever seen (we’re sure this is the look they were going for).

The Isla opens this weekend (16 April).

Ever wanted to own your own train?

Toot Toot! All aboard the G-Train!

No, we’re not talking about the famous footballer, get lost is referring to Frenchman Thierry Gaugain’s extraordinary concept, which is being called the ‘Palace on Wheels’ – a kind of modern take on the world famous Orient Express. 

Gaugain is a super-yacht designer, and he is now bringing that level of luxury to tracks. The train will feature sleeping space for 18 guests, a party carriage, and several carriages with all-glass exteriors (we hope they don’t go through any rough neighbourhoods).

The thing that is amazing about the G-Train is that it is being sold as a private train – imagine owning your own train!

Gaugain is looking for buyers – so if you’ve got a cool AU $486 million to spare, get in touch.

Devil’s Corner Race around Tasmania

Tasmanian winery Devil’s Corner are hosting an epic race around the Apple Isle this winter.

The race to find ‘The Lost Shipment’ will see three teams of adventurers travel to each corner of the state in an ‘Amazing Race’ style event, split into four legs:

HUON VALLEY

Starting in the south at Huon Valley, racers will sail along the Huon River before swapping the water for the treetops, journeying across the Tahune Forest Airwalk – a cantilevered bridge suspended 40 metres above the Huon River. From there they’ll head sub-zero, to discover the mysterious labyrinth of Hasting Caves and swim in epic underground thermal pools.

SMITHTON

At Smithton (via Cradle Mountain) in the state’s northwest, there’s the chance to ‘Dine with the Devil’ at Devils @ Cradle – a unique sanctuary and conservation facility for the threatened Tasmanian Devil. After this, a full-day, four-wheel drive adventure taking racers to the remote ‘Edge of The World’ region and Tarkine National Park, home to the second largest expanse of cool temperate rainforest in the world.

BRIDPORT

Travelling east to Bridport, there’s the chance to take the plunge at Australia’s only wood-fired Floating Sauna. Here, there’s a traditional Finnish wood-fired sauna, which contrasts with the slightly more intimidating cold plunge directly off a pontoon into the fresh waters of Lake Derby. Not a bad place to make a pit stop in order to ‘recharge’ ahead of the final leg.

EAST COAST

Devil’s Corner Tassie’s east coast is an exceptional slice of paradise, that has thus far (somehow) escaped mass tourism. Awaiting racers is an unspoilt stretch of gorgeous beaches, delicious seafood and exceptional wineries, including Devil’s Corner, the finish line to the race, and where vineyards meet the sea.

To find out how to win your place in the race, visit www.thelostshipment.com.au. 

These countries are relaxing their restrictions…here’s where to stay

Tahiti

Australians can once again travel to New Zealand, which opens up the Australia > Auckland > Tahiti route that has been so popular over the years.

Tahiti is made up of 118 islands, and is the original ‘overwater villa’ destination. St Regis Bora Bora Resort is among the most famous of these, and arguably the most beautiful, a series of palm trees flanked by gorgeous overwater thatched huts, where you can more or less roll out of your bed and into the South Pacific Ocean.

On its way, and also on (or near) Bora Bora is the ELYT Floating Villa, which gives new meaning to the experience of staying ‘on the water’ – a unique floating houseboat on a lagoon. The stay combines the luxury and epic water activities typical of a Tahiti stay, while also being ecologically friendly in protecting the Bora Bora island. It is expected to be ready later this year.

South Africa

South Africa further eased it’s international travel restrictions, with arrivals from overseas requiring proof of vaccination (or a negative test, if ineligible for vaccination).

It’s hard to imagine being closer to nature than this. Get raw beauty with a stay at Marataba’s Thabametsi Treehouse, where it’s just you, some wildlife and the sounds of the African bush. The double-storey treehouse is solar-powered, with a massive acacia tree protruding right through the middle.

There’s also a viewing deck offering 360-degree views of the surrounding valley. Sit back with a beer, and take it all in. 

Puerto Rico

Earlier this month, Puerto Rico scrapped almost all restrictions on international arrivals, requiring only proof of vaccination or a negative test result upon arrival.

Hix Island House in Puerto Rico is an unusual-looking, off-the-grid concrete slab of multiple apartments in a remote Puerto Rican jungle. The ocean is visible and so the beach is nearby, something that is true of most places in Puerto Rico, but you’ll probably never want to leave the house.

Open air showers, partially-open air beds, no glass and extraordinary views of the surrounding jungle make Hix aesthetically gorgeous, but also the perfect place to switch off for a few days.

Thailand

Thailand has been pretty tough when it comes to its restrictions, but they are starting to relax them – from April 1, foreign travelers will no longer be required to hold a COVID-free certificate issued within 72 hours of boarding a flight (testing on arrival is still required).

The Standard in Hua Hin is brand new, uber-cool splash of funkiness in southern-Thailand. It’s kind of eclectic: there’s disco balls above the bathtubs, and a cocktail bar featuring two gigantic cocktail-glass shaped concrete monoliths. It’s cool too: there’s DJs, and it’s all in luxurious Hua Hin, a beachside strip of paradise. Kick back and relax, or get loose – it’s up to you.

Ancient Okinawa

As well as being one of the world’s most underrated dive spots, and home to awesome wilderness retreats and delicious food, there’s also plenty of history in Okinawa Prefecture.

For almost 500-years, Okinawa and its surrounding islands were part of the Ryukyu Kingdom. This Kingdom once ruled from south of Kyushu in southern Japan, all the way down until (but not including) Taiwan.

Zakimi-jo Castle. It is estimated that there were once as many as 5000 castles total in Japan.

The historic era saw the Ryukyuans become prosperous, a key cog in the maritime trading route of Asia, traders, with evidence in 2022 to be found in the series of pretty epic castles that you can actually go and visit.

get lost have found the three best gusukus on Okinawa Island for you to step back in time in.

Katsuren-jo Castle site

The Pacific Ocean sandwiches Katsuren-jo Castle on two sides, which would have created a formidable lookout in the 13th to 14th century when it was built. Nowadays, it has lost its defensive purpose but retains its domineering beauty. In 2016, both Ottoman and Roman Empire currency was dug up at Kasturen, a nod to Okinawa’s status as a major maritime player.

Visit Katsuren

Katsuren is near Uruma, on Okinawa Island’s east coast.

Nakijin-jo Castle site

Nakijin Castle was seemingly built in the 13th century with tourism in mind. You can actually walk along the top section of the castle and you’ll get some pretting incredible views of the forest and surrounding ocean, and Japan’s famous cherry blossoms bloom around the castle in January and February. Nakijin changed hands a few times in history and was actually burnt to the ground in 1609. It’s size is seriously impressive for the era in which it was constructed.  

Visit Nakijin

Nakijin-jo Castle has pretty impressive views whichever way you look.

Zakimi-jo Castle site

Zakimi Castle’s walls were built so strongly in 1420 that you can still walk along them today. It’s pretty special to be able to admire the handiwork of masons, whose work has withstood several hundred years of civil war. There’s also a vreally interesting, informative museum on site, the perfect place to learn more about the gusuku and Okinawa’s rich culture and history.

Visit Zakimi

Zakimi from above.