Category Archives: LFW Travel

Te Maeva Nui 2018—A Celebration of Culture

Those of you who follow us will know about our annual pilgrimage to our little piece of paradise, the Cook Islands, where we’ve been going almost every year for the past 18 years. In that time we’ve made some great friendships with the lovely people from the islands, and the following photos are from one such person—Ronnie Si’ulepa, a great guy and a brilliant photographer—so we thought he deserved a mention.

TMN 2018 7Te Maeva Nui is an annual event throughout the islands that celebrates and commemorates the Cook Island Maori culture and heritage. This event is held on the capital of Rarotonga during the first week in August every year; celebrating the 4 August birthday of the Cook Islands as an independent nation, and draws visitors from all the outer islands and around the world. The celebrations include parades, song and dance festivals and competitions, music and drumming, arts and crafts, and food!


Check out some of the terrific images from Te Maeva Nui 2018—photos by Ronnie Si’ulepa.


TMN 2018 6


TMN 2018 1


TMN 2018 3

And, on the subject of food … here’s something to tempt your appetite from cafés and restaurants on Rarotonga. Will we see you there next year?

FOTB Seared Tuna

FOTB Seared Tuna and crumbed Mahi Mahi – photo by LFW

Smoked Marlin hash 2

Smoked Marlin Hash – photo by LFW

Chicken and mango salad

Chicken and Mango Salad – photo by LFW

Meet Perry—my new travelling companion!

I don’t travel a lot—just a few times a year, but when I do I’m one of those people who take everything, and want it to hand, so everything has to fit into a carry-on handbag, backpack, or tote. By Aine Dowling


The Perry by Sash & Belle

Totes are a pain. It’s just one big bag of mess, and you can guarantee that the item you need right now is buried at the bottom. How many times have you unpacked your tote just to get at the lip gloss? And don’t even think of popping your passport in there—you’ll be holding up the queue at customs for a good 10 minutes while you scrabble around.

A small good quality backpack is great. Lots of pockets for this, that, and the other; hands free, and everything stays where you put it … but let’s be honest, unless you’re backpacking, a backpack isn’t exactly chic, especially if you travel business (or first class)—not that I ever do, but one can live in hope. My High Sierra backpack has served me exceptionally well over the years, but I was getting a bit tired of the ‘I see you’ve got your backpack again’ from my co-travellers who all had neat little handbags; seemingly from the Mary Poppins wardrobe sale as I really don’t know how they fit everything in! Obviously they travel minimally—highly suspicious in my opinion.IMG_20170309_160404_127

I’m a bit of an electronics addict. I have my phone (as does everyone), Kindle (got to have the reading list), and tablet (for movies and shows), plus the iRiver music master. Combine that with the little bag of gadget chargers, travel wallet, glasses, sunglasses, wallet, notebook, business cards, crossword puzzle book, pens and pencils, magazine, keys, and little zip-lock bag of things less than 100ml that you can take through customs, and even Mary Poppins couldn’t fit it in.20170404_122746

So, on my last trip I retired the backpack. I had, some months previously, pre-ordered/purchased the Perry baby bag from Sash & Belle. Now you may think that odd since I don’t have a baby, but when I saw the Perry I realised that here was something stylish that might just be the thing to hold all my stuff. Other plusses were the water-proof lining, inner zip pocket big enough to take the tablet, and plenty of other little pockets for odds and ends. It also comes with a separate shoulder strap so you can also go hands-free—to carry your duty frees; what else.

The upshot was that the Perry not only took everything I had, but everything was visible and easy to get in and out, and, unlike the backpack, it went ‘under the seat in front’ instead of in the overhead bin. But most of all it was chic, functional, and received quite a few envious looks from my co-travellers. So even if you don’t have a baby, the Perry makes a perfect travel bag and/or professional hold-all.


The Perry – back pocket

The Perry is available in a gorgeous muted charcoal and lined with a waterproof brown/cream stripe. Unfortunately the bag is currently sold out, but more are on the way, so don’t miss out—pre-order your travelling/professional/baby Perry bag now!

Tropical Sunrise

Tropical Sunrise may sound like a cocktail—come to think of it, it probably is—but this is about actual tropical sunrises on the gorgeous tropical island of Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. Here are a few shots for you to enjoy. Meitaki Ma’ata!

Sunrise on the reef and a calm lagoon

Sunrise on the reef and a still lagoon

Waking early one morning on our recent visit, I happened to glance out of the window overlooking the lagoon and saw a very pretty sunrise. Toying with the idea of going back to bed—it was 6.30am after all, and I was on holiday—it then occurred to me that I should be a bit pro-active and take the shot. Even though it probably meant I’d then have to rise at 6.30am every day to take similar shot.

Sunrise over the reef and Koromiri Motu

Sunrise over the reef and Koromiri Motu

While I can’t admit to rising at 6.30am every day, when I did, I did so to some great sunrises, and when I was somewhat tardy and up an hour later, I still managed to get a deserted beach, calm lagoon, and peaceful stillness.

Looking towards Koromiti Motu

Early morning deserted beach looking towards Koromiri Motu

Storm clouds gathering at dawn

Storm clouds gathering at dawn


Taakoka Motu

Early morning looking towards Taakoka Motu

Early morning paddle boarders with Koromiri Motu on the left

Early morning paddle boarders with Koromiri Motu on the left

And finally, my favourite … sunrise on the water.

Sunrise on the water - Muri Lagoon

Sunrise on the water – Muri Lagoon

And now, for those of you reading this who thought it was a cocktail … here’s the recipe!

Tropical sunrise


Tropical Sunrise

2 shots dark rum

1 shot triple sec

2 shots orange juice

2 shots pineapple juice

½ shop grenadine

cocktail decoration

Half-fill a tall glass with crushed ice. Add rum, triple sec, orange and pineapple juice and stir. Add grenadine and top with cherry and/or other cocktail decoration. Cheers!

Images by LFW

Cooking Thai 101—Real Thai Pad Thai

LFW with instructor Awesome Jay!

LFW with instructor Awesome Jay

It’s no secret that at LFW we love, love, Thai food and Pad Thai is the ultimate ‘street food’ in Bangkok. My main complaint with Aussie Pad Thai was that it didn’t seem to have much taste—just a bit sweet and fragrant and that was it. But, after a visit to the Silom Thai Cooking School in Bangkok, I now know that it’s because a number of places in Australia omit Tamarind paste (and possibly chilli) from the recipe—perhaps for Australian taste—who knows? Anyway, here’s our fabulous Silom Pad Thai direct from Thailand and under the tutelage of Mr Awesome Jay.

Tip! Ready-made Tamarind paste can be bought from good Asian delis or supermarkets. At the school we had to grind and mix our own but the paste is much easier.




Real Thai Pad Thai (serves 2 – 3)

Silom School Pad Thai

Silom School Pad Thai

What you need: ½ packet Thai rice noodles, 2 tablespoons cooking oil, 2 tablespoons Tamarind paste, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 shallot (spring onion) sliced on the diagonal, wedge of fresh lime, 1 small Bird’s Eye chilli (this is HOT!), 3 cloves crushed garlic, 4 teaspoons fish sauce, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon ground peanuts (optional), ground pepper to taste, and some protein—either fish or tiger prawns, chicken, or tofu.

Chicken Pad Thai

Chicken Pad Thai

What you do:

Soak the noodles in warm water while preparing the other ingredients, making sure the noodles are fully covered with the water. By the time you put the noodles in the wok they should be soft but not mushy.

Pour the oil in the wok and heat on a high heat. Drain the noodles and add to the wok and stir, then add tamarind paste, sugar, fish sauce, and chilli. Stir well. If there is too much sauce in the wok, turn up the heat.

Push the noodles to one side and crack the egg into the wok and scramble until almost cooked, then fold into the noodles which should now be soft and chewy, then add the protein and toss gently until cooked.

Pour onto a serving plate and sprinkle with the chopped shallot, bean sprouts, and ground pepper, and serve with the peanuts and a wedge of lime on the side.

Veggie Pad Thai

Veggie Pad Thai

Cooking Thai 101 – the essentials!

Cooking Thai 101 banner

Here at LFW we love, love, love Thai food—it’s fresh, simple, and über tasty; so on our recent visit we booked into the Silom Thai Cooking School and learnt how to cook up a storm! By Aine Dowling

Cooking schoolWe met up with our class, and teacher ‘Awesome Jay’ (yes, that’s his name), at a local market to select our veggies and herbs for the day. The market is an assault on the senses—from the aroma of herbs and spices, through textures of the fruits and vegetables, to the burst of colours with bright red and green chillies, and summer yellow mangoes and bananas which smell absolutely divine!

Selecting veggies and herbs at the market

Selecting veggies and herbs at the market

Awesome Jay lived up to his name. He had the honour of representing Thailand on MasterChef Singapore and he is a terrific chef! He’s funny and really knows about cooking Thai. In all the dishes we were given the option of adding our own chilli, or not, if we didn’t like spicy food. Jay’s chillies had four rankings: 1 chilli = chilli taste, 2 chillies = hot chilli, 3 chillies = rumbling volcano, and 4 chillies (you really have to be able to cope with the heat to try this) = KAMBOOM!

Our first task was to create our own coconut milk by pouring warm water onto fresh shredded coconut and squeezing it through a sieve. There were eight of us in the class and we had to make enough for two of the dishes and the dessert. We also made our own green curry paste from scratch and we all had to take a turn at pounding the large mortar and pestle to grind the chilli and spices, and learnt a new way to squeeze limes!  Our individual cooking stations included a gas burner, a wok and utensils, and a serving plate. After each dish we moved to small dining tables to eat and comment on the food.

Chillies. Image by LFW

Chillies. Image by LFW

Cooking Thai 101 is the first in a series of our trip to Thailand, and we’ll be posting some recipes and pics in a later blog, but one thing we did learn are the 10 must haves for good Thai cooking so we’ll start with getting these into your kitchen before we do the recipes.

Ten Thai kitchen basics with Awesome Jay!

Awesome Jay explaining spices

Awesome Jay explaining spices


Cooking Oil: Vegetable oil such as corn, palm kernel, and sunflower is used in all Thai cooking. Other oils may have a more defined taste and aroma that may affect the final product.

Thai Fish Sauce: known in Thai as nam pla, this seasoning is made from fermenting fish with salt. It should contain only anchovies, salt and water and it’s very strong and salty so use it sparingly! It’s essential in only some dishes.

Thai Curry Paste: even in Thailand many cooks buy (and use) premade curry pastes. Red and green varieties can be found at well-stocked Asian supermarkets and should include galangal, lemongrass, and coriander root. Obviously green is made with green chillies, and red with red chillies.



Coconut Milk: used in Thai curries, fresh coconut milk is made by rinsing the oils out of coconut flesh with warm water and squeezing out the milk. Canned coconut milk is an easy option and widely available from supermarkets.

Rice: sticky rice, also called glutinous rice, is the staple in north and northeast Thailand and is often used in desserts. Jasmine rice is a staple in much of the country.

Chillies: fresh and dried chillies provide heat in Thai food. Fresh cayenne chilies are used in curries, and fiery-hot Thai bird chillies in sauces and stir-fries. Fresh chillies will keep in the fridge for up to a week or you can store in the freezer.

Limes: give a tart lift to grilled meats, salads and fried rice. Kaffir lime leaves are mostly used to give a floral, citrusy aroma to curries and soups.

Shallots and Garlic: Shallots (spring onions) are chopped and often used to decorate dishes or added to salads to provide a bit of crunch and bite. Garlic is crushed or minced and then tossed into hot oil with the other spices and before the stir-fry ingredients.

Lemongrass: is included in many Thai dishes and used only for flavour—not for eating.

Fresh Herbs: including cilantro (coriander), mint, Thai basil, and Vietnamese coriander add distinctive flavours to everything from salads to curries to fried rice. Thai basil has a nice sweet anise flavour but can be hard to find so substitute regular basil.

Watch this space for more to come!

Cooking Thai 101 banner

Eating Healthy—In Flight Dining

If you follow us you’ll know by now that the LFW team has just a few dietary requirements that need to be met, and we’ve been put to the test this year selecting appropriate, and healthy, airline food on our travels. Is it better to eat in-flight or pig-out at the airport where you may have more choice in what you can eat, or simply take it with you? Emma Dowling checks out airline food including special meals, and offers some tips if you want to take your own.

Sri Lanka Air seafood salad light meal

Sri Lankan Air seafood salad light meal

The flights we’ve travelled already this year range from low cost carriers—where you pay for absolutely everything—to flashy business class pods which, let’s face it, are pretty damn good! And our airlines have included Air New Zealand, QANTAS, British Airways, Thai Airways, Emirates, Sri Lankan Air, and low-cost carriers Jetstar, and AirAsia X. If you have dietary, religious or ethnic requirements, or simply a life choice, you can pre-order special meals. Almost every airline (with the exception of some low cost carriers) offer a range of meals including low salt, low carb, low fat, diabetic, Coeliac (gluten free), vegan, vegetarian, halal, kosher, Hindu etc.

In flight dining

Many major airlines that cover long haul routes have their own chef on board to service first and business class passengers. Economy class offers a more limited range but the food is often backed by an international chef, who, allegedly, supervises the on-board menus. You also need to remember that most meals are pre- or part-cooked and reheated on board; after all, they’re not likely to fire up a naked flame in-flight to cook your steak whatever class you travel.

Emirates fruit platter

Sri Lankan Air fruit platter

However, not all meals are available on all flights, for example, you’re more likely to be able to order halal if you’re travelling in or out of Muslim countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, or from an airline hub in Dubai or Cairo. Air New Zealand publishes its in-flight dining menus online but does not guarantee kosher meals on flights to and from some Pacific Island Nations. QANTAS offer no information on their website on what they offer, and you can only peruse their special menu if you have already booked a flight—which means you don’t know if you’ll be able to get your meal until after you’ve made (and paid for) your booking.

By contrast, Emirates have copies of all their menus—first, business and economy class—online, and if you’ve already booked a flight, just enter your flight number to see what’s on offer when you fly. You can also preview all class menus on the low-cost carriers Jetstar and AirAsia X, and Thai Airways, and British Airways also offer the opportunity to peruse, and pre-purchase, your meal online.

Thai Airways seafood salad

Thai Airways seafood salad

Airport and airline lounges

All airports offer café and/or restaurant/bar facilities, but … let’s face it, you’re a captive market, so prices are often more expensive than you would pay at a regular café or restaurant, with the exceptions of major food chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Pie Face, Sumo Salads etc. Plus, some of the ‘local’ delicacies may not appeal. If you travel a lot you should consider a lounge membership and Emirates lead the way in lounges and food—not to mention the Moet and Veuve always available! Air New Zealand has just gone through a major renovation of its lounges in Sydney and Auckland and now have a far greater variety (and quality) of food on offer.

Air New Zealand offers a variety of ways to book. You can book a seat only, seat and bag, or ‘The Works’. With a seat or seat/bag booking you don’t get meals so if you don’t have the good fortune to be an Air NZ/or Alliance Star Gold member (which gets you into their lounges) you need to consider whether it’s worthwhile paying the extra for meals (and movies) or eating at the airport or taking your own snacks.

Thai Airways cheese and fruit platter

Thai Airways cheese and fruit platter

Airports and airline lounges in Australia and Europe often have a range of healthy snacks and salads and hot food, but, they also have a plethora of cakes and biscuits and lots of things on breads and crackers. In the Pacific it’s often simple fruit and sandwiches, while Asia, South-Asia, and the Middle East will often have their own rice, curries, and spices on offer, and some foods you just may not be used to eating.

Taking your own food on board

Frankly, you’re limited to what you can take on board. Obviously a full three-course meal is out of the question, but you can pack yourself a nice healthy lunchbox including a variety of snack items such as nuts, dried and fresh fruit, veggies, crackers and some spreads, hard boiled eggs, sandwiches and rolls, and once you’ve gone through customs/security scans you can take your own bottled water or other drinks. On a shortish flight of six hours or so you’d be fine but if you’re really long haul (over 8 hours) you’d probably be pretty peckish by the time you got off the flight.

Lunchbox options - Caesar salad, sandwiches and wraps

Lunchbox options – Caesar salad, sandwiches and wraps

So what’s the answer?

If you’re full economy (or first or business class) and you need a special meal check out your in-flight menu before you fly—if you can, if not contact the airline and ask what special meals are on offer for your flight. If you’re on a low-cost carrier check out their menu and weigh up the cost of paying for an in-flight meal or eating at the airport prior to your flight, but remember that some low cost carriers arrive, and leave, from low cost airports with minimum facilities.

And finally—you’re on holiday so you might as well enjoy yourself! Bon appétit!

Emirates chicken sate with salad entree

Emirates chicken sate with salad entree

Rarotonga—From Trash to Class!

The story of one woman’s passion! By Aine Dowling.

We’ve seen clothing upcycled, recycled, pre-loved and vintage, no waste, and who made my clothes? but how about this one—bags made from plastic waste. Environmentalist and educator Sabine Janneck is co-owner of The Dive Centre on Rarotonga and knows all about eco-friendly environments, and is passionate about saving the lagoon and reef and keeping the beaches clean. But that’s not all Sabine is passionate about, with her innovative business—making bags from the plastic bags you toss—going gang-busters, it’s time to take a look at a different side of recycled fashion. 

Smart and colourful handbag by Sabine Janneck

Smart and colourful handbag by Sabine Janneck

According to Clean Up Australia, Australians use in excess of 6 billion plastic bags every year. If tied together these bags would form a chain that would go around the world 37 times! Plastic bags also clog up drains and waterways, and threaten our natural environment killing large numbers of wildlife each year including birds, whales, seals, and turtles.

So isn’t it better to go from thisSabine2

to this!

Sabine with a selection of recycled plastic bags

Sabine with a selection of recycled plastic bags and purses

Arriving on Rarotonga in 2006, Sabine is a qualified PADI Divemaster with a keen interest in underwater photography, and marine conservation and education that developed into a passion after she, and her partner Sascha, bought The Dive Centre. That passion later extended to all things environmental when a friend taught her how to make the purses and bags. “I really loved the bags, so I learnt how to make them and it just went from there,” says Sabine. “They’re unique, attractive and colourful, and a bit of fun. But more importantly they reduce the landfill.”

Sabine’s bags are made from a range of plastic products including dog and cat food bags, chip and snack packets, chocolate wrappers, coffee bags, yogurt pouches, milk cartons and basically any plastic food packet or wrapper. The packets and wrappers are sorted into colours and cut out using a template to determine either the colour or pattern that will be shown on the bag. The template strips are then folded to make small squares and sewn together to make the bag. Everything is done by hand by Sabine, and it takes around eight hours and 120 snack packets to make a small purse. My personal favourite was the Grain Waves clutch—very Australian in a lovely green and gold (see image above).

iPad holder

iPad holder

Sabine’s range includes small zip purses and wallets, clutch bags, handbags, tablet or iPad bags, phone covers, totes, cushions, and neck/back rolls. “Most of the items are made to order,” says Sabine. “They take so long to make, and use a lot of wrappers, so making items for stock is really not possible at the moment. People come in and ask for a purse or wallet, maybe in a particular colour, and I make it for them. Some bring in their own bags—one lady wanted a purple one and brought in a pile of Cadbury wrappers, it was just the colour she was after.”

Colourful tote bag with wooden handles

Colourful tote with wooden handles

Sabine is also an active member of the Te Ipukarea Society whose philosophy is that ‘we don’t own our land and marine resources, but borrow them from our future generations and need to leave them in good condition’. “I try to make real difference,” says Sabine. “I stop along the road to pick up wrappers and packets, and I have friends, and staff and students of the Rutaki School who collect them for me.” Sabine is also an educator at the school—teaching children the value of the environment and how to look after it, and is on a number of local committees including biodiversity, and sustainability.

“If we don’t teach our kids how to look after this place there will be nothing left for future generations,” says Sabine. “I can’t save the world, but I can help to make it a little bit better.”

Photos by LFW

Top five eating spots on Rarotonga!

Anyone who knows LFW knows about our annual pilgrimage to Rarotonga—16 years and still going strong!  Last year we checked out luxury accommodation, and on our most recent visit we checked out our favourite eating places. Now these are not ultra-fancy or fine dining (read expensive), they just offer great food, service, excellent location, and value for money. So if you’re thinking of visiting this tiny tropical island paradise—check out these places! By Aine Dowling.

Raro restaurant banner

Want to find out more?  Read on … Continue reading

Tuk-Tuk Cook Island Style!

On a recent visit to Rarotonga LFW was impressed to meet up with a couple of innovative businesses determined to make the island environmentally sustainable and teach visitors, and locals, how to care for their ‘backyard’ which includes pristine beaches, a clean and clear lagoon, and caring for the reef and its tropical fish and coral, as well as air pollution and green energy. By Aine Dowling.

LFW checks out Tik-e tours cute tuk-tuks

LFW checks out Tik-e tours cute tuk-tuks – photo by LFW

Tik-e tours catch phrase is ‘ride the island the earth friendly way’. This amazing and environmentally friendly business is the brainchild of Karl and Tania Jackson and the business started in mid-February this year with six unique and incredibly cute tuk-tuks. “We saw an opening for business with a difference,” says Tania, “one that offers something unique, fun, and will help the environment—so we did our research and purchased six electric powered tuk-tuks.”

The tuk-tuks are made in Thailand but are as far from the belching smoke Thai tuk-tuks as you can get. Lean and clean, the e-tuks are 100 per cent electric and manufactured to European, Australian and New Zealand standards. The five bright orange tuk-tuks colour scheme was Tania’s choice (her favourite colour) and they stand out as they tootle around the island. There is also a white wedding tuk-tuk, and a ‘world-first’ tuk-tuk with trailer that can carry six passengers and their luggage to and from Rarotonga airport.

Tuk-tuk and trailer - photo courtesy Tik-e tours

Tuk-tuk and trailer – photo courtesy Tik-e tours

Depending on the battery pack each single pack tuk-tuk can make two round trips of the island (one round trip takes about an hour), and the double packs can do four trips (about four hours) before they need recharging. The tuk-tuks also have rain covers that pull down to keep passengers dry and comfy in tropical downpours.

Limo tuk-tuk with rain covers - photo by LFW

Limo tuk-tuk with rain covers – photo by LFW

Since its start-up in February Tik-e tours has been flat out. “We do a range of tours around the island including scenic and history tours, market shuttle, dinner transfers, cocktail/happy hour hop, and private and corporate events,” says Tania, “and we’re hoping to get our airport transfer licence in the coming weeks. But what has really taken off is our wedding tuk-tuk which is a traditional white limo and you can hire it simply as the limo or have it decorated island style, or even have a tuk-tuk train for the bridal party and guests. We have ten weddings booked already over the next two months, and they’re proving popular with both locals and visitors alike.”

Wedding tuk-tuk train - photo Tik-e tours

Wedding tuk-tuk train – photo Tik-e tours

The wedding tuk-tuk includes the limo and driver, white ribbons, and decorations, but you can also upgrade to palm floral decorations and a wedding photo e-limo service to take you and your photographer to the best photo spots on the island. In keeping with the wedding theme Tik-e tours also offers a Hen & Bucks Night service to fun hotspots.

Wedding limo tuk-tuk - photo Tik-e tours

Wedding limo tuk-tuk – photo Tik-e tours

Assisted by the Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project, the Cook Islands Government has vowed to generate all its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 using both solar and wind farms. “This will be a huge achievement for the islands,” says Tania, “and one that we can be a small part of by not using fossil fuels. Our plan is to eventually have solar panels on the tuk-tuks so that we don’t rely on any fuel source for power.

“We’re already 100 per cent fun, and we aim to be 100 per cent green too!”

Rarotonga—Just a little touch of Paradise


I’ve been visiting Rarotonga every year for the past 15 years or so and apart from the beautiful beaches and lagoon, the never-ending sunshine and tropical beauty, and the friendly people, there are also great places to stay. You can choose from luxury resorts, bungalows on the beach, family resorts, holiday rental homes, backpacker dorms, and beach houses and apartments. Earlier this year I explored the luxury end of accommodation and was fortunate enough to visit four top-end resorts on the island. Check them out for your little touch of Pacific paradise!

Rumours luxury spa

Rumours waterfall plunge pool

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