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Taste of the Tropics

Sleepy Townsville is firmly on travellers’ radar at the moment with the news that budget airline Tigerair zips into town on a new Melbourne-Townsville route starting June 22. The gateway to Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef is hot property right now – regional airline Airnorth is also making a beeline north, with flights from Brisbane West Wellcamp airport up to Townsville from May 8.

Seekers of Vietnam’s famous sunsets and seafood can now score a deal with the launch of Jetstar’s new routes from Melbourne or Sydney into Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Jetstar will fly Boeing 787 Dreamliners three times weekly from Melbourne to the Vietnamese capital from May 10, with four flights a week from Sydney from May 11. The airline is no stranger to the country: its offspring, Jetstar Pacific, is based in HCMC and jointly owned by Jetstar’s owner, Qantas, and rival Vietnam Airlines. Vietnam saw a 26 percent increase in international visitors in 2016, with more than 10 million arrivals. On the flip side, Jetstar says Australia’s seen a 21 percent rise in visitors from Vietnam. Fares, starting at $349, include 7kg carry-on luggage.

Meanwhile, behind the iron curtain of Business and First Class, Thai Airlines is ramping up its offerings, embracing its ‘Thainess’ (sic) with its new offering of Samrab Thai, a Thai set menu presented with the aplomb of a five-star hotel. Now available on all business class seats flying between Australia and Thailand, the menu marries the four pillars of Thai cuisine – spicy, sour, bitter or sweet – with dishes such as Tamarind Thai beef salad or prawn choo chee. Wary of the spice? Western menus are still available, should you need a trout herb salad, or grab a steak sandwich from the all-day dining menu and call for the Veuve Clicquot (or a single-origin Thai coffee). The airline has 39 flights a week from Australia.