Turn that trip to Australia into a two-centre holiday
Jetting off to the other side of the world this winter? Mark Rowe looks at the best places to break your journey – and how to make the most of a stopover
Sunday 27 September 2009
Autumn is upon us, prompting dreams of heading for the sun and the longer daylight hours of the southern hemisphere. Those lucky enough to be flying to Australia will need to break the journey, and the choice of interesting stopovers has never been better.
Dubai's reinvention as a global aviation hub continues apace, while Hong Kong has always promoted itself as a destination in its own right, and Singapore is looking to do the same. Added to those, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Bangkok are all seeking to increase their share of the lucrative market of Australia-bound passengers. Air fares now reflect this trend, with flights costs rarely changing whether you simply fly straight through or linger for several days. This guide tells you what to do, whether you've got just a few hours, or a day or two to spare.
Who flies there? Emirates (0844 800 2777; emirates.com/uk).
Typical non-stop flight duration to Sydney: 31 hours.
Getting to the city centre: The city shuttle bus costs 35p, or pre-paid and metered taxis cost around £14. The second line of Dubai's new metro will link the city and airport next summer (dubaiairport.com).
Got a few hours? Dubai's airport is less than three miles from the city. You could spend your time in the airport's 5,400sq m duty free area, visit the Alpha nightclub (10 minutes' walk from Terminal 1), or take a cab into town and haggle for a bargain at the downtown spice, gold and perfume souks that offer a classically eclectic Middle Eastern array of wares.
Staying longer? Make for the cultural Bastakiya area, one of the oldest heritage sites in Dubai and the last wind tower quarter left on the Arab side of the Gulf (dubaicity.com/what_to_ do _in_dubai/Dubai_bastakiya.htm).
The new hotel: The Address, Dubai Mall (00 9714 423 8888; theaddress .com) is adjacent to the enormous Dubai Mall shopping complex. It opened earlier this month, with all the trimmings you'd expect from a Dubai five-star. Double rooms from £270, including breakfast.
Stopover value: Two nights.
Further information: dubaitravel market.co.uk
2. KUALA LUMPUR
Who flies there? Malaysian Airlines (0871 423 9090; malaysianairlines.com); Air Asia to Brisbane (airasia.com).
Typical non-stop flight duration to Sydney: 21 hours, 50 minutes.
Getting to the centre: The KLIA Ekspres train takes 28 minutes, return fare is £10.
Got a few hours? Take the Discover Kuala Lumpur Transit Tour (klia ekspres.com/erlsb/CityTours1/tabid/ 196/default.aspx), which tells you how long it will take to get to each city highlight and how long to spend there.
Staying longer? Forget the gleaming 88-storey Petronas Towers. For the best view of the city, make for the Menara Kuala Lumpur Tower, which is 335m high. At street level, don't miss the Central Market, a wonderful Art Deco building and heritage site. Buy blowpipes from Borneo before eating some of the country's best curries at the first-floor cafeteria (central market.com.my).
The new hotel: The five-star Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur, which launched earlier this year, is built around classical Malay lines – such as high-pitched, tiled roofs – and is set in tropical gardens (00 60 603 2688 9688; theroyale chulan.com.my/l). Double rooms cost from £70 per night, including breakfast.
Stopover value: Two nights.
Further information: tourism.gov.my
Who flies there? British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com); Qantas (0845 7747 767; qantas.com.au); Singapore Airlines (0844 800 2380; singaporeair.com)
Typical non-stop flight duration to Sydney: 21 hours.
Getting to the city centre: The MRT rail line takes 30 minutes and costs £1 one way, while taxis cost around £7 (changiairport.com).
Got a few hours? From the koi carp ponds to butterfly gardens and superb, well-priced noodle stalls, Changi airport is arguably a destination in its own right. Alternatively, sign up for a free two-hour tour of the city, starting from the transit malls in Terminals 2 and 3.
Staying longer? Take a bumboat along the Singapore River to the mouth of the South China Sea, passing river banks lined with bars and restaurants, overlooked by the neon lights of the financial centre. To stretch those jet-lagged limbs, head for Bukit Timah nature reserve to the north of the city, one of the few examples of primary rainforest you'll find in a city anywhere (nparks.gov.sg).
The new hotel: The Capella (00 65 6377 8888; capellasingapore.com) is set in 30 acres on Sentosa island, offering classic Singapore luxury. Double rooms from £290, including breakfast.
Stopover value: Four nights.
Further information: visitsingapore.com
Who flies there? British Airways (0844 493 0 78; ba.com); Qantas (0845 7 747 767; qantas.com.au); Thai International (020-7491 7953; thaiairways.co.uk).
Typical non-stop flight duration to Sydney: 23 hours, 30 minutes.
Getting to the centre: Suvarnabhumi Airport opened in 2006 but the rail link will open only in December. The airport express bus costs £2.60 for a one-way ticket and takes up to 90 minutes (suvarnabhumiairport.com).
Got a few hours? Until the rail link opens, it's a question of duty-free shopping and exploring the 50 food outlets.
Staying longer? See the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo. The breathtaking royal palace is the focus of any visit to the Thai capital. Be sure to see the temple of the Emerald Buddha (palaces.thai.net/night/index_gp.htm). Afterwards, take a river trip with the Chao Phraya express service – tickets cost around 50p. Hop off and on at any stop you like.
The new hotel: Le Meridien (00 66 2 232 8888; lemeridienhotelbangkok .com), near to Patpong night market, opened last year and combines grand-iose luxury with a swish of boutique. Doubles from £80 with breakfast.
Stopover value: Three nights.
Further information: tourismthailand .co.uk
5. HONG KONG
Who flies there? Qantas (0845 7 747 767; qantas.com.au); Cathay Pacific (020-8834 8888; cathaypacific.com /uk); Virgin Atlantic: (08448 747747; virgin-atlantic.com).
Typical non-stop flight duration to Sydney: 22 hours, 35 minutes.
Getting to the centre: The Airport Express Link (AEL) train takes 23 minutes to Hong Kong Island. The £22 one-way price also includes a three-day local rail travel pass.
Got a few hours? At discoverhongkong .com there's an interactive itinerary planner. Just enter your arrival and departure times and you'll be given plenty of ideas of things to do.
Staying longer? Victoria Peak is the place for views of the harbour, yet few manage to walk a circuit of the mountain. It only takes an hour but is spectacular with banyan trees dangling their vast aerial roots in mid air. To stretch your legs, after the flight from the UK, make for the pebble garden in Victoria Park. Here you should remove your shoes and step softly along a raised pebble path, massaging your feet as you go, and, according to the theory, also soothing your heart and other vital organs.
The new hotel: The Harbour Grand (00 852 2121 2688; harbour-grand.com) opened in June on the waterfront of Hong Kong island with harbour views from all rooms. Double rooms cost from £85, including breakfast.
Stopover value: Three nights.
Further information: discoverhongkong.com
Who flies there? JAL (0845 7747 700; jal.co.jp/en); British Airways (as above); Qantas (as above).
Typical non-stop flight duration to Sydney: 24 hours.
Getting to the centre: Take the JR or Keisei trains from Narita. Trains run at least every 30 minutes and take around one hour to Ueno or Shinjuku or Tokyo Station. Fares cost from £7 to £20 one way (narita-airport.jp/en).
Got a few hours? Narita, close to Tokyo's main airport, is a pretty, small town that's well worth seeing in its own right. It has an 11th-century temple complex at its heart.
Staying longer? In a city that has no real centre, the major attraction is, arguably, Sensoji Temple which dates back to the 7th century and gives a fascinating insight into the religious rituals observed by ordinary Japanese. To get the pulse racing before the next leg of your flight to Australia, head for the 599m peak of Mount Takao, 50 minutes from central Toyko. Trips for a two-hour organised hike can be arranged by Inside Japan Tours (insidejapantours.com).
The new hotel: The B Ikebukuro (ishin hotels.com/theb-ikebukuro/en/) is a boutique hotel that opened in central Tokyo in June. It has smooth lines and a serene environment. Double rooms cost from £60 per night, including breakfast.
Stopover value: Three nights.
Further information: tourism.metro .tokyo.jp
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