Something To Declare: South-East Asia; Baltimore; risks in Turkey; American train rides
Saturday 14 November 2009
Bargain of the week: South-east Asia in 2010
Air Asia, which launched low-cost flights between Stansted and Kuala Lumpur earlier this year, has a tempting deal for anyone prepared to commit now for a trip to South-east Asia or beyond in August, September or October 2010: buy a return trip to the Malaysian capital, for as little as £318 return, and you qualify for an add-on to another Air Asia destination for a nominal fee.
The airline is quoting an additional £3 each way to Penang, £5 to Bali in Indonesian, and £39 to Australia. To qualify for this fare, you need to book by tomorrow – at airasia.com.
Competition to the region is intense, and if you want to visit earlier in the year there are plenty of deals about. To the hub of the region, Singapore, Malaysia Airlines is selling return tickets from Heathrow (via KL) for about £430 in February, while to Bangkok Jet Airways is offering a fare of below £400 if you are happy to change planes in Mumbai.
Destination of the week: Baltimore
Thanks to Mark Hughes, crime correspondent of The Independent, Baltimore has been put on the map this month: he swapped turf with his opposite number at The Baltimore Sun. But there is more to Maryland's largest city than drugs, violent crime and a high murder rate.
Start at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, the best rail-heritage centre in the US: you can travel along the first tracks on the North American continent.
The National Aquarium for the US is based on the waterfront in Baltimore; the normal admission is a massive $24.95 (£15), but if you visit on a Friday between 5pm and 8pm, admission is reduced to $8 (£5).
Baltimore was the birthplace of the flag that inspired the US national anthem, and you can visit the 18th-century Star Spangled Banner Flag House. The city is also the home town of the great jazz singer Billie Holliday, who died 50 years ago this year.
In addition, the city's Baltimore-Washington airport is a cut-price gateway to Washington, DC and Philadelphia: fares for 17 November, for a stay of one week, are less than £300 on United.
The city and the airport have cheap and fast rail links to the nation's capital, on the Marc train network, making Baltimore a viable base from which to explore the cities of the East Coast.
Warning of the week: Risks in Turkey
If you are tempted by the prospect of 48 Hours in Istanbul, be warned that "there is a high threat from terrorism in Turkey," according to the Foreign Office. "A number of terrorist groups are active in the country", with attacks on civilian targets in Istanbul, most recently in July 2008. The British Consulate in Istanbul was bombed in 2003.
Petty crime is a much more likely risk: "Generally crime is low," says the Foreign Office. "But street robbery and pickpocketing are common in tourist areas of Istanbul. You should be wary of approaches from strangers offering to change money or offering food and drink, which may be drugged."
Tip of the week: America's best train ride?
The Cascades link between Seattle and Vancouver, which carves along the spectacular Pacific West Coast has been re-timed, improving choices for southbound journeys in daylight; see amtrak.com
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