Japan’s Hokkaidō tops Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Asia 2016’ list

The travel lists are coming thick and fast today! Hot on the heels of world’s best airline lists, Lonely Planet has just issued its Asian hotspots for 2016.

Here’s what the Lonely Planet experts have to say:

“Lonely
Planet’s Best in Asia 2016
1.
Hokkaidō, Japan
Hokkaidō’s perfect
powder snow put it on the international map, but it has also blinded visitors
to the year-round charms of Japan’s northernmost island. Hokkaidō has
become a lot more accessible this year thanks to the new bullet train linking
its southern port city, Hakodate, to Tokyo.”
2. Shànghǎi,
China
“Looking
for the centre of the universe right now? It’s surely Shànghǎi.
This year’s a big one, with the first Disney resort in mainland China opening
here, as well as the completion of the long-awaited Shànghǎi Tower,
the world’s second tallest building.”
3. Jeonju,
South Korea
“Having long flown under the
radar as the country’s top foodie destination, Jeonju has
finally started to make mouths water further afield. The birthplace of Korea’s
most famous dish, bibimbap, now lures a younger crowd thanks to its
fast-emerging street food scene.”
4. Con Dao Islands, Vietnam
“This archipelago now ranks among
Asia’s hottest emerging destinations. With improved flight connections
from Ho Chi Minh City, there is no better place right now to feast on
fresh seafood, explore in search of a perfect beach and revel in a castaway
vibe.”
5. Hong Kong, China
Hong Kong is
focusing on its natural heritage – specifically, the
UNESCO-designated geopark, a 50-sq km region to the northeast. A shuttle
bus between the geopark’s Sai Kung town and its ancient rock
formations debuted this May, hard on the heels of a ferry service to Lai
Chi Wo Village.”
6. Ipoh, Malaysia
“Malaysia’s lesser-known food
capital has new flair thanks to a crop of boutique cafes that have sprung up in
its historic quarter. At the heart of Ipoh’s renaissance is otherworldly
concept hotel Sekeping Kong Heng.”
7. Pemuteran, Indonesia
“A double bay of beaches
near Menjangan … don’t wait until everybody arrives; catch the
buzz now from this alluring mix of art-filled resorts, inventive new
restaurants and the mellowest vibe around.”
8. Trang Islands,
Thailand
Trang Islands pack
the same knockout punch as their more famous Andaman Coast neighbours; all they
lack are the crowds. Go, now – while these sleepy islands bask in untouched
splendour.”
9. Meghalaya, India
“Opportunities for hiking,
climbing, caving and rafting abound. After decades off the tourist map, people
are starting to notice this backwater. Meghalaya won’t stay
this quiet for long; go before thrill seekers storm the Khāsi Hills.”
10. Taitung, Taiwan
Taitung is Taiwan’s
secret wild card. This cradle of indigenous culture is the place to party after
harvest with music festivals and sweet millet wine. Or take advantage of this
rural county’s superb whale watching, stargazing and cycling.”  Please
note: Typhoon Nepartak has caused recent devastation; however Best
in Asia
 is a collection of great places for the next 12 months and
Taiwan has already begun the rebuilding efforts and will be welcoming
travellers again soon.
Visitors to www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-asia can
also enter a competition for the chance to win a trip for two to Lonely
Planet’s
 number-one Best in Asia 2016 destination, Hokkaidō,
Japan
, valued at AUD $10,000.”

Ski Victoria, prison sleeps and luxe trains in Ireland: Takeoff travel news

SNOW: Winter is coming

Victoria’s ski season opened on the
Queen’s Birthday long weekend (June 6), with more bang for its buck. The
state’s most popular resort, Mount Buller, begins with fireworks and
new snowmakers pumping out up to 30 per cent more snow (mtbuller.com.au) while nearby Mount Stirling’s renovated Nordic Centre ramps up its cross-country gear offerings (mtstirling.com.au). Mount Hotham has new two-hour ski and snowboard masterclasses and is
now linked with nearby Dinner Plain by the 12-kilometre Brabralung
Indigenous Interpretation Trail, a crosscountry ski trail that follows
an ancient route of the ‘‘first peoples’’ of the Alps (mthotham.com.au). Dinner Plain also has a new tubing Snow Park with night tubing,
while family-friendly Lake Mountain has expanded its Snowman’s Village,
with a fourth toboggan slope and new snowshoeing trails. Finally,
Victoria’s largest ski resort, Falls Creek, hosts the 25th year of the
annual Kangaroo Hoppet cross-country event on August 22 (fallscreek.com.au).
 


HOSTEL: Sleep tight in Freo’s lock-up

Spend the night behind bars and pay
for the privilege. However, you won’t have to rob a bank to sleep at the
new Fremantle Prison YHA, which costs from just $28 a night in a 10-bed
dorm (and half-price throughout May – that’s $14). 

The 19th-century jail first opened in 1855 and is World Heritage-listed, with the last prisoners checking out in 1991. 

You can sleep in a cell, still with
locks, spyholes, original walls and floors, in an eight-bed guard’s
cottage or in the (more spacious) new extension. Rooms range from
private twin and family rooms with en suites to dorms, with a
selfcatering

kitchen, Wi-Fi, laundry and games
rooms for all. There are also plans afoot for outdoor movie nights, a
volleyball court and giant chess. Twin-bed cells cost from $68, $120 for
a double with en suite, or $140 for family rooms. Phone (08) 9433 4305, see
yha.com.au.
 


TRAIN: The green miles

Are trains the new cruise ships?
Glide through the greenery of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern
Ireland on the Belmond Grand Hibernian, the country’s first luxury
train, which is now taking bookings for its inaugural season, in 2016.
Aboard, there are just 40 guests in 20 en suite cabins, with restaurant
and observation bar cars, kitted up for two-, four- or six-night
itineraries.

  
The train visits the island’s beautiful cities, pausing for such quintessential experiences as

kissing the Blarney Stone, catching
traditional Irish music and visiting renowned castle gardens. Like a
cruise itinerary, you can also add

extensions to the journey, such as a day on the green for a round of golf or a tour of cultural Dublin. The two-night Realm of Giants tour,
from Dublin to Belfast and Portrush, costs from $4470 a person,
including all meals, drinks and excursions including the

Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Experience. Phone 1800 000 395, see
belmond.com/grandhibernian.
 

GEAR: Keep cool with military precision

You don’t muck around getting food
from the supermarket, do you? You’re more a hunt-and-gather type,
snagging barra, snaring crabs or chasing calamari. This new bin from the hard guys of gear, Pelican Products, is a prince among wheeled portable coolers. The new elite cooler can roll over the toughest terrain with its two large wheels and sturdy pull-along handle. It has a 75.7-litre capacity with a
built-in bottle opener and a fish measure that is moulded into the lid,
so you can ensure your catch is legal. Want more tough talk? 

Its military-grade insulation is
guaranteed to keep drinks at polar temps, it’s also certified grizzly
bear resistant (though we don’t know how it would stack up against our
koalas) and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Ideal for the boat, the

beach or heading into the outback. The Pelican ProGear™ Elite 80QT Cooler costs $649.95. See
PelicanProGear.com.au.
 


TECH: Fickle pick-and-mix travellers can triple dip

Brand loyalty is so last century:
today’s travellers shop for the best prices and experiences across
brands and across the world. However, the pick-and-mix approach makes it
tough to rack up points on loyalty cards. Travel company Expedia has
launched its own loyalty program, Expedia+, which lets you collect
points on bookings made through its website. It also means you can still
claim points with your frequent flyer programs and also your credit
cards – effectively a points triple dip. Expedia+ members can get
benefits such as bar or spa discounts at hotels, and it promises to
price match lower quotes on flights, car hire, hotels, cruises and
packages. Book through its mobile app and snap up the launch promotion
of triple points. See
expedia.com.au.

KIDS: Littlest lifesavers

Teach your kids essential skills
with a First Aid for Kids class that could save your life. The one-hour
classes are hands-on to hold short attention spans, and are tailored for
kids as young as kinder age up to 13 years. Run by First Aid instructors (many of

whom are also parents), kids learn about dialing 000, managing asthma, what to do for bites or stings, CPR and blood loss. Trainers are based in all capital
cities and come to your location to teach groups (minimum 10 children).
There’s also a superhero certificate and stickers at the end of the
course. “Our age-specific kids’ courses give them self-confidence and
teach important development skills,” says director Mary Dawes. Ideal
preparation for the big round-Australia trip or backyard escapades. Costs $12 a child. Phone 1300 853 050, see
firstaidforyou.com.au. 

Famous Flyer: Dawn Fraser

Water and her family inspire Olympic legend Dawn Fraser.

WHICH WAS YOUR BEST HOLIDAY?

Sun Peaks in British Columbia, Canada, with my daughter and grandson,
then aged 3. He was being taught to ski by my friend, world champion
Nancy Greene, and we stayed in a self-sufficient apartment in her lodge,
which is great when you’re travelling with kids (see cahiltylodge.com).

WHAT IS THE BEST HOTEL YOU’VE STAYED IN?

The Emirates Palace is owned by the sheikh of Abu Dhabi. It’s just
unbelievable, with its gold shower taps and toilets. I played golf on
their courses and drove a new Mercedes car on their F1 racetrack. I
reached 190 miles per hour, but you’re driving a safe car, heavens
above! The other hotel is the Dorchester in London. We loved being
spoilt and that’s just what they do. And they don’t mind having children
in their dining room.

British Columbia

WHAT DO YOU ALWAYS TAKE WITH YOU?

My bathers – well, I’m a swimmer. I always have my training bathers and a two-piece, to get a sun tan. Oh, and my passport.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PACKING MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?

Taking too many clothes. You can always use the washing machine in
the hotel or have the laundry done, if it’s reasonable. In the early
days, I always did my own laundry, as I liked to have clean bathers and
towels. I have packed beach towels in my luggage, which of course you
don’t need in hotels.

YOUR BEST PIECE OF TRAVEL ADVICE?

Always check your hotel and air bookings. There’s nothing worse than
turning up to the hotel and finding you don’t have a booking, not that
it’s ever happened to me. I always have my bookings printed and in my
little hand.

AND YOUR WORST EXPERIENCE ON HOLIDAY?

I slipped in the bath in a hotel in Monte Carlo and broke four ribs.
We were staying right beside the racing-car circuit and the noise coming
into my room was horrific, on top of the pain.

WHAT DO YOU NEED FOR A PERFECT HOLIDAY?

Good weather and happiness. I usually take my daughter and my
grandson, now 11, with me. Recently, we were in LA and stayed at the
Lego Hotel for five days, building Lego, and spent four days at
Disneyland Anaheim in California. I never knew my grandparents, and I
said I’d always try to be the best grandparent I could, so he’s always
with me.

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO NEXT?

I’ve been pretty much everywhere, but on my bucket list is an
Antarctic cruise. I read about it every week in the papers. I believe
the colours of the water are incredible, and of course, water is my
passion.

Dawn Fraser is an ambassador for NRMA’s Living Well Navigator, livingwellnavigator.com.

This feature by Belinda Jackson appeared in the Sun-Herald’s Traveller section.

Travel deals: French Polynesia

A local woman from the Sacred Valley, Peru.

Take me to… Tahiti! Or Peru. I’m not fussy. Or perhaps one of the fabulous new hotels of the world, including the Sofitel So Singapore or Australia’s own new regional art hotel, The Schaller Studio in Bendigo. 

Check out their opening specials, as well as a Kids Do Paris tour, in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.

GO NOW
VICTORIA
Ski two days free at Mount Buller with a seven-night package
at Buller Central hotel. Get a seven-day lift pass for the price of five
days, daily breakfast and one dinner. Book by August 31, travel June
28-September 7. From $1405 a person, twin share. Phone 1300 019 130, see
studentflights.com.au.

Moorea Pearl Resort, French Polynesia

FRENCH POLYNESIA

Spend 10 nights in an overwater suite for under $5000.
Includes five nights in the Moorea Pearl Resort, five in the Tikehau
Pearl Beach Resort, two in Tahiti and international flights. Travel
November 1-December 10, January 10-March 31, 2015. From $4790 a person,
12 nights. Phone 1300 858 305, see airtahitinui.com.au.

Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio, Victoria, Australia

GO SOON
VICTORIA
Stay at Bendigo’s The Schaller Studio and save $55 with its
opening special, from $125 a night, until August 30. A Stay & See
package includes tickets to Bendigo Art Gallery exhibitions and midday
checkout. From $195, August 2-November 9. Phone 1800 278 468, see artserieshotels.com.au/schaller.

SINGAPORE
Check into the new Sofitel So Singapore, pictured, and save
40 per cent with a Weekends@So offer, which includes a Saturday-night
stay in the 19th-century French-style rooms, Saturday champagne brunch
and Sunday all-day breakfast. From $515 until December 31.See sofitel.com.

Sofitel So Singapore

GO LATER
SOUTH AMERICA
Grab a friend and book a South American holiday with flights
and your friend flies free with LATAM, saving up to $2800. Tours include
the 20-day Highlights of South America, from Santiago to Lima, from
$8695 a person, twin share. Book by September 30. Phone 1300 196 420,
see travelmarvel.com.au.

QUEENSLAND
Book a two-night midweek stay at the four-star Pelican Waters
resort on the Sunshine Coast and pay half price until November 30.
Includes a free night and a round on a Greg Norman championship golf
course. From $310, quote PEL019. Phone 1800 213 422, see pelicanwatersgolfresortandspa.com.au.

Tourwatch: Life in the Himalayas

Experience mountain life in the Indian Himalayas with a
high-altitude stay in Ladakh. Base yourself in one of six traditional
village houses, renovated to rustic luxury, and walk between local
villages, visiting schools, markets and monasteries.

Raft on glacial rivers the Indus and Zanskar and lose
yourself in a landscape of snowy mountains and serene lakes until end
September. Includes meals, private chef, guides, tours and private car.
From $5670 a person, twin share, seven nights. See shaktihimalaya.com.

Kids do Paris

Let your kids see what all the fuss is about on Paris’ famous
Left Bank with a three-hour family walking tour. Run by a Parisian
mum, options include pastimes such as sailing toy boats and riding the
merry-go-round in le Jardin du Luxembourg and a visit to the national
history museum. Join your kids or leave them with the qualified guide.
$164 for kids seven-12 years (max five children on a tour) and adults,
$128 for kids three-seven years. Search code 3151_KIDSRIGHT on viator.com.

This travel deals column by Belinda Jackson is published in Sydney’s Sun-Herald newspaper every Sunday.