Where in the world?
Last week’s answer: Komodo, Indonesia
I WOULD like to take my mother and sister on a trip to Japan. Weare first-time travellers so want to do an escorted tour sometime this year. I amunsure who to book with and which cities and attractions weshould visit. Can you please help?
Doc: Certainly, and I know of the perfect company for you. Japan Holidays (japanholidays.com.au), long-time operators of tours to Japan has two upcoming trips that will interest you. I recently had the pleasure of experiencing one of these tours escorted by the lovely Jan Hutton, who knows Japan inside out. Not only does Jan speak the language, she knows all the shortcuts, the best eating houses and, most importantly is an expert at navigating the train system. She will escort The Wildflowers, Walks & Wonders tour, which departs on June 2 for 16 nights. On this tour you will take in the magnificent scenery of the Japan Alps, discover onsens, see monkeys in hot springs, walk in the footsteps of samurai, visit castles and more. You will experience local culture, visit teahouses, stroll around ponds, gardens and beech forests and maybe even see a geisha. Jan is also escorting the Kumano Kodo Autumn Leaves tour departing October 26 for 14 nights. This tour takes in Tokyo, Nara where you will find portions of this ancient capital built in 710 still intact, and Koyasan. Here you will travel 900m by cable-car to a plateau where the Shingon sect of Buddhism that was founded in 816 still lives. Then there is a visit to Todaiji Temple, the largest wooden construction in the world, which houses the Great Buddha standing 16m tall. There is an overnight stay in one of the oldest temples in Koyasan, where Buddhist monks will serve you a traditional vegetarian meal, followed by a walk in the footsteps of ancient pilgrims. Jan organises all your train and entrance tickets, helps you navigate the yen when shopping and has great local contacts. Most meals are included in the tours and, if not, it’s usually put to the vote, giving the group a chance to decide on what they feel like. For more information, costs and full itineraries you can call 3300 2396 or fill in the inquiry form on the website.
WEARE looking for a package including flights and a cruise in the Mediterranean. Weare first-time cruisers and would also like to include some time in Italy. Our budget is about $6000 a person all up and we wish to travel in August, for about three weeks. Would it be possible to break our journey on the way to Europe?
Doc: Ken from Noonan’s Travel in Melbourne (noonanstravel.com.au) has put together the perfect package for you. Flying with Singapore Airlines, you would have a two-night stopover in Singapore before arriving in Barcelona. Then you would be off on a 12-night Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona to Venice, aboard the new Royal Princess from Princess Cruises. After the cruise, your accommodation in Venice, near St Mark’s Square, also includes a gondola ride. A train ride between Venice and Rome is next, along with three nights in Rome. Ken has included full breakfasts and transfers in this package, which is priced at $5786 a person.
Tell the Doc:
A few weeks ago, I wrote about a day trip in Auckland. I have received many ideas from readers about additional things to do and see, whether on a stopover or an extended stay. I have listed some of these great readers’ suggestions below.
Villa Maria Vineyard is only minutes from the airport and is well known for its excellent sauvignon blanc. You can tour the premises daily at 11am and 3pm, and the cafe is open seven days a week, 11.30am to 3.30pm.
Visit Kelly Tarlton’s Sea Life Aquarium, on the waterfront of Ohaku Bay, it’s just moments from Mission Bay beach, and, if you buy your tickets online, you will save at least 10 per cent. If it’s your birthday you get in free.
Lunch at Ecca Stonehouse, right on the beach in Mission Bay, because it has unbeatable views of the Hauraki Gulf, and is open every day from 7am.
If you’re feeling more adventurous: Take the ferry to Devonport for lunch at the Esplanade Hotel on the waterfront, then walk up the extinct volcanoes to view the harbour.
Or, get on a Fullers ferry to Waiheke Island, about a 35-minute ride from downtown Auckland. The island is a blend of farmland, forest, beaches, vineyards and olive groves and has an international reputation for its food and arts.
EXPLORE THE PAST: Japan’s ancient capital of Nara, built in 710, still has many buildings left from the former imperial period and is popular with tourists.