A perfect day in seven stopover cities
ONE PERFECT DAY
Sky-scraping, pulsating Hong Kong has some of the world’s best accommodation, shopping and dining, making it a compelling stopover city.
Start early on the rack railway up The Peak (thepeak.com.hk) for fabulous views and a spectacular walk around Victoria Peak. Then explore the city below, including Man Mo Temple, the antique shops of Hollywood Rd and the department stores of Central.
In the afternoon, shoppers can cross the harbour by ferry (www.starferry.com.hk), where the busy streets of Kowloon are crammed with markets, including Ladies’ Market (ladies-market.hk), early evening Temple Street Market (temple-street-nightmarket.hk) and hip Fa Yuen Street Market (sneakersstreet.hk). Mid-range Novotel Hong Kong Nathan Road (novotel.com) is wellpositioned for shopaholics.
Tuck in at Tim Ho Wan (2-20 Kwong Wa St), famed for its dumplings and one of the world’s cheapest Michelin-star meals.
Alternatively, museumgoers can explore the Maritime Museum (hkmaritime museum.org), which has been enlarged and relocated. The Volcano Discovery Centre (geopark.gov.hk) and 3D Museum (hk3dm.com.hk) both opened in June; the latter has interactive artworks that make you feel you’re part of imaginary worlds.
Lantau Island has forests, quiet beaches and hiking trails. A shady walk from Ngong Ping (np360.com.hk) takes in a giant Buddha and ornate Po Lin Monastery (www.plm.org.hk), with its just-opened Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas.
For young travellers, Ocean Park (oceanpark.com.hk) has rollercoasters, dinosaur exhibits, playgrounds and animals, including two giant pandas. Its new Shark Mystique exhibit is a walk-through aquarium.
ONE PERFECT DAY
Glamorous, gaudy and rising from the desert like a mirage, there are few better places than Dubai for a jam-packed stopover. Start in old Dubai by visiting Al-Fahaidi Fort and its excellent Dubai Museum, and the spice, gold and perfume souks across the river. The shops at nearby Beniyas Rd mix electronic goods and souvenirs: silver lanterns, camel saddles and mother-of-pearl tables.
Local eateries serve the likes of matchbous, a dish of spicy lamb with rice.
In the afternoon, explore glitzy Jumeirah’s beautiful mosque (cultures.ae) and fine palm-lined beach. Beat the heat at the Wild Wadi waterpark ( jumeirah.com), where rides include the newly revamped 80km/h Jumeirah Sceirah. Head to the stores at Madinat Jumeirah ( jumeirah.com), where old-style Arabian architecture combines with great shopping and multiple restaurant choices.
By evening, tackle the huge Dubai Mall (thedubaimall.com), with its extraordinary fountain show and aquarium (thedubaiaquarium.com).
Adjacent Burj Khalifa (burjkhalifa.ae) has a newly opened observation deck which, at 555m, is the world’s highest.
If you like the look and feel of a new hotel, stay at nearby Conrad Dubai (conradhotels3.hilton.com).
For a completely different perspective, rise above the desert on an early-morning hot-air balloon ride (ballooning.ae), plough through the dunes by four-wheel drive (desertsafaridubai.com), or learn about the art of falconry with Arabian Adventures (arabian-adventures.com).
There’ll be more reasons to ride Dubai Metro (dubaimetro.eu) next year, when a series of minimuseums are opened at several metro stations.
ONE PERFECT DAY
Make like a Hollywood heavyweight at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s famed Polo Lounge (dorchester collection.com). Order its $US36 ($A42) Deal Maker breakfast or slip downstairs for pikelet-sized silver-dollar pancakes from the cozy 19-stool Fountain Coffee Room. From the 90210 zip code, take Santa Monica Blvd west to reach the city’s landmark amusement pier, which runs free walking tours on weekends (santamonicapier.org).
Stay at Shutters on the Beach (shuttersonthebeach.com) for a posh beach-house vibe.
Celebrities can be spotted anywhere in this town but they’re particularly fond of hiking Runyon Canyon Park (lamountains.com). Head to Hollywood via Sunset Blvd, passing Chateau Marmont, and turn left on to Vista St or Fuller Ave to find a park entrance. For a laugh at celebrity culture, take the trash-talking TMZ Hollywood tour from TCL Chinese Theatre (tmz.com/tour). Refuel at a celebrity haunt: Gwyneth Paltrow dined recently at West Hollywood’s Osteria Mozza (osteriamozza.com) and Robert de Niro co-owns Ago (agorestaurant.com).
Visiting LA over Christmas? Until January 2, Rodeo Drive is bejewelled with Baccarat chandeliers worth $1 million. And look down as well as up: designer Catherine Martin this year became the first Australian to join other style legends with a Rodeo Drive sidewalk plaque.
To extend a theme-park stay, check into the Legoland Hotel (california.legoland.com), which opened last year an hour’s drive south of Anaheim.
Downtown LA has had hip surgery: tour the Frank Gehrydesigned Walt Disney Concert Hall (musiccenter.org) or hang at the Ace Hotel (acehotel.com) in the restored United Artists theatre building or at the equally cool The Standard (standardhotels.com).
ONE PERFECT DAY
Abu Dhabi is emerging from the shadow of neighbouring Dubai, offering a smaller-scale, more intimate experience of the
United Arab Emirates, of which it is the capital.
Stay at the new Hotel Novotel Abu Dhabi Al Bustan (novotel.com). Spend the morning taking in the premier sights, including Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (szgmc.ae) and the Falcon Hospital (falconhospital.com). Fish and date markets lie near the waterfront corniche; while hot new restaurant Rhodes 44 (stregisabudhabi.com) offers a sophisticated lunch.
Spend the afternoon exploring Abu Dhabi’s two islands, currently the centre of numerous mega-projects.
Saadiyat Island (saadiyatculturaldistrict.ae) is the city’s cultural district in the making; its Manarat Al Saadiyat arts and culture centre (saadiyat.ae) has an interesting multi-media exhibit showing the scale of Abu Dhabi’s building projects. Yas Island (yasisland.ae) is for fun: splash about at Yas Waterworld (yaswaterworld.com) or ride the world’s fastest roller-coaster at amusement park Ferrari World (ferrariworldabudhabi.com). Yas Mall (yasmall.ae) has just opened its doors, with 370 shops, a 20-screen cinema and family entertainment zone. Dine at glamorous new Burlesque Restaurant (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com).
Head to Abu Dhabi’s heritage heartland at Al Ain in the Hajjar Mountains, about 200km away. Explore old forts, heritage and history at Al Ain National Museum, the zoo (alainzoo.ae) and the recently renovated Hili Fun City theme park (hilifuncity.ae).
The much-anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi (louvreabudhabi.ae) in a spectacular Jean Nouveldesigned building on Saadiyat Island is due to open next year with 300 masterpieces on loan from French museums.
ONE PERFECT DAY
Small and relatively sedate by Asian standards, Singapore is an old favourite for Australian travellers yet the island city continues to spring surprises.
Spend half a day exploring Chinatown, where history comes alive at the Chinatown Heritage Centre (chinatownheritagecentre.sg), shop for souvenirs and visit two impressive temples: Chinese Thian Hock Keng Temple (thianhockkeng.com.sg) and Hindu Sri Mariamman Temple (heb.gov.sg). Nearby Smith St has a great range of eateries. And check in at the Sofitel So Singapore (sofitel.com) or Westin Singapore (thewestinsingapore.com) on Marina Bay.
For families, there’s a packed half-day’s entertainment at Universal Studios Singapore (rwsentosa.com) and River Safari (riversafari.com.sg) adjacent to the zoo, which features pandas and water rides.
In the evening, head to Boat Quay for oysters and cocktails at the new, rooftop Southbridge (southbridge.sg) before having satay and rendang from hawker stalls at adjacent, riverside Clarke Quay. Head to Marina Bay (marina-bay.sg), the city’s hot contemporary redevelopment for a performance at Theatres on the Bay (esplanade.com) or a neonlit ride on the Singapore Flyer (singaporeflyer.com), which has a new hi-tech attraction.
The city’s favourite weekend getaway, Sentosa Island (sentosa.com.sg) lies just offshore and is reached by a 12-minute cable car ride. Expect beaches, nature walks, adventure rides and golf courses, as well as several luxury resorts and spas.
The National Gallery Singapore (nationalgallery.sg) is opening late next year inside two grand colonial monuments – City Hall, and the Old Supreme Court Building.
DALLAS- FORT WORTH
ONE PERFECT DAY
When Qantas launched direct Sydney-Dallas flights in 2011, Australians embraced the midcontinental hub. Aviation geeks can spend a stopover entirely at Dallas-Fort Worth airport – the Grand Hyatt DFW (granddfw.hyatt.com) offers unbeatable views over the western runways of the world’s fourth busiest airport (ask for an even-numbered room on floors four to eight).
In Dallas, get the Lone Star look with hand-tooled cowboy boots from Wild Bill’s Western Store (wildbillswestern.com). It’s just up the street from The Sixth Floor Museum (www.jfk.org) – the former Texas School Book Depository from where Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly took aim at President John F. Kennedy in 1963.
Stroll to the Renzo Piano-designed Nasher Sculpture Centre (nashersculpture center.org) in the arts district, then hop aboard the M-Line Streetcar to Uptown – one trolley, Matilda, is a former Melbourne tram (mata.org).
Head to Fort Worth for the twice-daily 4pm drive of Texas longhorns (fortworth stockyards.org). Scoot the boots to Billy Bob’s Texas – the world’s largest honky-tonk – to twostep around the dance floor under the glittering disco saddle (billybobstexas.com). Then tackle the in-house chickenfried steak, ribs or catfish. Back in Dallas, shuck the boots at the the 5-star Omni Dallas Hotel (omnidallashotel.com).
Home of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, has self-guided tours where you can throw passes on the football field (stadium.dallascowboys.com).
More accessible is Dallas’s American Airlines Centre, home of the Mavericks basketball team (american airlinescenter.com).
Oak Cliff is infamous as the haunt of Bonnie and Clyde; it’s also where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested after sneaking into the Texas Theatre. The onceseedy area is on the rise, with the cinema (thetexastheatre.com) now a restored art-house gem.
ONE PERFECT DAY
Guangzhou is one of the Chinese hub airports allowing 72-hour, visa-free stays for Australians when en route to another country. Find a driver and dive into a metropolis of more than 16 million people.
The city hosted the Asian Games in 2010, a pivotal year in which a slew of landmarks opened, including Canton Tower (cantontower.com) and, across the Pearl River, Guangdong Museum (gdmuseum.com) and Guangzhou Opera House (gzdjy.org). If it’s a clear(ish) morning, head up Canton Tower to ride the Bubble Tram.
Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid’s “double pebble” Opera House was inspired by Pearl River-polished rocks. Sip a tea-inspired cocktail or ask the tea sommelier for a specialist brew at the Mar-Tea-Ni lounge in the Sofitel Guangzhou Sunrich (sofitel-guangzhou.com) in the Tianhe district.
In the Liwan district, gape at the intricate mythological beasts decorating the facades of the Chen Clan Academy, home to the Guangdong Folk Arts Museum (gzchenjiaci.com). Graze along Shangxiajiu Pedestrian St, a famed snack street and explore Shamian Island, a time capsule of colonial buildings.
Tianhe’s Redtory Art & Design Factory (redtory.com.cn) was an abandoned Soviet-style canned-food factory until 2009, when it was transformed into an arts hub with sculptures, galleries, cafes and markets.
LINGER A WHILE: (clockwise from far left) Burj Khalifa and Dubai fountains at sunset; Hong Kong at night; the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; night market on Trengganu St in Chinatown, Singapore; and Guangzhou railway station. Main picture:...