The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

IT’S that time of year for De­par­ture Lounge to brush off her crys­tal ball, swirl her gold-hoop ear­rings and pre­dict which des­ti­na­tions will be hot and hap­pen­ing in 2008. In last week’s Travel&In­dul­gence, we looked at what’s new and note­wor­thy across Aus­tralia, from James Bail­lie’s South­ern Ocean Lodge on South Aus­tralia’s Kan­ga­roo Is­land to the boom­ing de­vel­op­ment on the NSW New Tweed Coast. In­dus­try pun­dits pre­dict a steady year for do­mes­tic tourism but it’s ex­cit­ing to see so much qual­ity prod­uct emerg­ing.

The trends this year have much to do with the strength of the Aus­tralian dol­lar, and this doesn’t help on the home front. For us, it’s cheap and thrilling to head to Asia on low-cost car­ri­ers and our cur­rency is giv­ing us more bang (or baht or yen) for the buck. Con­versely, over­seas tourists who may have seen Aus­tralia as a rel­a­tive bar­gain in the past — US and Ja­panese trav­ellers, in par­tic­u­lar — are look­ing else­where.

Lounge stakes her gypsy skirts and fringed shawls on the fol­low­ing: ■ JA­PAN: The Penin­sula Tokyo has opened and the Ja­panese cap­i­tal is en­joy­ing a tourism surge; the shaky yen has sud­denly made Ja­pan a good-value des­ti­na­tion. Syd­ney chef Luke Man­gan’s restau­rant Salt Tokyo in the smart CBD hub of Marunouchi is the place to wine and dine. www.penin­; www.pj­ ■ CHINA: All eyes will be on China dur­ing the Olympic Games in Bei­jing (Au­gust 824); in­fra­struc­ture is on track, the third ter­mi­nal of Bei­jing’s Cap­i­tal In­ter­na­tional Air­port is about to open and, in the spirit of cel­e­bra­tion, Olympics-themed wed­ding rings are be­ing mar­keted to the masses. The Par­a­lympics will be held from Septem­ber 6 to 17, which should be a bet­ter time to visit, free of quite so much hoopla. www. ■ EUROPE RIVER CRUIS­ING: To voy­age ef­fort­lessly along rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Volga is prov­ing a smart and pop­u­lar al­ter­na­tive to coach travel. Typ­i­cally, cruises last about seven days and ac­com­mo­da­tion is of a sim­i­lar stan­dard to a land­bound four stars. Such is the boom that one op­er­a­tor, Scenic Tours, is tak­ing de­liv­ery of three ad­di­tional ves­sels in 2008 and 2009. www.scenic­ ■ VIET­NAM: A re­cent email to Lounge from Jim Sul­li­van of Man­darin Me­dia, based in Viet­nam, gives de­tails of the In­terCon­ti­nen­tal Hanoi West­lake, which opened in De­cem­ber and is the first of five In­terCon­ti­nen­tal prop­er­ties to come on line in this in­creas­ingly lux­u­ri­ous des­ti­na­tion. Sul­li­van also tells Lounge that the Nam Hai, on China Beach near Hoi An, the first GHM ho­tel in Viet­nam, has been named by a US mag­a­zine with the un­likely ti­tle of Ci­gar Afi­cionado as best new in­ter­na­tional beach re­sort in the world. Travel&In­dul­gence ’ s Sharon Fowler stayed at the Nam Hai late last year and her re­port will ap­pear soon.­tercon­ti­nen­; www.ghmho­ ■ IN­DIA: This is Lounge ’ s favourite des­ti­na­tion so it al­ways has a fair chance of mak­ing any must-go list. Those in the know are talk­ing about the new sa­fari col­lec­tion man­aged by Taj Ho­tels and Con­ser­va­tion Cor­po­ra­tion Africa. There are two ‘‘ tiger cir­cuit’’ camps op­er­at­ing, in Band­hav­garh and Pench na­tional parks, with two more, in Kanha and Panna na­tional parks, open­ing this year. www.tajsa­ The Four Sea­sons Mumbai is about to open and, with the Com­mon­wealth Games be­ing held in New Delhi in 2010, ex­pect lots of de­vel­op­ment in the cap­i­tal, in­clud­ing an Aman­re­sort. www.tajsa­; www.foursea­

Where else? The Bri­tish city of Liver­pool, birth­place of the Bea­tles and the chip butty, is the 2008 Euro­pean Cap­i­tal of Cul­ture. In Canada, Que­bec is plan­ning a year-long knees-up for its 400th birth­day. In­done­sia hopes to at­tract seven mil­lion for­eign vis­i­tors dur­ing Visit In­done­sia Year 2008; Zam­bia is Africa’s ris­ing sa­fari star and Aber­crom­bie & Kent plans to open four glam camps there in 2008. Oman is on the radar, too, with a new Eva­son re­sort and spa at Zighy Bay, awash with private pools and glid­ing but­lers. Ter­mi­nal three at the su­per-ef­fi­cient Changi air­port in Sin­ga­pore has opened and Sin­ga­pore Air­lines re­ports great pas­sen­ger feed­back to its A380 air­craft, all of which bodes well for a bustling Year of the Rat in this trop­i­cal city-state.

Kevin Donnelly, a con­trib­u­tor to The Aus­tralian , ad­vises Lounge that TheNew YorkTimes has his favourite des­ti­na­tion, Laos, atop its list of 53 places to go in 2008. The pa­per de­crees, way too grandly, that ‘‘ Viet­nam and Cam­bo­dia are so 2007’’. And the 53rd choice? New York . . . so back­yard, Lounge sup­poses.

On the cine-tourism front, highs should in­clude Gabriel Gar­cia Mar­quez fans flock­ing to LoveintheTimeofCholera sites in Carta­gena, Colom­bia (the movie opens here on April 17) and, as a nice bonus for our do­mes­tic tourism in­dus­try, Baz Luhrmann’s Aus­tralia epic should bring in­creased in­bound traf­fic in late 2008.

A round-up of the world’s best new ho­tels will ap­pear in Travel&In­dul­gence in com­ing weeks. ■ LOUNGE loathes: E-cards of any kind, es­pe­cially with 5-megabyte San­tas danc­ing across the screen. ■ FIND of the week: TheGoodHus­bandof Ze­braDrive , the eighth ti­tle in the hugely pop­u­lar No 1 Ladies De­tec­tive Agency se­ries by Alexan­der McCall Smith, will be out in pa­per­back on Fe­bru­ary 1 (Aba­cus, $22.95). The star of the Botswana-set nov­els, the tra­di­tion­ally built Pre­cious Ramotswe, is a red bush tea ad­dict and the pub­lisher sug­gests McCall Smith fans should fol­low her lead and settle into read­ing the book with a calm­ing cup of red Rooi­bos tea, avail­able in caf­feine-free loose leaves from Melbourne’s T2. ■ LOUNGE loves: Aus­tralia’s first 100 per cent so­lar pow­ered and car­bon neu­tral op­er­a­tor has per­fected an eco re­sort 90 min­utes north­west of Townsville. Hid­den Val­ley Cab­ins and Tours, lo­cated near Run­ning River on the west­ern slopes of the Paluma range, op­er­ates with no sup­port from a power grid and prac­tises en­er­gysav­ing mea­sures and green ini­tia­tives at ev­ery level; con­grat­u­la­tions to Ian and Bon­nie McLen­nan for show­ing the eco­tourism in­dus­try how it should be done. www.hid­den­val­l­ey­cab­

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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