Meet your new neighbourhoods
I have just spent a night close to home, to do a hotel review, and discovered a new city precinct in the process. This hardly makes me an intrepid explorer as apparently the quarter has been reinventing itself for some time. Last time I looked there were car yards and frankly grimy corner pubs and now there are hipster cafes, Asian eateries with clever cross-cultural menus and funky ice cream parlours doing a merry trade in organic matcha cones.
This has reminded me how often we forget to explore what’s on our doorstep in favour of venturing far and wild in search of the exotic. As much as that silly term “staycation” brings me out in hives, there is much to be said for around-the-corner holidays. City hotels, even of the fivestar category, offer weekend deals with all sorts of inclusions. On weekdays those guestrooms thrive on (mostly) corporate and overseas business. What fun to be holed up somewhere plush with the city at your doorstep.
You might feel you know it well but things take on a fresh perspective when you have a different (temporary) home base.
In a related fashion, I am a fan of using a range of hotels or resorts if I am on holiday in one destination for, say, a week. It is a terrific way to get to know myriad neighbourhoods and thus begin to appreciate the facets of a place. In metropolises such as New York and London, you can explore disparate “villages” that may not be so geographically removed from each other but have their own authenticity, flavour and, often, ethnic populations.
In Hong Kong, split your stay across both sides of the harbour and, on the Kowloon peninsula, venture away from the obvious waterfront activities and abodes to Mongkok where the luxe Cordis at Langham Place has a Michelin-starred restaurant and is within easy reach of buzzy markets. The same strategy applies to the European and Asian sides of Istanbul’s great waterway and to the sprawl of Tokyo, where a fabulous subway system zips you about in no time.
A few years ago in Singapore, I combined two nights on Sentosa Island (at the peerless Capella, set in vast gardens) with a CBD sojourn and, despite the quick 20-minute commute, the former felt like a far-removed isle. One of my Singapore friends refers to Sentosa as “Bali Lite”, such is its sense of differentness.
And when in the real Bali on annual family breaks, we ping between the cliffs of Uluwatu, the hills of Ubud and a beachside enclave, such as Seminyak or Nusa Dua. Each component seems like a separate holiday. The styles of shopping, dining and even fellow tourists are unique.
And allied to all this is my theory of “bookending”, in which you reserve the best (and most expensive) accommodation for the middle, and start and finish in lesser digs, including home stays.
In my experience, it works out about the same as booking an entire holiday at just one affordable but unremarkable hotel, the name of which you’d be hard pressed ever to remember. Do the sums.
We forget to explore what’s on our doorstep in favour of venturing far and wild