Meet your new neigh­bour­hoods

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

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

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