Sunday, June 21, 2009

Travel “Best Of”

Looking back on our Singapore experience, I feel very, very lucky. (Which perhaps is ironic, considering how often I’ve complained about the country’s manic obsession with lucky draws, fortune, and the 4-D lottery.) Three years ago, I couldn’t even point out Singapore on a map. But in the last few years, I’ve had the chance to experience some truly amazing places and cultures in the surrounding area. I’d had no idea what I was missing! In hopes of inspiring some future travel for others like me, here’s our “best of” travel list from the region.

Best hotel chain: Shangri-La. Singapore’s has a fabulous multicultural breakfast, Sydney’s has a panoramic view, and Kota Kinabalu’s (in Borneo) has an Ocean Wing with over-the-top beachfront luxury at the price of a standard room in NYC.

Best once-in-a-lifetime: the Maldives, whether at the laid-back Cocoa Island, with its coral reefs just steps from the villas, or the Conrad, with its underwater restaurant.

Best cultural immersion: Ubud, Bali (Indonesia), at the luxe Pita Maha Resort & Spa or on the cheap at Ketut’s Place. Eat dinner at Ketut’s for an authentic introduction to Balinese life, and catch a Kecak performance or shadow puppet play. Runner up: Arun Residence in Bangkok, Thailand, for a local feel, fantastic food, and a waterfront view of the temple Wat Arun from your bed.

Best wildlife: crocodiles, hornbills, monkeys, orangutans, and pygmy elephants spotted while staying at the Kinabatangan Riverside Lodge in Borneo. Runner-up: Singapore’s Night Safari just before closing, when the bats, flying squirrels, wolves, and lions are most awake.

Best “discovery”: the overgrown Cambodian temple ruin of Ta Prohm at dawn, before anyone else has arrived. Runner-up: the lagoons of Phang Nga Bay in Phuket, Thailand, accessible only by kayaking through pitch-black limestone caverns when the tides are right.

Best British Colonial indulgence: High tea at the elegant, soothing Tiffin Room at Singapore’s classic Raffles Hotel (do it soon—I hear it may not be there for long).

Best entertainment: the beautiful and creative Disney Seas park at Tokyo Disney. Worth spending at least a day or two, even if—especially if—you’re not a kid.

Best inexpensive city tours: commuter ferries. In Hong Kong, the best skyline view is from the ferry at night (fare: about 50 cents US). On the Sydney ferries, for just a few dollars you can spend a day exploring each harbor in turn.

Best of nature: Tie. Te Anau, New Zealand, for nearby glowworm grottoes and spectacular morning sea kayaking in the fjord of Milford Sound. Or drive the scenic Great Ocean Road from Melbourne, Australia, and stay at the Ecolodge. Help feed orphaned joeys; watch koalas, kangaroos, and wombats in the wild; and see a dazzling night sky.


jima said...

I'd add a second thought for the best inexpensive city tour: The 166 bus in Singapore. You can pick it up at Novena Station (wait for a double decker move to the front of the top). You get to ride through Little India, Chinatown, past some beautiful architecture and shophouses, and end up by the port at Harbourfront!

Anonymous said...

Oh thank you for the list. We are in Singapore and always wondering where we should go for the next break. I constantly am wishing thatsomeone would post the "best of" and now you have. Hooray and thanks again. S

Cheryl said...

Nice summary, you guys. How about sending this into the Singapore American? It would make a nice travel article for the September issue. I can't do all of them, you know! :)

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