Top 3 Australasia Stopovers
Published 30 March 2016
If you’re planning a trip to Australia or New Zealand then you might have already considered breaking up the long flight by stopping for a night or two along the way. Incorporating a stopover into your itinerary gives you a chance to stretch your legs and catch up on some sleep and it’s also a cost-effective way of experiencing a country that you might not have otherwise visited. In this post Kirsty Stuart tells us which three Australasia stopovers are the best and gives a guide for each.
Singapore is home to many restaurants, coffee houses and bars but the one ‘must-do’ for countless tourists that stop off in this city is to sip from a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel. Nowadays you can get one of these cocktails almost anywhere in Asia but the Raffles Hotel is where this famous cocktail was first born. Sip one at the bar or on the terrace while eating monkey nuts and throwing the shells onto the floor (don’t worry, everyone will be doing it!). A Singapore Sling isn’t cheap – the equivalent of a bed for the night in backpacker land – but for authentic cocktail heaven, a trip to Raffles is an essential stopover treat.
Come nightfall Singapore Zoo becomes a night safari where you can observe nocturnal animals across 40 hectares of jungle from the safety of an open tram. If you’re feeling brave you can also follow a walking trail with a guide to see the animals even closer up. The Ulu Ulu Safari Restaurant here offers dinner with a difference – you can choose to dine under burnished wooden beams or join the other night animals for a more al fresco experience, perhaps sipping drinks while a herd of Ankole cattle graze nearby.
Arts & Culture
The museums in Singapore are huddled fairly closely together with the National Museum, Singapore Art Museum and Peranakan Museum all within walking distance of the famous Colonial District. Depending on the length of your stopover, you might want to consider purchasing a three-day museum pass as this will save you money if you intend to visit several.
You’ll find a China district in most stopover cities but the area based in Petaling Street in Kuala Lumpur is one of the most bustling and vibrant of them all. The colours and clamour of the market and the rich smells from the food stalls make a visit to this part of town a lively and compelling assault of the senses. It’s not all hustle and bustle though; just around the corner you can find an oasis of calm inside temples that have been around for more than a century.
Petronas Twin Towers
Search for images of Kuala Lumpur and you’ll be presented with an urban metropolis in the heart of the city and at its centre, the magnificent twin skyscrapers known as the Petronas Twin Towers. Until 2004 these were the tallest buildings in the world and if you’re brave you can walk between them on an adjoining ‘Sky Bridge’ 170 metres above the ground. This is free to do but tickets must be reserved in the early morning for tours on the same day. If heights are really your thing then you can also get unparalleled views of Kuala Lumpur from the observation deck on level 86, which is 360 metres above the ground.
After you’ve come back down to Earth, pop into the extravagant shopping mall directly beneath the Towers. Shopping is another popular pastime for those on short stopovers in Kuala Lumpur because the city’s many malls offer everything from designer gear to unique bargains. Whether it’s under the Towers or in one the largest malls in Asia at Berjaya Times Square, shopping in Kuala Lumpur can easily take up an entire day of your stopover trip
Temples are such a big part of Thailand that visiting at least one or two of them should be an integral part of your stopover in Thailand’s diverse capital city, Bangkok. The choice is endless: Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is the city’s largest temple and famous for its huge, golden reclining Buddha measuring 46 metres long. Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) on the other hand is considered the most important and houses an illustrious Buddha image that is carved from a single block of jade. Wat Arun (the Temple of Dawn), which sits on the bank of Chao Phraya River, is amongst the most iconic temples, while Wat Sutat (the Temple of the Giant Swing), situated next to the Grand Palace (another must-see), is one of the oldest and the site of the original Giant Swing ceremony. There are many others but you’ll very likely run out of time on your stopover if you attempt to visit them all!
Khao San Road
It’s testament to this famous road that guidebooks and travellers alike consider it a top tourist attraction in itself. Here you can feast on delicious local food from the street stalls, mingle with street vendors vying for your attention or simply find a table and settle down with a nice cold drink to watch this curious world go by. At the end of a hard day of people watching, move on to one of the many restaurants or bars in the area that provide live music – but do bear in mind that this is Bangkok so don’t expect to leave before midnight.
Day trips in and around Bangkok are abundant. Take your pick from temple and palace tours, expeditions to the River Kwai, trips to the floating market and excursions out to the island of Ayutthaya. These are all easily arranged but if you decide not to use organised trips and transport then the best way to get around Bangkok to see the sights is by hopping aboard a tuk tuk – that way your journey out to see the attractions will usually be an experience in itself.
There are less than 200 miles between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. If you have a good few days for your stopover and want to squeeze in two cities then jump on a coach or train from one to the other. Just be sure to get back in time for your onward flight…