Agonda Beach, Goa, India
Four secret travel gems of India
From sipping fragrant tea in the tea gardens of Coonoor to trekking a breathtaking hike to Dzongri Peak, India's 4 secret gems will offer experiences to last a lifetime. 1. Agonda Beach, Goa Where on Earth is it? In goa state on India’s south-west coast, on the Arabian Sea. Why you need to know about it It’s the best beach in India, according to TripAdvisor members, thanks to it being not much more than a sleepy hamlet hugging the wide, white sands on an idyllic stretch of the Arabian Sea; a contrast to some of the big resorts further north.   It’s also home to a hatchery for Olive Ridley turtles, providing a great chance to see them nesting. Grab a colourful beach hut for a week and get to know this wonderful palm tree-framed golden crescent by doing nothing much at all. 2. Coonoor Where on Earth is it? It is the second-largest hill station in the Nilgiri Hills in India’s southern state, Tamil Nadu. Why you need to know about it One of three hill stations in the Nilgiri Hills (the others are Ooty and Kotagiri), Coonoor sits at an altitude of 1839 metres and is surrounded by tea plantations. [caption id="attachment_25996" align="alignleft" width="667"] A vibrant green tea garden in Coonoor, India.[/caption] Though the town is accessible by road, many visitors choose to arrive via the UNESCO World Heritage-listed mountain railway built from 1891–1908; its track passes over 250 bridges.   Many people visit the hill station in summer because the cool climate offers a welcome break from India’s stifling heat. 3. Dzongri, Sikkim Where on Earth is it? In the state of Sikkim, north-west India. Why you need to know about it Sitting at an altitude of 4200 metres, Dzongri is incredible for trekking. The five-day journey to Dzongri Peak and back starts from the town of Yuksom in West Sikkim, a six-hour drive from the nearest railway station. [caption id="attachment_25998" align="alignleft" width="1000"] A dramatic view of Kangchenjunga from Dzongri, Sikkim, India.[/caption] Passing through verdant rhododendron forest, past Buddhist monasteries and taking in views of snow-drenched mountains, the journey can be a taxing one, but standing on top of the world looking out over uninterrupted 360-degree views will make all the work seem worth it.   Hypnotised by the Himalayas? read about Leisa Tyler's experience here:  Sikkim: The spirit of India's Himalayas. 4. Gangotri Where on Earth is it? In the Indian state of Uttarkashi, 470 kilometres north of Delhi, close to the Indo-Tibetan border. Why you need to know about it Surrounded by the Indian Himalayas, the picturesque town of Gangotri is an important pilgrimage for Hindus as it’s the origin of the sacred Ganga (River Ganges). [caption id="attachment_25997" align="alignleft" width="1000"] India's Gangotri has a divine beauty and is an important pilgrimage for Hindus.[/caption] Pay your respects at the 18th-century temple, which stands at an altitude of 3042 metres. Alcohol and meat are strictly prohibited here, but you’ll find delicious vegan cuisine at the local dhabas.   More… The 17 Secret Travel Gems of Asia
No cars allowed on Gili Islands, Indonesia
Three secret travel gems of Indonesia
The 3 hidden gems of Indonesia offer an experience away from your typical commercialised offering, from the largest Buddha temple in the world to an island that prohibits cars. 1. Gili Islands Where on Earth is it? The Gilis are an archipelago of three small islands off the coast of Lombok. Why you need to know about it Surrounded by pristine water and fringed by pure-white sand, The three atolls that make up the Gili Islands – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air – are an idyllic break from popular Bali (just A two-hour boat ride away).   The fact that they do not allow cars nor motorbikes is bliss; tourists rent bicycles instead. The most developed of the three, Gili Trawangan, is a bit of a party island, while the other two are more laid-back, with hip hotels, bars and restaurants popping up. 2. Borobudur Where on Earth is it? An ancient complex in Central Java. Why you need to know about it The largest Buddhist temple in the world is a massive hulk of sculptural work planted in a lush landscape. Constituting one the most important Buddhist monuments on the planet, it was built in the 9th century and has 2672 reliefs and 504 statues of Buddha. Incorporating Indian influences as well as indigenous art, it’s a distinctly Indonesian masterpiece. [caption id="attachment_26014" align="alignleft" width="1000"] Borobudur Temple surrounded by lush green jungle in Indonesia.[/caption] Pilgrims start their journey at the base of the temple and wind their way to the top in a symbolic journey to nirvana. Spend a few days getting to know the region and rise early to see it at its best.   If you're after a Bali holiday of the spiritual kind, Despina Meris finds a peace in a rejuvenating resort : Is this Bali’s most relaxing hideaway? 3. Sidemen, Bali Where on Earth is it? In east Bali, a 90-minute drive from Denpasar airport. Why you need to know about it The allures of Bali have been commercialised for so long that it’s staggering to find there are still parts of this island that offer a glimpse of life as it once was. Sidemen is one such place, Surrounded by mountains and lush rice paddies that day-trippers flock to see in Ubud. [caption id="attachment_26015" align="alignleft" width="667"] Away from the typical touristy areas of Bali, bean crops are planted on the hills of Sidemen, Bali.[/caption] There are no flashy resorts, but sacrificing chilled towels is a small price to pay for the privilege of discovering the undiscovered.   More… The 17 Secret Travel Gems of Asia
Hungary accomodation holidays danube
Review: Iberostar Grand Hotel Budapest
A budget-conscious Quentin Long checks in to a central hotel to find that affordable luxury can be found; you just can’t have it all.
Krabi and Phang-Nga beaches, Thailand.
There’s something about Thailand
Thailand offers all the benefits of an exotic destination – including climate, culture and convenience – without blowing the budget.
Jetstar business class
Review: Jetstar Business Class
Business class is not as inaccessible as you might think: Jetstar provides the bells and whistles at a much more pocket-friendly price. Business class Flying business class is a rare treat for most travellers, who save up diligently to go on holidays and search long and hard for the best deals.   But the profusion of budget carriers entering the Australian market has made the luxury of ‘turning left’ much more accessible.   Jetstar is one such carrier, with its business class fares coming in at thousands of dollars less than other airlines, but still providing the boost in service and comfort. I took the opportunity to experience it on a night flight from Bali to Sydney, a well-worn tourist route. At the airport Upon arriving at the airport to a melee of passengers zig-zagging in a seemingly endless queue at check-in, it is a relief to join the short line for business class.   Due to a computer glitch, the process is a little slower than usual but once we get to the desk it is all efficient and quick. Each ticket comes with a whopping 30 kilograms of check-in luggage, which means no skimping when it comes to shopping while you are away, and you also get to take two seven-kilogram bags as carry-on.   Flying business class also gives you access to lounge facilities – the Business Max Bundle on Jetstar includes access to Qantas lounges where available – meaning you don’t have to wander the airport aimlessly killing time. On the plane We heed the priority boarding call and enter the aircraft, one of Jetstar’s fleet of 787 Dreamliners. The cabin is spacious and well configured, with a two, three, two seat set-up. The leather seats are wide and comfortable and there is a decent amount of legroom out front and headspace above. [caption id="attachment_24113" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Jetstar’s Dreamliner 787[/caption] I also love the bigger windows, which have electronic dimmers instead of blinds that automatically change depending on what’s happening outside. The brilliant amenities cases left on our seats are stocked with all the essentials (it is one of the best I have received on any airline; it turns into an iPad case that can be used at home).   A smiling staff of attendants busy themselves with helping stow luggage and distributing pre-flight drinks. In the air Once airborne the benefits of the aircraft itself come into play; I find the Dreamliner to be a very smooth ride. Though we are warned of bumpy weather, which delays the dinner service, nothing eventuates. And to my mind it’s a lot less noisy than other planes and far more comfortable when airborne, thanks to hidden technology that delivers cleaner air and higher humidity.   The staff come around and takes dinner orders; I pass on a meal at 11:30pm but what is served up to my business class buddies looks decent, and wine flows freely.   I busy myself instead with the in-flight entertainment and seeing how far my seat reclines. The screen is a very decent size and there is a good selection of new-ish release and classic movies, television shows, and lots of choices for kids.   As for the seat, they are not full recliners, more like business class seats were before flatbeds, but the pitch is enough that you can stretch out and sleep. If the snoring from the gentleman across from me is anything to go by, he found them plenty comfy. [caption id="attachment_17852" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Flying high with Jetstar.[/caption] The flight passes quickly, and the last vestige of business class service is the priority exit from the plane, which means we are up and out before the rest of the passengers have started the long shuffle up the aisle towards the exit.   The whole experience has actually been a pleasure, all the more so because it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. The IT Verdict Service = 7/10 The in-flight service from the smiling crew was attentive but not overbearing. Comfort = 8/10 The Dreamliner is a very comfortable aircraft, and Jetstar’s business class cabin is a pleasant space with wide, comfortable seats and plenty of legroom.   The amenities case is a real winner and includes a pen for filling in immigration forms without having to rifle around in your bag or borrow from the person next to you. Food and drink = 7/10 There were bubbles before take-off and a choice of meals and wine in the air. There are also snacks on request. Value for money = 8/10 The outlay isn’t excessive – I paid $750 for one-way – which makes the benefits in extra service and comfort (and that special feeling that comes from travelling business) well worth it.
Airport lounge
How to fly in style with pay-per-use airport lounges
 Everyone can feel like they are travelling business class, without the airfare ticket, with these pay-per-use airport lounges! Words by Leigh-Anne Pow.
Earlybird travel deals
How to get the best earlybird deals
We’ve all heard the term earlybird when it comes to booking travel in advance to get great deals, but exactly how early is early and what are you likely to save? Here, a calendar of when you should be booking what to get the best deals. Northern Hemisphere summer Specials on airfares usually hit the market in September or October for summer flights the following year to places like Britain, Europe and North America; many airlines now allow you to sign up to track flight specials, sending you alerts when deals hit the market.   The savings here can run to hundreds of dollars on each ticket booked.   Holiday packages for the following summer should be booked 10 months ahead to guarantee availability. Ski breaks If you are planning a ski holiday in New Zealand, travel packages and prices on passes are released as early as September for skiing in the winter of the following year, while Northern Hemisphere ski fields in America and Canada release their first-round offers around April and May for travel in the following ski season.   Significant savings can be made on accommodation and lift passes by booking early. Cruising packages Cruise lines release their itineraries 12 to 18 months in advance, and booking early means you will be guaranteed to get the route and cabin class you want.   Many cruise lines offer generous discounts when you book your next cruise through their on-board sales office while you are at sea, allowing you to secure your booking with a small deposit.   If you are not fussy about cabin type, great last minute deals can often be had just weeks before departure as cruise lines try to fill empty cabins on certain routes. Christmas in Europe Travelling during the holidays is never cheap, so aim to start looking at tickets and packages at least six months ahead with specials often being released in July; the price will just go up and up as the festive season approaches, although good last-minute deals can be had if you are prepared to fly on Christmas Day and celebrate later.
Otaru canal at night, Japan.
Japan’s best budget-friendly destinations
Dreaming of cherry blossoms, sushi and Mount Fuji? We look at the ultimate budget-friendly getaways in Japan. Ah Japan – it's one of Australia's favourite destinations. And for good reason, really. There's cityscapes, snowscapes, beachscapes, cherry blossomscapes, and basically everything in between. Perfect for the traveller who loves a bit of variety, but just how budget-friendly is a trip to Japan? Is Japan expensive to visit? If you dream of visiting the Land of the Rising Sun, the biggest costs to factor into your trip to Japan are always going to be food, transportation and accommodation.   Food is the most affordable of the three, with plenty of budget-friendly options available around the country.   Transportation in Japan can be expensive, especially if you're travelling long-distance. However, the Japan Rail Pass can help with that. Instead of paying nearly $200 for a oneway train ticket from Tokyo to Osaka, you can buy an unlimited Japan Rail Pass for $371 for 7 days, $592 for 14 days or $757 for 21 days.   Finally, accommodation is where your budget will be hit the hardest. On the cheaper end of the scale, you're looking at $50 a night for a hostel in Kyoto.   Accommodation is the third of the big three travel expenses, and unfortunately, it’s not only the most expensive travel cost in Japan, but also the most unavoidable: There’s no special pass for hostels or guest houses and prices for tourists are higher, if anything. For example, you can expect to pay at least ¥3,500 (or about 35 USD) for a dorm bed in a hostel in Kyoto.   The good news is there are plenty of ways to cut down on your costs - and some destinations are cheaper to visit than others. Here is how you can do it on the cheap. Kyoto If you’re looking for a taste of traditional Japan, head to Kyoto. Buddhist temples, ancient wooden houses, zen rock gardens and geisha, all nestled within the confines of the neighbouring mountains.   With a population of 1.4 million people, it's definitely a bustling place, but still filled with hidden gems that will give you your travel kicks. What to do [caption id="attachment_22675" align="alignnone" width="1500"] The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto.[/caption] 1. The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove is an incredible, must-visit garden situated just outside the city centre. Here towering bamboo stretches endlessly in every direction and travellers really do feel at peace.   Address: Togetsukyo, Saga, Ukyo-ku, Kyoto 616-8383, Kyoto Prefecture   2. Onsens Onsens are dotted all over Japan, thanks to hot volcanic springs that deliver a steady supply of piping hot water; no trip to the country would be complete without having a soak in one. The city centre Funaoka Onsen on Kuramaguchi-dōri is one of Kyoto’s most celebrated.   Inside you’ll find hot, warm and cold baths, an outdoor rock pool and a cypress-panelled tub. And yes, you will have to abide by tradition and remove all of your clothes.   Address: 82-1 Murasakino Minamifunaokacho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 603-8225, Japan   3. Nishiki Market Head to Nishiki Market for your fill of all the Japanese street food you could want. The traditional food market, which you'll find in a long alley way, has been in operation for over 400 years. Not only can you walk away full, you can also purchase souvenirs, clothes, gifts, and fresh produce, meat and seafood to take back to your accommodation to cook and eat. There are over 100 stalls, shops and restaurants to choose from, so arrive mid-morning and spend a couple of hours browsing the stalls and eating.   Address: 609 Nishidaimonjicho Tominokoji Dori Shijoagaru, Nakagyo, Kyoto 604-8054, Kyoto Prefecture   4. Kyoto Imperial Palace Once home to the emperor of Japan during the Heian period, the Imperial Palace shouldn't be missed for it's sheer scale and tranquil gardens. There is no admission fee, so you can wander until your heart's content. Take in the architecture, immerse yourself in the history and take in the beauty of the manicured gardens.   Address: 3 Kyoto-Gyoen Kamigyo-ku, Kamigyo, Kyoto 602-0881, Kyoto Prefecture Where to stay Hotel Sunroute Kyoto The Hotel Sunroute Kyoto is not only great value for money but is located within walking distance from the downtown shopping district of Kawaramachi. Each reasonably-sized room features wi-fi, flat screen televisions and a pull-out sofa. The hotel also has two restaurants and breakfast is available to book. Prices start at $100 a night per room.   Address:  406 Nanba-cho Matsubara-sagaru, Kawaramachi-dori, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto, 600-8027, Japan   Read more: the ultimate travel guide to Kyoto Otaru Though the port town of Otaru is little known to international visitors, it’s a popular destination with Japanese tourists.   A bit off the beaten track, this little town charms travellers with its many local attractions, including several popular museums and a picturesque canal. What to do 1. Eat all the ice cream Otaru is known for its unique and delicious ice cream flavours. If there is one ice cream parlour you have to visit, it's Kita-no Aisukurimu-ya-san. Here you'll find ice cream flavours you've never dreamed of tasting! Think sea urchin, beer, wine, sake, tofu and squid. For those who aren't feeling quite so brave, you can also choose between a variety of more palatable ice cream flavours, including strawberry milk, fresh caramel, apple pie, white peach and many more.   Address: 1-2-18 Ironai, Otaru 047-0031, Hokkaido   2. Otaru Canal [caption id="attachment_22674" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Otaru Canal at night is a sight to behold.[/caption] Otaru's canal is a must, where you can wander along at leisure and admire the 19th and 20th century warehouses that line the waterway. The traditional oil lamps still burn each night along the promenade, making a sunset stroll something extra magical. There are canal boats for hire and walking tours for those after something a little more.   Address: Minatomachi, Otaru 047-0007, Hokkaido   3. Otaru Museum While at the Otaru Canal, visit the vibrant Otaru Museum nearby, with displays featuring Hokkaidō's natural history, Ainu relics and various exhibitions from all over Japan.   Address: 1-3-6 Temiya, Otaru 047-0041, Hokkaido Where to stay Smile Hotel Located close to major local attractions and the main train station, Smile Hotel combines comfort, authentic experiences and amazing value, where two people can stay from just $54 a night.   Address: 3-5-14 Inaho, Otaru, Hokkaido Kobe [caption id="attachment_22673" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Kobe at sunset.[/caption] Located on Osaka Bay in Central Japan, this multicultural port city is renowned for its beautiful scenery, encompassing a scenic harbour and mountains, earning it a reputation as one of Japan’s most attractive cities. What to do 1. Rokko cable car ride Take a ride on the antique cable cars connecting Kobe to Mt. Rokko, which is one of the best ways to enjoy the spectacular panoramic views the port has to offer.   Address: Rokkosancho, Nada-ku, Kobe 657-0001, Hyogo Prefecture   2. Arima Onsen Then if you want to venture beyond the Rokko hills, experience the hot outdoor springs and public baths in Arima Onsen.   Address: Arimacho, Kita-ku, Kobe 651-1401, Hyogo Prefecture   3. Eat Kobe marbled beef The fun doesn't stop at sundown either with many convivial bars to sample sake at, and a variety of restaurants where you can indulge in one of Japan's delicacies, marbled beef. One of the best places to try the famous beef is at Wakkoqu. The beef is cooked in front of you as you dine, there are a variety of set menus and you can choose from a number of side dishes to accompany the beef.   Address: 1-1 Kitanocho, Chuo-ku | Shinkobe Oriental Avenue 3F, Kobe 650-0002, Hyogo Prefecture Where to stay Hotel Villa Fontaine Kobe-Sannomiya Set among Kobe's many restaurants, bars and shops is Hotel Villa Fontaine Kobe-Sannomiya, where well-appointed rooms (which come with a complimentary buffet breakfast) cost as little as $150 for two people per night.   Address: 4-1-4 Asahi-Dori, Chuo-ku, Kobe 651-0095, Japan Hokkaido For a more active trip, the island of Hokkaido is an idyllic getaway, famed for its snow-covered slopes at Niseko, one of Japan’s best ski resorts. What to do 1. Hit the slopes [caption id="attachment_22672" align="alignnone" width="1500"] Niseko, one of Japan’s best ski resorts.[/caption] 2. Hikes and bike trails If you're visiting outside of winter months (although there’s snow most of the year); there’s a variety of hikes to tackle, or rent a bike and explore the island's unspoiled scenery on wheels. Where to stay The Lodge Moiwa 834 The Lodge Moiwa 834 ticks all the right boxes with contemporary centrally-located capsule-style accommodation, which won't break the bank.   A capsule for two costs from $120 per night, and you can purchase discounted ski passes from the hotel.   Address: 447-5 Aza, Niseko 048-1511, Japan   Osaka Hailed as the food capital of the country, foodies can't go past a trip to Osaka. It's also home to Universal Studios, Osaka Castle and Japan's answer to Times Square - Dotonbori What to do 1. Walk around Dotonbori Take in the bright neon lights of Dotonburi, window-shop (if you're on a budget) and stop for dinner at one of the many restaurants on offer to get your fill of ramen, takoyaki balls and all the weird and wonderful Japanese food you can consume.   Address: Dotonbori, Chuo-ku, Osaka 542-0076, Osaka Prefecture    2. Osaka Castle Not only is it one of the most beautiful landmarks in Japan, Osaka Castle, it's also free to visit the castle grounds and surrounding Nishinomaru gardens. If you wish to enter the castle and take in the view from the top, you'll pay 600 yen (children under 15 years are free). The 14th century castle is surrounded by water and moat, and is one of the best places to view the famous cherry blossoms during April. Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon in the gardens with the locals.   Address: 1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan   3. Sumiyoshi Shrine One of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, the Sumiyoshi Shrine, with it's striking red bridge and peaceful atmosphere is a must-see when in Osaka. Built over 1800 years ago, the shrine is beloved for its ornate architecture that is purely Japanese in design (it was built before the influence of Buddhist architecture).   Address: 2-9-89 Sumiyoshi, Sumiyoshi-ku, Osaka 558-0045, Osaka Prefecture Where to stay Hotel Ichiei For a traditional Ryokan stay with a modern twist, check in at the Hotel Ichiei. Sleep on a rolled out futon atop tatami mats with the added bonus of all the mod-cons you're used to. Prices start from $189 a night per room.   Address: 1-6-8 Nanbanaka, Naniwa, Osaka 556-0011 Osaka Prefecture   Read more: the ultimate travel guide to Osaka   Want to know more about Japan? Read our ultimate travel guide to Japan.
Sunda Kelapa Harbour, Jakarta.
How to spend 48 hours in Jakarta
Few cities incite such love-hate feelings as the bustling Indonesian capital. Here's how to get under the skin of this sprawling metropolis with this ultimate 48-hour itinerary. DAY ONE Fans of Jakarta claim that its nickname, the Big Durian, is a nod to NYC (others say it refers to its many and varied aromas). 6am Rise early to experience the frenetic clamour of Jakarta’s oldest traditional market.   Pasar Ikan fish market (at Jalan Pasar Ikan) is the perfect place to get a feel for the hectic, pulsating heartbeat of this city of 10 million. [caption id="attachment_20131" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Fresh fruit at one of Jakarta's many street stalls.[/caption] Later in the day souvenir vendors will turn out to meet the late-rising tourists, but take the opportunity to visit at first-light and you’ll be warmly welcomed by smiling stall-holders. 9am Kick-start your trip in classic style at the spot where modern-day Jakarta itself got started.   VOC Galangan Cafe (Jalan Kakap) stands on the premises of a wonderfully renovated Dutch warehouse. Sip your morning cup of Java in a building that dates back more than 350 years or on the sun-blessed terrace, which doubles as a parking place for a 1926 vintage Ford and a horse-carriage. 10am There can be few places that encapsulate the diversity of the world’s most populous island nation in quite the same way as Sunda Kelapa harbour does.   The sweeping bows of majestic timber schooners throw shadows across the dock as tattooed Dayak wharfies from Borneo and swarthy Bugis deckhands from Sulawesi offload trade-goods from all over the islands. [caption id="attachment_20128" align="alignleft" width="1500"] One of Jakarta's many tuk tuks.[/caption] The ghost of Joseph Conrad seems to drift evocatively through the scent of cloves and timber. 1pm Flag down a bajaj (a motor-rickshaw taxi) and head back past Chicken Market Bridge – the last remaining Dutch drawbridge – to Daoen Sirih.   This large bamboo-roofed food-court near the backpacker ghetto of Jalan Jaksa retains a mostly local clientele and is a good place to chat with locals while you tuck into tasty goat satays or mee goreng (fried noodles).   Meals start at about $2, so don’t hesitate to be extravagant! 2pm If you’re still feeling adventurous go for an aprés-lunch buzz on an ‘ojek’.   These motorcycle taxis are about half the price of a bajaj and their riders blast through traffic jams like crazed horsemen, so it will only take you a few minutes to reach the Museum Nasional (Jalan Merdeka Barat 12). [caption id="attachment_20129" align="alignleft" width="668"] Taman Mini Indonesia (Little Indonesia Park) is a cultural showcase for some of the great diversity of cultures in Jakarta.[/caption] Built in 1862, this is the most extensive museum of its kind in the country. It closes at 4pm, so if time is tight make a beeline for the ethnology section, which has a mind-boggling collection of artefacts from as far afield as Sumatra, Flores and Papua. 6pm Enjoy a traditional sun-downer at one of the many bars that liven up in the late afternoon around Jalan Jaksa.   Melly’s Garden (37–39 Kebon Sirih Timur Dalam), with its atmospheric courtyard, is the most peaceful, but for unbeatable people-watching and live music, head for Memories Cafe on Jalan Jaksa itself. 8pm – late Dine in classic style at Cafe Batavia on Fatahillah Square (a short bajaj ride away from the neon-lights of Jaksa).   This wonderful old mansion of a cafe is Jakarta’s second oldest building (after the Fatahillah Museum just across the road).   The restaurant upstairs offers a good mix of Indonesian, Chinese and Western meals and the atmospheric saloon below will force you into having a last night-cap on the way out.   There’s live music most weekdays. DAY TWO 7.30am If yesterday was all about Jakarta’s rich history then today is about getting an insight into contemporary Indonesia. [caption id="attachment_20135" align="alignleft" width="1169"] Dining among some of the archipelago’s fine art at Lara Djonggrang.[/caption] Start your day with the commuters on a train ride to Jakarta Kota Station (itself a 100-year-old Art Deco gem).   Take the north exit and after a 10-minute walk you’ll find yourself at Petak Sembilan Street Market.   Located in a traditional residential area off Jalan Pancoran, this market is almost 100 per cent local and a great place to grab a table at a roadside kopi stall and watch the city start the day. 9am Flag down a taxi – Bluebird Company is the most reliable – and ask for Taman Mini Indonesia Indah (Jalan Raya Jagorawi).   This massive 100-hectare cultural theme park is 18 kilometres from the city centre, but the ride should only set you back about $9.   With attractions representing most of Indonesia’s major tribes and ethnic groups, this is a fantastic way to gain a feeling for the wonderful diversity of the country.   Culinary influences from all over the country also mean that it is a great place for lunch. 2pm Head back to the city centre for an afternoon stroll through Merdeka Square.   The green heart of the city, with its lawns and tree-shaded parklands is one of the biggest squares in the world and is a playground for Jakarta’s inhabitants.   There is a deer enclosure and you can watch locals playing football, badminton, or the dramatic foot-volley game known as sepak takraw. 4pm Walk to the very centre of Merdeka Square to the National Monument (‘Monas’ to locals).   Dubbed as ‘Sukarno’s last erection’ this 132-metre tower took 14 years to build and is topped with a symbolic flame (leafed with gold) that would supposedly shine a metaphoric light that would unify the entire country. [caption id="attachment_20130" align="alignleft" width="1500"] Taman Mini Indonesia Indah is a massive 100-hectare cultural theme park is 18 kilometres from the city centre, but the ride should only set you back about $9.With attractions representing most of Indonesia’s major tribes and ethnic groups, this is a fantastic way to gain a feeling for the wonderful diversity of the country.Culinary influences from all over the country also mean that it is a great place for lunch.[/caption] It closes at 5pm, so leave enough time to join the queue and take the elevator to the observation deck, which offers phenomenal views from 115 metres up. 6pm From nearby Skye bar (on the 56th floor of Jakarta Menara BCA Tower) you can sip cocktails while you look down on the aforementioned National Monument.   This is the place to be seen with a frosted sun-downer in hand while you schmooze with the nightly gathering of starlets, pop stars and sundry millionaires of modern-day, boomtown Jakarta. 8pm At least a few of the most discerning diners in Jakarta are sure to be heading for Lara Djonggrang (Jl Teuku Cik Ditiro 4), and this lovely restaurant is highly recommended if you want to see how far Jakartan chic has come. [caption id="attachment_20132" align="alignleft" width="668"] Rise early to experience the frenetic clamour of Jakarta’s oldest traditional market.Pasar Ikan fish market (at Jalan Pasar Ikan) is the perfect place to get a feel for the hectic, pulsating heartbeat of this city of 10 million.Later in the day souvenir vendors will turn out to meet the late-rising tourists, but take the opportunity to visit at first-light and you’ll be warmly welcomed by smiling stall-holders.[/caption] Owner Anhar Setjadibrata is a celebrated antiques collector specialising in wonderful works from all over the archipelago. If you ask for a table in the romantic back room, you’ll find that the surroundings are as tasteful as the cuisine and as eclectic as the vibrant city that you might just have fallen in love with. Where to stay Shangri-La Jakarta is in the business district, a short drive from Merdeka Square.   The exclusive Horizon Club on the 26th floor provides afternoon tea with incredible views over the biggest city in Southeast Asia.   Some of the most luxurious suites in Jakarta are available from $287.   DoubleTree by Hilton Jakarta is perfectly located in the heart of Jakarta’s CBD.   Facilities are unbeatable with a choice of restaurants, award-winning spa and a 100-metre pool.   Room rates start at $117.   Artotel is a wonderful boutique hotel that was designed through a collaboration of Indonesian artists.   It has some of the most fascinatingly quirky suites, lounges and dining areas in the city.   Rooms start at just $75.
Fairmont Makati in Manila, the Philippines
Asia’s best luxury stays with an affordable price tag
Luxury and affordability rarely go hand in hand, but here we speak with travel search engine, KAYAK.com.au, to reveal the cheapest countries in Asia for a five-star hotel break.

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