Top destinations to uncover in 2015
FROM cosmopolitan cities to breathtaking landscapes and vestiges of arts and culture, these dynamic places across the Asia-Pacific are places to put on your travel bucket list in the new year.
With the G20 Summit in November 2014, Brisbane has cemented itself on the world stage as a global city; something Lonely Planet also recognised earlier this year when it named it Australia’s hippest city. Thanks to various urban renewal projects over the past decade or so, the river city has become a vibrant centre for performing arts, cafes, restaurants and events. Brisbane makes the most of its river location with plenty of walking and cycling trails along its banks, the wonderful Southbank Parklands in the inner city and the fabulous cultural shows that come to centres like Goma, the Cultural Centre, the Brisbane Powerhouse and Judith Wright Centre. There’s aways something on here and fabulous weather to enjoy it in thanks to a sub tropical climate. Brisbane’s location in the south east corner of Queensland also provides it fantastic access to the Moreton Bay islands, plenty of golden coast, inland rainforests and regional farming areas. 2015 could be Brisbane’s year to shine; go see it.
This little gem on New Zealand’s south island is actually the second largest city on the island. Thanks to the presence of the University of Otago in the city, New Zealand’s first university, it retains a vibrant, youthful population that makes up a large proportion of the populace. Part of Dunedin’s charms include its bluestone Victorian buildings, energetic local bars, connection to Scottish heritage and its position on the shores of the Otago Harbour with access to the isthmus of the Otago Peninsula that is home to a variety of wildlife that includes albatross, seal and penguin. Dunedin also has an interesting array of annual events that are worth more than just a cursory glance. The Dunedin Cadbury Chocolate Carnival is held every year in July, with a range of chocolate themed activities, the most iconic of which is the jaffa race down Baldwin Street, billed as the world’s steepest.
In 2015 the city state of Singapore will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee – 50 years since independence – and they’re planning to celebrate it in style with an array of activities which is reason enough to put it on the travel map in 2015. These festivities will kick off on December 31, 2014 on New Year’s Eve at Marina Bay when there will be a countdown to usher in the Golden Jubilee and 25,000 wishing spheres set afloat. More events will span the calendar year (see www.singapore50.sg for details). Apart from all that there are plenty of other reasons to visit and not just for its malls, sci fi geekiness and organised sterility. Singapore has a blossoming art scene, excellent coffee shops, wonderful gardens, old Chinese shophouses, amazing eating and plenty of shopping that ranges from Chinese herbal medicines and dusty antiques to high end glam and bling.
This is a bit of a wild card addition this year but it’s time to get the Pacific into this Asia-Pacific list. It may also be interesting to note for travel history buffs of WWI and the recent centenary that from 1900 to 1914 the islands of Upolu, Savai’i, Apolima and Manono were part of a German protectorate that was liberated by New Zealand troops in August 1914. Beautiful, enticing, lush, idyllic, paradisal and engimatic are just some of the superlatives that can be heaped on this languid tropical location. There are coral reefs and marine life to see, waterfalls and rainforest inland to explore, lava flows and lava tubes to experience and all the wonderful laid-back culture of the Samoans itself. This is the kind of place to throw away your schedule and go troppo – the perfect place for a holiday.
Java’s former capital Yogyakarta is one of the cultural epicentres of Indonesia and some have even called it the spiritual capital of the island. Far more relaxed than the modern capital it brims with art and culture. vVsitors can pick from an array of performances including Ramayana ballet at the thousand year old Prambanan temples, a visit to the huge walled palace complex of the sultans at Kraton where classical Javanese dance and gamelan orchestras perform daily or regular shadow-puppet plays known as the wayung kulit held most nights in the city. Apart from that Yogyakarta has vibrant markets where you can watch batik cloth being made or just stock up on your supplies. There’s also the colourful Yogya bird market Pasar Ngasem where there are song birds and pigeons and even snakes and lizards. If museums are your thing there’s plenty to choose from, otherwise cruise around the city by traditional horse pulled carts or the three wheeled becak. The 800 AD Buddhist temple of Borobudur is only an hour away.
With Hong Kong possibly off the tourism radar for the near future, Taiwan is looming as a fantastic democratic alternate place to enjoy Chinese cuisine on a beautiful island. Taiwan not only has plenty of religious and political expression, but they’re very serious about their food as well. Night markets, day markets and everything in between in Taipei serve dumplings, shrimp rolls and even stinky tofu. The island is also surprisingly beautiful with gorges like Taroko, forests, sea cliffs, hiking trails around areas such as the Yushan Peaks, beaches and coral walls and other beautiful landscapes.
This city was once the seat of the wealthy Qutb Shahi and Asaf Jahi dynasties and the age old monuments like mosques, palaces and tombs that dot the city come from this era. Arguably the two most famous attractions are the 16th Century fortress of Golconda Fort where a nightly light show is held, and Charminah, a landmark of the same era in a district known for its diamond and pearl trading. Both are worth visiting and like something out of Arabian Nights. Today the modern city is still royally endowed but this time with shopping malls, coffee shops, high end fashion and perfume and even flyovers. Hyderabad is one of the great examples of an Indian city that has come of age. Hyderabad also has an excellent zoo and you can’t leave without trying the local biriyani, one of the classic rice dishes of this part of India that blends basmati rice, meat, yoghurt, onions, spices and more.