EXPERT weekly advice on your travel dilemmas.
My husband and I will be arriving in Hong Kong in June at 5am and departing at 8.15pm the same day. Is there anything we can do during this time?
Doc: With comfy shoes and lots of energy you should be able to make the most of your day. Start by jumping on the Airport Express to Kowloon – it takes 24 minutes and departs every 10 minutes. Then take an early- morning walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade. You’ll get a great view of the busy harbour and see the Avenue of Stars, with statues and handprints of celebrities. Next to the ferry terminal is the Museum of Art showing collections of ancient art and antiques (note: it’s closed on Thursdays). Hop on the Star Ferry across to Central then head to the Pier Eight bus terminus and take shuttle bus No. 15 to the Peak Tram Station. Board the tram for the climb up Victoria Peak for fantastic views. Grab some traditional Asian food at one of the restaurants, then do the one-hour walk around the peak. You may then have time to go back to Central Pier Six and catch the ferry to Mui Wo. From here take New Lantao bus two to Ngong Ping Village (about 40 minutes), where there’s the giant Tian Tan Buddha and the reconstructed village showing traditional Chinese architecture. Or, for a more relaxing afternoon, head back down to the Central MTR train station and take the 10-minute trip to Mong Kok. This is known as “the area that never rests” – it’s hectic but there’s plenty of bargain shopping and good cheap eateries. Make your way back to Central where you get the Airport Express back to the airport. You’ll find a check-in service for many major airlines at the main MTR stations. There you can check in and receive your boarding pass. It’s best to check with your airline whether this is possible.
My husband and I are planning a three-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia this year. I would like to buy some good-quality mementos of our holiday – perhaps having clothes made, a painting or jewellery. Do you have any tips for not getting taken advantage of and finding that you paid triple the price, or worse, finding out when you get home that your purchase never arrived?
Doc: Having clothes made in Vietnam, particularly if you are going to Hoi An where there are more than 400 tailors and loads of shoemakers, is amazing. It’s simple, unbelievably quick and good quality. If you have a favourite item, it’s a good idea to take it with you, or even a photo or magazine cut-out and the tailors will copy it. Usually, if you see them in the morning you can go back later in the afternoon for a fitting. Then, all going well, it should be ready for collection the next day. The range of material on hand is huge but I suggest that if you have a particular fabric in mind, take enough with you. The prices are cheap and I haven’t heard of anyone encountering any problems. The people are very kind and honest. Art is also readily available in both countries and can be original or copies of other works. Shop around – prices can vary considerably. Buy only the canvas and have it framed at home. That way you alleviate any freight issues. Regarding jewellery, you will come across many stores offering a huge array. It’s OK to buy costume and traditional pieces but unless you’re knowledgeable about gemstones, this is not the best place to buy them. Be sure to get official receipts of purchases for Customs.
My husband and I would like to travel from Zurich to Venice by train. Would we have to change trains in Milan and how much time would we need to get from one platform to another. Also, what are the fares?
Doc: There are two options and both require a change in Milan. Firstly, there’s the slower, more scenic journey called the Bernina Route. Start by catching a train from Zurich to Chur. They run every 30 minutes, take 1.5 hours and cost about $80. See the website sbb.ch. Then change to the 8.30am Bernina Express, with its special panoramic sightseeing carriages, to Tirano. It’s about $90 a person for this sector and a reservation is needed. You’ll need to leave Zurich before 6.30am and the Bernina Express will be on the other side of the platform. The ride on the Bernina is a spectacular four-hour journey through 55 tunnels and about 200 bridges. In Tirano, hop on a local train to Milan for about $17. They run every two hours. Option two is to take the EuroCity train from Zurich to Milan for about $40. Both will require you to change in Milan to a high-speed train, which will take about 2.5 hours to reach Venice and cost about $80 in first class and $57 in second (italiarail.com). Changing platforms is usually quick and easy, as there’s no check-in or physical barriers. The high-speed trains run at least every hour from Milan, so don’t worry about running.