We are a senior couple planning a stopover of about five nights in Hong Kong on our way back from Britain next July or August. Could you recommend a good hotel for about $200 a night, with good-size rooms as Asian hotel rooms are usually quite compact.
I. Burns, Mornington, Victoria.
Good-sized rooms come at a premium in Hong Kong, reflecting the sky-high price of real estate. However, you should find the space at the following two hotels is adequate.
My first choice would be the Harbour Grand Kowloon because it offers great rooms, lots of in-house amenities and waterfront location at a reasonable price. For a five-night stay starting on August 1, a 36-square-metre courtview room would cost you $1117, with a 10 per cent service charge on top.
On Nathan Road, at the centre of Kowloon's shopping district, the Eaton Smart hotel (hongkong.eatonhotels.com) has superior rooms in queen or double configurations for a total price of $HK5445 ($688) for a five-night stay over the same period. Rooms lack character but they are comfortable enough and the hotel gets good reviews on TripAdvisor (tripadvisor.com).
Forget about buses, take trains
My daughter and I are planning to travel to Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria and back to Germany. We have heard about Busabout tours, which are supposed to be flexible if you want to stay somewhere for an extra day. We are not great fans of strictly organised tours and like to do our own thing most of the time. I am 61 and my daughter is 31. Can you tell us anything about these tours?
E. Piper, Tamworth.
Busabout (busabout.com) is a hop-on, hop-off European coach network that allows you to stay as long as you like in any one of the cities it services and catch any following coach.
Although you could do the same thing using Europe's excellent train and bus networks, Busabout will probably work out cheaper. Also, you won't have to worry about communication problems on these English-speaking coaches.
On the negative side, Busabout coaches travel in one direction only and service only major tourist hot spots so you may need to adapt your travels to fit in with their routes. For example, Busabout does not service Frankfurt, Germany's main gateway for air travellers. The only Busabout services that visit Hungary are its escorted, all-inclusive Eastern European Treks. Busabout claims to offer a door-to-door service and they do - to the hotels and hostels they use. This is convenient if you're happy to stay there but obviously not if you choose to stay elsewhere.
Most of the clientele is backpackers in their early 20s, many of them off the leash and overseas for the first time. This is a lively demographic although not necessarily a subdued and modest one.
My advice? Take the train, using Deutsche Bahn (bahn.com), the excellent and economical German rail service, to plan your travels. Rail Europe (raileurope.com.au) can help organise your travels if you choose to do it through an Australian-based operator.
Tunnel vision on the way from France to Italy
We want to travel from St Gervais in the Chamonix Valley to Orvieto in Italy in early March. Can you please advise the best way to do this?
I think you can go by train, with possibly four connections. Flying is also an option but is it value for money? And I've heard you might be able to go by bus via the Mont Blanc tunnel to Milan then train to Orvieto but can't find information on this option. The bus sounds like the most direct and possibly the best value.
P. Gardiner, Walloon, Queensland.
The quickest and cheapest way is by bus to Geneva, plane to Rome and train to Orvieto. The SAT bus (www.sat-montblanc.com) from St Gervais direct to Geneva Airport takes just over an hour. For a one-way flight, Geneva to Rome on March 1, Kayak (kayak.com) comes up with prices starting from $31.65 with easyJet, plus another $15 a bag for checked-in luggage. From Fiumicino Airport in Rome, you would need to catch a train to Roma Termini and change there for the train to Orvieto. This takes about two hours.
SAT also operates buses to Courmayeur, on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc tunnel, which allows you to connect with a Savda (www.savda.it) bus service to Turin or Milan, both of which have frequent flights to Rome.
According to the Swiss Rail website (sbb.ch), the quickest rail journey from St Gervais to Orvieto takes 11 hours and requires you to make five changes.
You also have a chance for a cracker of a journey from St Gervais along the Chamonix Valley, through the Montroc tunnel to a high point near Le Buet and finally down into the Rhone Valley and the town of Martigny. From Martigny you can catch trains to Orvieto, with a minimum of two changes and a journey time of 9½ hours. Although it's longer this would be my pick, with an overnight stop in gorgeous little Martigny to pat the puppies in the St Bernard Dog Museum (www.museesaintbernard.ch).
Penang fits the family profile
We are keen for a family resort holiday somewhere sunny but have an eight-year-old boy and a teenage girl to keep happy. The teen is obviously way beyond going to kids' clubs and our son is too old for under-five entertainment options so often found in big hotels. Do you know of family resorts, besides
Club Med, where both age groups are well catered for?
F.E. Light, Dee Why.
These are tough ages to reconcile but I've just come back from a holiday in Penang and this could be the answer. If you base yourselves at Batu Ferringhi, you've got a beach on your doorstep with jet-skis and parasailing, a lively food zone, night market and choice of resort-style hotels. Down the road is a national park where you can walk to empty beaches with langur monkeys for company, or hire a boat to take you direct from the beach at Batu Ferringhi. Within a 20-minute drive there's decent fashion shopping in Gurney Plaza and the historic Chinatown in Georgetown.
The Lone Pine Hotel (lonepinehotel.com) has smart accommodation, a decent-sized pool, spa and lovely grounds at a family-friendly price. An even better fit would be the nearby Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa (shangri-la.com), which brings the smart and efficient service of the Shangri-La chain into the equation, plus an Adventure Zone to keep your son occupied, but the room rate is considerably higher.