Koh Lanta ... some of the best beaches and swankiest resorts in Krabi. Photo: AFP
Krabi ticks the boxes in Thailand
I'm spending a week in Phuket with my partner and then we have another week in Thailand before we head back to Sydney. We're looking for somewhere else to stay by the water, and hopefully not too far from Phuket in terms of travel time. We want somewhere warm and relaxing with great food, massages and maybe some water-based activities (partner breathes through gills) and also decent shopping. Any suggestions for accommodation appreciated.
- B. Baker-Richards, Bateau Bay.
My pick would be Krabi, which sits on the western side of the Thai peninsula, looking out across the Andaman Sea. The Krabi resort area covers the long strip of coastline from Klong Muang in the north to Koh Lanta in the south. Some of the resort areas here - such as Railay and Koh Lanta - can only be reached by boat.
Exceptional facilities ... Hakuba, in Nagano, is home to 10 resorts and more than 200 runs. Photo: Getty Images
If you want something quiet, Koh Lanta has the best beaches along this coastline, and some of the swankiest resorts, such as Pimalai Resort & Spa. If you want something a little more mainstream and easily accessible, Ao Nang and its northern neighbour, Klong Muang, could be the place. While some hotels have lovely beaches at their front door, such as the plush but still affordable Tubkaak Boutique Resort, just a skipping stone away at the minimalist Nakamanda Resort & Spa, the beach is pint-sized and rocky. Oriental Escape operates private-car transfers between Phuket and Krabi, at a cost starting from about 2700 baht ($82) for the three-hour trip.
Krabi's shopping scene might not quite set your heart aflame but fly from Krabi to Bangkok and spend a couple of nights before your return to Sydney. My preferred accommodation would be the VIE Hotel. Within a 10-minute walk from the hotel is the MBK shopping plaza, Siam Centre, Siam Paragon, Siam Discovery, Gaysorn Plaza and Siam Square. For electronic goods, check out Pantip Plaza.
Bullet train unlocks many family-friendly slopes
I am seeking advice regarding skiing holidays in Japan — the best time to go, good fields conveniently located not too far from airports and accommodation. All seem to involve long bus rides and, with a family, that's something we are trying to avoid.
- D. Rentoul, Palm Beach, Qld.
Niseko on the northern island of Hokkaido is the most popular destination for Australian skiers heading for Japan, but the resort is a 3½-hour drive from New Chitose Airport at Sapporo, which is itself a minimum one-stop flight from Australia.
Nagano might be a slightly better fit. Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics and the facilities are exceptional. Thanks to the storms that funnel down from Siberia, Nagano gets as much powder snow as Niseko. It has several different resort areas and the most popular with Aussie skiers and boarders is Hakuba, which has 10 resorts with 135 lifts giving access to more than 200 runs, all covered by a single ski pass, with shuttle buses linking the ski areas. Hakuba's accommodation options include self-contained apartments, which are rare at Japanese snowfields. The village is also a good bet for English speakers and some ski classes are in English, including children's lessons.
In the same region, Shiga Kogen is bigger still, with 21 interlinked resorts scattered across a huge variety of natural terrain, all available on a single lift ticket.
The bullet train from Tokyo will get you to Nagano in 90 minutes, and the bus from Nagano to Hakuba will add the same again. This is probably longer than you want but Hakuba is a decent compromise between accessibility, great conditions and a user-friendly set-up for an Aussie family. The ski season at Nagano runs from December to April.
Paris made easy by coach
My husband and I, both seniors, will be travelling to Europe in August. We need to change planes in Paris from Paris-Orly Airport, terminal W (arriving 8.15am), and leaving Charles de Gaulle Airport terminal 2D at 12.50pm. What is the best way to do so and how long would it take? Do we need to retrieve our bags at Orly airport?
- T. Fong, Sans Souci.
From Orly's Terminal Ouest (West) to Charles de Gaulle 2D the best choice is the coach service. Leave the Orly terminal by exit D, on the arrivals level, and take the Air France bus, line number three. This will take you to Paris-Charles de Gaulle 2, entrance C2 for Terminal D. The bus departs every 30 minutes and the fare is €18 ($21.15) a person. The trip takes about an hour, on average.
You will need to retrieve your bags at Orly and transfer them to Charles de Gaulle Airport, pictured. With 4½ hours between your arrival and departure times, you should have no problem making the connection.
Driver's permit just the ticket
Is it legal to drive in the US with an Australian driver's licence? My boyfriend received a ticket for not having an International Driving Permit. We thought he could drive if he had his passport with his licence for the 85 days he'd be there.
- C. Fossett, Pottsboro, Texas.
According to the website of the US embassy in Canberra: "An International Driving Permit serves as proof of validation of your Australian state licence and as another form of photo identification.
"However, you must also carry your Australian state licence." That is a slightly ambiguous way of saying you do need one. In the US, driver's licences are a matter for each individual state, and while some states require an IDP, others do not. In Massachusetts, for example, you can drive on a foreign licence but the state's Registry of Motor Vehicles advises: "It is suggested, however, that he/she carry an IDP if the foreign licence is not printed in the English language."
An IDP is just a translation of your Australian state-issued driver's licence so police in China or Russia can read it, but it seems ridiculous to make it a requirement in the US. Any law enforcement officer in an English-speaking country who could not understand what it says on an Australian licence should perhaps be looking for a less demanding form of employment. But Texas is Texas.
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