A black-market in surgical masks, toilet paper rarer than panda pups and with sharing an elevator with a neighbour ranked slightly more risky than French-kissing a leper, it’s safe to say that all is not well in Asia’s World City. With Covid-19, or Son of SARS as it is more chummily known – seeing quarantine pants as this season’s in-look, suddenly schools are shuttered and working-from-home is the new popping-out-to-the office.
In very midst of this doomsdayish scenario, there may, however, be something of a silver lining. With your entire family pretty much enjoying an enforced, prolonged absence from the worlds of academia and commerce, why not put the Coronavirus firmly in your rearview mirror and – respect for incubation periods permitting – head off somewhere every bit as convivial as it is uncontaminated. Indeed, for those preferring panoramic views to pestilence, our cure-all tourism tonic may serve up some alternatives…
QUEENSTOWN, NEW ZEALAND
A reassuring 9,293km away from Hong Kong, the picturesque Kiwi city of Queenstown is quite literally on the other side of the planet. The self-proclaimed Adventure Capital of the World, this tiny, 27,000-strong resort has made itself a must-visit via its unrivalled range of perilous pastimes, most notably white-water rafting, bungee jumping, canyon swinging and skydiving.
For the less adrenaline-addicted, however, there’s also a range of more sedate, less coronary-event-inducing activities on offer. You could, for instance, opt for a relaxing soak in one of the many hot pools dotting Queenstown’s mountains, all the while taking in the beauty of Lake Hayes. Alternatively, you could venture farther afield by flying over the picturesque fjords of Milford Sound or round up your brood and head for Arrowtown, once a primary gold rush destination, and try your hand at panhandling for a precious metal or two.
First settled back in 1070 AD, Marrakech is pretty much the dream destination of any true history enthusiast. One of four imperial cities of Morocco’s ancient Berber empire, its rich heritage is evident in every nook – the 11th-century red walls that ring the city, the glittering 16th-century Badi Palace or the Koutoubia Mosque, completed in 1199 and still the city’s most capacious place of worship. Meandering through the 11,414km-distant Ochre City’s winding streets, you’d be hard pressed to remember just why your luggage is crammed with latex gloves and Dettol.
Anyone who assumes that Marrakech is synonymous solely with ancient sights, however, would be sorely mistaken. Not only is it home to genuinely jaw-droppingly gorgeous views – it does, after all, sit embraced by the Atlas Mountains – the city itself is a kaleidoscope of colours and activity. Treat yourself to some spices at one of Medina’s many open-air souks (traditional markets), sign up for a relaxing soak at a hammam spa, or stroll through the gorgeous greenery of Majorelle Gardens, all the while taking every opportunity to sample many of the delicious local delicacies.
Ever since the patronage of the Rothschild family catapulted it to fame at the dawn of the 20th century, Megève – an exclusive French ski-resort region some 9,503km from Hong Kong – has been a winter getaway of choice for the wealthier snow-sport aficionados. Once a quaint village tucked away among the French Alps’ lesser-known Savoie peaks, its perfectly powdered snow-laden slopes, gourmet dining options and wondrous wellness retreats have ensured it of truly international acclaim.
Most of all, though, its renowned for its extensive ski terrain, a staggering ski area that extends across more than 445km and includes 220 pistes and in excess of 100 lifts, all of which help knit together the network of small villages that dot the mountainside. It also caters to all levels – novices can attempt one of the many nursery slopes, while the more experienced skiers have an array of red, blue and green trails to choose from. For the truly adventurous, though, there’s no better way to get the adrenaline pumping than a spot of heli-skiing, a pricey pastime that sees a helicopter employed to drop a skier, right at the top of their chosen peak, which they can then zip down through virgin, previously untracked snow.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU
Roughly six centuries ago, a small plateau nestling between two verdant Andean peaks, was selected to as the site of the Inca Empire’s greatest city – Machu Picchu. Abandoned a century later, it wouldn’t be until the early 20th century, when explorer Hiram Bingham accidentally stumbled upon its ruins, that this stunning settlement would be revealed in all its truly stunning glory. One of the seven New Wonders of the World – and, arguably, the most instantly recognisable – it is now a featured on the bucket list of discerning travellers everywhere.
While completing the climb to lofty Machu Picchu may not be for the faint of heart, it’s worth the effort. Once you reach the very top, stretched out before you is a pristinely preserved maze of crumbling temples, palaces and houses, all of which ebb and flow in out of view as the mists rise and fall, with the most memorable of soundtracks coming courtesy of the Urumbamba River as it rushes by some 500m below. It’s a truly magical setting, one that couldn’t be further removed from the current rigours of Hong Kong life.
Closer to home at just 4,271km away, the Indian state of Goa has long been a classic getaway destinat ion for stressed out citizens of the world. And with good reason. Its picture-per fect beaches, colour ful architecture, relaxed ambience, delicious food and friendly inhabitants have catapulted Goa to become one of the most popular destinations within the region.
Stacked high with ultra-luxury resorts, there’s no shortage of choice when it comes to premium accommodations either. Indeed, with many high-end brands – notably Grand Hyatt, Taj Hotels, Leela and ITC – all keen to woo well-heeled guests, there’s more than enough luxury villas, infinity pools, exclusive-use white sandy beaches and fine-dining establishments to go around. With Kids’ Clubs now also fairly ubiquitous, it’s also famously family friendly.
Text: Tenzing Thondup
Photos: Imagine China