Our publisher drops in on his former home town of Melbourne -- cafe city extraordinaire -- via the beaches of post-revolutionary Tunisia and one of Southeast Asia’s bargain-suit-buying hotspots in his round-up of this week’s Top 20
£199 -- Tunisia All-Inclusive Beach Break
Poor Tunisia. No sooner do you start a revolution that ends up deposing tyrants throughout the Middle East than you discover you’re scaring off the tourists. Well, perhaps not the canniest tourists. Prices are still low to this, one of the most liberal Muslim countries, especially if you prefer to avoid serried ranks of sun-scorched fellow travellers and instead fly in the off season. I found myself on the popular beach-holiday island of Djerba only a few months after the events that kicked off the Arab Spring and, bar a few groups of French tourists, had the wide sand beaches that ring the island virtually to myself. Then there is the centuries-old pottery-making tradition to explore and a laidback culture that fascinatingly blends French and north African influences. And all for £199 for a week, with everything, including a Turkish bath (is this the local equivalent of the kitchen sink?), thrown in.
£1399 -- Vietnam: Hanoi, Beach & Ho Chi Minh City, £770 Off
There’s a lot to admire about our 13-night escape to Vietnam from the dread depths of the British winter. The 4- and 5-star accommodation throughout and the internal and international flights (along with a civilised 30kg baggage allowance) are already making me feel quite relaxed but what might most, ahem, suit you is a kind of subsidiary bargain -- a trip to the seaside town of Hoi An. Just as Hay-on-Wye, in Wales, is bursting with booksellers, and Porto is packed with port-makers, Hoi An is a tailors’ town par excellence. Literally almost every second person in the town wields a needle and thread. All do so cheaply; some -- if you look at the fashion disasters hanging in their windows -- evidently do so with no skill. But choose your tailor well and I’m sure you’ll be stuffing more than one very competently made bespoke suit in your luggage for a price you could never get at home.
£70 -- 4-Star Melbourne Hotel w/Extras
There’s a reason Australian cities are becoming increasingly expensive: They’re often very desirable places to live and visit. Time was when the muscle-rippling pound turned a trip Down Under into something approaching a luxury holiday for your average Brit. No longer. Now Sydney property and hotel prices are approaching London’s, and Melbourne isn’t far behind -- which makes this almost 50% reduction on 4-star accommodation in the latter city very tempting. You can get a tram from outside the hotel door to the bohemian art deco district of St Kilda and, heading the other way, visit some of the most interesting cafes on the planet in the city centre. Melbourne has largely spurned chain cafes in favour of establishments with personalities as distinct as the pungent liquid they vend. You could stay for weeks exploring them; I stayed for five years.