Three unusual islands


My friend Edith Ann Pazmino and I took an adventure that included three unusual islands between Asia and Australia, July 6-25, ’05. Our 20-day trip took us from San Francisco to Hong Kong, Hainan Island (in the South China Sea), Singapore, Perth and, in the Indian Ocean, Christmas and Cocos islands.

The trip would not have happened without the excellent help of Helen Svensen and Arthur Waine of Greenbelt Travel Services (5510 Cherrywood Ln., Greenbelt, MD 20770; phone 800/695-0317 or 301/474-1300, fax 301/345-3666 or visit www.greenbelttravel.com).

Young students lead the “Kebudayaan Kodos” tour to Home Island — Cocos Islands. Photo: Boyd

The total cost was $9,733 for two and included round-trip air from San Francisco on Singapore Air as well as hotels and transfers (everywhere but Perth).

In HONG KONG, which we had visited several times, we just overnighted at the Empire Hotel (62 Kimberly Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China; phone 852-268 53000). The rate was $103 per night.

We were met at Haikou Airport on HAINAN ISLAND by our wonderful driver and guide for the next two days, (Jack) Wu Qing Zhi of Hainan Haoyang International Travel Services Co., Ltd. (36 Bai-long Shangxian Rd., Meilan Area, Haikou City, Hainan Province, China; phone 86-898-65377368, fax 86-898-65377678 or e-mail

wuqingzhi73@hotmail.com). We had prepaid $40 for the transfer from the airport to our hotel and back.

Our tours included visits to Shishan’s Crater Park, Xiuying Fort (built during the Qing Dynasty), the Tomb of Hai Rui, the Temple to the Revered Five Officials of the Su Dynasty and the College of Teachers.

Jack took us to his home to meet his wife, Chen Lin Sha, who is a professor at a technical school, and his 16-year-old son, Wu Di. If we had stayed for an additional day, Jack would have taken us to the southern part of the island to see its beautiful beaches — this area is called the “Hawaii of China.”

We paid $70 per person for our tours over 1_ days. The cost included the car, guide services, bottled water, fruit, postcards and stamps.

Our hotel was the 5-star Huandao Tide Hotel (18 Peace Ave., Haidian Island, Haikou, Hainan Province, China; phone 66268888 or fax 66265588). The rate was $144. The hotel had a bowling alley, pool, gym, restaurants, Internet café and many shops.

In SINGAPORE we were met by Jason Wee (phone 938 79918). He does transfers and private tours.

We stayed at the centrally located Allson Hotel (101 Victoria St., Singapore 188018; phone 65-63360811), where the rate was $230 for three nights. In a good, central location, this hotel was a quality stay — very friendly staff and good restaurant.

A highlight of our stay in Singapore was the “World’s First Night Safari Tour,” which included a tram ride through selected habitats where we could view the animals in their natural environment.

Raffles City (252 North Bridge Rd.) has a wonderful food court on the lower level. Jason’s Market is also located there and has a wide selection of food and produce.

Upon arriving in PERTH, Australia, we took the City Transfer Shuttle ($44 round trip) to the Holiday Inn City Center (778 Hay St., Perth, WA 6000 Australia; phone 61-8-92617200). We paid $550 for four nights.

Perth is very user-friendly, with three different CAT bus routes within the city which are free. Perth also has many wonderful museums, all of which were accessible from the Holiday Inn. We took a tour to Fremantle and visited the Friday market and many shops.

Our 6-day/5-night package to CHRISTMAS and COCOS islands was done by Island Bound Holidays (214A Nicholson Rd., Subiaco, Western Australia 6008; phone 08-9381-3644 or visit www.islandbound.com.au) and cost $3,962 including round-trip air from Perth on National Jet.

Our room at the Sunset Lodge (Christmas Island; phone 08-9164-7500 or fax 08-1964-7400) overlooked the Indian Ocean. Sixty-three percent of Christmas Island is a national park, consisting of steep limestone cliffs, rugged coastline and virgin rainforest. There are birds and flowers which are found only on this island paradise. The island is also excellent for diving and snorkeling.

The two inhabited Cocos islands are West Island, where all the tourist facilities are located, and Home Island with its Malay community. Our self-contained unit at Cocos Seaview (Box 1060, Cocos [Keeling] Islands, Western Australia 6799; phone 08-9162 6761, fax 08-9162-6749 or e-mail cocosseaview.cki.cc) offered a view of the Indian Ocean.

Activities on the island included tennis, golf, diving, snorkeling, fishing and biking. On Saturdays, trips were offered to Direction Island, where there is great swimming. The Tropika Restaurant served breakfast, lunch and dinner. Their dinner buffet offered a wide selection of food for $18.

On Tuesday, the tour “Kebudayaan Kodos” was offered to Home Island via ferry ($4 round trip). Reservations were necessary for the tour, and the only cost was a kind donation. This tour was led by primary school students so that they could practice their English.

They showed us around the island on a school bus, and then we had a walking tour through the village and went to their school, where we saw demonstrations of dancing, sewing, weaving and crafts. We went to a home, where the students prepared a local dish to share with us. This tour was the highlight of the trip.

The people in Cocos were very friendly, and it is a wonderful place to go and relax.

We returned to Perth and then flew back to SINGAPORE for one night at the Excelsior Hotel (5 Coleman St., Singapore 179805; phone 65-63387733), at $99. Of the two Singapore hotels, we recommend the Allson.

Anyone interested in more information about this trip can call me at 301/572-4024 (Eastern Standard Time).

WILLIAM T. BOYD

Silver Spring, MD