My ultimate Jetstar journey

You can do some pretty impressive Asian itineraries on low cost airlines these days, hopping between different countries in the region, with more destinations and airlines cropping up all the time.  In the absence of any holidays planned, and not much spare cash to plan them with, I have had a little fun imagining a low cost trip using a single LCC.

Jetstar at Sydney Airport

I picked Jetstar as we’ve been flying with them every year since 2005 (Alex from when he was in his Mum’s tummy) and the experiences have been pretty good. They have a large range of destinations, but to try to visit them all in a few weeks as a family with a young kid would be pretty exhausting and not much of a holiday, so I didn’t try. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Sydney to Cairns

Cairns feels like the kind of colonial tropical outpost that would be perfect for beginning an adventure to Asia and a great family destination. Alex would love the old train ride up to Kuranda and the Skyrail cable car down. He’s never seen a real coral reef before and I can imagine he’d go wild when he saw the fish feeding from inside a semi-submersible. At the end of the day we’d cool down at the artificial beach on the Esplanade before a dinner of seafood and tropical fruits.

Cairns coastline

2. Cairns to Darwin

I like the fact that this flight leaves from Cairns’ international terminal, one of my favourites. It’s not as flash and modern as some, but it’s got a tropical character about it that reflects the city. Flying over the rivulets and lonely flat lands of the Gulf Country would be fascinating. I’d love to try the old Normanton to Croydon rail motor down there one day.

My only experience of Darwin is transiting through the airport with Alex enroute to Singapore with Jetstar and the stories that Mum and Dad told of meeting there. It would be wonderful to find out more.

Flying towards Darwin

3. Darwin to Singapore

Last time I did this leg I was all squashed up with Alex unhappily asleep on my lap while B flew in comfort with Qantas. Now he’s big enough for his own seat it would be a much more comfortable flight.

Gardens by the Bay

Singapore is Jetstar main Asian hub, but a great destination in its own right. We’d stay somewhere close to a good food centre and spend our time eating there and everywhere else. I’d also take the other two to the new and very impressive Gardens by the Bay and I’m sure Alex would love some of the water playgrounds that can be found around many shopping centres there.

4. Singapore to Penang

B was born in Penang and it would be good to take Alex up to this island with such a great reputation for its food. We would stay in one of the resorts that B visited as a kid with her family, though going out to eat at local hawker stalls. We would have to go for a ride on the Penang Hill Railway and, if we can summon the energy, climb the many steps up the path to the Kek Lok Si temple, so memorable from my one and only visit to Penang 17 years ago.

Kek Lok Si in 1995

5. Jungle railway to Kuala Lumpur

Despite a fairly poor experience on Malaysian trains seventeen years ago I am eager to try the East Coast railway between Tumpat to Gemas. It’s slow and non airconditioned, but the scenery is supposed to be spectacular. B has flatly refused, so maybe she and Alex would split up and take a different route to Kuala Lumpur.

Old shophouse in Melaka

At KL we would meet up with friends, eat, relax and maybe have a day trip down to Melaka, home of Nonya food and old architecture.

6. Kuala Lumpur to Singapore

It’s only a short 40 minute flight between these two cities, but a popular route.

7. Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City

We’ve never been to Vietnam before, but we’d love to explore and eat the local cuisine. I’m not quite sure what to expect but I’m sure it’s fun.

The closest I’ve come to Vietnam was flying over it

8. Hanoi to Saigon

Jetstar Pacific flies within Vietnam and this is our chance to see another aspect of the country. Somewhere in between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City I’d have to fit in a train ride as I’ve never been to a country without riding at least one train!

9. Hanoi to Singapore

Being a hub we need to backtrack to Singapore once more, but hey, they have one of the best airports for transiting passengers. Just a pity that Bengawan Solo kuih is no longer available from terminal 1.

10. Singapore to Taipei

Taiwan is another new country for us, so I chose it over the Chinese mainland, where we’ve been twice before. Taiwan is famous for night food markets and like Kuala Lumpur before it, Taipei is a previous record holder for the world’s tallest skyscraper. I want to visit the town of Jiufen, which served as an inspiration for part of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated movie Spirited Away. There is also the Alishan mountain railway and Taiwan’s version of the Shinkansen to ride.

11. Taipei to Osaka

I have to include Japan on our itinerary. After the experiences of Vietnam and Taiwan it would be nice to return to somewhere we are comfortable and familiar with and there is an infinite number of places to see in Japan. Plus there are wonderful playgrounds and toys for Alex.

The Sanin coastline

On my list of Japanese experiences yet to be done is the train ride along the Sanin line on Japan’s southwestern coastline. The samurai town of Hagi, pretty Matsue, seafood and pears in Tottori, before a hot soak and dinner of hairy crab at a ryokan at Kinoosaki Onsen. Then a tourist train ride and walk through bamboo forests at Arashiyama north of Kyoto.

Bamboo forests of Arashiyama

We’d catch the scenic train up to Takayama for the incredible Hida beef, followed by an exploration of old Hida Furukawa. We’d emerge from the mountains on the western side, then catch the train down through the mountains again from Itoigawa to Shinjuku in Tokyo.

12. Tokyo to Sydney

As always, we’d be sad to leave Japan and return home. Our flight would be via Cairns or the Gold Coast, but I think we’d just be ready to go straight back to sleep in our own beds after a long overnight flight.

Flying back into Sydney

So there you go! With a dozen or so flights I can’t see us being able to afford such a holiday, but it’s fun to dream.

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