Once considered the "country cousin" among Australian cities, Brisbane is today the nation's third-largest metropolis - and one of the most desirable places to live in the country. Lying on the banks of the meandering Brisbane River, this cosmopolitan city boasts elegant 19th-century sandstone buildings, a lively cultural scene and superb parklands. Brisbane is also your gateway to uniquely Australian adventures, be it the theme parks of the Gold Coast or Queensland's dazzling beaches.
Cairns (tours from Yorkeys Knob), Australia
Cairns is one of Australia's hottest vacation destinations. Cairns boasts three of Australia's great natural wonders. Just offshore, immense bastions of living coral form the Great Barrier Reef. Sixteen miles of superb beaches stretch to the north of the city - the famed Marlin Coast. And inland lays the immense Daintree National Park. Cairns itself basks in tropical sunshine, balmy breezes waft in from Trinity Bay. The city's graceful, tree-lined esplanade was once the gateway to the gold fields of North Queensland.
Alotau, Papua New Guinea
Alotau is the capital of Milne Bay Province, in the south-east of Papua New Guinea. It is located on the northern shore of Milne Bay.
Naha, the capital and largest city of Okinawa Prefecture, boasts a unique Japanese culture. As the region's transportation hub, Naha connects travellers with other parts of Okinawa, Japan and Asia. Consequently, Okinawans have grown accustomed to openly sharing their distinctive customs with visitors from all over the world – right down to their very own dialect, Uchinaguchi.
Kobe is the fifth-largest city in Japan and is the capital city of Hyogo Prefecture on the southern side of the main island of Honshu. Its name comes from "kanbe", an archaic title for supporters of the city's Ikuta Shrine. With a population of about 1.5 million, the city is part of the Keihanshin (Keihanshin) metropolitan area along with Osaka and Kyoto.
From the 12th century to the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Kagoshima was the chief stronghold of the mighty Shimazu clan. The city lies at the top of the Satsuma Peninsula, a mountainous, geothermal wonderland of hot springs and geysers. The area is also rich in modern Japanese history: Saigo Takamori and the Satsuma samurai were leaders of the Meiji Restoration that toppled the shogun and restored the Emperor to power in 1868. In 1877, dissatisfied with the direction of the new government, Saigo led the Satsuma Rebellion, which ended in his death and the final defeat of the samurai.
Busan, South Korea
The second largest city in South Korea, Busan is your gateway to a fascinating land whose culture is a unique amalgam of old and new. Modern high-rise towers dwarf ancient Buddhist temples. The city's bustling business district offers a stark contrast to the serene grounds of Yongdusan Park. In short, Busan is a microcosm of South Korea, a nation whose startling economic success often obscures one of Asia's most sophisticated and venerable cultures.
Transit Kanmon Straits
On August 6, 1945, human history was irrevocably altered when the American bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The bomb was code-named "Little Boy," but its detonation left half the city in ruins and aflame. Today, Hiroshima is a monument not only to the destructive forces harnessed by men but also to the indomitable will of the human spirit to overcome tragedy. At the heart of the city lies Peace Memorial Park and the Atomic Bomb Dome. The gutted walls of the city's old Industry Promotion Hall and the skeletal frame that supported its copper dome, vaporized in the blast, are instantly recognizable symbols of Hiroshima.
Transit Inland Sea, Japan
This fabled port on the Huangpu River has played a pivotal role in the history of modern China. One of seven treaty ports inflicted by the West on Imperial China, the city was famed for the Bund, an elegant section of riverbank lined with European mercantile houses and elegant mansions. Shanghai was also the cradle of the Chinese Communist Party, and it is here that the People's Republic created its vast commercial and industrial bastion. Shanghai is also one of the most fascinating cities on the face of the earth. Its streets are packed with individuals, cars and bicycles, weaving an extraordinary tapestry of humanity. Yet serenity and beauty are always present, be it a class practicing early morning tai chi or the serene repose of the city's jade Buddha.
Hong Kong, China
Skyscrapers form a glistening forest of steel and glass, junks and sampans ply the busy harbor waters, and the green, dragon-crested hills of Kowloon beckon. Welcome to Hong Kong, one of the world's great travel destinations. Now a semi-autonomous region of China, Hong Kong - literally "Fragrant Harbor" - has lost none of its charm, excitement or exoticism. Modern skyscrapers and luxury hotels climb the slopes of Hong Kong Island. Narrow streets are crammed with noodle vendors, fortunetellers and bonesetters. The endless array of shops offer the visitor everything from hand-tailored suits and ancient porcelain to the latest consumer electronics. And everywhere more than seven million people are moving at a breathtaking pace in one of the world's great monuments to capitalism, commerce and enterprise.