Currently eyeing flights downunder, and thinking it'd be nice to include a stopover to break up the far too long flight. Options seem to be Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai. What are these places like in January/February? Any monsoon seasons to be aware of? Any worthwhile, easy to visit places nearby that we should definitely not miss if the stopover is extended beyond 3-4 days, taking into account that none of these places are likely to be visited again for the next couple of years? (That is: Usually I'm all about seeing fewer things in depth, rather than more things superficially, but for the stopover I'd be totally okay with just sniffing up atmosphere.) What's the relative cost of these places, compared to each other?
Also: Any immigration hassles on these airports? I'm assuming that as Europeans on a short stopover we won't need a visa for any of them, but are there fingerprinting or other privacy-unfriendly procedures in place? (If so, we'll skip the place in favour of one which doesn't treat us like criminals.)
No immigration hassles at any of those. They're all open for business and friendly to tourists.
Of the four, HK would edge it in my book, but they're all good. Dubai probably costs the most, SG and HK in the middle, and KL the cheapest, but in all cases you can find prices from midrange to extravagant.
I've only been to them in early January so not certain about Jan/Feb monsoons but in my experience you can expect short sharp showers in Singapore, less so in KL but still warm and muggy.
As for getting out and about with a slightly longer stay, from HK you can easily take a ferry for a visa-free trip to Macau - from memory it's under an hour's ride and pretty interesting - a contrast to HK showing how the Portuguese ran a colony, and busily turning itself into a casino destination for the Chinese.
Andy has pretty much said everything I would have! I was HK in Janaury a few years ago and the temperature was really pleasant - fine and in the low 20s. We took a trip to Macau for the day and thought it was worthwhile and interesting - you'll need your passport if you go there but immigration procedures are quick.
All four cities are worthy stop -over destinations but HK would edge it for me too; it's got the most to see and do out of the 4 and is the most interesting and vibrant.
If you decide on Dubai you could combine it with Abu Dhabi or Sharjah which are both easily accessible.
I don't recall any privacy-unfriendly procedures at immigration in any of those places.
So looks like despite your recommendations (thanks!) it's going to be Dubai, simply because with Emirates we can fly straight on to New Zealand, but still include a stopover in Australia on the same ticket. Temperature-wise things also look very hopeful!
So, more detailed recommendations for what to see and do in Dubai would be most welcome. Should we expect to be able to head out of the city and see anything nature-wise? How desert-like are Dubai's surroundings? Is it more rocky or sandy?
Sander, I'm going to Dubai in a couple of weeks time; I'll be there for 2 days (before my tour to Oman) and so far I'm planning to visit the Burj Khalifa, the fountain nearby, the Dubai Mall (sorry, I like shopping!) Jumeirah Mosque and Madinat Jumeirah. If I have time I'd also like to fit in a visit to the Bastakiya historical area which is near the Creek. I've been to Dubai before but it was a long time ago, and I'm sure it's changed a lot since then. The first time I was there I spent some time in the Souks and took a boat ride along the Creek; I'd definitely recommend the boat ride. Sharjah sounds like it could be an interesting day trip from Dubai, but I'm not going to fit it in this time. Hope that helps a little.
By the way, tickets for the Burj Khalifa are much cheaper if booked in advance online.
The weather at the moment is mid 20s so should be quite nice when we're there - it's a shame we're not going to be there at the same time as we could have had a mini TP meet-up!
[ Edit: Edited on 16-Dec-2012, at 12:47 by bex76 ]