Orient-Express Hotels will be sending its luxury river cruiser, the Road to Mandalay (below right), on a series of 12-day 'Gorges of the Far North' excursions beginning in August, when the post-rainy-season swells allow access far enough up Myanmar's Irrawaddy River to reach Bhamo, near the Chinese border. The cruises will sail from Mandalay and travel 682 nautical miles, past places such as Katha, the former home of writer George Orwell and the setting for his novel Burmese Days (so be sure to take a copy along for the ride). A train trip, elephant rides and plenty of cultural excursions feature on the tours, which depart on August 1, 15 and 29, and September 12, and which are priced from GBP2,380 (HK$29,800) per person. This includes table d'h?te meals and accommodation based on two people sharing, a flight from Bagan to Yangon at the end of the tour, transfers and all sightseeing. If you book before the end of June, you'll also get two nights' free stay at The Governor's Residence in Yangon (www.governorsresidence.com). To qualify, quote RG11 when making reservations at www.roadtomandalay.net.
Back to Borneo
Back in the 1950s, the town of Sandakan in eastern Borneo was significant enough to be a Cathay Pacific destination, but over the years it has drifted into relative obscurity as its larger neighbour, Kota Kinabalu, has taken over as Sabah's primary tourist town. When the stricken Azamara Quest cruise liner put in at Sandakan with more than 500 passengers last month, hospitality facilities were rather stretched. Those who chose to stay in town for a few days made the most of what remains of the sights; namely the Agnes Keith Museum (the former house of the American writer), the English Tea House, the Death March Memorial Park and the nearby Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre. Sandakan's humble tourist industry will reach something of a milestone at the end of this month, however, with the opening of its first major international brand-name hotel, the 299-room Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan. This will be fairly modest by international standards, but welcome in a city that was once known as 'Little Hong Kong' for the large number of Hongkongers who emigrated there. Eight 45-minute flights a day serve Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu, which has daily connections with Hong Kong. For hotel reservations from May 30, visit www.starwoodhotels.com/fourpoints.
Deal of the week
The northern city of Dalian - one of the mainland's more interesting urban destinations - is seeing an influx of international hotel brands this year. Among them are the newly opened Hilton and (above) Conrad hotels, and a Sheraton slated to open in July. Westminster Travel is selling a two-night package at either the Hilton (www.hilton.com) or the Conrad (www.conradhotels.com) for HK$3,080 and HK$3,320, respectively, per person, twin share. Included are economy-class flights with Air China, daily breakfast and travel insurance. Flights depart daily. For details, call 3665 3488 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting reference number 25348, or visit www.westminstertravel.com.