Travelling by the book
Cambridge University Press has just published a reprint of what was claimed to be the first substantial guidebook to this part of the world. The Treaty Ports of China and Japan: A Complete Guide to the Open Ports of those Countries, Together with Peking, Yedo, Hongkong and Macao was compiled by Hong Kong newspaper publisher N.B. Dennys in 1867, and offered early tourists and businessmen a comprehensive vade mecum for their travels. No longer of much practical use, it does make fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in early tourism in China and shogun-era Japan, as well as life in Hong Kong a century and a half ago. Many of its listed tourist attractions are of the kind long-absent from guidebooks to China, such as the Execution Ground at Amoy (now Xiamen), 'a spot frequently visited by foreigners with a liking for 'horrors'.' A similar site in Peking, the reader is warned, 'in which the criminal is beheaded, or put to slow and painful death by torture, is occupied on ordinary days by a pork butcher's shop'. Practical tips for dealing with immigration officials still ring true, however, especially the point that 'those who are least energetic in their protest against the useless annoyance often caused by the [Peking] gate officials, are generally those who pass through with least trouble'. Running to more than 800 pages, with 29 maps (many also available for high-resolution download at a website address given in the book), this is a rather heavy volume to be carrying in your luggage, but on a cruise up the China coast it would make a worthy and entertaining travel companion. The Treaty Ports of China and Japan is available from Amazon.co.uk for about GBP30 (HK$365) plus shipping.
The annual King's Cup Elephant Polo charity tournament takes place this year in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin from September 12 to 16, and the Anantara Hua Hin resort has released a package to coincide with the event. Priced from 9,000 baht (HK$2,175; plus 17 per cent tax and service) for two people, the 'Pachyderms and Polo' offer includes one night's accommodation in a premium room, daily buffet breakfast, VIP access to the games, a light lunch and spa treatment at the pitch, an elephant polo shirt, and commemorative photos with the players and their steeds. For further details and reservations, visit www.anantara.com.
Not so peachy
Japan's new low-cost carrier Peach has started selling flights from Hong Kong to Osaka on the local market. The airline promises to 'make the Asian skies accessible and fun for everyone', but if you don't read Chinese you'll be out of luck, because the local Peach website (www.flypeach.com/hk) hasn't bothered with an English-language version. Promoted airfares of HK$888 to HK$3,388, with no fuel surcharges to be added, look attractive at first, but these are only for one-way flights and don't include check-in baggage, meals, seat selection or airport tax. Local airlines are quite likely to roll out their own competitive fares on the Hong Kong to Osaka route to counter the new arrival so, all in all, there's not too much to get excited about, although the airline's domestic routes look more worthwhile at www.flypeach.com.
Dragonair Holidays has launched a couple of cheapish packages for two for its latest destinations: Chiang Mai in Thailand and Jeju in South Korea. The Chiang Mai package starts on July 1 from just HK$2,050 (plus about HK$800 tax and fuel surcharges) with two nights at the All Seasons hotel (www.all-seasons-hotels.com), while the Jeju package, which ends on June 28, opens at HK$2,480 (with a similar surcharge) for three nights at the Ocean Grand hotel (www.oceangrand.co.kr). More expensive hotels worth considering include the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi in Chiang Mai (right) for HK$4,810. You can find details of these and other hotels by clicking on the destinations at www.cxholidays.com.
Double the fun
The St Regis Sanya Yalong Bay Resort on Hainan Island is offering 50 per cent off its best available rate - or to look at it another way, one free night for every night stayed - for all suites and villas for weekday stays. Breakfast and internet access are also included. To view the various accommodations featured with this offer, and to make a reservation for Sunday to Thursday stays, visit www.stregis.com/sanya, click on Offers and scroll down to Fun on Weekdays.
Deal of the week
Three nights for the price of two are on offer at An Lam Ninh Van Bay Villas (above; www.epikurean.ws), in Nha Trang, just off the southeastern coast of Vietnam, with this package from Westminster Travel. Prices start from HK$4,310 per person, twin share, for a hillside villa with daily breakfast, and include economy-class flights with Vietnam Airlines to Nha Trang via Ho Chi Minh City. For further package details and reservations call 3665 3488, quoting reference number 25693, or visit www.westminstertravel.com.