Due to soft-open in Bangkok tomorrow, The Siam (right) is a boutique hotel owned and operated by the family of Thai singer and entrepreneur Kamala Sukosol. Eleven of the property's 39 suites and villas are the Thai capital's only pool villas, with another first being that The Siam has the world's only hotel-based Muay Thai boxing ring. Located next to the Chao Phraya river in Dusit district, The Siam features century-old Thai teak-wood houses as well as the owners' private art and antique collections. There is a pri-vate pier and a speedboat for transfers and river tours. Rates start from 16,300 baht (HK$4,000), but soft-opening discounts of 50 per cent are available for stays until the end of August at www.thesiamhotel.com.
Australian train operator Great Southern Rail is offering half-price tickets for up to two children when travelling with two adults on both The Ghan and Indian Pacific services. The discount means a family of four can travel from Adelaide to Alice Springs aboard The Ghan's Red Sleeper service for A$1,945 (HK$14,700) instead of A$2,370, for example, or from Sydney to Perth on the Indian Pacific's Red Sleeper service for A$4,072 instead of A$5,020. For more details, visit www.greatsouthernrail.com.au and click on Current Specials.
Land of the falling airfare
AirAsia Japan (www.airasia.com/hk/en) is now selling tickets for domestic flights commencing August 1. Based at Tokyo's Narita Airport, the new low-cost carrier will be flying first to Fukuoka, Okinawa and Sapporo. The air-line is a joint venture between AirAsia and All Nippon Airways, and will be joined next month by Narita-based budget carrier Jetstar Japan, a Japan Airlines/Qantas joint venture. With the recent start-up of Osaka-based Peach Aviation, travellers to Japan can look forward to getting around unusually cheaply by air for the foreseeable future.
Deal of the week
Travelex is selling a package tour to Yangon, Myanmar, with flights via Ho Chi Minh City on Vietnam Airlines. Prices start from HK$3,180 per person, twin share, for two nights at the mid-range Central Hotel (www.centralhotelyangon.com), but for only HK$3,640 you can stay at the much nicer Savoy Hotel (www.savoy-myanmar.com). Top of the list are The Governor's Residence (near right; www.governorsresidence.com) and The Strand Hotel (www.ghmhotels.com), which are available for HK$4,110 and HK$4,190, respectively. These prices, available throughout the summer, also include daily breakfast. Visas for Myanmar should be obtainable relatively easily online at www.myanmarevisa.gov.mm, although the website is sometimes down. For more package details and reservations, visit www.travelextravel.com.hk or call 2270 7600.
The Tourism section on the Republic of Wadiya's website (www.republicofwadiya.com) is the place to go if you want to pay a virtual visit to the fictional land depicted in Sacha Baron Cohen's latest film, The Dictator, which has just opened in Hong Kong. For a real look at the magnificent Wadiya Presidential Palace, however, you'll have to travel to the Spanish city of Seville, and make for the Plaza de Espana (below right). The plaza, and the buildings surrounding it, was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, as was the nearby Hotel Alfonso XIII (right; www.starwoodhotels.com), which by coincidence has just reopened after an extensive US$25 million restoration. Evelyn Waugh visited the exposition and wrote about it in his first book of travel writing, Labels (1930), noting with uncharacteristic enthusiasm that Seville was 'certainly one of the most lovely cities I have ever seen; only a general diffidence about the superlative prevents me from saying the most lovely'. It's still one of Europe's most attractive cities (and is quite handy for Lisbon and Gibraltar) but getting there from here isn't easy, as there are currently no non-stop flights from Hong Kong to any Spanish city. The route of least inconvenience seems to be via Paris with Air France (www.airfrance.com.hk).