Travellers' checks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 June, 2012, 12:00am


Alternative Thailand

The attractive, laid-back, northern Thai town of Lampang has been largely untroubled by tourists. This has been due in large part to its comparative inaccessibility, with no non-stop flights from Bangkok and most travellers on the lengthy train trip from the capital staying on board at Lampang and heading for Chiang Mai a couple of hours further up the line. With the launch of 12 non-stop flights a week from the Thai capital by Bangkok Airways (, however, this relatively unspoiled town, where the horse and carriage takes the place of the tuk-tuk and quiet riverside restaurants serve expats from Chiang Mai in search of some peace and quiet, is ripe for discovery. Lampang was the centre of the British teak trade from the late-19th to mid- 20th centuries, and evidence of this period, and of two centuries of earlier Burmese occupation, can be found in the Burmese-style temples and other structures built for the workers brought here from across the border, and in the solid teak buildings seen across town. Flight PG205 departs Bangkok daily, except Monday and Saturday, at 4pm, arriving in Lampang at 5.30pm. Flight PG203 departs daily, but at 6.20am. Early afternoon arrival in Bangkok on any airline (Bangkok Airways doesn't fly from Hong Kong to Bangkok direct) should be fine for a connection, but note that between now and August 11, runway maintenance will be underway at the Thai capital's Suvarnabhumi Airport. Airlines are consequently asking passengers to allow at least 80 minutes for onward connections due to delays in flight arrivals. Another way to get to Lampang is to fly to Chiang Mai with Dragonair ( and take a 90-minute bus ride to Lampang, although Dragonair will be winding up that route at the end of September.

Harbin reconnection

After ditching Hong Kong's only direct air link with Harbin (above right) in northeastern China in February, Hong Kong Airlines ( has had a change of heart and reinstated the route. Despite being one of the mainland's more interesting cities for the foreign tourist - not least for its abundance of fine Russian architecture - Harbin has been on and off Chek Lap Kok's departure boards several times over the past decade, so how long this thrice-weekly service will continue is anyone's guess. For now anyway, Flight UO408 departs Hong Kong on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9.25am, arriving at Harbin at 1.45pm, and returns on the same days at 3pm, arriving at Hong Kong at 7.45pm.

Prime package

Soneva Kiri (above centre), an upmarket resort on the Thai island of Koh Kood, is selling a three-night Back to Nature package priced from US$2,829 for two people that includes: daily breakfast with a one-time Treepod Breakfast; a 50-minute spa treatment for two; a private beach picnic; a Thai cooking class; selected group excursions; Wi-fi internet access; and round-trip transfers from Bangkok airport in the resort's eight-seater private plane (an 80-minute flight). This price is for a hill villa suite, or you can upgrade to a cliff villa suite or ocean villa suite for US$3,129 and US$3,429, respectively. For further details, visit

Deal of the week

Among the hotels offered with a two-night package to Penang, Malaysia, by Swire Travel is the Eastern & Oriental (above left;, which is priced from HK$3,230 (per person, twin share) for a deluxe suite or Georgetown Suite. If you book an extra night at HK$1,780 (per room), you'll get a fourth night free, with one English afternoon tea. Slightly cheaper is the E&O's lesser-known sister property, the 90-room Lone Pine Hotel, further round the coast in Batu Ferringhi. Although it doesn't have the E&O's heritage prestige, it's an interesting little property that dates back to the 1940s, when it opened with just 10 rooms. It's claimed to be the region's oldest boutique hotel. Package prices here start from HK$2,830. For further details, visit or call 3151 8888.