If you're heading to the London Olympics this week, you might like to download Lonely Planet's free PDF e-book guide to Stratford and East London. Cobbled together from the publisher's guidebook to London, it covers the area surrounding the Olympic Park (below) and provides fairly good maps and a wide range of recommendations of places to shop, eat, drink and be merry. Featured districts include Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Hackney, Mile End, Docklands, Wapping and London's first Chinatown - Limehouse. As would be expected of this neck of the woods, there's a good selection of recommended pubs, from the 500-year-old Prospect of Whitby to the rough-and-ready Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, and pointers to some authentic East End grub such as F Cooke's pie and mash shop and the Mile End Fish House. Along with a few interesting sidebars on some of the area's 'quirky' sides, there should be enough here to help pass the time while camped out at the immigration queues at Heathrow Airport. Go to www.lonelyplanet.com/campaigns/london/2012 for the free download.
Keep taking the Med
An interesting-looking 13-day winter cruise on the Mediterranean aboard the Queen Elizabeth (bottom left) is currently on sale at TLX Travel. The deal includes connecting flights via Doha on Qatar Airways, with a departure date of November 16, returning to Hong Kong on November 30. The sea journey begins at Athens, Greece, and ends in Naples, Italy, sailing via Mykonos, Izmir on the Turkish coast, two stops in Israel, Limassol in Cyprus, the Egyptian port of Alexandria and the Greek island of Santorini. From Naples, there's a land connection to Rome airport. Advertised prices (per person, twin share) start from HK$20,500 for an inside cabin and HK$25,000 for a balcony cabin. After all the various surcharges are added, you'll be looking at something closer to HK$30,000 but that's still a good price for two weeks in the Med with all meals aboard the newest ship in the Cunard fleet and round-trip flights. (Flight stopover times in Doha are just a couple of hours.) For reservations, look for Cunard Line under the Cruises tab at www.tlxtravel.com and select the 'Queen Elizabeth 15 Days Holly [sic] Land Cruise Tour'. To book direct with Cunard, without flights, go to www.cunard.com and enter Q223 in the Search By Voyage Number field.
Sit up and Begonia
The next in an apparently never-ending supply of luxury resorts to open on Hainan Island will be The Royal Begonia, Sanya - the first of Starwood's upmarket Luxury Collection Resorts to open in China. The reasoning behind the Begonia name is unclear, but the pre-opening artist's impression (bottom right) looks more like a drive-through garden centre than a tourist resort, so we should probably expect plenty of horticultural touches. The property is scheduled to open in the middle of next month, and a few opening offers are already up on its website. Special 'OpenHot' room rates start from a pretty substantial 2,288 yuan (HK$2,800; plus 15 per cent) per night, with a daily 888 yuan food allowance, internet access and a room upgrade. More eye-catching is the Indigenous Discovery package, a three-night deal that offers guests the chance to 'explore the authentic culture and lifestyle of Li Minority' from 8,188 yuan. Among the highlights on the meet-the-locals itinerary are 'Shanlan Rice Wine' and 'Face Tattoo', which will sound like a dangerous combination to anyone who has seen The Hangover Part II. For details, visit www.starwoodhotels.com/luxury.
Deal of the week
Two nights up north in Dalian, Liaoning province, with round-trip flights on Air China starts from HK$2,850 (per person, twin share) at Westminster Travel. Your hotel at this price will be the Holiday Inn Express City Centre, which at least has a good location. The city's two newest hotels, the Hilton and Conrad, which opened earlier this year, are available for a package price of HK$3,400 and HK$3,650, respectively, or you can bed down at the Shangri-La (above) for HK$3,770. These prices include breakfast (except the Shangri-La) and travel insurance, and will be available until the end of next month (or until the end of September with a HK$340 airfare surcharge). For more hotel choices and reservations, call 3665 3488 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, quoting package ID 26619, or visit www.westminstertravel.com.