The Nam Hai, which opened in December a few kilometres outside the historic town of Hoi An in central Vietnam, is running a Luxury Experience package until the end of this month. For US$500 the resort is offering one night's accommodation in a Pool Villa, with dinner, breakfast, free mini-bar, afternoon tea, evening drinks and canapes, limousine rides to Hoi An and Danang, plus other sweeteners for guests staying two nights. A third night comes with all those extras plus a 60-minute Vietnamese massage. From April 1 the rate will increase to US$850 a night. One-bedroom villa packages are also available, for US$300 a night (US$550 from April 1), and include airport transfers and breakfast for stays of more than a night. You'll have to travel first to Danang, of course, which involves changing in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. The Nam Hai is 30 minutes' drive from the airport. For further details and reservations, visit www.ghmhotels.com.
Sofitel Hotels and Resorts reopened an interesting property near Melbourne last month. The Sofitel Mansion and Spa (formerly the Mansion Hotel) is in the grounds of Werribee Park and is attached to Werribee Park Mansion (above), an Italianate-style property that dates back to the 1870s. The name of the hotel is misleading because guests don't stay in the mansion itself but in a converted seminary built next to it decades later. The older building is open to the public and the grounds of the park have several attractions, including an equestrian centre, the Victoria State Rose Garden and the Werribee Open Range Zoo. The hotel has 91 rooms, six tennis courts, a 17-metre pool and an onsite winery. For a taste of the outdoors the zoo offers Slumber Safaris, with gourmet barbecues and luxury tents for an overnight 'African' experience, so guests may wish to figure in an extra night. Hotel bookings can be made online at www.sofitel.com and Slumber Safaris and other zoo packages can be booked online at www.zoo.org.au.
Deal of the week
Two nights at the Caravelle Hotel (right; www.caravellehotel.com) in Ho Chi Minh City, with round-trip, economy-class flights on Cathay Pacific, are on offer from Farrington American Express Travel for HK$2,650 a person, twin share. The Park Hyatt Saigon (www.hyatt.com), across the street from the Caravelle, is another option, at HK$3,390. Both prices include breakfast and insurance and will be available until the end of May (with a blackout period covering May 23 and 24). Flight times are convenient and allow for a full three days away. For further details call Farrington American Express Travel on 3121 3000 (Hong Kong) or 3121 3900 (Kowloon), or e-mail email@example.com, quoting package ID: L2007FSP0044.
Although the no-frills airline is seen as a relatively new enterprise, what was probably the world's first low-cost carrier would, if it were still in operation, be celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Hillman's Airways, otherwise known as the Hillman Saloon Coaches and Airways Company, was launched by tour-bus company owner and one-time bicycle repairman Edward Hillman in 1932. Hillman initially provided a cut-price service for less well-off holidaymakers between the English towns of Romford and Clacton-on-Sea, and the next year added cheap six-seater flights to Paris. The carrier merged with several other small airlines in October 1935 to form British Airways. Hillman's Airways had made international headlines that year for what must be one of the most poignant episodes in the history of commercial aviation. Two American sisters, Jane and Elizabeth du Bois, aged 20 and 23, bought up all six seats on a flight to Paris and once the plane was airborne asked the pilot to close the cockpit door because they felt a draught. Later, the pilot checked to see whether they were comfortable, but the cabin was empty. Both girls, whose boyfriends had recently died in a plane crash in Italy, were seen from 1,200 metres below by workmen on the outskirts of London as they plummeted, hand in hand, to their deaths.
Due to start flying this month, Brussels Airlines has been formed by the merger of Virgin Express and SN Brussels Airlines and will operate on many obscure African routes (Conakry in Guinea, Yaounde in Cameroon, Kigali in Rwanda and so on). A Beijing service is also expected this year. To view what must surely be one of the most bizarre efforts at airline marketing ever conceived, go to www.brusselsairlines.com/com/home/commercial.aspx and scroll down to 'Watch the TV Spot'.