travellers' checks

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 April, 2008, 12:00am

Rail luxury

Operating under the banner 'Voyages of a Lifetime by Private Train', GW Travel has several interesting rail excursions on its books, including the Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express, which offers a distinctly upmarket version of the classic trans-Siberian experience. Whereas passengers on this route once had to take care of their daily ablutions in shared, plugless sinks, GW promises 'everything from power showers and under-floor heating to a DVD/CD player, LCD screen and individual air conditioning'. Priced accordingly, a 15-day trip from Moscow (right) to Vladivostok in Gold Class, with all meals and sightseeing along the way, costs US$19,195/US$13,595 per person in single/twin accommodation. Other trips on offer include: a 34-day Cape Town to Cairo journey on the Pride of Africa train, a private jet and a five-star Nile cruiser; and a 21-day Silk Road journey from Moscow through Central Asia to Beijing. An itinerary from Hong Kong to Shanghai via the Three Gorges has been announced for next year. For more details, visit

Behind the wheel

Overland bus trips, of the variety made popular in the 1960s by flower-powered outfits such as London's Magic Bus, are making a comeback as eco-friendly, low-carbon-emission alternatives to air travel. Last year, Ozbus ( launched a London-to-Sydney trip that passes through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Southeast Asia. This year, it's added a seven-week 'hippy trail' overland route from Istanbul to Kathmandu. The trip costs GBP2,450 (HK$37,950) and the first departure will be on September 14. Britain-based operator Butterfly Bus, meanwhile, is planning to launch a service between London and Urumqi, in northwestern China, with one-way tickets priced at GBP795 for the 16-day ride. This price doesn't include accommodation or food. Anyone brave enough to sign up for the first outing, which leaves on September 6 from London, can find details at Before committing to an extensive overland bus trip, potential passengers might consider reading up on the various pitfalls and pleasures ahead in Magic Bus: On the Hippie Trail from Istanbul to India by Rory MacLean. It's available on for GBP6.99.

Fit for a queen

Victoria Hotels & Resorts is running a 13-day Indochina Explorer tour that begins in northwest Vietnam and finishes in Cambodia at Siem Reap. The trip starts in Hanoi, from where the private Victoria Express train (below) runs up to the colonial hill station of Sapa. After a couple of nights there, it's back to Hanoi for a flight down to Danang and two nights at the Victoria Hoi An Beach Resort & Spa before flying to Ho Chi Minh City for a few days in the south at the group's Can Tho Resort and Chau Doc Hotel. From there, a speedboat connects to Phnom Penh, from where guests fly to Siem Reap (below) for two nights at the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa. This package includes accommodation with breakfast and land transport, but not the three domestic flights, and will be priced at US$1,437 per person, twin-share, until the end of September. The single supplement is US$849. For a full itinerary and reservations, visit

Don't look down

The York Hotel in San Francisco has been enjoying minor celebrity status as one of the locations in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo since 1958. On screen it was called the Empire Hotel and it was here that Kim Novak was discovered, in room 501, by Jimmy Stewart after faking her own death. For the movie's 50th anniversary, the property is going the whole hog with an extensive renovation and a new name: Hotel Vertigo. The establishment, which was built in 1922, only has seven floors, so aside from the Hitchcock connection the name isn't entirely appropriate. However, for fans of the director this will be the ultimate themed residence when it officially reopens in August (until someone opens a Bates Motel). Some rooms are already refurbished and online rates start from a very reasonable US$75, but bear in mind there might be a bit of construction noise for the next few months. For reservations and see

Deal of the week

A two-night package to Chiang Mai, priced from HK$2,390 per person, twin-share, is on offer from Westminster Travel. Accommodation at this price is at the Park Hotel ( while other similarly priced choices include The Imperial Maeping Hotel ( for HK$2,590 and the Baan Saen Doi Resort & Spa ( for HK$2,790. More expensive international properties on offer include The Chedi (above;, which is priced at HK$4,290 but includes a third night free, as does a spa suite at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi ( at HK$4,950. These prices are valid for stays throughout May and June (they are also available in April but in most cases are slightly more expensive), and include round-trip, economy-class flights with Thai Airways via Bangkok. Some Chiang Mai-bound connections depart from the old, Don Muang airport, so request a connecting flight out of (and back into) Suvarnabhumi International Airport when making reservations. Breakfast is included at all hotels except the Mandarin Oriental. For further details and bookings, call Westminster Travel on 2313 9800 or e-mail, quoting reference number 7915.