with Nicholas Walton
Bringing a contemporary touch to an ancient metropolis, W Istanbul has opened in the city's famed Akaretler Row Houses. Boasting 134 luxurious guest rooms, including 26 suites, a signature Bliss spa and the Spice Market restaurant, which operates under the watchful eye of chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the hotel is housed in characterful buildings originally constructed by Sultan Adbulaziz in the 1870s. Its location in vibrant Besiktas is close to the Bosphorus Strait and the Nisantasi entertainment precinct, as well as the world-renowned Blue Mosque, the Old City and Istanbul's modern art museum. Suites include duplexes with private gardens, terraces and cabanas while each guest room fuses traditional and modern Turkish design and includes ultra-soft 350-thread-count linen, CD and DVD libraries, MP3 docking stations, broadband and cordless phones. Spice Market serves a luxurious take on the region's street cuisine, with a focus on curries. To find out more, log on to www.starwoodhotels.com.
Luxe City Guides has launched its ode to London, a comprehensive guide to all things stylish and indulgent in one of the world's great cities. With 400 entries, the Luxe guide packs a punch and banks on its reputation for proudly opinionated suggestions on where to live it up. Using 40 local contributors to collate the listings, each entry is checked by the city editor then the Luxe publishing editor. In addition to the London guide, Luxe City Guides has released new books on Barcelona and Berlin. Guides retail for HK$78. For other titles, log on to www.luxecityguides.com.
If you like your tropical holidays with a twist, how about a martini brunch at a luxurious island getaway? Indigo Pearl, a design-driven boutique resort on the Thai island of Phuket, has launched a sybaritic brunch to be held in its fine-dining restaurant Rivet Grill and the alfresco Rebar every Sunday until November. The brunch, in association with EnVision wine bar at Surin Beach, offers guests wines and martinis plus delights from several cooking stations, including one for seafood, another featuring a tandoori oven and a dessert table. Dining takes place against a backdrop of lounge beats from the resident DJ and costs 1,490 baht (HK$363). Go to www.indigo-pearl.com for more information.
If you're heading to northern Thailand, why not try one of the new picnic options from the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi (above)? Guests can enjoy a chauffeured limousine ride from the hotel to their chosen location - popular spots include the edge of a waterfall, a rainforest and a botanical garden - and a hamper of champagne, salads and local delicacies. Log on to www.mandarinoriental.com to discover more.
Off the beaten tack
Orion Cruises' 19-night Paths Less Travelled island cruise will depart from New Zealand, visiting the scenic Bay of Islands before heading north to tiny Norfolk Island, a former penal colony first settled by the descendants of the Bounty mutiny. Then it's on to the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia, the Pacific Rim of Fire and the volcanic islands of Anatom and Tanna, home to the still-practising John Frum cargo cult. Climb Mount Yasur in Vanuatu and cross Iron Bottom Sound, a naval battleground and the final resting place for US, Japanese, Australian and New Zealand warships and planes. There is also plenty of wreck diving, snorkelling and shark feeding on offer. The voyage concludes in Papua New Guinea. The Orion sets sail on February 27 next year and fares start from HK$98,920. For details visit www.orioncruises.com.au.
Design-savvy boutique hotel Carbon has opened in Genk, Belgium, offering business travellers a modern, stylish home away from home. A member of Design Hotels, the establishment features plenty of carbon-based materials, referencing the region?s coalmining history. Each of the 60 rooms is equipped with an iPod docking station and a DVD player, a rain shower, a black-glazed free-standing bath and views over a sprawling terrace garden. The 608 square metre spa and healing centre features a sauna, a hammam (Turkish steam bath) and facilities for chromotherapy - a new-age treatment otherwise known as colour therapy. Visit www.designhotels.com for details.
Deal of the week
Indulge yourself with a pamper package from the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Its Spa Indulgence package includes a two-night stay in a sea-view room, breakfast in the Cafe Tatu and a two-and-a-half hour 'chi' treatment. This includes a foot treatment, a volcanic mud wrap or pearl cocoa scrub, a Himalayan bath and a massage. Rates for the packages start at M$1,790 (HK$4,545) for single or M$2,320 for double occupancy. A surcharge of M$130 is applicable between July 15 and August 31. Rates are subject to 10 per cent service charge and 5 per cent government tax and are based on availability. Visit www.shangri-la.com to make a booking.