with Nicholas Walton
Up in the air
Soaring above the Australian wilderness at sunrise with Outback Ballooning is a breathtaking experience and the four-course breakfast served afterwards is well earned. A similar encounter can be enjoyed closer to home now that Outback, one of Australia's top ballooning outfits, has established a joint venture in Guilin, China. So next time you get up at the crack of dawn, you could end up drifting over limestone karsts on the mainland rather than Australia's Red Centre. For further information, visit www.chinahotairballooning.com.
Find inner peace and discover South America at the same time with Crystal Cruises' Mind, Body and Spirit packages. The Crystal Symphony sets sail on December 7 from Los Angeles to Valparaiso, Chile, while Crystal Serenity's Panama Canal voyage from Miami to Costa Rica begins on December 12. The cruises feature lectures and workshops by experts from the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic, an academic medical centre, and the Tai Chi Cultural Centre in California. Topics range from medical treatment and prevention to spiritual healing and growth through tai chi and yoga. Fares for Crystal Symphony's 15-day South America itinerary begin at US$3,450; Crystal Serenity's 12-day Panama Canal voyage starts at US$3,550 per person, double occupancy. For details, go to www.crystalcruises.com.
Hungry for more
Next time you are in Geneva, check out the two new eateries at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel du Rhone, which has just emerged from a facelift by renowned interior designer Adam Tihany. Rasoi by Vineet, a restaurant conceptualised by Michelin-starred chef Vineet Bhatia, will be offering 'evolved' Indian cuisine while Le Sud, a French-style brasserie by award-winning chef Paul Bocuse, will switch from a restaurant during the day to an intimate night spot after sundown. For further details, visit www.mandarinoriental.com.
Get set, go
Shopaholics, get on your marks, because it's almost time for the Seoul Grand Sale, which runs until August 31. Sales can be found across the South Korean city, with up to 70 per cent off some items, and not only at retail outlets - hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions also get in on the deal making. Head to the shopping precincts of Dongdaemun, Myeongdong, Namdaemun, Itaewon, Jongno and Yongsan and look out for discount coupons for the airport bus and sightseeing tour buses. With some department stores open until 5.30am, there is plenty of time for everything from kim chi to Kim Jones. Visit english.tour2korea.com for details.
If you're in merry old London Town anytime soon, why not treat yourself to a glass of Krug Clos d'Ambonnay 1995? It's one of hte world's finest champagnes and rarely served by the glass. The Coburg Bar at The Connaught hotel will be serving single flutes of the liquid gold for a limited time and by appointment only. Each glass will set you back HK$11,922. See www.the-connaught.co.uk.
Deal of the week
The newly opened U Chiang Mai boutique hotel has an introductory rate for those who want to explore the jungle and rice paddies of northern Thailand. The promotional rates start at 3,400 baht (HK$800) for a Superior Room and 4,400 baht for a Deluxe Room. The offer, valid until October 31, is subject to service charge and taxes. With 41 rooms and a unique 24-hour room concept (check in at 3pm, for instance, and check out 24 hours later), U Chiang Mai is a few minutes' walk from the city centre. All rooms include a private balcony with a day bed, a rain shower, satellite television and an iPod with docking station and speakers. The rate includes breakfast for two, free Wi-fi access and international and local calls at cost price. U Chiang Mai is at 70 Rachadamnoen Road, T.Sri-Poom, Chiang Mai, Thailand, tel: 66 53 327 000; www.uhotelsresorts.com.