Air Asia (www.airasia.com) will soon connect Hong Kong travellers to Medan, capital of the Indonesian province of North Sumatra. Starting from January 16, flights will depart every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 8.10pm, arriving rather later than is convenient, at 11.15pm. Return flights depart at 2.40pm, arriving back in Hong Kong at 7.35pm. Although not exactly brimming with tourist attractions, Medan has long been a regular stopover on the established overland backpacker trail between Europe and Australia, being connected to Penang by an international ferry service linking Malaysia to Indonesia. A look through the archives reveals that one of Hong Kong's few great overseas sporting victories took place in Medan back in the summer of 1931, when South China Football Club hammered East of Sumatra 11-0 during a 10-week tour of Southeast Asia. (Sports fans may like to note that the Hong Kong team scored an impressive 110 goals in 24 tour matches while conceding only 23.) In those days, the best place to stay was the Dutch-owned Hotel de Boer (pictured), which once hosted the likes of King Leopold of Belgium and the exotic dancer and spy Mata Hari, and still exists in part as a wing of the dismal-looking Natour Dharma Deli hotel. For a more authentic taste of old Sumatra, try the Dutch-Indonesian family-owned Hotel Deli River (www.hotel-deliriver.com), just outside town.
A bus link from Narita International Airport to downtown Tokyo went into service earlier this month with fares one-third of those charged by the popular Airport Limousine Bus. The no-frills Super Shuttle's only drawbacks seem to be that it only has pick-up and drop-off points in Ueno and Asakusa districts, rather than the door-to-door service to most hotels offered by the Airport Limousine Bus, and that there are only eight departures a day. You'll also have to book online but, at 1,000 yen (HK$94) each way, you can save 4,000 yen on a round-trip journey. For further details and credit-card reservations, visit www.supershuttle.jp/en.
Love in Taipei
Travellers planning ahead for Valentine's Day might like to consider a night or two at the W Taipei (above left; www.wtaipei.com), which is due to open that very day and is offering the oddly titled 'Are You Spectacular?' opening package. This includes accommodation in either a Spectacular Room or a Fantastic Suite (these and other similarly grandiose room appellations are standard-issue at W Hotels), alfresco breakfast, a welcome cocktail, something described by the hotel as 'an in-room welcome expression', VIP insider access to the local nightclubs of Xinyi district and a complementary 'W Zodiac Animal'. Prices, available until the end of August, start from US$250 per couple, per night for the room and US$445 per night for the suite. If you're planning to visit Taipei before February 14, a new Le Meridien hotel (www.lemeridien.com/taipei) officially opened in the city recently, also in Xinyi.
Deal of the week
Cathay Pacific Holidays is advertising two nights in Xiamen with accommodation at one of two of the city's best hotels - and economy-class flights with Dragonair - from a very reasonable HK$1,399. This price (quoted per person on a twin-share basis) is for a stay at Le Meridien Xiamen (below), which opened in August and has a good hillside location overlooking the bay. A slightly more expensive but older alternative is the downtown Sheraton Xiamen Hotel, which is available for HK$1,439. To be added to both these rates, which are available until the end of February and include daily breakfast and travel insurance, are the usual taxes and fuel surcharges, amounting to HK$467 per person. Extended stays at the hotels are available for HK$410 per person, per night. The properties can be viewed online at www.starwoodhotels.com. See www.cxholidays.com or call 2747 4336 for further details and reservations, quoting tour reference CV0XMN07HKGK.