If you've ever considered visiting North Korea, this may be as good an opportunity as any. British tour company Lupine Travel is offering places on a trip that includes participation in the country's Amateur Golf Open and several days touring the country. Potential participants who doubt their ability to compete at such a level at the Pyongyang Golf Complex needn't worry - Dear Leader Kim Jong-il hit a nationally celebrated 38 under-par round, including 11 holes in one, on his first attempt. Or so the legend goes. The full-board tour, which runs from April 25 to 30, is Euro999 (HK$10,800) and begins and ends in the city of Dandong, Liaoning province, which has scheduled air links with Shenzhen and Guangzhou. Visit www.northkoreanopen.com to apply for a place, and make sure your travel insurance has one of those hole-in-one clauses.
The Musee National de la Marine, in Paris, is hosting an exhibition of 860 items rescued from the SS France, which at 316 metres was the world's longest cruise liner when it entered service in 1962 (and remained so until the launch of the 345-metre RMS Queen Mary 2 in 2004). The SS France was a floating tribute to French culture and post-war achievement. Decked out with modern fittings, furnishings and artwork, it was also the world's fastest ocean liner, although not fast enough to compete with the growth of commercial jet travel. The SS France began operating world cruises in the early 1970s, during which time it visited Hong Kong (left), but, by the middle of the decade, it was losing so much money that it was decommissioned, sold and relaunched as the SS Norway, in 1980. It was finally dismantled in India in 2008. The exhibition runs until October 23, providing 'a glimpse of the entire spectrum of the France: the design and construction of the ship, its history and society, decorative arts, life on board ... objects, furniture, souvenirs, models, reconstitutions, photographs and films'. See www.musee-marine.fr for more details.
End of an era
A milestone in the life of Japan Airlines occurred last week when the carrier retired the last of its Boeing 747 aircraft. At one time it operated more 747s than any other airline and was an early adopter of the first version, the B747-100 (below), in 1970. Several of these were kitted out as exotic 'garden jets', which were divided into several themed areas with a garden motif for economy-class passengers and Garden of Wisteria first-class cabins augmented by an upstairs Teahouse of the Sky (business class was yet to be invented). 'Stewardesses' were kitted out in kimonos and red-eyed passengers wandered the arcadian aisles in colourful complimentary Happi coats and slippers. Four decades and more than 100 747s later, the airline's passengers are now most likely to find themselves aboard a more conservatively decorated Boeing 777, and with a rather less colourful cabin crew.
Deal of the week
Cathay Pacific Holidays is offering some cheap deals to Shanghai with a business-class package starting from HK$5,099 (per person, twin-share), which includes flights on Dragonair and two nights' accommodation at the Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund (www.ichotelsgroup.com). Other available hotels include: The Langham, Yangtze Boutique (right; www.langhamhotels.com), with a guaranteed upgrade to an Art Deco Junior suite for HK$5,399; the Park Hyatt Shanghai (www.hyatt.com) for HK$5,839; and the Fairmont Peace Hotel (www.fairmont.com/peacehotel) for HK$6,239. These prices are valid only for Friday and Saturday departures (otherwise there's a surcharge of HK$1,180) but are very reasonable for business-class seats, which - with departing flights often subject to lengthy delays on the tarmac in Shanghai - are a good idea if you're visiting the city. For reservations until the end of April, visit www.cxholidays.com or call 2747 4336 for further details and reservations, quoting tour reference CP0PVG10HKGK.