Seventy-five years ago this week, three travel-related news items appeared on the front page of the March 24, 1936 edition of Hong Kong's evening paper, The China Mail. One reported the first flight of the ill-fated Hindenburg airship in Germany, a second noted the maiden voyage of the RMS Queen Mary (now a hotel and tourist attraction at Long Beach, California), but the biggest news of the day was the arrival at Kai Tak aerodrome that morning of an Imperial Airways de Havilland 86 passenger plane. Escorted by nine Hong Kong-based Royal Air Force aircraft, the 10-seater Dorado (above) carried just one Chinese passenger and 16 mail bags, but its arrival from Penang, Malaysia, heralded the start of the first scheduled air links between Europe and Hong Kong. British Airways is currently taking credit for this milestone event, by rather cheekily 'celebrating 75 years of flying to Hong Kong'. That's quite a claim for an airline that was only set up in 1974, with the merger of British European Airways (BEA) and the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC). BOAC had originally been formed in 1939 with the amalgamation of Imperial Airways and British Airways Ltd (no relation to British Airways), so the link is tenuous at best. Last Friday was also the 100th anniversary of the first powered flight in Hong Kong, an event on which Cathay Pacific and Dragonair have hung a couple of sales promotions. Take-off was delayed on the day and by the time Belgian aviator Charles van den Born briefly took to the air above Sha Tin in his Farman biplane, most spectators, including the governor and various dignitaries, were already heading home for tea on the newly opened Kowloon-Canton Railway.
Overland bus operator Oz-Bus is selling its next 85-day London to Sydney journey for GBP4,699 (HK$59,000), a significant discount from the original price of GBP5,299. The trip leaves on September 4 and passes through France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, India, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and central Australia. Passengers can also hop on the bus for the 35-day Bangkok to Sydney leg for GBP2,249. A London to Beijing journey, including a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway, is also available, departing on July 17. For more information, visit www.oz-bus.com. For those who would rather plan their own overland trip, new this month is the Overlanders' Handbook (above right), published by Trailblazer (www.trailblazer-guides.com), and containing everything you need to know to get yourself on, and off, the road in your own vehicle.
If you're looking for a romantic weekend splurge, the Peninsula Bangkok's 'Fly You To The Moon' double-accommodation package, available until October 31, includes one night's accommodation in a deluxe room (left), a 15-minute helicopter flight over the city, a bottle of Peninsula champagne, canapes, a bouquet of flowers, a photography session and buffet breakfast, for 98,888 baht (HK$25,300). For more details and reservations, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal of the week
Westminster Travel is offering stays at Hainan Island's newest resort properties, the Conrad Haitang Bay and the adjacent Doubletree by Hilton Haitang Bay (both below). The Conrad is the more upmarket of the two and three- and four-night stays there with round-trip, economy-class flights to Sanya on Dragonair cost HK$5,270 and HK$7,200, respectively, per person, twin-share. Prices at the Doubletree are much cheaper at HK$2,560 and HK$3,150. These rates, which include daily breakfast and travel insurance, will be available until the end of next month but departures between April 21 and 25 are subject to a HK$710 Easter surcharge. For further details, call Westminster Travel on 2313 9800 (Central) or 2313 9877 (Tsim Sha Tsui), quoting tour code KASYXSPC011, or visit www.westminstertravel.com.