Town and country
At first glance rather inconveniently located halfway between Heathrow Airport and central London, the new London Syon Park, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel (www.waldorfastoria.com), in fact offers a chance for visitors to the city to also enjoy a bit of the English countryside. Built on the edge of 81 hectares of park land by the River Thames, and close to Kew Gardens, the 137-room hotel opened last month with opening rates starting from about GBP250 (HK$3,125) per night. Facilities include a restaurant that uses ingredients grown in the park and a spa that offers non-surgical treatments by a cosmetic surgeon. A number of traditional country-life pursuits such as trout fishing and shooting can also be arranged.
Free and easy
Judging by the number of Victorian-era and early 20th-century travel books being re-published and sold on Amazon.com this year, there is quite a market for such volumes. Early travel narratives - and, to a lesser extent, old guidebooks - seem to be resurfacing as fast as publishers can take advantage of their public-domain status, although high cover prices belie the fact that there are no author royalties to pay, nor proofreaders, indexers and the like to employ. And this is where e-books really come into their own. Hundreds of classic books by renowned travel writers can be downloaded to e-reading devices such as the Kindle simply and free of charge. Just enter your destination in the website search field and, in most cases, you'll be spoiled for choice with books written by pioneering travellers like Mark Twain, Rudyard Kipling and others. ManyBooks (www.manybooks.net) is one of the best and easiest to use, offering more than 750 travel-related books in English that are compatible with just about any type of e-reader, and in PDF form for laptops. More limited in its choice of e-readers, but offering direct download to Kindle, is the Open Library (openlibrary.org). Thousands of travel books are available here, but you'll often have to trawl through various editions for the best download, as scanning-software limitations mean that some texts are less typographically faithful than others.
Back on the road
Baby boomers - people born between 1946 and 1964 - start turning 65 this year, and hotels, airlines and cruise companies are well aware of the fact. This is the generation which, back in the 1960s and 70s, backpacked its way from the Marrakesh Express to the Ho Chi Minh Trail, to Goa and the flophouses of Manali. Consequently, many boomers - like Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler (left, with wife Maureen) - have already been there, done that and tie-dyed the T-shirt. Will they tread the old hippie trail again, or settle for something more staid? Preferred Hotels Group has targeted boomers with a promotion, available to travellers of all ages, which gives a second night's accommodation at more than 100 hotels worldwide for US$65 if you pay the full rate for the first night. See www.phgoffers.com/babyboomer.
Deal of the week
A Cathay Pacific Holidays' Kuala Lumpur promotion is advertising several mid-range hotels costing, with economy-class flights, just over HK$2,000 per person (twin-share) for a two-night stay. These include the Dorsett Regency (www.dorsettregency.com.my/kl) for HK$2,099; the Hotel Equatorial (www.equatorial.com/kul) for HK$2,199; and the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel (www.marriott.com) for HK$2,239. For just a few hundred dollars more, though, you can upgrade significantly to much better hotels, such as the Shangri-La (right; www.shangri-la.com) and the Ritz-Carlton (www.ritzcarlton.com) for HK$2,799 and The Westin (www.starwoodhotels.com) for HK$2,839. All prices will be available until the end of this month, but there is a HK$1,400 Easter flight surcharge for stays from April 21 to 25. Daily breakfast and travel insurance are also included. Visit www.cxholidays.com or call 2747 4336 for further details and reservations, quoting Tour Reference CV0KUL04HKG.