Describing itself as Singapore's only Peranakan-inspired luxury hotel, the InterContinental Singapore (above; www.singapore.intercontinental.com), located downtown at Bugis Junction, recently polished its cultural credentials with the extensive refurbishment of 65 Shophouse rooms and suites on its lower floors. The Peranakan population has been decreasing in size and significance for several decades, so it's good to see at least one major hotel in this ever-modernising city focusing on the preservation of that Chinese/Malay heritage. The property offers tours that take in the Peranakan Museum and the Katong Antique House - an Aladdin's cave of Peranakan-related antiques and photographs - run by Peter Wee, a fourth-generation Peranakan and an expert on Peranakan culture. The InterContinental's Peranakan-themed Shophouse rooms and suites feature sturdy teak floorboards, louvred window shutters and other traditional decor elements, as well as all the mod cons to be expected of a five-star hotel, including large-screen LED televisions, DVD players, iPod/iPhone docks and Wi-fi internet access.
The Goring (www.thegoring.com), in London's posh Belgravia district, is probably now best known as the hotel where Kate Middleton spent her last night as a commoner, in April. This upmarket property has, however, been a favourite with nobility since it opened in 1910. At that time it was the first hotel, so it claims, to feature a private bathroom and central heating in every room. Today, the luxuries are more subtle, as evidenced by the unveiling of three new Belgravia Suites (below), which have been furnished with specially commissioned rewoven historical silks. These include Bernaise Brocatelle from the British Embassy in Paris and Louis Quatorze, created for The Music Room at London's Lancaster House, once the home of the first Duke of York. For those with a taste for such finery, suite rates start from ?,599 (about HK$20,000) per night, plus tax.
Silversea Cruises (www.silversea.com) is going after the singles market by offering solo bookings on a couple of its cruises at just 10 per cent over the per person rate charged for double occupancy. Both voyages are aboard the Silver Shadow (above), with the first setting off on January 5 for a 15-day trip from Auckland to Sydney by way of the Bay of Islands, Wellington, Akaroa, Port Chalmers (Dunedin), Stewart Island, Hobart and Melbourne, where the ship will dock overnight. All-inclusive fares start from US$9,238 per person. The same vessel will sail from Auckland to Fremantle on a 19-day voyage starting on February 4, putting in at Napier, Wellington, Picton, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Port Lincoln and Albany. Fares start from US$11,702 per person.
Hong Kong travellers will have a new destination to fly to from February, when Kazakhstan's flag carrier, Air Astana (www.airastana.com), launches twice-weekly direct flights to the country's largest city, Almaty. Comprehensive information about the country can be found at Kazakhstan.com, where it is duly noted that little was known about the place until the Borat film, which, visitors are reassured, 'was not a true portrayal of Kazakhstan, in fact quite the opposite'.