Skirting the issue
New to Hong Kong bookstores this month is How to Climb Mont Blanc in a Skirt - an interesting and humorous collection of advice and inspirational snippets from a wide selection of historical and contemporary lady travellers. From using camel fat to improve your love life to climbing Mount Everest without oxygen, the foreign road is smoothed by such travelling luminaries as Hester Stanhope, Isabella Bird and Dervla Murphy. The book is available for Kindle at Amazon.com and at a significant discount in traditional form at Amazon.co.uk.
Starwood Hotels and Resorts - which owns brands such as Westin (which operates the Langkawi Resort & Spa; below), Sheraton, St Regis and Le Meridien - has launched the Starwood Asia Pacific Villa Collection. This is really just a listing of all of the company's Asia-Pacific hotels and resorts that offer villa accommodation, but is packaged as a 'one-stop convenience for locating and booking unique, high-end luxury villas in Asia-Pacific's most exotic and sought-after resorts and locations'. For a look at what's on offer, visit starwoodpromos.com/villacollectionasiapacific.
Know before you go
Describing itself as the first newly built hotel in Port Moresby in more than two decades, the Grand Papua Hotel (right; www.summithotels.com) will, it is claimed, also be the most technically advanced building in Papua New Guinea when it opens on Thursday. But the 161-room property is going to have a hard time attracting tourists to a city with a long list of safety issues. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office Travel Advice section (www.fco.gov.uk) warns that, 'Armed carjacking, assault, robbery, shootings and serious sexual offences, including rape, are common' in much of the country, merely by way of introduction to the nation's dangers. The United States State Department (travel.state. gov/travel) is no more optimistic, stating that, 'Carjackings, armed robberies, and stoning of vehicles are problems in and around major cities such as Port Moresby,' in its online preamble to a comprehensive catalogue of potential perils. Perhaps the safest way to visit Papua New Guinea - an undoubtedly fascinating destination despite the dangers - is with upmarket tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, which advertises private tours of the country at www.abercrombiekent.com. For the more intrepid traveller, Air Niugini (www.airniugini.com.pg) flies from Hong Kong to Port Moresby every Tuesday and Thursday.
Sri Lankan roadblock
The granting of visas on arrival for most nationalities has made Sri Lanka a convenient destination for travellers since the 1970s, and when the country announced in October last year that visitors would be required to obtain a visa in advance, opposition from Sri Lankan tour operators was so great that the move was put on hold. From January 1, however, everyone other than Maldivians and Singaporeans will have to go online to obtain permission to enter the country. The good news is the local travel industry has managed to persuade the government to lower the visa fee from US$50 to US$20, and transit passengers (i.e. anyone flying via Colombo to the Maldives) and children under 12 will not be charged. Visas can be applied for at www.eta.gov.lk. Payment is by credit card only but, rather ironically, Visa cards are not currently accepted.
Deal of the week
Farrington American Express Travel's two-night package to Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, starts from a reasonable HK$2,990 per person, twin-share, for flights (via Bangkok) with Thai Airways and accommodation at the mid-range All Seasons hotel (www.accorhotels.com). The more expensive but considerably more comfortable option is a Garden Pavilion at the Four Seasons Resort (above; www.fourseasons.com) for HK$6,850. Both prices will be available until March 31 and include daily breakfast and travel insurance. For reservations, visit www.amextravel.com.hk or call 3121 3121, and quote package ID: L2011CNXA291.