Passage to India Hard on the heels of Dragonair's new service to Calcutta, which starts on November 2, Cathay Pacific will be launching its first flights to Hyderabad, on December 1. Cathay, which has been flying to India since 1950, except for a break from 1970 to 1982, will be operating a four-times-weekly schedule with an Airbus A330-300. For those heading that way, Hyderabad's best hotel is the historic Taj Falaknuma Palace (above, www.tajhotels.com) a sprawling architectural marvel that took 10 years to build, in the late 19th century. For something more modern and business-friendly, The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace (www.starwoodhotels.com/westin) is probably your best option. The easiest and cheapest choice for comprehensive guide book information is a download of the Andhra Pradesh chapter of Lonely Planet's India guide, available at shop.lonelyplanet.com/ebooks for US$4.95. Cheaper and more convenient, but more concise, are the SilverTouch iPhone and Android Hyderabad apps, which can be found at www.silvertouch.mobi/cityguide#
By the book Ramsey Zarifeh's excellent Japan by Rail described the Japan Rail Pass as "the bargain of the century" when it was first published, in 2002. A decade later, with the book coming out this month in a third and fully updated edition, the rail pass still costs the same and still offers unlimited travel (except for on the fastest bullet trains) for seven calendar days between subtropical Kagoshima in the south and the frozen fringes of the Shiretoko Peninsula in the far northeast. The Japan Rail Pass is the book's raison d'être, although it also functions well as a regular guide book to much of Japan, and with a 28,300 yen (HK$2,790) seven-day pass and Japan By Rail in hand, you'll be all set for a cheap (especially if you sleep on the overnight trains) and extensive tour of the country. You can read excerpts of the book at trailblazer-guides.com/book/japan-by-rail. Rail passes, vouchers for which must be purchased before arrival in Japan, are available from JTB (HK), 7 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 2734 9288. See www.japanrailpass.net for more information.
Cruise news Upmarket cruise company Silversea has just brought out its Asia Pacific brochure for 2012/13, featuring numerous luxury small-ship journeys on the Silver Shadow and Silver Whisper. From late October until mid December, the Silver Shadow (right) will be operating three cruises out of Hong Kong to Singapore via ports in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. These depart on October 25, November 23 and December 11, and start from US$5,399 for nine nights' suite accommodation with full board, and US$1,000 onboard spending credit per suite, to use on spa treatments, boutique purchases, trips ashore or fine wines. The Silver Shadow carries a maximum of 382 passengers, which would be considered a poor turnout for a buffet lunch on the larger cruise ships, and every cabin receives attentive butler service. You can order a brochure and browse the rest of Silversea's itineraries and services at www.silversea.com
Deal of the week Swire Travel is selling a two-night package to Siem Reap, Cambodia, with a couple of free-night offers at selected hotels if you travel before the end of this month. These include the Sokhalay Angkor Hotel (www.sokhalayangkor.com) where two nights plus one free cost from HK$3,090, and the Victoria Angkor Resort & Spa (www.victoriahotels.asia), which has a similar deal from HK$3,290. Top of the price list is the swanky La Residence d'Angkor (above; www.residencedangkor.com) which will set you back from HK$4,030 for two nights, and with an extra night costing HK$1,690. All prices - quoted per person, twin share - include economy class flights to Siem Reap via Ho Chi Minh City with Vietnam Airlines, daily breakfast and round-trip airport transfers. For further details and reservations, call 3151 8888, or go to www.swiretravel.com