Better late than never As delayed hotel openings go, London's InterContinental Westminster's one-year overrun is par for the course for luxury hotels, but missing out on visitors for Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee celebrations and the Olympics made it a bad year in which to fall behind. The 256-room property (right), which should open next month, is close to St James's Park Tube station and within walking dis-tance of Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, and is the first InterContinental hotel to open in the capital since the InterContinental Park Lane did so 37 years ago. The Westminster occupies Queen Anne's Chambers, a site that started out as a hospital in the 18th century, and which is bounded by Broadway, Tothill Street and Dean Farrar Street - names familiar to politicians, civil servants and bicycle messengers. In another case of bad timing for the hotel, the Westminster City Council saw fit to begin road works on all three of these thoroughfares last month, with pavement resurfacing, pedestrian-crossing installa-tion and other work scheduled to carry on until January. Assuming this is all fin-ished on time, from February onwards, the InterContinental Westminster should be a good choice for a peaceful yet central London location. Visit www.intercontinental.com/westminster for reservations.
Coping cabana style If you fancy a bit of resort-style R&R in Macau but would prefer not to stay overnight, Banyan Tree (left) is offering its poolside cabanas for exclusive use by non-guests from 7am to 7pm for HK$1,500 plus 10 per cent service charge. The air-conditioned cabins contain a flatscreen television, an iPad, a private shower, padded loungers, tables and a washroom. Free snacks and drinks are served every hour from 11am. On week-ends the resort lays on an evening poolside barbecue, priced at HK$488 per person (half price for children), with free-flowing soft drinks, beer and wine for an extra HK$230 per person. For more details, call 853 8883 8833, or visit www.banyantree.com
Strange brew The Scottish botanist and traveller Robert Fortune is best remembered as the man who smuggled the first tea plants out of China and transported them on to India, in the 1840s, thereby ending China's valuable monopoly on the enormously popular drink. Fortune was an adventurous and determined traveller, often disguising himself in Chinese garb to enable visits to areas that were off-limits to foreigners, and the several books he wrote offer more insight than most of that era. His last published work, Yedo and Peking; A Narrative of a Journey to the Capitals of Japan and China, with Notices of the Natural Productions, Agriculture, Horticulture and Trade of those Countries and Other Things Met with By the Way (1863) has been republished this week by Cambridge University Press, and makes for a much more engaging read than the lengthy title might suggest. You can read a selection of preview pages at amazon.co.uk For a look at other historical Asia travel reprints, search for Cambridge Library Collection on Google.
Deal of the week Swire Travel is selling a cheap package to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo, that starts from HK$2,750 per person, twin share, for two nights' accommodation at the Best Western Kinabalu Daya Hotel, with breakfast and economy-class flights on Dragonair. Unless you are on a very tight budget, however, it would be worth spending a bit more to stay at one of the better beach resorts, such as the Sutera Harbour Resort, or Shangri-La's Rasa Ria (top) or Tanjung Aru resorts for a package price of HK$3,230/HK$3,630/HK$3,750, respectively. The latter property offers room upgrades and free dinners for guests booking extra nights, which start from HK$1,450 per room. All these prices will be available until the end of the month. For further details and reservations, call 3151 8888, or visit www.swiretravel.com