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Travellers' checks

Adam Nebbs

 

Any port in a storm The world will probably never know, nor indeed care, which hotel first described itself as an "oasis of calm", but it is now so common a cliché that it seems to be applied to any hotel or resort in the world that can offer up air conditioning, cable television and a mini bar. No longer simply a favoured phrase among industry wordsmiths short on ideas, "oasis of calm" has also entered the realm of the amateur reviewer, like a verbal epidemic. Google the words "hotel oasis of calm", for example, and you'll be faced not with a list of Bedouin valium salesmen, but with hundreds of TripAdvisor entries proudly extolling oases of calm around the globe, from the Ibis London Euston St Pancras to the Crowne Plaza Amsterdam South, to the more appropriately oasis-like Mena House Oberoi, near the pyramids in Giza. Non-hospitality claimants to the title listed further on include psychiatric and rehab clinics of various kinds, refugee camps, spiritual centres and resting places including the Mortlake Crematorium in southwest London ("an oasis of calm in which to say farewell to a loved one"), not far from Heathrow Airport, where more of TripAdvisor's oasis-of-calm candidates include the Hilton Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 and, not to be outdone, its near neighbours the Sofitel London Heathrow and Marriott Hotel Heathrow.

 

Under the hammer Upmarket London auctioneer Christie's will be holding its 15th Annual Ski Sale on January 23, "celebrating the golden age of travel, from the turn of the 20th century through to the 1950s, when skiing holidays became increasingly popular as new transport links gave greater access to this exhilarating holiday option." In other words, when package tourism spoiled the slopes for the idle rich. The sale catalogue comprises mostly travel posters from the aforementioned golden age (although a 1965 Air India poster advertising its flights to Switzerland has somehow passed muster), which once beckoned wealthy travellers with artwork recognised today as highly collectible. Probably of more interest to the Hong Kong market is a selection of vintage Louis Vuitton luggage with an estimated starting price of a reasonable £1,000 (HK$12,500). To download a catalogue and register for phone bidding, go to www.christies.com.

 

Cruise news One of Cunard's "three queens", the Queen Victoria will be putting in at Hong Kong on March 18 and setting sail the following day on a nine-day cruise down to Singapore, via Nha Trang and Ho Chi Minh City, in Vietnam, and Bangkok, Thailand. Farrington American Express Travel is selling berths from HK$9,799 (per person, twin share), although this price will only get you a small inside cabin with no porthole. The cheapest of the worthwhile accommodation is curiously described by the agent as a "mental balcony" cabin. It is actually metal (rather than the preferred, brighter glass balcony) and costs from HK$13,699 per person. These prices are full board and include return flights from Singapore with Singapore Airlines, but you should expect to pay just over HK$5,000 more in fuel surcharges, port taxes and other miscellaneous fees. For more information, go to www.amextravel.com.hk or call 3121 3677.

 

Smooth as silk The anniversary of someone's disappearance seems an odd thing to celebrate, but the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok is doing just that with its Jim Thompson 45th Anniversary package. In memory of the American silk entrepreneur, who was also part owner of the hotel for a brief time and mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands in 1967, two guests can partake of a buffet breakfast, visit the Jim Thompson House by limousine, enjoy a 60-minute Thai massage at the Oriental Spa and a set dinner, and will receive a "Jim Thompson Thai silk gift". Prices start from 16,839 baht (HK$4,250) per room, double occupancy, but you'll have to stay at least three nights and fork out an extra 17.7 per cent in tax and service charges. Valid until March 31, further package details can be found under "Offers" at www.mandarinoriental.com/bangkok.

 

Deal of the week The Vana Belle, Koh Samui opens on the Thai island on January 20 and Westminster Travel is selling a package with accommodation at the resort from that day onwards from HK$7,970 per person, twin share, with a three nights for the price of two deal. For this rate you'll be staying in a Classic Pool Suite, or you can splurge on a Tropical Pool Villa for HK$9,670. Also included are non-stop round-trip flights with Bangkok Airways, travel insurance and daily breakfast. The package will be available until the end of March but there is a HK$2,650 surcharge from February 7 to 15 and from March 27 to 31. It's also worth noting that the opening week of any resort is not usually the best time to visit, as teething troubles generally ensue from the moment the doors open, so consider late February to late March as the best window for your holiday. The most recent guidebook to the region with detailed information is Lonely Planet's 2012 edition of Thailand's Islands & Beaches, from which you can download the Koh Samui & the Lower Gulf chapter for about HK$40 at shop.lonelyplanet.com. For package bookings and more information, visit www.westminstertravel.com or call 2313 9800.

 

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