Cold comfort One of the great winter travel experiences is being immersed in a Japanese outdoor hot-spring bath, or onsen, surrounded by steam and snow, and several of these are now available with the new "Sapporo + Hokkaido Outskirts" package offered by Cathay Pacific Holidays. This includes two nights in Sapporo at the Ramada hotel and one night at a choice of onsen resorts across Japan's northernmost island (Hokkaido), from the 19th-century foreign settlement of Hakodate in the southwest to remote Abashiri (above) on the northeast coast, by the Sea of Okhotsk. Prices range from HK$5,910 per person, twin share, including economy class flights, to HK$9,950 per person. Some resorts, such as the Tokachigawa Onsen Daiichi Hotel Toyotei (package price HK$7,140), offer private and public hot-spring baths. Rail tickets to the resorts are not included, but you can buy a Hokkaido Japan Rail Pass at the airport valid for the airport train into town and unlimited rail travel all over Hokkaido for three days (15,000 yen/HK$1,320), five days (19,500 yen) or seven days (22,000 yen). For details and reservations, go to www.cxholidays.com and select Sapporo. For Rail Pass information, visit www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/english/railpass.
A night at the opera Tickets for a show at Ho Chi Minh City's Municipal Theatre, formerly and still sometimes known as the Saigon Opera House, are included as part of an Opera Nights package offered by the neighbouring Caravelle Hotel (above; www.caravellehotel.com). Three nights in the hotel's Opera Suite, which overlooks the opera house, dinner and a 150-minute spa treatment for two, daily breakfast, taxes and service charges are all included in the HK$17,339 price tag. The opera is a one-hour performance entitled Hon Viet, which celebrates Vietnamese culture and history. Available until May, the package is for stays covering the 14th or 23rd of each month, to coincide with the bi-monthly performances of Hon Viet. Smokers might like to be forewarned that the hotel went completely smoke-free on January 1 and will impose a fine on anyone caught smoking in their room equivalent to about HK$1,300.
Cheap sleeps An interesting new choice for anyone visiting Singapore on a budget is the Adler Hostel (above left and right), which opened last month in the Chinatown area. Describing itself as the city state's "first luxury hostel", the property is housed in a heritage building and has two "Suite Dorms" containing 16 "cabins" with comfortable, custom-made beds. The dormitories look rather like Pullman railway carriages, with beds running lengthwise on two levels, secluded by blackout curtains. Amenities include personal safes, Wi-fi in public areas and self-service cooking and laundry facilities. A female-only dormitory is also in the pipeline. Online rates at www.adlerhostel.com, start from about S$50 (HK$317) a night.
Routing for Vietnam The Vietnamese coastal city of Da Nang has been on and off the departure boards at Chek Lap Kok a number of times over the past decade or so. It's currently not offered as a non-stop destination by any airline, but Dragonair will, subject to official appro-val, begin thrice-weekly scheduled services from the end of March, departing and returning every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Da Nang is a gateway to popular Vietnamese hot spots such as Hue and Hoi An, and the area - it is located within 100 kilometres of several important Unesco World Heritage sites - has seen several luxury hotels and resorts open recently, so it seems likely the route will finally be here to stay.
Deal of the week Travellers inspired to visit Middle Earth by Peter Jackson's latest movie The Hobbit can go some way to fulfilling their fantasies with a New Zealand fly-drive package from TLX Travel that includes a half-day tour of the Hobbiton film set (above), a two-hour drive south of Auckland. Prices, valid for travel until the end of March, start from HK$8,820 (or HK$7,330 during March) per person, which includes round-trip, economy-class flights to Auckland with Air New Zealand, and three days' rental of a Hertz Toyota Corolla or a similar vehicle. At least two people must travel together, but the rental vehicles available can carry up to five. For further details and bookings, go to www.tlxtravel.com or call 2270 7600.