One on the house TLX Travel is offering a free night at either of the new Laguna Lang Co properties mentioned here a few weeks ago - Angsana Lang Co and Banyan Tree Lang Co - when you book a two- or three-night package stay. The starting price for Angsana Lang Co is HK$4,890 per person, for two sharing, but there are some slightly cheaper options for four sharing a two-bedroom suite. The more upmarket Banyan Tree starts at HK$8,630 for a lagoon pool villa (above). A one-hour massage for two and a dinner is included if you stay here. These prices cover flights via Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi with Vietnam Airlines, round-trip airport/hotel transfers, breakfast and, at the Banyan Tree, children's activities and in-room Wi-fi. A business-class package for the Banyan Tree resort is available from HK$11,490. For details of both packages, visit the Indochina Packages section at www.tlxtravel.com.
The amazing race The Jules Verne story Around the World in 80 Days, first serialised in French in 1872 and published in English as a novel the following year, has long been an inspiration to publicity-seeking travellers intent on encircling the globe overland in ever shorter order. One of the first and most celebrated was 25-year-old journalist Elizabeth Cochrane, better-known to the public as Nellie Bly. Sponsored by her employer, the New York World, she left the Big Apple on November 14, 1889, sailing east toward Europe, then travelled by land and sea to Asia, reaching Hong Kong just in time for Christmas. Here, however, she discovered she had a competitor. Elizabeth Bisland, sponsored by the then-new Cosmopolitan magazine and also aiming to better Verne's Phileas Fogg, had left at the same time as Bly, but was travelling in the opposite direction, and had passed through the colony just a few days earlier. Writing for a daily paper gave Bly more publicity than Bisland could achieve working for a monthly magazine, and today she is the better remembered, both for this and other journalistic undertakings, including having herself committed to a lunatic asylum in order to report on its dismal conditions. Bly's journey has been written about before, but this week sees the publication of a new book featuring both her and Bisland's efforts to set the record for fastest circumnavigation of the Earth. Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland's History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman is available from Amazon. Bly's book, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, can be downloaded for free at digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bly/world/world.html while Bisland's In Seven Stages: A Flying Trip Around the World can be found at digital.library.upenn.edu/women/bisland/stages/stages.html.
Cool culture Is Japan cool? That's the question posed on All Nippon Airways' promotional website, www.ana-cooljapan.com. Under a series of headings including Cosplay, Traditions and Kawaii, dozens of Japanese cultural oddities are laid bare for visitors to weigh up and then vote on as to whether or not they are to be considered "cool". These include automatic toilets, student rickshaw drivers (right) and "Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt" fashionistas. If you've never been to Japan, this is a great capsule introduction to the country and its weird and wonderful cultural landscape, for all ages; and if you've already been, you'll probably find something new to marvel at.
Deal of the week A two-night package deal to Osaka is for sale at Swire Travel, starting from HK$3,150 for flights with Cathay Pacific and accommodation at the cheap but comfortable - and quite conveniently located - Hotel Com's Osaka. Even better located and, at time of writing, the seventh top-rated of 254 Osaka hotels on TripAdvisor, is the Dotonbori Hotel, which is available for only about HK$200 more and is in the Dotonbori district, popular for its innumerable small restaurants and dazzling neon signs (below). Top of the price list is the Hilton, for HK$4,390. Prices are available for travel until March 27. For a full list of hotels on offer, and reservations, check out the Japan section under Leisure Packages at www.swiretravel.com.