Thrilling reads Peter Fleming was best known as a travel writer and adventurer, and, along with the likes of Evelyn Waugh, was the first of a breed of travel humorists. " Brazilian Adventure," claimed his biographer, "blew the whole [travel writing] genre sky high. Readers - and reviewers - could scarcely believe that a travel book could be so funny." Published in 1933, it was followed by equally acclaimed works including One's Company (1934) and News from Tartary (1936). His younger brother, Ian Fleming, found his own niche as the creator of James Bond but in 1959, he was offered the chance to go on a round-the-world trip for The Sunday Times to produce a series of articles on some of the world's greatest, and seediest, cities. He began in Hong Kong and Macau, and continued on to Tokyo, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and New York. His brief was then extended to Europe and, driving himself, Ian Fleming visited and wrote about Hamburg, Vienna, Geneva, Naples and Monte Carlo. In 1963, all these articles were collated into a single volume titled Thrilling Cities. Later editions were subtitled with suitably suggestive adjectives such as "Exotic" and "Sinful", and a paperback edition in two volumes was also published. Thrilling Cities gets another go-around this week, both in Britain and the United States, although with rather dull covers compared with some of the racier efforts that have surfaced over the past half century or so. The Amazon sites of both countries are offering the book for preorder; the US site is cheaper and provides a preview of the contents.
Virtual Japan The Japan Tourism Agency has launched a campaign called Discover the Spirit of Japan, supported by a new website containing dozens of videos of some of the country's lesser-known attractions. The welcome video promotes the Awa Dance Festival (above), which, despite being known locally as Japan's answer to the Rio Carnival, is still unfamiliar to most foreigners. It's a surprisingly uplifting piece of film and well worth a click, but if you're looking for something a little more modern, All Nippon Airways has followed up its new "Is Japan Cool?" website (www.ana-cooljapan.com) with one called "Let's Do Japan" (letsdojapan.com), which lets visitors transform themselves into Manga characters with the help of a "Manganizer", before exploring a virtual Japan.
Java jaunts Central Java is still a bit out of the way for Hong Kong travellers but nothing like as remote as it was in the 1930s, when Dutch tourism wallahs were promoting it as being "only 36 hours from Singapore". For most foreign tourists, Indonesia means Bali, which is a shame as the scenery between Yogyakarta and Semarang is breathtaking and there are a couple of fine resorts in the area, including Amanjiwo and MesaStila (above). The latter is currently offering a free third night for bookings made on its website (www.mesahotelsandresorts.com/mesastila) with rates starting at US$200 per night, double occupancy. Yogyakarta is the closest airport, about 90 minutes away by car, but even getting there can be tiresome since international flights arrive only from Malaysia and Singapore. A better option would be to visit either resort as an extension of a Bali holiday. Frequent flights leave from Denpasar, and take about one hour each way. Alternatively, the bus does the journey in a 30s-style 17 hours.
Refreshing Fiji Air Pacific is well on the road to rebranding itself back to Fiji Airways - as Fiji's national carrier was known from 1951 to 1970 - and will be officially known as such from June. Its newest aircraft, an Airbus A330 (above) decked out in the new livery, was delivered earlier this month, and will be operating twice weekly between Hong Kong and Nadi from this week. By all accounts it is a far superior plane to the Boeing 747-400 that the carrier has been leasing from Singapore Airlines for use on the route over the past year or so - and more comfortable.
Deal of the week Westminster Travel is selling a business-class package to Xiamen, Fujian province, that includes round-trip, business-class flights with Dragonair and two nights with breakfast at a selection of hotels, from HK$3,680 per person, twin share. The hotel at this price is the adequate Millennium Harbourview, but others include the Crowne Plaza (HK$3,770), Le Meridien (above; HK$3,800), the oddly macho-sounding Pullman Powerlong (HK$3,810), the Sheraton (HK$3,850), the new Kempinski (HK$4,070) and The Westin (HK$4,010). These prices are only valid for Friday and Saturday departures (when business-class seats in that direction tend to be sparsely occupied) but will be available until the end of this year. For more details, call 2313 9800 or visit www.westminstertravel.com.