Rooms with a view Due to open next month, Aman Canal Grande Venice will be Amanresorts' first Italian property. Occupying a 16th-century palazzo noted for its grand interiors and two gardens (a rarity in Venice), the 24-suite hotel is located in San Polo, one of the oldest parts of town, not far from the Rialto Bridge. Most rooms have views over the Grand Canal (above), which is what you'd expect if you were paying the €1,000 (HK$10,000) per night starting price. But this is the lowest price, so you probably shouldn't expect anything of the kind. Top-of-the-range suites cost €3,500 per night. Another 10 per cent VAT goes on top of these rates, as does a small nightly city tax. For further details, head over to


Mystery island The Malaysian island of Labuan, located off the north coast of Sabah, in Borneo, once had close ties to Hong Kong. During the 1850s, the decade after the uninhabited island was ceded to Britain, Hong Kong convicts were banished there to work in the coal mines that fuelled steamships sailing between Hong Kong and the Malay peninsula. One of Hong Kong's most divisive governors, John Pope Hennessy, had held the same position on Labuan, and Hong Kong's telegraph system ran through the island. As in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and the rest of Sabah, however, little remains of the island's 19th-century colonial existence. One structure that endures, and which has been put to good use by local tourism authorities, is the "mystery" chimney, a 106-foot-high English red-brick tower. It's said that no one knows why it was built, and the supposed mystery surrounding it is discussed by locals with the kind of bewildered reverence normally reserved for places such as Stonehenge. It would be a sad day for the island if ever conclusive proof were found to explain its existence, but any amateur historian with an internet connection and two hours to spare should be able to do so (being part of a kiln seems likely). If you fancy paying the island a visit, Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia fly in daily from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, from where you can also catch a three-hour ferry. The Dorsett Grand Labuan (above right) has just launched a rather oddly arranged promotion that includes a "free" night in a deluxe room with a food package that includes three buffet meals for two people, a bottle of wine (the envy of the region; the duty-free island is renowned for its cheap booze), free Wi-fi and a shoulder massage, all for 450 ringgit (HK$1,155). Children under six can stay free. This is only valid for weekends, but you can book two consecutive nights, which is about as long as you'll need to see the sights of Labuan anyway. For details, visit and look for the Irresistible Dining Package.


China by the book Published in 1984, the first edition of Lonely Planet's China: A Travel Survival Kit was the constant companion of what seemed like every foreign backpacker in the country in the mid-1980s, as indeed subsequent editions were for years to come. At a time before internet cafes and smartphones, when independent travel on the mainland was for the intrepid few, the words "travel survival kit" imbued the book with a certain reassurance that whatever happened while one was "doing China", solutions could be found therein. From 1998 that subtitle was dropped in favour of just "China", reflecting both the relative ease of getting around the country by then and a more mainstream readership. Nowadays fewer people seem to carry Lonely Planet's China, going instead for online reference and smaller volumes more pertinent to their particular destination. But the old volume is still going and this month appears in its 13th edition - at 1,048 pages, only 200 or so more than the first. It should be on shop shelves by the time you read this, but as with most Lonely Planet country guides now, you can download your required chapters at


Deal of the week Swire Travel includes what appears to be every hotel in Okinawa in its new package to the sunny Japanese holiday destination (below) - and they're almost all priced from HK$3,000 to HK$4,000 for two nights' accommodation and daily breakfast with round-trip flights on Dragonair. Car hire is offered from only HK$370 per day for same-day return. For full details and reservations, available until July 10, visit