Old Shanghai After gradually soft-opening over the past few months, the InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin (pictured), located in the city's old French Concession, officially opened for business at the end of May. This is the 200th property to be opened in China by the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and the group's first so-called heritage hotel in Asia. But despite the property's interesting beginnings, as the sprawling residential estate of the Morris family, who owned the North China Daily News and built Shanghai's famous Canidrome, the website (you can get there laboriously through www.ihg.com or quickly via a Google search) only mentions its more recent, politically correct connections. "InterContinental Shanghai Ruijin, formerly the State Guest House of Shanghai, has a rich heritage, having served Chinese historical figures such as Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai," says the site. "During the War of Liberation, the hotel was the headquarters of the Communist Party in Shanghai." And that - at least for now - is it. Before IHG took over the management of the hotel, it was known as the Ruijin Hotel Shanghai and proudly trumpeted its pre-war heyday, with family photographs and knowledgeable staff. At the time of writing, the original website was still up and running at www.ruijinhotelsh.com and offered a fairly comprehensive and quite interesting history of the property that would probably do more to make you want to visit the place than IHG's bland cookie-cutter replacement.
Going Downton Starting next month, the very posh Brown's Hotel (pictured) in London's Mayfair district will be offering guests a couple of "Vintage British Summer" offers as part of its ongoing 175th anniversary celebrations, which seem to have carried over from last year. The Vintage British Summer Suite package includes one-way airport transfers and daily breakfast from £595 (HK$7,000) per night, for double occupancy of a junior suite for a minimum four-night stay. More imaginative is the Highclere Castle Vintage British Summer Day, which includes a round-trip chauffeur-driven ride in a vintage car to Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), entry therein and a signed copy of the owner's book about the place. A choice of vehicles includes the Daimler used to collect Michael Caine's character from prison in The Italian Job and the Rolls-Royce used in the Downton Abbey television series. The day out, for two, starts from £850. For more details, select Packages at www.brownshotel.com.
Long run, short haul The first Luang Prabang Half Marathon is scheduled to take place on October 5, offering keen distance runners an interesting milieu in which to test themselves - in and around the steamy grandeur of the former royal capital of Laos (pictured) - while raising money for children's charity Friends-International. Race costs are covered by corporate sponsorship so runners don't have to pay registration fees, although a minimum US$200 donation is required for online registration. Seven- and 14-kilometre races will also be held on the day. Early bookings are recommended as the better hotels and resorts are likely to fill up fast. Vietnam Airlines flies from Hong Kong to Luang Prabang daily via Hanoi. For registration, go to www.luangprabanghalfmarathon.com.
Deal of the week A self-drive holiday in Tasmania, Australia, starting from HK$5,299, is on offer at Westminster Travel. This price includes round-trip, economy-class flights with Qantas to either Hobart or Launceston (via Sydney or Melbourne) and two days' hire of a Toyota Yaris or similar model. For only about HK$300 more, however, you can get behind the wheel of a bigger, four-wheel drive Toyota, which would be more suited to the Tasmanian back roads, with extended rental costing HK$970 per day for up to six days. Comprehensive information and advice for driving in Tasmania can be found at www.discovertasmania.com/travel_information in the vehicle hire section. Be sure to type out the whole address, as www.discovertasmania.com by itself re-directs Hong Kong visitors to a Chinese-language web-site, with no English-language option (although some browsers will auto-translate with helpful advice such as "In particular, be sure to stop off, carefully watching Tasmania, rather than always on the road ride"). These prices will be available until the end of September, but with a HK$1,800 surcharge from July 4 to August 3. For more information and bookings, go to www.westminstertravel.com or call the agency on 2313 9800.