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TRAVEL

Travellers' checks

Adam Nebbs

 

Love and Haiti Twentieth-century tourists could, at times, be a pretty thoughtless lot. Germany's tourist trade saw a noticeable boom after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 and nouveau-middle-class package tourists from all over Europe flocked to Spain in the 1960s and 70s, while fascist dictator General Francisco Franco was in power. Another place where tourists ignored the extreme unpleasantness taking place beneath their hotel balconies was Haiti, where Papa Doc and, later, Baby Doc Duvalier and their dreaded Tontons Macoutes henchmen terrorised the population for about three decades from 1957. A 1964 edition of New Horizons World Guide - Pan Am's guidebook to more than 100 of its destinations - describes the country at the height of its misery. "Colorful Haiti with its voodoo drums, its fascinating capital and its twin wonders, La Citadelle and Sans Souci Palace has a lot to offer the visitor in search of the exotic," the potential tourist learns. "The crowded, colorful streets of Port-au-Prince filled with Negro women carrying baskets on their heads contrast with modern automobiles, smart shops and excellent hotels to make a fascinating sight." So encouraged, jetsetters continued arriving in Haiti through the 60s and 70s, but tourist dollars couldn't sustain the economy much further, and following the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, the industry melted away altogether. Now Haiti is attempting a hopeful comeback, and a modest and rather moving 30-second promotional video (search for "Haiti into your heart" on YouTube) has just been released by the Ministry of Tourism (www.haititourisme.gouv.ht). Pan Am's 60s depiction might still be considered optimistic but, for the intrepid traveller, there's a lot to see and international hotel companies are starting to arrive. Air France flies from Hong Kong to Haiti via Paris. The journey takes about 30 hours, so a stopover would be a good idea, especially after half a day on one of Air France's cramped Boeing 777s. Round-trip economy-class tickets will set you back about HK$20,000. Suggested on-board reading: Graham Greene's novel set in Haiti during Papa Doc's rule, The Comedians.

 

Rising star Star Cruises will be basing its SuperStar Aquarius (right) in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, from early November. This will be the first time an international cruise line has used the city as a home port, and four-day cruises departing every Sunday will put in at Brunei and the town of Bintulu, in Sarawak. The ship will begin her five-month stint by sailing down from Hong Kong at the end of October, via Manila and Boracay, in the Philippines. For reservations, talk to your preferred travel agent or go to www.starcruises.com.

 

Rail luxury The Eastern & Oriental Express train, which usually runs between Singapore and Bangkok, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and to tie in with this, a one-off excursion into Laos is being organised. The five-day, four-night "Journey to Royal Laos" package steams out of Bangkok on October 2 and includes a two-night journey on the E&O to Vientiane, followed by transfers to, and a two-night stay at, La Residence Phou Vao in Luang Prabang. A flight back to Bangkok from Luang Prabang is included in the prices, which start from about HK$30,000 per person, for two people travelling together. For reservations, visit www.easternandorientalexpress.com.

 

Deal of the week A two-night stay at the Banyan Tree Bangkok is on sale at Cathay Pacific Holidays, starting from HK$2,610 with deluxe room accommodation. Stay an extra night (from HK$705) and you'll get an upgrade to a premier room and afternoon tea for two. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the hotel, a better-value option is a Banyan Tree Club room, priced from HK$2,940 but including all-day access to the Club Lounge and all the goodies proffered therein, and one Japanese set dinner for two. Stay an extra night (from HK$870) for a three-course dinner at Vertigo Restaurant on the 61st floor (above). All prices, which are quoted per person, twin share, include economy-class flights and daily breakfast. For more details and online reservations, visit www.cxholidays.com and scroll through the Bangkok section until you find the Banyan Tree promo.

 

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