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Travellers' checks

Adam Nebbs

 

Journey's end After several decades of rumours, protests and feverish local debate in the pubs of its tiny capital, Jamestown, the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic finally has a realistic completion date for its first airport. One of the world's most remote communities, the island, which has a population of just over 4,000 - many of whom have never seen an aircraft - will be connected to the world by air in 2016. Opinion on Saint Helena (which is about the size of Hong Kong Island) is generally divided between indigenous "Saints", as they are known, and more recent settlers, with the latter being the more supportive of the project. The island's government plans to appeal to wealthy tourists, with limited numbers and expensive hotels, which are already being prepared. Until now, the British Overseas Territory's only tourists have arrived and departed by sea, most of them aboard the RMS St Helena - a purpose-built Royal Mail Ship and the last of her kind still working. Sailing between South Africa's Cape Town and the island involves five long days of traditional shipboard pursuits such as deck quoits, deck tennis and clay-pigeon shooting, in a nostalgic, sea-sprayed environment enhanced by the aroma of mid-morning beef tea and building anticipation at the appearance of a dot on the horizon, which most of the crew call home. All of this will end when the airport opens and the RMS is retired, and so time is running out for those who would make this old world journey. In November, she will put in for a day or so at the even more remote Tristan da Cunha, on her way to Saint Helena. Voyages like these will be impossible after 2016, but before that they can be booked through www.rms-st-helena.com.

 

Shenyang shenanigans The hotel situation in the former Manchu capital Shenyang - once known as Mukden - in Liaoning province, is enjoying a welcome boost with the official opening last month (although it has been receiving guests since June) of a Grand Hyatt and the unveiling this week of a new Shangri-La hotel. The Grand Hyatt Shenyang, which has already received positive online reviews, has 353 rooms and suites, starting from a fairly spacious 42 square metres, in a newly built tower, along with the usual selection of restaurants catering to Chinese and international tastes. On Thursday, the larger Shangri-La Hotel, Shenyang (right) will officially open, with 454 rooms and suites (also starting from 42 square metres), Chinese and Japanese restaurants, and an international buffet venue. No opening offers are apparent on the Grand Hyatt website but the Shangri-La is offering opening rates from 1,128 yuan (HK$1,420) per night for a deluxe room, with a 300 yuan dining credit per room night and a 3pm check-out.

 

Island line Cathay Pacific will begin regular scheduled non-stop flights between Hong Kong and the Maldives at the end of October, and as few tourists arrive in the country without pre-booked accommodation, the Cathay Pacific Holidays website already has some package deals for sale. They start from HK$11,140 for three nights at the Centara Ras Fushi Resort & Spa. More expensive but perhaps better value is a Bonus Night package that includes a free fourth night in an Overwater Bungalow at the Anantara Veli Resort & Spa, from HK$14,990. These prices are offered per person, twin share, and do not include the almost HK$2,000 in tax and fuel surcharges that will be added during the booking process. Speedboat transfers from the airport to the resorts are included. Go to www.cxholidays.com for more details and online reservations.

 

Brand new Hyatt Hyatt Hotels Corp has just reopened Siem Reap's old Hotel de la Paix as the 108-room Park Hyatt Siem Reap, a few months later than anticipated. The older hotel only closed down in June last year and while some might lament the passing of a familiar name, it actually only opened in 2005 on the site of the original 1950s-built Hotel de la Paix. Although the Park Hyatt name in Cambodia will undoubtedly encourage a new wave of affluent travellers to nearby Angkor Wat, many will probably still lean towards the selection of comfortable boutique hotels in town, which they might feel can offer a more authentic experience than would be provided by an American brand. Dragonair is due to commence scheduled flights between Hong Kong and Siem Reap in October.

 

Deal of the week Bonus nights are offered with Charlotte Travel's package to the upmarket Six Senses Con Dao, located on a small island off the southern coast of Vietnam. Prices start from HK$7,238 for an Ocean View Deluxe Villa for two nights, plus a third free night, and will be available until the end of October. Included in the package are round-trip flights between Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City with Vietnam Airlines, and onward round-trip connecting flights to the resort. For further details and reservations, visit www.charlottetravel.com.hk.

 

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