Pearls of wisdom Having been heavily promoted as The Hawaii of China (or Asia, or the East, etc) by most of its hotels and resorts over the past decade or so, Hainan island has been upgraded in the optimistic-comparisons department by the soon-to-open Raffles Hainan (pictured). Although its website does still refer to Hainan as the "Hawaii of the East", press releases from the hotel have for some time now been heralding the island as "China's answer to the French Riviera". Seasoned visitors may struggle to find similarities between Sanya and St Tropez, and Hainan's historical nickname, the Shore of Pearls, would serve the island's image far better than a glib nod to the Cote d'Azur. Either way, at least it's no longer known as "a dank, poisonous land unfit for normal men", as one early visitor put it. That description and much more can be found in Shore of Pearls: Hainan Island in Early Times, by Edward H. Schafer, which is available from online booksellers and will appeal to visitors with an interest in Hainan beyond its golf and spa facilities. Raffles Hainan opens next month (sans French restaurant, oddly enough) with a free-third-night offer that includes a room upgrade, airport transfers, daily breakfast and a late checkout. For more details, visit www.raffles.com.
Pedestrian prose The simplest, cheapest and (many would contend) most inspiring mode of travel - walking - has stirred many a writer to pull out the notebook and wax lyrical. A comprehensive selection of such material goes on sale from next month as The Walker's Anthology, whose publisher boldly suggests that "almost every author who has ever written has had something to say on the subject". And so we walk with horticulturalist Robert Fortune in China, with Peter Fleming in Brazil and through a Borneo forest with Alfred Russel Wallace, and stroll around Athens with Mark Twain, Cairo with Rudyard Kipling, Spanish fields with George Orwell and Rotterdam with Patrick Leigh Fermor. Living authors - Bill Bryson and Colin Thubron among them - are also featured, as is Chinese writer Chiang Yee, aka the Silent Traveller, who lived in and thoroughly explored Britain on foot from 1933 to 1955. Five excerpts of his work are included here. The Walker's Anthology, edited by Deborah Manley, can be previewed at trailblazer-guides.com and purchased online at Amazon.co.uk.
Bed and board The Sheraton Kuta Bali (pictured), which opened late last year, is selling a Stay, Surf, Spa Package, which, with a three-night minimum stay, includes deluxe room accommodation with breakfast, a three-day RipCurl private surfing course and three spa treatments, for US$250 per night. This price is per person and goes up by US$100 per night for a second guest. This means that, along with Bali's 21 per cent tax and service charge, a couple will end up paying just under HK$10,000 for the three nights, which is reasonable considering what is included. An extra day for a trip up to Ubud would also be a good idea, if you can fit that in between the spa and surfing. Flights aren't included. For details, go to www.sheratonbalikuta.com and click on Offers.
Deal of the week Westminster Travel will get you all the way down to Ayers Rock (via Sydney, with Qantas) and give you a car for two days from HK$5,400 per person (twin share) plus tax and fuel surcharges. The vehicle offered at this price is only a Toyota Corolla ("or similar") but for HK$5,790 you can upgrade to a Toyota AWD, which would be much more useful, and fun, in the Outback. If you don't fancy camping or sleeping in the car, accommodation is available, from HK$2,200 per night, at the Outback Pioneer Hotel (pictured) and other hotels. For details and reservations, visit www.westminstertravel.com and click through Packages/Australia.