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Travellers' checks

Adam Nebbs

 

Well-heeled Bhutan A Luxury Himalayan Escape package to Bhutan has just been jointly launched by Como Hotels and Resorts and private-jet firm Chapman Freeborn. Lower down the list of the many things included is "a private conversation about Buddhism with local monks", which might prove cathartic for anyone who has just dropped HK$660,000) on this seven-night extravagance. This is the starting price for two people flying in a private jet from Hong Kong to Bhutan for a four-night stay at Uma by Como, Paro (pictured top) and three nights at the Uma by Como, Punakha, which opened last year. The two properties are a five-hour drive apart. This is a full-board package with lots of extras included, such as whitewater rafting, several days of guided hiking and day trips to cultural landmarks. Hotels sometimes offer outrageously priced packages when they want some free publicity but don't expect anyone to actually take up the offers. This one seems designed to generate actual custom, however, as Chapman Freeborn made news (albeit mainly travel-trade news) earlier this year when it was granted the right to fly into Bhutan in co-operation with national carrier Druk Air. Como and Chapman Freeborn are currently promoting the Luxury Himalayan Escape on their websites, www.comohotels.com and www.chapman-freeborn.com.

Halting recline You know the drill. You squeeze yourself into your economy-class seat, resign yourself to the fact that you've just packed your reading matter in the overhead locker by mistake (along with the pen you brought for filling out the landing card) and reach down to pull out the inflight magazine. At this precise moment the person in front of you reclines their seat and you're trapped, just as the captain's voice invites you to sit back, relax and enjoy your flight. No wonder, then, that a recent survey by Skyscanner found that nine out of 10 people want to see an end to reclining aircraft seats, or for their use to be restricted, while more than 60 per cent of international cabin crew polled say they have been involved in, or seen, arguments between passengers because of reclining seats. Back in 2003, a six-foot-four-inch American called Ira Goldman designed the Knee Defender (above right), a device that restricts how far the seat in front can recline, but it was subsequently banned by at least one major airline over safety concerns. It comprises two pieces of molded plastic that attach to your meal tray and is sold with a printable "courtesy card" that users can hand to the person in front of them explaining how and why their reclining privileges have been thus revoked. They must work, because they can still be found for sale at www.kneedefender.com.

Horsing around If your acknowledgement of the noble game of polo extends no further than the logo on your shirt, then Kempinski Emirates Palace (pictured top) has the package to broaden your interest. The second annual Polo at the Palace event will be held in Abu Dhabi on November 22 and 23, with teams representing the host city, London, Milan and Buenos Aires, reflecting the game's exclusive (some might say limited) appeal. The package includes two nights' accommodation at the uber-grandiose Kempinski Emirates Palace, breakfast for two and passes to watch the event, which takes place at a neighbouring, specially prepared polo ground. Prices for two people sharing a room start from US$2,058, not including flights. Cathay Pacific flies to Abu Dhabi and sells three-night packages from HK$6,220 per person, for which return flight dates can be extended should you wish to combine the two (or just attend the polo without being locked into the Kempinski package). For more details, visit kempinski.com.

French connections Business-class travel is rarely a viable option for many holidaymakers, but a promotion underway by Air France offers a flat rate starting at HK$23,550 for some destinations that are far enough away to perhaps make it worth a splurge. Cities offered at this price include Bordeaux, Lyon, Barcelona, Athens and Manchester. The most distant airport is Casablanca. All flights go via Paris, where you can stop over for an extra HK$750 in either direction. Ticket validity is from seven days to 12 months, so you'll have to stay away for at least a week, whichever city you choose. Sales for this promotion will only be available until Thursday at www.airfrance.com.hk.

Deal of the week Valid for outbound journeys from November 1 until next April, Farrington American Express Travel's latest two-night Danang package will have you soaking up the sun on Vietnam's central coast from HK$2,790 per person, twin share. The hotel at this price is the Grand Mercure Danang, which one might expect to be the disappointing bait on a list of otherwise more expensive hotels, but a glance at TripAdvisor sees it hovering promisingly around the top 10 of 95 listed properties. Furthermore, most of the contributing reviewers appear to be genuine. Despite the glowing reports, many will be tempted by the more upmarket and further out-of-town offerings available with this package, such as the newish Angsana Lang Co and Banyan Tree Lang Co (priced from HK$3,590 and HK$5,850, respectively), or the sprawling Nam Hai Hoi An (pictured top), which is further down the coast and, as its name suggests, slightly closer to the historic town of Hoi An. Prices here start from HK$6,590 for a one-bedroom villa or HK$9,650 for a one-bedroom pool villa. With the latter option come many extras, such as private airport transfers, buffet breakfast with free-flowing sparkling wine and a complimentary minibar, so if you like a drink and don't mind risking heatstroke, this could be good value. For more hotels, full package details and online reservations, visit www.amextravel.com.hk.

 

 

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