A welcome from Mao A new Ritz-Carlton hotel has just opened in Chengdu, Sichuan province. The hotel (boasting "a superlative cosmopolitan experience") is situated on the edge of Tianfu Square, and guests with views thereover will see a giant statue of Mao Zedong (pictured above) waving to them from across the way. Top of the hotel website's list of things to do in the city is a visit to the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum, which is just behind the Mao statue. This may be an interesting place in which to spend an hour or two, but the Imperial Palace complex, which was located here and was destroyed in 1967, during the Cultural Revolution, might have held more interest for the visitor. Built in the third century AD, it is said to have resembled the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Also destroyed around the same time was the city wall, described in a 1930s guidebook as "nine miles in length and over 40 feet broad, which, being splendidly paved, forms a favourite promenade for the citizens". Today's visitors are instead recommended a dancing-fountain display in the middle of the square. Other city attractions, and opening rates for the hotel can be found at www.ritzcarlton.com. Cathay Pacific Holidays has added the Ritz-Carlton to its portfolio of hotels offered with its Chengdu packages, starting from December 1.
Adventurous advice Travellers with a nose for roads less travelled will find plenty of inspiration and guidance in The Adventurer's Handbook: From Surviving an Anaconda Attack to Finding Your Way out of a Desert, which will be available from early next month. If the first part of the title sounds familiar, that's because the book, by Mick Conefrey, was first published in 2006 as The Adventurer's Handbook: Life Lessons from History's Great Explorers - a much better subheading and currently available second-hand from Amazon.co.uk for only one penny. All the usual suspects are featured, including Shackleton, Hillary, Burton et al, and there's even a brief mention of Francis Galton, whose book The Art of Travel was a seminal work in the library of guidance for explorers and rough travellers. First published in 1855, it still gets the occasional reprint, and can be found on iBooks and for Kindle free of charge. Topics covered by Galton (but understandably absent from Conefrey) include "Savages, Management of" and "Revolting Food, that may save the Lives of Starving Men". The fully illustrated version of The Art of Travel, with diagrams and tips on brewing the perfect cup of tea in the wild, can be downloaded in PDF form, also for free, at galton.org/books/art-of-travel.
Heads up Night skies of a clarity not seen in Hong Kong for some decades are one of the attractions of New Zealand's Queenstown (pictured above) and a nostalgic stargazing session is included with a package on offer by Westminster Travel. At first glance, the price is quite high, starting from HK$11,060 with a couple of thousand more in tax fuel surcharges, but this includes round-trip flights to Auckland with Air New Zealand, domestic flights between Auckland and Queenstown, and two nights' accommodation at the pleasant, if rather cumbersomely named, Hotel St Moritz Queenstown - MGallery Collection. The stargazing tour involves a cable car ride and lasts about two hours in total. Glacier tours can also be booked in advance, and extra hotel nights are available. The package will be available until the end of next month and the price is per person, for two travelling together. See www.westminstertravel.com for details and reservations.
Deal of the week There was a time, long ago, when the name Grand Hotel Continental would have evoked, and probably delivered, all manner of luxurious services and comforts. But in these days of fearfully optimistic and misleading hotel nomenclature, you're as likely to find yourself staying in a rundown, low-rise concrete block on a side street, as would seem to be the case with the Grand Hotel Continental Langkawi. At HK$3,120 this is the cheapest option with TLX Travel's two-night Langkawi package, which also offers some of the Malaysian island's better properties, such as the Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa and the Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort, from HK$3,970 and HK$4,220, respectively. Top of the price range is The Datai (pictured top), where two nights cost from HK$8,550, but if you book a third night at HK$3,815, you'll get a fourth night free. A good deal for those who can afford it. These prices are per person, twin share, and include flights via Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia Airlines, round-trip airport transfers and daily breakfast. For full package details, more hotels and reservations, visit www.tlxtravel.com.