Hotel babble-on Hotels have long been useful and popular literary locations, especially since Austrian writer Vicki Baum's 1929 novel Menschen im Hotel was made into the Oscar-winning Grand Hotel in 1932. Baum, who worked as a chambermaid to research her material, again brought several people from around the world under one intriguing roof, in 1939, for Hotel Shanghai (aka Shanghai '37). A better-known descendant of Baum's work is Arthur Hailey's 1965 multiplotline novel, Hotel, which was made into a popular television mini-series of the same name in 1983. The hotel industry has provided plenty of real-life drama, too, notably courtesy of the Hilton family, who are the subject of a new book titled The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty, which is due for release on April 1. Founder of the hotel empire Conrad Hilton (that's Paris' great-grandfather, kids) was extraordinarily successful in business, but some of his descendants, such as son Conrad Jnr (aka Nicky), were more famous for their personal lives. Nicky, for example, was actress Elizabeth Taylor's first husband (of seven), but is also said to have had an affair with his stepmother, the Hungarian serial divorcee Zsa Zsa Gabor, when he was a teenager. The author of The Hiltons, J. Randy Taraborrelli, has also written biographies of Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra and Madonna, so fans of soapish sensationalism looking for a gossipy holiday read should be well satisfied. A more sober account of the Hilton success story is Conrad Hilton's 1957 autobiography, Be My Guest, which is available on Amazon from one US cent, for old copies of the edition given away free in Hilton hotels, to US$100, for a signed hardcover copy.
Hot property Beijing's first big hotel launch of the year is scheduled for this Saturday, when the Waldorf Astoria (right) should open for business. Located on Jinyu Hutong, not far from The Peninsula, the new hotel is notable for having released what appear to be pre-opening photographs, rather than the pollution-free artist impressions that usually herald new hotels in China. At first glance the building looks quite unremarkable but, it is said, the hue of the copper exterior will change throughout the day according to the ambient light. Inside it's all "contemporary elegance", Samsung tablets and Salvatore Ferragamo amenities, and the usual high-end international mix of hotel restaurants and bars. Perhaps of more interest are the hotel's speciality suites housed in a traditional hutong-style compound, but these will not be open until the summer. The swiftest way to the hotel's website is via Google.
Deal of the week Swire Travel is selling a two-night Singapore package that includes the option to stay in any of the three wings of the Shangri-La Hotel (right), starting from HK$2,590 for a deluxe room in the Tower Wing. There's a more resort-like feel to the Garden Wing, where city view and pool view rooms are offered from HK$3,150 and HK$3,290, respectively, or you can stay in the premium Valley Wing (check www.shangri-la.com/singapore for the various extras included there) from HK$4,190. Prices include flights with Cathay Pacific and daily breakfast. For more details and reservations, visit www.swiretravel.com or call 3151 8888.
Spring sighting Arriving in Japan at just the right time to see the best of the sakura, or spring cherry blossoms, can be a tricky business, so the bonus night offered with a couple of Cathay Pacific Holidays packages to Tokyo and Osaka could come in useful. One forecast for this year currently estimates the ideal dates to be from April 5 to 14 in Tokyo (top) and from April 2 to 10 in Osaka, as well as nearby Nara and Kyoto, which are two of the most picturesque hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) locations. The Tokyo Bonus Night Promotion offers a third free night at the Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo (formerly the Four Seasons), which has a pleasant and peaceful Japanese garden setting, from HK$4,790 per person. The Osaka Bonus Night Promotion is priced from HK$5,090 (also with a third free night) with accommodation at Swissotel Nankai, which is one of the city's top properties. Hanami forecasts inevitably change and it's not an exact science but you can keep up to date at www.japan-guide.com/e/e2011.html and www.jnto.go.jp/sakura.