Sands of time Peitaiho (or Beidaihe, as it is known today), in Hebei province, became one of China's first beach resorts soon after it was supposedly discovered by British railway engineers in the mid-1890s. By the mid-1920s it had become a busy seasonal colony filled with foreigners taking a break from the summer heat of Beijing, Tianjin and the treaty ports. An English Beach and an American Beach fronted the Rocky Point district, wherein lay a small German-built branch-line railway station that, like most of Peitaiho, was only open from May to October. Beach huts were available by the day or by the month. Visitors could relax in a deckchair on the sands with a copy of The Peitaiho Post and a Cuban cigar purchased at La Librairie Francais; buy cameras and film at The Kodak Shop; play tennis or baseball; and enjoy "Electric Light and Sanitary installations" at the Strand Hotel. From the 50s, Peitaiho became the preferred resort for Communist Party officials and remains so today. It was effectively off-limits to foreigners until 1979 and has never regained its cosmopolitan atmosphere. Still, it is an interesting destination with several kilometres of clean beaches. Beidaihe is now a district of the city of Qinhuangdao, where a new Shangri-La hotel (above) opened at the beginning of this month. The hotel is located midway between Beidaihe and Shanhaiguan, where the Great Wall meets the ocean. Opening rates start from 558 yuan (HK$710) per night, including breakfast. Qinhuangdao is a couple of hours by train from either Beijing or Tianjin. Visit www.shangri-la.com for more information and online reservations.
Luxury picks Based in Singapore, with offices in Hong Kong and Malaysia, hotel-booking website The Luxe Nomad was launched in 2012, but rebooted earlier this month with new investors and 1,000 mostly upmarket hotels and resorts on offer in Asia and Europe. Of most interest to many will be the "Picks" section, which contains a handful of places offering fairly significant discounts for a limited period. At the time of writing, rooms at The Residence Maldives (above), for example, were advertised at a 45 per cent discount. You will, of course, have to register to take advantage of the special offers, but most of the content can be browsed freely. Destinations are presented in a rather confusing layout, with Hokkaido listed as a separate destination to Japan, Hua Hin separate to Thailand, Penang separate to Malaysia and so on, so check the Hotels menu carefully. A mobile app is due out by the end of July. More impressive, perhaps, than the website is its online magazine, Wanderluxe, which contains some interesting, well-designed articles. Have a browse at wanderluxe.theluxenomad.com.
From B to B Brussels to Beirut to Bali is the title of an obscure book that appears to be newly self-published by a mysterious writer. It has, unusually these days, no self-promoting blog or Facebook page, and is only available in the Kindle format on amazon.com (though it's apparently due for a print edition at some point). Its subheading, however -The 1958 World Travels of Four Girls in a Second-Hand Chevy - is most intriguing. The brief Amazon blurb explains that the author and three friends were guides at the American Pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair who set off for the Middle East in a Chevrolet and ended up travelling on "British mail lorries through the Khyber Pass, cargo planes across Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, third-class trains through India and student buses across Eastern Java". Brussels to Beirut to Bali, by Dana Matthaei Kent, should be available to preview in the Kindle format from today.
Deal of the week Dozens of hotels are offered with a two-night Bangkok package now available at www.aerohkg.com. They range in price from HK$1,740 for the i-Residence Hotel Sathorn to HK$3,340 for the Mandarin Oriental (below). Prices, quoted per person, twin share, will be available for stays up until the end of October, with some moderate flight surcharges from July 10 until August 24 and September 25 to October 3. Flights with Emirates are included. For further details and a long list of hotels, visit the website, click Air + Hotel Package, select Bangkok and choose the package with the EK airline code.