Way out west Locally based adventure-travel specialist Whistling Arrow is offering intrepid Hongkongers the chance to explore western Mongolia with the Altai Adventure excursion. The two-week trip begins with a flight to the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, which is followed on day three with a three-hour domestic flight and a five-hour drive to the lakeside camp of Shohan, a friendly Kazakh eagle hunter. Then come nine days of trekking and camping around two hidden valleys, apparently known only to local Tuvan and Kazakh hunters. The first trip is scheduled for August 16 to 30, with space available for eight people, and costs US$3,950 per person, including domestic flights, all transfers, guides, accommodation, food and equipment (but not international flights). For full details and reservations, visit www.whistlingarrow.com.
Deal of the week There's an extensive list of hotels to choose from with Tiglion Travel's two-night Singapore Package, which will be available until the end of this year. The cheapest is the conveniently located (at least for public transport) V Hotel Lavender, which is offered from HK$3,190 per person, twin share. More interesting options include the Hilton Singapore, on Orchard Road. This was the first internationally branded hotel to open in the city, in 1970, and it has more of a Singaporean atmosphere than most of its more modern counterparts. Prices start from HK$4,190. Also available are the Grand Hyatt (also from HK$4,190), the Fullerton (from HK$4,490) and the Mandarin Oriental (from HK$4,890). Note that these prices are for Friday or Saturday check-in, and a HK$740 airfare surcharge will be in place from this Thursday to August 23. Flights are with Cathay Pacific. For further details and reservations, go to www.tiglion.com and click on Package Finder.
Grand opening The Grand Mansion, Nanjing is expected to be ready for business next month, having originally been slated to open in March, along with another of Starwood's upmarket Luxury Collection hotels, the Suiran, in Kyoto, Japan. Designed by I.M. Pei and Hirsch Bedner Associates, The Grand Mansion doesn't look particularly mansion-like from the outside - at least from the artist's impression, which is the only official exterior image currently available. Within its modern rectilinear exterior, though, the hotel promises "discerning global travellers exclusive access to exceptional experiences and uncompromising luxury". Several opening offers are already in place on the hotel's website, which can be found by going to www.starwoodhotels.com/nanjing.
Ubiquitous Bristols Before the spread of international hotel chains began in the 1950s, the name "Bristol" appeared on probably more hotel façades around the world than any other. Even today, there are supposedly more than 200 Hotel Bristols (or similarly named properties). The first opened in Paris in 1816, in honour of the widely travelled and eccentric Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol. The name quickly caught on across the continent, mainly, it seems, to cash in on the earl's celebrity and reputation as a man of fine taste, at a time when affluent British travellers were still blazing the first trails of European tourism. Quite why it spread worldwide is less clear, but it seems likely that "Bristol" simply came to be synonymous with fine hotels. Apparently, it is an easy name to pronounce in most tongues. During the 20th century, Hotel Bristols appeared as far afield as Cairo, Buenos Aires, Havana, New York, St Petersburg and Melbourne. One man, Roger Williams, became so intrigued with the Bristol phenomenon that he wrote a book containing 20 true stories about various Hotel Bristols and their famous guests, linked by a fictional narrative and titled High Times at the Hotel Bristol. Reissued in a new edition in 2010, it's still available at Amazon.co.uk The original Hotel Bristol, mentioned above, closed in 1916, but an unrelated hotel with a similar name opened nearby, on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in 1925. By then there were already at least two other Hotel Bristols in Paris, so it was named Le Bristol. At the time of writing, Le Bristol Paris ranks second of almost 1,800 Parisian hotels on TripAdvisor, one place ahead of the Royal Monceau, which (claims Williams on thefirsthotelbristol.blogspot.hk) would also have been called the Hotel Bristol if its owner had got his way, back in 1925.