North exposure Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based, British-run company that has been taking tourists into North Korea for more than 20 years, has just launched a new 11-day rail tour of the country (above). The trip begins on October 1, with a briefing in Beijing, and gets properly under way on day two, with a flight to Pyongyang. A couple of days will be spent looking around the North Korean capital and visiting nearby Mount Myohyang, before the main rail journey northeast to the rarely visited industrial city of Chongjin sets off on day five. The tour ends back in Pyongyang, just in time for Party Foundation Day, which promises to provide one of those impressive spectacles of mass choreography for which North Korea is well known. Tourists then have the choice of returning to Beijing by plane or by train. The tour is priced from €2,890 (HK$24,300) per person, and tourist visas can be obtained through Koryo Tours. The company stresses, however, that journalists and photographers – even “part-time” or “semi-professional” – are not eligible for a tourist visa, and need not apply for the tour. Koryo Tours has posted a few clips featuring train travel in North Korea on YouTube. These can be easily found by searching the company’s name. For further details and reservations, go to www.koryogroup.com, click through Travel to the DPRK and Group Tours, and scroll down to “Eastern Adventure by Rail”.
Portuguese pleasures The first Six Senses resort outside Asia or the Middle East has just opened in a 19th-century manor house in a fairly remote corner of Portugal. Guests who have already experienced the comforts of Six Senses properties in Thailand, Vietnam, the Maldives, China, Jordan or Oman should be in for a similarly agreeable experience, judging from the Six Senses Douro Valley website. The resort (above) is spread across 20 acres, with 57 guest accommodations, including Superior, Deluxe, and River rooms, larger suites and one-, two- and three-bedroom villas. The lush Douro Valley is wine country and there are opportunities for wineand- dine river cruises, oenology courses and visits to historic wineries. The closest airport is in Porto, which is 90 minutes away by car. More affluent guests may make use of the nearby helipad. The best way to get to Porto from Hong Kong is with Lufthansa, which operates three flights a day from Frankfurt. For a closer look at the resort, visit www.sixsenses.com.
Pedal power Details of a new cycling trip though northern and central Vietnam were released earlier this month by international cycle tour company SpiceRoads. Starting in Hanoi and finishing up in the former imperial capital city of Hue, the route (right) follows the “smooth, undulating” and largely traffic-free Ho Chi Minh Highway (above) for about 920 kilometres. A “sportive” level of fitness is recommended, but as the first tour doesn’t kick off until January 10 (with further departures slated for March 6 and April 3), there’s plenty of time to get in shape for what looks like an impressive and worthwhile journey. A support bus will be on hand in case the going gets too tough. Prices start from US$2,200 with a US$250 single supplement. Bike rental, for cyclists not bringing their own, costs another US$200. The tour takes up 11 days, with eight and a half days spent in the saddle. A full itinerary can be found at www.spiceroads.com/ tours/road_ bike_hochiminh. If six months is too long to wait, SpiceRoads has dozens of other road and mountain bike tours departing across Asia in the near future.
Deal of the week If you can wait until August 24, Farrington American Express Travel is offering cheap rates for several hotels and resorts in Chiang Mai, Thailand, until the end of October. A two-night stay at Veranda Chiang Mai The High Resort starts from HK$2,790 per person, twin-share with round-trip airport transfers, a couple of other minor sweeteners and dinner for two if you book a third night from HK$450 per person. Other properties on offer include the Shangri-La, Chiang Mai (above; from HK$3,190 until the end of September only), the Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa (from HK$3,450), the Four Seasons Resort (from HK$4,790) and the Dhara Dhevi – formerly the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi – (from HK$6,250). This package, which includes round-trip, economy-class flights with Dragonair, is also available for departure any time before August 24, but with a high-season HK$1,200 per person flight surcharge. For further details, go to www.amextravel.com.hk, click through Package Information/Current Packages, and scroll down to Chiang Mai, or call 3121 3121.