Presidential packages It's said that the evolution of the hotel presidential suite can be traced back to the 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. In office from 1913 to 1921, Wilson's accommodation requirements when travelling on official business were quite specific, but modest by current standards. They included an en-suite bathroom and a walk-in wardrobe, setting a standard that evolved into today's most expensive, and expansive, hotel accommodation. Somewhat ironically, a hotel named after him, the Hotel President Wilson, in Geneva (below), offers as its best accommodation not a presidential suite but a more European-flavoured Royal Penthouse Suite, which was quite recently promoted as the most expensive hotel suite in the world. Several Ritz-Carlton hotels in North America are currently offering presidential-suite packages to make the most of election year in the United States, and which will be available until the presidential election is held in November. Some of these packages are more presidentially appropriate than others, with the two Ritz-Carlton hotels in Washington DC offering the most relevant extras, such as private guided tours. Three hotels in Miami include things like a helicopter tour over Richard Nixon's Winter White House or "motorcade" airport transfers. North of the border, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal's package appears to offer very little in the way of presidential privilege, unless the Montreal Maple Sugar Massage Experience has some sort of classified connection. Perhaps sticking with the theme, Ritz-Carlton has already removed the website dedicated to the package, so further details are available only on request, by phone call to a specific hotel.
Top trip The travel firm that arranged the Myanmar road trip made by the BBC's Top Gear team a couple of years ago is now offering travellers the chance to follow in the tyre tracks of presenters Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. Starting in the middle of the country, at Inle Lake, intrepid passengers will be driven eastwards through Shan State (below) to Kengtung, not far from the border with Thailand, Laos and China. The last couple of days of the journey are spent in and around Kengtung, and the actual drive takes only up the first three days of this five-day journey. Conditions along the way are described as "very, very basic" with washing facilities being limited to communal village wells or rivers (toilets are presumably more en route than en suite), and a fairly basic hotel provided for only two nights, in Kengtung. Presumably it's the exclusivity factor and special permits that set the price for the trip at a BBC-expense-account-friendly US$1,595 per person for two travelling together. A more detailed itinerary can be found by clicking the Eastern Shan State Adventure link at www.khiri.com, where you can also make inquiries about getting to Inle Lake and out of Kengtung.
Bay watching Paradise Vietnam, which operates several cruise boats around the picturesque limestone scenery of Halong Bay, has just started selling a package that includes a seaplane flight from Hanoi and a full-board, two-day cruise aboard a Paradise Luxury boat (top and below). Prices start from US$473 per person (twin share) for a Deluxe Cabin, which can be upgraded to a Deluxe Balcony cabin for an extra US$36. A private car back to Hanoi is included. Click on the Offers link at www.paradisevietnam.com for full details and reservations. Hong Kong Airlines, Cathay Dragon and Vietnam Airlines all fly daily between Hong Kong and Hanoi.
Deal of the week There are some good accommodation choices with Farrington Vacations' two-night Singapore package, which starts from HK$1,590 per person, twin share. Unfortunately, the hotel offered at this price - the Fragrance Hotel (Joo Chiat) - is not one of them, but you can stay at the much better Oasia Hotel Novena from HK$2,190 or the Hotel Jen Orchardgateway (below) from HK$2,390. Higher-end hotels on offer include the Sofitel So Singapore (from HK$2,950) and the St Regis (from HK$3,650). These prices will be valid until the end of next month, with some small mid-week surcharges, and there is a HK$2,600 flight surcharge for flights departing March 23 to 27. For a full list of hotels and reservations, go to www.farringtonvacations.com.hk.