Hong Kong low-cost airline HK Express will be launching a twice-weekly service to the Japanese island of Ishigaki in June. Home to the southernmost international airport in Japan, Ishigaki lies about 170km south of the hotly disputed Senkaku Islands, known in Chinese as the Diaoyus. The 220 sq km island is well known, at least in Japan, for its pristine coral reefs and white-sand beaches, and is a popular scuba-diving destination. It's also home to one of only two Club Med resorts in Japan (the other is in the far north of the country, on the island of Hokkaido). Flights are due to commence on June 16, and will depart Hong Kong every Thursday and Sunday morning, returning around midday. The flight time is agreeably short, at around two hours. Tickets can be purchased online at www.hkexpress.com.
Back in business The Amari Palm Reef Samui was one of Koh Samui's first upmarket resorts when it opened on the Thai island back in the early 1990s. In those days most of the nearby competition on sleepy Chaweng Beach comprised 40-baht-a-night bungalows and ramshackle restaurants catering to backpackers with banana pancakes and magic-mushroom omelettes. The property closed in April last year for an extensive makeover, but has just reopened as the Amari Koh Samui, with a new restaurant and lounge (above) joining its refurbished Italian restaurant, Prego, which was widely considered the best of its kind on the island before last year's closure. The resort is currently selling a "Stay 3, Pay 2" promotion on its website www.amari.com/koh-samui with nightly rates starting from about HK$1,750 until the end of July.
Tea time "High tea first became popular during Britain's industrial revolution in the 19th century, when workers had to wait until the end of the day to enjoy their 'tea time'," according to London's Milestone Hotel. "After a hard day's work, the usual tea, sandwiches and scones weren't substantial enough." To demonstrate this often-unrecognised difference between high tea and afternoon tea, the upmarket Kensington hotel will this week begin offering a daily high tea, rather too early, at 3pm. Items to be served are not overly evocative of the industrial revolution - one struggles to imagine the Tolpuddle Martyrs sitting down to maple-syrup-cured bacon scones with truffle butter, or chicken noodle soup - but for tourists in search of an alternative to the usual afternoon tea, it might be worth dropping in. The Milestone Hotel (voted the best hotel in Britain in TripAdvisor's Travellers' Choice Awards in 2014) is next to stop number 38 on the Big Bus company's open-top double-decker Blue Tour www.bigbustours.com/london. For the classic English afternoon tea experience, head for other hotels, such as the Ritz, Savoy, Dorchester or Claridge's.
Putting off the Ritz At the time of its closure for major renovations in the summer of 2012, the Paris Ritz was expected to reopen in 2014. The date was put back to 2015, and then again to March this year, but a fire that swept through the hotel's top floor in January delayed the opening once again. Reservations are now being accepted from June 1 at www.ritzparis.com. This is the first time that the hotel has been fully renovated since Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed bought the rundown building from the Ritz family in 1979 and ordered an extensive facelift, which took until the late 1980s to complete.
Deal of the week Swire Travel is selling a two-night package to Cebu, in the Philippines, with just one resort on offer - Shangri-La's Mactan Resort and Spa. Several types of accommodation are available, starting from HK$3,630 per person (twin share) for a deluxe room in the Main Wing, and going up to HK$4,590 for an Ocean Club room in the Ocean Wing. Substantial airfare surcharges of more than HK$2,000 will be in place from July 8 to August 24, so you'll need to depart before then, or from August 25 to October 31, to get the best deals. These prices include flights with Cathay Pacific, daily breakfast and round-trip airport transfers in Cebu. For further details and reservations, visit www.swiretravel.com.