A new handle on luggage The carousel of crowd-funded luggage seems to be turning faster than ever these days, with new designs rolling around at the rate of about one a month. One of the latest suitcase start-ups successfully raising cash is Floatti floatti.com which promises "a smarter suitcase for happier travellers". Offering most of the hi-tech gadgetry that is already in production - including laptop and phone charging, tracking via smartphone app and a built-in digital scale - Floatti luggage (which comes in two sizes) also has some useful lo-tech features. These include wheel suspension for a quieter and easier "pull" over uneven ground, a secure handbag and carry-on-bag docking system and individual velcro-anchored pouches that won't move around on their own inside the main compartment.
Most innovative in the hi-tech department is the "smart handle", which lets you make calls, play music and perform other customised phone functions while your phone is in your pocket or packed away. Floatti bags are still at the crowd-funding stage at kickstarter.com where various enticements are on offer to anyone willing to get financially involved in advance of the expected December delivery date.
Prehistoric package The Mandarin Oriental in Macau has just announced a Dinosaur Explorer package for families, which includes tickets to the recently opened "Living Dinosaurs" exhibition at the Macao Science Centre www.msc.org.mo and a 3D show at the world's highest-resolution planetarium. Priced from HK$1,999 for two adults and one child, the deal includes one night's accommodation with a separate bed (for the child), breakfast and dinosaur-themed turndown amenities. Subsequent nights without the prehistoric extras start from HK$1,399. The package, and the exhibition, will run until September 11, but note that the Macao Science Centre is closed on Thursdays. For further details and reservations, visit www.mandarinoriental.com/macau and click on the Offers link.
Gathering speed India has just entered what the country's Ministry of Railways is hailing as "a new era of high speed rail travel", with the new electrically powered Gatiman Express running between Delhi and Agra. Rolled out this month, the train, while the fastest in India, is in fact being described as only "semi-high speed" and travels between the two cities at a maximum of 160km/h. That's the speed officially first achieved in 1934, between British cities Leeds and London, by the recently restored Flying Scotsman steam locomotive. Still, it's a significant step forward for rail travel in India, and cuts the journey time between the two cities from up to three hours to about one hour and 40 minutes. The 10-carriage train will operate daily except Fridays. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation has introduced guided tour packages of Agra and the Taj Mahal to coincide with the new timetable. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/RailMinIndia
There is no current guidebook devoted to train travel in India, but Bradt's excellent India by Rail, by Royston Ellis, which went out of print in the late 1990s, was an essential reference in its day. The book still contains a wealth of useful and interesting reading, and plenty of second-hand copies can be found for pennies at amazon.co.uk More recent is Trailblazer's Indian Rail Handbook, which was co-written by Ellis, but copies of that are harder to track down. The best current information can be found online, at www.seat61.com/india
Deal of the week Raffles Hotels & Resorts is offering some good deals on accommodation until the end of next month at 10 of its properties around the world. The "Stay Longer" package offers savings of up to 35 per cent on room rates for stays of five nights or more, and up to 30 per cent for three and four nights. The biggest discounts are available at two Cambodia hotels - Raffles Grand Hotel D'Angkor and Raffles Hotel Le Royal, in Phnom Penh. Next best are Raffles Singapore, Raffles Makati, in Manila, and Le Royal Monceau - Raffles Paris, which are offering up to 30 per cent discounts. For a full list of hotels and their discounts, visit www.raffles.com