Late autumn Unlike the rest of Asia, in Japan it's unusual for major hotels to open behind schedule. One exception has been the Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto, which was supposed to start taking guests back in February 2014, but has only just started taking reservations for mid-October. That's just in time for the autumn-leaf viewing, or momiji-gari, season, which is every bit as spectacular as the more famous springtime cherry blossom, or sakura, season. The hotel is close to several popular viewing spots, including the Kiyomizu-dera temple complex, and should be ready by the time the leaves start turning. For a virtual visit, go to www.fourseasons.com/kyoto.
Cheap and cheerful Tripping the Flight Fantastic is an engaging new book by British author Andrew Fraser, who spent a lonely month flying between 10 European cities for just £144 (HK$1,625). Part witty travelogue, part guide for anyone who might want to attempt something similar, the book divulges delicious secrets from the outset. Working with the fact that airfare metasearch engines provide the best value on one-way rather than round-trip fares, Fraser delights in convoluted examples of how the shrewd use of websites such as Skyscanner can conjure astonishing bargains. Chapters alternate between lessons in how to travel at ludicrously low prices and his adventures in each destination (with hearty helpings of history, politics and profanity). There's a lot of information here - almost too much - for anyone looking for cheap flights and ways to avoid paying "extras", as well as similar tricks for getting cheap accommodation in good hotels. What's missing is any narrative about what it was like to be on all those flights. There's nothing about annoying fellow passengers or impatient cabin crew. Perhaps nothing happened worth writing about, but if an abscessed wisdom tooth works as a literary device on the ground, it should also work in a pressurised cabin. Fraser's methods can be used by Hong Kong travellers booking European routes (I found a flight from London Stansted to Dusseldorf for HK$70 in about 10 seconds), but the deals are less compelling for this part of the world. A map of his journey and a list of flight prices and airlines used were, sadly, missing from my review copy. Perhaps they appear in the actual book, which is available at Amazon.co.uk or www.bradtguides.com.
Holiday memories International hotel chains are creeping slowly into Yantai, a city popular with foreign holidaymakers when it was known as Chefoo, or "the Brighton of China". In the 1930s, steamship passengers arriving from Hong Kong in search of cooler temperatures and beach huts could choose from a number of good hotels, such as the Broadway or Astor House, the Imperial and the Seaview. Some of the old hotel buildings and several former consulates (Russian, Finnish, Norwegian) still stand around Yantai Hill Park, but the new hotels are opening on the beach around the headland, where the Hilton Yantai Golden Coast has just joined the Sheraton, which opened a couple of years ago. Compared with the rapid developments in other mainland cities, this is a low-key American incursion into this part of Shandong province (and probably more welcome than when the United States Navy used the port as a summer base for its Asiatic fleet in the early 20th century), but perhaps this is an early sign of international tourists returning to this historically interesting city. Shenzhen Airlines flies between Hong Kong and Yantai three times a week.
Deal of the week TLX Travel is running a two-night Kuala Lumpur Business-Class Promotion, with accommodation at a choice of 10 hotels, for HK$5,100 to HK$5,600. Higher-end hotels such as the Grand Hyatt and Ritz-Carlton seem to be better value than Le Meridien and DoubleTree by Hilton, but take a look at the Traders Hotel, which is about HK$200 cheaper than its smarter sister property, the Shangri-La Hotel, but offers spectacular views of the Petronas Towers (below) and gets similar ratings on TripAdvisor. Prices include business-class flights with Cathay Pacific and are valid for departure until July 7, after which a HK$2,840 high-season flight surcharge will come into effect. For details, visit www.tlxtravel.com.