The town of Yangshuo – a former backpacker haven on the Li River, about 60km southeast of Guilin, amid Guangxi’s trademark limestone karst hills – gains a second high-end international resort next month with the opening of Alila Yangshuo.

Described as “a modern retro resort” with 117 rooms, suites and villas, the interesting-looking property occupies an old sugar mill, with most of the original buildings apparently kept intact thanks to what appears to be an unusually tasteful renovation.

Like the Banyan Tree resort, which opened in 2014, it’s a little out of town, but that’s probably a good thing these days. (Lonely Planet’s current online description of a “collage of Chinese tour groups, bewildered Westerners, pole-dancing bars [...] thumping music and bristling with selfie-sticks” isn’t how I remember once-sleepy Yangshuo, but then my last visit was about 25 years ago.)

Top things to do in Yangshuo: hills, thrills and chilling

Alila is, not surprisingly, running with the sugar theme, with a restaurant called Sugar House, similarly named accommodation and a bar that serves rum from its own distillery. Room rates should start from 1,380 yuan (HK$1,570) per night.

It was once possible to reach Yangshuo from Hong Kong by ferry and bus, via Wuzhou, but the service was suspended some years ago. Today, it’s probably easiest, and safest, to fly to Guilin and take the bus. Cathay Dragon flies there and back daily.


Photographic memories

Two new and similarly sized hardcover coffee-table books are offering a colourful look at many of the extinct pleasures of long-distance travel and tourism.

The handsomely bound Nostalgic Journeys – Destinations and Adventures from the Golden Age of Travel promises “a unique cultural history of travel and tourism in the 19th and 20th centuries”.

The cover shot of Audrey Hepburn modelling for Fred Astaire at a Paris train station in Funny Face (1957) sets a glamorous tone, but the 160 or so photos within capture a good cross-section of life on the road, on the rails, in the air and at sea on a 256-page trip through time.

The 288-page Ocean Liners: Glamour, Speed and Style covers all aspects of 19th- and 20th-century cruising – technical, aesthetic and cultural – from grand booking offices to the ships’ often extraordinary interiors, to influential on-board fashions and social politics.

If you happen to be flying to Boston with Cathay Pacific between now and the first week in October, you may be interested to learn that a large exhibi­tion the book accom­panies (and from which it takes its name) is being held just out of town, at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem.

Both books can be bought at amazon.com.


Bali break

Up in the artistic heartland of Bali, Como Uma Ubud has just opened 10 Garden Pool Villas (above) that are being offered with a comparatively affordable two-night accommodation package.

The good, bad and ugly sides to Bali

Priced from US$980 plus 21 per cent tax and service charge (about HK$9,230 in total), the deal includes daily breakfast, daily lunch or dinner and a choice of two couple’s extras from a list that includes a “romantic” dinner, 75-minute massage, a private one-hour yoga lesson, a private cooking class and a three-hour chauffeured tour of Ubud.

For full details and reservations, visit comohotels.com/umaubud.


Deal of the week

Swire Travel’s two-night Ho Chi Minh City package starts from HK$1,890 at the centrally located Sanouva Saigon Hotel. The nearby New World Saigon is offered from HK$2,430 if the Sanouva is full.

Underground in Ho Chi Minh City: insider’s guide to the places to eat, drink, party and shop

For a splurge, the Park Hyatt is listed from HK$4,460 while The Reverie – currently topping the city’s hotel ratings on TripAdvisor, in all its over-the-top, faux Venetian-style splendour (above) – is offered from HK$3,920.

How to Spend a Weekend in Ho Chi Minh City

Flights with Cathay Pacific are included, and the package will be available until the end of the year, with occasional moderate surcharges.

For a longer list of hotels, and reservations, go to swiretravel.com.