Remotest idea The South Atlantic island of Tristan da Cunha is an uncanny place. Its inhabitants, numbering about 300, share seven surnames and in 1946 were still using the potato as currency. Covering 78 square km, it is the most isolated inhabited island on Earth and has been a British territory since 1816 (an American sailor claimed it in 1811, but drowned while fishing the following year). The nearest mainland is South Africa, almost 3,000km away, and there is only one scheduled passenger-ship service a year. So Tristan da Cunha is not known as a thriving tourism destination. And this is what makes it so attractive to jaded travellers eager to get that oh-so-rare stamp in their passports and experience what must be the least-affected Caucasian community in the world: the island represents the last word in 'when-I-was-in ...' one-upmanship. The vessel that sails there once a year is the RMS St Helena, which supplies its namesake island 2,000km to the north. The next run to Tristan da Cunha leaves Cape Town on January 30, 2006. The RMS (the world's last operational deep-sea Royal Mail Ship, whose attractions I can heartily recommend) will arrive at the island on February 5. It will spend seven days anchored off the coast or sailing around the neighbouring uninhabited islands, before sailing back to Cape Town for a February 17 arrival. The ship can take only 130 passengers, so bookings should be made well in advance. Prices have not yet been published, but you can find out more about the voyage at www.rms-st-helena.com . For information on Tristan da Cunha visit the website of the Tristan Times, the island's online newspaper, at www.tristantimes.com . Borderline crazy Anglican monk Brother Michael Bartlett has set the bar higher for package tourists wishing to see as much of Europe as possible in the shortest period. The undisputed headmaster of the 'If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium' school of tourism last month visited 25 European countries in 12 days, using a Eurolines bus pass. Bartlett, 64, is the proud holder of 20 travel-related records, including the most flights in a 24-hour period - an astonishing 42. 'My fellow travellers through the entire trip were great, though they did think I was mad even to attempt the record,' he said after finishing his trip in Dublin. Clean sweep According to reports in the Chinese media, 13 state-run hotels in Beijing are about to do their bit for the environment by doing away with all bathroom amenities. Soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste and even combs are all on the list of items no longer to be provided, even by the five-star Xiyuan Hotel on Sanlihe Road. Grandly dubbed the Green Pronouncement, the move is purely for environmental purposes, says the Beijing Tourism Group, and not a way to increase revenue, although the savings incurred will not be passed on in the form of cheaper rooms (official guidelines have just been issued for Beijing hotel rates and budget for an increase of 6 per cent every year until the 2008 Olympic Games). Look out for street vendors close to the hotels, whom I suspect will be selling bathroom-amenity kits in the near future. Deal of the week Westminster Travel is selling a two-night package to Bangkok, with a choice of several hotels and business-class flights with Dragonair, from $3,488 a person. The hotels offered are the Grand Hyatt Erawan ( www.hyatt.com ; left), Westin Grande Sukhumvit ( www.westin.com ), Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit ( www.sheraton.com ), Plaza Athenee ( www.hotel-plaza-athenee.com ), Shangri-La ( www.shangri-la.com ) and Banyan Tree ( www.banyantree . com). Slightly more expensive are the Sukhothai ( www.sukhothai.com ) at $3,550 and The Oriental ( www.mandarinoriental.com ) at $3,750. This package is available until September 30, with a $200 surcharge from July 8 to August 27. For details and reservations contact Westminster Travel on 2313 9800, or e-mail email@example.com . Into Africa In a sure sign that Nigeria Airways - which was liquidated last year amid cries of inefficiency and corruption - will not be making a comeback any time soon, Virgin Nigeria has commenced oper-ations with a weekly London to Lagos (right) service. While this is generally seen as positive, there have been drawbacks. Citing what it calls Britain's anti-competitive aviation policy, the United States will not allow the new carrier to fly to New York because it is 49 per cent-owned by British company Virgin. In turn, Nigeria has cancelled Continental Airlines' new service between New York and Lagos (meaning no US carrier flies to Africa). As far as the new airline's relevance to Hong Kong is concerned, Virgin Atlantic may soon be code-sharing with its Nigerian counterpart, which plans to start flying on another eight international routes in the coming months. Coinci-dentally, guidebook publisher Bradt ( www.bradt-guides.com ) has published what it claims is the first complete guide to Nigeria, although after glancing through the author's introduction it doesn't seem likely many readers will be rushing to book holidays. 'Not everything is a pleasant sight for travellers; the poverty is raw, there is an acute rubbish problem, the environment has been stripped bare and the wildlife has just about been poached out of Nigeria's forests,' it reveals. 'The infrastructure is so poor that everything is broken, dilapidated, decaying or has stopped working. But perhaps it is this chaos that makes Nigeria an appealing travel destination. It really does have to be seen to be believed.'