Off the beaten track
Not the most popular of tourist destinations, Papua New Guinea barely registers on the radars of Hong Kong travel agents these days (Cathay Pacific made scheduled stops there for a few years in the late 1970s and early 80s on its Auckland route). A look at the Travel Advice section on the British Foreign and Commonwealth website explains at least part of the reason for the lack of package-tour interest. 'In the cities of Port Moresby, Lae and Mount Hagen, armed carjackings, assaults, robbery, shootings and serious sexual offences, including rape, are common', it notes, before reassuring readers, not altogether convincingly, that 'most visits are trouble free'.
So it will come as a surprise to many that upmarket travel company Abercrombie and Kent now has a couple of Papua New Guinea excursions on its books that take in both Port Moresby and Mount Hagen, and beyond. The Ancient Cultures of Papua New Guinea tour comprises two weeks of tribal interaction, river trips, trekking and bird watching all over the country and starts at US$7,990 (not including air fares) plus US$1,755 for the several internal flights involved. Slightly cheaper, at US$5,192, plus US$1,225 for internal flights, is the nine-day Nature Conservancy tour, with a similar itinerary but one more geared to eco-tourism, wildlife and nature trekking. Both tours will be run several times this year and while not cheap, they are at least with a highly reputable company and offer a safe and well-guided opportunity to discover one of the region's less-visited corners. The best guide to the country is Lonely Planet's Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands, last issued in May 2005. Lonely Planet's Bushwalking in Papua New Guinea went out of print in 1993 but is available second-hand at Amazon.com, and might also be worth buying for an idea of what to expect once off the beaten track. For more on these packages, visit www.abercrombiekent.com
. Air Niugini ( www.airniugini.com.pg
) flies from Hong Kong to Port Moresby via Manila every Wednesday evening.
While five-star hotels on this side of the world are second to none, drop down a couple of stars and you'll usually be looking at peeling Formica, sticky carpets and staff wearing purple and yellow uniforms. France (and its neighbours), on the other hand, is teeming with pleasant mid-range properties, often old and full of character. One such hotel is the three-star Hotel Albert Premier, in Nice, which opened in the 1930s close to the seafront Promenade des Anglais. This handsome 79-room property has private-balcony views across town and the Mediterranean Sea, and some eclectically furnished rooms. Farrington American Express Travel is offering three nights at the hotel with round-trip, economy-class flights to Heathrow on Cathay Pacific and connecting flights to Nice with British Airways for HK$5,890 a person, twin share (HK$6,890 for solo travellers). Breakfast is included, and while this probably won't be more than a croissant and a cup of coffee, this package offers a chance to sample authentic French accommodation at a reasonable price. You can find plenty of photographs at the hotel's website ( www.hotel-albert-1er.fr
). For further details on the deal, which is available until the end of March (but with no departures from February 15 to 21), call Farrington American Express Travel on 3121 3000 (Hong Kong) or 3121 3900 (Kowloon), or e-mail [email protected]
, quoting package ID: L2006FSP0295.
Two for the road
A combination package, including one night in Vietnam at the Victoria Chau Doc Hotel, near the Cambodian border, and one night at the Victoria Angkor Resort and Spa (above), is on offer from the proprietor of both properties for US$216 (including tax and service) for two people. Also included are buffet breakfasts for two and early check-in/late check-out, with room upgrades when available. Road transfers between the two properties are not included but can be arranged. For more information and reservations, visit www.victoriahotels-asia.com
, click on 'Hot Deals' and scroll to the bottom of the page.
Sights to sea
Advertising itself as 'the most exhilarating ride that you will ever have', the Jetcruiser is Sydney Harbour's latest waterborne tourist attraction, offering a guided tour of the harbour followed by a 1,300-horsepower 'adrenaline blast' out into the Pacific Ocean. The boat seats 64 passengers and the ride lasts about 45 minutes. There are eight trips a day and you can book online at www.jetcruiser.com
. The fare is A$44 (HK$265) for adults and A$33 for children, but if you're going for the full tourist experience, you might want to buy a See Sydney and Beyond Smart Visit Card ( www.seesydneycard.com
), which includes a free Jetcruiser ride among the 40 attractions it covers.
Deal of the week
Swire Travel is selling a two-night package to Penang (below left) starting at HK$1,830 a person, twin-share, with accommodation at the Crown Jewel Hotel ( www.crownprincehotel.net
), on the north coast between Batu Ferringhi and the capital, George Town. The best bet for staying in the city is the Traders Hotel (left; www.shangri-la.com
), which is priced at HK$2,130. The top of the range with this package is Shangri-La's Golden Sands Resort ( www.shangri-la.com
), in Batu Ferringhi, at HK$2,730 for a deluxe, sea-facing room. Round-trip, economy-class flights via Kuala Lumpur are with Malaysia Airlines. These prices, which include breakfast, will be available until the end of March, although departures cannot be made from February 15 to 25. For further details and reservations, call Swire Travel on 3151 8833, or e-mail [email protected]