Go with the floe A favourite winter event in Asia is the Sapporo Snow Festival, which next year will run from February 5 to 11. The first few days of the event coincide with the Lunar New Year holiday week, so air tickets are already hard to come by - although getting in for the last three days should be easier. Even if you can't make it to the festival itself, which this year celebrates its 65th anniversary, there are plenty of other wintry activities to enjoy across Hokkaido. One of the more popular, at least with the Japanese, who wholeheartedly embrace the snowy season, is a trip on one of the two ice-breaking ships (above) that operate out of Abashiri in the far northeast, on the Sea of Okhotsk. There are sailings every hour or so from 9am, from the middle of next month until the spring thaw arrives in April. The earlier morning sailings provide more drama as the pack ice broken up the day before refreezes overnight, but this is a thrilling experience at any time of day as the ship shudders and cracks its way through the frozen ocean to the audible delight of all on board. Also worth a visit here is the Abashiri Prison Museum, with interesting hands-on exhibits providing an evocative taste of what it must have been like to be locked up in one of the world's coldest and most remote prisons back in the 19th and early 20th centuries. For a fuller selection of Hokkaido's many winter attractions go to en.visit-hokkaido.jp . Picture perfect It's unfortunate that the swanky new Fairmont Nanjing hotel officially opened just a week after the city issued its first ever red alert for pollution, with smog reducing visibility to a soupish 50 metres. It was "the most serious smog wave in the entire history of the city and Jiangsu province", according to Nanjingexpat.com , with conditions having steadily worsened in the year since the hotel was originally scheduled to open. Perhaps this is why Fairmont has only issued a number of artist's impressions of the hotel's exterior (right), with lovely clear blue skies in the background (this kind of imagery does now seem to accompany most hotel openings across the mainland). The hotel is offering a very attractive opening package that includes Deluxe City View accommodation with breakfast for two, internet access and a 30 per cent discount in all food and beverage outlets for 888 yuan (HK$1,125) per night. This will be available until the end of April. For details and reservations, visit www.fairmont.com/nanjing . Cape escape South Africa looks set for a boost in visitor arrivals next year, with the demise of Nelson Mandela forecast to bring record numbers, especially to Cape Town. An interesting option for those with fairly deep pockets is Ellerman House ( www.ellerman.co.za ), in the Cape Town suburb of Bantry Bay. Here, on cliffs high above the ocean and from manicured garden terraces, you can enjoy one of the finest hotel views in South Africa (top). Sitting on the horizon and putting life and its hardships into spectacular if sobering perspective is the infamous Robben Island, which was home to Mandela for 18 years. The Edwardian mansion has a dozen rooms, contains artworks throughout by the country's most famous painters and has just opened a 7,500 bottle Wine Gallery that, by the sound of it, makes Henry Tang Ying-yen's basement look like a branch of 7-Eleven. Deal of the week Prices are about average for the Farrington American Express package to Ho Chi Minh City, which ranges from HK$2,690 for two nights at the modest Ibis Saigon South to HK$5,150 for the Park Hyatt Saigon (top). What makes it interesting, though, is that you can upgrade to Cathay Pacific's new Premium Economy Class for just HK$300 each way. The package will be available until the end of March, with surcharges applicable during Christmas and the Lunar New Year holidays. Prices are per person, twin share. For details, more hotel choices and reservations, visit www.amextravel.com.hk . You can also call 3121 3121, quoting Tour Code L2013SGNA116 if asked.