Neo colonial Originally scheduled to open in the first half of 2013 but delayed due to floods, drought and "supplier issues", The Sanchaya is a smart, newly built colonial-style resort on the north coast of the Indonesian island of Bintan, just to the southeast of Singapore. Officially opened this month and promising its guests an opportunity to "relive the romance of colonial elegance of a bygone era", it features 21 private villas and nine suites in a main building called The Great House (above). An opening Discover Sanchaya package is being offered until the end of March and includes one night's accommodation, express immigration formalities upon arrival, transfers to and from the resort's ferry terminal, room-service or restaurant breakfast, free Wi-fi, personal service provided by butlers trained at the British Butler Institute, free in-room refreshments and a few other benefits. Prices start from US$430 per night for a Junior Suite and go up to US$6,916 per night on weekends for a four-bedroom villa with private pool. Full details can be found at www.thesanchaya.com Bintan is a 45-minute ferry ride from Singapore's Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, which is a fairly fast and affordable taxi ride from Changi Airport.
Geographic locations The National Geographic Society has just added to its travel-related portfolio of commercial ventures with the launch of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. Touted as "a collection of boutique hotels in extraordinary places around the world with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability, authenticity and excellence", it's essentially an accommodation-booking website designed to appeal to the environmentally aware and adventurous traveller. Some 24 properties across six continents are currently featured, including Tswalu Kalahari, in South Africa (above), Three Camel Lodge, in Mongolia's Gobi Desert and The Brando resort, in French Polynesia. On the site, you can select accommodation according to the outdoor activities offered, among other criteria, and book rooms, and, at certain destinations, excursions offered in conjunction with National Geographic Expeditions. For more information, and a full list of the charter lodges, hotels and resorts, visit www.nationalgeographiclodges.com.
Trunk calling Thai tour company Isan Explorer is offering three new Elephant Encounter trips that let tourists interact with the animals in an "ethical" way: walking alongside rather than riding them and helping their mahouts to bathe and feed them (above). No performances or circus-style entertainment are offered with any of the tours, which have been put together in partnership with the Save Elephant Foundation www.saveelephant.org. The two-day Elephant Encounter Express includes 1½ days at the Ban Ta Klang elephant village, near Khon Kaen in northeastern Thailand, and half a day at a couple of temples and a silk-weaving village. Three- and four-day tours include visits to the ancient Khmer ruins at Prasat Puay Noi and other historical and cultural sites. Prices including accommodation start from 11,050 baht (HK$2,600) per person for two people travelling together, or 7,100 baht per person for a family or group of four. The easiest way to reach Khon Kaen from Hong Kong is with a connecting Thai Airways flight via Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport. For further details and reservations, go to www.isanexplorer.com.
Deal of the week A cheap starting price of HK$2,760 is the upside to TLX Travel's two-night Bali package. The downside is you'll be flying via Singapore with Singapore Airlines, although you can work this to your advantage with a free stopover in the Lion City, and extend your trip to two destinations. The entry-level accommodation with this deal is the modest Best Western Resort Kuta, but other affordable, and preferable, options include the Sofitel Nusa Dua Beach Resort and the InterContinental Bali from HK$4,030 and the Samaya Bali, in Ubud, from HK$5,030. Most expensive on the list is Alila Villas Uluwatu (above), which starts from HK$7,680. The package will be available until the end of March and can be booked through www.tlxtravel.com.