Smoke on the water The city of Yuxi, in central Yunnan province, has just welcomed its first international hotel - the Hilton Yuxi Fuxian Lake (above). Aside from Fuxian Lake (one of the largest in China), Yuxi is best known for being home to Hongta, the mainland's largest cigarette company. Even the new Hilton's website notes in its introduction that the local economy is "supported by an extensive tobacco industry". Several of the city's primary schools are sponsored by Hongta, which also operates a hotel, a golf course and a tobacco museum trumpeting the longevity of famous long-lived smokers such as Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. Unlike the Hongta Hotel, the new Hilton allows smoking only on designated floors and in outdoor areas. "Conveniently" - as the hotel puts it - located about 90km from Kunming International Airport, the palatial-looking 346-room Hilton Yuxi Fuxian Lake can be explored online via www.hilton.com. As yet largely undiscovered by foreigners, Yuxi is probably best experienced as a side trip from Kunming, to where Dragonair flies daily from Hong Kong.
Due south Luxury cruise company Silversea has announced a new series of Antarctica cruises to tie in with the 100th anniversary of Sir Ernest Shackleton's 1914-17 voyage to the region, which is famous not for its failure to reach the South Pole, but for the near-miraculous return of its entire crew, thanks to Shackleton's extraordinary perseverance and navigational skills. Silversea passengers will be sailing aboard the Silver Explorer (above) under rather more comfortable and predictable conditions, from Ushuaia, in Argentina, to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Elephant Island and the Antarctic Peninsula. Departures begin from November 14. Visit www.silversea.com for full details and reservations. The definitive account of Shackleton's adventures is stillEndurance, by Alfred Lansing, which was first published in 1959, but was reissued last month by Basic Civitas Books.
Vegan voyage Hong Kong-based boutique wellness agency Living Alive is promoting a European riverboat cruise along the Danube, from Budapest through Hungary, Slovakia, Austria and Germany. The tour, which features exclusively vegan dining, yoga and meditation, is organised by Vegan River Cruises veganrivercruises.com. The boat used for the voyage will be the brand-new, 135-metre Amadeus Silver II, which is yet to be unveiled but believed to be similar to the first Amadeus Silver (above). Prices, not including flights, start from HK$4,600 per person for four nights. Departures are available between July 30 and August 3. For further details and reservations, email [email protected] Air France flies from Hong Kong to Budapest, via Paris, daily.
On the road Lonely Planet publishes three of its new Road Trips guidebooks for France this month, covering Provence and Southeast France; Chateaux of the Loire Valley; and Normandy and D-Day Beaches. The guide to Provence will probably have the broadest appeal, and provides four driving routes, including Roman Provence (seven days), Lavender Route (four to five days), Modern Art Meander (seven days) and The Camargue (four days). Detailed instructions and directions for renting and driving a car between Nimes, in Provence, and Menton, on the Riviera, are provided, along with recommendations for appropriate driving music. A couple of car rental firms worth looking at if you are planning to drive yourself around the region are www.rivieraclassiccarhire.com which offers everything from a Bentley Azure to a vintage Fiat 500, and www.excursionprovence.com from which you can book a classic Citroen 2CV. All three books can be found at Amazon.com or Lonelyplanet.com.
Deal of the week The Shangri-La hotel, Guangzhou has launched the weekend Family Fun Package, which includes two nights' accommodation (from Friday or Saturday), daily breakfast and one buffet lunch for two adults and one child under six years old, a 500 yuan (HK$630) dining credit, children's room amenities and organised outdoor or indoor activities, and a 4pm checkout from 2,550 yuan. Children aged from six to 12 can tag along from an extra 300 yuan each. Note that prices are subject to a 15 per cent service charge. This package will be available until the end of the year, and can be reserved through www.shangri-la.com/guangzhou.