Mountain retreat The accommodation situation in the Huangshan, or Yellow Mountains, region in Anhui province has taken a turn for the better this month, with the opening of the Banyan Tree Huangshan (above). The 10th Banyan Tree to open in China, this upmarket resort comprises 76 suites and villas, with architecture supposedly inspired by those omnipresent ink paintings depicting the region's misty limestone peaks and lonesome pines. Huangshan has long been popular with Chinese tourists, and started attracting larger numbers of overseas visitors after filmmaker James Cameron mentioned that much of the inspiration for the fictional milieu of his movie Avatar came from here. Guests checking into the Banyan Tree from now until the end of the year can get their third night's accommodation free when booking a three-night stay. Visit www.banyantree.com for further details and reservations. HK Express (www.hkexpress.com) flies twice weekly to Huangshan Tunxi International Airport, which is just over an hour's drive from the resort.
New to Naha The Hyatt Regency Naha (naha.regency.hyatt.com) has just opened - a few months earlier than anticipated - on the Japanese island of Okinawa. While most tourists head north to the beaches or out to other islands, this is now probably the best option in terms of comfort and service for those who might be spending their first or last night in the city. Located close to the popular Kokusai Dori shopping and dining street, the 294-room hotel has two restaurants, including an Italian grill on the top floor, and an adjacent bar with good views across town. Only an artist's impression of the exterior (above), which was provided when the hotel was first announced late last year, was available at the time of opening. Interior images (below), though, look quite promising. If, like many visitors to Okinawa, you are on a self-drive holiday, be sure to visit the island's most interesting hotel, which still stands incomplete, about 30 minutes' drive north of Naha, just off the main Okinawa Expressway. Construction of the Royal Hotel (aka Hotel Takara) began in the mid-1970s, in anticipation of the 1975 Okinawa Ocean Exposition, but workers downed tools and walked away after several accidents occurred in the wake of warnings about angry spirits made by monks from a nearby temple. It's said the owner went mad and still resides in a local asylum. The hotel is next to the impressive 15th-century Nakagusuku Castle and still attracts ghost-hunting visitors and other thrill seekers.
Keeping track A new coffee-table book titled The Journey: The Fine Art of Travelling by Train presents a generous selection of the world's great train trips, with extensive pictorial coverage of the locomotives, their rolling stock (inside and out), the scenery through which they travel and station architecture. As well as the expected coverage of more familiar trains, such as the Trans-Siberian Railway and Venice Simplon Orient Express, there are chapters on, for example, Japan's new Seven Stars in Kyushu and Madagascar's La Micheline "Bus on Rails" (left and below). Previews of several of The Journey's 272 pages can be found at the publisher's website, shop.gestalten.com/the-journey.html, where it can also be purchased for about HK$425.
Deal of the week Swire Travel is offering four choices of hotel with its latest two-night package to Siem Reap, near Angkor Wat, in Cambodia. The cheapest is the Angkor Riviera Hotel, which gets very mixed reviews online and is priced from HK$2,420 per person, twin share. Safer options are the Anantara Angkor Resort & Spa (from HK$3,660), the Sofitel Angkor Phokeethra Golf & Spa Resort (from HK$3,820) and the Park Hyatt Siem Reap (below; from HK$4,590). The latter two properties also provide a free third night on selected dates. These prices, which include flights with Dragonair and daily breakfast, will be available until mid-December, but a flight surcharge of HK$820 will be added from now until August 23. For further details and reservations, visit www.swiretravel.com or call 3151 8888.