Mix and match United Arab Emirates flag carrier Etihad Airways has launched new amenity kits for its business-class passengers in collaboration with Luxe City Guides. Colourful destination-inspired pouches (above; representing Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, London, Madrid, Los Angeles and Sydney) contain lotions and balms provided by the oddly bohemian-sounding Scaramouche + Fandango, an eye mask, earplugs and socks, and the associated Luxe city guide. The kits' promised "intelligent design [and] functionality" is somewhat undermined, however, by the fact that they will be provided at random rather than matched with the destination of the flight on which they're handed out. It's not clear if a variety of kits will be offered on each flight, but if this is the case, one can imagine traditionally collection-crazy Hongkongers wandering the business-class aisles looking for swap deals. Etihad flies daily from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi.
New routes Hong Kong Airlines will soon be offering local travellers two new direct-flight destinations to choose from. The first is Krabi, in Thailand, which will be served by daily flights from this Friday. The timings, though, are inconvenient, with flights departing Hong Kong at 12.50am and reaching Krabi at 3.30am. The return flight departs at 4.30am, arriving in Hong Kong at 8.50am. The second destination is Kumamoto, a city on the Japanese island of Kyushu famous (at least in Japan) for its castle (above) and Suizenji Gardens, and useful for its proximity to Mount Aso, the country's largest active volcano. The twice-weekly flights to Kumamoto, with more user-friendly afternoon and early evening times, will begin on December 14.
Early trains "While [TV presenter] Michael Portillo paints a picture of travellers sitting tidily in their railway carriages, consulting their Bradshaw's [guidebook]," writes Susan Major in her book, Early Victorian Railway Excursions, "many working class excursionists … were hanging on to the roof of a crowded carriage, endangering their lives, or enduring hours of travel in an open wagon in heavy rain." These intrepid Britons were among the earliest mass tourists, risking life and limb for the intoxicating sense of freedom that social Sunday excursions on the brand-new railways provided to previously church- and dingy pub-bound workers and their families. The Church of England frowned on anyone enjoying themselves on a Sunday, and such "excursionists" were admonished from the pulpit, but the siren call of the steam train and its destinations was hard to resist. It's often said that Thomas Cook invented modern tourism when he took 500 or so temperance campaigners on an 18km train trip from Leicester to Loughborough, in 1841, but Major debunks this myth with her fascinating account of how the workers were doing it for themselves at least a decade earlier. Early Victorian Railway Excursions will be available from November 30 at amazon.co.uk.
Saving grace There's good news from Tokyo's soon-to-be partially demolished Hotel Okura (above) this week. As mentioned here a couple of months ago, the owners of what has been described as "the last great 1960s original in that city and one of the most loved modernist hotels in the world" have been unyielding in their determination to tear down the old property for more than a year. The more lamented contents of the hotel, among its many supporters, were the lobby's hexagonal Okura lantern ceiling lights, modernist lacquered tables, an electronic Seiko world map and clock displaying global time zones, and standing paper lamps. All these, it has just been announced, will now be retained and installed in the new hotel when it opens in four years' time. Many of the original lobby and public-area features will also be re-created "to carefully preserve [the hotel's] traditional Japanese beauty".
Deal of the week Two nights in Kuala Lumpur with flights on Cathay Pacific and a good choice of hotels are on offer from Tiglion Travel for about HK$3,000. The better hotels include Le Meridien (from HK$2,790), Ritz-Carlton (from HK$2,990) and the Grand Hyatt (above; from HK$3,390). For a full list of hotels and some free-night options at the Berjaya Times Square and Grand Millennium hotels, go to www.tiglion.com and look for Kuala Lumpur package code 1376.