Hotel records The Galle Face Hotel (above), in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, has just undergone the most extensive renovation in its 151-year history, with 72 rooms and suites, restaurants, bars, executive wing and the lobby of the north wing completely refurbished over the past two and a half years. This venerable old property, opened by four British businessmen in 1864, is often cited, notably by Wikipedia and consequently many travel articles, as "the oldest hotel east of Suez", although it may not even be the oldest hotel in Sri Lanka. The Hotel Suisse in Kandy, also owned and managed by Galle Face Hotel Management, is said to have opened, albeit as a guesthouse called Haramby House, in 1850, and the Astor House Hotel (now the Astor Hotel) opened in the northern Chinese city of Tientsin (now Tianjin) in 1863. Trumping both these properties, however, and laying to rest all other oldest-east-of-Suez hotel claims is the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan, a Japanese hot-spring resort northwest of Mount Fuji, which opened for business 1,310 years ago in 705, and is recognised as the world's oldest hotel by Guinness World Records.
Lounging around Cathay Pacific has just closed its first- and business-class lounges (above) at London's Heathrow Airport for renovations that are not expected to be completed until the end of June. In the meantime, passengers will have to make do with British Airways and American Airlines facilities and the open-to-all Heathrow No1 Lounge in Terminal 3. Our de facto flagship carrier is also rumoured to be making a return to Britain's Gatwick Airport sometime after the arrival of the first of its new Airbus A350-900 aircraft in February. Cathay first began flying to London with Boeing 747-200 flights to Gatwick via Bahrain in July 1980. Non-stop services started in 1984. The first Heathrow flights began in 1991 and Gatwick was abandoned in 1993.
Veggie voyagers A new iPhone app for travelling vegans has just been released. Veganagogo contains various phrases, translated into 50 languages, to ensure that not "a slither of bacon, a scrap of fish, a dash of cream or a morsel of mutton" will pass its users' lips. Purchasers are also assured that all phrases, queries and demands have been professionally translated by native speakers. The app costs HK$23, but can be bundled with its less-stringent vegetarian counterpart, Veggoagogo (which is also available on its own for Android users), for HK$28. See agogoapps.com for details and download links.
Capital ideas Consistently hovering around the No1 spot on TripAdvisor's list of Beijing hotels since opening just over a year ago, the Rosewood Beijing (above) is enticing travellers to venture up north for a last-minute, white-Christmas break with a Winter Celebration package. One night in a premier room (upgraded from deluxe) and full access to the Manor Club executive lounge with all-day refreshments, a dedicated concierge and express check-in and checkout costs from 1,800 yuan (HK$2,180). A similar package for New Year is priced from 3,000 yuan, which includes a set dinner for two with champagne and a "luxury" breakfast. For full details and reservations, visit rosewoodhotels.com/beijing.
Deal of the week TLX Travel is offering two nights at the Mandarin Oriental Sanya, on Hainan Island (above), and economy-class flights with Dragonair from HK$3,090 per person, twin share. This price is for a terrace room but deluxe garden view and ocean view rooms are also available, from HK$3,250 and HK$3,590, respectively. The package will be available until the end of March, but there are inevitable high-season blackout periods from December 24 to January 3 and February 7 to 13. Value-added extras include an upgrade to the next room category (subject to availability) and afternoon tea for two. For more information and reservations, go to www.tlxtravel.com click on Package and select China/Sanya.