New route Hong Kong Airlines connected a couple of smaller but quite interesting Japanese cities to Hong Kong last year, with the launch of the first scheduled services to Miyazaki and Kumamoto, both of which are located on the southern island of Kyushu. Next week the carrier will begin the first scheduled flights to Okayama, on the main island of Honshu. Located about halfway between Osaka and Hiroshima, Okayama is a good starting point for anyone visiting the central Inland Sea region and Shikoku Island, which is connected to Honshu by the nearby Great Seto Bridge. The bridge carries both cars and trains, and, at just over 13km in length, is the longest two-level bridge system in the world. Shikoku is the smallest of Japan's four main islands and has an extensive rail network. Late morning or early afternoon flights will depart Hong Kong for Okayama daily from March 28, returning in the late afternoon or early evening, depending on the day of the week. Ideal reading material for a trip to the region is The Inland Sea, by author and film critic Donald Richie. First published in 1971, it was reprinted last October and is also available for Kindle at amazon.com.
Back on track Cambodia's severely dilapidated rail network hasn't offered a regular passenger service since 2009, but the Southern Line, between Phnom Penh and the port city of Sihanoukville, is due to reopen early next month, according to The Phnom Penh Post. Closed in 2002, due to its poor condition, the line opened to freight trains a couple of years ago. The new passenger service will, however, not be the fastest way of getting from capital to coast. It's a three- to four-hour journey by car, but the five-carriage train will take about eight hours to cover the 266km route, averaging a sluggish 33km per hour. For railway enthusiasts, though, this is exciting news, and the long-awaited train should be an interesting experience in a country whose French-built rail network was all but destroyed by years of war and neglect. Ardent trainspotters can learn more about the Cambodian railway from The Railway Atlas of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, by Brendan Whyte. Published in Thailand by White Lotus, the book contains maps of every known railway, tramway, cable car and miniature railway in the three countries, both extant and long forgotten, and provides extensive histories. It should be a good read for that eight-hour journey.
First resort Malaysia will get its first St Regis property on April 6, when the St Regis Langkawi opens on that island's southern coast. Promising "experiential and bespoke services, amidst stylish and privileged settings", the upmarket resort comprises 85 suites and four water villas, five food and beverage outlets and an Iridium Spa. Located about 20 minutes' drive from Langkawi Airport, it's currently offering an opening package that includes one night's accommodation for two people with daily breakfast and round-trip limousine airport transfers from US$580. Click on Offers at www.stregis.com/langkawi for details and reservations. Malaysia Airlines flies to Langkawi daily via Kuala Lumpur, where a second St Regis property is scheduled to open in June.
Deal of the week TLX Travel's Beijing package starts from HK$2,490 for two nights at the mediocre Jinglun Hotel, but from only HK$2,630 you can stay at the Pentahotel Beijing. A quick glance at both hotels' websites will tell you all you need to know. Good value among the higher-end hotels on offer are the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing (from HK$3,590), the Park Hyatt (from HK$4,300) and the Waldorf Astoria (from HK$4,280). Flights with Cathay Pacific or Dragonair are included, as are daily breakfast and travel insurance. Optional Great Wall and city day tours are offered for 250 yuan (HK$300) and 350 yuan per person, respectively. This package will be available until the end of August. For further details, more hotels choices and reservation details, visit www.tlxtravel.com.