Shangri-La's Hambantota Resort & Spa will open on the south coast of Sri Lanka on June 1. Under construction since 2012, it was expected to open in 2014, a year after the launch of the nearby Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport. Unfortunately, the new airport failed to attract many airlines, and most of those that did use it, including national carrier SriLankan Airlines, have since pulled out, leaving just flydubai and Rotana Jet bringing in passengers, and only from the United Arab Emirates. Consequently, the resort is offering a 25-seater private luxury bus service for the four-hour drive from Colombo airport, with "refreshments, cold towels and snacks served during the drive along the scenic coastal route". Sri Lankan carrier Cinnamon Air is due to commence scheduled flights from Colombo to Mattala Rajapaksa International today, however. The 300-room beachfront property is surrounded by an 18-hole, par-70 golf course. There is also an on-site facility that, says the resort, "is dedicated to preserving Sri Lanka's traditional artisan communities and features four traditional huts where the craftsmen skilfully create, exhibit and sell their items, from pottery and ceramics, to wood carvings and weavings". Hambantota was hit particularly hard by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, so visitors, whether coming by plane, luxury coach or any other means, will no doubt find themselves very welcome.
Camp tales Although people have been spending the night in tents for millennia, recreational camping is generally reckoned to have been invented by a travelling British tailor called Thomas Hiram Holding (1844-1930). Inspired by a journey across the United States by covered wagon that he made as a boy, his passion for sleeping under canvas led to his founding of the Association of Cycle Campers - now the Camping and Caravanning Club - in 1901. In 1908 Holding published The Camper's Handbook, which is still occasionally republished and available for free download in several formats at archive.org While camping should provide plenty of material for humorous prose, with its broad potential for misadventure, misbehaviour and inconvenience, the Handbook is a very dry volume, and while still considered useful, isn't very entertaining. The Art of Camping: The History and Practice of Sleeping Under the Stars (2011), by British writer Matthew De Abaitua, is a much more amusing read (and even made The Economist's books of the year list). And American Dan White considers the evolution of outdoor recreation on the other side of the Atlantic while getting into all kinds of scrapes in Under the Stars: How America Fell in Love with Camping. To be published next month, it's now available for pre-order at Amazon.com.
Island package One of the best resorts in Thailand, Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort on Koh Samui, is offering a third free night's accommodation with every two nights booked until the end of June. Breakfast and afternoon tea are also included. Located on a quiet stretch of beach just south of Chaweng, the resort, which opened in 2013, has four types of villas and suites to choose from, all with their own pool. For further details, fine print and reservations, go to www.vanabellekohsamui.com and click on Offers.
Deal of the week TLX Travel is selling an affordable two-night business-class package to Phnom Penh. Among the better hotels on offer are the InterContinental, where prices start from HK$5,600 per person (twin share), and the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra, from HK$6,080. Only slightly more expensive, though, is the historic Raffles Hotel Le Royal, where prices start from HK$6,190. Business-class flights with Dragonair and daily breakfast are included with the package, which will be available until the end of October, with a HK$500 per person flight surcharge from July 8 to August 24. For further details, including some slightly cheaper hotel options, and reservations, visit www.tlxtravel.com.