It’s not really clear if the mayor of the hot-spring resort city of Beppu, on the Japanese island of Kyushu, was serious when he promised to build a “spa-musement park”, but its promotional video (below) received more than two million views in 10 days on YouTube. It’s not even clear whether such a spa/amusement park hybrid would be possible, or if the English-subtitled video (which was filmed in a real amusement park, with no CGI) is in fact serious, or just tongue in cheek.
Japanese regional tourism boards occasionally put out strange and perplexing promotional videos, which they hope will go viral, and this one is right up there with Oita prefecture’s oddly appealing synchronised swimming in hot-spring baths video from last year. If cable cars, roller coasters and carousel cars can indeed be filled with steaming hot-spring water, then it will likely happen first in onsen-crazy Japan – and probably in Beppu.
For a more realistic look at the bubbling and steamy delights of Beppu, and many other tourist spots around Japan, visit Japan Airlines’ brand-new Explore Japan website at jal.japantravel.com.
ENGLISH SPIRIT London will see the opening next week of what will, presumably, be its first and only gin-themed boutique hotel. Due to limited space, rather than an anticipated lack of interest, The Distillery will offer only three guest rooms. These will be located on the fourth floor, overlooking Portobello Road in Notting Hill. The rest of the building contains facilities such as The Ginstitute (where visitors can learn all about the spirit formerly known as mother’s ruin), a pub, bar and GinTonica restaurant. Room rates will start from £125 (HK$1,234) per night. See www.the-distillery.london for more “ginformation”. Also joining Britain’s so-called “Gin-aissance” is British Airways, which has stamped its company logo on a new blend created by Cambridge Distillery, also supplier of an exclusive gin to the House of Lords.
BA’s bottles – unlike the late lamented Virgin Vodka that was offered to all Virgin passengers – are marginally less exclusive than The Distillery, being offered only to first class passengers in the Concorde Room at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Alternatively, head over for a house gin and a bowl of noodles at Cathay’s business- and first-class lounges in Terminal 3, which have just reopened, several months late but to favourable online reviews.
LAKE RESORTS Quite a number of international hotel brands have descended on the former mainland treaty-port city of Ningbo in recent years. Most of these, such as the Shangri-La, Westin, Sofitel and no fewer than four Howard Johnson hotels, have opened downtown.
A quieter, more pleasant location – till now occupied only by one big name, the Park Hyatt Ningbo Resort and Spa – is Dongqian Lake, on the outskirts of town. Joining the Park Hyatt there this month is the Hilton Ningbo Dongqian Lake Resort, which, despite a lengthy email exchange with several parties, was unable to provide any high-resolution exterior images. More information and opening rates can be found at www.ningbodongqianlakeresort.hilton.com. Cathay Dragon flies to Ningbo twice daily.
DEAL OF THE WEEK Westminster Travel is selling a two-night Singapore package that starts from HK$1,870 per person (twin share) for accommodation at the cheap and cheerful Fragrance Hotel – Sunflower. A few hundred more will get you into the Peninsula Excelsior or the Park Regis (both priced from HK$2,480 and, of course, no relation to the Peninsula, Excelsior, Park Hyatt or St Regis).
A better deal is offered at the Mandarin Oriental, which is priced from HK$2,930 until December 29 and from HK$3,610 from December 30 to March 31. Rooms at Raffles are available from HK$6,220 until the end of March, but bear in mind that extensive renovations will begin in mid-February (delayed from January). Flights with Cathay Pacific are also included.
For a longer list of hotels, and to make reservations, search for Singapore from the Packages dropdown menu, and scroll down to the “Special Promotion” at www.westminstertravel.com.