Coffee, much like beer, is made well all over the world. From the back­streets of Barcelona and the cafes of Cairo to the convenience stores of Kagoshima, the weary traveller can usually find a decent cup.

Load of frappé: the modern minefield of coffee culture

Lonely Planet’s Global Coffee Tour, published this month as a follow-up to last year’s Global Beer Tour, looks in some depth at 37 nations and their coffee culture, with an Asia section featuring Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. There’s also a glossary for those of us who don’t know a cafe mocha from a macchiato, or a long black from a lungo. You can order the book at shop.lonelyplanet.com.


Missed adventures – how backpacker favourite Herman Hesse never made it to India

Contrary to popular belief, German writer Hermann Hesse never visited India, the land that inspired one of the future Nobel laureate’s most famous works, Siddhartha (1922). He attempted to do so – and later claimed to have succeeded – but his three-month Asian cruise at the end of 1911 took him only from the Italian port of Genoa to what are now known as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Dysentery curtailed his voyage, and he slowly returned by his outward route, cancelling a planned visit to India, where his parents and grandparents had once been Christian missionaries. Hesse’s account of his only Asian travels, first published in Germany in 1913 as Aus Indien, is now available in English (for the first time, according to Shambhala Publications) as Singapore Dream and Other Adventures: Travel Writings from an Asian Journey.

Exotic dancer, prostitute, second-rate spy, Mata Hari’s exploits took her to Europe’s top hotels

Although he did venture out among the local population, Hesse’s travels were not of the ascetic kind that have long inspired masses of Siddhartha-quoting backpackers to go East in search of enlightenment on a dollar a day. He stayed in some of the best hotels, and delighted in being pulled in a rickshaw: “There’s nothing more lovely than going for a ride in Singapore when the weather is good,” he declared. “You call for a rickshaw, you take your seat inside, and from that point on, besides the usual view, you have the calming sight of the coolie who’s pulling you, his back bouncing up and down to the cadence of his swaying trot.”

Comprising 21 journal entries, several poems and a short story, plus a new route map and translator’s preface, Singapore Dream and Other Adventures can be previewed at shambhala.com.


Japan warns tourists of the dangers of heatstroke

The Japan Weather Association (JWA) has started a campaign to alert foreign tourists to the summer dangers of heatstroke in the Land of the Rising Sun. A total of 621 people reportedly died from its effects in Japan in 2016, and while the JWA runs a national campaign every year, this is the first time it is focusing on foreigners. Leaflets are being handed out and signs will be put up at popular tourist sites, but you can find out all you need to know at the JWA’s Heatstroke Zero website, netsuzero.jp/en.


Deal of the week – two nights in Penang

Tiglion Travel’s two-night package to the Malaysian island of Penang includes accom­modation at the Cititel Express, Hotel Neo+ or Glow from a reasonable HK$2,790. Cheong Fatt Tze – The Blue Mansion, however, is a more interesting option from HK$3,390. Suites at the luxurious Eastern & Oriental Hotel (Hermann Hesse’s preferred residence in what he called “peninsular Indochina”) start from HK$3,990.

Penang island’s strong Chinese influences can be seen through its art, eats and old streets

These prices (quoted per person, twin share) include flights with Cathay Dragon and will be available until March, with occasional high-season surcharges.

For more details, a longer list of George Town hotels and north-coast beach resorts, and reservations, visit travel.com.hk.