“We sweat in the cockpit, though much of the time we fly with the side windows open,” wrote American pilot and author Ernest K. Gann, in his classic memoir, Fate is the Hunter (1961). “The airplanes smell of hot oil and simmering aluminum, disinfectant, feces, leather, and puke […] the stewardesses, short-tempered and reeking of vomit, come forward as often as they can for what is a breath of comparatively fresh air.” Such were the realities of commercial air travel in the 1930s, when Gann was flying a Douglas DC-2 aircraft for American Airlines. A predecessor of the more famous DC-3 type that first got Cathay Pacific off the ground, in 1946, the DC-2 is one of the aircraft featured in the newly published 50 Airliners That Changed Flying, by Matt Falcus.

Other notable early entries include the Benoist Type XIV seaplane, which, in 1914, was the first aircraft operated by the world’s first scheduled airline – the St Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. Then there’s the Handley Page Type W (the first plane to contain a toilet for passengers), the Junkers F.13 (the first all-metal airliner) and the Boeing 247, generally considered to have been the first modern passenger airliner. The book closes, as might be expected, with the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The written content isn’t too detailed – just a few paragraphs for each plane – but there’s quite a bit of interesting information here for budding aviation enthusiasts or the general reader, with plenty of photographs spread over 160 pages.

Fate is the Hunter was most recently published in 2011, and can be bought and previewed at Amazon.co.uk, where you will also find 50 Airliners That Changed Flying.


The Denmark Tavern – India’s oldest hotel?

A six-room hotel called the Denmark Tavern has just reopened following a reno­vation in the town of Serampore, on the banks of the Hooghly River, north of Kolkata, in India’s West Bengal state. The Denmark Tavern & Hotel was originally opened by a British innkeeper in 1786, in what was then the Danish colonial possession of Frederiknagore, and it is now being called the oldest hotel in India. If this is true, then it is also likely the oldest Western-style hotel “east of Suez”, a title long claimed by the Galle Face Hotel, which opened in 1864 down south in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The previously derelict Denmark Tavern has been rebuilt from the ground up over the past few years as part of the Serampore Initiative. This restoration of a little-known corner of the former Danish colonial empire has been carried out by the National Museum of Denmark, the West Bengal State Heritage Commission and other groups. The hotel will reportedly be managed by The Park Hotels – a boutique hotel company based in Kolkata – and opened for business in September.

Cathay Dragon flies to Kolkata six days a week.


Japan’s classic capsule hotels given a millennial makeover

The Millennials is a Japanese hotel chain that opened its first property in Kyoto in November. Since then, it has opened another hotel, in Tokyo’s Shibuya district, again reimagining the capsule hotel “through high-tech facilities and technology and social spaces to bring a formerly utili­tarian concept into the realm of semi-luxury”.

More tangibly, both hotels offer free draught beer from 5.30pm to 6.30pm every day, and with rooms (or “smart pods”) starting from a few hundred dollars a night, the thirsty traveller might well find this a good value proposition in a country where a pint is none too cheap. Other, much larger Japanese budget hotel chains with worth­while daily freebies include Dormy Inn, which serves unlimited bowls of free and good-quality ramen noodles nightly, and Toyoko Inn, which offers free breakfast with its often rock-bottom room rates.


Deal of the week – two nights in Phnom Penh

Tiglion Travel’s latest Phnom Penh package starts from HK$2,690 per person (twin share) for two nights in the Cambodian capital, Cardamom Hotel And Apartment. The best overall value are probably the two most expensive: the Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra (from HK$4,790) and the Raffles Hotel Le Royal (from HK$4,890). These prices include flights with Cathay Dragon and daily breakfast, and will be available until September 30. Go to tiglion.com for further details.