Hong Kong, with style

Take advantage of Chinese New Year deals on luxury hotels and hip new restaurants

The Smart Traveler

January 28, 2007

EVEN THOUGH YOU MIGHT think that Hong Kong would be crowded during the Chinese New Year -- the two weeks after the start of the lunar calendar -- it is quite empty because many residents desert the island for vacation. (The one exception: Disneyland, now 16 months old, which was so packed last year it had to shut its doors to day-trippers from the mainland.)

And so, much like Paris in August, it is possible during the last two weeks of February to secure reservations at Hong Kong's hottest new restaurants and hotels, and there are many. What's more, as of Jan. 1, smoking in all hotels, restaurants and bars was banned.

In the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, where the celebrations begin Feb. 18 with the Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade, is the newly opened Luxe Manor (theluxe manor.com), a hotel that is being called Kowloon's first designer boutique hotel.

It has 153 deluxe and garden suites -- decorated with a mix of Asian, European and postmodern furnishings that look as if they had been chosen by Salvador Dali. It will also have six themed suites, which will be completed by late spring.

One suite will be Nordic with an icy theme, and another is described as a Serengeti-style safari suite (the interior made up to resemble a Bedouin tent).

Until March 5, a premier room (normally 1,800 Hong Kong dollars, about $230) is available for about $153 (1,188 Hong Kong dollars), including a buffet breakfast at no extra charge.

For a spectacular view over Victoria Harbor -- the setting for the fireworks Feb. 19 -- reserve a table at the newest restaurant of the Michelin three-star chef Pierre Gagnaire. Called Pierre, it is on the 25th floor of the Mandarin Oriental (mandarinorien tal.com), which reopened in September after a nine-month renovation.

Fans of Nobuyuki Matsuhisa will be pleased to learn that he has just opened his first Asian Nobu outside of Japan at the InterContinental, while L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon also recently opened at the Landmark Shopping Center.



Plume / $16

At a time when more and more people know less and less about the state of the world, perhaps a book like this is just what is needed. Author Melissa Rossi divides the book into two sections, Old Europe and New Europe, and covers only those countries that belonged to the European Union as of June. For each country, Rossi offers a historical overview, fast facts and a list of prominent people and places. The book is absorbing on many levels and full of fascinating statistics and trivia, to mention a few: 40 percent of Britons never read books while 13 percent say they never read anything whatsoever; a million immigrants moved to Ireland between 1995 and 2000; 95 percent of Italians younger than 30 still live at home.



Spoleto returns to Charleston, S.C.

Look for a number of American premieres at this year's Spoleto Festival U.S.A. in Charleston, S.C., held May 24-June 10. The lineup includes more dance and jazz events than in previous years. Two operas never before seen by American audiences will debut at the festival. Book of Longing, a new work by Philip Glass, based on Leonard Cohen's first poetry collection in 20 years, will feature Glass on keyboard for its premiere. Tickets, which cost $10 to $130, can be bought at spoletousa.org or by calling 843-579-3100.



Hole-in-one communities

The top golf communities, according to Travel+Leisure Golf magazine's annual list:

1. Sea Island, Ga.

2. Palmetto Bluff, Bluffton, S.C.

3. Santa Lucia Preserve, Carmel, Calif.

4. Mayacama, Santa Rosa, Calif.

5. Kiawah Island, Kiawah, S.C.

6. Promontory: The Ranch Club, Park City, Utah

7. The Cliffs Communities, Travelers Rest, S.C.

8. Pronghorn, Bend, Ore.

9. 3 Creek Ranch, Jackson, Wyo.

10. The Bear's Club, Jupiter, Fla.


Hertz offers E-ZPass toll lane use

Rental car drivers are able to zip through E-ZPass toll lanes in the Northeast corridor as a result of Hertz expanding its Platepass electronic toll program. After a successful launch in New York this summer, Platepass is being added to Hertz locations in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. Platepass requires the rental of a device that enables high-speed electronic toll collection wherever E-ZPass is accepted. Customers are charged a fee of $2.50 for each day they use the system, up to $10 per week. Their credit cards are charged the usage fees plus tolls. For information, go to www.platepass.com.



Relax at Miraval with Oprah

O, The Oprah Magazine is giving 50 women a "Live Your Life Best Spa Week" with Oprah Winfrey at the Miraval Resort in Tucson, Ariz. A team of fitness and life coaches will help each contest winner "make lasting transformations during a five-day, four-night stay in March that will be filmed for a future episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show." Women 18 and older should explain in 50 words or less why they need a spa vacation. Send a stamped postcard with full name, address, date of birth and daytime phone to O, The Oprah Magazine, P.O. Box 1708, Sandusky, OH 44871. Entries must be postmarked by Feb. 12. Contest rules can be found in this month's issue of the magazine.


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