China adds Georgia as travel destination

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BEIJING (Xinhua) — Georgia has officially become a new travel destination for Chinese citizens, according to an agreement reached between tourism authorities of the two countries.

The decision was announced Friday after officials of the two countries signed an Approved Destination Status (ADS) Memorandum of Understanding Friday in Beijing.

Zhu Shanzhong, vice director of the National Tourism Administration, said the signing and implementation of the MOU is expected to bring a new wave of Chinese tourists to the country.

He also suggested Georgian tourism authorities to focus on promotion in China and develop more tourism products that are particularly tailored for Chinese tourists.

Tourists have flocked to Georgia in recent years to bath in hot springs in the capital Tbilisi or relax on the country’s Black Sea coast beaches.

Chinese breakaway – a weekend in Hong Kong

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When I said I was going to Hong Kong for 48 hours, people looked at me like I’d grown two heads.

OK, admittedly, a 12,000-mile round trip is a long way to go for a weekend break, but what else was I going to do? I don’t like gardening and there’s nothing on the telly these days.

My whistlestop tour started with a glass of champagne in the No 1 Traveller Lounge in Gatwick’s North Terminal.

I’m travelling in style, flying on Hong Kong Airlines’ premium service, which was launched in March and is targeted squarely at the business market, but have two hours to kill before take-off.

A receptionist points out the lounge’s masseuse and a pool table for the sporty traveller, but we take the lazy option, refill our glasses and slump on a sofa.

The non-stop 13-hour London to Hong Kong route is served by three new Airbus A330-200 aircraft, each with 116 seats in an exclusive all Club Class, rather than the typical 253 normally carried on this type of plane.

Opt for Club Premier and you’ll be in one of the 34 luxurious seats set out in a 1-2-1 configuration that fold flat into a 6ft 1in bed – there’s even a turndown service with duvets, pyjamas and slippers. You can stretch your legs and enjoy a drink with fellow travellers at the funky neon-lit Skybar, or keep boredom away with the 100 film and TV choices on your own 15in TV.

The food is sensational, no doubt due to the fact Michelin-star chef Jason Atherton crafted the menu, including pan-fried lobster and fillet steak.

After finally polishing off a five-course dinner, sleep beckons. Even the free wash bag is by super-posh Bvlgari to make you feel extra special as you brush your teeth before bed. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to feeling like Simon Cowell or a Hollywood star.

By comparison, travelling in Club Classic is hardly slumming it. There are 82 cradle seats over two cabins. They don’t fold completely flat but do recline 155 degrees and have masses of legroom. Again, meals are served on fine china – three courses this time – and there’s a serve-yourself bar at the rear of the plane.

Service on the return trip is patchy but, as we’re on the inaugural flight, I’m sure any little glitches will soon be ironed out.

After arriving, we travel to Hong Kong Island to the Grand Hyatt , a five-star hotel in the Wan Chai district.

Elegant: The Grand Hyatt Hotel Hong Kong

Elegant: The Grand Hyatt Hotel Hong Kong

My elegant room overlooks the stunning Victoria Harbour and there’s just time to dump our bags and freshen up before dinner at the hotel’s One Harbour Road restaurant, which serves up a dizzying array of Cantonese delicacies.

The cuisine is unpretentious and traditional. I plump for pricey abalone (sea snail), a delicacy here, and a spicy chicken wing dish that would challenge the most accomplished chopstick user.

For fresh sushi and Japanese fruits, choose Kaetsu, or cap off a busy afternoon with tea at Tiffin.

After drinks in the hotel’s slightly too serene champagne bar, we find a cabbie and ask him to take us to the nearest nightspot. We end up minutes away in Lan Kwai Fong, where hundreds of bar crawlers – mainly expats enjoying their Friday night – spill into the streets.

Strolling near the hotel the next morning, a crowd of tourists leads me to the Forever Blooming Bauhinia sculpture on the waterfront.

This statue marks the most significant occasion in Hong Kong’s history – the return of the former British colony to the People’s Republic of China and the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in 1997.

Culture and heritage are what sets Hong Kong apart from the rest of Asia. With more than 100 years of colonial history and a largely Chinese population, Hong Kong is a unique fusion of Western and Eastern cultures where the old and the new live side by side.

Bustling: City nightlife in Hong Kong

Bustling: City nightlife in Hong Kong

Its incense-filled temples, colonial buildings and glass and steel skyscrapers, along with its ancient traditions and festivals, have made Hong Kong a living culture experience.

For example, modern apartment blocks, Western in style and decor, don’t have floor numbers ending in “4” as the Cantonese word for four is close to the word for “death”.

A trip on the Star Ferry helps me clear my throbbing head. For a few pennies, it chugs across the busy harbour linking the Kowloon peninsular with Central and Wan Chai.

Later we hop in a taxi and head south across Hong Kong Island to Stanley Market. It’s a 30-minute ride along winding coastal roads, past the Happy Valley Racecourse and the white sandy Repulse Bay. Taxis are plentiful and cheap but remember to get the name of your hotel printed on a card in Cantonese so you can show it to the driver and get back there.

Stanley is an old fishing village but its market is the major draw with a good range of souvenirs for friends or relatives.

We eat dinner in Hutong, across the water in Kowloon. Decorated to resemble the ancient courtyard neighbourhoods of Beijing, the restaurant is a blend of old China housed in a modern setting of glass and wood.

The chef’s signature dish is crispy deboned lamb ribs, one of the few traditional Northern Chinese dishes on offer that isn’t on the blow-your-head-off spicy side.

Floor-to-ceiling windows give a bird’s-eye view of the Victoria Harbour skyline and the Symphony of Lights, a free daily sound and light show that takes place at 8pm. It’s a dazzling spectacle incorporating lights, lasers, fireworks and 44 waterfront buildings on both sides of the harbour.

The evening draws to a close sipping cocktails on the terrace at Sevva – a favourite of the wealthy locals and one of Hong Kong’s many open-air rooftop bars in Central.

Next day we climb Victoria Peak on the 124-year-old tram. It climbs about 1,200ft and it’s so steep that the buildings you pass look like they’re leaning. It is probably the island’s most popular attraction and, once at the top, it’s easy to see why. If a single image could encapsulate Hong Kong, it would be the 360 degree view of the magnificent harbour and the islands beyond.

Lunch is at the Jumbo Kingdom floating restaurant in Aberdeen, which accommodates 2,300 people. More than 30 million people have dined here, including the Queen.

Tired but content, we end our 48 hours cruising around the harbour on the Aqua Luna, one of Hong Kong’s last remaining red sail junk boats. It pauses to let us soak up the futuristic view and then the light show bursts into life, the perfect finale for the end of a whirlwind trip.

Get there

Hong Kong Airlines has return fares from Gatwick from £1,950 in Club Classic and £2,900 in Club Premier including taxes. Call: 0844 371 8393.

Rooms at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong start from £317pn. A Grand Harbour View Room costs from £350. Call: 0845 888 1234.

Teletext Holidays has 5 night breaks from £704pp.