Something to declare

Bargain of the week

Air China is fixing 1997 holiday prices offered through its main agents at pounds 450 return for travel in spring and autumn next year, the best seasons to visit the People's Republic, and pounds 420 return for winter. These fares are not available from the airline direct, but through discount agents such as Regent Holidays (0117-921 1711). You may find agents more prepared to book domestic flights within China, since commission has just risen to three per cent - from zero.

True or false

"Indonesia is a safe destination"

Decide for yourself. The following are edited highlights from the latest travel advice from the Foreign Office. These point out the pockets of problems visitors might encounter in this vast archipelago.

"Indonesia is prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters. Avoid the following areas: the island of Krakatau, Mount Merapi and surrounding area in central Java; and Mount Marapi and its surrounding area in Bukittinggi, Sumatra.

"Visitors should exercise caution and keep away from the area in east central Jakarta where the violence has been concentrated. The security situation in Aceh Province, Sumatra has stabilised, but travel there by road at night is inadvisable.

"Be alert: there has been an increase in petty crime against foreigners.

"Visitors are advised against travel to Irian Jaya, where a guerilla movement (the OPM) is operating. There has been serious rioting in several of the bigger towns including Timika, Tembagapura and Jayapura. Further incidents cannot be ruled out.

"East Timor is generally quiet but the situation remains tense. There are isolated clashes between Indonesian troops and armed insurgents."

Call 0171-238 4503 for the full Foreign Office bulletin.

Trouble spots

Travellers' reports in the latest edition of Planet Talk, the free newsletter from Lonely Planet (0181-742 3161)

Thailand: Unscrupulous gem shop owners now use dishonest foreigners to help them lure naive travellers. Remember, there are no government gem-shops in Thailand.

Malaysia: While all places can be visited on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia during the wet season [Oct-Feb], many resorts on the east coast are closed, with services to the east coast islands drastically reduced or non-existent.

China: Lijiang in China's south-west province of Yunnan is open again to travellers after February's earthquake. The government has made an effort to restore the quaint buildings of Dayan, but surrounding villages are still damaged.

South Korea: In Seoul, experience the monthly air-raid drill. It is fascinating to see a busy 14-lane highway become deserted in three minutes flat.

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