the IBIT Travel Digest 12.16.12

The good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media

©IBIT/G. Gross

©IBIT/G. Gross

DOWN AND (NOT) DIRTY EATS, WORLDWIDE
I’m not a foodie; I just like food. And I love checking out the hidden, under-sized, under-rated places. The incredible street vendor. The lovingly run Mom-and-Pop storefront.

It’s great when you do that in your hometown. When you can do it on the other side of the world, it’s magic.

So I could hardly restrain the joy when London’s The Guardian newspaper introduced me to a blog after my own heart, or at least my own palate: Culinary Backstreets.

This blog focuses on five cities — Istanbul, Athens, Barcelona, Mexico City and Shanghai. If their content is any indication, you could lose your mind — and gain some weight — in any of them.

It’s a reminder that you don’t need a fistful of Michelin stars to find a galaxy of wonderful flavors.

The specific blog post that The Guardian locked in on was one about a street food paradise in an old Shanghai neighborhood that was almost lost to redevelopment.

A story like that speaks not only to my love of urban street food, but my taste for preserving and enhancing an old community instead of tearing everything down and replacing it with the new, the shiny, the sterile.

Real people, in a real community, making and selling real food. How does “urban renewal” improve on that?

ANSWER: It usually doesn’t.

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AFTER-CHRISTMAS (TRAVEL) SALES
One nice way to beat the post-holiday blues would be to score yourself some after-Christmas travel bargains, and the period between the day after NEw Year’s and Martin Luther King Jr. days is one of the best ties of year to do it.

The folks at The Motley Fool call this period “dead time” for the travel industry. I prefer to think of it as hunting season for the smart travel consumer.

To that end, the Motley Fool folks have some tips on how to snag some killer travel deals during that period.

Happy bargaining hunting.

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LUGGAGE TAGS? TRY LUGGAGE APPS
Believe it or not — and I know some of you won’t — the airlines are getting better at not losing your checked bags. Statistics from the US Department of Transportation say so. Considering that they make you pay nowadays for the “privilege” of checking them, I’d say that’s only fair.

Still, air passengers do sometimes find themselves left waiting vainly at the luggage carousel, something we’d all love to avoid. And yes, there’s an app for that.

Delta Airlines started the ball rolling with its Fly Delta app that, among other things, allows you to track your checked baggage.

The makers of Bag-Claim say their iPhone app sends a signal to your phone and your Bluetooth headset to let you know when your bag is nearby, and it continues until your bag is literally in your hand.

Another possible option, depending on whether the Federal Aviation Administration decides to loosen up its rules on the use of personal electronic devices in flight, would be to toss your own GPS tracking device into your bag.

One example would be the Pocketfinder GPS Locator. Like Fly Delta, it works with iPhones, Android phones, Windows Mobile devices…and for us digital troglodytes out there, even Blackberrys.

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And now, here’s The Digest:

AIR
from Business Week
Eastern Europe’s state-owned airlines are struggling in the post-Cold War era, with some cutting services and one, Malev of Hungary, shutting down altogether. Hopes that their Western European counterparts might buy them — and thus save them — so far seem in vain.

from Associated Press via Yahoo
Can you put your smile on strike? Flight attendants for Cathay Pacific sas they intend to do just that. And no, this is not a satirical piece from The Onion. The’re serious.

from USA Today
Is South Korea’s Incheon International Airport now the world’s greatest air terminal? The Airports Council International says yes. See why, and see how the world’s other major airports fared.

LAND
from the UN News Service via allAfrica.com
The number of tourists worldwide hit the 1 billion mark in 2012, a record. And as ominously huge as that number might sound, the UN World Tourist Organization thinks that could be a good thing. Maybe even a very good thing.

from Smarter Travel
Is duty-free shopping really the bargain it’s cracked up to be? ST’s Ed Perkins says don’t believe the hype.

from Independent Traveler
If you’re traveling in Britain, better keep it down in the hotel. The hotel noise police are looking — and listening — for you.

from Travel Weekly
Washington fires a warning shot at 22 hotel operators over their hidden fees.

from Travel Weekly
Hertz competes its purchase of Dollar Thrifty rent-a-car. What was three car rental agencies not that long ago is now one. Hertz now controls 26 percent of the rental car market. The company that owns Enterprise, National and Alamo controls 50 percent. So much for competition.

from Travel Weekly
OFFICIALLY COOL: Need some exercise? Need to charge your smartphone or your laptop? The Starwood Element Hotels chain is installing exercise cycles in its hotel gyms that simultaneously let you do both. Charge your devices by burning calories? Genius.

SEA
from Friends of the Earth
The cruise industry has sent the last decade or so trying to clean up its image as an environmentally unfriendly industry. If this report card from Friends of the Earth is any indication, it’s still a work in progress.

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AFRICA
from The Star (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
Kenya launches a campaign to promote cultural tourism abroad.

from East African Business Week (Uganda) via allAfrica.com
Turkish Airlines begins flights between Istanbul and Mombasa, Kenya. Flight time, about six hours. Turkey could make a nice stopover enroute to East Africa. Hmmmm…

from The Herald (Zimbabwe) via allAfrica.com
Poaching in Africa is taking a frightening turn. Park rangers in Zimbabwe kill two elephant poachers in a shootout. The rest flee, leaving behind…mortar bombs? If poachers are using mortars, against animals or people, this is no longer a police matter. This is war.

AMERICAS
from the New York Times
Manhattan is for lovers. Book lovers, that is.

from BBC Travel
Think of Idaho and a lot of words may come to mind. “Cultural mecca” probably won’t be among them. Think again, says the BBC.

ASIA/PACIFIC
from The Guardian (London UK)
In Japan, the best skiing is found at small-scale local spots. No crowds and lots of perfect powder. Are you packing yet?

from GrindTV via Yahoo
This is how you get around China’s Mount Hua. When they say the view is to die for, they mean it. If you slip, you’ll be falling for awhile. Actually, you’ll be falling for a mile.

from Travel Weekly
Myanmar, the country most of us grew up knowing as Burma, may or may not have fully abandoned its dictatorial government and fully embraced reform — but that’s not stopping US and other Western travelers from bum-rushing this country. Good idea, or bad idea?

EUROPE
from the New York Times
There’s more to anchovies than those super-salty strips of fish most people want “held” off their pizzas — and anchovy season on the Black Sea in Turkey may be just the time and place to find out why. Ask for the hamsi.

from Reuters
Well, this is not jolly good. A TripAdvisor survey of travelers finds London not only dirty and expensive, but the second most unfriendly city in the world. Only Moscow was worse. Bloody hell, eh what!

from the Los Angeles Times
An early peek at Sochi, Russia, the Black Sea venue for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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