Tag Archives: Bahamas

the IBIT Travel Digest 2.3.13

The good, the bad and the bizarre in the world of travel

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When you’ve finished overdosing on Super Bowl hype, chips and dip, come refresh your mind with a peek at what’s happening in the world of travel

PRICELINE+KAYAK=?
We are soon to find out, because according to Travel Weekly, the Federal Trade Commission has signed off on Priceline’s bid to buy the popular travel search engine for $1.8 billion.

That pretty much makes the sale a done deal, which could go down as soon as next month.

Snapping up Kayak gives Priceline a powerful search tool to tie in with its existing travel sales service. Less clear is how this marriage will benefit the traveling consumer.

On the other hand, Priceline has said that Kayak will to function as an independent entity, so we’ll see what happens.

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CAR SHARING: THE BIG BOYS TAKE NOTICE
You know that a new way of doing things really works when the big, old-line corporations start diving into it. That’s what has happened with car sharing.

Car sharing is kind of the automotive version of couchsurfing. It got its start in Switzerland in 1948 and took hold in the rest of Europe in the 1970s.

Once you become a member of a car-sharing service, you can rent a car for an entire day, a few hours or even a few minutes, if that’s all you need. You pick up the car in town, use it around town, drop it off in town. Cheaper and often more convenient than conventional car rentals, more flexibility and independence than taxis.

The concept doesn’t appeal only to travelers. Some people who don’t need a car full-time every day are actually getting rid of their own wheels (and the costs that go with them) and resorting to car sharing instead.

It’s also a good way to get a real-world feel for operating an unfamiliar vehicle type, whether it’s a pick-up truck or an electric car — without having to put up with a car salesman.

One of the pioneers in this field has been Zipcar, available in 34 states and the District of Columbia, as well as Ontario and Vancouver in Canada, as well as Barcelona, Spain and five cities in the United Kingdom.

How well does this concept work? Well enough for some of the rental car industry’s biggest players to take notice.

Hertz is answering its challenge by creating a car-sharing service of its own which it calls Hertz On-Demand. Enterprise followed suit with what they call WeCar. Even U-Haul has jumped into this game with U Car Share.

Avis, too, is buying the Zipcar concept. It’s also buying Zipcar…for $500 million.

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MORE (CRUISE) SHIPS AHOY
At this point, I’m not sure if the cruise industry’s shipbuilding binge is entering its second decade or its third. The one thing I do know: It’s not stopping.

Royal Caribbean, locked in mortal combat with Carnival for the dominant share of the market, is showing every sign of both expanding and updating its fleet super-sized cruisers.

They’re already moving to trademark the names of six new Oasis-class vessels that haven’t even been built yet.

The Oasis-class — led by its namesake, the Oasis of the Seas — is currently the largest cruise ship afloat, maxing out at 5,400 passengers.

But Royal Caribbean isn’t stopping there. The line also is working on a new, slightly downsized cruise ship, the Sunshine-class, designed to transport and entertain a mere 4,100 passengers at a time.

This ship is so new, the first one hasn’t been named yet, much less built. But according to Travel Weekly, Royal Caribbean has already committed to building a second one.

I have no idea how the folks at Carnival will respond to this, but you know that they will be respond. It’s like an arms race, only with oceanview suites, water slides and Bahama Mamas.

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AND FINALLY…
If you were (or perhaps still are) a regular viewer of the 1970s TV series M*A*S*H, you might vaguely recall lots of occasional references to some mythical town or village whose name sounded like “Wee-John-Boo.”

Well, it turns out that Uijeongbu is no myth. It’s a real place, where the real Mobile Army Surgical Hospital operated during the Korean War. And in South Korea, its legacy extends far beyond film and television.

The people of Uijeongbu, desperately hungry during the war, made meals of whatever they could get their hands on. The result was a dish the locals called budaejjigae, Korean for “army base stew.”

Basically, it combined traditional Korean ingredients with whatever leftovers the locals could scrounge or smuggle from U.S. Army mess tents.

The shooting eventually stopped (the Korean War has never formally ended), but “army base stew” remained a staple of Uijeongbu — and Julie Wan of the Washington Post took advantage of a visit to her family in Seoul to seek out this most unconventional dish in its birthplace.

And as you’ll see when you read her story, she found it.

If you know the origins of things like gumbo, barbecue or fried chicken, you can relate to budaejjigae. Cookbooks today are full of dishes devised by poor, hungry people who tossed anything and everything into a stew pot and used a slow fire, a lot of spices and their imaginations to create something unforgettable.

If I ever find myself in South Korea, I may need to make a small side trip to Uijeongbu.

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And now, here’s The Digest:

AIR
from Travel Weekly
JetBlue experimenting with an expedited security service that could — maybe — speed you past regular airport security lines. For a fee, of course.

from Smarter Travel
Visual advice on how to dress for air travel. Aimed mainly at women, but the fellas can learn a few things from this, too. SLIDESHOW

from Smarter Travel
The TSA shuts down an airport terminal in Atlanta because of an unattended…toothbrush? You can’t make this stuff up. I mean, those Colgate bombs can be deadly…

from Smarter Travel
Did you know that fresh oranges, in addition to being healthy for you on the ground, can help keep you hydrated in the air? These and other healthy food tips for air travelers.

LAND
from Travel Weekly
Hertz now letting its Gold Plus Rewards members upgrade their rental cars via their smartphone app.

SEA
from Travel Weekly
Carnival cancels Belize port calls for two of its biggest ships through 2013. The cruise line says the port is overcrowded with ships.

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AFRICA
from Tanzania Daily News (Tanzania) via allAfrica.com
Serengeti National Park, already a UN World Heritage Site, wins a prestigious international tourism award.

from The Star (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
The German cruise ship MV Astor makes a historic port call at Lamu, setting aside fears of kidnappings by Somali bandits.

from The Star (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
Are British Army units training in East Africa arming and equipping poachers?

AMERICAS
from CNN Travel
Today’s Super Bowl is more than just a battle between two pro football teams. It’s also a tale of two cities, Baltimore and San Francisco, and how they play. SLIDESHOW

from NBC News
New York City’s Grand Central Terminal celebrated its centennial last Friday. The Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty may be great monuments, but if you want to locate New York’s beating heart, you’ll find it here.

from the New York Times
Yes, you can send an email to the Bahamas, but a mail boat can send you there.

from Travel Weekly
Haiti officially protests the latest U.S. State Department travel advisory on visiting the island nation, which reads in art: “No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender or age.” State denies trying to discourage Haitian tourism.

ASIA/PACIFIC
from Yomiuri Shimbun
Deep in a forest, well away from the mad urban bustle of Tokyo, a village of Japanese craftsmen hand-builds elegant wood furniture with skills honed over 15 centuries.

from France 24
Missed out on the New Year’s Day festivities Jan. 1? Well, there’s still Chinese New Year coming up on Feb. 10, and the place to party is Hong Kong.

from CNTV
A small lake fishing village in China’s Yunnan province becomes a hidden tourist gem.

EUROPE
from the New York Times
Feel yourself choking on mobs of tourists in Venice? Find a way to go eat with some of the locals.

from Lonely Planet
Is this the world’s most beautiful train ride? It’s in Norway.

from Travel Weekly
The Waldorf-Astoria hotel chain is making a serious move on Europe. With hotels already in London, Rome and Versailles, the luxury brand is now opening a Waldorf-Astoria in Berlin. And they’re not done. SLIDESHOW

the IBIT Travel Digest 12.9.12

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

HI-YO, PINOT GRIGIO!
Touring wineries and sampling their wares is a big business these days, worldwide. There are escorted winery tours by bus or van, and self-driven wine routes you can enjoy at your own pace by car or bicycle (although you definitely want to go easy on the sampling in both cases).

Napa Valley is even world-famous for its Wine Train, featuring world-cass wines and dinners to match.

It was only recently, however, that I learned that you can tour wineries on horseback. Fresh air and gorgeous surroundings, finished off with some equally gorgeous wines. You can do it either as a day trip or as part of a hotel or bed-and-breakfast stay.

In eastern Washington state and Oregon, up and down California wine country, from Mendocino County in the north to the Santa Ynez Valley and Temecula to the south, or as far off as Argentina and Australia, you can saddle up and get your drink on in the same outing.

I myself am not quite ready for this kind of outing; the only horse I ever rode was made of wood and went around in circles. But for those of you possessing both horse skills and a taste for the grape, this might be a vacation worth considering.

If this sounds like something you might like to look into for 2013, drop me an email at greg@imblacknitravel.com and I’ll send you the information directly.

Just remember to go easy on those samples, lest you get caught galloping under the influence.

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YOUR VOICE MATTERS
Have you ever wondered if all those online reviews people write about hotels actually make any difference? A study conducted at New York’s Cornell University suggests that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

According to an article in Travel Weekly, the Cornell study showed that good or bad hotel reviews could affect not only room demand at that hotel, but could influence room rates by as much as 10 percent, up or down:

“The study found a direct link between the rise or fall of revenue per available room (RevPAR) and improvements or declines in the online reputation of a hotel, driven by ratings on sites such as TripAdvisor and Travelocity.

To read the entire Travel Weekly story, click here.

Bottom line: Your opinion matters. The Web has given you, the consumer, a more powerful voice than you’ve ever had before. Treat it like the priceless asset it is.

BEST ON A BUDGET
As we know, travel media folks are a bit list-crazy, and never more so than at year’s end. One of the lists you’ll find over at Budget Travel is its 10 Best Budget Destinations for 2013.

Some of their 10 nominees — like Palm Springs, the Bahamas and the Loire Valley in France — are pleasant surprises, because you don’t expect those places to be cheap. Others are a surprise because you’ve never heard of them, like Boracay Island in the Philippines.

And then, there are the ones you’ve heard of, but would never expect to make the list in a million years.

This year’s shocker: Northern Ireland.

To check out the entire Budget Travel list, click here.
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AND FINALLY…
It looks as if Alec Baldwin may get the last laugh, after all.

Remember when the actor/bad boy was famously kicked off an American Airlines flight at LAX last year for refusing the turn off the game he was playing on his cell phone?

Well, almost a year to the day of that incident, the NY Times is reporting that the head of the Federal Communications Commission now says the airlines should allow its passengers freer use of their personal electronics on board aircraft.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said as much in a letter last Thursday to Michael Huerta, acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration:

“I write to urge the FAA to enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable electronic devices during flight, consistent with public safety.”

The magic words there are “during flight.”

Nothing yet from the FAA, which has the last word on the issue, but even that agency has appeared in the past to be leaning in that direction.

It’s been reported in the past, including here on IBT, how personal electronic devices that use radio signals, such as cellphones, have shown signs of interfering with a plane’s navigation controls. But word processing, gaming and other functions would seem to offer little such threat, if any.

Either way, with the FCC more or less getting behind the traveling consumer on this, it could be that we’ll finally see this issue solved for good in 2013.

Meanwhile, if the next TV commercial for a Capital One airline miles credit card features a grinning Alec Baldwin with what appear to be canary feathers in his mouth, you’ll know why.

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And now, here’s The Digest:

AIR
from USA Today
Wouldn’t you know it: The Boeing 787 Dreamliner has scarcely entered service, but technical issues are already starting to surface. In this case, fuel leaks.

from the New York Times
American Airlines pilots ratify a new contract with the airline. For travelers, that means no worries about Christmas holiday trip disruptions. For AA, it’s one step closer to a merger with US Airways.

from ABC News via Yahoo
How bad is internal airport theft by TSA agents? The feds are planting iPads and other consumer electronic devices with GPS tracking devices to see if any of them get stolen…and they are. DO NOT check your laptops, tablet computers or smartphones.

from the Huffington Post
Kate Hanni of FlyersRights says the airlines are sticking it to travelers this holiday season with deceptive pricing and hidden fees, especially baggage fees. Bah humbug!

from Agence France-Presse
A French court has cleared the former Continental Airlines and one of its engineers of criminal responsibility for a deadly 2000 crash of a Concorde supersonic airliner in Paris. Civil liability is still on the table, though.

LAND
from NBC News
Here we go again…a simple device small enough to hide in a Magic Marker can let thieves open the electronic door locks at several major hotel chains nationwide. We’ve reported this before. Yikes. The hotel chains know about it, but have yet to correct it. Double yikes.

from the New York Times
Do you love skiing so much that you wish you could do it all year round? Have some frequent -flier miles saved up? Because if you’re willing to travel, you could ski 12 months out of the year, including in a few places you might never expect.

from Budget Travel
There are lots of folks who prefer to travel by themselves, and across much of the world, solo travel is perfectly fine. But there are some places where it’s really better to go with a group. Here are eight of them. SLIDESHOW

from Travel Weekly
The Hyatt Regency in Chicago begins the second phase of a $110 million renovation.

from SFGate
Wanna get high? I mean really high, as in “those ants down there are actually people” high. Destinations to take you up, up and away.

SEA
from Travel Weekly
Plans by Royal Caribbean International to build a third Oasis of the Seas-class cruise ship may have run aground in Helsinki. The vessel would be built in Finland, but Finnish government is balking at financing the build.

from Travel Weekly
Apparently, not all the cruise lines are holding their noses at the European market. Norwegian Cruise Lines is hooking up with Gate 1 Travel to offer European combination cruise-land tour packages next year, starting with Italy. If they find a way to work affordable airfare into the package, this could be very interesting.

from USA Today
The luxury small-ship Windstar cruise line is offering some end-of-2012 deals on its Northern European cruises, including two-for-one sales.

from USA Today
The weather doesn’t just pick on the airlines. High winds in Cape Town, South Africa force a cruise ship to stay at the dock…for four days.

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AFRICA
from allAfrica.com
New air services in the works for Mozambique, including flights from the capital Maputo to an island resort.

from T. Rowe Price
Ghana, now in the process of peacefully holding a presiddential election, could be the next rising financial star on the Mother Continent. So say these guys, who see five new economic powerhouses on the African horizon — in the west, east and south.

AMERICAS
from The Guardian (London UK)
Good news for those who’ve traveled to Cuba or are planning to go: Thanks in part to an easing of government restrictions, the food is getting better. Much better.

from SFGate
Arizona has a world-famous wave. But leave the surfboard at home, because this one is solid layers of multicolored sandstone millions of years old in remote southwestern desert. This is one vacation that will make you work.

ASIA/PACIFIC
from CNN Travel
Singaporeans may have an international reputation as being cold fish emotionally, but they’re passionate when it comes to cooking in what some consider the capital of Asian cuisine — and for some remarkably low prices, they’ll show you how Singapore cooks.

from CNN Travel
The best places to shop in Beijing…and some cool places to shop in Shanghai.

EUROPE
from Girls’ Guide to Paris
Ah, Paris, how can I tour thee? Let me count the ways. By foot. By Metro. By tour bus. By bike. By…Segway? Oui, Segway.

from Context Travel
A 3.5-hour tour on foot and by Metro of the immigrant’s Paris.

from The Guardian (London UK)
An agritourism project is saving a fading village on the island of Cyprus — and giving travelers something to do other than party the night away in Larnaca.

from the Washington Post
The Louvre, arguably the world’s greatest art museum, is branching out, opens a satellite museum in an old French mining town. Good way to experience the Louvre’s treasures while avoiding the Paris mobs. You can almost hear the ghost of Louis XVI saying, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that!”

from Travel Weekly
If one of your travel dreams is to see the Colosseum in Rome, you probably shouldn’t put it off a whole lot longer. It’s literally crumbling.

Edited by P.A.Rice

the IBIT TRAVEL DIGEST 4.22.12

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

©James Vallee | Dreamstime.com

AIR
AIRPORT APP
You’re at the airport, with hours to kill before boarding, but your laptop’s battery is running low. Ever wish there were a smartphone app that could not just tell you, but show you where the electric outlets are in your particular airport terminal?

Well, according to the folks at TNOOZ, there is one — or soon will be. It’s called AirportPlugs.

It’s stil in beta test mode, and so far, it’s only set for five airports in the western United States, but you’ve got to love the concept. Can’t wait to see how it looks — and performs — once it’s ready to go.

DON’T TEXT AND FLY
It was bound to happen: An Australian airliner blew a final approach into Singapore’s Changi airport recently. The reason: Instrument interference from the pilot’s cell phone, which he later said he’d forgotten to turn off.

It forced the crew to declare a “missed approach” and go around for a second landing attempt, which is serious business at any airport and led to an official inquiry.

They’re lucky Alec Baldwin wasn’t in the cockpit; the plane might’ve crashed.

CHARGING FOR CARRY-ONS
Allegiant Airlines has become the second air carrier in the United States to charge passengers for stowing carry-on luggage in the overhead bins.

Spirit Airlines, not the most passenger-friendly carrier in the industry, started this nonsense back in 2010. Two years later, Allegiant has seen fit to follow suit. Allegiant president Andrew Levy calls this latest add-on fee part of “an ongoing effort to develop an innovative, new approach to travel.”

I have my own terms for this kind of “innovation,” but I try not to use that kind of language here on IBIT.

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from the New York Times
Take advantage of the federal government’s express check-in programs to speed past security lines. You’ll have to pay for them, but the time saved — and aggravation avoided — just might be worth it.

from the Washington Post
Even as those federal express check-in programs take hold, however, one of them may already be on shaky ground. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s from the TSA. What a surprise…

from USA Today
For the airline business, rising fuel costs are becoming like Jason in all those Friday the 13th horror movies, a killer that won’t go away.

from msnbc
A TSA inspector at Dallas-Fort Worth airport finds an envelope with $9,500 in cash inside…and not only turns it in, but tracks down its owner and returns it to him. There may be hope for this outfit yet.

from CNNgo
Is airline code-sharing dead? The head of an up-and-coming low-fare Asian airline says yes, among other things.

LAND
RENT THY NEIGHBOR’S RIDE?
It was Airbnb that really launched the idea of couch-surfing, travelers saving money by renting rooms in private residences instead of more expensive hotels or even hostels. Now, there’s a new site called Getaround that’s trying to do the same with cars.

It’s still in beta, but it’s a beta worth looking at.

Basically, Getaround connects people looking to rent a set of wheels with individuals willing to rent out their own vehicles by the day or even the hour. It claims to screen the renters, and even provides insurance. The renter gets cheap local transportation. The car owner gets paid.

Couch-surfing…say hello to car-surfing.

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from the New York Times
With travelers able to hunt for bargains and book their own trips online, travel agents looked to be headed for extinction, but it’s not panning out that way.

from USA Today
Five smartphone apps that literally could save your life when traveling overseas.

from CNN Travel
Climate change is gradually turning Greenland into a tourist hotspot. Why? Because so much of its ice has melted that you can actually see the place.

SEA
ANOTHER CRUISE FAIL
The cruise industry has taken yet another hit with reports that the cruise ship Star Princess ignored a drifting fishing boat desperately signaling for help, even after passengers pointed out the stricken boat to a member of the cruise ship’s staff.

By the time help finally reached the boat, two of the three men on board were already dead from hunger and dehydration. In its subsequent apology, Princess said word of the crippled boat never reached the captain nor the officer of the watch.

Do you buy that? Modern cruise ships have powerful radars to detect surface traffic, and bridge officers with binoculars whose job is to scan the waters around them. It shouldn’t even have been necessary for someone to tell the bridge crew about the fishing boat and its frantically waving victims.

When your passengers are more conscientious than your crew, you’ve got a problem.

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from USA Today
If you’re leaving from Seattle on a cruise and need a place to stay before you embark, these hotels come with a “cruise concierge” to help you out.

from USA Today
What do you get when you subject a 15-year-old cruise ship to a $54 million makeover? In the case of Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, you get a virtually new ship.

from msnbc
With the cruise lines trying to shore up sales in the midst of a problematic year, this might be a good time to score some serious bargains on cruises to the Bahamas.

AFRICA
CRUISING INTO THE FUTURE?
Quiet as it’s kept, the coast of West Africa has enormous potential as a cruise venue, and some folks are positioning themselves to make the most of it.

Already there’s an outfit called G Adventures offering 27-day all-inclusive cruises between Cape Town, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal.

In both time and money, the G Adventures cruises are out of reach for a lot of travelers for now, but they show what’s possible once more competition and more West African ports enter this market.

It’s not hard to envision a great circle trip from the United States — a flight to Cape Town, a cruise with stops along the West African coast, then a flight home from Cameroon, Nigeria or Ghana, perhaps.

It’s going to happen. You watch.

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from IOL Travel
In South Africa, the Protea Hotel Ranch Resort will let you walk with a pride of what it calls “disciplined and well-trained” lions, including three rare white lions. The lions will even let you hold their tails while you walk with them. Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?

from Eyewitness News (South Africa)
South Africa has some of the world’s best surfing. Unfortunately, it also has some of the world’s most dangerous sharks.

from The Star (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
The government is urging Kenyans to embrace wildlife conservation as a way of boosting the country’s tourism.

from The New Times (Rwanda) via allAfrica.com
Another sign that tourism in Central Africa is on the rise: Expedia is expanding its presence in Rwanda.

AMERICAS/CARIBBEAN
AGRITOURISM: A GROWING ATTRACTION IN HAWAII
There’s always been more to Hawaii than pristine beaches, towering waterfalls, volcanoes and big waves. Even the most casual tourist can’t help but notice everything from pineapples to poinsettias, coconuts to coffee beans, just growing wild along the sides of the roads.

It’s as if the islands were a giant collection of farmers markets.

Now, the phenomenon known as agritourism is turning Hawaii’s agriculture into a growing tourist draw in its own right. Farmers markets. Ranch tours on horseback.

And the souvenirs are delicious.

A NEW MONUMENT
Near Monterey on the central California coast — one of the most gorgeous stretches of the Golden State — more than 14,000 acres of federal land that once belonged to the Army’s Fort Ord installation have been designated by the Obama administration as a national monument.

If hiking, mountain biking and camping on rolling hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean sound like your idea of a good time, you’re going to love this place. The fact that you can take one of the world’s most scenic highways to get there — California’s famed Highway 1 — doesn’t hurt, either.

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from the New York Times
Need a reason to visit Bend, OR? If you love lots of good, locally-crafted beers, you’ve already got one.

from USA Today
For those who don’t find the Las Vegas Strip exciting enough, a zipline is being planned between the Luxor and Excalibur resorts, apparently high enough and close enough to McCarran airport that the FAA had to sign off on it first.

ASIA/PACIFIC
REAL LIFE, CHINESE STYLE
If you’re like me, you don’t just want to see “the sights” when you visit a different country. You want to get a feel for what real life looks like — or used to look like — before modernization swept over everything.

If you’re in Beijing, China’s sprawling capital, that means you’ve got to check out a hutong, a traditional Chinese neighborhood.

Many have been torn down to make way for high-rise apartments and office towers, while others are runddown, but a relative handful survive as well-maintained communities and are open to visitors. This slideshow from CNTV lists some of the best to visit in Beijing.

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from CNNgo
At the Bamboo Nest guesthouse in the mountains of Chiang Rai in Thailand, bamboo is everything. and I do mean everything. SLIDESHOW

from CNNgo
Want to play soldier? Then put down the remote, put on your cammo gear and head for the jungles of Thailand, where the Royal Thai Army will put you behind the trigger of an M-16 assault rifle or the controls of a tank. As real as it gets, including the insects you’ll be eating for dinner.

EUROPE
CATALUNYA: VISITORS UNWELCOME?
Spotted this on the TypicallySpanish.com site. Check out what this commenter has to say about Catalunya, a semi-autonomous region where people have a reputation for being fiercely proud of their Catalan heritage:

“…here, not only do most of those involved with tourists refuse to speak English (apologies but it is recognised as the ‘World’ language) – most insist on not speaking Spanish!!! It’s a case of ‘if you can’t be bothered to speak Catalonian, then I can’t be bothered with you, wherever you happen to be from!’ “

If this is true, it’s a real problem for Catalunya and for Spain in general. This is the kind of word-of-mouth advertising no country can afford, especially one in the midst of an economic crisis.

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from The Telegraph (London UK)
Speaking of Spain, an extensive guide to the Andalucia region sponsored by the Spanish tourism folks. Extensive and potentially useful.

from The Guardian (London UK)
The tiny Greek island of Kalymnos is carving out a niche for itself as a destination for climbers and cavers.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Europe has a vibrant, diverse music scene, and that extends to its summer music festivals.

Edited by P.A.Rice

AVIATION QUEEN: Passport = Freedom, Part Deux

© Val Bakhtin | Dreamstime.com

By BENÉT WILSON
One of the bad things about my continued march into middle age is that I can’t remember things the way I used to.  In my last post, I wrote about all the places I visited on my old passport, which expired April 12.  But I was going on memory, which was a really bad idea. 

Why? I missed some of the other great places I visited!

I went to Berlin twice. During my first trip, I was smack in the middle of the filming of “The Bourne Identity.” Let me tell you, Matt Damon is a really nice guy. 

I also got to take a tour of the now-closed Tempelhof Airport.  It was a pre-World War II monstrosity that became a symbol as the staging point for the Berlin Airlift. At the time I visited, it was a shell of its former self, mostly being used by private jets and low-cost, European-based airlines.

I went to Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal, Canada.  All three cities were unique, and I’d visit all of them again in a heartbeat.  I went to Jamaica –okay, but I probably won’t go back.  Same with the Bahamas.  I went to Puerto Vallarta, where I was chased by people trying to sell timeshares to “rich” Americans. Not pleasant at all. 

And I went to a private jet air show in Geneva, where I had a grand time at the Patek Phillipe watch museum.  I’m going back to Geneva at the end of the month, so look for a post from that trip.

But there were two trips that I should have highlighted in the last post. 

I watched the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and fell in love with the city.  I swore I’d get there some day, and I went in November 2005.  It did not disappoint.  The people were wonderful, the food fantastic, and I continue my love affair with sangria made with cava.  I am a huge Picasso fan, and Barcelona has what the artist considered his favorite museum.  And you can get in for free on the first Sunday of the month.

Barcelona was very easy to navigate, with a great subway and train system.  The city is filled with iconic buildings by hometown architect Antonio Gaudi.  Buildings you must see include La Sagrada Familia temple; La Pedrera residence; Casa Batlló (which looks like it’s made of skulls); and the Park Guell.

The other big trip was to Seoul, South Korea, where I was doing a series of stories on flag carrier Korean Air. 

I was really excited to land at Incheon International Airport, since the facility has won numerous “best airport” awards.  After visiting, I now know why.  It was light and air and very easy to navigate.  It has world-class shopping, free shower/arrivals lounges for all travelers, free wi-fi and free computer stations, places to take tours or play a round of golf during a long layover and a free Korean museum where you can make your own crafts.

While I was there, the city was celebrating Buddha’s birthday, so there were celebrations everywhere.  The local flea markets and crafts areas are a shopaholic’s dream, and I made a point of not eating Western food.  The highlight for me was having lunch at Sanchon, a restaurant owned by Buddhist monks serving “temple” cuisine.  It was a lovely oasis in the city that served all-vegetarian fare — and I am NOT a vegetarian — and wonderful teas.

So go ahead — apply for your passport.  Having one can spur you to find your own adventures!