Tag Archives: Seoul

the IBIT Travel Digest 2.3.13

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

cropped-hburghof.jpg

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 4.9.12

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

With this edition of the IBIT Travel Digest, we’re trying a slightly different format. Let me know if you prefer this approach or you’d rather keep it “old school.” Because unlike other social media (*cough* Facebook! *cough!*), IBIT prefers not to force changes down your throat.

And now, here’s this week’s Digest:

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AIR

RYANAIR…AGAIN
Ryanair, Ireland’s low-fare airline will try anything to to lighten its airplanes to cut fuel costs — lighter on-board magazines, less ice in passengers’ drinks. At one point, they even considered removing armrests from seats and imposing a “fat tax” on passengers.

Now, Ryanair is after their female flight crew to watch their weight.

You can’t make this stuff up — and here’s the proof, courtesy of London’s Daily Telegraph.

from msnbc
Flying while (extremely) pregnant — a risk worth taking?

from Smarter Travel
JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines are hooking up to make it easier for Americans back East to head for the islands.

fromUSA Today via DearSkySteward
Looks like Delta has found a formula to beat rising fuel costs: Higher airfares and fewer seats. Meanwhile…

from the New York Times
Delta actually may be looking to buy its own oil refinery. Genius or madness? You decide.

from OutOfTown
IBIT readers absolutely adore gleaming new Asian airports like Changi (SIN) in Singapore and Seoul Incheon International (ICN) in South Korea. An abundance of Internet-friendly facilities is one reason. Changi’s extra effort to make the airport a pleasant experience is another.

from msnbc
Five of the world’s best airlines and the lengths to which they go to earn their reputations.

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TAX SHELTER, OF SORTS
Federal income taxes this year are due April 17, and there’s a New York hotel that’s offering you a different kind of tax break.

According to USA Today, if you check into the Andaz Wall Street, A Hyatt property, between now and April 15, they will have their “Accountant in Residence” file your taxes for you — free.

All the hotel needs is your tax information and 72 hours’ notice. So get those receipts together.

from GOOD
Where in America do people walk and bike the most? Probably not where you think they do.

from Eater.com
Want to reserve a table at one of these 11 ultra-exclusive restaurants? It won’t be easy.

from National Geographic
NatGeo’s nominees for the world’s ten best food markets. Most are in Europe, a couple in Asia, a few more in Latin America and the Caribbean. But their top choice is in Canada.

from Wandering Educators
Can’t visit the world’s great art museums because your bored children make it a miserable experience? The art of getting kids to appreciate art.

SEA
COSTA ON THE COMEBACK?
Travel Weekly is reporting that Italy’s Costa Cruises is showing its Easter cruise bookings for 2012 up from 2011.

If so, it represents a nice rebound for a catastrophic first quarter following the Costa Concordia disaster and an engine-room fire that knocked another of their ships, the Costa Allegra, out of service.

But if everything is coming up so rosy now for Costa, why is it — as TW also reports — that Costa is making these upbeat pronouncements solely to Italian media? You’d think the company would want the whole world to know, yes? Curious, to say the least.

from National Geographic
The stream of tsunami debris from the 2011 Japan earthquake/tsunami disaster has tourists paying to see — and literally dive into — the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

from Vacation Cruises Info
A review of the new cruise ship Celebrity Eclipse. Half-acre on-board lawn? Check. Glass-blowing studio? Check. World-class dining? Well…

from CNN Travel
What is about the Titanic that people find so endlessly fascinating? A full century after she went down, people are still bringing her up.

from the Toronto Star (Canada)
New York to Toronto…by cruise ship? Welcome to the world of small-ship and inland waterway cruising.

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AFRICA
EDITORIAL
It’s been a turbulent week or so for the Mother Continent. A tense presidential runoff election in Senegal. A military coup coupled with a Taureg revolt in Mali. A dispute over presidential succession in Malawi after the incumbent succumbed to a heart attack.

Enough to make most Westerners shrug. Just business as usual in Africa, right? Not really.

In the Senegal presidential runoff, the challenger swamped the incumbent, who gracefully bowed out. In Malawi, politicians obeyed their own constitution and elevated the country’s female vice-president to the top job. And Mali’s neighbors imposed their own sanctions to force the coup plotters to return the country to civilian rule.

Imagine that. West African nations handling their business through diplomatic channels and democratic means. It’s a sign not just of political stability, but maturity. It’s an example for the rest of the continent.
— Greg Gross, IBIT

from The Witness (South Africa)
Soldiers posted in Kruger National Park may not be having much luck stopping poachers, but they’re great at terrorizing lost tourists. Who trains these guys, the TSA?

from the New York Times
A year after its revolution launched the Arab Spring, Tunisia is once again beautiful, serene, historic — and peaceful. It might be a good time to visit, before the tourist hordes come back.

from The Nambian via allAfrica.com
Namibia is trying to become the first African country ever to host the Adventure Travel World Summit, in 2013.

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AMERICAS/CARIBBEAN

from Gizmodo
For those who’ve forgotten how incredibly beautiful Yosemite National Park is, this time-lapse video will remind you.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Easter is every weekend at the Tierra Santa (Holy Land in Spanish) religious theme park in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

from the Toronto Star (Canada)
You know Francis Ford Coppola for his movies. Get to know him for his California wines.

from the Washington Post
On location in the Big Easy: A two-hour tour of New Orleans sites used as film backdrops.

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ASIA/PACIFIC

CAN ANCIENT CHINESE MEDICINE HELP MODERN TRAVELERS?
After China opened itself to the world in the 1970s, we started learning about traditional Chinese healing techniques such as acupuncture, the use of delicate needles to relieve pain by manipulating pressure points in the body.

Not quite as well known is acupressure, which works on the same principles, but without the scary-looking needles.

Could acupressure work on some of the aches and pains common to travelers? There’s a small story on the CNNgo site that suggest the answer could be “yes.”

As always, CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR FIRST.

from Travel With A Mate
Ten cool things to do in the South Korean capital, Seoul, on a budget.

from We Blog the World
Speaking of overlooked destinations in Asia, Manila almost never comes to mind. Maybe it should.

from Agence France Presse via France 24
Got a road-rage fantasy? Want to unleash your inner Patton? A company in Christchurch, New Zealand will put you at the controls of a main battle tank…and let you run over cars with it.

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EUROPE

from About.com/Eastern Europe Travel
Croatia is not your typical European destination — and that can be a good thing.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Speaking of Croatia, the Balkans may still be a politically fractured and fragile region, but these days, it’s also one ruggedly beautiful landscape that’s welcoming visitors.

from Go World Travel Guide
Cheap flights to Europe are only half the battle. Tips for saving money once you get there.

from Agence France Presse via France 24
In the Black Sea resort town of Batumi, they’re building a tower with a fountain at the top. Once a week, the fountain will flow not with water but with chacha — also known as “grape vodka.” And you get to taste. Pray that your tour bus has a designated driver.

IBIT TRAVEL Digest 2.26.12

A roundup of the good, the bad and the bizarre from the world’s best travel media

Juffureh, Gambia
Juffureh, Gambia | ©IBIT G. Gross

RETURN OF THE TRAVEL AGENT?
The Internet has given us all the ability to search out the lowest price on all things related to travel, so we really have no need for travel agents anymore, right?

Not necessarily.

An admittedly non-scientific side-by-side test by the New York Times matched the Web and a travel agent to see which produced the best deals — and the live-human travel agent came out on top.

Seasoned travelers know there’s nothing like having a knowledgeable travel agent in your corner when reservations fall through or unforeseen events blow up your travel plans. Now, it looks now as if the old-school travel agent might be able to hold their own when it comes to scoring travel bargains, as well.

FLYING LOW OVER ASIAN WATERS
The only thing I love more than traveling by sea is traveling cheaply by sea, which means I’m naturally drawn to ocean-going ferries, and Tripologist.com has come up with a trip that satisfies on both counts.

As close as Japan and South Korea are to one another, it would only make sense to visit both while you’re traveling in that part of the world. But a round-trip ticket for the two-hour flight between Tokyo and Seoul could cost you $500 and up, which is insane.

For almost $200 less, you could take a three-hour cruise on a high-speed hydrofoil between the two countries, and pass easily and cheaply from the ports to the anywhere in either country via their high-speed rail networks.

Two high-speed train rides, connected by a hydrofoil? That’s me, all right.

Tripologist breaks down the particulars here.

THE (AMAZING) RACE IS ON…AGAIN!
That’s right. CBS is coming back at you with its 20th segment of the world travel contest show, The Amazing Race. The format is the same, 11 teams of two competitors each. The prize is the same, $1 million.

Being the travel addict I am, I’d probably watch this, anyway, despite all the artificial drama and instigated conflict the show’s producers try so hard to generate. But this time around, I have extra incentives.

The first is that, once again, there are contestants from San Diego on the show. Or rather, there were. The two Asian golfing sisters were eliminated the first night. Poor girls, they barely got their passports open and they’re already gone.

The other is that I have reason to believe that the race is returning to Africa. I’d watch for that reason alone. Some may watch this show for the conniving and the cattiness, but for this traveler, it’s all about the destinations.

And now, here’s this week’s Digest:

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AIR
from Smarter Travel
The new rules requiring airlines to fully disclose the cost of a flight have prompted online travel agencies to limit their flexible options — in some cases, drastically. But there are still ways to use flexible search to your advantage.

from TIME
First, they were feeling up old ladies, frisking little girls and looting people’s luggage. Are TSA screeners now using their screening machines to ogle young women’s bodies? One woman says yes, and she’s suing.

from USA Today
The merger with United has caused Continental Airlines to disappear in all but name. Now, even that is going away. ​

from msnbc
Have one of those unbearably long flights coming up in Coach? Would rather not have a seatmate, maybe even prefer having a whole row all to yourself? That can be arranged.

LAND
from The​ Times, London UK
Better driving by motorists would make things a lot safer for cyclists. What makes this statement remarkable is that, in London, at least, it’s the motorists who are saying it.

from the New York Times
The NYT’s Michelle Higgins tells us how to get elite status from the better hotel chains. The way the hotels are adding on surcharges these days, you almost owe it to yourself to do it.

from Away.com
TV chef Anthony Bourdain shares his five top travel tips. This could cost him his Bad Boy membership card.

SEA
from the San Francisco Chronicle
The Costa Concordia disaster is giving folks in Venice second thoughts about how close they want these massive mega-ships passing by their fragile icon of Italian history.

from USA Today
Talks are underway that could bring a cruise to the capital city of Haiti for the first time in a quarter-century.

from Cruise Critic
Twenty-two passengers from the cruise ship Carnival Splendor robbed at gunpoint in Puerto Vallarta. This probably will trigger a massive response from the authorities to crime in the Mexican port, but it might be too late to save the Mexican Riviera.

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AFRICA
from CP-Africa
Is this the footprint of God?

from The Daily Observer (Gambia) via allAfrica.com
New Fajara Craft Market opens in Kotu, part of an ongoing redevelopment of the Fajara waterfront.

from the Business Daily (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
Tourism figures are up in Kenya despite worries over tourist kidnappings and conflict with Somalia’s al Shabaab religious extremist militia.

from The Citizen (Tanzania) via allAfrica.com
Mafia Island. In more ways than one, it’s not what you think. On land, lush, green, and largely unspoiled tropical landscape. Offshore, world-class diving and snorkeling.

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AMERICAS/CARIBBEAN
from State.gov
The State Department breaks down its travel warnings on Mexico, going state by state.

from the New York Times
This piece is all about how to spend a weekend in New Orleans. But if you approach this city in the right spirit, a weekend in “the NOLA” can last all year.

from USA Today
A new exhibit at a Phoenix museum shows there’s more to the Apache legacy than the legend of Geronimo.

from the San Francisco Chronicle
Hawaii’s lava flows are equally fascinating to scientists and tourists, but if you plan on taking in this breathtaking sight, a little caution is in order. Actually, make that a lot of caution.

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ASIA/PACIFIC
from Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)
From giant paper floats to a private train heated in winter by a pot-bellied stove, Aomori prefecture puts Japanese culture on display.

from the Japan Times
Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market, which feeds this nation’s insatiable appetite for seafood, is a whirlwind of sights, sounds, aromas and characters. It’s also due to close in three years. So if you want to see a historic piece of daily Tokyo life, go soon.

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EUROPE
from the Guardian (London UK)
An interactive map showing the best bargain-priced restaurants around Britain, Scotland and Northern Ireland. You’ll want to keep this one in your “mobile.”

from the Guardian (London UK)
If you’re one of those people who think camping would be great if it weren’t out in the wilderness, Berlin has the hotel you’ve been waiting for. it’s called the Hüttenpalast. AUDIO SLIDESHOW

from the the Guardian (London UK)
Speaking of eateries, here’s one Parisian’s list of the ten best Paris bistros. I wouldn’t call any of these places a bargain, but they’re probably worth every euro.

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MIDDLE EAST
from France 24
Iraqi town uses history and heritage to turn from terrorism to tourism.

CHINA: Parking in pink?

Ladies, does your fashion sense come into play when you park your car? Someone in China’s Hebei province seems to think so. File this one under “Things That Make you Go ‘What the eff!'”

Remember when we first heard about this earlier in the year? A shopping center in the Chinese city of Shijiazhuang has opened up an underground parking lot exclusively for women.

You can read the BBC story on their original plans here.

I thought it was a joke. It’s not. The link is provided on the off-chance that you think I make this stuff up.

Then I found out that it’s not even unique.

Women-only parking spaces already existed in Germany before the Chinese came up with their pink parking palace. And in Seoul, South Korea, pink-striped parking spaces are similarly being set aside for women only.

This falls in line with the women-only train carriages in Japan and more recently, Mexico City’s pink taxis, not only exclusively for women, but exclusively driven by women. And like Japan, the Mexican capital’s Metro trains have set aside rail cars for women only.

The rationale behind the gender-exclusive trains and taxis is readily understood. Female passengers feel safer in the taxis, and they’re less likely to get groped by modern-day troglodytes on the trains.

The Chinese venture, on the other hand, seems to be following that old cliché about “women drivers.”

Figuratively speaking, I’m not going there.

AVIATION QUEEN: My Dream Airport, Part 2

Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore Changi Airport | © Soon Wee Meng via Dreamstime.com

By BENÉT WILSON

After my column earlier this month on what my dream U.S. airport would look like, several of my Twitter followers faulted me for not including non-U.S. airports on my list. 

So here’s what Aviation Queen International Airport would look like if it were built, say, to replace Paris Charles DeGaulle Airport (CDG).

I’m a girl that likes airport eye candy, so I’d want my facility to look like Singapore’s Changi International Airport.  The facility is quite striking inside and out, with lots of glass, light and open air spaces.

I also really enjoy my airport shopping, so I’d want the vast selection offered at Seoul, South Korea’s Incheon International Airport (ICN).  That airport has shops that offer the world’s iconic brands, but also offers stores that fit along all price points.

Staying on the shopping tip, I must give a tip of the hat to British Airways’ London Heathrow Terminal 5 for the liquor tastings at its duty-free shops.  Thanks to those tastings, I switched from Tanqueray 10 Gin to Bombay Sapphire Gin.  I also discovered Amarula, a South African liqueur that gives Bailey’s Irish Cream a run for its money.

For easy in, easy out access, I love Munich Airport (MUC).  There’s the central terminal, then two terminals on either end.  There’s no miles and miles of walking that you see in many European airports, but I won’t name names.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) gets mad love from me in several different categories.  One, it’s a great place to be if you have a long layover because there’s plenty to do — an the Rijksmuseum, with real Van Goghs in it; a casino; a spa;  and the boutique Hotel Yotel. Second, there’s great shopping. And third, if you want to take a quick trip to downtown Amsterdam, there’s plenty of cheap public transportation to get you there.

I am one of those people who love spotlessly clean restrooms and Brussels Airport (BRU) wins my award hands down.  I never saw people cleaning during a long layover, but no matter where I went, those bathrooms were spotless.

My best airport for clearing customs was the UK’s Manchester Airport (MAN). I traveled to Manchester regularly when I worked for a UK-based company and even though my flight tended to arrive with other international flights, the lines here were never more than 10 minutes.

For food, I want the chef that runs the Italian restaurant at Switzerland’s Lugano Airport (LUG). I had spent a week in Baveno, Italy, at a resort that served food I still have nightmares about.  The whole trip, foodwise, was saved by the pasta I ate at that little place in Lugano. 

But if you’re looking for a variety, I have to give the nod to Incheon.  It has a great selection of restaurants, from sit-down to carry-out, catering to different cuisine tastes.

But now that I think about it, my perfect international airport already exists — Changi Airport.  Take all the items I mentioned above, and Changi has them — and more. 

It has special baby lounges where mothers can nurse and take care of their children in a pleasant, accommodating environment.  There’s a health clinic on site in case you’re not feeling so hot.  There are business centers and plenty of Internet access.  There are live music lounges, a nature trail, free rest areas, shower, fitness and spa facilities and a swimming pool. 

Have at least a five-hour layover? You can register for a FREE two-hour tour of Singapore, which includes transportation.

So tell me — what is your favorite non-U.S. airport? What are some of the best amenities you’ve seen at these airports?

Greg’s Take
I really didn’t need another reason for wanting to check out Singapore, but now I have one: Changi airport. Normally, you can’t wait to get away from the airport, but Benét’s description of Changi makes me want to go hang out there.

And coming from a long line of frustrated would-be fighter pilots, I have to love any civilian airport that doubles as an air force base, which Changi does.

So far, Schiphol is my favorite international airport, and its reputation as one of the world’s best is well-deserved. But I suspect Changi, especially the new Terminal 3 seen above, could give Schiphol a real battle for the hearts of air travelers.

Singaporeans must be amazing people. These are are the same folks who built a swimming pool the length of a football field — and stretched it across the tops of THREE high-rise buildings! Their country may be small (pop. 5 million, a quarter the size of Mexico City), but when they decide to do something, they clearly don’t half-step.

Besides, how could you not love an airport whose international designation is SIN?

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!