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Archive for OPULUXE Travel

Avoid a TSA pat-down during holiday travel

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— tips from top travel experts

BY Rosemary Black
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Tuesday, November 23rd 2010, 2:28 PM

Wearing snug clothing can help passengers avoid a TSA pat-down. 

Warren/AP

Wearing snug clothing can help passengers avoid a TSA pat-down.

Want to dress for success at avoiding intrusive patdowns before hopping on a plane? Skip the bulky sweaters and ankle-length skirts (they’re red flags to airport screeners), leave your underwire bra and earrings in the suitcase, and consider wearing tight slacks, according to The Associated Press.

Choosing the right outfit can make getting through security less mortifying, according to travel experts.

“It’s difficult enough to fly right now, so let’s be sensible about it,” Susan Foster, author of “Smart Packing for Today’s Traveler,” told AP. “Let’s minimize all the hassle.”

Reducing the time spent getting screened might be possible by not wearing items that can set off the metal detector, according to TSA information. No-nos include clothes with metal buttons, heavy jewelry, cuff links, lanyards, bolo ties and belt buckles.

Another passenger suggests dressing as you would to go to Disneyland. “And by that I mean dressing comfortably, with a good pair of shoes,” Aliise Becker told The AP. “The days of dressing to the nines to travel is a thing of the past.”

Some travel experts say it’s sensible to get to the airport two hours in advance of the flight, and to have carry-ons look organized for scanning by TSA agents.

“If your carry-on bag goes through the machine that they’re looking at and everything is in its place … it’s going to go right through. You’re going to go right through and you’re going to go through to your gate,” Denver travel expert Andrea Shpall told 9news.com.

Laptops have to be removed from their case to be scanned and liquids must fit into a 1 quart container and be less than 3 ounces, Shpall said.

As for what to skip wearing? Resist T-shirts sold online that make fun of patdowns. One of the shirts that purports to offer advice to TSA officers says to “firmly grasp” the buttocks. Other shirts make fun of the “don’t touch my junk” line that became an Internet sensation when a California man told a TSA officer, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.”

Another T-shirt sold online – definitely worth avoiding if you’d like to streamline your security screening – is for “Fondle Airlines” and proclaims, “Fondling junk since 2010.”

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‘Death ray’ at Vegas hotel sparks curiosity via [yahoonews]

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Swanky new Vegas hotel’s ‘death ray’ proves inconvenient for some guests

By Brett Michael Dykes

A design quirk at a swanky new tower leaves some guests with unsettling souvenirs, singed hair and melted bags.

Vdara Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas (Getty Images/Ethan Miller)

And here you thought bedbugs were the biggest source of anxiety for hotel guests.

Yes, guests at Vdara hotel in Las Vegas now have something else to worry about: being burned alive by the glare of the building‘s “death ray.”

What the heck’s a “death ray,” you ask? Well, first off, it’s not as deadly as it sounds, since no one has actually died from it — at least not yet. But according to the U.K. Daily Mail, the powerful beams of Nevada sunlight reflecting off the glass hotel onto sections of the hotel’s swimming pool area have burned some guests and have melted plastic bags.

The building’s concave design creates a sort of magnifying-glass effect. The hotel’s designers reportedly anticipated that ill-situated humans might experience some discomfort courtesy of the building’s blinding glare, so they placed a film over the glass panes of its many windows. Obviously that didn’t quite do the trick. So for now the hotel is placing larger umbrellas in the pool area while designers try to come up with another remedy.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the hotel’s employees coined the term “death ray” to describe the intense reflection. Reports of the glare have also enhanced the hotel’s public profile, though almost certainly not in the way its owners would like; Yahoo! searches for Vdara have spiked by nearly 19,000 percent in the past 24 hours.

It turns out that Vdara isn’t the only building out there creating intense heat and glare for hapless passersby. Gordon Absher, a spokesman for MGM Resorts International, which owns Vdara, told the Review-Journal that in Las Vegas, the AdventureDome at Circus Circus and the Mandalay Bay produce “hot spots” that some guests have actually sought out, believing the spots will aid tanning regimens. In Los Angeles, the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall produced such a harsh glare that it heated nearby homes, forcing residents to blast their air conditioners high above their customary capacities in order for the residents to keep cool.

[Build your own death ray — and a dozen more mad-scientist devices you can make at home]

Bill Pintas, a Chicago attorney, told the Daily Mail that he experienced the harsh glare of the death ray firsthand during a recent Vdara stay. Pintas reported that as he lounged out by the pool, his head suffered a sensation he likened to a “chemical burn.” He added, “Within 30 seconds, the back of my legs were burning.”

[Even more on death rays: The mystery of Nikola Tesla’s missing weapon]

In another interview, Pintas said: “I was effectively being cooked.” Thankfully, he returned home alive. Still, his skin was burned and his hair was singed — disproving the old saying that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

(Photo via AP)





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When TV Ads Work: The Korean Air Commercial via [sellingtoconsumersblog]

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OPULUXE Lounge GroovesPlayList

Perhaps you’ve seen the Korean Air TV advertisements that have been airing for some time in the U.S. Although I have not yet flown Korean Air, I’m ready to. The message in the advertisements have reached a tipping point with me, and their excellence in flight message has hit home in my psyche. Here’s the ad:

So how did I, a consumer and frequent business traveler, reach the point where I am ready to try Korean Air’s product? The right message at the right time. After dozens of mediocre experiences in flight, I want some excellence. I need some excellence.

From the first time I saw the Korean Air ads a couple years ago, I took notice. And with repeated viewing, their impact has Here’s why:

1. Understated elegance.

In an industry that has become decidedly unelegant almost all the time, the understated elegance of the ad’s production attracts attention. Wonderful chill music by Robert Matt, a simple message, and a relaxing vibe sucks the viewer in.

And I want one of those turquoise martini drinks.

The takeaway: In an era of marketing overstatement, be understated instead.

2. It’s different.

We might be familiar with seeing ads like this for fragrances or spas, but not for airlines. Watch this Continental Airlines ad. See how it’s style contrasts with Korean Air’s commercial.

Hear the frantic music? See the high-energy video? While everyone likes to fly on new planes (the key message of the Continental ad), Korean Air makes a statement simply because it’s different from typical business-as-usual airline advertisements. No splashy colors (merely predominant muted grays along with splashes of turquoise); no frantic panning and zooming of the image (gentle, dreamy visuals instead); no typical hyper-business voiceover (just a few words spoken in total, and with pleasing and calm speech)…these equal a “pay attention” vibe, and it works.

Can flying really be a sensual experience?

The takeaway: If you want to stand out, be different.

3.It has a simple message.

Airlines haven’t been talking much about excellence lately. It’s nice to see and hear, especially when a customer probably has visuals of recent airline crashes stored somewhere in their memory. “Excellence in flight” is digestible, it’s meaningful, and it resonates with viewers. I don’t know if it’s true, but the goal of marketing is not accuracy, it’s more revenue.

The takeaway: Messages with less are often more effective than messages with more.

Now, would a company in Seoul please hire me for a sales training project or speaking engagement so I can try out Korean Air? I need a little excellence in flight.

And I like kimchi.





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Ten Things Baggage Handlers Won’t Tell You via [smartmoney and gadling’stravel]

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Great funny and truthful piece on Yahoo Travel. Below are a few excerpts.

The secret journey your bag takes once it leaves the check-in counter.

https://i0.wp.com/resources1.news.com.au/images/2010/07/27/1225897/514293-baggage-handlers.jpg

1. “Don’t pack light—we need the money.”

These are turbulent times for the aviation industry. According to the Air Transport Association of America, passenger revenue fell 18 percent in 2009, the largest drop on record. In the past decade airlines have also been hit with extra costs related to fuel prices, security and unionization: 40 percent of air-transportation workers were unionized in 2009, compared with 12 percent of the general workforce. “It’s a tough, tough industry to achieve any success,” says Daniel Ortwerth, transportation analyst at Edward Jones.

So it’s no surprise carriers are cutting corners. Passengers have kissed hot meals goodbye while paying for itinerary changes, frequent-flier bookings and even blankets and pillows. Another hit: luggage fees. In January most major domestic carriers bumped these to $25 for the first checked bag, $35 for the second (but amounts can vary), which could generate $117 million in new revenue, according to consultancy IdeaWorks. It’s a mixed bag for handlers like Shae Flores of American Airlines: Sure, fliers are checking fewer bags, but they’re cramming more into them, requiring “more upper-body strength,” she says.

2. “We’re losing fewer bags—because there are fewer to lose.”

It’s true, fewer bags are getting lost in transit these days: There were 3.91 “mishandled” (lost, stolen, damaged or delayed) bags per 1,000 passengers in 2009, compared with 5.26 in 2008 and 7.05 in 2007, according to the Department of Transportation. But baggage handlers shouldn’t pat themselves on the back. Catherine Mayer, VP at travel-tech firm SITA, says the DOT undercounts errors by excluding reports from passengers with an international leg in their flight. (The DOT agrees, saying airlines are required to file mishandled-baggage reports only for domestic trips.) What’s more, industry experts attribute the downward trend to the fact that there’s less luggage to lose; US Airways, for one, says it has seen a 20 percent drop in first-checked-bag volume.

Mayer says the vast majority of lost bags are reunited with owners within 48 hours. But when they aren’t, airlines sell off unidentifiable bags to defray the cost of insuring lost luggage claims. Final stop: the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Ala., a 40,000-square-foot store that peddles their contents as “lost treasures from around the world.”

3. “Some of us have sticky fingers.”

Last June, Sekita Ekrek, a New York–based entertainment consultant, flew to Chicago to visit family. Upon arrival at her sister’s place, she says, she went for her camera, which she’d put in a checked bag before the flight, but it was gone. Upset, she decided to file a claim against the carrier, American Airlines. But by the time she got home and found the original model number, it was too late; the airline’s 30-day window had passed. “They said, ‘That’s our policy, end of story,’” says Ekrek. (A spokesperson for American Airlines says that camera equipment is excluded from the policy because of liability limitations.)

To be fair, 30 days seems generous compared with the limits set by other airlines. Brandon Macsata, executive director for the Association of Airline Passenger Rights, says some airlines require that you report stolen goods before leaving the airport. Alexander Anolik, a San Francisco attorney specializing in travel law, says that while courts will probably not sympathize if you miss a 30-day window, same-day-reporting rules are unreasonable. Airlines likely owe you money even if it takes a few days to notice that something’s gone, he says.

6. “Not all bags are created equal.”

In the movie “Up in the Air,” travel-obsessed downsizing pro Ryan Bingham (played by George Clooney) takes his firm’s ambitious new hire to a luggage shop after she brings a clunky suitcase along on her first business trip. Indeed, finicky fliers say the smallest details matter, and industry experts agree that some materials are better than others. According to Dawn Sicco, U.S. wholesale marketing director at Samsonite, ballistic nylon—originally used in World War II flak jackets—has become the “pinnacle of the industry” since first appearing in luggage two decades ago. For hard-shell suitcases, Sicco says polycarbonate is best. Lightweight but strong, this synthetic resin is found in police riot shields and bulletproof glass.

Baggage handlers can be picky too. Flores, the American Airlines handler, says she prefers bags with “spinner” wheels that rotate in circles; this makes it easier for her to push bags in any direction without lifting them. But that doesn’t necessarily mean consumers should opt for spinners. Dan Bohl, a district manager at Colorado Bag’n Baggage in Denver, says the wheels on four-wheel suitcases are more susceptible to damage and dislocation because of their placement.

7. “Stressing about baggage claim? You should.”

Ever wonder what happens if someone walks off with your suitcase at baggage claim? Airlines hope it won’t happen. “It’s more of an honor system,” says a spokesperson for Southwest. Legally, says travel attorney Anolik, until your belongings are back in your hands, they’re still the airline’s responsibility, and on trips involving connecting flights with multiple airlines, it’s the first carrier that matters. In the case of checked luggage poached at baggage claim, airlines say that they’ll negotiate a reasonable payment if they can’t find your bags but that it’s impossible to hunt for bags once they’ve left the airport.

Fortunately, the Department of Transportation has made it easier to get reimbursed for expenses ranging from a toothbrush to a new suit by cracking down on airlines that had been violating its baggage-handling rules. Anolik notes the domestic limit for claims is now $3,300 but cautions that for international flights, calculating compensation can be tricky, since liability is likely to be priced in “special drawing rights,” a complex monetary unit made up of differently weighted currencies.

8. “Many of us don’t actually work for the airlines.”

Not all baggagehandlers work for airlines; many are contract workers employed by so-called ground-handling companies. JetBlue employs a mix of both, while American uses contractors at airports where it has just a handful of flights per day. Major ground-handling companies include Swissport International, which employs about 1,500 baggage handlers in the U.S. and, like its rivals, gets most of its business from foreign airlines. According to Michael Boyd, president of aviation consultants Boyd Group International, third-party vendors are popular as a way for airlines to save money, since ground-handling firms compete for contracts, hire more short-term workers and tend to be less unionized.

John Conley, director of the Transport Workers Union’s air-transport division, says outsourcing baggage handling can mean slower service and mistakes. “If I were working for a contract group, it’s likely that I’ll have less of a wage…and probably less of an investment,” he says. A Swissport exec says that’s not true, and Boyd agrees consumers shouldn’t worry, since it’s a straightforward job most handlers can do no matter who the boss is.

10. “If you think we’re bad here, just wait till you go abroad.”

In some parts of the world, smugglers have been known to transport drugs in the luggage of unsuspecting air passengers. In other regions, security may be especially lax, and pilfering of bags or their contents is of greater concern for travelers. Worldwide, 11.4 bags per 1,000 passengers were mishandled in 2008, according to SITA; industry experts say that figure is far lower in the U.S.

Using luggage locks during foreign travel is a good idea, but to prevent smuggling and theft (at least of a bag’s contents), some fliers are wrapping their suitcases in layers of clear plastic. Smarte Carte, a provider of luggage carts at major airports, offers plastic-wrapping stations in Auckland, New Zealand, and Perth, Australia. Florida-based Global Baggage Protection Systems, meanwhile, operates as Secure Wrap in 47 airports worldwide. Not going abroad anytime soon? Domestic travelers can try out Secure Wrap for $9 to $14 a pop at John F. Kennedy International in New York, George Bush Intercontinental in Houston or Miami International. In Miami, where drug smuggling is an especially big worry, 2,000 to 4,000 pieces of luggage get wrapped on any given day, says Secure Wrap Executive Director Daniel Valdespino. But a Transportation Security Administration spokesperson says agents will open bags if they have to, even plastic-wrapped ones.

Videos: bad baggage handlers (or, Remind me again why we pay to check luggage!)

by A. Hermitt

What happens to your bags after you hand them over at the airport? It’s a question we’ve all asked ourselves. Are our bags cared for lovingly? Are they abused? Are they tossed and thrown… or set down carefully, gently?

While most baggage handlers are no doubt scrupulous and careful with luggage, every group has its bad apples. Here are some of the worst offenders, making us mutter to ourselves, “Remind me again why we pay to check luggage!”

Watch these baggage handlers see who can get the best backward, over the head shot into containers with luggage and shipped packages.

Watch these baggage handlers see who can get the best backward, over the head shot into containers with luggage and shipped packages.

It’s clear that this baggage handler is not really interested in “handling” the baggage as it comes off the plane.

This young lady was having fun bag tossing… until she realized passengers were watching her from the plane.

These British Air baggage handlers seem to enjoy watching the bags bounce off each other.

These EasyJet baggage handlers seem to think it’s appropriate to stack the smallest bags on the bottom… and dump the larger bags on top.

This guy doesn’t throw any bags… he just drags the bags behind the baggage car.

So you think locking your luggage makes it safer? Ha! This video shows you precisely how to get into a “locked” bag.

These baboons at Knowlsey Safari Park give new meaning to the phrase “baggage handlers.”

Good luck on your next flight, and remember: don’t pack anything valuable in your checked bags!



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The World’s Top 25 Trains via [irtsociety.com]

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Pride of Africa

Region: Africa

Train Type: Luxury

Rovos Rail’s Pride of Africa offers an old-world elegance and
luxury to a degree that was never equaled in the 1920s. Many seasoned
IRT Society travelers consider it the world’s finest train. Celebrated
not only for its fabulous equipment, the train is rightfully proud of
its stellar dining and on-board service. In short, the entire
experience is consistent in meeting the highest luxury standards.

Pride of  <br/>Africa

Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

Region: Europe

Train Type: Luxury

The Venice Simplon Orient Express (VSOE), with its restored,
1920s vintage cars, is the world’s most authentic luxury train. Made
famous in the Agatha Christie story, the train still runs on the
legendary route from Paris to Istanbul. Other itineraries are also
available.


Venice  <br/>Simplon-Orient-Express

Royal Scotsman

Region: Europe

Train Type: Luxury

The Royal Scotsman is a standout train. A small venue—just 36
passengers—it’s great for those who wish for a more intimate, luxury
setting with gourmet, five-star dining, wine-pairing and superior
service. Simply put, it is one of our favorite hotel trains. All the
train’s cars, save the 1928-era diner, are of 1960s vintage equipment,
but they have been recast into an Edwardian confection of varnished
woods, polished brass and fine fabrics.

Special Offers:
Book by June 24 for special discounts, with savings up to $3,280!

Royal<br/>  Scotsman

Royal Canadian Pacific

Region: North
America

Train Type: Luxury

Many of the cars for the Royal
Canadian Pacific (RCP) train were built between 1917 and 1931 and were
used as business cars for the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR). Just 32
persons can pretend to be royalty and come aboard to sample the
train’s five-star dining, open-platform observation areas, several
small salons, and large compartments with private, ensuite shower,
toilet and sink. The train and its superb staff combine outstanding
scenery, exclusive visits and elegant musical events with the top-notch
service and cuisine.

Royal Canadian <br/> Pacific

Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express

Region: Europe

Train Type: First-Class

The new, all-ensuite Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express launched
in April, 2007 to much fanfare in Moscow. The train has Gold and
Silver Class accommodations, both with en-suite bathroom, as well as
two dining cars and a lounge car. The train plies the famous
Trans-Siberian route between Moscow and Vladivostok.

Golden  <br/>Eagle Trans-Siberian Express

Danube Express

Region: Europe

Train Type: First-Class

The new Danube Express private train began service in 2008 on
routes in central Europe. The train has brand-new deluxe carriages
which offer the best train accommodations in Europe. In 2009, the
Danube Express will take about 80 passengers in both classic and deluxe
compartments.

Danube  <br/>Express

Deccan Odyssey

Region: Asia

Train Type: Luxury

The Deccan Odyssey is one of the subcontinent’s most luxurious
trains; its cars, built in 2003, have been upgraded with new carpet and
bedspreads recently, according to our ground suppliers. These
improvements, which we recommended last year, bring this train up to
“luxury” status, because its staff, service, amenities and food were
already superb.

Deccan Odyssey

Shangri-La Express

Region: Asia

Train Type: First-Class

The private Shangri-La Express (formerly China Orient Express) is
at this writing still the most modern hotel train in China and far
surpasses regular train service in every aspect. It is not a luxury
train, despite its name, but it is comfortable and convenient. Combined
with a Three Gorges cruise, the Shangri-La Express is definitely the
best way to see China.

Shangri-La  <br/>Express

Eastern & Oriental Express

Region: Asia

Train Type: Luxury

In 1991, the Orient-Express company acquired New Zealand’s famed
Silver Star, transported it to Southeast Asia and, following
refurbishment, re-christened it the Eastern & Oriental Express
(E&O). The train runs 1,262 miles between Singapore, Malaysia and
Bangkok, Thailand.

Eastern  <br/>& Oriental Express

Glacier Express

Region: Europe

Train Type: First-Class

The Swiss proudly hail the Glacier Express as the world’s slowest
express. The train takes almost eight hours and the services of two
private, narrow-gauge railroads to traverse the 168 mountainous miles
between two posh resorts—Zermatt and St. Moritz. The Alpine route of
the Glacier Express is what makes this train so marvelous.

Glacier Express

Bergen Railway

Region: Europe

Train Type: First-Class

The complete Oslo-Bergen line was opened in 1909 as the only
year-round land transport between Norway’s two largest cities. The
300-mile length of track passes through 200 tunnels and 18 miles of
snowsheds in addition to crossing more than 300 bridges. The scenery on
the 7-hour Bergen Railway trip across the Hardanger plateau, the
largest wilderness area in Europe, is breathtaking.

Bergen  <br/>Railway

Flam Railway

Region: Europe

Train Type: First-Class

With the Flåm Railway, it’s what you see outside that counts. In
about an hour, the line climbs some 2,833 feet from Flåm station,
nestled in the innermost corner of the Aurlandfjord, to the mountain
station at Myrdal on the Bergen Railway. On the 12.4-mile-long ride,
you’ll see rivers that cut through deep ravines, waterfalls cascading
down the sides of steep, snowcapped mountains and farms clinging
dizzily to sheer slopes.

Flam  <br/>Railway

Bernina Express

Region: Europe

Train Type: First-Class

The spectacular Bernina line was started more than 100 years ago
and was completed in 1910. It is run by Rhaetian Railways. Beginning in
Chur, St. Moritz or Davos, it passes the glaciers of Piz Bernina,
making this the highest railway crossing in all of the Alps. It travels
over 38 miles, climbing grades of up to 7%––without rack and
pinion––to more than 7,391 feet at the Bernina Pass summit, and drops
down to just 1,408 feet at Tirano, Italy.

Bernina  <br/>Express

Hiram Bingham

Region: South
America

Train Type: Luxury

The gleaming blue-and-gold
cars of the Hiram Bingham makes the three-hour trip between Cusco and
Machu Picchu every day but Sunday. The train has two 42-seat dining
cars serving excellent Peruvian specialties for brunch on the journey
to Machu Picchu, and for dinner on the evening return to Cusco. The
train also has a gorgeous bar/observation car.

Hiram  <br/>Bingham

Andean Explorer

Region: South
America

Train Type: First-Class

The Andean Explorer makes
the 10-hour trek from Cusco to Puno and Lake Titicaca. This addition
covers one of the highest standard-gauge rail routes in the world,
reaching altitudes up to 14,150 feet. A highlight is riding at sunset
the few miles before Puno alongside Lake Titicaca.

Andean  <br/>Explorer

El Transcantábrico

Region: Europe

Train Type: Luxury

The 52-passenger El Transcantábrico train, which traverses
Northern Spain, started in 1983.  Its launching was one of the first
stories in The International Railway Traveler, also founded in 1983.
Each train set has six sleepers, each with four double compartments.
The train is operated by Ferrocarriles Españoles de Vía Estrecha
(FEVE), which means Narrow-Gauge Spanish Railways.

Special
group departure Sept.
18-25 Santiago
de Compostela-San Sebastian with Owen & Eleanor Hardy, owners, The
Society of International Railway Travelers®

El  <br/>Transcantábrico

Blue Train

Region: Africa

Train Type: Luxury

The Blue Train is one of the world’s great luxury trains, and
runs several times a month between Pretoria and Capetown. The route is a
27-hour journey of 994 miles and includes a sightseeing stop in each
direction. The Blue Train is operated by the state-run Spoornet.

Blue Train

British Pullman

Region: Europe

Train Type: Luxury

The British Pullman is a luxury, vintage day train that completes
the British leg of Orient-Express journeys between Paris and London.
Passengers from the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express debark in Calais,
France, and board a special Orient-Express bus for the short
“piggyback” train ride through the Eurotunnel to Folkestone. There, they
board the British Pullman for the ride to London’s Victoria station.

British <br/> Pullman

Rocky Mountaineer

Region: North
America

Train Type: First-Class

The Rocky Mountaineer
explores Western Canada in comfort and class. The train’s luxury
GoldLeaf Service, with its custom-built glass dome coaches, offers fine
dining on the lower level, plus wind-in-the-face, outdoor viewing at
the rear platform. Travel between Vancouver, Banff, Jasper and Calgary.


Rocky  <br/>Mountaineer

Canadian

Region: North
America

Train Type: First-Class

The Canadian is VIA Rail
Canada’s flagship train. It runs between Toronto and Vancouver three
times a week, traveling 4,500 miles. IRT recommends Silver & Blue
Class so you can have a private bedroom on board the overnight train
and the many perks that come with it—from a special waiting room at the
main stations, to priority boarding, “welcome aboard” reception, and
all delicious meals included. The main delight is exclusive access to
the great dome cars for seeing the sites day or night. The schedule for
the Canadian has recently changed: Now the trip from Toronto to Jasper
allows three nights on board (evening departure, early arrival Jasper
is two days, 17 hours later.) All the way to Vancouver is four nights
(three days, 14 hours and 42 minutes!) Arrival in Vancouver is
scheduled for mid-morning.

Canadian

Palace on Wheels

Region: Asia

Train Type: First-Class

The Palace on Wheels, with its cream-colored livery, is a joint
venture of Indian Railways and the state of Rajasthan’s tourism office.
Starting service in 1982, it was India’s first hotel train and has
been gaining in popularity ever since.

Palace on Wheels

Darjeeling Himalayan Toy Train

Region: Asia

Train Type: Steam/Railfan

The tiny, two-foot-gauge “Toy Train” runs in West Bengal from
Siliguri, 400 feet above sea level, to Darjeeling, 7,200 feet above sea
level. It was built by the British between 1879 and 1881 to escape the
brutal heat of the plains below. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage
Site in 1999. Its myriad loops, corkscrews and switchbacks offer
passengers incredible views of the Himalayas. Ancient locomotives, the
oldest built in 1889, climb through zigzags and loops to gain height.

For other great steam train tours around the world, please click here.

Darjeeling Himalayan Toy Train

Sunlander

Region: Australia/New
Zealand

Train Type: First-Class

The Sunlander train
offers an overnight service crossing 1,045 miles on the east coast of
Queensland, Australia, from Brisbane to Cairns. The scenery is
spectacular. It takes 32 hours; the Sunlander with high-end
“Queenslander Class” travels twice a week, Sunday and Thursday from
Brisbane; it runs Tuesday and Saturday from Cairns.

Sunlander

Indian Pacific

Region: Australia/New
Zealand

Train Type: First-Class

Australia’s
transcontinental Indian Pacific offers a twice-weekly service in both
directions, from Perth to Sydney via Adelaide across more than 2,704
miles. Almost 300 miles of it is across the longest straight track in
the world, the Nullarbor Plain. The journey takes three nights, and our
travelers report it’s frequently a very jolly departure, with many
Aussies traveling the route, especially around holiday periods.

Indian  <br/>Pacific

Ghan

Region: Australia/New
Zealand

Train Type: First-Class

The Ghan has a long and
wild history, starting in 1878 when construction began on a line from
Port Augusta. Until 1929, the last part of the journey to Alice Springs
was was accomplished by Afghan camel train, and that’s where today’s
train gets it name. The Alice to Darwin “Top End” route, dreamed of for
more than a century, was started in 2001. The first train arrive in
Darwin in 2004. The service has been swamped with travelers. It takes
48 hours—two nights on board—to travel from Adelaide to Darwin over
1,852 miles of track.

Ghan




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12 Brand NEW Cities: Out With the Old, and In With the NEW! via [msnbc and forbes]

Already seen Rome and Paris? Fresh, new cities are springing up

Image: Under construction

Christophe Archambault / AFP / Getty Images
The Myanmar
government relocated its capital to Naypyidaw, an undeveloped site more
than 200 miles north of its previous capital, Yangon, in 2005. The
city is still under construction, but already has a population of
nearly 1 million, which would make it Myanmar’s third-largest city.
By Oliver Chiang
– As you plan your
next big trip, centuries-old hot spots like Rome and Paris may come to
mind. But if you’ve been there and done that, you might want to check
out some new cities that have sprung up recently around the world. 

One trip you may want to start saving up for
now is a vacation to The Pearl in Qatar, a man-made island chain in the
shape of a string of pearls, billed as the “Riviera Arabia.” Situated
in a lagoon just offshore of Qatar’s capital city of Doha, this $2.5
billion project started development in 2003 and will eventually include
luxury villa apartments, three 5-star hotels,
beaches and marinas.

Though it won’t be finished until 2013 or
later, The Pearl already has a number of high-end retail shops and
restaurants, and holds regular performances by artists like Spanish
tenor Placido Domingo. And if, after visiting the islands, you find you
just can’t bear to leave, you may be in luck. The Pearl has a string
of nine private islands that will go up for sale in the
future–provided you can afford what will probably be exorbitant
property prices.



For an experience with less gild and a lot more grit, visit
Naypyidaw, the new capital of the Southeast Asian nation Myanmar,
especially if you enjoy being part of a good mystery. No one knows
exactly why the Myanmar government in 2005 suddenly relocated the
capital 200 miles north to Naypyidaw from Yangon. Nor does anyone know
the future plans for Naypyidaw, Burmese for “city of kings,” or how many
millions of dollars it must be costing the government to develop it.

But for the curious traveler, half the
adventure of Naypyidaw is getting there–the capital is tucked away in a
mountain jungle, an eight- to 10-hour drive along ox-cart roads. You
can also claim bragging rights to having been to one of the more
obscure capitals of the world, where few other travelers have gone
before. There aren’t many big tourist attractions in the city, but a
couple of note are the zoological gardens, with hundreds of animals,
including rare wallabies and white tigers, and the water park. The
Myanmar government says Naypyidaw has an estimated 1 million residents,
making it the country’s third-largest city.

If you’re looking for a new city somewhere in Northeast Asia,
consider South Korea‘s new Songdo International Business District. When
it is completed, likely in 2014, this $35 billion project will
encompass 1,500 acres and house around 65,000 residents. In addition,
Songdo will have an 18-hole championship golf course, which is
scheduled to host the 2012 PGA Championship Tour, an art museum, an opera house
and concert hall. Already completed is the 100-acre Central Park in the
middle of the city, as well as a number of residential and commercial
buildings.

Songdo is not only an entirely new city, it is
also an example of an “eco-city,” a term that describes the growing
trend of new cities with plans focusing on sustainability, using smart
technologies and strategic planning. Examples of Songdo’s
sustainability plans include an extensive public transportation system
and a centralized waste disposable system that uses a series of
pneumatic tubes.

Eco-cities like Songdo are more than just a nice idea; they are
expected to yield important lessons for future human habitats. By 2050
nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, according to
the Population Division of the United Nations’ Department of Economic
and Social Affairs. As cities become home to the majority of the
world’s population, Songdo and others will become important testing
grounds for green technologies and new ways of city planning.

“The thinking is that by changing the way
cities are designed–the size of the buildings and streets — we can
fundamentally change the footprint of humans on the environment,” says
Karen Seto, an associate professor at Yale University in Urban
Environment. She also notes that there is much to be gained from
retrofitting old cities with new plans and technologies.

Other eco-city experts are excited about the new Masdar City,
located just outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
One of the major goals of this ambitious $22 billion project, which
broke ground in 2008, is to be a city with zero waste and zero carbon
emissions. To that end, Masdar will feature many urban uses of green
technologies. For instance, one of the solar technologies it is testing
is called “concentrated solar power,” a tracking system with mirrors
and lenses that focus sunlight on water to heat it so that it can power
steam generators. The new Masdar Institute of Science and Technology,
developed with the help of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
will also be home to research and development for sustainable
technologies.

“The cities of the past didn’t have to think about issues like climate change
and energy volatility,” says Warren Karlenzig, chief executive of urban
consultancy Common Current and a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute.
But cities of the future can’t afford to ignore such issues, says
Karlenzig, especially given the ever-increasing population.

Meanwhile, many of these brand new cities will
be completed or significantly developed within the next five to 10
years, when their implications for the future will be better
understood.

Says Karlenzig: “By the end of this decade,
we’re really going to be seeing what these cities are like, how they
operate and if they do make more sense than organically evolved
cities.”

In Pictures: 12 Brand New Cities

Courtesy of The Pearl

1. The Pearl, Qatar

Like Dubai’s Palm Islands, The Pearl is a man-made island, one that
spans 1.5 square miles in the shape of a string of pearls. Billed as the
“Riviera Arabia,” it will include luxury villa apartments and three
5-star hotels, as well as high-end retail shops and restaurants. This
$2.5 billion project is located in Doha’s West Bay Lagoon area. The
global recession has pushed back The Pearl’s completion date to 2013,
but it currently has a number of shops and activities open to tourists.

CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT/AFP/Getty Images

2.  Naypyidaw, Myanmar

In what was probably a political and strategic decision in 2005, the
Myanmar government relocated its capital to Naypyidaw, an undeveloped
site more than 200 miles north of its previous capital, Yangon.
Subsequently named Naypyidaw, or “city of kings,” the city is still
under construction, but already has a population of nearly 1 million,
which would make it Myanmar’s third-largest city. Some of the main
attractions to this sprawling 2.7-square mile city include its
zoological gardens and water park.

http://www.masdar.ae

3.  Masdar City, United Arab Emirates

Located just outside of Abu Dhabi, Masdar City broke ground in 2008
and is one of the most ambitious new eco-cities being built today. Zero
carbon and zero waste are atop this $22-billion project’s list of
goals, as well as the sole use of renewable energy sources, the
implementation of a mass transit system and the construction of the
Masdar Institute of Science and Technology. The city’s planners expect
the city to be completed over the next decade and to attract up to
50,000 residents.


http://www.songdo.com

4.  Songdo International Business District, South Korea

Once undeveloped mudflats 40 miles southwest of Seoul, Songdo is
becoming a smart urban center with an integrated network of utility,
transportation, real estate and recreation systems. This manmade island,
started in 2001, is a $35 billion project that will encompass 1,500
acres, house 65,000 residents and is slated for completion in 2014.
Green transportation systems and underground pneumatic tubes for garbage
collection are just a couple of the technologies being implemented for
Songdo. It currently has more than 100 buildings, including a
7,800-person apartment complex, a 100-acre central park and a Sheraton
hotel.

http://www.greendiary.com

5. Tianjin Eco-City, China

Though China is not exactly known for being eco-friendly, it does
have a number of eco-cities in the works, including the Tianjin Eco-City
in northeast China. This $22 billion project covers 11.5 square miles
and will include green public transportation systems and a power plant
fueled by organic waste. The first phase of the city is scheduled to be
finished by next year, with an animation center and a public housing
project with 500 affordable units. The entire project is expected to
take about 10 to 15 years to finish and will house around 350,000
people.

www/dholerasir.com

6.  Dholera, India

Located in the northwest part of India in Gujarat, Dholera is a new
project on what is now largely rural land, and it will be part of a
global manufacturing and trading hub. Dholera is also the first city in a
series of cities across a larger project, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial
Corridor (DMIC), a 93-mile stretch down the west coast of the
subcontinent. With the DMIC, the Indian government aims to double the
number of jobs in the region and quadruple its exports within just five
years.

Jeppe Wikstrom/Getty Images

7.  Hammarby Sjostad, Sweden

While not brand new, this once-polluted former industrial site just
south of Stockholm has risen from the ashes to become one of Europe’s
most eco-friendly towns. One of the most distinguishing features of the
lakeside town is its waste collection system: an extensive series of
hydraulic tubes that collects trash, recycling it to create electricity,
heat or compost.

Hammarby’s city plan also enables and encourages citizens to walk or
use public transportation rather than cars. Construction is ongoing,
but the town is expected to house some 35,000 people and be completed
by 2015.

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Close

8.  Sejong City, South Korea

Sejong City was originally proposed by the government as the location
for South Korea’s new capital in 2005. This year, however, the Korean
government is planning to turn Sejong City into a hub of renewable
energy and sustainability, education, science and business. This $14.6
billion project, 100 miles south of Seoul, is scheduled for completion
by 2020 and will house a population of 500,000. It will also be home to
the Korea Rare Isotope Accelerator and Basic Science Research
Institute, which will be finished by 2015.

qatar.energycity.com

Close

9.  Energy Cities: Qatar, Libya, Kazakhstan, India

The Energy City initiative is a series of cities being planned and
built across several countries, with the dual goals of being
energy-efficient and self-sustainable and also being business centers to
global and regional energy companies. The first Energy City, which
will be in Qatar, is scheduled for completion by 2012. The $2.6 billion
project will encompass an area of about a half a square mile and will
employ up to 20,000 people.


Andrew Butterton / Alamy

Close

10.  BedZED, U.K.

Beddington Zero Energy Development, or BedZED, is the U.K.’s largest
mixed-use sustainable community, located south of London in a town
called Wallington. The project was completed in 2002 and includes around
100 homes.

The BedZED community says it has reduced its energy use in heating by
81%, its car use by 64% and its water use by 58%. In addition, it
recycles about 60% of its waste.

Omar Salem/AFP/Getty Images

11.  King Abdullah Economic City, Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah Economic City, launched in 2005 by King Abdullah, is an
$80 billion project that will take up about 67 square miles along the
coast of the Red Sea. It will eventually have six main areas, including
an “educational zone” and central business district. Education and
research are some of the big themes behind the city, and the King
Abdullah University of Science and Technology will be built there. The
city is also part of a plan to diversify the oil-based economy of Saudi
Arabia, and to make it, among other things, a major industrial center
by 2020.

http://www.iskandarmalaysia.com.my/

12.  Iskandar, Malaysia

Established in 2006, Iskandar, Malaysia, is located on the southern
tip of Malaysia and encompasses an area of about one square mile. The
city was built to be a new metropolitan hub in the region, to attract
businesses as well as residents with planned communities and
environmentally friendly buildings. It includes five “flagship zones,”
including a financial district, technology park and port, and is
scheduled for completion by 2025.


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A Compendium of the World’s Most Beautiful Libraries via [miragebookmark]

OPULUXE Lounge GroovesPlayList

Most Interesting Libraries of the World
The Central Public Library in Vancouver, Canada

The Central Public Library in Vancouver,
Canada, was designed by the architect Moshe Safdie as the winner of a
design competition
. Photography by lightgazer Flickr.com

The Astronomy Library of the University of Utrecht, Holland

The
Astronomy Library of the University of Utrecht, The
Netherlands, displays also some historical instruments.
Photography by (Erik)
Flickr.com

The Royal library Black Diamond in Copenhagen

The Royal library Black Diamond at the
waterfront of Copenhagen owes its name to the black granite from
Zimbabwe used for the facade of the building. The name
was used by
the public first and has been adapted officially later
. Design by the Danish
architects Schmidt, Hammer & Lassen. Photography by madcrow Flickr.com

New York
Public Library is established in a magnificent
building with astonishing grandeur and gorgeous artworks.
Photography by an
untrained eye
Flickr.com

Dusk
at the Bristol Central Library which celebrates its centenary
in 2008. Photography by *Firefox
Flickr.com

The
futuristic, award-winning Peckham Library in south London has
been designed by the architects William Alsop & Jan
Störmer. Photography by ~~
zorro ~~
Flickr.com

This
round room called the Rotunde is the main reading hall of the
City Library of Stockholm. Photography by arndalarm
Flickr.com

Library of the Faculty of Philology of the Free University of   <br/>Berlin

The
library of the Faculty of Philology, The Free University of
Berlin, is built by the famous architect Norman Foster.
Photography by Sven Werkmeister
Flickr.com

Suzzallo library of the University of Washington, Seattle WA

The
reading room of the Suzzallo library of the University of
Washington in Seattle, WA, was built in 1926 and has a Gothic
interieur. Photography by Cap’n
Surly
Flickr.com

Library
Parabola is the reading room of the British Library and is
said to be the birthplace of the Communist Manifesto.
Photography by Sifter Flickr.com

The
Domed Reading Room of the State Library of Victoria,
Melbourne, Australia. Photography by waltonics
Flickr.com

The
Library of the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial,
Spain, which is listed as a World Heritage Site. Photography by
cuellar
Flickr.com

The
Library of the University of Delft, The Netherlands, designed
by the Mecanoo architects, Delft. Photography by rutger
spoelstra
Flickr.com

The
Stockholm Public Library is housed in rotunda building
designed by the Swedish architect Gunnar Asplund. Photography
by Éole
Flickr.com


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