Beloved American writer, traveler and culinary curator Anthony Bourdain recently published a list on his Facebook account listing his 10 favorite hotels in the world. He describes himself as a “Hotel Slut” having stayed in so many different places over the years. Certainly his busy lifestyle as a traveling foodie has taken him to some far flung places and required a lot of nights away from home. The star says “A hotel where I know immediately where I am when I open my eyes in the morning is a rare joy.” Here are his favorites:
10. The Murray Hotel -Livingston, Montana
Bouradin says that if you stay at The Murray, make sure you try to book the Peckinpah suite.
9. Raffles Grand Hotel D’Angkor -Siem Reap, Cambodia
Grand colonial-area hotels in Asia have a certain spot in Bourdain’s heart and this one in the ancient city of Siem Reap, Cambodia is no exception.
8. Hotel Metropole -Hanoi, Vietnam
Bourdain says he’s a huge fan of English novelist and author Graham Greene and says if the writer has stayed at a hotel (like The Metropole) chances are he will stay there too.
7. The Edgewater Hotel -Seattle, Washington
The luxury Edgewater Hotel in Seattle’s downtown sits right on the waterfront. Bourdain loves watching ships slide right past your room as you look west over the water.
6. Park Hyatt -Tokyo, Japan
This posh Tokyo hotel was featured in the 2003 film Lost in Translation and as a film geek, Bourdain can’t pass up the opportunity to stay here when he visits the city.
5. Hotel Oloffson -Port au Prince, Haiti
With all his television series, books and other entrepreneurial endeavors, Bourdain can afford to stay pretty much wherever he wants. But the star appreciates more than just 5-star accommodations, ambiance is everything and he describes Hotel Oloffson as “Sagging, creaky and leaky but awesome.”
4. Hotel Continental Saigon -Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Bourdain appreciates history along with his good nights sleep, and for this reason he loves to stay at Hotel Continental Saigon; Vietnam’s very first (and consequently oldest) hotel.
3. The Raleigh -Miami, Florida
Bourdain can’t stress it enough; stay at The Raleigh for the best pool in Miami. Period.
2. Chiltern Firehouse -London, England
This old Victorian firehouse turned hotel is owned by the same team as Bourdain’s number one pick and he describes the London hotel as “pretty much perfection.”
1. Chateau Marmont -Los Angeles, California
Bourdain’s love of Chateau Marmot is clear: the author says “if I have to die in a hotel room, let it be here. I will work in LA just to stay at the Chateau.”
It’s that time of year again, when world renowned guidebook publisher and travel advocate Lonely Planet publishes their predictions and recommendations for the coming year of travel in what’s know as the “Best in Travel 2016” The entire guidebook is filled with top 10 lists with varying themes from Best Animal Adventures to Most Accessible Destinations. In this article however, we will take a look at Best Value. Lonely Planet knows that no matter how deep your pockets are, every traveler loves a deal, and for some, traveling on a strict budget isn’t just a lifestyle; it’s an art form. So without further delay, let’s take a look at the 10 best value destinations for 2016:
10. Western Australia
Typically Australia has been a place that for many, seemed out of reach if not for its geographic location than for its high costs due to a strong Australia dollar. But recently, the AUD has taken a dive, especially in comparison to the US dollar, while that means many Australians might be forced to limit their overseas travel plans, it also means that for many North Americans, a trip to Australia is cheaper than its ever been. Western Australia in particular offers better value than other parts of the country but with all the Australian culture and scenery one could want.
Not straying too far from the number #10 destination, the Southeast Asian nation of Timor-Leste occupies half of the island of Timor north of Australia in the Timor sea. This beautiful, lesser-known country is surrounded by coral reefs teaming with marine life of all shapes and sizes. Lonely Planet suggests venturing outside of the country’s capital of Dili and all its pricey international hotels and checking out the bargain beach shacks that can be found on the islands pristine beaches. If you’re not afraid to blaze your own trail and mix with the locals, Timor-Leste might be just the deal you were looking for.
8. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast
While the west side of Costa Rica has been sufficiently explored by tourists, expats and Americans looking for their next vacation home, the east side of the country is still left mostly to the locals. Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast has plenty to offer in comparison to the well known towns of the east but with a much less touristy vibe, which also translates to better deals as well. The town of Tortuguero is famous for nesting sea turtles and the reefs of Manzanillo make for an excellent dive spot, but one of the biggest draws is the famous Costa Rica Sloth Sanctuary located south of Limón.
7. Québec City, Canada
If a trip to Europe has been on your wish list but you lack the time and funds to make this a reality, Lonely Planet suggests North Americans head to Québec City. No, it’s definitely not Europe but they suggest it has enough of a foreign francophone vibe and old world charm to make you feel like you’re a long way from home. The city’s Old Town is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with the cobblestone streets, historic buildings and little French bistros, you might just get that taste of Europe for less than you thought.
6. Galicia, Spain
Being a well visited country by many tourists, you wouldn’t think Spain would have a lot of deals left to be had, but head to the country’s northwest region of Galicia and you’ll find rocky coastline and villages relatively unexplored by tourists. Lonely Planet says that the value of this region comes not only from being a place relatively unexplored by tourists but also from the quality of meat, cheese and seafood that can be found in the many tapas bars throughout the Galicia region. They also suggest booking self-catering accommodations to save money even further.
5. Bosnia and Hercegovina
It is no secret that Europe has a bit of a reputation with travelers as being a pricey place to explore. While that is definitely true of the more major cities like Rome, Venice, London and Paris, it’s the lesser known cities and countries that offer the best value. Hence, the #5 entry on this list: Bosnia and Hercegovina. The Balkan country encompasses all the major values you look for in budget travel including inexpensive accommodations and cheap eats and its historic cities of Sarajevo and Mostar offer the kind of history and charm you’d expect to pay a price for.
4. New Mexico
Even with travel to America looking rather expensive to everyone except those who live there, Lonely Planet stresses the value that can still be found in the state of New Mexico. Cheap eats, affordable accommodations and free activities and attractions abound in this outdoor lovers paradise. With dry sunny conditions almost guaranteed, there are few better states where you can cram in as much time in the great outdoors (an activity that’s essentially free of charge.) Take a Breaking Bad tour in Albuquerque, hike the Apline forest or explore a free wild hot spring. The possibilities for value are endless in this state.
3. East Africa
Thanks to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, many tourists are sufficiently scared of the continent as a whole, and thus bookings for 2016 are on the low side. You can probably guess that means good deals are readily available for travel to the continents safer half; East Africa. Lonely Planet advises that the cities of London, Paris and Madrid are hundreds of miles closer to the outbreak region geographically than East Africa’s prime tourist spots are, and reminds travelers just how large a continent this is. So if you’ve ever felt compelled to have an African animal encounter, or explore Africa’s spectacular scenery, the time to head to places like Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is now.
2. Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, Vietnam
Backpackers have known for years that Vietnam is a budget travelers best friend and a recent study by priceoftravel.com confirms the fact placing Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi third and second in a list of the cheapest destinations in Asia. Lonely Planet says that in both cities, $20 USD or less per day will get you food, lodging and sights but the guidebook publishers say at that rate you’ll be living like a local (which we say isn’t a bad thing!) But if you want an experience that’s a sight step up, your authentic Vietnamese experience still won’t cost an arm and a leg.
Lonely Planet says this year’s #1 best value destination will almost seem like the promised land compared to other popular European destinations. That’s because your Euros go a little farther in Estonia, a Northern European country where Nordic meets old-world Eastern European. If you’ve been getting around Europe by sleeping in hostel dorm rooms, you’ll be happy to know that upgrading to a hotel room of your own will seem quite affordable here, as will the food, drinks and nightlife. It’s not like there’s nothing to see either; the preserved Old Town in the capital of Tallinn has history and museums galore while the enchanting forests of Lahemaa National Park will amaze any traveler.
With travel for a variety of reasons—business, pleasure and everything in between—on a seemingly ever-upward trend, it’s little wonder that people (and especially experienced travelers) would begin to seek out new places to explore. While there are some places that will always top bucket lists as must-see locales, 2015 has witnessed some destination cities become increasingly popular with travelers of all stripes. Here are 10 of the fastest-growing destination cities around the globe according to a recent MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index report, each vying for the chance to be your next vacation destination.
10. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The capital of Vietnam is experiencing a resurgence in tourism. In recent years, Ho Chi Minh City has become increasingly popular, witnessing an almost 13% growth in the number of tourists since 2009 after long languishing behind other Asian destinations, in part due to the legacy of war and communist dictatorship. Formerly known as Saigon, today’s Ho Chi Minh City is a vibrant, flourishing city that serves as the cultural capital of this oft-overlooked Southeast Asian nation. Without a doubt, some of the increase has been brought about by travelers with Vietnamese roots returning to Vietnamese soil, but it seems as though other travelers are also “discovering” Vietnam’s capital as a destination of international renown. Highlights include the Reunification Palace, the Municipal Theatre and Notre-Dame Cathedral, as well as many museums, a zoo and a botanical garden.
9. Lima, Peru
Although Lima is the capital—and largest—city of Peru, it has long been overshadowed by Cusco and the ancient Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. Lima, nonetheless, has a developed tourist industry, as it is a major point of entry to the country. Between 2009 and 2015, tourism grew by almost 14%—and for good reason. The city boasts well-preserved colonial buildings in a variety of styles, from Spanish Baroque to Art Nouveau, and a number of parks. The city is known for its greenspace, and is home to the largest fountain complex in the world, the Magical Circuit of Water. Lima is also home to several performing arts troupes, and hosts many festivals and concerts during the summer months. The city’s beaches are also popular attractions, as is the food—Lima has been called the “Gastronomical Capital of the Americas” for its unique blend of global cuisine.
8. Tokyo, Japan
Japan’s capital city has always had some allure as a tourist destination, but tourism has recently taken off, growing slightly over 14.5% between 2009 and 2015. Tourism is likely to continue to increase over the next few years as the city ramps up for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Tokyo has many other attractions; it is famous for its electronics district, its shopping districts and its nightlife, to name but a few of the reasons people feel compelled to visit this metropolis. Tokyo is also a central place in Japanese culture and history, and features many monuments and museums. Tokyo is home to the world’s largest fish market, as well as the Japanese emperor and his family. With Mount Fuji forming a spectacular backdrop to urban sprawl, Tokyo is also renowned for its stunning cityscapes, making it one of those destinations that “has it all.”
7. Taipei, Tiaiwan
The capital of the nation of Taiwan has long been overlooked in favor of other tourist meccas in Southeast Asia—Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong have traditionally been destinations for those traveling for business or pleasure. Taipei has emerged from the background, however, to become the 15th most visited city in 2013, and tourism continues to grow; the industry recorded a leap of almost 15% between 2009 and 2015. As the center of Taiwan, Taipei is involved in most major high-tech industries in the country, and is an important hub of economic, political and cultural activity. Taipei boasts many architectural and cultural landmarks, including museums, temples and the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. Its nearby hot springs are world-renowned. Taipei also hosts many major festivals, such as the Lantern Festival during New Year’s celebrations, a Dragon Boat Festival and the Moon Festival in mid-autumn.
6. Xi’An, China
Sometimes known as Xi’an, and formerly written as “Sian,” this city is one of China’s oldest and functions as the capital of Shaanxi province, in the northwest. In 2012, it was named as 1 of 13 emerging megapolises in China. While tourism is still dwarfed by other sectors of the city’s economy, the industry grew 16.2% over the 2009–2015 period, and that trend is likely to remain strong as the city continues to grow. While most people visit Xi’An between May and August, the autmn months are actually considered the best time of year to visit. As one of the oldest cities in China, Xi’An is home to many historical sites, including many temples and pagodas, as well as a Ming dynasty city wall. Perhaps Xi’An’s most famous attraction is the tomb of Qin Shi Huang and the world-renowned terra cotta army.
5. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Riyadh has unassumingly become a top destination for travelers, with the number of annual visitors to the city jumping 18% between 2009 and 2015. Riyadh, which means “the Gardens” in Arabic, is Saudi Arabia’s capital and largest city, home to some 5.7 million people. Long an important center for the country, Riyadh and its surrounding districts contain many examples of vernacular architecture, as well as several historic village sites. The best-known monument is the Masmak Fortress, a clay-and-brick construction dating to 1865, located in the commercial center of the old city. The city is also a center of modern architecture, including the first skyscraper in Saudi Arabia, the Al Faisaliyah Center. The city also has several museums and sports venues. Soccer is the most popular sport in the city, as evidenced by the city’s 4 major clubs.
4. Osaka, Japan
Perhaps less well-known than Tokyo, the Japanese city of Osaka has become a popular destination for travelers. Osaka is Japan’s second-largest city, with nearly 19 million inhabitants, and, in addition to being a major economic hub, is also known as Japan’s “kitchen” owing to its role in rice growing and trade, as well as its regional cuisine. The city has long been important, even being declared the capital during the Japanese feudal period. The city underwent rapid industrialization in the 19th century. A consequence is that Osaka has many historic buildings and monuments, such as Osaka castle, with some dating back several centuries. The area also has a rich cultural history, particularly focused on performing arts; kabuki theater in particular is popular. It’s little wonder that travel to Osaka grew by nearly 20% between 2009 and 2015.
3. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
The UAE’s capital registered 20.4% growth in the number of visitors from 2009 until the present. While business travel has undoubtedly played a part in growing numbers of travelers to the city—especially as the economy continues to diversify—tourism has also been a driving force behind this growth. The UAE has one of the highest per capita GDP’s in the world, and Abu Dhabi has earned a reputation for being something of a “rich person’s” playground. This is reflected in everything from luxury shopping centers to 5-star hotels and some of the world’s most innovative—and expensive—architecture. The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is but one example of the city’s architectural heritage. While the city has often been overshadowed by nearby Dubai, which has also emerged as a global city with economic clout, Abu Dhabi is likely to continue to attract more and more visitors.
2. Chengdu, China
Travel to Chengdu grew at more than 20.5% over the 2009–2015 period, something that’s reflected by Chengdu’s airport being 1 of the 40 most busy airports in the world and the city’s train station being 1 of the 6 largest in China. Situated on the fertile Chengdu plain, the city has long been an important one, and has many historical buildings, including shrines and temples. The city is a bastion of traditional Chinese culture, from mahjong to teahouses. Chengdu is also home to some ancient ruins and at least 3 well-preserved historic towns. Perhaps Chengdu’s biggest draw, however, is that it is home to almost 80% of the world’s remaining giant panda population. Also nearby is Mount Qingcheng, an important Taoist center. Nature, culture, history—Chengdu has it all, so it’s easy to see why more and more people are making a stop in this city.
1. Colombo, Sri Lanka
The former capital of Sri Lanka has been getting some serious attention from travelers in the last few years, with the number of visitors growing just over 21% from 2009 to 2015. Colombo is the largest city on the island nation, and has a distinctive mix of multiple ethnicities, which reflects the city’s long history and its importance. Gangaramaya Temple, one of the most important temples in the city, sums up Colombo’s multicultural feel perfectly with its mix of Sri Lankan, Thai, Chinese and Indian architecture. The city also has urban parks, such as Viharamahadevi Park, and a strip of greenspace called Galle Face Green. The city has a large harbor on the Indian Ocean and the 160-acre Beira Lake is located at the heart of the city. In other parts of the city, the legacy of Dutch and British domination remains in the form of colonial-era buildings.
While skyscrapers and aspiring to reach the heavens have been fundamental fascinations in North American architecture and engineering for decades now, the trend has caught fire in many places in Asia, where towers now eclipse older Western buildings (and each other) on a regular basis. This development affords tourists more opportunity to get above it all and see some of Asia’s most iconic cityscapes from a dizzying new perspective. Representing a mix of old and new, traditional and modern, here are the best observation decks on the rapidly changing Asian landscape today.
10. Seoul Tower, South Korea
A tower with many names, including N Seoul Tower, YTN Seoul Tower and Namsan Tower, this building stands 236 meters high and marks the highest point in Seoul, South Korea’s capital. Located on Namsan Mountain, the tower functions for both telecommunications and observation. Constructed in 1971, it is Korea’s first general radio wave tower. The tower is renowned as a national landmark, and photographers and visitors alike relish the tower for the cityscapes it provides. Every year, thousands of tourists and locals visit the tower, especially during nighttime light displays such as the “Reeds of Light” and “Showers of Light,” which are created with LED technology. In addition to the four observation decks, the tower has developed into a full-scale tourist attraction, with museums, cafes and gift shops. One of the observatories is a digital display that showcases Korea’s history. Visitors can ride the Namsan cable car to the tower.
9. National Monument, Indonesia
This tower stand 433-feet tall (132-meter), situated in Merdeka Square isn’t just another skyscraper built to have a claim to fame. The obelisk monument symbolizes the fight for Indonesian independence. After independence was finally granted from Dutch colonial powers in 1950, the Indonesian government contemplated building a commemorative monument outside the presidential palace in Jakarta. Finished in 1975, the national monument achieved exactly that, as it was topped with a gold-foiled flame. Today, the Monument is open to the public every day between 8 am and 3 pm. Long lines build quickly, so it’s best to go early. Ride the lift to the observation deck, 115 meters above the ground, and view the cityscape of the Indonesian capital sprawling in all directions. Afterwards, visit the National History Museum and the associated dioramas about Indonesian history and independence.
8. Ushiku Daibutsu, Japan
This observation deck is a bit of an oddity on a list that includes mostly communications towers and skyscrapers, but that’s part of the reason Ushiku Daibutsu is one of Asia’s best observation decks. Rather than another spire or office building, Ushiku Daibutsu is a 390-foot (120-meter) tall statue of Amitabha Buddha, built to commemorate Shinran, the founder of Pure Land Buddhism in Japan. The observation deck is located at 279 feet (85 meters), on the fourth floor of the statue. Visitors can look out over the adjacent flower garden and animal park. The three floors below the observation deck feature golden Buddha statues, scriptural studies and smoking incense, serving as a kind of museum. For almost 10 years, between 1993 and 2002, it was the world’s tallest statue; today, only two other statues surpass its height.
7. International Commerce Center, China
Built on top of Kowloon Station in Hong Kong, this development is part of the Union Square project. In 2014, it was the world’s eighth tallest building by height and the tallest building in Hong Kong. The observatory, called Sky100, is located on the hundredth floor of the building. It opened in 2011 and is currently the highest observation deck in Hong Kong, at 1,289 feet (393 meters) above the ground. Two high-speed elevators take visitors to the observation deck at 100 feet per second, making the trip about 13 seconds long. An advanced telescope provides visitors with pre-recorded views, including “sunny days,” “night view” and “fireworks.” On-screen indicators direct attention to landmarks such as Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in Hong Kong. Just above the 100th floor, visitors will find a café serving snacks and refreshments, as well as a restaurant.
6. Skybridge at Petronas Towers, Malaysia
Located in the Malaysian capital, the Petronas Towers held the record for world’s tallest buildings between 1998 and 2004, and they remain the tallest twin towers in the world today. Rising a staggering 1,483 feet (452 meters), the towers dominate the skyline of Kuala Lumpur. One of the main features of the buildings is the double-decker Skybridge, the highest two story bridge in the world. Connecting the 41st and 42nd floors between the two towers, it floats 558 feet above the ground, providing structural support to the towers. Visitors are limited to 1,000 people per day, and tickets must be purchased. Visitors can opt to visit just the Skybridge or to purchase a package that includes a visit to the 86th floor of the tower. As prominent landmarks, the towers have featured in many movies and TV shows and, of course, provide a stunning view of Kuala Lumpur.
5. Bitexco Financial Tower Skydeck, Vietnam
Sometimes called the Saigon Skydeck or simply Skydeck, this observation deck occupies the 49th floor of the Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. The building is mixed-use shopping, office and restaurant space, and was once the tallest building in Vietnam, although it has since been displaced. It stands at 861 feet (around 263 meters) and is said to have been inspired by the lotus, Vietnam’s national flower. The Skydeck opened in 2011 and a ticket costs around $10. Currently the tallest skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh City, it provides unparalleled views of the cityscape. The deck itself is glass-enclosed and the building’s helipad serves as the roof. Nonetheless, you’ll still want to go on a clear day to get the best visibility or to see a fantastic sunset. Restaurants in the building offer a spot to check out some authentic Vietnamese cuisine.
4. Oriental Pearl Tower, China
Located at the tip of Lujiazui in Shanghai’s Pudong district, on the banks of the Huangpu River, the Oriental Pearl Tower has become both a landmark and major tourist attraction in the area. Between 1994 and 2007, it was the tallest building in China, measuring 1,535 feet in height (468 meters) from bottom to the tip of its antenna spire. The tower serves telecommunications purposes, but it also has a shopping mall, a hotel, a restaurant and not just one observation deck, but three. The highest observation deck is the Space Module, located at 350 meters and has an outdoor viewing area. The building is lit up with LED displays at night, which highlight its unique construction, featuring 11 spheres, the largest of which have diameters of 50 and 45 meters, respectively. This tower isn’t just an observation deck; it’s an experience in and of itself!
3. Marina Bay Sands Skypark, Singapore
Billed as the best view in Singapore, the Skypark is part of the Marina Bay Sands resort on the island. Developed by Las Vegas Sands, it forms part of the integrated resort, which boasts a shopping center, a hotel, restaurants and a casino as well. The SkyPark is a one hectare terrace that sits atop the three hotel towers and features several restaurants and the world’s longest elevated swimming pool. The observation deck itself is open to the public (although you need to purchase a ticket) and sits on a cantilever. It provides a stunning 360-degree view of the Singapore skyline, which is spectacular at night and during the day. Because of the awe-inspiring view it provides, some consider Skypark a compulsory activity if you visit Singapore. A popular tip: for just a few dollars more, skip the ticket, visit the bar and enjoy a drink as you gaze out over the cityscape.
2. Tokyo Skytree, Japan
While it’s not as iconic as Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree is the landmark tower’s successor. Proclaimed the tallest building in Japan in 2010, the tower serves as the primary television and radio broadcast site for the Kanto region, replacing Tokyo Tower. It is also the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest building, with only Burj Khalifa rising higher. It stands 2,080 feet (634 meters) high, towering over all other buildings in Tokyo. The tower uses LED illumination at night and has two alternating patterns, called Iki and Miyabi. Skytree now provides the single-best point of view for panoramas of Tokyo. The tower has two observation decks, one at 1,150 feet and the other at 1,480 feet. The upper observatory features a spiral skywalk and a section of glass flooring that gives downward views of the streets directly below.
1. Taipei 101, Taiwan
Formerly known as the Taipei World Financial Center, this supertall skyscraper had the distinction of being the world’s tallest building between 2004 and 2010, when it was surpassed by Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Today, this 1,671 foot tall (509 meter) building is the tallest and greenest building in the world. It was the first building to break the half-kilometer mark. Its new name is derived from its 101 floors and its location in Taipei, Taiwan. Observation decks are located on the 88th, 89th and 91st floors; the 91st floor is an outdoor deck, while the lower floors are indoor. At 1,285 feet above the ground, the 91st floor is the highest platform in Taiwan and the second highest observation deck ever found in a skyscraper. That means Taipei 101 provides an unparalleled 360-degree view of the city skyline. Tickets can be purchased at the mall located in the building.