For decades, travelers debated whether it was politically correct to visit the southeastern Asian country we used to call Burma but that today is called Myanmar. A military dictatorship ran the country and kept a Nobel Peace Prize winner under house arrest.
But over the last couple of years, the military has loosened its grip on things and freed Aung San Suu Kyi who subsequently won an election to a government post. Citizens can now access the Internet and the local press enjoys a bit more latitude.
Myanmar isn’t a poster child for democracy or freedom. But it’s being accepted by the world community, and visiting is no longer something most people debate. Myanmar says it doesn’t want mass tourism to overrun the country, and there seems to be no danger in that. Next-door-neighbor Thailand probably earns as much money from tourism in two weeks as Myanmar makes in a year.
And, yes, the government or friends of the government own or control many of the places tourists visit. If you go, I’d encouraged you to spend money on local small businesses and restaurants. I’d also suggest a guided tour by a company such as Audley that’s had a lot of experience taking travelers to Myanmar.
Earlier this month, American Airlines rather abruptly changed its requirements for cashing in miles for frequent flyer tickets. There’s some good news, but, as you might guess, there are some downsides to the new rules, as well.
American stopped offering a stopover with an award ticket. You used to be able to get an award ticket for, say, New York to Paris and back. And then you could add another leg from your home base for travel on a future date to, say, Hawaii or Los Angeles.
American had a great award called a Oneworld Explorer Award that allowed you to go around the world on a leisurely schedule for not-too-many miles. That award disappeared overnight.
With the American/US Airways merger, the option of cashing in 90,000 miles on US Airways for a round-trip, business class ticket to North Asia disappeared, too; now it’ll take 110,000 miles—a 22% increase.
This change, however, might be considered a positive: Instead of two award levels for a ticket there are now three. So if you can’t get a ticket for the fewest number of miles—25,000 for a domestic ticket—you’ll have two more higher options rather than just that one, 50,000-mile option.
We’ll see how that goes.
Based on my conversations with hotel executives, I can tell you they expect you’ll pocket all those little amenities. It’s built into your room price, so you’re not stealing.
But some amenities are better than others, and AirfareWatchdog recently listed some of the better brands.
Check into a W hotel, and you’re likely to find good stuff from Bliss, the New York spa to the hip. Among the six Bliss products should be Bliss Fabulous Foaming Face Wash. That’s the brand name, not my endorsement of it.
JW Marriott and Mandarin Oriental hotels boast an exclusive line called Aromatherapy Associates from London, and Fairmont properties offer Le Labo’s Rose 31 line.
You can often order additional product from the manufacturer or even from the hotel. And sometimes you might score something really special. Check into the Carmel Valley Ranch in northern California, for example, and you’ll find a soap made of fresh-pressed lavender that’s harvested from the more than 7,500 lavender plants that grow on the property.
When it comes to the average age of an airline’s fleet, the airlines from the United Arab Emirates are the newest. Airlines such as Etihad from Abu Dhabi and Emirates out of Dubai generally boast the newest, latest jets. The US is way behind.
Blame it on years of losing money or the size of their fleets. But when you step onto a US airline, you’ll likely be flying on some old metal unless you’re flying Virgin America whose fleet’s average age is five years. The average age of Delta’s planes is three times that–about 17 years. United and American Airlines have fleets that average 13.6 years in age
Virgin isn’t the only one with newer planes. Spirit Airlines is right behind Virgin with a fleet whose average age is 5.2 years. And JetBlue is 7.4 years.
Virgin and JetBlue are newer airlines than Delta, American or United, so their planes are newer. But does this make a difference to you, the passenger?
It might mean a plane’s entertainment system isn’t cutting edge, but on the important question of safety, you’re very safe in older aircrafts because they’re regularly inspected for defects and their critical parts are constantly upgraded.
Two luxury travel web sites are drumming up some publicity with a search for a discerning traveler willing to spend a year traveling to the world’s most luxurious destinations and filing brief resorts on how they’re doing.
VeryFirstTo is a web site that strives to tell subscribers—it’s free, by the way—when new, high-end stuff comes on market. A new fragrance, watch, tie, or hotel—VeryFirstTo alerts you so you can keep up with the keeper uppers. LTI stands for Luxury Travel Intelligence, a site that promises to “empower the affluent traveler.”
Both sites want a person of refinement who appreciates the best in life and can give it a sniff. You’ll travel the world for a year with a budget of a cool million dollars. You’ll check out the new Aman hotel in Venice, eyeball the crowd at the newly expanded Hakkasan nightclub at the MGM Grand in Vegas, and spend some time at Richard Branson’s private island home and resort on Necker Island (pictured) in the Caribbean to see if, as the press release says, the food “has improved.”
The downside: You don’t get paid. Here’s where to find more details.