Wednesday, February 23, 2011

THE BASICS: Do you really want the "best" accommodations?

Sometimes we hear people say they want to stay in the “best accommodations” in a particular town. This causes us more than a little concern. We come from the school that says we travel to see and experience different cultures and peoples, not just to stay in “the best” hotels.

Our goal is to spend as little time in our overseas accommodations as possible (with a few exceptions). Further supporting our view, most major cities in Asia are huge, meaning with millions of inhabitants and large urban areas. Therefore we feel the best policy is for travelers to look for the most suitable accommodations based on what they will be seeing and doing. This means “location” first and then comfort. Given the size and modernity of most of the major Asian cities there are many excellent accommodations to choose from, even after the constraint of location. It is not clear to us that there are significant enough differences between a Peninsula, a Mandarin Oriental, a Park Hyatt, a Grand Hyatt, a St. Regis, a Ritz-Carleton, a Raffles, etc., to override the importance of location in one’s selection.

Given that in general everyone’s time is short (at least American’s) on any trip, it seems ill advised to waste an extra half-hour or more each way every day to stay at a less appropriately situated hotel when a more than adequate excellent hotel is better located.

THE BASICS: First things first. Making your international travel arrangements.

In the “old days” (1972) when I was first flying to Asia on Pan Am (no, not on the famous Pan Am China Clipper) and other carriers using Boeing 707 jets (yes, even before 747s), one of the benefits of that stage of air travel was that planes couldn’t fly long non-stop flights. This meant that to get from “A” to “B” one usually had to stop in one or more “other” places along the way, usually for no extra cost. This made it easy to see many of the large capital cities, since that is normally where the only international airports were in most Asian, and other, countries. These tickets looked like A to B to C to D.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for those of us who want more stops rather than less, today’s high-tech aircraft can fly farther and faster such that there are more and more non-stop flights between most international destinations. The result is that instead of getting a “once over lightly” just in the capitals, one now can have a more “in depth” experience in each destination. These tickets look like A to B and back to A.

Another significant change is that many countries now have more than one international airport. This means that one doesn’t have to retrace one’s steps back to the same airport, but can enter a country from one airport/city, and exit it from another saving valuable travel time and expense. This type of ticket is called an “open jaw” as you fly from A to B, but back from C to A.

So when you are beginning to plan your trip, but sure to check out what airports you can fly to and see if you can use multiple “gateways” to your destination. Once you have issued your ticket it is too late.

THE BASICS: Why visit Asia?

If there is anything like a “natural progression” for American travelers venturing outside the U.S., it might consist of Canada first, then Mexico or the Caribbean, then Western Europe, then “elsewhere.” This progression reflects the increasing self-confidence of travelers as they gain more experience in more and more different surroundings.

Although this means many Americans never get to Asia, those who do, and in whatever sequence in their travels, are entranced by it. Few destinations in the world can match Asia for its exotic architecture, history, cultures, friendly people, and fabulous food. For those fortunate enough to be introduced to Asia early in life, it will become a lifelong attraction.