The star-rating for hotels, spas, and restaurants is similar to the Academy Awards for Hollywood. If Oscar is the type prize, a five-star rating for a hotel can be called “Oscar.” Luxury properties waited with bated breath for today’s announcement from Forbes Travel Guide: the list of Four-Star and Five-Star award winners for the 2011 Forbes Travel Guide.
The list, unveiled today, announced two hotels, two restaurants, and two spas winning a coveted fifth star. The list has defined the industry’s highest standards of excellence in hospitality for more than 50 years.
The five-star winner restaurants are both in New York City (Daniel and Eleven Madison Park); the two new five-star hotels include Island Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong, and Falling Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, in Farmington, Pennsylvania; and the two new five-star spas are The Spa at The Grand Del Mar, in San Diego, and The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, in Las Vegas.
Forbes Travel Guide’s ratings are based on objective evaluations of more than 500 attributes. This year’s additions bring the total number of Forbes Five-Star hotels to 54. Among the 54 Five-Star hotels, six are in New York City, the most of any city in the U.S. There are five Five-Star hotels in Hong Kong, and two in Macau, where ratings were established for the first time in 2009. Forbes Travel Guide expects to further expand its rating system to include properties in additional international destinations in 2011.
The complete list of Forbes Travel Guide Star award winners can be found here.
“You’re going where?!” my father asked when I told him of my plans to go to Colombia. The Colombia he knows of, the one from the 1980’s, is filled with cocaine, street violence, and Pablo Escobar’s thugs. The country’s days as a dangerous destination are gone, but its stigma still remains.
Colombia isn’t the only now-safe country still considered by the masses to be too dangerous to visit. Forbes Traveler has put together a list of other destinations that aren’t as dangerous as you might assume.
Along with Colombia, the list includes places many experienced travelers wouldn’t think twice about visiting – Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Ethiopia are all included – plus a few a little farther off the beaten path, like Haiti and Tajikistan. The list also includes two spots that become a lot more dangerous if you travel there illegally: Cuba and North Korea.
There’s no such thing as a completely safe destination, but still most of these spots have earned their reputations. At one point, they were lands of famine, war, and strife. Now they’ve become safer, though in some (like Haiti and certain parts of Colombia, for example) problems continue and there are still areas you should not venture.
If you plan on visiting one of these “not-so-dangerous places”, do your research and be sure you know what you are getting into. The bad reputation in some of these places can mean lower travel costs and few tourists, but there may still be an element of risk.
Life in most places is loud. Planes flying overhead, traffic rushing through the streets, people yelling, talking, phones ringing – it all combines to make an endless racket that follows us throughout our days. If you need to get away for some (literal) peace and quiet, take a look at Forbes Traveler’s list of the World’s Quietest Places.
Many of these aren’t the sort of places where you’ll go crazy from the silence, in fact some of them are plenty noisy. But near and far, they provide places where you can get away from the aural assault of the world and revel in a quiet(er) existence.
Included on the list are destinations like the verdant Hoh Valley in Washington State and Muir Woods in California, both places that are easy to get to from major cities but seem a world away. Further from home, there’s the island of Yap, near Guam, where the “culture is built on adherence to social peace”. The Kalahari Desert, 350,000 square miles of sparsely populated sand and scrub, also makes the list.
Victoria Falls isn’t exactly silent, but the roar of the water as it plummets 350 feet (which can be heard over a mile away) is such a natural sound and so completely shuts out everything else, that it almost feels quiet. Central Park is another unlikely addition to the list. Though it’s located in the middle of what is arguably one of the world’s loudest cities, it provides a quiet solitude away from the noise of daily life.
There’s nothing quite like seeing a wild animal in its natural habitat. It’s why people go on safari in South Africa to see lions and elephants, trek through the jungles of Borneo in search of monkeys, and submerge themselves in steel cages off the coast of Baja California to swim with Great White sharks. But it’s important to remember that despite the precautions taken by tour guides and rangers, these are still wild animals and getting close to them in nature carries some risks. In other words: there’s a reason that safari guide carries a gun.
Forbes Traveler has put together a list of “10 Places Where Animals Eat You”, a collection of destinations where the danger of visiting wild animals in nature is greater. Among the spots that made the list are Khao Sok National Park in Thailand, where cobras kill several hundred people per year; South Luangwa National Park in Zambia, where aggressive hippos have been known to flip boats and even eat people; and Ranthambhore Bagh, India, where around 100 people are attacked by tigers each year.
The article goes on to detail other encounters with wild animals, like when the girlfriend of a Tanzanian guide had her sleeping bag dragged 30 yards by a lion, while she was sound asleep in it. It seems animal attacks can happen almost anywhere though, and the danger certainly won’t stop most people from visiting these areas to see wild animals up close. You may just want to think twice about wandering too far away from your guide.
When I flew back from Taiwan on my way to Albuquerque, N.M., I had a scheduled eight-hour (or more) layover in Minneapolis, Minn. The best part was the convenience of the rented luggage cart. Pick up was right where the bags came off the conveyor belt. Drop off was at the gate of my connecting flight. In between my landing and takeoff, I spent a good deal of the time sleeping with my feet propped up on my carry-ons piled on the cart. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.
There are airports that crank it up a notch or two to create great layover spots. These are the places recently named as the best of the best for places to be stuck for a while in Forbes Traveler. Click on each link to find out what’s the reason. If you happen to be somewhere bored of waiting, take photos. That’s what nashsnazzy did. I like the black and white.
- Changi International Airport, Singapore
- Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
- Dallas/ Ft. Worth International Airport, Dallas, Texas
- Zurich Airport, Kloten, Switzerland
- Munich International Airport, Munich, Germany
- Incheon International Airport, Seoul, South Korea
- Central Japan International Airport, Ise Bay, Japan
- Lufthansa First Class Terminal, Frankfurt, Germany