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Fast-paced, frenetic, and altogether fascinating, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon), rewards intrepid travelers with a dizzying glimpse of Vietnam’s largest city on overdrive. Expect enlightening encounters with the country’s tumultuous past (from its French colonial period to Vietnam War days), and to discover its dynamic drive toward the future. Here, motorbikes whiz by at a mind-blowing pace, markets teem with vendors peddling their wares, vendors in sidewalk stalls hawk exotic fare, pagodas beckon with ancient rituals, and a smattering of modern skyscrapers loom overhead. Freshly back from three days of hopping around in Ho Chi Minh City, herewith some top picks for wallet-friendly lodging and dining, plus tips on what to discover and where to unwind on the cheap. Read more
Some hotels are merely a place to rest your head at night, but others hold fascinating tales of wartime refuges, remarkable wildlife, valuable art, and ghostly spirits that refuse to let go. Sign up to be amazed and maybe learn a thing or two on these exceptional hotel tours.
Until recently, most people had forgotten there was an air raid shelter underneath the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi, Vietnam. When staff discovered it during some routine work on the pool area, however, the hotel decided to excavate the bunker and restore it to its original state. Now, hotel guests can participate in nightly tours that highlight the shelter’s famous past residents – including Joan Baez, who recorded “Where Are You Now My Son” there in 1972 – and Hotel Metropole’s role during the Vietnam War.
An in-house historian leads groups through the Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, each Wednesday through Saturday to reveal such nuggets as the unlikely origins of the hotel and President Calvin Coolidge’s preference to dine with the hotel staff during his visits. The tour costs $5 for guests, $10 for non-guests; alternatively, book the tour and a three-course lunch at Marchand’s Bar & Grill for $25.
My weak “Twilight Zone” joke aside, The World’s Best Street Food really is one part guidebook, one part cookbook. The book identifies the planet’s top one hundred can’t-miss street treats, revealing their origins and the best places to find them. For the home cook itching to replicate these delicacies, recipes are helpfully tagged as easy, medium, or complex. And, of course, having the ingredients handy will help parents determine if these foods will be potentially problematic for their families, whether they’re trying them in the destination or at home.
Though votes are still being counted and the results are provisional, the New7Wonders Foundation announced a new list of wonders on Friday. In alphabetical order, the winners are: the Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo, Puerto Princesa Underground River, and Table Mountain (pictured). 440 locations were in the running, narrowed down to 28 prior to the final vote.
The poll has created a bit of a stir, however, when, following paying a registration fee of $199, the Maldives and Indonesia were asked for $500,000 and $57 million, respectively. The New7Wonders Foundation allegedly asked Indonesia for $10 million in licensing fees and $47 million to host the closing ceremony. The Maldives and the Indonesian government did not pony up the cash, but did remain in the running. The foundation has denied these claims.
After undergoing a multi-million dollar refurbishment, the 100-passenger, all-suite Clelia II has been showing off her new look on the Great Lakes this summer – but it will be the last time the vessel sails these waters. Orion Expeditions made a surprising announcement last fall that beginning in May 2011, the company would begin a long-term charter of the Celia II under the name Orion II. Now that the 2011 brochure has been released – it’s official – and customers are getting an idea as to what the new ship has to offer.
On June 18, Orion II will make its grand debut on the “Natural Treasures of the Russian Far East,” itinerary ? which looks to be an experience of a lifetime. The schedule is chock full of volcanic islands, remote beaches, and opportunitie to witness wildlife – such as brown bears and the massive Steller’s sea eagle – in their natural habitat along the Zhupanova River. The ship embarks from Kushiro, Japan, on a 10-night odyssey to Petropavlovsk, Russia and covers a corner of the globe that is often overlooked. Stateroom rates start at $6,930 a person.
After a series of cruises focusing on the Inland Sea of Japan, for the second half of 2011, Orion II will call on ports in Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, and Cambodia (among others). For more information, or to view the rest of the recently released 2011 schedule, visit www.orionexpeditions.com. Interested in sailing the Clelia II before it changes hands? Check out this summer offer from Sherman’s Travel Magazine.
If you’re considering an far-flung adventure on the other side of the globe, Bhaya Cruises offers a unique way to spice up a vacation in Vietnam without having to break the bank. This small-ship cruise line blends Southeast Asian style with contemporary luxury on each of its ships that sail sleepy Halong Bay. The company just announced some remarkable summer specials aboard the 40-passenger Bhaya Classic ships, for a total savings of up to 50 percent off.
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