It's always fun to read other peoples'; lists of the 10 or 20 or 41 places you must visit in the new year. The choices are always interesting to say the least, and by nature very personal. This year's New York Times list has some places I won't be rushing off to any time soon. Kosovo? Um, no. I honestly think some of the destinations in these lists are just there for shock value or because they weren't in previous lists and the compilers don't want to repeat themselves. Me, I'm all for repetition and I'm just not that adventurous. There, I said it.
I've been just about everywhere I've ever really wanted to go in my 20 or so years as a travel writer for magazines such as National Geographic Traveler and Travel and Leisure, and as the jetsetting founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, so here's my list not of the places you must visit in 2011 (I'm not making recommendations, because, frankly, we haven';t met), but the places I'd go back to again and again, followed by some places I haven't visited yet but wouldn't mind seeing, and a couple of places I'm not rushing back to. They're in no particular order of importance or preference. I don't know if these are the 'in' must see spots for 2011, but they're on my hit list or my miss list.
Bangkok. You haven't had real Thai food until you've been here. The service in the hotels is the best in the world, the prices are low, and the smiles are genuine. Plus there's lots to see.
Hawaii. Especially the Big Island. I've been to places like the Maldives but why go all that way when you can find much the same thing and lots more on Kauai, Maui, and the other Hawaiian Islands. And it's in the U.S.
New York City and environs. I live here, but there's so much do to that when I found myself with a week of lose-it-or-use-it vacation time at the end of last year, I stayed home and explored museums and neighborhoods I hadn't seen before, and revisited old favorites. The Hudson Valley is another great destination nearby.
Bali. Just amazing. Stay at the Four Seasons if you can afford it, and get out of Kuta as quickly as you can. Explore the high country. Sample the cuisine. Take a cruise to the Spice Islands and visit Komodo to see the eponymous dragons.
London. I actually did get tired of London for a few years (sorry, Dr. Johnson), but I've gotten over my ennui. One of the great things about London, besides the museums, history, great hotels such as The Savoy, theater, and architecture, is that it's not far from England. I got my graduate degree from Oxford, and that city is one of the most beautiful in the known universe. I like the “other place” (Cambridge) too. And one of the best trips I ever took was riding branch line railways into the North of England and Scotland. I'm spending a week of vacation in the UK this February.
Singapore. OK, go ahead and laugh, but I've been to this nation state about 10 times and it';s one of the more fascinating cities anywhere, if only because it's so improbable, rising from the ashes of World War 2 to be one of the world's great metropolises. It's also a great jumping off spot for trips to other Asian destinations, since it's served by low cost airlines such as Air Asia.
New Zealand. The scenery is amazing and the people are among the friendliest in the world. What more do you need?
Turkey. Istanbul and Ephesus are two of the wonders of the world. And Turkey is still very affordable.
Switzerland. I love hiking in the Alps in summer and riding the scenic railways. And the trains run on time.
Venice. I’d go back in a heartbeat. There’s nothing like it anywhere. Not even in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas. Speaking of which, I actually like Vegas, in moderation. I don’t gamble, but the shopping, shows, restaurants, night clubs, and resorts make it worth visiting at least once a year.
Provincetown. At the tip of Cape Cod, this is a totally unique town. I love the beaches, the shops, the restaurants, the laissez-fare atmosphere.
At sea. I'd take a cruise almost anywhere. I just love watching the water and waking up in a new city each day if it's a port-oriented cruise. Or I'm just as happy crossing the Atlantic. My favorite line is Seabourn, but Sea Dream and Celebrity are great too. And I’m almost as happy on NCL, Carnival, and RCCL. And the fares are still amazingly low no matter what line you're on.
Places I'd like to see
Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. I visited Lebanon when I was a kid and would love to go back, and to see some of antiquity's stellar sites. I also have a hankering for Oman.
Cambodia. I want to see Angkor Wat before they rope it off.
Places I'm over
Athens. I've seen the Acropolis and been ripped off by the taxi driver bandits. No need for a repeat. I did enjoy Mykonos though and would like to spend a week in August there before it's too late.
Australia. As much as I love New Zealand, I just don't get Oz. Been there three times and yes Sydney is beautiful, but...;
The Caribbean. I've visited every island, and yes the weather is idyllic, but other than St. Barts, no thanks. Service is usually terrible, the cuisine is lacking, and the population too often surly. And I don't appreciate the billboards trying to convert me. I'd rather go to Hawaii.
Mexico. Maybe I'll go back when they get their act together.
Paris. Great city, but maybe I've overdosed on it. Check back with me in a couple of years.