Fantastic Tilt Shift Video from Burma

Burma is on everyone’s list this year for places to visit. This video provides a glimpse of the culture that has been hidden from westerners for a long time.

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Trump Hotel Toronto Review

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of staying at the brand new (opened January 31st) Trump Hotel Toronto. Earlier in the year I posted about our top destinations for 2012 and Toronto was on the list. A week before spring break my family still didn’t have anything booked so we decided to try something different and go to Toronto.

Booking and Pre Arrival Contact:

I booked direct through the Trump’s website. Usually I do not like to book direct because if you go through certain agents or American Express Travel you can get benefits such as free breakfasts, upgrades, and credits. Unfortunately, Trump is one of the hotels where such benefits don’t apply. Also, they were running a special sale which included breakfast and was much cheaper than the regular rates.

All Trump hotels have a signature service called Trump Attache. It is kind of like a personal assistant type of thing. Along with the confirmation email I received a link to their eservices page. From there you could request transportation, restaurants, and pillows from their pillow menu, spa treatments, entertainment, and additional goodies (popcorn, chocolate covered strawberries). One thing that could be improved is that you can only make reservations for the hotel restaurant, Stock, from the page. Also I ordered a few pillows from the menu but they never came.

I wanted to make some dinner reservations at places outside the hotel, so my Mom called the concierge. She made a couple of good suggestions and emailed a list of them. The next day I received an email from an Attache agent asking for our arrival time and ages of me and my brother.

Check In

The second we stepped out of the cab, the doorman greeted us by name and escorted us inside to the small, but cozy and chic lobby where we were also greeted by name by the check in agent, who lead us to one of the two desks for check-in. During the process someone came up to us offering warm towels. The head concierge also came over and gave us our confirmations for restaurants and asked if there was anything we needed. After about a 7 minute check in, a bellman and the agent escorted us to our room on the 27th floor. The key is one of the cool types where you just hold it up to the sensor and the door unlocks. Unfortunately the room they gave us was next to a room where they just finished construction but still contained the smell which bothers my mom. Within five minutes they moved us to the corner suite on the floor. Also in the room they put a candy basket including my favorite- Aero and two Trump hats. A great start so far.

Room

The suite consisted of a living room and a bedroom and two bathrooms. There was a large but overpriced minibar. Of course they had chocolate gold bars with TRUMP on them. The lights, shades, and fireplace  were controlled by a pad on the wall. The internet was free and fast. The bed was extremely comfortable. The living room had a couch and two chair, a coffee table, a desk, fireplace and TV. The living room bathroom had just a toilet and sink. In the bedroom, the bathroom was large with and oversized tub, rainfall shower, double sinks, and separate water closet. The toiletries were Trump brand and were very good. In addition to the regular shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and lotion there were bath crystals, body butter and a sugar scrub. I found the linens to be extremely soft along with the mattress.

Service

If you’re a person who hates things over the top, then this is not the place for you. Literally every time you walk into the lobby, every single staff member would say hello and greet you by name. If you like that sort of thing then this is your new favorite hotel. As far as city hotels go, the service was as personalized as possible. The concierge’s were probably the best we’ve ever encountered and were a great help in changing our flights, and planning a day to Niagara Falls (a post coming later). They also made some great restaurant recommendations which will be in another post. I believe the hotel offered a courtesy car, but we never used it. To top things off, housekeeping did a perfect job.

Tacky?

Donald Trump has a reputation of bigger and better, which most of the time comes off as Tacky. When we chose this hotel, we were concerned that it would be so, but we were pleasantly surprised. There were a couple of things though. The decor was a little over the top and might not age well. The theme of the hotel was Champagne and Caviar, which was kind of ridiculous. The ultimate Trump touch was the logo of the restaurant, Stock. It was a S with a fork through it, resembling a dollar sign.

Verdict

Would I stay at this hotel again? Yes, but with the many new luxury hotel openings in the Toronto area, it’s all going to come down to price. I was excited to try Trump because it was a brand I’ve never stayed with and next time I want to visit the Shangri-La, another brand I have yet to try.

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My least favorite question related to travel: What’s the most expensive airline ticket?

The reason I brought this up was because I saw an article on Yahoo! talking about Virgin Atlantic’s amazing new upper class suite. It says stuff like how the price ranges from $3000 to over $10000 for a fully flexible option. A couple of months ago, I read a post on Cranky Flier explain how airline pricing works and answered my question on how a flight from New York to DC can be more expensive than a flight to Cinncinati, stopping in DC (getting the same exact flight plus another one for cheaper than just the one flight). It turns out airline pricing is based off of demand. The more in demand the route is the more expensive. Here is a clear example:

Lets do Colombo, Sri Lanka to New York, one way. There probably aren’t too many people who fly that route. I go to Expedia (because you can use multiple carriers) and search first class. The cheapest flight combination was with one stop in Abu Dhabi with Ethiad for a little of $2000. If I were to buy just the Abu Dhabi to New York alone, it would be over $7000. I remember seeing a news report saying how on one flight, there were 40 different fares.

Sometimes I’ll be looking at Singapore Airlines’ A380 business class and someone will come up to me and say, “How much does that cost?” or “Is that the most expensive airplane seat”? I always respond, “well a round trip on Delta to Rome in a 10 year old business class seat that has multiple stains (speaking of which, the business class product on most of their 767’s is narrower than the economy on Singapore Airline’s A380’s) costs over $7000 for sometimes, this seat which happens to be 34 inches wide costs the same amount for a round trip to Singapore.” There are some cases where you can see a first class suite on an Emirates A380 go for the same amount as a one way flight from New York to Denver in a crappy first class seat. The trick to finding fares like these is to find flights where there is a stopover (not where you change planes though). So Emirates flies their A380s from Hong Kong to Dubai with a stop in Bangkok. Now if you were to just buy your ticket on the same flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok, you would get that cheap fare. Yes that is the plane with the shower spa.

Fares will fluctuate day by day and to find the best fares I reccomend using Ita Matrix. The matrix searches for a flight and displays all the prices by day. If you’re trying to figure out which week this summer to travel, it will show you exactly when it will be cheapest. There are also more advanced things you can do with it such as create routing codes but I’ll be honest, I have not a clue on how to do that.

To conclude I would like to say: There is no such thing as the most expensive airline seat. Sometimes the best looking seats can be significantly cheaper than their older, uglier and less awesome cousins. Most of the time the product has little to no influence on the actual price of the ticket.

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Random Fun Facts about Flight Attendants

  • Emirates’s flight attendents receive luxurious apartments to live in in Dubai. Many include pools and gyms. 
  • Virgin Atlantic has its own bespoke lipstick and special red shoes for their cabin crew.
  • Singapore Airline’s “Singapore Girls” recieve 3.5 months of training including classes for in air grooming and walking down aisles without making noise. There are also many extracurriculars including various martial arts. They also have only 3 approved nail polishes.
  • Thai Airway’s flight attendants are required to wear separate uniforms on land and in the air. When walking through the airprt they wear a corporate purple suit. In the air they change into traditional Thai dresses. Additionally, any attendants of a nationality other that Thai are not allowed to wear the dress.
  • Ryanair’s flight attendants are paid based on a commission of how much inflight products (food/drinks) they sell.
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The Issues with Chinese Travel

China has always been one of the places that I would love to go to, but the thing is, it’s just such a hassle. It is increasingly difficult to go to China on short notice. You need to plan in advance to get visas and to plan exactly where you want to go. It easily takes a couple of months to get the visa itself and by that time hopefully you’ve decided what you want to see and where you want to go. Chances are that you won’t be able to go to China for a month so you need to decide which region you want to hit. This brings up the second issue, which is picking the area that you most want to visit. Will you go to the south and experience the beautiful lush scenery and nice climate? Will you go north and see the capital? Or will you go west into Tibet? The choice just seems impossible! Finally, I would feel a sense of guilt about it, because no matter how you slice it you can’t see everything. And if you decide to hop around and go to every region you might not really get the feel for any one city or town. How you tackle this vast country is your business, but I think that you might find yourself wanting to go a second time.

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Sick Art Piece at Heathrow Terminal 5

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Our Top Travel Destinations of 2012

This year is going to be a great travel year and we wanted to share our picks with you guys. 2012 will have a great deal of sports events, and a lot of countries opening up their borders.

Elliott’s Top Picks

Oman– this year Muscat will be completely refurbishing almost everything! This will be the city of the future.

Burma– Burma has become a much more open, safe country. Though this might take a little bit of the adventure away from the journey, it will be great for people trying to experience some of the pull of the Irrawady.

Bhutan– something of a dream destination for both of us for a very long time Burma is just about the most exotic place on the planet. This country is possibly the least touched by Western culture and I cannot wait to go there!

Teddy’s Picks

Much like Elliott, I believe Southeast Asia is the next great destination. Countries that have had unstable governments for years, now are becoming more accessible by tourists. Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bhutan and Burma have been increasing over the past couple of years specifically, the big upcoming destinations for this year are…

The Cambodian Islands– Ever since we published our fist post back in December about our dream hotel there, I have seen more articles on the web than ever. There also was a spread in Travel and Leisure about it.

Toronto– This one might seem like an oddball, but currently there are more high profile luxury hotels opening up than anywhere else in the world. The Trump, Shangri-la and a new Four Seasons (the new flagship) are just a few of the hotels headlining the list. Also expanding is the Toronto based airline, Porter. One of the city’s main attractions is the CN tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the Western Hemisphere. Personally I think the city would be a fun weekend visit, but I’m not so sure there is enough to do there for more than a couple days.

London– This city has been a huge tourist destination for years, but with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Summer Olympics just around the corner, if there’s anytime to visit London it would be now. My recommendation would be to visit next fall after the Olympics, so you can see where it all happened rather than where it’s going to happen.

Abu Dhabi– Often regarded as Dubai’s smaller cousin (even though the emirate bailed the city out a couple years back), Abu Dhabi is growing not as a business destination, but as a leisure and beach destination. The city has sandy white beaches and luxurious hotels to match. Notable hotel openings include Park Hyatt, St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton. I think that Abu Dhabi will definitely be in direct competition with Oman as they have similar beaches and upscale resorts. The one thing that Oman lacks that Abu Dhabi does not is accessibility. Abu Dhabi has its own airlines, and Dubai just a two hour drive away whereas, getting to Oman requires a stop, usually in Dubai. I think it will be very interesting to see which comes out on top.

Peru– This is what I think is the largest growth out of any destination. I recently visited over winter break and according to the concierge at my hotel in Lima, this was the busiest year they have ever seen. Peru is such a diverse and exciting country. You can be cruise down the Amazon one day, hiking up mountains the next, and then go sandboarding down dunes that’d make you think you’re in the Sahara. Peruvian cuisine is also emerging as the next great food. Chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa have already created restaurants around the world centered around the food. As you will see in my upcoming trip report, Peru is becoming one of the world’s premier tourist destinations.

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