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November 08, 2010

Onboard the World's Longest Non-Stop Flight

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There are only 100 seats on Singapore Airlines' all-business-class planes that fly between Newark and Singapore non-stop. (Photos shot with my iPhone.)

The worst part of any trip is the flight to get there, right? Well, not if it's the all-biz-class flight flown by Conde Nast Traveler readers' favorite airline between Newark and Singapore. At nearly 19 hours, it's the world's longest regularly scheduled non-stop. But it hardly feels that way, thanks to 30-inch-wide seats that convert into comfy 76-inch-long lie-flat beds and personal TV screens with about a thousand different entertainment options. The flight (which is priced in the $7,000 to $8,000 range) will spoil you rotten and likely ruin all future airline travel for you. 

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My Conde Nast Traveler colleagues Kevin Doyle, Deborah Dunn, and Trish Harnetiaux in the seat behind mine on the return flight from Singapore to Newark, October 21, 2010.

How did we Conde Nast Traveler staffers luck out and end up on such a fancy flight?  Well, we couldn't miss the magazine's 4th annual World Savers Congress, held this year in Singapore. (Plus, the advertising side was paying.)  If you missed our live coverage of the Congress here on Truth.Travel, or the real-time photos of our Singapore shenanigans that I posted on Twitter, then sign up for The Perrin Postcard: The upcoming November edition includes links to many of those Singapore souvenirs.
July 23, 2008

Suggestions for a Group Tour?

by Wendy Perrin

This question came in from andy10003:

"My 70-year-old mother is looking for a group tour of Southeast Asia. Do you know of any well-regarded Asia tour groups that cater to older women traveling alone?"

The first thought that pops into my head is Elderhostel. Its not-for-profit learning programs appeal to single travelers and seem to represent quite a value, as they don't charge the unreasonably high "single supplements" that so many tour companies do. 

Does anyone have another suggestion for andy10003?  Or does anyone who has taken an Elderhostel trip have input to share?  Thanks!

September 28, 2007

Can You Trust State Department Advisories?

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A novice at Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda. Myanmar's 400,000 monks and nuns are outnumbered only by its armed forces.
Photo: Gentl & Hyers, Conde Nast Traveler

by Wendy Perrin

The U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory for Myanmar (Burma) recommending that vacationers stay away, given the recent demonstrations.  Those of you who've read my columns for years know that I take State Department advisories with about a heaping teaspoon of salt, as influenced as they are by politics and diplomatic gamesmanship. They're a place to start your research, but by all means don't end it there.

I pay greater attention to the advisories issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, since these tend to be less politicized and more timely. Interestingly, this time the United Kingdom and Australia -- typically less alarmist than the U.S. -- were both cautioning against travel to Myanmar before the State Department did.  Given the consensus by all three governments, it probably is indeed best for now to content yourself with armchair travel to this beautiful and enigmatic country.  Susan Hack's fascinating article "Shadowland: Inside Myanmar" in Conde Nast Traveler's October issue is a good start. There is also Deborah Dunn's investigation into Myanmar's endangered temples of Bagan in "20 Places to See Before They Die" (from our May issue).

I just walked down the hall to Debi Dunn's office to get her take on the Myanmar situation, as she was just there in January.  Debi pointed out the one -- and only one -- upside to the current violence: "The tremendous courage of the Burmese people is now front-page news," she said. "I can't help thinking about the monk I met on my first day in Burma. He was sitting outside Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest temple in Yangon. He, unlike most everyone else I met, was unafraid to openly criticize the government.  He implored me to spread the word about the plight of the Burmese.  'We need international pressure,' he said.  'We can't do anything to oppose the government inside the country because we don't want to go to jail. When you go home, maybe you can tell your friends that we need help.' " 

Debi recommends The Irrawaddy as a good source for keeping up with the latest news out of Myanmar.

March 08, 2007

Can't Afford A Country's Departure Tax?

Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok
Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, where the
departure tax for international flights is 500 baht (about $15).

By Wendy Perrin

When several hundred press releases inundate your email InBox weekly, you stop opening them altogether. Yesterday, however, I actually clicked on one announcing that Viator had named its Top 10 Hottest Spring Break Destinations for 2007.

I clicked on this WHY? Not because I'm looking to party in Cancun. Not because I need to know more about Viator -- an online travel agency that books all manner of day tours, excursions, and activities in more than 450 cities worldwide. Not even because Viator has a cool blog. No, I clicked on it because it reminded me of a funny phone call.

The other day Viator's founder, the charming and well-traveled Rod Cuthbert (who hails from Tasmania!), was in my office when his cell phone rang. One of his sons was calling from the Bangkok airport because he didn't have the cash to pay Thailand's departure tax . . . which meant he couldn't leave the country.

Continue reading "Can't Afford A Country's Departure Tax?" »

November 26, 2006

Flying In Coach Across The Pacific

By Wendy Perrin

Question from a reader:

"What is the best airline for flying from Portland, Oregon, to Thailand if you must fly in coach?  Thank you."

Singapore Airlines has the best seats, entertainment, food, and service in coach.  But you'd need to take 3 flights: Portland-Los Angeles-Singapore-Bangkok. Cathay Pacific is a good second choice but, again, 3 flights are required: Portland-Los Angeles-Hong Kong-Bangkok.

Your cheapest and most convenient option is probably Delta from Portland to Tokyo and Thai Airways from Tokyo to Bangkok . . .

Continue reading "Flying In Coach Across The Pacific" »

October 11, 2006

Travel To Vietnam And Cambodia

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Mekong Delta villager, Vietnam, Oct 1, 2006.   Photos: Mary Munn Laronge

By Wendy Perrin

I took today off from work so I could spend a few hours with my favorite travel buddy, Mary Munn Laronge, who was passing through between trips.  Mary, a tour director for educational tours run by museums and universities, arrived from Bangkok at 9:00 pm last night and left for Malta at 5:00 pm today. In between she slept at my house so we could catch up and swap travel stories.

Mary just spent two weeks in Vietnam and Cambodia, leading a "Magnificent Mekong" tour co-sponsored by The American Museum of Natural History and the World Affairs Council and designed by High Country Passage.  After 3 nights in Hanoi and 2 in Saigon, the group boarded the M.V. Mekong for 7 nights on the river. They explored lesser-known river villages and then disembarked at Siem Reap, Cambodia, where the tour concluded with 2 nights at Angkor Wat.

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The ferry landing at Chong Koh, a Khmer village on the Mekong, Oct 4, 2006

Tips from Mary's trip:

Continue reading "Travel To Vietnam And Cambodia" »

September 21, 2006

Thailand: Safe Or Not?

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The Rama VIII Bridge, as seen from a ferry crossing Bangkok's Chao Phraya River
Photo: Brigitte Lacombe, Conde Nast Traveler

By Wendy Perrin

An A.P. article today says that the military coup in Thailand two days ago has caused "a flurry of cancellations by would-be tourists" and that "the U.S. State Department urged Americans to reconsider travel to Thailand."

Excuse me?!?  The State Department issued a Public Announcement, not a Travel Warning!  Travel Warnings recommend that Americans avoid a country. Public Announcements warn about short-term risks, caused by geopolitical incidents or natural disasters, that visitors should be aware of and vigilant about but that are no reason to cancel a trip.  Public Announcements are so par-for-the-course that there is currently one for the entire world!

Continue reading "Thailand: Safe Or Not?" »