Happy New Year everyone! The recession is over, according to no less a source than the top White House economic adviser Larry Summers. Resoundingly over, report trade pundits in India. As we pick ourselves up from the debris of the last decade, it is hard not to feel optimistic about this one. It’s time—about time—for some cheer and celebration. Time to live and love; celebrate and make merry; travel and do good.
Travel trends are always a good measure of how safe we think the world is. If people traverse the world with insouciance, then—the assumption goes—they have put the looming spectre of global terrorism behind them. Keeping that in mind, below is a list of travel destinations that allude to the past decade but determinedly look forward.
Sinking: Maldives, where its president hosted a cabinet meeting underwater. Reinhard Krause / Reuters
• Cuba: Consider The Cuba Run 2010, a sailboat race from Key West, Florida, to Cuba. Hemingway would have approved. Open water, cigars, great tarpon fishing. Why Cuba? Elian. Remember him?
• Indonesia: The deadliest tsunami in history killed over 130,000 people in this Muslim country with Hindu roots but these gentle islands have mostly recovered. Bali is overdone but still beautiful. Stay at the Tupai Villa in Ubud, particularly if you go with another family. Swimming pool, tennis court, tree house, four bedrooms and staff included. Shop for bamboo baskets at Ubud market and dine at Mozaic, where American chef Chris Salans uses French techniques and local ingredients to good effect. Skip Nusa Dua.
• Florida: To figure out the state that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
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• Wellington, New Zealand: Stomping ground of director Peter Jackson, whose Lord of the Rings raked in the Oscars. Go in February to experience the strange and Andy Warhol-esque world of the internationally renowned indomitable artist, Yayoi Kusama, and her obsession with polka dots.
• Russia is so yesterday: Ukraine, where President Viktor Yushchenko underwent the most bizarre, involuntary face-change, is where it’s happening. Play chess, hire a wife, have a mud bath, or get a new set of teeth. Dental tourism anyone? Go to Kiev or Odessa. Watch Borat.
• Hyderabad: What’s in the water of the city that spawned Satyam? Go in February when Faluknama Palace, which may become the Taj Group’s best palace hotel, is slated to open. Spend a night at the just-opened Park Hyderabad to contrast edgy contemporary design with the palace’s ancient charms.
• Travel to Pluto: Too bad it was kicked out of the solar system. Perhaps Mukesh Ambani will gift his wife a space trip for her next birthday. Hard to top an Airbus, but a trip to Pluto might just do it.
• Take a cruise down the Irrawaddy on Orient Express’ Road to Mandalay cruiser: Forget the junta and the brutal Cyclone Nargis, which killed over 140,000 people in Myanmar in 2008. Instead, raise a toast to Aung San Suu Kyi for a few days as the pagodas of Bagan and Mandalay slide by. Read Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace on the lower deck (upper deck is too hot).
• Yunnan, China: Beijing had the Olympics, Sichuan, that devastating earthquake, but Yunnan is where China, as it once was, still exists with ethnic costumes, calligraphy and pu’er tea. Stay at the Banyan Tree in Lijiang, which, in my opinion, is the prettiest town in western China. Have a hot pot in Shangrila where Tibetan horses roam and the Mekong originates.
• The White House, Washington, D.C.: If the Salahis can crash a party, why not you?
• Maldives: Because it is sinking; because the president held a cabinet meeting underwater. Try the Taj Exotica or, if you are sans kids, Sonu Shivdasani’s Evason resorts.
• Bhutan: Because they measure happiness. Stay at Uma Paro, Taj Tashi or any of Aman’s outposts.
• Copenhagen: Where green warriors convened to argue whether the ice caps are indeed melting.
• Abu Dhabi: For the architectural marvels that will soon be unveiled in Saadiyat Island. Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel and Tadao Ando, all in one spot. Listen to Cheb Mami en route.
• Consider next Christmas in Alaska: By then the Sarah Palin saga would have played out and we’ll know if she is a star or meteor. Go to the completely kitschy Santa Clause House; or better yet, take a fjord cruise and watch giant icebergs fall.
• Luang Prabang, Laos: Because nothing newsworthy happened here in the last decade. Stay at Maison Souvannaphoum and wake up at dawn to watch lines of saffron-clad monks beg for alms in a tradition that is timeless.
• Mumbai: To tweak your nose and raise your middle finger at all future Kasabs.
• Coonoor: As Alibaug is to Mumbai, as the Hamptons are to New York, as Punta del Este is to Montevideo, Coonoor is to Bangalore. You didn’t hear this from me.
• Madrid: To mourn the bombings but also en route to Costa Brava, to taste foam where it originated.
• Home: Wherever that happens to be. Happy New Year, amigos! Have some strawberries and champagne for me.
Shoba Narayan wonders when golf and Tiger will ever be out of the woods. Write to her at email@example.com.