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Editor, The Konformist
China plans 'most luxurious train in the world' to Tibet: report
Mon Mar 10, 2008
China will launch "the most luxurious train in the world" to ply the
route from Beijing to Tibet's capital Lhasa, state media reported
However, a ride on the train, which will begin operations on
September 1, will be about 20 times more expensive than the ordinary
fare of about 2,000 yuan (280 dollars), Xinhua news agency said.
"The interior of the train will be decorated according to the
standards of a five-star hotel, making it the most luxurious train
in the world," said Zhu Mingrui, general manager of the Qinghai-
Tibet Railway Corporation.
"Such a train can only seat 96 passengers. The fare would be about
20 times the normal price and also much more than an airline
ticket," he said.
There will be three trains, which will head from Beijing to Lhasa
every eight days. The luxury journey will take five days.
Each train will have 12 passenger cars, two dining cars and a
sightseeing car. Each passenger car will have four ten-square-metre
(108-square-foot) suites featuring a double bed, a living room and
The train line to the Himalayan "roof of the world" went into
operation in July 2006.
Chinese authorities see the 1,142-kilometre (710-mile) railway as an
important tool in modernising and developing Tibet, which has been
part of China since its troops occupied the region in 1950.
However, critics say that the line is allowing the Han Chinese, the
national majority, to flood into Tibet, leading to the devastation
of the local culture as well accelerating environmental degradation
of the region.
10 Legendary Trips You Can Still Take
By Donald Burnam
You can still take these historic journeys, from the Silk Road to
the Orient Express
With high-speed trains, fast cars and jumbo jets that can whisk us
across time zones in a matter of hours, getting from point A to
point B has never been easier (though we all know it's not hassle-
free). But with so much time saved comes the loss of something else
the idea that sometimes the journey is the destination itself. And
there's no better way to partake in what's called "slow travel" than
by doing it on a historic route.
With several notable treks, two-lane historic highways, and slow
train lines from which to choose, where does one begin?
With the experts, of course. We've put together a team of noted
travel writers and experts, asking for their top historic routes.
Some routes are known the world over while others are, quite
literally, off-the-beaten-path. Regardless, all the journeys are
still functional todayand offer insight into a place that you just
can't get from 30,000 feet above.
The granddaddy of all historic routes is, of course, the Silk Road,
the famed network of old trading routes that connected China to the
Mediterranean. Most 21st-century travelers don't take the entire
route, but do it in portions. That's what longtime travel editor and
writer Don George did. He trekked it through Pakistan and said it
was one of the grandest trips of his life. "What could be more
stirring than walking in the footsteps of Marco Polo and viewing
ways of life that have changed little since his time?" says George,
who runs the literary travel websites Don's Place and Recce.
Another highly recommended route comes from writer Tony Perrottet:
the Athens-to-Olympia pagan pilgrimage path. "I'd advise driving
it," says Perrottet, who made the journey for his book about the
origins of the Olympic Games, The Naked Olympics. Ancient Greeks
would make the pilgrimage to Mt. Olympus just before the
Olympics. "You end up in the mountains of Arcadia," says
Perrottet, "which are filled with shepherds and medieval monasteries
it's a very magical place."
For thousands of years, travelers have also been lured to the magic
of the Nile River. The slow moving waterway makes the perfect venue
for viewing ancient Egyptian wonders. According to Perrottet, the
Romans were fascinated with cruising down the Nile, as were the 19th-
century Victorian-era British who'd stop to gawk at the pyramids and
mummies. Today, travelers can still cruise down the Nile, just like
their British and Roman predecessors did.
Another member of our panel also zeroed in on a historic river
route. Mary Morris, author of several novels and non-fiction
travelogues (and most recently, The River Queen, about her trip down
America's most famous river), picked the upper Mississippi, which
was trafficked by early explorers like Lewis and Clark, as well as
Mark Twain. Morris especially recommends the section between
Lacrosse, Wis., and Dubuque, Iowa. "The river is so wide at that
point and on each side are savannahs and huge flocks of birds," says
the author. "It almost feels like you're in Africa."
Rail journeys were a hit with our team of travel experts, so it's no
surprise that a few picked the Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs
from Moscow to Vladivostok via south Siberia. Built in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries, the railway spans eight time zones. "The
best way to do it," says Morris, "is to get off and on I
particularly liked the town of Irkutsk."
A railway that achieves more elevation than mileage is the
Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the pick of Oxford Atlas of the World
editor Ben Keene. Completed in 1881, the railway is only 51 miles
long. Keene notes that the railway boasts 550 bridges and 919
curves, but not a single tunnel. It's hard not to feel like you're
on a rail journey to the top of the Earth.
When Don George moved from Paris to Athens, he couldn't pass up
taking the famed Orient Express, the legendary railway line that
links the City of Light to Istanbul. Passing by cities like Milan,
Venice and Belgrade, George says, "All of Europe went by outside
and inside too. It's a crash course in European history and culture."
Our experts also picked several historic routes that are walkable.
One of writer Tony Perrottet's favorite routes is the Appian Way,
the "Queen of Highways" that led Romans out of the Eternal City
southward toward Naples and beyond. Author of the travel history
book Pagan Holiday (about Roman travelers), Perrottet says travelers
can traverse about 10 miles of cobbled, pedestrian-only road that's
flanked by millennia-old mausoleums and umbrella pine trees. "It's
only a few miles from the city," says Perrottet, "but it's so
idyllic, it feels like you've just stepped back a few centuries or
more." Perrottet adds that renting a bike is also a great way to
On the other side of the globe, Don George recommends a lesser known
hike: the Shikoku, a sacred pilgrimage route of 88 temples in Japan.
The path takes wanderers along rocky seacoasts, lush green rice
paddies, and bright fishing villages. "Walking the temple route is a
pathway to the scenic and spiritual heart of Japan," George says.
Another obscure, but equally intriguing expert pick is the 95-mile
West Highland Way in Scotland, a series of old military routes that
take trekkers through varied terrain. Ben Keene picked this route
for its diversity, which starts near Glasgow, winds through
coniferous forests, and ends on top of one of Scotland's highest
hilltops, Ben Nevis.
Eight Hotels You Won't Believe
By Jason Cochran
From the annals of the wacky, the odd, and the inspired these
unusual lodgings will make you look twice.
Meet the giraffes
Without sacrificing its estate-in-the-country dignityor all of it,
anywayGiraffe Manor in Langata, Kenya, is arranged so that roaming
giraffes can poke their heads into any open window or doorway with
impunity and lather guests with their sticky, prehensile tongues.
Your guesthouse is their guesthouse, so the silly creatures pop up
everywhere, including over the breakfast table, in the lobby, and
through the curtains of the five guest rooms for adults.
Regrettably, as of this writing, the U.S. government had issued a
travel warning for Kenya. For the latest info, visit the State
Department website. 011-254/20-890-948, off-hours: 011-254/20-891-
Hang out like a Teamster
For savoring the windswept Dutch landscape, nothing will lift you
higher than the Harbour Crane, which for almost 30 years toiled at
unloading timber at Harlingen, a port city an hour outside of
Amsterdam, Netherlands. Since 2003, the massive crane has housed a
luxury hotel room for two, roughly 60 feet above the harbor docks.
Don't expect to sleep in an oily industrial hutchthe hotel's
lighting system is touch-screen operated, the chairs are Eames
Lounges, and the spindle of structural steel around you has a
certain sculptural elegance. But the big payoff: You and your guest
can jump into the cockpit and seize the controls, swinging the
143,000-pound crane a full 360 degrees. 011-31/517-414-410,
Gone to the dogs
After years of selling dog sculptures that they chainsawed out of
wood, Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin sank their considerable
profits into constructing Dog Bark Park Inn, a two-story, beagle-
shaped B&B in Cottonwood, Idaho. Guests enter the structure from the
deck that lines one side of the pup's rib cage. The main quarters
are in the belly of the beast; the sleeping loft is in the pooch's
head. And, yes, pets are allowed. 208/962-3647, dogbarkparkinn.com,
open April through October.
A trailer with a view
Hotel Everland is a one-room portable inn created by Switzerland-
based installation artists Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann. It's
mobile, like a trailer home, but it's fancy, too, with pastel walls
that swirl and swoop. The artists are moving the inn around Europe;
through 2008, it will reside in Paris on the rooftop of the Palais
de Tokyo museum, with its heart-swelling views of the Seine, 100
feet below, and the Eiffel Tower, in the near distance.
Unfortunately, Hotel Everland becomes a contemporary art exhibit by
day. So you can only stay for one night, and you have to be cleared
out before the museum opens for businessor risk becoming part of
the exhibit yourself. everland.ch, reservations online only.
Take this hotel for a spin
Those of us who miss the Carter administration-era craze for
revolving rooftop cocktail lounges will no doubt be pleased to learn
that in certain parts of Turkey, it's still 1977. In sunny Antalya,
Turkey's version of Miami Beach, you'll find the world's first hotel
that has a rotating annex: the Marmara Antalya. Two dozen of the
hotel's rooms are built atop a foundation that spins, completing a
full rotation every seven hours; guests are rewarded with shifting
views of the Mediterranean Sea. 011-90/242-249-3600,
Hobbit habitats for humanity
If you queued up for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie
trilogy, you'd probably feel right at home in the Hobbit Motel, in
Otorohanga, New Zealand. The motel's two hillside burrows are
faithful replicas of the fictional hobbit dwellings right down to
the circular windows and doorways, red-and-beige walls, and
camouflaged exteriors. The real-life rooms are scaled to human
proportions, though, so actual hobbits might find them disagreeable.
The Hobbit Motel is only one part of Woodlyn Park, a bizarre
collection of lodgings that includes a 1950s railway car, a dry-
docked patrol boat, and a grounded airplane from the Vietnam War. As
if that weren't eccentric enough, the complex caters to visitors of
the nearby Waitomo Caves, where the star attraction is a colony of
glowworms. 011-64/7-878-6666, woodlynpark.co.nz.
Up a tree
Human beings spent millions of years evolving to the point where
they wouldn't have to sleep in the trees. That job done, there's
just one direction for them to go: back up. The owners of Out 'n'
About Treesort & Treehouse Institute, just outside of Cave Junction,
Ore., fought nervous zoning authorities to permit the construction
of their 18 unorthodox treehousessome enclosed, some open to the
bugs, and some perched in oaks and Douglas firs more than 35 feet
above the ground. The Swiss Family unit, for instance, is connected
by a suspension bridge to a special kids' area. The Treeloon unit
looks like an Old West saloon, complete with swinging doors. And the
Cavaltree, a duplex in the branches, feels like a pioneer fort.
Most of the rooms are equipped with modern conveniences, like sinks
and refrigerators, but bathrooms are in a cabin on the ground. Given
all the spiral staircases at the 36-acre complex, you have to pity
the chambermaids. 541/592-2208, treehouses.com.
Pioneer wagons get an upgrade
In Christchurch, New Zealand, the two-year-old Wagon Stays company
has come up with a marketing slogan for its tricked-out,
ecofriendly, mock Conestogas: "Where luxury meets history." The
settlers of New Zealand would have considered themselves lucky to
bunk down in these bad boys, which feature queen-size beds, computer-
controlled showers, flush toilets, fully equipped kitchens, and
satellite TV. Most absurdly, the carriages have glass doors that
open to balconies, which are perfect for kicking back with a pint of
ale after a long day of going absolutely nowhere. 011-64/3-322-8277,