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19 Reasons to Travel in 2019


If you're looking for epic journeys near and far to fuel your wanderlust, look no further.

Published on Jan 3, 2019


Now’s the time to book a trip to this long-lost island paradise.



The Sea Gipsy docks at uninhabited islands around the Mergui Archipelago.


The remote and undeveloped Mergui Archipelago in Burma’s part of the Andaman Sea has more to offer than just a cruise from afar. As the government begins to hand out more hotel licenses, a few new resorts now offer island stays to help explore this pristine region. Go now, before the word gets out. By Joe Cummings


An evening cruise on the Sea Gipsy.

SCATTERED LIKE UNCUT JEWELS across the Andaman Sea off Burma’s southern coast, the 800 islands, atolls and coral reefs of the Mergui Archipelago form one of the least-visited marine destinations on earth. The thickly forested islands, most blissfully uninhabited, are rimmed by crystal beaches and striking rock formations. Stilted fishing villages, shifting settlements of indigenous Moken or “sea gypsy” families, and a few Burmese naval camps occupy only a handful of plots of land.

Such isolation means the archipelago harbors a great diversity of flora and fauna, still largely uncatalogued, and some of the finest diving in Asia. Until recently the Burmese government zealously guarded this living treasure, allowing only registered liveaboard boats to cruise through—no overnight stays on the islands allowed.

However, since 2011 the government has granted licenses for the development of resorts on 12 islands, following the Maldives’ model of only one per island. So far four are open and operating, but only November to April, when boat transport from Kawthaung, a rustic port at Burma’s southernmost tip, is unhindered by seasonal monsoons. The best diving conditions occur December to April, with whale sharks and manta rays visiting from February to May.

With 10 spacious bungalows hidden well behind the natural tree-line on Nga Khin Nyo Gyee Island west of the archipelago, Boulder Bay Eco-Resort (boulderasia.com; doubles from $240 per person) provides a model for low-impact development in the region. A solar farm powers the lights and Wi-Fi, while water is pumped from a local spring. Trails venture through tangled island forest to five pristine coral-fringed coves around the island, as well as a bamboo forest and Eagle Rock viewpoint. Meals, boat transfers and the use of snorkeling and kayaking gear are included in the tariff.

Boulder Bay’s owners operate the Sea Gipsy (islandsafarimergui.com; doubles from $860 per person), a converted Burmese junk with open-air sleeping areas for 10, to transfer guests from Kawthaung to the resort, stopping at deserted islands for snorkeling and kayaking along the way. Belgian photographer David Van Driessche uses the Sea Gipsy as home base for his Expeditions in Photography (expeditionsinphotography.com) tours of the archipelago.

Further north, Wa Ale Island Resort (waaleresort.com; doubles from $500 per person) occupies the rugged south shore of Wa Ale Island, adjacent to Lanbi Island, home to Burma’s only national marine park. Eleven luxury tented villas line one-kilometer Turtle Beach, named for the giant sea turtles whose nests are protected by the resort. Past a rocky headland from Turtle Beach, a smaller cove harbors two treetop villas made from recycled timber, and the resort’s rustic yet elegant dining area. Chef Ray Wyatt, a veteran of African safari camps, whips up an ever changing menu using fresh produce from the resort’s garden and sustainably caught local seafood. The resort’s resident naturalist doubles as a guide for treks and kayaking.

Two hours by speedboat from Kawthaung, another barefoot luxury resort, Awei Pila (aweipila.com; doubles from $750), opened last month on Pila Island with 24 air-conditioned tented villas fronting a white-sand beach, open-air restaurant, spa and pool. Pila Island features a small village with a Buddhist temple and a beach-shack bar with pool table. Awei Pila is connected to Burma Boating (burmaboating.com), a cruise fleet that includes luxury yachts for multi-day island explorations.

If you need to stop in Kawthaung, Victoria Cliff Hotel & Resort (victoriacliff.com; doubles from $84) has cliffside villas with views of the

Andaman, while Grand Andaman Hotel (grandandamanisland.com; doubles from $93), famed for its relatively upscale casino, is on Thahtay Island, a short boat ride from the port.

 


Hong Kong’s heritage hub has become the hottest place to eat and drink.



The Dispensary’s 1997 Punch, mixes whisky, passion fruit and more.

It opened last year as an arts-and-culture center in
Hong Kong’s old Victoria Police Station, but, let’s be honest, the real reason we’ll be heading to heritage-space Tai Kwun (taikwun.hk) is for the fare. The spot in Central has now opened 13 of its F&B outlets, and they are as pretty as they are tasty. A trio of upscale outfits by Aqua Restaurant Group are the latest: try regional cuisine at The Chinese Library or a modern British menu at Statement, while lounge bar The Dispensary bridges the two literally and with its East-meets-West line-up. They’re in good company with Behind Bars (a drinkery in the old jail), Aaharn and Old Bailey, with more to come. — ELOISE BASUKI

 


Get inspired by the art scene in Nairobi.


Traditional jewelry making at a bead workshop at Kazuri.

Most travelers who book a trip to Kenya head out straight for a safari in the Masai Mara, but it’s worth spending time in Nairobi to explore the capital’s growing creative scene. Check in to the intimate hotel OneFortyEight Giraffe Sanctuary (one-forty-eight.com; doubles from $495 per person), set in a former artist’s home and studio, where original art hangs on the walls and owner Elizabeth Fusco runs an on-site boutique. A few kilometers away, the bead workshop Kazuri (kazuri.com) employs more than 340 women who craft colorful beads, jewelry and ceramics by hand. Watch artists at work at the GoDown Arts Centre (thegodownartscentre.com), and visit Designing Africa Collective (fb.com/ designing africacollective) for apparel by makers from across the continent. — Mary Holland

 


Sleep in the ancient caves of Matera, Italy.


The cathedral in Matera dates to 1270.

Set on the instep of Italy’s boot, Matera is best known for the white Sassi structures carved into its limestone hills, which earned the town a unesco designation. The announcement four years ago that Matera would be a 2019 European Capital of Culture signaled a new era, spurring hotel and restaurant openings and culminating in this year’s festivities. Don’t miss the museum Casa Noha (fondoambiente.it/casa-noha-eng),where a multimedia exhibit gives a glimpse of the city’s past. The tour operator Divertimento Group (divertimentogroup.com) can arrange an experience in Murgia National Park, where you’ll go on a foraging trek with a local farmer, then share a gourmet meal in a cave next to an ancient rupestrian (i.e., made out of rock) church. Bed down at the Aquatio Cave Luxury Hotel & Spa (aquatiohotel.com; doubles from $205), which opened last summer with 35 guest rooms, each in a restored Sassi cave, plus a spa and pool built in a ninth-century subterranean chamber. — Nina Hahn

 


Bangkok is sleeping and eating better than ever. By Jeninne Lee-St. John


A first-look rendering of the new urban resort, Capella Bangkok.

This year is primed to be a big one for Bangkok, with the impending arrivals of a few favoritebrand five-stars.... bolstered by a reinvigorated Thai-cuisine scene that’s raking in the stars.

Rosewood (rosewoodhotels.com), in the midst of an expansionist flurry, stakes its claim to the city center with a tower that evokes the Thai wai hand greeting, is topped by sky villas with private pools, and, in a traffic-choked city, has a godsend highway-adjacent placement— it’s a breeze to the airport. Down the road is the sunlit, northern Thai–inspired Hyatt Regency Sukhumvit (hyatt.com; doubles from $192), where a new skywalk will link guests with the SkyTrain, and former street-food cooks crank authentic local fare out of the open kitchen.

On the river, Four Seasons (fourseasons.com) is going big with its Bangkok comeback. The ambitious hotel-and-residences development is betting on a years-in-the-making riverfront revival that was punctuated most powerfully by last fall’s glam-slam opening of Iconsiam (iconsiam.com), Thailand’s swankiest mall with the country’s first Takashimaya store. In this glittering light, it makes perfect sense that neighboring grande dame Mandarin Oriental (mandarinoriental.com; doubles from $545) will commence a next-generation-luxe spiffing up of its River Wing come March.

Between these two divas, Capella (capellahotels.com) saunters into town with its locally slanted, boutique signature: expect a lowrise, greenery-draped urban resort that feels like a clubhouse for the well-heeled in-the-know. The fine dining restaurant will be a coastal Mediterranean affair from Michelin two-starred Mauro Colagreco, of Mirazur in France; the flirty bar will serve cocktails and desserts personalized to your whims. Each of the 101 rooms, suites and villas comes with generous outdoor living space—balconies, gardens, plunge pools—from which to admire the Chao Phraya River views.

If you ever do venture off property, the Michelin Guide’s new star holders alone will feed you for a week. Tip: start with the creatively haute, refreshingly unpretentious Thai stylings of Sorn (instagram.com/sornfinesouthern; tasting menu $82), Saawaan (saawaan.com; tasting menu $60) and Le Du (ledubkk.com; tasting menus from $70).

 


Singapore’s grande dame is reopening soon, with Crazy Rich menus to boot.


Raffles Singapore opened its doors back in 1887.

After a two-year renovation, the new Raffles Singapore (rafflessingapore.com;doubles from $780) will reopen this summer not just bigger and better, but with dining venues by some of the world’s top chefs. As well as introducing luxe new rooms, including the one- and two- bedroom Residence suites, plus a 300-guest ballroom, the iconic heritage hotel will offer a slew of modern culinary concepts. Acclaimed chef Alain Ducasse will revive the 122-year-old Bar & Billiard Room with a Mediterranean menu at BBR by Alain Ducasse, and three- Michelin-starred French chef Anne-Sophie Pic will debut in Asia with her new restaurant, Le Dame de Pic. Yì by Jereme Leung will adapt classical Chinese cuisine; North Indian food will be served at the refurbished Tiffin Room; and Long Bar will pour an updated Singapore Sling, with Widges Gin and Scrappy’s Spice Plantation Bitters, both made exclusively for the hotel. — E.B.

 


Prague’s culinary map is expanding, and foodie travelers are paying attention.


Fresh duck rolls from fine Asian restaurant Taro.

Not long ago, goulash and strudel dominated nearly every menu in Prague. But lately, a dynamic dining landscape has taken shape, with spots like the 17-seat chef’s-table restaurant Taro (taro.cz; tasting menus from $39), where Vietnamese dishes like pho are treated with reverence. Ambiente, the group behind many of the city’s most innovative kitchens, recently launched Kuchyň (kuchyn.ambi.cz; mains $11–$15). There, diners order after taking a whiff from the pots on the stove, and what lands on the plate are riffs on Czech classics, such as beef braised in red wine. Sister spot Grils (grilskarlin.cz; mains $5–$18) specializes in spit-roasted chicken, unadorned yet perfect. And another Ambiente joint, the all-day bakery and bistro Eska (eska.ambi.cz; mains $12–$31), is a must: a slice of wood-fired sourdough, a bowl of comforting leek soup, and a parsnip bathed in brown butter are proof that Prague is now a legitimate destination for serious eaters. — RAPHAEL KADUSHIN



Luxury stays in Uttarakhand have taken northern India to the next level.


The mountain inspired suites of Kumaon.

Often called the Land of Gods, India’s northern state of Uttarakhand is dotted with ancient temples, hill stations, snowcapped peaks, and is home to some of Hinduism’s holiest cities. New upmarket lodgings means ample choice for a plush stay, including the Taj Rishikesh Resort & Spa, Uttarakhand (tajhotels.com; doubles from $261) and the Roseate Ganges Rishikesh (roseatehotels.com; doubles from $413), both ultraluxe, nature-filled retreats along the Ganges. Near the Tibetan border, the 10-suite Kumaon (thekumaon.com; doubles from $180) blends tropical modernism with stark Himalayan contours. Book a trek with Village Ways (villageways.com; from $1,707 for 11 nights) and you can meander through terraced valleys and pristine wilderness, bed down in village guesthouses, or camp on a bugyal, an alpine meadow. — R.S.

 


Go vineyardhopping in France.


The Belmond’s Lilas barge.

Alsace, in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains, produces some of the finest wines on the globe. The stunning Villa René Lalique (villarenelalique.com; doubles from $340), whose restaurant has two Michelin stars (mains $47–$143, tasting menus from $170), is the ideal place to start a sojourn. Visit top wineries like Domaine Weinbach (domaineweinbach.com) and Maison Trimbach (trimbach.fr) for exceptional Gewürztraminers and Rieslings. At Au Trotthus (trotthus.com; mains $27–$40, tasting menus from $74), in Riquewihr, chef Philippe Aubron melds ingredients from France and Japan—think chanterelle soup with enoki and truffles. Luxury travelers can also see Burgundy and its vineyards by boat: the Belmond Lilas, offers private cruises (belmond.com; prices available upon request). — RAY ISLE

 


Go off-the-beaten-sailing-route on these luxe liveaboards in Indonesia. New sailing companies are reimagining traditional boats into high-end cruises for intrepid island-hopping. By RACHNA SACHASINH


One of Prana by Atzaro’s nine elegant suites.

The Banda Sea, smack in the middle of the Indonesian archipelago and home to the remote Raja Ampat, Spice and Komodo islands, may be the closest thing to Heaven on Earth. A galaxy of verdant islands twinkle like stars in azure waters. Pink-sand beaches, colored by indigenous red coral, circle volcanic atolls like galactic rings. Cosmic sunsets streak in unseen shades of violet and fuchsia. As the meeting point of the warm, tropical Indian and Pacific Ocean currents, it’s one of the planet’s richest marine biodiversity sites, brimming with kaleidoscopic sealife and lined with stretches of pristine reefs. Getting here used to take Robinson Crusoe–like gumption, but the debut of a few luxe liveaboard yachts makes it easier and irresistible.


The four-deck Prana by Atzaro is modeled on a traditional Sulawesi phinisi.

With their boat modeled on the Sulawesi phinisi—a traditional two-mast ironwood and teak sailing vessel with a handsome silhouette that has the wide hull of a dhow and the elegant lines of a western schooner—glamorous Rascal Voyages (rascalvoyages.com; doubles from $9,500) signals the next generation of these traditional yachts. Their 30-meter craft, whose five above-deck suites, all outfitted by Charles Orchard of iBal Designs, Bali’s hottest interior designer, delivers a five-star floating boutiquehotel experience. On-board naturalists, yogis and dive instructors plus pro scuba, snorkeling and paddleboard gear take the heavy-lifting out of adventure cruising. The more intrepid can take navigation tutorials with the ship’s captain, and join the soon-to-launch scientific reef explorations in Raja Ampat with Conservation International geologists.

The 55-meter Prana by Atzaro (pranabyatzaro.com; doubles from $1,540) phinisi amps up the luxe-factor even further with nine suites draped in flaxen linens and wraparound glass windows, plus private balconies. The ship’s four teak decks are perfect for sunrise yoga, stargazing or jumping into the balmy seas off the coast of the Spice Islands, where fragrant nutmeg, clove and mace plantations unfurl beneath misty, rainforested mountainsides chock-full of bandicoots, civets and rare birds of paradise. Atzaro is based in Ibiza, and renowned for its fabulous farmhouse retreat on the notoriously chic party isle. Here it also brings its culinary chops to high-seas living, with a toothsome gourmet fusion menu.

On board the charming 54-meter Ayana Lako Di’a (ayana.com; doubles from $840) in Indonesia’s Komodo Islands, I had a more extreme version of an island-hopping adventure, though it ultimately turned me into a liveaboard diehard. Offering a just-as-luxe sailing experience with Ayana’s newly opened Komodo resort, the nine-suite phinisi features relaxed interiors with vintage-inspired wood and brass furnishings, a bathtub and sublime rain showers. The indigo batik headboards emulate slivers of the Milky Way, a nod to sleeping under the stars. Docking at Komodo National Park, a New Seven Wonders of Nature, I came face-to-face with a man-eating Komodo dragon who, thankfully, had had already dined. Back on board, I got back to what modern phinisi cruising is all about: chilling barefoot on smooth teak decks, watching dolphins lope along the starboard and being a castaway in Indonesia’s heavenly seas.


This is the year tented camps will inherit the Earth.


All 15 tents at Shinta Mani Wild hang over the river.

Recent months have brought the otherworldly safari pods of Wild Coast Tented Lodge (resplendentceylon.com; doubles from $777) in Yala National Park, Sri Lanka; and the Pavilions Himalayas Lake View (pavilionshotels.com; doubles from $224) tented eco villas in Nepal. On the heels of the new Capella Ubud (capellahotels.com; doubles from $919) in Bali, whose Bill Bensley–designed tents are themed on the jobs and encounters of colonial-era settlers, comes Shinta Mani Wild (shintamani.com; doubles $1,900), his latest and greatest fairy tale come-to-life, which just debuted in the Cambodian jungle. Guests reach the all-inclusive, chop-notrees, community-empowering resort by zipline and can join rangers on anti-poaching patrols. Cambodia is actually a canvas-topped hotspot: see also rustic preservationist Cardamom Tented Camp (from $259 per person for two nights) or super-green The Beige (the-beige.com; doubles from $355) near Angkor. — J.L.S.J.



12 Toronto is offering Modern art in a new museum as well as on the shores of Lake Ontario.


The Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada has a new home.

The city is raising its art game: the Museum of Contemporary Art Toronto Canada (moca.ca) has reopened after a three-year, $13 million relocation and expansion, and 2019 will see the launch of the Toronto Biennial of Art (torontobiennial.org; September 21–December 1). Plan a visit around Winter Stations (winterstations.com; February 18–April 1), which brings public art to Lake Ontario’s beaches, or Nuit Blanche Toronto (nbto.com; October 5), a one-night festival. Check in to one of the many new properties: the Kimpton Saint George (kimptonsaintgeorge.com; doubles from $239) displays more than 700 works by Canadian artists; the Anndore House (theanndore house.com; doubles from $167) has in-room record players; and the luxe St. Regis Toronto (st-regis.marriott.com; doubles from $496) brings old-school opulence to the city. — HANNAH WALHOUT



Follow the Hollywood trail to Scotland.


The Fife Arms is a restored Victorian coaching inn.

While Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie are the stars of the recent film Mary Queen of Scots, Scotland’s scenery steals the show. Want to walk in Ronan’s footsteps? The cozy seven-room lodge at Glenfeshie Estate (glenfeshie.scot; two-night rentals from $12,360), where scenes from Mary were filmed, is available for exclusive rental. In the Highlands village of Braemar, renowned gallery owners Iwan and Manuela Wirth have turned a coaching inn into the luxurious Fife Arms (thefifearms.com; doubles from $325). Between visits to castles and glens, stop in the up-and-coming city of Dundee to check out the new V&A Dundee (vam.ac.uk/dundee). The museum’s shiplike building, by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, houses more than 300 exhibits devoted to Scottish design, from a re-created Mackintosh tearoom to video games. — LISA GRAINGER



Historic Hoi An is steering into the future.
An influx of creatives is bringing new life to one of Vietnam’s most beautiful ports.



The renovated Four Seasons Resort Nam Hai.

ARE YOU SICK OF HOI AN? We get it. The Ancient Town, first settled 2,000 years ago, was in 1999 named a unesco World Heritage site, protecting its pagodas, wooden bridges and merchant houses, many built between the 15th and 19th centuries. Ever since, tourists have crowded this historic, romantic (if somewhat kitschy) living museum. But new shops and restaurants are bringing a contemporary eye to the layered—Chinese, Japanese, Indian, French, Portuguese and Dutch, for starters—culture, warranting a return trip for even the most jaded among us to this central Vietnamese dollhouse of a town.

Didier Corlou was among the first European chefs to work in postwar Vietnam, at Hanoi’s iconic Metropole hotel. Now he is researching the influence of the sea and the spice trade on Hoi An’s culinary practices, like the use of turmeric, cassia and curry leaves. He serves dishes such as “ocean soup,” a consommé with purple seaweed and ginger, in the leafy courtyard of Cô Mai (comaihoian.com; mains $4–$10), a repurposed 200-year-old merchant’s house.

Tadioto Hoi An (fb.com/tadiotohoian; sushi sets from $11), owned by artist Nguyen Qui Duc, serves Japanese fare and shots of rare sake and whisky. Nguyen also has a Kyoto-style “eating street” in the works. Nearby, chef Nguyen Nhu Thinh blends traditions he picked up in London and Tokyo at Aubergine 49 (hoian-aubergine49.com; mains $14–$31, tasting menus from $40). Similar currents weave through the menu at The Hill Station (thehillstation.com; mains $7–$10), which channels Indochinese cool with imaginative dishes like Camembert roasted with pineapple infused rice wine. And the drinks list at T-Room Gin Bar (fb.com/thetroomginbar), in a historic teahouse, includes gins infused with native vanilla and cardamom.

As a trading stop, Hoi An was historically a hub for textiles and leather—and new boutiques are now livening up the town’s long-respected apparel and design scenes. Head to the French-Vietnamese atelier Metiseko (metiseko.com), with its understated prints and smart silhouettes, or Chula (chulafashion.com), where colorful patterns and architectural motifs are embroidered onto bohemian frocks. Lam (fb.com/lamboutiquehoian), near the central market, reimagines the traditions of Ancient Town with embroidered velvet slippers and silk slip dresses in the spirit of the ao dai. Tapping into the town’s leisurely vibe, Sunday in Hoi An (sundayinhoian.com) has an atmospheric whiteand-blue atelier filled with ceramics and linens.

Speaking of luxurious bedding, another oldie worth a fresh look here is the renovated Four Seasons Resort the Nam Hai (fourseasons.com; doubles from $725), the newest incaration of what was the country’s first modern international-standard five-star resort when it opened a dozen years ago. Each of the 100 villas reinterprets the Vietnamese garden courtyard house, with regal platform beds and floor-toceiling windows that bathe the space in palm diffused light. The resort’s spa, inspired by the teachings of the Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, incorporates mindfulness training and spiritual wisdom into its treatments.

If you want to stay in the heart of the action, though, try one of these two upscale hotels that gracefully ground you in town: the stately Hotel Royal Hoi An - M Gallery (accorhotels.com; doubles from $105) and the more sprawling Anantara Hoi An Resort (anantara.com; doubles from $219) sit riverfront on either side of Old Town. You can easily walk to all the sights, pick up the country’s best banh mi, then beat it back to your pool (rooftop at Hotel Royal; a garden ensconsed saltwater beauty at Anantara) when the lack of air-con in the city center takes its toll. But be sure to head back out to the dreamy saffron façade-lined lanes come nightfall. The bar scene is lively. Tourists stroll carefree. With the river awash in candlelight, you’ll see how Hoi An’s new golden era is just beginning. — R.S.



Experience outback life in the Northern Territory.


Bullo River Station, a lodge in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The remote Australian region is pouring millions into tourism initiatives, including a National Aboriginal Art Gallery and new hiking and biking trails. But even before all that takes shape, it’s worth a visit, especially being such a close port to Asia. At Uluru (parksaustralia.gov.au), the sandstone monolith revered by the area’s Indigenous people, the massive—and massively popular—Field of Light installation by artist Bruce Munro has extended its run through December 2020. And in the Top End, the northernmost part of the territory, the 12-room Bullo River Station (bulloriver.com.au; doubles from $576) has a crisp new look courtesy of Sydney designer Sibella Court, with jewel-colored tiles and Indigenous art. On the 200,000-hectare grounds, you can view rock paintings dating back thousands of years, and baobab trees, plus spot the area’s huge saltwater crocodiles. — CARRIE HUTCHINSON



Tisvildeleje and the Danish Riviera has all they hygge you can handle.


Tisvilde Kro serves modern Danish cuisine.

The Danish seaside village of Tisvildeleje has always had a cult following. In ancient times, it was a sacred site dedicated to the god Tyr; its spring drew pilgrims who believed its waters had healing properties. More recently, Tisvildeleje and the surrounding Danish Riviera have attracted urbanites who embrace the area’s rustic, unpretentious charms. The town is little more than a main road, lined with intimate restaurants such as the buzzy new Tisvilde Kro (tisvildekro.dk; mains $25–$55); a bakery, Brød & Vin (tisvildelejebager.business.site); and tiny boutiques. The choicest stays are two reimagined 19th-century properties: the boho Tisvildeleje Strandhotel (strand-hotel.dk; doubles from $122) and Helenekilde Badehotel (helenekilde.com; doubles from $213), a grand beach house with Midcentury Modern Danish furnishings and front-row views of the Kattegat Sea. — GISELA WILLIAMS



Oman has earned some extra bling.



The infinity pool at the Kempinski Hotel Muscat.

A crop of stylish hotels underlines the diversity of experiences available in Oman. On the southern coast, the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara (anantara.com; doubles from $405) is a gateway to banana forests, dolphin-filled waters, and the unesco listed Frankincense Trail. In Muscat, the beachside Kempinski Hotel Muscat (kempinski.com; doubles from $332) debuted last April with a grand lobby inspired by the country’s Persian architectural heritage. The Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel (ritzcarlton.com; doubles from $457), one of Oman’s most iconic resorts, unveiled a redesign incorporating traditional Omani prints. And now that Muscat International Airport has wrapped the first phase of a $1.8 billion expansion, airlines are launching new flights to the country. — H.W.



Brisbane is having a cosmopolitan coming of age.



The Wet Deck bar at W Brisbane.

Ironically nicknamed Brisvegas for its sleepy mien, Brisbane has long been regarded as an outsize country town, a cultural vacuum overshadowed by Sydney and Melbourne. But that’s changing. The shift began last year with the launch of W Brisbane (whotels.com; doubles from $252), the first five-star to open here in 20 years. Next, the $140 million Howard Smith Wharves development will bring a hotel and restaurants to an old dockyard. The $2.6 billion Queen’s Wharf project, set for 2022, will add Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels, 50 restaurants and bars, and a riverfront beach. But even before Queen’s Wharf is complete, this growing city has plenty to offer. Fine arts institutions like the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, or QAGOMA (qagoma.qld.gov.au), where the Asia Pacific Triennial is on view through April. Fortitude Valley continues to evolve, with the opening of the resort-style Calile Hotel (thecalilehotel.com; doubles from $186) and the relaunch of the Emporium Hotel as the whimsical Ovolo the Valley (ovolohotels.com; doubles from $158). One thing remains unchanged, though: the river is still the heart of it all, both as a thoroughfare and a destination. The City Hopper ferry is a serene vantage point from which to see Brisbane’s parks, the cliffs of Kangaroo Point, and the ever-evolving skyline of this underrated city. — SANJAY SURANA


Manhattan has a new playground.



The kaleidoscopic interiors of the Vessel structure.

Despite being within striking distance of Times Square and Chelsea, Manhattan’s far west side remained undeveloped for decades, the subject of many competing visions of its future. Now, the vast industrial parcel is poised to become a supersize neighborhood known as Hudson Yards (hudsonyardsnewyork.com). The $25 billion undertaking, whose first shops, restaurants and attractions open this March, will by 2024 encompass 16 residential and commercial buildings—most of them built on a giant platform over an active railyard.

Hudson Yards’ vision is perhaps best exemplified by Vessel, a climbable sculpture conceived by British designer Thomas Heatherwick as NYC ’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. The steel showpiece, which has 154 interlinked flights of stairs offering peerless views of the Hudson River, anchors the Public Square & Gardens.

The Shed (theshed.org), an eight-story performance and exhibition space, has a one-ofa-kind feature: a telescoping shell that allows the building to expand and contract to accommodate a variety of events and crowd sizes. A seven-story building will house the city’s first Neiman Marcus and eateries by such big-name chefs as Thomas Keller and David Chang. And if you want to stay the night, check in to the Equinox Hotel (equinox.com/hotels), the first property from the upscale fitness brand slated to open this summer. — SIOBH AN REID



 

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