This Way Out
The Jakarta Post -- WEEKENDER | Sun, 11/23/2008 3:03 PM |
Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet did it in the 2006 movie The Holiday. And with tumultuous financial times ahead, home swapping may just be the way to go if you’re not willing to forego your vacation and still want to watch your wallet while at it.
How it works: You register with one of the growing number of home exchange websites like
Digsville Home Exchange Club (www.digsville.com)- usually for a small fee – and you’re free to access listings from homeowners all over the world. Digsville’s database for instance has 1000's of listings – from country homes and urban pads to winter hideaways and beachside abodes – in 55 countries and 6 continents. There are plenty of pictures and captions that allow you to properly suss out your potential holiday pad, and member profile answers to questions like "What is your housekeeping style?" clue you in to what you can expect.
There are other perks of course, other than eliminating your hotel bill, with home exchange holidays. Diaz and Winslet found romance, but home exchange enthusiasts also cite advantages like feeling more at home at destination than a usual tourist does, and added opportunities to interact with the local community. That home swap websites allow members to interact with one another also allows them to develop a rapport with their exchange partners, leading to further connections in their community, says Helen Bergstein, founder of The Digsville Home Exchange Club.
BOB THE BUILDER
Award-winning actor and restaurateur Robert De Niro has added another feather in his cap. The Hollywood hotshot is now a hotelier with a swank boutique project in New York City.
What: The low-key but luxe eight-floor, 88-room Greenwich Hotel. Opened earlier this year, the hotel is best described as industrial chic – its classically-styled red-bricked façade gives way to a swish interior featuring custom made furniture inspired by early 20th century designs, and modern amenities like iPod docks and wi-fi.
Where: Trendy Tribeca in Manhattan, where De Niro also has a stake in fusion Japanese restaurant Nobu, and the Tribeca Film Festival.
What’s good: We’re guessing the odd A-lister sighting. But if that doesn’t happen, the hotel’s Shibui spa and pool is plenty good for bragging fodder. The Zen space offers traditional Japanese bathing rituals and massages, and even has its pool housed under an original 250-year-old bamboo home flown from Tokyo and reconstructed on site.
How much: Rates range from US$625 to US$2,250 per night.
Here’s one for your favorites folder. British Airways has launched a website version of its award winning in-flight magazine High Life. The magazine has 35 years of history behind it and is jam packed with plenty of destination inspiration, stunning pictures, celebrity jet setter profiles and the newest travel hop spots.
The highly-lauded print content translates to its online version, and the site sports easy to navigate categories like ‘destination’, ‘spas’, ‘food and drink’, ‘arts and culture’, ‘sports and adventure’ and ‘fashion and shopping’. Travel like the best and brightest of BA’s passengers too; the website is chockfull of travel tips and anecdotes from the world’s glam glitterari – from Samuel L Jackson to Carla Bruni.
THE THAI LIFE
Take it from your fellow countrymen. Thailand is making its way up the ranks of desirable holiday destinations for Indonesians. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), the Land of a Thousand Smiles saw a 32% increase in Indonesian tourists for the first four months of this year, as compared to the same period in 2007. About 265,600 Indonesian tourists are expected to visit by this year-end, marking an 8.06% increase, and target numbers for 2009 have been set at 287,000. The TAT also plans to open an office in Jakarta in 2010, a sign as good as any of its commitment to courting the Indonesian market. In the mean time, 2009 has been named ‘Visit Amazing Thailand Year’ so anyone thinking of winging their way to lap up Thai sights and culture should be on the lookout for some spectacular promotions and travel deals (www.tourismthailand.org).