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Intercontinental Times Square Entrance and Presidential Suite

InterContinental Times Square opened officially yesterday at 44th Street and 8th Avenue. The 36 story hotel claims to be one of the most environmentally responsible hotels in town, soon to receive LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Its 607 rooms offer floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline, Hudson River or Broadway. The rooms have large spa-inspired bathrooms with walk-in rain showers, 42 inch HDTVs and both wired and wireless Internet access. And if you want to live in style there are 29 suites including a dramatic 2700-sq-ft Presidential Suite with three bedrooms, two-story living space and a master bedroom fireplace.

Doubles start at about $320 per night (rack rate is higher).

King Guest Room and Bathroom


Solar Impulse

A solar-powered aircraft built by a Swiss based foundation SolarImpulse was able to complete a 26 hour flight this morning.

The plane is a glider with four electric engines of 10 HP each. Gliders that can fly without engine power once up in the air is of course nothing new. But to take off and make it through the night, engines will be needed. And that engine power is coming from pure solar energy on this plane.

The plane has a length of 21.85 meters, a wingspan of 63,40 meters, weight of 1,600 kg, 11,628 solar cells, average flying speed of 70 km/h, take-off speed of 35 km/h and maximum altitude of 8,500 meters. Its wingspan is equal to that of an Airbus A340 jumbo plane.

Solar Impulse has further ambitions of making it around the world on solar energy only.

But the success of even this flight is remarkable since it shows that flying without fuel or pollution is possible.

Commercial solar powered flights are, however, still far away – but not as far away as they were only yesterday.

Solar Impulse


Pocket of Active Resistance, La Defense, Paris, France

Pocket of Active Resistance, a new vision to utilize the open space of the famous Arche de la Defense building in Paris, France, has been unveiled by Parisian architect, Stéphane Malka. The architect describes the project as: “… a modular complex providing an alternative to the defiant lifestyle, by positioning itself in a permanent state of insurrection. Its growth is articulated by the vitality of its spontaneous community.”

Perhaps a combination of Squat, Parasite and Guerilla Architecture, it is definitely non-traditional. An effort to think out of the box to solve space challenges plaguing big cities.

A refreshingly daring intrusion on one of the icons of modern architecture in Paris. The result is interesting, somewhat ugly, and thought provoking.


Pocket of Active Resistance, Paris, France


Khan Shatyr Center, Astana, Kazakhstan

Khan Shatyr Center interior

The Khan Shatyr Entertainment Center in Astana, Kazakhstan, was officially opened last night in the presence of local and foreign heads of state in a grand ceremony, with a performance by the Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

The 50 story (500 feet) tall tent is the world’s tallest tensile structure. It contains entertainment, leisure and event facilities, a shopping center, including retail, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and an urban scale park including man-made lakes and rivers.

One of the main functions of the structure is to provide shelter from the extreme temperatures of Astana (-30 to 95 F).

The tent is a creation of world-renowned London based architects Foster+Partners.

Whether one finds the architecture of Astana impressive, high-tech, avant-garde or cheesy, wasteful and monstrous is a matter of taste and values. But this huge tent no doubt fits right in among the many unique structures of Astana.

One could argue that Khan Shatyr Center seems emblematic of the way of building typical of Kazakhstan’s new capital. The exaggerated architecture of Astana seems to have been enabled by a combination of a new nation’s need to create its own identity and a dictator-president’s megalomaniac weakness for monuments glorifying himself and his regime. Fittingly the center was opened on Astana Day which coincides with the President’s birthday!

The architecture of Astana brings to mind monstrous building’s like the House of the Republic in Bucharest built by Romania’s late dictator Ceausescu and the over-sized presidential palace in the capital of Turkmenistan.

Seeing the architectural bling of the new capital of Kazakhstan serves as a reminder that huge amounts of resources are still being wasted on mindless monuments all over the world although they might not be as conspicuous as the ones in Astana.

One can only wonder what could have been achieved if these resources would have been used to improve the living standard of the poor or other productive uses. Then again if not for man’s tendency to create monuments, few of the seven wonders of the world would ever have been created, neither hardly any of the man-made sites that people travel thousands of miles to see.


Khan Shatyr Center, image showing sections of the structure


Fourth of July fireworks at the Washington Monument

Fourth of July fireworks at the Washington Monument

Click on the video below to watch fireworks in simulcast from Philadephia last night


Windmills and yellow brick houses, North Zealand, Denmark

Windmills and yellow brick houses, North Zealand, Denmark

Lake Pielinen in Koli National Park, Finland

Lake Pielinen in Koli National Park, Finland

The usual suspects can be found in the top 10 of The World’s Happiest Countries 2010 according to a new Gallup World Poll: The affluent small countries of Europe, Oceania, Canada and Costa Rica. The United States is listed as number 12.

1 Denmark, Finland
3 Norway, Netherlands, Costa Rica
6 Canada, Switzerland
8 New Zealand
9 Sweden, Austria, Australia
12 United States, Belgium
14 Brazil, Panama



Delhi Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India

Delhi Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India

New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport in India will open its new Terminal 3 tomorrow, July 3rd. Delhi Terminal 3 has been touted as a very significant improvement in capacity, efficiency, aesthetics, luxury and passenger comfort.

The new terminal will be able to handle 34 million passengers (capacity of old terminal is less than 15 million), using 168 check-in counters, 92 moving walkways and 78 jet bridges. It will also be able to handle the world’s largest commercial airplane, the Airbus A380.

One of the major anticipated advantages is to significantly decrease the amount of time required for passengers to pass through the airport. The airport’s objective is to make it possible for 95% of all passengers to proceed from touch down to exit in less than 45 minutes.

Most new airports have, however, experienced disappointing problems at start up. So it remains to be seen how things will take off tomorrow at Delhi’s brand new Terminal 3.

Click below to get a video tour of the new facilities.

Delhi Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India

Delhi Terminal 3 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, India

Indira Gandhi International Airport


Boca Chica, Acapulco, Mexico

Boca Chica, Acapulco, Mexico

Once glamorous Mexican resort city Acapulco is experiencing a renaissance. Part of Acapulco’s facelift is the re-opening of Boca Chica as a DesignHotel after a thorough renovation. The 1950s interior has been restored creating a hotel with vintage charm and a chic contemporary design. Boca Chica is a small exclusive hotel that used to be the 1950’s playground of the Hollywood elite. The hotel re-opened this spring.

Boca Chia is located just steps from an idyllic cove in Acapulco and you can arrive by water taxi and check in at the hotel’s sea level ‘Club de Mar’ fresh water pool area.

The hotel still maintains its famous vintage exterior although inside the refurbished interior is anything but old-school. It has chic design elements and an atmosphere of laid back tropical luxury.

It has 30 spacious rooms and 6 suites with original features and furniture from the 1950s building. The elegant and vibrant rooms come with private terraces and hammocks. Some of the rooms lead into private gardens and three of the suites have separate living rooms.

Boca Chica has a landscaped garden, a gym with views across the bay to Roqueta Island, a protected natural reserve. There are also poolside massage cabanas, a therapy area where a team of trained experts offer a range of body and facial treatments, a full SPA & Baths, an open air bar overlooking the bay, a disco, Coco Wash, and a main restaurant, serving raw, fresh and inviting dishes using local ingredients including catches of the day from the Acapulco area.

Doubles start at about $200 per night (including taxes).

Guestroom at Boca Chica

Guestroom at Boca Chica


Supersonic Green Machine by Lockheed/Martin

Supersonic Green Machine by Lockheed/Martin

Fly times between destinations have been stuck at the same level for decades. To improve the situation supersonic planes will eventually be needed. The Concorde seemed to bring in a new era of flying already 40 years ago, but its loud sonic booms restricted its use of supersonic speed to flying over sea only.

A team led by the Lockheed/Martin Corporation has developed a concept to dramatically lowering the level of sonic booms through the use of an “inverted-V” engine-under wing configuration. This could enable supersonic flights over land. The plane is being called a Supersonic Green Machine.

This supersonic cruise concept is among the designs presented in April 2010 to the NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate for its NASA Research Announcement-funded studies into advanced aircraft.

But don’t let this change your travel plans. This plane, if ever materialized, will not enter service until the 2030-2035 timeframe.



Luanda, Angola, most expensive city according to Mercer

Luanda, Angola, most expensive city according to Mercer

Swiss based Mercer is publishing a study tomorrow, ranking the world’s most expensive cities. According to the Mercer study the ranking is similar, but slightly different from the results of the ECA International study that we reported on earlier today (see previous article).

Top 10 Most Expensive Cities
1 Luanda, Angola
2 Tokyo, Japan
3 Nojamena, Chad
4 Moscow, Russia
5 Geneva, Switzerland
6 Osaka, Japan
7 Libreville, Gabon
8 Zurich, Switzerland
8 Hong Kong
10 Copenhagen, Denmark

For budget minded travelers this is certainly a list of cities to avoid. More interesting is the other end of the list showing the 10 least expensive cities in the world.

10 Least Expensive Cities

1 Karachi, Pakistan
2 Managua, Nicaragua
3 Islamabad, Pakistan
4 La Paz, Bolivia
5 Ashkhabad, Turkmenstan
6 Bishkek, Kyrgyztan
7 Addis Abeba, Ethiopia
8 Calcutta, India
9 Tegucigalpa, Honduras
10 Windhoek, Namibia

Due to security issues Pakistan and Kyrgyztan might be less interesting right now, but Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ethiopia and India can offer interesting destinations at great values.

Mercer is a global provider of consulting, outsourcing and investment services. Its services include advice and market data on international and expatriate compensation management. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc.