Monthly Archives: February 2011

The 31 Places to Go in 2010

(source: http://www.nytimes.com)

1.Sri Lanka
For a quarter century, Sri Lanka seems to have been plagued by misfortune, including a brutal civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated government and a separatist Tamil group. But the conflict finally ended last May, ushering in a more peaceful era for this teardrop-shaped island off India’s coast, rich in natural beauty and cultural splendors.

The island, with a population of just 20 million, feels like one big tropical zoo: elephants roam freely, water buffaloes idle in paddy fields and monkeys swing from trees. And then there’s the pristine coastline. The miles of sugary white sand flanked by bamboo groves that were off-limits to most visitors until recently are a happy, if unintended byproduct of the war.

Among the most scenic, if difficult stretches to reach, is Nilaveli Beach in the Tamil north. While a few military checkpoints remain, vacationers can lounge on poolside hammocks under palm trees or snorkel in its crystal-clear waters. Or they can order cocktails at the Nilaveli Beach Hotel (www.tangerinehotels.com/nilavelibeach), a collection of recently renovated bungalows with private terraces.

An international airport in Matara, on the island’s southern shore, is under construction, which will make the gorgeous beaches near the seaside village of Galle easier to get to. Decimated by the tsunami in 2004, the surrounding coastline is now teeming with stylish guesthouses and boutique hotels.

Unawatuna, a crescent-shaped beach a few miles south of Galle, may be furthest along. Higher-end hotels there include Thambapanni Retreat (www.thambapanni.biz), which features four-poster beds, yoga and an ayurvedic spa. The Sun House (www.thesunhouse.com), in Galle, looks like a place where the Queen of England might stay, with its mango courtyard and colonial décor. One stylish place tucked within Galle’s city walls is the Galle Fort Hotel (www.galleforthotel.com), a refurbished gem merchant’s house run by a couple of Aussies. — Lionel Beehner

2. Patagonia Wine Country
Ten years ago, a group of adventurous winemakers set their sights on an Argentine valley called San Patricio del Chañar, an unusually fertile and eerily beautiful corner of Patagonia. They plowed, planted and waited. The outcome? A blossoming wine country with delicious pinot noirs and malbecs and smartly designed wineries.

One of the area’s pioneers, the 2,000-acre Bodega del Fin del Mundo (www.bodegadelfindelmundo.com), which works with the influential wine consultant Michel Rolland, is racking up international medals for its complex merlot, cabernet and malbec blends. And NQN (bodeganqn.com.ar), which is associated with the Argentine oenologist Roberto de la Mota, has seen its 2006 Colección NQN Malbec get 92 points from Wine Enthusiast. Nearby is the new Valle Perdido winery (www.valleperdido.com.ar), which includes an 18-room resort surrounded by vineyards. At the spa, ask for antioxidant wine-infused treatments. — Paola Singer

3. Seoul
Forget Tokyo. Design aficionados are now heading to Seoul.

They have been drawn by the Korean capital’s glammed-up cafes and restaurants, immaculate art galleries and monumental fashion palaces like the sprawling outpost of Milan’s 10 Corso Como and the widely noted Ann Demeulemeester store — an avant-garde Chia Pet covered in vegetation.

And now Seoul, under its design-obsessed mayor, Oh Se-hoon, is the 2010 World Design Capital. The title, bestowed by a prominent council of industrial designers, means a year’s worth of design parties, exhibitions, conferences and other revelries. Most are still being planned (go to wdc2010.seoul.go.kr for updates). A highlight will no doubt be the third annual Seoul Design Fair (Sept. 17 to Oct. 7), the city’s answer to the design weeks in Milan and New York, which last year drew 2.5 million people and featured a cavalcade of events under two enormous inflatable structures set up at the city’s Olympic stadium. — Aric Chen

4. Mysore
You’ve completed 200 hours of teacher training, mastered flying crow pose and even spent a week at yoga surf camp. What’s next? Yogis seeking transcontinental bliss head these days to Mysore, the City of Palaces, in southern India.

The yogi pilgrimage was sparked by Ashtanga yoga, a rigorous sweat-producing, breath-synchronized regimen of poses popularized by the beloved Krishna Pattabhi Jois, who died at 94 in 2009. Mr. Jois’s grandson is now director of the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (www.kpjayi.org). First month’s tuition is 27,530 rupees, or $600 at 46 rupees to the dollar. Classes generally require a one-month commitment.

Too much time or money? Mysore’s yoga boom now has shalas catering to every need. Off the mat, the yoga tribe hobnobs at Anu’s Bamboo Hut or the Regaalis Hotel pool, studies Sanskrit, gets an ayurveda treatment or tours the maharaja’s palace. — Mary Billard

5. Copenhagen
As thousands of environmentalists heckled world leaders in Copenhagen last month for the climate summit, a solitary unifying note could be heard amid the cacophony of discord: the Danish capital has already emerged as one of the world’s greenest — and maybe coolest — cities.

Copenhageners don’t simply preach the “progressive city” ethos, they live it. Long, flat urban thoroughfares are hemmed with bicycle paths where locals glide around the city, tourists saddle up on the free bikes that dot the city center, and fashion bloggers take notes on the latest cycle chic (see copenhagencyclechic.com). Over in the harbor district, a public bath at Osterbro, due to open in 2010, will complement the two swimming areas set off on Copenhagen’s inner harbor, a formerly polluted waterway recently transformed into the city’s summertime hub.

Away from all the modernism and the happy cyclists, cultural thrill-seekers are being coaxed to the once dangerous district of Norrebro, which has arguably become Copenhagen’s edgiest hub. A heady mix of hipsters, students and immigrants mingle in the cafes and galleries around the district’s focal square, Sankt Hans Torv, and the city’s young and excitable night owls can be found dancing in local clubs until the early hours. — Benji Lanyado

WAITING IN THE WINGS

6. Koh Kood
Is this the next Koh Samui? The Trat islands are emerging as Thailand’s new luxury outpost. Inaccessible for many years because of tensions with neighboring Cambodia and a poor transportation infrastructure, islands like Koh Kood are starting to draw venturesome paradise seekers, thanks in part to new direct flights to the port city of Trat. The recent opening of Soneva Kiri, a 42-villa suite retreat by the Six Senses brand (www.sixsenses.com/Soneva-Kiri), definitely ratchets up the high-end quotient on this Robinson Crusoe-like island. Coming soon: X2 Koh Kood (www.x2resorts.com), a designer eco-resort with 14 pool villas. — Gisela Williams

7. Damascus
The next Marrakesh? Perhaps mindful of the way that renovations of historic riads have drawn upscale travelers to Marrakesh, Damascus hoteliers are trying to mine tourism gold in the rundown buildings of the Syrian capital’s Old City. These 18th-century homes — many with inviting courtyards and rooftop terraces — are now boutique hotels, like the nine-room Old Vine (www.oldvinehotel.com) and the Hanania (www.hananiahotel.com), which doubles as a hotel and a small museum. — Don Duncan

8. Cesme
The next Bodrum? While revelers continue to descend upon that seaside retreat, another corner of Turkey’s Aegean coastline has begun to emerge as a stylish alternative: the once-sleepy villages of the Cesme Peninsula. The main draw is Alacati, a sheltered beach town that last summer was the site of the Professional Windsurfers Association Slalom World Cup. Scheduled to open in the spring, the seven-room Hotel Nars Alacati (www.nars.com.tr), set in a converted 19th-century mansion, promises to become the popular weekend gathering spot for Istanbul’s smart set, along with the adjoining garden restaurant, Mesa Luna. — Andrew Ferren

9. Antarctica
This may be the last year that Antarctica is open to mass tourism — not because the ice is melting too fast (though it is), but because of restrictions that would severely curtail travel around the fragile continent.

Until recently, most vessels passing through Antarctica were limited to scientific expeditions, but an exploding number of tourists now flock to what is arguably the world’s last great wilderness. The tourism boom, scientists argue, poses a major environmental threat. Indeed, several passenger ships have run aground in recent years.

Countries that manage Antarctica are calling for limits on the number of tourist ships, for fortified hulls that can withstand sea ice and for a ban on the use of so-called heavy oils. A ban on heavy oil, which is expected to be adopted by the International Maritime Organization later this year, would effectively block big cruise ships.

With the new rules taking effect within two years, tour operators are promoting 2010 as the last year to visit Antarctica, while, at the same time, procuring lighter vessels that would be permitted. Abercrombie & Kent, for example, is introducing a new ship, Le Boreal (www.abercrombiekent.com), which its public relations firm argues “meets all the environmental regulations, so access to Antarctica via A&K will not be affected.”

Launching this year, the compact luxury ship holds 199 passengers and features an outdoor heated pool, steam rooms and private balconies that offer intimate views of some of the world’s remaining glaciers. — Denny Lee

10. Leipzig
In 2010, Leipzig, a small industrial city in the former East Germany with an illustrious past, will be marking the 325th anniversary of the birth of its former resident Johann Sebastian Bach and the 200th birthday of Robert Schumann with concerts, festivals and a reopened Bach Museum (www.bach-leipzig.de).

But the city’s cultural high note is likely to be the Neo Rauch retrospective opening in April at the Leipzig Museum of Fine Arts (www.mdbk.de), a show devoted to the father of the New Leipzig School of artists, a scene that for the past decade has been the toast of the contemporary art world. The art cognoscenti will also make their way to the Spinnerei (www.spinnerei.de), a former cotton mill that is home to 11 galleries, a cafe and a quirky new pension called the Meisterzimmer (www.meisterzimmer.de), with rooms starting at 50 euros, or $70 at $1.40 to the euro.

The city is also making a splash on the musical front. Moon Harbour Recordings and Kann Records, two indie labels producing innovative electronica from D.J.’s, are based here. Sevensol and Matthias Tanzmann will undoubtedly be lugging their laptops to Leipzig Pop Up (www.leipzig-popup.de), a trade fair and music festival taking place in May. Otherwise, gigs can be heard year-round in the city’s underbelly of abandoned factories and squats that look a lot like Berlin — maybe 10 years ago. — Gisela Williams

11. Los Angeles
Visitors love to bemoan the lack of an old-fashioned cultural neighborhood in Los Angeles. In truth, the city has as many thriving art spots as it does ZIP codes. Last October, the pioneering Culver City gallery Blum & Poe (2727 South La Cienega Boulevard; 310-836-2062; www.blumandpoe.com) inaugurated an airy 21,000-square-foot space; in July, the veteran local dealer Thomas Solomon (427 Bernard Street; 323-427-1687; www.thomassolomongallery.com) opened a space in Chinatown. And the powerhouse New York galleries L&M Arts and Matthew Marks are scheduled to open prominent spaces in 2010.

Local museums, many of which struggled financially in recent years, are back afloat. The Museum of Contemporary Art (www.moca.org) is celebrating its 30th birthday with a huge exhibition of 500 highlights from its outstanding collection of postwar art. In October, the vast Los Angeles County Museum of Art (www.lacma.org) will get even bigger when it unveils a Renzo Piano-designed addition to its multiacre mid-Wilshire campus. And the billionaire collector Eli Broad, who has been both savior and villain to just about every major museum in town, is now looking to plant his own museum in Beverly Hills, Santa Monica or a third unnamed location. — Andrew Ferren

12. Shanghai
To many, the idea of a World Expo might seem like a dated, superfluous throwback from some preglobalized age. (Remember the one in Aichi, Japan? Enough said.) But tell that to the 70 million who are expected to attend Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

This is China, after all. And following up on Beijing’s spectacular Olympics, Shanghai is pulling out all the stops. From May 1 to Oct. 31, more than 200 national and other pavilions will straddle the city’s Huangpu River, turning a two-square-mile site into an architectural playground: Switzerland will be represented by a building shaped like a map of that country, complete with a rooftop chairlift, while England is in the celebrated hands of the designer Thomas Heatherwick, who is fashioning what looks like a big, hairy marshmallow. Other attention grabbers include Macao, taking the form of a walk-through bunny, and the United Arab Emirates, which hired Foster + Partners to build a “sand dune.” (By contrast, the United States pavilion might be mistaken for a suburban office park.)

In the run-up to the Expo, Shanghai seems to have taken this year’s theme, “Better City, Better Life,” to heart, spending tens of billions of dollars to upgrade the city. The riverfront Bund promenade is getting a makeover with parks and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, while the subway is being dramatically expanded — including several new stations serving the World Expo site. — Aric Chen

13. Mumbai
On the one-year anniversary of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, citizens painted a one-kilometer stretch of wall in South Mumbai with murals to show their love and hope for the city. The initiative, by a group of organizations that included the Mumbai Arts Project (MAP), which is dedicated to creating public art projects, is just one sign that Mumbai’s art scene is on the rebound.

A walk through the newly dubbed Colaba Art District yields no fewer than five contemporary art galleries. In the second half of 2009, two contemporary galleries opened: Gallery BMB (www.gallerybmb.com), which brought in big-name artists from around the globe for its first show (look for an exhibition focusing on new Indian women artists, starting on Feb. 8), and Volte (www.volte.in), a gallery, cafe and bookstore. Just down the street is Project 88 (www.project88.in), an outpost of Gallery 88 in Calcutta, focused on up-and-coming Indian and South Asian artists. The large, simple one-room space will show the artist Hemali Bhuta with an installation on the ceiling and archival prints on the walls, starting Jan. 18. Also nearby is Gallery Maskara (www.gallerymaskara.com), in a converted cotton storehouse; starting March 15, the space will host paintings, sculpture and watercolors by T. Venkanna, a popular artist based in nearby Vadodara. — Lindsay Clinton

14. Minorca
While the beat of disco pounds in Ibiza and Majorca, their quiet sister Minorca offers a tranquil contrast to the glitz next door. The entire island is a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, so the Spanish megahotel development frenzy of the last decade has largely skipped over this patch of the Mediterranean. That means miles of beaches —some 120 of them, in fact, like the northern sweep of crystal-clear swimming waters in the coves called Cala d’Algaiarens, with fine sand and rolling dunes. And Minorca’s eco-diversity extends well beyond the coasts: forests, deep gorges, wetlands, salt marshes and hillsides covered in lush greenery that sometimes look more New England than Mediterranean. Even the island’s sun-bleached towns — Mahón and Ciutadella, each combining elements of their British colonial heritage, Moorish roots and modern Spanish identity — are more peaceful than their Majorcan equivalents.

The ideal visit to Minorca celebrates islanders’ emphasis on agritourism — sleeping in rural establishments like Ca Na Xini (www.canaxini.com), a dairy farm that offers an eight-room temple to modernism inside the shell of a century-old manor home. It’s like spring break for eco-conscious adults. — Sarah Wildman

15. Costa Rica
Costa Rica has been on any eco-minded traveler’s radar for years, but with a new birding route in the northeast region of the country, there’s a new reason to pay the country a visit. Opened in early 2009, the Costa Rican Bird Route (www.costaricanbirdroute.com) encompasses 13 far-flung nature reserves with phenomenal avian diversity — the sites are home to more than 500 bird species. Travelers can explore the route on their own with a map ($12.95 when ordered online) or hire a local guide to lead the way. The most popular leg of the route centers on the Sarapiquí-San Carlos region, one of the last remaining habitats of the endangered and prized great green macaw. The landscape along the route runs from wetlands and river explorations to high rain forest canopies and waterfalls; birders can visit renowned tropical biological research stations, stay in newly built eco-lodges and hike or canoe through local family-run reserves in search of rare raptors, herons and kingfishers. — Bonnie Tsui

16. Marrakesh
The ancient walls of Marrakesh must have protected the city from the global recession. Luxury boutique hotels, which began opening a few years ago, are now popping like Champagne corks over this historic and atmospheric North African city.

La Mamounia, a famed playground for celebrities like Mick Jagger and Charlie Chaplin, reopened in November after a $176 million face-lift by the Parisian designer Jacques Garcia (www.mamounia.com). At its dazzling launch party, Jennifer Aniston, Orlando Bloom and Gwyneth Paltrow walked the red carpet, José Carreras sang, and Cirque du Soleil acrobats wrapped in Christmas lights scaled the hotel walls.

“There was caviar galore,” said Sandra Zwollo, a Dutch expatriate who lived in La Mamounia for three years. “And not only does the new La Mamounia reflect what is happening in Marrakesh at the moment, it is greatly contributing to it.”

Ms. Zwollo herself is adding to the glamour of the city. Later this month, she plans to open Harem (www.harem-escape.com), a wellness retreat just for women, set on a stunning 12-acre estate in the city’s outskirts surrounded by olive and palm groves.

But it all pales in comparison to the palatial Royal Mansour, scheduled to open in 2010. Owned by King Mohammed VI of Morocco, who is largely responsible for the country’s newfound glamour, the jaw-dropping resort is built along the city’s ancient walls and has been designed almost like a mini-medina with Andalusian-style courtyards. The 20,000-square-foot royal suite will have a private swimming pool, home theater, gym and private hammam. The resort will also feature three restaurants overseen by the three-star Michelin chef Yannick Alléno.

There’s more. By the end of 2010, the Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma, which looks like something out of a Merchant-Ivory movie, and a 140-room Four Seasons are both expected to open, while a Rocco Forte resort and W Hotel are in the works for 2011. — Gisela Williams

17. Las Vegas
Despite a 4 percent drop in visitors in 2009, and the fact that several Las Vegas hotels have drastically slashed their rates to attract bargain-seeking travelers, a number of ambitious developers seem to think there is still money to be made in Sin City.

CityCenter, MGM’s $8.5 billion, 67-acre resort complex, is the Strip’s biggest headliner in 2010. Four of the six planned properties opened in December, including three hotels and a 500,000-square-foot luxury shopping mall (www.citycenter.com). The residential Veer Towers and the Harmon, a 400-room boutique hotel, are scheduled to open this year. The complex also houses Haze, a 25,000-square-foot nightclub, and Cirque du Soleil’s seventh show, “Viva Elvis,” a tribute to the king of rock ’n’ roll.

This summer, the Encore, a Steve Wynn property, is unveiling an entertainment complex and “beach club” (complete with three pools and V.I.P. cabanas)., and a new nightclub, Surrender. A five-pool addition to Garden of the Gods Pool Oasis at Caesars Palace, set to open in March, will feature swim-up gaming and an 18-foot waterfall. The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, which unveiled its Paradise Tower in July, added the all-suite HRH Tower in late December, as well as Vanity, a 14,000-square-foot nightclub. — Allison Busacca

18. Bahia
All eyes will turn to sultry Rio de Janeiro when it hosts the 2016 Olympic Games, but right now Brazil’s white-hot destination may be the northeastern state of Bahia. With its distinctive African-influenced flavors, cultural diversity, palm-fringed beaches and a new crop of chic hotels, the region is fast emerging as a jet-set playground.

In the village of Trancoso, a hideaway that gets more fashionable by the minute, the Dutch designer Wilbert Das (longtime creative director of the Diesel label) opened Uxua Casa Hotel (www.uxua.com) using recycled materials including old roof tiles and abandoned fishing boats. The hotel’s colorful casas and lush gardens were a canvas for the 2010 Pirelli calendar, shot by the bad-boy photographer Terry Richardson. Speaking of the town’s rising cachet, a luxury Fasano resort — with 30 beachfront villas, a restaurant and a spa — is in the works.

In Salvador, known for its pulsing street carnival and the historic Pelourinho district, head to one of the city’s boutique lodgings. Zank (www.zankhotel.com.br) recently opened in the residential Rio Vermelho section and seamlessly blends modern and classic styles, with exceptional views of the Atlantic Ocean just steps away. Nearby is the Pestana Bahia Lodge (www.pestana.com), with a hilltop infinity pool and sunny sea-view rooms. While there, don’t miss “The Kiss” and “The Thinker” by Auguste Rodin, on temporary view at the Palacete das Artes (palacetedasartesrodinbahia.blogspot.com), which opened a gallery devoted to the French sculptor. — Paola Singer

19. Istanbul
The reputation of Istanbul’s contemporary art scene has been steadily growing in recent years, with the Web site ArtKnowledgeNews.com recently calling it “one of the most innovative in the world.” That reputation is bound to be burnished even more this year, now that Istanbul has been named the 2010 European Capital of Culture (a designation it shares with Essen, Germany, and Pecs, Hungary).

There will be a series of events, gallery shows and stage performances throughout the city to mark the occasion. (A complete list of events can be found at en.istanbul2010.org/index.htm.)

But one of the best ways to get a crash course in what Istanbul’s leading artists are up to right now is to spend some time wandering around the Misir Apartments (311/4 Istiklal Cadessi), right on the busy pedestrian thoroughfare that cuts through the trendy Beygolu neighborhood. Inside this elegant, early-20th-century building are some of the city’s most cutting-edge art venues, like Galerist (www.galerist.com.tr) and Gallerie Nev (www.galerinevistanbul.com)

Afterward, head to the rooftop terrace and have a drink at 360 Istanbul, a stylish bar and restaurant that offers stunning views of the city’s skyline (360istanbul.com). — Stuart Emmrich

20. Shenzhen
Chances are, the iPod in your pocket was made in Shenzhen, China. But this industrial powerhouse of a city on the Pearl River Delta in the southern region of the country, is more than just a factory town of sweatshops and bad smog — and it has the high-class hotels and high rollers to prove it.

Shenzhen is one of China’s wealthiest cities, right up there with Shanghai and Beijing. Situated just a 45-minute train ride north of Hong Kong, the thriving city exemplifies China’s breakneck transformation from peasant economy to capitalist giant. Its rapid rise can be traced back to 1979, when Deng Xiaoping selected the sleepy fishing port as a special economic zone. Money, bulldozers and cheap labor poured in. Dim sum joints and illicit massage parlors gave way to gleaming shopping malls and faceless skyscrapers. A city of 14 million sprang up seemingly overnight.

So did a new travel destination. A 491-room Grand Hyatt (1881 Baoan Nan Road; www.shenzhen.grand.hyatt.com), with bay views, recently opened, joining the ranks of the Kempinski Hotel Shenzhen (Hai De San Dao, Hou Hai Bin Road; www.kempinski.com/shenzhen) and a Shangri-La (1002 Jianshe Road; www.shangri-la.com/shenzhen). Even late-night massage parlors have gone upscale and legit. The Queen Spa (Chunfeng Road; www.queenspa.cn) has sleeping pods, a theater and a juice bar — all for under $15 a night — plus massages that start at about $25.

Affordable luxuries extend to shopping and eating. The jumble of stalls at Dongmen are clogged with pirated DVDs and knock-off handbags, while there are new fashionable restaurants in Shekou, a leafy district with an expatriate flavor. Shenzhen is getting greener, too. The city recently welcomed the first LEED-certified building in southern China: the aptly named Horizontal Skyscraper, billed to be as long as the Empire State Building is tall. — Lionel Beehner

21. Macedonia

One of the deepest lakes on the planet, with a dazzling Unesco World Heritage site of ancient dwellings rising high above its shores, Lake Ohrid in Macedonia is a local vacation star poised for greater international acclaim.

In the tiered, terra-cotta-roofed city of Ohrid, 18 miles from the Albanian border, a lakefront settlement dating back to Neolithic times, Macedonians boast that on their side of the lake is a church, monastery or mosque for every day of the year, each full of resplendent frescoes, mosaics and icons. Notable attractions include the recently renovated church of St. Clement and St. Panteleimon at Plaosnik, an epic Byzantine masterpiece, and the 13th-century St. John of Kaneo, a limestone and brick monastery that juts out over transparent blue waters.

An estimated $50 million renovation of the Ohrid Airport is planned for 2010, with more international flights expected by summer, and up to six new luxury hotels are in the works, including a $33 million property with construction scheduled to begin in March. Tourist attractions on Ohrid’s beaches were upgraded last year with swank bars and dining spots complimented by bamboo and leather couchettes, with the hot spot Cuba Libre (www.cubalibreohrid.com) leading the way.

Meanwhile, new government-financed archaeological digs around the lake regularly unearth treasures, like the 17 fifth-century tombs discovered last July. The find follows the 2008 opening of the Museum on Water, a re-created Bronze Age village built on stilts incorporating Ohrid artifacts. — Dinah Spritzer

22. South Africa
As host of the 2010 World Cup this summer, South Africa has gotten its game on with a flurry of new stadiums, new hotels and safari lodges.

While soccer is being played across nine cities, much of the action off the field is taking place in Cape Town. Already known for its stunning beaches, mouthwatering cuisine and sophisticated night life, the city is welcoming high-end hotels, including the recently opened One & Only Cape Town and the forthcoming Taj Cape Town (www.tajhotels.com/capetown). Set to open this month, the Taj will have 166 rooms, many with views of Table Mountain. Also scheduled to open in Cape Town this year — but not in time for the World Cup — is the second branch of the nascent Missoni Hotels group (the first property opened in Edinburgh last year, with future outposts planned for Kuwait, Brazil and Oman).

Between matches, there’s plenty of time to go on a safari. If money is no object, check out the Ulusaba (www.ulusaba.virgin.com), a private game reserve that’s part of Richard Branson’s collection of luxury vacation properties. It has opened the new Cliff Lodge, with private swimming pools and spectacular views of the bush. Prices start at 13,800 South African rand (around $1,878 at 7.35 rand to the dollar) a night for two. — Denny Lee

23. Breckenridge
The ski resort of Breckenridge is not content to be merely the party capital of the Colorado Rockies — now it wants to be the Amsterdam, too. For its 150th birthday, the former mining town — known for its anything-goes reputation among ski fanatics — recently passed an ordinance to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

But even without the law, Breckenridge has plenty going for it, and not just the town’s main strip, which is already an après-ski bonanza of Irish joints, upscale restaurants and boutique shops. The BreckConnect Gondola now whisks skiers from town to the slopes in a matter of minutes. And the bases at Peak 7 and Peak 8 are barely recognizable from a few years back. A case in point is the recently opened Grand Lodge on Peak 7 (866-664-9782; www.grandlodgeonpeak7.com), which just rolled out a full-service spa and fitness center called Soothe.

Don’t expect any Amsterdam-style “coffee shops” near the slopes anytime soon: the new ordinance applies only to the town of Breckenridge, not the mountain. — Lionel Beehner

24. Montenegro
On the southern edges of Montenegro, almost at the border of Albania, is an unusual land formation: a powdery, eight-mile-long beach called Velika Plaza (Long Beach) and a triangular island where the Bojana River meets the sea. The island is called Ada Bojana, and the area is quickly becoming a party destination for the young surfer set.

While the fantastic weather and soft gray beaches have drawn Eastern Europeans for decades, breezy thermal winds are bringing kitesurfers from Germany, England and France, who are turning Velika Plaza into a wave-riding capital on the Adriatic.

The cheap beer doesn’t hurt, either. The area is so undeveloped that the only resort is a faded nudist camp popular with Germans. In the meantime, travelers who want to keep their clothes on can book a 26-euro room (about $37, at $1.40 to the euro) at the Hotel Mediteran (hotel-mediteran.com) in the small city of Ulcinj, a 15-minute water taxi ride north. —Gisela Williams

25. Vancouver Island
Vancouver will have the sporting world’s attention when it hosts the Winter Olympics this year, but the most rewarding outdoor exploration is found outside the city, away from the crowds and off the beaten path. Hop the BC Ferry (www.bcferries.com) from Vancouver to Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island’s east coast, and drive three hours through mountain passes to the wild, dramatic west coast. The new Wild Pacific Trail (www.wildpacifictrail.com) skirts the rocky, rugged shoreline, overlooking sandy coves lined with driftwood and tidepools and the Pacific beyond them.

The hiking trail is being built in sections (there are three of seven set up so far), hand-cut through dense old-growth forests of cedar and spruce, with viewing platforms that let hikers see turn-of-the-20th-century lighthouses, kayakers heading to nearby islands, and the annual gray whale migration (about 20,000 pass by the island from February to late May). The base for the Wild Pacific Trail is a folksy fishing village called Ucluelet, a former First Nations settlement dotted with seaside inns, bed-and-breakfasts and beach cabins like the Terrace Beach Resort (www.terracebeachresort.ca), which has direct access to the trail. BONNIE TSUI

26. Colombia
Unfairly or not, Colombia is still known for its cocaine cartels and street violence, but cool-hunting travelers are calling it Latin America’s next affordable hot spot.

Bogotá, its capital, has emerged as a role model of urban reinvention. Starting in the late 1990s, the city underwent a breathtaking transformation. Sidewalks, once used mainly for parking, are now lined with bicycle paths and tree-shaded cafes. An innovative bus system zips residents across the traffic-congested city. And museums and restaurants have opened in its historic center, including the refurbished Museo del Oro, which houses pre-Columbian treasures.

Getting there is affordable, too. JetBlue recently began nonstop daily service to Bogotá from Orlando, Fla., joining other carriers including Delta.

Meanwhile, the picturesque coastal city of Cartagena, a Unesco World Heritage site, which has been experiencing a tourism surge in recent years, gets even more stylish. The latest addition is the Tcherassi Hotel + Spa (www.tcherassihotels.com), a seven-room boutique hotel designed by Silvia Tcherassi, a Colombian fashion designer. It has even prompted some travel bloggers to call Cartagena the next Buenos Aires. — Denny Lee

27. Kitzbühel
Most Austrians know the Austrian town of Kitzbühel as nothing less than a ski paradise, with 53 lifts and 104 miles of powdery slopes. But in the past few years, Kitzbühel has started to earn a reputation for its high-end dining — three restaurants with Michelin stars, with two more Michelin-starred joints outside town — making this small Alpine village of just 8,439 inhabitants an up-and-coming attraction for food lovers as well.

Many of the most celebrated kitchens are in hotels, like the five-star Hotel Tennerhof (www.tennerhof.com), with one Michelin star and three Gault-Millau toques, and the Hotel Schwarzer Adler, which houses the Neuwirt restaurant (www.restaurant-neuwirt.at), serving updated Central European fare like goose liver with baked almond milk and plums. The A-Rosa resort and spa (www.resort.a-rosa.de), is host to no fewer than three restaurants, including KAPS, which was awarded its Michelin star in November 2008 and is known for its “Poor Man’s Menu,” a set dinner of traditional recipes from the region.

The highest fliers, however, seem to hide outside the village: Rosengarten, the only restaurant in the area to earn two Michelin stars (it was upgraded to two in 2009), is less than four miles away in Kirchberg. From there, it is about a 30-minute drive to Restaurant Schindlhaus (www.schindlhaus.com) in Söll, where the Winkler brothers, Christian and Markus, run a kitchen known for its dedication to local ingredients.

Naturally, you can’t expect meals at a top ski destination to go cheap. If the high-end prices are beyond your means, try something a little more bucolic: the barn at the 400-year-old Stanglwirt hotel (www.stanglwirt.com), where a lovely stube, or pub, serves schnitzel and goulash next to grazing cows. — Evan Rail

28. Norway
With an acclaimed new opera house and plenty of high-end dining options, Oslo is already a must-visit urban destination. But this year the focus should be on the wilds of the Norwegian countryside. With its dazzling Nordic light and dramatic landscape, Norway is perhaps the most unexplored and exotic corner of Europe. Having convinced the world that its fjords and southern coastline make the country a great summer getaway, Norwegians have begun showcasing its charms as a winter destination.

Specialized trekking and ski tours like those offered by the Lyngen Lodge (www.lyngenlodge.com) can open up pristine areas of the north like the stunning Lyngen Alps, with high-speed boats to shuttle across the fjord to ski trails that would otherwise be inaccessible.

And the country’s indifference to trendy boutique hotels and splashy resorts — long the lament of global tourism professionals — is just what appeals to a more discerning clientele. Bespoke travel specialists like Ziniry (www.ziniry.com) excel at getting visitors deep into the scenery. Who needs a penthouse suite when you can book a lighthouse on a private island? — Andrew Ferren

29. Gargano
Far from the madding crowds of Amalfi and Cinque Terre, the Italian peninsula of Gargano sits on the Adriatic and boasts a checklist of summer-perfect Italian holiday options. The offerings are largely a part of the protected Gargano National Park, a swath of terrain encompassing everything from the oak and beech Foresta Umbra to the sheer chalk-colored cliffs and grottoes of the coast’s Caribbean-clear waters to the postcard-worthy whitewashed villages that hug the sea. Twelve nautical miles offshore, accessible by boat and hydrofoil, are the Tremiti Islands, specks of land surrounded by a wealth of sea life and a marine reserve of their own.

Looking for Romanesque churches and seaside fisherman’s restaurants? Try Peschici and Vieste, larger than fishing villages but cozier than cities, with white walls and medieval centers. How about mountain hiking? Check. Gargano also offers the rarest of luxuries: fabulous food and lodging on the cheap — campsites offer space for mere pocket change, while hotel rooms can be had for 30 to 60 euros a night ($42 to $84 at $1.40 to the euro) in Peschici. If saving on food is wallet-friendly enough, pay a bit more than 100 euros and stay at the Chiusa delle More (www.lachiusadellemore.it), a 16th-century farmhouse in the national park but still only yards from the sea. Meals are locavore, Gargano style, incorporating the farm’s own vegetables and eggs. — Sarah Wildman

30. Kuala Lumpur
While Phuket and Angkor Wat are tourism anchors in Southeast Asia, jetsetters in the region are heading these days to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital that’s quietly evolved into one of the area’s coolest and friendliest cities.

Not only are K.L.-ites diehard foodies, fiercely proud of a robust street food scene that straddles Chinese, Indian and Malay flavors — check out the food blog EatingAsia (www.eatingasia.typepad.com) — they’re also shopaholics, spending weekends trawling boutiques for the latest looks emerging from the sophisticated local fashion scene.

The country’s media-appointed King of Fashion is Bernard Chandran, who recently stole the spotlight when Lady Gaga wore one of his candy-pink minidresses to an awards show in London. His concept store is at the KL Plaza on Jalan Bukit Bintang. Another designer to look out for is Khoon Hooi, known for streamlined yet feminine dresses in muted tones, sold at his flagship store in the ritzy Starhill Gallery; and Melinda Looi, who makes vintage-inspired cocktail dresses from chiffon.

Bloggers at Tongue in Chic keep vigilant watch over the city’s fashion temples, which are clustered along the streets of Jalan Telawi 2 and 3 in the suburb of Bangsar, a 15-minute cab ride from the city center. To showcase the young designers, the blog recently started Chic POP, a flea market held every three months at one of K.L.’s most prestigious dance clubs, Zouk (www.zoukclub.com.my). — Naomi Lindt

31. Nepal
San Francisco, Amsterdam and Provincetown? Been there. Mykonos and Ibiza? Done that. Looking for the next gay destination? How about the Himalayan country of Nepal? Yes, Nepal.

In the roughly two years since the nation’s supreme court ordered that gay, lesbians and transgendered people be afforded equal rights, this conservative, mostly-Hindu country appears to be moving ahead full throttle.

Gay friendly clubs now dot its capital. (Go to www.utopia-asia.com for listings.) A “third gender” category is an option on national I.D. cards. Recently, a transgender beauty queen even got a photo op with the prime minister. And now there’s a tourist agency in Katmandu that is promoting gay tourism to Nepal.

Started by Sunil Babu Pant, an openly-gay legislator, Pink Mountain Travels and Tours (www.pinkyatra.com) promises to marry adventure travel with gay weddings. With talk that Nepal may legalize same-sex marriage this year as the country hammers out a new constitution (and, perhaps more importantly, deals with recent bouts of civil unrest), Mr. Pant is offering to hold nuptials at the Mount Everest base camp, jungle safari honeymoons and bridal processions on elephant back. — Aric Chen

 

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 24, 2010
The cover article on Jan. 10 about 31 Places to Go in 2010 misidentified the opposing sides in the civil war that plagued Sri Lanka for a quarter century. The war was between the Sinhalese-dominated government and a separatist Tamil group, not between the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority.

The article also misstated the length of time of a train trip between Hong Kong and Shenzhen and misidentified the type of train used. The trip is by commuter train, not by a bullet train, and the trip to Shenzhen from Hong Kong usually takes under 45 minutes, not an hour.

And the article referred incorrectly to the area of Montenegro in which a beach and an island are located. Velika Plaza, an eight-mile beach, and the island of Ada Bojana are on the southern edges of Montenegro, not the northern edges.


43 Date-Night Ideas

You’d think by the time you’re a couple, and possibly have a child or three under your belt, you’d be able to handle the intricacies of going out for the night with your man. After all, that was part of the allure of going from “me” to “we”: You were finally able to leave the whole dating game and its so-called rules behind.

But dating for long-term couples comes with its own new his and her matching set of pressures, especially when kids are in the picture. You no longer have the time to make sure you have five minutes together without interruption, let alone set aside an entire evening to dote on each other. So when the stars are finally aligned — you’ve cleared your calendars, you’ve found someone not featured on America’s Most Wanted to look after the kids — you want the evening to be perfect, which practically begs for a Murphy’s law moment.

Don’t sweat it. You can lay the foundation for lots of fun nights out (or in) by following these simple save the date guidelines. First, make sure that at least every other date gets you out of the house and away from your daily life. Second, be clear about who is doing what planning wise, or you may end up doing nothing. Finally, take turns organizing your dates. So what if he has no clue which restaurant got the best review? This isn’t about planning the perfect evening; it’s about having time with the person you love so you can rediscover, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other.

Here, 43 ways to do just that:

Dinner and a Movie, Done Better

Upgrade the Saturday night standard with these tips:

Turn your night into a mini-vacation by matching the menu to the movie: Kung fu action flick? Order some spicy noodles at your local Chinese restaurant. French film noir? Hit the nearest bistro. Italian family drama? Share a big bowl of spaghetti.

Choose a restaurant that has small tables, or ask to sit side by side, so you can’t help but rub knees.

Try brunch and a matinee: Your neighborhood’s fancier restaurants are way more affordable (and just as delicious) in the daytime hours.

Find a restaurant with a dance floor. Even if you’ve got less coordination than a Dancing With the Stars early round reject, you can still hold each other close and sway to the beat.

Laugh like a kid again at the latest G or PG-rated movie. “It makes me laugh to watch him giggling like some 7-year-old,” says one woman who regularly goes to children’s movies with her husband. “It reminds me of why I fell in love with him: his silly, fun side.” Get enough animated fare in your daily life? Skip Shrek the Third and chuckle over the infectious goofy humor of whatever Farrelly brothers or Ben Stiller flick is on offer.

Create your own “drive-in” experience. If you have a laptop with a DVD drive, take it out with you. Rent or download a movie you never got around to seeing, order something simple at a dimly lit bistro, find a love seat to cuddle up in, and watch. Netflix’s most popular DVD rental plan now lets users access movies (up to 18 hours’ worth a month) from its “Instant Watching” library of 1,000 films, which can be zapped straight to a PC in seconds. Another option: For around $20 a month you can get software that will let you download a wide assortment of movies (check out cinemanow.com and movielink.com).

Cheap Dates!

Give yourselves the VIP treatment, without the price tag:

Go for an all day hike. Check out trails.com for a listing of nearby treks and get lost in the woods together.

Sip some fine wine. Find out if your local wine or liquor store hosts tasting nights. It’s only expensive if you buy! Other specialty stores hold tastings, too. Check out chocolate stores, cheese shops, or ethnic food markets.

Get sweaty together. It’ll feel less like a chore and more like a we’re in this together moment when you help each other to get your hearts pumping and cheer each other along. Or try couples yoga: Twisting your body into pretzel poses will bring you closer together in every way.

Visit the museum. Museumstuff.com has links to thousands of art institutions in America and abroad; the Art Museum Network at amn.org lists links to the Websites and exhibition calendars of the world’s leading art museums; and galleryguide.org will help you easily locate an art venue near you. If art really isn’t your (or his) thing, don’t overlook other kinds of exhibits, such as the history of hockey, or even surgical equipment! One good source for the weird and wild: museumspot.com.

Go camping overnight. There’s no TV to interrupt your conversation, and the night is long, so you can retire early to your sleeping bags (zipped together, of course).

Spend an afternoon test driving cars, viewing model homes, or window shopping. Even if you have no interest in making a purchase now, these activities can kick start discussions about your goals. New lovers are always dreaming together about the things they want to achieve: exotic trips, houses, children. As love matures, you become more focused on the here and now — attending school meetings, folding socks — and forget to write the next chapter of your love story, or think you don’t have to because you’ve already discussed it all before. But continually setting shared goals gives love something to work toward and shape itself around.

Give in to the undeniably romantic allure of watching the sun go down. Head to the highest point in town, and when the light is romance perfect for enhancing your sensuous mood, turn the scenic view into a background for a make out session.

Romance Each Other

Reconnect with these so sweet ideas:

Relive your first date. Follow the same itinerary and include as many of the original details as possible. Even though you know how the night will end this time around, recalling how you talked, explored, and began your lifelong journey of getting to know each other can remind you that there is still much to learn — about yourselves and your relationship.

Have a gourmet picnic. Cruise the aisles of your supermarket and load your cart with whatever epicurean delights you can find: lobster salad, good quality chocolate, wine or fizzy grape juice, gourmet crackers, gooey cheeses, and so on. Now head for the most romantic spot in town. If it’s too cold or wet to eat alfresco, why not try the atrium at the local zoo, botanical gardens, museum, or mall?

Get decked out — even if you’re just going to the local diner. Slip into your most glamorous duds — and have him do the same. No matter where you go, looking like your best version of yourself will make the evening feel special and inspire connection (and passion).

Take a dance lesson. Even if you end up stepping on each other’s toes, you’ll be forced to pay attention to how your bodies move together. Avoid dances that don’t involve touching (like line dancing). Instead, try learning how to tango, waltz, or even square dance. At the end of the lesson, be prepared for your dancing fool to sweep you off your feet and straight into bed.

Rent a rowboat for a DIY sunset cruise and dinner. Keep your drinks cold by tying a rope around the bottle neck, or using a net to carry it, and trailing it behind you in the water as you head for the middle of the lake. Pack a blanket, lie back, and wait for the stars to appear. Don’t forget to make a wish together on the first one you see.

Go see a fortuneteller. It doesn’t matter if she gets it right. (Do you really need a crystal ball to tell you that you two are meant to be?) But it can be a giggle (if she’s wrong) or inspiring (if she’s in the ballpark) to hear how a stranger reads your romance.

Have a picture perfect night. Take a camera with you and at different points on your night out, ask people to take your photo (make it a point to lock lips for some of the snaps). On your next date, flip through the photos together — or make a collage or slide show. You can also create great memories by making a date with a photographer for a fancy shot of the two of you in a tight clinch. Or simply head into a photo booth. “We always take goofy photo booth pictures when we go out,” says one woman. “It’s fun, and sometimes illuminating, to look back over them. For instance, the snap we took a few months after our son was born — I remember feeling like we weren’t communicating well, but then I’ll look at that date photo and it shows how much joy and love we were also feeling.”

Head to your local department store and challenge each other to come up with the most romantic, intimate gift possible. Two things: It can’t cost more than $20, and it must be used that night. You’ll find that you really need to think about the essence of each other to come up with an offering that hits the right note. “Frank knows that I love bath products, but I never buy them because they seem like too much of a luxury,” says Pamela, 38. “So every once in a while, when we’re out for the night, he’ll pull me into a store and pick out some bath salts or oils. Then, when we get home, he’ll run the bath for me, wash me from head to toe, and dry me off.”

Take a trip to nowhere. No packing, no planning, no idea. Just get in the car and start driving off into the sunset together. Stop when you’re hungry or thirsty. If there’s an interesting sight or town, pause and explore. So much of life seems to be about following the agenda. By following your heart instead, you’ll recapture that exciting sense of the unknown you felt when you two first met.

“Let’s Stay In!”

Get cozy with these no reservations required dates:

Create your own private blackout. There’s something cinematically sexy and romantic about a blackout, but you don’t have to wait for the electric company to put you in the dark. Just forbid all use of electricity (yes, that includes the cell phone and computer) and close all the curtains. Light a few candles and then play shadow games on each other’s bodies.

Meet for a midnight snack. Nibble on whatever sweet thing is on hand or have a s’mores tent party (after the kids are in bed). Hook up a makeshift tent with a rope and a blanket, then roast a couple of marshmallows in the toaster oven and sandwich them with chocolate graham crackers. Don’t worry about making a sticky mess — you can lick the crumbs off of each other later.

Make tube time more special. If you’re both addicted to The Office, make a date of it: Munch on a bowl of cubicle-worthy microwave popcorn. Sopranos fans? Pour each other a glass of Italian wine. Another way to direct connect with him: Watch a show that you wouldn’t normally view; taking a break from your usual TiVo list can launch lively discussions.

Feed each other. Cut up an assortment of sexy juicy fruits: mangoes, papayas, raspberries, and strawberries. Don’t refrigerate, as fruit at room temperature has the most pungent aroma and releases the most flavor when placed on the tongue.

Ready, Set, Speed Date!

Even you have time for these quickie rendezvous:

Ready, Set, Speed Date! continued…

Plan on having breakfast or, if time is too tight for even a bagelicious moment, a wakeup coffee together once a week at the same local diner. Whether it’s a charming bistro or a truck stop, the fact that you make it your own date place will make it feel special.

Make a phone date to talk for 15 minutes. This is different from hitting the speed dial to remind him that you’ll be late tonight or to pick up milk on the way home. Ink it into your calendar and make sure you are in a space where there are no other distractions (screaming kids, nosy coworkers, cheery checkout workers, and so on) so you can give each other your full attention. You can keep your conversation innocent — or not!

Enjoy a mini date. Think: a half hour for a pizza lunch for two or one quick cocktail or coffee together after work. “The important thing is getting time together,” says Courtney, 28. “There have been times when we squeezed in a quick meal before my husband had to return to work. But spending that hour together was better than not having any time alone with each other that week.”

Pull Out the Stops

Definitely not your everyday dates:

Plan a hush-hush romantic “mystery night.” One of you makes all the arrangements and just tells the other where and when you’ll meet (perhaps via a note in a lunch bag or a briefcase, in the car on the driver’s seat, propped against the milk in the refrigerator, or scribbled on the kids’ Magna Doodle). The destination can be anything from dinner at a nice restaurant to a scavenger hunt with you as the prize. It’s not the venue that makes the evening special, but the anticipatory thrill that comes with not knowing what’s coming next.

Spend the day at a weird and wild festival: mashed potato wrestling, a chicken plucking competition, a cardboard boat race, or a watermelon seed spitting contest. For an overview of bizarre goings on nationwide, check out eccentricamerica.com.

Pull an all nighter and check into a high end hotel. Even if it’s less than a mile from your own bed, you’ll still feel transported to luxury land, where the only thing you need to concentrate on is each other. For one thing, there’s a great big bed. For another, there is a “Do Not Disturb” sign that actually works. Lounge in the fluffy white robes, order room service and feed each other in bed, get hot in the steam room, have a randy romp in the hot tub (preferably in your room!), and sleep until checkout.

And Dates He’ll Totally Love You For…

You won’t have to ask him twice to:

Rock on, baby. Catch your favorite classic rock band on its reunion tour. Or check out a local cover band that plays music from the days when you were dating. “Every August I score tickets to an outdoor concert,” says one woman. “I don a concert Tshirt from our dating days and dance wildly, just like I did on our first date.”

Hit a local dive bar, preferably one with a pool table or dartboard, and enjoy a little healthy competition. A few tips: You don’t need a lot of force to make the break in pool; just hit that first ball where it counts. “The biggest mistake people make is aiming for the center of the ball,” says Larry (a.k.a. “Fast Larry”) Guninger, holder of the record for sinking the most balls in one break (eight, for you sportstrivia wonks). Instead, he advises, aim for the dot of light on the first ball (caused by the overhead light). As for throwing a dart, it’s like throwing a ball: You aim, pull your arm backward, push your arm forward, let go, and follow through.

Take a really cool class. Discovering something new together adds a layer of emotional connection to your relationship that will last long after the last lesson. Try scuba lessons, and dream about running off for a getaway at a remote tropical island; or learn a new foreign language and start planning a romantic vacation to the country where it’s spoken!

No Babysitter? No Problem!

All the local sitters are booked straight through Labor Day? Here’s help.

Choose an activity that’s geared to kids, such as bowling, miniature golf, skating, mall cruising, or hitting balls in a batting range. If it’s something your kids really enjoy doing, you’re going to hear fewer “ewww” and “gross” comments as you two kiss and cuddle. Plus, their attention will be elsewhere, which means they’re less likely to interrupt your conversation.

Go to an amusement park. A rollercoaster ride can jolt you into a “save me!” love clinch; a trip through the haunted house affords ample opportunity to sneak in some grabs or even a little necking; a challenge to a game of Shoot the Duck gets your competitive juices flowing (whoever nabs the teddy bear wins); and a communal stick of cotton candy lets you slip in a few sugary kisses as you nibble. Some parks offer concerts during the high season, so you can dance the night — or at least the early evening — away. To get the scoop on a park near you, check out themeparkinsider.com/reviews.

Check out your local music megastore. Pick up the latest hot dance CD (if your kids are hip to music trends, ask them to help you choose) and plan to make your own after hours house party later that evening.

See if there’s a drive-in movie theater near your home (driveinmovie.com lists theaters nationwide). Have everyone wear their pj’s and bring sleeping bags or blankets. The kids can watch the show from the front seat — while you two cuddle in the back.

MovieNight Magic

Drama or comedy? Popcorn or candy? Here’s how real couples do movie night in, according to a Netflix poll of more than 1,200 members. See how your habits measure up!

Go for laughs. Most respondents — 63 percent — said the best movie for date night is a comedy. Twenty three percent prefer dramas, 10 percent cuddle up to a classic, and only 5 percent go for horror.

Women on top. Sixtysix percent of women said they’re the one who picks the flick.

Funniest date night flick: When Harry Met Sally. (Close second: The 40YearOld Virgin. )

Most romantic date night flick: The Notebook.

After popcorn, wine is the next “must” for date night, beating out candy and chips.

Turn Up the Heat

Make any date sexy and surprising with these melt him moves:

Meet at 2 in the afternoon — or 9 in the morning. You’ll feel less like a card carrying long term couple trying to plan some quality together time and more like a pair of illicit lovers squeezing in a rendezvous behind everyone’s back.

Add something unexpected. For Lisa, 40, the twist was going on her usual mountain biking date with her husband, but ending it with a skinny dip in a nearby pond. “Now we make it a point to map out rides near water,” she says.

“Accidentally” brush against him as you walk together.

Tell him how hot he looks, and exactly how you plan to ravish him later.

Date Night Sex Secret

70 percent of you are ending your evening in a bedtime romp, according to our exclusive REDBOOK poll. But here’s another, even hotter idea: Get intimate before your date.

Gene, 32, picked up this tip ages ago, and he says it helps him and his wife ease into date mode: “We don’t do it every time, but making love prior to going out lets us completely focus on the pleasure of being with each other, because it gets rid of the pressure and tension that builds up over whether the evening will or won’t end with sex.” The bonus: When you’ve already made the sex connection, you’re more physically receptive to each other during your date. Take advantage of this heightened awareness with little touches — caressing each other’s fingers, stealing unexpected kisses, and rubbing shoulders or linking arms as you walk together — to keep you bonded.

(source: http://www.webmd.com)


The 5 Love Languages

There comes a point in just about every marriage, it seems, when couples stop speaking the same language.

She says, “Can you empty the garbage already!?” He hears, “Nag, nag, nag, nag, nag!”

He says, “We haven’t had sex in a month!” She thinks, “When was the last time you bought me something that wasn’t an appliance?”

After 30 years as a marriage and family counselor, Gary Chapman, PhD had heard a lot of couples’ complaints — so many complaints, in fact, that he began to see a pattern. “I realized I was hearing the same stories over and over again,” he says.

When Chapman sat down and read through more than a decade worth of notes, he realized that what couples really wanted from each other fell into five distinct categories:

  1. Words of affirmation: compliments or words of encouragement
  2. Quality time: their partner’s undivided attention
  3. Receiving gifts: symbols of love, like flowers or chocolates
  4. Acts of service: setting the table, walking the dog, or doing other small jobs
  5. Physical touch: having sex, holding hands, kissing

“I really do feel that these five appear to be rather fundamental in terms of ways to express love to people,” says Chapman, the director of Marriage & Family Life Consultants, Inc. in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Chapman termed these five categories “love languages” and turned the idea into a book, The 5 Love Languages, which has since become a huge bestseller. Chapman says that learning each other’s love language can help couples express their emotions in a way that’s “deeply meaningful” to one another.

It’s an approach that makes sense, says Julie Nise, MA, LPC, LMFT, a marriage coach at the Aim Counseling Center in Houston and author of 4 Weeks to a Happier Relationship. “In my experience, an understanding of your partner’s perspective (whether or not you agree with it) is what’s most lacking in troubled marriages,” she says. “I would say your No. 1 job as a spouse is to, on a daily basis, do your utmost best to really know how your partner feels and what they truly think about the issue. If you devote yourself to understanding their perspective … things will go a lot smoother and solutions often become obvious.”

In the book, Chapman claims his technique has the potential to save “thousands of marriages.” He says his 5 Love Languages can also help generally good marriages that just need a little tweaking. Like mine.

I thought I’d put his strategy to the test.

What’s My Love Language?

My husband and I have been married for 13 years, and I think overall we have a pretty good relationship. It’s not perfect, though. I get annoyed when he lets the trash cans overflow, and he gets irritated with the sloppy way I load the dishwasher. Often we get so preoccupied with work and parenting that intimacy and romance are thrown on the back burner.

Although I’m generally skeptical about any technique that purports to fix my marriage, I figured there’s always room for improvement.

So my husband and I set about learning each other’s love languages.

According to Chapman, discovering your partner’s love language requires some careful thought and observation. You need to ask, “What’s most important to me?” and “What does my spouse seem to request most often in the relationship?”

“How do they respond to other people and how do they respond to you? If they always give you words of affirmation, that’s probably their love language,” he says.

You also need to listen carefully to your spouse’s criticisms. “We often get defensive when the spouse complains, but they’re really giving us valuable information,” Chapman says. “If they’re complaining about something, that very likely is their love language.”  In other words, if your husband is always whining that you never cook him dinner, he’s probably an “acts of service” kind of guy.

My husband and I thought about what we wanted most from each other, and we realized that all the best times in our relationship — the moments we went back to again and again — were the times we spent alone as a couple. Our honeymoon in Fiji. The vacation when we got snowed in at a mountain resort. Our trip to London and Paris.

We were pretty sure we knew where this was headed, but we took Chapman’s Love Languages online quiz just to be certain. As we suspected, my husband and I share a common love language: quality time.

That doesn’t mean words of affirmation, receiving gifts, and the other two love languages aren’t important to us. It’s just that quality time is our primary love language.

“You can receive love in all five languages,” Chapman says. “If you speak the primary language adequately, then [when] you sprinkle in the others, it’s like icing on the cake.”

5 Love Languages, 7 Days

Having the same love language made it easier for my husband and I to relate to one another, but it didn’t solve our time crunch. How could we find quality time for each other when we could barely find time for ourselves, and everything else in our busy lives?

Being busy is no excuse, Chapman says. No matter what a couple’s love language is, it takes time to accommodate. “If we understand the importance of keeping the love alive in a relationship, then we need to make time to do it,” he says. “You put it into your schedule, just like you do everything else.”

Nise stresses that making quality time for one another doesn’t have to be time consuming. It can be as quick and easy as grabbing a cup of coffee and talking for a few minutes, as long as it’s focused attention. “You should always have couple time,” she says. “You just need to do stuff together.”

So what would we do together? At first we couldn’t agree. I suggested something romantic, like reading poetry. My husband voted for taking a shower together. Obviously, we were going to have some trouble finding compatible activities. But finally, we did agree on seven things to do together — one for each day of the assignment.

One day we spent nearly an hour wandering through the aisles of exotic foods at a local farmers market. The next day we went antiquing. We hired a babysitter one night and talked over glasses of wine at our favorite date-night bar/restaurant.

We soon realized that we didn’t need to go out on an official date to spend quality time together. After our son went to bed, instead of sitting side-by-side watching some mindless TV show, we turned off the TV and talked. We discussed issues that were important to us — what we loved about each other and what we felt was lacking in our marriage.

Being able to focus on each other brought back feelings and emotions that hadn’t surfaced since the early days of our relationship B.C. (before children). We opened up to each other in a way we hadn’t done in years.

I tried to focus not just on my husband’s primary love language, but also on his other love languages, which included physical touch. Instead of wearily giving him the “I’m too tired” brush-off, I started making the first move. My efforts were sincerely appreciated.

At the end of each day, we followed Chapman’s advice and did what’s called a “tank check.” We asked each other, “On a scale of zero to 10, how is your love tank tonight?” “Love tank” is Chapman’s metaphor for how much love each person is feeling. If your love tank isn’t full, your spouse asks how he or she can fill it. Every time my husband and I asked each other that week, our love tanks were full.

Now we just had to figure out how to keep them that way.

Keeping Your Love Tank Full

With a minimum of effort, couples can continue to speak each other’s love language. It takes just a few minutes each day to find out what your partner needs. Then you try to meet that need.

Chapman says his Five Love Languages won’t solve every problem in a marriage, but they will address the fundamental emotional needs every couple has. “If that need is met, you’re more likely to be able to deal with the other issues in the marriage,” he says. “This is just another tool to help you enhance the relationship, and particularly to enhance the emotional part of the relationship.”

Nise agrees that Chapman’s approach can have a positive impact on a marriage. “You can’t go wrong with doing a bunch of nice things for your spouse,” she says. “And clearly, it works.”

It seems to be working for my husband and I. Our love tanks are staying pretty full these days.

(source: http://www.webmd.com)


Attraction

I have read an interesting article.

It says, attractive people possess these traits

  1. Dominance
    1. Over her
    2. Over others
  2. Strength
    1. Physical
    2. Emotional
    3. Intellectual
  3. Novelty Seeking (Adventurous)
  4. Resources
    1. Knowledge
    2. Learning ability
    3. Analytical ability
  5. Looks

Of the above 5 traits, only the last trait (looks) is beyond our control. Even then, we could, to some extend, manage our looks by tanning, going to gym etc. Dominance, strength, novelty seeking and (various) resources can be picked up over time and this will add to the dimension of attractiveness.

Dominance, strength and resources are interrelated. If you exodus the self confidence, exerting physical strength, possessing IQ and EQ and at the same time, with the knowledge of events, issues and social skills, who will not be attracted to this “type” of person.

The more knowledge you have, the more skills you pick up (dancing, cooking, general knowledge or knowledge in any kind) is a small boost to your confidence level and the amount of confident you exodus is the summation of all your skills, knowledge and know how.

Put together body language whereby you suck in your stomach, hold your head up and back, pull your shoulder back and arch your back. Walk with an air of confidence, and act like someone who own the place. Act cool, speak slower and clearer.

Who can do the above will be an attractive man.


Resolution

I am late in posting this entry.

One month late, in fact.

I have re-wrote this entry actually, coz I think I know better what I want in life.

These are the core questions in our lives –

What are my purposes in life?

What are my passions in life?

What are my goals that will achieve the purposes and passions in life?

I want to achieve high status in life. High status refers to being

– high in family relationships;

– high in the financial aspect

– high on the social ladder

– high on the emotional state

Family Relationship

Maybe its about the Asian values that we are not outspoken of our love. Maybe its about a guy’s thing that we are not emotional. Maybe these excuses are just bullshit.

We ought to be filial, especially when our parents are still around, for they will not be around forever. I am very guilty of this. Other than having occasional dinners, I will have my personal time, personal space doing my own things. This means that I do not have much to talk to my parents. This has been the case for the past few years, but this is not an excuse that this should go on. I should talk to them more to find out what is happening to them, what is happening to my brother, my nephew. Even there is slight improvement, I will continue to improve on this aspect.

Financial

Admit it, money is important. Career is tied to financial stability which is a signal to your social standing, or at least this is how the society views you. When you have it, you do not feel that way, asks the people around you who do not have the privilege of such standing, and they will concur how superficial the society is.

By May 2011, I wish to be earning $xxxx amount, including through investments per month. This amount will be constant for the year. Short, precise and sweet action plan

Social Ladder

When you progress up the corporate ladder, the skill set is increasingly focus on your soft skill (ie management, leadership skills) while your hard skills become less important. This is obvious, because you have probably proven your (hard) skill sets in the earlier days which have gained you the recognition and promotion. It is not about what you know, but who you know. Networking has become increasingly important as you progress up the corporate ladder. One easy way is to start to have lunch with different people. Talk to them, even if you do not like it, and start to have a wide perspective of things and issues. Be comfortable talking to different people on different issues, in different languages. The more people you are exposed to, the more sociable you become. The soft skill set will set the differences in time to come.

Emotional State

This is very tricky, because this is hardly measurable and tangible. In summary, this is to achieve personal growth. This includes having a significant other who shares your life, passion and goals, constantly improving your skill sets to make you a better person, continuously seek to gain more life experience to make you a better person. This is probably the hardest, but this is the most satisfying as well.

These 4 areas will be the cornerstone of my life, at least in 2011. I am making some progress in life and this will be a great 2011 when I look back in 2012. Life is too short for regrets, and live life to the fullest without regret. Take stock of your life, so that you know where it is heading, and if it is heading off course, realign the direction so that it will be back on course.

Failure to plan is to plan for failure.

What is your plan?