After All the Wedding Madness
The Exotic City
When to Go:Jul.–Nov.
Hours From NYC: 14
Historic sights and high-style surroundings are the perfect lure for the cosmopolitan set.
Where to stay: Aman at Summer Palace (rooms start at $550/night) in Beijing has a swanky, on-site spa and a Ming Dynasty-inspired design.
What to eat: Lunch at Commune by the Great Wall. The hotel, designed by twelve of Asia’s leading architects, is revered both for its design and the restaurant’s addictively crispy Peking duck. Or try deconstructed versions of Chinese classics, like Imperial fried lamb with sweet bean paste, at Whampoa Club.
To do, by day: Stroll across Tiananmen Square and explore the Forbidden City, the world’s largest palace complex (8,707 rooms). In old Beijing, visit the Tibetan Buddhist Lama Temple, then take a pedicab ride through the hutongs (traditional alleyways)—pedicabs line up by the lake and cost about $15 for 30 minutes. Follow a tour of the Great Wall with a picturesque picnic at the top. Save an afternoon for the imperial Summer Palace, a 700-acre site that was the Empress Dowager Cixi’s favorite retreat; it has one of the world’s most impressive feng shui–crafted landscapes. Unwind with a traditional tea ceremony at the Aman hotel.
In the evening: Trendy locals convene for cocktails at the Philippe Starck–designed LAN Club. For a dose of culture, catch the Kung Fu Theatre show (a martial-arts and dance production): “It seems like it would be hokey, but it’s not,” Shah says. “The skill level is incredible.”
How to get there: Continental has a daily nonstop flight from Newark.
When to Go:May–Jun.
Hours From NYC: 12
The former Ottoman capital has been a locus of delicious food and gorgeous architecture for centuries.
Where to stay: The Four Seasons, on the Bosphorus (the body of water that splits Istanbul between Europe and Asia), is actually a nineteenth-century palace with Ottoman design details. Book a Palace Bosphorus room (starting at $1,092/night), the only ones that completely face the water.
What to eat: “Ottoman cuisine is big on elaborately braised meats and stews,” says Earl Starkey of Protravel. “My favorite is etli börek, lamb-filled phyllo with a pomegranate-yogurt sauce, at Tugra in the Çirağan Palace.” Another specialty is the crunchy, spicy king prawns at Poseidon. Feast on meze with the locals at Kalamar. Try lahmucun, the Turkish version of pizza made with mincemeat, at Tatbak.
To do, by day: Cruise the Bosphorus and visit the craggy Black Sea beaches known for their chilly turquoise waters. (You can swim, but be warned: The waters are colder than the Mediterranean and Aegean.) Ogle ornate Ottoman mansions on Princes’ Islands (a 90-minute ÍDO ferry ride from Katabas station). Stop at the Sakip Sabanci Museum; look for Fausto Zonaro’s Young Girl With a Pumpkin, and manuscript copies of the Koran. Dress modestly and don’t forget your camera at the famous Blue Mosque and the mosque turned museum Hagia Sophia. Relax with the hotel’s hamam treatment—a ritual of heat, steam, and massage.
In the evening: Sip raki, a traditional anise-flavored drink, from an outdoor table at the Asmalimescit tavern in Beyoglu. Or go dancing at Reina on the Bosphorus or the glass-walled 360 club.
How to get there: Turkish Airlines and Delta fly nonstop from JFK.
JAIPUR AND MUMBAI
When to Go:Oct–Mar.
Hours From NYC: 15
Make like the aristocracy with a no-expense-spared trip through two of India’s most vibrant hubs—Jaipur, the so-called Pink City, and Mumbai (formerly Bombay).
Where to stay: A Taj Club room ($456/night, starting in May) at the opulent Taj Mahal Palace & Tower in Mumbai includes a 24-hour butler who can recommend restaurants and help you navigate. The ritzy tents at Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur (starting at $780/night) have embroidered-canopy interiors and private gardens.
What to eat: “The butter-pepper garlic king crab at Trishna is a total mess to eat, but unbelievable,” says Shah. “Another great spot is Indigo. They don’t take reservations, so get there early (7:30-ish) to beat the rush.” In Jaipur, try classics like murgh tikka zaffrani (chicken marinated in yogurt and saffron) at Suvarna Mahal at Rambagh Palace, an upscale spot with live classical music.
To do, by day: In Jaipur, tour the City Palace and check out the Maharajas’ embroidered clothing at the Textile and Costume Museum. “Elephant rides are popular. Avoid the long lines by reserving a ride at the Dera Amer camp, a private wildlife reserve,” Shah advises. Pick up colorful saris, local spices, and artwork at the appealingly frenetic Bapu Bazaar. In Mumbai, explore the posh Malabar Hill neighborhood and visit the Parsi Towers of Silence and the Mani Bhavan, former home of Mahatma Ghandi. Travel by ferry to Elephanta Island to see seventh-century cave temples.
In the evening: Catch local and foreign bands at the Blue Frog, or dance into the wee hours at Poison. Experience Bollywood at the source at Jaipur’s Raj Mandir, India’s most famous cinema.
How to get there: Continental has nonstop flights to Mumbai; take a two-hour flight to Jaipur on Jet Airways.
From the Summer 2010 New York Wedding Guide