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A-List 2010: World's Top Travel Agents

An illustration of traveling icons.

Photo: Nola Lopez

Asia

China

Karin Hansen
New Favorite: Hansen recommends the village of Dali, in the far western corner of Yunnan province—at the crossroads to Burma and Tibet; the indigenous Bai tribe wear traditional costumes characterized by extravagant headdresses and red-ribboned, black-lacquer shoes.
Years as Agent: 32.
Other Specialties: Scandinavia, Southeast Asia.
Fee: From $200.

Guy Rubin
Special Booking: For a polo-playing client visiting Beijing, Rubin organized an informal practice match three hours north of the city, in Inner Mongolia. Ponies were transported up, along with all necessary equipment—the client’s sons needed to be fitted with boots, helmets, and mallets—and volunteers to comprise two teams.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Hong Kong.
Fee: $100.

Mei Zhang *
New Favorite: Weishan, in Yunnan province in southwest China, a barely known town whose history and foundations date back to its eighth-century inception as seat of the Nanzhao Kingdom, contemporaries of the T’ang dynasty. Residents still read public announcements in the square in front of a bulletin board on which only hand-calligraphied notes may be posted. It’s also one of the largest wild-orchid suppliers to Japan in all of China.
Years as Agent: 11.
Other Specialty: Custom luxury itineraries.
Fee: $500.

Hong Kong

Laura Woo
New Favorite: Chi Lin Vegetarian, a restaurant inside the Chi Lin nunnery in Nan Lian garden, a stunning Buddhist temple complex in Kowloon; its isolation has allowed it to develop a unique school of contemporary vegetarian Cantonese food. Its new garden restaurant abuts the Silver Strand waterfalls.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialties: Hawaii, China.
Fee: $200.

India/Sri Lanka

Ellison Poe
New Favorite: A handful of new boutique hotels in Sri Lanka, following on the heels of Wilpattu National Park’s reopening in February: Villa Bentota, a Geoffrey Bawa–designed villa complex reimagined as a stylish redoubt along the Bentota coast; and Ulagalla Resort, a 54-acre jungle retreat powered by solar panels and dotted with airy pavilions with plunge pools.
Years as Agent: 28.
Other Specialties: East Africa, Syria.
Fee: $150 an hour.

Ashish Sanghrajka *
Special Booking: Escorted clients on a pilgrimage to the Gujarati holy site of Palitana, in northwestern India. They climbed 4,000 steps to the temples and participated in the aartis (prayer ceremonies). He then took his clients to be blessed by the very priest who had blessed him as a child on his first visit.
Years as Agent: 12.
Other Specialty: Burma.
Fee: $500.

Japan

Noriko Townsend *
New Favorites:
In Kyoto, Townsend adores Eventail, a new restaurant specializing in all-organic fare, and Gion Hatanaka teahouse, which offers an excellent maiko show and dinner (in which apprentice geishas perform and serve) for intimate groups. And in Himeji, Koko Gardens—smaller than other more renowned ones—is best for those looking to avoid crowds.
Years as Agent: 14.
Other Specialties: Vietnam, Cambodia, China.
Fee: $150.

Southeast Asia

Darlene Ravin
New Favorite: Six Senses Soneva Kiri, on the pristine Thai island of Ko Kut—an all-villa property (the only one on the island) that made its debut in late January with dedicated butlers, massive private pools, and its own airstrip.
Years as Agent: 13.
Other Specialties: Custom luxury itineraries, northern Africa.
Fee: From $100.

Icon Key

* Tour Operator
** T+L’s Travel Agent Advisory Board, 2010
+ New to List

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