Traveler's Advisory

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The bicycle that Amartya Sen pedaled in his 1940s student days also helped the Indian economist track food shortages in rural Bengal-research that was instrumental to his 1998 Nobel Prize win. Sen's longtime com-panion is now on display in Stockholm's Stock Exchange as part of an exhibition to mark the Prizes' 100th anniversary. "Cultures of Creativity" explores the work of 30 laureates in science, literature, peacemaking and economics through multimedia displays and artifacts. Also featured are sections devoted to places that produced disproportionate numbers of prizewinners (such as England's Cambridge University and Paris between the wars) and the life and times of the prize's founder, Swedish dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel. Through Aug. 31.


Between June and November, hundreds of humpback whales travel thousands of kilometers from their summer feeding grounds in the Antarctic to mate and give birth in the tropical seas around the Vava'u islands of northern Tonga. Whale watching has become a popular tourist pastime since the 171-island kingdom banned hunting the mammals in 1979. For those who want a closer encounter, Australian-based WhaleSwim Adventures offers eight-night Tonga tours for amateur photographers ($2,850, Aug. 31-Sept. 7) and snorkelers ($2,350, Sept. 14-22). Prices include accommodation, most meals, and lectures on whale behavior. See .

North America

A new religious center gives visitors the chance to shake hands with Karol Wojtyla-and with people who have met the Polish-born Pope. Life-size bronze hands line the ramps of the new Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, which combines centuries of Roman Catholic history with interactive technology. Visitors can design stained-glass windows, record testaments of faith and test their bell-ringing skills. Also featured are multicultural images of the Virgin Mary, a corner devoted to the world's religions, and a gift shop selling monk-made fudge.


It doesn't hurl thrill seekers through loops and cork-screws, but a new roller coaster ride still promises to blow riders away-literally. Billed as the world's first compressed-air rollercoaster, the HyperSonic XLC uses a blast of air to shoot riders skywards-accelerating them to 130 km/h in 2 sec. The ride then coasts over a 50-m steel tower before plunging face-first back to Earth. The 45-sec. ride debuted in March at Paramount's Kings Dominion theme park in Doswell, Virginia: speed-shy visitors can choose from 10 other coasters, including the Blaster, which hurls riders out of-and back into-a "volcano."