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Cartel Watch: Penitents, Pedophiles, Poets, Movie Stars, Silversmiths, and Drug Lords of Taxco, Mexico

The Daily Beast

WINNER: 2017 NEW YORK PRESS CLUB JOURNALISM AWARD

Few today are familiar with TAXCO, the quaint colonial village anchored by a blushing pink cathedral where JFK honeymooned with Jackie, the love child of Santorini and Córdoba, clinging to a steep hillside, all whitewashed walls, red-tiled roofs, and potted geraniums. It's where the Lost Generation liked to get lost. But some of its history is dark indeed: a lingering drug-cartel presence and a closet pedophile who put the place on the map when he spearheaded the lucrative local artisanal-silver movement. The town is now best known for one of the most lurid annual Holy Week rituals of atonement, drawing penitent narcos in addition to pilgrims from all over Mexico. 

(The first story to chart the waxing and waning drug-cartel presence as reflected by a religious spectacle enacted here since the 16th century. And also first to plumb the town’s dirty secret, the child sacrifices made to maintain a fledgling economy in the years it was Mecca for Hollywood types.)

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Where Billionaires Run Free: Gaudy Gilded Gstaad

The New York Times T Magazine

GSTAAD is the Galt’s Gulch of billionaires where from the road, every chalet is obliged by law to look pretty much the same and they talk about Russians the way people used to talk about Jews in Darien, Connecticut. 

"The Times’ T Magazine this month published a laugh-out-loud essay offering a snapshot of the frozen-in-amber Alpine resort Gstaad and its poor little rich girls and boys. With an arch tone and many amusing turns of phrase (“drunk on the glühwein of power,” to name just one), writer Phoebe Eaton presents a town in conflict with itself, where an idealized image is bedeviled by the modern scourge of commerce, celebrity and consumption."  —Orbmagazine

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Chris Blackwell: Old Mon and the Sea

The New York Times T Magazine

Entrepreneur and record man CHRIS BLACKWELL, the now very, very rich big daddy cool of the Island Outpost group, is careful to avoid any implication that he has become the Mon in this wander about JAMAICA.

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The Hippies Take a Hike: Ibiza

The New York Times T Magazine

A new IBIZA is emergent, a place where British Prime Minister David Cameron and Yahoo C.E.O. Marissa Mayer holiday, children in tow. Where the white-whale yachts of the billionaires Lakshmi Mittal, Roman Abramovich, David Geffen and the Saudi royal family are impossible to miss. It was a beautiful coming of age story, obsessively chronicled by the paparazzi this summer...

 
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The Reincarnation of Seoul

The New York Times T Magazine

It’s no longer the city voted least favorite layover in the Far East. Let everyone rabbit on about how places like Shanghai are The Future: SEOUL residents are smarter dressers; its restaurants feel more fussed over, more daring; and after an early force-feed of education, everyone’s creative, individualist side is emerging. South Korea never just apes the West but puts its own topspin on music, fashion, food, technology. It’s been sprinting down the road to recovery since the end of the Korean War. As fast as PSY’s “Gangnam Style” anthem, mocking Seoul’s Ferrari-and-furs nouveaux riches, galloped to the top of the Western music charts this year, the city has emerged as one of the most hip (and most underrated) cultural capitals in the world. Cruise-line-proportioned flagships, architecturally bombastic headquarters, museums celebrating traditional houses to handbags, haute and hot restaurants are all competing for the attention of its 10 million increasingly affluent residents.

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Supai, Arizona: the Grand Canyon’s Secret Indian-Reservation Swimming Hole

Artful Living

Waking at five in the morning, the Hilltop pilgrims exit their vehicles to begin the three-and-a-half hour trek to the most remote community in the lower 48 states. On the Internet, clickbait listicles proclaim SUPAI, ARIZONA among the most remote spots to live In The World. What kind of masochist looks at a destination where the temperature hits 111 in June and thinks “summer vacation”? But hidden at the bottom of this hot winding gorge, in a place gold-greedy Spanish conquistadores just couldn’t be bothered with, is the unlikeliest of unlikelies: Cataract Canyon. The Grand Canyon’s swimming hole. A ribbon of dramatic waterfalls the color of Windex unspooling one after the other amid Jurassic scenery that flies in the face of all reason.

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Colony Club: Malindi is Kenya’s own Sardinia Due

The New York Times T Magazine

After weeks in sweaty pursuit of big cats and giraffes, honeymooners are still repairing to Kenya’s coast to sun, swim and fish, and scores of Italians reliably turn up year-round in the resort town of MALINDI, known as Sardinia Due to those who can’t quite afford Sardinia Uno. There are now 200 or so private villas here that could be rightly classified as splendido, furnished by numerous local home-decorating emporiums and guarded at night by Masai-warrior retainers, a coastal status symbol. The Italian embassy has gone so far as to install a resident consul in town. Let the backpackers bleat that the town is being “built up”; Malindi is no Miami Beach afflicted by condo creep, and its seafront still reads as seafront just as it did when Ernest Hemingway caught a big sailfish here in the ’30s. A coral reef still defends Malindi’s ramparts from those who travel by yacht; the reconstructed Vasco da Gama pillar is a chess piece on the water commemorating the deal struck in 1498 with the Portuguese to protect Malindi from Mombasan raiders down the shore. The “Sonny” signature graffitied onto the pillar’s base records a later, more informal signing over of Malindi’s soul to an Italian population now numbering approximately 3,000…

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If You Build It, They Will Come: Dubai’s Bigger-Better-Badder Shrines to the Almighty Shopper

RC Magazine

Like Las Vegas, its soul sister in the West, DUBAI is an endlessly undulating beige-sand field of dreams, a desert city giving life to mirage — no matter how surreal or grandiose in scale. As the rest of the world has known for some time, Dubai is running on empty as far as oil goes, the gross domestic product being replaced incrementally by resorts more fantastic than the next, by offices and residences of nerdy architectural (or failing that, aerial) significance. The region’s revamp has been the life’s work of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai’s visionary ruler and de facto CEO who aims to create what he has called “a pioneering global city.” The muezzin call audible to Western ears has been “If you build it, they will come.” They are still coming, to this Oz célèbre, which remains a compulsory stop for a caravan of bankers and dealmakers and tourists, even in these unfocused economic times. No income tax, no capital-gains tax, and no sales tax cleverly guarantee enough of them will stick around and spend awhile…

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Cannes-Do Guy: the Film Festival’s Charlie Finch

The New York Times Magazine

One of the French Riviera’s most reliable characters is London's own p.r. powerhouse CHARLES FINCH, a month-of-May migrant worker who jets in for the CANNES Film Festival, bunking at the stately Hôtel du Cap with the show folk and other noteworthies toasting their outrageous fortune here with $40 Bellinis.

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Liquid Assets: Hermès's Pro “Nose” Comes to Kerala

The New York Times T Magazine

India. The House of Hermès had declared it its theme of 2008, and silk scarves are vivid with raw pinks and fleshy mangoes, elephants harnessed to carriages and tigers rampant. The company’s resident “nose,” the man hired in 2003 to juice perfume sales, Monsieur JEAN-CLAUDE ELLENA, is back in the south, in the state of KERALA — cut with canals, the Venice of the subcontinent, the world’s supermarket for spice — where he has been wrestling for some time with how to bottle the fantasy. And when the first monsoon blows in from the Arabian Sea — and it always seems to arrive during the first week of June, extinguishing the scorching rays of the summer sun and ushering in a joyful verdant renewal — the modest women of Kerala rush out into the rain, “and the saris cling close to the body. Very érotique,” says Ellena…

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Material Whirl: Millionairing is Belgium’s Unlikeliest Sport

The New York Times T Magazine

After stop-offs in Moscow, Shanghai and Amsterdam, the MILLIONAIRE FAIR was now unpacking its Louis Vuitton trunks in a most unlikely location: KORTRIJK, a medieval village an hour’s drive from Brussels. Kortrijk would seem an odd layover for this luxury trade show if not for its labyrinthine Xpo center, the biggest exhibition hall in Belgium. As far as local attractions go, Kortrijk was hitherto best known for its lace museum — hardly a sandlot for the boisterous rich. Since its debut in 2002, the Millionaire Fair has been one of the Netherlands’ noisiest exports, a traveling supermarket selling newly proletarianized pleasures to those with minty-fresh cash in Swiss bank accounts…