Though I pass through South Korea on nearly every Round-the-World trip thanks to Korean Air’s membership in the Skyteam Alliance, I’d technically only visited once, on Round-the–World #1. Since it was January on that trip, Seoul was bitter cold and I was fashionably ill-equipped to survive outside my hotel for more than an hour or two at a time. Needless, to say, I didn’t see much of Seoul and I’ve always wanted to go back.
And with this trip falling over the summer months, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for further exploration of South Korea. Dave had spent a year of his military career based just outside of Seoul so he was also excited to return and see more of the country than just the area around his army base.Read More
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to go back to India. My last visit wasn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for a return trip. Let me take you back 9 years…
It was my first Round-the-World trip. The Taj Mahal was near the top of my list as far as world monuments go, I was so excited to see it. I’d planned a short stay, less than 24 hours, but my goal was simply the Taj and I knew I’d have plenty of time to make the journey to Agra and back.
But a few weeks before departure I discovered (quite by accident) that the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays – the lone day I would be in the country. For some reason, the tour company with whom I booked the car, driver and guide had neglected to point out this seemingly important fact. With flights that were impossible to change at this point without a complete upheaval of my entire itinerary, I decided to make the trip anyway. Though I knew I’d be limited to views of this ancient world wonder from across the river, I figured it was better than nothing.Read More
Set against the spectacular backdrop of Phang Nga Bay, the four small islands that make up the Koh Hong group are widely considered to be some of the area’s most beautiful. A part of the National Marine Park, the largest of the four islands is the superbly-scenic Hong Island. This uninhabited island features soaring limestone cliffs and a vast interior lagoon (the “chamber” from whence its Thai name, “Hong” originates). The deep emerald green of the lagoon is accessed through a dramatic cliff passage and best explored by kayak or longtail boat. And don’t forget to bring a few slices of bread to feed the schools of tropical fish that will eagerly eat right out of your hand just a few steps from shore. The closest beach to reach the islands is Klong Muang, where I stayed recently. A longtail boat from this quiet beach will have you stepping off the dock onto Hong Island in just under 30 minutes. But if you want to capture this image you’ll have to go early (we arrived a little after 8:00am) as tour boats begin to show up in force from 10am and continue throughout the day.Read More
As part of Thailand’s Krabi Province, the stunningly-gorgeous Phi Phi Islands are one of the country’s most sought after destinations in the Andaman Sea. Koh Phi Phi Don is the largest of the archipelago but tiny Koh Phi Phi Ley has become the most popular with visitors. A ring of steep limestone hills surround two turquoise bays, Maya Bay and Loh Samah, and a shallow inlet with a small coral reef at the entrance called Pi Ley rounds out the island’s natural assets. Koh Phi Phi Ley rose from relative obscurity to overnight fame when it served as the setting for the 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach. Controversy arose during production of the movie when 20th Century Fox altered some sand dunes, added foliage and cleared coconut trees to make the beach more “paradise-like.” But the 2004 tsunami washed away much of the added landscaping, widened the bay and helped to restore the natural ecosystem. Today, the island is part of Phi Phi National Park and visitors are charged a fee of 200 baht to set foot on its sublime shores. Many boat trips visit Maya Bay Phi Phi from nearby Krabi daily but only local longtail boats and smaller speed boats are able to actually bring visitors ashore. Larger boats anchor in the bay and allow guests simply to snorkel, dive or enjoy the panoramic views.Read More
Just 8 miles north of the busy Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, lays one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside of India – the Batu Caves. Dedicated to Lord Murugan, whose giant golden likeness guards their entrance, the series of caves and cave temples takes its name from the Batu River which flows past the hill. Created by limestone said to be 400 million years old and rising over 300 feet high, the entrance to the two largest caves – the Temple Cave and the Dark Cave – sits atop a steep flight of 272 stairs frequented by a fearless lot of macaque monkeys. Visitors can freely roam the ornate Hindu shrines of the Temple Cave but due to its delicate ecology access to the Dark Cave is restricted to paid, guided tours. The Batu Caves are one of Kuala Lumpur’s best sights and, thanks to convenient direct metro access from the city center, also one of the city’s least expensive attractions for visitors.Read More
When visiting the spectacular island of Boracay in the Philippines there are a number of active pursuits to fill your days. But one of the absolute must-do activities on Boracay is to take one of the traditional “paraw” sailing crafts out for a sunset sail. The paraw is a double outrigger sailing boat native to the Visayas region of the Philippines. Each day around 4:00pm the local paraw boat captains swarm to the shores of White Beach to take visitors on sails lasting from 40 minutes to an hour depending on price. As you stretch out on the paraw’s netted wings with the waves lapping just beneath you to watch the sun descend toward the horizon you’ll quickly realize what makes the paraw sunset Boracay’s most romantic and relaxing experience.Read More