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RTW #9: All About Africa & SE Asia

Cruising to Mozambique on the MSC Opera

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 | 2 comments

Cruising to Mozambique on the MSC Opera

For my second cruise with MSC in as many weeks, I was headed up the eastern coast of South Africa bound for Mozambique. Like Namibia, Mozambique was a country that I hoped to visit while exploring southern Africa but the logistics of getting there and deciding where to stay were complex.

So when I discovered that MSC had several cruise itineraries from Durban that visited Mozambique, it was a no-brainer. I had originally planned to do a cruise that included both Madagascar and Mozambique but couldn’t work out the dates for that sailing with the rest of my itinerary so I settled for the MSC Opera’s sailing that called at the capital city of Maputo and made a second stop on the uninhabited sands of Portuguese Island.

For nearly 200 years after Vasco da Gama landed at Mozambique Island en route to India in 1498, the Portuguese ran trading posts along the coast of what they called Portuguese East Africa. In the centuries that followed, the gold trade turned to the ivory trade and by the end of the 18th century, both had been replaced by the slave trade. Nearly a million Africans were sold into slavery through Mozambique’s ports making it a major center of the African slave trade.

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Malawi Misadventures & the Magnificent “Lake of Stars”

Posted by on Jan 31, 2014 | 4 comments

Malawi Misadventures & the Magnificent “Lake of Stars”

“If we hit a goat, we don’t leave it behind, we take it. It’s good meat.” said my driver, Jacob, as he halfheartedly slowed to avoid a smattering of languid goats along the dark and deserted (of cars, anyway) road from the airport in Lilongwe to my hotel on Lake Malawi. It was after midnight now, so at this point I’d known Jacob for about an hour which suddenly seemed like not long enough.

We’d gotten off to a bit of a rocky start at the airport in Malawi and now I was mildly alarmed that he’d just seriously floated the idea of loading a dead goat into the back seat with me. But before I move on to my exciting drive from the airport on my first night in Malawi, let’s back up to how I got here…

From Durban, getting to Malawi required more work than it should have. My Round-the-World ticket had last left me off in Johannesburg 2 ½ weeks ago and now it was time catch up to it. I flew from Durban to Johannesburg and then had to connect again in Nairobi to reach Lilongwe, Malawi.

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Sarawak Borneo: Getting Catty in Kuching

Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 | 0 comments

Sarawak Borneo: Getting Catty in Kuching

Made up of four independent regions – Brunei, Indonesian Borneo and the Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak – the island of Borneo is the largest in Asia and third-largest in the world. And with a rainforest that’s more than 130 million years old, it’s also one of the world’s most unique destinations.

You may remember that I visited the Malaysian state of Sabah on Round the World #6 and also enjoyed a bonus stopover in Brunei on my flight out. This time I was looking forward to exploring Sarawak Borneo, known to be the island’s cultural heart with a thriving indigenous population retaining the ancient traditions of the island.

My base for the next four nights, Kuching, the capital city of Malaysia’s largest state of Sarawak. After a quick flight from Kuala Lumpur, I was back in Borneo.

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The Beauty of Bira: Taking it Easy in Sulawesi

Posted by on Feb 15, 2014 | 0 comments

The Beauty of Bira: Taking it Easy in Sulawesi

The Indonesian archipelago is made up of more than 18,000 islands. Obviously, I didn’t have time to visit them all but I did want to break away from the more traditionally visited islands – like Bali and Java – and challenge myself a little while I was over here. Enter Sulawesi…

True to its wild-looking form on the map, Sulawesi presented a number of challenges, not the least of which was deciding where on the island to go. Sulawesi’s rugged interior was thick with mountainous jungles rendering it virtually impenetrable which left just the four spider-leg-like peninsulas jutting out into the sea as realistic options.

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Blissful in Bali

Posted by on Feb 16, 2014 | 0 comments

Blissful in Bali

It’s been 4 years since my last visit to the “Island of the Gods” and it seems a lot has changed. New shopping centers, new condos and most notably, two new Starwood hotel properties – the Sheraton Bali Kuta and the Le Meridien Bali Jimbaran, both of which opened in the past year. I’d originally planned on passing over Bali and spending four nights on the island of Lombok but when the Sheraton Bali Kuta invited me to drop by for a visit, well it was just too good an offer to refuse. I mean really, how can anyone be expected to say no to Bali? And after all I was in the neighborhood.

After a 6-hour drive to the airport in Makassar and yet another severely delayed flight (come on Lion Air, get your head in the game) it was after 8pm by the time I landed in Bali. Thankfully, the Sheraton’s car was ready and waiting for the brief drive to the hotel. Once I arrived, I was greeted exuberantly by the staff and ushered to a spacious ocean-front suite. After 3 nights on Sulawesi in a hotel that had power occasionally and running water, well, most of the time…it was literally heaven.

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Idyllic Indonesia: Lombok & the Gili Islands

Posted by on Feb 18, 2014 | 0 comments

Idyllic Indonesia: Lombok & the Gili Islands

Widely considered to be Indonesia’s next great tourism hotspot, tiny Lombok is often overshadowed by its more popular neighbor to the west, Bali. What I’d read about the island promised it was Bali 30 years ago, unspoiled by traffic and rows of mega resorts. It sounded like my kind of place and I was anxious to see it for myself.

However, my decision to make a stop in Bali on the way to Lombok had cut my originally intended length of time on the island in half so I needed to make the most of the 2 days I had. My short flight from Bali was scheduled to land at noon but as I was quickly discovering, Lion Air has a very “relaxed” opinion regarding on-time departures and I yet again found myself staring at my watch as my scheduled departure time flew by without comment from the gate agents (for those of you keeping score at home, I’m now 0-3 in on-time arrivals within Indonesia).

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