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The Best of Bali: Nusa Lembongan

Posted by on Mar 4, 2017 | 0 comments

The Best of Bali: Nusa Lembongan

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Bali is wonderful. I mean that, I really do.

The rice terraces of Ubud, the temples, the culture, the beautiful people…what’s not to love? I have visited the island twice before, on Round-the-World #5 and Round-the-World #9, and thoroughly enjoyed both trips.

But these days Bali is also known for endless traffic, mega-resorts, persistent hawkers and raucous nightlife. So when my husband and I visited recently, we went in search of a kinder, gentler Bali. A quieter, laid-back island with empty beaches, turquoise waters and the gentle Balinese spirit.

We found all of that and more just a 30-minute boat ride away on the neighboring island of Nusa Lembongan.

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Asia with Ease: A Cruise to Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand

Posted by on Feb 3, 2017 | 0 comments

Asia with Ease: A Cruise to Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand

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It’s that time of year again! For a decade, I rang in each New Year with a trip around the world. But since Delta discontinued its award Round-the-World ticket in 2015, I’ve had to get a little more creative. For the past few years, that’s meant a lengthy visit to Southeast Asia instead, one of my favorite parts of the world and a terrific place to escape the US winter.

Last year, my husband Dave and I enjoyed tranquil visits to the Thai islands of Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe and the awe-inspiring island of Palawan, Philippines.

This year, we decided to mix things up a bit. We wanted to visit Vietnam and return to Thailand, but I wasn’t keen on a repeat of my last visit to Vietnam (which involved a rather unpleasant 36-hour train ride).

So, I went in search of a more convenient and relaxed way to see the country and discovered that, lo and behold, cruise ships visit Vietnam these days. Yes, an Asia cruise, now that just might be the way to go!

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The Paradise of Palawan: An El Nido Travel Guide

Posted by on Apr 1, 2016 | 2 comments

The Paradise of Palawan: An El Nido Travel Guide

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Located in the southwestern Philippines, the jungle island of Palawan has often been described as the country’s “last ecological frontier.” With artifacts dating back 50,000 years, prehistoric cave formations, secret lagoons and incredible flora and fauna, Palawan is the most biodiverse island in the Philippines.

The northern part of Palawan is considered the most scenic with the Bacuit Bay Nature Reserve surrounding the small fishing village of El Nido (my choice for our stay). Just offshore from El Nido, you’ll find spectacular islands and limestone rock formations dating back 250 million years.

Ranked as the best island in the world by Conde Nast Traveler in 2015, Palawan has been on my wish list for years. It’s just one of 7,107 islands in the Philippines but many would say it’s definitely the one not to be missed.

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Thailand’s Best Islands: Koh Lipe

Posted by on Mar 18, 2016 | 0 comments

Thailand’s Best Islands: Koh Lipe

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Our two-week trip to Thailand and the Philippines was off to an excellent start after a relaxing stay on the island of Koh Lanta. But by Day #4, we were excited to head south to our next Thai island, Koh Lipe!

Located in Satun province, Koh Lipe is Thailand’s southernmost island and often referred to as “the Maldives of Thailand.” I’ve been fortunate enough to see a dozen or so Thai islands and for my money, Koh Lipe just might be the most beautiful. Like Koh Lanta, Lipe was originally settled by Sea Gypsies who traveled the islands searching for the best fishing spots. Some remain to this day on the island’s eastern shores.

As Thailand’s tourism industry booms at record levels, Koh Lipe (like Koh Lanta) still feels relatively undiscovered. Perhaps because it’s a little harder to get to than Thailand’s mega-resort areas like Phuket, Krabi and Hua Hin.

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Thailand’s Best Islands: Koh Lanta

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 | 0 comments

Thailand’s Best Islands: Koh Lanta

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Last winter, Dave and I had such an incredible time on our trip to Thailand and the Philippines that we decided to continue the tradition again this year. On our last trip, we visited the island of Boracay in the Philippines and Thailand’s Krabi province.

This time we wanted to venture farther out in the Philippines to the tiny fishing village of El Nido on the remote island of Palawan. While in Thailand, our love for the Krabi province led us to explore more nearby islands in the hopes of finding a new island paradise. We chose two islands to visit – Koh Lanta and Koh Lipe – and two weeks ago we began our 16-day journey in Koh Lanta.

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Seoul-Mates in South Korea: Jeju Island to the DMZ

Posted by on Aug 21, 2015 | 0 comments

Seoul-Mates in South Korea: Jeju Island to the DMZ

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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.

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Life, Death & Love in India: Varanasi to Agra

Posted by on Aug 12, 2015 | 0 comments

Life, Death & Love in India: Varanasi to Agra

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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.

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Photo of the Day – Hong Island, Krabi Thailand

Posted by on Feb 10, 2015 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Hong Island, Krabi Thailand

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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.

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Photo of the Day – Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

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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.

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Photo of the Day – White Beach Boracay, Philippines

Posted by on Jan 15, 2015 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – White Beach Boracay, Philippines

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While it’s just one of the 7,107 islands that make up the Philippine archipelago, the tiny island of Boracay is without a doubt one of the most popular with visitors. So much so that in 2012 Travel + Leisure magazine awarded it the coveted title of “Best Island in the World.

Located just off the coast of Panay island in the Western Visayas, tiny Boracay is just over 4 miles long and 2.5 miles across at its widest point. A wide stretch of soft white sand lapped by the turquoise Sulu Sea make White Beach Boracay’s most famous spot to enjoy the island’s natural beauty.

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Photo of the Day – Library of Celsus, Ephesus Turkey

Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 | 0 comments

Photo of the Day – Library of Celsus, Ephesus Turkey

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During its heyday, the ancient city of Ephesus was most famous for the Temple of Artemis. Considered one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” the temple was completely destroyed in 268AD leaving just one inconspicuous column remaining.

Today, the two most impressive sites within Ephesus are the Library of Celsus and the Grand Theatre. Construction on the Library of Celsus began in 117AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an ancient Greek who was governor of Roman Asia during the Roman Empire.

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Cave Dwelling & High Flying in Cappadocia

Posted by on Jun 18, 2014 | 2 comments

Cave Dwelling & High Flying in Cappadocia

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Getting to Cappadocia is difficult over land, there are no trains into the area and from my last stop in Pamukkale the journey would have involved two buses and at least 8 hours. Luckily, there are a couple of low-cost Turkish airlines serving the nearby towns of Kayseri (an hour away) and Nevsehir (20 minutes away).

I managed to find a $45 flight on Sun Express from Izmir to Kayseri so it made sense to backtrack a little by taking the 4-hour train ride from Pamukkale back to Izmir in order to catch it. So, after spending the night at an airport hotel in Izmir, I was at the airport bright and early for my 6:00am flight to Kayseri, excited to get my Cappadocia adventure underway.

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Jetlagged in Jakarta

Posted by on Feb 21, 2014 | 0 comments

Jetlagged in Jakarta

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No traffic, no Jakarta” joked my driver as we sat parked on the highway just minutes after leaving the airport. Of course, it probably didn’t help matters that I landed in the middle of Friday morning rush hour. Luckily, it’s still only 7:30am so I’m not in any hurry.

It’s not considered much of a tourism destination, but the sprawling city of Jakarta is perhaps one of the world’s most dynamic capitals due to its sheer size alone. The city is home to more than 10 million people which certainly explained my current traffic situation.

My last stop after two weeks in Indonesia, I arrived in Jakarta from Lombok with just one night to see a little of the city before jetting off to Seoul the next day. Getting to the airport in Lombok in time for a 6am flight meant a 3:30am wake-up call but since it was the only direct flight of the day, I booked it. And it’s a good thing I did.

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Idyllic Indonesia: Lombok & the Gili Islands

Posted by on Feb 18, 2014 | 0 comments

Idyllic Indonesia: Lombok & the Gili Islands

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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 two 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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Blissful in Bali

Posted by on Feb 16, 2014 | 0 comments

Blissful in Bali

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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 Marriott 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 warmly 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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