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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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Wrapping Up a Month from Moscow to Istanbul

Posted by on Jun 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Wrapping Up a Month from Moscow to Istanbul

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After an inspiring few days among the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia, I was on to my last stop in Istanbul with an early morning flight from Nevsehir. I wasn’t especially excited to get to Istanbul, mostly because I knew it meant this amazing trip was finally coming to an end.

I’d visited Istanbul once before, on RTW #3, so I didn’t have a particularly ambitious itinerary for my last day of the trip. Of course, it had been in the middle of winter when I last visited and it was long before I was traveling with a good camera so I figured I should at least make the effort to update my photos from such a beautiful city.

I was on the ground at Istanbul’s Gokcen Airport by 9:30am and began the combined bus/metro journey necessary to get to the center of town. I had a 6:00am flight out of Istanbul’s other airport (Ataturk) the next morning so I had booked a hotel next to that airport for the night. Unfortunately, the two airports were hours apart so it didn’t make much sense to go all the way to my hotel, drop my bags and make the hour return ride back to the city. So, I decided to tough it out with my luggage for a few hours of sightseeing.

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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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How to Visit Pamukkale Turkey

Posted by on Jun 13, 2014 | 0 comments

How to Visit Pamukkale Turkey

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After my stay near Ephesus, I wasn’t sure how to visit Pamukkale, the next stop on my itinerary. Research revealed that a combination of train and bus would do the trick.

The train ride from Selcuk/Ephesus was a relaxed 3 ½ hours to Denizli where I’d need to find the bus station to catch a “dolmas” (a shared mini-bus that is a staple of travel within Turkey) to Pamukkale, about 25 minutes away. I’d gotten my first glimpse of the white mountains of Pamukkale from the train as we pulled into the Denzili station and I was excited to get up there and explore.

The bus station was pretty easy to find using my time-proven solid strategy of just following the other tourist-looking people with luggage. Since the dolmas leave every 15 minutes there was one waiting and we were off in just minutes.

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Ephesus with Ease

Posted by on Jun 12, 2014 | 2 comments

Ephesus with Ease

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The 3-hour bus ride from Bodrum to Selcuk with Pamukkale Tours was much better than I thought it would be. It was a 26-seater minibus which seemed crowded at first and I thought, “well, this is going to be a long ride.” But once we pulled out of the station I was able to change from my assigned seat to the back row of the bus and spread out to get a little writing done along the way.

Oddly, the bus was quite the full-service experience. Fifteen minutes into our drive, a “flight attendant” type person suddenly appeared in the aisle handing out bottles of water. I hadn’t even noticed him on the bus before we left! He then proceeded to do another round passing out packaged snacks like pretzels and chips before making another round with coffee, tea and soda.

I didn’t know what was coming next, I half expected him to whip up a casserole or something in an Easy-Bake oven. I’ve never seen this kind of service on a bus before but it was a nice surprise, totally worth the extremely reasonable $18 fare.

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A Travel Day from Kos to Bodrum

Posted by on Jun 11, 2014 | 2 comments

A Travel Day from Kos to Bodrum

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As the ferry sailed away from Symi’s beautiful harbor I was definitely more than a little wistful. Symi was such a special place. But it was time to move on to the final leg of this trip – Turkey.

I’d visited Turkey once before but it was just a brief stop in Istanbul on Round the World #3. While I was in the neighborhood on this summer’s trip, I thought it would be the perfect time to explore the Asian side of one of the world’s only transcontinental countries.

So, over the course of the next week I’ll be visiting Ephesus, Pamukkale and Cappadocia before finally flying home from Istanbul next Friday.

The best option for getting to Turkey from Symi was to take a ferry to the Greek island of Kos and then another ferry from Kos to Bodrum on the Turkish mainland. But the limited ferry times meant that I’d have a minimum connection time of 5 hours to spend on Kos before the first afternoon boat went back to Bodrum.

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Smitten with Symi

Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 | 4 comments

Smitten with Symi

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For those of us who are passionate about travel, there are many places in the world that we revel in visiting, maybe even fall a little bit in love with. But then there’s another level of travel experience, one that’s far more rare…a place that just calls to your soul.

If you’ve got a minute, the exquisitely-tiny island of Symi Greece would like a word with your soul.

Surprisingly, two months ago I’d never even heard of the island of Symi. But while trying to plan a route from Rhodes to Turkey, I happened to stumble across this little gem.

Though there are a few direct ferries between Rhodes and the Turkish mainland, the more common path was to Bodrum via the islands of Symi and Kos. It seemed like a good plan to break up the 3-ferry trip with a stay on one of the two islands.

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All Roads Lead to Rhodes

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 | 2 comments

All Roads Lead to Rhodes

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The largest of the Dodecanese Islands, Rhodes Greece has known many civilizations throughout its long history. Inhabited since the end of the Neolithic period (4000 BC), the city of Rhodes prospered for centuries during its Golden Age. In 164 BC Rhodes lost its independence and became a province of the Roman Empire during which time it developed into a renowned center of learning for arts and science.

During the Byzantine period that followed, Rhodes became an important military base and in 1309 BC it was sold to the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The order was originally founded to provide care for pilgrims to the Holy Land but ultimately evolved into a military unit. During the reign of the Knights of the Order of St John, the fortifications were expanded and reinforced.

When the Arabs attacked in the 7th century, they occupied the island for several decades. Then, in 1522 it was the Ottoman Turks who captured the city and during their rule Rhodes lost much of its international character.

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Crete Greece in 5 Perfect Days

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 | 6 comments

Crete Greece in 5 Perfect Days

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Inside: The most awesome things to do in Crete, where to stay on Greece’s largest island and the perfect 5-day itinerary. Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Decision time. What’s it going to be, Chania or Heraklion?” I queried of my favorite travel accomplice, Shannon, as we waited to board our flight from Riga, Latvia to Vilnius, Lithuania.

Or Rethymno or Agios Nikolaos?” she countered, with an exasperated sigh.

This exchange mirrored all previous deliberations over where to call home on our upcoming visit to Greece’s largest island. We were smack in the middle of a 30-day, 15-stop summer adventure from Moscow to Turkey. If we didn’t end this dance of procrastination soon, we’d be landing in Crete homeless.

Our cheap-o Ryan Air flight from Sardinia (via Rome) landed in Chania, on the western end of the island. Logic dictated spending (at least) the first night there. But our outbound flight 5 days later departed from the eastern city of Heraklion.

Further complicating our decision? There was plenty to see in between.

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Sardinia and the Maddalena Islands

Posted by on Jun 4, 2014 | 0 comments

Sardinia and the Maddalena Islands

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After dedicating our first full day in Sardinia to a day trip to Corsica, we weren’t exactly sure what to do with our other full day. We had wheels (about the only positive statement I can make about the ridiculous Smart Car, it did have wheels) so we had the freedom to go wherever we liked with our second day.

But as I mentioned before, Sardinia is a huge island and the driving distances are fairly long, especially with mountain roads, so we needed to narrow down our day to a specific region.

Our helpful front desk clerk at the Hilton Olbia and the car rental guy had both highly recommended the ferry over to Maddalena Island and after a little research we decided that would be a great way to spend our day.

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A Day Trip to Bonifacio Corsica

Posted by on Jun 3, 2014 | 0 comments

A Day Trip to Bonifacio Corsica

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So now we have finally arrived at the “Med” portion of the “Moscow to the Med” summer trip and I couldn’t be happier! For the next two weeks it’s all about the islands of Italy, France and (mostly) Greece. We had three nights and two full days in Sardinia which is not even close to enough time to see this very large island.

So what do you do when you’re already short on time to see a place? Add in a full day trip to a completely different place, of course! (On paper, this logic made perfect sense.) We decided to squeeze in a day trip to the neighboring island of Corsica because it seemed too close to pass up. And in our defense, on the map it is right there, just begging for a side trip.

Who are we to argue?

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