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RTW #4: Thai Beach Perfection to Blue Lagoon Reflection

Driving in Costa Rica: Earthquakes & Slammin’ Brakes

Posted by on Jan 7, 2009 | 2 comments

Driving in Costa Rica: Earthquakes & Slammin’ Brakes

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For my first stop on RTW 4, I am joined by my good friend, Theresa. You may remember Theresa and her husband Gary from RTW #1. Their plan to meet me in Berlin was foiled at the last minute when they couldn’t get on a flight out. Theresa works for Delta and, though she can fly for free, it is always standby so we were never 100% certain that she would make it on the plane to Costa Rica Wednesday.

However, the standby Gods smiled upon us and she not only made it on the flight, she got a seat in first class right next to me. Unfortunately, that was the end of our good luck for the day. After we were comfortably seated with baggage stowed and fancy plastic cups of champagne in hand, our pilot announced a mechanical problem with our plane.

So, off the plane we went to another gate where we waited two hours before finally boarding our new (and presumably fully-functioning) airplane. Not a major problem since we were just thankful Theresa made it on the flight.

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One Day in Paris…at Baggage Claim

Posted by on Jan 10, 2009 | 0 comments

One Day in Paris…at Baggage Claim

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After getting home from the Atlanta airport last night with no bags, I decided to just pack a small duffle bag with enough clothes to carry me for a few days in Paris and Italy and the remainder of the warm-weather clothes I had set aside to replace what I brought to Costa Rica. My plan was to change out the new for the old in my bag when I got it and then ship home the smaller duffle. That was my plan, I still didn’t know what Delta’s plan was.

My new camera’s charger is in my missing bag so I also packed my old camera and charger. Thank goodness the voltage in Costa Rica was the same as in the US and I did not pack my universal adapter for that leg of the trip. That is crucial on these trips for charging my phone, laptop, camera and iPod. Other casualties of the missing bag: my house keys, my Honolulu marathon finisher shirt, a darling little pair of Manolo Blahnik sandals, and the suitcase itself – my favorite little travel-friendly Tumi bag.

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Positively Perfect Positano

Posted by on Jan 12, 2009 | 0 comments

Positively Perfect Positano

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I have my bag!!!! Hooray!! I can’t believe it, I thought I’d never see it again. The morning started just like the one before, waiting at the baggage carousel in Paris for a bag that never came. When it looked like all the bags were out, I went back to the baggage office to once again explain my convoluted baggage issue.

The agent called the baggage handling supervisor who checked around “in the back” for a while and said it wasn’t there. I was completely deflated. I asked if there was any way someone could take me back to the infamous “special” room where all of the delayed baggage comes in so I could look around and see if I could find it. That got a “no” but the agent helping me said that he would go back a take a look himself.

He was gone about 20 minutes and just when I was losing hope he came back to the office and announced happily that he’d found it and put it on the carousel – so over we went to retrieve it.

As we walked over, I asked the million-dollar question, was the bag he found the red one (Theresa’s – equally important, but not time-sensitive) or the black one (mine)?

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Chatuchak Market Bangkok

Posted by on Jan 18, 2009 | 0 comments

Chatuchak Market Bangkok

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What more can I say about Bangkok that hasn’t already been thoroughly covered in these pages? I just simply love it here.

That said, Bangkok is not a beautiful city, it is not a particularly clean city and its climate can be downright sweltering most of the year…it just doesn’t matter. I don’t know exactly what it is that draws me back to Thailand on every one of these trips but the $5 massages are certainly a leading contender.

After the long (12-hour) flight from Naples, via Paris, I stepped off the plane and into Suvarnabhumi Airport with a irrepressible smile on my face. It’s hard to even imagine that this is the same airport that was shut down by government protesters for more than a week last month bringing Thailand’s business and tourist trade to a screeching halt. Nothing remains of this incident except perhaps an increased security presence that is barely noticeable.

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Thai Beach Perfection – Phuket & Khao Lak

Posted by on Jan 22, 2009 | 0 comments

Thai Beach Perfection – Phuket & Khao Lak

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Just when you think it can’t get much better than the cheap massages and Thai food of Bangkok, it’s time to head down to Thailand’s other top attraction – the beach!

This year, I have 3 nights planned in the Phuket area of Thailand, the first night on the island of Phuket and the next two back on the mainland in the Phang Nga province town of Khao Lak.

You may remember Phuket from RTW #1, it is an island just a smidge off the coast of the Thai mainland and is a hugely popular resort destination, especially with the European set. My $75 flight on Thai Air to Phuket took just a little under an hour and was, as usual, quite a pleasant experience – even in coach (ha-ha).

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Languid in Langkawi

Posted by on Jan 25, 2009 | 0 comments

Languid in Langkawi

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I would love to say that I did lots of exciting things with my 2 nights and 3 days on the beautiful Malaysian island of Langkawi; however, what I actually did mostly was rest. After almost 2 weeks of working through my nights and sightseeing with my days, I was spent! And since it seems the #1 thing to do here on Langkawi is relax, that’s exactly what I did. When in Rome, you know!

For my two nights on the island, I couldn’t decide between two equally beautiful Starwood properties on the island, the Westin and the Sheraton. So, what to do when you can’t decide? Try them both, of course! I spent my first night at the Westin Langkawi and the second at the Sheraton Resort Langkawi. Since they were on opposite sides of the island, I figured this would allow me to see more of Langkawi during my short stay.

Arrival into Langkawi from Phuket was painless. Though the airport only has 4 gates, it is very modern and has all the shopping and amenities you would expect in a larger airport. I changed some money and headed to the taxi stand. The taxi process here is simple: fixed (and reasonable) rates, no meters, prepaid at the taxi desk. My 20-minute ride to the opposite side of the island to the Westin only ran me about $8 US. Not bad at all.

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Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur

Posted by on Jan 27, 2009 | 2 comments

Chinese New Year in Kuala Lumpur

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After a relaxing short break in Langkawi, arrival into Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) was a breeze. A high-speed train from the airport (the KLIA Express) whisks you to the Kuala Lumpur Sentral Station in 28 minutes flat for about $11 US – not my cheapest ride from the airport but you can’t beat it in the efficiency department.

From the Sentral Station there are a myriad of other train lines to transfer to that will get you to various parts of the city. I knew that my hotel was next to a “KL Monorail” station so after a few minutes of searching, I found the Monorail line and bought a ticket at the machine. 

It’s funny, it always gives me a small amount of pride to be able to navigate my way through a foreign city’s train networks without having to ask any questions or look like a lost (and blond) tourist.

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Sunrise at Angkor Wat – Cambodia

Posted by on Jan 29, 2009 | 0 comments

Sunrise at Angkor Wat – Cambodia

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It is just before 5:00am and I am sitting in total darkness in the carriage of an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) bouncing along a jungle road toward the ancient temple of Angkor Wat. The lone headlight on our vehicle is the only light to be seen for miles but even that is barely enough to light the road directly in front of us. The air is thick with humidity, even at this ungodly early hour.

As we drive through the darkness into what appears to be the middle of a jungle, I think to myself that I have just put a lot of blind faith in my tuk-tuk driver, Mr. Nak, whom I met only 5 minutes earlier in front of my hotel. Truth be told, he could be taking me anywhere. 

He asks if I have bought a ticket for the temples yet and I say no. That answer necessitates a brief stop along the “road to nowhere” at a brightly lit ticket booth where I am quickly photographed, relieved of $40 US and handed my 3-day pass (complete with photo) that will grant access to all the temples Siem Reap has to offer.

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One Day in Auckland with the Kiwis

Posted by on Jan 31, 2009 | 0 comments

One Day in Auckland with the Kiwis

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The flight from Siem Reap to Seoul was a relatively short 6 hours and we arrived at Incheon Airport at 5:30am. Unfortunately, my connecting flight to Auckland wasn’t scheduled to leave until 7:30pm, leaving me with 14 hours to kill in Seoul. Since I had seen the city of Seoul before and the current temperature was somewhere in the low 20’s, I elected to spend the day in the Korean Airlines Lounge catching up on some work and updating the website from Cambodia. It was a productive day and before I knew it, it was time to board the 11-hour flight to Auckland.

I hadn’t originally planned a stop in New Zealand on this trip. However, I was determined to get to Tahiti and when I couldn’t get the inbound flight through my Skyteam RTW ticket; I had to look at other options. A quick search of the Air Tahiti Nui website revealed that a one-way ticket from Auckland to Papeete, Tahiti could be had for around $300. I was able to get a flight into Auckland through Skyteam and then a flight out of Papeete so I decided to spend one day in Auckland and booked my own ticket to get to Tahiti. Not a bad deal actually, since I loved New Zealand on my first trip a few years back.

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Blowing the Budget in Tahiti

Posted by on Feb 1, 2009 | 0 comments

Blowing the Budget in Tahiti

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My Air Tahiti Nui flight from Auckland to Papeete, Tahiti was 5 hours long but after all the marathon flights I’ve been on lately; it seemed to go by in a flash. The most interesting part was that I left Auckland at 3pm on February 2nd and landed in Tahiti at 9:00pm on February 1st (thanks to a crossing of the International Date Line). It’s a little weird that I had to pay for a hotel for the night of Feb 1st…TWICE!!

We landed at Faa’a International Airport on the island of Tahiti at 9pm local time so, unfortunately, it was dark and I couldn’t see anything exciting on approach. We were greeted on the tarmac by ukulele music and a pair of Tahitian ladies handing out “tiare” flowers (the island gardenia) to be worn behind the ear. The tiare flowers smelled heavenly and it was kind of funny to see even the men at baggage claim with a little white flower behind their ear.

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Blue Lagoon Paradise – Moorea, French Polynesia

Posted by on Feb 3, 2009 | 0 comments

Blue Lagoon Paradise – Moorea, French Polynesia

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There are two ways to get from the island of Tahiti to Moorea – a 30-minute ferry ride or an 8-minute flight; I chose the ferry. Partly because it is substantially cheaper (only about $12), but also because I thought the ferry ride would be scenic and fun. 

I only know two people who have been to French Polynesia before and both turned up their noses when I told them I was going to Tahiti.

Leave Tahiti as quickly as possible,” they said, “get out to Moorea and Bora Bora.”

Sounded a bit snobbish, I thought, how could Tahiti not be worth a few days’ visit? Is it possible I have friends who are too good for Tahiti? Surely not.

But as the ferry passed between the breakers through the Viaire pass and I got my first look at Moorea’s stunning lagoon, now I understand what they meant. The distance between islands may only be 12 miles, but arriving at the ferry port in Moorea is like entering another world.

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Belizean Beach Bum on Ambergris Caye

Posted by on Feb 7, 2009 | 0 comments

Belizean Beach Bum on Ambergris Caye

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I should start by saying that I had done almost no research on Belize prior to my arrival. Who had time? In fact, I just got around to booking my hotel while in Thailand a few weeks ago.

I had no guidebook for this part of Central America but what little research I had done said that the best place to stay was on the island of Ambergris Caye, just off the coast of mainland Belize. Kind of ironic that I’ve never been to Central America before and on this trip I started (in Costa Rica) and ended here.

Since there were no options for using Marriott or Hilton points on the tiny island of Ambergris Caye, I used the ever-reliable Trip Advisor website to evaluate my hotel possibilities. My only real necessity was a room right on the beach for as little money as possible – this being the end of the trip, I’m getting more frugal by the day.

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