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RTW #6: Here Today, Guam Tomorrow

De-Icing in Santiago Chile

Posted by on Jan 14, 2011 | 1 comment

De-Icing in Santiago Chile

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Well folks, it’s that time of year again!

I can hardly believe I’m about to embark on my 6th annual Round-the-World adventure. It seems like only yesterday I was planning that first “once-in-a-lifetime” RTW trip. Little did I know it would turn into an annual obsession.

This years’ trip is my longest yet at just under 6 weeks. If I don’t start scaling these back I may have to consider changing the name of the website!

RTW 6 will see returns to some of my favorite places from previous trips (Bangkok, Auckland, Moorea & Cabo) as well as a number of new destinations I’m extremely excited about (Chile, Laos, Palau, the Cook Islands, Borneo and others). As always, your comments and advice are welcome and encouraged…so let’s hit the road!

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America’s Southernmost Capital – Montevideo, Uruguay

Posted by on Jan 17, 2011 | 0 comments

America’s Southernmost Capital – Montevideo, Uruguay

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I almost didn’t make it to Uruguay thanks to a missed 3am wake-up call at the Sheraton in Vina del Mar.

With over an hour drive to the airport in Santiago and a 7am flight, I figured I’d better set a hotel wake-up call in addition to my cell phone. It was lucky I did set the phone because it’s what eventually brought me back to consciousness after I apparently hit the snooze 4 or 5 times.

When I realized what time it was (almost 4am) I packed hastily and practically ran to the car yelling something constructive to the front desk clerk about their wake-up call skills needing some work as I blew past.

Since I was flying LAN Chile to Montevideo, I knew I needed to be checked in 90 minutes before my international flight which meant getting to the airport and returning my rental car in a little over an hour. So, I drove way faster than I should have through the Chilean countryside and managed to make it to the airport by 5:25am.

Unfortunately, there was no time to refuel the rental car, so I’m sure I’ll have to take out a second mortgage to pay for those charges when I get home.

But thankfully, I made it! It was the only flight of the day on LAN to Montevideo so, had I missed it, my one night in Uruguay would have turned into an extra night in Chile.

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Cyprus – Aphrodite’s Divided Isle

Posted by on Jan 24, 2011 | 0 comments

Cyprus – Aphrodite’s Divided Isle

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I got off to a slow start in Cyprus thanks to a full day of thunderstorms on Monday.

Luckily, I’d planned a three-night stay instead of the usual one or two so I was still able to see quite a bit of this super-sized Mediterranean island.

Known as Aphrodite’s Isle, Cyprus is strategically located between the coasts of Turkey and Syria (its nearest neighbor). Because of its location, it has long been a prize fought over by numerous conquerors including the Greeks, Romans and the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. The scars of these battles have left their mark on the island making it a huge archeological site.

The more recent history of Cyprus has been volatile since the Turkish invasion of 1974 resulted in a dividing line through the capital city of Nicosia. The “Green Line” separates the Republic of Cyprus from the 37% of the northern country known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (a state recognized by no other nation but Turkey). Today, the Green Line is monitored by United Nations troops and the political situation has stabilized in recent years.

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Destined for Laos

Posted by on Jan 24, 2011 | 0 comments

Destined for Laos

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Have you ever arrived in a faraway place and known instantly that you were always meant to go there?

Nope, me neither.

But that’s exactly the feeling I got when I landed from Cyprus and first stepped off the plane in Luang Prabang, Laos.

I’m not sure how to explain it, really. It was somewhat surreal, more a sense of immediate familiarity and belonging. Perhaps that I’d been here before – though I definitely hadn’t. After catching a glimpse of the tiny town from the air, I couldn’t wait to start exploring.

Until 1989, Laos was closed to tourism leaving it virtually cut off from the rest of Southeast Asia. Since opening their doors to the world slightly over two decades ago, Laos now has a steadily-developing economy, reliant on tourism and regional trade.

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Two Massages, a Fish Spa & a Pharmacy: An Ode to Bangkok’s Khao San Road

Posted by on Jan 26, 2011 | 0 comments

Two Massages, a Fish Spa & a Pharmacy: An Ode to Bangkok’s Khao San Road

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I arrived in Bangkok from Laos with an agenda.

One of my favorite cities in the world, it is also a great place to get a few things done when you’ve been in remote places for a while. Luxury hotels, hi-speed internet (oh, how I’ve missed you!) and great food – all with unbeatable prices.

I’ve written about my love for Bangkok each year, so this time I decided to change things up a bit and focus on one of the city’s most fascinating streets.

Shockingly, the first two times I visited Bangkok, I was so busy exploring the Grand Palace, the temples and the markets that I never even made it to Khao San Road. By my third trip, I was determined to check it out. And when I did, it quickly became a must for me on every trip to Bangkok. For the past two weeks, I’ve been compiling a Khao San to-do list while in Bangkok.

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Monkey Business in Borneo

Posted by on Jan 30, 2011 | 0 comments

Monkey Business in Borneo

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Planning a trip around the world is harder than you’d think. Dozens of flights, hotels, car rentals, trains, buses – a myriad of details to be booked (and it helps if you book them for the right dates).

I’m often asked, “Do you ever make mistakes in your planning?” Well, folks, the answer is yes. And my flight to Borneo was a prime example.

There were no direct options for getting from Bangkok to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, but there were a number of cheap options with connections. After researching the options, I decided to fly Air Asia from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and then Malaysia Airlines on to Kota Kinabalu. All was going according to plan until I landed in Kuala Lumpur and began looking for the Malaysia Air gates for my connection.

Turns out…Kuala Lumpur has TWO airports. I flew into LCCT (which serves primarily Air Asia) and needed to fly OUT of KLIA. Now, usually I’m really good about checking to make sure connecting flights on various airlines are going into/out of the same airports, especially when dealing with discount airlines that often fly out of smaller airports. I mean, I’m well aware that most major cities have more than one airport and I swear I always double-check airport codes. Somehow this one got by me.

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The Micro-Nation of Brunei

Posted by on Jan 31, 2011 | 0 comments

The Micro-Nation of Brunei

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To get from Borneo to the Philippines, I was flying Royal Air Brunei and the  flight came with a 5-hour layover in Brunei. Some might consider this an inconvenience, to me it was an opportunity! I wouldn’t have much time to see some of Brunei, but as it turned out, I didn’t need it.

This tiny sultanate makes up less than 1% of Borneo’s landmass. In fact, if it weren’t for the discovery of oil in 1929, which turned the tiny state into an economic power overnight, it was destined to be swallowed up by neighboring Malaysia.

Formerly a British protectorate, Brunei has been completely independent since 1984. In the years since, the nation has veered toward Islamic fundamentalism adopting a national ideology known as Melayu Islam Beraja (MIB).

In 1991, alcohol was banned and stricter dress codes were introduced. Brunei is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, son of Sultan Omar Saifuddien who was instrumental in the country’s independence.

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Underwater in the Philippines

Posted by on Feb 1, 2011 | 0 comments

Underwater in the Philippines

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My stop in the Philippines got off to a slow start thanks to a 3-hour delay in Manila for my flight to the southern Philippine island of Cebu. When I finally landed in Cebu, it was almost 10pm and – I swear to God – raining sideways. Swell.

Luckily, my hotel – the Hilton Cebu – wasn’t far from the airport on Mactan Island. I made my way to the hotel and was checked in to a lovely spa suite. (Bonus points for Hilton – there was a bottle of wine waiting on the living room table.)

Though the suite was gorgeous, it was on a high floor on the corner of the building and the winds outside were so strong there was an impossibly loud whistling sound coming from the windows throughout the night, which made sleep a challenge.

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Wowed by Palau

Posted by on Feb 3, 2011 | 0 comments

Wowed by Palau

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After days of rain in the Philippines, when I landed in Palau at 2:00am the most positive thing I can say about the weather is that it was not raining sideways. It was, however, raining in a circular motion reminiscent of something I may have seen on the Discovery Channel. Seriously, I have video.

Come on Palau, you cannot be serious.

The good news was that at least a driver from my hotel, the Palau Royal Resort, was waiting to greet me – a welcome relief at this ridiculous hour. By the time I got to the hotel and settled into my lovely room it was after 3am.

I had scheduled a full-day outing with Sam’s Tours (the primary diving outfit on the island) for a tour of the Rock Islands and Jellyfish Lake, but with the weather, I wasn’t sure we’d even still be going.

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Here Today, Guam Tomorrow

Posted by on Feb 4, 2011 | 0 comments

Here Today, Guam Tomorrow

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Because of its proximity to the International Date Line, the island of Guam is the first US territory to greet each new day inspiring its slogan “where America’s Day begins.”

But before arriving in Guam, my flight from Palau made an interesting stop on the island of Yap. I’d not heard of Yap but let me tell you, what seemed like the entire royal family boarded the flight draped in crowns of flowers and leis. Still not sure if all the flowers meant they were A) a wedding party B) the actual royal family or C) just making an everyday Yap fashion statement.

As the Yap passengers boarded, one flower-draped islander turned to the other behind him and snapped a photo rattling off a string of words I didn’t understand followed by one that I did, “Facebook.”

Yes folks, even Yap is on Facebook. (Mark Zuckerberg, you deserve every single one of those billions of dollars.)

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Always Perfect Auckland

Posted by on Feb 9, 2011 | 2 comments

Always Perfect Auckland

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After four nights in a row sleeping (or mostly not sleeping) on airplanes, I arrived in Auckland from Guam feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.

I was exhausted and in the early stages of what promised to be a very nasty cold. Luckily, I’d already had the foresight to schedule the remedy – a morning at the spa!

Thanks to my daily deal e-mails from Auckland’s “Grab One” (the NZ version of Groupon), I’d gotten a steal on a massage and Japanese Stone Spa treatment at a spa only two blocks from my rental apartment. Since I couldn’t pick up the keys to the apartment until 2pm and I landed at 9am, I scheduled the spa appointment for 11am.

It was exactly what I needed and highly preferable to sitting around in general misery for three hours waiting for the apartment guy. After a few hours at the spa, I was feeling almost human again.

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The Cook Islands: Tahiti Without the French

Posted by on Feb 11, 2011 | 2 comments

The Cook Islands: Tahiti Without the French

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I left New Zealand on Saturday night at 7:30pm and landed in Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands, just after midnight on Friday night/Saturday morning, thanks to a crossing of the International Date Line.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following along on this year’s trip that it was raining profusely when I landed. Here we go again.

But, even at 12:30am, there was a cheerful islander with a ukulele playing soothing tropical tunes at the baggage carousel, so I forced myself to get into the island spirit. And, happily, there was someone from my hotel waiting to pick me up.

I’d been having second thoughts about my hotel choice for the past few days, so at least this was a positive start. In no time, I was in the car and on my way to the hotel in the hopes of getting a few hours of sleep before setting out to explore Rarotonga tomorrow.

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Needing More of Moorea

Posted by on Feb 16, 2011 | 2 comments

Needing More of Moorea

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You can file this one under, “the travel rich keep getting richer.” I was lucky enough to go from the paradise of the Cook Islands to the Eden of Moorea.

I should mention that up until last week, I thought Moorea was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen. And then there was Aitutaki. Does it get any better than a direct flight between bliss and nirvana? I think not.

My Air Tahiti flight from Rarotonga to Papeete was a flawless 2 ½ hours and almost totally empty. I landed in Papeete at 2:15pm and made record time getting to Moorea (there’s little of redeeming value in Papeete, so the best thing to do is get out as fast as you can). I made it through immigration and customs, reclaimed my bag and was in a cab by 2:30pm.

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A Whale Tale from Cabo

Posted by on Feb 22, 2011 | 2 comments

A Whale Tale from Cabo

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I had forgotten just how perfect Cabo is in February. Of course, I’ve never been any other time of year – but I can’t imagine it gets much better than daily 80 degree sunshine and a constant parade of whales putting on a show just offshore.

When I visited the fabulous Westin Los Cabos Resort last year, I got a good deal on a future week at their Regina Club property (of course, they try to sell you the whole timeshare shebang – but I came out alive and with all of my credit cards intact!).

The end of this year’s trip seemed like the perfect time to use my Cabo week and after all the rain I’ve seen in the past few weeks, it was time to reacquaint myself with the sun.

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Wrapping Up Round the World #6

Posted by on Feb 25, 2011 | 0 comments

Wrapping Up Round the World #6

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It all started with a snow storm.

Back on that fateful night of January 9th, my Santiago-bound flight sat for hours on the runway at Hartsfield with nothing but white outside the windows. I wondered whether I would even make it to Chile to start my 6th annual round the world trip.

Luckily, we made it out that night and it was a good omen for what turned out to be an incredible trip. South America, the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Mexico and the ever-incredible South Pacific.

14 countries in 5 ½ weeks, my longest trip yet and without a doubt one of my favorite. If you’ve missed any of the posts along the way, here they are again:

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