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Best of Istanbul (Turkey)

4 Jul

Here are my recommendations for Istanbul:

  • Go to a Turkish bath
  • Eat lots of great Turkish food
  • Walk through the Basilica Cistern

Enjoy Istanbul!

Best of Cappadocia (Turkey)

1 Jul
Here are some of my MUST DOs of Cappadocia (Turkey):
  • Stay in a cave
  • Visit an underground city
  • Buy an original Turkish plate
  • Eat lots and lots of Turkish food

 Enjoy Turkey!

Around the World Embassy Tour

9 May

Last Saturday, Erika, Stacia and I hit up Embassy Row in Washington, DC, for the Around the World Embassy Tour, which was part of Passport DC. Here are some of my comments about the embassies that we visited:

Brazil:  The Capoeira was entertaining.  The ambassador’s residence was beautiful.  Disappointed by the lack of food and drinks especially for a country that has such great food and drinks.

 Turkey:  Great art and booths about the different areas of the country and Northern Cyprus.  Wine tasting was not so great, but appreciated.  There were some food samples that were ok.

Japan:  Cool exhibits, such as the tsunami exhibit.

Chad:  You kind of just walk in and then walk out.  Super small space, but interesting to learn about a less familiar country.

Cote d’Ivoire:  We were treated like queens at this embassy.  The financial attache took a picture of us with guys dressed in traditional outfits.  We were given a good size plate of food.

Belize:  Not impressed.  Food for sale. No entertainment when we were there.  I think/hope they were still getting set up.

Indonesia:  Beautiful building.  The stairwell took our breathe away.

Mozambique:  Good info.  I really want to go to this country.

Peru:  Free drinks.  Food outside looked good, but they were charging.  Llamas were adorable.  This is a great embassy to visit.

Rwanda:  Supposedly great coffee (they ran out by the time we got there).  Beautiful brochure.  Not much to the embassy.

Venezuela:  GREAT juice!  The guava juice was amazing.  There was a tour, then juice outside, then music, then a tourism room.  Great set up.

Australia:  Best overall experience.  Got fake tattoos.  Did a wine tasting (great wine).  Tried some good cheese.  Saw some lizards.  Great exhibits.

Don’t forget that THIS SATURDAY is Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies’ Open House!  I hope to see you out there!

Two Weeks in Thailand

3 Apr

In 2007 my mother and I traveled to Thailand for two weeks.  We booked a tour throughout the country with Gate 1 Travel.  I stopped by a Gate 1 booth at the Travel & Adventure Expo and was able to find part of our itinerary (it has been a bit tweeked since 2007).  The following is a sample Thailand itinerary:

Day 1:  Leave the USA

Day 2:  Arrive in Bangkok, Thailand.

Day 3:  (Bangkok)  City tour.  Visit temples including Wat Pho (with the giant reclining Buddha), Wat Arun, and the Grand Palace & Wat Prakeaw.

Day 4:  (Bangkok) Visit the floating market.

Day 5:  Travel to Chiang Mai.

Day 6: (Chiang Mai)  Spend day at Mae Sa Elephant Camp.  Visit markets.

Day 7: (Chiang Mai) Visit tribes including Mae Salong Hill tribe.

Day 8: (Chiang Rai)  Visit Sukhothai Historical Park.

Day 9: (Chiang Rai)  Visit Mae Sai Border Town & Golden Triangle.  You are able to see Cambodia and Burma.  Also, visit Wat Rong Khun (the White Temple).

Day 10: Travel to Phuket.

Day 11: (Phuket) Take a boat to Phang Nga Bay, Lawa Island, Koh Pannyi Sea Gypsy Island (a village built on stilts in the middle of the ocean – AMAZING), and Koh Ping Kan (“James Bond Island” – “The Man with the Golden Gun” was filmed there).

Day 12: (Phuket)  Take a speedboat to Phi Phi & Khai Islands (have you seen “The Beach” with Leonardo DiCaprio?  It was filmed there.  Absolutely AMAZING).

Day 13: (Phuket)  Spend day on beach. Rent some jet skis, shop, have fun and relax.

Day 14:  Return to Bangkok and then to USA.

Some other notes for Thailand travelers:

  • Shop!  The markets and malls are amazing!
  • Go to a nightclub.  The nightclubs in Bangkok were the best I have ever been to.
  • Eat lots and lots of Thai food.
  • Get Thai massages.  They are cheap and amazing.
  • Bring respectful clothing if you plan to visit temples.  In other words, bring pants or long skirts, shirts that cover your shoulders, scarfs, etc.
  • Ride in a Tuk Tuk (taxi).

Enjoy Thailand!  It is one of my favorite countries I have ever been to and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Bali (Indonesia) by Terence

9 Mar

What is there to see and do in Bali you ask? Whether you have a set itinerary or just want to wander around freely, you will not be disappointed.  There are many things to see and do there: from beaches, night clubs, volcanoes, temples to wild life.  Whether you have ultra expensive hotel tastes or are a budget minded traveler, there are always places to fit your bill.  For example, my hotel was in Legian.  It was basically just a room with a bed and bathroom. I paid $8 US a day for my room. Granted, I didn’t have an ocean view, but I was two blocks away from the beach and  I wasn’t there to stay in the room, except to sleep and shower.

My stay in Bali was more of a budget-minded traveler and I wanted to go off the beaten path.  Even if you decide to go on your own without a tour package, there are tour agencies all over and some of the smaller agencies will gladly negotiate prices. One fun thing to do is rent a scooter which is fairly inexpensive. You can rent hourly or weekly, and again, the smaller the business, the more likely you will be able to negotiate prices.  If renting a vehicle, be aware that the gas stations will be crowded and expect to wait in line for a while to get gas. The traffic can sometimes be a nightmare but the further away from the towns the traffic is virtually nonexistent.  Also, be prepared to stop without notice. On one occasion, the police stopped all traffic so that a funeral procession could pass (see picture on right). Usually the whole town takes part and the procession could take up to an hour or more. The ceremony is performed sort of like a parade and stretches for miles.

Bali is known for it’s beaches. Some of the nicer beaches are Legian (see photo below) and Kuta (see top photo). Both offer 5 star or budget hotels. Legian is more for the surfer type, while Kuta is more for the lounging type. Either one will be fine for whatever you choose, but the surf was a little rougher at Legian.

There are plenty of restaurants and shops in town (both Kuta and Legian) and of course the street vendors. You will find that the street vendors are always willing to make a deal. Don’t be afraid to haggle with them.

Balinese beaches boast some of the best sunsets and there are many beach side bars/restaurants you can relax at while enjoying the view. One especially nice sunset is at Tanah Lot. It is a temple on a rock surrounded by the water.  If you go at the right time you will also see the Balinese sacred mask dance. The dance is done for many different reasons like offerings to God or for harvesting. The face paint makeup and masks are very colorful. It surely is a sight to see.

Sunset at Tanah Lot.

Sunset at Legian.

If you need a break from the beach you can always head further inland to places like Mengwi, Ubud and Bedugul. There you will see wild monkeys (Ubud) which you can hand feed. Make sure all your items are carefully packed as the monkeys will steal whatever they can get hold of.

You will also see rice paddies (Mengwi), rice terraces (Tegallalang), temples (Ubud and Bedugul) and volcanoes (Kintamani Volcano and Batur Lake).

Rice paddy on the way to Mengwi.

Rice terraces at Tegallalang

Kintamani Volcano

Temple at Batur Lake.

Temples at Ubud.

The Balinese cuisine is very tasty and colorful. If going to the usual touristy restaurants you will see the more fanciful meals. If going local, the meals aren’t as fanciful but still tasty and worth a try.  Most of my meals were from the local eateries and were just as good as any 5 star restaurant.

Some things to note before hand:

  • Do not drink the local water. Drink only bottled water/drinks.
  • When traveling around Bali/Indonesia bring your own toilet paper.

Don’t let these notes deter you from going there. Every country has their own customs that world travelers have to get accustomed to.  And, overall, Bali should be on the top of your list of places to see.

Travel dairies: Kedarnath the holiest!

7 Mar

Great post by dinesh hegde on traveling through the Himalayas! Check it out!

prathibha ( moved to click home)

If you have not read the previous  in this series you  can still browse to it clicking the following links

1.  The small colorful city called Gaurikund

2. Travel dairies: Himalayan porters


4. Travel dairies: Gandhi Taal( lake)

After I came back from Kedarnath,  I felt like I never should have returned! The splendor of the Himalayan valley, the  snow covered peaks, post monsoon waterfalls, the river Mandakini, the divine atmosphere  everywhere, the energy of the  pilgrims  showed me a new face of peace or that is the real face of peace!  I wanted to stay there for longer, I wanted to see the peaks and I wanted to breathe the energy flowing around forever. It was a life changing moment for all of us. Believe me , I again went to Himalayas within next 4 months and  that is  the attraction of the Himalayas .

Taking a holy…

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Making a Backpacker Out of my Mother: Hong Kong 2011

10 Feb

Great post by “The Pencil Pirouette” with a sample itinerary for a trip to Hong Kong/Macau. This is the first part of the itinerary. You can find more parts to the the itinerary on “The Pencil Pirouette”‘s website: