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  • Special Tour Packages in Cambo Special Tour Packages in Cambodia

    • From: naturetour83
    • Description:


             (Valid Till 31st Dec, 2014)




      NATURE TOURS                                                            


      Address           : #7 D, Street 258,Phnom Penh,Cambodia

      Mobile             : (+855) 97 8638839 / (+855) 68-366616

      Skype              : va.sokhan

      E-MAIL            : naturetour83@gmail.com

      E-mail             : naturetourscam@gmail.com

      Web-site         : www.naturetourscam.blogspot.com                                                                                           




      TOUR NAME                                   DURATION              CODE              TOUR FEE

      PHNOM PENH TOUR                       

      Heritage & Sites

      PHNOM PENH MORNING TOUR         4 Hours              LP –M1          $ 29.00 USD /Head


      Heritage & Sites

      PHNOM PENH AFTER NOON TOURS   4 Hours             LP- A2           $ 29.00 USD/Head

      Heritage & Sites

      PHNOM PENH, 1 DAY TOURS          1 Day Tour         LP-M1+A2      $ 49.00 USD/Head


      Heritage & Traditions   

      SIEM REAP, 1 DAY TOURS              1 Day Tour        SLP-A2    $ 49.00 USD/Head

      Heritage & Sites

      2 DAY 1 NIGHT IN SIEM REAP         2 Days-1 Night      SLP1     $ 99 USD/Head                  


      ANGKOR HIGHLIGHTS, CAMBODIA     3 days 2 nights     LP-02   $ 109 USD / Head              

      Heritage & Sites

      ANGKOR, CAMBODIA                       4 days 3 Nights    LP-03   $ 129 USD / Head

      Heritage & Traditions                             

      FOREMOST CAMBODIA                     5 days 4 nights   LP-04   $ 159 USD / Head


      Phnom Penh-Koh Kong                                    

      CAMBODIA – BY LAND AND SEASIDE   3 days, 2 nights  LP-05   $ 139 USD / Head

      Phnom Penh-Koh Kong

      CAMBODIA – By LAND AND SEASIDE   4 days 3 nights   LP-06    $ 159 USD / Head



      Phnom Penh- Kom Pong Som

      CAMBODIA – By LAND AND SEASIDE 2 Days-1 Nights   LP-07     $ 99.00 USD / Head




      Phnom Penh- Mondulkiri

      CAMBODIA – By LAND TOUR          3 Days-2 Nights   LP-08        $ 109.00 USD/ Head 


      Phnom Penh- Ratanakiri      

      CAMBODIA – By LAND TOUR         4 Days-3 Nights    LP-09         $ 125.00 USD / Head

      Phnom Penh-Mondulkiri-Ratanakiri  6 Days-5 Nights    LP-10         $ 209.00 USD / Head

      CAMBODIA- By Land

      Note: The above list of tour packages is limited to the most popular tours. We have many more tours to offer, please contact us for more information.        

      PROGRAM                  : PHNOM PENH MORNING TOUR 

      TOUR CODE               : LP –M1

      Place to visit : Phnom Penh City                                                                          

      Starting Time           : 8:00 AM    Return            : 12:00 PM (Min 5 person Joint tours)

      Price                          : $ 30.00 USD                     Adult

                                         $ 15 .00 USD                      Children

      Tour duration           : 4 hours

      Pick up Time             : 7:00 AM

      Payment                    : Cash in USD only

      Included                    : 1- Car with air-con

                                            2- English, Thai, Japanese, and entrance fee.



      ***** German, Spanish, French, Russian, and Italian guide subject to availability at extra charge $ 30.00 USD/ per group.





      A great tour experiencing the highlights Of Phnom Penh are giving a fabulous insight to the city and its historical sight.We begin with the Wat Phnom, The place where Phnom Penh. got its name from, our tour guide will reveal the full story of this city, from there we drive along Sisowath Quay which allow you to enjoy the unique river front view of Tonle Chak tomuk,we continue our visit to the Independent Monument ,which is build for enjoy o the success in setting the country free from French colony, From hear we drive to the terrifying Toul sleng Genocide Museum, This place reveals the sad and shocking history for the Khmer in the last few decades. the final leg of our is to travel along Mao Tse Toung Blvd,Then turn to Monireth  Blvd,and continue to the famous Charles De Gaulle Blvd,Then will allow you to have a full view  of this bussy dusty Phnom Penh, back to Monivong Blvd, End Of Tours.


      PROGRAM                  : PHNOM PENH AFTER NOON TOURS

      TOUR CODE               : LP- A2

      Place to Visit            : Phnom Penh City  

      Started Time            : 2:00 PM                               Return            : 05:00 PM (Min 5 person Joint Tours)

      Price                           : $ 30.00 USD                        Adult

                                            $ 15.00 USD                        Child

      Tour duration           : 4 hours

      Pick up Time             : 1:00 PM

      Payment                    : Cash in USD only

      Included                    : 1- Car with air-con

                                            2- English, Thai, Japanese, and entrance fee.

      ******* German, Spanish, French, Russian, and Italian guide subject to availability at extra charge $ 30.00 USD / per group.





      A great discovering tours of the rich Khmer Arts.Architecture and culture.The tours start at about 2.30 PM We head to silver pagoda ,which is located within the royal palace terrain, in addition you will also have a chance to discover the Royal Palace .From there we continue our tour to visit National Museum ,a red and elegant looking building ,which is located outer to the East of Royal palace .you will surprise  with the Amazing Khmer Arts, that have been collected from all over the country, which are available on display in this Museum, lately we continue this tour along the beautiful Chak Tomuk river,side to Visit the Ounalom monastery, back to your departure point and the tour end here ,End of tour.


      TOUR CODE               : LP-M1+A2

      Place to Visit            : Phnom Penh & Tonle Bati

      Started Time            : 8:00 AM            Return : 05:00 PM (MIN 5 Person Joint Tours)

      Price                           : $ 49.00 USD    Adult

                                            $ 29.00 USD    Child

      Tour duration           : 7 HOURS

      Pick up Time             : 7:00 AM

      Payment                    : Cash in USD only

      Included                  : 1- Car with air-con

                                     2- English, Thai, Japanese, and entrance fee.

                                     3- 1 lunch at local restaurant.

      *******German, Spanish, French, Russian, and Italian guide subject to availability at extra charge USD 30 / per group.


      Today excursion will allow you to observe Other precious Heritage of the Khmer Empire.The tours start at 8:00 AM in the morning heading toward Ta Keo  Province along national road number 2 .the tour will stop first

       Tonle Bati, which is the home to two 12th century temple Ta Prohm temples and Prasat Yeay Peo build close to Bati lake by the king Jayavarman VII .Tonle Bati is the Beautiful lake is Popular among locals for its breezy and tranquil atmosphere.Tonle bati is 42 Km south of Phnom Penh,takes about 1 hours by car.we have lunch at Tonle Bati floating house before continue our tour to Phnom Chiso and other 20 km fro Tonle Bati ,Phnom Chiso is a hill top with many building from difference eras including the temple of Suryagiri from 11 century ,Enjoy tremendous view over the surround plains. On the way. Back we visit another famous temple of prasat Neang Khmau,which is not far from Phnom Chiso.Transfer back to departure point ,tour end here.





      TOUR CODE               : SLP-A2

      Place to Visit            : Siem Reap & Angkor

      Starting Time           : 8:00 AM                               Return            : 05:00 PM (Min 5 person Join tours)

      Price                           : $ 49.00 USD                        Adult

                                            $ 29.00 USD                        Child

      Tour duration           : 7 hours

      Pick up Time             : 7:00 AM

      Payment                    : Cash in USD only

      Included                    : 1- car with air-con

                                            2- English, Thai, Japanese, and entrance fee.

                                            3- 1 lunch at local restaurant.

      *** German, Spanish, French, Russian, and Italian guide subject to availability at extra charge$ 30 USD / per group.                                                                                                                             

      Excluded                 : Cambodia Visa Fee, air-ticket and airport tax, Personal Expense, Sorft drink, Tip Guide and Driver



      Welcome at Siem Reap Air-Port ,Visit South gate of Ankor Thom

       ( Bayon , Baphoun, Elephant terrace, Lepe king ,Royal Palace,,

      Visit Ta Prohm Temple ,Lunch at local restaurant ,

      Visit the wonderful heritage Angkor Wat temples, Transfer to siem Reap

       Air-port for departure flight to Phnom penh.End of Tour.












      PROGRAME               : 2 DAY 1 NIGHT IN SIEM REAP

      TOUR CODE               : SLP1

      Place to Visited        : Siem Reap



      *Arrival at Siem Reap Air-port transfer for sightseeing ,

      *visit south gate of Angkor Thom ,Bayon temple complex,

      *Lunch at local restaurant ,after lunch continue tour to visit

      *Angkor Wat temple complex and enjoy watching sunset on Phnom Bakheng

      *Dinner and overnight at hotel.

      DAY 2- DEPARTURE FROM SIEM REAM(B, L,D)                                                                                 

      - after breakfast at hotel,visit Banteay Srey temple ,and Lucnh at Local Restaurant ,free time for shopping and transfer to the Air-port for departure. End of Tour.

      PROGRAM 6              : Angkor Highlights – Heritage & Sites (3 DAYS / 2 NIGHTS)

      TOUR CODE               : LP-02

      Places to visit           : Siem Reap & Angkor.


      This is a shorter tour to visit the main and most interesting sites of the Angkor area. As well as introducing you to the small and grand circuit of Angkor, including the monumental inner royal city of Angkor Thom and sublime Angkor Wat temple complex, it also covers Banteay Srei and Phnom Bakhaeng. This journey is perfect for those individuals or families who wish to discover the majesty of Angkor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has become one of the world’s must-see ancient wonders.


      • Discover the stunning temples of Angkor, including stately Angkor Thom and intricate Banteay Srei
      • Experience first-hand the mysterious tree-engulfed monuments of Ta Prohm
      • See the film locations used in the Hollywood blockbuster – Tomb Raider
      • Gaze in wonder at the giant stone faces of Bayon state temple
      • Treat yourself to a refreshing and relaxing time at an oriental spa


      Day 1: Angkor & Siem Reap

      Upon arrival at Siem Reap airport, you’ll be met by your guide and transferred to the hotel. In the afternoon, enjoy an excursion to Banteay Srei, which dates back to 967 AD. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is famed for the intricate friezes carved into its red sandstone walls. On the way back, we will visit Banteay Samre, which was built during Suryarvaman II’s rule in the middle of the 12th century. Next on the itinerary are three impressive temples from the 10th century – Eastern Mebon, Pre Rup and Prasat Kravan. Explore the intricate and ingenious designs. The first day concludes with panoramic views of the sunset and Angkor Wat from temple mountain Phnom Bakhaeng (900 AD). This is followed by your first night’s stay in Siem Reap.






      Day 2: Angkor & Siem Reap

      After breakfast, we begin the second day with a visit to the awe-inspiring Angkor Thom or ‘Great City’. This will include many of the finest Temples of King Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181-
      1220. At the southern gate of Angkor Thom, you will marvel at the imposing 23-metre high stone faces of Avalokiteshvara, which featured in the Tomb Raider movie. These astonishing carvings inspire awe and wonder in the beholder. At the centre of this citadel lies the state temple of Bayon, which we will also visit. This temple-mountain, built at the end of the 12th century, is adorned with hundreds of gigantic stone faces. This tour also includes the Terrace of Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and the 12 identical towers of Prasat Suor Prat.
      Later in the day you will discover the most famous temples from the 11th century: Baphuon, Phimeanakas, North Khleang and South Khleang. In the afternoon we will begin our explorations of magnificent Angkor Wat, built under Suryavarman II, and the Ta Prohm complex, which dates back to Jayavarman VII’s reign (1181-1220). We then head to Siem Reap for your second night’s stay.

      Day 3: Angkor & Siem Reap

      On the third and final day, we will spend the morning visiting other important temples of Jayavarman VII: Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Prom. This will be followed by transfer to the airport and your return flight.

      PROGRAME               : Angkor – Heritage & Traditions (4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS)

      TOUR CODE               : LP-03

      Place to Visited        : Siem Reap



      This is the most popular program for visiting Angkor. It allows visitors to see much of what is worth knowing about the extraordinary Khmer civilization and its temples. You will discover the best sites along the small and grand Angkor circuits, including the temples of Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat, and also visit the Roluos complex and Banteay Srei. The visitors will learn how traditional Angkor crafts are made and see how these ancient skills are being preserved. All in all, it’s a great introduction to Cambodia’s ancient wonders!


      • Discover the stunning Temples of Angkor area in and outside Siem Reap
      • See traditional dancing shows including the unique and graceful Apsara dancers
      • Enjoy a boat excursion to floating villages - the real ‘water world’
      • Visit an arts showroom and watch local artisans train at the National Silk Weaving Centre
      • Treat yourself to a refreshing and relaxing time at an oriental spa


      Day 1: Welcome to Angkor & Siem Reap

      Upon arrival at Siem Reap airport, you’ll be picked up by your guide and transferred to the hotel. Your Angkor explorations begin in the afternoon with a visit to the 9th century Roluos temples – Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei. The first day concludes with panoramic views of the sunset from temple mountain Phnom Bakhaeng , which dates back to 900 AD and overlooks Angkor Wat. This is followed by your first night’s stay in Siem Reap.

      Day 2: Angkor & Siem Reap

      After breakfast, enjoy an excursion to Banteay Srei (967 AD). The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is famed for the intricate friezes carved into its red sandstone walls. On the way back, we will visit Banteay Samre, which was built during Suryarvaman II’s rule in the middle of the 12th century. Next on the itinerary are three impressive temples from the 10th century – Eastern Mebon, Pre Rup and Prasat Kravan. Explore their intricate and ingenious designs. After lunch, we begin our discovery of the magnificent Angkor Wat temple complex built under Suryavarman II and Ta Prohm which dates back to Jayavarman VII’s reign from 1181-1220. We then head to Siem Reap for your second night’s stay.

      Day 3: Angkor & Siem Reap

      After breakfast, we begin the second day with a visit to the awe-inspiring Angkor Thom or ‘Great City’. This will include many of the finest Temples of King Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181-1220. At the southern gate of Angkor Thom, you will marvel at the imposing 23-metre high stone faces of Avalokiteshvara, which featured in the Tomb Raider movie. These astonishing carvings inspire awe and wonder in all who view them. At the centre of this citadel lies the state temple of Bayon, which we will also visit. This temple-mountain, built at the end of the 12th century, is adorned with hundreds of gigantic stone faces. This tour also includes the Terrace of Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and the 12 identical towers of Prasat Suor Prat.
      Later in the day you will discover the most famous temples from the 11th century: Baphuon, Phimeanakas, North Khleang and South Khleang. In the afternoon we will begin our explorations of magnificent Angkor Wat, built under Suryavarman II, and photograph the famously eerie silk cotton tree roots as they slowly cover the Ta Prohm temple from Jayavarman VII’s reign.
      The afternoon’s activities include visiting the other important temples of Jayavarman VII: Preah Khan, Neak Pean, and Ta Prom. In the evening we will visit the Apsara Theatre to enjoy a fine Khmer dinner and traditional dances. Then back to the hotel to stop overnight in Siem Reap.

      Day 4: Angkor & Siem Reap

      On the final morning, you will love the cool and relaxing boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake. Here we will visit the floating villages of Chong Kneas commune. The trip also includes stops at the showrooms and workshops of traditional craftsman and artisans of Angkor. From here you will be transferred to the airport and your return flight.

      PROGRAME               : FOREMOST – Heritage & Sites (5 DAYS / 4 NIGHTS)

      TOUR CODE               : LP-04

      Place to Visited        : Siem Reap-Cambodia



      This journey introduces the individual or family visitors to the most popular tourism destinations and attractions of Cambodia. It begins in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia with its beautiful tree-shaded avenues, old colonial houses, museums, pagodas and is a splendid palace worth visiting. The city was once called the jewel of Southeast Asia and it’s easy to see why even today. Since the 1960s, Phnom Penh has suffered difficult times, which have prevented the capital from becoming a “modernised” city. Today Phnom Penh is being re-born whilst preserving its heritage and traditional way of life.

      On the way to Angkor, visitors will discover the traditional life of Cambodian people in the countryside and the wonders of ancient Khmer crafts. Once in Siem Reap, you will tour the stunning Angkor temples at one of the largest archaeological sites in the world, which stretches some 400 km2. The site has pristine forest area, splendid man-made lakes and magnificent remnants from the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, which dates from the 9th to the 15th century. It includes the legendary Temple of Angkor Wat and the astounding Bayon with its gigantic stone faces.


      • Discover the legendary Angkor temple comples
      • Visit the National Museum, Silver pagoda, Royal palace and Wat Phnom pagoda
      • Enjoy the traditional dancing show including the famed and graceful Apsara dancers
      • Cruise on a boat excursion to floating villages – the real ‘water world’
      • Treat yourself to a refreshing and relaxing time at an oriental spa

      Day 1: Welcome to Phnom Penh

      after arriving at Pochenthong airport in Phnom Penh, you will be picked up by your guide and
      transferred to the hotel. Soon after, you will begin to discover why the Cambodia’s capital city was once called the jewel of Southeast Asia. Your city explorations begin with a visit to the National Museum and see some of the wonderful antiquities from the Khmer civilization. This will be followed by trips to the remarkable Silver Pagoda, a tour of the Royal Palace with its ornate grandeur, and Wat Phnom pagoda. Then we return to your hotel for the first night’s stay in Phnom Penh.
      Day 2: Siem Reap & Angkor

      After breakfast, you will be transferred to airport and fly to Siem Reap. Your Angkor explorations begin in the morning with a visit to the 9th century Roluos temples – Preah Ko, Bakong and Lolei. More discoveries await you in the afternoon with a visit to three impressive temples from the 10th century – Eastern Mebon, Pre Rup and Prasat Kravan. Here you can marvel at their intricate and ingenious designs. There is also time to take in the canals and waterways of ancient Takeo province. The first day concludes with panoramic views of Cambodia’s spectacular sunsets and Angkor Wat from temple mountain, Phnom Bakhaeng, dating back to 900 AD. This is followed by your first night’s stay in Siem Reap.

      Day 3: Angkor

      After breakfast, enjoy a morning excursion to Banteay Srei, a temple which dates back to 967 AD. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva and is famed for the intricate friezes carved into its red sandstone walls. On the way back, we will visit Banteay Samre, which was built during Suryarvaman II’s rule in the middle of the 12th century. In the afternoon you will have a chance to discover the pride of Cambodia’s heritage – the majestic temples of Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. Then stay overnight in Siem Reap.

      Day 4: Siem Reap

      After breakfast, we begin day four with a visit to one of the jewels of Cambodia – the awe-inspiring Angkor Thom or ‘Great City’. This will include many of the finest Temples of King Jayavarman VII, who ruled from 1181-1220. At the southern gate of Angkor Thom, you will marvel at the imposing 23-metre high stone faces of Avalokiteshvara, which featured in the Tomb Raider movie. These astonishing carvings inspire awe and wonder in all who view them. At the centre of this citadel lies the state temple of Bayon, which we will also visit. This temple-mountain, built at the end of the 12th century, is adorned with hundreds of gigantic stone faces. This tour also includes the Terrace of Elephants, the Terrace of the Leper King and the 12 identical towers of Prasat Suor Prat.

      Later in the day you will discover some of the most famous temples from the 11th century: Baphuon, Phimeanakas, North Khleang and South Khleang. You will also visit the other important temples of Jayavarman VII: Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Prom. The evening is given over to entertainment – a visit to the Apsara Theatre to enjoy a fine Khmer dinner and traditional dances. Then it’s back to the hotel for your final night in Siem Reap.
      Day 5: Siem Reap

      On the fifth morning, you will enjoy a cool and relaxing boat trip on Tonle Sap Lake. Here we will visit the floating villages of Chong Kneas commune. In the afternoon we will transfer you to the airportyou’re your return flight.

      PROGRAME               : PHNOM PENH-KOH KONG (3 DAYS / 2 NIGHTS)

      TOUR CODE               : LP-05

      Place to Visited        : KOH KONG-CAMBODIA




      Day1 - Phnom Penh - Koh Kong


      To With our expert guide, you will get to know may types of significant things such as the advantage of mangrove rice field and mountain lines that surrounding Cambodia and you will be seen directly by your own when you reached the Koh Kong. You need to spend the whole morning from Phnom Penh to Koh Kong. Then, you will have lunch at the local restaurant in the city.


      Tatai waterfall is the first eyes spot for you after the beautiful life. And the Beoung Ka Yak that full of mangrove trees make you feel as you are in the paradise when you still alive. On the other hand, to the Beoung Ka Yak you will stay and enjoy your life in both evening time and night time to see the difference views between day and night, especially, the most beautiful sightseeing and fresh air.

      Day2 - Around Koh Kong


      Breakfast is one thing that everybody needs to have in the morning, after this, our expert guide will be pleased sending you to the market that is located at the border Cambodia-Thailand. And then, turn the journey to the “Safari World” (Provincial Wild Park) that you will be happy and be ridiculous to the dolphins, monkeys, tigers, crocodiles, seals, peacock, and parrot gesture (like the clowns).

      After that, you will have lunch in at the restaurant in the park of the Safari World.


      After a big laugh from the animals, we will bring you to a fishing village (Bak Klorng Village). The village is densely so important for Koh Kong province for the sea fishing.

      To be continued, turn the trip to the city to have dinner and rest overnight there.

      Day3 - Koh Kong – Koh Por - Phnom Penh


      After breakfast, you are going to Koh Por by the express boat, you will see beautiful waterfall, beautiful trees on the side of the tributaries and you can take a lot of beautiful pictures that are created from small and big trees like mangrove jungles, and natures. The beauty of these natures is so beautiful beyond of our description… After this magnificent trip, we will bring you to have lunch at the recognize restaurant in the local area.


      Before living for Phnom Penh, we cannot forget to bring you to the Thmor Roung (Cave Rock), then, we will take the journey to Phnom Penh by bringing with great unforgettable memories and pleasant.

      PROGRAME               : PHNOM PENH-KOH KONG (4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS)

      TOUR CODE               : LP-06

      Place to Visit            : SEA SIDE-Cambodia




      Day 1: Phnom Penh-Koh Kong
      Morning departure for Koh Kong, stop to see  Ta Tay waterfall. And contine the trip to Koh Kong. Check in the resort. Time free. Overnight at the hotel in Ko Kong.

      Day 2: Koh Kong (B)
      After breakfast at hotel, Time at leisure on Koh Kong Beach. Overnight at the hotel in Ko Kong.

      Day 3: Koh Kong (B)
      After breakfast at hotel, Time at leisure on Koh Kong Beach. Overnight at the hotel in Ko Kong.




      Day 4: Koh Kong –Departure (B)
      After breakfast at hotel, ransfer to YamYeam border (Cambodia-Thailand border) or back to Phnom Penh.






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      TOUR CODE               : LP-07

      Place to Visit            : SEA SIDE-CAMBODIA


      Day 1: Phnom Penh - Sihanoukvile


      After morning snack at 6:00 AM, start the destination to Shinanoukville. On the way to go, our expert guide will describe things for you in details that deep down meaningful and full of experiences of life being. And you will continue to see the port, the Victory Beach, and have lunch at the seaside restaurant.


      To be continued, visiting the Ha Wai Beach, the O’Cheuteal Beach, and the see the view of Sihanoukville and relax with your sea bath. After that, turned back to have dinner in the town and rest overnight at there.

      Day 2: Sihanoukville – Ream Beach - Bamboo Island – Phnom Penh


      Be together at 7:00 AM for breakfast, then continued to visit Ream Beach, and Bamboo Island. And have lunch at the local restaurant there.


      Because of the distance of the road from the place to Phnom Penh, so, we have to leave early for Phnom Penh. On the way back, you can take sightseeing pass one province to another with different views, sceneries, pictures, people, houses, etc.


      TOUR CODE               : LP-08

      Place to Visit            : ECOTOURIST-CAMBODIA

      Day1: Phnom Penh - Mondulkiri


      Start up the journey at 6:00 AM Phnom Penh – Mondulkiri by bus. You will see scenery on the way to go with other beautiful views with the beautiful voice of our expert guide. Then, you have lunch at the local restaurant at the Snuol District.


      After lunch, we will bring you to visit Orchard of Pine Trees and Mono Waterfall II (Spirit Waterfall) in the district of the Province. To be continued to the central of the town, then have lunch and stay overnight there.

      Day2: Around Mondulkiri


      After breakfast, start the journey to enjoy the bath at the Brusra Waterfall and see Oplay Lake. By 12:00 PM just turn back to have lunch at the central of the town.


      After lunch, we will bring you to the most fresh air on top of the Doh Kramom Mountain. Here! You can worship for good luck, happiness from Angel Ta Doh Kramom. Then, pop in to visit and take photographs as memories at the Sak Mot Phnom (Sea of Mountain) and the BayChao (Uncooked Rice) Mountains. Then, turn to visit Sem Monorom Waterfall, furthermore, to Lai Ka Village (minority village).

      End of the day, back to the town and have dinner and stay overnight at the local modern hotel in the province.

      Day3: Mondulkiri - Phnom Penh


      Marketing tour after breakfast, visit Mondulkiri Market and continued to visit O’romis to taste the local sucking wine (Sra Burt).


      Move the trip back to the Phnom Penh capital with unforgettable memories of Mondulkiri








      TOUR CODE               : LP-09

      Place to Visit            : ECOTOURIST-CAMBODIA




      Day 1: Phnom Penh - Ratanakiri (L, D)
      Transfer to Rattakiri province by our private car and tour guide to Banlung, capital of Ratanakiri, nicknamed “ The Red City” because of the omnipresent laterite. Lunch at the local restaurant on the way. You will arrive late in the afternoon at Rattanakiri. Dinner and accommodation at Terres Rouges Lodge.

      Day 2: Ratanakiri (B, L, D)
      Breakfast at the lodge. Direction northwest today, cross bamboo forest before reaching the village of Voeune Sai located on the left bank of the Se San River. The view on the Chinese village on the other side of the river is quite pretty. Actually, this place is almost a Chinese enclave in Cambodian territory, most villagers don’t even speak Khmer. Upstream of the Se San are a certain number of Tampoun villages that practice funeral statuary; if possible by boat (otherwise by our car) visit to the village of Ka Chaoan with its superb totems. Later this afternoon, the discovery of the surrounding waterfalls. Teuk Cha Ong is the most impressive of them. Next to the waterfall of Okatchagn is a hill tribe village with elephants which may be observed in the forest. Dinner and accommodation at Terres Rouges Lodge.

      Day 3: Ratanakiri (B, L, D)
      Breakfast at the lodge. Travel north today, in the direction of Laos, cross the curious extent of volcanic rocks of Veyrum Plang: a lava field in the forest with a small waterfall nearby (only in the wet season though) and what locals call tiger caves. Continuing to Taveng, cross different types of landscapes: primary forest, clear forest, bamboo forest and “African” bush. Stop at a few nice Kroeung villages located quite far away in the forest. The Kroeung people have the particularity of erecting bachelor houses standing on very long bamboo poles, these houses will remain so till the young man finds a wife, then, they are destroyed. The right time to see them is usually from February to August. Lunch at a small waterfall lost in the forest and then further visits of villages. Dinner and accommodation at Terres Rouges Lodge.

      Day 4: Ratanakiri - Phnom Penh (B)
      Transfer back to Phnom Penh following the same route. Your services end in Phnom Penh




      getting to Sen Monorom Mondulkiri http://www.tourismcambodia.com/img/travelguides/bou_sra_waterfall.jpg mondulkiri_travel_guide_1








      TOUR CODE               : LP-10

      Place to Visit            : ECOTOURIST-CAMBODIA

      Tour description:

      Tour Program:

       Day 1:(L/D)PHNOM PENH

      Tour start every Monday Wednesday, Saturday .

      After arriving in Phnom Penh, you are welcomed by one of our tour guides who will take you to your hotel.
      Lunch at local Restaurant.
      Afternoon, you will visit Wat Phnom, Independent monument and visit Genocide Museum S21.
      Dinner at local Restaurant. Overnight in Phnom Penh. (L,D)

      Day 2: (B/L/D)PHNOM PENH

      This morning, you will visit the Royal Palace, Silver Pagoda, and National Museum.
      Lunch at local restaurant
      In the afternoon, you will take a boat trip to Preak Bang Kong Village where the Khmer produce their Hol and Pamourng in silk (Hol & Pamourng are traditional Khmer costume for special ceremony or wedding).
      Dinner at local restaurant

      Day 3: (B/L)Discovery of Ratanakiri Highlands.

      Excursion to the waterfalls

      In the morning you will fly to Banlung, the town center of Ratanakiri, nicknamed the “Red City” because of the omnipresent laterite. You will welcome by our tour guide who will transfer you to Terres Rouges Lodge (superb house built of precious wood, located by a lake, in the middle of a wonderful garden), then lunch at the Lodge.
      In the afternoon, departure for a small trip through rubber plantations towards the nearby waterfalls; you will end up with a detour to Yaklaom Lake, a beautiful and perfectly-round stretch of water, surrounded by forest, for a late afternoon swim.
      Dinner & Night at Terres

      Day 4: The Tampoun totems

      This morning you will drive to the northwest of town, you will pass through bamboo forests before reaching the village of Voeune Saï located on the left bank of the Sé San river ; the view on the Chinese village on the other side of the river is quite pretty. Besides, this place is nearly a Chinese enclave in Cambodian territory, most villagers, who are there the thirties, don't even speak Khmer. Upstream of the Se San are a certain number of Tampoun villages that practice funeral statuary ; if it is possible, you will rent a boat to go to the village of Ka Choan that has superb totems, if not we will reach it by jeep.  
      Dinner & night at the Lodge.

      Day 5:     : Ratanakiri Phnom Penh

      Early departure for a quick shopping tour in Banlung market before taking the plane back to Phnom-Penh You will welcome by our driver who will take you to hotel.
      Lunch at local restaurant
      In the afternoon, you will see Sorya Supermarket, the largest supermarket in Cambodia, and then continue to Russian market. (shopping tour without tour guide)
      Dinner at local restaurant.

      Day 6:     Transfer to air-port for international destination

      Note:This tour can be customized as you wish!
      Please email us for more information, we will be happy to assist you.

      Trek Rattanakiri tour - Rattanakiri Cambodia Tour -Phnom Penh City and Rattanakiri tour









      - Twin-shared/double rooms and daily breakfast
      - Private transfer with air-condition
      - English speaking guides (other languages are available upon request)
      - Meals as per program (B for Breakfast, L for Lunch and D for Dinner)
      - Admission fees
      - Bottled water

      Price Excludes:

      - Visa to Cambodia
      - Photograph & Camera fee. - International airfare & airport tax.
      - All personal expenses
      - Beverages during meals,
      - Telephone, laundry, tip


      *** NO SHOW 100 % CHARGE.

      *** 15 DAYS 50% CHARGE.

      *** 20 DAYS UP NO CHARGE.





    • 5 months ago
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  • 10 dishes you should not miss 10 dishes you should not miss when visiting Hanoi

    • From: cosianatour
    • Description:

      Hanoi cuisine is one of the most special culture feature which draws attention of tourists over the world. In addition to Pho - the most well-known dish, there are lots of other dishes, from luxurious to popular ones, which shouldn’t be missed. All of them help to build up a beloved image of Hanoi capital thousand years of civilization. This article will introduce the most famous dishes of Hanoi and best places for you to enjoy.

      1.      Bun Oc (shellfish soup and vermicelli)
      Whoever has ever lived in Hanoi, especially woman, cannot forget the dish which has sourish flavor of vinegar, moreish and brittle flavor of snails, fried tofu, raw vegetables. It’s not hard to make the dish, but it is a secret to have a delicious bowl of Bun Oc.
      You can enjoy this dish in Bun Oc Ba Sau restaurant at 73A Mai Hac De (opens from morning to midday), Bun Oc Ba Luong in Khuong Thuong Street, Bun Oc Co Beo at No. 1 Hoe Nhai or one restaurant in Nguyen Cao market (No. 5 Dong Mac street, Dong Mac ward, Hai Ba Trung district).

      2.      Nom Bo Kho (dried beef salad)
      The main ingredients of this dish are green papaya, dried beef, raw vegetables and sweet and sour sauce. It’s easy for you to find out restaurants having this dish. However; if you want to enjoy the most delicious Nom Bo Kho dish, you should visit Nom Hue restaurant in Ham Long Street (opposite to Ham Long church) with various kinds of salad such as dried beef salad (Nom Bo Kho), mixed salad ( Nom Thap Cam), beef tendon salad (Nom Gan Bo), etc; or Long Vi On restaurant ( Ong Tau Ao Den restaurant) at No. 23 Ho Hoan Kiem street. 

      3.      Nem Tai  Ba Hong (a dish made from pork’s ears brand-named “Mrs. Hong”)
      Nem tai is simply clean pork’s ears which is steamed and then sliced into thin pieces, mixed with powdered grilled rice. It is eaten with rice paper, fig leaves, salted fig, raw fresh vegetables and sweet and sour sauce. The dish has the crispy taste of pork’s ear, the buttery and strong taste of powdered grilled rice, the cool taste of herbs, and the sweet taste of the sauce. Visiting Hanoi, you should enjoy this dish at Nem Tai Ba Hong restaurant at 35 Hang Thung street, Hoan Kiem district, Hanoi.

      4.      Chan Ga Nuong (Grilled chicken’s legs)
      In Hanoi, Ly Van Phuc street is the famous place for Chan Ga Nuong dish. Chicken’s wings and legs are grilled and eaten with sweet potato, honey marinated bread, cucumber vinegar salad, chili sauce. The tasty dish should be enjoyed in Ly Van Phuc street, especially at the final restaurant of the street, according to the gourmets’ suggest.

      5.      Oc Luoc (boiled snails)
      In Hanoi, many Oc Luoc restaurants have the brand thank for its own unique sauce. Hanoi people often eat this dish wih chopped lemongrass and ginger, lemon leaves and sometimes with cucumber or jicama.  To enjoy boiled sails dish, you can choose one of the restaurants located in Luong Dinh Cua street; at No 1 Dinh Liet; in Ham Long street (opposite to a church); Lan Binh restaurant at 18 Hang Be street or the one in Trai Gang market, etc.  The restaurants often open from afternoon to midnight.

      6.      Bun Cha (noodles and grilled meat)
      Bun Cha,  the dish with its origin from Hanoi, nowadays appears in many other provinces and cities of  Vietnam.  Among many Hanoi’s delicious dishes, Bun cha’s taste seems easy to fit with any diner comes from everywhere. Bun Cha is served with a plate of white rice noodle (bún), a steamy broth and herbs, a bowl of special sweet and sour sauce. Traditionally, chả (the pork) is a marinated pork patty, but another type of chả (small pieces of fatty pork belly) also often accompany the patties. However, Bun Cha in Hanoi is more special because it’s eaten with “hung” – the famous herb of Lang village of Hanoi. Visiting Hanoi, you should come No.34 Hang Than to enjoy this dish.

      7.      Trang Tien ice-cream
      Established in Vietnam’s subsidy period, Trang Tien ice – cream shop is located at 35 Trang Tien street, nearly Hoan Kiem lake – the center of  Hanoi capital. Nowadays, it has become  a culture feature of Hanoi. Unlike many kinds of industrial ice-cream, Trang Tien ice-cream has fresh, cold and sweet flavor. The shop is always crowded from morning to evening, even in winter days. This delicious ice cream is only VND 12.000 for ice cream cone and VND 8.000 for other types - so cheap!!!!

      8.      La Vong fried fish
      Cha Ca La Vong – one of  top famous dishes of Hanoi that introduced in Vietnam tourism guidebooks, is the dish which you should not miss. The delicious dish is perfectly combined between Vietnam’s specific spices such as saffron, dill, shrimp sauce, fish sauce. Cha Ca dish consists of pieces of attractive tasty fried fish eaten with red chili, white rice noodle, and some herbs. There are a lot of Cha Ca restaurants in Hanoi, however, the oldest one is Cha ca La Vong restaurant located at No.14 Cha Ca street.

      9.       Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup)
      If any visitor, especially international visitor, is asked for the dish in Hanoi that he always remembers, it’s sure for “ Pho”. Unlike the dish in other places, Pho in Hanoi is not eaten with raw vegetables but its stock’s light sweet will bring the appetite for any diner. In Hanoi, there are many famous Pho restaurants including Pho Co Cu restaurant in Lieu Giai street; Pho Mau Dich in Ly Quoc Su street; Pho Thin in Lo Duc Street; Pho Suong in Dinh Liet Street, etc.

      10.Dishes from duck
      Dishes made of duck are not much famous in Hanoi but they can show typical taste of Vietnam’s North. The dishes are not only snacks for men to eat with sips of alcohol, but also suitable for family gatherings. Recently Kim Ma street has become the center for a variety of duck dishes such as saute duck, sour bamboo duck hot pot, Steamed duck with dracontomelon fruits,etc.

    • Blog post
    • 7 months ago
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  • Ba Be Lake And National Park P Ba Be Lake And National Park Private Tour (3 Days/ 2 Nights)

    • From: khuongvn
    • Description:

      Ba Be National Park is located in north-east Vietnam in an area of hilly and picturesque landscape. Together with diverse ethnic cultures, we experience the intrigue of tribal life in charming villages and seeing their traditions and cultures, explore the riches of the national park and get away from the tourist trail – discover it all on this adventure.

      Tour code: BB02

      Day 1: Ha Noi - Ba Be Lake (L,D).
      Departing from Hanoi, we embark on a route up into mountain areas north of Hanoi, today we visit (Đền Đuổm ) Duom Temple is majestic temple was built during the Ly dynasty to memorize the national hero Duong Tu Minh, onwards to Ba Be National Park, one of the largest natural lakes in Vietnam, home to many kinds of birds, scenic valleys, towering rocky outcrops, underground river tributaries, a gigantic cave and local ethnic minorities, including the Tay, Red Dao and Hmong.
      Following an exploration of a spectacular cave, we hike around small villages and along the riverfront. The night is spent with a local family in the traditional house of a Tay family to experience their way of life.

      Day 2: Boat Trip and Easy Trekking  (B, L, D).
      The day begins with a morning trek in the park, we descend into the scenic valley, home of the Tay minority people and encircled by rock formations. In the afternoon we cross the rolling hills and pass Hmong and Red Dao villages.

      The scenery is extraordinary, with rural farmland, and rugged mountains jutting out of the tangled jungle growth. We end our day in the same local family for the night.

      Day 3: Ba Be Lake - Ha Noi (B, L).
      This is a spectacular boat trip on the lake. We stroll along the riverfront, visit some lovely villages and hike the upper reaches of the lake, in an area marked by massive limestone cliffs and mountains. After lunch in a local restaurant we also pay a visit to the Thai Nguyen Minority and Culture Museum where we can learn something about the culture and traditions of the different minority groups in Vietnam, it is our journey back to Hanoi, arriving there at around 6pm. (Breakfast and lunch are included).

      The facts…
      Physical activities:

      Hiking and trekking with:
      - a 3-7 km hike on Day 1.
      - a 4-6 km trek on Day 2.
      - a 5-7 km hike on Day 3.

      From July to September, the climate is usually humid and hot.
      From October to June brings cooler and more pleasant weather.

      - boat.
      - vehicle.

      Tour Guides:
      Our experienced and friendly Tour Guide(s) speak excellent English or French.
      They are extremely knowledgeable about local cultures, history and the environment.

      - 2 breakfasts.
      - 3 lunches.
      - 2 dinners.
      We choose local ingredients, typical of the way people eat in the area, at local restaurants, markets or homes.
      We also cater for Vegetarians but please request this at time of booking.

      - home-stay (2 nights).
      A clean and comfortable home-stay with mosquito nets provided.

      Tour price: please contact us

      Tour price includes:
      + Private door-to-door pick-up & -off services.
      + All private transfer and transportation
      + Home-stay with daily breakfast
      + Experienced English or French speaking guide.
      + Private boat trip
      + Meals as stated in the itinerary (B: Breakfast ; L: Lunch ; D: Dinner)
      + All sightseeing tickets.
      + No extra charge after confirmation
      + 24/7 hotline support guaranteed

      Tour price excludes:
      + Personal expenses, tips and gratuities
      + Travel insurance
      + Beverage
      + Other services not mentioned above.

      What to take:
      + Pack essentials, including light comfortable clothes suitable for outdoor activities, comfortable walking shoes. Take a small day pack for hiking and trekking.
      + It is essential to bring your passport on this trip. We also recommend packing: insect repellent, sun cream, raincoat and sun hat...



      For further information, don’t hesitate to contact us:.


      (+84) 1676 161 008










      Head office: No. 03, Lane 150/141, Giap Nhi Street, Thinh Liet  Ward, Hoang Mai District, Hanoi, Vietnam

      Tel: (+84) 4 3 6425 420

      Fax: (+84)4 3 6425 421


      Website: http://thebtourist.com 


    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
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  • Ba Be Trekking Ethnic Culture Ba Be Trekking Ethnic Culture Villages

    • From: khuongvn
    • Description:

      This is a new form of The B Tourist Vietnam (Ba Be Center Tourism) has a new organization to bring the convenience for tourists or other travel  agencies  who free traveling alone by car, bike, or by local buses.  “How to get to Ba Be national park?” Please contact us for suggestions.
      Tour code: BB09
      (First night  arrive Ba Be national park, sleeping in Mr Linh home-stay)

      Day 1 : Ba Be lake  Boat trip.(B, L,D)

      Wake up at 8 am and enjoy the quiet surroundings with the ethnic minorities.
      8h15: Have breakfast in the lake-shore restaurant
      8h45: Start the tour of Ba Be Lake on the boat. You will go along the lake towards the fork of the river to visit the Puong cave, then go down Nang River to the waterfall located by Tuyen Quang province.
      then visiting the Dau Dang waterfall to have a sensation of cold of nature, you will have lunch at the nearly by restaurant, the house of Mr pirate (Ong Hien ). After the lunch you will finish of the tour by visiting Fairy pond (Tien pond ) and An Ma temple where entombed a war dead .
      At the end of the tour you will be brought back to the lake-shore restaurant in the preparation for dinner.
      It is depending on your mood, there will be light entertainment from the local people who will share the music of the village.
      (Over night the same homestay)

      Day 2: Trekking .(B, L,D)

      8.30am after breakfast a local guide will take you on a trek to Pac-Ngoi village walk along the stream edge to view other village in the Quang-Khe area and visit Hua-Ma cave.
      When you arrive at Hua Ma you will be server lunch at the entrance of the cave.
      After lunch you will have the opportunity to explore the caves and the trek within the forest to visit the big tree 100 year old. (Trekking 24km)
      Come back your home-stay at 5 pm

      The local guide will take you on trekking to Costco village, and the continue upland to Khau Qua village, then towards Red Dao village and stay in Nam Cuong area, there you will have lunch before heading back to visit Na-Phong cave in Bo-Lu village, you will be then end the tour by heading back to the lake-shore restaurant for dinner.
      (Over night the same home-stay , Mr Linh house)

      The facts
      Physical activities:

      Hiking and trekking with:
      - 3 - 6 km trek on Day 1.
      -  8 – 12 km trek on Day 2.
      From July to September, the climate is usually humid and hot.
      From October to June brings cooler and more pleasant weather.

      - boat & kayak.
      Local Guides:
      Our experienced and friendly Tour Guide(s) clearly about Ba Be national park forest speak excellent Tay Language .
      They are extremely knowledgeable about local cultures, history and the environment.

      - 2 breakfasts.
      - 2 lunches.
      - 3 dinners.
      We choose local ingredients, typical of the way people eat in the area, at local restaurants, markets or homes.
      We also cater for Vegetarians but please request this at time of booking.

      - home stay (3 nights).
      A clean and comfortable home stay with mosquito nets provided.

      Tour price:please contact us

      Tour price includes: Home-stay, local guide. private boat trip, meals in the itinerary (B ; L ; D),all sightseeing tickets.

      Tour price excludes: Personal expenses, tips and gratuities, travel insurance, other services not mentioned above, beverage.



      For further information, don’t hesitate to contact us:.


      (+84) 1676 161 008









      Head office: No. 03, Lane 150/141, Giap Nhi Street, Thinh Liet  Ward, Hoang Mai District, Hanoi, Vietnam

      Tel: (+84) 4 3 6425 420

      Fax: (+84)4 3 6425 421


      Website: http://thebtourist.com 


    • Blog post
    • 1 year ago
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  • Special Foods In Halong Bay Special Foods In Halong Bay

    • From: indochinasails
    • Description:
      Culinary is one of part that can’t miss in each of trip. When travelling to any destination, most of tourist not only visit beauty spots, search about cultural, historical values but also discovery and enjoy culinary there. In facts, they often use a significant time to enjoy special foods at the local. It’s not an exception when visitors come toHa Long Bay. Coming here travelers will be satisfied with seafood and Vietnamese traditional foods. For Vietnamese traditional foods, visitors will have chance to taste and compare with other regions about flavor. Because it’s difference among areas about methods, spices… . For seafood – strength of this place – let’s enjoy to feel sophistication of chef here although they can be the local people without cooking training courses.

      It might be a little overstated to say that half of Ha Long cuisines are dishes made from sea snails, but this is to emphasize the significant contribution of this irresistible food stuff to Ha Long gastronomy.
      There is no precise estimation on how many types of sea snails are edible in this beautiful bay. Huan, a local fisher said that he had seen about 20 kinds of see snails so far. The fisherman continued his story about sea snails by listing their name respectively, however, after three repeating times, this unprofessional tour-guide decided to try out directly that extraordinary creature would be the best way to “taste” Ha Long.

      Cao Xanh market and Bai Chay market are the most popular spots where sea snails are supposed to be sold with the best quality. Wandering around Bai Chay, which is crowded with people eating on the sidewalks, every one can see a panel with the title: “Ha Long snail super market” that excitingly catches visitors’ eyes. Having a look through the restaurants’ menus, visitors would surely be surprised at the diversity of sea snails here.
      With only one bowl of sauce made from fish-sauce, ginger, peppers and lemongrass, each type of snails with different unique flavors and different ways to enjoy would make anyone’s mouth water. Eaters enjoying snails are advised to drink hard beverages such as alcohol to avoid stomachache.
      Ngan or Arca to make the wine
      Visitors must be excited when served special liquor named “Ngán – Arca Wine” (“Ngán” is a species of Veneridae). This special drink is actually a mixture of typically Vietnamese rice wine and “Ngán” blood, which is supposed to benefit men’s sexual ability.
      After the mixture is completed, the wine transforms into a light red color with totally a different flavor. Spirit followers cannot wait to drink it, to feel an immediate absorbent into their bodies.
      Another well-known alcohol named “Hoanh Bo” should definitely not be missed when visiting Ha Long. With low volume of alcoholic, the liquor is not tough to conquer, yet some people who consumes too much Hoanh Bo need 2-3 days to sober.
      Ha Long is also famous for squid-sausages, which is told to be delicious and fragrant only when processed by restaurants here. The food is a fusion of hashed squid and mysterious spices that only the chefs know, molded into round pieces and then fried in boiling oil. This special dish can be found anywhere along the shore from Quang Ninh to Hai Phong, but nowhere has the same level of deliciousness like in Ha Long.
      The diversity of shrimps, from the luxurious one like lobsters to the other common shrimps, is another outstanding feature of cuisine in Ha Long. To many local people, a dish of streamed shrimps, served with lemonadized salt and a dish of freshly spicy vegetables, is an ideal meal for a joyful friendly union.

      Source: Internet

      Supported by Indochina Sails - The most luxury and safest cruises in Halong Bay
      Hanoi Office
      Add: 27 – A6 – Dam Trau Quarter – Hai Ba Trung District – Hanoi – Vietnam
      Tel: +84 – 4- 39842362
      Fax: +84 – 4 – 39844150
      Email: info@indochinasails.com
    • Blog post
    • 2 years ago
    • Views: 269
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  • Red Light District at night Red Light District at night

    • From: gmaso
    • Description:

      One of the canals running through the Red Light District of Amsterdamas seen from a boat.

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 283
    • Not yet rated
  • Amsterdam garbage strike Amsterdam garbage strike

    • From: gmaso
    • Description:

      We arrived in Amsterdam just as a trash collector's strike was ending. Two days after we arrived they began picking up the piles of plastic bags throughout the city. Luckily it is never particularly hot in Amsterdam (we hit a 3 day heat wave in the mid '70s) so odor was not a problem. This particular pile is in the Red Light District as you might sumise by the store sign to the left.

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 261
  • Row of Houses Row of Houses

    • From: erod408
    • Description:

      A row of traditional Amsterdam homes near the heart of the city on the canals.

    • 4 years ago
    • Views: 243
    • Not yet rated
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia at a Glanc Siem Reap, Cambodia at a Glance

    • From: laratada
    • Description:

      My husband and I spent a few days visiting Siem Reap in December, 2009. It was the second leg of our journey after a visit to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and on our way to the Philippines via Bangkok. The following is a quick run-down of our itinerary and resources.



      DAY 1: HCMC to SIEM REAP

      • 45 minute morning flight on Vietnam Airlines from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap. We spent more time in the long customs line  than we did in the air. Make sure you're in the correct queue if you purchased an online visa!
      • Find ride or taxi to bring you to Siem Reap and check-in to hotel. We stayed at the unique Hotel Be Angkor–a boutique hotel with only three, stylish rooms in the heart of The Passage in the Old Market area. It's owned by an American who promotes responsible tourism by employing Cambodians and working with the local hospitality training school.
      • Spend the afternoon exploring the city of Siem Reap. Start in the Old Market district to familiarize yourself with the area, make your way to the Central Market, then walk along the river and enjoy the scenery at the Royal Gardens. Loop back to Old Market area down Sivatha Blvd.
      • You can opt to see the sun set with the huge crowds at Angkor Wat or set up a sunrise tour to be introduced to the grounds for the following morning. A full-day tour at Angkor Wat with a private driver and tour guide usually only runs a total of $30-$40 for the whole day. If your tour doesn't include a snack, you can pick up sandwiches and treats-to-go at the Blue Pumpkin.
      • Enjoy a delicious and affordable dinner at a funky restaurant on Pub Street or the Passage. Vegetarians and meat-eaters alike should sample the delicious, flavorful food at Chamkar.

      • If you decide to greet Angkor Wat at sunrise (which I highly recommend), you'll have to wake up early to meet your driver around 5:00 am. Purchase a 3-day pass if you plan to return to the grounds again.
      • Watch the sun rise by one of the temple's moats as Angkor Wat magically reveals itself in the morning. Spend time discovering the temple with barely any crowds in the early morning while most people return back to town to eat breakfast or sleep
      • Grab breakfast at a nearby restaurant on the Angkor Wat grounds.
      • Head to Angkor Thom to admire the stone faces of the Bayon Towers and explore the extensive grounds.
      • Make your way towards the Terrace of the Elephants.
      • Enjoy a Khmer an early lunch at a cafe near the Sra Srang pool. For fresh food, I recommend Heritage Khmer.
      • While bus tours enjoy lunch, visit the temples overtaken by trees at Ta Prohm. This area is made famous by the movie Tomb Raider.
      • Spend the rest of your afternoon exploring some of the smaller temple areas on the short circuit.
      • Return to Siem Reap and arrange a massage or foot rub before enjoying dinner. Stop at Blue Pumpkin to pick up lunch for the next day or for some scrumptious dessert.
      • Shop for souvenirs at the Night Market.

      • Hire a car or tuk-tuk (though it will be a longer drive) to bring you further north to visit the intricately carved Bantra Srey, aka Citadel of Women. 
      • Continue on to trail entrance for the River of 1,000 Lingas. It's a 40-minute, scenic hike up the mountain to the river that flows over ancient phallic carvings. There are a couple of benches where you can enjoy lunch and rest.
      • If you make it back down before 1:30, you can take a tour of the Angkor Center for Conservation & Biodiversity (if it's open). Tours to view rescued wildlife are free, but donations are expected.
      • Head back towards Siem Reap, stopping at Landmine Museum or visit some more smaller temples.
      • Bring donations to the Green Gecko Project in eastern Siem Reap and visit the inspiring facility that is working to change the lives of local street children. They have a list of items you can donate on their site–a highly recommended visit!
      • Treat yourself to an indulgent dinner at Aha ($7 for a 3-course tapas meal) in The Passage and peruse the contemporary McDermott art gallery next door.

      • Hire a tuk-tuk driver to bring you to the less touristy stilted village of Kompon Phluk situated 45 km out of town in Tonle Sap.
      • The tuk tuk driver will bring you to the ticket office to pay the entrance fee. From there, you will be taken on a 10-minute ride through dusty, bumpy roads to the boathouse on the back of the available motor bikes at the station.
      • Board your boat to set out through the aquatic vegetation of the Asia's largest fresh-water lake of Tonle Sap. Eventually, you will reach the stilted village and the boatman will let you off in the town for you to explore. It felt a bit intrusive for us to disembark and walk around the town to observe local life when it was obvious we were visitors.
      • Explore more of the lake and return back to your tuk tuk who can bring you to some nearby temples or back to Siem Reap.
      • Enjoy lunch and head to War Musuem or Angkor National Musuem.
      • Spend the rest of the day indulging in spa treatments at a facility like Bodhi. Enjoy your final dinner!

      • Check out of hotel and head to airport for flight back to Vietnam or to Thailand via Bankgok Air. Those on a tighter budget or with more time can take a bus to another Cambodian city like Phnom Penh, Vietnam or on the newly paved highway to Thailand.


      Travelfish.org: Handy itinerary, transportation, and lodging tips throughout Asia
      Candy Publications: General tourism guide and listings of Cambodia and Siem Reap
      Cambodia Pocket Guide: Pick up this portable, handy publication when you arrive at Siem Reap for current listings of local business and helpful maps. The printed guide is much more navigable than the online version.

      Agoda.com: Site owned by Priceline with great deals on hotel rooms in Asia. Please note rates are low because they often do not include extra amenities like breakfast or all-inclusive options. 

      Angkor Be Hotel: Funky boutique hotel located in The Passage of the Old Market area in Siem Reap with only three rooms, each decorated by a different local artist. Fabulous service and neat setting for those looking for a unique experience. Not the cheapest room in town, but a great value by western standards and they often offer good last minute deals. We got the saffron room for $90 a night with free breakfasts, bottle water, ipod player, flat screen tv, wi-fi, and airport pick-up. They also run a neighboring hotel with one room called The One Hotel.

      • Chamkar: Fabulous and flavorful veg restaurant located The Passage -- a popular alley in the Old Market area. Vegetarians and meat-eater unite!
      • Blue Pumpkin: Cafe serving coffee, light meals, pastries, and baked goods. Good place to grab meals-to-go for a day of sight-seeing. They have smaller branches at the Lucky Market mall off Airport Rd. and a branch near Angkor Thom.
      • Aha: Gourmet, tapas-style restaurant with locations in The Passage (by Central Market) and in Hotel de La Paix

      • Bodia: Affordable yet stylish spa offering massage and spa treatments in the Old Market Area (near the pharmacy by Blue Pumpkin). After the first visit, they often give you a generous coupon for your next visit.
      • Happy Foot Massage: Cheap, and trust-worthy establishment offering foot massages available but the 1/2 and full hour. I can't remember if this is exactly the name, but it's on the same road as Blue Pumpkin on the other side of the street between the Passage and Pub Street. It has red interior with writing on the walls.
      • Shinta Mani: Hotel run by the Hospitality Institute with great reputation for service and quality.
      • Frangipani Spa: Professional spa with good reputation and moderate prices.


    • Blog post
    • 4 years ago
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  • Immersion Spanish in Cuernavac Immersion Spanish in Cuernavaca, Mexico

    • From: MexicoTraveler
    • Description:


      With the typical disorientation of a traveler, I knew I wasn’t in my own bed from the moment I awakened. The birds outside my room’s open window were welcoming the day with songs different from those of the birds back home in Texas — their voices were richer, clearer, more tropical. I felt a light breeze waft over me and then I opened my eyes, recalling with a smile that I was once again in Mexico, this time in the exciting city of Cuernavaca.

      I slid out from underneath my blanket and walked to the window, where I was greeted by a luminous blue sky floating above a small garden brimming with bougainvillea, roses, and orchids. I’ve been a frequent visitor to Mexico since I was a child, and at the age of 47, I’ve truly lost track of how many trips I’ve made, but I never tire of this magnificent nation, with its stunning landscapes, fascinating culture, and most importantly, its friendly and caring people who understand the value of savoring all that life has to offer.

      As I walked down the hall toward the bathroom, I heard members of my host family chatting cheerfully in Spanish while they prepared breakfast in the kitchen. My mood dipped as their words innocently resurrected the one problem that I had always encountered in Mexico — a problem for which I had no one to blame but myself.

      My Spanish language skills were horrible.

      But this time it was going to be different. This time I would not make the same old vague promise to enroll in a conversational Spanish course when I returned home. This time I was going to experience Mexico as a visitor with real communication skills. This time I was here for two weeks of Spanish language immersion at the Instituto Chac-Mool.

      Cuernavaca is home to the best Spanish immersion programs in Latin America, and Instituto Chac-Mool is widely considered to be the best of the best. I had always toyed with the idea of attending an immersion Spanish program, and living with a local host family while doing so, but never had the opportunity until this spring. My husband and I generally take a couple of week-long getaways each year, but since he had recently retired and was preparing to spend a month with his elderly father, we decided that this would be the perfect time for me to fulfill my longtime wish. And I was not disappointed. After two weeks in the school’s Total Adult Immersion Program, I was chattering away in Spanish to the point that my envious husband says we’re both going to the school next spring — I’ll learn even more, while he works hard to catch up with me.

      Getting to Cuernavaca is easy. I flew to Mexico City and then enjoyed a relaxing 1¾-hour non-stop ride on an air-conditioned commuter bus from the airport to Cuernavaca’s bus station, where I purchased a taxi ticket bound for my host family. I learned about the bus from Instituto Chac-Mool’s toll-free help line, through which an English-speaking representative is always available to help students arrange anything from home-stay accommodations to airport transportation (including private drivers for those who don’t want to take the bus).

      There are also dozens of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and apartment rentals available in Cuernavaca for students not wishing to stay in private homes. I wandered into a beautiful establishment named Hotel Casa Colonial while strolling through Cuernavaca’s historical district and am going to consider it for the trip with my husband. It will be a tough decision though — my host family was so vibrant and fun that I am tempted to stay with them again, even though we would have more amenities at a hotel.

      Cuernavaca is a wonderful destination whether you’re furthering your education or not. I could have easily spent another week there. The location is dramatic almost a mile high in the Sierra Madre Mountains, and the weather is good year round. Known as “The Land of Eternal Spring”, Cuernavaca lives up to its nickname with warm days (highs usually mid 80s) and cool nights. The city is more than 700 years old and there is so much to see and do museums, galleries, dining, shopping, live music, dancing, movies, and more and public transportation is reliable and inexpensive. Instituto Chac-Mool, located in a residential area, is also within walking distance of many attractions.

      I tried to see as many local landmarks as possible and these were a few of my favorites: The Palace of Cortes/Cuauhnahuac Regional Museum: Built in 1533 atop an Aztec temple, the palace was the summer residence of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes and today it is also one of Mexico’s finest museums, housing some of Diego Rivera’s most famous murals. The Cathedral of Cuernavaca/Former Monastery of the Assumption: This amazing complex is an atrium surrounded by battlemented walls. It contains many murals and paintings, and it’s also famous for its Sunday Mariachi Mass. The Borda Garden: A residence built in the 17th century by Don Manuel de la Borda, this majestic home, garden, and museum hosts art exhibitions, concerts, and conferences. San Anton Waterfall: Cascading spectacularly almost 100 feet, the waterfall can be accessed through a long stairway behind it. San Anton also has a neat little market at its entrance where visitors can buy ornamental plants and pottery produced by local citizens. The Robert Brady House and Museum: Built in colonial style, this house and museum features the late painter Robert Brady’s fascinating collection of furniture, paintings, and statuettes from all over the world.

      Instituto Chac-Mool accepts students at all levels of Spanish-speaking ability, from very beginners to native speakers. On Monday mornings before beginning the class, new students are tested and interviewed, then placed in the group appropriate for their skill level. Since I had taken three years of Spanish in high school and college, I was not a beginner, but I definitely wasn’t selected to join an advanced class either!

      There were so many things I loved about this school, but I think my absolute favorite was that the class sizes are limited to no more than five students. Our sessions felt more like a small group of folks meeting to pursue a common interest than a rigid classroom experience. My class had four students, all of us from different backgrounds, and all of us stuck at a stage of Spanish language ability in which, although we could make our way through Spanish-speaking environments, we just didn’t feel confident. Our teacher was fantastic — she had limitless patience, even when one of us would blurt out an English word in frustration, and she made us feel very comfortable, which helped us more easily absorb all the new words and grammatical concepts we were presented with each day.

      Although I did not take a specialized course, there are also courses offered for specific professions including doctors, attorneys, teachers, social workers, and others. There are also special courses for children, senior citizens, and business executives, and the school is accredited as an institute of higher learning for students wishing to receive college credit.

      On Monday through Thursday afternoons, students may attend private tutoring sessions, cultural presentations, and instructional lectures. Early evening activities include cooking classes, Latin dance lessons, arts and crafts instruction, and other fun learning opportunities. (I highly recommend the dance lessons, although I won’t torture readers with the story of my personal experience, other than to note that laughter is a positive thing.) On Monday nights, the school often takes students to Las Mañanitas Restaurant for a festive evening of dinner and conversation with teachers from the school. The food is beyond delicious — try the Red Snapper Mañanitas.

      Weekends are reserved for school-sponsored excursions (there is a small fee for each trip), and I was not about to miss out on two such adventures — a day-trip to Taxco and two nights in Acapulco. I had previously journeyed to both cities, but I could not resist a repeat visit to either. Taxco is a jewelry shopper’s nirvana — the center of Mexico’s silver trade and home of the world’s best bargains on beautiful silver creations. Even without the silver, the mountainside city ranks as one of my personal favorites. Its dizzyingly steep streets lined with red-roofed colonial buildings really take your breath away — in a good way! The trip to Acapulco is an occasionally-offered excursion, and I was fortunate that it was available during my stay in Mexico. Acapulco is the quintessential Mexican beach destination, on a bay ringed with hotels and thatch-roofed shelters — the perfect place to get some sun, sip a margarita, and pretend to be an international jetsetter. In both Taxco and Acapulco I had a great time utilizing my new and improved Spanish while talking to vendors and chatting with a few local residents.

      Other excursion destinations include: Teotihuacán, which arose around the time of Christ as a new religious center in the Mexican highlands. Bring your sneakers and climb the Pyramid of the Sun. It’s a thrill. Tepoztlán is known as a mystical center. The Tepozteco pyramid, situated on the side of a mountain overlooking this small ancient town, is thought to have been built in the early Aztec era. Be sure to visit the marketplace and don’t miss the carnival, one of the best in Mexico. In Mexico City: The National Museum of Anthropology, located in Chapultepec Park, contains the world’s most impressive collection of Mesoamerican artifacts. The Zocalo (the main square of Mexico City’s historic center) features several must-see sites, including the Catedral Metropolitana, an enormous cathedral built over a period of 250 years in a mixture of architectural styles; Templo Mayor, where electric company workers unearthed a large round stone in 1978 that depicts the Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauqui, a find that spurred the excavation of the main temple honoring Tlaloc, the God of Rain, and Huitzilopochtli, the God of War; and Palacio Nacional, a government building housing Diego Rivera’s murals depicting thousands of years of Mexican history. 

      Overall, my two weeks at Instituto Chac-Mool comprised one of the most fulfilling travel experiences of my life. I may never speak Spanish with true fluency, but I am so much more skillful than I was, and I plan to continue practicing and improving. As they say in Español, “Poco a poco, se anda lejos!”*

      Cuernavaca, Mexico

      *Little by little, one goes far.



    • Blog post
    • 4 years ago
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  • Amsterdam - Pink Hippo Surpris Amsterdam - Pink Hippo Surprises

    • From: erinam
    • Description:

      bursts of color on a gray day in a gray alley of the Red Light District

    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 344
  • Amsterdam Red Light District Amsterdam Red Light District

    • From: isthatitsme
    • Description:

      Amsterdam, June 2007.  Canal shot looking into the Red Light district.

    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 1257
  • Red Light anyone?? Red Light anyone??

    • From: acpatel714
    • Description:

      Amsterdam's famous (or infamous) Red Light District comes alive when the sun goes down.

    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 161
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  • Europe - A Recap Europe - A Recap

    • From: traveljunkiejess
    • Description:

      Prague waterway

      So I have been meaning to post a recap of my Europe trip pretty much since I got back. Partly because everyone who knows that we went ask me "So how was your trip to Europe" and I am sick of my lame response of "Good" and secondly because I love coming on here and reading my previous blogs because it always brings me back to that time or event in which I wrote about. A 21st century diary or sorts...... without all the angst...... ok maybe some.

      Anywhoo this is not for the skittish reader as it is lengthy.

      London – Jaron and I were so jet legged from flying over and not sleeping the night before so when we got in around 10am (4hours later then what we should have) that we just passed out until around 5pm. We then walked around and went to a pub and had a very English dinner and drinks and then took in some of London ’s McDonald’s deserts. FYI: They do not mix their McFlurries and they put things like chocolate covered rice crispies in them. Good - but different. The next day we then met our group and were able to just take in some sight seeing. The weather was really nice, no snow at all and probably around 60+ degrees so we got lunch and ate in the park. We then went to the London equivalent of Times Square and had dinner at this crazy Russian place. The restaurant made me feel like we fell through the rabbit’s hole in Alice in Wonderland. That is the only way that I can really explain the décor and feeling. We saw Buckingham Palace (however no Prince William or Prince Harry) and Big Ben at night and started adding to our list of foreign public transportation services that we have now endured.

      Amsterdam – was all that anyone ever thinks Amsterdam is and more. We went to coffee shops, the red light district, the blue light district (that is where the trannies reside) a sex show (saw a girl smoke a cigar with here whoo ha…. No joke), the Anne Frank Museum – which is her house/annex where they were hiding (so amazing and emotional), saw the original Starry Night (my all time favorite painter is Van Gogh so of course I went to the official Van Gogh museum I also found out that technically his name is pronounced Van GOFF not Van GO), we also took in the Heineken museum and proceeded to get buzzed fairly early in the day, before 11am from the free beer that we got, we also went to a clog shop in the country and cruised the canals through the city. I love Amsterdam and want to live there. There is so much more to talk about here but some things are better left for one on one conversation ;)

      Berlin – History galore!!! Saw the Berlin Wall or at least what is still left around. Took a walking tour of the city and saw major Nazi area’s including where Hitler killed himself. There were some great memorials for the Jews of the war and it was very moving. Germans consider their history to be their dark shadow……. They can never escape it, it will always follow them but they can strive to make the future better. We also saw the first concentration camp which was very surreal. It is crazy to think that so much suffering went on and the horrible conditions that they must have been under. Ugh!

      Prague – Beautiful city. It was so colorful. All the buildings are different pastel colors and very ornate and it has been kept up so well that it all looks new. We went to a Salvador Dali exhibit as well as an Andy Warhol exhibit which was really cool. Took a lunch cruise through the city and scoured the markets for trinkets. We then went to this restaurant that had a beer tap in the middle of the table. You then could feel up your glass and drink as much as you wanted. There was a big TV that was keeping score of every table and you were in competition with everyone. I got a really good buzz from that place and never had to pee so much. However we were nothing compared to the Aussie tables. They can put them down.

      Munich – Very fun and cool city. We took a tour through the city on cruiser bikes. I loved the bike so much that I got a cruiser for my birthday this year. I was the “butt babe” which pretty much meant that I stayed towards the end of the group and made sure that no one lagged behind. We went to the biggest beer hall in the world and had many of beers. We also went to an original beer hall where families still have their own tables and thousands of people can fit in. Munich goes crazy for Oktoberfest! I had a pickled pork knuckle and an awesome lemonade beer as well as had my first try of ‘snuff’ which is a tobacco that you sniff up your nose. It is awesome.

      On the way to Venice we stopped in Tyrol and went to the original Swarovski Crystal shop. They had a whole room completely covered in crystals – Winter Wonderland and it was very surreal.


      ***** Now quickly there are a few things that no one knows about Italy until you go there and it is pretty nuts. Firstly, they don’t give a fuck!!! They know that people will come to Italy even if everyone tells them that it sucks because, hey… it is Italy . They are very rude, they do not use salt in their bread so it is like eating cardboard, it is very expensive, theft is crazy over there so you must be on guard at all times, they charge an exhorbinent amount to use the toilet – However this is not just an Italy thing. In Europe most countries will charge you to pee however it is never very much and the money goes to keeping the facilities clean and nice however that rule does not apply to Italy . (I think I paid one time around the equivalent of $2 American dollars to pee in a very dirty bathroom and they do not have toilet seats, it is just the bowl. It was truly frightening) Also they have hidden dining fees. Firstly they charge you for utensils. They also charge you to sit outside as well as a service fee of usually around 15%. Also they do not tell you this and they will try and hide that unless you come straight out and ask “Do you have a service fee??” And by service fee I do not mean the tip. I mean your food, utensils, service fee, then tip!! These were things that we had no idea about however now stating that I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about my feelings on Italy . I absolutely loved Italy and think that everyone should go and see the massive history there. It is just nice to know what you are in for. It is very exhausting, a definite culture shock for sure. ***********

      Venice – Everything that you think of when you think of Venice is true. It is fucking gorgeous and like a dream. The weather was amazing when we went, I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day. You can walk the whole island in like 20 minutes and we circled it many times. We went to a lace school and purchased a Venetian table cloth and napkins for my mom and saw a glass blower work and make a beautiful piece of art. We then did the cliché canal ride which was beyond compare. It was so much fun and you could bring whatever you wanted on the gondola with you so we bought an original bottle of Bellini (the peach drink that is now sold at Olive Garden was invented in Venice by a man named….. you guessed it something Bellini!!) and took that with us to drink. The city is so gorgeous that it almost looks fake. I ate gelato pretty much three times a day when I was in Italy and had to have pizza!! We did a lot of people watching and just meandering around the city. We then had an amazing Venice dinner that consisted of many different courses of pasta and seafood and salad and a lot of wine.

      Rome – Oh Geez!! So much and there can never really be enough time! We started with a huge tour around the city taking in the Spanish Steps and the Piazza Venezia. I drank out of the Trevi Fountain – which was delicious and said to bring you fertility!! We then went into a crypt that a priest had made hundreds of years ago out of deceased priests body parts. It was very eerie. Every piece of bone was used to make very beautiful and hauntingly creepy mosaics that lined everything from the walls, ceilings, floors, everything. There was not a bare wall in the place. We then went into the Pantheon and saw first hand the amazing architectural abilities of the Romans. We took in so many churches and shrines in Europe and in Italy in general that it is hard to keep them all straight. We checked out the Colosseum at night and walked the first ever street made in the world. Also popped in on the Pope (well not really he was traveling at the time) in Vatican City at night and ate outside on the side streets of Rome . In the morning we got a private guided tour inside ‘Old Rome’ and inside of the Colossuem. Old Rome is like 10 feet below the street level of New Rome because they just believe on building on top of the city. That is why the subway for Italy only runs around the city because anywhere they go to dig in the center of the city they are just going to end up excavating the previous Rome . Then we actually went to the Vatican and walked through the city as well as the church where the Pope presides, saw the tombs of all the old Popes. saw St. Peters Basilica, and saw the Sistine Chapel!! Also we visited the “Mouth of Truth” that is in Roman Holiday. You are supposed to put your hand in and think of something. If it is a lie it is supposed to bite your hand off. I still have my hand so all is well, however our feet hurt so bad from walking the city to try and see everything that it felt like they had been bit. I am sure I am forgetting something really momentous but oh well.

      On our way to Florence we stopped in Pisa . Nothing really in Pisa except that one leaning tower!! So of course we acted like stupid American tourist and did the obligatory pictures such as the holding the tower up, leaning against the tower, heaving the tower on your back and some people even did the leaning tower of penis. Propping it just so to where it looks very impressive. I tried to get Jaron to do it but he wouldn’t. I also purchased a very cute purple bogus Prada purse from some African/Italian counterfeit gangsters. I was able to get them down a lot too, they wanted 50 Euros and I got them down to 20 Euros! But by doing the simple act of purchasing I was then mobbed by about another 20 or so selling various shit.

      Florence – Here was the only time that it rained on our trip. And it wasn’t just a little rain. It was a lot of rain. It soaked through my waterproof Columbia jacket and proceed to get everyone as wet as possible. Again we turned to gypsies for needed umbrellas and went along with our day. This also happened to be the day of our mandatory group picture that was outside. We were all soaked. We did however check out a Florence leather company ( Florence is now for its amazing leather) to try and stay dry. Because it was raining the lines to get into museums were horrendous. We waited to see the statue of David outside for probably two hours. It was however worth it. The statue is amazing and also a lot bigger then I had expected. In more ways then one ;) We then took in some amazing views of the city on our way through the Tuscan Hills for our Tuscan dinner where we got serenaded by two Italian opera singers and were also forced to dance by some of our tour mates.You know who you are.

      Lucerne – This was a nice rest from the crazy hussle and bussle of Italy . Switzerland is very clean, orderly, and polite. It was a nice change. The Swiss are very into three things. Chocolate – Watches – & Swiss Army Knives. You can find stores for these 3 things everywhere!! The chocolate is amazing, the watches blow your mind, and they are not messing around with those knives. You are prepared for anything and then some. We just kind of wandered around. We took in some Swiss Fondue and a show which was cool and Jaron was forced to get up on stage and blow one of those huge horns from the Ricola commercials. Apparently it is harder then it looks. His prize……. A Ricola! Then a man dressed in a cow costume came out and ran through the crowds. It was odd, but fun.

      Paris – Another amazing city. We got in and promptly went around all the major sites such as Napoleons tomb, the Arc de Triomphe, The Eiffel Tower, and the Champs Elysees . Later on in the evening a big group of us went back to the Eiffel Tower and waited so that we could go up it in the night. It is truly beautiful at night and very glittery and romantic. It is a hell of a lot higher then I thought and even for me who does not have a huge fear of heights it was still pretty scary. In the morning we got up early and headed to the Louvre via the subway and underground entrance. I almost had a drunken Parisian fall on me but somehow made it. I ran to see the Mona Lisa as soon as the museum opened and got to enjoy that without a huge crowd of people. We then just meandered through and took in the crazy opulence of the royal palace that is now the Louvre. Checked out the gravesite of Jim Morrison of ‘The Doors’ as well as Oscar Wilde’s gravesite and Chopin. The cemetery was really old and creepy and some looked as though they had been graved robbed. However it was ironically enough very beautiful and comforting. We then headed back and got ready for our dinner show at the Moulin Rouge. There are no words for this show. It was amazing and vibrant and just plain incredible. At one point a see through tank of water comes up through the stage and a scantily clad girl dances inside the water with a huge cobra!! A great way to end the tour.

      New York City - Then we headed back to the US but had an overnight stay in NYC. I almost threw up in the back of a taxi from all the stop and go craziness. My friend Aimee graciously put us up at her place and pointed us on the right subway so Jaron could see the Statue of Liberty. We got there first thing in the morning and went inside the statue. It was cool because I was unable to do that when I went in 2003 with Ali & Christine. It was so windy however that we could lean forward and the wind would hold us up. In NYC I was happy to again be able to have Starbucks and all Jaron wanted to do was have some NYC street pizza. We also stumbled upon a protest that was going in front of Wall Street in regards to all the bonuses CEO’s got even though their companies had received bailouts. So that was unexpected. Then off again to be home.

    • Blog post
    • 5 years ago
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  • Cross country USA Part 2: Midw Cross country USA Part 2: Midwest

    • From: dni
    • Description:

      May 15, 2009. We woke up extra early to drive across some of the most boring landscapes in US. It will take us roughly 13 hours and 915 miles to get from Saint Louis to Badlands in South Dakota, giving time for lunch and pit stops. We got up, packed our luggages, ate breakfast, and left Saint Louis at 7:30AM. We arrived in Kansas City, MO (not to be confused with Kansas City, Kansas) at Arthur Bryant's for lunch.

      Not to be confused with Arthur W.M. Bryant, the British historian, Arthur Bryant's is a BBQ joint in downtown Kansas City. The place is a small hole in the wall restaurant with a long queue of people waiting to get their hands on some of the tastiest BBQ ever. The BBQ here is mostly beef briskets served open face on loads of soft white bread, as much as you'd like actually. The specialty is the burnt ends, which is what I had. It's burned to a nice crisp, with a bit of ash flavor still lingering on the meat. It was finger licking good.

      At halfway point, we stopped in Omaha, NE for a quick cup of joe at the local Starbucks. After the pick me up, the weather started to turn on us. And what a great opportunity for Raymond to become sleepy (yes, after the coffee) and wanted me to drive a little. For the next 2 hours, the weather got really nasty, it rained so hard that I couldn't see 2 feet ahead of me, then it hailed, and it was very intense driving. Soon after the storm rolled by, the sun came out and revealed a bright blue sky. The landscape was just as Raymond had described, lots and lots and lots and lots of small rolling hills and cows for the next 5 hours.

      By the time we reached the Badlands National Park, it was close to 8PM (after we gained one hour heading west), and the sun was going down fast. I was itching to get out of the car, only to find my flip-flop and long sleeve sweater to be slightly -- wait, scratch that out -- to be very inadequate. The weather in South Dakota was bitter, cold, dry, and extremely windy, even in May. I quickly unpacked my camera and tripod, ran out towards the pretty yellow and green grassland to snap a few pictures. "Ouch!" Yes, I stepped on a cactus.

      Badlands was once a hunting ground for the Native Americans. It is here where they hunted bisons, scanned for their enemies and wandering herds. It is 244,000 acres of eroded land blended with rich fossil beds in an once fresh water valley. The once stream banks are now the colorfully carved rocks in the background. It is also the home to bisons, bighorn sheep, black-footed ferrets, swift fox, prairie dogs, and CACTUS. After my cactus injury, the arch of my foot swelled up to the size of a lemon. Raymond had to carry me back to the car. Note to self: Next time -- wear shoes.

      We spent better half of the next day exploring Custer State Park. We drove around the park circle looking out for buffalos, elks, mule deer, pronghorns, and bighorn sheep. And finally we pondered upon a big herd of buffalos grazing, with baby buffalos trailing after their mother. I was a bit disappointed that I did not own a mac daddy zoom lens for my camera, so I was only able to take pictures from a distance. For the first time in my life, I saw a wild herd of buffalos. And for the first time in my life, I ate a buffalo burger at a cook out sponsored by the park. It was a bit wrong, I admit.

      By noon, I was ready to go for a hike, and we decided on the Lover's Leap. As we got out of the car at the trail head, there was a buffalo about 10 feet away from me, across the stream, grazing alone. I took the golden opportunity to take a quick picture. Please note: It is very dangerous to observe a buffalo from a short distance, do not try this at home.

      For dinner, we decided to go to the Corn Exchange in downtown Rapid City, which was a very lovely little town and restaurant. We were only able to snatch a reservation at 9PM, and the restaurant was sold out of a lot of the things I had wanted. The experience was still very pleasant, I settled on a Caesar salad with anchovies while Raymond had a Filet Mignon with sun-dried tomato butter. And we finished the night with a very creamy and slightly sweet creme brulee.

      We decided to sleep in the next morning, and finally got out of bed at 7:30AM (which is like 9:30AM on the east coast). Our agenda today was to drive 510 miles/8 hours to Yellowstone, horizontally across the state of Wyoming. For about 6 hours on the road, there was nothing. No rolling hills, no cows, nothing, until finally the sky opened and there it was -- the snow capped Rockies.

      We finally reached our destination at 8PM and checked into Yellowstone Lake Hotel. The hotel needed a restoration BAD. It looked as if it was still living in the glamor of the 1960s, which was probably when it was last renovated. There was a lounge/foyer, where guests could sit, enjoy the view of the lake (frozen lake in May), and have an overpriced cocktail. Our room was tiny and old, but the bathroom was clean.

      Raymond broke into the beer that he received as a gift from the wedding, and we went straight to bed. In the middle of the night, Raymond jumped out of bed, turned on the light, and he was throwing a towel up and down on top of me and the covers. I was confused, pulled the covers over me, and went back to sleep. The next morning, he told me there was a mouse running on top of me and the covers last night. THAT caused me insomnia the following night.

      By now, you'd think I'd be used to the cold north west, but I wasn't. It's difficult to look outside and see 10 feet of snow piled up on the side of the road in May. I was dressed in layers of tank top, long sleeve t-shirt, sweater, coat, and gloves. We headed outside to see Old Faithful this morning. We waited roughly 10 minutes around the geyser, and then it started to produce a ton of steam, and then water spouted for about 3 minutes.

      A geyser is basically a hot spring that is usually located near volcanic areas, and the name derives from the Icelandic verb, to gush, gjósa. Geysers are co-located with a pool of water, such as mudpools or fumaroles. Where the underground water circulation system is heated by the magma from the volcanic area, and is then pushed up through the geyser and thus erupts. Then the cycle continues. And Yellow Stone has almost half of all the geysers in the world.

      For the rest of the day, we drove around the park loop, checked out Roosevelt Tower, crossed countless waterfalls, and did a bit of hiking in 6 feet of snow. Many of the hiking paths were still closed, and would not open for another 2 weeks or so. There were an abundance of geysers, and the fumes were toxicating and smelly from the sulfur. Then finally we reached Mammoth Springs! I've been looking forward to the Springs; however, I was slightly disappointed when I found out that many of the springs have ceased to flow for a few years now. I suppose the springs flow and die out and comes back every few decade or so. I was just unlucky. The Canary Spring still flowed in abundance, and has a hue of yellow/orange in the bed of the spring that is caused by a specific kind of algae that thrives in the hot temperature.

      We returned to the hotel for dinner early in the evening. I have already been forewarned regarding the food at the hotel by TripAdvisor.com, so I was careful not to raise my expectation too high. I decided to go with a seared duck breast salad for $14, with dressing on the side incase they drench my salad. To my surprised, the duck salad was not half bad. The duck breast was generously sized on a big plate of fresh greens, and not over cooked -- just slightly pink in the middle and very juicy. Not bad for a tourist trap.

      May 19th, and we were on our way to the Grand Tetons. The drive from Yellow Stone to Grand Tetons was lovely with the Tetons covered in snow. We decided on an easy hike around lake Jenny that is a 6-7 miles loop. However, I did not anticipating on hiking in the snow, so I had to back track to the car to put on a pair of hiking boots. The hike would have been a pretty easy one had there not been any snow. With the snow, the trails are sometime ambiguous and we got lost, and half of my body fell through the snow drift into a stream and placed a deep cut on my leg. However, the hike was well worth it, along the way we saw a few black marmots (much like a beaver but without a flat tail and doesn't build dams), chipmunks, and a baby elk.

      I was exhausted when we finally checked into our motel in Jackson Hole, and slept like a log for over 8 hours. The next day we were on our way to aunt Janet's in Erie, CO. I started my day off with a 6 mile run, felt great about myself before we stuffed ourselves back into the car for another 8 hour drive. By now, I was getting a bit sick of ridding in the car and was hoping therun in the morning would give me a bit of a jump start, but it wore off in about 30 minutes.

      The weather has been pretty good all along in the trip, so by the time we reached Erie, it has become cloudy and rainy. We spent the day walking around the sleepy college town of Boulder (most of the kids would have gone home by end of May), visiting the college campus, and then the outdoor shopping district -- Pearl Street Mall. Since Estee Park was not yet open, we went on a short hike up Flat Iron Mountain, called Royal Arch. The last 0.7 mile of the hike ascends you to the top of the mountain where you could view the entire city from atop the clouds. Quite an invigorating view!

      We left aunt Janet's on May 22nd, for another 7 hour car ride to Durango, CO. The highlight of the day was when we passed through the town of South Park, CO, while I watched "He's Not That Into You" in the car. The next day we fulfilled one of Raymond's childhood dreams. We rode on the steam train from Durango to Silverton, CO. The train ride up the mountain was spectacular, waterfalls left and right, streams crossing underneath us while we crossed over wooden bridges, mountains on both sides of us so close that I could easily reach out and touch them. After about 2 hours of the train ride, I was no longer visually stimulated, and there was still 1.5 hours left on the ride up and then another 3.5 hours of train ride back down the mountain. Oh boy.

      The name steam train was a bit misleading, because the engine was actually run by coal. And the sot from the coal gets picked up by the steam and was then released into the air, and eventually lands on my face as we strolled slowly up the mountain. This was NOT very environmentally friendly. The train also moves very slowly at about 5-15 miles an hour, we noticed that some people actually got to the top of the mountain in Silverton faster by bicycle.

      The town, Silverton, was formerly a silver mining town with a small population of 500. Today, the town is mostly a small tourist trap, with small bar/restaurants/saloon, such as Shady Lady in a former brothel, few shops for souvenirs, and such. The train allows the tourist to roam around town for almost 2 hours, and that would be plenty to see the town and catch a bite to eat. Then another 3.5 hours back to Durango. Raymond came to Durango almost 15 years ago, his parents refused to take a trip to Silverton on the train, I can see why.

      For dinner, we went to the famous local eatery called Red Snapper in down town Durango. I decided on the local almond crusted trout, since I see a lot of trout finishing in the CO area. However, I was disappointed by the dish, the trout was over cooked, the almond was overwhelming, breading was too thick, fish skin was not roasted with a flavorful crisp, and the whole dish was just quite bland. Raymond decided that we should contribute the unpleasant dinner experience to the high altitude. It apparently is very hard to cook in high altitude, but Raymond also contributes the fact that he misheard me to that he can't remember any things he did wrong on this trip to the affect of altitude. SURE... honey!


    • Blog post
    • 5 years ago
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  • Dutch sunset Dutch sunset

    • From: RachaelOBanion
    • Description:

      As one of my favorite cities, I took this picture while the sun was setting near the Red Light District in Amsterdam.

    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 258
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  • Streets of Water Streets of Water

    • From: katknutson
    • Description:

      Off a bridge near the Red Light District in Amsterdam, the sun hit these beautiful homes just right to offer a lovely picture.

    • 5 years ago
    • Views: 259
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    • From: patrickmurphy
    • Description:


      "Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore." This was my first thought after exiting the train station in Guangzhou, my first city in mainland China which is a few hours north of Hong Kong. China does not put it's best foot forward with Guangzhou. It is a large city (4 million) with bustling traffic, some uninspiring architecture, and alot of smog. I must admit that it was a bit intimidating at first (especially given the reality that there are zero signs in English...as expected). However, after figuring out the currency, tackling the subway and making it to my hostel okay, I then had enough time to get situated and learn that the people were friendly and that there's nothing to worry about so I took the opportunity to get myself oriented for a day and do some travel planning.

      I've been fortunate to have had enough time to cover a lot of ground and traveled to some fascinating sites in the countryside, small cities, and large cities. Traveling this time of year in China is very cold which precluded me from doing more hiking to some of the famous peaks such as Huang Shan or Tai Shan or to visit more of the hillside villages, but the good thing, I guess, was that there are no tourists this time of year. I'd say that about 98 percent of the time I was the only non-Chinese person to be found wherever I happened to be, whether it was amongst the 15,000 people in the train or the bus stations, or at restaurants, hotels, the various historic sites, or on the street. I can say that China is a very, very safe place in which to travel, as I did not have a hint of any trouble anywhere.

      There are many versions of China. The rural areas are as rural as it gets, with farming families living in very simple wood-frame, mud, or concrete structures and where fields are still plowed with horses or water buffalo. Bicycles and scooters are still the main form of transportation in these areas. The rural highways are really something to be experienced...all vying for the same road space are buses, cars, scooters, three-wheeled motorized carts, horses pulling wagons stacked fifteen feet high with agricultural products or building supplies, and hordes of bicycles (including kids being towed on their bikes by grabbing onto the back of cement trucks or tractors). There are some stunningly beautiful landscapes, such as the areas around Yangshou and Guilin, along with areas of serious environmental destruction due to mass grading for new bridges and/or road projects that obliderate entire hillsides, factories spewing black soot into the air, and garbage dumps on hillsides overflowing directly into rivers. China is also as modern as it gets with Shanghai's bright lights, new bullet train connecting it's two modern airports (240 mph), and attractive modern skyscrapers. In between, there are many plain, uninspiring industrial cities (just what you envision when thinking of some of the older communist-era cities), along with many wonderful hillside villages, ancient historic cities, and world heritage sites. One thing in common with all of these different areas visited is the people...they are wonderful.


      China has managed to turn the Red Curtain into a Red Carpet. After six-plus weeks traveling here, I have been absolutely blown-away by the warmth and helpfulness of the Chinese people. I cannot say enough good things about them, especially the staff at restaurants and the hotels/hostels who were especially friendly and helpful. No matter where I went, the children were always the first to offer a cheerful "Hello!" or "Ni Hao!" (hello in Chinese), along with a wave and followed by a giggle or two. The elderly, who tend to speak no English, also were quick with a wave, a smile, and/or a "Ni hao". Sales people in doorsways would constantly yell out a "Hello" or "Hello, welcome to China!", along with a wide smile. I was constantly approached by people on the street, in train or bus stations, or restaurants who wanted to know where I was from, how long I had been in China, where I had visited and what I thought of China, and asking what life in America is like. Similar to other countries, I discovered that some were eventually only trying to sell something or trying to get me to sign up for a tour...which I have come to expect. The vast majority, however, were genuinely interested in just talking, learning about me and America, and learning what I was doing in China. The fact that I was taking time to visit their country absolutely thrilled them (the best "ice-breaker" was definitely bringing up the name of Yao Ming, the Chinese basketball player now playing in the NBA. Faces would light-up when I mentioned his name and when I complimented his play and his like-able personality.)

      I spent most of my time speaking with the under-40 crowd, most of which can speak some English and were always eager to talk. The University students, many of whom were English majors, flocked to me to have the opportunity to practice their English and discuss a variety of topics, the most popular being U.S. culture and politics. I discovered that most were very knowledgeable about the U.S. (our history, the Declaration of Independence, U.S. presidents, and the upcoming election). They had so many questions about the prospect of the first-ever woman or black president, which really interested them. They also spoke freely with me about their life in China and what political and social changes they were hopeful for. These were some of the most interesting discussions I have ever had...anywhere. With my trusty Lonely Planet travel guide and my small Chinese phrasebook, I was able to get by with respect to ordering food, getting a place to sleep, and finding my way from point A to B. Any attempt of mine to speak some Chinese was greatly appreciated by the locals. At such times when there was a language stalemate, I would resort to paper and pen and/or a game of charades to communicate what I needed. There were many, many laughs in these situations. The fact that one does not know a certain language should not get in the way of one visiting a foreign country. It takes some work at times, but it all works out in the end!

      THE FOOD

      Many people, as well as some travel books, attempt to steer one away from eating from street vendors. If I followed this advice, I would have missed out on some of the best (and most interesting) meals of my life over the years. If the locals are gathered around a food stand, hop in line and enjoy. From homemade ice cream or empanadas on the beaches in Baja, to home-made ceviche in Peru, to barbecued grasshoppers with hot chili powder in Thailand, treating oneself to these culinary delights is what travel is all about. The same holds true for China.

      Along the streets, alleys, and night markets were boiling pots of soup, dumplings, and steamed meat buns; smoking woks and frying pans serving up vegetables, omelets, and various meats; and 55-gallon metal drums on small wagons on the back of bicycles that were converted to mini ovens cooking up wonderful sweet potatoes or piping hot, fresh bread. The best outdoor food markets visited were in the Muslim Quarter in Xi'an, the night market in Kaifeng, and the daily markets tucked away in the hutong neighborhoods in Beijing. I went on a feeding frenzy at these markets. Half the time I had no idea what I was eating (or how to find out what I was eating), but it was all good. Most of the time I would resort to looking, pointing, paying, and enjoying. My favorite was a little food stand in Kaifeng which served fresh sesame bread sliced in half and packed with three different types of hot noodles, along with some vegetables, tofu, and smothered with a bean paste and hot chili powder for about 30 cents...and it was delicious! The various restaurants serve up some fine traditional Chinese plates and were always very good, but it is the street foodstands and markets that should not be missed when visiting China.


      One cannot discuss China without touching upon the transportation system, which is extensive, efficient, and affordable (it has to be in order to move 1.3 billion people around a very large country!). It can also be chaotic. Much like traveling in South America, surviving travel in China requires a great deal of patience and a good sense of humor. Ticket lines and waiting lines for trains and buses can be ridiculously long, things are loud, and (obviously) everything is foreign so one needs to be able to accept being out of ones comfort zone a bit. If one can do this, no problem. The hardest thing for me was purchasing a ticket for a bus or a train (although just trying to cross a street without getting run over was a close second). Sometimes a hotel or hostel was able to take care of the ticket purchase for me (for a small commission), but most of the time it took waiting in line at the bus or train station, which can be quite the experience! I would jot down what I needed on a piece of paper in the best Chinese that I could and then try my best in broken Chinese to state what I needed (a ticket), to where, and at what time. This worked okay until I would get a question back at me, at which point I was clueless at to what was being said. There were a couple of instances where someone in line who knew some English saw me floundering and offered some friendly assistance. More times than not, however, I ended up guessing and buying a "mystery ticket", not sure what I really purchased until it had been handed to me. Luckily, every ticket purchased ended up being the correct one and I was able to get from point A to point B with no major complications.

      The other comical event to witness is the entering/exiting of the mass of people from the local buses and subways. There is no such thing as a "line" or "queuing" in much of China....if there is any kind of an opening someone is going to grab it. You can read all about it, but until you've actually witnessed and experienced it, it can't be truly appreciated. The best analogy I can use is that of a rugby scrum, where large groups would push, shove, and elbow their way into (or out of) the doorways, along with people being lifted and pulled through the back windows when the driver is not looking. The old ladies were the worst with the elbows (or, I guess, the best depending on how you look at it). They could throw elbows better than anyone and it amazed me how successful they were forcing their way onto the buses or trains. I am curious as to why roller-derby is not more a popular sport here given the flurry of elbows and shoulders flying about.



      After my first stop in Guangzhou, I took a nine-hour bus ride northeast to the city of Guilin (population 700,000, which is a "small city" according to the locals). I spent three days here and although my guide book doesn't give it that great of a write-up, I enjoyed it. It is a clean, modern city with very friendly people along with some interesting sites to visit (including Wang Cheng, a 14th century palace with nearby Solitary Beauty Peak, as well as Seven Star Park). There is also a great public park in the middle of town which consists of a couple of lakes with nice walking paths around the perimeter and restaurants and shops along the path. At night, the pathways, trees, and bridges have ornamental lighting of yellow, green and and light purple and is very popular for casual strolls or night boat trips. The landscape around the city is spectacular with huge eroded limestone peaks in the shape of camel humps...or when a group of them are lined up together, the locals refer to the peaks as "the dragon's back."

      While in town, I attended a performance at the local theater which included a combination of dance, song and acrobatics with the theme focusing on the daily life of the various minority ethnic groups in the region. The stage props represented life in the rice fields, caves, and river, and the incredible backdrop of the Dragon's Back hillsides. The traditional costumes were also excellent. I was told that some of the acrobats who performed will be part of the open ceremony at the Olympics. If this is a taste of what is to come at the Olympic ceremonies with respect to costumes, song, and acrobatics, the world is in for a great treat! There was also a public participation segment of the performance in which four people were plucked out of the audience and brought on stage to participate in one of the dances...one of which was yours truly (I don't know if I was selected randomly or if it was because I was the only Anglo in the entire audience of a couple hundred people). Anyway, I was presented with a traditional Chinese ornament around my neck and then brought on stage with 30 or 40 elegant and graceful Chinese women (life can be rough at times) in traditional dress for about 2 minutes of a basic dance. I made it without stumbling or making an idiot of myself.

      Yangshou From Guilin,

      I then headed south to the the city of Yangshou. On the way, I went on a half-day boat cruise on Li River which snakes its way through some of the most stunning scenery of limestone peaks that are found throughout the region. Although it drizzled some, the low clouds helped to create an eerie feel along the river with some of the peaks being half hidden. The beautiful city of Yangshou (pop. 300,000) is also surrounded by the tall limestone peaks in every direction and had the most spectacular scenery of all. This is a wonderful city that has a "village" feel to it with pedestrian-only streets and great little restaurants and shops.

      The Li River passes right by the town as well as another river just outside of town. I spent four days here exploring the town and its surroundings which included I renting a bike ($1.20 for the day) and riding out into the countryside following a dirt road along the river for a five or six hours. Although I ended up getting lost for much of the ride, that turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. Time after time I'd choose the wrong fork in the road (no English signs) only to end up on dirt trails which eventually led me to agricultural fields and rice paddies...with nothing but a farmer, his dog, and a couple of water buffalo. I was always greeted with a smile and then pointed in the direction back to the main dirt road. My wanderings also brought me through some tiny little villages where I was greeted by warmly by the adults as well as the little kids who were off playing with sticks or kicking a flat soccer ball around...and having the time of their lives doing so. On Christmas Eve, a Canadian woman (also traveling the world) and I attended the famous light and dance show on the Li River which literally involves hundreds and hundreds of performers. The light show is directed by the famous Chinese film director who is in charge of the Olympic ceremonies. It was a great show.


      From Yangshou, I took a bus four hours north to the small hillside village of Ping'an (pop. 500) which is famous for it's terraced rice fields known as the Dragon's Backbone. From the end of the roadway, it's a 15-minute hike up a narrow path to the village, where the only mode of transportation is your own two feet or a mule. The village's attractive wood structures are scattered across the hillside and connected by a series of dirt pathways. From the village, a handful of trails make their way up and over the hills to other small villages, one of which known for the women having the longest hair in the world. There were only four other travelers in the village at night (two from Germany, one from Spain, and one from Argentina). We enjoyed each others' company in the small cafe at dinner and then drank tea (and a couple beers) with the family who runs the hotel/cafe (the two daughters spoke very good English). I wasn't able to really see much of the terraced rice fields due to the low clouds which were draped over the hillsides then entire time, but it was great wandering through village along the hillside pathways.


      Shanghai (pop. 15 million) is a huge city with a mass of people, bright flashing lights, chic billboards, a modern subway system (including the bullet train), and bold and attractive modern architecture. The city is bisected by the Huangpu River, along which is "the Bund", the famous financial street from yesteryear and a walkway which provides fantastic views of the main business district (Padang area) across the River (including the very recognizable Jinmao Tower). Despite the mass of people and traffic, I found Shanghai to be very safe and comfortable in my five days there....I really enjoyed it. I visited the very interesting Shanghai museum, the French Concession area, and the Old Town area with its classic Chinese architecture (including the historic Yuyuan Gardens). I also visited the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall which is a very attractive five-story building devoted entirely to city planning (if you can believe it). I debated whether or not to go in (being that it is a work-related subject), but curiosity got the best of me and I bought a ticket. The exhibit is actually one of Shanghai's most-popular tourist sights and includes everything you want to know about the history of the city and what is planned for the next 20 years. The most popular exhibit is the huge 3-D model of the city that takes up an entire floor of the building. It is pretty impressive as you walk around its raised platform.

      On my second day in town, I was befriended by two pleasant, bright young ladies...one lives in Shanghai with the other visiting her. For two days, they showed me around the city, which included the local restaurants, city sites, and some shopping (yes, Chinese women like to shop just as much as American women). We also went to a great acrobat show at one of the many performing arts centers in town which was simply amazing and included included a late night/early morning of karaoke, which was quite amusing. They had a ton of questions about life in America and were very up-front about talking about modern life in China, including politics. They expressed their frustration with the limitations on professional career opportunities for women. They had alot of respect for the U.S. political system (elections), the laws/rights protecting individuals, and the opportunities to succeed, regardless whether or not you happen to be a man or a women..or born poor. I am to have a hopeful that they someday may have the opportunity to experience this as China's political system continues to change for the better.


      From Shanghai, I took an 11-hour overnight train (very comfortable) to Beijing (pop. 15 million), which of course is the site of the Olympics this summer. The wrecking ball is alive and well in Beijing, as there are construction cranes everywhere and new apartment buildings (most of which are very plain looking) replacing the older neighborhood flats. Some of the construction is directly related to the upcoming Olympics, but most of it I'm told is just the continuation of the construction boom that started years ago. The Olympic venues are still "active construction sites", so I was not able to view any of them close up. During my six days in Beijing, the weather was dry, very smoggy, and pretty cold (daytime temps in the twenties and in the teens at night). I broke down and bought a heavier jacket for a whopping $28. Within two days all of the buttons had fallen off, but it served its purpose. I made it to the most of the must-see sites in Beijing, including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, Jingshan Par, the Lama Temple. and many days of walking through the small alleys of the older neighborhoods known as the Hutong. The Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven contain amazing buildings and temples and art work and were really special.

      Tiananmen Square is massive (it is the largest square in the world which can accommodate up to a million people). The square is bordered by the Forbidden City, China Museum, the Congress Building and two large gates. In the middle is Chairman Mao's mausoleum, as well as a number of monuments .While strolling across the square, it was hard to no think about the events of 1989 and what the future holds. I have to believe that there will be more major political and social changes taking place in China over the next 5 to 7 years. There are simply too many young people who know too much of the world and social issues, coupled with their hunger for more professional job opportunties for change not to occur.

      To visit the Great Wall (one of the New Seven Wonder's of the World...my third so far on the trip!), I took a bus 45 minutes outside of town to the segment of The Wall at Badaling (there are different segments of the wall spread throughout the area...Badaling is the most visited). Due to the frigid temperatures, the crowd at The Wall was not bad. I was amazed by the width of the wall (easily wide enough for a large bus)and the terrain it was built across....it meanders up steep cliffs and down steep gullies, with lots and lots of steps.) President Nixon said it best when he uttered "this is a great wall." It certainly is.

      The rest of Beijing didn't do that much for me as the majority of architecture and streetscape is very plain and uninviting. Maybe the new construction associated with the Olympics will provide a jump-start for more appealing buildings in the years to come, as Beijing could use it.

      Harbin (Haerbin)

      Acting on a tip from someone on the train, I bought a ticket for an 11-hour train ride from Beijing to the City of Harbin (pop. 4 million) in the northeastern corner of China...on the edge of Siberia!!! The city has a strong Russian influence in its design, with churches and buildings having turrets and spires. Let me tell you, it is really, really friggin' cold in Harbin in January!!! The daytime highs was 0 F and at nighttime it got down to -15 F...along with a light breeze that was punishingly (is that a word?) cold. Human beings are simply not meant to live in such conditions. It was easily the coldest I have ever been and only helped to re-confirm what I've always known...that I am definitely a warm/hot weather person. So, why then did I come to such a frigid place? The answer: for the annual Ice Lantern Festival which is held each January. The festival features some pretty amazing ice and snow sculptures in the city's downtown park and across the river (which is frozen solid) at another large, scenic park. At nighttime the ice sculptures are illuminated with multi-colored lights. Along the river, there is also ice skating, hockey, sledding, and other outdoor activities. Even with the brutally cold weather, it was worth a visit to experience life in such extreme conditions. I tip my hat to those folks that can endure this for an entire winter.


      After making it back to Beijing for a few more days after Harbin, I boarded a train for a 6-hour trip to Pingyao (pop. 40,000) which is one of the most well-preserved walled cities in China (one of China's many Unesco World Heritage Sites). The 30-foot high earthen and stone walls, along with its many watchtowers is quite impressive. Inside the walls are narrow, maze-like streets with nice little restaurants, shops, hostels, temples, and homes. Being off-season, it was very, very relaxing and I really enjoyed just wandering the streets, as well as my stay at a great little hostel with wonderful staff.

      Xi'an / Terracotta Warriors

      Xi'an is another walled city and one of China's oldest settlements, dating way back to the days of the Silk Road. It snowed the entire time that is was there, so I only saw a fairly small portion of the city, including the impressive Drum Tower in the center of the city, a portion of the ancient city walls and watchtowers, and the Muslim Quarter (including the Great Mosque). Like most folks, the primary reason for my visit to Xi'an was to visit the nearby Army of Terracotta Warriors. The life-size sculpted figures are situated in three large pits, with Pit 1 being the most impressive with over 6,000 warrrior figures. The scale of the site is astounding and the level of detail given to each figure is just incredible (apparently, no two warriors have the same face). It was a mind-boggling site to see.

      Luoyang / Longmen Caves

      I made a one-day stop in Luoyang (pop. 1.5 million) to visit the nearby Longmen Caves, another Unesco World Heritage Site. The combination of caves and carved out niches are situated along both sides of the limestone cliffs above the Yi River and include carvings of Buddha and other figures, ranging in size from a couple of inches high to over 50 feet high. The carvings were completed somewhere around 500 to 700 A.D. and, according to the information provided with my entrance ticket, include over 100,000 carved images in over 2,400 hillside caves/niches. It's an incredible piece of work which just kept going and going and going as I walked along the river banks.


      I made a brief stop in Kaifeng (pop. 600,000), which is another ancient, walled city. Due to the weather (heavy snow), I didn't get a chance to see much of the city's sites, but I did get a chance to enjoy the aforementioned night market with an incredible array of food!


      With a population exceeding 5 million, I found the core of Suzhou to be a very attractive town with nicely landscaped streets lined with Sycamore trees with new and old buildings with traditional Chinese architecture. Similar to my stay in Kaifeng, there was heavy snow for the two days I was there, so I didn't check out the numerous gardens the city is famous for (gardens really aren't my thing), but I did get to check out the network of small canals and trails/alleys that are scattered throughout the city which were very pretty in the snow. I made it out of China just as the heavy snow was beginning (China is experiencing the most snowfall in 50 years). Had I stayed one more day in Nanjing, I would have likely been stuck there for a good week to 10 days, as the trains and buses are not running at the moment and hundreds of thousands are now stranded in bus stations and train stations. This is very sad, given that a billion people are now traveling across the country for the next 2 weeks for Chinese New Year, which is the only time many folks get to see their families all year. With the sweeping changes occurring in China at the moment, coupled with the excitement and national pride associated with the upcoming Olympics, now is a fantastic time to visit China. It is highly, highly recommended (maybe not in winter, though).

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
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  • A Big Weekend in the Big Apple A Big Weekend in the Big Apple

    • From: BobSullivan
    • Description:

      My travel log will give a colorful glimpse of our family’s first ever weekend in New York City with practical tips for your own family’s Gotham Get-away.
      Thursday, July 3rd - Start Spreading the NewsDSCF2338.JPG

      Reunions are great, especially when you meet loved ones in some new exciting location. Such was the case over the 2008 Fourth of July weekend for the Sullivan Family (Bob, Rhonda, and Joanna) traveling to New York City to visit our eldest daughter, Elaina, during her storybook summer as a fashion intern at Kate Spade (KS) in Manhattan. (Picture an “Ugly Betty’, minus the ugly.)

      Delta Airlines carried the three southern Sullivans safely and comfortably from Atlanta, Georgia’s massive Hartsfield-Jackson Airport (ATL) to the much smaller - but conveniently located - Newark, New Jersey Airport (EWR). Upon arrival, we caught a cab to our budget-wise hotel in Secaucus, NJ, a veritable “stones throw” from the island of Manhattan. Our cabbie, apparently the only NASCAR driver from Ghana, drove us to our hotel in a New York minute. Consequently, I could have missed some of the scenic beauty on the NJ side of the Hudson. To be fair to Newarkians, I did have my eyes closed most of the trip.  

      A Dollar Saved is a Dollar Earned

      Our planned “family reunion” was to begin with the “something past-noon” arrival of our little fashion maven, Elaina, meeting us at the Hilton Garden Inn (HGI), Secaucus, NJ - our base of operations. This is a very nice hotel if your big city budget is not that big. While not directly on the island of Manhattan, the daily price (about half the typical cost of a New York hotel) makes the bus transit trips to and from the hotel well worth it.

      We took a short and inexpensive bus trip departing from a bus stop located right in front of our hotel. I wore comfortable shoes and brought a backpack to store maps, cameras, snack and a water bottle or two. The 2:15 PM bus #190 took us through the Lincoln Tunnel under the Hudson River. The bus stopped in Times Square at the NJ Transit Station in Manhattan. Mental Picture: Envision a giant ant farm cube, the part of the ants played by myriad humans traveling here and there in the multi-level farm. We walked toward daylight only to find many more of the ants had spilled out and were roaming 42nd Street.

      As the daughters (20 and 17) led the way through the milling crowd, a momentary flashback pictures them still as 7 and 4. I’m tempted for second to invoke the old “buddy-system” and command them to hold each others hands, but I squelch the paternal instinct. Instead, I bravely squeeze Rhonda’s hand for her/my reassurance. On we go.

      Island Survival Rule #1 - Seek Food

      Ray's Pizza I recalled reading that one of the first things you should do if you ever end up on an island is to locate a source of food. My keenly-honed survival instincts lead us to famous “Ray’s Pizza” on 7th Avenue. Bob gets the Itallian Sausage, Rhonda gets Ray's Special and adventurous Joanna gets the "white" pizza. Gastric Note: White pizza is edible only when covered with a lot of marinara sause. The Epicurean Elaina bows out and pops into the tres chic "bistro" on the corner and brings back a "twigs and branches bowl" (can you put the dressing on the side?) To each, her own! Full and refreshed, we hit the streets to see uptown Manhattan.

      Island Survival Rule #2 - Seek Shelter

      We continued northward until we approached the trees of Central Park. We turned right and passed Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. A bit further east and we passed The Oak Bar, where I understand Frank Sinatra’s entourage would hang out till "The Wee Small Hours of the Morning". Just before the corner at 5th Avenue, we spotted a good place to stay if you’re "Home Alone and Lost in New York", The Plaza Hotel. Slightly intimidated, we nevertheless ascended the red carpeted stairs behind intrepid Elaina and passed through the elegantly chandeliered lobby. We stopped and spoke with Grace, the aptly-named hostess at the Palm Restaurant. Grace remembered Elaina from her late-night visit with some fashion friends after an upscale cosmetics event the previous week. Behind Grace in the center of the restaurant is a harpist, pleasantly strumming "My Funny Valentine". Everything seemed “pleasant” at The Plaza Hotel, clearly their intent.  I tell myself that at the Hilton Garden Inn, I will get a perfectly pleasant complimentary breakfast in the morning, something the Plaza guests won’t. We took photos of some beautiful floral arrangements - which probably cost more than our combined Delta airfare – and we saunter out, pleasantly.

      The Plaza's Palm Restaurant

      The Plaza Lights


      "Conspicuous Consumption Galore"

      Outside on the sidewalk, our Gotham-guide, Elaina, paused and withdrew from her large purse a pair of Kate Spade sandals with hot pink seahorses on the top. “In this part of town”, she explained, “I’ve learned that store people size you up by looking down at your feet.” She buries her walking shoes into her large KS purse and we trotted over next door to Bergdorf Goodman (BG). [Unofficial BG’s Motto: “Our prices will melt the stripe off your Platinum Plus card while it's still in your purse.”] As we breeze through the store past a rack of $500 scarves, I watch more than one impeccably dressed sales associate smile politely and nod at Elaina. As the last Sullivan in the procession passed, their eyes raised to see who is wearing size 10 running shoes. Their perfunctory smile faded slightly when they get to me and my backpack. They quickly glanced at the next, more promising prospect. I reassure myself by remembering that “All that’s gold doesn’t glitter” and I speed up to catch up with the seahorses. 

      Tiffanys is a Diamond's Best Freind ...................... Tiffany's is a Diamonds Best FriendI felt better once we left BG’s and we joined the sidewalk herd moving down 5th Avenue. Across the street, Louis Vuitton’s electra-color window display seductively gleamed at us as if to say, “Mortgage your house and I’ll make you a nice deal on a purse”. We ignore the implied offer and press onward. Next door, the stately house of Tiffany whispered demurely to us like Zsa Zsa Gabor. “Dahhhling, ve both know you vant me. Vy dun’t you come in.” The accent got us, so ve vent in.  Needing a rest, I chose to let the ladies wander around without me. I parked myself inside at the front of the store on a green velvet bench to comfortably wait for the sparkley-eyed girls to return. When the girls returned we exited with the same net worth we walked in with, “Whew”!


                                                                                              Hey Donald! Sorry We Missed Ya

      Trump TowersTrump TowersWe then popped in to Trump Towers to say “Hey!” to “The Donald” and his current wife, but somehow we missed them.  Feeling slightly snubbed, we changed direction and strolled northward, further into the “Upper East Side.” This area is, by some accounts, the most expensive residential property in New York, nay the Universe. If you walk along 5th Avenue far enough, you will come to the gargantuan Metropolitan Museum of Art (“the Met”). Still further and you come to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Art Museum (currently under renovation). Hint: You can walk into the Guggenheim free of charge and see the main lobby display, if you want to only get the sense of the place (and use the rest rooms).  





      NYC July 3 4 5 6 2008 172.jpg

      I'm Late, I'm Late...

      We continued our foot-tour by trekking through Central Park (The Park). Elaina detours briefly to show Joanna, a big Lewis Carroll fan, the Park’s brass sculpture of "Alice in Wonderland". This beautiful sculpture is just north of the toy sail boat pond seen in the movie, "Stuart Little". In The Park, Rhonda and I get momentarily acquainted with a park bench. Behind us I noticed a gathering group of women donning grass skirts for a Polynesian dance practice. You will see just about anything in “The Park”.





      imagine.jpgIn a little while the family assembled again and we continued our now westward progress. We pass the gorgeous Bethesda Fountain and stop for a few pictures. Before leaving the Park into the Upper West Side, we hear 60’s music as we approach Strawberry Fields, a park tribute to John Lennon. The focal point of this 70’s Beatle shrine is a black and white tile mosaic circle with the word “IMAGINE” in the center. We saw some “fruits” in Strawberry Fields, but they were definitely not edible. Most of the shrine-dwellers appeared to be former flower children whose blossom had long since fallen off the stem. The most colorful of these was a 50-ish looking guy who had a hand-made cardboard sign which read: “Why lie, I need beer (…and love).” He got neither from us. Like I said, you’ll see just about anything in “The Park”.



      If Walls Could Talk The Dakota                          Leaving the Park, we pass by “The Dakota,” a posh behemoth residential facility where John Lennon once lived. The stately Dakota was so named because at the time of its construction - before the Dakota Territories became states - people mocked its remoteness on Manhattan as being constructed in the "Dakota Territories". This place is about a city block wide and has a drive-in motor car courtyard. It also has gas lamps which gives it an "old world" look.




      "Now That's Italian"

      Hungry again, we cross Columbus Street in search of a restaurant and reach Broadway, the longest street on Manhattan. We decide on Italian food and walk down to a place called Pomodoro’s with its bistro-style sidewalk seating. The owner, Peter, graciously seats us at the perfect sidewalk table under the awning of his restaurant. Soon, a generous plate of warm toasted foccacia bread was served with a side bowl of roasted garlic-infused olive oil and the saltiest green and black olives on the planet (this must help wine sales). Joanna had the Pomodoro (tomato) soup in a “bishop” bread bowl (Kelly Rippa spoke glowingly of this on Live with Regis and Kelly show), Elaina and Rhonda shared a salad for two and I had the mega-bowl of penne pasta with Italian sausage and portobello mushrooms. Dessert temptation is a hard thing to resist, so we share two: Tiramisu and Berries and Cream with a Cappacino. Yum! We thanked Peter for a fabulous meal and set off down Broadway.


      "Trying to Get A HEAD"

      We crossed the street to see the spectacular diamond-shaped lights at Lincoln Center. We Eddie Murphy Headpassed several other impressive buildings as we headed south, the ABC Studios, the Trump International Hotel and the Time-Warner Towers, to name a few. It was dark so we headed further south on 8th Avenue and entered the uber-watted Times Square region. There, we noticed an enormous plastic head of Eddie Murphy, a movie promotion prop the size of a Ryder truck, in the median. People lined up to actually stick their head out of Murphy's nostriles. Yuck!

      The day that started in Atlanta and ended in New York came to a close as we hopped a bus back to the Secaucus HGI, a good place to be if your home alone and lost in New Jersey. 



      Friday, July 4th : Happy Birthday America !

      Having already seen parts of the northern side of NYC, we opted to see lower Manhattan. We had been told by our friendly HGI staff several good places to watch the 4th of July fireworks over the East River after dark. After a terrific, made-to-order egg-white omlette (complimentary with Hilton Rewards Points), the Sullivan clan caught the next bus to Times Square. There we opted to purchase the 2-day GrayLine Bus Tour package for seeing the various parts of city. [Caveat Emptor: Be cautious in dealing with the besmocked Bus Tour agents that that swarm at Times Square street corners. Know which Tour Option you are purchasing and get a clear explanation of the hop-on, hop-off rules.] This two-day transportation purchase worked out well for us in that we saw far more of the city than we would have otherwise been able to see traveling by foot alone.

      At Brooklyn BridgeSince it was slightly warm, we elected to get on the clear bubble-topped, double-decker bus and cool off while seeing the City. Out of Times Square, the Lower Manhattan Route took us passed The Hotel Pennsylvania, the phone number of which was made famous by the Glen Miller song entitled, “Pennsylvania 65000”. Across the street we saw the Madison Square Garden - OK, the building is “round”, but I always assumed it was square.  We then experienced our own “Miracle on 34th Street” in that we went passed Macy’s (celebrating its 150th year) and did not buy a darn thing. Next, we passed the ever-impressive Empire State Building. The wait to the top is about an hour and it was hazy, so we passed on the Observation Deck tour. We then passed the Garment (Fashion) District where Elaina worked at KS. We also passed by Chelsea and the Greenwich Village areas and through Soho and Tribeca. We passed by Ground Zero, the current crater-like memorial to 9-11 and future home of Freedom Tower. Soon, our tour bus disgorged all its riders in the Financial District. A convenient Starbucks offered us light lunch fare and we refueled looking south at Lady Liberty from comfortable benches along the southern tip of Manhattan in Battery Park.

      A Little Bit Too Much Bronzer Remington - Live

      Heading northward on foot, we walked onto Wall Street, saw the New York Stock Exchange and nearby, the fortress-like, Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The festive sounds and smells of a street festival captured our attention en route to the South Street Seaport and nearby shops. There, Elaina and Joanna posed with a Remington-esque street performer. The seaport on the East River was crowded with holiday tourists, all of whom – it seemed - wanted to board a GrayLine bus. Eventually we boarded a bus and traveled past the Brooklyn Bridge, the Chinatown, Soho, the United Nations building, Rockefeller Center and back at Times Square.


      East River FireworksWe caught a smorgasbord dinner at a Whole Foods store (and restaurant) across from Union Square Park (a good people-watching place). After dinner, we strolled East toward the river. We were directed by New York’s Finest to an on-ramp onto the elevated FDR Drive where we, and a million of our freedom-loving friends, had a commanding view of the three fireworks barges anchored in the East River. Just as we got to the elevated FDR, the police discontinued letting anyone else go up on the ramp. Despite a slight mist in the air, the one-hour fireworks display was incredibly spectacular way to celebrate the nation‘s birthday. Afterward, we hoofed it back up to Times Square and caught our bus to the HGI. ?

      Saturday, July 5thThe Met


      "New York, I'm Glad I MET Ya"

      The misty rain the next morning directed the family to see the Upper Manhattan sights from the comfort of the GrayLine bus. We saw a lot of famous movie and TV settings in this area: When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail and Seinfeld to name a few. We went through Harlem and circled back south on 5th past Daddy Warbucks’ mansion (Little Orphan Annie) just north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We toured the Met for a couple of hours while the sky clears above. We saw as much as we can of their ubiquitous rooms, corridors and halls full of priceless art pieces.   


      Carnegie Deli's ReubenI Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing

      Later that day we ate at the famous Carnegie Deli. I ordered the open-face Reuben. The truth is, the four of us could have tried to eat the Reuben that I ordered (it was humongous). It tased better than it looks.

      Sandwich Psychology Note: Somewhere beneath the pastrami is a slice of rye bread with a severe inferiority complex.

      Rockefeller's Model
      Afterward, we strolled south and saw Rockefeller Center one more time before catching the bus to the Hilton. This art deco style building is truly beautiful, especially at night. This Freedom weekend, an artist's large metallic replica model of Rockefeller Center was on display in the Center’s courtyard. It was the perfect last impression of our amazing weekend in New York City.

      Sunday, July 6th

      Give My Regards to Broadway

      Our final day together as a family were shared at the Hilton Garden Inn in Secaucus. At noon we catch a cab to EWR and flew back to Atlanta. In six short weeks our fashionable intern would return with a wealth of her own stories and a few handbags to boot.

    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
    • Views: 4479
  • Turkey 2008 Turkey 2008

    • From: SWolf8181
    • Description:
      My boyfriend and I booked our flight to Turkey before we knew anything about the place.  We had heard from three, yes three, people that it was "one of their favorite vacations ever."   And since these three people were all very different and had no connection to one another, we figured it was too much of a coincidence to pass up.  So, a month after the third person mentioned it, we booked our flights without knowing anything about what we'd do or see there.  Once we started the research, we settled on three days in Istanbul, three days in the interior cave region, and three days on the Aegean coast.
      We started in Istanbul and spent the first few days of our trip visiting cultural sites spanning 2000 years, all within the neighborhood of Sultahnamet.  The earliest site was the Ayasofia; a museum that was at one time a mosque and further back, a church.  As a testament to the unique history, enormous calligraphy discs now hang opposite partially uncovered, Ayasofya, Istanbulhistorical Byzantine mosaics.  Quite literally across the street stands the Blue Mosque.  Built by Sultan Ahmet I specifically to outshine the Ayasofya, the Blue Mosque gets its name from the blue tiles covering the interior walls. After placing our shoes in a plastic bag and covering my hair with a scarf, we were allowed inside.  Unfortunately, many others didn't follow this rule so some of the ambience was lost.  Nevertheless, it was still an amazing structure. Our final historical stop in Istanbul was the Topkapi Palace. Although it didn't have the impressive panoramic of the other two hot spots, it was significantly larger in sprawl.  Designed to house 5000 people during Ramadan, just walking through the old kitchens was impressive.  Also housed in the Palace were many of the jewels and Asian artifacts that traveled the Silk Road, reminding us that this city was once the center of a huge empire. 
      Although Istanbul had amazing cultural sites, we equally enjoyed the parts of the city off the beaten path.  We started our final day in Istanbul exploring the Grand Bazaar.  Unfortunately, with 5000 shops containing mostly items from China, we were quite overwhelmed and didn't buy a thing.  So, we left quickly and spent the day wandering through random streets of the city with no specific destination.  We enjoyed tea, stopped for doner kebaps sliced directly from a rotating spit, and made our way down to the waterfront.  After a quick nap (conveniently our hotel was in the middle of everything), we decided to try out the local transportation, an above ground tram, and venture further away.  We followed the recommendation of the hotel staff and headed to Taksim for a relaxing evening.  This turned out to be a great choice!
      Taksim was reminiscent of many western European cities we have visited on other vacations.  The main thoroughfare is a walkway 40 feet wide, full of shops and restaurants, and jam packed with people.  The only way you could tell it was Turkey was that every restaurant had Baklava in the front window.  However, as we walked along, struggling with how to decide where to eat, we happened upon a side street with a hazy blue glow.  This was actually due to the number of little blue neon signs containing a common beer brand, but it made the street seem magical.  As we walked into the district, we quickly realized we were in the middle of the Beyoglu fish district, which i vaguely remembered references to in the tour book, based on the stacks of fish sitting on ice between each restaurant.  After pushing past a few men offering a "great table for beautiful couple". we randomly chose a place.  In Turkey, one thing we learned quickly is that every restaurant has pretty much the same menu offerings so easier to just pick and end the friendly "stalking". 
      The food in Turkey was definitely an interesting aspect of our trip.  In every restaurant, the Turkist Mezesfirst thing the server does is bring a big tray of "mezes" (which are essentially cold appetizers) to which you are supposed to point to the ones you want.  As a local, these are pretty standard and obvious.  To a new visitor, it can be a bit of a challenge.  We decided to pick a bunch and make it our dinner- along with the very satisfying local beer of Efes.  It was a great decision- the grape leaves stuffed with rice were filled with unique spices and surprisingly light, the eggplant was super fresh, and everything was covered in delicious olive oil that rivaled the olive oil we've had in Italy.  Also, my favorite part of all of our meals was the fresh bread.  Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside- it was always served warm. 
      After a few days in the city, we took a quick one hour flight to the interior cave region.  Picked up by our hotel, I picked our specific hotel because it was literally built into the side of a cave.   As we were shown our room, this proved to be well worth it; quite unique and beautifully decorated.  However, on our drive in, we were veIhlara Valley- Cappadocia, Turkeyry concerned that we were further into the country than we had planned.  Brian's quote was "I hope there is someplace to eat around here."  Luckily just opposite from the way we had come, there was the awesome little town of Goreme.  Full of small little restaurants, souvenir shops, and tour companies offering guides to anything you could want to see, Goreme was a perfect little escape.  But, the real reason this town was one of our destinations was the surrounding landscape.  Cappadocia had amazing scenery in every direction you looked, almost a cross between Mesa Verde and the Badlands.  The winds had long ago carved grooves into the earth, creating huge ridges and random individual sculptures.  
      We started our first day by taking a short walk into the city and then took a relaxing hike in the Red Valley.  Unfortunately, we got a bit lost and we were never sure if we were on the right path or not.  But after three days in Istanbul, it was nice just to be out on our own with no one around.  The second day, we signed up for a local tour of the Underground Cities.  ItIhlara Valley- Inside Cave was nice but not particularly interesting- sort of a big underground cave without the cool stalactites.  The awesome part of the trip was the Ihlara Valley.  We figured this was just their way of adding a second portion to make it an all day tour but it was the highlight.  The Valley contained small caves that were actually churches in the early times of Christianity.  Until then, I had not really internalized the fact that this was my first visit to a country where Christianity was not always accepted.  In Istanbul, we saw women fully covered and heard the Call to Prayer but until then, Turkey didn't feel that foreign.  Exploring this valley and the hidden churches within was eye opening.  And the valley itself was absolutely beautiful, with lush flowers and greenery and a large stream running though.  The only drawback was that our guide didn't specify which side of the river to follow, and after a bridge led to one church, evidently we were supposed to cross back.  We didn't know this so continued on the north side of the river, which became more of a hike than a walk.  But this let us see one of the coolest churches, which we explored all on our own.
      Cappadocia- Hot Air BalloonOur final day in Cappadocia, we started early with a hot air balloon ride!  This was a bit of a splurge but well worth it.  Flying high about the unique landscape, we took 300 pictures!  The best part was that there were so many other balloons in the air at the same time, you had endless Kodak moments.  We spent the remainder of the day resting; reading in town on what I'd describe as pillow tables set low to the ground, with a few glasses of the local wine.  Our final dinner in town, I finally tried the local specialty; vegetables cooked in a clay pot, where the server dramatically breaks your pot in half before Traditional Turkish Dinnerserving.  It was very good; moist, hearty, and the perfect meal for the cool autumn night.
      Again we took a quick one hour flight, mostly because our short trip didn't allow for the less expensive option -- but more common option--  of a twelve hour bus ride.   We chose the Aegean Coast over the Mediterranean coast because it allowed us to visit the ancient site of Ephesus.  We unfortunately didn't have enough time to take a boat ride because Bodrum is the home of the gullet style of boats.  As luck would have it, we sat next to a French guy on our flight from Paris to Turkey who was an inspector for the gullet industry.  Once we got to talking to him and told him we'd be heading to Bodrum, he pulled out his laptop and showed us all of his pictures.  He explained the stages of the process and also told us that these boats take two years to make and are  one million per meter!! Very cool perspective once we got to Bodrum and saw hundreds of these sitting in the harbor untouched. 
      Once in Bodrum, we spent the first day getting familiar with the town and visiting the main attraction, St. Peter's Castle.  The city of Bodrum is known as the hot spot for Istanbul's elite and is home to the famous Halikarnas club.  But, since we visited in October, it was more like a small, quiet New England seaside town.  And we loved it that way.  Along the water, there are rows of beanbag chairs and very puffy loungers.  Slightly further from the water, there is an endless row of restaurants.  We enjoyed walking along and made our way to St. Peter's castle.  I cant talk about Bodrum without mentioning all of the dogs.  There are dogs everywhere.  We learned from our hotel owners, two very cool Irish guys, that there are many dogs left in Bodrum each autumn after the visitors leave their summer home.  Although seeing so many stray dogs was a bit concerning and saddening, all of the dogs were cute and friendly.  They'd walk along with you for a bit and then see something else and wander off. The Castle was very cool and again a reminder of Turkey's long history.  At one time a prison, at one time a church, it now holds an archaeological museum with remains of some of the largest shipwrecks off the Aegean Coast.  We ended the evening sitting in a cafe, watching Turkey play soccer, surrounding by lots of cheering fans. It was classic.
      Bodrum, Turkey 
      Our second day in Bodrum, we rented a car and headed to Ephesus.  We had planned to take a tour but our hotel recommended renting due to the tourbus pickup time of 6am! We agreed and crossed our fingers that we wouldn't get lost.  We didn't get "lost" but we hit two "detours".
      Detour number 1: After seeing the signs pointing left to Ephesus, we turned and made our way up a steep hill.  After a few miles, we came to a booth charging an entrance fee.  We assumed this was Ephesus and paid, however, became suspicious when no one was around.  Asking the attendant, we realized we were at the "House of Virgin Mary."   It was actually kind of interesting, and after taking a short walk through the old house, we bought a little trinket for Brian's grandpa.
      Detour number 2:  We asked the folks at the House of Mary and found out Ephesus was just at the bottom of the hill immediately after we had turned left.  After parking, we hit our second road blip- only 50 feet from Ephesus.  A man came up to us with a Turkish Tourism agency badge on, told as the recommended entrance is the opposite side, and shuttled us into a nearby "free bus".  I had read in the book that the tour was "one-way" so you'd eventually need to take a taxi to get back to your parking lot.  So, we figured we'd give it a try.  In reality, this free bus took us to a carpet shop.  Ugh.  So we received a five minute intro and tried as much as possible to look uninterested so they'd let us go.  They seemed to realize pretty quickly we were not their target audience (or income bracket), so they took us in another random van over to the ruins. 
      Once we finally saw it, Ephesus was very impressive and worth the trip.  Unlike Pompeii, which was a relatively small town but preserved quite well, Ephesus was a grand city in its day. The classic photo in every Turkey book is the library; a two-story building with impressive details, that was built in 110 A.D.!  We explored the rest of the city, amazingly being allowed to climb all over the ruins.  We drove back, with a quick stop at an all-American tradition- the outlet mall, and got back in time for a fresh fish dinner just after sunset. 
      Our final day in Bodrum, we spent the day lazily wondering the city and picking up our last few souvenirs before our evening flight our.  We visited the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but it was a total rip-off compared to Ephesus.  We bought a small Nazar Boncuk, a blue glass piece that is everywhere in Turkey and supposed to protect you from the evil eye.  And we had our final kebap and Efes beer. 
    • Blog post
    • 6 years ago
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