Thursday, December 28, 2006

Exchanging Vows on the Beach

Beach wedding invitations aren't the thing most people are thinking about at this time of the year, the week between Christmas and New Year's. But that's probably because "most people" are living on the wrong side of the equator. Next year, right about this time, I plan on being in Sydney for a wedding, and I've received my proper beach theme invitation -- just right for this time of year Down Under.

I am not usually big on weddings, being not much into all the dressing up and so forth. The beach wedding invitation strikes me as just right, though. So I am looking forward to hearing my friends exchange their vows in a public celebration of the future they will spend together, right there on the beach. It will be my first trip to Australia, and I can think of no better way to spend it.

Showintale Journeys

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Zhang Jia Jie, Hunan, China

Zhang Jia Jie was China's first national park. While many others have since joined the ranks, Zhang Jia Jie remains one of the country's most noted scenic spots.

Situated outside of the city by the same name (a mere small town by China standards, with its 1 million inhabitants), the mountains of the national park create a sort of magical atmosphere. The mountains rise up out of the ground, thin as fingers reaching towards the heavens. They never quite grasp the sky above, though from the ground it appears they have a very good chance.

Falling just short of the sky, it seems the fingers do manage to plunge themselves into the clouds often enough. Perhaps that is the lower level of the heavens for which they reach. One way or another, the clouds often cover the tops of the mountains, hiding the views to be had from their peaks. The winds are strong enough and frequent enough, though, to blow the clouds away for a few moments at a time, giving the hiker a clear, if brief, view of the vast range of the mountains. They stretch out for miles, breaking up the land that lies before the eyes. It seems to me that these brief views are the way to see Zhang Jia Jie, adding to the mystique of the place. I wouldn't exchange my misty holiday for one with clearer weather. The continued veiling and unveiling of the grandeur that lives there is the perfect way to see the place.

Showintale Journeys

Thursday, December 14, 2006

London Nights

I loved London when I was there. It is a city with such a rich background. It almost made me feel, with real weight, what the word "history" means.

But there was one thing I didn't like. I also felt, with real weight, what the word "expensive" means. It is not a city where things come cheap, and I was a little caught off guard there with just how expensive everything is.

It wasn't easy, back in those days, to find cheap hotels in London. Thankfully, the Internet has revolutionized travel, and makes finding London's discount hotels just a little easier... well, a lot easier, really... than it used to be.

Showintale Journeys

Heritage Tourism

Heritage tourism is the journey-plans of choice for many tourists these days. Places in the UK like Bath, Chester, Stratford, York, Brighton, and Oxford attract many guests throughout the year who are interested in the locations' rich heritage.

When I was in the UK, I made it a point to visit the home of the bard in Stratford-Upon-Avon, as well as Oxford, where I managed to see "the Bird and Baby." That famous pub where C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien used to meet over a round of beers with their writers' circle really hit me, since I've always been an avid reader of both Tolkien and Lewis. That was the first time I was consciously involved in what has now become widely known as heritage tours. I think I'd been a part of many other such trips, particularly field trips when I was a kid, but this move toward heritage tourism is a phenomenon that's slowly grown up over the years. From my own experience in those cities in the UK, and many subsequent visits to other heritage-tour-type spots, I can say that it is a holiday well-spent.

Showintale Journeys

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

50 Sites

I travel a lot and have been to many parts of the world. I even write about travel for pay, from time to time.

One thing that I have to say has made a dramatic change in travel habits since I began wandering the earth is the Internet. I use it all the time, whether for information or just for generating ideas about where to go next. And once in a while my own writing appears on a travel website too.

So I was really intrigued when I saw this website which claims to list 50 sites you've never heard of. For the most part, they were right. I'd only heard of one of the 50 sites. And when I started poking around the other 49, it was quite a delight to see what all is available! There are sites dedicated to complaints on specific topics, one for airplane seats and one for airline meals. There's a site that rates airports based on the need to spend a night sleeping in the airport (done that more times than I care to consider). There are sites with videos and photos, recommendations for games to play in long car trips, recommendations for events you've never imagined... all sorts of stuff. My personal favorite is probably the literary travel site.

All in all, it is a fun place to look around at. If you enjoy travel, don't pass this one up! Even for someone who has seen a bit of the world, these sites have something to offer.

Showintale Journeys

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Kukop Island, Malaysia

Off the west coast of Johor lies Malaysia's largest mangrove island, Kukup Island. It is infested with all sorts of wildlife, and the trees which cover the island are that interesting sort which have their roots growing up out of ground, in order to better soak up the salt water they need to survive.

When I was in Kukup, it was December, which is winter in the regions north of there. The island was covered with white birds, mostly perched atop the trees. These were Chinese egrets, flown down those thousands of miles from China to the warm climate of Malaysia.

While viewing the island from a floating fishery, I also saw 2 wild boars. The first was making its way back into the jungle from the coast. The second gave me a view of what they were doing along the coast. I watched it walk out from the jungle, plodding along the top of the protruding roots of the mangrove trees. It reached the edge of the coast, grabbed a fish from the fishing nets, and scampered back into the jungle. It seems the wild boars have found a ready supply of fish, stealing from the fishermen who make their livelihood just meters away at the floating fishery.

Showintale Journeys

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Esplanade

The Esplanade, home to Singapore's arts and performance scene, was officially opened in 2002. Before this huge structure, pictured here, was completed, performances in Singapore were held in varying locales, some more suitable than others. But since this site has become the central focal point for the performing arts, the quality of venues available has improved dramatically.

One of the best performances I've seen in the last couple of years was held in The Esplanade. World-in-Theatre's performance of Elektra at the beginning of 2004 was an outstanding fusion of Indian, Greek, and English-speaking cultures. I've written my reflections on the performance elsewhere, but I failed there to mention that the facilities at The Esplanade went into making the performance so memorable for me. It was, in a word, ideal.

Not only is The Esplanade well-constructed for hosting the performing arts, but it is also situated on the Singapore River in a very aesthetically pleasing way. Facing the Merlion, which sits across the river from The Esplanade, on one side, City Hall and the Padang on another, Suntec City on a third, and the Benjamin Sheares Bridge on to the South, it sits in a scenic area downtown. And it just adds to the beauty of an already attractive area.

Another blogger's view of The Esplanade

Showintale Journeys