Friday, March 30, 2007

Vacations.net

Vacations.net is announcing the launch of an exciting new website. When you log in and book your travel plans with vacations.net, you can enjoy up to 50% savings on your holiday plans.

Vacations.net has lots of great all-inclusive holiday packages to popular destinations all over the world. When you book with vacations.net, everything will be a breeze. All you do is book, then sit back and enjoy your holiday. It's as easy as that -- and isn't that what a vacation is supposed to be?

Visit www.Vacations.net today, or call toll-free at 1-888-205-3315 for reservations or more information. I think you'll like their intuitive, easy to use website. And I am very sure you'll like the great savings you'll find there. Easy, and affordable. What could be better than that?



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A Guide to Travel Guides

I've used a whole lot of travel guides over the years. I've used The Rough Guide, Frommers, Lonely Planet... you name it. I know that a lot of things, in fact nearly everything, are available online these days. But the thing I've found is that I don't always have online access when I am on the road and wanting a little information at my fingertips. So, carrying a good travel guide is still necessary, for me.

What I have found, in using so many different guides, is that Lonely Planet's guides are the best hands down. Their information is the most thorough, giving specific information on each place to see, place to eat, or place to stay, including prices and sometimes small details that other guides seldom include.

If you're looking for a good travel guide, Lonely Planet is the one.




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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Landslide

It's been more than 10 years since I was in Jiuzhaigou, Sichuan, China, but the memories are still very fresh. The place was beautiful (more on that later), but the road to get there was very difficult to traverse. It was an 18 hour bus journey... at least, that is what we were told. It turned out to be well over 20 hours. But the scenery on the way there was exquisite.

I was impresse with our driver's prowess. The road was barely more than a dirt footpath high above the river at the bottom of a rocky gorge. But he managed to take that bulky bus up and down and all around as if it were a walk in the park.

On the way home, we got stuck on the road because a landslide had occurred just before we got there. It ended up being a very long night in which we slept on the bus, together with the more than 20 other passengers. We couldn't spend the night outside of the bus for fear of bandits. In fact, several other buses joined us on the road and we formed a convoy, huddling together in hopes that the bandits were taking a night off.

Apparently they were. We managed to get through the night safely, if with very little sleep. It made for a very memorable experience, and it never fails to give my friends and I a laugh when we talk about it.


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Creating a Website that Pays

Any webmaster or blogger can tell you that search engine optimization is the thing if you want to make money online.

Working well with the search engines is the surest route to success with your online presence. By making good use of search engines and getting your website ranked highly in searches, you'll generate more traffic. And statistics will tell you that more traffic will translate into more income. It's really that simple.

So exactly how do you go about getting higher page rank? It really doesn't have to be all that difficult. There are a number of things. One is making good use of keywords. Another is getting a lot of incoming links from other websites, big or small.

And getting links can be easier than you might at first imagine it to be. You can go through link exchanges, where you swap links with other bloggers or webmasters. A sort of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" approach.

You can always hope that your content is that good and that your readers just can't help but link to your site.

You can pay SEO copywriters to write money-making content (keeping your fingers crossed all the while).

Or maybe you can pay for links from bloggers. Blog ad companies have gotten to be big business, and are set to boom even more.

Call toll free: 866-798-3862, or click on the link above to request a custom proposal for how you can optimize your website or blog's performance.



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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Celaya's, Pearland, Texas

Whenever I visit my family in Texas, we are sure to travel over to Celaya's in Pearland. Situated right on 518, Celaya's isn't that hard to get to. And it is certainly worth the drive over that we make to the place.

Celaya's has that great family feeling that is missing from so many restaurants these days. The staff always greets my family members warmly, remembering their favorites and all, offering old-style friendly service.

And of course, the food... it is wonderful! My favorite dish is the devil shrimp -- spicy seafood! Just can't beat that. But I've never had a single miss with the food there, and we've tried a whole lot of variety. The quesadillas are good, and the fajitas are heavenly.

If you are in the Houston area, you won't want to miss a visit to Celaya's in Pearland. It will be well worth the drive over.


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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jersey City

Exotic location of the day: Jersey City.

Doesn't sound exotic to you? Well, from where I live (Singapore), it is as exotic as it gets. Jersey City, where I can get to Ellis Island and climb the Statue of Liberty. She welcomes visitors to the shores of America, Land of Opportunity. Who doesn't want to see that famous monument?

And how about that art scene in Jersey City? With all the great art deco buildings there, it's an architecture afficiando's paradise. Follow a day of viewing the great buildings by an evening walk on the Hudson River Waterfront Walkway, and don't you just have the perfect day?

When you're planning your next exotic getaway, don't overlook Jersey City and all its charm.


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Information on Endowment Selling in the UK

In the UK, an endowment policy is meant to ensure that a home owner will be able to fully pay off his or her mortgage. Ideally, an endowment policy holder will find out that things work out this way and that paying off the mortgage is no problem.

But it doesn't always work that way. A lot of endowment policy holders who purchased their endowments in the 70's and 80's are finding they've run into a shortfall. That's put endowment selling at a high point, with lots of people needing to sell off their endowments to cover the balance of their mortgage.

Some are even having to surrender their policies for ridiculously low prices. The government has let it be known that endowment selling services will help sellers get better returns. So, that's where many endowment policy holders are turning. And, for many, by selling to an endowment selling service, they are getting 35% more on their returns.

It must be hard living in a place where the cost of living is so high. I know the time I've spent in the UK has made me realize just how incredibly hard it can be to make ends meet there.

So, cheers to all you blokes who are struggling through it. All the best to you.


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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, Hawaii

This first appeared on my other blog about a year ago.



I made my second trip to Singapore in my undergraduate days, my first having been as an exchange student in high school. This second trip was taken with a group from my university. On the way home from our time spent in Asia, we stopped in Honolulu for a few days (a student’s life is a rough life, huh?).

Sadly, jetlag left me not thinking much of that stopover in Hawaii, the only time I have spent a significant amount of time there (though I’ve had several hours of sleep in the airport on several other occasions). But one thing stuck out during the hazy jetlag-induced state, and it wasn’t the beaches or even the spectacular sunsets, or any of the other things one normally thinks of when talking about a few days’ vacation in Hawaii. Instead, it was a short visit to Pearl Harbor that stays in my mind now so many years later.

But actually, it probably wasn’t the little tour we joined to the site that actually made much difference to me. I don’t remember the sights all that well, honestly. What I do remember, though, is a conversation I had with the elderly gentleman who was leading this pack of students about on this trip, one of my professors.

We were standing on a jetty overlooking the sea, a wrecked ship somewhere down below us. He turned to me and said, “Well, it is easier the second time.�"

“What is?�" I asked.

“Coming to this place,�" he answered. “I was here for the first time a few years ago, and I found out something about myself that I didn’t like. I found out that I know how to hate, and hate indiscriminately and deeply.�"

I was surprised by his words. I am not kidding you when I say that he might have been the gentlest, kindest man I had ever met. I couldn’t imagine him feeling real hate toward anything. It seemed a passion a little too hot for the cool temper that he always displayed.

But, as he explained, he was on the plane that flew with a bomb over Nagasaki. He had been trained to hate, and hate enough to kill thousands of innocents. He told me, standing there on that jetty, that after he left the service, it took him many years to deal with the emotional strain of knowing he had killed those people, and ruined so many lives for years after as well. As time wore on and stories about the effects of the bomb emerged, the guilt was nearly overwhelming. But he managed, over time, to work through it.

Or so he thought. Until he set foot on Pearl Harbor, with the nice little tourist center commemorating that horrible day in American history. And he saw Japanese tourists with their cameras happily snapping photos at the site where a nation’s pain had been conceived... by their forefathers.

“I couldn’t believe the rage that welled up inside of me,�" he said. “I was so furious that I think I would have tried to kill one of them with my bare hands with just the slightest provocation. I couldn’t believe the urge toward violent behavior that overcame me, an old man, so many years later.�"

Then he quietly added, “What right had I to feel that rage toward them? At least they weren’t there, personally. I was. And whatever their forefathers have done on this soil, I have done as much on theirs.�"

That is a conversation I will never forget. I am sure that my friend and teacher has long forgotten that he spoke those words to me, but they are words I will carry for a very long time.





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The Lounge Singer (reprinted)

Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (Lonely Planet Travel Series)
Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei (Lonely Planet Travel Series)


Traveling overseas and living overseas can be quite different experiences. I'd been in Singapore twice as a guest before I moved to the island to live. Making a home in Singapore allowed me to see the place through different eyes.


I had this story published in 1998 at the Babel website, here. It is a true story, one that happened early on in my years in Singapore.




It was dirty. The smell of urine seemed to overpower everything else. I held my breath till I reached the third level.

“Mr. Ho!�" I called. “Mr. Ho! Are you home?�"

There was no answer, but it was obvious he was home. The door was open, the lights were on, and the sound of Chinese music from the radio floated from the apartment.

I stuck my head through the open door. “Mr. Ho! I’m here.�"

The old man got up, against my protests, and shuffled across the room to greet me. I walked into the tiny flat, leaving my shoes at the door.

It was no cleaner inside than it had been outside. The cleanest place seemed to be in the cage with two white rabbits on the floor -- at least their paper was changed each day.

Mr. Ho went to get a cold drink from the refrigerator. No matter how much I insisted that I wasn’t thirsty, there was always something cold for me to drink -- usually left by a church or charity organization.

We sat and talked about the rabbits. The female had given birth a few weeks before. One of the neighbors had heard that the father would eat the newborns, so they were kept in a separate cage. They starved within a day.

The conversation began to wear thin, as it usually did after a while. Mr. Ho started to sing. I couldn’t understand most of the words, but as usual, he got teary-eyed while he sang.

After a few choruses he brought out his photo album. The pictures were all black and more-yellow-than-white. It was old Singapore, like you see in all the museums.

I came across one pretty young girl. “Who’s that?�" I asked, “your sister?�"

Mr. Ho laughed and said, “No, guess again.�"

“Your mother?�" I asked, shocked. “But she’s so young!�"

“No!�" he laughed even harder. “Keep guessing.�"

When I had run out of options, I had to give up. “Who is it?�" I asked again.

“It’s me!�" he exclaimed, now laughing uncontrollably. “I told you I was a lounge singer back then. Didn’t you know we were forced to dress like that during the war? Do you want to hear a Japanese song?�"

I looked at the pretty young girl as he crooned away. Now that he mentioned it, there was no denying the truth. It sent goose bumps as I reflected on what Mr. Ho must have faced during that difficult era. I had read and heard a lot about what the locals had endured under the Japanese occupation, and none of it had been very pleasant.

I looked toward the rabbits again. There was a huge, half-eaten carrot lying between them. I remembered the first time I’d seen those rabbits at Mr. Ho’s house. I had felt so sorry for their poor living conditions. I had spent so much time that day helping Mr. Ho care for the rabbits that I had felt guilty -- and I had left wondering why it was easier to take care of animals than it was to take care of other people.

“Bat Suet Lei,�" Mr. Ho always called me by my Cantonese name. “Don’t be sad. It was a long time ago.�"

“I know, Mr. Ho.�" I tried to smile.

As usual, when I stood to leave, Mr. Ho expressed his appreciation profusely for my visit. I still don’t know why he appreciated it so much. Surely a few moments each week with a foreigner who spoke Chinese poorly couldn’t do much to ease his loneliness.

It was a relief to get out into the fresh air, away from the smell of the neighborhood. But my mind was still in that tiny apartment. Mr. Ho represented the minute portion of Singaporeans in poverty. And even for him, all of his physical needs were met.

I couldn’t help but think how much more there is to life than all of that. He’d survived great horrors and had lived to a ripe old age. He and I both knew he was just waiting for his final day to come when he could pass from this life.

I had asked Mr. Ho before, “Are you a happy man?�"

His answer held all the wisdom of the sages. “I have rice in my bowl and a roof over my head. I have lived a long life. Is there any reason for me to be unhappy?�"

I hope when I am 85 years old and look back on the life I have lived -- a life still untouched by such misery as Mr. Ho survived -- that I can be as determined to see the best in it. I hope to look for the simple goodness in life, and to be at peace with the rest.





For an interesting read about Singapore during WWII, check out Ian Ward's The Killer They Called a God at Amazon.





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Monday, March 19, 2007

Gold Mines on the South Island

When I was in New Zealand, there was one thing that captured my fancy as something I'd very much like to do one day. On the South Island, between Dunedin and Queenstown, there are a lot of abandoned mining operations. The area is closed to car traffic, but is still open to bicycling and hiking. I would love to take a bike and tour from one side of the region to the other. That would be one fantastic trip to make. It wasn't feasible when I was there before, since we were traveling with kids, but it sounds like something that will be lots of fun to do somewhere down the road.

While planning the trip to New Zealand, I was intrigued and so did a lot of reading about that area, which is now pretty much a series of ghost towns. The glory days of mining for gold are over. But gold bullion hasn't lost ground in its value as an investment over the years. Monex Deposit Company makes the old days of miners digging gold out of the earth's core, hoping to make their forture, seem like ancient history. Today, a purchase of bullion, coins, or ingots can be done online, and arrangements made to keep the investment in a secure depository. How different is that from Clementine's dad's life?

No wonder all those little towns are abandoned now, down there on the South Island. But it is a part of the world's history I'd still like to have a look at. I'm still waiting for the day when I can cycle through those old abandoned trails.



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Shanghai Dining and Nightlife

I have a hard time deciding what I like best in Shanghai when it comes to dining out. There is so much variety there that it really blows the mind. Each part of China has a different style of cooking, and you can find it all in Shanghai. And that is not even mentioning the international cuisine available there.

The city is also packed full of bars and clubs. There is a more active night life in Shanghai than what you will find in many Asian cities. Xin Tian Di is one of the more lively areas for after hours, and attracts a large amount of foreigners almost every night of the week. And, of course, it is really hopping on weekends.

Xin Tian Di is located near Huai Hai Lu, and it is situated in a series of old buildings, now restored and filled with upscale restaurants and bars. It is a very pleasant place to spend an evening. I especially love the logo I've seen advertising Xin Tian Di: "Where yesterday meets tomorrow in Shanghai today."




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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rafting in Hunan, China

The time I spent in Hunan, China, was one of the best trips I've ever made. I loved the place. It was grand and beautiful... and remote and uncrowded (well, uncrowded for China)... and generally breathtaking.

I spent a good deal of my time in Zhangjiajie, and some in the small town of Feng Huang. In between those two main parts of our trip, we took a day to go rafting.

The river along which we rafted had a fair bit of white waters, though it remained mostly tame throughout the trip. Even so, the scenery was so beautiful that I might have hated to go through it any more quickly than we did.

Our boatman was a particularly colorful sort. He sang to us as he navigated the waters, and played along with the kids who paddled along beside us shooting us with water guns handmade from bamboo. I enjoyed hearing his folk songs and seeing his play with the young guys.

If you are in Hunan, the rafting trip is worth taking. It isn't necessarily a thrills and spills type of adventure, but it is a chance to see the native beauty of the place, and to enjoy the local people.

You can book a rafting trip from Zhangjiajie.


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Friday, March 16, 2007

Tokyo: Defining Efficiency

Tokyo is the most common stopping point on my trips from Singapore to the US. I think I have lost count of how many times I have been in Tokyo. Everything in the city seems to be efficient, well-run, and clean.

Hotels in Tokyo are no exception. In fact, you will find some of the best service in the world at Tokyo hotels. Whether you are staying in one of the top of the line palatial-feeling places, or if you are in one of the budget hotels in Tokyo, you are sure to enjoy the experience of a clean, comfortable, well-run place. Courtesy is always extended, the rooms are always clean, and the service is always top-notch.

And, contrary to popular opinion, hotels in Tokyo don't have to break the bank. It is possible to find decent prices on accommodations for your travels throughout Tokyo and all of Japan. Visit asia-hotels.com to look for good deals on Tokyo hotels.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Holidaying in Coventry

Coventry has long been a popular holiday location. With its pleasant atmosphere, it has attracted countless holidayers over the years. But the popularity of the place doesn't mean it is impossible to find Cheap Coventry Hotels when you plan your trip there.

At hotelclub.net, I've managed to come across some really good rates for hotels in Coventry. It is really easy to navigate through their site and the wide selection of Cheap Coventry Hotels available there. With so many options, there's a real choice to be made. You can browse through 3-star or 4-star hotels, choose the one that seems to best suit your needs, and do your booking all right there online.

And hotelclub.net is not only about accommodations. Besides browsing through information on Cheap Coventry Hotels, you can also find useful information about flights, car rentals, and sightseeing in the area. There is also a forum set up where you can read other travelers' comments, or even leave some of your own.



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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Eurobookings

When I travel overseas, I always check online for bookings, and usually end up making my bookings online. It is so much easier than sifting through all the information in newspapers, ads, and so forth. Right at your fingertips, you can find all the information you need.

Eurobookings.com has a real wealth of information all available at one site. If you are planning a trip to Europe, this is the site to look at for making your reservations. There are over 30,000 hotels in thousands of locations across Europe available for booking through Eurobookings.com. Before you take your European vacation, make sure to stop in at Eurobookings.com and find the best deals.


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Travel Writing: Tales from the South China Sea


New York Times Bestsellers

I often read books about Singapore and the region. I guess that isn’t very surprising, since I love reading, and have a real interest in the area of the world which I have made my home all of my adult life. One of my favorite reads has been Charles Allen's Tales from the South China Seas.

This book was very thoughtfully written. In it, Allen presents an edited version of oral histories about expatriate life in Southeast Asia during the period just before WWII. It is different from other books I have read on the topic, though, for two reasons.

First, the book is something of a composite story, as opposed to Allen’s own story. He has taken stories from many former expats (most of whom appear as characters in the book, of course), and compiled a composite look at the region and the life of Europeans here during that time. That alone makes the book interesting.

The second point which I appreciate about the book is perhaps more significant. It seems to me to be a book very much written in a postcolonial age, with a real sensitivity to the imperfections inherent in the colonial agenda. But at the same time, it does not come across as a sort of “penance�" in which the Great White Hunter must now apologize for his former insensitivity and demonstrate that he is truly reformed (at last!). This often seems to be the tone of other books about expatriate living during the colonial period which I have read (at least those which take postcolonial concerns seriously). Instead, Allen writes with a view of what these men and women believed they were doing at the time. It seems to me to offer a very balanced view, taking into account the feelings which have been expressed by those formerly labeled or treated as Other, but not at the expense of a sense of honesty about what the colonialists thought they were doing (however misguided one may accuse them of having been). For the most part, he points out, these men and women were not as arrogant as they have often been portrayed. Rather, they were often under the thumb of the very same powers which were ultimately responsible for the colonial mentality which has become so dispised today -- whether King or Company, or both.

It is worth the read, both for the sake of the interesting stories presented, and also for the voice in which those stories are expressed.

Shop Amazon for Charles Allen's Tales from the South China Seas

Tales from the South China Seas: Images of the British in South-East Asia in the 20th Century






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this post first appeared on my other blog here

Monday, March 12, 2007

Bottle Tree Park

Some time back, I wrote about The Bottle Tree Village in Singapore's northern coastal area of Sembawang. The restaurant has recently opened up a new park in Yishun, just a little south of Sembawang.

The new park, Bottle Tree Park, is situated around a fishing pond. There is a cycling path surrounding the pond, and a restaurant sitting beside it. There are many bottle trees growing on the land, and it spreads out nicely from Sembawang Road over to the MRT tracks in Yishun.

Bottle Tree Park is walking distance from Khatib MRT (about 700 meters south). There's a pleasant cycling path that stretches from the train station to the park. On weekends, it can get a little crowded, but a fun place nonetheless.

If you fish in the pond at the park, you can take the fish into the restaurant and they will cook it right up for you. There is a $5 fee per person for fishing.


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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Some New Travel Blogs

I've recently introduced a friend to blogging, and he's started up a number of new sites. I thought I'd place a link here to those sites so you can easily take a look:


The new blogger ValkrieANGEL has burst onto the scene.... have you met him yet? He's got a great site, with lots of great pictures!

He works in the travel industry, and his work place travel is a blog with all sorts of cool tips for traveling.

His leisure related travel is maintained by the same guy, but it's his own personal stuff, and not just work related. He's a really well-traveled guy, and he's got some great photos at that site.

He's also started a dime for my thoughts on books i have read, and it is a pretty clever little spot for reading up about books.

And finally, his JAMEO tips has lots of great tips for managing time and things like that.

I think he's doing a great job of getting started on his new blogs. Stop by and take a look at his place and see what you think. And tell him I said hi when you get there.



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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Picadilly Circus, the Satay Club (London)

For Asians traveling in the UK, the food can quickly begin to feel bland and boring. It's one of the complaints I often hear from friends here in Singapore and from other parts of Asia when they talk about traveling to the UK.

When I was in London, I found just the thing to solve this problem. Right in the heart of Picadilly Circus is a little restaurant that calls itself the Satay Club. The satay there was pretty authentic, as was the rest of the Singapore/Malaysia cuisine.

I know... it's kind of bad to travel so far overseas and start craving food from home. Ideally, it's great to get immersed into the culture and enjoy the flavors of the place to which you've traveled. But after a while, a meal like what you can get at the Satay Club is a great feeling. I imagine it would be all the more appealing to people who are working or studying in the UK and would like a change of pace.



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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

How Way Restaurant

How Way Restaurant on Tian Yao Qiao Road in Shanghai has a wide selection of unique dishes. I enjoyed everything we ate there, and especially liked the mushrooms. My mouth is watering just thinking of them again.

The presentation of dishes at How Way is quite special. The fried potatoes come in what looks like a mountain atop a plate. They are crispy, and it is a rather huge portion. Other dishes come in bowls propped up on a stand with a small flame underneath, on plates arranged to look like goldbars, and in other unique arrangements. The set-up is really quite attractive, and the atmosphere is conducive for watching the dishes as they are brought in to the tables around you. In that way, it is a nice opportunity to see the full range of dishes served by How Way.



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Monday, March 05, 2007

Going to Phoenix? A Resource for You...

Before you head to Phoenix on your next trip, take a look at AZ Central. It will give you all sorts of tips on Phoenix events so that you can make the best of your time while you travel to Phoenix.

AZ Central is one of the top-rated newspaper-affiliated websites. It offers all sorts of good info on what's going on in Phoenix, and makes planning your itinerary there a real breeze. To make it even better, AZ Central recently expanded both its calendar and its budget, making it a real repository of information about Phoenix and the events you won't want to miss while you are there.

Stop by AZ Central if you need info on Phoenix dining and nightlife. AZ Central plans to have at least 3 completely new restaurant reviews each week, and to provide definitive guides to the top restaurants, bars, nightclubs and after-work activities in the Phoenix area. So before you travel to Phoenix, stop by AZ Central



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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Sri Paya Resort, Tioman, Malaysia

The Sri Paya Holiday Chalets are not the most famous resort on Tioman Island in Malaysia. The most famous would be the Paya Beach Resort. No, the Sri Paya is a whole different ballgame.

The Sri Paya Beach Holiday Resort is a collection of little chalets. They were not air conditioned (though the website says they are now). In fact, they don't have hot water either. That said, I loved staying at this resort.

We were given a pair of rooms, each with two queen sized beds. The seaside winds at night were plenty cool enough, and we didn't wish for air conditioning at all. Between the two rooms, we had a patio area that made for a great place to sit in the evening at the end of a long day spent in the water.

What I liked most about the place was its homestyle atmosphere. The food was good, if simple, and there was a whole lot of it. We started each day with a very big Malay-style breakfast, cooked by the family who owns and runs the resort. Each day, a lunch of nasi lemak was packed for us to take onboard the boat and eat at whichever site we felt suitable during our outings for the day. And in the evening, it was another big homestyle Malay dinner. We still managed to find room for a late night snack at one of the burger stalls at the beach most evenings.

When we got back to our hotel each night, while waiting for dinner time, we would spend a little time on the jetty with the local kids. We enjoyed diving off the jetty into the waters below. The kids performed all sorts of acrobatic feats in their leaps from the platform a good ten feet above the water. It was fun to think about what their life and upbringing must be like in such an idyllic setting like that at Tioman.

We usually ended our day at the jetty as well. After dark, the stars blazed in the sky. But what was really amazing was to see the tiny fish that glowed on the floor of the sea below us. It looked like the waters, black at night time, were mirroring the glory of the stars in the heavens.

There are lots of hotels that have nicer facilities on Tioman Island, but I doubt there are any that could have formed a more perfect setting for my taste in holidaying. I loved being in the homestyle environment, and playing with the local kids, and eating the home cooking. And, to make it all the better, our entire package cost less than one night at one of those fancier hotels on the island.




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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Disney World Vacation, Places to Stay

When I'd been living overseas for several years, my family planned a trip to Disney World together on my next trip home. My parents, sisters, brother-in-law, nephew and baby niece all packed up and made the drive to Florida. It reminded me of how, years earlier, my parents, sisters, and I had driven the other direction to LA and been to Disney Land. That time, we'd stayed in a tent across the street from Disney Land. This time, things had changed. We got two apartments, vacation rentals, near Disney World.

Florida vacation rentals come in all shapes and sizes, and price ranges too. We are not a wealthy family, by any means, but were able to find a good affordable pair of apartments and stay very comfortably together in Florida. We really enjoyed the time there, not least all being so close together at the end of the day. We played at the park all day, and when we got home to put the little ones to bed, we were still in a comfortable environment to all play (now board games and cards) together at home. It was, for us, the ideal situation.

If you're looking for a good vacation rental in Florida, check with vlbo vacation rentals, the kind sponsors for this post.


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Snorkeling in Krabi

It's been several years since I was in Krabi, Thailand... back before the big tsunami that did so much damage to the region. I understand that the area is getting back on its feet, and that tourism there is once again good. In fact, a trip to Krabi can help to boost the area's economy as it recovers from that devastating storm.

Krabi is a wonderful place to snorkel. We hired a boat just for ourselves, and it was very affordable. It can be managed at any of the little stalls on the roadside near the beach, or it can be done from one's own hotel. I preferred the packages (and prices) from the little stalls by the road. Alternatively, you can book a spot on a diving boat, which we also did for one of our snorkeling trips. It is different from booking one of the little boats because you'll find yourself in much deeper (and rougher) waters)

The waters around Krabi are amazing. There are several small islands off the coast, making for lots of sealife to be seen there. The drop off at some spots can be pretty steep. At one point, we were encountered by what seemed to be a black wall in the water. That was where the sea floor made a dramatic drop. As we swam closer to that black wall, the water got cold. We turned back without entering the deeper waters, to be on the safe side (and at the advice of our boat operator), but it was an eerie experience to see the waters in that state, and feel the cold of the deeper waters creeping over the whole body.

One of the things I really enjoyed seeing in the waters of Krabi was the starfish. There was one attached to the cliff face of one island we'd stopped at with the diving group, and it was no less than five feet from tip to tip. It was a bright blue color, almost luminous, that contrasted beautifully with the brown and red of the coral to which it was attached on the cliff face. It's one of those pictures that I will keep in my mind for a long time.




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Traveling Shoes

I've traveled over lots of parts of the world, and have worn out lots of shoes on the road. I've worn boots, hiking shoes, tennis shoes, sandals, and about any other sort of shoe you can think of while traveling about. I've found sandals to be a sort of shoe that I can't do without on the road. And the sandals you can buy these days can be very lasting, along with being very comfortable while on the road.

There are all sorts of good sandals for travel: rainbow sandals, reef sandals, chaco sandals, Crocs. Which type of sandal is preferred depends mostly on the wearer. For me, I like a sandal with a heel strap when traveling, so that it can be held nicely in place without slipping. For more rugged trips, this is especially necessary. I went on a rafting trip a couple of years ago, and the sandals I took then were an old pair, and did not have a heel strap. They were slippery when getting on and off the raft, and I would not recommend that for anyone, though the sandals were otherwise comfortable.

As important as the type of strap a sandal has is the material it is made of. I prefer not to wear leather sandals because they are not as good for wet conditions. I am not crazy about sandals with rubber enclosed tops. They tend to hold in odors, and this can be bad when they get wet. To me, something like this would be a perfect sandal for traveling, and it is the type I always keep on hand.

I have found, however, that sandals are not ideal when on long flights. I've had another passenger run over my toes with his luggage, and ended up with a painful break in the nail for the rest of the trip. I usually wear a closed shoe while flying, and carry a pair of sandals. They aren't hard to fit into the luggage, being so flat, so it's really no extra burden. One thing is for sure, I won't travel without a pair of sandals with me. They are the perfect shoe, most of the time.



Sponsored by Active Sandals, a division of Active Online


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