Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Simple Things

When traveling, it most often happens that we see all of the "big things" during our trip. Don't miss the Statue of Liberty when you are in New York, the Pyramids in Egypt, the Great Wall when in China, and all that. (Chairman Mao even said that you haven't been to China till you've seen the Great Wall.)

Well, of course, you shouldn't miss those things. But, there is also something to be said for not missing the simple, small things when traveling.

I recently took two different groups to Shanghai, one in May and one in July. We saw all the "big" things -- the Bund, the TV Tower, People's Square, and even the water villages outside of Shanghai... and of course, loads of shopping. But I found that both groups equally loved being in Lu Xun Park, a small park where lots of local Chinese people spend the few free hours they might have during the day. We rode little boats on a pond (manmade); we rode bumper boats (with these great cannons that shoot rubber balls at fellow boaters); we just walked around and enjoyed the atmosphere. And it was great.

Sometimes an afternoon spent in a tea house, a morning walk through a park, or a night sitting by the river can be the difference in a great trip and a merely busy trip. Remember to plan in some time to do and see the simple things when traveling. It might not be the sorts of things to write home about, but they might be some of the memories that most evoke the feel of a place too.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

The Beauties of New Zealand

It's been two years since I was in New Zealand. This short video can't begin to show the beauties of the place, but what I thought was worth showing was that the beauty is not limited to the grand vistas (which are absolutely breathtaking). All of these photos are of little things along the way that we saw -- a sunset, animals, flowers, trees, stones, and all that. (And a good sense of humor in one of them.)

New Zealand wasn't my first choice of places to visit, but I am really glad my friends chose it. It was a trip to remember.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Western Food in Singapore's Heartlands

I've only recently learned of Botak Jones, a chain of Western food stalls in Singapore's heartlands. Unlike many stalls in coffee shops around the island that serve Western food, this one looks like it offers generous portions at reasonable prices. It's usually either/or where Western food is concerned in Singapore's coffee shops. (Though there are a few others that have both good prices and generous portions.)

I haven't gotten to try it out yet, myself, but I heard about it and looked it up online. We're making plans to go sometime next week. I'll check back in with a report on it when we've tried it out. I'm hoping it's as good as advertised.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Free Domain

Calvyn and I have agreed to exchange reviews of one another's blogs via the service offered by ReviewBack. It's a great place to get to meet other bloggers.

iCalvyn is giving away a free domain to any blogger who reviews his blog. It's a great deal, if you ask me. Visit his site and have a look at the excellent offer from Calvyn. He's an IT officer, and knows what he's doing with his blog. I think you'll find lots of good tips around there.

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Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas

I grew up in Houston, back in the days when baseball was played in the Astrodome. I knew I would miss those days when I moved away, and I did. I was very sad when they moved from the 'Dome to their new downtown ballpark, and was saddened to think I'd never sit in another game in the Astrodome on my trips home.

I wouldn't stay away from games, though, no matter how begrudgingly I went to the then-named Enron Field the first time. My dad raved about it, but I knew it wouldn't be the same for me.

And it wasn't. It still isn't, when I go. But I have to admit that not being the same still doesn't detract from the charm of the place.

Although Minute Maid Park gets some ribbing from the national media and baseball fans across the country, often being called "The Juice Box" (referring to the ease of hitting a ball into the Crawford Boxes in left field, mostly), it is actually a very nicely made park. The alleys are terribly long, creating opportunity for some exciting plays.

The park is a very postmodern development, which surprised me considering it sits in Houston. It is a real bricolage of a place, with bits and pieces taken from baseball history and the history of its own locale and making of them a new integrated whole. I like that and find it makes for something interesting in the place.

You can read more about it at the official site of the Houston Astros. Tours of the park are available during the offseason. You can find some interesting facts about the park here.

If you are an Astros fan, maybe you'd like to visit this guy.
EDIT: and there's another new blog dedicated to the Houston Astros that you might like too.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Travels with Kids

Traveling with kids is a whole different ballgame from my normal solo travels. Fortunately for me, the kids I had along with me were very well behaved, but that was largely helped by a few things. I thought these few tips might be helpful to others who need to bring some little ones along on a long journey.

1. Try to help the kids be prepared. Tell them what to expect. Tell them what you expect of them. Tell them what your concerns are. For instance, if you're in a more crowded spot than they are used to, let them know that the danger of them getting lost is that much greater, and so they need to stick to you closer than ever. In other words, clear communication of what to expect and what is expected of them is a big necessity.

2. Bring along some things to entertain them, and let them carry it themselves. If they pack their own toys, books, and things, it will help them to feel excited about waiting times, which are inevitable.

3. Find quiet, uncrowded spots when you can during the journey. Let them sit down if that is what they need. If, on the other hand, they need to stretch their legs, you can let them run about in those uncrowded spots and burn off the excess energy.

4. Expect the unexpected. It is bound to happen somewhere along the journey, so don't let it rattle you. When you're rattled, the little ones will know it.

Having taken kids -- ages varying from 1 year to teenagers -- on international flights a number of times, these are the things I would advise. The journey can be exhausting if you let it, but if you plan properly, you can make it part of the adventure.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gourmet Gift Baskets

Having friends and family all over the world can sometimes make it tough to get just the right gift to just the right person at just the right time. Believe me, I know. I am in that situation.

But sending gourmet gift baskets to loved ones can make the perfect gift any time. At Gourmet Gift Baskets, you can order special gift baskets for any taste. Texas Gift Baskets and Italian Gift Baskets are some of the favorites... and of course, who wouldn't love a Chocolate Gift Basket? There are gift baskets for all occasions too... housewarming, thank you, new baby, sympathy, birthday, anniversary... you name it, and you'll find it at Gourmet Gift Baskets.

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Really Long Delays...

I got caught on the way home in a delay too -- who would've thought I'd get delayed both coming and going? The irony is that I planned this flight schedule so much more carefully than I usually bother to do because I had two kids traveling with me (6 and 7). Ugh.

The return journey was the rough one, really. The delay was listed as just an hour. Three hours later, we were still sitting in the terminal when the airline decided to send us to a hotel. Yuck.

But, well, at least they did provide us with a room and dinner. I guess such things can't be helped... but they are easier when traveling alone.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Free Internet Access at the Airport?

I am logged in at Changi Airport in Singapore. My flight has a 4 hour delay. But, the good news is that there is free internet access here. I don't have to feel the time wasted in the least.

I have gotten online at various other airports around the world, but almost always using my own computer, and almost always at terrible rates. Here, not only is it free, but they even have several banks of computers where users can easily log on.

It's great for those times when you need to send an email and let the other side know your flight's been delayed. Even if the delay is less than great.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Airline Credit Cards

One of the good ways to accumulate miles for free or discoutned travel is to use Airline Credit Cards. I've used one in the past, and collected a lot of frequent flyer miles that ultimately helped me get a free ticket to Hawaii. Now, how cool is that?

If you are deciding which credit card is best for you, one way to decide is to just go get credit cards from all the airlines with which you have frequent flyer miles. Trouble is, sometimes the fees can get really high. For that reason, it is nice to first stop in at CreditCardSearchEngine.com, where you can compare the various cards and their benefits (and drawbacks) side by side. The way the information is arranged makes it easy to see what you are getting with each card.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Misa Travel

I'll be heading up to Shanghai on Monday, and I just got done booking my tickets at Misa Travel. I have to say that it is really a no-frills type of thing. They aren't going to do a whole lot of the extra warm-fuzzy stuff, but they get the job done.

What I like is that you don't have to do a whole lot of dealing with travel agents who are actually too busy to give you good service. You do all the choosing of flights, all the booking, and so forth, online. You then make payment by either credit card, cash, or direct transfer. Then you go and pick up your tickets.

If you are sick of so-so service from travel agents, Misa offers a good alternative that allows you to do it yourself.

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Travel Writing

I was thinking about travel writing after browsing through The Real Story. I got to thinking about the really great travel writers, and wondering who I might listing as the best.

I suppose that my list comes to these:
Pico Iyer
Paul Theroux
Thomas Keneally

There are several others that I enjoy, but these strike me as some of the best. I have not read Bill Bryson (can you believe it), but I have a feeling he will make my list of favorites when I do get around to reading him.

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Supplies for Diabetics

If you are always needing to take care of Diabetic supplies, you might be glad to know about American Diabetes Wholesale. They supply good quality name brand supplies for diabetics at discounted prices. You can also get over-the–counter pharmacy items at cheaper prices than normal.

So, what will you find there? How about diabetic meters, diabetic test strips, lancets, and other diabetic supplies? You'll find there a huge selection of diabetic supplies at a 30-60% savings. In addition, you'll get excellent customer service when you shop at American Diabetes Wholesale.

If you are in need of supplies for diabetic patients at discounted rates, get in touch today.

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The Real Story

Another good read I came across while browsing in the library was called The Real Story, a book edited by Robert Burgin. It is a book about the different sorts of nonfiction writing, the "biggies" in each genre, and the appeal of the genre. It focused on a few very apt examples of each genre.

I was, of course, especially interested in the section on travel writing. I found a lot of titles there that looked really interesting, as well as some tips on how to approach travel writing.

I am going to be away next week, so I didn't check the book out. I will when I get back, though, and I hope it will help in my own writing.

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Did You Know...?

PPP Direct

Did you know that you can hire me to write for you and post it on this blog? While I usually write about places I have been, I do from time to time write sponsored posts on this blog too.

I prefer to stick to travel-related ads, though I have done a few that are not travel-related. If you'd like to get me to write an ad for you, you can click the tab above and Pay Per Post will help us make all the arrangements.

If you are interested in writing sponsored posts on your blog, click the tab below to get started

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Royalty Free

I've watched a fair share of travel videos, and often watch the Travel and Living Channel at home. On many of the promotional type videos, it is common to see a lot of stock footage.

AlwaysHD is bringing a revolution to the industry by offereing royalty free stock footage. AlwaysHD offers stock footage to companies involved in production, including advertising agencies, broadcast television studios, documentary producers, independent filmmakers, and cinema studios on behalf of its contributing cinematographers. The cinematographer then gets a bit of revenue when their footage sells. The buyer gets it royalty free, meaning s/he can use it over and over again. That works out to be win-win for both buyer and seller.

Wouldn't it be cool if I one day saw some of my video clips appear as stock footage... and of course, all the better if it generates a little revenue!

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Reflections on a Magazine

After browsing through Action Asia today for the first time in many years, I was struck by just what a good magazine it is. And, in case you hadn't noticed, I've been getting rather long-winded about it.

It really is fine writing. If you'd like to see what it brought to mind for me, see my earlier blogs here:

Good Travel Writing
Bicycling in Bhutan
Action Asia
This Blogger, in the Library

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Good Travel Writing

Good travel writing isn't easy to do, nor is it always easy to find. That's why I enjoyed coming across Action Asia today for the first time in many years. The writing is really top-notch.

If you're into Asian travel, or adventure travel, this is not a magazine you want to miss. Not only is the writing good, but the topics covered are widely varied and are always interesting.

Pick up a copy when you get a chance. You'll probably find yourself continuing to think about it all day long... like I seem to be.

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Security Software

Software Security Solutions has done extensive testing to come up with an oustanding security software package. In fact, they have found the best Security Software in each threat category including Anti Virus, Anti Spyware, Exploits, and Firewalls. To make it even better, they have put these great products all in one place, offering you the complete security software package solution.

Having a comprehensive package like this can save both time and money. Customers have continually found this to be true with the security package offered by Software Security Solutions. If you haven't tried them out yet, give it a look and see if they have the package for you.

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Bicycling in Bhutan

One of the other articles that really interested me while I was browsing through Action Asia in the library earlier today was the account of a bicycling trip across Bhutan. The pictures were fabulous, and just the thought of it all really got my blood pumping.

I've not yet done a cycling trip across any given country, though I am an avid cyclist. I've done a fair bit of backpacking, but that is about it. I would absolutely love to do a trip on the bike like the one I read about in Action Asia today.

It reminds me what I love about this magazine.

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Action Asia

While I was reading through Action Asia today for the first time in many years, I was struck by just what a good magazine this is. It has lots of insightful articles, introduces a lot of places, and is full of thrills and excitement. It certainly lives up to its name.

One of the articles that had me rather tickled was written by a diver, talking about sharks. It was pretty funny how he kept referring to getting bitten in a very off-hand manner, while wondering why people are so afraid of sharks. I thought the humor of it was great.

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So, Where Will You Stay?

Remember I asked if you were planning a trip to Orlando, Florida? And I talked about getting discounts on tickets and all that?

Well, there's one other big concern when traveling to the area, and it is also possible to make sure you get the most for your money.

I'm talking about accommodations. Vacation Villas in Orlando are really the ideal way to go, allowing you to stay in top-notch accommodations while you are visiting Orlando's 52 theme parks. Or its multitude of beaches. Or the golf courses that are almost too numerous to count (and are also of fantastic quality).

There's so much to do while you are in Orlando. Having excellent quality accommodations while you are there will make your stay all the more enjoyable. And, when you book online, you can get some really good deals too.

So, while you are planning your trip, don't overlook the great villas available.

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This Blogger, in the Library

Today, I found myself in the very unusual situation of being out of the house and office with some time to kill, and no book in hand. I always take a book, just in case this happens, but somehow, today....

I managed to pop into the library, and found a magazine I've not read in years, though I used to enjoy it very much when I was a regular reader: Action Asia. I picked up a back issue, from sometime last year, and it happened to be the 100th issue.

Fun! Fun! Fun!

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Sydney Hotels

One of the things that has kept me from traveling to Sydney is the report I constantly hear about how expensive Sydney hotels can get. I tend to get pampered with some of the cheap travel that I so often do, and I suppose I am spoiled. I just have a hard time making myself pay a lot for a hotel.

Lucky, then, that there is cheaperthanhotels.com to help solve this problem when I travel to Sydney. They offer great rates on hotels, and make it easy to plan a trip to Australia's hopping capitol city. And not only that, but they also offer information on events in Sydney to help you plan your trip.

I've read at the site about the great New Year's Eve celebrations held at Sydney Harbour each year. My friends there have also mentioned how lively it can be. Ah... New Year's Eve Down Under. Now that does sound appealing!

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