We all have our wish list of places in the world that we want to see sooner rather than later and most of us also operate on a time and money budget. So these three destinations may not rank high on your list of places to visit, but we want to tell you why they are highly ranked on our list of memories.Continue reading
Contiki China Adventure Tour Review
Well, my Contiki days are over now but after traveling with 8 Contiki Tours (Italian Espresso, Eastern Mediterranean Cruise, Greece & Italy, Middle Europe, Spanish Spree, Big Indochina, Thai Island Hopper, and China Adventure, whew!), I feel confident saying that the China Adventure is the very best Contiki has to offer. I loved all my experiences, but this one was especially top notch.
Why? See all the very best of China in one trip, go on and off the beaten path, stay in four-star hotels, and make great friends – all with excellent local guides and the best Tour Manager ever: Luke!
Luke was very knowledgable, professional, fun, and just an all around good guy with lots of positive energy. He made a point to take us away from the crowd at the Great Wall so we felt we had it all to ourselves (a priceless “wow moment”) and also took us to some other places, like a local art district, that don’t attract many tourists.
The trip was action packed with all the sites you want to see: forbidden city, Great Wall, terra-cotta warriors, etc., and even though the group demographic was slightly older and better traveled than you’ll find on a European Contiki tour, there was still plenty of opportunity to explore the Shanghai and Hong Kong night life.
You will even get the chance to relax a bit with a leisurely bike ride along the Xian city wall, a Chinese acrobatic performance, a bamboo raft ride and some spa treatments in Yangzhou. All the optionals were well worth it!
I don’t usually like going to the super touristy shopping areas. I did, however, do a lot more shopping than usual and got some really great items – like my silk comforter that I can’t live without & my pearls that I’m wearing right now! I shipped everything home from Hong Kong to make for easier travel.
Three out of the five hotels were WAY nicer than the standard Contiki tour and much better than my budget usually allows, so this was a special treat – oh, and the breakfast spreads were out of this world, especially in Hong Kong!
I value the friendships I formed on this trip, and I even got to visit a few friends in other world travel excursions.
In sum, just do it!
A lovely final 24 hours in Asia spent on the water with a Singapore Sling
Listening to the call to prayer over the urban sounds of Penang, Malaysia
Beautifully multicultural Penang,
Leaving my mark on the world, however temporary (at Ao Nang Walking Street)
I awoke to a rooster’s call. It was 6:00 a.m. and muggy, but the air was cool. I had been sleeping on a mat on the floor under mosquito netting. I had one of those “Where am I?” moments.
Then I remembered, we had stayed with a family the night before on a rubber tree farm in Southern Thailand. Yesterday, the father walked us around the neighborhood and showed us the rubber trees. Then, the mother cooked us an amazing dinner with curry, sweet and sour chicken, vegetables in oyster sauce and tom yum soup. The youngest son did what children in any culture seem to do: he showed us his toys and assessed our potential as characters in his imaginary world.
What a fantastic experience. As I awoke to the sound of the rooster, I remembered the family was Muslim, and out of respect, I put a shaw around my shoulders before starting my quest for a morning cup of coffee.
Khao Sok National Park
Well, it hasn’t done much but rain during our two night stay in the jungle, so all I’ve been doing is reading and eating pad thai – which is kind of nice, but I’ll be good and ready for a serious kayaking session if the rain ever stops!
During dinner, the power went out and we were told it probably wouldn’t come back on tonight. Fortunately, wifi came back on with the generator and I was able to download a book and a flashlight app (why doesn’t this come standard on the iPhone?) before heading back to my bungalow.
So, I have to say, walking to my bungalow – alone, in the dark, in the rain, through water to my shins, with the sounds of the jungle all around me – was kind of creepy! Thank goodness the hotel staff assured me if my room needed to be evacuated during the night, they would wake me up.
As I entered my bungalow bathroom to hose off my feet, and saw a cockroach scurry across the title floor, I just said, “eh, you’re the least of my worries” and promptly found my way under the mosquito netting to try and sleep a bit. Oh, if only mosquito netting kept out centipedes…
Khao Sok National Park, Thailand, 2013-June
The best thing about being a wanderer, or at times being consumed by wanderlust, is the stories you collect. In addition to collecting my own stories, I like to hear about other people’s adventures.
I had a 7 hour delay at the Kathmandu airport – which worked out well because I wound up on a direct flight to Bangkok on the very posh Thai Airways flight that would have cost me $900 if I booked it directly.
While sitting there at the airport, I met a really cool chick from the U.S. who just spent a month hiking in the Himalayas. What a story! In addition to telling me about treacherous, life threatening pathways, being soaking wet in the frigid great outdoors, and appearing in newspapers after a theft at the campsite, she also told me about leeches. She showed me her battle scars and described the leeches as if they were featured in a horror flick. Continue reading