Travel Photo of the Month: November 2014

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This morning, I am inspired by the chilly morning sunshine in Las Vegas. As I set off to post November’s travel photo of the month (POTM), my thoughts went back to another lovely morning–albeit not so cold–in India. I was traveling between Delhi and Agra to see the famous Taj Mahal, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the scenery we were passing. Women were carrying water containers on their head, and men were gathered at local stands, presumably buying cigarettes or daily necessities. As my driver sped through village after village, the quiet scene captured in the POTM really made an impression upon me–the calm in the midst of a hectic morning.

I hope the serenity this 2012 photo offers you the same peace it does for me today. I wish all of my readers a wonderful week and a peaceful remainder of the year.

Morning Fog in India

Morning Fog in India

Travel Photo of the Month: September 2014

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In 2010, I purchased an around the world itinerary for a month-long long business trip that took me to the Middle East. I was thrilled to visit both Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates–especially Dubai. The trip was so incredible that it deserves its own entry, but for now, I’d like to share a highlight: an evening excursion that included exploring nearby sand dunes and a camel ride. Yes, it was touristy, but yes, it was a great memory. Meet my camel friend in the Travel POTM™ below. Happy September!

Camel Near Dubai

Camel Near Dubai

Business Trip to Bangalore

Although I’ve had the pleasure of journeying to India before (you can read about my trip to Delhi here), I was thrilled to go on a business trip to Bangalore last month. Part of my excitement was visiting the tech hub of India, and after my previous visit to “Incredible India!”, I wanted to experience more. The similarities: the hustle and bustle of daily life, the kindness of the people I encountered, and the incredibly delish cuisine. Speaking of cuisine, I enjoyed some of my favorites–masala, paneer, dosas!–multiple times throughout the visit. I also learned to love Indian tea.

With a packed agenda of meetings and not much time to see the city after it took nearly two days for me to arrive, I hired a driver to take me into the city center on a Sunday afternoon. I visited the quaint Bangalore Palace, which had guided tours and quite a bit of history to learn about the families that lived there in the past. (Note: if you are vehemently against the shooting and displaying of wild game, I’d skip it.) My driver also took me to Shiva Temple, and he was kind enough to tour it with me to explain some of the Hindu traditions. It was there that I took the majority of my photos in Bengaluru, and it–along with some religious history from a kind colleague–I got the best picture of local worship.

The majority of the week was spent in cars going to and fro my hotel–the swanky Zuri Whitefield–and the many meetings I had. The negative side of the Zuri: I did take the opportunity to go to the hotel’s spa (where the masseuse asked me if I ever exercised…I cringed); and the positive:the kind waiters tried to show me which foods were spicy. The one late afternoon I had off, I got to explore a local mall and try on some fabulous clothes at Biba, where I bought a really pretty shirt.

The main difference between this trip and my 2011 trip to India was sadly time: I did not have near enough of it to explore as I would have hoped.

 

Istanbul, Not Constantinople

During lunch today with a childhood friend who shares my passion for travel, the topic of vacationing in Turkey came up. While I hadn’t been to much of the country that counts itself as both European and Asian, I did experience a wonderful springtime weekend in Istanbul. From the famed sights to the gorgeous tulips, spending a weekend there was a wonderful introduction to the history, architecture, and culture of a riveting city.

I started with a visit to Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and the Grand Bazaar. My favorite of these was certainly Aya Sofia—when I walked in under the gorgeous dome of this former Christian church and Muslim mosque (now a museum)—I was blissfully overwhelmed. Later that evening, I treated myself to a traditional Turkish bath…let’s just say that I was scrubbed within an inch of my life! As a modest American, this experience was not for me.

The next day, I walked around the bustling Taksim Square before joining Eser, my incredible local guide, to visit Topkapi Palace, the Basilica Cistern, and the Spice Market. The food on my trip was lovely–think Mediterranean and delish. Even while traveling alone in this city that spans two continents, I felt mostly safe in my surroundings and one of the stamps in my passport that I was most thrilled to get…definitely crossed visiting Istanbul off of my bucket list!

Crossing Phuket Off of My Bucket List

Our trip to Thailand begain with more than 24 hours of travel on Hainan Airlines (which we referred to as “Mystery Airline” prior to departure, but it was oh-so-fabulous). My friend Brandi and I arrived at the then brand new Renaissance Resort in on Mai Khao for a refreshing welcome drink with our third traveling companion, Linda. Let me tell you something about Linda: she was kind enough to use her Marriott points to treat us all to three days in paradise in Phuket, and she definitely completed the triumvirate of awesomeness.

We had so much fun lounging on the Mai Khao Beach, giggling though little inside trip jokes, trying new foods, and getting lovely Thai massages by the ocean (an hour of massage bliss for $10? Priceless!) We could have spent our entire time in Phuket at our hotel, yet we did spend one day journeying outside of our resort–shopping for handcrafted souvenirs, buying local artwork–I purchased two matching Thai angel paintings–and experiencing the amazing cuisine.

A highlight of our time on Phuket was our trek into the jungle…on an elephant! The giant beasts were very sturdy, as they hiked through foliage—rubber trees!—to show us a stunning view of the sea. After we disembarked, we got to feed our new friends bananas, and nothing is as surreal as having two elephant trunks in your personal space…I loved it!

After our elephant experience, we decided to head over to Phuket Town, where we walked through quaint shops and visited with the shopkeepers. We left after three wonderful days for Bangkok (more Thailand adventures here), yet I would highly recommend Phuket as a stop in any luxurious Thailand itinerary.

One Day in Delhi

 

Ever since I got henna’ed and wore a sari to celebrate my friend Farah, I’ve been fascinated with culture of the Indian subcontinent. Sprinkle in some music from the Panjabi MCs and Bollywood films, and I’m hooked. Being in India—and experiencing this culture of juxtaposition—was incredible. Delhi…both old and new parts…is metropolitan and historic, with cars honking and bikes and rickshaws driving in every which way, people (and animals like wild boars, Brahma cows, and monkeys) everywhere, and seeing absolutely every walk of life out and about.

I was in New Delhi over a weekend in 2011, in between meetings in Australia and India. Saturday, I saw most of old and new Delhi, including Gandhi’s tomb, the Jama Masjid, and the India Gate. If you are traveling in Delhi by yourself, I highly recommend hiring a private tour guide and driver, as I was able to personalize what I saw. Another tip? I put my blonde hair into a cap, and I was not approached by anyone. (The next day at the Taj Mahal in Agra, I wore it loose, and one would have thought that I was a Disney character to pose with for pictures!) I’m so proud of the fact that I went for it alone…touring and meeting new friends while visiting.

I greatly enjoyed my time in this exciting, colorful country. India’s government has come up with the advertising slogan Incredible India!, which I find to be very much the case. The people were kind and happy, the contrast between the British-designed New Delhi and the older parts of the city were fascinating, and the delicious meals that I ventured out and tried for the first time made this a must-visit place. Incredible India, indeed!

My Pet Tiger Lives in Thailand

It was like any other day in Thailand. After a long drive, we arrived at the temple to serve breakfast to the monks. While they were eating, we then bottle-fed the two-month-old tigers, before having playtime with the baby tigers. If this seems surreal, it was. After spending the days prior sunning in Phuket and at a business conference in Bangkok, we took about a four hour drive to the Tiger Temple and started an unbelievable day.

The volunteers at the temple started us off with the younger cubs, and by the afternoon–after walking, bathing, playing with, and strutting various ages of these amazing creatures–we were no longer phased by a few hundred pounds of potentially deadly felines. They were now our friends. Perhaps we should have been a little terrified, as we watched these older tigers launching across the water at each other as they “played,” but we were naively happy to spend an entire day with them.

My absolute favorite part was playing with the six-week-old baby tigers. Although they had huge paws, and one can imagine how big they will grow to be, these cubs looked exactly like large kittens. And they meowrrr-ed and sang just like their house cat relatives. One of the highlights of the entire trip to Thailand (which I certainly have a lot of blogging fodder to keep me busy for a while) was a day trip to the Tiger Temple.