December 2016 Travel Photo of the Month

Between the brutal jet lag and catching up on real life, I’ve neglected editing the 824 photos my husband and I took during a recent trip to Southeast Asia. Equally daunting: how can one possibly chose just one to feature as December’s Travel POTM™? Time management and prioritization aside, I’d like to offer a glimpse into a part of our journey that wasn’t even on our radar prior to our trip planning.

Enter Tonlé Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake. Some interesting factoids about this body of water in Cambodia? It flows in two directions–due to the Mekong River–and can swell to be four times its size in the wet season. We traveled by car to a boat “dock” (I use that term lightly), where we boarded a rickety local boat, run by an engine that resembled a weed whacker and sorely needing a fresh coat of paint.

Our cruise took us to Kampong Phluck, a small village entirely on stilts! Fishing is the main local economy, and we delighted in seeing families working together to bring in that morning’s catch. Imagine an entire existence based upon living on the water in a house on stilts! Even further, the schools, police department, and even temple were raised high above the muddy waters as locals buzzed about in small boats.

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Stilt Village on Tonlé Sap Lake

We also saw multiple crocodiles and had a harrowing canoe tour, yet that is a story for another day. Perhaps one in the future when I have edited all of the photos from an incredible visit to Southeast Asia…

Princess Cruising to Alaska

In my ever-exciting quest to visit all 50 state capitols, one of my dear friends and I set off for Southeast Alaska to hit Juneau via a Princess Cruise. We were thrilled to learn that the Golden Princess departed on a summer Saturday from Seattle during Seafair, and we spent the day prior to the cruise exploring the Emerald City. My friend and I hit the high points: Pike’s Market, a duck tour of Lake Union, Smith Tower, and drinks with a local friend. The following day, we headed for the largest US state as we boarded our ship.

Upon immediate exploration, we decided to make the most of our time at sea and filled up our days at sea with activities galore: TRX classes at the gym, treatments at the spa, bingo, shopping classes, card games (literally 15+ hours of Spite and Malice at the boat’s wine bar), and enjoying the ship’s big band music. Some things we learned about Alaskan cruising Princess-style: “all-inclusive” barely covers anything, never do the set dining (dull table mates), pack for warmth with layers, and always buy the full bottle of bubbles/make friends with the bartender. We loved the relaxation that we found away from it all, though, and we achieved Princess’ mantra of “escape completely.”

We hit Juneau on a drizzly Monday morning, and we immediately took off through the downtown area towards the state capitol. Upon arrival, a kind volunteer gave us a wonderful tour–did you know that Alaska has the only state seal with a seal on it?–and shared some wonderful stories about Elizabeth Peratrovich, one of the first civil rights activists. Shopping and a whale watching excursion completed our time in the capitol city.

Next stop was Skagway, which was a little town rich with gold rush history. We opted to go on an close-by adventure to a musher’s camp (picture: Alaskan sled dogs made famous by the Iditarod) to experience nature and cuddle the baby huskies. This was especially well-worth the trip when we came across a bear less than 30 feet away. Rar! We also stopped in the famous Red Onion Saloon–a former brothel!–and enjoyed the scandalous tour. The next day, the cruise ship sailed around Glacier Bay, and we happily shelled out more money to sit in the adults-only Sanctuary and watch the beautiful glaciers calving (breaking apart and falling into the water with a loud clap, which the Tlingits called “white thunder.”)

Our favorite stop was in Ketchikan, where we decided to forgo the tourist stops and do Stray Boots‘ art walk scavenger hunt. We saw wonderful galleries, watched the seals play near Creek Street, and discovered the best bar in town: the Arctic Bar, home of the lovely Paula and the best Bloody Mary in Alaska. My friend and I enjoyed going off the beaten path (read: away from fellow cruisers) before getting back on board and cruising onward to Victoria, BC. Having journeyed to beautiful Victoria before, we spent some time people-watching near the harbor during our quick stop in Canada before heading back to the Golden Princess for one final round of Spite and Malice.