May 6, 2013
One of the most popular day tours in
Korea is to the DMZ and Panmunjom. With all the news about the 29-year-old North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, I was curious to see if tours to the border area between North and South
Korea were still possible. The two-mile wide
DMZ runs about 160 miles along the 38th parallel cutting the Korean Peninsula
in half dividing Korea
into two parts.
The bus ride from
north along the river was interesting because it was lined with barbed wire and
guard houses at frequent intervals. At one point our guide pointed out that the
other side of the river was North
Korea. She said that recently a North Korean
swam across the river and knocked on the guardhouse and asked for asylum.
Our first stop was Imjingak, a park that was built to console refugees who left
Korea during the war. It is a fascinating
place that combines historical artifacts with amusement rides. The park has become a place for Koreans to
relax and enjoy the out-of-doors but it is also a place where they can bow in
the direction of their ancestral graveyards.
There is a view of the Freedom Bridge, a former railroad bridge across the Imjin River,
used by repatriated POWs/soldiers
from the North. Also on view is a huge train riddled with more than 1000 bullet
holes as a reminder of the war. South Korea
Apr 22, 2013
We have been to
One of the things John and I love to do when we visit foreign countries is to take a cooking class. It is a great way experience the culture. The Parkroyal on Pickering is located a short walk from Chinatown home to Food Playground Cooking School where we made Pandan Pancakes with Coconut Filling, Chicken Satays, and Fried Kway Teow.
One day we visited the iconic Marina Bay Sands Hotel with its nd floor. While access to the pool is only available to guests the adjacent Observation Deck with the same great views ofmind-boggling rooftop infinity pool on the 52
Singapore is open to the public for a small fee. The Sands, which as the name suggests, has a casino, over 300 stores and a museum. After a walkthrough of the shopping area we went to the . The exhibit, The Art of the Brick, is currently featuring the artwork of New York-based artist, Nathan Sayawa, who creates large-scale sculptures using LEGOs. After long days at his desk as an attorney he found enjoyment creating artwork from LEGOs then he discovered he could make a living doing what he loved to do so he left his law practice. ArtScience Museum
Next to Marina Bay Sands is Gardens by the Bay, an imaginative new addition to this already “green” city. It is just one project aimed at transforming
Singapore from “The Garden City” to “City in a Garden.” Upon arriving the first thing John and I noticed were the Super Trees ranging from 75- to 150-feet in height some of which are connected by a 300+-foot skywalk. The vertical gardens are comprised of more the 200 species of plants that offer shade during the day, but also provide solar energy, and at night are part of a sound and light display. We took a golf cart tour of the grounds which includes Heritage Gardens with four themed gardens based on the culture of Singapore’s three main ethnic groups and colonial past. And, that was before we went inside! There are four main eco zones in the dome with flowers, plants and trees from around the world. I was especially impressed with the African Baobab Trees and the Cloud Forest complete with a waterfall. We should have planned to spend the day and stay for the nightly light and sound show.
Apr 16, 2013
Bali is just one of many islands in
but it is the most famous. The name “ Indonesia Bali” conjures up images of gentle seas, swaying palms, sunny skies, and days of relaxation. And, so it is. We are fans of Air Asia, a no-nonsense budget airline. The trick is to book early to get a promo fare and to pay for luggage at the time of booking. The three-hour flight was about $200. I like it when we are picked up at the airport and that was part of our package with Pan Pacific Nirwana. Tourism continues to grow in Bali so they are expanding the airport and constructing new highways to eliminate traffic congestion.
It is an oasis of serenity. We are long-time fans of Pan Pacific and have stayed at several Pan Pacific hotels over the years and never been disappointed. Their property in
Bali is one of their few resort hotels. When we arrived we were announced by the ringing of a gong. The open-air lobby looked out to the sea. It was a great beginning to a great stay.
Our room was lovely and had a balcony with a view of the sea and pool. The huge pool was especially wonderful. It conformed to the landscape with pools on several levels that could be accessed by steps or a water slide. There were many private lounge areas some shaded by frangipani trees. I like that instead of everyone gathered around one pool. There were plenty of activities. The 18-hole Greg Norman golf course was especially popular. There were incredible views of the
Balinese food is excellent so John and I signed up for Pan Pacific’s Balinese cooking class where we learned to make Indonesian Salad, Minced Fish Satays, and Banana Fritters. Each evening we made sure we joined other guests at Sunset Lounge to watch the sun set over the
Indian Ocean. We did not arrive on time for the Wednesday weekly Balinese cultural show. Next time! The Pan Pacific Nirwana is a “life is good” kinda’ place.
Apr 9, 2013
The first time I ran across people doing a long-stay at a resort was in
at the Penang, Malaysia England,
who were staying 2-5 months. I was
impressed and thought it was a unique situation. But I have found out since that it is a
common practice for Europeans from many countries to winter in SE Asia at resorts for a month or more.
Parkroyal Hotel. The guests were Europeans, mainly from
Parkroyal Hotel. The guests were Europeans, mainly from
This year we stayed three weeks at the Regent Beach Hotel in
is the fourth time we have stayed there.
It was previously a Holiday Inn property but they are no longer partners. I wish they were so I could get Priority
Points to facilitate a stay at other InterContinental properties. Cha-am,
I think long-stays are an excellent alternative to wintering in
Florida or some other warm destination. The
advantages are many. No second property to care for thus eliminating the cost
of utilities, upkeep, and possibility of a mortgage. And, we like the fact that
we can long-stay at different locations.
We met a couple from England who stay two months at the Regent before Christmas, return to England to celebrate the holidays with their family, and then spends three months after Christmas at the resort. They have been doing this for many years. They, like others, opted for just the room when negotiating their rate.
Others have breakfast included in their rate. We love the extensive breakfast buffet at the Regent
Most of the day is spend around the pool (there are two) or walking along the beach but the Regent Hotel offers a variety of daily activities plus there are things to do in the area, the most popular being golf. We have visited a former Thai king’s summer residence and the night market where all kinds of things are offered at a bargain price. In the evening we take turns dining at the hotel, a restaurant on the beach or walking 10-minutes into a small town where there are a bevy of restaurants, shops and mini-marts. Most meals cost less than $10 per person.
Most of the long-stay guests at the Regent Hotel in Cha’am are from
We have never run into any Americans.
Resorts usually offer their long-stay and returning guests a special
Thank You Reception once a month. An
invitation was sent to our room and we gladly accepted. The reception was excellent, nicely decorated
on a grassy area near the bay, a duo band, and there was a wide selection of
beverages and food. One of the staff
members performed a Thai dance for us.
Anyone considering a long-stay at a resort should contact the selected hotel to negotiate the best price. We have discarded the option of renting a condo where we have to cook and clean – just like home – and many don’t have pools and other resort amenities. When March arrives it was like a mass exodus as the Europeans bid their farewells and returned to
Europe. It seems like such a stress free way to winter
and less expensive than buying an “winter” home.
There are many things I like about the hotels in the InterContinental family, because they have a wide range of hotels – price wise – and they are found all over the world. But that is not all. The InterContinental Hotels love to offer “The Insider’s View” to help their guests experience the local culture. One morning I got up at dawn and walked down to the beach to “make merit” by following a practice that many faithful Thais follow daily. They offer Buddhist monks “alms” of foods, drink or basic provisions, thus earning merit which adds to a person’s spiritual growth. The hotel had prepared a package of food in a special woven basket for the monks that walk along the beach in the early morning. In return I received his blessing. When I returned to my room and looked out I noticed people doing yoga on the lawn. I guess I missed that! Next time.
Actually there are a lot of things to do in the area: shopping for bargains at the night market, playing
One day we took a cooking class and make three Thai recipes including Mango Seafood Salad. The lesson started with a trip to the wet market in a tuk-tuk. However, trust the InterContinental Hotel to have a “fancy” tuk tuk not the usual three-wheel, motorcycle type vehicle. A trip to a wet market is always fascinating. We expect to see fresh fruit, vegetables and fish but we always see things we have never seen before. This time we saw fresh turmeric, taro root, and other items that our guide Chef Worawut, was able to identify and also explain how they were used. He then bought fresh prawns for our cooking class. Later in the day we met Chef Worawut in the hotel’s Thai restaurant for our cooking class. Cooking classes are a great way to experience a local culture and tasty, too.
Mar 21, 2013
I had read and heard about the new
capital of Nay Pyi Taw where construction started in 2002 but had been told that it was in a restricted zone so tourists were not permitted to visit. That has changed. Information on travel to Nay Pyi Taw, referred to as NPT, is often out-dated, sketchy and misleading. Many travel agents still claim that visiting NPT is not allowed. Before I left the Myanmar United States I called the Myanmar embassy in and learned that tourists are now permitted to visit NPT. Washington