Orlando Florida, The Dolphin Resort, The Magic Kingdom and Epcot center

My husband was invited to a HCL conference in Orlando and we took a couple of days to enjoy Florida before the conference.  We stayed at the Dolphin Resort http://swandolphin.com/

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It was convenient because you are right in the heart of Disney so you can take the water taxi from the hotel to the boardwalk, Epcot, Hollywood Studios or The Magic Kingdom and the ride is free so that’s nice.   The Hotel is pretty nice but nothing to write home about.  It is a bit run down, and it has screaming kids on every corner.  We made our reservations months in advance yet they could only give us a room with two double beds instead of a King.  They said they “upgraded”  our room for our troubles but our room still only had two double beds and it was a corner room that looked out over concrete.  There was no turn down service, the sheets were so hard and smelled so much like bleach it was hard to sleep.  BUT the beds were really nice.  The rooms were clean and the hotel did have some nice restaurants like Shulas steakhouse where we ate one evening and enjoyed exceptional food and service.   http://www.donshula.com/locations.php?l=1&restid=10

THE MAGIC KINGDOM:  Well this was my first time ever here so I was not sure what to expect but it was pretty much what I thought it would be, kids, kids and more kids!  There are all kinds of rides and the property is HUGE!  If the lines are long go for the Fast Pass that way you can walk around, get lunch etc. and then come back to the ride and get right in with your fast pass ticket.  (NOTE:  You CANNOT get more than one fast pass for the rides, for example you can’t go around getting a fast pass for multiple rides hoping to time them, you can only have one fast pass for a ride at a time)  But its the way to go if a line is say 2 or 3 hours long. 

Space mountain was SUPER fun, a rollercoaster basically in the dark!  Of course the Log Ride is one of my favorites.  We rode the Haunted Mansion kind of slow but kids will like it, also Pirates of the Caribbean a pretty slow ride, good for small kids, The Runaway train was fast and super fun… there is lots to do for the whole family. 

The food inside Disney World is nothing but CRAP!  Its fried and fatty and everything is bad for you.   I did see lots of families bringing in their own foods, like fruits, water, sandwiches etc.  If you are watching your food intake, or on a diet, or just eat better than most people, bringing in your own food is the best way to go.

It is hot and there is lots to see so keep yourself hydrated or you will be miserable.  Wear a hat on hot days and a cool long sleeve shirt and wear GOOD walking shoes!  I can’t tell you how many times I preach the importance of NOT wearing heals, or flip-flops or sandles for places like this.  You need good tennis shoes, or Merrells or something that is good for walking or hiking and good socks, socks that wont cause blisters.  There is a lot of walking and its hot be PROPERLY prepared!

EPCOT CENTER:  I see the concept of this and I understand that for many people this is a way to experience different parts of the world.  The property is very lovely and clean but since we travel so much it was not as good of an experience for us as it may be for others.  There are several different countries represented like China, Norway, etc.  You can see a small town, watch a movie about the history and shop for things that may or may not represent or come from those countries.  I am not sure that I would have chosen it again for myself but you might enjoy it and enjoy seeing different countries represented.  And if nothing else its a good slow pace, not many kids there, beautiful to walk in the sunshine and spend time with your companions.

Las Vegas Nevada

It might seem weird to post this as part of my Travel Blog but honestly if you have never been to Vegas its nice to have a few clues as to how to handle it and soak it all in all at the same time.  It can be so overwhelming that you might find yourself frustrated.

The first and best piece of advice is dont stay in Vegas more than THREE whole days.  It can wear you out and you might even get bored with the “Vegas Scene” by then.  But that is just my opinion of course and others might tell you something different! 🙂

Vegas is as you would expect, its big and flashy and expensive and unique in all ways.  There are your high-end hotels like The Wynn and The Encore at one end of the strip, which is where Brad and I prefer to stay and there are your lower priced and older hotels like The Palms, The Flamingo, Circus Circus, Harrahs.  There are also the new City Center Hotels, Aria and Vdara.  I just got back from Vegas with my daughter and three girlfriends, we were celebrating my daughters 21st b-day together.  We stayed in the new Vdara hotel.  Its new and nice and the rooms are big BUT the hotel does not have a casino or a restaurant.  It has a bar and a small deli like place where you can get coffee and bagels.  The drinks in the bar are pretty expensive 14.00 or more a piece.  But the rooms were reasonably priced and since the hotel is new its nice and clean and smells good.

The rooms are like condos with full kitchens, stove, sink, microwave, fridge, etc.  And we had a room with a full view of the strip and the city. 

http://www.vdara.com/

It is connected to the Bellagio so its easy to just walk the walkway and get into the other hotel if you want to tour it or see the fountains at the Bellagio, which run ever 30 minutes, it’s a must see while in Vegas!  http://www.bellagio.com/amenities/fountains-of-bellagio.aspx

Its pretty easy to get a cab in Vegas and you can walk the strip and walk to most places but if you are on one end of the strip and you need to get to the other the cab is the way to go.   It is about 12.00 from one end to the other, or a few dollars for a few blocks.

You can step outside your hotel and there is a taxi stand right there where someone will whistle for one quickly!  No need to call one or make an appt, its pretty much like NY where cabs are everywhere and easy to take.

Each hotel in Vegas has its own personality.  Every casino is the same but different.  They all have different smells (yes smells) different atmospheres, and not every hotel or casino is for everyone.  We used to like to stay at the MGM and gamble there but then it got run down because MGM is in bankruptcy and the rooms and service were just awful and for some odd reason people starting bringing their little kids there and the place was crowded and loud with families.  So we stopped staying there and we pretty much don’t gamble there anymore.

Some of my favorite hotels are The Wynn, The Encore, The Ny Ny, Bellagio, and The Monte Carlo.  But everyone has their favorites and of course your budget will def determine where you can stay.  Each hotel has a buffet for dinner, lunch and breakfast.  You have to determine if a buffet is for you and if you can really eat all that food!  Sometimes the hotels will give you free vouchers or a dollar amount off or percentage off for a buffet then it’s probably worth it.

Each hotel has something like a Starbucks, or a Starbucks, places for sandwiches, bagels, etc.  And usually has a few nice restaurants.  You can easily travel to another hotel for the dinner or meal of your choice.  Dont be afraid to explore all the hotels to find what you really like.

The casinos are smoking and NON smoking, for rooms as well as gambling.  The filtration system in the casinos is really well done so you don’t really smell or see smoke of course, unless you are gambling at a table that is smoking and someone right near you lights one up.  But be aware that you do have the option to gamble in a non-smoking section.

The liquor laws in Vegas are pretty flexible you can walk the streets with a drink, etc.  Even in the airport you can order a drink in the restaurant and take it with you to the gate, that is not an issue.

Each hotel has a pool or many pools.  If the weather is nice the pools are open, period.  So no matter what time of year it is, if its sunny and warm you can swim or lay by the pool.  Each pool has towels and a bar or multiple bars so you can get drinks, or beers, or buckets of beer, water etc.  Its pretty nice!

If you want to see a show in Vegas my suggestion is be flexible if you don’t want to pay full price for something like a Cirque show.  Go to the half price ticket booths outside some of the hotels and get a show and dinner.  You will have to look at the board to see what is available, but chances are there is something there you want to see and the ticket prices are much lower than online.

Dressing for Vegas:  Well its pretty open to anything but mostly people go to Vegas and like to wear their best.  They like to dress up for dinner, dresses, suits, jackets, slacks etc.  Even in the casinos, esp the nicer ones its good to dress up.  Vegas has that old feel where people used to look their best and it feels good to dress up!  Of course you can easily wear jeans or shorts while touring the strip or shopping.  Just be prepared to sometimes change your clothes two or three times while you are there.  You will want something to wear to breakfast, for walking, for dinner and a show and maybe for dancing or partying later on.  whew! 🙂

Corinne and I in Vegas for her 21st B-day

There are lots of dance clubs in Vegas like ROK and Studio 54.  If dancing is your scene than you should def check out this nightlife.

There are piano bars  and tons and tons of bars like Coyote Ugly in the NY NY hotel.

Be prepared to pay a cover for MOST bars and clubs.  And its a pretty hefty cover sometimes 45.00 but usually in the 20.00 range.  Be prepared to show your ID if you look young you will get carded at the bars, the casinos and sometimes even just walking through the casinos to get somewhere else in the hotel.

If you win money at the casinos remember you MUST cash in your ticket or chips at THAT casino you cannot use those chips at a different Casino.  Each Casino has its own chips and money alloted to it so don’t walk away with a 500.00 ticket from one hotel and think you can cash it somewhere else, you can’t.

There is TONS of shopping in Vegas to the cheapest souvenirs to the most expensive shops like Prada, Gucci, Cartier etc.  So be prepared to shop and shop and shop!  Its pretty fun and the malls are nice.  There is a huge one at the New Planet Hollywood complex and a large shopping center at the Encore complex. 

You can buy jewelry in Vegas, there are lots of shops!  Brad bought me a beautiful diamond ring there for my 40th b-day and he has purchased a watch there but for the most part the shops are pretty expensive. 

Vegas is about having fun and just being yourself.  There is no time limit, most things except the malls are open 24/7.  Dress up, feel free and have fun!

Excellence Playa Mujeres (All Inclusive Adult Only Resort) Cancun, Mexico 2011

http://www.excellence-resorts.com/caribbean-and-mexico-destinations/excellence-playa-mujeres

NOTE: * After a lot of questions regarding this resort I want to make clear that this is NOT a swingers resort, nor is it a clothing optional resort.  A lot of honeymooners go here.  You cannot go topless at the beach or at any of the pool areas.  You cannot go naked at the pools or at the beach.   This is simply and ADULT ONLY resort because no one under 18 is allowed, no babies, no children period.  

We took a flight from Seattle to Atlanta and Atlanta to Cancun to meet our friends from Texas and stayed in this amazing resort.  We fly Delta all the way.   You will have to clear customs both coming and going.   Be sure to check the allowances on liquor and tobacco before you pack.  This is an Adult Only (not clothing optional) resort.  No one under 18 is allowed here.  That is what made it so appealing to us. We find it more appealing to be without children anywhere on our vacations.  And it’s getting so less and less families are flying first class with their small children so that is also a plus for us.     So now I will list the Pros and Cons of the entire experience.

My BFF Julie and I loving our ice cream!

The resort was beautiful.  We had a two-story suite that overlooked one of the swimming pool areas.  Our room had a very large king bed.  But the bed was very hard and it made it hard to sleep sometimes.  There were large fans in the room and of course air-conditioning but they were sensor controlled so all the doors had to be closed for them to work.  Also in the evenings while you were sleeping the air only came on if you got up to use the restroom for i.e because it was sensor controlled.  That made it hard to sleep too because it made the room very hot. 

Our upper deck had a large pool or hot tub area, and the water was luke warm.  It also had  huge bed and an outdoor shower and a large lounge for hanging out with your friends, drinking and looking out over the resort.  It was really nice.  Our friends had a similar suite with no upstairs but a swim up suite where you just opened their sliding door and you wer at the pool.   It was nice as well.

Room Service is 24/7!! 🙂

This is an all-inclusive resort so once you pay for the price up front there is really nothing else for you to pay for.  Of course the water sports like snorkling, wind surfing, parasailing and jet skies cost extra, ALOT extra. 

The Resort Dress Code:  There is a dress code at this resort please make sure you read and re-read this before you pack and travel all the way there and realize OOPS I can’t get into the restaurants.

Men must wear collared shirts to the restaurants also they must wear long pants and dress or casual shoes, No flip-flops (dress sandles are ok but not cheap flip flops).  Men can wear long pants or shorts to the knee and dress sandals to the Grille and the Lobster house.  Otherwise its pants and casual shoes and collared and button shirts, PERIOD!

Woman can wear tanks and shorts to breakfast but not at any other time.  You must wear skirts, slacks, dresses,  blouses, tops, sweaters etc.  You also must wear dress sandles or shoes, no flip-flops are allowed in the restaurants, the ONLY exception are the two outdoor restaurants, The Grille and the Lobster house.

You cannot walk into the restaurants with your bathing suits and flip-flops on.  It is not allowed and you will be turned away.  You may wear a dress or dressy cover-up over your bathing suit for breakfast at the restaurants but you still must look presentable and have nice sandles or shoes on. 

There are 9 restaurants on the resort site.  There is French, Italian, Pan-Asian, Mexican, Tappas, just about anything for every palate.

HOWEVER we found that the portions were very small and the service in most of the restaurants was really slow and really bad.

There is a great Martini Bar at the base and center of the resort itself, our friends and us met there most nites for drinks before dinner. 

The booze is pretty good, the wine is not great but it was fine for what I needed. 

You can get lunch served to you at the pools and or beach, sometimes there are grills going on the beach and you can just walk up and get a taco or hamburger or something and that is pretty nice.  You can get as much or as little to drink as you want pretty much anywhere.

The pools were plentiful and clean.  The water was always too warm but I think that is because it was SO hot there.  In the main pool in the main court-yard there is a swim up bar which is pretty fun.  We met some nice people there.

There are LOTS of Honeymoon couples at these resorts and there is a lot of “tourist” stuff that goes on, like games, singing, karaoke, dancing, Michael Jackson nite…. we were not into all that but if you are than it will be fine for you either way.

There is also a small cigar bar there, where you can buy cigars and have a drink in a cool environment.

All in all I give the resort a 7 out of 10.  I am not sure that we would go back and like I said Cancun is very touristy.  But it was relaxing and we did have a great time with our friends. 

My husband took a day to go diving in one of the Cenotes http://cenotedivingmexico.com/cenotes_yucatan.html and said the experience was amazing.  He brought his own dive computer and mask but rented the rest of the equipment.  It was 150.00 for diving PLUS 35.00 for the taxi transport to and from the dive site.

We took one day of touring to go see Chichen Itza http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chichen_Itza.  We took a huge tour bus (which we normally would never do, we prefer private drivers) But the bus ride was comfortable, kind of first class like.  They served cold drinks like sodas and beer, wine and tequila shots.  It was fully air-conditioned and had a restroom on board.  It took about 1.5 hours to arrive at the site from our hotel.

You can no longer climb or get too close to the ruins, they have them roped off.  Which is good because it will help preserve it longer.  Much of this site, the main Pyramid has been restored. 

The place was SO filled with tourists it was hard to get good shots of the ruins, but he was patient and took some nice photos.  I am sure one of them will go on our monument wall soon. 🙂   It was 110 degrees the day we were touring the site, it was DAMN hot in the sun so here is some advice:

DRESS FOR HEAT:

When you are touring in places like this and it’s the middle of summer PLEASE be sure to dress appropriately for it.  I saw people with shorts and tanks, no hats, flip-flops, no water,  and they were miserable.  You MUST wear a hat of some sort, it’s better to wear long pants that are moisture wicking and a light-colored long sleeve over shirt to keep you cool.  Wear good hiking shoes with moisture wicking socks.  And DRINK plenty of water.  Stay in the shade as much as you can.  You can quickly get dehydrated and sick in these kinds of conditions. So don’t worry about your pride, or your vanity, dress properly to ensure you enjoy the experience to its fullest.

The tour is a full day and you will be provided a buffet lunch at the site.  Remember though you will have to PAY for any drinks you get in the buffet and they are expensive.  You will be served a complimentary green tea cold beverage but otherwise all drinks, including water are about 3.00 USD.

We then went to one of the Cenotes to swim:  IT IS WORTH IT!  Pack a bathing suit and bring a towel, there are changing rooms at the entrance to the Cenote so you can change in and out of your wet clothes.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cenote

The water is SO clean and so clear and SO refreshing.  There are about 100 steps to get down inside the cave, its best to wear walking shoes and NOT flip flops, the steps are rocky and slippery and you could really get hurt or cut if you fall.  The water is very cold at first but after a day of hiking in the heat its a nice change.  Its really an experience like NO other!

Iceland 2011

So off to Iceland we went, a straight 7 hour flight from Seattle to http://wikitravel.org/en/Reykjavik.  We had planned to go and see the northern lights but that was not to be the case, it was too cold, too much snow, too much rain, wind etc.  So we decided not to waste a single second there and did the next best thing:  We rented a car and decided to tour on our own, which is what we live for anyway!

Renting a car was easy and Cheap!  There was a tour office in our hotel so it was easy to ask questions, get maps, and find out the best places to see on our own. 

We stayed at the Hilton http://www1.hilton.com/en_US/hi/hotel/KEFHFHI/index.do  and have no real complaints.  The rooms were clean, the front desk competent, they gave us a room with single beds but no biggie we just pushed them together and made the best of it. 🙂

So instead of taking a tour bus filled with people and having limited time in places, we had our own car which was fantastic and the rental came with free GPS.  The Island is big but its pretty easy to get around.  We saw Geysirs and waterfalls that were to die for.  BTW the word Geysir actually comes from Iceland, and in America we just use that word to describe the same thing.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geysir

The roads in Iceland are very nice so it was easy traveling.   We even were traveling right next to the Volcano that just erupted and put ash all over the roads, town, etc.  It was pretty cool.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_eruptions_of_Eyjafjallaj%C3%B6kull

I saw some of the best waterfalls while I was there, I love waterfalls.  And of course the best part was the Blue Lagoon, you can’t go to Iceland and not swim in the Blue Lagoon.  Its the craziest and coolest thing I have ever seen.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Lagoon_(geothermal_spa)  Just be advised that the lockers in the shower rooms are large enough for your clothes and belongings.  If you have a suitcase there are Large lockers outside the locker rooms that you can store your luggage instead of leaving it on the bus if this makes you more comfortable.  If you rent as towel and robe at the front desk just be aware it is very expensive!  Everything about the Blue Lagoon is expensive, the food, the travel bus to get there, the rental of towels and robes, etc. 

Iceland 2011

Iceland Air:  The flight itself was pretty decent, but the flight crew was the worst I have EVER encountered in the 25 countries I have been too.  They were rude, they never smiled or said pleas and thank you, they were inattentive, ignoring all of us for most of the flight.  We witnessed this both coming and going to Iceland. 

Restaurants:   There are plenty of pub’s and pizza joints, Mexican and Italian and nicer restaurants in Iceland.   The lobster dishes are to die for.  However most restaurants are very formal and want men to wear jackets and woman to be dressed for dinner.  They do not tell you this in the guide books, so be prepared.  If you show up to a restaurant and you are not dressed they way they feel you should be for dinner they actually put you in a separate room and give you the worst service possible.  

Icelanders are not that friendly, they don’t have a sense of humor and they seem put out and off by most foreigners.  They are very quiet and keep to themselves.  They will engage you in conversation, but mostly for business purposes only.  They seem to not really care much about who you are, why you are there, and how long you will stay.  They turn their nose at you and shaking hands seems foreign to them.  We did not have a bad experience but it was different.   It was very hard to strike up a conversation with anyone in restaurants, or the hotel, or on the street etc.

FASHION:  Iceland is considered very trendy.  They follow all the latest around the world fashion and they dress to the nines most places.  You did not see someone in sweat-pants and flip-flops.  All the woman were dressed up everywhere we went.   The trend at this point was fancy stretch pants, tucked into tall and high fashion boots, longer sweaters and wraps.  Most of the woman have long hair, and its usually kind of messy with a messy pony-tail, bun or braid.  I was unsure why this was but realized they walk a lot and ride their bikes to their destinations, and always wear a hat.  So they probably just figure my hair is going to get messed up anyway…  Many of them wear furs, so don’t be put off by this is this offends you.  Its cold there and furs are not only fashion but a necessity.

http://www.randburg.com/is/shopping_in_iceland/

NOTE:  Iceland is VERY expensive, be prepared to pay top dollar for most everything.  (two sodas and a bag of peanuts cost us 20.00 for i.e)   A glass of house wine can be 12.00 and right now gas is at 8.00 a gallon.  yikes!

And after thinking it through and yakking about the experience with my husband, I feel confident in saying that Iceland was without a doubt the worst customer supported and customer service experience we have ever encountered.  We have been all over the world, and I cannot think of a place that felt more cold, and showed more rudeness than Iceland.  But hey that was just our experience….

I will post photos when I have them downloaded.  Cheers!!

Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar (Burma), Vietnam & Hong Kong 2010

December 2010 sitting in our hotel room at the Anantara 5 Star resort: http://www.anantara.com/  in Thailand typing this.  I figured I had better start now or I would never get it all posted when I got home.  J Five weeks on the road and for sure I would forget something.  

Let me back up some.  First of all I want to thank Jim Harlan who is a dear friend and who helps us book much of our travel through his company:

Uncommon Adventureshttp://www.uncommonadventures.com/ 

Jim has traveled to so many places himself he is well equipped with knowledge to help us/you plan a spectacular get away.  Thank you Jim you are always a professional and wonderful to work with.  Our adventures are effortless and you take great care of every detail. 

On this trip to get from the US to our destination and everywhere in between we took the total of 15 flights and by the end will have seen 8 countries.  Those countries are, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Hong Kong.   The trip was sometimes exhausting but it can’t be helped.  If you travel that far from home you better see it all while you can.

The Airlines we flew were Eva Air, Thai Air, and Vietnam Air, all reputable and comfortable airlines.  Our experience with each of them was outstanding.  

We did not lose our bags and they arrived on time every time for each leg we flew.  Now that my friends is amazing!  

HEALTH NOTE:  These countries are highly Malaria ridden.  You must get vaccinated and have the proper medications before you travel here.  Hep A and Hep B, Malaria meds of yours and your doctors choice ( we took the Doxycycline instead of Malarone since my husband is highly allergic to that medication) You must have a Typhoid vaccine a Tetanus shot and carry the Deet wipes and the heavy-duty Deet lotion.  It’s best to also travel with clothes that help repel the mosquitos.  There is also a high break out of yellow fever from mosquitos that bite during the day.  

CLOTHING TIPS: Have a hat with you, the sun is intense and be sure to drink plenty of water. Especially if you are in Indonesia you are at the Equator and the sun is HOT and you might not even realize you are getting burned until it’s too late.  Bring and wear GOOD walking shoes.  This nonsense I keep seeing especially with woman and flip-flops and high heels while trekking through the jungle or climbing on junk boats it’s just down right senseless.  You want to be able to truly experience the villages, the jungles, the waterfalls etc.  and you can’t do it unless your shoes and clothes are appropriate for the climate and the circumstances. 

It took us two days to arrive in Indonesia.  We flew business class Eva air from Seattle to Tai Pei and Tai Pei to Jakarta.  Eva was a fine airline, the seats were comfortable, they laid almost flat. The food and drink service was over the top incredible!   I had read some reviews about the airline that were not favorable but I found everything about it to be comfortable and satisfying.  We flew business class on every flight we took that offered it.  It is the best most comfortable way to travel when you are as far away from home as we were.    It makes it less stressful and it’s easier to relax and rest on flights.  You rarely have to worry about your baggage, you are allowed to carry more weight than you probably need too, you are not hassled at check in and you can effortlessly check in to flights each time. Also you get to use the lounges at the airport which makes for a great way to relax while traveling, they have good food, drinks, and wi-fi and it’s usually quiet and sometimes you even can get a shower depending on the airport you are at.   For this trip to and from and everything in between we have to fly 15 times, so Business Class is a must when you spend so much time on planes.  

(side point: using a credit card that gives you unlimited miles with no blackout dates and no restrictions is the best way to get the upgrades to seating on flights or to book your flights business or first class.  Many banks offer this now as well as some Credit unions.  If you find free money like this you should sign up for these offers it will help you to build miles and plan amazing vacations.

In this economy not everyone has the opportunities to travel so if there are bargains to be had, and Frequent Flier miles to gain I recommend you take advantage of that. 

We stayed in an FM7 hotel in Jakarta:  http://www.hotels.com/ho324660/fm7-resort-hotel-jakarta-indonesia/  the room was large and spacious, the food in the restaurant decent and inexpensive.  The wine was served very chilled which seemed odd to what I was used too but it was about the only wine I was going to get on this trip considering the countries I was visiting.  

Of course I could buy wine at the hotel restaurants but the cheapest glass was 12 for wine that I could buy by the bottle at home for 7.00.   In the Anantara hotel they even had a bottle of Robert Mondovi wine for 1000.00 a bottle I could buy at home for 10.00.  WOW! 

We then flew from Jakarta to Sarong, and stayed in another FM7 hotel.  There we met the lady who had set us up on the dive boat with other companions.  Her company is City Seahorse Inc. out of Ft. Worth Texas http://cityseahorse.com Her partner Tony arrived with her.  We had heard mixed reviews about her as a person and most of them were not favorable, but we went nonetheless.  From the hotel in Sarong, the next morning we took a ten-minute drive to the boat, which was docked at the port.  It was a filthy disgusting run down port with old rusted boats waiting to sink, garbage floating in the water and plenty of filth to go around.  The one thing that shocked me on this entire trip was the amount of plastic just floating in the water everywhere.  There is no recycling, and since people just throw their garbage out their doors, windows, boats and cars, the plastic is the one thing that just floats, clings to animals and plant life and is a constant on the land and water. 

The one positive note about Deb and City Seahorse was that most if not all the divers on the boat were wonderful people and great experienced divers.  We had a blast with them and made some really good friends.  It was the best experience I had had on a dive boat in years.  Everyone got along, everyone made friends and the laughs were long and hearty.  (Except for Deb and Tony who were as the days went on nothing but a pain in the ass)  Brad said that everyday Deb reminded him of his x-wife with her know-it-all look at me attitude and he was getting very anxious and upset having to deal with that drama every day. 

The dive masters Ella and Abraham, Norberto and Ong were fantastic.  They were attentive and talented and made the experience a great one.  

Deb had said that this was the best diving in the world but as the days went on it proved not to be.  The visibility was poor, the current sometimes too rapid to photograph or even really see any fish.  But there were good days and there was much life in the sea. 

The food on the boat was so-so, mostly fish and chicken, the same most nights and dry.  Rice with every meal, curry, salsa, cabbage salads with peanut sauce, etc. not much creativeness. The soups were decent but sometimes too spicy. 

The boat is only 10 years old, it’s a sailing yacht.  The rooms were small but decent, the bathrooms big enough to shower and move around.  The way the boat was built was like an old pirate ship, so it was very dark and creaked a lot.  It was supposed to give the “romance” of the old seas but I just found it dark and damp. 

http://www.ondina.liveaboarddiving.net/ 

We WILL NOT book another trip with Deb and City Seahorse. We had even been informed that she was insistent on collecting all the tips for the crew at the end of the trip and dividing them up and distributing them.  But we knew that if she did not like someone on the boat that she would not give them a fair tip so we as the divers/guests put a stop to that right away.  And in the end we made it clear that we expected that every one of the crew receive fair and equal division. 

Not sure why she and Tony came on the trip except to get a free vacation from our funds. We know we could have booked the trip ourselves for a lot less and that she and her company took a big chunk off the top, which was extremely annoying to us and to all divers on the boat.   We will not only not book with them again we will make sure to tell the dive community that her services are unnecessary.   The dive masters were well equipped to take us to dive sites and show us the way we did not need Deb and Tony.  

After 12 days on the boat it was time to say our goodbyes to everyone.  Graham and Margaret Roy, Dave Miller and Alice Duong were all going to Jakarta to the same hotel as us so we all had dinner and drinks together.  It was a great way to end a great first part of our trip.  They were all good people, great divers and I miss them already. 

The Weather in Indonesia was HOT, we sweat every day!  And not just a little sweat but buckets of sweat.  No need to wear make-up you just sweat it off.  We got used to it after a while but it was good to be out of it.  

The next 5 days we were in Thailand at a 5 star resort on the hills overlooking the Golden Triangle or the three countries, Burma, Laos and Thailand.  (Anatara as previously mentioned) This hotel is amazing.  It reminds me of the kind of place travelers and explores like Lora Croft or Indiana Jones would stay.  There is no high fashion or fancy clothes; it is an explorer’s hotel.  For people who are real in the dirt travelers, who ride elephants and hike and explore the jungle.   Who wear travel pants and hats, and have dinner on the Veranda.  Is it expensive?  You bet it is, but honey its worth every single dime!

The Weather in Thailand was warm and dry and not nearly as hot as Indonesia, but still hard to wear make-up and it’s easier to wear your hair up or a hat because after trekking, or even dining outside you are going to be warm.

The service here were superb!  The hotel is lovely, the rooms relaxing and with everything you need for a nice relaxing and joyous stay especially after a day of trekking in the jungle with and on top of elephants. 

The spa was wonderful; I had a heated stone message and Brad a Thai massage.  Mine seemed more relaxing than his; he seemed to be in pain. J  

If you want to ride the elephants you can, there is an elephant camp with 42 elephant’s right here next to the hotel.  In the morning you go out and meet the elephants in the jungle with the Maut Tribe, they introduce them to you and then you get to ride one back to the camp. 

Riding an Elephant was  interesting and hard work.  You sit on top of its head right behind the ears.  It is not comfortable on the thighs or back.  But what a hoot, riding an elephant in the jungles of Thailand!!

I was nervous about it, the animals are SO big, but the tribe’s people stay with you and teach you and if you relax and just enjoy the experience you will be fine.  

We rode them into the river at the end and bathed them, that was something else, you have to hang on to their ears because you don’t want to fall off into the water, the elephants are big and you don’t want them to fall on you. 

But as scary as it seemed when it was all over, it was worth it to say I had experienced it. 

We also went to see the Hall of Opium Museum:  http://www.chiangmai-chiangrai.com/hall-of-opium.html  What a great experience that was getting first had reading on how destructive the Opium trading is/was, and how times and people have tried to change the people so they no longer become dependent on Opium crops.  It gives the history about when it got started, how destructive it is, how it changed, the two Opium Wars, the trades, the addicts, etc.  Thailand has tried to clean itself up and find new crops to grow such as coffee.  It was a very educational afternoon.  Of course the Princess Mother had much to do with the rehabilitation and education of the Thai people:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinagarindra

The day we went to tour the three countries, Laos, Burma (Myanmar)  and Thailand.  We saw temples and villages, and even had a picnic lunch by a lake near a cave.  We bought a lot of souvenirs in Laos they were nice and inexpensive and we got to meet some of the villagers.  

We were shown wine with Tigers Penis, Scorpion, Snake and Gecko in it.  I couldn’t even look at that wine but Brad tried some.  J  He said it was just a very strong Moon Shine.  

We had to take a very small wooden boat around the islands.  It was an experience for sure. 

Then we were off to Cambodia, this was the part I was really looking forward too, the temples! 

The weather in Cambodia was HOT! One day trekking the temples it reached 98 degrees F.  We sweat like mad and trekked for 6 miles that day while seeing some of the largest temples like Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. 

Here is a good article on the temples:  http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/07/08/cambodia.temple.guide/index.html?hpt=hp_bn12

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_wat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angkor_Thom 

These were fantastic, the structure, the history and the fact that they have been there for so long.  The jungle just eating them away for years until French explorers happened upon them one day.  (You must drink lots of water while trekking, it is very hot and you will become dehydrated very quickly) 

The Angkor Thom temple was especially impressive to me.  It was so well-preserved and the expanse was more than I expected. 

We also got to tour the Temple where the film Lara Croft was filmed.  That was exciting, to see this wonderful temple http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta_Prohm  The trees literally have grown up through the temple walls itself, the photos we took were impressive.

And just like the movie, there are butterflies everywhere in Cambodia, it’s amazing and they are so lovely! 

This temple of all the ones we toured had the most tourists.  Everyone was there taking photos of themselves in the spots where Angelina Jolie had stood for the movie; it was silly and fun all at the same time. 🙂  

The hotel in Cambodia was also a 5 star resort, the oldest hotel in the area http://www.raffles.com/en_ra/property/rga  It had an old colonial feel to it.  The service here was superb, the food not great but good.  

There was turn down service every nite, and the pool was an exceptionally large infinity pool.  We ordered drinks and lunch at the pool and spent some time just relaxing.  The people in Cambodia are so friendly and kind.  We loved it there. 

Now we are off to Vietnam. 

The Weather in Vietnam was warm but comfortable.  It was humid and you will sweat that’s just a given. 

It’s only been 10 years since the Americans have been allowed to tour Vietnam and they like to talk about the Vietnam war.  Actually they call it the American War and depending on who you talk to the war stories and or memories of what happened, how it started and ended are all very different. 

We visited the War Museum which is NOT unbiased.  It is told from the point of view of the Vietnamese.  So the stories are somewhat different, the length of the war is different, the people, the places, the events all told from their point of view.  You must have an open mind and realize that Truth is not absolute.   http://www.nationalvnwarmuseum.org/about.htm

 President Bill Clinton has visited Vietnam several times over the past few years and the Vietnamese people are very proud of this, and we were even shown two restaurants where he ate, we ate at both. There are photos of him all over the walls.  It was fun!

(i have more to type and photos to add but right now i am going back to bed.  Gotta love Jet Lag! )

Hotels & Bed and Breakfasts

Lets talk about Hotels and what each of them offer you depending on the country and city you travel in.  You can easily stay at a 4 or 5 star hotel without breaking the bank.  If you are traveling to places like Egypt for example, staying at a 5 star hotel is highly recommended.  Mostly because you cannot drink the water in Egypt, you should not even let it touch your lips in the shower.  You should not eat the salad, or fruit that has not been peeled, or unpasteurized cheese just to name a few… To ensure that your food is healthy and wont make you sick,  staying at an upstanding hotel will help to make your travel experience better because the likelihood of you getting ill from eating the food in one of these hotels is highly unlikely.

Egypt

The Mena House is a 5 star Hotel in Cairo Egypt.  Its fantastic, the rooms are nice, the service is good, the food is wonderful and you can trust that is has been prepared so as not to make you ill.  The best part of this hotel, if you get the right room you can actually see the Main Pyramids of Giza right out your balcony.  And not just a small part of them ALL of them, they are so close you can practically touch them.  * side note* At this hotel for some of the restaurants you may want to have a dress or slacks with you and your significant other needs a dress shirt and slacks to enter the restaurants. 

http://www.oberoihotels.com/oberoi_menahouse/index.asp

Scotland

Scotland is a magical place! It has the feeling of old world, castles and pubs, hand shakes and smiles.  It is one of my favorite places to visit.  When you travel here we have found it best, and more cost-effective to stay in B&B’s.  They are homey, they are lovely and they include FULL breakfasts.  You get to meet the locals, families that have owned land for centuries.  They can tell you the best places to travel, and they like to sit with you in the lounge in the evenings and share a drink.  Its marvelous.  You can go online and choose from so many, you will find it hard to stay in just one.

http://www.scotlandsbestbandbs.co.uk/

Canada

We went for a quick weekend and stayed at this new hotel on the Pier.  FANTASTIC!  The hotel rooms are lovely!  The service is to die for and you have a great view of the water, the whole pier, the other side of the city and you can catch the water taxi right down the street from your room.  There is a gret bar/restaurant downstairs and you can walk to almost more restaurants than you can imagine.  There are local bars, breakfast joints, Starbucks, everything.  This place is very new so everything is clean and modern.  You will love your stay here.  And, at least for now, its not very expensive either. 🙂

http://www.pinnacleatthepier.com/

Angela “Red” Wright’s, Travel, Discover and Adventure Blog

If there is one thing, and only one thing that traveling the world has taught me, its love.  Love for culture, humans and differences.  We cannot live in a world that continues to hate, that pushes its beliefs on one another, that tries to put one human above another because of race, skin color, gender, financial status, or who they love.   Love, true love should build us, bind us, protect us and teach us.

We do not take cruise ships with 1000’s of people who stampede towns and are bad for the ecosystem and land, cruising is certainly not the optimal way of seeing the world.  Cruise ships are also ruining the ecosystem, by dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage in the oceans every day  (though there are times when taking a cruise would be beneficial, perhaps your age restricts you, your health or there are places like parts of Alaska that you can only see by Cruise)

If you really want to see a place, you must feel it, touch it, meet the people, dine with them, walk it for hours, understand their history, culture, beliefs.  Travel is a great passion for us and we have had some grand adventures along the way.

In my blog I will attempt to show you the full experience of travel as we know it and as we have personally experienced it over the years.  Also, very important,  the Do’s and Don’ts of travel which include our own personal experiences, good and bad, things we have learned along the way and things we have incorporated into each place we visit.  I will give you reasons why you should and should not do things, people you should and should not travel with, how to pack for your own adventure, embarrassing moments, moments of awe and things you must see!  Also how not to get stuck with tourists who are simply “martini travelers” just checking places off their bucket list and not truly appreciating the experience.

One thing I would like to put forward is that having the right attitude when traveling the world can make your experience so much better. You should not go to other countries trying to Americanize them or show them how our way of life is better or different from theirs. Show them you are truly interested in who they are, and how their life will affect you and teach you,  not the other way around. If you travel with what some see as an “arrogant American” or as we have seen “European” attitude you can get hurt, you will have a bad time and you will leave a bad taste in the local’s mouths. Relax take it all in, see their world, see how they live, understand it, embrace it and by all means, have a superb time.
Not all my stories, experiences or information will be for you, depending on what kind of traveler you are. Though I do hope both novice and experienced travelers will benefit from the information I post.

My travels begin in 1998 with a simple trip to London and Scotland and as you will see my traveling days might never end!!

Please feel free to comment but keep it nice, if you have something mean or rude to say either send it to me in email or just say nothing…  and please feel free to contact me with questions, comments, likes, dislikes,  or corrections at Angelawr@wrightholdings.com

*Disclaimer: Any and all photography on this site, or any other site, in your home or elsewhere, developed or otherwise reproduced, given away, or money received for, that may be in your possession for any reason that was or has been taken by Bradford Wright, is Copyright protected, all rights reserved. All reproductions or selling of private property is illegal and punishable by law; Copyright (1983-2020) Bradford W. Wright Photographer, Wright Holdings Worldwide, LLC. 2020

My husband’s email is Bradwr@wrightholdings.com if you want to talk to the photographer himself about any of his prints on our website.

Brad Wright, Salkantay Peru 2014

Brad Wright, Salkantay Peru, 2014

Cheers, everyone and thanks for reading and for all your kind and loving support.

Bequia in The Grenadines

Hottest place I have ever been to in my life.   We arrived here after a very long trip.  Then to actually get to the island you have to take a “ferry”, more like a run down old fishing boat that goes 1000 miles and hour through the choppy waters. 

We had a villa at the top of a hill overlooking the water.  It was a two bedroom place with two bathrooms, two showers and two kitchens and a huge living area with a dining table, couch etc.

The mosquitos were so bad that we had to have netting over each of our beds.  That was quite an experience if you have never had to have that before. 

The villa was actually a dump, the water for the showers, if there was any at all came from a large plastic tub on top of the outside wall of the building, it collected water and dew, and was heated by the sun, then it ran down a tube into the shower, that tube served as the shower head.   There was so much mold in the shower that the tiles were all falling out, and there were more bugs on the shower floor than there were outside.

The door to the refrigerator came off one evening and was promptly put back on by duct tape. 

It was so hot on this island that you were in a state of constant sweat.  Even playing cards we were barely dressed with fans blowing on us and you had to wipe down the cards each time you touched them because of the sweat dripping off of you or your hands. 

I hear the diving was decent, I swam a few times.  While my husband found it funny to pretend he was a shark and scare me to death while I swam above.  Oh yes he still tells this story today. 🙂

One of my companions on that trip was being so rude, and bossy and down right a pain in the ass, that one of the dive masters asked me if it was ok if he talked to me when my “mom” wasnt around.  LOL  I figured it had to do both with her demeanor and the way she had been aging lately.   It was so funny, we laughed it about it, well even to this day Brad and I laugh about it.

One thing that I loved was the coffee.  A friend of mine and I used to get up early to go down to the cafe that overlooked the water and get this great coffee.  They also served it with sweetened condensed milk and I swear to this day it is the best I have ever had.

I got heat exhaustion twice on this trip, and that was  miserable.  All you can do it sleep, try to stay cool and drink lots of water. 

They sell a lot of pot on this island and they will try to sell it to you no matter where you go.

They have these huge parties there called Jump-ups.  They last long into the nite, and they pot is really flowing. So much so that we had a huge cloud of it covering our villa while we tried to sleep one nite.  It was different.  Though I thought one of my companions could have used some pot to loosen her up some.  LOL

All in all it was a good trip.  Too hot to really enjoy anytime at the beach or even in the water.  I have lived in the South and in Arizona and nothing prepared me for this kind of hot.

It is an odd quirky trip to take, and there isnt much to do on the island itself.  So if you are hard-core diver and you want a place that isnt too popular with tourists.  This might be for you.

Riga, Tallin, Helsinki 2006

This was one of the coldest places I have ever been in my life.  The history here was fascinating and the people were some of the nicest I have ever met on any of my travels.

This was one of the first large travels that Brad and I and Corinne took when we all started living together.  We got some good airfare and that was one reason we decided to do it when we did.  BUT if we were to do it again I think that Feb was not the best time of year to travel to this very cold part of the earth.

If you go in the coldest months bring WOOL, wool sweaters, wool socks, wool gloves, wool everything!  If you don’t you will be miserable cold and you wont get to enjoy the touring, the churches, the woods, etc.

Also bring a boucle if you can to have around your face and mouth, it will help with the cold and the bitter cold that you breathe in.

Now we saw pictures of what it all looks like in the spring and I tell you it looks lovely.  We have vowed to go back there when things are in bloom.

The people in these countries, Estonia and Finland are so very very nice.  They love talking about America with you and how they think that it has a lot of rules for being a free country, they would be right.  They ask about the president of the United States, anything they have knowledge on regarding America they want to hear about.  But they are happy with their homes and their way of life so remember don’t try to Americanize them, just share your experiences and be polite and listen to them share theirs.  You will be amazed how much you can learn from these people.

The good thing about these countries is that you can get as much liquor as you want, there are no restrictions, in hotels, or boats, or restaurants.  Not like in the Middle East.  And the selections of Vodka are amazing!  There are great restaurants where you can order reindeer, bear, goat, anything really.  The restaurants are only lite by candle lite and they wear clothing from different time periods.  It was a pretty neat exp.  My daughter esp loved it.

I am sure that if it had not been so cold we would have seen more, the history is so amazing.  I am sure we would have toured and walked more but the weather, snow, cold, just did not permit us too.

English is mostly spoken, as are several other languages.  However there are parts of the Baltics where english is NOT spoken, not a single word.  So be careful, don’t get lost, dont wander too far.  There is no english read, or spoken or written and you could find yourself in an anxious position.

The hotels are lovely, the service perfect.  We found that you can even buy a bottle of wine and take it to the hotel bar and drink it there, there are no real rules about alcohol.

To get from the Baltics to Finland you have to take a ferry, well its more like a HUGE boat that cuts the ice in the water as it travels.  I called it a freighter. 🙂 

It is an experience being on this boat, we had a cabin so we could sleep on the long ride over.  But there are bars, and dance floors and food on the boat.  The people are friendly but most of them do not speak english.

(we had the rare opportunity to hear In the Navy sung in its original Finish)  LOL

All in all it was a fun time, good food, good people, good hotels.  I would love to go back in better weather.  We got some nice photos and have some good memories.  I do recommend it all in all.