In 2001, I created a TV travel series, Location Vacation - filming where movies were filmed around the world. While it’s not yet coming to TV, it’s coming as a segment of my weekly “Been There, HAVEN’T Done That” radio show on the Salem Radio Network. (Yes, it’s based on this eponymous JAX FAX travel column, since 2010.)
It is always a challenge selling destinations that have a history of unrest, but fortunately, although Ethiopia is occasionally in the news, it is not known for widespread violence. It is still important to be aware of current events and possible threats, and booking with well-established tour operators like Big Five Tours & Expeditions (www.bigfive.com) will ensure that your clients will have the safest and most worry-free trip. Advise your clients not to book last-minute side trips, and book them group excursions for exploring more remote areas.
The sun beats down on the old 4x4 as we bump across Wadi Rum in Jordan. Atop camels, Bedouins almost fly between the red and tan striated sandstone and granite outcroppings, leaving only clouds of sand in their wake. Visions of Lawrence of Arabia and the stereotypical picture of the Hashemite Kingdom come to life.
It’s not what I expected For a moment, I am reminded of all those descriptions I have read about India’s Darjeeling. My first thought is of tea, which I discover is just a very small percentage of the charm of this former British colonial outpost. I knew to expect the lure of old traditions, but it’s much more.
I’m fascinated by the sights I see as the car climbs the 6,710-feet to get to this place above the clouds. A place that has been calling my name for years. As the road winds perilously closer to the top, I look out one window to see the Darjeeling Himalayan Railroad train (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) blowing its black smoke. Out the other car window, I see the local inhabitants, some warming themselves with small coal fires in tiny pans on the edge of the mountain. When I finally reach my destination, I am remarkably enchanted.
In the 1550s, Portuguese traders and missionaries established an outpost along the South China coast. They named it Macao after the Chinese goddess of seafarers. Since then, Macao has become a world-class destination with glittering casino-hotels, many owned by the Sands resort and gaming empire, which also built the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, and The Venetian and The Palazzo in Las Vegas. But Macao’s appeal goes far beyond its baccarat and roulette tables.
An island encounter that allows for as much, or as little as you feel you want to do, the Cayman Islands, consisting of Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman is a must-do for your bucket list this year.
For foodies, the Cayman Islands are home to a strong epicurean scene. There are more than 200 restaurants or eclectic eateries waiting to entice visitors. The wide selection for gastronomy are more than enough to keep you well-nourished and healthy. In fact, I was told that the region is often called the “Culinary Capital of the Caribbean.”
Much of the Caribbean is back open for business. After damage from two back-to-back hurricanes four months ago, many destinations are reporting that they are ready to welcome tourists with open arms. Many travelers seem to have the impression that the entire region was destroyed, but these islands want tourists to know that this is not true. Tourism plays a large part in recovery, bringing revenue to the region, and providing employment for residents. They encourage people to come and see for themselves. There is still some residual damage and recovery efforts continue, but the beaches are still beautiful, and the people always warm and welcoming.
When you visit Mexico, there are a few things you will always be certain to find. One is plenty of sunshine, and two, plenty of choices in places to visit and stay once you get there. While each destination in Mexico has a unique feel, the Riviera Maya area, along with Playa del Carmen, have a friendly atmosphere with much to offer travelers. When flying into the Cancun Airport, the drive to the Riviera Maya area takes about an hour. Once you have arrived, you will find the ocean lined with white sand beaches, but there is jungle there too, a fact that is often lost on tourists until they arrive and see it for themselves.
Poland is having a moment. With increasing chicness appeal, recently added nonstop flights to Warsaw and Krakow on LOT Airlines from New York, Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles
(www.lot.com), plus the locale’s great value for your money, more visitors are flocking to this ‘in’ destination. Medieval towns, remarkable museums, a blossoming art scene, trendy haunts, exceptional cuisine and world-class spas are some of the superb amenities Poland offers visitors.
The country’s fascinating historical heritage is reflected in its amazing castles with their unique architectural styles and stories. With over a hundred sprinkled across Poland - ranging from ruins with historic significance, preserved gems to meticulously restored wonders and royal residences - they are all impressive. Many of these magnificent structures contain museums and have venues for cultural events; some have been converted into luxury hotels with outstanding restaurants. Here are some of my favorites: