Southeast Asia is “the best bang for your buck,” a travel agent told me at a recent PATA event. It is so true. The nations of Southeast Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are each distinctive in their own right, but collectively they offer a tremendous variety of experiences at exceptional value for the dollar carrying traveler. Spas, cuisine, history, adventure, nature, traditional crafts, luxury shopping, river cruising, religion and festivals, traditions and customs, people-to-people interactions, and so much more await curious travelers for far less than in other destinations. In Bali, Indonesia, for example, the cost of a car-and-English-speaking driver for a full day is about 500,000 Rupiah or just $37. That’s about the cost of a one-way, coach-class Heathrow Express train to Central London! No wonder PATA, in its 2014-2018 Visitor Forecast (http://bit.ly/1HgrOXx), projects that the top five fastest growing destinations (in terms of average annual growth rate) in the Asia Pacific region for this period will be: Thailand at 27.5%, Myanmar at 17.7%, Cambodia at 13.2%; Bhutan at 12.9%, and Lao PDR at 11.6%.
DreamWorks movie characters like Mr. Peobody and Sherman, Belt the Sloth and Shrek mingle with the crowd at the Sheraton Cotai Central’s Shrekfast. Breakfast entrees include bean paste cakes that look like Kung Fu Panda’s head. This event has the all showiness of Las Vegas. But this is in Macau (English spelling Macao), a special administrative region of China.
Getting to stadium seats for Ulaanbaatar’s opening Nadaam ceremonies is utter chaos. The long, dirt road is mobbed with people. Whole families come dressed alike. Others wear vibrant tribal costumes and leather boots. Hats can be pointed with a tassel hanging off the back or have fur or flaps.
To most people, Outer Mongolia is only the land of Genghis Khan (called Chinggis Khaan in Asia) and the Gobi Desert’s lunar landscape. But, every mid-July, Ulaanbaatar hosts the multi-day, colorful Naadam Festival. Still unaffected by tourism, the country is much the same as it has been.
It would be difficult to choose what is most impressive about New Zealand. Scenery, cultural history, wineries and outdoor adventures are top of mind, and they don’t disappoint.
An overhang protects me from the pouring rain. I sip wine while I watch and listen to the rain fall into my private infinity pool and make tiny puddles. The Andaman Sea, about 600 feet below, is the backdrop. The view, the dripping water and the tranquility are so relaxing, my cares slip away.
There is a magnificent valley in the Min Mountains of China that sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau, stretching for over 180,000 acres. For all intents and purposes it IS Tibet, a Tibet we can legally go visit.
With a vibrant mix of cultures, innovative experiences and a thriving arts scene, Australia has long drawn visitors from around the globe. While the Australian culture defines itself by its Aboriginal heritage, its tourism attractions range from outdoor adventure, wine tasting and opera to city exploration and wildlife viewing. The beauty of Australia lends itself to just about any type of vacation paradise.
Saying “Bula” (hello) will come naturally as soon as you step off the plane in Fiji, a year-round paradise located in the heart of the South Pacific, comprising an archipelago of more than 332 islands, of which 110 are inhabited. Fiji is renowned for its stunning beaches, warm climate and relaxed island atmosphere, but it is also home to a local population of the most welcoming and helpful folks in the South Pacific.
Agents should advise their shutterbug clients to have camera in hand (or phone) as soon as they land in Taiwan because photo ops show up as soon as they leave the tarmac on the ride from Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport to the capital city of Taipei. The road is flanked by verdant hills with bouquets of Tung flowers spilling down like snow in May; marking the start of so many surprising delights from what the Portuguese called Ilha Formosa, or beautiful island. It has since been called other names, but Taiwan holds sway to this day.
Embarking on a path of wellness, I began the practice of yoga, armed with a simple book detailing various exercises, or postures. My body responded quickly, becoming stronger and more flexible with each passing day. My breathing became deeper and fuller, and the stress of day-to-day living seemed to evaporate with each session. But I wasn’t content to merely enjoy the physical benefits of yoga. Intent on unlocking the power of mind, body and spirit, I began delving into yoga’s philosophy, absorbing ancient religious texts like the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and the Vedas, and more modern works like Autobiography of a Yogi and Gandhi’s autobiography. Even as my body grew stronger, my mind began to develop a peaceful clarity.