Friday, December 28, 2012

World's Top Ten Cities for Nightlife

According to, Asia’s leading hotel booking site, following is a list of the top 10 cities that offer the best nightlife excitement, as chosen by its customers. And with New Year’s Eve quickly approaching, these cities are perfect for a quick getaway if nothing’s been planned yet.

Based on feedback from over 113,000 respondents provided at the end of their stay, customers had the opportunity to rate the nightlife on a scale of 1-5, 1 being “poor” and 5 being “excellent.” The top spot was taken by Bangkok, Thailand’s energetic capital known for its tuk-tuks, temples, and street food, followed by Dubai, the gleaming desert city in the United Arab Emirates, and Boracay/Caticlan in the Philippines, famous for its white sand beaches and swaying palm trees.

Thailand placed again with Pattaya, the seaside town widely known for its raucous Walking Street and massive influx of tourists looking to blow off some steam, followed by Tokyo, Japan’s neon-lit, mega-city that’s home to 13 million people. Thailand’s largest island, Phuket, was next, followed by China’s Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau, the former known for its vibrant architecture and world-class food, and the latter famous for its massive casinos and Portuguese/Chinese cuisine.

Rounding out the list were Taiwan’s modern capital of Taipei, and Bali, Indonesia’s perpetually buzzing island paradise.

Here, the full list in order. 

1.   Bangkok, Thailand
2.   Dubai, UAE
3.   Boracay/Caticlan, the Philippines
4.   Pattaya, Thailand
5.   Tokyo, Japan
6.   Phuket, Thailand
7.   Hong Kong SAR, China
8.   Macau SAR, China
9.   Taipei, Taiwan
10. Bali, Indonesia

Thursday, December 27, 2012

And the winner is . . .

Gail Traveling Girl, a new follower, is the recipient of the Crabtree & Evelyn Christmas gift set.  Congrats and thanks for joining!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from California (a nativity scene taken at Cambria Pines Lodge).

Friday, December 21, 2012

Insider's California

A visit to Carmel by the Sea never gets old, especially to the beach at the end of Ocean Avenue to be greeted by wind blown cypress trees and white granulated sugar sand.

End of the World

Should the world end today, I hope you checked off an item on your bucket list. For me: a drive through Big Sur on 1.

Good morning, Cambria.

Important December 21,2012 message

Insider's California

Try to time your up the coast drive to the elephant seals' birthing season. It's when moms and newborns are scattered along the beach just north of Hearst Castle.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Travel Tips

With many of you packing for a holiday trip, these National Geo packing tips might be helpful.

The 10 Rules of Packing
     by Aric S. Queen

When you’ve spent more than a decade on the road, you get asked some pretty interesting questions. The one query I get most, though, is about packing: what to take, what to leave, where to put it. I’ve taken scads of trips, but every time I get back, I know I could have gone even lighter. Let’s save you some trouble and start with the basics of my lessons learned.

1. The Golden Rule: Take half of the clothes you were planning to bring and twice the money. I cannot stress how true this is.
2. Take only what you can fit in a carry on. We’ve all lost luggage before, and it’s a pain. But when it’s 3 degrees in Poland and you’re rocking those horrible sweats you insist on wearing on long flights, hearing “as soon as we find your bag, we’ll send it to you” can really put a damper on your first day. And — no offense to the Polish — but having to buy an entire wardrobe in Warsaw might not be exactly how you want to spend your travel pennies. This also means you’ll have luggage with wheels, which is worth its weight in gold.
3. If you simply must check luggage, ask them to put a “Fragile” sticker on it, which helps ensure your bags will be put on top of the pile and be first off the plane. Also, yours is not the only black suitcase, so slap a sticker or red ribbon on it — anything that will help you pick it out in the crowd. Think airport security is scary these days? Try making it through customs with someone else’s bag.
4. Mix and match. Bring three shirts and three “bottoms.” That’s 9 outfits.
5. Books are sexy. So are vinyl records. But save yourself the extra pounds and fill your Kindle with every book/country guide you need and stick to your iPod.
6. Don’t be a diva. If you’re the type who has to travel with your own hair dryer (and won’t use the hotel’s), then I might suggest a weekend in the Smokies over the Alps.
7. Jackets and sweaters take up a lot of precious bag space and weigh you down. Unless you’re going to Russia in winter, layers work just as well.
8. If you can bear it, stay away from jeans. This is huge and I should have moved it up to number 2. They absorb dirt (and odors), are bulky and take days to air dry. Cotton and khaki are the way to go.
9. If it’s important and can’t fit into your daypack, leave it at home. Stuff gets stolen no matter where you go. As big as a pain as it is, I am constantly carrying my computer, cameras, etc. on my back — and in crowded places, as ridiculous as it looks, in front of me.
10. Every country I’ve ever visited sells soap. And shampoo. And socks. And t-shirts. I.e. What you forget, you can buy.
One last thing: those plastic gardening shoes that somehow made it into the acceptable mainstream of fashion footwear? Do your country a favor… and don’t.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Insider's Buenos Aires

The National Day of Tango, took place December 11 in Buenos Aires, with five blocks on Avenida de Mayo transformed to a huge dance floor where “tangueros” gathered to dance on the typical avenue and to listen to the orchestras and singers that performed on three different stages. Though I wasn't there, I have fond memories of the tango on the streets of BA.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Insider's San Diego

Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala's XXXVI Candlelight Musical Meditation is a Christmas 'must'.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Insider's San Diego

"White Christmas' musical atSan Diego's Birch North Park Theatre great way to usher in holidays.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

10 Things You Can Only Do on Guam

1. Relive the ancient past at Lina’la’ Chamorro Cultural Park
Guam’s first and original Chamorro cultural theme park recreates Chamorro life 500 years ago. Lina'la' Park rests on an actual Chamorro village, dating over 1,000 years ago. Latte stones, pottery, and other artifacts reveal that villagers lived there until the beginning of the Spanish era in the 17th century.
The park features a visitor center displaying cultural artifacts and a brief film about the Chamorro creation belief. A nature walk filled with tropical flowers, medicinal plants, and fruit trees leads visitors to the recreation of an ancient Chamorro village.
Photo by Cynthia Dial
Visitors are greeted by men and women wearing what looks like traditional garb — a loincloth and small bandeau top for women. When Magellan landed on Guam in 1521, islanders were mostly naked, however, women sometimes wore a small triangular apron called a tifi, or a skirt of grass or leaves suspended from a belt.
2. Dive the world’s deepest ocean
James Cameron made international news in March 2012 when his one-man submersible journeyed to the Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the ocean, some 6.8 miles down. The Challenger Deep is located in the Marianas Trench, just 250 miles southwest of Guam. Guam is home to a handful of dive shops and is a diver’s dream complete with wrecks, vibrant reef systems, and temperate tropical weather.
3. Picnic on Alupang Island
Alupang Island is situated about a mile off the coast of Dungca’s Beach on East Agana Beach Front. Located inside the reef protected from the waves of the Philippine Sea, this uninhabited island is accessible from Hotel Santa Fe and and Onward Beach Resort. Adventurous types can rent jet skis and kayaks and journey to the small beach cove.
4. Experience true island culture at the Guam Island Fiesta Tour
The Guam Island Fiesta Tour (GIFT) introduces visitors into the homes of local families for village fiesta celebrations. They are greeted with shell leis, invited to participate in cultural activities like coconut husking, talaya throwing, and tuba drinking, and are treated to tables laden with authentic Chamorro cuisine.
5. Stand atop the world’s largest latte
Standing atop a prominent stone point overlooking both Asan and Agana bays, the Latte of Freedom monument invites guest to look and learn about culture in the local area and across the island.
6. Pet a coconut crab at Chamorro Village
You may be hesitant to pet the largest land-living arthropod in the world, but go ahead, the coconut crab doesn’t bite.
Coconut crabs can weigh up to 9 lbs. with a leg span of more than 3 feet. Locals are adept at handling the crabs and sometimes keep them as pets. Stop by the Chamorro Village Night Market on Wednesday and Friday for a photo opp of you or someone brave petting the crab.
7. Touch ship wrecks from two world wars
The SMS Cormoran rests 110 feet below the water of Apra Harbor on her port side. The German ship was scuttled at the outbreak of the U.S. entry into WWI.
A Japanese cargo ship, the Tokai Maru, which was sunk during WWII leans up against her screw. The site marks the only place in the world where wrecks from two different countries and two different wars are nearly touching.
8. Go boonie stomping
Locals call it “boonie stomping,” you may know it as hiking. One thing’s for sure: there’s plenty to explore on Guam. From hidden waterfalls to swim holes to arid hills and thick jungles, Guam’s boonie stomps range from easy to difficult, but they’re never boring. Guam Boonie Stompers lead hikes on Saturday mornings for just $2. 
9. Climb the tallest mountain on Earth
Mount Lamlam (meaning lightning in Chamorro), located in the southwestern village of Agat, is the highest peak on Guam.
Though Mount Lamlam is only 1,332 feet high, the distance from the peak to the bottom of the nearby Mariana Trench is perhaps the greatest change in elevation on Earth over such a short distance. The Marianas Trench reaches a maximum known depth of 6.78 miles.
If Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth at 29,040 feet, was set in the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, there would be 6,760 feet of water left above it.
Hikers can reach the mountain trailhead across from Cetti Bay Overlook and summit in about 30 minutes.
10. Ride a carabao
These docile mammoths are the water buffalo of Guam. Weighing up to 2,000 pounds, this national symbol of Guam has been used for centuries in farming.
Visitors can ride the carabao, albeit very slowly, at a few locations around the island, such as Chamorro Village and Fort Senora Nuestra de la Soledad in southern Guam.

World Tourism Update

A British tourist, Mrs. Dale Sheppard Floyd, visiting Madrid, Spain on 13 December has been revealed as the symbolic face of the one billion international tourists travelling in 2012.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Travel Tips . . . Country by Country

In ARGENTINA, do tip a movie theater usher 50 centavos & don't eat on the street or on public transportation.

Photo by Cynthia Dial

In ESTONIA, do give odd numbers of flowers, not even.

In ROMANIA, don't put your napkin on your lap. Leave it on the table.

In SOUTH KOREA, don't cross your chopsticks when putting them on the chopstick rest.

In NEW ZEALAND, don't ever, ever confuse New Zealanders with Australians.

In INDIA, don't wear tight clothes or clothes that expose skin in more rural areas. Exposing skin or tight clothes may suggest that you're either too poor to dress well or that you're shameless about showing your body.
In KENYA, don't use your left hand while eating.

In GREECE, do join at the back of the line when getting up to dance, not the front, if you are a beginner.

In MEXICO, do be fashionably late! Thirty minutes late is appropriate. Arriving early or even on time is considered rude.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Travel Question?

I've used Expedia for many bookings, especially when I want to save by combining my air, hotel and car.  But . . . have you ever tried to cancel?  Just spent 30 minutes doing so - all to cancel a hotel for only 2 nights (no car, no air, no extras).  How many times can you say, "Yes, I'm sure I want to cancel this reservation?"  Just saying . . .

Friday, December 7, 2012

Insider's Switzerland

Celebrating Swiss style at the Lake Geneva and Matterhorn Region Extravaganza with Raclette, a type of cheese and a Swiss dish based on heating the cheese and scraping off (racler) the melted part. Can you say delicious?

Thursday, December 6, 2012


Travia:  All countries in South America except Chile and Ecuador share a border with Brazil.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Holiday in Austria - Christmas in Salzburg and New Year's Eve in Vienna

As Christmas approaches, think about celebrating not at home, but abroad. One of my family's top holidays was spent in Austria- Christmas in Salzburg and New Year's Eve in Vienna. Here's a peek into that adventure.
My arrival to Europe for our dream-come-true, first-ever family holiday abroad was not what I had envisioned. Think snow storm, airport closing, accidental cancellation, expensive rebooking, probable lost luggage and you’ve got the picture.

"This is why spending a passport-required holiday was not a good idea," I thought as many times as I would be offered strudel while in route to Austria for Christmas in Salzburg and New Year’s in Vienna. And this is why I would be wrong.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Quote of the Week

Photo by Cynthia Dial
 “When life gives you lemons, add salt and tequila.”