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Flipping Off the Intensity Switch

Posted by on 8:00 am in Jordan, Spotlight, United States, World | 0 comments

Flipping Off the Intensity Switch

On my first visit into New York City I instantly fell in love. I’d always blown through JFK with the quick connection, hurriedly moving on to other destinations. This time my itinerary gave me a full day and night layover so I caught the train into the crowded canyons of Manhattan — it’s actually very simple — to experience first-hand the things that make the material life full. The entertainment, nightlife, sights, sounds, and flavors – I found it all here. However, the colors seem garishly bright and lights sometimes...

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Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 4

Posted by on 8:03 am in Spotlight, Turkey | 0 comments

Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 4

Day 8: Capadocia/Ankara While we were all sad to leave Capadocia, it was time to travel on to the capitol city of Ankara. Ataturk made this city the capitol in the 1920’s, in an attempt to draw more focus to the poorer, rural Eastern part of the country. Ankara is a modern city, recognizable as a capitol and very Western in general. Our first stop was to the mausoleum of the famous Mustaf Kemal Ataturk, beloved hero of the Turkish people and creator of the modern republic. A hero of the Gallipoli campaign in WWI, Ataturk quickly rose to...

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Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 3

Posted by on 8:40 am in Spotlight, Tours, Turkey | 0 comments

Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 3

Day 5: Pamukkale/Antalya Waking early, we piled in to the bus, now our second home. A gorgeous sunrise welcomed us to a quick stop atop the Pammakule Necropolis, where we were able to see the sun rise behind the towering marble columns and stone archways. Perched atop a mountain overlooking the unearthly Pamakkule, which means “Cotton castle”, the snow white limestone cascade travertines flow over the mountainside, depositing minerals from natural hot springs above. The Romans built a spa here, a place to heal in the calcium-rich...

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Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 2

Posted by on 8:08 am in Spotlight, Tours, Turkey | 0 comments

Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 2

Day 2: Istanbul/Canakkale Our first major drive brought the group to Canakkale (cha-NOCK-a lay) via ferry boat across the Marmara Sea, where we visited the ancient ruins of Troy. Yes Troy, as in Helen of, the Horse, etc. It was amazing to see the location: there is an active dig going on, and considering there were nine versions of the city layered on top of one-another, it is quite a project. We marveled at the ongoing work, and the fact that this city used to be on the waterfront: silting and sedimentation have moved the coastline miles...

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Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 1

Posted by on 11:23 am in Spotlight, Tours, Turkey | 2 comments

Turkish Delights with Flotours, Part 1

This is part 1 of a four-part review of a tour to Turkey with Flotours. Moreover, this is an older article that has been updated. While Turkey has been having some challenges of late it is still one of the most rewarding travel experiences I have ever had. — the editor — Turkish hospitality is world famous, and for good reason. The people of Turkey welcome visitors with open arms, a ready smile, and usually some sort of treat to nibble on. I was recently offered my first taste of Turkey at the LA Times Travel Expo in Long Beach,...

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Same Same, but Different in Bangkok

Posted by on 12:23 pm in Spotlight, Thailand | 2 comments

Same Same, but Different in Bangkok

“Same Same — but Different” in Bangkok So goes the saying on two-thirds of the T-Shirts for sale… Suvarnabhumi Airport at 1 am After a long flight over the gerrymandered International Date Line my plane approached Bangkok at one in the morning (+1 day). Although I was prepared for the heat and humidity I’d read about, leaving the air-conditioned comfort of the terminal my expectations were not only met but exceeded. I quickly learned there are three seasons in Thailand – hot, hotter, and extra hot, and my...

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China: Fiery Foot Massage!

Posted by on 12:56 pm in China, Spotlight | 0 comments

China: Fiery Foot Massage!

Scorching the Tootsies in China! A Different Kind of Massage I once associated massage with relaxation – the smell of sandalwood incense; meditative sitar music; healing hands kneading tension away. However like most things I encountered during my time in China, my experience at Green Willow Bay massage parlour was unlike anything I expected. Silly me. After three days in Baotou, I should have learnt not to make assumptions. Inner Mongolia’s berserk city had found ways to unnerve me from the second I entered its smoggy domain. Noodles and...

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The Art of Vanilla Pollination

Posted by on 8:59 am in India, Spotlight | 0 comments

The Art of Vanilla Pollination

Vanilla Pollination in India India’s Human Hummingbird Last year in April, I was scouting for places to volunteer for coffee (berry) picking, but I was told that coffee harvesting ends by February and that it would be time for vanilla pollination in March and April. Out of the ten odd places I had enquired for volunteering, only Sujata Goel from The Rainforest Retreat responded promptly. Well, I just read ‘vanilla’ and screamed ‘yes’ over email. She had looked up the links in my signature in the email and asked me if I could...

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Constantinople, not Istanbul

Posted by on 2:45 pm in Spotlight, Turkey | 4 comments

Constantinople, not Istanbul

Today Istanbul’s a vibrant and modern city built on top an ancient past. What’s the past beneath, you ask? Maybe you remember these lyrics from the early days of rock’n’roll: Take me back to Constantinople No, you can’t go back to Constantinople Now it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople Why did Constantinople get the works? That’s nobody’s business but the Turks’ But these lyrics are all wrong – you can go back this ancient city.     Basilica Cistern One place is a...

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Balinese Coffee — the Special Blend

Posted by on 11:41 am in Indonesia, Spotlight | 2 comments

Balinese Coffee — the Special Blend

Balinese Coffee Hype The Most Expensive Balinese Coffee When I first heard about the Balinese coffee that costs 300 plus dollars a kilo, I was in disbelief. I was even more flabergasted when I found out why it costs so much: because a small animal called a luwak eats the beans and poops them out, which is supposed to make it taste better (not because of the poop but because of the digestion process). Fascinating. So while in Bali this spring, I decided to go to one of the many coffee plantations on the island that produce luwak coffee. The...

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Getting Married for Iran

Posted by on 7:16 am in Iran, Spotlight | 2 comments

Getting Married for Iran

Married for Iran Travel Travel Plans to Iran Let me start off by saying I never thought I would go to Iran. Or get married. So when my Iranian boyfriend, Hamid, first came home to our small Istanbul flat and told me he thought we should get married to go visit his family in Iran, my heart almost fell out of my ass. “Look, it’s simple. We get Islamic temporarily married and you don’t have to go through all the bull shit of booking a tour guide and paying all this extra money. You can stay with my family, I can show you around.” He looked so...

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Tagaytay and Taal Volcano, The Philippines

Posted by on 7:45 pm in Philippines, Spotlight | 2 comments

Tagaytay and Taal Volcano, The Philippines

Tagaytay, The Philippines Vacay in Tagaytay Have you ever wondered where the locals of places considered our holiday destinations go for their holidays? I did. “Where do you go for holidays?” I asked the taxi driver in Manila, who has just spend the last ten minutes reciting the list of holiday islands in his country, straight out of a brochure that I got at the arrival hall of the airport. He thought about this question, an indication that he has never been to any of these fancy tourist spots that he has just recommended. “Tagaytay,” he...

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Eye on Saitama, Japan

Posted by on 10:01 am in Japan, Spotlight | 1 comment

Eye on Saitama, Japan

North of Tokyo in Saitama The Suburb of Saitama Driving through the suburbs of Tokyo, the roadside is dotted with familiar sites such as: an auto body shop, a town barber and clusters of modest suburban houses, each with a lone fruit tree in the front yard. It could be a stretch of road in Ventura County, but the Japanese characters advertising cell phones and televisions, and the fruit trees, heavy with ripe persimmons, make it distinctly Japan. Saitama to be precise, a smallish prefecture north of Tokyo that houses a large population of...

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Shrekfast in Macau

Posted by on 6:17 pm in China, Spotlight | 0 comments

Shrekfast in Macau

Dining with Dreamworks in Macau Macau Beyond Gambling I stood at the check-in counter at the Sheraton Macao in the middle of Cotai, which is a man-made bridge that connects the islands of Taipa and Coloane in Macau. My gambling days were over and wondered how I would occupy my time in Macau. Of the 28 million visitors to Macau every year, I would be one of the few who would not be trying lady luck during my stay. Sure Cotai is supposed to be for adults but the Sheraton Macao Hotel and a few other partner hotels on the Cotai Strip are looking...

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Sunrise on the Holy Ganges

Posted by on 9:57 pm in India, Spotlight | 1 comment

Sunrise on the Holy Ganges

Along the Ganges River The Holy Ganges The sun seemingly rose out of and above the holy Ganges river until it hung large and low in the sky, glittering and reflecting long, yellow strands on the water and casting a mellow, dewy glow over the the ghats. The misty morning air filled with the aroma of sandalwood and jasmine flowers as the ghats erupted into a riot of colour and activity. Varanasi, also called Kashi (city of life), is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is a holy city for Hindus and pilgrims who come...

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