All posts filed under: Destinations

That time I ate rat, or 2 weeks of motorbikes, mountains and mayhem in Vietnam

When my best friend showed up in Vietnam, I knew it was going to be a wild ride. We had fourteen days to cover the country from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City and an ambitious itinerary of city-hopping, mountain climbing and cultural exploration planned.

Possibly to make up for a childhood of picky eating, Ian is now a total foodie and couldn’t wait to try the insects and blood soup Vietnam is famous for, while I, on the other hand, had no intention of eating anything more adventurous than pate in a banh mi sandwich. Unfortunately, my worst fears were realized when…but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Pinch me, I’m dreaming…twelve days exploring magical Myanmar

As 2016 came to an end, I hopped from Vietnam to Myanmar (formerly Burma) to explore this incredible country where ancient tradition is just beginning to meet the modern world. Due to an ongoing civil war, much of the country is still off-limits to foreigners, but a bourgeoning tourism industry and recent democratic elections indicate things are changing rapidly. With cheerful shouts of “Min-ga-la-ba!” (hello) echoing down every street, the friendly and optimistic Burmese people are the true gem of this beautiful country, which sits between Thailand, Laos, China, India and Bangladesh. Myanmar is a diverse place. The country is home to more than 100 ethnic groups, although almost 98 percent of the population identifies as Buddhist. Indeed, there are nearly 500,000 buddhist monks in Myanmar. Whether you are shopping in a bustling market or visiting a temple, the sight of the monks’ saffron robes is a common one. Here’s a few of my favorite photographs (and memories) from the twelve days I spent in beautiful Myanamar. I expected that watching the sunrise over the thousands of ancient …

Ancient temples, island escapes and mountaintop monasteries: 7 days in Greece

One of the biggest challenges I had while planning my trip to Europe was how to spend seven days in Greece. The ferry connections were bewildering, and since I was visiting in the off-season (November), it was even harder to determine whether certain ferries were running.

This itinerary offers a little bit of everything –the history and awe-inspiring sights of Athens, the scenery and hiking of incredible Meteora, plus the must-see island of Santorini.

Epic hike: the monasteries of Meteora, Greece

If you ever get the chance to visit the stunning rock formations and monasteries of Meteora, Greece, don’t miss it. Meteora, which literally means “middle of the sky,” “suspended in air,” or “in the heavens” is a region of spectacular monolithic stone pillars in northern Greece. Occupied by monks since the 14th century, the six gravity-defying Greek Orthodox monasteries of Meteora sit high above the village of Kalambaka, offering a vista of Greek religious history, eye-popping scenery and confounding structural engineering. You’ll find yourself wondering, “How on earth did they do that?” at every turn.  Apparently, God doesn’t require a building permit. Getting there There are daily bus connections and trains from Athens, and bus connections to Thessaloniki, Delphi and many other cities in Greece. I recommend using the website Rome2Rio to map out your transportation. If you’re visiting Meteora on the weekend or during high season, it’s smart to book your transportation ahead. Once you arrive in Kalambaka,  it’s a half day hike to visit all of the monasteries via the trail that connects them, …

Salzburg: city of music

I arrived in Salzburg at night, in the rain and was immediately lost. Luckily, a kind local went out of his way to walk me to the hostel I had brilliantly decided not to book in advance. Apparently, Salzburg is the place to be on a Friday night in October in Austria, because this large hostel didn’t have a single bed left. The receptionist handed me a map, scribbled a bus number on it and circled a point far across the city where she said they might have a hostel bed. Back into the cold, rainy night I went. After several more mistakes that ended with me trudging in circles (hey, it was a roundabout), I finally staggered into the hostel around midnight, three hours after arriving in the city. “Yes, we have one bed left,” said the nice young guy working at the reception desk. If I’d had any energy left I would have jumped over the desk and hugged him. Instead, I handed him my passport. I spent the next two days roving the city of Salzburg, entranced …

Prague: city of a hundred spires

My first impression of Prague was an intriguing blend of Russia, Paris and San Francisco. It was raining and there were cable cars, the beautiful city was spread along both banks of a river, and the colorful baroque buildings were topped with bulbous spires. In a disastrous plot twist, I dropped my iPhone in the hostel toilet, majorly impacting my ability to navigate and communicate while traveling solo. Since getting my unlocked phone to work in each country had been a point of anxiety up until the great plunge of October 8, I couldn’t help but think this was the universe’s way of stripping away another layer of my security and challenging me to exist without the comfort of a screen separating me from the experience of traveling in a foreign country. The food in Prague consisted of meat and pastry dough combined in various forms, with beer almost counting as the third major food group. The Czechs drink more beer per man, woman and child than any other country in the world —30+ liters more beer per …

8 perfect things to do in Paris

Here are a few of my favorite things I did in Paris, in no particular order: Sacre Coeur Climbing the steep hill to Sacre Coeur left me breathless. When I stepped inside this immense cathedral I felt awed by the grandeur. Arriving at sunset was an extra treat…Paris was awash in golden light. I brought a picnic dinner and sat on the grass to enjoy my feast with a view, then stayed until dark to watch the city begin to twinkle. Arc d’Triumph  A short subway ride from Sacre Coeur, the Arc d’Triumph was impressively large and gave a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower and the wide boulevards of Paris, laid out below on interlocking axis. I found myself thinking, if city planners back then knew how to lay out such a beautiful, livable city, why don’t modern city planners apply some of these same ideas? As the Eiffel Tower twinkled in the distance, I savored a moment of being fully present. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that I had begun my journey. Beneath the Arc was the …

Paris

Paris was a photograph come to life. Narrow cobblestone streets were lined with bistros and cafes, overlooked by tall 19th century apartments with windows fronted by wrought iron balustrades, intersected by canals and river walks, while the Eiffel Tower and the Arc d’Triumph stood sentry over the city.