Bali, A Dream Come True


The welcome at Denpasar Ngurah Rai International Airport was not what I envisioned.  I had arranged for a transfer to my villa and the swarm of men that greeted me shouting taxi, taxi, was unexpected.  ‘Swarm’ may be a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the picture, too many persons approached me at the same time to persuade me to use their service.  I was determined to find my transfer which in the end turned out to be a no-show.

In my frustration, I left the arrivals hall and decided to take a Grab service – operates like Uber.  I did not know at the time that they were not allowed to operate on the airport premises.  Fortunately for me as I was walking out and inquiring of two young women how to make the Grab connection, just outside the gates a Grab vehicle drove up and dropped off a passenger.  I hailed him and ran to secure the ride.  The Grab was a motorcyclist (they wear green helmets to be easily recognized).  I gave him my address details, he handed me a helmet, I hopped onto the back of his scooter and away we went.

Through the dark streets of Bali we bobbed and weaved among traffic.  It was a long ride on the motorcycle (I haven’t ridden on a motorbike in more years than I can recall), sometimes riding inches away from other vehicles, to close for comfort in my opinion.  The ride was  scary, but there I was holding on for dear life to a total stranger.  It was more than I had bargained for, but desperate situations calls for desperate measures.  The ride took more than 45 minutes to reach the villa.

As we journeyed into the night, I realized the favored form of transportation is the scooter.  At every intersection, they were bundled in large packs ahead of the automobiles.  Many instances I saw four or five persons on a scooter, defying safety regulations on all levels:  no helmets except for the adults, infants carried in the laps or standing precariously perched between adults.  This is their normal, though I think not legal.  Since their transport system is not organized, motorbikes and motorized tricycles are the easiest means to get around.  To make matters worse, there seems to be no road laws that I could understand.  The only law seems to be, and I’m being facetious – you see a space, you decide you can fit into it, then you go.  Somehow it works.  I cannot begin to imagine the road rage frustration or accidents that happens on a daily basis.  The number must be very high.  Driving in Bali is stressful and maybe the number one reason why foreigners are encouraged to hire local private drivers.

Bali is by far the most affordable of all the destinations I have been to so far, but don’t be fooled.  If you are not careful you will spend more than you budgeted.  Prices offered to tourists are often inflated two or three times higher and haggling is the only option to bring it within reason.  Also, tour operator packages are not all they claim to be, for example, I decided to go on a recommended tour to four locations: coffee plantation,  museum, local souvenir market, and to see a cultural performance.  The first disappointment was the coffee plantation.  It did not have fields of coffee trees or the processing plant that I was expecting to see.  The next was the museum.  Though not a connoisseur of Balinese history, arts, culture and artifacts, it was not an interesting prospect.  The saving grace for this tour were the souvenir market and the Kecak cultural performance.

In every location I have met wonderful people who were eager to show me their country and extend their hospitality.  The Balinese were no different.  I spent the day with a special Balinese family (Deisy, Robbie, Brev, Berry, Clarance and Clarience)   who took me to Ubud – a popular tourist destination an hour’s drive from Denpasar.  In Ubud, we visited the sacred Monkey Forest, a sanctuary to over 700+ Balinese longtail monkey species.  The experience of a monkey sitting on my shoulder and then on my head was nerve racking but I endured it.  Onlookers kept asking me if the monkey had a particular smell but surprisingly I did not catch a whiff of any offensive odors.  Several times the mischievous animals tried to snatch my water bottle or cap.  These creatures are smart and entertaining.  Following, we went to the rice terraces of Tegallalang another popular tourist attraction.  After taking many photos of the terraces we headed to Tegenungan Falls.  We descended to the base of the waterfall where many vacationers enjoyed dipping in the cold pounding surf.

Here are my observations of Bali: besides the beautiful beaches (on par with my beautiful Barbados), the rugged countryside is even more beautiful.  Balinese people like rice too.  I ate mostly nasi goreng (fried rice) and lots of fruits which were abundant, but to my understanding are an expensive luxury for the average local.  Again, salads are not a priority at mealtime even though more vegetables are readily available there.  The most I’ve gotten in way of salad with dinner are a couple slices of cucumber and tomatoes.  When making purchases, never accept the first price offered by street vendors, always be prepared to haggle or walk away.  You will be called back to renegotiate a more agreeable price.  Bahasa is the language spoken and the Balinese Rupiah is the currency.  Their are lots of temples and shrines.  Outside of every house, there is a small shrine where daily offerings (food, flowers, herbs, money, etc.) are made to their various god’s for blessings of wealth, success, happiness, safety, etc.  Decorative penjors (bamboo structures) of different sizes overhanged the streets in celebration of their religious custom.

The time spent on this Indonesian island was a dream come true.  In spite of the airport transfer fiasco (a communications breakdown on their end.  Apologies offered and discount given) and baring other elements, the experience was relaxing and enjoyable.  Especially, my villa which was like an oasis in the heart of a busy city, the privately enclosed gardens and comfortable room which I had all to myself was simply wonderful.  The strength of the USD makes it affordable to stay at four and five star hotels here.  Finally, I’ve made new friends who I hope to remain in contact with for a very long time.

Community Peeps, I will sign off here about my stay in Bali.  I hope you are enjoying reading the accounts of my adventures in Southeast Asia.  I am looking forward to heading home in a couple days.  As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”  My next post which may come in two parts will be about my stay in the Philippines: Sagada and Manila respectively, and will be published from the comforts of my home.

Do me a favor and write your comments in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates (also on Twitter), click like to show your love and support, and last but not least, you may share on your social media sites.  Thanks for reading.  Stay tuned.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

Advertisements

Eye Candy


Singapore is a fine city.  I mean it.  There is a fine for just about everything, or at least that’s the way it seems.  This is not to be taken lightly.  Singapore means business in administering fines to those who willfully break their laws.  The first law that drove fear into my heart was written in clear signage on the bridge crossing over from Kuala Lumpur.  It said, “Punishment for drug traffickers is death”.  That would be a permanently fatal fine.  Thank God, the few pills in my bag didn’t qualify.  Also, on my last day there, while on the metro going to Changi International Airport, the man sitting next to me was drinking a bottle of Coca-cola.  He thought nothing of it.  Just as we were about to get off at the last stop a woman approached him, and pointed out the no eating and drinking sign just above our heads.  She was an undercover cop.  He quickly apologized and got away with a stern warning before we all disembarked the train.  I’m sure he is still thanking God all now that she didn’t issue him a ticket.  My best guess as to her reasons why not maybe it’s because she saw his suitcases and didn’t want him to miss his flight.

From the first day I got to Singapore it was hectic for me.  What this small country lacks in size, it makes up for in things to do, places to go and things to experience.   Walking is the best method to enjoy the eye candy that’s everywhere.  I don’t know if this is the norm since my time there included the weekend until the middle of the next week, or if there were having a practice run for the impending Presidential visit.  In any case, it was exhausting keeping up with all the happenings.  Just to give you an idea:  I went dragon-boat racing, strolled Clarke’s Quay – the hub of entertainment for tourist and enjoyed the entire river promenade scene, went to Merlion Park, Haji Lane with it’s Afro-centric vibes and interesting street art, visited Little India, Arab Street, traversed China Town, spent a day on Sentosa Island, watched a cricket match, and so much more.

Though many attractions in every direction abound and bombard the five senses, the one I wanted to see and experience the most was Gardens by the Bay.  I spent more than half a day trying to cover it, and words fail at this point to tell you the beauty of it all.  The nightly show when the towers light up is amazing (the show was done to the music – Rhapsody).   It was spectacular.  Singaporeans  know all about impressions and how to attract vacationers with the WOW effect.  They execute the free light shows like how Las Vegas does it with water in front of the Bellagio hotel.  For now you’ll have to use your imagination of my words until after I return to organize a post of photos.

Singapore is very hip and modern.  Here are my observations:  Like it’s Asian neighbors this country loves rice, however, eating choices are more prolific because of its heavy Chinese influence.  The place is as clean as a whistle and people do wait at the lights before crossing.  I confess, I went to fellowship and I couldn’t cross the street (no crossing at the point where I was standing) The woman who was helping me to find the church, grabbed my hand and said, “We are jaywalking for Jesus.”  I laughed and ran across the street with her interrupting the flow of traffic.  If caught it would’ve been two of us facing a hefty fine (misery loves company).  The people are helpful especially the younger generation.  The older folks who cannot speak English often ignore or turn away from you if approached.  English and mandarin are the spoken languages.  The USD is stronger than the SGD, but everything is expensive there.  Shopping malls are many, crowded and busy.  This is a favorite destination for Australians, Japanese, and Indians seeing it is not as far away in flight time as it is to the USA.

I have to cut this short my Community Peeps, I could go on and on of all that I experienced there.  As of writing, I’m on my penultimate lap in the Philippines in the mountain region of Sagada, before heading back to Manila.  I’ll give you the highlights of Bali in the next post before I leave this Southeast region.

As customary, I want to remind you that you can select follow to receive timely postings, click like to show your love and support, share on your social media sites and keep the comments coming.  Write in the box below.  If you have a question or comment on any of the countries I’ve covered so far, let me know and I’ll be happy to address it.  It has been real folks.  It is a real joy sharing.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

 

 

High Rises and Affordable Shopping


Kuala Lumpur, to me, is the land of high rise buildings and affordable shopping.  The architecture is modern and pleasantly pleasing to the eyes, but one can easily get a strain from craning their necks looking up at all the tall buildings.  Plus, they are so very close in proximity to each other.  In contrast to the modern structures, there are some buildings that are very old, like their Central Market, dating back to 1888 when it was first opened.

Travel by metro, bus, taxi, or motorbike is very easy.  The metro is clean and comfortable.  KL Sentral is the main hub for commuter trains and buses traveling to varios parts of the county, including connecting to the country of Singapore to the south, where I am currently.  There transport system offers a free bus service only in the city area called GOKL (purple, blue, green and red lines).

Streets like Bukit Bintang, Jalan Alor, Petauling Street are major attractions and must-sees for the curious tourist.  Most persons are interested in seeing the Petronas Towers.  It is amazing and the view from the deck is worth the 87 ringgits you pay to get there.   It is not a disappointment.  Also the Menara Tower, a free standing structure ranking the seventh tallest in the world is worth visiting.  At this time of the year its sky deck is subject to closings because of the inclement weather, which comes like clockwork in the afternoons.  Heavy downpours lasting for more than a hour to an hour and a half limits visibility and causes some activities to close.  The observation deck is still an option though.  Word to the wise, if going to either tourist attraction, go in the morning.  You will stand a better chance of seeing a 360 degree birds eye view of the beautiful city of Kuala Lumpur.

Ringgits is the currency in KL and I’ve come to believe it is every sellers job to relieve me of it.  The USD goes a long way here too.  Haggling is a norm, even in some stores.  Places like Petaling Street in the Chinatown district, Jalan Alor, and other areas, everything you can think of is sold.  It is tempting and I can tell you I’ve spent some money on bad purchases already.  I bought a selfie rod and I’m ready to throw that thing in the garbage.  It still works but the handle is already broken.  All that glitters is not gold.  Another purchase that I should’ve known better not to do, this time not a fault of the seller, but my own curiosity, I decided to get a pedicure using the Garry Rufa fish.  I paid my ringgits and was allowed to soak my feet for 15 minutes in the tub with the dead-skin eating fish.  I could not handle the tickling nibbles and did not keep my feet in for one whole minute.  No matter how I tried, I could not get comfortable to the slippery fish nibbling around and under my feet.  I chalk that up to experience and something I will not do again 😀.

Overall, my experience in KL as it is affectionately called, was pleasant.  The people are friendly and helpful, willing to give directions to clueless tourists.  Some, usually the older store owners will engage you in conversation once they realize you are a foreigner and coming from the western world.  These are my observations:  Food is not served steamy hot.  Rice is a staple here too and served with every meal.  Fast foods, street foods and fruit or juice bars are abundant, salad bars less apparent.  Milo is a popular breakfast and anytime drink, it is even served at KFC and McDonalds.  Every where in terms of distance is far if you ask a local for directions, but could turn out to be a short walk if you love to walk like I do.

Community Peeps, readers, friends and family this Southeast Asia tour has been truly wonderful so far.  The cultural experience alone and interaction with natives have been priceless.  As mentioned earlier, I am currently in Singapore and will leave mid-week for Bali.

Remember to write your comments in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates, click like to show your love and support, and you may share or reblog my post on your social media site.  It’s been real the whole time and simply a pleasure sharing this trip with you.  I will upload my photos in a separate posting on my return home.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

Two Weddings, A Funeral And More


It is funny how the unexpected happens to you even while enjoying a bespoke vacation. In all my planning and preparation, I did not expect that I would be in attendance at two weddings and a funeral. All this took place on the beautiful island of Cebu, Philippines.

Let me back up a bit to give you a total picture of my travels thus far. My Southeast Asia trip began in Manila. From there I flew to the overcrowded tourist destination of Palawan. The city’s main transport – tuk tuks crowd the streets. I missed the opportunity to go on tour of the subterranean river because of a flight delay. Guess I’ll have to return again someday 🙂. Instead I toured the city of Puerto Princesa, went zip lining, site seeing via my very own tuk-tuk driver to places like Baker’s Hill, crocodile farm, butterfly farm, etc.

Moved on to Cebu, the second largest city in the Philippines. I like it here. Less crowded, people are friendly, sites are spectacular and lots to see and do. I visited the Kawasan Falls to the south, passing through the town of Moalboal where divers go to experience the sardine run and Tabogon to the north passing by the Temple of Leia. Both were long rides, but along the way the sites and views were breathtaking.

I rode the bus to Kawasan Falls. While riding along I heard a commotion on the bus. I turned to see what was going on. The bus stopped. The conductor of the bus held a limp little boy and proceeded to drop the boy on the side of the road. I thought the lad was sick but when the bus started up again and the conductor got back on barking out in a dialect I did not understand what obviously were some stern words to the lad, that I realized the child was a stowaway. I could tell from his looks that he was a street kid. I turned to my seat neighbor and asked if he was and she confirmed it. Sad 😞 situation.

Now about the two weddings and funeral. I peregrinated the city of Cebu and while cooling off, resting my weary legs, and observing the beauty of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Cebu, back to back weddings occurred. I sat quietly as the uninvited visitor to observe the proceedings. The flowers and decorations were pretty. The music was sweet and the bridal parties were dressed to the nines even though the temperature was in the high 90s. My presence was not a disturbance because other visitors and locals were there too. The cathedral is actually a historical site.

The funeral, on the other hand, was that of a fellow believer of my faith. Though I did not know the deceased, I was invited to attend by one of the officiating ministers who I met at church the previous day. Morbid thought, I know, but I wanted to experience a Filipino funeral. The grieving family members welcomed my attendance. First there was a feast at the home, which I was told is customary to host for days or even weeks. While at the home, the mood was very respectful, encouraging and comforting to the family. After eating we proceeded to the church for the last rites, ceremonies and interment.

Overall, my time in the Philippines has been very interesting, and exciting. These are my observations: Rice is a staple and eaten at every meal. I’ve eaten rice seven different ways already and counting (bud-bud, rice cake, puso, champorado, to name a few), durian, halo-halo, mangosteen, and other fruits I can’t remember the names. My favorite is still the mango which I eat every day. The traffic is horrendous in Manila and Cebu. Driving there is not for the faint hearted. The weather temperature is hot, hot, hot, but the rainy season is about to start. Every day there is something to see, enjoy, and taste. It is affordable and the USD goes a long way here. My weary body can’t wait to get to rest at night, I fall out the minute my head touches the pillow.

Community Peeps, readers, friends and family, it was wonderful in the Philippines. As of date, I’m already in Kuala Lumpur. Please forgive any errors in spelling, expressions and verbiage. I’m writing on the fly and access to Wi-Fi is not always available. I’ll have to save the photos for another time also.

Remember to comment in the box below, select follow to receive timely updates and postings, click like to show your support and love, and you may share this post on your social media. Here’s to keeping you in the loop. It’s been real.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Growing Too Old For This? Naaah!


In less than 24 hours my journey to four countries in the Southeast Asia region will begin.  Last minute to-do’s have put me into a tailspin and I am feeling a bit overwhelmed.  The reasons being:  it is either a case of putting off what I could have done yesterday for today, or I am growing too old to be still considering myself a backpacker and all that it entails.  I think I’ll go with the former because my wanderlust is unabated and my curiosity unquench.  However, I believe my energy and tolerance levels for backpacking/trekking to distant lands with flight or travel time more than 16 hours are waning to some degree.  This may be my last long-haul trip, at least for a while.  Don’t get me wrong, the world is still my oyster.  I’m excited to see what lies beyond the bend, and the only way to do that is to travel.

Bespoke itineraries do not always go as planned.  Even a well prepared, extensive itinerary can fall prey to the unexpected.  It is just a part of life with all its curve balls.  Things happen that even the best planner may not foresee.   Flexibility must be a key component to the plan when it begins to go south and the unexpected happens.  Change at a moment’s notice is never ideal considering the circumstances.

What kind of circumstances could hijack vacation plans, one might ask.  Well, to begin: flight cancellation, delays in traffic, inclement weather, and sickness/death for starters.  Of course, there are many other reasons one can add to this list.  Whenever these circumstances arise they may preempt or curtail your travel plans entirely.  Obviously, you have no say in the matter, and its completely out of your control.  Any of these anomalies if presented can cause your vacation to take a turn for the worse, no pun intended, and disrupt your well thought out holiday plans.  Knowing Murphy’s law only too well, I take the utmost care and caution in handling all the arrangements, but I have to admit I have experienced a few of these regrettable incidences myself.

My impending travels to the Philippines, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bali are ambitious an eagerly anticipated.  However, I am prepared to change plans on a dime’s notice.   The research on cost, best tours, most interesting historical sites and culture of each country has consumed most of my time from the day I decided to visit them.  It will be an eventful trip as I navigate solo each country barring any unexpected circumstance that may prevent me from doing so.

Community Peeps, do you have any unique tips you’d like to share on any of the countries I am visiting?  I would be happy to include and let you know what I think of the experience or savor.  I hope to check in and give you timely updates on where in the world I am.  Moreover, if travel plans change abruptly I’d want to keep you in the loop.

Remember to write your advice in the comment box below, select follow to receive timely postings, click like to show your love and support (I like it when you do), and share my post on your social media site (I’m okay with that).   There you have it folks, its been wonderful keeping it real and sharing with you.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

**Photo credits attached to photos.  

A Traveling Mother’s Dilemna


What can I say about mother’s that has not been said already?  Mother’s Day is the day we express loving sentiments to mothers for their unconditional love, tireless devotion and loving care of their offspring.  I, with the rest of my siblings, and like millions of other families celebrated the joy of being blessed with a super Mom who is special, beautiful, wonderful, and just downright amazing. This date is single-handedly the most important day on the calendar even though it is not a public holiday.  It should be.  Mothers would say that every day is Mother’s Day and I agree with that too.  After all, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

My blog concentrates mostly on vacations, itinerary planning, lifestyle, and travel, but I want to recount an article I read recently of a young mother traveling with two small children.  Her account caused me to reflect and ask myself serious questions about a traveling mother’s dilemna.  The well-presented article rebuked me in several ways, mostly for my lack of empathy and patience.  Read a full account of the incident here.

After reading the harried mother’s account, I saw myself not as the protagonist who deserves to be celebrated for his courage, but as the irritated traveler who invariably finds herself seated next to, in front of, or behind a screaming infant who would not be pacified in the ensuing meltdown.  What has my attitude been towards frantic mothers in situations like these?  Do I keep my distance? Do I reach out and offer to help?  Or, do I wish they were seated nearer to first class than where I usually sit in economy?  These questions may sound selfish and empathetic, but they are honest, true and are for my own introspection.

The trepidation mothers experience when flying with young children in such a confined space is a real concern that is often overlooked by fellow passengers.  We put on our noise cancelling head phones, plug our ears or pretend to fall asleep the minute we are seated.  We try to shut out everyone around us.  My awareness to the distresses of overtaxed mothers has been heightened, and even though there may be little to nothing that I can do, a knowing smile and an offer to help an anxious and overwhelmed mother could be a welcomed relief for her or may be a polite rejection for me.  To do nothing is not an option.  Not to reinvent the wheel, a couple of links below provide helpful tips to traveling moms with young ones.

15 Tips for Stress-free Traveling with Little Children

Traveling with Kids – Tips and Tricks

Finally, I want to wish all mothers in my blog community, email and readership a blessed Mother’s Day.  May the experience of wonderful blessings be shared and received every day for the rest of your lives.  You deserve the best.

Community Peeps, it is always a pleasure sharing my thoughts and keeping it real with you.  What has been your experience on the subject?  Tell me what worked for you and your family which can help someone else.  Comment in the box below.  Select follow to receive immediate postings and become a part of my community.  Click like to show your love and support. Go ahead and share my blog on your own social media site.  Thank you for reading, I appreciate it.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

Fleeting and Enduring Friendships


Making friends when you travel is not a hard thing to do, at least not for me.  It can begin with a smile, a casual comment or shared humor.  Neither party may intend to become lifelong friends, but, as the saying goes, one thing may lead to another and before you know it a beautiful friendship starts.  Names are exchanged, and contact information given.

Not all friendships are created equal though.  Some bonds are lasting, while others only endure for the duration of the excursion/group tour.  On short itineraries, the acquaintances begin by sharing in minor pleasantries – sitting together at meal times, buddying-up on a hike trail, taking each other’s photos, etc.  It is an unspoken understanding that at the end of the day, you will part company and go your separate ways, never to see or hear from each other again, but for the interim, you become friends and look out for each other.

It isn’t by preconceived design or because of an ulterior intent that this camaraderie is formed.  After all, you did not know the other existed before the inevitable meeting.  It would seem as if unseen hands guided you along so that your paths would cross.  Then, when your worlds collide, a friendship blossoms into something special, for the moment, or for the long haul.  Whether the relationship is fleeting or enduring depends on the chemistry and interaction of the individuals.  If you hit it off like a house on fire, you may probably remain in contact and communicate impromptu from time to time.

I have experienced both types of friendships in my travels over the years.  Neither kind is founded on protracted months of nurturing, or on a filial background.  Yet, it takes each participant a certain level of commitment and interest to follow-up.  Unrealistic expectations are not a part of the formation of the alliance.  Frequent contact is not a do-or-die priority to either person.  Rather, whenever contact is made, it is a refreshing opportunity to catch-up and ruminate familiar bonds that drew you together in the first place.  I must interject, that it is hard to maintain a long distant friendship.  Vacationers who return from whence they came, back to normalcy and business as usual, soon realize that life gets in the way.  Time passes, memories begin to fade and so too does regular contact with the new friend, who up until a few weeks or months ago were a very real part of your world while enjoying a stupendous holiday.

In 2005, in New Delhi, I met a tall, lanky man who became a friend to me.  He was a student studying in India and our common bond was our faith.  I met him after rambling around the city of New Delhi (a story I would have to tell another time), before finally finding my house of worship.  He loves to sing and was an active youth leader at the time I met him. He befriended me when I needed a friend in a strange land.  Hi Samuel!

Again, in 2009, while traveling on a long-distant bus from Cape Town to Durban, I observed a tall, svelte young woman who sat across the aisle from me.  From my peripheral vision I could see her every movement and I am sure it was the same for her. We did not approach or make any attempt to speak to each other during the ride.  Throughout a few rest stops, and including a mechanical brake-down, we remained at a distant, but began to laugh at the puerile jokes by the bus attendant and other passengers as we rode along.  When our bus finally arrived at the terminal in Durban, this same woman came to my rescue.  The transfer to my hotel did not show up.  She took me in her sister’s car to the hotel and in Afrikaans sternly scolded the desk attendants for the no-show.  We have been good friends ever since.  Hi Neliswa!

Four years ago, in Israel, I was at the ticket/entrance booth, about to walk the “Jesus Trail” in Capernaum when I heard a voice behind me saying, “Your accent sounds familiar.”  No, it was not the voice of God.  I turned to see a short blond woman smiling at me.  I smiled back.  We headed into the historical site together.  We walked and talked exchanging names and pleasantries.  By the time we finished peregrinating the historical site, we agreed to finish the rest of the trail together.  She was driving a rental car and I was on foot.  I was very glad for the invitation to ride with her and that was the beginning of a great friendship.  We spent the rest of our vacation hanging out and sightseeing places together.  Hi Danelle!

Last year, on my most recent trip to Peru, I met a senior lady.  My sister and I were onlookers at a rally in light of the anticipated visit of the Pope in early 2018.  The Plaza Mayor in Lima was filled with people, singing, chanting and dancing.  I stood a distance from the stage and this older lady was standing next to me.  We began to talk.  I in my halting Spanish and she in her halting English.  It was a combination that worked for both of us because we managed to exchange information and become fast friends.  She told me she was a grandmother, and introduced me to her daughter and grand-daughter who later joined us.  After sharing with each other for a while the family encouraged my sister and I to leave the plaza for our safety.  They feared there would be violence and that it would be too dangerous for us as foreigners to be there in the midst.  Suffice to say, we heeded their warnings.  Hi Katya!

In 15 days I will be journeying to Southeast Asia.  God willing, my trip will begin in the Philippines with intended escapes to Bali, Kaula Lumpur, and Singapore.  I wonder who I will meet as I move from place to place.  I expect I will form new friendships – fleeting and enduring.  It will be interesting.

Community peeps what is your experience in making friends as you travel?  Do tell.  I would be glad to hear your thoughts on this.  Share in the comment box below, click follow to join my blog community or like to show your love.  You may also share my blog with your community.  That’s all for now and thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Earth Month is Everyday


“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” – Psalms 24:1

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

No one can claim to have been present when the earth was created.  However, the Genesis account in the Bible tells us everything was made perfect.  The Good Book also tells us that man was made a steward of it.  Over the centuries, we have not always been kind to the earth, environment and its resources.  However, in this 21st century, talks of the environment and global warming has taken center stage.  An acute awareness of the kinds of impact our daily choices make on the environment are now hot topics on every country’s political agenda.  Much ado about nothing?  I doubt it.  While the debate rages on, and new environmental policies and practices adopted to stem further deterioration, individuals can no longer turn a blind eye.  We must take responsible action to arrest the wear and tear on the enviroment from further decline wherever and however much we can everyday.

Considering the recently celebrated ‘Earth Day’ and since this month is Earth month, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a few environmental tips one could practice or even adopt while on vacation.  It may be easy to practice save-the-planet actions at home, but when you travel you may be hard pressed to follow-through, so I asked family and friends for recommendations of how they would help to reduce, recycle or eliminate their carbon footprint when they travel.  This is what they had to say:

  1. “Rent an electric car to go on road trips.  They are battery operated and does not emit fumes into the atmosphere.” – Cyrilene
  2. “Eat only locally grown foods.” – Marcia
  3. “Reserve accommodation that is environmentally green and uses products to support the environment.” – Gail
  4. “Rent a Segways or ride a bike versus driving gasoline/diesel  powered vehicles.” – Shurland
  5. “Volunteer at local organic farm or wildlife sanctuary.” – Suzanne
  6. “Clean-up a beach area of non-biodegradable refuse that washed-ashore.” – Antoine
  7. “Use all-natural products for daily hygiene, for example: lemon as underarm deodorant, aloe-vera as shampoo for body and hair, a bamboo toothbrush and bicarbonate of soda to brush teeth.” – Wayne
  8. “Conserve water at shower times.” – Laudz
  9. “Bring my own shopping bag with me to the grocer.” – Desmond
  10. “When dining out, avoid using styrofoam and plastic utensils.” – Dalton

Community peeps, these simple tips if practiced can help to give us a more wholesome environment to live in for Earth month begins every day.   If you have other practices not mentioned here, please share your environment-friendly tips in the comment box below.  Remember, click follow to receive timely postings and like to show your love.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

 

Bimshire for Spring


I like spring.  It is not my favorite season, summer is.  Nonetheless, I like springtime if only for the simple reason that after being cooped up indoors for most of winter I can now spring into action and enjoy more of the outdoors.  I can shed the heavy dull colors of winter for something lighter, brighter and cheerier.  The last vestiges of winter linger in the chilly air and the occasional snow flurry, but old man winter must eventually give in to higher temperatures as the mercury rises and as the sun’s rays get stronger every day.

Spring_Frosythia2
Spring – Forsythia (Traveltinerary)

I need sunshine.  It is a part of my DNA.  I love temperatures in the high 70s and 80s.  Whenever I see the blooming forsythia plant it tells me that spring is here and warmer weather too.  The yellow petals seem to appear overnight.  Whenever I feel down and out, the perennial’s rich vibrant color helps to cheer me up the same way the sun’s rays does in its mellow yellow radiance.  The first sightings of the bush against the sparsely foliage landscape, bright and bold, is like the sun shining through patches of cloudy skies.  Aah, I know.  A pampered vacation in the tropics is what I really need to scatter remnant winter blues.  This spiel about sunshine and individual care, segues succinctly to a destination where customer care is second nature.

Recently, Barbados, my homeland, was awarded the distinction of being the number one destination for tourist gratification.  A survey of 70,000 travelers rated the tiny island paradise best in customer service in the world.  Headlines like “Barbados Tops Charts with “Rihanna Effect,” Plans Bigger 2018”“Barbados Named World’s Top Travel Spot for Customer Satisfaction”, and “The Most Satisfying destination in the World” speaks of what draws these tourists to the shores of ‘Bimshire’ repeatedly.  While celebrity attractions and exquisite establishments may have bearings in contributing to such a prestigious honor, I believe it is more than just branding and smart marketing strategies.  It is its people.

“Friend to all, satellite of none.” – Sir Errol Walton Barrow

Over the years, many slogans and advertisements have gone into wooing visitors to Barbados.  However, in my opinion, if I had to speak for every Barbadian, it would be to say, “Bajans embody tourism as part of their culture.”  Years ago, one of the many successful slogans – “Tourism is our business” served a dual purpose: 1. attracting vacationers; 2. teaching nationals the art of keen customer service skills.  That slogan resonated with every Bajan across all walks of life back then.  To me, it is one of the most impactful slogans to have served the country’s tourist industry.

Growing up as a kid on the rock, I recall we were taught to be proud ambassadors, and how to handle foreigners to our island.  Exceptional service was made the number one priority which now pays sweet returns.  We knew we had no major economic wealth or competitive edge in the natural resources department.  All we have are our people.

“We loyal sons and daughters all

Do hereby make it known

These fields and hills beyond recall

Are now our very own

We write our names on history’s page

With expectations great

Strict guardians of our heritage

Firm craftsmen of our fate”

– Irvine Burgie (Chorus to Barbados National Anthem)

Today, I am excited at seeing forsythias which tells me warmer days are ahead.  I get even more excited recommending destinations where, besides the sand, sea and sun, apropos customer service gives holidaymakers the pleasure they seek and an enjoyable breather from a long harsh winter.  Is Barbados on your bucket list?  If not, it would be worth your while to add it now.  If international travel is not possible currently, contemplate road-tripping to where heats are already above 60 degrees.  If that is still not a possibility, don’t despair, you will not have too long to wait for higher temps and to enjoy all that is in your own backyard.  Wherever you choose to travel, be sure to enjoy springtime before it becomes a thing of the past.

Blog community, do your travel plans include a warm destination?  I can help you plan a bespoke itinerary for the tropics.  Select follow, click like and comment in the box below.  It means so much to me to read your thoughts and suggestions.  You may also follow me on Twitter @traveltinerary, LinkedIn, Google+, or share my post on any of your social media platforms.  It’s been real the whole time 😊.  Thanks for reading.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

 

Alter-ego Lifestyles


What kind of lifestyle do you lead when on vacation?  Does your alter-ego show up and you suddenly morph into the suppressed personality you always want to be? How do you behave when you are far away from the prying eyes of neighbors, family and friends? Does your inhibitions peel away like old clothes as you put new garb on instead?  Strange questions you might think.  Not likely.  Anonymity in unfamiliar places where one’s name, family, or residence are unknown, gives one a heightened sense of freedom.  One becomes ‘footloose and fancy free.’  Let’s look at some alter-ego lifestyles you may encounter while on vacation:

Laissez-faire –  This type of tourist expresses in their attitude a need for freedom to do

pexels-photo-264073.jpeg
Lifestyle – Laissez-faire (Traveltinerary)

whatever or go wherever their heart desires.  They exhibit an air of unconcern for everyday affairs by taking a break from the vicissitudes of life that may confront them.  Now on vacation, they may show little or no concern for things, or situations that, under different circumstances would be cause for alarm.  This happy-go-lucky spirit follow paths that are mapped-out for them and can easily be persuaded to jump on a fitting bandwagon.  They would enlist the services of an itinerary organizer to eliminate stressful holiday planning.  They do not want to be bound by time or limited by restraints.  Don’t worry, be happy is probably their vacation mantra.  Ideally, they just want to go with the flow.

Largesse – Cha ching, cha ching.  The demeanor of this type of traveler is seen in their: designer clothing, exquisite taste, expensive indulgences, and their generous tipping says money is not an issue. This type of vacationer spares no expenses on entertainment, tours and travel related costs.  Itinerary plans are made in advance, but even at a moment’s notice, without as much as a dither they are ready to resolve unforeseen issues with their cheque-book.  Who will know beside them and their wallets what the real bank statement balance says at home.  For now, the big spender is the envy of all others.  Whether the façade is real or fake it causes heads to turn.

Adventurous – This transient type is constantly looking for the next thrill of victory.  Adventures planned or discovered, safe or dangerous are high on the list of their activities to seek out and conquer.  Sitting still is not an activity but rather a necessity only when it is time to eat.  They are willing to climb the highest mountains.  Hike steep trails.  Travel off the beaten paths to little known sites and be one with nature.  They are rough and rugged, taking photo ops at the edge of the cliff; daring to look over the precipice; or riding downhill at break-neck speeds on dirt bikes.  Whatever the activity, their liking for borderline danger and their precarious approach to the holiday says that they are seeking an exhilarating emotional high, an adrenalin rush.  Obviously, such experiences may be at complete odds to their normal, sedate lifestyle at home.

Minimalist –  This hippie type vacationer travels light.  They have figured out ways on how to get by with very little.  They travel from place to place, sometimes using only the thumb.  This lifestyle best fits and looks better on a younger tourist but is not limited to any age group.  Their bedraggled demeanor screams, “I am a poor backpacker, or I am hungry, feed me.”  Looks and proper deportment are not of much concern to them.  Getting by while enjoying their vacation is their only anxiety.  They too go with the flow and are flexible with their plans.  They are not above working for their keep or couching in places that may be considered disreputable.

Fun-Loving –  Though not the general rule, this lifestyle can sometimes be treacherous

pexels-photo-690746.jpeg
Lifestyle – Fun-loving (Traveltinerary)

and anything but fun.  Stories of spring-break tragedies are a sad testament to that fact. The unwary tripper throws caution to the wind lured on by the prospects of pleasure and enjoyment.  These bored holidayers fall prey to impromptu decisions, and flawed ideas all for the sake of having a good time.  Their predilection for any kind of excitement may lead to an impulsive decision.  Nevertheless, overall, once fun activities are properly vetted, a wonderful time may be had.

Have you at any time adopted at least one of these alter lifestyles while on vacation?  If you have a travel story that fits a lifestyle and would like to share, I would love to hear about it.  The long and short of it all is that no one is judging you.  Your lifestyle choices far from home are yours to practice for the brief period you are away.  You will return to your regular living and reality soon enough.

Thanks for reading this post.  I appreciate the time you took to do so.  All opinions expressed above, to which you may agree or disagree, belong to yours truly, just saying 😊.  Please click follow, like or comment in the box below.  Also, here is my twitter username – @traveltinerary.  I look forward to hearing from you.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Food – Choice or Chore


Countries that bank on tourism as a part of their economy, usually have a supporting gastronomy culture that peaks the interest of every tourist they attract.  Restaurants, food shops and entrepreneurial vendors abound to feed the weary traveler.  Besides exploring national sites and attractions, what to eat at the end of the day, in my opinion, is still the most pondered thought or question as you travel, whether in a group, or by yourself.  Vacationers from all walks of life want to know the answer to that question as they anticipate sinking their teeth into the delectable cuisines of their host country.  The more prolific the gastronomy culture the wider the variety of dishes offered.  A customized itinerary would not get into the meat and potatoes (no pun intended) of where one should dine or the foods one should try.  That is usually left to the discretion of the traveler.  However, itinerary planners like myself often recommend that clients have realistic expectations at their destination and be aware of the average price range of restaurants that will appeal to their dietary needs, and of course, suit their budget.

If you have chosen an all-inclusive resort where your meals from breakfast to dinner are prepared, or an ocean cruise where you can gorge throughout the day, then you need not worry about meal plans.  However, if you are traveling with your family, friends or solo, and your accommodation allows free access to their kitchen, you may want to seize the opportunity and utilize the resources to your advantage.  If you plan carefully, you will quickly realize how much better and healthier your dining choices can be for you and your family

Before leaving on a trip, you should actively research your meal options.  Know the ubiquitous and exotic foods of your place.  Learn the ingredients used to make the dish you might want to try especially if you have culinary objections, diet or religious restrictions.  The internet, guidebooks, restaurant’s and diner’s reviews are good places to start your search.  Social media is another excellent medium to source food information and can tell you what is: the latest rave, best and worse comments, photos, and how-to demonstrations.  Even if you are not a foodie-traveler, it is still wise to prep for a palatable experience before you begin your journey.  Hungry anyone?

Here are four sustenance means to choose from:

Dinner2
Fine Dining

Restaurants ($$, $$$) –  These fancy kitchens are run by talented trained chefs in the art of cookery.  Exquisite menu offerings oftentimes highlight items that challenges the English speaker’s ability to enunciate.  Plates of food look like they have been manipulated by a food design artist instead of cooked and tussled in a skillet or frying pan by a sous chef.  Dainty drops of green, red, yellow or orange spot the plate or maybe a lone streak of sauce stretch across an oversized plate, that at the center, sits the lone morsel.

Dinner1
Fine Dining

Depending on your deep pockets and thrill-seeking taste buds, you may choose to feast at a Michelin-star rated food establishment.  If so inclined, other eateries operated and/or owned by restauranteurs the likes of Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck are worth visiting, even if only for the bragging rights.  Restaurants worth their salt in food preparation, presentation, and ambience seek to win you over with quality versus quantity.  You may walk away still hungry and lighter on the pocketbook, but who’s complaining?  It’s all about the experience and memory created.  You can talk about it for a long time, or write your own review on your blog page, etc.

Choosing to break bread nightly at a classy restaurant while on an extended holiday is not a sustainable option.  Apart from a few of us, it may turn out to be an extravagance you cannot afford.  At the end of the day, the choice would still be yours.

Fast food –  As a tourist, you might like the casual dining alternative of the more well-known places like the golden arches, the colonel, or some other easily recognizable western fast-food chain.  Moreover, others may be averse to trying new foods and finding familiar tasting foods may bring them a measure of homey comfort.  They crave a familiar taste and texture.  That being the case, some fast-food chains in foreign countries accommodate side orders that appeals to their nationals.  Nothing off-putting.  Examples: In Venezuela, McDonalds serves arepas as a side order in their meal; and in Canada the widely loved poutine.  This western franchise has connected with its base, all the while wooing the international clientele that is familiar with its staple fare and everybody is happy.

Street food – A vendor cart, food truck, or person with a coal-pot stand qualify for this category.  They set up anywhere and offer quick and easy, no-frills dining that complement the tourist on the go.  Not much expectation for a satisfying meal.  Just a stop-gap measure until a better meal can be obtained later in the day or evening.  These kinds of meals are never satisfying and certainly not a sought-after replacement to the daily meal because of its nutritional value or the lack thereof.

DIY Dining – This is my favorite and highly recommended option.  Food is a choice and not a chore.  Managing your own catering can be a pleasurable activity all by itself.  Seeking out places to shop for your food, challenging yourself to purchasing items within a fixed budget, getting creative with the menu and interacting with the people you meet in the markets and supermarkets are all positive benefits to your vacation.  When you cook for yourself/family you have no worries, no complaints (hopefully) and practically no downside other than the time you take to prepare and clean up after each meal.  Total prep, cook and clean up, if you are smart about it can be limited to less than an hour of your vacation time, two days in a week.  Yes, you read that correctly.  It is possible to eat an appetizing, healthy meal whilst on vacation, and save enough money to splurge on other things.  Planning is the key to solving those issues.  Here are some additional tips to help you:

  1. Research your location and know what fruits and vegetables are in season.
  2. Plan menus that are affordable, quick and easy to prepare in 30 – 40  minutes tops.
  3. Shop for your groceries.  Fresh is best.
  4. Cook meals in one pot and enough to last for two to three days.

If you follow this plan, you may be able to afford at least one or two nights of fine dining at a restaurant of your choosing.  You might ask, “What’s the point of a vacation if I can’t get away from the kitchen?”  My answer to that is simple.  You can pay attention now or pay expensively later; after all, the dining choice is yours.

Readers, what are some of your food challenges when you travel and how do you solve them?  Would you like to make a recommendation not mentioned in the post?  I’d be happy to include it in a follow-up post.  Thanks for reading.  Hope you learned a thing or two, and I look forward to hearing from you either in one of three ways: click follow, like or comment in the box below.  Keep it real folks.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

Best Graduation Gift


Graduating ceremonies for the class of 2018 for senior-year students in academia will begin some time in May.  Students are already prepping for their last act in school.  Year book photos are being taken, cap and gown orders underway, and invitations to attend the ceremonies are mailed.   On that big day, from kindergarten to college, graduands will don cap, gown and mortarboard, and march to the music of “Pomp and Circumstance” by the English composer Sir Edward Elgar.  It is a proud moment in their lives.

Family, friends and invited guests will make the trek to celebrate with their loved one. Most likely, many people will drive to area high schools or distant university campuses to attend the one or two-day event.   From here on I speak in reference to the young twenty-one year old college student. Specifically, in the case of universities,

Best Gift for Graduate2
Graduate and Degree (Traveltinerary)

some may spend several hours on the road to reach their destination.  After all, it is the end of a long academic and financial journey.  Their loved one has successfully completed all requirements needed to earn a diploma/degree.  Now the time to transition from dorm life into the real world, that is, to find a job and start fending for themselves, has come.  Before parents, family and friends arrive, on their minds must be this one question, “what kind of gift should I give to the graduate?”  Let me give you a hint.  The best gift would be an all-expenses paid vacation to anywhere far from home, school and probably out of the country.  They would be ecstatic to receive such an unexpected treat.

Best Gift for Graduate1
Graduation Ceremony (Traveltinerary)

Last year USA Today recommended 16 gifts for graduates, in my opinion, mostly suited to a school senior (not the alcohol decanter set).  Only three of them hinted at travel.  For the collegiate, a surprise ticket to a foreign land followed up with a customized itinerary would work wonders for the mentally tired, stressed student.  Every scholar would love the opportunity to visit a different country (Barbados maybe?), sample a different cuisine, and experience a new culture.  A holiday would be the icing on the cake for them. To start their new lives with total relaxation is not a bad idea.  As they prepare to walk and throw their mortarboards into the air in celebration of their academic accomplishment, all the while relishing the idea of no more books, late night studies, or cramming for exams, a one or two-week respite would be a dream come true and certainly a good fix to re-energize them.

Currently proud moms and dads are busy sending out save-the-date notices.  Have you gotten yours? While the proposal for international travel may be a financial hardship for some families, don’t forget a road trip could be an exciting alternative too.  For sure, the extended family and friends could be included on the road adventure to help celebrate and defray costs.  Either travel option does not have to start immediately but can be delayed for a few months or until the end of the year.

Whichever option is chosen, it will be the ideal gift for the graduand to unwind and loosen up.  Serious talks of the future can come at the end of the vacation 😊.  If you are interested in coordinating a customized itinerary, check me out.

Last words, please visit my website (www.traveltinerary.com) and peruse the pages or catch up on blogs you might have missed.  Check the map of places I’ve visited.  As usual, click like, select follow to receive blog posts immediately, or place your comments in the box below.  I have recently joined Twitter, so you can follow me there also.

More times,

Itinerary Planner

%d bloggers like this: