Category Destinations

Luang Prabang Highlights: monks, markets and the Mekong

Orange-clad monks at the dawn alms giving ritual in Luang Prabang

Monks at dawn in Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is one of last authentic cities in Indochina. This is the place people expect when they fantasize about South East Asia. What makes it so special is that you don’t have to run around checking off a bunch of tourist sites. It is wonderful to just ‘be’ and enjoy the soul of the city.

In the soft grey light of early morning, we sit quietly on a bamboo mat, wicker baskets of sticky rice beside us, across from a shuttered colonial mansion heavy with bougainvillea.

Around a corner, dozens of barefoot monks appear in a swish of saffron, golden bowls hanging from orange shoulder straps.  Locals show us how to earn merit.  Men adorned with scarves over one shoulder as a mark of respect and kneeling women in traditional shawls put fistfuls of rice into the monks’ bowls.

As in a dream, just as the rising sun gilds the ceramic-tiled temple roofs, the stream of gold vanishes and the monks return inside...

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Bhutan: Tantric Buddhism in the land of Gross National Happiness

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Ever since the Fourth Dragon King of Bhutan announced that he measured his country’s progress in terms of Gross National Happiness, not Gross National Product, this tiny land-locked Himalayan kingdom has become something of a Mecca, some might say a trophy, for cluey Westerners seeking respite from their highly paid but stressed-out lives.

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Mountain Lodges of Peru: the Best Way to Walk to Machu Picchu

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Machu Picchu is on everyone’s bucket list but the hackneyed hiking route is over-hyped and in danger of being destroyed by overuse. What many people don’t realize is that the Andes are laced with dozens of Incan trails, not just the one royal Incan Trail to Machu Picchu.

Mountain Lodges of Peru offers a blissfully uncrowded lodge-based alternative route to the sacred Incan site for those of us who would like to make the trek but who would prefer to exchange the bed roll for a real bed and add fine food and wine and even a massage or two into the equation.

This ...

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The Nine Best Aboriginal Experiences in Australia

Learning to spear fish at Kooljaman at Cape Leveque

Indigenous tourism is flourishing all over Australia as visitors and locals alike are keen to learn more about the ancient wisdom and cultural traditions of the world’s oldest living culture.  Here is a sampling of intriguing offerings that range from short bush tucker walks, didgeridoo lessons and guided rock-art tours to multi-day cultural immersions.  For more information, check out Aboriginal Tourism Australia.

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How to best enjoy New Orleans music scene

The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Orchestra has spectacular costumes.

Chanting in a deep rhythmic voice, an African-American Indian chief (yes, I said that right), who is adorned headdress-to-toe in powder-pink feathers, beads and sequins, leaps onto the Louis-Louis stage by the wide lazy Mississippi River. An eight-piece band with horns, saxophone, drums, guitars, fiddle, cello and tambourine echoes his primal call.

The New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Band has me and the rest of the 800-strong audience in thrall, its culture as mysterious as it is hypnotic.

New Orleans French Quarter Festival

Not far away, the Pinettes, the world’s only all-female brass band, is jamming with “Rock the Boat, Don’t Tip the Boat Over”, while on another stage deep in the bowels of the French Quarter, everyone is swinging to the toe-tapping Cajun fiddle tunes of Amanda Shaw and Rockin Doopsie Jr.

A New Orleans virgin, I am here for the four-day, ten-stage French Quarter Festival, the largest free music festival in the South of the United States...

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How to Weekend in the Hamptons: where to stay and what to do

A classic cedar shingled beach house in the Hamptons on Long Island

A classic cedar shingled beach house in the Hamptons

If you don’t have your mansion, summer share house or cottage, it can be difficult to access the Hamptons for just a weekend. Luckily there a few new artful country inns and boutique hotels so now we can all escape New York and enjoy a Hamptons weekend getaway. Here is the rundown on where to stay and what to do.

I checked out a couple recently with my oldest daughter, grown up and living in New York, to see if the weekend boutique hotel experience is all its cracked up to be. They may be a bit pricey but it’s nothing compared to summer house rentals.

Prices in the Hamptons can really take your breath away….Beyonce paid US$400,000 to rent a 14-bedroom mansion for one month; if you were so inclined, you could have bought the same five hectare estate with pool, tennis court, bowling alley, theater and eight-car garage for US$43.5 million. Yet, in spite of its excesses, much of The Hamptons’ appeal is priceless.

Vistas of translucent light over dune grasses to the sea attracted artists more than a century ago to this 50-kilometer stretch dotted with a handful of villages on the eastern end of Long Island. New York Society followed, building grand cedar-shingled mansions on the potato fields and riding horse buggies down its rose-rimmed country lanes to the beach.

In additio...

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What to Do in Cebu in the Philippines

Cebu has warm water and great underwater life to explore on day trips such as to Nalasuan Island

Cebu is oldest city in the Philippines and now a thriving port and manufacturing center. Cebu is the country’s epicenter of Christianity and a gateway to more than 160 white-sand-rimmed islands and islets. For visitors, it offers a heady mix of Spanish-inspired culture, fabulous food, and interesting design stores as well as access to terrific snorkeling and diving.

Here are 12 must-do adventures in this friendly Queen City of the South.

  1. Eat suckling pig. Anthony Bourdain followed his taste buds to Cebu and pronounced that they make the best lechon (Spanish for “suckling pig”) in the world on his television show No Reservations. His lechon consultant was Cebu native Joel Abueca Binamica, a retired banker who writes the Market Manila blog. After the broadcast, people begged Binamica to sell his lechon commercially and now he has five bright red and white Zubuchon restaurants...
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What to do with Kids in Vienna: cakes, carriages, choirs, castles

The Prater is one of the world's oldest amusement parks

There is so much to do with kids in Vienna in both summer and winter that you’ll have your clan clamoring to move to this pretty baroque capital of Austria with its elaborate cafes serving gorgeous cakes and pastries, its horse drawn carriages, exquisite palaces to explore and of course the famous Vienna Boys Choir. And teenage girls could get in a tizz about getting all dressed up and going to one Vienna’s winter balls.

Is it when my youngest daughter Julia conducts the philharmonic orchestra or perhaps when my teenage tom boy Claire waltzes in the arms of a handsome young man?  Or then again, is it the look of sheer astonishment in the eyes of the oldest Alice as she gazes at a ferris wheel made completely of sugar? Whatever tips the scale, I fall in love with Vienna as the perfect place to visit with kids AND teenagers, as I found out a few years ago.

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Kasbah de Toubkal is an Authentic Berber Lodge in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains

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The Kasbah de Toubkal is a beautifully restored stone and thatched-roof village compound that offers guests an insider’s experience of Berber life in the heart of Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.

I love hotels that help you engage with the locals while still enjoying a touch of luxe. National Geographic Traveler writer Daisann McLane captured the sentiment perfectly when she wrote a piece about her favorite South American hotels. “A hotel is a threshold to an unfamiliar culture…Good hotels have a strong sense of place.” The Kasbah de Toubkal in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco is a perfect example. And to emphasize this fact, it isn’t even called a hotel but rather ‘a Berber hospitality center.”

Re-imagined by British adventure guide Mike McHugo and his friend and fellow guide from Morocco, Hajj Maurice, who grew up in these mountains, the Kasbah de Toubkal was a crumbling fortified village at the top of the Imlil Valley, which at the time had no electricity...

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Cruising the Australian Kimberley Wilderness Coast

The rocks in the Australian Kimberley region are incredibly ancient

We are 400 kilometers by sea from Broome, on one of Aurora Expeditions’ many land-based adventures during their 10-night cruise between Broome and Darwin along Australia’s rugged remote Kimberley coastline.

The Kimberley was the first area in Australia settled by Aboriginals when sea crossings from the north were a mere 30 kilometers. There is compelling evidence that humans have lived here for more than 50,000 years.

Remar...

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