W O R L D
Traveler Spring 2014
C l i p p e r s * P e r u * O m a n * L o n d o n
The Breakers Pa l m B e a c h
ady e r Al ven Ele rs! Yea
C o m e
W i t h
Z e a l a n d * D e n v e r * S t a r
N e w
C l u b M e d F l o r i d a & F r a n c e * T h e S e r e n g e t i * Pa l a u * B a n g k o k
S e e
T h e
W o r l d !
A word from the editors elcome to the Spring 2014 Issue of American World Traveler.
American World Traveler
Bangkok before exploring the unexpected treasures of New Zealand.
In this issue we start our journey in sunny Florida. First, in Palm Beach we indulge at the magnificent Breakers hotel and then on to an active vacation at the Club Med Sandpiper resort. We continue with Club Med as we head to the beautiful slopes of the French Alps and visit the Valmorel resort.
Our journey continues in the Americas as we head to sparkle in Denver, then to the incredible geographically diverse Peru before setting sail with the tail ships of Star Clippers in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
We then head south to Africa to visit the mighty Serengeti before going to the Micronesian paradise in Palau. While so far from home we travel to the Grand Palace in
Finally, we hear the calling of the exciting city of London before we end our round the world trip in Oman â€“ land of Sinbad.
www.americanworldtraveler.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Publisher Michael Morcos Editor-in-chief Greg James Graphic Artist Al Cheong Advertising Leo Santini Marketing Tania Tassone Distribution Royce Dillon Contributors: Eileen Cotter, Adam Scott Kennedy, Vicki Kennedy, Ruth Atherley, Steven Sanders, A. M. Macloughlin Habeeb Salloum, and Dave Cox. Front Cover Photo by Michael Morcos: The Breakers, Palm Beach, Florida Disclaimer: American World Traveler has made every effort to verify that the information provided in this publication is as accurate as possible. However, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from the information contained herein nor for any information provided by our advertisers.
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American World Traveler Spring 2014
C W T The Breakers
Palm Beach A Country Full of Unexpected Treasures
C l u b M e d
Sandpiper Sand Will Sparkle in 2014
C l u b M e d
Caribbean & Mediterranean Sea
Perfect African safari In The 16
Serengeti Pa l au
Three Distinct Geographies
Land Of Sindbad
Bangkok T h e G r a n d Pa l a c e & Te m p l e o f t h e G o l d e n B u d d h a
C a l l i n g 44
Palm Beach by Eileen Cotter
first impression always lasts, especially when it comes to a vacation experience in Palm Beach, Florida. There is no better way to embrace this classic destination by staying at The Breakers, a legendary hotel that has never wavered from offering the best accommodations around. Situated on the flawless coastline, its endless amenities and attention to detail are what makes this fabulous establishment trump all others.
high-end clientele. When staying at these accommodations, travelers know from the stylish lobby space to the bright and sunny pool oasis that they will be taken care of at every moment.
intricacy, each plus chair and ceiling mural lends to creating an incredible ambiance.
The Breakers is the only hotel directly on the beach in the downtown area. The central location lends to being steps away from the sand, iconic Worth Avenue and everywhere in between that exude the regal spirit of Palm Beach.
There are more than 500 rooms and suites that mimic the same grand style as The Breaker’s main spaces, restaurants and aquatic club. Each space to lay one’s head is designed to the nines, stocked with all the latest electronic, hygienic and sleeping amenities. Float from plush bed to massive bathroom and back, taking in the incredible ocean views from many of the rooms equipped with a breezy balcony.
A Palm Beach Mainstay A Grand Entrance Tracing its history back to the late 1800s, The Breakers had a couple of ups and down to ultimately become what it maintains today – a superior hotel catering to a
Walking through the main lobby already leaves a memorable impression. Designed after Italian inspirations of elegance and
Rooms with a View
Feel Spoiled Rotten Some say staff at a hotel need to be invisible to be efficient. At The Breakers, their professionalism, charm and intuition is something else entirely – a unique touch offered to guests that makes them always feel right at home.
breakfast, all of them are incredibly tasty, diverse and cooked to perfection. Start at The Beach Club to watch sun rises and feel the ocean breeze. For a fancier affair, spend time at The Circle for brunch and sample a spread of quality fruits, pastries, omelets and artisan cheeses.
More Fun for Foodies Couple of Cocktails Having a superior stay at The Breakers can mean guests needn’t leave the property. With several dining, entertainment and wellness options to choose from on site there is an overall opportunity to eat, drink and simply enjoy the Florida sun. For the first evening at the Breakers, a great introduction to its style and ambiance can be felt at HMF. They channel the heyday of craft cocktails and swinging music of the 1950s with an innovative modern twist. Sample the succulent menu selection with small plates such as the heirloom tomato caprese salad and the standout Greek spiced lamb sliders. Lights are turned low as the chandeliers flicker seemingly in time to the soft beats of Frank Sinatra wafting through the air. Indulge this over some great food and a Sidecar or two.
Each meal at this hotel is an adventure in itself. Have some small plates at the gorgeous HMF lounge, or a more classic cut of beef the Flagler Steakhouse. Casual dining can be discovered poolside at any of the four aquatic retreats. Kids have the most fun at the Italian-style restaurant next to the kid’s entertainment center, and room service dining is also offered 24hours a day. For something really fresh and fun, head off-property by car or shuttle to Echo, the hotel’s Asian fusion restaurant. Steeped in rich red décor, this steamy space cools the palette with prepared sushi and hot plates. This is one of those places where you’ll not want to skip dessert either, as they present some stellar selections, from a coconut soufflé to a banana tempura sundae.
A Fairytale Event
Extra Exciting Amenities
A weekend is a wonderful time to carve out for a stay there, but some guests take it to the next level to truly appreciate all The Breakers has to offer. In the striking ballrooms, weddings are a grandiose affair with no expense spared. Other events are also hosted there and on the beach by famous celebrities and notable people of interest on the regular. Have the seasoned planners take care of all details for an unforgettable wedding, birthday or any event in between. Each space has its own style ad offerings to be personalized to the max.
While guests run the gamut, most are older couples looking for a tranquil getaway or families hoping to keep everyone happy on their vacations. Both of these types of trips are easily accomplished with several pool paradise areas, full-service spa and two sprawling golf courses, just to name a few perks. There is an adults-only pool as well as a child-friendly area surrounded by rentable, relaxing cabanas. For the kids, they can enjoy a massive 6,100 square-foot entertainment center, filled with aquariums, arcade games and a movie theater.
Start the Day Right
There’s also camp days for kids-only activities led by experienced staff so adults can venture out on their own for the day. These events are always evolving and change every season, so something new is
No one wants soggy pancakes or runny eggs in the morning. Luckily not only does The Breakers offer several options for
going on for the little ones to love. They can try crafts, nature walks and eve beginner’s golf.
Renew the Soul To keep up with the pace of a thrilling getaway, it can be important to maintain body and mind along the way. Fortunately. The Breakers is ideal for the wellnessminded individual. Book some time at The Spa and have a signature Guerlian facial – the only of its kind in the U.S, deriving techniques from traditional French products and procedures. Afterwards, stretch out at a beachside yoga class or simply visit the state-of-the art fitness center with stunning ocean views. Personal trainers are there to assist as well if looking for a customized workout plan.
Explore the Island Worth Ave, the premiere shopping street in Palm Beach, is only steps from the hotel. Head there by bike provided by The Breakers or car for an afternoon of indulgence. The hotel is happy to arrange excursions to a variety of points of interest nearby with historical tours. Feel free to check out the ample yoga classes, cooking demos, catamaran cruises and more at the fingertips of guests. Outdoor enthusiasts, culinary connoisseurs and spa junkies will all fit right in at The Breakers. As a dramatic delight and iconic mainstay in Palm Beach, The Breakers is a cut above the rest in all aspects of prime hospitality.
American World Traveler Spring 2014
C l u b Sandpiper Sand by Michael Morcos
ometimes you are allowed a glimpse of paradise, a taste of bliss; Club Med Sandpiper is one of those times! Being the only Club Med in North America, this is not your usual all-inclusive. It is a one-of-a-kind experience for the entire family filled with plenty of activities, excellent food and nightly entertainment in a self-contained and environmentally conscious village. We were welcomed by a Village “Chief” who led us to our impressively decorated room. The rooms are quite luxurious and very spacious. With pull out bed and attractive furnishings, they are family ready and an ideal location to plan your stay or relax after an activity-filled day. After settling in, we filled our Club Med branded water bottles ( a little welcoming gift) and headed out. The water bottles can be refilled at varied points throughout the resort - a key component in the village’s sustainable development plan and a convenient way to help guests stay hydrated. In early afternoon, we had a delicious lunch in the spacious, marine-themed Marketplace restaurant, serving a vast menu of international dishes. See Sandpiper on page 12
M e d Valmorel Snow
oving the French countryside, the drive through Savoie and into the village of Valmorel was a real pleasure. The scenery was filled with all the things that make France so special, including the town of Le Bourg, a tiny village with boutiques, bistros, cafes, ski stores, specialty Savoie food shops, hotels and ski lifts up to the countless ski hills in the Grand Domaine region. When we arrived at the resort, we could see why the area was so popular. Built right on the hill, the Valmoral is considered ski-in-ski-out, where guests can jump over their balconies right onto the Alpine mountains filled with wide slopes. Without a set plan, we arrived and decided to enjoy the indoors for the evening. Our room was very clean, modern, and comfortable. We chose one that provided a personal balcony on the ground floor and overlooked the ski hill. The combination of fresh air and mountain view were both exceptional. See Valmorel on page 13
American World Traveler Spring 2014
Sandpiper Florida My wife and I enjoyed a spicy Mexican dish with a tangy salsa seated overlooking the “Juniors & Mini Club” , where our kids were enjoying having a meal with a dozen new friends. The restaurant is spacious and has larger tables if a family or group wishes to eat together. Later that afternoon, as the kids were swimming and enjoying the beach, we planned our first few activities at the main bar called Slice. Ideally placed between the pool and the theater, the bar is open for kids and adults and provides a fun, family friendly atmosphere. We asked for a guided familiarization tour of the resort, and were impressed by the size . The Sandpiper grounds are immense and include tennis courts, golf course, volleyball courts, weight room, exercise rooms, many pools, jet-skis, paddle boats, wind surfers, a private beach, countless nooks and crannies to relax.... That evening, we decided to unwind on the Sunset River Cruise through the nature preserve, comfortably enjoying the scenery as the ship meandered down the river. We saw a few turtles and many birds, but unfortunately we did not see any playful dolphins! The next day started with a tennis match and a good breakfast in our room. A day at the beach followed and then after a dinner at the Marketplace – Surf Room, we were treated to a Circus Show and danced for awhile at the Slice Bar. We did not stay up too late as the next day we had filled with activities! The day was bright and shiny and we decided to start with a nice spa treatment. I chose a 45 minute detoxifying almond body wrap, which was soothing, calming and smelled like paradise! The men and women at the spa are well trained, professional and know what they are doing. The experience was a genuine treat. After a little free time, we again ate at the Marketplace, enjoying a filling Wedge Salad, made with a wedge of iceberg lettuce topped with roasted bell pepper, rosemary and bleu cheese dressing over a bed of sliced tomatoes. Delicious! That afternoon, we also treated ourselves to a Mental Coaching session, part of the wellness package that is usually for athletes visiting for the Sandpiper triathlon. It was an eye-opening experience and I made some surprising discoveries about myself. I was able to capitalize on this in the afternoon, when I was helped by Sandpiper specialists for some one-on-one training. There are many and varied sports including golf, tennis, volleyball, triathlon or general fitness, just to mention a few. I chose one of my favorite sports – tennis. For thirty minutes I felt like Raphael Nadal! My personal coach See Sandpiper on page 14
Valmorel France After settling in, we decided to explore this lovely Club Med complex. I was struck by the cleanliness and the abundance of useful amenities that rival the top rated luxury hotels. As with most Club Meds, this resort has a very aggressive environmental policy with both water conservation and recycling programs running in place. We made our way through the grounds and the friendly, happy and helpful staff guided us through the resort map and highlighted some activities we may enjoy. But first....we needed food! Most of the resort restaurants are buffet style, but this night we preferred dinner Ă la carte at La Laiterie, decorated to look like a rustic, Alpine style cabin with all the trimmings. Though we stayed inside, the balcony looked quite welcoming and we would end up spending quite a bit of down-time socializing there during the trip. The exceptional meal included some classic dishes, starting with a cheese fondue followed by slow cooked meats and veggies on a small personnel flat hot stove. We ate well and later the staff put on an entertaining show while we sipped on some great French wines. The next day was our official ski day and it was fantastic. The mountain is perfect for all slope activities, whether you are a snowboarder, snowshoeing fan, Alpine or cross-country skier, you will enjoy the 3600 hectares and 165 KMs of slopes. Stepping out the door, we slapped on our skis and were off. There are many different slopes from beginner to expert and quick lifts to get us up the hill fast. There are staffers throughout the grounds to answer questions or offer a lesson to brush up on your style or try something new. While we skied, the younger members of our family had decided to stay in the resort. Valmorel is a family style resort and special care is given to the kids. They have video arcade center, swimming pools, a large day-care and even a mini ski hill for 2-3 year olds to learn how to ski, complete with its own conveyor belt lift that brings them up to the top the bunny hill. Skilled instructors await them and your toddler will soon be flying down the hill. We all met for a lunch on the large outdoor terrace overlooking the hill. Later in the stay, they even set up an outdoor bar with wine, beer and champagne for the guests. The terrace is just one defining feature of this great resort. The afternoon had us enjoying a family day in the swimming pools and the heated Jacuzzi. The water was just what the doctor ordered to ease sore ski muscles! Dinner was a choice between the two other gourmet restau-
See Valmorel on page 15
American World Traveler Spring 2014
helped me with many aspects of my game and I even got my serve up 10 km/hour!
After this great afternoon, we enjoyed Cocktails on the Riverside Deck, a fantastic spot for a quiet drink or just to enjoy the views. That night we ate a wonderful Lobster meal with a hint of French spices – delectable – while we sat at a magnificent table overlooking the St. Lucie River. That night we walked the grounds then watched the G.O. Show, where staff members perform gymnastic, dance and musical numbers. Once night fell, we walked through the welllit gardens, watched our fellow guests enjoy the ‘Crazy Signs’ dance at SLICE, then we finally settled into some hammocks slung between palm trees, satisfied and tired. After a great night’s sleep, we woke up on what we dubbed ‘Game Day’. My partner was in great shape and had been training for this day for the last few months. Apart from being a great resort, the Sandpiper is host to the 2575 Championship, an extreme race for tri-athletes who compete against each other by swimming 0.75 km (0.45 miles), biking 20 km (12.4 miles) and running 5 km (3.1 miles) in the beautiful setting of Sandpiper Bay! I did my part by enjoying cheering-on the racers with a coffee and healthy breakfast! The tri-athletes treated us to a great race with an almost photo finish between two people. The Club’s staff was on hand to help each person as they passed the finish line. The night was a celebratory one with a fine dinner and some dancing, with a lively crowd, great music and the employees joining in the fun. We had a great time as a family as well. One of my favorite
memories happened when we were given private, VIP trapeze session! A childhood passion, it took me back and we all soon found ourselves laughing it up! After a delicious brunch of skewers and salad on the terrace at the Riverside Barbecue, we enjoyed another 30 minute personal coaching session. This time I chose to concentrate on my golf swing. The expert impressed me with his knowledge and precise instruction. I cannot wait for my next full game! The family fun continued down on the water front for two exciting activities - the first was a ride on a Jet Ski and later we learned how to Paddleboard. Both activities were new to me, but after a quick lesson and some encouragement, I ended up laughing and being cheered on for my moves. That night, the medals & awards were handed out and family pictures were taken. We were all treated to a great show and farewell cocktail on the Spanish Patio, after which we enjoyed a last dinner at the Marketplace restaurant in the Surf Room, where we regaled each other with tales of our victories. After another exceptional GO Show, we decided to head to the ‘Crazy Signs’ dance at bar SLICE to really send us off with a bang. Our last day we decided to just unwind and relax. After a stay filled with sports and a whirlwind of activities, it seemed like the perfect way to end our stay. We enjoyed a nutritional guidance session with special healthy breakfast while enjoying the views one last time. A last Spa treatment was our final goodbye to this wonderful resort. A family friendly destination, the Sandpiper has something for any visitor’s inner athlete, both on and off the field!
rants on site– The Cerfs and Celeste. Each has fine dining and are well versed in local delicacies. I ate the Croute au Fromage, pretty much a gourmet omelet with gruyere and ham and got to taste the vegetarian gratin de crozets, both were well prepared and presented. That night, the entertainment included all the children from the resort guest families performing with the staff in a talent show. The resort wholeheartedly supports families and offers countless ways for them to connect and enjoy each other’s company. One of my favourite memories was renting some skates and equipment to play hockey with another family in the resort’s private ice rink. After another day on the slopes, we visited the town. There are no modern high-rises or concrete buildings, the stores and structures are all made of classic slate, wood and stone, materials that offer old-world character and charm. Our meal that night was enjoyed in one of the four all you can eat buffets. We usually went to one of these for our lunches, but decided we would eat dinner here this evening. They were outstanding and each were decorated and accentuated to reflect the four seasons.
The days passed by quickly and though the skiing was always phenomenal, there were other attractions in this glorious resort to experience
Wellness treatments are also available at the renowned Club Med Spa by CARTIA. The system in place is holistic in practice, with 5 different procedures, including: Relaxation, with flower petal baths and massages with warm body oils; Energy, focused on rejuvenation and toning through revitalizing treatments of the legs, reflexology and body wrap remineralisation; Beauty, including fruit seed scrubs, skin type specific facials and manicure / pedicures; Silhouette, with relaxing sessions of detoxifying body wraps and essential oil baths; and my personal favorite, a tailor made spa for men including scalp massages, black soap scrubs, cleansing facials or toners a true and luxurious treat! There was nothing left off the list of resort essentials at this above average Club Med location.
I particularly enjoyed eating in the ‘Summer room’; filled with reminders of the sunny season, it was really well done and helped us all warm-up quickly!
They have everything a visitor needs at hand; ski rentals, swimming pools (indoor and outdoor), heated Jacuzzi plus plenty more.
Later in the evening, as the kids played in their area, we relaxed in the Hammam. This hot and humid steam bath is mainly for relaxation and cleansing. There are also more involved cleansing Hammam options, including body wraps and body scrubs available.
The food was equal to the great skiing areas and we had a terrific stay. This is a great place to ski or unwind with a special friend or with the whole family. It was a gem of a stay.
Valmorel France American World Traveler Spring 2014
Planning your Perfect African safari
Serengeti Article by Adam Scott Kennedy Images by Vicki Kennedy
hen it comes to day-dreaming about the ultimate vacation, an African wildlife safari is right up there on most travellers’ hitlists. The allure of big cats and other amazing animals, breath-taking scenery and colourful tribes has captured our imaginations for well-over 100 years and it has never been easier to travel to, and around, Africa. While a rewarding wildlife adventure can be enjoyed in many sub-Saharan countries, including South Africa, Namibia and Botswana, the true romantic heart of safari lies within East Africa, particularly Kenya and Tanzania. The shared ’jewel in the crown’ of these two nations is undoubtedly the Mara-Serengeti ecosystem, where I had the pleasure of working
for three years as a camp manager, photographer and guide. I was wholly immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of a wilderness so beautiful that it never became ‘day-to-day’. This is because there is an excitement, an unpredictability and endless thrill that epitomises every safari, for every traveller; “will I see a Leopard, a Lion kill, a Rhino?” In nature, you can never predict what’s around the next corner but when it comes to planning your dream safari there are many things you can do to ensure it lives up to your wildest African dreams. Firstly, do your own research about the places that interest you but make sure you book with experts that have genuine experience of the destinations you’re dreaming about – you won’t regret it. This may seem
like an obvious thing to do but while managing a luxurious tented camp in the heart of the Masai Mara, I hosted more than one family who, upon arrival, were devastated to learn that they were sleeping under canvas and without air-con, simply because they hadn’t fully engaged with their chosen agent. Secondly, be sure you know what your dream animals are and a fun way to explore this is to list your own ‘Big Five’ of African species that you most want to see. For example, Lion and Leopard are on the official ‘Big Five’ list but the Cheetah is not, even though this may be the cat you most want to see. Similarly, I’ve driven so many guests that were far more impressed with Giraffe, Hippo and Warthog (not ‘Big Five’ species) than they ever were with
you can begin to see why a little bit of research and planning beforehand is so important.
Other top tips from the bush…
Don’t forget the small stuff From Bat-eared Foxes and Dwarf Mongooses, to Dung Beetles and AntLions, each has its own amazing story that is sure to astound you.
Don’t rely on your guide to find you EVERYTHING There’s no better feeling than finding and identifying a new animal or bird before your guide does!
Put the hours in Sure, it may be your vacation but when’s the next time you’ll have the chance to catch a sunrise over African savannah or take in a spectacular sunset with a gin and tonic in-hand? Be prepared to start early and finish late and you’ll be rewarded with new species and different behaviours (and a fabulous tan!).
Take your time Buffalo (a bona fide ‘Big Five’ member). In fact, it is rather unfortunate altogether that the ‘Big Five’, an old hunting collective, holds any significance because many driver-guides are so persistent in their pursuit of the ‘Big Five’ that they miss out on some wonderful behaviour and many amazing smaller creatures and birds. My advice is to go slow and take the time to enjoy the small stuff; the Lions are certain to be there when you go looking but a small spotted cat, known as the Serval, could be a once in a lifetime sighting! For many, the experience of chimp- and gorilla-trekking in the tropical forests of Uganda and Rwanda is an unforgettable addition, as is a hot-air balloon ride at sunrise over the endless plains. With so much potential for things to see and do,
Sometimes the real joy comes from just sitting and watching so try to relax and take it all in. Practice different shots with your camera or maybe do a few sketches to encapsulate your feelings of the moment; this will make the memories of your experience even stronger when you return home. There are lots of considerations when planning your dream safari and it can all seem quite daunting, however, the best advice I can offer is to just do it!
About the Authors The Kennedys are the authors of five photographic identification guides to the wildlife of East Africa, all published by Princeton University Press. Their latest book, Animals of the Serengeti, is hot off the press.
American World Traveler Spring 2014
Pa l au Micronesian paradise
alau is an outdoor wonderland filled with activities, adventure and culture. The best way to sum up the natural assets of this Micronesian paradise is an “alphabet soup” of options, as per below.
Alligators, aboard the River Jungle Boat Cruise
Betel nut, the nut of the betel palm that in small doses generally leads to euphoria and increased flow of energy Coral Reef Center, an educational environment designed to inform guests of Palau about the destination’s rich marine biodiversity
Diving, of course, it’s the number one scuba diving destination in the world
Kiss of a dolphin at Dolphin’s Pacific
Live-a-boards, one of the most popular forms of accommodations for divers Milky Way, this locale is nature’s spa and the source of a white “beauty cream” for which millionaires around the globe pay hundreds of dollars Ngardmau Waterfall, the hike in may be a bit treacherous, but well worth the effort
Olechotel Belau Fair, annual cultural and arts & crafts fair in July
Zero Fighter or “Zeke” was Japan’s most popular and lethal airplane during WWII and one is now anchored on a shallow reef in Palau, available for snorkel viewing at the Ngaremediu Reef
Palau, simply the best place on Earth! Quiet lagoons, only accessible via kayak
Rock Islands, renowned iconic image of Palau
Storyboards, the native art form that illustrates cultural legends Tons of underwater wildlife with over 1,300 species of fish and more than 700 species of coral
Elilai, perhaps Palau’s freshest restau-
Underwater wonder of the world, according to CEDAM
rant, featuring a bounty of locally caught fish and seafood along with organic vegetables
International, an American-based nonprofit group for divers, dedicated to ocean preservation and research
Fruit Bat Soup, other than the fish
Views…no matter where you are or
and seafood, this is Palau’s most bizarre dish
Giant clams, Palau is home of 7 out of 9 species of clams in the world History, a matriarchal society, Palau is full of rich cultural heritage, architecture and folklore
Intriguing, everything about this destination has an intriguing tale, from the history and people to the adventures and eco-culture
Jellyfish Lake, the only place in the world where one can safely swim with jellyfish
where you go, above or below the water, the views are truly all over the place and the more stunning than any other place on earth
World War II history, visit Peleliu known as the home of one of the war’s bloodiest battle X-clusive tours for families, divers, adventure seekers from the destination’s many tour operators Yap Stone Money, neighboring island of Yap quarried their huge stone money from Palau’s limestone --- “Quarry in Palau and Bank in Yap”
About Palau: Located in the westernmost corner of Micronesia, Palau is an archipelago of more than 586 islands with about 20,000 inhabitants and was the world’s first official Shark Sanctuary, setting the pace for many other destinations to follow suit. Consistently ranked as one of the world's best dive destinations, Palau is the ultimate paradise for the adventurous traveler, boasting some of the most spectacular water features and beaches as well as the world famous, swim friendly Jellyfish Lake and Rock Islands, which was recently inscribed onto United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List. With 1,450 species of fish and 500 species of coral, some have called Palau the "8th Natural Wonder of the World", while others have identified Palau as "One of the Seven Underwater Wonders of the World." For more information about Palau, please visit www.visit-palau.com.
American World Traveler Spring 2014
T h e G r a n d Pa l a c e & Te m p l e o f t h e G o by Habeeb Salloum
riving through Bangkok's mindboggling traffic with its pollution and noise, one would not dream that hidden amid this nerve-racking congestion a visitor can find some of the most attractive structures in the world. The mass of modern edifices and the always vehicleclogged streets give no indication that exquisite palaces and ornate temples are to be found in their midst.
Overshadowing all these structures is the Grand Palace with its Temple of the Emerald Buddha - Bangkok's top attraction. Usually, it is the primary place on a visitor's itinerary. Daily tours from almost every hotel are offered to this stunning royal complex - the heart of Thailand and its history. Our first day in Bangkok, Thailand's capital of some seven million, I joined a Malaysian-Chinese tour group for a visit to this tourist mecca. It was stop and go,
mostly stop, as we drove from our hotel in the early morning hours - the peak of the traffic rush. At every turn, autos, buses and limousines competed for space with trucks, three wheeled scooters and motorcycles. Yet, in this city, called in Thai ‘Krung Thep’ (City of Angels), it was not always so. A few decades ago, Bangkok was a serene urban centre of canals and rivers labelled ‘the Venice of the East’. In the last quarter century, most of these waterways, under
attraction in Bangkok which I had come to see. At the first sight of golden sparkling Phra Si Ratana Chedi I forgot the din of motor vehicles and their contamination of the air. The crush of the modern life was now in the past. King Rama I the first king of the present Chakri dynasty built the Grand Palace compound, Bangkokâ€™s major landmark, in 1782. In the ensuing more than 200 years, until well into out times, it has been the centre of the country's power. Surrounded by 2 km (1.2 mi) of crenellated white ramparts built in 1783, the massive complex covers an area of 218,400 sq m (261,206 sq yd). Inside the walls, the palace compound was built to house government offices - only one of which remains - royal residences, and the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha. Contemporary with the foundation of Bangkok, the palace complex, which was the setting for the story of 'Anna and the King of Siam', is the earliest major structure in the city. Today, the King does not reside in this jewel of architecture, but in a new abode a short distance away. The first impression a visitor gets when entering the palace grounds is the richness of the artwork on every structure. The highly decorated architectural details leave one amazed at the creative skill and devotion of the artisans. They have covered, with intricate work, the fantastic collection of gold domes, spires and temples. Everywhere we turned, each building was a superb example of their art.
lden Buddha the pressure of progress and mechanization, have been turned into concrete streets to accommodate the vehicles needed to move the people and their goods to the city's ultra-modern high-rise buildings. Only on the very polluted Chao Phraya River and a few canals do the hang- yaos (long-tailed gondola-like boats), for which the city was once renowned, still ply their trade. I felt relief when, in about an hour, we reached the Grand Palace - the main
The truly important structure in the complex is the Royal Chapel, Wat Phra Kaeo, housing the Emerald Buddha - the most sacred Buddha image in Thailand. Exquisitely carved from a block of jade, it is considered to be the protector of the kingdom and an object of national veneration. When the Chapel is open to the public, crowds come to pay respect to the memory of the Buddha whose image sits high up on an altar of gold. Another much photographed part of the compound is a section called The Upper Terrace encompassing four main monuments: the dazzling golden Phra Si Ratana Chedi, enshrining a piece of the Buddha's breastbone; the repository of the canon of Buddhism; the model of Angkor Wat, a prodigious Cambodian temple; and the Royal Pantheon where statues of past sovereigns of the ruling dynasty are enshrined. Scattered around these monuments are fictitious animals in mythology.
These evolved out of artists' imaginations and are valued for their aesthetic inspiration. Many other structures are worth investigating, but to explore them all would take time and visitors are usually rushed. However, one should not miss the Audience Hall of Amarindra where ceremonies of the court usually took place; the Cakrabardibiman building which was the residence of three kings; the Chakri Hall, a striking example of Italian architecture surmounted by a Thai-styled roof; the Dusit Hall with an exquisite throne made from mother-of- pearl and the murals of the Ramayana, depicting good over evil.
When visitors have explored these important structures, they will find that each is a unique work of art. This, and the serenity that pervades the grounds, make it difficult to depart. Yet, we were not lucky enough to see all this beauty from the past at its epitome of splendour. This takes place on special occasions when the Grand Palace is the locale of important religious ceremonies. These are usually presided over by the King or a leading member of the Royal Family. Colourful and moving, they are said to be the precious stones of the Grand Palace, which, itself, is the crown jewel of Thailand.
American World Traveler Spring 2014
A Country Full of Unexpected Tre by Ruth Atherley
s a vacation destination, New Zealand is known for its breathtaking landscapes and incredible outdoor activities – such as kayaking with wild dolphins in Nelson, sailing on an America’s Cup yacht in Auckland and scuba diving in the Poor Knights Islands. And you can’t forget the exceptional wine experiences available – from staying at vineyards to the Classic Wine Trail that runs through both the North Island and South Island. (Thankfully, Kiwis share their wine with the world and we can enjoy it at home too.) However, New Zealand is also full of unexpected treasures known only to locals (or very lucky visitors who happen upon them by accident). We’ve lifted the lid on some of these amazing places and things to do. Shh… keep them to yourself.
The Sound of Silence in Doubtful Sound
Ohau Winter Waterfall Walk and Seal Pups
While Milford Sound is definitely majestic, the South Island’s Doubtful Sound is actually three times longer and ten times larger – and equally awe-inspiring. You can only access it via boat and then by bus over the Wilmot Pass, which makes it less populated and makes it feel more magical. Real Journeys offers an overnight trip into Doubtful Sound on the Fiordland Navigator. When the captain turns off the engines in the middle of the trip, and everyone on board stands still and quiet, the sound of silence is incredible. In this busy, wired, noise-filled world in which we live, the peacefulness of Doubtful Sound is something special.
About 27 kilometres north of Kaikoura on the South Island, the Ohau Stream provides a rare chance to check out a waterfall pool, teaming with fur seal pups. During New Zealand’s fall and winter months, the mama seals leave their babies at the stream while they head to the ocean to fish. The walk itself, beside the stream, is a beautiful hike on any day of the year, but when the seal pups are frolicking in the water, it’s quite an experience. And if you are in the area and are hungry, there are seafood trucks parked along the side of the road, selling crayfish (we would call them lobster) and other delish dishes that you can eat while you
watch the waves of the Pacific Ocean. One that locals know and love is Nin’s Bin, which is about a 20-minute drive north of Kaikorua on Route 1.
The HUHU Café in Waitomo This little café, near the Waitomo Caves on New Zealand’s North Island, always gets rave reviews for its food and views. With a range of fresh ingredient entrees that include lamb, beef and pork, as well as vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free options, the HUHU Café has something tasty for everyone. Don’t forget to wash the meal down with their excellent New Zealand wines, delicious microbrews, spectacular coffee or decadent hot chocolate, where even the spoon it’s served with is dipped in chocolate.
Nga Haerenga – The New Zealand Cycle Trail
Fishbone Bar & Grill in Queenstown
Cyclists are always thrilled when they first hear about the 23 Great Rides on The New Zealand Cycle Trail, a nationwide cycling network. (It really is nationwide – from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island.) From the subtropical fern forests, along historic military and old coach roads, to breathtaking lake and mountain vistas, past beautiful beaches, and through rainforests and lush wetlands, no matter what your ability level, it appeals to every cyclist – from the novice to the dedicated rider.
While Fishbone might not be an insider’s secret for long (foodie bloggers are listing it as the place to go for fresh fish and seafood in Queenstown), it is a spectacular experience. The restaurant uses fruit and vegetables grown on their own Fishbone Farm and all of the seafood is sourced from local fishermen. Ask anyone who has been there about the food and they get a hungry look in their eyes and a smile on their lips.
Air New Zealand (www.airnewzealand.com) has direct non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Auckland and offers flights from many other North American cities. For more information about New Zealand, please visit: www.NewZealand.com
American World Traveler Spring 2014
Maya Culture, Live Music and Lacrosse Highlig
Sparkle in 2014
he Mile High City will host a dazzling array of international art shows, one-of-a-kind exhibits and premiere sporting events in 2014, including a worldwide exclusive showing of Cartier jewels, the largest exhibit of Maya artifacts in American history and the World Lacrosse Championships. Here are ten exciting reasons to visit Denver in 2014.
Sip a Beer Exactly One Mile Above Sea Level Coors Field, home to the Colorado Rockies, is being redeveloped to create the largest rooftop deck, bar and terrace in any sports stadium in America. Set to open in April 2014, the two-story area can hold up to 4,500 fans. Called The Rooftop, the new deck will offer the best views in the stadium, with a long terrace overlooking the ballpark, as well as downtown Denver and the majestic, snowcapped Rocky Mountains. The centerpiece of the Rooftop will be the 5280 Craft Bar. To celebrate the fact that the room is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (one mile high!) the bar will be exactly 52 feet and 80 inches long and offer 52 craft beers on tap. Rollup glass garage doors can transform the area into open air space, where fans can enjoy all the sights and sounds of the ballpark. The CHUBurger Restaurant will offer a Colorado casual dining with a display kitchen open on all four sides so fans can watch their food being prepared and will feature craft burgers made with beef raised from the Hops & Heifers Farm in nearby Longmont, Colorado.
See Denver on page 30
ght a Trend-Setting Year in the Mile High City American World Traveler Spring 2014
Walk in Ancient Worlds Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, (February 14 – August 24) The largest exhibition about the ancient Maya ever to be displayed in the United States will be staged in the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibit includes never-before-seen artifacts, handson activities, and immersive walk-in environments, including recreations of an underground cave and a colorful, life-size frieze that once surrounded the top of El Castillo pyramid at Xunantunich in Belize. Visitors will explore the rise and decline of ancient Maya cities, from their 365-day calendar and incredible architecture to experiencing day-to-day life in a Maya neighborhood.
Cheer on Team USA! World Lacrosse Championship, (July 10-19) US Lacrosse is thrilled to bring the excitement of the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships to Denver in 2014.This marks the first time the United States has hosted this world championship since 1998, and promises to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for lacrosse fans around the globe. Led by fourth-quarter dramatics from Ned Crotty, the United States edged Canada to win the 2010 FIL World Championship in Manchester, England, avenging a 2006 loss to Canada in the gold medal game. The 2014 championship is expected to be every bit as competitive, with a record total of more than 40 nations expected to participate. Great family entertainment is planned at an International Village at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
Rock at the Red Rocks Summer Concert Series Last year, Rolling Stone named Red Rocks as “the best outdoor amphitheatre in the U.S.” In 2014, the 9,000-seat concert venue will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Beatles 1964 performance, the first time a rock group had performed at “the Rocks,” and the only concert on the Beatles 1964 tour to not sell out, in part because of local outrage over the high priced, $6.60 tickets. How times have changed! In addition to a stellar lineup (to be announced) of summer concert performers, in 2014 the Colorado Music Hall of Fame is moving into the Red Rocks Trading Post, paying tribute to Centennial State favorites like John Denver (who wrote the official Colorado State Song, “Rocky Mountain High,” and Denver native Judy Collins.
Sleep in a Station Denver’s Union Station is undergoing a massive restoration and redevelopment that will transform it in July 2014 into a transportation, dining, shopping and entertainment hub, all centered around a new 112-room hotel. The Crawford Hotel (named after Larimer Square developer Dana Crawford) will have two bars in the grand old 1914 waiting room, and will incorporate many architectural features of the station in each room, including giant beams, windows overlooking the tracks, and vaulted ceilings. Four new Colorado restaurants are being added including a seafood restaurant owned by recent James Beard Award winner for the Best Chef Southwest, Jen Jasinski (owner of Rioja, Bistro Vendome and Euclid Hall) and Alex Siedel, Food & Wine’s 2010 selection for Best New Chef and owner of the acclaimed Fruition restaurant. The restored station will also have two fast service restaurants and ten local one-of-a-kind boutiques. Two new parks will grace the front of the station, which will also serve daily Amtrak trains and Denver’s 124 miles of light and commuter rail, including a new line to Denver International Airport that will open in 2016.
Drive the Highest Continuous Highway in the World
The editors at National Geographic just selected Rocky Mountain National Park as one of the Top 20 Places to Visit in the World in 2014. Located just a little over an hour from Denver, this 100-yearold national park contains 400 square miles (1,036 sq km) of unspoiled scenic beauty, including Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the world crossing the Continental Divide at over two miles above sea level. The park has hundreds of miles of hiking trails, tranquil lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and horseback riding. Stroll the level trail around Bear Lake, climb to scenic Alberta Falls, or for the really adventurous, cross the narrows and scale Longs Peak, one of Colorado’s 54 fourteen thousand foot peaks. Find out what National Geographic thinks are Rocky Mountain National Park’s high points.
Make Diamonds Your New BFF Brilliant Cartier in the 20th Century (opening Nov. 16, 2014) This worldwide-exclusive exhibition at the Denver Art Museum will include an astonishing assortment of jewelry, timepieces and precious objects from the Cartier collection. Many of the pieces in the exhibition were owned by aristocrats, celebrities and royalty, including Princess Grace, Elizabeth Taylor, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, J.P. Morgan and the Aga Khan, among other luminaries.
Jump into a Computer Game - Literally Oh Heck Yeah, June 7-July 26 - Downtown Denver’s Champa Street will be transformed into an immersive two-block long outdoor arcade game during this one-of-a-kind event. The interactive games will be played on huge LED screens, projections on the sides of buildings, and in custom art installations. Visitors can play the games on smart phones or by using their bodies. The games will be simple to learn and play, but might cover the entire side of a building. It will be like walking into Tron. Street art, street performers, music, and food trucks will make this an interactive 21st Century street fair.
Ride ‘em Cowgirl! Rodeo All Star Weekend, April 17-19 – Relive Denver’s Old West heritage when the nation’s top-ranked cowboys and cowgirls ride into town for the Rodeo All-Star Weekend at the National Western Complex. Steer wrestling, calf roping, and bull riding, are just some of the events, which also include live music and a fashion show. Speaking of fashion, don’t forget to visit Rockmount Ranch Wear in downtown Denver to pick up some of their original snap button Western shirts, as recently worn by Sir Paul McCarthy on “Saturday Night Live.”
Stroll through an Outdoor Sculpture Garden Chihuly at the Denver Botanic Gardens, (June 13-November 30) The works of Dale Chihuly, one of the world’s most acclaimed sculptors, will take on new beauty when they are displayed in the lush setting of the Denver Botanic Gardens. Chihuly’s elegant blown-glass sculptures – ranging in size from small water floats to large vertical installations – will add bold colors to the 24-acre gardens. Denver Botanic Gardens is recognized as one of the top botanic gardens in the western United States and is home to more than 30,000 plants displayed in 45 gardens. Sign up for Denver’s monthly visitor e-newsletter to learn more about what’s happening in The Mile High City in 2014 at VISITDENVER.com. American World Traveler Spring 2014
Tunisian National Tourist Office www.tourismtunisia.com
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hen owner and President Mikael Krafft founded Star Clippers in 1989, he fulfilled his lifelong dream of reviving the golden age of tall ships for new generations of travellers and adventurers to enjoy. An avid sailor and boat owner, Krafft learned every aspect of sailing as a young child, and he turned his passion into a tall ship cruise line. When guests embark on a Star Clippers journey, they immediately notice the beautiful masts and sails in place of the typical cruise ship silhouette. Star Clippers ships are classified SPV (sail powered vessel), which means that guests will experience
the thrill of moving under the power of the wind as much as possible. The engines keep guests comfortable inside, but if the wind is in our favor it gently moves us from port to port.
Beyond the striking beauty of the sailing ships, what makes Star Clippers the ideal vacation for boaters, yacht club members and anyone who loves to feel the wind in their hair?
Star Clippers ships sail throughout the Caribbean and Mediterranean, two regions known as exceptional boating destinations. The itineraries are carefully crafted to showcase islands and ports that are ideal for sailing ships, away from the crowds and often untouched by large cruise ships. All three ships span the Med, from the gorgeous Balearic Islands to the azure waters of Greece and Turkey, with hidden coves and stunning scenery awaiting around every turn.
The size of the ships is intimate — much like sailing on a private yacht with friends and family. Carrying just 227 or 170 guests, there are no long lines, no crowds and no overwhelming feeling of “there’s too much to do.” Whether it’s lounging in the bowsprit net suspended above the ocean or dancing to a local steel drum band in the Tropical Bar, guests appreciate the pace and scale of a Star Clippers voyage.
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A higher deck-space-per-guest ratio than most cruise lines, so guests can always find a lounge chair to soak up some sun, enjoy the ocean breeze or catch up on a good book. Casual and friendly, welcoming and warm. The hospitable staff is eager to ensure that each guest experiences a memorable vacation that is pampering, relaxing and fulfilling, without being intrusive. The officers are accessible to everyone on board, dining with guests each evening and interacting around the ship everyday. ·It’s more than just the sails and rigging that let you know you’re on an authentic
sailing ship. You can help raise the sails if you desire or climb the mast to the Crow’s Nest, and there’s more. The open bridge makes it possible for guests to get a true sense of sailing a tall ship, and the daily lectures on deck by the captains and cruise directors touch on all things sailing. And if you want to know what a monkey’s fist is, come to the knot tying class.
the complimentary beach barbecue continues to be a guest favorite.
It’s all about the outdoors on the tall ships. When sailing in tropical parts of the world, guests can take advantage of the complimentary watersports program and go snorkeling, sunfish sailing, waterskiing and windsurfing. For guests wanting to stay on dry land, Star Clippers also features an array of shore excursions, and
Star Clippers’ exceptional repeat guest rate is one of the highest in the industry, meaning that once you take a Star Clippers sailing, you’re hooked. Guests keep coming back time after time for a Star Clippers tall ship adventure and seeing the world from new heights.
Star Clippers tends to attract like-minded adventurers. Guests appreciate sailing, and many own their own boat. That said, many of the guests have never been on a sailing ship before but desire new experiences and want a memorable vacation.
American World Traveler Spring 2014
Pe r u One Country - Three Distinct Geographies by Michael Morcos
mpossible, I thought! It can't be done, I chuckled to myself as I packed for my trip to Peru. This is a job for NASA; they are the experts at packing light and for different conditions. How else was I to pack clothes for visiting three different climatic regions in the same week? I had to pack for Lima's mild Pacific Coast weather, keeping in mind I needed to also be 'Urban Chic'. I also needed warm clothing for the cold nights in the Andes and casual light garb for the extremely hot and humid conditions of the Amazon Basin. All this had to be crammed into a bag that was small enough to fit on the single propeller plane that would fly us into the jungle. Got to contact NASA fast!
Land of the Incas I had read very little about Peru before leaving (this is my way of getting the full impact of a destination right at the source) and Lima would be my first introduction to South America. I had spent my honeymoon in the Dominican Republic some twenty years before, so this trip would also be my long awaited re-introduction to Latin America.
Pacific Coast - Lima I quickly found out that Lima was South America's fourth largest city with a population of over seven million people. Situated on the Pacific coast, Lima has mild winters, warm summers and fog for much of the year. It is also an arid desert-like land with less than 10mm of precipitation per annum.
my was second to none. I was treated to fresh seafood, tender meats and fine wines that were found on every menu. Each restaurant we ate in had its own special appeal in its charming architecture and dĂŠcor. I could easily have spent my entire week in Peru just eating.
The Mighty Amazon The 3:30 a.m. wake-up call came far too early. I was exhausted but also very excited, to say the least. I was actually trembling under the skin. City boy here was leaving all the comforts of the big city to fly over the continentâ€™s highest mountains in a single-prop plane and land on a grass airstrip in the middle of the jungle before taking a two-hour motorized canoe ride deeper into the darkness to sleep in the wild. What an adventure! Sleeping with jaguars and alligators? Perfect! Poisonous frogs, snakes, tarantulas, spiders and all things poisonous? Yes, bring it on!
Into the Wild I was now the furthest I have ever been from civilization. No radio signals, TVs or phones. No cities, towns or civilization for hundreds of kilometres. There were no roads to speak of, just a couple of rough trails. The major highways were nature's waterways. The only way out was days away by boat or three hours upriver to the landing strip, and that's presuming the plane would be there. Was this all still so perfect? You bet!
Our stay in Lima was short, as we left the day after our arrival for the Andes and the Amazon. We would only return to the capital for our last night in Peru. Little did I know that this would be my most challenging trip both physically and in some ways mentally. Late night activities, very early morning wake-up calls, three differing temperature zones and a world of unfamiliar social and cultural encounters would bring me close to a complete state of exhaustion.
The centre of Lima felt just like being in Spain. The architecture in Plaza de Armas (better known as Plaza Mayor) was a great walk back into history, as the Spaniards established it way back in 1569. The wellkept buildings, the city's main cathedral, its central square and its great fountain all had that Old-World charm but the overall atmosphere was distinctly South American.
Waste and packaging materials were kept to a minimum and we were even asked to bring non-combustibles, such as anything made of plastic, back with us.
Lima sure had its share of surprises! Besides its many pre-Columbian archaeological sites and museums, the gastrono-
The Manu Eco-lodge was more than I had expected. The grounds were literally part of the jungle. The main building and individual cabins were constructed mainly with natural materials found in the vicinity. No electricity meant we had to use candles and kerosene lanterns at night. The gas-powered generator was used only a couple of hours a day for cooking and recharging batteries.
However, this did not mean we were deprived of luxury, as each cabin had its own (extremely) clean private toilet and shower with propane-heated running hot water. The elevated cabins really gave a new meaning to the term 'open-air concept' as American World Traveler Spring 2014
our fairly large accommodations had nothing but chicken wire for exterior walls. This did have its upside at nighttime, as cooling breezes and the chorus of insects and other wildlife made the jungle experience that much more real.
had an individual mosquito-netted 'blind' where we sat and waited for this elusive animal to appear. We were told we should remain very quiet. I read until it was too dark to read, ate my pre-packed dinner and then had nothing else to do but wait.
ous dirt road and finally, a steep climb on foot. The few hours getting there were all worthwhile. This was truly a grand human accomplishment. Many world-renowned sites are over hyped, but Machu Picchu needs no such hyping.
The saying 'early to bed, early to rise' did not exactly apply on this trip. I did go to bed early but waking up at 4:00 am still felt like the middle of night to me. We had to make an early move, as this would be our last full day and it was packed with activities. On the agenda were a boat ride and hike to see a bird clay lick, a climb up a gigantic kapok tree for a canopy walk and finally an excursion to witness a tapir lick.
Sitting alone and motionless in the pitchblack jungle, my mind started to wander. Here I am in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. Our camp is an hour away and if our guide were to leave us here, we would surely perish. No roads, no maps and only a jungle trail to follow. What an experience I thought. My next thought was where is that damn tapir?
Its hard to imagine that this site was abandoned and forgotten for centuries and luckily so, for if the Spanish had found this city, it would surely have come to the same fate as many other Inca sites that were demolished.
Remarkable Bird Lick The short boat ride followed by a hike through the jungle brought us to the bird lick. This would also be another first for me. I didn't even know what I â€˜lickâ€™ was! But I soon found out that 'the lick' was a cliff face consisting of chalk, which the birds need to consume on a daily basis to help in the digestion of their meals. From up high in a wooden 'blind', we would be spectators of an incredible phenomenon. This was one of nature's most amazing spectacles! First came large groups of colourful parrots. Hundreds of them conjugated filling the sky and covering the face of the cliff. As the morning progressed, it was the turn of the much larger macaws that always travelled in pairs. What a wonderful sight! The smaller parakeets were the last to put on a show. Cute and noisy, they flitted about everywhere.
Kapok Treetop Canopy The giant native kapok tree we visited was amazing on its own. The base of its huge trunk would probably take more than a minute to walk around. It was also one of the tallest trees in the forest. This was not the only amazing thing about it. A tall spiralling metal staircase led to its treetop platform. Climbing to the top was exhausting but well worth it, as it afforded a spectacular view of the surrounding rainforest. What a sight and what an experience! I am still puzzled at how the builders were able to transport the many heavy components of such a large staircase so deep into the jungle.
Part Pig, Part Elephant, All Peruvian Nothing happened for most of the four hours at the tapir lick. Our group each
Just as we were about to abandon our quest our guide turned on his large flashlight and there it was! Finally, an animal the size of a pig with a truck like an elephant's. Our walk back to the camp took longer than expected. Our over-enthusiastic guide was determined to spot and show us the many night creatures that were all around us. Birds, frogs and insects were everywhere. The only thing I didn't really want to see was a jaguar and thankfully none appeared.
Sacred Valley This day in the Sacred Valley would not be my finest on the trip. To put it mildly, the nearest toilet was always a welcome sight. With a war going on in my stomach and with what little energy I had left, I still managed to the enjoy our visit to a chicharria. These are places frequented by locals on a daily basis, where they meet to play social games, talk and drink a mildly alcoholic but nutritious beverage made from corn. Lunch was at a charming historic colonial hacienda that was perched atop a hill. It gave us a magnificent view of the valley and surrounding mountains.
The Magnificent Andes Llama Farm Arriving in Cusco was like a rude awakening. At a height of 11,000 ft, I was struck with altitude sickness minutes after stepping off the plane. This was a classic case -- shortness of breath, dizziness, disorientation and fatigue. My travelling companion Tom and Sean were soon experiencing the same symptoms, only they had to resort to using oxygen respiratory masks for five minutes each. The many attractions in Cusco seemed very interesting but I couldn't wait to sit down for lunch. Cusco, capital of the Inca Empire would have to wait, as we were heading down into the Sacred Valley for two nights. On route, we would stop a couple of times to get breathtaking views of the surrounding pastures, farms, valleys and mountains. A little bit of time was spent at the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. It was unbelievable to see the huge boulders that were perfectly cut and stacked to form almost seamless walls.
Machu Picchu - Awe at first site! Getting to Machu Picchu meant taking a special train built for mountain travel, riding on a bus that zigzagged up a danger-
We also visited a llama farm where we saw many unusual and fascinating breeds of the woolly animals and watched the Peruvian style of weaving. In the late afternoon, we visited a local market that had everything from raw meats and fleshly picked vegetables to locally made arts and crafts. My travelling companions and I where probably the only non-Peruvians at this large market and we were greeted with warm smiles.
Peruvian Goldmine Visiting Peru was like a reading a children's bedtime story. It had everything -beauty, mystery, mysticism, adventure, a bit of pain and a great ending. The bad guys (altitude sickness and exhaustion) were finally defeated and the good guys rode off under clear, blue skies. The most important thing for me were the lasting memories of a great country that is blessed with warm happy people, interesting history and architecture, great food, and incredible geographical diversity. With all this, Peru has a goldmine of adventures yet to be discovered. Next time I come I will bring a bigger pickaxe and shovel!
Pe r u One Country - Three Distinct Geographies
American World Traveler Spring 2014
Oman Land Of Sindbad by Habeeb Salloum
can't believe it! Everything is so modern, yet it looks ancient!” My daughter Muna remarked as we drove through the city of Muscat, Oman’s capital. Her words had merit. The mythical home of ‘Sindbad the Sailor’ and the legendary source of frankincense and myrrh, Oman is today an ancient land enwrapped in the aura of our 21st century. The wide avenue on which we were making our way was lined on both sides with well-tended trees and shrubs, and beyond rose the most contemporary structures, incorporating the finest inheritance taken from Arab/Islamic architecture yet modern in their facilities. The enchanting villas and other eye-catching edifices told, better than in words, the story of the Sultanate of Oman - a land trying hard to preserve the traditional while galloping into the 21st century. A seafaring imperial people, the Omani once controlled large parts of the east coast of Africa as well as areas in the Indian sub-continent. They sent trading ships as far away as China and the Malayan Archipelago. By the end of the
19th century, their empire extended from the Indian sub-continent to the shorelands of East Africa, from Somalia to Zanzibar and beyond. One can see traces of this empire reflected in the country’s inhabitants - a great mixture of their former colonial presence in other lands. The Portuguese occupied the country in the 16th century, and made it for 150 years their main garrison base in the region. In 1650 the Portuguese were expelled and Oman became an imperial power. In time, the Omani Empire gradually declined and the country eventually became a British protectorate. When the current ruler Sultan Qaboos bin Said took power, from his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur in 1970, Oman was living further back in history than the Middle Ages. However, Qaboos put the country on the road to evolvement. Under Qaboos, the country’s progress has been outstanding. Oil and natural gas deposits and honest government have allowed the Sultan to create, then develop a solid infrastructure for the country. Today, Oman is on the verge of being an up-and-coming tourist destination with a tourist infrastructure that is constantly
being upgraded. In terms of natural beauty Oman has much to offer. Its splendid Hajar Mountains, topped by the 3,073 m (10,086 ft) high Jebal-Akhdar (Green Mountain), amaze the onlooker with their colours - sparkling in hues from green to pink. The mountains stretch for 650 km (404 mi), from the Musandam Peninsula to the coastal town of Sur. In between these mountains stretch flat khakicoloured plains dotted with small villages, surrounded by lush irrigated palm groves. On the slopes above the villages, seemingly still guarding the mountain passes, are the remnants of ancient watchtowers and once mighty forts. The surrounding deserts, whose sands run from grey to red and all the shades inbetween, are breathtaking in their splendour. Westward, they reach the ominous Rubc al-Khali (Empty Quarter), which stretches for hundreds of miles, through Saudi Arabia to the Yemen. Added to this, the 1,700 km (1056 mi) long coastline is edged by very clean beaches that are lapped by an azure ocean full of king- prawn, moray eel, perch, sardine, shark and swordfish.
Amid these creatures of the sea, one can enjoy a wide-range of water sports, above all, dhow (traditional Arab boat) sailing, much sought after by historic sea buffs. In the south, the landscape of Dhofar Province, kept lush-green by the monsoon winds, has a timeless allurement. Salalah, its capital, built more or less yesterday, is a spotless town of landscaped boulevards and cream-coloured sandcastle architecture.
The modern, enwrapped in the past and the historic monuments are beginning to draw the visitors, especially the affluent. The government has adopted a policy of encouraging controlled quality tourism. Its commitment is reflected in the continual improvement of visa formalities, provision of grants and soft loans and efforts in creating a positive investment climate in which tourism can thrive.
In the past, this south-eastern corner of the Arabian Peninsula was the home of a flourishing trade in frankincense and myrrh - the most sought after substances in the ancient world. The use of both these incenses has faded with the years, but in the souks of Oman today, they are still on the shopping list of inhabitant and tourist alike.
Oman is a tale from The Thousand and One Nights, noted for its intricately worked silver daggers and where, in places like Sur, wooden dhows are still constructed by hand. Its souks overflowing with perfume and spices, diffuse the enticing aroma of past ages. After haggling in these medieval souks, the visitor can then partake in the fine food and drink offered in all the countryâ€™s excellent hotels and restaurants.
With this spectacular scenic magic, Oman is the place for those who yearn to enjoy the enticements of nature in all its colours and observant government officials are preserving this endowment to a great extent. More than any other country, as far as humanly possible, an ecological balance is being maintained.
Tourism, non-existent a few years ago, is now making rapid progress and is expected to soon become one of the reliable sectors of the economy. However, in spite of the rapid expansion of the tourist industry, the emphasis is on quality - of the some 8,000 hotel rooms in the country, the majority are in five star hotels.
For visitors seeking history, there are over 500 historic citadels and forts, a good number restored, dotting the countryside. From among these are: the two forts Mirani and Jelali, guarding Muscat's harbour; the Portuguese Fort, guarding the neighbouring port of Muttrah; the fort found in the oasis of Nizwa; and the splendid fort at Rustaq, guarding the approaches to Jebel Akhdar.
The country has all it takes to make the land tourist-attractive. Crime is almost non-existent; the Omani are friendly and welcoming; the streets and boulevards are pristine and free of litter and graffiti; excellent paved roads criss-cross the country; autos are mostly new and clean; and there are no beggars in sight. However, Oman, a nation of some 4 miillion, seems to be one of the worldâ€™s best kept secret tourist destinations.
American World Traveler Spring 2014
L o n d o n
by Anne-Marie Macloughlin
" W h y, S i r, y o u f i n d n o m a n , a t a l l i n t e l l e c t u a l , w h o i s w i l l i n g t o l e a v e L o n d o n . N o , S i r, w h e n a m a n i s t i r e d o f L o n d o n , h e i s t i r e d o f l i f e , f o r there is in London, all that life can afford." Samuel
o goes the famous quote by Dr. Johnson, oft-repeated and discussed. But what of it? In a recent survey of Europe’s Top Ten Most Expensive cities, Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper online (dailymail.co.uk), ranks London second only to Oslo.
the day, and see for myself.
When I see lists such as these featuring my hometown, I find myself sputtering, ‘It’s not that bad!’, memories of cheap evenings out, bargain outfits and Twilight Teaser lipstick from Boots the Chemist (it was the 80’s), at odds with these stats.
Arriving at Heathrow Airport at the pleasant hour of 6am, I sought options for travelling into central London. Leaving customs, I was approached by a perky chap with portable ticket machine, selling tickets to Paddington on the Heathrow Express. £20 one-way or £34 return, at a mere 15 minutes versus a 45 minute commute on the Underground (aka the Tube), it was money well-spent.
Back in London for a Doctor Who convention this past November (don’t judge), I decided to retrace my steps from back in
Fares vary according to zones, time of day, and journey taken, the cheapest option usually being a one-day travelcard
– unlimited journeys on all London Underground, Buses, Docklands Light Rail, and National Rail Services within zones 1 – 6. Issued after 930am (after rush hout), they are a great option for this sprawling metropolis, with its vast network of buses, tubes, and trains. Remember to have your ticket ready at both ends, as you need to ‘swipe’ out too; although polite, commuters get frustrated with a bottleneck of baffled tourists at the sometimes very small exits.
Shopping Luggage deposited, I headed to my first stop – Covent Garden Market. A settle-
ment has existed in the Covent Garden area since Roman times. Originally named Convent Garden, the name dates back to the 13th century and the reign of King John. The market was the kitchen garden for the convent (abbey) of St. Peter at Westminster. Since that day, the market has been linked with images of fresh fruit and veg. Beautifully adorned for Xmas, you would be hard put to find either monks or fresh produce these days. The 21st century market sells mostly tourist-centric items, including reasonably-priced T’s, old-fashioned sweets, and upscale arts & crafts. Jubilee Hall, the covered market, has a varied line up. On Mondays, it’s Antiques; Tuesday-Friday, clothing and household goods, at the weekend, arts and crafts. The huge Xmas tree on the piazza was as I remembered it, understated in its demure red bow, not a flash of neon in sight. The monks would have approved.
headed past Trafalgar Square and the lions, up to Piccadilly Circus – where Eros was looking a little different than I remembered…..The famous statue (actually Anteros, Eros’s brother) is currently enveloped in half a tonne of heavy-duty puncture-proof PVC making it –at 30 ft across - the world’s biggest snow globe. Although, bow drawn for all time, Eros/Anteros looks to be doing his best to pierce his (to some) trashy new prison. Across the way, is THE go-to store for all things British, kitschy and cheap, if it’s souvenirs you’re after. Cool Britannia
(coolbritannia.com for locations) is a onestop shop for those with a long list of friends and family to buy for. Entering the store, you can’t miss the union jack Mini Cooper, a la Austin Powers, and the (he assured me) authentic Horse Guard, complete with ‘Bearskin’ hat. Fridge magnets, posters, tea towels and more assault the senses, priced for all wallets and tastes (or lack thereof). I settled on a selection of ‘Keep Calm…’ buttons and magnets, some displaying the British fondness for profanity, others the more traditional exhortation to ‘Carry On’.
Hopping on the bus along The Strand, I American World Traveler Spring 2014
Originally a motivational poster put out by the Government in 1939, it was designed to boost morale during the second world war. Ironically, since being rediscovered and adopted in the 21st century on all manner of merchandise, it has reached a far wider audience in peacetime. For the savvy clothes shopper, check out Primark (primark.com). With a huge store opposite Selfridges Oxford Street, a more distinguished fixture and famous for its Xmas windows, be prepared to shoulder your way through packed aisles and join a (constantly) long and winding queue. Packages of socks will set you back around £2, flirty party dresses from a mere £5, shoes starting at around £10. The store also carries lingerie, toiletries, sweets, and cosmetics. The check-out system is so efficient, the point of sale items so entertaining (thermal socks with pig faces amongst other oddities), you won’t feel as if you’re in the world’s longest lineup. Derided by some, it is nonetheless a great place to pick up some cheap basics. Like those pig socks you’ve always wanted. Crossing an always-bustling Oxford Street to check out the Selfridges Xmas windows, I was reminded again of how narrow it is for such a famous thoroughfare. I also had to stop and think which way to look. The streets have been helpfully marked for out of towners (and expats) unfamiliar with left-hand driving, to avoid any mishaps. Opened in 1909, Selfridges was founded by an American, Harry Gordon Selfridge, and is currently owned by BritishCanadian Galen Weston Sr., who allegedly paid over 500 million dollars for the privilege. The Xmas windows have always been a regular crowd-pleaser, attracting locals and tourists alike. Disappointingly, this year’s offerings seemed tame compared to the ones I remembered. Other than an oversized gingerbread house, the others seemed no more than feeble product plugs including a large running shoe and several washing lines strung with Nutcracker boxer shorts (there’s a pun in there somewhere).
Eating Out Wrangling the crowds can be taxing. Narrow pavements, traffic jams and confused visitors can fatigue even the most dedicated sightseer. London has a vast amount of choices when it comes to snacks on the run, sit-down restaurants, and of course, the Great British Pub. Having given up on the bus I’d just boarded moving anytime soon, I took a detour on foot from Oxford Circus through the back streets, to probably one of the most famous streets in London – Carnaby Street. The ‘it’ spot for sixties fashionistas, Carnaby Street remains a bustling pedestrian hub and historical landmark. All shopped out, I sought sustenance at a nearby Pret a Manger, London’s popular chain of fast food restaurants. Patrons may dine in (for a few pounds more) or take out a splendid variety of sandwiches, soups, salads, and beverages. Good food, good prices, and charming service, make Pret a favourite amongst Londoners. A stone’s throw away, is the Shakespeare’s Head public house. Built in 1735, it was owned by distant relatives of the bard. Look up and you may spot the lifesize bust of the famous man, which sadly lost a hand during WW1 when a bomb dropped nearby. What better place to sup on a pint of ale and wax poetic. So what was my conclusion about London’s high ranking as an expensive place to visit? Like anywhere else, there are options for many budgets, with a little research and maybe some advice from the locals. I didn’t make it to any this time, but the museums are mostly free. It costs nothing to stroll along the Thames, admire the Houses of Parliament, wander the vast food hall of Harrods, watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, or see where the Great Fire of London started. I may be biased, but I’m not quite tired of London yet.
American World Traveler Spring 2014 issue