Visiting Southeast Asia

Americans are increasingly interested in exploring Asia, according to the travel advisors at Travel Leaders Network. The region has become a magnet for travelers with a desire for adventure, for those who want a trip rich in experiences that combine history, culture and cuisine.

Here are some suggestions for what to see and where to go in three popular Southeast Asian destinations.

Indonesia. Most people associate Indonesia with luxurious Bali, or the capital city of Jakarta, and they offer lots of opportunities for exploration. But with 17,000 islands, there’s much more to see on a trip to the world’s fourth-largest country. The island of Sumatra is known for the beautiful Danau Toba, a large natural lake, as well as Mount Kerinci, Indonesia’s highest volcano. The island of Java, between Sumatra and Bali, is home to Jakarta as well as historic cities like Yogyakarta, where you can get a taste of Indonesian culture at ancient temples and palaces, and sample traditional food. East Indonesia is a paradise for nature lovers. Rugged Komodo Island, a land of red volcanic hills and forests, is where you’ll find the Komodo dragon, a species of lizard.

  

Thailand offers travelers everything from peaceful temples to gorgeous beaches to mountains made for hiking. Thai culture places great emphasis on politeness, and English is spoken widely, making the country a popular destination for Americans, especially honeymooners. At resort areas like Phuket and Koh Samui, you’ll find pristine beaches and blue water similar to the Caribbean. Koh Lanta is a less touristy destination with a number of upscale properties that cater to families. The city of Chiang Mai, in the northern part of the country, is a center of Thai culture, as well as a starting point for elephant treks. At the city’s night market you can rub elbows with the locals while shopping for handicrafts and sampling delicious Thai food.

No trip to Thailand would be complete without a stay in Bangkok. Check out one of the capital’s floating markets or a traditional Thai show with dinner. The city also has a fascinating museum that chronicles the history of World War II.

Singapore. Interest in visiting Singapore has soared since the bestselling novel and movie “Crazy Rich Asians.” Visit the food stalls at Singapore’s hawker centers, the heart of the island’s culinary scene. They’re a great way to enjoy a variety of tasty and inexpensive local specialties. Singapore’s top attractions include the Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown, said to contain one of the Buddha’s teeth, the colorful Sri Mariamman Temple and the Lion City Gardens by the Bay, with trees that light up at night. Singapore is also a family-friendly destination. Children will enjoy the S.E.A. Aquarium and the Adventure Waterpark, which features the first hydro-magnetic coaster in Asia.

  

A cruise is another way to see the region. Some cruises will include Singapore as part of a Southeast Asian voyage, with additional stops in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

For help planning a trip to Southeast Asia, contact us.

Top 10 Things to Do/See in Sydney, Australia

Australia is a MUST!

If you do not have Australia on your list of places to travel I highly suggest that you add it on … and near the top.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

  1. Darling harbour. Lots of restaurant choices including the Hard Rock Café, Chinese Garden of Friendship, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Sea Life Aquarium, A carousel, a Huge Ferris Wheel and the National Maritime Museum. There is also were you can pick up your Harbour cruises, Dinner cruises, Set Sail with America’s Cup or just take a Jet boat out on the Harbour.

      

  2. Sydney Tower Eye. Enjoy 360 views of the beautiful city of Sydney. While you are up there you can choose to do a SkyWalk. It is a 45 min guided tour outside at the top of the Eye.

      

  3. China Town. You need to make a stop at Paddy’s Market and do some Souvenir Shopping. After you’re done shopping stop at the 3 Wise Monkey bar for a drink and some food.

      

  4. Bridge Climb. I would highly suggest a twilight tour.

        

  5. Panorama City Tour. Takes you all through the city including a stop at Royal Botanical Gardens, Drive by the most expensive street in Sydney, Head over to Watson’s Bay and then a stop at Bondi Beach.

      

  6. Rocks District. While you are there have lunch at Sydney’s Oldest Pub

       

  7. Take a Ferry from Circular Key. You can go just about anywhere in Sydney including the Taronga Zoo.
         
  8. Harbour Bridge Pylon Lookout. Experience breathtaking views of the Harbour and if you don’t get a chance to do the Bridge Climb, this is the next best thing.

      

  9. Sydney Opera House. A must visit don’t forget to stop at the Opera Kitchen and have Chocolate and Salted Carmel tart with Hot chocolate (Best when traveling to Sydney in the winter).

      

  10. Relax and take in the city. It is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited and there is so much to see and do.

Honeymoon at Barcelo Maya Grand Resort

My clients recently returned from the beautiful Riviera Maya, Mexico.  They stayed at the Barcelo Maya Grand Resort, and upgraded their room to the Junior Suite Ocean Front Club Premium.  They also upgraded their airport transfers to ‘private’ which for this resort is well worth the upgrade!!  Here is what they had to say:

Hey Melissa!!

Thank you so much for planning out all the details for our honeymoon! We had such a great time and will be planning on returning again in a few years! The flight was good we had enough time to make it to  our transfers on the way there and home. Having the private transfer to the hotel from the airport and then back on the last day was so great! The driver when we first got to Cancun was so nice and talked to us all the way to the hotel! It really made us feel comfortable and welcomed to have that great initial experience! We already decided we would have a private transfer when we travel next time. The hotel was very nice and our room was perfect! We would do Premium room again they were updated and really modern. You could see the ocean and the pool from our balcony! They did a great job with cleaning and restocking our fridge each night. We liked how everything was at the hotel. You could go snorkeling, they had dolphins, the spa, and of course all of the swimming pools and swim up bars! We really like the restaurants which was a nice break to eat at instead of the buffets for every meal.  They had entertainment every night as well and stuff going on during that day you could do or just watch while your in the pool:)

We had a lot of fun and thank you for all your help again!

Client Review: Honeymoon Adventures in the Land Down Under

The trip was fantastic.  Of the 4 places we went, I’d be pressed to pick a favorite because they were all such different experiences.  The location of all the hotels you found were perfect, we could just walk to do anything we wanted during our free time.  Each hotel had gotten your note that it was our honeymoon and had left out some wine or chocolates or both and a couple of them even gave us hand written congratulatory notes which was extremely touching.  The Hobbit tour driver Damion even had a printout of a very kind email you’d written to them and gave us a special memento to take back with us.  Chris from Quicksilver met us when we checked in, walked out to the boat with us, made us feel very welcome and mentioned your name and even gave us some drink tickets which was great!  All the tours went well, it often felt like they were really chaotic, but incredibly they all ended precisely as described.  The Sydney harbor bridge climb was amazing and its accessible to far more people than you’d think based on how they describe it.  To get a sample of the great barrier reef, both Tusa and Quicksilver are great options for a try scuba day trip.  If you have to pick, Cairns seems like a better place to stay than Port Douglas, there just seems to be more to do.  The service we encountered at all locations and tours was very welcoming and the amazing concierge in Auckland helped us find entertainment and a delicious Valentines Day dinner.

I’m really struggling to summarize the diving portion as Quicksilver and Tusa both really did a great job.  The staff at both outfitters were nice, competent, efficient, all good things.  I’m not sure which I’d recommend over the other as they were quite different.  Quicksilver was a longer day as they fetched us from our hotel (which was great), there were many times more people on that boat, but it was also bigger and faster so you were able to get to better places on the reef.  Quicksilver broke people out into groups of 4-6 and had a dive guide, Tusa gave you more autonomy unless you asked to have a guided tour.  The food on both was very good, though I did think Tusa’s was better.  I think we only paid for 2 dives on Tusa, but they gave us a 3rd for free which was really nice.

If I ever went there again, I would spend the money to do a live aboard and get better dive sites and a more intimate group of divers.  I would say for you, if someone asked about it I would find out how much diving they’ve done.  If it’s not much, then either of these outfits are perfect (or if they’re really set and cannot do more than 1 or 2 days).  If they’ve done a bit of diving (like more than 50 dives) then maybe steer them to a liveaboard.  Anyone can do either obviously, you’ll probably get a more experienced group doing a live aboard.  Or at least no college kids betting on who can hold their breath the best. haha

Overall it was definitely a success and we had a great time.  Thank you!!

Mazatlan/ El Cid Marina/ Jungle tour/ Stone Island

Today was a beautiful morning in Mazatlán. We headed over to the El Cid Marina, the sister hotel of the El Cid Castilla. This hotel is located in the Marina, hence the name J. Guests do have access to a private beach and you are only 20 minutes from the airport giving it a great location! This hotel offers Jr Suites and 1 bedroom suites that are perfect for couples or families.

Next we headed to the cruise pier to board a boat and go on a Jungle Tour – the only Jungle Tour in Mazatlán. We sailed by Mazatlán’s Harbor with the largest shrimp fleet in Mexico. The shrimping season had just ended so all the boats were returned to the harbor. It an amazing site to see hundreds of boats lined up. We kept going and went through the mangroves in Mazatlán, I wasn’t aware they had such a big jungle area! Here, we  saw a variety of birds and wildlife. We docked and got on a trailer that was being pulled by a tractor and started making our way to Stone Island.

The Stone Island Tour has a choice of activities including horseback riding, snorkeling, banana boats, boogie boards and horse-drawn carts through the Village. Our tour was combined with the Jungle Tour, but full-day tours are available. We made our way to Stone Island along the beach, driving along the sand and water… that is something you don’t get to do every day. Once we reached our destination, we had to turn and go up through the sand to get to the road. Well, as you might expect, it didn’t go as planned. We ended up getting stuck with most of us having to get off the trailer and some of us having to try and push our way out. J  We ended up having a quick lunch and then returned to the boat, then back to the harbor, back to the hotel and finish packing to get to the airport. L  We were a little rushed, so I was very happy that I had packed most of my stuff the night before!

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with Mazatlan! I met such amazing people and did so many great things! This is a destination that is still “Mexico” and loves their authentic culture. Anyone looking to go experience Mexico, needs to go to Mazatlan! I am going to miss my new friends and the city! I am already making plans to go back this winter!!

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