Monday, June 20, 2016

Bali, much more than Eat, Pray, Love

Indonesia is distance and concept.

Aqua Bali Villa resort
One of the things I feared most in planning this adventure was the length of the trip itself. Two hours flying to San Francisco, where I connected to a fourteen hour flight to Hong Kong, where I stayed a couple days, because I was genuinely afraid my body could not take another five hour flight to Denpasar, Indonesia. It's far.

When I arrived, the tropical heat did not surprise me. Nor did the masses of drivers waiting fares at the exit of the airport.
What surprised me was the gentle manner in which the people, even in their crowded state, addressed the exiting passengers. There was an unnatural (to me) sense of calm within the chaos, which I took for granted. I noticed it, and I felt the anxiety I always feel when entering a  new country where, immediately, the masses are trying to sell you something - trying to get the tourist dollars. It is understood.
This was different. The one constant I noticed about the Bali locals was, they never lost their sense of calm, or dignity as they worked. Yes, it is important to feed their families, and yes, tourism is a vital industry, but they never begged. They never shamed. They never lost their humanity when seeking work. I have never admired a group culture so much. I also did not see one homeless person. And I looked...I had a conversation with a taxi driver about homelessness, and the word itself was unfamiliar.

My plan was to see all the typical tourist attractions, the temples, the monkey forest, some waterfalls, and perhaps a sunset or two. The hotel sent a local driver to fetch me from the airport, and he agreed to drive me around the island a few days later to act as my private tour guide.

Not only did I get to see all the sites I was aware of on my little list, I was given a history lesson, taken to a cultural center for dance, escorted to the off the beaten path shopping areas, and even stopped at a  lovely butterfly park.
My driver was working not solely for my fare, but also on a commission for the places he introduced me and sales were made. Interesting concept for me, but how else would some of these businesses get the traffic they see? I was grateful for the private tour.

The other days I spent in Bali, I chose to seek out the local beaches, watch the surfers and meditate. Although, every birthday I like to recharge and re-position my state of mind for the upcoming birth year, this was a wonderful opportunity to really downsize internally. Lose some baggage, release myself of expectation and re-secure life's purpose.
Seminyak Beach

And I ate...Nasi garung was my favorite meal and I tried to eat it every day. Skewers of meat, with fried rice, crawfish, vegetables and different sauces which tasted of a combination of Indian and Chinese foods I am accustomed to in the states, but so much better. Hints of peanut and coconut, creamy delights to my taste buds. I thoroughly enjoyed every meal I had.

The shopping was another treat. I am not a big shopper, but finding dresses at a third the price, and jewelry unique to the island was like finding hidden treasures. I felt like a thief in the night and I cherished every piece I found.

The temples were exquisitely beautiful. Thinking that people built these intense sculptures was only overshadowed by the tributes and offerings that the local people gifted the sites daily. The burning incense in the street was common, as was the small offerings in front of local homes and businesses. Life and prosperity is a gift...and this culture is thankful and gracious, every day.

 Bali is a wonderfully, magical place. I can absolutely understand why so many people want to visit and soak in the culture. It is a mindful experience which everyone could use to help realign themselves and learn to just be.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Bali, Indonesia Video

Here is a short taste of the Bali experience I recently had - see written accompaniment above.
And Welcome Back!!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Hong Kong

Hong Kong was an interesting couple of days. I am not sure what I expected, but what I got was a visual cataclysm of things I could not put together in a puzzle. The construction was overwhelming. It was everywhere. Cranes and tow trucks, smog and piles of stuff, littered the downtown area.
Then there was the visual confusion of palm trees interspersed with construction and water and sky-rises. Towering buildings shadowed the streets filled with street vendors and small shops and food huts. Residents clothes hung from every building in the humid city seeking any dry, arid relief, while palm trees popped up in sporadic areas.
7-11's on every corner.
It reminded me of industrial cities like Detroit, but with the air of in-affordability. Confusing at best.

What Hong Kong revels in is the shopping. Chanel, Hermes, all the high end retailers were blatantly on display in downtown Kowloon, eagerly inviting tourists in to spend loads and loads of money.
A busy, busy, wharf city - titillating visitors with commerce and relishing in the appeal of retail to foreigners. 

I stayed at the Panda Hotel downtown. They provide shuttle service to the airport as well as the shopping areas of Kowloon. A pleasant high rise hotel, with restaurants and a sports bar on site. Walkable to many places downtown. A very safe and affordable hotel. Cute rooms and accessible staff made for a pleasant visit. I would recommend this hotel to any tourists looking for a central hotel.
Hong Kong 2016

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Welcome Back! Travel Savvy has been upgraded!!

The Savvy Traveler you all know and love has finally fund some congruity.
Check out the blog for new videos and writings compiling all the cities I toured in 2015, including Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Bali and Hawaii (again).
New pictures. New dialogue. New vibes, and here is a little video to say thank you and I missed YOU!

Also, I am no longer on FB, but please follow photos on Instagram @TravelsavvyIntl and tweets @TravelsavvyIntl : You will find my posts here on my blog, and you may always reach me by email and phone (DM if you do not have that current information). I am planning on vlogging more, so you can see my face and I can charge you with my travel energy, so watch out for that fun stuff coming up!

Love and Blessings~

Monday, March 2, 2015

St. John, USVI

The US Virgin Islands, consisting of St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John might be the best kept secret down south. Quiet and central to the Caribbean, these islands offer an adult break from the hectic and sometimes aggressive visits to over populated islands like Jamaica and the Bahamas.
Cruz Bay
St. John is the smallest (and least populated) of the three islands, and likely the most serene. A quick ferry ride from St. Thomas will get you on the island in about 20 minutes from STT. The ferry entry is the busiest part of the island with people traveling back and forth from the island from 5a until early evening. The Cruz Bay area is buzzing with taxis, hotels, bars and restaurants. A variety of shops and car rentals are available in this small downtown area. It is easy to navigate and people are very helpful, locals and ex-patriots alike.

A 30 minute ride via car or bus will get you to the other side of the island where Coral Bay and the National Forest are located. Coral Bay is much smaller than Cruz Bay and far more limited in resources. There are only a handful of restaurants but there is a grocery, but better shop or eat before sundown, because this sleepy side of the island shuts down at dark. There are only two breakfast options that we found and one was consistently open every morning with coffee and US TV, so if you need CNN and a solid cup of coffee every morning head on over to Pickles in Paradise. The food here is also very good. The best deli on the island; breakfast sandwiches, burritos and so many choices for lunch items. We enjoyed everything we tasted here.

The other breakfast place we found was only open some mornings and at sporadic times. The evening dining was just as limited with only a couple options for food and drink. There were many rental homes on this side of the island, so prepare to make your own meals if you choose to stay in one of the beautiful homes in the Hurricane Hole area.

Local Island Fare

You can’t leave the island without trying the local pate. These breaded pockets hold meat or fish and are the specialty of the Virgin Islands. You can find them almost anywhere, but like food trucks in the states, some are good, and some are really good. Make time to head over to the local mall in the center of town and visit Etta’s. These were the best Pate’s we tasted, and were fresh and flavorful. Hands down, a must try for island fare.

Good evening, Donky!

The wildlife all over the island was rampant and fun to watch. Deer, goats, sheep, dogs, chickens and crabs roam freely. There was no surprise when donkeys came right up to our car to greet us. By the second day, the donkeys were meeting us at the gate to our rental home to get more apples from the kind main-landers. We were happy to oblige and even made a special trip to the grocery to get fruit and carrots for the local animals.

The nightlife is restricted to Cruz Bay, so if you want to drink and party into the wee hours of the night, you will want to stay on this side of the island. There is nothing going on in Coral Bay after dark. Nothing. 

Coral Bay is famous for snorkeling and hiking and if you are the outdoorsy type and appreciate exploring National Parks and wildlife, please take advantage of the hiking trails and open Park trails to the many secluded beaches. We found trail maps were easily accessible, but not very accurate. Follow the local signs and trust the handwritten tips. They work.

If you are like us, we enjoyed sitting on the porch of our house and watching the sunrise every morning, and the sunsets in the early evening, as they reminded us how precious life is in Technicolor. The coquis chirping and the wave’s consistent sounds kept us attached to the earth as we just enjoyed breathing in the natural gifts of the earth.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

West Palm...Food and Fancy

Part of the reason I went to West Palm Beach Florida was to check out my friend from high school and her husband - they have a fantastic restaurant in Vero Beach, about forty five minutes north of West Palm Beach, and well worth the drive.
If you are in the area, you MUST dine at the Citrus Grillhouse. It is amazing!
Chef Scott has brought the eclectic, delicious, yet savvy, food vibe from New York down to the southern laid back of Florida. And does it well!
I took the time to YELP my thoughts about the restaurant because they deserve all the great press in the world. It is a fantastic spot, right on the water. The food was original and flavorful - every bite lending itself to the next. The cocktails were fresh and the wine list was superb. I am so glad we made the trip. A beautiful experience all around, and only a minute, but maybe the best portion of our West Palm Beach adventure.

Must try's: The deconstructed BLT and a grapefruit martini. Um, yeah.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Whoa! West Palm Beach Florida!

I don't know anything better than being able to take a warm vacation in the fall or winter season. Before you get bogged down with the winter blues, get away to the warm sunshine.

After debating an international destination, I decided on West Palm Beach, Florida to share my birds eye view of the pro-grownup destination choices we have right here in our own southern hemisphere.

The downtown area is a combination of city and parks areas. Slightly art deco, like their southern counterpart Miami, but more industrial, similar to the layout of any mid-level city in the mid-west. It is easy to get around - small enough to walk once you get downtown, but taxi's are in abundance if you aren't into walking.
The parks and open spaces between downtown and the marina area, is dedicated to visually pleasing statues, spaces and art pieces.

Areas like Flagler Park have community activities  year round with live music, and entertainment everyone will enjoy.

I expected sunny, warm days and quiet evenings along the shore with relaxing walks and serene
What I did not expect was the active downtown area, with trendy restaurants and coffee houses. I was surprised at the art culture, and by surprised, I mean pleasantly delighted.

West Palm beach is well known for the high end shopping districts and homes accented by boats and luxury toys. City Place is a more than typical outdoor shopping mall with attractions like a Comedy Club and a bowling alley within the parameters. Clematis Street is the hip and trendy part of downtown with a strip of bars and restaurants reminiscent of cities like Denver and Austin.

I was amazed with the historic value and museums available for locals and tourists alike. Easy to find and access, the city seemed happy to share their prized beautiful gifts. A unique and treasured aspect, a traveler is always happy to stumble upon in any city.

You will find all the usual ocean side activities, but expect to find some wonderful pieces of art in unlikely places. Please take the time to walk or bike around the city and be sure to get to Palm Beach, where they have the most visited bike trail alongside the beach between the homes and the ocean.
There is fascinating natural and man-made art everywhere you look if you venture off the beaten path. Wander this city; it invites you to peek at all it's hidden precious talents.

I was enamored with the low-key feel of West Palm Beach and wanted more. I could have stayed here for weeks, and I understand why the snowbirds come down in the winter and why people retire to this wonderful little nook.

If you are looking for an adult getaway with enough night life to keep you entertained for a few days, look at West Palm Beach.
Feel relaxed and happy when you head home after this vacation.

A quick shout out and thank you to iScoot rentals who may just be the coolest scooter and bike rental joint in the state. If I could recommend one local business to check out: iScoot is cool people.