Photo of The Day #78, My Special Pedicure at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

I am very fond of pedicures and having my feet massaged. When given the Spa menu at the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat I opted for a pedicure, as opposed to a massage. Over the prior week I had received two wonderful Thai massages. One massage was in Bangkok and the other one in Phuket, so I decided I would go for a change of pace. I made my reservation and went to spa a few minutes prior to my pedicure. The waiting room was filled with deep cushioned chairs and lounges and I thought, given a few minutes I might just doze off.

 

Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Entrance to The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

The attendants let me know that I would have a session in their Antioxidant room prior to the pedicure. When I inquired what that meant, they led me in and had me lay prone on a mat and relax. Almost immediately the room was filled with a very warm blast of air and I felt like I was in a sauna. The attendant informed me that my session, which would basically eliminate toxins from my entire body, was to last fifteen minutes. After what seemed an eternity, and an inability to breathe I got up and decided I had to leave the room and grab a few whiffs of oxygen. Once I was outside I discovered I had only been in the room for right at five minutes. I cannot understand how anyone could last the full fifteen minutes.

 

Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

Antioxidant Room at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

I was then lead into the pedicure room by the attendant scheduled to perform my pedicure and she began the process. I interviewed the young lady, as she began the procedure and I discovered that she was from India, a graduate of business school and was at the Banjaran to learn how to run a spa. Her dream was to return to India and open her own spa, after absorbing everything she could at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat. I inquired how they interviewed her and she stated by a Google Hangout. I thought that was very cool, given we conduct a Google+ Hangout almost weekly with our son in Japan. I love the process. Obviously they thought she was what they needed, as she was hired and given two weeks to move to Ipoh Malaysia, where the spa is located.

 

 

The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

The Pedicure Room for the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat

 

My pedicure was to last one hour, but it turned out I was in the room for 90 minutes, as we talked about her dream and my travel blogger business. I was amazed to learn that she was fluent in four languages. She was a very intelligent, extroverted young lady and I could tell she would achieve her dream and have that spa one day. I believe this with all my heart. She was well versed in customer service attributes and was learning the details of all the spa processes. I wish her the best of luck and need to thank her publicly, for what turned out to be the best pedicure I have ever had. If she continues down this path, learning all the other spa treatments, her spa in India will be very successful and profitable.

 

 

*** My trip to Thailand and Malaysia was sponsored by Thai Airways, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Tourism Malaysia USA. All opinions are solely mine and as always, generated without any influence.

 

 

From the Waterfront: 10 Destinations Best Viewed From the Sea

***This is post was contributed by Cruise Deals.

 

Some places impress from an aerial approach: Barra beach runway in Scotland, the dramatic mountainscapes of Queenstown, New Zealand and the sea-circled coastline of the south of France, to name a few. Others are more impressive if you arrive on the deck of a cruise ship, ferry or pleasure boat. Here are ten of the best (Jolly Rodger and telescope optional).

 

Hong Kong

The mist-enshrouded islands dappling Hong Kong’s harbor approach will thrill anyone who has seen Enter the Dragon. You can catch this vibrant Asian city with Royal Caribbean cruises, as the operator (quite rightly) has granted it a well-deserved place on some of their itineraries.

 

Alaska

Boasting a lengthier coastline than the remainder of the USA combined this vast and beautiful place can be reached by cruise ship and ferry. Approach from the ocean and your breath will be snatched away by sparkling glaciers and dramatic skylines. Wrap up warm and venture out on deck, and you may be welcomed by some local wildlife including dolphins, seals and basking sharks.

 

Buenos Aires

Visit the Paris of the South by sea and learn to tango, dine on steak, and look out for the street art and bright colors of La Boca barrio. Buenos Aires’s port is easily recognizable from the realist paintings of Quinquela Martín, and at night this bustling commercial hub transforms into a twinkling blanket of lights to greet travelers fresh off the boat.

 

View

View of the Harbor Bridge in Sydney Australia

 

Sydney

Approaching one of Sydney’s cruise terminals delivers a jackpot combination of Australia’s iconic landmarks. Harbor Bridge, the Opera House and the city’s stratified skyline are meant to be seen from the sea.

 

Cinq Terre

This UNESCO World Heritage site is a tumble of colorful villages scattering down Italy’s coastline like a fistful of LEGO bricks. Given its white knuckle access roads the best and most scenic approach is by passenger ferry, which travels to four of its five villages.

 

Panama Canal

Traversing the continents of North and South America to connect the Pacific to the Atlantic, this man-made wonder  is a fine cruise destination, which can tick off Florida, the Caribbean, Mexico and the rain forests of Costa Rica as stops on the itinerary.

 

The Norwegian Fjords

Setting off into the Arctic on a cruise might be a chilly enterprise, but the rewards are vast, with endless days, majestic cliffs and the chance of spotting the Northern Lights all travel pay offs worthy of investment.

 

The Seychelles

Volcanic island landscapes, verdant rain forests, diving and fishing: its twinkling azure waters are part of what makes this place paradise, and worthy of further exploration.

 

Istanbul, Turkey

It might be classified as a Mediterranean cruise, but this exotic destination could not be a more enticing fusion of East meets West wonders. Approach from the sea and you’ll be greeted by the city’s characteristic minarets, domes, and the call to prayer.

 

Bermuda

If only for the excuse to invest in some dapper boating attire, cruising to Bermuda is highly recommended. If shorts aren’t your thing, there’s always the pastel pink beach, the cozy climate and the eclectic culture to fall back on.

 

For centuries, humankind has explored by way of the high seas. Make like your ancestors and find new ways to travel the world. It can be your oyster if only you choose to view it from a fresh perspective once in a while.

 

 

Image by Linh_rOm, used under Creative Commons license.

 

Biting USA — America’s Best Food Destinations

***This is post was contributed by Dial a Flight.

 

From the fresh seafood of New England to the iconic BBQ of the Lone Star state, or the lavish hotel buffets of Las Vegas, to the sidewalk hot dogs of NYC, or even in the city that has it all and people booking flights to Orlando, the USA boasts an intimidatingly delicious global melting pot of cultures and cuisines. A reputation for large portions and fast service might be misleading; the assumption often being that emphasis is on quantity, not quality. Those who have sampled molecular gastronomy, sushi or haute cuisine in any of America’s cities will know this to be anything but the case. Read on for a sampling of some of the most iconic stateside fare.

 

Jambalaya on the Bayou

Louisiana Creole cuisine is as wild and spicy as its carnival, a blend of French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Native American and African influences. The best time to eat in New Orleans is in fall, when the ingredients tossed into the thick, rich gumbo and colorful jambalaya are at their best. For a superior sampling of some traditional tastes The Royal House Oyster Bar or Galatoire’s are both a good bet.

 

Key Lime on the Keys

The sunshine state yields dishes influenced by Jamaican and Caribbean cuisine, with the emphasis on sweet, tropical fruits, seafood, freshness, sizzle and spice. Stone crabs, conch, key lime pie and orange juice may all sound familiar, but intrepid foodies should also try something new. Deep-fried gator tail, anyone?

 

The Steak Sandwich

The Steak Sandwich is a 5-Star Treat!

 

Cliché and frivolity in the windy city

For a typical all-American meal, you can’t beat Chicago, where the triumvirate of USA cliché cuisine — pizza, burgers, and the steak sandwich — has been perfected. To dine out on cheesy slabs of perfection, make for one of the city’s downtown diners. For a fresh and frivolous degustation, on the other hand, Alinea will blow your mind, with its helium-filled floating apple balloons, or its fourteen texture dishes.

 

There’s nowhere like the States for culinary diversity. It would be a crying shame to stick to the fast food outlets you can find anywhere, so stray from the beaten path, seek out tradition and provenance for your plate, and your palate will thank you for it.

 

 

Image by adactio, used under Creative Commons license. 

 

The Times They Are A Changing!!!

I know most US citizens will think this is outright sacrilege. For a long period of my life I have been mystified by the inability of most people, who “follow” the game of baseball, watch the game and attend a “boring” sport that moves way too slow for the majority of the population. What really is transpiring is that these individuals are not really familiar with the nuances of this very intellectual sport.

 

1994 College Baseball Regionals Hat

1994 College Baseball Regional’s Hat

 

Every pitch has thought and motion involving the players, the coaches and the umpires to predetermine their reaction and every possible result. Obviously this cannot be completely mastered by any means. The fielders have to assess what their action will be if the batter manages to hit the ball in their direction and if there are base runners present what is the most advantageous plan to administer. Of course if there is a base runner, the fielder has to evaluate the expected speed of the runner, whether he will have an advantage as a result of the pitchers windup or flaw in delivery and whether it is better to cut off the lead runner or take the easier out at first.

 

 

This decision is predicated on the number of outs and if the fielder doesn’t remember the correct number of outs he may cause a mistake that could cost his team the game. Hidden from this explanation is what pitch is being thrown by his pitcher, as he has a choice of fastballs, curves, split-fingered fastballs and off speed pitches called change ups, which if thrown appropriately can make the hitter swing way before the ball crosses the plate. All pitches react different and the when the batter hits each of these various pitches a distinct result occurs with each pitch.

 

Frank Robinson and Ted Williams 1958 Baseball All-Star Cards

Frank Robinson and Ted Williams 1958 Baseball All-Star Cards

 

The batter has to evaluate the pitch count and whether he has an advantage over the pitcher with the odds weighing in against the batter or in favor of the batter. This can determine the specific pitch coming in. Obviously if the batter has a 3 (balls)-0 (strikes) count, he is more than likely getting a fastball knee high on the outside corner of the strike zone. If the batter has a disadvantage with a 0 (balls)-2 (strikes), the batter can expect an off speed pitch that may or may not come close to the strike zone.

 

 

Pitches are called by the pitching coach on the bench usually and relayed to the catcher between pitches, with a mixed bag of signs designed to throw the opposing team off and not allow them to determine exactly what pitch the pitcher is tossing. At times if the opposing team has a former teammate they allow the catcher to make the pitch call and in some cases the catcher has sufficient experience working with the pitchers to know what pitches to throw when and what the batter tends to not be able to hit.

 

 

1996 US Olympic Baseball Hat

1996 US Olympic Baseball Hat

 

The pitcher has to ensure he reads the sign translated from the catcher correctly and knows what pitch is being called. During games the signs can be changed every inning and sometimes multiple times in an inning, if they think the opposing team is stealing their signs. After the pitcher digests the sign he has to ensure his grip of the baseball is appropriate for the pitch being thrown or the result will not be what was intended. If he has base runners in position he has to make sure that the runner does not gain an advantage and steal the base he is headed for, as a result of the pitcher not giving the runner the pertinent scrutiny.

 

 

Series of Babe Ruth Cards Published in 1961

Series of Babe Ruth Cards Published in 1961

 

The coaches are mandated with fielder placement and understanding the ability of each opposing hitter and where the odds indicate he will hit the ball, given the prior knowledge of what pitch is being thrown. They are tasked with creating a lineup that puts the best available players on the field and in the specific batting order that will achieve more positive results. They actively discuss positioning, the opposing batters ability and historical data of their fielders and the hitter. One can get completely overwhelmed with the quantity of statistics available these days and has to control this aspect of the game. These days it has increased at such a level, that it is impossible to comprehend the numerical dossier collected. The team’s manager and coaches have to decide what is more important on each pitch

 

Various 1959 Baseball Cards

Various 1959 Baseball Cards

 

The Umpires are charged with making sure that on every pitch they are in the correct position for expected plays, that both teams adhere to the rules and that all players have a safe playing environment. They are laden with interpreting all debated calls according to the rule book and ensuring that above all the games are carried out in a fair and honest manner.

 

 

Don Drysdale Who Has Perished and Was One of The Hardest Throwing Right Hand Pitchers I have Ever Seen 1961 Card

Don Drysdale Who Has Perished and Was One of The Hardest Throwing Right Hand Pitchers I have Ever Seen 1961 Card

 

Over the last few years I have gained a new and expanded appreciation of what the world calls football. I have followed the FIFA World Cup 2014 over the last two weeks and actually thought despite the dramatic fish flops, jersey pulls and shin kicks, a great deal of the background intellect involved in baseball is going on in football or what we call soccer in the US. There is a great deal of strategy and foresight involved. A great deal more than what I think the average US fan realizes. It was a very eye opening experience when I realized this had actually transpired, as I became a stronger fan of the sport that the majority of the world classifies as the number one athletic event outside the Olympics.

 

 

Lou Gehrig Replica Card of 1961, The Iron Man Who Played 2,632 Games in a Row Without Without Being Taken Out

Lou Gehrig Replica Card of 1961, The Iron Man Who Played 2,632 Games in a Row Without Without Being Taken Out

 

 

Regardless of your beliefs and whether you agree you have to admit once every four years the World comes to a standstill and all eyes are on this magnificent athletic episode. So much so, that I believe I am becoming more attracted to the World Cup process than I am to the Super Bowl anymore. Let’s face it more people watch the commercials of this American sporting game, than the actual sporting event. If they are not watching the commercials they are imbibing and partying like crazy. Hence my opening statement of outright sacrilege. We are moving up in ability and succeeded in making it farther than most people thought in this World Cup. Who knows one day before I perish we might actually field a team capable of taking the World Cup home. Wouldn’t that be cool! Congratulations Germany on winning a hard fought and determined match!

 

I have taken the liberty of placing photos of two of my favorite baseball hats in this blog, along with a few baseball cards I owned at one time.

 

 

Photo of The Day #77, You Think You Have Obstacles in Your Life???

When I was in Thailand this last November one of the tours we ventured out on, as guests of the Tourism Authority of Thailand and Thai Airways, was the James Bond Island tour. We wound up back at the Koy Panyee Sea Gypsy Village in Phang Nga Bay for lunch. After a wonderful meal of lobster, fish, shrimp and a dessert of fresh pineapple, we were allowed to walk through the complex of various gift shops, food outlets and an elementary school for the village children.

 

Panyee Village Elementary School

Panyee Village Elementary School

 

Near the school was a structure floating in the ocean and at first I couldn’t figure out what it was. As I walked nearer I recognized nets and soon discovered it was actually a soccer field for the kids to use, as the amount of raw land wasn’t sufficient to have a normal soccer field. I thought this was a wonderful and amazing idea. Little did I know the real story behind this pitch!

 

Panyee Floating Soccer Field

Koh Panyee Floating Soccer Field

 

Yesterday I shared a photo of this field on Instagram and Facebook. A fellow travel blogger and friend Vanessa Workman attached the video below, from TMBbrand’s channel. They have launched a new brand vision “Make THE Difference”, by making films that would inspire people to start thinking differently. I sincerely hope you take away as much as I did from this video.

 

A Taste of Thai Food on The Cheap, A Guest Post by Agness Walewinder

Believe me or not, but I don’t know anyone who traveled to Thailand and didn’t like Thai food. It simply does not happen. Everyone seems to love the local dishes here as they are refreshing, full of flavours, fresh and perfectly spiced. Thai cuisine is a perfect combination of old Eastern and Western flavours combined with a dash of tropical fruits. What I love the most about Thai food is a perfect balance of all ingredients. It’s never too spicy, never too mild or never too sweet…

 

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

Tourist Ordering Pad Thai in Bangkok

 

Another great news is that Thai dishes are extremely affordable, even in Bangkok. Do you have one dollar or two? Great. That’s more than enough to have a delicious lunch or dinner. No, I’m not joking and here is what you should do to dine out in Thailand on the cheap:

 

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

Thai Soup with Meat and Veggies

 

#1 Street vendors are your best friends.

 

Yes, street food is not only healthy, light and delicious, but also affordable. Thai cities are filled with pad thai stands and small food vendors from where you can grab some grilled chicken, pork, any kind of veggies and of course famous salty bugs and scorpions. The prices start from $0.50 and you should never pay more than $2-$3 a meal. Otherwise, it’s a scam!

 

Various Grilled Meats

Various Grilled Meats

 

Grilled Corn

Grilled Corn

 

Fried and Salty Bugs

Fried and Salty Bugs 

 

#2 Go for fruits and veggies based meals.

 

Meat is a bit expensive in Thailand, so dishes based on pork, chicken or duck are much more pricey than the ones filled with exotic fruits, veggies and rice. Just to give you an example, you would pay around $1 for a sticky mango rice whereas chicken noodle soup costs over $2,50. Besides, fruits and veggies are extremely healthy and nutritious, so cutting down on meat will be also beneficial for your health.

 

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice

Sweet Papaya and Nuts Salad with Rice 

 

#3 Say NO to busy Western restaurants.

 

 

You are in Thailand so take the advantage of it and stick to traditional Thai meals which are yummy, light and refreshing. I often saw foreigners digging into burgers and pizzas when in Bangkok like they couldn’t have some Thai noodles, papaya salad sprinkle with nuts, grilled veggies or chicken soup. Western food is so pricey, full of fat and sugar and it will make you feel bloated and tired. It’s good to have it from time to time in your home country, but not when you are on a short trip in Thailand surrounded by fresh seafood and delicious smell from local restaurants.

 

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

Papaya and Seafood Salad with Rice

 

#4 Visit local markets.

 

Farmers’ markets are the best places for your daily grocery shopping on the cheap. You can buy here a lot of fresh and organic products – honey, jams, bread, milk, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices as well as ready meals. I simply loved Thai markets. They smell so good, they are loud and overcrowded with tourists and locals. People scream and bargain with each other. Sellers sell their products from their boats, everyone smiles and wave at you. Great experience, that’s for sure! Apart from food, you can also purchase some souvenirs here – postcards, handmade wooden baskets, hats, etc. Thai markets are also surrounded by small local restaurants from where you can order a take-away meal. By the way, did you know that you can spend a day at Damnoen Saduak floating Market in Bangkok for less than $25? Yes, you can and it’s so cool!

 

Fried Noodles with Veggies

Fried Noodles with Veggies 

 

#5 Share the food with others.

 

The portions of food in Thailand can be sometimes really massive. For a girl like me, a plate of pad thai is way too much so I often shared it with Cez- my travel companion. In this way, we could both feel full without paying much. If you are like me and you prefer having a bit of everything when eating, ask fellow travelers to join you for a lunch or dinner. You can order small plates of different food, a couple of Thai beers and a nice dessert that you can split into 4 pieces.

 

Agness and Cez of etramping

Agness and Cez of etramping

 

#6 Try out your bargaining skills.

 

Bargain hard or go home – that’s what I’ve learnt in Thailand. Thai locals love to haggle for food, clothes and souvenirs with foreigners, so try out your skills when ordering some food. In order to do it properly, learn some basic Thai words – numbers, polite questions and requests, food vocabulary so you can impress not only yourself, but also locals around to get some food discount!

 

After visiting Thailand over 3 times, nobody can convince me that Thai food is expensive. Just the opposite. Apply these 6 rules and you will feel the difference in your wallet and around your waistline!

 

Have you ever tried Thai food? What was it and how much did you pay?

 

 

 

Agness and Cez

Agness and Cez

 

We are two adventurous tramps, best friends – Agness and Cez, from Poland. We call ourselves tramps, because we live without permanent home and for under 25 bucks a day, since 2011. While travelling the world, we find the time to write about it, share the tricks to do it cheaply and even help other people do the same. Come along with us at etramping.com!

Read more about Agness
Read more about Cez

 

***All photos supplied by and credited to etramping.com.***

 

Photo of The Day #76, When You Are At The Driskill, You Know You Are In Texas

The Driskill Hotel in Austin was completed in 1886 and is named after a cattleman named Jesse Driskill. Each side of this Historic Hotel is impressive and has a similar stucco exterior with appropriate limestone trim. This view below faces 6th street and is a block off of Congress Avenue, in the middle of the after hours district filled with bars, restaurants and breweries. Sixth Street is also home to some of the best music in the country, with bands performing from all over the world, throughout the year.

 

The Driskill Hotel

The Driskill Hotel

 

When you enter the lobby from the main entrance on the east side of the hotel, this antique ceiling light extends almost the width of the walkway and pretty well hits you right between the eyes with its warm glow. It is a very detailed fixture and you can’t help but stare as you walk by a plethora of antique furniture collected through the years. The big five pointed star in the middle, makes one start to imagine they are in the wild wild west again.

 

The Chandelier In the Driskill Lobby

The Light Fixture In the Driskill Lobby

 

Throughout the hotel lobby and guest areas there are numerous western couches made from cowhides and made with comfort in mind. You can bet I tried one out and it took a lot of urging to get my rear end up. I wanted to stretch out, relax and take a nap. I wanted to dream about being a cowboy and meeting Lillie Langtry!

 

A Cowhide Couch in the Hallway

A Cowhide Couch in the Hallway

 

On the way to the bar one walks by several sets of revolvers and you know full well you are in Texas now. The guns, including a few rifles, are displayed throughout the second floor. The second floor is home to the hotel’s bar and restaurant. If you need to use the facilities I urge you to make use the restrooms on this level. You will be amazed at the accessories available for your amusement.

 

Revolvers in the Driskill

Revolvers in the Driskill

 

When you walk up to the second floor, from the lobby and head to the bar area, you encounter this massive replica of a Texas steer colorfully decorated with the Driskill’s exterior, superimposed against the state flag and the hotel’s logo. I urge you to deviate from any pre-planned tour and take an hour or so to see this magnificent architectural structure, a member of the Historic Hotels of America and the oldest operating hotel in Austin. If you bypass this hotel in favor of one of the suggested tourist traps then shame on you!

 

A Bull in The Driskill

A Bull in The Driskill

 

 

 

 

Cuba A Cultural Mix

***This is post was contributed by Holiday Hypermarket.

 

Christopher Columbus pronounced that Cuba was the “most beautiful land that human eyes had ever seen” when discovering the island in 1492. Some 500 years later and the sun-drenched Caribbean island with sparkling waters attracts almost three million visitors per year. The largest island in the Caribbean, Cuba offers a unique vacation experience in what has been described as a cultural paradise with a diverse population mix. This diverse mix of island inhabitants, including Chinese and Japanese, gives the island a unique cultural heritage and those from Far East countries will find some particular points of interest for their Cuba holidays:

 

arturstaszewski

China’s influence on Cuba

 

The Chinese have a long history with Cuba and migrants arrived to work on the island as far back as 1847 before settling permanently. Chinese-Cubans are part of the culture of the island and visitors will find many businesses, restaurants and shops. The city of Havana has its own ‘Barrio Chino’ or Chinese neighbourhood where the Chinese influence can be seen in the architecture, restaurants and beauty parlours. In this area of Havana there are also museums where you can learn some of the history of the importance the Chinese had on creating the Cuba we know today.

 

Diverse island cuisine

 

Cuba offers a wealth of cuisine options thanks to the diverse population mix. You can easily find a restaurant to suit your taste whether you’re looking for Chinese, Japanese or Korean food. Of course you may wish to try some traditional Cuban dishes although the ‘traditional’ dishes are actually influenced by many nationalities including Spanish, Portuguese, African, French and the Chinese. Classic Cuban dishes rely heavily on spices and a sofrito sauce that gives the chicken and meat dishes their unique flavour; try the Carne de Cerdo, a slow roasted pork or the beef hash for a taste explosion.

 

Neiljs

The world’s most beautiful beaches

 

One Cuban attraction that will appeal no matter which country you hail from is the fantastic beaches. The island beaches are regarded as some of the best in the world and include the idyllic 2.5 mile long Playa Paraiso at Caya Largo. This uninhabited island lies just southwest off the coast of Cuba and with a single bar serving rum and cigars, what more do you need?  If you don’t fancy the boat trip to Caya Largo then check out other slices of paradise such as Playa Ancon near Trinidad or Caya Jutias, which is about as serene a beach as it gets.

 

From the vibrant city atmosphere of Havana to the year round high temperatures to the beautiful beaches, it’s not hard to see why Cuba is a top holiday location. An 11 hour flight is all that stands between the Far East and experience this incredible island.

 

 

Images by Neiljs and Artur Staszewski used under the Creative Commons licence.

 

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Amateur Traveler Episode 471 - Travel to Austin, Texas



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