Category: Travel

Traveling Solo?

When my mom died in 2006, after a long illness,  I  had to do something to get  a handle on my profound  grief. I was so filled with sadness that even being  with friends and family didn’t alleviate the pain. I needed private time to understand and explore where my life was going now that my “greatest cheerleader in life” was gone. So for the next few years I traveled solo. The more exotic and far away the destination—that’s where I went. I can now say that it was the most liberating, healing  and exhilarating  experience I’ve ever endeavored. I can’t say that at times I  didn’t  think “What am I doing here?” but overall it taught me things about myself and  how to be my own “greatest cheerleader.”

When traveling alone I inevitably encountered various cultures, customs and destinations.  I was face to face with people on an intimate meeting point and any preconceived ideas or prejudices I may have had melted away. My father use to tell me that you can read all the books in the world but the truth is when you travel to these places and see for yourself.

I learned so much. The uncomfortable feeling of being  outside of my comfort zone quickly  dissolved once I allowed the power of my being  to  embrace the moment—realizing  all my fears were unfounded as I began to relate to the  new experiences with the wonder of a child.

I remember case in point when I visited Laos. I arranged my Guesthouse , driver and guide before I left the States. My guide and driver would be with me through the day however at night I would be on my own. On one particular day as my guide dropped me off at the hotel I heard such a melodious chanting from the temple not too far from when I was staying. I wanted to visit this temple with such peaceful music. I stepped out my guesthouse and started walking towards the sound. I got as far as the temple, sat outside and then—fear gripped me! What was I doing – out in the evening- alone- not being able to speak the language—a woman. I was gripped by panic and quickly got up,  rushed back to my guesthouse—truly disappointed  that I couldn’t explore because of  the  fears I had developed over the years. After tossing and turning all night I was  determined not to let this feeing overtake me again!  The next day after my guide dropped me off, I ventured out again. I walked  to the temple , sat down and  enjoyed the chanting and actually felt quite at ease. With my new found  confidence I then walked  towards the small  town. On my way I encountered a night market with the women of the area selling their handicrafts. Although I didn’t  speak the language, all the women I met were so friendly and with sign language we were able to communicate. I bought a few items but still wanted to enjoy the evening. I walked and walked and found myself in the center of town and now wanted to have a nice dinner. Looking  at various restaurants (they all had pictures of the food selections) I chose a nice place to eat the local cuisine. It was wonderful! Again all the people I encountered were patient and very friendly and after dinner I walked back to my guesthouse with such a feeling of accomplishment. I didn’t let fear grab me and take me hostage.

After this I felt my power. Never again would I allow  an abstract feeling to paralyze me and from that moment on was able to enjoy being with myself to explore. Traveling throughout the region I became more and more confident. I know this experience  had changed my life.

The furthest placee I’ve been on my own would  have to be Bhutan. In this lovely country I spent 3 weeks hiking and discovering the wonderful culture  and along the way made lifelong friends.

The experience has taught me allot about myself and how to feel safe in my own skin.

Of course I’m careful and don’t take unnecessary chances however following my inner guide I’ve always been safe.

I do enjoy traveling with friends and family however the unique experiences I gained by traveling alone has been invaluable—expanding my limits and embracing all there is.

I would recommended this to everyone. Now you don’t have to go as far as I did but anytime you travel alone it teaches you so much about yourself. What better way to get to know our true best friend!

Business Travel—Choosing the right agency for your Business

Saving time and money. Corporate travel budgets are shrinking; however the need for business travel hasn’t. Businesses are looking for travel management companies to be their advocate—to offer a wide range of services which include finding the least expensive options for airfares, hotels and car rentals, giving reports of the travel expenditures, “waivers and favors” when travel plans change rapidly and the restrictions the airlines charge can be lowered or waived plus a host of other amenities such as upgrades and mileage programs. Of course, personalized service and professionalism of the agents who handle these accounts is a must.

In looking for the best travel management agency to handle the job, size is of importance. I say this because the larger the company the more influence it can exert in negotiations with the airlines, hotels and car rentals. The dollar amount the agencies generate for the airlines, hotels and car rentals means a better savings that can be passed on to he client. It’s a win-win all the way around.

Another criteria to look for when choosing a travel management company is the length of time and experience of the agents who will be handling your account. How long have they retained their clients? How experienced are they with corporate travel? What technology can they offer? Does the agency have “State of the Art” technology? Can the agency offer services such as “Where you know where all your travelers are at any given moment”? For the techies of your firm, is there a laptop airline tool where they can chose their flights but also has the capability to monitor that the employees stay within travel guidelines of the company.

These are but a few of the very important questions to ask when selecting the right travel agency for your firm. An advocate who has your bottomline as their frontline.

Citizens of the World!!

Travel is more affordable and accessible now than ever before. Deregulation  of the airlines and the various low cost carriers make the options of exploring the world a

reality never before experienced by a vast majority of people. It’s a wonderful thing! It opens us up to different cultures and people and in a way that encourages

us to expand our knowledge of people, places and things outside of ourselves. Experiencing life outside our comfort zone. Understanding and appreciation of this wonderful world we inhabit. We are citizens of the world!

I was very fortunate that when I was growing up my father worked for a major airline. As long as I can remember we always travelled during school breaks and vacations. I took this for granted thinking everyone did this. When class started after the summer break and the teacher asked the class what we did during the summer or the holidays I would tell of the trips I took. My classmates would then ask me “Are you rich”? I didn’t understand what this meant at the time . I lived in a very modest house and my parents both worked. In fact, besides my immediate family, my aunt and her 2 daughters also lived with us. This was my normal except my father was able to take us abroad with the benefits he had with his job. My world view and acceptance of other people was greatly enhanced by this experience. I guess I was “rich”.

I know this is the reason that once I graduated from college (and my benefits ended with my Dad’s job) I went into the travel industry.

Starting my career working for a major airline and segueing into the various facets of the travel industry to eventually opening my own shop.

I love helping people with their travel. The excitement of going to new places and learning the countries or states I visited thrilled me. Of my many clients I’ve helped over the years, I’ve retained them and we’ve grown up together sharing our experiences and making new friends.

We are truly “Citizens of the world”

The lessons learned are invaluable. I enjoy sharing my exploits and the lessons I’ve learned from the people I met on these excursions. I value the time spent with others whose lives are so much different than my own. It opens up a whole new “other world”. I realize over and over what a vast planet we live on with various cultures and ways of life that exist.

There are many apps that are available to us now that can aid us in navigating our travels.

Kayak is a good starting point. This app helps us get an idea of what the airfares will be however it’s not infallible. Sometimes it will show the lowest rates but when you check it out with the airlines it isn’t always available however it does give you an idea of airlines costs.

Another one that I find helpful is Journy. Journy can help map out your days in more than 60 destinations. You just specify you age, types of activities and a price range and it helps you craft an itinerary.

Mobile Passport can get you through Customs faster on return. You just plug in basic information such as Passport Number and personal information along with a selfie ahead of time.

These are but a few of the apps available now.

Of course it’s always a good bet to go through a professional travel agent who has firsthand knowledge of destinations and has the expertise in helping you maneuver through the various  options available.

If you want to plan a memorable experience – give me a call.

I love what I do and I’d be happy be your guide.

Let’s travel!

Citizens of the World

Exploring this wonderful world we inhabit

Yours in travel….

#VeronicaTravelLive #MobileMonday Weekly Travel Tips

It’s Veronica Travel LIVE #MobileMonday – today we’re talking about touring New York City with tips from your local Travel Concierge – and the benefits of using a #travelagent 🌎

What do you want to see or do near your hometown?

#Vacation or #Staycation – be a tourist in your own hometown!!


Bon Voyage,

Exploring this wonderful world we inhabit!
Founder + President, New Concepts in Travel

An Eye-Opening NY Tour

Why should you spend hours researching? Have someone do the work for you. Relax…

Below is a brief description of one of the tours I recently took.

Inside Out Tours

Slavery and the Underground Railroad

Last Saturday was a particularly cold day. I had signed up for a walking tour —the first I had ever done in New York. I read about this tour a year ago and it was on my radar. I finally signed up and what a mesmerizing experience .

The group met at the Indian Museum downtown Manhattan in the Wall Street area. Walking up to the group I was immediately aware of a very vivacious , enthusiastic woman talking animatedly to the small group. I introduced myself and found that this lovely woman was to be our tour guide. Ludie, the guide, gave us a short introduction to what the Underground Railroad was —and wasn’t. It was not some underground passageway but in fact certain safe houses slaves were taken from point to point from the South as they made their way to The North and supposed freedom. The north, as I presumed, was not the bastion of freedom I thought. Slavery was not abolished in New York until 1827.

In the mid 1600’s all the important ports were located in lower Manhattan and this area became the focal point for the formation of colonies by the Dutch West Indian company. The building of these colonies needed labor therefore cheap and/or free labor was required. Ludie took us through the history of the implementation of slavery in New York through the rebellion against the British, the hypocrisy of the fight for independence while still owning slaves, and the formation of the Underground Railroad. The secret codes and establishments that hid the runaway slaves coming from the south to freedom in the north and also some migration into Canada. The abolitionists, both black and white, who took chances time after time — putting their lives on the line if they were caught. Harriet Tubman, Ruggles and the countless others who fought for freedom. The first civil rights movement!

The tour was approximately 3-1/2 hours and ended at what is currently the largest sacred mass burial place of African Americans found in New York.

The Tour Guide was a fascinating storyteller/griot so well informed that the people and events in her stories came to life.

Inside Out Tours operates many tours throughout the city and the outer boroughs. It was such a pleasant, learning experience.
Feeling like a tourist in my home town and exploring this wonderful world we inhabit!!!!

Bhutan—Land of the Thunder Dragons


Bhutan—my second time here—and I fall in love with this small land-locked country all over again. This mystical, pristine country with its rolling mountains, environmentally conscious government and way of life is a sort of utopia As you come off the plane you breathe in some of the freshest air on the planet. Surrounded by its neighbors—China and India—Bhutan has always gone its own way. Its constitution mandates that 60% of the land must be forest (actual figure 72%) which accounts for the beautiful countryside and ensures no over development.

On the flight from Nepal to Bhutan you can get a wonderful view of the Himalayas and Mount Everest when sitting on the left side. It is such a beautiful sight to see on a clear day. Approaching the city of Paro the flight takes a steep curve and you’ve arrived. It is said that only a handful of pilots can make this landing. The airport is very small and immaculate. It is shaped somewhat like the Dzongs one will see in each major city in Bhutan. A giant photo of the King & Queen adorn the outside of the airport. The monarchy is much revered throughout this small nation.


Once inside the terminal I am greeted by my old friend Passang who was my driver on my last visit. A shy fellow with a big smile made me feel very welcome. I was to stay in Thimphu for the evening where I would meet another old friend, Nima—my guide from my previous trip. The drive is approximately 1 ½ hours and I was immediately aware of all the construction taking place. I stayed at a new hotel—Tara Phenderling—one of many new additions since my last visit. The hotel was lovely and offered all the amenities you would expect. I took the trip with my sister and the day we arrived in Bhutan was her birthday. Nima had arranged a surprise party for her with all the bells & whistles.


The next town I visit is Punakha. The distance from Thimphu is approximately 3 hours. It’s quite a pleasant drive as the landscape is lush with trees. The mountains are dotted with homes and prayer flags abound. On the way I stop at the Dochula Pass and see 108 stupas standing as a memorial to the Bhutanese soldiers. The morning is foggy and the stupas are shrouded in a cape of mist. In the background—the Himalayas. The pass is located at an elevation of 10,200 feet.

Onward to the Punakha Dzong. A Dzong is a distinct type of fortress architecture found mainly in Bhutan and Tibet. The architecture is massive in style with towering exterior walls surrounding a complex of courtyards. It is divided into 2 parts—half to religious functions, primarily the temple and the Monk’s accommodations and the other government administrative offices. The Punakha Dzong is exquisite. This if referred to as the “palace of great happiness or bliss”.


Next is my visit to the Trongsa Dzong. The drive is approximately 5 hours from Punahka. Along the drive I can see yaks, monkeys and beautiful birds. I arrive at night and my hotel—The Yangkil—offering wonderful views of the Trongsa Dzong lit a night. As I sit on my terrace I am amazed at the still and quiet. It is so peaceful. The following day after breakfast I walk through the small town of Trongsa—past a lively marketplace with women bargaining their wares. Again I am amazed at the construction underway—streets being paved and widened—from my last visit.

I am fascinated at the stories and legends I am told visiting each Dzong District. The Bhutanese people are deeply religious—Buddhist—and each temple has its own unique story of their creation.


Bumthang is the next District on the journey and literally translates to “Beautiful Field”. This area is considered the most historic consisting of 4 mountain valleys. The number of ancient temples is imposing. Each temple entrance is surrounded by prayer wheels which reminds me of the deeply held beliefs of the people here. The next few days are spent hiking and taking in the exquisite allure Gangtey, located in the Phobjikha Valley, surrounded by mountains was my next stop. This place took my breath away and must surely be one of the most beautiful spots in Bhutan. I stayed at the Dewachen Lodge which overlooks the valley with spectacular views. The rooms, all with wood burning stoves, made for a warm and cozy feeling after hiking. The Black Neck Cranes migrate to this valley from Tibet in the winter. In flight they are so elegant and graceful.

Onward to Thimphu, stopping in the small village of Haa, for lunch at a farmhouse. During my trip throughout Bhutan I can say that “farm to table” meals were the norm.


Tigers Nest—a prominent Himalayan Buddhist sacred site—is certainly the highlight—and always taken at the end of one’s trip Bhutan. A very clever thing to do as you get accustomed to the altitude during your stay and the hike is not as strenuous. The, monastery is located 6.2 miles north of Paro Valley and hangs on a precarious cliff at 10,240 feet—about 3,000 feet above Paro Valley. The rock slopes are very steep and the monastery is built into the rock face. The path leads through a pine forest and colorful prayer flags abound. The views are spectacular as you ascend the mountain. Once you reach the top the Monastery stuns! It is absolutely striking and definitely unforgettable

Overall my trip to Bhutan was one of my best experiences. The trip—I stayed a little over 2 weeks—was outstanding and quite memorable. The people, beauty of the landscape and their customs will stay with me forever

My journey to Nepal

journey to nepal

I like the vibe in Nepal – the energy is hypnotic. As you arrive at the airport you are at once caught up with the busyness – with many peoples of various cultures vying for the visa kiosks (you can get your visa upon arrival) The time goes quickly and before you know it you are out of the airport and into the bustling terminal. I saw my guide among the throngs of people jumping up with a sign to catch my attention. It is truly a sight to see! Once in the van we are hustled out the airport and onto the small crowded streets of Nepal heading towards the hotel. As I am whizzed through the streets I see people everywhere – in vans, motorcycles, bikes, buses and on foot. The traffic on the streets is incredible for the size of the city. Women’s flowing saris on the back of motorcycles carrying children and large packages amazes me as they maneuver through the streets. You’re immediately caught up in the life of the people who live here.

During the 1960’s and well into the 1980’s this was the place where the “hippie” generation made the pilgrimage to find themselves as they rejected materialism and money. The deep spirituality of the East provided the perfect outlet for self-discovery.

journey to nepal

Upon arriving at the hotel, The Shanker, I am greeted by the friendliest of faces. The hotel is small and comfortable. This history of the hotel is quite interesting. Shanker hotel is a heritage hotel housed in a 19th Century palace. At a time it was the Royal residence of the rulers of Nepal from 1894 until 1964 when it was converted into a luxury hotel. The facade was kept intact however the interiors were redesigned. Some of the authentic objects of art have been preserved such as the caved windows displayed in the lobby bar that are hundreds of years old. The hotel boasts 23 rooms which are quite spacious and some of the outside grounds are being repaired caused by the damage of the earthquake that devastated most of the city in 2015. The meals are served in a huge old ballroom. I ate my breakfast there every morning and there was a selection of dishes—both Nepalese and American. The staff outdoes itself with excellent service. It is said that Mick Jagger stayed at the Shanker Hotel on his way to a Hindu wedding—his own.

The following day I was greeted at the hotel by my guide and driver. As we headed to the historical sites I am once again thrust into the maddeningly chaotic traffic. My first visit is the Monkey Temple. I had been to Nepal before and the temple, for the most part, was still pretty much intact. I could see some of the devastation of the earthquake but it was not quite as bad as the other places I was about to see. Vendors were out selling their wares and bargaining was the norm.

journey to nepal

My next visit was the Durbar Square. I was taken aback by the devastation there. Once beautiful temples were now reduced to rubble. However it didn’t take away from the indomitable spirit of the people as repairs were underway everywhere.

After the visit to Durbar Square I had lunch at a wonderful rooftop restaurant near the Boudhanath Stupa. The lunch was a gastronomical delight as are all the restaurants in Nepal. I feasted on traditional cuisine as I looked over the Temple grounds. It was a warm day and I was feeling the pulse of this wonderful country. Afterwards I visited the Stupa which was restored to its regal standing. I could see the worshipers going around the giant Stupa performing their prayers as they’ve done for years. Many shops surrounded the Stupa with Tibetan as well as Nepali artifacts. A shopper’s delight!

That evening I went to a cultural dance show at a local restaurant. I must warn you that some of these shows can be kind of hokey. Make sure you ask your guide for one of the better ones. I went to one in a nice cozy restaurant where we sat on cushioned seats with music gently playing, being served many courses of delicious food and the performances were not intrusive and quite enjoyable.

The following day I went to the infamous Thamel Street—a dream for shoppers! This narrow street has the best shopping—jewelry, cashmere, rugs, beautiful handmade throws, and artwork. Again bargaining is the norm, and a must see if only to experience the market.

journey to nepal

Overall, despite the devastation of the earthquake you can feel and see the resiliency of the people—the dining, the city, the people and the shopping are a good reason to definitely visit this country.

I love the vibes….


As my flight took off from Laos to bring me to Yangon I was filled with anticipation and daydreaming of the different sites and people I would meet. Myanmar, being much larger than Laos, had peaked my interest ever since I was a little girl and read stories of the country once known as Burma. This mystical  and very spiritual country with it’s grand temples and stupas.The flight was quite pleasant- I connected through Bangkok – and was in Myanmar in no time. I was met at the airport by my guide who would be with me for my entire stay. It was pretty late by then so I went straight to my hotel – The Strand. The hotel reminded me of Old World charm with it’s high ceilings and regal entranceway. My room was very spacious and comfortable. I slept very well.  The next morning, as I sat by the window of the hotel restaurant,  I was able to capture the vibrancy of the city as it was waking up. I was here! I still couldn’t believe it. I almost pinched myself.

The city of Yangon has over four million people and filled with so much history. I met my guide and we began my adventure. As I walked down streets I felt the presence of the country’s faded colonial past. The former Post Office  – a wonderful structure –  was now  the playground for children.  Next my guide had a special treat for me. I was taken to a ceremony for the young boys who were to be initiated as monks. The food, music and people were welcoming and filled with joy for this special event.

Afterwards I visited the Sule Pagoda, walked among locals at the Mahabandoola Park , wondered at the Kyaukhtatgyu pagoda – known for the reclining Buddha that measures 70 meters in length, continued to the National Museum  and Bogyoke Market. I ended my day with a visit to the stunning Shwedagon Pagoda where many locals and Buddhists come to pray. This was truly spectacular! With it’s gold spire reaching so high – it is said this was built  2500 years ago.

Ok, so I had my first taste of Myanmar and loved it and now I ready for more. After an early breakfast I was taken to the airport for my next city to visit –  Bagan. Bagan, formerly Pagan, was the capital of several ancient Burmese Kingdoms. There are approximately 2200 temples remaining in Bagan. It is truly an amazing sight. You could walk for hours and  never tire of these beautiful structures. The temples interspersed with stupas was amazing.  That evening I climbed on top of a Stupa to see the sunset. The views were magnificent! As far as my eyes could see I saw the sun setting over numerous temples and stupas creating quite a vista of colors and shadows. I put away my camera knowing that I could never capture the beauty in front of me. It was indeed a spiritual experience!

My next day in Bagan I was taken to Mount Popa – about 1.5 hour drive from Bagan. Rising 1,518 meters from the plains of the surroundings of Bagan this is considered the sacred home of the spirits. A visit to Taung Kalat temple, which sits atop like a plug in a volcano is home to 37 nats (spirits) of Myanmar, which are displayed at the base of the temple. Once I climbed to the top of  this temple the views were incredible ! They say on a clear day you can see the city of Bagan.  That afternoon a visit to Yoke-Sone-Kyaung is a must. Built in 1882 on the eastern banks of the Ayeyarwaddy River, this monastery is famous for its spectacular wood carvings.

Well, always ready for more, after another early breakfast I was on a short flight to Mandalay. This city remains the economic, cultural and religious heart of upper Myanmar. A visit to Mandalay Hill, home to many religious sites and the memorable views from the 230m high summit then onto the Golden Palace Monastery famous for its teak carvings of Buddhist myths. Ending the afternoon with a stop at the Kuthodaw pagoda built in 1857 and home to the world’s largest book  and Maha Muni pagoda which is regarded as the holiest site in Mandalay.

The next day was truly an experience. Amarpura , Ava and Sagaing are all former capitals of the old kingdom of Myanmar. I started in Amarpura, where the country’s largest monastery is located – Maha Ghandayon.  As I continued to walk I crossed the magnificent teak bridge of U Bein which is over 200 years old. It is the longest teak bridge in the world. Crossing the Ayeyarwaddy River I then headed for the picturesque Sagaing Hill.  This area houses an incredible amount of pagodas and monasteries and is home to over 3,000 monks and 100 meditation centers. It was so very interesting to see the monks and how they lived – their daily lives in all its simplicity. I watched as the monks cooked huge vats of food for their daily communal lunch and gathered together for the breaking of bread and prayer. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.

That afternoon I boarded a horse carriage in Ava and took a ride to the wooden Bagaya Monastery and the remains of the Royal Palace.

What a day!

Ok now for the finale!! And what a phenomenal finale –  Inle Lake. This freshwater lake is Myanmar’s second largest and measures about 70km. Located at an altitude of 880 meters, the lake is also the highest in the country with a wonderful climate and fabulous flora and fauna.

Beautiful homes on stilts, farmers in  their boats cultivating small above water crops , fisherman doing one leg rowing  were a few of the sites I marveled. As my boat came closer to  the hotel I was to stay, I noticed we were actually floating through lotus blossoms  before docking. The hotel-which was  surrounded by a cluster of  cabin like suites on the lake (which I stayed in one) had spectacular views of the rice paddies , sunset and sunrise.  That evening, as I sat on my deck, overlooking the rice paddies, I was so relaxed experiencing such an idyllic setting.

My last day in Inle Lake was a full day trekking tour in the hills surrounding the Lake. My trekking guide, a young man ,who, when he smiled had teeth stained red from chewing betel , was an excellent guide. We started the trek through a village open air market  where we picked up some local fruits &vegetables(among other food items I hadn’t a clue) for our lunch . They we began our ascent. It was truly amazing! Once we were about halfway up (about 7 miles) we stopped at a small hut. The monk who lived here  took care of the small temple located not far from the hut. He offered us water and a place to rest – never speaking a word! The view of the lake was spectacular from this vantage point!

After we filled put hearts and eyes with such beauty we then proceeded on our journey. Upon reaching the top of the hill  I was invited to eat at my guides friends’ family home. I must say I was very cautious climbing up the ramp to the home (the house was on stilts). The family had a very simple lifestyle  and was extremely  friendly to me. We shared a wonderful home cooked meal. I must admit I didn’t know what  I ate but I do know it was scrumptious!

So my journey ended the next morning as I woke up at dawn to take the small boat from Inle Lake , which was about 20 minutes from where the car was waiting for me to whisk me off to the airport. Four changes of planes and approximately 24 hours later I was home, in New York, but I was still in Myanmar.

It was the absolute best!!!!

India—Simply Incredible

India simply incredible

India. I had planned to take this trip once I retired since this vast country had so much I wanted to see but soon realized that this elusive word – retirement – would be a long time in coming. So when I was invited a couple of months ago to join a tour visiting Southern India I decided – quite quickly – this is my opportunity – to go with the flow. Wow, what an experience!

India simply incredible

The flight over was very comfortable – I took British Airways – but oh what a journey. I went nonstop to London then connected to a flight into Delhi where I then connected once again to a smaller commuter flight to Kolkata – but it was so worth it. When I stepped off the flight it was on a Monday morning and as I was driven from the airport to my hotel I caught a glimpse of this bustling city. The colors, the people and the sounds were overwhelming as well as exhilarating. I couldn’t wait to start exploring this vibrant country. Once I arrived at my hotel – The Oberoi Grand – I considered how fatigued I was and realized I should rest for the remainder of the day since the tour officially started the following day. I wanted to be bright eyed and bushy tail for what was to come.

India simply incredible

The next day I woke very early and looked out my window to see the city waking. I couldn’t wait to be in it. I quickly dressed, had a sumptuous breakfast of Indian delights and joined my small group. We started by driving along the filled streets of Chitpur Street in North Kolkata. Once we left the car we walked around the potter’s village where we saw the like size replicas of the various deities. The narrow streets and the many faces of India greeted us with smiles and warm welcomes. Then continuing to the College Street where we experienced the second hand bookshops and the history of the many student movements before stopping at the Coffee House – a local hangout for students. The coffee was strong and inviting and the atmosphere charged with the electricity of verbal rhetoric. I loved it! That afternoon we visited the Kali Temple – the Patron Goddess of Kolkata and the Victoria Memorial. What a contrast of the old and new!

India simply incredible

The next morning we boarded a short flight to Bhubaneswar. This city boasts a history going back 2000 years. The next two days we explored the various architectures of the temples and scenery of this eastern state of Orissa. There are tribes that live in the remote and inaccessible forest hills which afforded them to preserve their tribal culture and religious customs. Visiting caves – we were able to visualize the ascetic and Spartan life of the monks. This region was truly interesting on its own.

India simply incredible

After an amazing two days we were off to the city of Puri – the capital of Orissa. This city is known as the Temple City of India and is an important Hindu pilgrimage center. There are thousands of temples interspersed within the city dating back from the 3rd to century B.C. to the 16th century A.D. We visited the Puri beach which stretches along the Bay of Bengal where pilgrims gather to sell their goods and take a refreshing dip. We were able to visit the area’s Crematorium which was quite a sight to see. Two days in this remarkable city and we were off again.

India simply incredible

We boarded a flight to our next city – Hyderabad. We were then taken to our hotel – or rather palace –for the next two days. The palace – Taj Falukmuma – was over the top! This 60 room palace – restored to its original grandeur – was exquisite! A blend of Italian and Tudor architecture this palace is shaped as a scorpion made entirely of Italian marble with furniture from Kashmir. French tapestries, Venetian chandeliers and grand frescoes abound. The gardens and views were exceptional. My room was almost as big as my house in the States. Wow factor big time!!! We explored the city where the highlight for me was the most incredible fort – Golconda – which is 400 feet above the plain. I climbed to the top which boasted an amazing view of the city. As we exited the fort there was a ceremony for one of the deities and we were caught up in the celebration with singing, dancing and foods prepared on the street. Laughter of the children and the excitement of the people was an experience I will always remember.

India simply incredible

The flight to Chennai was the culmination of this wonderful trip. Chennai was the economic and political capital of the East India Company from the 17TH century onwards. Suffice to say this city was an important center for trade. We then drove one and a half hours to Covelong -a coastal village – where we stayed in a wonderful resort – Fisherman’s Cove. The sound of the ocean filtering into my room was so very relaxing. The grounds were peaceful and inviting. What a magnificent way to end a magnificent trip.

Did I forget to mention that the various foods throughout India were the best ever!!! Oh my – I had the most amazing culinary experience!!

Vietnam & Cambodia

vietnam and cambodia

This was definitely on my “Bucket List”. I had longed to go to Vietnam & Cambodia for years. What was stopping me? I had the time … what was I waiting for…so off I went.

What an experience!  I’m not going to sugarcoat the flight time- it was long – approximately 22 hours . After seeing numerous movies and eating many courses of exotic food I finally landed in Hanoi. As I stepped off the flight, the biggest smile on my face, I realized a dream come true. The bustling airport, followed by my transfer to the Sofitel Metropole in the city of Hanoi, I was astounded by the many motorbikes on the road. It was magical. The city zooming past me with the merging of the old and new.

My tour started in the North. The route I took included Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An , Saigon and ended in Siem Reap Cambodia. Each city with its certain flavor.  The Tour Company I used, Trails of Indochina, was the best in this part of the world. The tour guides were knowledgeable and engaging and made the trip a most memorable experience.

We made the trip from Hanoi to Halong Bay (approximately 3.5 hours) by motor coach. Once we arrived we boarded a boat, a deluxe junk – Jasmine – for a night’s stay. What a treat! The bay was magical with thousands of limestone islands rising from the waters. Our cabins were comfortable and the service was outstanding. Once I was settled a group of us went for a kayak trip through caves which brought us to a grotto so serene and peaceful- I was in heaven on earth. The sounds of the various birds and monkeys were such a delight. The next morning, rising very early, I went to the deck where I saw a dramatic sunrise amidst the mountains. Little fisherman boats were already on the bay for the morning hauls. Ahhhh!

vietnam and cambodia

That afternoon we boarded a flight to Hue. Hue served as an imperial capital to the Nguyen Lords, a feudal dynasty which reigned from the 17th century to 19th century. The splendid emperor’s tombs, ancient pagodas and the remains of the Citadel, the city retains its Royal Charm. Our hotel, La Residence, was astounding. The massages that are offered are a bargain and the grounds superb. Again, service was outstanding.

Then on to Hoi An. We took a motor coach via Danang. The countryside was so beautiful and interesting as we passed through rice paddies and small villages. Hoi An was a prosperous trading port between the 17thand 19th century.  Today, this World Heritage listed ancient town has well-preserved buildings, pedestrianized streets and unique cuisine. One can also have custom-made clothes made for terrific prices and high quality in 24 hours.   I stayed at the Nam Hai located on the China Seas. The décor and landscape were magnificent with villas boasting their own private endless pools.

We boarded a flight to Saigon , a bustling town where a 2 hour drive will take you t the CuChi tunnels. I attempted the crawl through these tunnels but beware, it’s not for the faint of heart – but extremely interesting part of history. That evening, back in Saigon City, we had dinner at the former Ambassador to Vietnam Mr. Henry Cabot-Lodge home. Our Hotel, Park Hyatt, was again, superb and the service – amazing.

My final destination, Siem Reap , Cambodia. The flight time took about an hour from Saigon. When I first arrived at my hotel  – Amansara – the music that greeted (monks chanting) me was so peaceful I felt this was an appropriate place to end my stay. The ruins of Angkor Wat, Anghor Thom  and Ta Prom were so fascinating. It was unbelievable! I took and elephant ride through Angkor Thom and felt I was transported back in time. The last day of my trip I had a “Water Blessing” by a monk which was, by far, the highlight of my stay.

My journey to Vietnam and Cambodia was everything I had dreamed it would be.  I will always remember and be thankful to  the people, their graciousness & hospitality that I experienced. This is truly a trip I would recommend highly