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Diving in the Maldives…for “cheap”

“You’re going to Maldives? I’m so jealous!” Pride radiated from my blessed face as I was fawned over by hundreds (OK a few) friends as I discussed my plans. “Which resort are you staying at? Or are you going on a safari boat again?” I was untouchable as rapture and envy captivated my audience. The crowed hushed and shushed as it was clear I was about to speak. “I’m staying at the Holiday Inn.” Silence. Brains worked hard to grasp the shift in reality. I love shocking people with my travel plans, usually to war torn countries, but the Holiday Inn has so far received the greatest reaction…or maybe disappointment. Most people would rather stay in one of the lavish resorts or even use Maldives timeshare resorts, but I wanted to try something different. After a fresh dose of explanation and cajoling everyone finally agreed that a) it’s one of Read full article…

How to make Singapore interesting

Every time I travel through Singapore I am disappointed. Compared to the surrounding countries Singapore is a bland wasteland of identical shopping malls and artificially created tourist attractions. It lacks the gritty cultural depth filling the cracks of its less prosperous neighbors. A bold statement? Indeed, but one backed up by countless uninspiring trips through the small city state. For the first time visitor to Asia, Singapore is a great stepping stone to getting acclimated to this diverse area of the world. But for the experienced Asia hand it can easily turn into an exercise of waiting for the water to boil as the seconds tick by and time stretches out. You may be questioning why I even bothered to go back to Singapore at all. This time I was routed through Singapore to wait for a visa while on a work trip to Timor-Leste and then Sri Lanka. As Read full article…

Bansko- Bargain Basement of Bulgarian Skiing

Exhausted from an eight hour bus ride that spanned three countries, we pressed the reception desk at our hotel for an answer. “It’s after midnight, our kitchen is closed.” “What about other restaurants nearby?” “Walk done the road, you might find something open. We are located in the center of town.” Wow, that was unhelpful. The swank interior decorating of bright reds set on black and futuristic minimalistic Japanese inspired lines of the hotel lobby highlighted the staff’s unwillingness to get his image dirty with useful answers. This didn’t bode well for our stay. Luckily we were rescued by a perky eyed staff member who replaced her manager. We were pointed in the direction of a local tavern, one of many, and welcomed despite the late hour. That’s Bansko, a bit rough around the edges but friendly and accommodating at its center. And for those who want to stretch their Read full article…

3 Most Dangerous Japanese Matsuri (festivals) to Experience

There is no better way to taste traditional Japanese life and culture than through one of the thousands of matsuri held across Japan each year. They come in all shapes in sizes, with dancing, singing, drinking, lots and lots of drinking, naked g-stringed men, massive floats, and portable shrines to take the gods (8 million at last count) out for a spin around the neighborhood and a bit of fresh air. Most are innocent communal affairs but a few are down right deadly.

My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets

My friend Megan who writes the blog See. Write. Live. nominated me to share my three best travel secrets on Todd’s Wanderings. The nomination is a part of Trip Base Blog tag in which the Top Bloggers’ Best Kept Travel Secrets will be published in a free ebook that will be shared with the “entire online community…” Hmmm, good luck with that! First, I had to decide if my secrets were safe for the average traveler…my lawyers tell me I should be okay (by reading this you have now waived all your rights). So here you are, some of my well kept secrets, and favorite places in this wonderful world: 1. Mount Koya, Japan Aschaf Everyone visits the major temples in Kyoto and Nara but these days they are little more than tourist attractions, albeit pretty ones, lacking that lived in, struggle for enlightenment feel. Mount Koya, the secluded mountain Read full article…

Behind a NATO checkpoint: Kosovo’s Visoki Decani Monastery

Handing over our passports to the Italian NATO troops we waited in the crisp winter air to enter. The secluded canyon exuded peace and tranquility, at odds with the tank barriers, sandbag bunkers and matching barb wire. We weren’t crossing a boarder, or even trying to enter a military base. We were there to visit Visoki Decani Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site and probably the best preserved medieval church in the Balkans. Nestled in the embrace of western Kosovo’s Decan Canyon, surrounded by grapevines, chestnut trees and bucolic pastures the abbey is a lovely two hours drive from the capital Pristina. Ten years since NATO’s 1999 bombing campaign and accompanying peacekeepers, tensions are still evident between  Serbians and Albanian Kosovars. Many of the Serbian cultural heritage sites have a NATO protection force camped on the perimeters. However, at Decani tensions are much lower and it offers a model of Read full article…

Skiing the Four Passes in the Italian Dolomites

Fifty US dollars doesn’t get you much these days, but in the Italian Dolomites it buys 650 miles of downhill trails, and 464 modern ski lifts leading to and from about 40 facilities and through eight charming mountain villages. All this and one of the most spectacular mountain settings in the world. Don’t trust me? Well, UNESCO agrees, and it was named a World Heritage Site in 2009. Set in Italy’s Southern Tyrol region, where German is heard more often than Italian, the Dolomites’ charm bursts into colorful splendor when the twisting rocky peaks turn soft pink during sunrise and burning red at sunset. The ideal setting during any season, winter time sees some of the best skiing in Europe. After a trip to Venice, we drove up into the Dolomites and made the quaint village of San Cassiano our base to ski the region. And I do mean ski Read full article…

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