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Christina Bolton

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Viceroy Bali


The Viceroy in Ubud, Bali was one of the highlights of our lengthy trip throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia. With its gracious staff,  newly built bungalows, and magical location – it definitely scores a 10.

Upon arrival we were greeted with cool towels and welcome drinks by the friendly bell hops and explained the lay of the land by the helpful front desk staff. We were then taken down to our villa in a golf cart and shown around.

We had a Deluxe Terrace Villa and it was beautiful. Our own plunge pool awaited us complete with a balé (lovely little open-air pavilion) perched above it. The room itself had a sitting area, king size bed loaded with pillows, walk in closet, huge marble bathroom with a walk-in shower and soaking tub built for two. The design was a mix of Balinese and European and we had a thick thatched roof and marble floors. Every detail was thought of with fresh flowers everywhere, a free mini-bar (for non-alcoholic drinks), an espresso maker (with Italian coffee pods), a large flat screen TV with DVD player, and an iPod doc.


The Viceroy is owned by a family instead of a big corporation and strives to make guests happy. There are several categories of villas from Garden Villas to the regal Viceroy Villa (or presidential suite), they all are situated high on a steep hillside overlooking rice paddies cut into the opposite hill. There seems to be complete privacy even without drawing the shades, as all the villas face toward agricultural land.

We jumped in the pool as soon as we got a chance and it was cool and refreshing despite its small size and the Balinese heat. The balé was a perfect place to relax and read, write, or have a drink listening to our fountain and looking over the water and hillsides. It is also a great place to escape one of the rainy season’s afternoon showers.


The Lembah Spa is gorgeous. We were lucky enough to have an amazing couples massage in the double treatment room . After being expertly massaged with the scented oils of our choice, we were then given a crushed rice and cumin body scrub, and then doused with yogurt, before showering off. When we emerged from the shower we were led to a double bathtub completely covered with flower petals in a beautiful arrangement. The flower bath smelled divine with all the frangipani blossoms and was probably my favorite part. Afterwards we used the sauna, cold pool, and Jacuzzi and finished off with a fresh fruit juice.

The Viceroy also has a gym, a business center, a library, and a large pool next to the restaurant with lounge chairs. For those of you with an unlimited expense account there is even a helicopter pad so you can skip all the traffic and transfer directly from the airport.


The only inconvenience I experienced at the Viceroy is probably a plus to most people. When we arrived by car the guards did a thorough search of the car including using some type of long wand sensor to examine the car frame as well as checking the luggage in the trunk. I understand why they do it with the threat of terrorism in Bali, but even so I’d prefer not to be screened.



Daily breakfast was included with our stay and was delicious. We had our choice of entrée’s such as Eggs Benedict or Crepes with Valrhona chocolate served with juice, fresh fruit, toast, and coffee or tea.

The best part of the Viceroy was the complete relaxation we found there. Everything we could want was at our fingertips and there was no need to go anywhere. When we did go out to explore Ubud the free car service was very convenient.  At any point during the day, the drivers would take us downtown to one of the two main drop-off point’s  and in the evening they came to get us wherever we were in Ubud.



Visiting the royal palace and the market were fun, but we preferred walking through the rice paddies that surround Ubud. We went in search of Sari Organik, a restaurant that is hidden in the rice paddies and grows much of its own food – both the meals and the views were great. We also had a delicious meal at Bridges Bali, an upscale restaurant with excellent cuisine and great service.


On our last night we had another stellar culinary experience: the chef’s tasting dinner at the CasCades restaurant at the Viceroy. We got to try many of the chef’s divine creations. Our table was surrounded in a heart shape of flower petals in a romantic corner of the open air pavilion. The courteous servers always seemed to know if we needed anything. Our 5-course meal began with a silky goat cheese pannacotta with baby root vegetable salad, and followed through the sublime courses until we were more than satiated. Another standout was the main dish: chicken roulade with black truffles, forest mushrooms, baby vegetables and potato gratin. This would be the perfect setting for a honeymoon or anniversary, and actually the whole place can be booked out as an exclusive wedding spot.



The Viceroy is a luxurious retreat and one of the best places I’ve stayed in the whole world. I hope to return someday soon.

http://www.viceroybali.com/en/introduction.php



©Christina Kay Bolton

Thursday, 09 February 2012

Incognito Contest March-April 2012


IncogSituated in a land of castles this classic one has a drawbridge out of a fairytale. Entering the medieval structure with its thick stone walls that seem to chill the air, you can imagine how royalty lived ages ago. Building began on this castle in the 14th century and it was of great strategic importance. The castle was rebuilt after WWII. It is now a popular local tourist destination close to the much lauded capital city of this country well off the tourist track. Have a boatman take you out on the lake, but barter in the local language since not much English is spoken here with the older generation.

Located between two historic superpowers and occupied by both at various times this country is in a region that finally achieved independence recently. Since then their economy has gone through rapid growth and its own real estate bubble and stabilization.

This country's tall athletes are known for their basketball playing prowess and have gone far in Olympic matches.

Do you know where I am?


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Saturday, 24 December 2011

Incognito Contest Jan-Feb 2012

IncogSituated in a valley known for its mystic properties, this ancient city sits on terraced cliffs like steps leading to the heavens. In its time it was a massive project consisting of huge monoliths carried up the mountains and stones cut at sharp angles fitting into each other like a puzzle. There are debates among archeologists as to how the monoliths could have been carried so high and how the stones could have been carved with only the stone or bronze tools of that time which seems to be impossible, adding to the mystery. Also, work was stopped on the project all at once under unknown conditions.

The town has expanded around the ruins with tourist shops and hotels. The air is thin here and many foreigners suffer mild signs of altitude sickness.

Located in a country of many climates from seashore to high mountains to tropical rainforest with flesh-eating fish, it is 50km from a much more famous ruin in the area which was voted one of the 'new seven wonders of the world'.


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Tuesday, 01 November 2011

Incognito Contest Nov-Dec 2011

Follow these clues to enter our contest, win your next vacation!

Incognito


This circular road which features castles, beaches, villages, churches, and waterfalls, is one of the main tourist destinations in this country. It’s popular with tour groups who climb into big buses which are only allowed to travel in one direction; for if they were to meet another bus along the skinny road they wouldn’t be able to pass. Despite the narrow lane it is considered a must-see destination.

This vista is at its outer edge where the ocean stretches unhindered to another continent. There are also many quieter sheltered coves where one could swim in the chilly water or take a long walk along the beach. Many poets have found inspiration in the lush landscape, rugged rocks, and powerful ocean.

This country is an island nation known for lots of green – it helps that it rains almost every day. It has had political and economic instability, but is still a well-traveled land.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Incognito Contest Sept-Oct 2011

Follow these clues to enter our contest, win your next vacation!

Incognito

I am standing in the hundred degree heat climbing the narrow steep steps of this pyramid to see the incredibly preserved stucco and limestone mortar decorations on these ruins. The elaborate decor hides a tomb and differs from other major ruins of the area which are mainly carved out of stone. Discovered recently, the excavation of the site is not complete, as the process of cutting the jungle away takes time. However, it does seem that the jungle preserved the ruins better than humans would have, as the site appears completely intact with nothing missing. Palapas have since been built over the most extensive carvings to protect them from the elements. This would have been a great city at the height of its civilization and is named after a jaguar.

The state where the ruins lie is one of the most prosperous in this country, blessed with soft white sand and azure seas. Many people come on direct flights from a larger northern country for resort vacations and spring break trips. Tourism in the country as a whole has been on the decline recently as violence associated with drugs and gangs has spread across many areas.

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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Cyclist’s Britain in a Box


CyclistCyclist’s Britain in a Box is one of the coolest formats for a guidebook that I’ve seen. Perfect for our mobile culture that loves things that fit in the palm of your hand – these cards cover some of the best rides in the UK. From the Dales Circuit to Land’s End to the Isle of Wight there are 50+ options that take in breathtaking scenery and local culture throughout England, Wales, and Scotland. Even if you just intend to go to London there are some rides around the green spaces and the reservoirs that could be good day trips.

Whether you’re interested in a strenuous weekend challenge, an easy day trip, or a week-long journey, you can just grab a fold out card and go. Each tour has detailed maps of both on and off road sections, and all the points of interest along the way, as well as information on which villages have options for eating and which don’t. With tips on where to stay and a transparent waterproof sleeve for Britain’s unpredictable weather, you should be all set.

With the cards planning your trip will be fun and packing should be a breeze – just take the few you plan to use and leave the rest at home. I hope this option spills over into some other guidebooks as well, so instead of needing a whole book for each country or place you’re visiting you could just take a few map cards with not to forget pointers and pocket them. Kind of like your cell phone’s handy maps, but without the out-of-range spots and the international data charges.


Cyclist’s Britain in a Box, Arnold Robinson & Chris Hutt, Interlink Books, 2011


©Christina Bolton



700 Places to Volunteer Before you Die by Nola Lee Kelsey outlines many ways to make a difference in the world from working in an orphanage in Nepal to saving architecture in Albania to small business development in Ghana.

Kelsey is clearly passionate about volunteering abroad and one gets the feeling that she’d like to personally volunteer at each of the 700 places mentioned in the book.

The book is a fabulous resource for planning a trip as it is divided by both country and interest, so if you are going to Liberia, Honduras, or Mongolia you can search by country, and if you’re interested in working with elephants, building houses, or doing public health education you may find opportunities in a country you’ve never even thought of visiting.

The programs have a wide range in costs from many which are completely free such as teaching English to the disadvantaged in Peru to others that are quite expensive such as a wildlife conservation program for teens in South Africa that is $5,380. Most programs have a small fee and Kelsey cautions not to avoid volunteer organizations with reasonable fees as there are many services provided to you when the organization is well established in the community with an office for volunteers that organizes accommodation, meals, transport, and handles any concerns. She does encourage you to ask how much of the fee goes to the community and what exactly it includes when in your planning stage.

So whether you want to do wildlife research, prevent climate change, or help out in a women's shelter this book will help you find a project somewhere in the world where you can make a real contribution to a community and perhaps have a life-changing experience.


700 Places to Volunteer Before you Die, Nola Lee Kelsey, Dogs Eye View Media, 2010

(c) Christina Bolton

Friday, 31 December 2010

On the Other Guy’s Dime

OtherguysdimeOn the Other Guy’s Dime: A Professional’s Guide to Traveling Without Paying by G. Michael Schneider is a how-to guide written by a professor who arranges working holidays in ten different countries across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. If you are an educator interested in traveling the world, this is the book for you.


Schneider explores in detail how he got each of his trips paid for: from cold-calling various colleges and asking for a plane ticket and a modest stipend to applying for Fulbright grants which offer a significant increase in pay and better accommodation, though the application process can be quite long.

In each place they end up he teaches a class or consults on curriculum while his wife volunteers in various capacities such as teaching English or helping out in a school. Being a visiting professor in a university overseas also offers many more opportunities to interact with locals than a typical tourist would, as relationships with colleagues are usually formed quickly.

As he is working during the week they can only go on side trips on weekends, but the great advantage to this type of travel is that it is free. Schneider also explains that they rent their house while they are away, so there are no maintenance costs.

This book is geared towards academics or people with flexible schedules, though. It’s tough to imagine many people in the corporate world being able to take four months off to go to a far-flung country and work on a project of their choosing. Academics, however, live on the semester system with summers off, and can usually find someone to cover a semester for them, or can just arrange to teach a summer class abroad.

Schneider does mention the shorter grant programs (2-6 weeks) that CIES came up with for extremely busy professionals like CEO’s who don’t have the 4-6 months off needed to take a Fulbright grant, but many people with limited time off may chose to take a much-needed vacation rather than a working holiday (and can usually afford it). So this book seems like it’s the best fit for academics; it is chock-full of good advice for them to follow.

Schneider does what many of us want to do, but few ever manage – live around the world without giving up his house, job, or nest egg – and in On the Other Guy’s Dime he shows you the practical steps needed to do it yourself.


©Christina Bolton

On the Other Guy’s Dime, Tasora, G. Michael Schneider, 2010

 

Friday, 30 July 2010

Buddhist Temples of Thailand

Buddhist Temples of Thailand written by Joe Cummings with stunning photography by Dan White is the ultimate guide to Thailand’s most important temples. With the rich history of each temple outlined and interesting facts about the influence of Buddhism across Thailand today, this is one of the most comprehensive and accessible books on the subject.

Off the Tourist Trail: 1,000 Unexpected Travel Alternatives by Eyewitness Travel (with a foreword by Bill Bryson) is an inspiring book offering a plethora of choices for the traveler who feels beleaguered by crowds of tourists and the hawks they spawn.

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