our tour of the Mekong was markedly different than that experienced by U.S. swift boat and PT-10 servicemen during the Vietnam War. Like other parts of Vietnam, the people were hospitable and enthusiastic to meet Americans. Then again, maybe it was all that banana moonshine!
Set alongside another eye-popping stretch of the Pacific coast, the city of Santa Cruz is both surfing mecca and alternative retreat, more relaxed than Carmel-by-the-Sea and more eclectic than Monterey. We visited Santa Cruz on February 6-7, 2011, as part of our Coastal California road trip in celebration of Laura's 40th Birthday.
Pulau Pinang, or "the island of the betel nut," is one of the most popular places in all of Southeast Asia. Once an uninhabited hideout for pirates ransacking ships leaving Malacca, the natural harbor caught the eye of the British Empire in the 18th century. Although much colonial architecture from the British era can be found throughout the small island, Chinese, Indians, Arabs and Malays have contributed their own flavor and culture to Penang.
Located across the Pearl River estuary from Hong Kong, Macau offers beautifully patterned limestone mosaic sidewalks, pastel-colored neo-classical buildings, ancient baroque churches, creamy Portuguese egg tarts and a bigger gaming industry than Las Vegas. We dig it.
Adam and Sonja have taken awfully good care of us this summer, what with avocado picking at their Santa Barbara ranch and sunsets in Hermosa Beach. So, despite the dounts that we were starting to impose, we couldn't pass on their invitation to spend our sixth anniversary with them in Mammoth.
Piedras Blancas is another beautifully scenic stop along the Pacific Coast's Highway 1. But what makes it special is that Piedras Blancas is home to about 15,000 wild elephant seals.
The temples of Angkor, built by the Khmer civilization between 802 and 1220 AD, represent one of humankind's most astonishing and enduring architectural achievements. From Angkor the Khmer kings ruled over a vast domain that reached from Vietnam to China to the Bay of Bengal.
Kyoto is the Japan of of epic tales. Geishas glide past 17th-century teahouses in narrow alleys. Pilgrims meditate in Ryoanji's Zen rock gardens. And epicures follow glowing red lanterns down narrow streets to lively yakitori-ya or izakaya where kaiseki ryori, seasonally inspired Japanese cuisine, is artistically presented and served with plenty of cold sake.
One common knock against Bangkok is that it is a big city that could be anywhere. While you can't call a city of over 10 Million people anything but big, Bangkok could hardly be anywhere else.
We've learned a few things about sake – what you should look for in buying sake, to be sure, but how to enjoy it, more importantly.
Sushi lovers in the hunt for the essential experience would do well to visit to Tsujiki market, a real-world sashimi Shangri-la. Tsukiji Market in Tokyo is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world.
The Li River is the main river system of Northeast Guangxi. The landscape is decorated with startling hills, steep cliffs, fantastic caves and farming villages, and is lined with bamboo groves.
Xi'an, the eternal city, records the great changes of the Chinese nation just like a living history book. Called Chang'an in ancient times, Xi'an is one of the birthplaces of the ancient civilization in the Yellow River Basin area of the country. During Xian's 3,100 year development, 13 dynasties placed their capitals here.
We traveled to Phuket and some surrounding Andaman islands in March 2010. Our goal: beautiful beaches, super-delicious Thai food and rum drinks served in coconuts. Spoiler alert: Mission Accomplished!
Prêt à porter in Marrakesh! We wander through the Sqaure of the Dead, ride camels and charm snakes. Just another day in Morocco.
A whole lot of us raided Maui in the fall of 2006. Waterfalls, turtle estuaries, tropical fish in lava-flow tide pools, fruit-laced drinks and a big earthquake. What's not to love?
Beyond Hong Kong's 21st-century cacophony and the accelerated tempo, there are also glimpses of old-world tranquility: a blend of old English and ancient Orient.
On July 8-10, Denise, Laura and I took Marilyn to the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa for her Birthday. We're not permitted to say what birthday it was, but readers can trust that it was a significant one (especially when you consider that Marilyn has not had many birthdays at all and, somehow, defying all theories of time, is purportedly younger than her kids).
Halong Bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes, most of which our limestone. The bay is a precious geological museum that has been naturally preserved in the open air for the last 500 million years. Laura and Lou take a junk sailing through the bay.
Of all their many enduring and archetypal rites of passage, none is more important or regarded than the Chinese belief in ”bú dà Chángchéng fĕi hăo hàn” — which means, essentially, you are not a real man until you have climbed the Great Wall. We’re not sure about all the technicalities; specifically, whether any credit is bestowed for being carried up it by your mom… in utero.
There is an old Chinese saying: "Guilin's scenery is the most beautiful in the world. Yangshuo's scenery is far more superior to that of Guilin's". The natural scenery of Yangshuo is beautiful like none other. The clean and clear Li River winds through the countryside. On both sides of the river, magical karst peaks and plush green bamboo trees reflect off the mirror like surface of the water to paint beautiful mountain and water murals.
Standing on the promenade of the Bund, a once-chaotic river wharf at the very center of this city, you can't help but think that if the name of the game is erecting the most impressive skyline, then the game in Shanghai has been won. The horizon towers for 360 degrees. Neon streaks in blue, red, orange, and green punctuate new Pudong.
Pismo Beach is located on the California's Central Coast and is part of San Luis Obispo County. Unspoiled beach, sand dunes and desert surrounds this city.
In May 2006, Laura picked herself up a fantastically flowery hat, I ordered up a few jugs of top-shelf bourbon and we headed out—along with Mavent and good friends—to Louisville for the fastest two minutes in sports.
With its architectural mishmash of storybook English cottages and Swiss Alpine chalets, the small town of Carmel-by-the-Sea in Northern California resembles a European village. But walk a few blocks to Carmel's steep, sandy beach and the view is pure California: a rugged Pacific coastline spangled with rocky outcroppings and ghostly cypress trees.
The blending of the architectural style with the surrounding land, and Hearst's superb European and Mediterranean art collection, was so seamless that world-renowned architectural historian, Lord John Julius Norwich, was moved to say that "Hearst Castle is a palace in every sense of the word."
The ancient city of Ayutthaya, or Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, boasts a long history that covers 5 dynasties and 33 kings. The Thai capital for 417 years, Ayutthaya derived its name comes from the Sanskrit word Ayodhya, name of Rama's legendary city in India which means "undefeatable".
With a history of more than 3,000 years, and being the capital of China for about 850 years, Beijing is an integral part of China infused with history. We visited Beijing from May 8 to May 14, 2010. We did a whole lot, so lean in and let's get going...
The beguiling Sand Dollar Beach is a glistening crescent of pure, white sand yawning into a horseshoe cove of shifty sandbars. It is one of the most beautiful and scenic beaches on the spectacular Big Sur Coast.
Essaouira (pronounced ess-ah-WEER-ah) is a tiny white-walled port city on Morocco's Atlantic coast. It's where Fiby, Laura's mom, was born and raised. We visited Essaouira in July 1994 with Fiby, Jon and Candie.
Morro Bay is a charming seaside village located on the Pacific Coast of California about half way between San Francisco and Los Angeles near Hearst Castle and the Big Sur. The sentinel of Morro Bay is Morro Rock,a volcanic peak over 21 million years old.
South of San Simeon on Highway 1 is the charming town of Cambria, California, "where the pines meet the sea." Towering Monterey pines frame the dynamic coastline along its unique Moonstone Beach, one of Cambria's and the Central Coast’s most scenic spots.
We fattened up off the Hitching Post's Oak-grilled 1/2 pound ground sirloin, experienced the unabashed kitsch of Solvang, and—of course—managed to fit in some wine tasting.
In Summer 2002, Fiby and Sumner took Michael, Laura and I on an Alaskan cruise. We departed from Vancouver and cruised the inside passage along the Alaskan Panhandle to Anchorage.
Historically, the name Big Sur, was derived from that unexplored and unmapped wilderness area which lays along the coast south of Monterey. It was simply called El Sur Grande, The Big South. Today, Big Sur refers to that 90-mile stretch of rugged and awesomely beautiful coastline between Carmel to the north and San Simeon (Hearst Castle) to the south.
Tokyo is a city of historical contrast. The verdant forests of Yoyiogi surrounding the Meiji Shrine and the ruins of Edo Castle's bold walls lay immortal beneath the skyscrapers and neon lights of an economic global heavyweight.
We highly recommend visiting the Elephant Nature Park if you're in Thailand (but be ready to shed a tear or two). More importantly, we encourage you to support the Elephant Nature Park and, more generally, support efforts to protect these wonderful animals.
Montaña De Oro provides striking seascapes: rugged cliffs, dramatic reefs, broad sand dunes and secluded bolder-strewn beaches. The name — "Mountain of Gold" — derives from the bluffs smothered in wild mustard and poppies that bloom in the Spring.
"Better City – Better Life." So goes the theme of the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai. Lou and Laura go around the world in one day.
It would be difficult to select a single area as a "Best of Big Sur" - there is so much variety in the area, it is difficult to choose anywhere that is typical. But Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is such an incredibly beautiful place, that it would make the best lists for anywhere in the world
Famed for its natural scenery, Hangzhou and its West Lake have been immortalized by countless poets and artists. The city was the capital of the Southern Song Dynasty from 1127 until the Mongol invasion of 1276. During that time the city's population is estimated to have been as high as one million, making it the then largest city in the world. Marco Polo claimed to have passed through, calling it "beyond dispute the finest and the noblest in the world".
Lou and Laura arrive in Hoi An, Vietnman, the night of the full moon festival. The town is alit in lanterns, there is folk music in the street and everyone is partying like its the 14th day of the lunar month.
Thailand’s “Rose of the North” is a cultural and natural wonderland with ethnic diversity, a multitude of attractions, and welcoming hospitality.
In the lower reaches of the Yangtze and on the shores of Lake Taihu lies the 2,500-year-old city of Suzhou, the cradle of Wu culture. Talking about Suzhou, people would mention the old saying: "Paradise in Heaven, Suzhou and Hangzhou on earth."