I recently went for my thrice annual hair trim, and I love these sessions because my hair guy and I talk books, music, film and travel. I’ve sent him my top recommendations and links to things I have discovered and we always discuss details of his travels and reading list.
So this time, I asked if he had any fun trips planned and he said he was headed to Cambodia in the fall for a working/volunteer vacation. Intrigued, I asked if it was teaching English, building infrastructure or joining a medical support program. He said he was so excited to be teaching Cambodian sex traffic survivors the high end hair and cosmetology skills to help create a new path for them. It was through an organization called Justice & Soul. The program, started by two passionate activists connected to the beauty and fashion industry, seeks to “transform the lives of trafficked young women, young men and children globally into confident, self-sufficient and financially independent individuals.”
It’s climbing season again on Mount Everest, and like most years, it looks to be a busy time at high altitude. The peak period for reaching the summit is a few short weeks in late April and early May, and reports say at least 32 expeditions are planned from the Nepal side. That makes for quite a crowd trying to inchworm its way up the mountain. Tempers, no doubt, will flare.
Just a few days ago, in a widely reported story, things did get out of hand when a crowd of Sherpas fought with three foreign climbers in a dispute over fixing ropes on the route high up the mountain. In a story for National Geographic News, Brot Coburn provides good context for understanding the relationship between Sherpas and foreign climbers, one that has been and continues to be positive in almost all respects. Jon Krakauer’s bestselling book from 1997, Into Thin Air, illustrates how badly things can go wrong when the mountain gets crowded and the weather changes.
But most of us don’t need to worry about the crush of climbers on the route above base camp. Elite mountaineers climb, the rest of us hike — or trek, as they say in Nepal. Continue reading »
Tonight, my seven-year-old made origami cranes for the children of Japan. Tomorrow, at school is a bagel breakfast to raise money for those in need, following the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis.
It is also cherry blossom season, here in San Francisco, in our nation’s capital and of course in Japan, a rite of spring and a life-affirming, annual natural event. As I wheeze through the days full of blooms and pollen I stop to think about the brutality and generosity of what we call Mother Nature.
Traditional custom this time of year in Japan is to picnic under the cherry blossoms with friends and family. Sake, poetry and karaoke often accompany a spread of bountiful treats. This year though, as the country mourns, many are avoiding conspicuous consumption and opting to forgo the annual ritual, or to tone it down considerably. The elderly mayor of Tokyo has erected signs to ask residents to avoid the spring fun as a show of solidarity for those suffering in the northeast of the country. Mother Nature, or the force in nature, whatever you want to call it, can be so cruel and so glorious. The cherry blossoms are beautiful, fleeting, and fragile…like life itself. There is poignancy this year, but certainly the pink blossoms offer a small glimmer of hope, that life goes on.
A Delhi neighborhood that became popular in the 1980s but fell out of favor has been reborn as a vibrant setting for cafes, art studios, bookshops, and other enterprises.
Brendan Spiegel reported on the Hauz Khas Village district, hidden among narrow lanes behind the ruins of a 13th-century mosque and royal tomb, in the New York Times.
It looks like a great place to spend a day or two on your next visit to Delhi. I want to go to the bookshop, Yodakin.
Romance is not just votive candles and soft music — it is an attitude and almost a feeling of being blessed to be alive. It is also when everything around you is “just right” because a few discordant notes (like being hassled on a perfect beach or hearing raucous noises beneath your balcony all night) can ruin the whole composition.
So what are the specific qualities that make Bali my number one choice for romance? Continue reading »
There are trips — and then there are romantic trips. A romantic trip is one you take with your honey, or the person you hope will be your honey, or occasionally, a place that helps you find a honey! A romantic vacation is one that cements or improves a relationship, a trip where the magic of the room, the view, the activities or the service make you feel more alive, more special, and more in love.
Romantic trips have a special kind of magic — but that diffuse kind of definition doesn’t give you specific guidance on picking the best-of-the-best choices for your next trip. That’s why I am going to be writing about the great places in the world for romance. I will start with my top ten in the United States and my top ten elsewhere — but it will go on from there. Right now though, I want to tell you what they all have in common — and what you should look for.
They all must have: Continue reading »
After more than 20 years of wrangling, the Chinese government has granted the US media company the right to build a fanciful park in one of China’s largest and richest cities. A Disney park already exists in Hong Kong but the Shanghai venture will be the first in Mainland China.
In the late ’60s and early ’70s the thought of a trip down the Mekong was the stuff of nightmares. The place was a war zone, and the only way to see it was courtesy of Uncle Sam. But thankfully times change, and today the great river that runs from China through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam is accessible to anyone who wants to put paddle to water, assuming you have the proper paperwork and know your way around.
Which is a good reason to find an outfitter who can handle the logistics. Some top adventure companies offer trips on the Mekong, but these are mostly cruises. For journeys by kayak, Bangkok-based river explorer Steve Van Beek brings something extra: 40 years of residence in Southeast Asia and almost as many years exploring the region’s rivers. Continue reading »
I am sort of an Olympics geek. I love the games, both the summer and the winter. My mom actually took my sister and me and two friends to the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. We had tickets for the Women’s Downhill Skiing event, but if you remember, the Games were a bit of a mess and transportation to the venues was a fiasco. We never made it to the mountain and got Compulsory Ice Dancing tickets as compensation; still it was an amazing experience.
Tomorrow the host city of the 2016 Summer Games will be announced in Copenhagen, Denmark. The front-running candidates are Chicago, Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo and Madrid. President and Michelle Obama will be there to forward the Chicago bid, which because of their star power is leading Rio as the top pick. Continue reading »
The Pacific Islands of Fiji have been once again suspended from the Commonwealth following yet another coup. The political instability in Fiji is constant and most certainly affects tourism. I have been to Fiji twice, once for work and once for pleasure, although both trips were amazing and equally pleasurable! I dream of the endless blue waters, legendary scuba and snorkeling, magical waterfalls and the incredible cuisine; a mixture of native tropical fare infused with Indian spices. These spices were brought to the islands by the many Southeast Asian Indians who came there to ‘work’. The melange in the cuisine is tantalizing but the ethnic tensions between the natïve Islanders and the Indians was palpable when I was there and part of the polical and social strife today. This is the thrid time Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth. For up to date information check out the US State Department site.