Touring Phang Nga Bay in Phuket with Simba Sea Trips

Mention “Phuket” and eyes light up at the thought of shimmering beaches and aquamarine sea waters. The island has been immortalised in movies and regarded as the perfect destination for an “exotic” beach getaway. Google images depicting day cruises, sunbathers and picnics on the beach convince you that yes, this is paradise on earth.

The allure is slightly diminished with the volume of tourists in Phuket during busy seasons, but with the right tour company, you can still have a sandy-beach perfect vacation. I was struck when I came across rave review after rave review for this tour company called Simba Sea Trips, when scouting for a good tour of Phang Nga Bay. So I booked, with confidence, albeit with a tiny sliver of too-good-to-be-true doubt at the back of my mind. Plonking down mucho money for two (4,200 Baht per person) via PayPal can make you a bit nervous.

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Riding the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls

The massive volume of swirling, gushing water at Niagara Falls will immediately captivate any onlooker’s attention.

It sure captured the imagination of Annie Taylor, a 63-year-old American schoolteacher and, of all things, an amateur daredevil stunter who became inspired to secure her notoriety by being the first person to ever go over the Falls. As if that wasn’t enough, she was to do it riding inside a wooden barrel.

Racing towards the cliffs at high speed, water exiting the Niagara River tumbles off the crestline, covering 10 metres in a second and creates a heavy mist towards the end of its’ downward trip into the gorge. Niagara Falls, a series of three waterfalls (Horseshoe, American and Bridal Veil) that sit between the border of New York, United States and Ontario, Canada, is approximately 50 meters in height, allowing the water just about five seconds to hit the bottom.

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The Highlights of Seoul: A Three-Hour Guided Tour

Highlights of Seoul: Dongdaemun plaza shermian lim

The hotel room was quiet, except for the unobtrusive, low-volume Korean voices drifting from the flat-screen television. I peeked out the window and down towards the lit empty streets with resignation — it was 4:00 a.m. on Friday here in Korea after all.

Earlier in the evening on Thursday, I arrived in Incheon Airport, excited that I could take advantage of a 24-hour layover to explore the highlights of Seoul. I’d made big plans and plotted out what I wanted to see. After unloading my bags at the hotel, I would ask the front desk for directions to the famous Dongdaemun, set out on an evening walk to the city’s vibrant shopping district and stay there till the wee hours of the night to leisurely browse all the goods. The next morning could be spent taking in the city’s popular sights before heading back to the airport. Continue reading

See What Washington D.C. Looks Like at Night

Every night when dark settles over the District, bright lights around the city’s famous landmarks power on, creating a magnificent glowing aura around it. Even if you had traipsed around the city snapping shots of yourself in front of memorials and monuments earlier in the day, it’s worth the trip to come back out at night and see them again in a, well — different light. A thinner volume of visitors and cool night air makes the walk all the more pleasant. Not to mention a creative, romantic date idea! Continue reading

A Tour of the United States Capitol Building

Heading up to the U.S. Capitol Building

I love the architecture of the Capitol Building, inside and out. If you love it as much as I do, you’ll be happy to know that you can tour the Capitol Building for free, provided they aren’t closed for special events. During off-peak season, it’s easy to just walk in and join a tour slot. I suggest advance online booking if you’re visiting in the summer.

Headsets, which are handed out after the obligatory welcome film, is how your tour guide will talk to you about the Capitol Building’s standout features, (as well as call to group members who straggle a little too long at one spot for the tour guide’s comfort.)

During the tour, don’t be surprised to find your gaze focused upwards more than half the time.

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Luray Caverns in Shenandoah Valley

Heard about Luray Caverns from a neighbour and decided to check it out when gal pal Liz flew in last weekend. It’s one of the many commercial show caves in Virginia that do guided walking tours through the caverns, brightly lit with dazzling yellow lights to feature spectacular speleothem formations that you’d never see anywhere out in the open air.

A mini adventure in semi-darkness, more than 100 feet below ground? Yes please! Continue reading

How Does a Traveller Define Home?

“No New Year celebrations as there is little meaning without you and others around. I miss the family togetherness every once in a while maybe because I am getting on in age.”

When I read this line in this email from my dad awhile back, I gulped with guilt. Here I was, blissfully involved in my own world here in the D.C. area. Nary a thought for my dad’s feelings. Still, I stuffed away his words into the deepest crevice of my mind and carried on.

Recently, a post on the International Herald Tribune’s Rendezvous blog, which was titled, “Dark Side of the Expat Life” made me think of his email again. Continue reading

The Legendary Peacock Room in Freer Gallery

peacock room freer sackler shermian limThe hallway leading to the Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery is dimly lit, just enough for you to see where you’re heading. This only heightens the anticipation of walking into a magnificent room first built in 1800s London, displayed in a museum, then sold to a 1900s Detroit homeowner before being gifted to the Gallery around 1919. On shutters open (third) Thursdays each month, visitors can view and enjoy the Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery, featuring artwork by American artist James McNeill Whistler. Those who saunter into the Peacock Room often speak in hushed tones, eyes full of curiosity as they wander about the room. For good reason.  Continue reading

The Strangely Boring Site of F Scott Fitzgerald’s Grave

burial site of F Scott Fitzgerald The release of the movie Gatsby has heaped fresh interest on the site of F Scott Fitzgerald’s grave, the book’s author. Along with the mound of old articles about his final resting place, a pile of new ones have popped up. (Ok, enough puns.) The early 20th century writer, who was known for his penchant for alcohol and glamorous world capitals, interred in a suburban Rockville graveyard, surrounded by concrete buildings and beside the intersection of busy highways? How absurdly mundane!

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Inauguration Day in Washington D.C.

Riding into the city on the morning of Inauguration Day, I could tell which of my fellow Red Line passengers were headed in to join the celebrations — the ones who were dressed like they were going on a ski trip. Clad in wool hats, thick gloves, heavy shoes, and North Face jackets, they were also armed with maps, bottled water, additional blankets and consumer friendly DSLR cameras. Snippets of chatter overheard were about getting to the vast lawns of the 146-acred National Mall as quickly as they could. “We’re almost there, get your Metro cards out. Don’t be fumblin’ for em at the turnstile,” said one mother to her two kids. “Metro Center is gonna be slammed. Let’s get out at Farragut North. The lines won’t be as long,” said a bearded man in a black furry hat to his friends. Continue reading