Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Singapore in Pictures

I recently spent several days in Singapore as part of a two month trip that also took me to Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong. And I have to say, I loved it. Yes, Singapore is expensive and yes it is ultra-clean and well-ordered, but it's also pretty fascinating if you dig a little beyond the shiny surface. I'll be working on a longer post about Singapore, but in the meantime, enjoy some photos.

Angry sky in Chinatown

Fort Canning Park
Colorful building, Chinatown

Fancy some shopping?

Singapore Flyer from a distance

Marina Bay Sands


Empty pre-lunch Maxwell Road Hawker Centre

Fabulous infinity pool at the lovely PARKROYAL on Pickering

Look up...way up: Singapore Botanic Gardens

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Unplanned Travel Detours: Vietnam Edition

As I'm sure I've mentioned, I'm a planner. I like the idea of being totally spontaneous and doing away with routes, itineraries and travel guides, but ultimately, at my core, I need a plan or at least a semblance of one in order to feel comfortable. But that doesn't mean plans don't change, or that every trip taken isn't without its surprises.
Ho Chi Minh City

Hey, let's fly to Vietnam for 10 days
February and March of this year were spent mostly in Malaysia and Singapore with a three night bonus-stopover in Hong Kong on the way home. But somewhere along the line, around mid-February we decided to add Vietnam into the mix. We were in Malaysia during Chinese New Year, which meant a lot of hotels, buses, ferries, etc. were booked up well in advance. We were struggling to find decent rooms and transportation when we wanted it. So we were feeling a little stuck and. The fix: Leave Malaysia and try a new country on for size.

We had 10 days to play with before meeting some friends in Kuala Lumpur so we decided to spend them in Vietnam. It was unexpected, it was spontaneous and it was something we would never do in "real life" but while traveling, the decision was made within an hour over a beer in cafe in Penang.
Saigon green beer

Spontaneity can be fun
At home, I like my routine. I'm not adverse to last-minute plans but if I already have my comfy pants on, you better have tickets to something good (or be offering free booze) to get me out of the house. So you can see how a totally random side trip to a country not on our original itinerary would be a bit outside my comfort zone. We did this last year with a side trip to Cambodia and it was a great decision, but I really didn't anticipate any similar moves this time around. The verdict: It was an amazing 10 days spent in Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne and Dalat (full post on these coming soon). We couldn't get enough and were actually sad to leave at the end of it all.

The lesson for me in all this is that there is a place for spontaneity and last-minute switches to plans and "hey, let's go here" moments when you travel. If fact, I bet some people would say travel is all about those unexpected changes to plans (or better yet, not planning at all).

How spontaneous are you when you travel? I've love to know!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

If You Didn't Tweet It, Were You Really There?

One of the things that crossed my mind numerous times on my most recent trip was how much of a role social media updates play in our travels. Full disclosure: I often had this thought while getting ready to post travel pictures to Twitter or Facebook. It got me thinking about travel now (when you can basically share every aspect of your journey no matter where you are) to travel before you could tweet every bus ride taken, meal ordered and beer enjoyed.

So, if you didn't tweet it, were you really there? 
Of course you were there, in a literal sense, but what do the constant updates do for the traveler? We say they're just to ensure friends and family back home are kept up to date on what we're doing (and yes this is a huge bonus of being able to be online where you are), but are all those shots of the beach, lovely meals, interesting sights and remote jungles really necessary to let people know I'm doing OK? No, an email would suffice for that, or a quick "landed in Singapore" update on Facebook.

Comments, re-tweets and "likes"
Let's face it, photos of your great street food snack (along with the 35 comments it gets), or the re-tweets of your tweet about something everyone else wishes they were doing somehow boost the experience itself. You can relive that amazing bite, or unforgettable moment every time someone comments, "likes", re-tweets, etc. 

I thought about whether I could go a whole trip (whether for two weeks or two months) without updating to Facebook or Twitter - I thought that if I could manage it, that might somehow be a worthy travel challenge to undertake. But in reality, I want to share what I'm doing because I'm thrilled that I'm doing it and proud of myself for making my travel dreams happen. I'd also like to think that someone might be inspired to travel or seek out something I've seen or done based on an update I've posted. 

What about you? How much of a role does social media play in your travels?