Kathamandu's Swayambhu or Monkey Temple

DSC_0450 I realized today that it's been forever - and possibly a day - since I posted.  Mea  maxima culpa.

My absence, dear readers, by way of explanation, is this: I traveled to Nepal with my son in June, stayed for 10 days and arrived home again, home again with a nasty viral something or other which took roughly 3 weeks to cure.

And then I was extra sleepy.

After that I was distracted by romance. Ooh-la-la.

Finally, I couldn't think of anything pertinent to say.

I do realize the rarity of this situation. Loquaciousness is my particular strong suit.  Loquaciousness is a real word and you may use it in Scrabble should the occasion arise.

At any rate, I'm officially returned.

My trip to Nepal was just before the rainy season, so we had some rain, but not torrents. Mornings were sunny and our day started early as the sun rose about 5 am.  

Since we were still on US of A time, it was like getting up from a really long afternoon nap. I had cloudy head - a lot.

Days seemed super long to me, but I think that was because everything slowed down immensely.  The best part of everything being enormously slow was that I was well rested in spite of myself.

Even though we were visiting family, going out shopping and to do a little sightseeing, I still had hours and hours to relax, read, and sleep. 

The last time I was in Kathmandu, my son was much younger and I was a sheltered bride - if you can imagine that.  What I mean to say is that as a married woman, I was accompanied everywhere by my in-laws or a member of the household.  For a very independent woman (and traveler), it was an interesting position to be in and a little stifling.

Now, I can appreciate the care my son's grandparents extended to me.  Though my son's father and I are no longer in a relationship, we have the bond of friendship and kinship, and they still like to fuss over me and, naturally, their grandson too. 

This trip I spent more time on my own exploring on foot the neighborhood my son's grandparents live in, Balaju. We also walked to Swayambhu or the Monkey Temple, which sits at the peak of a very steep hill. Swayambhu is popularly called the Monkey Temple because frisky primates scamper about the complex grabbing up fruit and food offerings left by pilgrims. As a precaution, don't feed the monkeys. They're brutes when it comes to bananas or sweets.


Pilgrims take the 365-step climb, or stairway to heaven, to worship and send prayers heavenward via prayer wheels and constantly illuminated butter lamps. You can light your own butter lamp for 20 Nepalese rupees, roughly equivalent to 30 cents USD.  Cost to enter the temple complex is 200 Nepalese rupees, or about US$2.90, if you're not Hindu or Nepalese.

The stupa, a spiritual monument containing holy Buddhist relics, dates to the 5th century.  According to Nepali history, the Kathmandu Valley was covered in water and at the center of this lake  was a perfectly formed lotus whose heart was a brilliant flame. The Bodhisattva of wisdom, Manjusri, drained DSC_0444 the lake with a blow from his magical sword and the lotus ascended to the hilltop where it transformed into the great golden stupa whose wise, all-seeing eyes gaze sleepily in all directions.

The view from Swayambhu is stunning, even on a grey-purple, cloud filled day.  The stairs are not for sissies or the feeble.  It's an arduous climb and the stairway is daunting, a straight, vertiginous shot heavenward. 

The air is heavy with the scent of aromatic dhoop or incense sticks blended from centuries old recipes and despite the crowds, there's a serene energy flowing through you and around you. Walking into an enclosed room, you're struck by the heat and light of thousands of brilliantly flaming butter lamps, thought to represent the illumination of wisdom.  

One of the most popular destinations in Nepal, Swayambhu really shouldn't be missed. If anyone is interested in traveling to Nepal, I'd be happy to help plan your trip.  


Discover Turkey's Local Culture and Artisan Silk Carpet-making

The joy of travel is discovery. 

Looking for something different for your next travel adventure?  Explore Turkey's ancient culture and experience the artistry of centuries old crafts like silk rug-making.  

Creating a silk carpet takes patience, years of practice and a good pair of scissors. Luckily for travel pro Mark Murphy he doesn’t have to make a carpet, he gets to observe the work, and enjoy the beautiful finished product.


Thai resort Outrigger Laguna Phuket offers rate deals

Master bedroom in 2BR villa at Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort PHUKET, THAILAND, April 29, 2010 -- Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort and Villas will have great value Summer rates from US$125 for guests staying in May or June 2010.

The 68-villa Outrigger property is part of the Laguna Destination Resort Phuket at Bang Tao beach, a 20-minute drive from Phuket international airport.

The two-bedroom villa is THB 4,000 (US$125) per night. The three-bedroom pool villa is THB 7,000 (US$219). The four-bedroom pool villa is THB 11,000 (US$344).

All rates include in-room daily continental breakfast. The Summer Special rates are subject to 18.7% tax and service charges.

At the resort, Outrigger guests have signing privileges at 30 food and beverage outlets and spa facilities across Laguna Destination Resort Phuket, and at the nearby Laguna Phuket Golf Course. Outrigger guests also receive a free five-minute transfer to the resort's own beach club at secluded Layan beach.

Also announced are enhanced services including an upgraded kids' club, the addition of barbecue facilities and children's trampolines in the gardens. The Bites Café in the Park menu now offers a wide range of lunch, dinner and kids' options. New and classic Thai dishes and international favorites have been added to the in-villa dining menus.

For more information

Visit Call (+66) 76 336 900. Or email: [email protected].

Affordable Costa Rica at the Lost Iguana Resort

A wedding at Lost Iguana ARENAL, COSTA RICA – Getting away to the lush, green jungle of Costa Rica just got more affordable at Lost Iguana Resort,  a boutique hotel at the foot of Arenal Volcano.

From May 14-20 the resort will offer a six-night "Volcanic Yoga & Spa Retreat" that will include accommodations, transportation between the hotel and San Jose airport, daily breakfast and dinner (not including alcohol), $300 spa credit, daily yoga classes, water fitness classes and a guided nature hike.

Cost is $800 per person double occupancy in a standard room, saving almost 40% off regular rates. Single rates are $950, and room upgrades are available for $20 per night.

Set on 120 acres of primal rain forest at the base of Costa Rica’s most awe-inspiring Volcano, Lost Iguana Resort & Spa offers the perfect landscape for a revitalizing retreat. Beautiful tropical gardens teeming with flowering plants, ferns and palms set a tranquil tone, and the 42-well appointed rooms offer impressive and unobstructed views of the volcano. The fresh cold and hot water pools with swim-up bar, open-air Blue Hibiscus restaurant and Golden Gecko Spa await after enjoying activities such as zip-lining, rafting, kayaking and mountain biking.

The six-night "Volcanic Yoga & Spa Retreat" includes daily yoga sessions for all skill levels under the guidance of Florida-based instructor, Liz Fullman. Guests will enjoy endorphin-pumping water fitness classes, led by 20-year fitness guru Gini Eastwood, using water as resistance to strengthen muscles, improve posture and restore energy. On a guided nature hike, a professional wildlife expert will weave guests through three miles of private trails rich with colorful wildlife, rustic bridges, flowing streams and 300 year old-trees.

Mirrored after the beauty of Costa Rica and accented with Balinese touches, the resort spa offers an expansive menu of treatments available in private open-air thatched bungalows with fireplaces. In addition to volcanic clay and hot stone facials as well as a selection of massages, guests can pamper themselves with exotic body polishes, which help detoxify the body and stimulate circulation, or opt for the unique "cocoon steam therapy" treatment, which purifies and softens the skin.

The spa offers a gym and saunas, which are complimentary for all guests.

Dine on savory continental favorites and authentic Costa Rican cuisine at the resort’s Blue Hibiscus restaurant, where guests enjoy elegantly relaxed dining as part of the package. Learn the secrets of the local fare with interactive and complimentary cooking lessons every Monday and Thursday.

For more information or to book, visit Lost Iguana Resort & Spa’s website at, or call the hotel directly at 011(506) 2267-6148, or email [email protected].

The Lost Iguana Resort & Spa is a boutique hotel with 42 uniquely appointed rooms on 120 acres in a primal rainforest. All rooms have perfect views of the lava-facing side of Arenal Volcano. 

St Simons Island resort offers great Spring getaway rates

Ocean Front Tower Room St. Simons Island , GA  Celebrating the 75th Diamond Anniversary of The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort on St. Simons Island is offering a $129/nt* SPRING TO THE COAST GETAWAY for an Ocean Front/Ocean View Guest Room,  April 11 – April 15, 2010.

Try $75 60-minute massage treatments at The Royal Treatment Cottage with 3 massage treatment rooms – Custom Cottage massage, Swedish massage and Sport-Specific massage - or golf at the newly-restored award winning King and Prince Golf Course with $40 greens fee and cart.

DRIVE 75 MILES OR MORE TO KING AND PRINCE RESORT and stay 2 nights for a Bonus ‘Getaway’ giveaway: receive $75 Resort Credit for dining, massage therapy or golf 

*Rate is based on Hotel availability

Want to study or work abroad?

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If you want to immerse yourself in a different culture, is the perfect place to start looking for your next tarvel adventure.

Tweet deals on travel with Twitter

Twitter Twitter users - Tweeps - are getting the goods when it comes to travel bargains as more airlines, hotels and travel companies are tweeting deals and discounts.

Who knew play - ahem - social media could be such a great way to save money?

The NY Times Practical Traveler reveals this and nine more ways to save on your travel in 2010.

For the Love of Snow Sandpoint Winter Carnival

Fireworks Saturday night at Schweitzer Mountain

Sandpoint ID Sandpoint’s Winter Carnival, the weekend of Jan 14 - 18 is the perfect antidote to cabin fever.

Martin Luther King Weekend will be alive with activities in downtown Sandpoint, up at Schweitzer Mountain, inside and outside. Many of the standard favorite events will return such as the Taste of Sandpoint, Fireworks at Schweitzer and the K-9 Keg Pull.

New this year are the Dine Around Sandpoint and Shop Around Sandpoint.

The Taste of Sandpoint is the traditional event kick-off on Thursday evening at the Sandpoint Events Center from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets available at the door for $1 each, and the average sample dish, brew, or glass of wine is $3-$7.

The Winter ArtTrek will be held in a variety of wine bars, galleries and shops in downtown Sandpoint Friday night the 15th. Self-guided walking brochures will be available at the Chamber, DSBA office and many shops downtown. 5 to 8 pm downtown Sandpoint. Free admission. Friday Jan 15, 5 to 7 pm and Saturday 11 to 5 pm.

The Winter Carnival Railjam is a freestyle contest in the Jeff Jones Town Square. (Friday Jan 15) Skiers and snowboarders compete at sliding on handrails and other man made features. Points are awarded for style, amplitude, difficulty, and variety. Spinneybent Rails will construct a 20 ft tall and 90 ft long feature that includes custom-built rail slides. Riders will compete for cash, and the spectators can keep warm and catch all the excitement by the bonfire. 7 to 10 pm, Jeff Jones Town Square. Spectator admission is free.

Dine Around Sandpoint: January 15 to February 16th. Treat yourself to a night out. During the first annual Dine Around Sandpoint, many local restaurants will be showcasing their culinary talents with fixed price, 3-course dinner menus ranging in price from $15, to $30 depending on the restaurant.

These menus, in addition to their regular menu, are available every night at the participating restaurant during the month and may change weekly. Visit for restaurant and menu details.

Shop Around Sandpoint • Thursday January 14 through Monday January 18 at 3 pm: Visit participating retail shops in downtown Sandpoint during Winter Carnival to pick up a “Passport to Prizes” – collect just a half dozen stamps on the passport and turn it in to win terrific prizes, including: Grand prize of two season passes to the 2010 Festival at Sandpoint provided by 95.3 KPND; a night in the deluxe La Quinta suite; lift tickets for skiing at Schweitzer Mountain; a set of four area guidebooks from Keokee Books; and whole pile of other swag. Drawing is at conclusion of Winter Carnival.

Family Fun Day & Coffee Tasting • Saturday Jan 16, 9:30 a.m. -1:30 p.m., 524 Church St. Savor hand-crafted coffees at Evans Brothers Coffee Roasting Studios along with food, live music and indoor and outdoor activities for kids of all ages, including a snow ball toss, snow slides, snow man photos, art projects and more.

Saturday night is arguably the highlight of the weekend with a spectacular torchlight parade and fireworks show starting at 6 pm at Schweitzer Mountain. The weekend is capped off with the ever-popular K-9 Keg Pull, as we watch our dogs of all sizes race down the Eichardt’s alley pulling kegs of various sizes. The race starts Sunday Jan 17 at 10 am but dogs should be registered at 9 am.

Lodging packages, and the most current events list are at For more information on lodging and activities, contact the Downtown Sandpoint Business Association at (208) 255-1876.

Luca Boniciolli transports il Buco to the French Alps

Savoyard style chalets

Experience a ski adventure in Courchevel, France as il Buco Restaurant in New York City teams with Europe's premier private ski guide Luca Boniciolli, to offer travelers a week of skiing within Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valley's) of the French Alps.

Guests reside in luxurious accommodations and indulge in meals created by il Buco's renowned Chef, Ignacio Mattos, paired with the wine selections of Wine Director Paul Lang.

Boniciolli brings his tremendous lifetime experience in skiing, heli-skiing, mountaineering and worldwide travel to his Europe-based organization, specializing in winter excursions on the majestic slopes of the French Alps.

With a knack for tending to the personal needs of his clients, Boniciolli offers custom-crafted ski adventures. He often teams up with Michelin-rated Chefs to create an unforgettable experience in a private luxury chalet on the most highly regarded and glamorous mountain in the world, Courchevel 1850 (named for its height in meters).

Now in Winter 2010, Boniciolli and il Buco offer a weeklong stay in a luxury chalet complemented by privately guided skiing.

Mattos' rustic cuisine perfectly complements the enchanting experience of chalet life in the Alps. Every meal is personalized using the freshest ingredients to recreate the simple, flavorful elegance enjoyed at il Buco in NYC. In-house cooking lessons and wine tastings will be available.

This is not a pre-packaged tour, nor are you obligated to ski at all. Everyday is a new and personalized experience. Chef Mattos can cook your favorite breakfast while you wake up with morning yoga. Then you might opt for a day off the slopes, shopping in the bustling village of Courchevel and come home to a light snack and afternoon wine tasting with Lang.

Or you might choose to have a late morning ski with Boniciolli and lunch in a Michelin star restaurant tucked away on the slopes.

Les Trois Vallées is located in the Savoie region of the French Alps and is the largest linked ski area in the world: a labyrinth of immaculate slopes amidst breathtaking scenery, with some of the world's finest ski runs connected by an intricate system of lifts. It is perfect for beginners and seasoned skiers alike.

The selected Savoyard style chalets are some of the largest and best Courchevel has to offer. It is possible to literally ski out the door and begin an adventure. The chalets accommodate up to 10 people per stay.

This full service hassle-free way of traveling offers all of the accommodations of a 5-star luxury hotel but in the privacy of your own "home".

All travel from arrival to departure is pre-arranged for your convenience. For more information, email [email protected] or visit this address

London: spend less, see more

More of London for loads less Pauline Frommer's London: Spend Less, See More, 2nd Edition

Wiley, Paperback

384 pages
February 2009

Cosmopolitan, diverse, historic - and among the costliest cities in the world - London is now yours to enjoy for less.

With this revised edition of the "budget guide for a new generation", travelers not only benefit from the reputable Frommer's budget-minded sensibility, but also gain insights in to technology-driven travel.  The mix of high and low tech suits the way we live and travel in the 21st century. 

The London guide appeals to a growing desire to experience the authenticity of a locale while catering to a need for speed and ease in booking and arranging the travel experience. The guide gives website information for everything from hotels and museums to restaurants and cathedrals.

Along with the expected details - explanations of currency, local and regional transportation, health and safety tips, etc. - the revised guide provides an intricate account of the maze which is London. 

The guide provides information for travelers that locals take for granted like the money-saving Oyster card for the Tube and bus or which neighborhood is a best bet for shopping - from the marquee department stores of Oxford Street to vintage market Sundays on Brick Lane.  Handy glossaries and information boxes break down language barriers and cultural differences as well as impart necessary insider information like where one might catch a glimpse of the infamous outsider art of Banksy.

Organized into 12 chapters spanning the basic city overview to thorough chapters detailing accommodations, dining, sightseeing, shopping, nightlife and day trips, the guide also delves into what its like to live the life of a Londoner.

A whole chapter is devoted to how "real" Londoners live, work and play. With 45 distinct ethnic communities and some 300 languages spoken in the city, there's plenty of diversity to observe and absorb.

From joining in on a Sunday Roast, a spread of meat and potatoes comfort foods, at the local pub to touring local breweries, catching a talk at a Shakespeare's Globe or a lunchtime concert at a centuries old church, there are plenty of opportunities to experience the Londoners' London. Warm weather visitors can cool off in one of the city's lidos, or outdoor swimming pools while cold weather travelers can find ice skating in the noble courtyard at Somerset House.

What's to love about the guide

  • No deal is left unturned - air & hotel packages, value eats & drinks, free art & self-guided tours
  • Where not to go - changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace, The London Dungeon, The Sherlock Holmes Museum, ditto the famous zebra crossing at Abbey Road
  • Where to party - museum nights, cocktail bars with a view, 15 favorite pubs to explore
Small enough to slip into a day bag, the guide is easily portable. But for those who like to travel even lighter, one can make pull out pages for the day's itinerary and leave the book at the hotel.