Having just opened in October 2015, the five-star Taipei Marriott is a new star on Taipei’s hotel scene. I had the chance to call it home for two nights during my visit to Taiwan in April, and the hotel is already off to a shining start. Walk into the Marriott’s stylishly gorgeous lobby, and you’ll be in awe straight away. But that’s only just the beginning.
Eighty days and eight countries later, my Southeast Asia trip has come to an end. I fly to Japan tomorrow and then onward to Paris, with a day in Abu Dhabi in between. For a part of the world I had never given much thought to until the last few years, Southeast Asia has stolen my heart. My next destinations will certainly be a massive change of scenery, so I thought I’d reflect on some of the things I will and won’t miss about Southeast Asia.
Call me a philistine, but, prior to my stay at Watermark, never had I ever treated myself to a professional massage. To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive. Lie on a bed and have a stranger touch me all over while rubbing oils into my back? If you’ve never experienced it yourself, you have to admit it sounds pretty weird. But, obviously, most of the world raves about the luxurious pleasure of massages, so it was time to give one a try.
I didn’t want to say goodbye to Vietnam. In my two weeks there, the country had exceeded already very high expectations. I don’t know if it was the country itself, the people I met there, or the fact that I seemed to be hitting my travel stride two and a half months into my round-the-world trip, but I had found total comfort and happiness in Vietnam and wasn’t ready to leave it behind, no matter how exciting my subsequent plans.
I had started in the north of the country and made my way south, with my last stop being Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. While hostels had treated me phenomenally during my Vietnamese adventure (especially Vietnam Backpacker Hostels), my last two days included the special treat of staying at the beautiful PARKROYAL Saigon.
Castaways, Castaways, where to begin? I write this several days after returning, still trying to digest it all…and still trying to get the sand out of my hair. For backpackers in Vietnam, Vietnam Backpacker Hostels’ Castaways Island trip to Halong Bay is legendary. You’ll be hard-pressed to meet a young traveler who hasn’t been on the trip or at least hasn’t considered it. And, as I found out this week, there’s good reason for that.
We departed from the Vietnam Backpacker Hostel in Hanoi bright and early and boarded a bus followed by a boat followed by another bus followed by another boat, but all of that was worth it the instant we set eyes on our final destination. Our home for the next two nights? A private beach with straw huts and blissfully soft sand surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. It was ours, all ours to make whatever we wanted of it.
“Oh you’ll love the food,” was the instant reaction whenever I told anyone I was planning a trip to Malaysia. “It’s the best thing about the place.” Having an aversion to all things hailing from the sea, I was skeptical. Was Malaysian food really for me? I knew I’d have to give it a try to find out, and how better to taste the local food than through locals’ eyes (or tastebuds)? So I set out on an evening with Food Tour Malaysia to discover for myself if Malaysian food would live up to its hype.
While I’ll be the first to defend hostels, there’s nothing quite like treating yourself to a little luxury every once in a while when traveling. Where better to pamper yourself than Bali, so I spent my last two nights on the Indonesian island in the lovely Watermark Hotel & Spa in Jimbaran. Read on for my thoughts!
Here’s a fact I bet you didn’t know about me: I’m a published Los Angeles Times writer. Big deal, right? Uhhh, perhaps let me explain first. In fourth grade, my teacher asked the class to write a blurb about our most memorable vacations. She submitted our assignments to the L.A. Times, and I got my first brush with fame when mine was published in the children’s section. So, okay, perhaps I can’t exactly include this feat on my resume, but, hey, it’s technically true!
The topic of my paragraph? A series of trips that even today hold a very special place in my heart. For several summers in a row, when I was aged roughly nine through twelve, my extended family cruised the Hawaiian islands with American Hawaii Cruises on the S.S. Independence.