Friday, December 2, 2016

Langkawi: Sail, Parasail, Lose Yourself in Paradise

Langkawi: Sail, Parasail, Lose Yourself in Paradise

Here’s a challenge. Name a renowned sailing destination that isn’t beautiful. Name a destination where the food is terrible, the people are unfriendly, and the beaches are dull. Having trouble? Yeah, well that’s because sailing is fantastic and yacht charters take you to some of the most incredible places in the world; steer your own vessel on a bareboat charter and you might even see some wonders that only a handful of others have ever laid eyes on. One destination that’s particularly inviting is Langkawi, an archipelago off the coast of Malaysia consisting of 104 plots of paradise. Expect incredible beaches, Jurassic mountainscapes, and the incredible flavours of Malaysian cuisine. Here’s your quick guide to the best things to do in Langkawi.

Skytrex Adventure

One of the things that sets Langkawi apart from other beach destinations is the incredible wild jungle just beyond the stretches of sundrenched white sand. If you’re looking adventure without pulling out a machete and cutting your way through treacherous vines, Skytrex offers visitors an exciting and fun way to experience the wild. Walk in the tree tops and go zip gliding to see some of the best views in the areas.

Street food

Brace your stomach, South East Asia has some of the best street food in the world. You’ll find vastly different options from country to country, and in Malaysia the assortment includes chicken satay (a type of spicy peanut sauce) and pancakes that are to die for. Each pancake is filled with peanuts, banana and sugary fruits, and the combination blends into a flavor you’ve never tried before. You will definitely come back for more; the best part is that it’s dirt cheap.

Kilim Karst Geoforest Park

A tour of this forest takes you down the river and deep into the jungle where you can see amazing species in their natural habitat. You’ll also explore some incredible caves and landscapes free of human development. Just be warned, there are bats living on the caves ceilings, and monkeys will sometimes make their way onto your boat and try to steal your snacks. Keep everything close at hand, these guys are sneaky!

Langkawi is also lovingly known as the ‘Jewel of Kedah’, which is the name of the greater region. If you want to go somewhere to explore stunning landscapes beyond the beach, there’s no better place. Langkawi hosts all kind of activities from parasailing to a 3D museum and is a no brainer of a destination for food loving sailors.

Enjoy London’s December Event Line-up at a Luxury Apartment

London’s December Event Line-up

The holidays are right around the corner and that means vacation time. You’ve spent the past few months working your tail off and now it’s time to make the most out of your free time. The only question that remains is where to go? Considering the grand spectacles that will be taking place for the New Year, why not head to the capital? Warm yourself up with the lights and festive ethos of London this winter vacation.

Royal Living
One of the best things about vacationing is that you can to stay in new places. This vacation why not live a life of luxury by taking up a temporary residence in a classy London apartment. If you’re already treating yourself by walking through different streets, eating different food, and ditching your routine, why not complete the transition by living like royalty in a high-quality London apartment? Before booking make sure your new pad is in an area of the city that will be in walking distance to whatever events you may have on your itinerary.

Some Voices Choir
If you plan on being in London on the 13th or 14th of December you’ll be able to get in the mirthful Christmas spirit by witnessing the Some Voices Choir belt out some holiday classics with hits from Mariah Carey, Oasis, and the Love Actually film.

Dulwich Winter Lights
What holiday celebration would be complete without a fantastical display of Christmas lights? At the lovely grounds of Dulwich you’ll find a 19th century building alight in festive lights. At the grounds you’ll find mulled cider, hot chocolate, and other piping hot drinks that’ll surely warm you as you browse the Christmas Market looking for last-minute presents and wood fired pizza. You’ll also be able to visit and take in a show from 6-18 December.

The Urban Makers East Christmas Market
Located at the Mile End Arts Pavilion, this art fair brings together locally based designers in order to give shoppers a personal look at the community of artisans located in London. Shoppers will be able to find vendors selling homemade jewellery, ceramics, origamis, and plenty of other offbeat creations.

Illustrator’s Art Fair
The illustrators of London will be taking over King’s Cross on Saturday, the 10th of December. The prolific, House of Illustration will inundate King’s Cross with wares and stalls offering a variety of handmade crafts.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Islands of Japan: Miyajima

After a couple months of having to spend all my extra money on furniture and my car, I was finally able to do a little traveling around Japan and start to explore all the amazing places this country has to offer. This is the first in my series exploring Japan's islands.

First stop: Miyajima Island in Hiroshima Prefecture!

 (Fun fact - Miyajima just means 'shrine island' and the island is referred to as that because of the famous giant orange torii gate located there. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and super famous both in Japan and around the world. But the real name for this island is Itsukushima! The more you know... *shooting star*)

Y'all know I'm an island girl at heart. I was born on an island and it's in my blood. While I'm pretty happy to be living on one of Japan's islands (the smallest of the four main islands), I jumped at the chance to visit another one - not only knocking a new prefecture off my list (9 down, 38 to go!) but getting to see a super cute island to boot.

How To Get There

Getting to Miyajima requires a ferry ride from the port in Miyajima-guchi (Miyajima neighborhood in Hiroshima City). There's all kinds of trains that go to Miyajima-guchi Station, and when you step out of the station, the ferry port is directly in front of you only a few hundred metres away. There's huge signage and in this area most signs are in English and Japanese so it's very easy to navigate. You need to buy a ticket to get on the ferry. I don't understand why people don't buy return tickets unless they're staying overnight...there always seemed to be a massive lineup to buy tickets to get back. The tickets are pretty cheap. I paid Y360 round trip (about US $3.60 at the time of writing). The ferry ride takes less than 20 minutes and there is indoor and outdoor seating. Get in line ahead of the huge school groups if you want to sit down. I sat outside both ways to escape the hoardes of kids and also they had the heater on inside at approximately seven thousand degrees.

What To Do

Miyajima is famous for a lot of things for being such a small island. Here is a partial list from what I observed:

1) Maple trees
2) Maple trees changing color in fall
3) Some kind of fish cake thing
4) Deep fried momiji (pancake-like sweets filled with custard or cheese, shaped like a maple leaf and then deep fried on a stick. Can confirm custard one is delicious)
5) Mainly lots of food on sticks
6) Grilled oysters
7) Asshole deer walking around eating trash and harassing people DO NOT FEED THE DEER FOR FUCKS SAKE PEOPLE
8) Giant rice paddle (WTF)
9) Temples galore
10) Some type of special sake and soy sauce
11) Giant fucking orange shrine in the ocean

Mostly you just walk around and look at all the stuff I listed and eat the stuff I listed. Now if you know me, you know I'm allllllll about walking around and eating. So obviously I had a fantastic time here.

Hazards include avoiding giant hordes of Chinese and Korean tour groups, and hundreds of school children on school trips. Also watch out for the asshole deer. And be aware as a foreigner to give lots of space to Japanese people. They will go out of their way to not be anywhere near you. (Case in point: while crossing some rocks in the receding tide, an old Japanese lady stepped off a rock INTO THE OCEAN just to avoid passing me on a rock. Soaked her shoes and socks. I'm sorry but if you want to avoid a foreigner at an international tourist site that badly, you deserve to walk around in wet socks and shoes for the rest of the day.) Enjoy your space, it's a luxury here.

Please enjoy my iPhone documentary of the above list:

So, that was my trip to Miyajima Island! I spent a great day here and highly recommend this trip to anyone visiting this area of Japan. And you can check a UNESCO World Heritage Site off your list! What do you think? Would you visit?

Guys, make sure to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ... there's lots of extras posted there that don't make it onto the blog. I also have Google+ if anyone even uses that? And I'm on Bloglovin', so you can follow me there too! Plus it makes me try to post more than once a month. So there's that.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dreaming of Indonesia

One of the next big trips I'll be taking in 2017 is to Indonesia! I've been waiting and waiting to visit this country, and now that I'm finally living in a close area of the world, I'm going to go.

Indonesia is such a varied country, so it's tricky to choose where to go - I want to see all of it! Scuba diving in Nusa Lembongan and Labuan Bajo, enjoying chill beach life in the Gili islands, embracing my yogi side in Ubud... Indonesia has so much to offer for all kinds of travelers.

By ArgoRaung - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
One place I've recently discovered is Bogor, which was voted the most attractive tourist city in Indonesia in 2010 and sits with a fantastic view of Mt. Salak. Bogor is famous for their huge botanical garden, which will be 200 years old when I visit in 2017. Home to over 6,000 species of tropical plants and numerous bird species, the botanical garden also boasts a beautiful lily pond and a cemetery dating back to the 1700s. In the northeast corner of the botanical gardens is an orchid garden where something is always blooming. Another must-visit site in Bogor is the presidential palace, which is surrounded by a large park with deer and has a famous art collection.

I don't visit anywhere unless I'm excited for the local food, and this area of Indonesia is no exception. Bogor's local delicacies include pickles and grilled mung bean sprouts - the local dish of tauge goreng features fried bean sprouts along with tofu, rice cakes, noodles and a spicy sauce. No restaurant needed - this is a popular street food. I can't wait to try it!

A cool, rainy city (as a Vancouver girl, this is my kind of weather!), Bogor offers the perfect place to cool off and relax after partying, scuba diving, or island hopping through other parts of Indonesia. For hotel booking in Bogor, sites like Traveloka have the best deals and you can pick a cozy spot for storm watching and relaxing. I like the looks of Hotel Aston Bogor - their 'condotel' style rooms are modern and sleek with everything you need. If the skies clear up (which they usually do in the morning and evening), there's a pool snaking around the grounds between palm trees for taking a dip.

By Yogwi21, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
If you're the type of traveler that can't sit still, you can still have adventures in this area. There is whitewater rafting and freshwater fishing - good activities even if it's raining. If you'd rather stay dry, PGB Bangau Putih is a local martial arts school with a special style called White Crane which was developed by the current owner.

Getting to Bogor is easy, it's only about a 1.5 hour drive from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport (CGK) but there are several cheap (about $4!) bus options that can get you there comfortably in A/C. The local trains that go directly there can be a bit of a nightmare and often overcrowded. A taxi will only set you back only $25, but rush hour can add hours to the trip. The Wikitravel page for Bogor has lots of detailed info on getting to and around the city.

By Hiroshi sanjuro - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Monday, November 28, 2016

Annapolis Bay Sailing Charters: Discover the Chesapeake

The Rise, Fall, and Rise of the Blue Crab

The blue crab is the creature perhaps most associated with the Chesapeake Bay. It’s everywhere, from menus to signs to waterways to, in the end, our plates. Its life in the bay has been anything but easy, but thanks to the efforts of many people and organizations, the blue crab’s future seems brighter than it once did. Summer visitors to the area spend much of their time on the water – a yacht charter from Annapolis Bay is a spectacular way to explore this area – and the health the bay and its flora and fauna contributes to those delightful summers.

Blue crabs play an important role in the life cycles of the bay: as larvae, they are consumed by filter feeders; as juveniles and young adults, they are eaten by fish, birds, and other crabs; and as adults, they in turn feed on many residents and plants of the Chesapeake. They are, of course, one of the most popular and classic foods of the area and are heavily fished.

In the late 1990s, many factors combined to cause a decline in the blue crab population that some feared would spell the end of the commercial and recreational fishery. This harvest is part of the bedrock for the bay’s economy, and its end would have been disastrous.

We cannot point to a single source of the start of the decline, but overfishing and polluted waters definitely played their roles. Underwater grasses are an important part of the blue crab habitat. These grasses serve to protect the juvenile crabs from predators – grass beds are particularly good places to hide from birds – so that more of them can survive to adulthood or at least long enough to reproduce.

Dense grass beds protect larger numbers of the crabs. The grasses have proved susceptible to the warming of the waters in the region, and have suffered from pollution and runoff into the bay. Research shows that the thinning of the grasses has contributed to the decline in the blue crab population. And as the signature fishery in the Chesapeake, the blue crab has also suffered from harvest pressure, ie having too many adults harvested, leaving the population unable to replace its numbers at an adequate rate.

When the decline in the numbers became too great to ignore, federal and state agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations and universities, stepped in to study the problem from all angles and find solutions. The result is that, while the blue crab population hasn’t exactly come roaring back, it is on much better footing than it was 10 years ago.

The Chesapeake Bay Program has created a network among commercial and recreational harvesters to set catch numbers and help monitor the population. In 2014 partners within this network signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which covers an array of bay species and water quality. The sustainable fisheries portion of the agreement has broad support. Although the bay is hardly pristine, it is a living example of the good that can be done when local stakeholders come together, realizing that a healthy ecosystem will have benefits in the long term that outweigh short-term gains.

Before setting out to sail the Chesapeake, visitors should check the website for the Chesapeake Bay Program, which is located in Annapolis, Maryland, to learn about the bay’s ecology and restoration. The site has field guides and loads of information about plants, animals, and waterways.