Travel à la carte Awesome discoveries for all independent travelers! <![CDATA[ Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> and got married. They are Atsuko from Japan & Demitris from Greece, Richie from U.S. & Doreen from Germany. Online relationships do work in some cases though not many. However, simply as friends, my experience is they are some of the greatest and most open. That's just my experience though. I've made a dozen of greatest friends from simply writing about my trips on the site and then meeting up with people who are crazy about travel in their respective cities. These are very fulfilling relationships where I'm concern. If you haven't try it, you should consider, esp. if you do like travel. 

]]> Sat, 21 May 2011 16:49:17 +0000
<![CDATA[Capetown Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
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<![CDATA[The House of Your Dream. Indulge!]]>
I thought it'd be fun to give a free rein to our imagination and see what we can come up with. IF one day you can have any house of your choice, which one would it be?

This list is not in any specific order.]]> Fri, 6 May 2011 23:18:20 +0000
<![CDATA[Bolshoi Theater Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sun, 1 May 2011 04:15:07 +0000 <![CDATA[Economist Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Sat, 30 Apr 2011 03:32:54 +0000 <![CDATA[ Quick Tip by Sharrie]]>
See the full review, "Travel @ the speed of thought!".]]> Fri, 29 Apr 2011 14:19:17 +0000
<![CDATA[Sintra, Portugal Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Tue, 26 Apr 2011 05:35:55 +0000 <![CDATA[Table Mountain Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:28:40 +0000 <![CDATA[South Africa Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Wed, 13 Apr 2011 09:19:50 +0000 <![CDATA[ Try the custard tarts!]]> In several tour books and travel blogs I'd read about these wonderful palm sized custard tarts, so I had to give them a try. What a treat! It's Lisbon's version of New Orleans beignets. In New Orleans you have to try them at Cafe du Monde. In Lisbon you need to go to Pasteis de Belém which is just a short walk from the coach (the riding carriages, not the handbags) museum.

There's usually a line but it moves fast. It's said they serve 10,000 a day so they are always fresh. They come out warm and gooey with a flaky crust We went there a couple of times during our short stay in Lisbon. 

Each week I do interviews with published authors who share their experiences of getting published and give tips from what they’ve learned. If you would like to learn more about writing, you can find them at...


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<![CDATA[2011 Egyptian Protests Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Stay clear!!!

Banks and stock markets are closed too. If you're stuck in Egypt, go immediately to your consulate or embassy! Yes, it is also prudent to find out where your country's embassy is before you leave for your trip!!!]]> Sun, 30 Jan 2011 06:16:51 +0000
<![CDATA[Banaue Rice Terraces Quick Tip by woopak_the_thrill]]> Wed, 26 Jan 2011 19:11:51 +0000 <![CDATA[Chocolate Hills Quick Tip by woopak_the_thrill]]> Wed, 26 Jan 2011 19:06:20 +0000 <![CDATA[ Get dirty with muds!]]>
The wonders of Dead Sea don't end at the sea. It begins at the sea and extends beyond its shore. I had quite a spectacular experience what it is like to be truly pampered. Here at the Marriott Jordan Valley which I stayed for a night after a short trip to Petra I was pampered with the most amazing skincare routine one could be blessed with.

First, you wake up having a wonderful breakfast with friendly staff. Lots of juices to detox your body after the two days of hiking around Petra. Relax and simply enjoy the views of Dead Sea from its breakfast area. Breakfast has never been so good! :-)

Thereafter, if you haven't done so the night before, make sure you make a reservation for the spa experience of your life! The Dead Sea Spa in Marriott was not too busy when I was there (well, it was at a time when the Israelis were waging war on Gaza!!!). During peak times though, you may have to make that reservation even before you arrived at the hotel! 

Then go and swim in the sea. Float away and make sure you remember the time for the spa experience! It's so calm here you could simply forget about keeping track of time! In addition, after your swim, at the sea, you could actually wrapped yourself in the Dead Sea mud! That I was told has healing power! 

When it's time for your spa experience, be there early. You get to do lots of shopping even before you try the products! And these are great as souvenirs. You know me, I bought lots of products for friends and family. I highly recommend the hair products as well as the facial scrubs. The hand and foot creams are awesome! Some people actually love to buy the therapeutic mud home for body masks! 

The Spa at the Marriott is truly luxurious. It is quiet and service is great. I opted for the Mud Wrap in a bed designed especially for this. This is the beginning of an afternoon of pampering. Enjoy the experience of being a VIP guest!


]]> Mon, 5 Apr 2010 18:26:00 +0000
<![CDATA[Economist Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Tue, 30 Mar 2010 15:36:48 +0000 <![CDATA[Machu Picchu Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Wed, 24 Mar 2010 10:00:37 +0000 <![CDATA[ Saudade]]> after I left Portugal. In Portugal, I found something I never thought I'd find and then somewhat lost it again due to an unfortunate circumstance. That was during the World Cup in 2006.

It was a real friend I found & it was this real friend I had lost. He's an archaeologist and his name is Armando. Armando passed away due to a work accident, I was told by another friend of his. Armando is an online friend I met through the travel site Before meeting him in person, we merely said hi and had very little contact. We didn't chat much either, a lot less than many people I had come to know via the internet. However, that all changed when I made my way to Portugal.

In fact, there are two friends I truly enjoyed meeting who're from Portugal. Armando is one. Robert is another. I didn't meet Robert in Portugal, instead, I met him in Poland. It's a little complicated but to keep things short, Robert writes some of the most beautiful travelogues I've ever come across. A very special friend.

When I went to Portugal in 2004, I met Armando for the first time in Sintra. That's a city about an hour away from Lisbon. Luckily for me, Armando was off work that week. So, he showed me his country; from Sintra to Cascais and Lisbon. We also shared lots of fun as Armando did speak a few words of Cantonese since he once worked in Macao. In fact, when he sent me off at the airport, we had actually talked about meeting in Beijing as Armando was very interested in ceramics and pottery. It's regrettable that we'd never have that chance again. Armando's departure from this world left me with an urgency that I had never had before. It's the sense that one might simply be gone from the world in a flash and there's nothing you can do or plan for it. 

In Portugal, there is a term "Saudade" which no one seems to be able to define. It is melancholy, sadness and something associated with Fado. I wrote a review previously on an artist who sings Fado; The Music of Katia Guerreiro. If you're interested in music of a different kind, like me, you might fall in love with Fado :-) I love the clear and crisp sound of the instruments that accompanied Fado. Really nice!

Trago Fado Nos Sentidos (Live)

Another thing in Portugal that I fell in love with is Port. Port is a wine originating from Portugal and tastes a little sweet. It is a fortified wine and popularly served as dessert wine. When in Portugal, ask for Porto or Oporto. A bottle of good Port may cost about €20 or more. Porto is a great item to bring home as souvenirs or for one's own consumption. Be sure to get one when you are in Portugal! Lovely!

Another wine which is peculiar to Portugal is from a small town known as Obidos. Obidos is a nice little town to walk in and it has a wine known as Ginja which I had also written a review on. Ginja is something you must buy if you really like it after a sampling. This is a wine that's not available outside Portugal (at least I haven't seen it anywhere while vintage Port can be had at Duty Free Shops at the airports in many parts of the world).

So, there you have it, some of the treasures I found in Portugal. It took me a very long time to actually write anything on Portugal as I was very saddened by the sudden death of my friend Armando. In fact, this is the first piece of thoughts I've ever written on this country. Hence, I'd like to dedicate this review to Armando! Miss you, my friend!

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<![CDATA[ The Sacred Machu Picchu: A Pilgrimage]]> The journey to Machu Picchu was one filled with anticipation as my friend Julie and I stayed over at Cuzco to aclimitize for the hike to Machu Picchu. Well, actually, more like a slow walk. We didn't do the Inca Trail as we had limited time. Instead, we took the train ride all the way to a nearby town (Aguas Calientes) and stayed there for a night before we approached Machu Picchu in the early morning. All went well with the trip and we got to not only see Machu Picchu but experience its peaceful setting and its unique sense of sacredness.
It was not so for those who are visiting Machu Picchu this week though. There was a flood and I heard on the news that many were stranded and needed to be uplifted to safety from the site. Very unfortunate for some.

Machu Picchu was only discovered in 1911 and we are hearing much about 2012 phenomenon now. Is it the end of civilization as the Mayan Long count calendar had predicted, a mere 100 years after its discovery? What do we really know of the Mayan civilization? Who are the Mayans and the Incas?

"The Mayan civilization existed as a continuous territory along Southern Mexico, Guatemala and northern Belize around 250 AD. It contained more than 40 cities and over 2 million people. The periods between 300 and 900 were considered the classic period of the Mayas. Ceremonial architectural monuments were built in Maya some 3000 years ago. Mayans believed that the universe functioned in a logical, cyclical and predictable way and that humans can exploit the cyclical nature of the universe by accommodating them into the cycles."

"Manco Capac was the founder of the Inca dynasty. The civilization flourished along the Pacific coast and Andean highlands, from the northern border of modern Ecuador to Maule River in central Chile. Inca civilization contained a population of over 12 million people. Cuzco was the capital of the civilization."

~ Excerpts from Clearlead Inc.

Mayan, Inca, Aztec Egyptian Prophecy 2012

Machu Picchu is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World which was universally elected by travelers and people from all over the country. It is also the 2nd Wonder of the World I'm writing about & 1 of the 6 Wonders (out of 7) that I've personally visited. Being in Machu Picchu is a unique experience in itself. It is not only exhilarating, exciting but also exotic. I treasured this visit as one of the highlights of my life. It is different from other places in that I do truly feel at ease and at peace here right among the ruins and the sacred mountains of Machu Picchu. It is extremely to put that special feeling and connection with a place into words. It is thus an existence in which one has to experience personally. One needs to walk through the ruins, walls and feels the spirit within it. Get in touch with nature and immerse in the spirituality of Machu Picchu!

That's me & Julie in Machu Picchu in Sep. 2004.

Here are a few more videos I've selected from YouTube which I hope you'd like. 

Michael Palin in Machu Picchu

The legendary lost city of Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail

The Magic World of the Incas
]]> Wed, 3 Feb 2010 16:53:17 +0000
<![CDATA[Ukraine Quick Tip by EcoMama]]> Thu, 28 Jan 2010 18:15:00 +0000 <![CDATA[Economist Quick Tip by Sharrie]]> Fri, 21 Aug 2009 15:01:53 +0000 <![CDATA[ Travel @ the speed of thought!]]> It's coming to a decade (OMG!) since I first found out about online community sites, so it's only apt for me to focus my next review on the first community site I signed up in Oct. 2000, VirtualTourist (VT to its members) accounted for a major part of my life for the last decade (be it online or in the real world). Because of the friends I made on VT, it transpired me to go beyond my comfort zone and went as far as Antarctica, the Arctic (on the same trip, btw… incredible, isn't it? Both the North & South Pole on the same trip! Thanks to Ernst (WorldTrekker) for his suggestion!), Iceland, Galapagos Islands, Bora Bora & South Africa.

I thereby fulfiled my dream of setting foot on all the 7 continents (twice, the 2nd time I repeated the cycle all within a year in 2005 by taking the flight instead of cruise from Sydney to Antarctica on New Year's Eve & was first to welcome the new year on board the 747 Qantas flight partying right in the air above Antarctica! I then traveled to Australia, Canada & U.S.A., China & Hong Kong, Morocco, Hungary & Slovakia, Belgium, UK, Czeh Republic, Ireland, Ecuador, Cuba, Japan, French Polynesia, Thailand & Laos.

Along the way, I met many Vters from across the world and am thankful for their hospitality & friendship. Some of them have left the site, like Atsuko from Tokyo,Oliver from Vienna (whom I met in Vienna & Cesky Krumlov), Ivan Jimenez from Lleida (whom I met when in Athens) & Robert from Lisbon (whom I met when in Warsaw). Others like Armando from Lisbon (the most hospitable Vter I've the immense fortune to meet ) had unfortunately left this world (due to a work accident, he was an archaelogist). Then there are others whom I traveled with to far away places like Iceland (with Ann from Santa Clarita) & Peru (with Julie from Delaware).

VT is a great portal for anyone looking for travel information as well. It provides members with their own homepage to introduce themselves to the world & also an email a/c to write one another and outsiders. The forum is especially fun for those who likes to mingle with the crowd & to discuss about matters important to them. It is also a good place to post a question about traveling to unknown parts of the world & in return be greeted by helpful members about what to look out for.

I found the travelogues and photos uploaded by some members extremely helpful in deciding if I'd like to visit a place which I've never been to. I went to Iceland simply because of a travelogue by member Pierangelo. Ivan Jimenez in turn persuaded me to go beyond my comfort zone & I headed to Chile (the first country I visited in South America) & Patagonia. I wish I could go to Greenland & Easter Island soon too! So, VT is essentially a peep into the world & it brings along with it an entire new world, expands your horizon and deepens your relationship with the rest of the world. I've also found great friendship with many who are not active on the site but have kept in touch with; Atsuko from Tokyo, Mei from North Carolina, Ann from Santa Clarita, Atte from Helsinki, Kent from DC, Oliver from Vienna, Ivan from Istanbul & Richie from Ft. Lauderdale.

Aside from friendship & travels, I've also learned HTML (back in 2001) in the process of building my pages. It was a crazy time when most of us stayed online for as long as 20 hours a day, scanning an incredible number of photos (I believe I've more than 10000 up there & at least 1/3 of them were scanned ones), multi tasking with a full time job, chatting up others and some even found their life partners on the very same site! Richie (now r12345 on Lunch) is one of them! Many Vters formed their own gatherings & functions in different parts of the world. The very first VT Meet was in Santa Monica, U.S.A. I think I was the member who flew the most miles to get to that meeting!

VT also helps us keep track of the places we've visited through its Travel Map function. I love this map as I've more than 800 cities to keep track of!

All in all, VT has a lot to offer for its members & travelers. Tips about destinations, humorous travelogs to read, getting acquainted with others' preferences for traveling styles and learning about countries and cities you've never heard of & then some. Many members have helped me on this site & I am taking this opportunity to thank each and everyone of them. I hope to see them over here soon! It's been fun meeting them on Virtual Tourist, which was once owned by Lunch's CEO, J.R. Johnson

Here's a poem written by ‘Mr. Perfect' (VT member Confucius) about VT & some of its active (or once active) members:

Yo! It's the VT rap song!

I'm flyin'
VT stylin'
'round the world and
 baby, I'm smilin' 

Look, see!
I'm on VT!
DSantosh just welcomed me!

And I'm busy!
Man! Downright
Buildin' tips got me in one tizzy

I'm ratin', datin', no hesitatin'
Can't believe all the
 friends I'm makin'

I'm high! Why? Movin' up the ranks
I'm almost as popular as Tom Hanks

60,000 hits on my homepage
Souls from 7 seas seekin' the sage

So take my advice and join V.T.
a yachtin' globetrottin' community

Tour the world with a click of the mouse
 John The Finn into your house 
or take your spouse all the way to Laos

Fresh faces, places; jeers and cheers
Found a new member looks like
 Britney Spears!

Forums are fun if you're so inclined
The Mischievous Forum's where we unwind
You never know what you're gonna find
Get some tech help if you're in a bind
VT staff can always read your mind!

Back to the travel forums I go
People askin' 'bout visas n' snow
Don't look at me, man, I don't know
where to find diapers in Orlando

Pick a nation, for my vacation
Who'll get lucky at my destination?

Folks online in Palestine
with tips on where to shop and dine

Cross the sea? Oui! Log onto VT ...
"Voulez-vous 'meet' avec moi a Paris?"

VT meetings,... leave with no warning
Got Norali "in Brussels in zee morning"

Ivan in Spain, Dewisri in Bonn
connectin' the dots like my man
 Don Guan

Pole to Pole like Michael Palin and Sharrie
Penguin cam with live links to my safari

Back home! Free! Turn on the PC!
Two hundred notices flashin' at me

Just when I thought my wish list was done
Zap! Like that! I got another one!

Vee Tee!

]]> Fri, 1 May 2009 03:12:03 +0000
<![CDATA[ A magazine for those who like information, rather than data]]>
Rather than analyzing and interpreting what is happening, they will play it safe and throw together a bunch of quotes, a he said/she said of the story.  You end up with a sea of words and data with no background and no context.

The Economist tries to deliver information, rather than data.  They supply relevant context and background.  If a political figure has repeatedly lied, they will call them on it, rather than just publishing what they have to say.

The Economist definitely mixes reporting and advocacy.  They don't try to remain impartial -- they interpret the news.  I like this approach, and I feel that they do a good job differentiating between their advocacy and their best effort at providing context and background.

Most people who object to their style of reporting don't like the mix of advocacy and news, or prefer a more personal, less analytic approach to reporting.   Depending on your personal style, you will either love or hate their reporting.]]> Tue, 30 Dec 2008 00:40:16 +0000