For the price of a Hawaiian vacation, you could be riding a tuk tuk in exotic Thailand. Lafayette's Tina Tankka and her family of four opted for the floating markets of Bangkok via Long tail boat and experienced the maze of traffic in a moped with a cart on the back, known as a tuk tuk. They traveled during spring break which is Thailand's off season. Tankka said you need more than a week for this trip due to the long plane ride.
"The Thai people are so friendly and gentle," reflects Tankka. "The country doesn't move ahead like the rest of the world. I would totally recommend bringing your kids." Isabelle, 9 and Alex, 11, rode elephants and wandered the night markets watching the locals eat fried cockroaches and grasshoppers like popcorn. The evening markets pulse with energy because it's too hot to do business during the day.
Most people spend a couple of nights in Bangkok and then they go north to Chiang-mai or South to the Island of Ko Samui. The array of seafood is amazing because Thailand is on a peninsula. There are fabulous artists, lots of silver and gold. Tankka notes that the craftsmanship is beautiful. "You are expected to bargain there," says Tankka. "There is an art to bargaining. You walk away respectfully. If they think you are from America, you are wealthy and the prices go up a bit, but the prices are still fabulous."
Tina and husband Tom had visited Thailand in the early 1990's and said the area is built up with gorgeous first class resorts. I could write an entire column about her food experiences.
When in Rome, do as the Roman's do. That's exactly what Cami West and her clan did while celebrating son Scott's graduation from Campolindo and her parent's 50th anniversary. It wasn't a traditional trip. "We wanted to give the kids a taste of European culture," notes West, an experienced travel agent, who arranged the trip, rented the villa in Italian speaking Itri, south of Rome and drove the van on the autostrasse. "There were times I longed for a tour bus," laughs West. "Especially on the narrow roads of Palpai."
West was impressed with the night life. "Everyone gets dressed up and goes out walking. They meet on the square for gelato. The people look so stylish."
Twenty years ago my husband and I were backpacking through Europe without reservations. Attempting to recapture that spontaneity, we recently headed to Healdsburg mid-week, for our 21st anniversary.
Our first stop was the Healdsburg Inn. We have stayed at the Cobblestone, Green Gables and Seal Cove Inn, all owned by the Four Sisters Inns, www.Foursisters.com. Unfortunately, the innkeeper politely told us that there was no room at the Inn. Turns out that Healdsburg is no longer the sleepy little town we once knew. This was high season with the fragrant smell of grapes in the air.
We scored a room at the Geyserville Inn with a balcony overlooking the vineyards. After stopping at the Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce for some maps and tasting passes, we strolled over to Kendall Jackson, www.kj.com, and sipped some wonderful reserve wines. It turns out that we just missed the Kendall Jackson Tomato Festival in nearby Fulton. Pencil September 6, 2008 on your calendar if you want to attend this sell-out event. We have 350 days to reserve our tickets and locate the perfect Bed & Breakfast.
Next month we'll visit the German Christmas markets and offer some international inspired gift ideas. Have you experienced the winter holidays in a foreign land?