Thursday, June 28, 2007

Fodor's List of 7 New Wonders of the World

Tian Tan Buddha

The editors and writers of Fodor's, a publisher of popular guidebooks, have compiled a list of the 7 New Wonders of the World. Here it is:

1. Banaue Rice Terraces - Banaue, Philippines
2. Palenque- Chiapas, Mexico
3. Tian Tan Buddha - HongKong
4. Palm Islands - Dubai, UAE
5. Panama Canal - Panama
6. Guggenheim Museum - Bilbao, Spain
7. Walt Disney World - Orlando, Florida

Top 5 Honorable Mentions
Pueblo de Taos, New Mexico
Temple Expiation de la Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain
The Summer Palace, Beijing
Teotihuacan,Mexico City
St. Peter's Basilica, Rome

For more information click on this link: http://www.fodors.com/wire/archives/002574.cfm

Check also my article about Lantau Island (under Images) where I wrote about our climb to the top of the hill to see the Tian Tan Buddha.

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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oahu Aloha Gallery


One of the many things I look forward to when visiting Oahu is indulging in island favorites like saimin (noodles in hot broth topped with vegetables and strips of meat), a bento lunch, and malasadas. I had the opportunity to travel to Honolulu recently with two of my best friends. Amidst sand, sea and chow, we relaxed and fortified our friendship.

On our first day in Honolulu we decided get our shopping out of the way so we took the free shuttle to Hilo Hattie. Instead, we each found floral printed dresses, perfect for a night out on Waikiki Beach. Shopping over, we crossed the street for lunch at Sam Choi’s. While the menu had many appetizing dishes listed, I had my heart set on the bento lunch. In the old days when I used to live in Honolulu, bento orders were served in a black lacquer box with compartments for salad, rice, fish or meat entrée and the quintessential Hawaiian sliced meat, Spam. My plate arrived with generous servings of steamed rice, chicken and beef teriyaki, mahimahi (dolphin fish), an omelet and Spam. Locals eat a lot of Spam and they gather annually at the Waikiki Spam Jam street festival to celebrate the islands’ diet staple. The event benefits the Hawaii Foodbank.

Hiking to the top of Diamond Head was just what we needed to offset the extra calories from the previous day’s overindulgence. Bus #22 dropped us some distance from the entrance to the park. We walked about 10 minutes to the gate where we paid a fee of $1.00 each. The trail was gentle at first but became progressively challenging. Stopping a moment to catch my breath and sate my thirst, I saw steep stairs leading to a tunnel. I had second thoughts about continuing but after resting briefly, I slowly climbed up without looking back. Inside the tunnel are more stairs which lead to the summit. The view from the top is the reward for doggedness.

We waited for TheBus to take us back to the beach but it took so long to arrive that we decided to walk instead. On the way we passed by Diamond Head Market and Grill and saw a steady line of customers in front of their “take out” window. We ordered lunch and took it to Kapiolani Park where we hungrily cleaned our plates. We all thought the food was exceptionally good and we wanted to go back for more.

To circle the island we decided to rent a car rather than take TheBus. Our first stop was Leonard's on Kapahulu Avenue. They have been serving their famous Portuguese malasada from this site since 1957. It’s practically an institution. We bought plain and filled malasadas. The choices of fillings are haupia (coconut), pineapple, chocolate and custard. With enough snacks in our bag, we were finally ready for sightseeing. On Kalanianaole Highway we paused at Hanauma Bay and Halona Blow Hole where we watched spectacular displays of water shooting through the air and admired the rugged coastline. After lunch at a Thai restaurant in Kailua, we drove on to Byodo- In Temple. Calm pervades lush surroundings speckled with colorful foliage, fruit bearing trees, carp ponds, and elegant peacocks. We rang the bell for good luck and happiness then took off our slippers before entering the temple to contemplate briefly. Back on Highway 83, we got out of the car to view Chinaman's Hat crowning deep blue Pacific waters. This is an incredibly endowed spot with the incised walls of the Koolau Range forming a vertical backdrop. Down the road in the North Shore, we scanned the beaches for monster waves but were disappointed.

We had more presents to buy so we went to the “Swap Meet”. The Aloha Stadium parking lot turns into a flea market on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. There’s so much here to entice the shopper that it wasn’t any surprise at all to see many visitors laden with new, plumeria printed luggage filled with souvenirs. How fortunate that we had only a couple of hours to look around. But we bought enough to warrant extra carry-on bags. There are the proverbial T-shirts, jewelry, local arts and crafts, Hawaiian shirts and muumuus, hats, fresh-baked breads, nuts and dried fruits, plants, and all kinds of stuff to tempt even the most resolute non shopper.

On our last day we listened to mellow music while sipping tropical drinks at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I was feeling nostalgic sitting by the beach at sunset with Diamond Head on one side and the ocean in front of us. When the musicians sang my favorite Hawaiian classic by the Beamer Brothers, Honolulu City Lights, I was transported to that time when I called Honolulu home. But the lyrics brought me to the present. It goes in part:
“Looking out upon the city lights,
and the stars above the ocean,
got my ticket for the midnight plane,
and it's not easy to leave again”.

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Photos by Rosario Charie Albar

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mmmm, Malasadas


Leonard’s Bakery on Kapahulu Avenue in Honolulu has been serving their famous Portuguese malasada from this site since 1957. It’s practically an institution. Malasadas are ball shaped doughnuts served warm from the fryer. There are plain and filled malasadas. Pick from a variety of fillings like haupia (coconut), pineapple, chocolate and custard. Try one of each.

If you can’t go to the bakery at 933 Kapahulu Avenue, there are Malasadamobiles™ around Oahu.

If you would like to make your own malasada, check out Emeril Lagasse’s malasada recipe at www.emerils.com/recipes/by_name/malasadas.html

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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Boracay on Yahoo! Travel's 2007 Top Ten Best Beaches List

Boracay Island's dazzling beaches has just been selected by Yahoo! Travel among its Top Ten Best Beaches for 2007. Boracay ranked 7th on the list which follows:
1. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
2. Miami, Florida
3. Cancun, Mexico
4. Kaanapali, Hawaii
5. Honolulu, Hawaii
6. San Diego, California
7. Boracay Island, Philippines
8. Key West, Florida
9. Sydney, Australia
10.Santa Barbara, California

For more information, check out this link:
http://travel.yahoo.com/beaches;_ylt=Ag5LWiuYAlPghcC6YWI3sHn8xmoA

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Images by Rosario Charie Albar



Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Travel Reads


It's summer and many of you will be traveling far and wide or to destinations closer to home. Here are some travel-related books to read when you stretch out on that beach chair or during long flights across the Atlantic or heaven forbid, interminable delays at the airport. Happy reading!
Fiction
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Africa
Paul Theroux, Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown

Asia
Greg Mortenson, Three Cups of Tea
Peter Hassler, A River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
Paul Theroux, Great Railway Bazaar: By Train through Asia
Paul Theroux, Riding the Iron Rooster: By Train through China
Pico Iyer, Video Night in Kathmandu

Australia
Bill Bryson, In a Sunburned Country

Europe
Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island
Bill Bryson, Neither here nor there
Frances Mayes, A Year in the World

Panama
David G. McCullough, The Path between the Seas

Memoir
Marlena de Blasi, A Thousand Days in Venice
Marlena de Blasi, A Thousand Days in Tuscany
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat Pray Love
Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence
Peter Mayle, Toujours Provence
Peter Mayle, Encore Provence

Old World
Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo

Women Write About Their Travel Experience
Seal Press, France, A Love Story
Seal Press, Italy, A Love Story
Seal Press, Mexico, A Love Story

USA
Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Travel Anthologies
Houghton Mifflin Company, Best American Travel Writing
Travelers Tales, Best Travel Writing Series

Traveler's Life List
Patricia Schultz, 1000 Places to See Before You Die

Monday, June 11, 2007

Berlin Dining with a View


On Mother's Day we celebrated by the Wannsea Lake, just a short metro ride from central Berlin. The weather cooperated so we could eat outdoors. I never imagined that potato pancakes could taste so good with chicken kebab.

It was several visits ago that my friends Sonia and Klara introduced me to two restaurants on or near the shopping street, Kurfürstendamm. I ate recently at Le Buffet Berlin inside Wertheim department store. The restaurant offers a choice of hot and cold meals, salads, and desserts. The view from its glass windows of what's left of the bell tower of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church is priceless.

Down the street at Wittenbergplatz is Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe), the grand dame of Berlin's department stores. Their Wintergarden restaurant has a curved glass roof which is a destination by itself. I took longer to finish my strawberry tart because I was mesmerized by the view of sunny skies. It had been raining for days.

I've always had nothing but good food at Moevenpick, whether in Germany or in Switzerland. The second floor restaurant at the Europa Center in Berlin looks out on an urban park that is very much alive with its fountains and entertainers and the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial standing next to the modern needle of a building with colored glass windows which is the new church. I ordered halibut served with rice and vegetables. The halibut was moist and tender and very tasty.

Alas, another restaurant with a view, the Turm is now closed.
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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chalk Art


Outside Santa Barbara Mission (the "Queen of California Missions"), we were treated recently to a riot of colors. An outdoor gallery of chalk art graced the grounds in front of the church. There were copies of Renaissance paintings, Van Gogh's Starry Night, Winslow Homer's Boys in a Pasture and scores of original art. With no rain in sight (and no erasers), this exhibition could stick around to delight visitors.
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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Saturday, June 09, 2007

NEMO Science Museum

At the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam, there are a many discoveries to be made. It's great to see the museum full of schoolkids from grammar school to high school. The younger kids were busy running around from one exhibit to the next. Budding scientists were seriously experimenting in the lab. Not surprisingly, teenagers were queued up at the booth that tackles the subject of sex. A neon lit sign asks teens, "Am I my hormones?" Personally I was mesmerized by a giant robot that could sense my presence and greet me. This hormoneless robot has a lot of potential. The rooftop terrace with its fountains and great views has become the hot summer destination. It's okay to sunbathe here. How apropos to combine scientific learning and relaxing in one venue. Maybe it's easier to retain knowledge when the brain is at ease.

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Images by Rosario Charie Albar

Saturday, June 02, 2007

To be or to bento


One of the many things I like most about Hawaii is the incredible choice of mouth watering cuisine its many kitchens offer visitors and locals alike. A mainstay of island dining is the bento box. During the years I lived in Hawaii, I remember being served my bento order in a black lacquer box with partitions to hold steamed rice, a meat or fish entrée, salad and of course, that quintessential island favorite, spam. (Spam was a staple item during WWII and it has stayed that way since.)

On a recent trip to Honolulu, I was tempted to order the bento lunch at Sam Choi's on Nimitz Highway. How could I pass up a plateful of mahimahi, teriyaki beef and chicken, an omelet, steamed rice and spam? It was a lot of food for under $11.00. I couldn't think of a better way to start our brief and hectic visit to Honolulu.


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Image by Rosario Charie Albar

Friday, June 01, 2007

Solvang


Few cities in the U.S. can claim it is truly unique. There's Santa Barbara with its distinct Spanish architecture, Santa Fe with its adobe buildings, San Francisco has its hills lined with Victorian houses and there's the Danish community of Solvang, in the shadow of the Santa Ynez mountains. A visit here is a trip to the old country of Denmark where thatched roofs crown half timbered buildings. And of course, there are many bakeries offering Danish pastries. What a way to cap off a leisurely stroll around town.