Author Archive for The Traveler

Bangkok Swisshotel’s Enormous Floral Display

Guest post by Hendson Quan

The Bangkok Flower Show

It is officially known as the Nai Lert Park Bangkok International Flower Show and held annually at the five-star Swissotel Hotel. In its 28th year in 2014, and happening this October 2 – 5, its proceeds go to charitable educational, mental illness cure and children development causes, with recent years’ funds approaching THB 5.0 million ($ 155,000 USD) for the 4-day event.

“Enormous” is not used here to describe the number of floral items as it is used to literally say that each floral display or arrangement is simply humongous and impressive.
At the show, take time and concentration to admire each piece. See how meticulously and painstakingly the flower designers and arrangers have created and put together their work. Like putting yourself in a giant garden, full of colorful flowers in various shapes and forms, you get the feeling of being in another world, one filled with fragrance, beauty and grand design.

Driving on Wireless Road in Bangkok, one can’t miss the huge sign announcing the event. At the turnoff to the hotel, a guard stationed at the security post stops visitors, vehicles and pedestrians alike, for a quick visual check and maybe a few questions. Then it’s about a quarter mile (400 meters) drive from which one gets the sense of entering a garden resort. Trees and flowers line the road, and statutes along the way beckon a welcome feeling. You can hear, but not see, soft waterfall sounds coming from some distant spot.

Bangkok Swiss Hotel LobbyThe lobby is expansive. Head to the right of it for check in, head to the left for the flower show. Or before all that, just take your time and enjoy a couple of tropical cocktails at the bar straight ahead while listening to the two performers, accompanied by a pianist, singing past and present favorites. You may even place a personal request with the singers.

At the entrance of the flower show, giant floral birds, bees and rabbits greet visitors. There is even a huge pot (of Thai tea?) waiting for guests as well. The giant eggs seem so real and freshly laid.


Tea, Madam

Inside the show, among many others, are five goldfish that most homes would not be big enough to keep, a big red high heel shoe filled with flowers that any girl would envy to own, a reclining mermaid that many a young man would dream about meeting, and a tall flower vase that if filled would break most men’s bank account.

A Handful of Goldfish

Watch Your Step

Mermaid of the Sea

A Very Tall Vase Indeed

International Swisshotel RestaurantThis is a show well worth attending, and that is not even counting the events that are part of it: an auction of fine paintings, a dining experience given by a world-class chef, and afternoon tea. Rounding out your day’s experience, satisfy your gastronomical appetite after fulfilling your aesthetic tastes from the show, do the lunch buffet at Swissotel’s ISO Restaurant, whose tall and huge windows allow you to look out to a lush garden area and add to the idyllic feeling from the show experience.



Magnificent Frigates, Blue-Footed Boobies, Finches and More: A Birder’s Paradise in the Galápagos

Guest Post by Vickie Lillo

American Oystercathers on the beach

The sky overhead darkens momentarily as I take off my snorkeling fins, balancing myself against a protruding root from a manglar (mangrove tree). Darkens enough to cast a quick shadow.  Not from passing clouds or remnants of the garúa mist floating down from the highlands, but from a syncopated formation of turquoise webbed feet and azure beaks.  I feel like I’m in an exotic rendition of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, ‘The Birds’, as I watch blue-footed boobies dive bombing for fish off the cove at Tortuga Bay, here on Santa Cruz, the main isle of the Galápagosbirds. 

I’ve never considered myself a bird-watcher of any note before, but the extraordinary aviary on this archipelago 600 miles from South America has changed my perspective.  Wrapping a beach towel around my waist, I straddle a downed tree trunk, content to languish in the shade and watch the native fowl.  An American oystercatcher, orange bill and all, strolls across the sand, plucking microscopic specks of food from the muck.  A yellow warbler flitters amongst the foliage where I’m sitting, inches from my mask.  Unperturbed by my presence. Read More→

Exploring Spokane’s Historic Spots, Part II – 3 Memorable Neighborhoods

Manito Park Bridge Credit Roy A Barnes

In Part I of this series, I discussed the city’s historical downtown must-sees.  But there’s more to a city than its centrally-located tourist attractions.   To really get intimate with a city means exploring some of the neighborhoods that have helped shaped its history.  I can picture the late Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”) educating the kids in any one of these locales.

South Hill — Spokane’s haven of tranquility

Just south of downtown, a cluster of neighborhoods known as South Hill beckons.  It’s like going into another world from hustle and bustle of the city, where tall evergreens dominate the skyline rather than brick and mortar edifices.  Our drive offered me a view of the stately-looking homes, including Craftsman-style bungalows and beautifully-put-together brick domiciles.   This was especially evident as we got closer to South Hill’s “jewel in the crown,” in the Manito neighborhood, for it contains a 90-acre green space called Manito Park.

The park, designed by the famous Olmstead brothers of Central Park fame, combines both the best of man’s landscaping ideas with Mother Nature’s unspoiled beauty.  The area is prefaced by basalt rock formations jutting out everywhere.   In the midst of the unspoiled habitat, my eyes were captivated by a stone bridge built in the 1930s.   Even on a warm, sunny afternoon with the public out hiking, biking, or admiring one of the six gardens (including for lilacs and roses), I felt a real sense of calmness and peace in a place that once was a zoo, until the hard times of the Great Depression caused its closure.   At the north central end of the park, one can still see remnants of the bear’s habitat, as just behind the Park Bench Café resides a basalt rock formation that has iron bars sticking out of it.

Of the six gardens, a must-see is the Duncan Garden, which was created in the spirit of European formal gardens in France and Italy centuries ago for royalty.   Each year, some 70,000 annuals are planted there to make for a colorful scene of begonias, geraniums, marigolds, etc., that serve up those special backdrops for senior pictures and weddings.

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Exploring the Geyser Fields of Chile’s Atacama Desert: The Night the Gods Were Against Us

Guest Post by Vickie Lillo

Burbling geyser pool at El Tatio

It seemed as if the gods were against us that night, in the stark desert town of San Pedro, in Chile’s desolate Atacama.  We were on a three-day round-trip junket from Calama, and tomorrow was the final day of our journey.  We had been told–by everyone–that the best view of the El Tatio geysers was at daybreak, in the cold chill of the South American winter.  Our best-laid plans meant we had already set the alarm clock for 4:00 in the morning.

The bad luck had begun earlier in the evening, when we were trying to grab a quick bite to eat for dinner, so that we could get to the bed early.  The lights had unexpectedly gone out in the town.  Total darkness – the blackout was so intense that you could barely see your hand in front of you.  People were stumbling about, running into things, tripping over the cobblestones on the street.  My husband took it in stride.  Inside, I was screaming from sheer terror.  I felt as if the oppressiveness of night was closing in on me–maybe it was a claustrophobic response, I don’t know.  By the beam of flashlights, we found our way back to our rental just about the time the lights came back on.  So, we went to dinner.  Afterwards, as I was pulling the sheets back in the room of our hostel, my husband walked in with the bad news.

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Top Tips for a Lisbon Vacation on a Budget

Tips for your budget vacation to beautiful Lisbon

If you’re trying to plan your next vacation, you may find yourself settling on Lisbon as the destination. With beautiful architecture, fascinating culture and plenty of historical sites, this city is a great choice for a trip. Deciding how to fill your days in a foreign city is an exciting process, but it can be daunting to try to plan your holiday on a restricted budget. Finding excursions that will allow you to experience your travel destination requires a bit of research, especially when travelling cheap is a primary goal. The most basic way to do this is a search for travel discounts and deals as you plan your trip. Finding discounted airfare or hotel rates are some obvious places to start when planning a budgeted trip – but don’t stop there.

Below are some more creative ideas that will help you save money on your Lisbon trip — you’ll be able to inexpensively explore the city and partake in activities that are affordable and enjoyable.

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