Tag Archives: Sightseeing

Montréal: A Glorious and Gracious Cosmopolitan City

By Charlene Mixa 

A Vibrant Exciting City with a Historical Legacy101_4107_resized

Royal defined as “befitting royalty, stately, or superior” and accurately describes the dynamic and exciting city of Montréal, Canada. Named after Mount Royal, a hill on Montréal Island in the St. Lawrence River, Montréal presents a majestic city. With over four hundred years of French and British heritage it is the only French speaking cosmopolitan city in the Americas. Today it is a major Canadian port as well as a cultural, commercial and industrial hub. A city that is alive with cultures from around the world all mingled in its rich past and exhilarating present. Always welcoming visitors to learn and experience the glorious and gracious, cosmopolitan Montréal. Continue reading

Cheyenne: A Vibrant Boot-Stompin’ Town

By Charlene & Richard Mixa
Get the Spirit of the Old West

The BIG BOOT at the Cheyenne Depot

The BIG BOOT at the Cheyenne Depot

Cheyenne – the name alone conjures up images of the old West with cowboys, rodeos, railroads and majestic plains. It’s a vibrant frontier town that celebrates its western roots as well as a fun lovin’ town that boasts Big Boots, Big Bison, Big Trains, Big Mansions, Big Western Stores and more. Join us on a trip through the past and experience the “Legend of Cheyenne.” Continue reading

Discover Dublin: A Fascinating Capital City

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

There’s Plenty to Toast in Dublin!Slainte!

Dublin! Drinks! Guinness! Irish Whiskey! Rebellion! History! Famine! Where to start in exploring this amazing capital city of the Republic of Ireland? A pub- of course! Boasting or better toasting over 1,000 pubs they are plentiful. Cheers! O‘Neill’s Bar is the perfect place for a quiet pint on our first evening in Dublin. For over 300 years O’Neill’s has warmly welcomed visitors and residents. Sitting at the bar, a friendly Irish couple shares suggestions for sights to see. Ah, a true charming real Irish Pub in the heart of historic Dublin. Continue reading

Magical Dromoland Castle: An Irish Fairytale Resort

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

The Charm of Old World Elegance with Contemporary Luxuries

Enchanting entrance to Dromoland Castle

Enchanting entrance to Dromoland Castle

With visions of a fairytale visit, we follow the meandering drive as it passes lush magnificent lawns and a glistening lake to a 5th Century mystical castle.   Approaching Dromoland Castle, we are transported to a time when Lords and Ladies graciously welcome and entertain guests at their massive estates. It’s a real castle! Dromoland was originally the ancestral home of one of the few families of Gaelic Royalty; direct descendants of Brian Boru, the High King of Ireland. Today, it is a 5 Star Castle Hotel where guests have a “royal and regal” experience. Beautifully updated the castle still retains its old-world charm and crisp service. Continue reading

Victoria, BC and Inspiring Butchard Gardens

By Charlene Mixa

Touring Charming Victoria and Inspiring Butchard Gardens

Gorgeous flowers are everywhere in Victoria
Gorgeous flowers are everywhere in Victoria

 

Imagine enjoying gardens and flowers blooming year round in Canada! What a wonderful surprise to find that Vancouver Island in British Columbia has the mildest climate in Canada with gardens blooming throughout the year. Continue reading

The Mysteries and Delights of the Far East

By Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

Gate 1’s 17 day tour of Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, is presented not as a “walk in the park” but as a sensory, visual and physical immersion in the culture of the three countries. Our group of 17 walked among the people and viewed their homes, temples, schools and places of business. We ate their food, starting with noodle soup for breakfast, fried noodles for lunch and noodles and vegetables for dinner. It was soon apparent they did not eat much meat and most of us found the diet quite healthy.

We arrived in Bangkok at 11.30 p.m. after 17 hours of travel. Our Gate1 representative was waiting to bring us to our hotel. It is no small thing that after such a long journey, our hotel, The Chaophya Park, was a deluxe refuge and relaxing haven from the rigors of travel. After a refreshing sleep, we were ready for a full day of Thai culture.

Bangkok is the capital and most densely populated city in Thailand. Traffic is out of control. Boat service on the Chao Phraya River services approximately 50,000 people daily and helps to alleviate traffic in the city center. Taxi service includes cars, motorbikes and tuk-tuks.

Our first stop was Wat Pho, which is the largest temple complex in Bangkok. It is home to the gigantic golden reclining Buddha. The Buddha is 150 feet long and 40 feet high and takes up the entire building. It is covered in gold-leaf and shines like the sun. Along the sides of the temple are 108 small bronze bowls where visitors can buy coins to deposit in each bowl and make a wish. It is more than impressive, it is amazing. Visitors are reminded that it is an active temple and proper clothing must be worn. Shoulders and legs must be covered and shoes removed.

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

We spent about an hour roaming freely around the rest of the complex which includes 394 Golden Buddhas sitting in the lotus position, a school of Thai massage and numerous small buildings and statues in a park-like setting.

In the afternoon we had our choice of visiting the Grand Palace which houses the Emerald Buddah and is still used for cultural and government functions, but is no longer a royal residence, or wandering on our own through the maze of street venders and small shops.

Late in the afternoon we returned to our hotel and availed ourselves of the nearby Thai massage facility. The Thai massage is very different from our usual massage. It is invigorating instead of relaxing and uses yoga style postures to relieve and stress and improve blood circulation. The charge was $15 for an hour and we were definitely hooked.

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Angkor Wat

By Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

Angkor Wat or the city of temples in Cambodia was first a Hindu and then a Buddhist temple complex.  It is the largest religious monument in the world and the best preserved. It was built in the 12th century. It is renowned for its grandeur and its extensive bas-reliefs on the walls surrounding the structure.  It has become the symbol of Cambodia and appears on its national flag and it is the country’s number one attraction for visitors.

It was not until the 19th century when the temple was visited by the French explorer, Henri Mouhot, that the temple became a Western tourist destination. There is no evidence that the site was ever used as living quarters. No domestic utensils, weapons or items of clothing were found. Little was done with the site until the 20th century when a considerable restoration was begun and the area was cleared of out-of-control vegetation.  There are still a lot of the old, old trees which have grown-into and become a part of the structure. The entire structure contains an enormous amount of sandstone which was probably transported to the site by raft.

Angkor Wat has seen continued conservation efforts and has contributed to a massive increase in tourism to Camodia.  It is now a World Heritage Site.

Our Gate 1 Travel group spent two days in Siem Reap and visiting Angkor Wat was one of the highlights of our trip. It is beautiful beyond words and even photography cannot completely capture the enormous scope of its walls, towers and grounds. It is a site that no traveler to South East Asia should miss.

Halong Bay

By Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

Halong Bay, or Ha Long, Bay as it is known in Vietnamese is a popular tourist destination in  Quang Ninh Province in northeastern Vietnam.  It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that should be included on every travel itinerary in Vietnam.  It is a bit out of the way but our Gate 1 Travel group reached it by bus from Hanoi.  We spent a half day on the bay and it was pure magic. We left fairly early in the morning when the fog shrouded many of the limestone formations and the old wooden fishing boat in which we were traveling gave us the feeling that we were alone in an eerie seascape.  The fog soon cleared however and we were able to photograph the massive limestone formations.

The bay consists of a dense cluster of some 1,600 limestone islands each topped with thick jungle vegetation rising spectacularly from the ocean.  Some of the islands are hollow. Some have caves and towards the end of our trip we climbed above sea level to visit one of the caves which was lit with a variety of soft lights. It was not a difficult climb and all of our group was able to enjoy the beauty of the natural caverns.

 

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

A community of approximately 2,000 inhabitants live in four fishing villages in the Bay. They make their living from the large variety of fish and mollusks in the waters.  The climate is hot and humid in the summer and can be quite cold in the dry winter. Spring or Fall is the best time to visit.

Many tours, because of its slightly out of the way location, do not include this magnificent area on their schedule.  I am most grateful that Gate 1 Travel recognized the unique beauty of this site.  It was well worth the bus trip. It was another highlight on a great trip full of highlights.

The Water Puppet Show

By Mary Jo Plouf

The only existing water puppets in the world, as far as I can determine, are in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Thang Long Water Pupper Show is a puppet show, performed on a watery stage. The puppets depict scenes from the history of Vietnam, animal antics and human foibles.  It is all very interesting even if the majority of the spectators cannot understand the language.  The band alone is worth the price of admission.

The theater is small and the seats are very close together and small.  There is very little leg room. A few of our Gate 1 Travel group were a bit uncomfortable, but the performance lasted only about an hour so we all enjoyed the show. There were no bad seats, just uncomfortable ones.

The colors and visuals for the show were outstanding and there was no objection to taking photos during the performance.

Before and after the performance, it was possible to visit the gift shop and view some of the puppets up-close. They are quite different from the usual puppets.  The theater is located in a very popular market area, so many of our group stayed on after the performance and walked back to our hotel.

 

Cambodia

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

photo credit: Mary Jo Plouf

By Mary Jo Plouf

The Kingdom of Cambodia, recently known as the Khamer Empire is bordered by Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Cambodia is one of the most populous countries in the world and one of the poorest. The current head of the government, Hun Sen, has ruled the country for twenty-five years. Although still a relatively low income country, it has enjoyed the largest economic growth in Asia, with a 6 percent growth for the last ten years in textiles, agriculture, construction and tourism.

The capital and largest city is Phnom Penh but the most famous tourist attraction is located near the small village of Siem Reap. Angkor Wat and Angkor Thon are known throughout the world as World Heritage Sites and the number of tourists is increasing by almost a million a year. This has insured that the relatively small area has a large number of new hotels and good restaurants. The city also features a number of museums, the French quarter market and the Apsara dancers.

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