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November 06, 2008

The Best Thai Food in Ko Phi Phi

By Karen Chen

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CURRY LOVE: Papaya Restaurant's green curry (Claudio Stein)

Every once in a while (and by that I mean twice in my life), I have the pleasure of experiencing a dish, a meal, or a restaurant that is so wholly satisfying that I could die happy on the spot. The third such time I'd ever experienced this was during my month-long trip through Southeast Asia, on the little island oasis of Ko Phi Phi off the western coast of Thailand, and immediately it was love.

Although I had originally only planned to stay for a few days, I lazed around Ko Phi Phi for much longer than I'd expected. It was due to a mix of the island's mainstay of happy-go-lucky backpackers, its beautiful beaches, and its laid-back vibe that washed away all worries with the tide.  But perhaps one of the biggest reasons for my extended island lounging was because I had stumbled upon the greatest restaurant I had ever eaten at to date: Papaya Restaurant. My Brazilian friend, who had been to the island five years before and had vowed to himself that he would return, tipped us off—almost too enthusiastically—that the best place to eat on the island was unequivocally Papaya Restaurant. Soon we'd find out that he wasn't alone in his praise of the tiny open-air restaurant.

Papaya was owned by a very warm Thai man named Ror, who reminded me of an adorable panda, but who, ironically, was a former champion Thai boxer. Ror had found his calling as a cook post-boxing career, and thank god for that. Every night, every table in the 15x25-foot space was filled to capacity with customers happily lapping up aromatic curry dishes, refreshing papaya salads, and tangy pad thai. After our first meal there, we never ate anywhere else on the island again (save for breakfast from the local 7-Eleven... but had Payapa offered breakfast, you better believe we would have been there.)

Continue reading "The Best Thai Food in Ko Phi Phi" »

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Related Topics: Asia Travel · Budget Travel · Food and Drink · Travel Raves

July 29, 2008

Exotic Istanbul

TRUE BLUE: Istanbul's Blue Mosque (Glen Allison/Photodisc)

family travel expert: steve jermanok An older man strolls down one of Istanbul's main thoroughfares during rush-hour, dragging his two pet brown bears in tow. Except for several tourists, who stare in utter amazement, throngs of Turks walk by on their way to work oblivious to a scene that would either halt traffic or send people fleeing in terror in most cities across the globe. Yet here in the former city of Constantinople, a metropolis of over six million people that Mark Twain befittingly dubbed the "eternal circus," surreal visions are the norm. Istanbul is laden with incongruities: the mix of Eastern and Western cultures, antiquity and modernity, as well as wealth and poverty. The result is a unique and complex city that continually stimulates all five senses as families wander through its streets.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Raves

July 22, 2008

Things We Like: LAN Airlines Business Class -- Finally an Airline that Gets Air Travel Right

As domestic airlines connive of ways to charge us for… everything while in transit, it's rare to find something praise-worthy relating to air travel. Let this be the exception that proves the rule: LAN Airlines has succeeded where U.S.-based carriers consistently fail: by putting the passengers' needs before the industry's ever-expanding cost-cutting measures.

Continue reading "Things We Like: LAN Airlines Business Class -- Finally an Airline that Gets Air Travel Right" »

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July 16, 2008

San Francisco in Summer

SUPER SPAN: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco (Brand X Pictures)

Sure, I've heard that Mark Twain line at least a hundred times: "The coldest winter I ever had was the summer I spent in San Francisco." And yes, it's not exactly beach weather. But who wants to lie on a beach when you can have so much fun in the city? On a trip to San Fran last summer, we hung on the outside of cable cars up and down the hilly city, walked Lombard Street, the most crooked street in America, took a ferry from Fisherman's Wharf under the Golden Gate Bridge, saw the massive redwoods at Muir Woods, dined on the shores of Sausalito, had my Ghirardelli ice-cream fix at Ghirardelli Square, and ate dim sum in Chinatown (where my uncle tried to convince my son Jake to try his jellyfish, saying it was just noodles). The highlight, however, was the Exploratorium. Housed within the walls of San Fran's Palace of Fine Arts, the museum contains countless hands-on activities that investigate the realms of science and art. I was having so much fun that the kids told me it was time to leave! Stay at The Handlery, located in Union Square, close to the cable car and within walking distance of Chinatown. They have an outdoor pool, but did I mention that Mark Twain quote?

Hit the road this summer with's guide to the best active-minded itineraries around the U.S., including two that start or end in San Francisco.

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Travel Raves

February 14, 2008

Trip of a Lifetime: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef

Think of the Great Barrier Reef as the world's ultimate underwater safari. One teeming with more exotic fish and sea life than your local aquarium will ever know, including sharks, dolphins, six of the seven species of sea turtles known to man, and a mind-boggling 2,000 types of fish (with new varieties found every year). Many of these fish are neon-colored, floating against a backdrop of blue, pink, and yellow coral to produce a kaleidoscopic world that rivals even the most explosive of Jackson Pollock's drip paintings.

The Great Barrier runs closest to the mainland near Cairns, located in Australia's northeastern state of Queensland and about two hours by plane from Sydney. Close to a million people each year make the pilgrimage here. Once in town, many visitors choose to spend their time on Green and Fitzroy islands, two islands that are not technically on the "Big Reef." However, less than an hour by boat from the city wharf in Cairns, the snorkeling off these two islands can be just as good as the Great Barrier. Outfitters run half- and full-day trips in glass-bottom boats so you can witness this mesmerizing underwater world without ever getting wet.

Continue reading "Trip of a Lifetime: Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef" »

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Related Topics: Dispatches from the Road · Family Vacation · Places to Stay · Travel Raves

January 14, 2008

South Africa: The Adventure of a Lifetime

January signals the heart of summer in South Africa, the ideal time to visit Cape Town, a city that can easily match Sydney, San Francisco, and Rio for its sheer beauty.

Table Mountain, often draped in its iconic tablecloth of clouds, forms a spectacular backdrop. A short drive away are the exquisite beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay, and the precipitous cliffs of Chapman's Peak and Cape Point. You should give yourself at least a week to explore Cape Town and Cape of Good Hope Peninsula; to try the award-winning wines in Stellenbosch and other Winelands' towns an hour to the north (younger kids will still enjoy things like bike rides, hot-air balloon rides, or a trip to a crocodile farm); and to spend a day in the nearby coastal town of Hermanus to the east, the whale-watching capital of South Africa. Farther east is the famous Garden Route, a five-hour drive amidst forest, lagoons, and coastal towns, including the surfing mecca of Plettenberg Bay. Having traveled so far to reach South Africa, make the most of your trip by taking a quick flight to Kruger National Park in the northeast part of the country for a three- to five-day safari. You'll be hard pressed to top that combo anywhere.

Photo: Cape Town, South Africa (Mark Skinner/courtesy, South Africa Tourism)

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December 18, 2007

Airboarding 101: Your Guide to Winter's Latest Craze

By awayblog

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The travel gurus at Lonely Planet just posted this story about the increasingly popular winter sport of airboarding, also called snow bodyboarding. It's still very much a niche activity compared to skiing and snowboarding—plus has some big detractors among sniffy skiers and 'boarders who don't want to share their piste with what are, essentially, turbo-charged snow rockets that can hit speeds of up to 80 mph. However, for families who want to amp up the fun or those with kids who don't feel comfortable skiing, this is a good wintertime alternative like tubing, snow biking, or snowshoeing. Check out the video below, plus read our selection of the best North American ski areas for sled-heads.

Continue reading "Airboarding 101: Your Guide to Winter's Latest Craze" »

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Related Topics: Family Vacation · Outdoor Adventures · Travel Raves

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