While flipping through the news last night, it was reported that London was the #1 most traveled-to European city in 2007…and also being the dirtiest. Paris was #2, but received #1 billing for the unfriendliest. Amsterdam, Dublin and London share top nods as being the most friendliest. Having personally traveled to Amsterdam last year, I absolutely concur! Here’s proof! Some Dutchmen who volunteered to be our tour guides. 🙂


Anyhoots, that little snippet of news made me curious to learn what the top travel destinations were for this year. I went off on my search, typing in all sorts and every travel expert/guide (Frommers, Lonely Planet, etc.) had their own Top 10’s. However, I then came across a site I had never heard of before, but took a liking to its hot spots for the year.

Now my peers regard me as being pretty well-traveled; I certainly do not entirely disagree with them but there are still just oh so many places on my wish list. I mean among those listed below, I can say I have knocked off one: Palermo, Sicily. I totally would LOVE to live in Buenos Aires for a period of time, and I hope to maybe hit up Thailand (though it would come after a few other must-go destinations while I’m in Shanghai) and perhaps (fingers-super-crossed) New Zealand… And mmmm Belize…and Budapest & Nepal sounds dope! But enough with my yapping…

Here it is!

BootsnAll.com, website for independent travelers, announces its Top 10 Destinations for 2008. The writers and editors of this global travel information and resource site have compiled ten great destinations that combine history and culture with value for travelers who prefer to arrange their own trips and challenge themselves in the most fascinating places in the world.

10 – Buenos Aires , Argentina — One of the nicest European cities of all is actually in South America. After its currency collaBuenos Airespse in 2003, this gorgeous place got embarrassingly cheap for foreigners, but that won’t go on forever, so don’t wait too long. Vegetarians may find beef-obsessed Argentina a bit challenging. It won’t be a deal-breaker, though, as this cosmopolitan city has something for everyone, including a diverse nightlife scene that usually goes until dawn or later. Brush up on your español before you go – it will help you experience the city more completely.
9 – Budapest, Hungary — The capital of Hungary is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Unlike some other Eastern European destinations, viBudapestsiting is still very cheap compared to the West. The old town district of Castle Hill is a highlight of this huge city, and the hearty portions of the paprika-accented food win over most who try it. You can spend days just admiring the classic architecture, but the city is also an excellent place to begin an exploration of the many historic Hungarian villages nearby.

8 – Marrakech, Morocco — This moderate Muslim country is easily visible and quickly reachable from the southern coast of Spain, but it feels a world away. Quickly pass throuMarrakechgh the “border-town” city of Tangier and on to Rabat, Fes, or Marrakech for a pleasant cultural shock on a backpacker’s budget. Choose Fes or Marrakech, and add in a smaller city to escape the constant tourism push, but skip the chaotic capital of Casablanca. For those with a bit more time, trekking the Atlas mountain ranges makes for an unforgettable adventure mixed with a cultural experience that contrasts nicely with Morocco’s bustling cities. Even for independent travelers, a tour using a local guide can be a great way to see all the magical parts of Morocco and avoid its often frustrating tourist traps.

Chiang Mai

7 – Chiang Mai, Thailand — This walled city in the Himalayan foothills is 700 kilometers north of Bangkok and is known as the gateway to northern Thailand. Over 300 Buddhist temples in all different styles dot the area, with the 13th century Wat Chiang Man being the oldest. An important trading center for many centuries, there’s plenty to do during the frequently steamy days. The famous Night Bazaar with its bargain crafts and fashions is the place to spend the cool Chiang Mai evenings. The fact that hotel rooms start around US$5.00 per night, and traditional Thai mini-resorts can be found for not much more, only sweetens the deal. This is a great place for a minor splurge for long term travelers in Southeast Asia.


6 – Imet Gogo, Ethiopia — Forget what you might have thought about Ethiopia before, this large East African country is not depressing or completely parched. A growing tourist infrastructure is making it easier to discover for adventurous travelers. Having never been colonized, Ethiopia has its own fascinating history and culture, which mix nicely with one of the most impressive networks of well preserved national parks in the world. The Omo Valley in the east provides an unforgettable look at African tribal life today. Hotels in Ethiopia start under US$10.00, but luxury is available if you’ve got the money.

Queenstown, New Zealand

5 – Queenstown, New Zealand — Anyone who has been to New Zealand knows that Queenstown is the tourist mecca of its South Island. During winter the city is filled with snowboarders and skiers; for the rest of the year, the Bungee-jumping and adventure-travel crowd moves in, so the nightlife is good year round. This postcard-perfect mountain city on a lake is also so charming that you’ll want to move there before you even reach the center of town for the first time. You can have a great visit using public transportation, but if you’ve rented a car or campervan, your possibilities for exploring the area greatly increase. Queenstown is not terribly cheap, but it’s not a budget buster either.


4 – Palermo, Sicily — This endlessly scenic island off Italy’s toe has its own ancient culture and even its own language, but in some ways it’s also more intensely Italian (and noticeably cheaper) than the main tourist cities in the north. The plentiful seafood is both exotic and simple, and the abundant vineyards ensure the wine keeps flowing at a very reasonable price. Check on the bustling capital of Palermo or the beach resort/fishing village of Cefalù at any time, except the sweltering and steamy summer. Ancient Greek ruins can be found in many areas and Mt. Etna – Europe’s largest active volcano – is easy to explore as well.

Petra, Jordan

3 – Petra, Jordan — The Middle East can sound scary and that helps keep Jordan from being overwhelmed with tourists, but this safe and welcoming country where most people speak some English – eco-tourism is quickly catching on – offers a fascinating look at the region with surprisingly few headaches. Don’t linger in the modern capital of Amman. Instead, spend a couple of days in the ancient city of Petra and another couple checking out the stunning desertscapes of Wadi Rum. Spring and fall are the best times to visit, but brave visitors are welcome all year round. As long as things remain stable in Jordan, it’s bound to start getting crowded in years to come.


2 – Placencia, Belize – This tiny English-speaking Central American country feels frozen in time, but in a very good way. Paved roads are a rarity on the popular tourist islands where most visitors go. Belize has world-class scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, sailing, sea-kayaking, cave-tubing and jungle expeditions, mixed with fascinating Maya culture. It’s one of the cheapest Caribbean resort destinations now, but don’t wait too long. Developers and even celebrities have caught on (Leonardo DiCaprio is building an eco-resort on a private island in Belize and Francis Ford Coppola already owns a couple of places), so it won’t be this way forever.


1 – Kathmandu, Nepal — Most famous for being home to half of Mount Everest, there is a lot more to do in this ultra-photogenic country than follow a Sherpa into the sky. Trekking adventures for all skill levels are available throughout Nepal, and crowds still tend to be minimal for now. Check out some Bengal tigers, elephants and Indian rhinos during a guided jungle tour in the Royal Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The capital of Kathmandu – which dates back to the 8th Century AD – is filled with temples, but also has a sturdy tourist infrastructure. Hotels for under US$10.00 per night are easy to find, but so are international business-class hotels for those with deeper pockets.

. . don’t burn the day. .





Shanghai Pinghe School, I’m Yours!!!

Being my meticulous self – especially when it comes to contract negotiations, and cooperating with the Dean’s travel schedule, plus! the 13 hour time difference (Shanghai is AHEAD 13 hours; Yes, please take note for the future), it took quite some time for final drafts to finally land in my hands. But at last! I have signed on the dotted line(s)!

Quick Breakdown of the Process:

  • I negotiated the English version (of course).
  • Upon agreeable terms, (8) copies were furnished for my john hanock. Yes, EIGHT. They are not joking!
  • (4) School Contract – (2) in English / (2) in Chinese
  • (4) Foreign Expert Management Bureau contract – (2) in English/ (2) in Chinese

Here’s my moms and pops reading over the Chinese version…(and check out my pops rockin’ a baby blue t-shirt courtesy of Outkast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below! They have such a COOL daughter 🙂 ).


Next Steps!

I gotta look into flights – for mid June – and visa stuff, try my best to tame my antsy’ness and eventually (still finding my groove here at home), pick up on some leisure reading and other miscellaneous stuff that I’ve put off doing.
Oh and here’s a lil’ sumn sumn About the Pinghe School and well, Shanghai:
  • Shanghai Pinghe is a private, boarding, international, bilingual school that is part of the International Baccalaureate Program (ooh la la!), located in the newly developed Jin Qiao Green International Community in Pudong, Shanghai.
  • Pudong, as I see it – having never been – is best understood as the “Brooklyn” to Manhattan in terms of geography. Much like how NYC is broken up by 5 boroughs, Shanghai is broken up by 19 districts. 9 of which make up “city centre” aka Puxi.
  • Puxi and Pudong are essentially divided by the Huang Pu River. (Puxi means “west of the Huang Pu River” and Pudong means “east of the Huang Pu River.)
  • In 1990, plans were announced to transform the once mainly farmland and countryside-Pudong into its current-day status of the emergent financial and commercial hub of Shanghai.
  • Pudong was rebuilt with the western constructs in mind (ie. wider streets, more greenery and from my conversation with the Dean – the school and community also Go Green! Whoo!)
  • Pudong is home to the Finance and Trade Zone, Shanghai Stock Exchange, Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower – symbolizing Shanghai/China’s economic development.
  • So how is it like the BK? Well, check Exhibit A:shanghai_pudong-to-bund.jpg
In this picture, we are at the viewpoint of being in Pudong, looking outwards to Puxi, across the River. Connecting both are tunnels and 4 major bridges as well as a reliable subway system 🙂 .
The super major contrast between Puxi and Pudong is that it is essentially the old vs. new Shanghai. Without going into too too much, I can pretty much guarantee I will be frequenting Puxi for nightlife, eats, action and all that other good stuff.
  • Now back to the school – it being an international school, the students are generally children of expats and are taught in both Chinese and English regardless of country of origin (be it Greece, Ireland, Korea, Japan etc…)
  • I will be teaching primarily little rugrats, I mean 1st graders in the subjects of: English Language Arts, Social Studies and Integrated Science; as well as some electives to include 5th graders.
  • What got me most was the school’s philosophy: Educating students to become “elite, high caliber, world citizens” via “integration of western and eastern cultures.” Need I say more?
  • And as a bonus, my mother told me she likes the sound of the school…literally… as the phonetics of “Pinghe” relate to “Peace” … as in unity and world peace. 🙂


Ok, that was enough education for today. Here’s one last pic to share my excitment…

View from infamous Puxi’s Bund, looking towards Pudong’s skyline….



I think I might have to do a double feature night of Lost in Translation (even though the film takes place in Tokyo, I will still be just as …lost…in…translation) and Shanghai Noon. 😀

In the meantime, I’m going to guest-read and do activities with my little niece’s 4th grade classroom later this afternoon…




Signed, Sealed and Delivered by Stevie Wonder (08.07.70)

. . don’t burn the day. .







Ok, maybe it doesn’t sound as inviting en espanol… but it’s still such a great movie!!

In light of Patrick Swayze’s recent diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, our friends at Showtime gave me an evening treat yesterday by showing the fantastic flick, Dirty Dancing!

Take a time-out in your day for a smile… Enjoy!

And of course this brought back fond memories of:

  • a) Patricio Swayze in Cancun with Jack, Gab & Jess. (fingers waving, March 2003)
  • b) My/Our (Cindy, Dan, Dora, Jack & Ned) rendition of Dirty Dancing, while stranded (taxi ran out of gas-twice… long story, another time….) alongside the highway in Peru – while we were leaving our MTV Beach House at Beach Asia (pronounced Ahh-Cee-Ahh) heading back to Lima. (Jan/Feb 2006)

“We’ve had the time of our lives….and we owe it all to you… ipod/radio-cooler!!”

Here are flashbacks photos for those who have no idea what I’m talking about…The last couple photos sum up the experience…


But now for real, for real – my thoughts go out to Patrick and his family in hopes for a healthy and speedy recovery!… “Somebody who has taught me that there are people willing to stand up for other people, no matter what it costs them.” – Johnny Castle

I also recommend ya’ll putting it on your netflix queue and/or hit up your local video store. This movie never gets old…

dirtydancingsoundtrack.jpg“Time of My Life” by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes from soundtrack, Dirty Dancing (08.21.87)




. . don’t burn the day. .