These articles focus on specific destinations around the globe

A Day in the Vineyard (Wine Optional)

Martha's Vineyard Lighthouse

The Lighthouse at Aquinnah

Martha’s Vineyard – long the playground of New England’s elite – lies just a ferry ride off of Massachusetts’ southern coast. This iconic summer destination also welcomes flights from around the country, including those of private pilots. Thanks to the latter, (namely, my Dad) I was able to see this Norman Rockwell-esque outpost for myself. And what I found, was that it was well worth the hype.

Let me start by saying that despite its name, I didn’t have a drop of wine during my one day jitney, though not for a lack of upscale restaurants. Instead I focused my attention on the charming towns and appealing beaches that are never further than a short bus ride away. In fact, it was the efficient and comfortable bus service that in my mind gave Martha’s Vineyard the edge over similar Atlantic islands such as Block Island.

The airport is located near the dead enter of the island, and from there the island’s main destinations: Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and Aquinnah, form a triangle that is somewhat equidistant in each direction. The useful Martha’s Vineyard Transit Authority runs regular bus service to all corners and is by far a more economical option than renting a vehicle on your own. That said, you’re at the mercy of their timetables, so choose which means most to you.


Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard

Charm out the wazoo in Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard

Heading east from the airport, the first destination is Edgartown – a quaint New England town sporting a wide array of restaurants, art galleries, boutiques and of course, souvenir shops. This is the gateway to the (in)famous island of Chappaquiddick and you’ll find the water brimming with watercraft come summertime. Allot at least an hour to leisurely stroll the shops and streets – more if you want that aforementioned bottle of wine. This is also a good place to catch a bus to South Beach for a fine stretch of sand with very basic public facilities onsite.

Oak Bluffs

If you’re arriving to Martha’s Vineyard by ferry, it’s quite likely that Oak Bluffs is where you’ll disembark. This charming town at the northern tip of the island is known for it’s ‘gingerbread houses’, and is a flurry of activity in summertime. If you’re into eclectic shops and colorful architecture, spending time in Oak Bluffs will leave you happy.


On the Western point of the island is the tiny hamlet of Aquinnah – which is sometimes also called by its clearly-not-named-in-this-century moniker Gay Head. This section is a quiet piece of serenity marked by tall clay cliffs looking out into the sunset. There’s a decent stretch of boulder-strewn beach nearby along with a lighthouse and scenic overlooks. There’s even a small cluster of shops and restaurants (with sunset views!) near the bus stop. For a little peace and tranquility, this is a great place to come in the early evening to relax and smell the sea grass.


Martha’s Vineyard is a summer destination that not only is worth the hype, but handles its popularity with stoic dignity. I would heartily recommend it to anyone looking for classic New England charm, ocean views in nearly all directions, and a nostalgic sense of summers of times past. It’s as a good a place as any to while away the lazy days of summer – with or without a bottle of wine.


Stop and smell the flowers in Aquinnah

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Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay – Where Myst Meets Pandora


Welcome to Pandora at Gardens by the Bay

Back in 2003, the first time I visited Singapore, the main attractions were the Merlion, the shops along Orchard Road, and the marvelous Night Safari (which are all still there and still worth visiting, I might add). When I arrived in November 2017 there was a new show in town, a massive land reclamation project called the Gardens by the Bay that is easily the tiny island-nation’s showpiece.

Located along the southern shore near the cruise ship port, this public plaza with a dose of sci-fi is a great place to wander. I myself did my wanderings late at night, when the humidity was down .3% from during the day going from 1,000% to a mere 997%. There were few tourists and the lighting was surreal, though for dining and photography, I’d also recommend coming during the day. But in the glow of the nighttime, the analogies of the title came clearly into focus.

Some of my favorite computer games growing up were the MYST series, where players must explore multi-tiered worlds of unique structures and mazes. Gardens by the Bay specifically reminded me of Riven, where you have to navigate a jungle of passages and walkways (some over the top of others). The other sci-fi analogy prompted by the scene were the jungles of the fictional planet of Pandora from the movie Avatar – particularly the phosphorescent colors at night, which are resplendent in the Gardens’ premier attraction – the Supertrees.


Take a stroll on the aerial walkway for a scene out of Myst

These futuristic marvels of varying heights (25 to 50 meters tall) house many plants along with environmentally-friendly solar cells, but mostly they just look really cool – especially when lit up at night. There’s a free light and sound show among the trees at 7:45PM and 8:45PM, and if you get there before 9PM you can take a stroll on a 128 meter long aerial walkway (for about $8) for a closer look and an out-of-this-world experience. With the massive (and very chic) Marina Bay Sands hotel looming in the background, this is arguably one of the best views in the city.

Marina Bay Sands

The Mighty Marina Bay Sands Hotel – an impressive backdrop

There’s a ton of other attractions not only contained within the Gardens, but also nearby, including a rather cool helix-shaped bridge and water views of the famous Merlion. For more information, check out the official website here.

I’ve previously mentioned that Singapore is a great place to visit (See the post A Boring Place to Visit But A Great Place to Live?). With the addition of Gardens by the Bay, that conclusion has doubled, and I heartily recommend a visit here to anyone considering a trip to Southeast Asia.

Have you been to Gardens by the Bay? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

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Day Trip to Musandam, Oman


Cruising the Musandam Peninsula, Oman

One of the hardest decisions to make when visiting Dubai with a layover, is what to do with all that time. Dubai is a glitzy, desert-baked playground that is the Las Vegas of the Middle East. You can splash in a water park, go skiing indoors, and shop to your very last cent. But me being me, I wasn’t content to stay within the ever-expanding confines of this modern crossroad city. So naturally, I left the country and ran off to Oman.

Sharing the northeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula with the United Arab Emirates, Musandam Governate is a separate enclave jutting out into the gorgeous waters of the Persian Gulf/Gulf of Oman. With the surge of visitors to Dubai, the region has seen its fair share of tourists looking for an adventure outside of city limits.

Getting There


A dhow-eye view of Musandam Peninsula, Oman

Most day trippers arrive via an organized tour, which certainly reduces the navigation and border control hassle. There are basically two options for tours visiting Musandam – you can take a cruise out of the town of Khasab on the western shore, or the town of Dibba on the eastern shore. At the time of writing, the biggest difference is that crossing at Khasab requires official passport control, which may affect your visa situation upon return to Dubai, whereas at Dibba your passport will be checked but that’s all there is to it.

We chose a trip to Dibba since it was more convenient and more importantly, the only option available on our day in town. Our tour was arranged via the hotel desk, so I don’t exactly know with whom we were traveling since we were squeezed into another group. We were picked up at a nearby hotel before taking on more guests in our large, well-air conditioned bus. Once everyone was aboard, we set out across the narrow peninsula and into the undulating dunes of the pervasive desert. Nearing the eastern shore, we encountered the ragged cliffs of a coastal mountain range before passing through a string of small towns nestled against the emerald waters of the Gulf of Oman. Just past the border control we pulled into a baking hot parking lot and were escorted to a small harbor filled with at least a dozen dhows – traditional wooden boats configured to carry tourists to the natural beauty of the peninsula.

The Trip

Musandam, Oman

Surf and Turf in Oman

Moving northward, the view alternates between the vivid green of the sea and the washed-out stone of the rocky shoreline. In the first bay you can catch a glimpse of the ultra-posh Six Senses Zighy Bay if you’re looking for a reason to stay longer. Continuing north to the next bay, most boats will stop to serve lunch on board and allow time for other water sports opportunities such as snorkeling and rides on a banana boat (if it has one). Guests can also go ashore to laze on the sun-drenched beach. The stark contrast of the water meeting the land makes for some great views, and while neither the snorkeling nor the banana boat ride are ‘not-to-miss’ activities, it’s a great taste of coastal Arabia, and an entertaining day’s diversion.

Practical Info

Price ranges vary from the $60-$100 per person range depending on the season and availability (and whether you choose to leave from Khasab or Dibba). You’ll be picked up pretty early in the morning and count on several hours of driving between the city and the port. When your boat is not in one of the protected coves, it will be subject to the swells of the open ocean, so taking some anti-motion sickness medicine before you board is a good idea.

One last tip: Be sure to inquire of your tour agency if they will be using the same vehicle to take you both there and back. As happens elsewhere, in our case we were taken to Dibba on a spacious, well-air conditioned bus. However on the return, we were told that there was a ‘”problem” with that bus and we were crammed (not an exaggeration – crammed isn’t perhaps strong enough a word) into a tiny van with only the feeblest trace of lukewarm air circulating while the driver raced at seemingly unsafe speeds. This happens far too often to just be coincidence, so do your homework before booking. Had I not fallen asleep courtesy of the 15 hour overnight flight I took the night before, I might have really lost my cool. As it was, the ride transformed a group of relatively content tourists into a cranky, sweaty mass of disgruntled passengers. So, buyer beware…

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India Lite: An Overview of Sri Lanka

Sunset Sri Lanka

Sunset on Sri Lanka’s west coast, Pamunugama, Sri Lanka

After spending nearly three weeks touring the paradise island of Sri Lanka, traversing the varied natural and cultural landscape, and hopping from one World Heritage Site to another, I finally found a phrase that I believe best captures this exotically familiar destination: India Lite.

Years ago I described India as being “in your face“. Sri Lanka by comparison is more like an energetic tap on the shoulder. It has all the elements of a trip to India without any of the extremes. It’s not as noisy, crowded or dirty as India – while at the same time its attractions, ruins and architecture aren’t nearly as jaw-dropping either. Overall it’s a good trade-off, and if you’re someday planning a trip to India, it’s a great introduction.

But enough about India – Sri Lanka is a worthy destination in its own right. I will now share my insights on some of the top things to see in this tropical wonderland.




Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped island located just off the southeastern coast of that other country I inadvertently keep mentioning. Roughly the size of Ireland, Sri Lanka packs a lot of variety in a small package. Ranging from palm-fringed beaches, steamy jungles, rugged mountains and even semi-arid plains, you won’t have to go far for a little diversity.




Since it’s an island, you’ll arrive in Sri Lanka either by air or sea. Assuming you’re not on a cruise ship, your international flight will land at Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB) which is closer to the beach/fishing town of Negombo than the capital Colombo. With many flights either landing or arriving in the wee hours of the morning, you might want to consider a brief stay here at either the start or end of your journey. The main beach is broad and (relatively) trash-free with many reasonable lodging and dining options nearby. It’s not the French Riviera, but still a pleasant place to spend a night or two around your flights.




The capital is by far the most cosmopolitan destination to be found in the country. The area around the Dutch Hospital and World Trade Center is where you’ll find the fanciest hotels and most happening shops and restaurants. If you’re looking for a night on the town – along with some stunning sunset views from the rooftop bars – this is the place to be. Other than that, there are some great shopping opportunities in the Pettah Market, and for great city views and high brow accommodations (or even just afternoon tea) the classic Mount Lavinia Hotel in the southern suburb of (you guessed it) Mt. Lavinia is a setting right out of the 1800’s. It’s not a must-see world city by any means, but if your travels through the country leave you yearning for some more modern comforts, it’s certainly worth at least a night’s exploration.





Galle as seen from the ramparts, Galle, Sri Lanka

Heading south along the coast (or better yet, inland via the fast and traffic-free highway) the former Dutch stronghold of Galle boasts a fort and old town that comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The fort walls jut out into the Indian Ocean, providing some great sea views and a scenic walking route along its perimeter. Within the still intact ramparts is a tightly-packed warren of heritage homes and boutique shops and restaurants. After watching the sun set on the west side, cross over to the east side to the Dutch Hospital (yes, Galle has one too) for dinner looking out to sea.





Catching rays at Unawatuna Beach, Sri Lanka

Just a few kilometers south of Galle is the beach town of Unawatuna. Set around a crescent of protected water, it’s a great place to catch some rays, and if you want to hang out for a few days there’s plenty of cheap accommodation to be found. If you’re looking for those iconic shots of fishermen out in the water up on stilts, just go a few more kilometers down the coast to Koggala – but be prepared to pony up if they catch you trying to snap off shots without offering some payment.


Adam’s Peak


Adam's Peak

View from the stairs on Adam’s Peak, Sri Lanka

Located well inland at the Peak Sanctuary area (it will take a good 4 hours from Colombo), this Buddhist pilgrimage site is a popular destination with nature lovers as well. Avoid coming on full moons and holidays unless you want a crowd, and be prepared for a grueling climb up seemingly never-ending  stairs. The goal is to arrive by sunrise to see the amazing landscape materialize into view. In my case, I got a great view of the inside of a cloud, but still took pride in making it to the top. I learned a lot during my exhausting ascent (and equally exhausting descent) and have lots more to say on the subject, but I’ll save that for another post. Suffice to say, if you’re fit and up for a unique adventure, work this place into your itinerary. Worst case scenario, the lush greenery of the gorgeous tea country will be worth the trip on its own merit.





Pilgrims come in all forms in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

Once a mighty religious center, this World Heritage Site still buzzes with Buddhist activity centered around the gigantic stupas that rise out of the surrounding jungle. For those less interested in religious affairs, you can still walk among the many ruins or admire the troops of langur monkeys that roam the sprawling complex. Be sure to buy your entrance ticket or else you’ll risk the wrath of the officials.

If you’re not Buddhist, you might not find this place terribly interesting, and honestly I was put off by the tremendous amount of trash thrown about by visiting pilgrims. This is the first time that I’ve ever visited a World Heritage Site for which it wasn’t worth going out of my way, let along the price of entry. But if you’re in the neighborhood, it is certainly not something you see every day.





View from the top at Sigiriya, Sri Lanka

Arguably the most-iconic site in Sri Lanka, this fortress perched atop a rocky outcropping is a World Heritage Site that is worth both the price of entry and the effort needed to reach the top. Meaning ‘Lion Rock’, there’s little to suggest a lion other than an enormous set of ‘paws’ carved at the base of one of the myriad stairs that wind their way up to the top. If you’ve already climbed Adam’s Peak, this will seem little more than a stepladder by comparison.

An ascent starts with a ground-level walk through stone pools and gardens before you hit the stairs. Once past the ticket check-point, you’ll be routed up a spiral staircase to view a collection of ancient paintings of buxom Sri Lankan women of days past before spiraling back down to continue your trek along the cliff face. Passing the giant lion paws, you’ll have some more vertical moments before reaching the ruins of a citadel up on top. The view is fantastic, with hills, mountains and the occasional statue poking up through the nearly uninterrupted jungle.





Family time at Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Close to Sigiriya, is Minneriya National Park. This woodland of evergreens and scrub forest is home to a variety of wildlife, but the stars of the show are the herds of wild Asian elephants that roam freely. If you come during the dry season (June-September) they’ll likely be congregating around a series of artificial reservoirs in large numbers. My late afternoon visit (we were the last Jeep in) had us arriving to a group of herds that conservatively numbered around 100 elephants.

At the park entrance you have to pay an entry fee plus a little something for a required guide that will join you in your vehicle. Figure between $15-20 U.S. The route will take you through a rutted dirt road where you can see monkeys, peacock and other residents, before opening up to a grassy plain around the water. Be prepared to get up close as the elephants graze their way across your field of vision, and be extra prepared for some great photo opportunities as baby elephants weave their way in and among the adults looking to feed, run and play. If you care anything for animals, and the chance to see them in the wild, this stop is a must-see.





Relaxing riverside in cooler, dryer Kandy

Once the site of an enduring kingdom, Kandy is a bustling city perched in the mountainous interior of the country. Its main claim to fame is the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth. But even those of other faiths will enjoy its scenic setting and cooler, dryer temperatures compared to the coast. I’d suggest at least a day here to take in the sights or at least cool down a bit.





Bath time at Pinnawala, Sri Lanka

If you don’t feel like trekking all the way out to Minneriya, the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala is a decent stand-in. While a far more “pre-packaged” experience than an elephant safari in the north, it does allow for some up-close interaction, and is ostensibly, all for a good cause.

After buying your ticket, you can watch the handlers bottle-feed some younger elephants. And for about $2 you can buy a basket of fruit to hand-feed an adult elephant who will be more than happy to take it off your hands. Just a side note: elephant tongues are puffy and sticky, so you might want to bring some hand-sanitizer for when you’re done.

Next you are granted access to a side street brimming with souvenir shops (including the ubiquitous elephant print pants you’ll see everywhere) where you can also watch a herd being brought down to the river for a bath and some playtime. Bear in mind that you will be asked to show your ticket, so hang on to it. You can also run ahead to the Hotel Elephant Park which overlooks the river where they bathe. Order a snack or beer and revel in the sight of more than a dozen elephants spraying and splashing around in the swift-moving waters at the edge of the jungle.




Looking back on what I’ve written, it’s obvious that I saw quite a lot in my nearly three weeks in-country. But by no means did I see it all. However, I saw enough to clearly affirm that Sri Lanka has a wealth of attractions to keep a visitor busy across a broad range of interests, and that there’s enough to see, do and experience to justify the tedious amount of travel time to get there. If you’ve never been to the subcontinent, Sri Lanka is a great introduction to this fascinating region of the world. And if this is as far as you go, it will still be one place that is very much worth the price of admission.

Do you have any questions or comments about visiting Sri Lanka? Leave a message below!


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