The Galapagos

[The traveler] may feel assured, he will meet with no difficulties or dangers, excepting in rare cases, nearly so bad as he beforehand anticipates. In a moral point of view, the effect ought to be, to teach him good-humored patience, freedom from selfishness, the habit of acting for himself, and of making the best of every occurrence. . . Traveling ought also to teach him distrust; but at the same time he will discover, how many truly kind-hearted people there are, with whom he never before had, or ever again will have any further communication, who yet are ready to offer him the most disinterested assistance. ~ Charles Darwin

Eden For Your World does the Galapagos – but, not the blog. Please enjoy the following guest blog post from our dear guest Mrs. Josephine M., who accompanied us, along with her family, to experience the magic of the islands!

I have been fortunate to travel to many places in the world with trips planned by Eden for Your World. They have arranged travels to Asia, Europe, South America, and the South Pacific. I can assure you that as outstanding and memorable each of those trips have been, I have truly never experienced anything like the trip we took to the Galapagos.

It all started about two years ago… John and Kasra, at Eden For Your World, thought, wouldn’t it be fun to gather a small group of people and not just book them on a trip but lead the excursion…to the Galapagos! Along with their partners in Ecuador, they designed a trip of a lifetime! They sent out a feeler email to see if anyone was interested. I saw the email and before a minute had passed my entire family was on board. We responded immediately. Our quick reaction paid off – John and Kasra were inundated with responses. Seems everyone was anxious to explore the world with the two of them. From then on it was in their hands and it was a breeze. We were given details, updates, and payment timelines. They communicated with us via email, phone and social media. They sent pictures and relevant articles to spark our imagination. They sent guidelines on what to pack, how to tip, and local customs to ease our minds. They even arranged a wonderful reception at their home so that we could meet all of our travel companions and had representatives to answer all of our specific questions. You know the pressing questions like: What is the exchange rate? (None – the Ecuadorians use the US dollar), is their WIFI? (only some places). And the ever important question; do you have ice-cream on board? (asked by my daughter and yes, they do).

We started our trip in Quito, the capital and largest city in Ecuador. We stayed at Plaza Grande Hotel in the colonial section of Quito. The hotel is full of old world charm with the benefits of all the modern day conveniences you want. The central, historic, part of the city is quite spectacular. It is a UNESCO World Heritage city, because of it’s well preserved Spanish Colonial architecture.

We enjoyed a personally guided day tour of this enchanting city and the surrounding areas. This is a city of cobblestone streets and breath-taking churches. We started our tour at La Basilica, a Gothic church renowned for its soaring buttresses and rose windows. Unique to Ecuadorian architecture the stained glass windows feature orchids in the designs and instead of gargoyles native animals serve to protect the edifice.

We were then off to the Intinan Museum at the middle of the world. Yes, the EXACT middle of the Earth. This outdoor museum showed how native Ecuadorians lived, which was enough to make it worthwhile but the real excitement came when we stood on the Equator. We were always taught that this is an imaginary line that separates the Northern from the Southern Hemisphere. It is so much more than that. It is the place where the magnetic forces of the poles cancel each other out. Did you know that it is really hard to walk directly on the Equator? The best part of this museum was that it gave everyone in the group a chance to learn and laugh together. It was a great bonding experience that made the rest of our trip even more memorable.

Then it was back into the city with a visit to Capilla de los Milagros, a small 16th century chapel. While this chapel had all of the charm that one would hope for and expect it was what followed that truly took our breath away. We exited the church into a dazzling enclosed courtyard. Whitewashed walls -hand laid stone terraces and a bell tower that reached to an impossibly blue sky. In the shade of a small group of trees a table for 18 was set as traditional music played in the background and women dressed in authentic costumes handed us traditional refreshments. It was like walking onto a movie set. We feasted on four courses of authentic Ecuadorian cuisine while enjoying traditional dances from brightly clothed dancers. And of course Eden For Your World had worked their usual magic and surprised one of our young travelers who is a budding chef with the privilege of cooking along side the chef.

Not to be outdone we were off to another grand church, the Iglesia de la Compania. This one’s interior was entirely covered in gold leaf and is home to a most spectacular altar. We then rounded out the afternoon with a stroll through the quaint plazas that dot the old part of the city to window shop (and souvenir shop) authentic handcrafts for which Ecuador is famous.

That evening EdenFYW gave all of us a spectacular treat. They hosted a dinner at Casa Gangotena for all of us. Casa Gangotena is a spectacular hotel two plazas over from our hotel. So that evening under old-fashioned lamplight we strolled through town to Casa Gangotena. This grand hotel was once home to an old aristocratic family. We walked into the marble hall and made our way to the solarium where we enjoyed a pre-dinner cocktail. Then off to a gilded dining room for dinner. Ecuadorians enjoy colorful, playful food and enjoy a varied palate. This was evidence from the very start. We were served bread. Then out came a platter with eight tiny bowls lined up; eight varied and intriguing dipping sauces for the bread. My favorite was a beet and horseradish combination. The food was glorious, the atmosphere joyous and the conversation, marvelous. It was if the 18 of us had known each other all of our lives and had always traveled together. Then another leisurely stroll back to our hotel and a welcomed night sleep in a very comfortable bed.

The following day we set off for the Galapagos Islands. The organized transfer, flights and VIP arrival at the Baltra airport could not have been easier…

Then we saw her. The M/Y Grace (I refer to her as the Grace. M/Y is her official title as she is a motor yacht. At the time she was commissioned motor yachts were not as common as they are today. )

She had all of the style, glamour and old world grace we had hoped for (pun intended). The furnishings are classic yet comfortable. This was a yacht that was designed for the comfort of her guests without a lot of the trappings and space conserving mis-steps you see in more modern vessels. The outdoor space is designed to allow cooling breezes and warm sun when you want them and shade and respite from the wind when you need it.

There were 18 of us on board and a staff of 15. I could go on for pages on the virtues of the staff, individually and as a group, but suffice to say that they take their jobs very seriously and our comfort and safety were of paramount importance to them. They were warm and kind and very knowledgeable.

What many people do not know about the Galapagos is that tourism is very well controlled and restricted. The Ecuadorians want tourists to enjoy this natural wonder but respect it enough to keep numbers of people in check so that we do not disturb the natural order of the islands. Because of this the schedule that we had was dictated by the National Park. We were given windows of times to be at certain islands then we were required to pull up anchor and move on. Here lies the biggest benefit for traveling with Eden For Your World and the Quasar Group (which owns the Grace). Because there were only 18 of us we had the flexibility to make changes within our set time frames to take full advantage of opportunities as they arose. I will get to that in a bit.

We spent 8 days on the boat. The days started with a wake-up call and either a hike on an island or a snorkel. Then back to the boat for breakfast. After breakfast we would head out for another hike or snorkel followed by lunch and an afternoon hike or snorkel and or cruise to a new island. Follow that by wrap of the day’s events and with slide show of the highlights of the day (another of John’s many talents) and finally dinner under the stars.

Let me take a minute to tell you that the food on board was ridiculously good. They joked that the chef was going to try to put weight on us while the guides would try to work it off of us. I think the chef won. Every meal featured fresh fruits and vegetables, soups and salads main dishes and dessert. Yes, we had dessert twice a day every day. Correction, we had fabulous, decadent, handmade desserts, twice a day, every day.

Now, onto the good stuff. What you’ve been waiting to hear. Is the Galapagos as good as you hear? No, it is so much better. It is truly better than you can imagine. On our first day, our first excursion we landed on a beach with 30+ sea lions that were basking in the sand. Was it roped off? NO! We were there within feet (sometimes inches) of these animals. Now, they do have rules. You may not touch the wild life – and they are serious about that. But if the wildlife touches you, that is okay. One sea lion walked up to a member of our party and brushed its whiskers against her leg (that is how they explore).

The two naturalists we had with us knew absolutely EVERYTHING about everything that had to do with the islands. They knew each animal, plant, rock, bird, and all of the history of these wonderful islands and they were funny and interesting to boot. They made sure that all of us no matter our age or ability truly enjoyed our experience. They were able to custom tailor each experience because there were two of them.

I will now list for you all of the animals we saw – up close.

  • Sea lions (they love to swim with people)
  • White tipped sharks (yes, we did swim with them too)
  • Penguins
  • Land iguanas
  • Sea iguanas (little known fact that they are the only ones that swim in the world. They are black prehistoric looking and a little disconcerting when they slither through the water using only their tails
  • Sea turtles (we swam with them too)
  • Sea stars, sea anemones, huge schools of fish
  • Hammer head sharks
  • Jelly fish
  • Sea horses
  • Rays
  • Dozens of species of birds, including of course the famous blue footed boobies
  • Crabs – lots and lots of crabs
  • Giant tortoise

Wow! That is amazing. Is that all you saw? Why no, it’s not. Remember I told you about the ability of this group to take advantage of opportunities when they arose. One day before the morning snorkel, someone spotted a killer whale off the bow. Yes that is right, a killer whale. Down went to pangas (little boats that shuttle you from ship to shore), and off everyone went. Now, it would be dangerous to swim with them but the pangas got within 20 feet of the whale that breached several times. The next day, a pod of dolphins was sited – down went the pangas filled with passengers/snorkelers (kids still in the PJs). It was thrilling and wonderful.

The days were filled with so many wonderful, astonishing, memorable moments. It was truly a life changing experience. What a great “family” we had become over our week on board together.

Upon our return some of us headed back to the States, while others headed out to Mashpi Lodge, and eco-resort in the Ecuadorian cloud forest. [Please see next blog post]

If this trip sounds like a trip of a lifetime and I assure it was. The thing is every trip that EdenFYW has planned for us is a trip of a lifetime. The thought that they put into every detail is unsurpassed in the industry. They leave nothing to chance. They are always just a phone call away if you ever need them. But to have John and Kasra actually with us made the trip all the more special.

Here is our Galapagos travel video, so you can see a why you must go: The Galapagos

Enjoy more photos on our Facebook, Galapagos, album: Galapagos 2015

Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands: info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use, unless otherwise permitted. Thank you! #EdenFYW

Luxury Hideaways in Vietnam

A day of traveling will bring a basketful of learning. ~ Vietnamese Proverb.

It was so great to be back in Vietnam!  It had been eight years since our last visit, and we couldn’t wait to discover new places and return to one place we fell in love with before.  Albeit, this trip’s mission was going to be a little different than the last…

This time we wanted to see less city and more beach!  And, that we did.  In one week we packed in three of the countries most incredible luxury beach resorts, an art deco treasure in it’s ancient capital and it’s newest and most glamorous hotel in the heart of Saigon.  Below you’ll find brief bits about each of the stops, along with photos and videos.  Hope you enjoy the tour and that we’ve inspired you to visit (or return).

AMANOI

Named for the Sanskrit-derived word for ‘peace’ and noi meaning ‘place’, Amanoi is a tranquil retreat situated on a beautiful white-sand beach overlooking spectacular Vinh Hy Bay, in one of the country’s largest natural conservation areas.  Nui Chua National Park protects an area of more than 29,000 hectares of pristine coastal and marine habitats in Ninh Thuan Province, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.

All you need to do is fly into Nha Trang and the rest is taken care of by Amanoi.  You’ll quickly get whisked away in your wifi equipped SUV for the 1.5 hour drive (the roads are a bit of mess currently, as they’re under construction) to this most “peaceful place”.

  • jaw-dropping beauty in architecture and design
  • spectacular Aman Spa and large fully equipped fitness center
  • intimate and quite, perfect for those seeking privacy and exclusivity
  • two gorgeous pools and a beach club (if your villa doesn’t have it’s own pool)
  • plenty of nature related activities in and around the resort to keep you happy

EdenFYW guests recieve these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-Continental breakfast daily, for up to two in room guests served in the restaurant
-A comp. lunch for up to two people once during stay, excluding alcohol, taxes and gratuities
-Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability

See our video:  Amanoi

SIX SENSES NINH VAN BAY

The resort is nestled in a dramatic bay that gives the feeling of an island, with impressive rock formations and overlooking the sea. A golden sand beach and towering mountains add to the sense of being intimately at one with nature. The family friendly resort presents the reality of the destination, with an architectural style incorporating traditions of Vietnam. The resort is a sanctuary for all the senses while maintaining a sustainable and Eco-friendly environment.

Not accessible by land.  You’ll fly into Da Nang, drive about 45 minutes to Six Senses’ private dock.  From there you’ll catch their speed boat for the 20 minute ride to paradise.

  • eco-luxury all the way!
  • our favorite accommodations are the beach villas and the rock villas (each with private pool)
  • several dining options, from casual to elegant and comp. scoops at the ice cream shop!
  • relaxed atmosphere is great for families or romance
  • greet reef in directly in front of the resort for snorkeling or diving

EdenFYW guests recieve these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-One complimentary half-hour massage for up to two, per room
-Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

See our video:  Six Senses Ninh Van Bay

THE NAM HAI

Sitting on an enviable stretch of Ha My Beach near historic Hoi An, The Nam Hai is a prestigious luxury resort catering to the savviest of travelers. Architecture and nature harmonize in a lush setting, making the most of views across the East Sea and the surrounding tropical grounds. Each villa is an immaculate escape complete with indoor and outdoor sitting areas and, in the case of the Pool Villas, a private swimming pool.

Conveniently located just 20 minutes from Da Nang airport.

  • just minutes to Hoi An, our favorite town in Vietnam
  • beautifully appointed stand alone villas
  • incredible Leading Spa, one of the best in Vietnam
  • several wonderful dining options, including the best breakfast in the country
  • impeccable service
  • large beach resort with all the luxury fixings

EdenFYW guests receive these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests
-A complimentary 50-minute massage for up to two people, per room, once during stay
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

See our video:  The Nam Hai

LA RESIDENCE HUE

The best luxury option in the ancient royal capital of Hue. Set on the banks of the fabled Perfume River overlooking the former Imperial Citadel – once home to Emperors and now preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Endowed with opulence, excellence and warmth, this former residence of the French Colonial Governor was painstakingly restored in 2005 and redeveloped as an exceptional design hotel. The hotel’s distinctive bowed façade, long horizontal lines and nautical flourishes are hallmarks of the 1930’s streamline moderne school of art deco architecture.

Just a 30-40 minute drive to the Hue airport.

  • elegant and comfortable
  • centrally located for a stay while exploring the former ancient citidel and the royal tombs scattered around the city

THE REVERIE SAIGON

The Reverie Saigon is the ultimate luxury hotel, providing a one-of-a-kind modern lifestyle by successfully combining Vietnam’s local warmth and familiar comforts of home with the luxurious pampering of a five-star hotel. The hotel offers exceptional guest rooms and spacious suites in Ho Chi Minh City with breathtaking views of the Saigon River city.

Note: We visited during a very soft opening. Despite the fact that they were just getting going, the service and amenities were spot on.  We’re just sorry we didn’t get to see the amazing spa finished… next time!

Conveniently located in the heart of the city, just 30 minutes from the international airport (depending on traffic).

  • Italian design and craftsmanship on steroids, opulent and glamorous decor everywhere
  • close to everything in the city; market, luxury shopping, opera, dining, river (for cruisers) and landmarks
  • floor to ceiling windows in all guest rooms, with great views
EdenFYW guests receive these preferred amenities:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
-Daily buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests in restaurant
-$100 USD equivalent food & beverage credit
-Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability

Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit. info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use. Thank you! #edenfyw

 

It’s Time For Myanmar

You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself ~ Buddha

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard all the buzz surrounding travel to Myanmar in the past couple of years.  Well, let us tell you, Myanmar is worthy of the buzz!  But, if you like to be the one whose “discovered” a place, or you want to be ahead of the game… you best go soon.  It’s time for Myanmar – NOW!

Once you’ve discovered a place it’s likely that others have as well (and usually with an eye for development).  And, Myanmar is no exception.  It is poised for some big changes in the next few years, both good and bad.  The country is modernizing at a fast pace.  Domestic and foreign investment will inevitably bring more first world comforts to the nation; consistency in electricity and water, better roads… the usual.  With that will come growth and globalization.  In fact while we were in Yangon we heard of six new large luxury hotel projects in works, not to mention several new large scale residential/commercial developments.  Needless to say, it’ll be less likely to see an ox and cart coasting along the side of you on your way to town, and you’ll be sitting in a lot of traffic to get anywhere.  The change is happening beyond Yangon too, we saw the changes creeping into Bagan, Mandalay and beyond.  It’s all going to be good, it’s just going to get busier and be a bit more of the same same.  So, it’s time for Myanmar!

Yangon is big, busy, dusty and okay for a night or two.  It’s your port of entry, so you might as well enjoy a couple nights at Belmond’s Govorner’s Residence (if you want to be in a quieter residential neighborhood) or The Strand Yangon (if you want to be in the center of town).  They’re both great luxury options and both beautiful.  But, beyond the incredible Shwedagon Pagoda, a typical covered market selling chachkies and the crazy night market with it’s human run ferris wheel, there’s not much to hang around for.

Our suggestion is to get on board a fabulous river boat and cruise along the Ayeyarwady River to marvel at the unspoiled countryside of Myanmar!  They’re you will find life as it’s been for millennia.  Witness farming, fishing, weaving, praying and playing as you slowly make your way to ports to uncover the history and cultural wonders the Myanmar people have given all of us.  Highlights will undoubtedly be Bagan, Mandalay (and surrounds) and Mingun.  There are few wonderful options for river cruising and more are coming soon.  But, we would definitely suggest experiencing it with Belmond.  They’ve been there and doing it longer than anyone, and have been doing it really well!  We loved our time aboard the Road to Mandalay.  The ship, the staff, the service, the guests, the excursions… golden, like the pagodas that dot the riverbanks.

This blog is not going to give you political/historical facts, spout off data about the country, or give you an art historians review of the incredible marvels in architecture that you’ll see in Myanmar. The purpose of this blog is to entice you to go now and encounter Myanmar’s lovely people and to experience their beautiful culture, before it changes.  Discover the above mentioned  yourself when you visit.  But, we’d like to offer you a glimpse below through our photos and in our video.  Note:  It’s safe, you are welcome to visit and don’t call it Burma anymore.

Eden For Your World’s Myanmar Video:  Myanmar

Two of our favorite things: 

Water bowls or jugs with cups everywhere… you’ll find them in the city on street corners or in front of homes, and you’ll find them in the country along the road or at the market.  They’re thoughtfully placed around by whomever to offer a quench of thirst for anybody passing by.

Tea Leaf Salad. YUM! Here is a link to our recipe: Laphet Thoke

Contact your Eden For Your World advisor to begin planning your visit.  info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by Eden For Your World, and are only for us to use. Thank you! #edenfyw

 

 

Rosewood London Calling

Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. ~ Samuel Johnson

Welcome to London, welcome to the world… We came, we walked, we shopped, we ate, we museum-ed, we pub-ed, we stayed in luxury, but, we’ll never be royals.

Samueul Johnson’s quote says it best.  London is full of life. There is so much to see and do in the city, that you’ll feel like you can never do it all. Like any big European city it has museums, cultural sites and arts, shopping, dining and local attractions that can keep you going nonstop. But, the core of the city is quite manageable in size and you can realistically walk by everything on your list quite easily.  May we just say that the we love the Victoria and Albert and British Museums. They are both so beautifully curated! They each have just enough of the empire’s amazing booty to keep you interested in visiting every one of their galleries. In London there’s a vibe and a pace that is so similar to what we find in the big cities of the U.S., but it is definitely unlike anything at home. It’s very cosmopolitan and very English at the same time. That’s what we love about it! Friendly faces and a familiar language make it easy to strike up conversations with locals and visitors alike (usually over a pint). However, getting around is not so easy.  We found the traffic to be as frustrating as it is in L.A.. So after a few private car transfers and taxi rides we opted for the Underground. It’s everywhere, it’s easy and it’s clean. Mind the gap!

You’ll enjoy the sites of course, but, you’ll also love exploring all of London’s unique neighborhoods.  Each with it’s it own vibe and energy. Visit Knightsbridge for a glimpse at some of the most gorgeous town houses and some of the haute-est cuisine in town. Check out SOHO at any time of day (or night) for non-stop action and energy.  Bloomsbury is a good respite from the fast pace, and it’s picturesque tree lined streets are just steps away from theaters and retail therapy. You know you have to see Kensington and Chelsea, it’s so London! Needless to say, there is a neighborhood for your every mood.  Just don’t forget to wave to the Queen when you pass her pad in Westminster.

Speaking of pads, London has no shortage of excellent luxury accommodations to choose from.  On this occasion we choose to stay at the beautiful Rosewood London.

Rosewood London

Hotel of the Year 2014 – Virtuoso Best of the Best Awards

Housed in a 1914 Edwardian Belle Époque building, Rosewood London is steeped in history. Its 262 guestrooms and 44 generously appointed suites, created by renowned New York-based Tony Chi and Associates, are inspired by a traditional British manor house and evoke that of a true London residence. Rooms are designed to provide a series of discoveries to surprise, please and amuse guests by doormen in tweed caps enter through wrought iron gates, into the peaceful courtyard giving a sense of arrival more akin to a private manor house than a hotel. Rosewood London embraces guests within one of London’s most historic locales. The central location, moments from Covent Garden, near an eclectic arcade of ultra-luxury boutiques on Lamb’s Conduit Street, the British Museum, Theaterland and the Royal Opera House.

EFYW guests receive the following exclusive benefits:
-Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability.
-Daily Full English Breakfast.
-$100 USD Food & Beverage credit, to be utilized during stay.
-Early check-in/late check-out,subject to availability.

See London and the hotel in our video: Rosewood London

Dining (here’s where we ate or drank and loved it):

  • Gymkhana
  • Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill
  • Berners Tavern at The London Edition
  • China Tang at the Dorchester
  • Scarfe’s Bar at the Rosewood London

Contact your EdenFYW advisor to begin planning your visit to London: info@edenforyourworld.com

Photos and media are all by #edenfyw, therefore, are only for us to use. Thank you!