Saturday, July 28, 2012

South Africa, here we come...


It's really a TRAVELIFE when you've just flown in from Hokkaido for a breather in Tokyo on the way to Manila, and you're reserving a hotel in Amman, booking a spa massage in Kota Kinabalu, coordinating arrival times for a trip to Tel Aviv, checking connecting flights from Capetown to Johannesburg to make it for a flight back to Singapore, and looking at menus for a dinner in Franschoek. All in one morning, for travel in the next three months or so.

TRAVELERS FIRST & FOREMOST



No one travels like us at TRAVELIFE. We really put ourselves on a plane practically every week to be able to bring you some of the most interesting stories in the world -- and, frankly, we'd be doing this whether we were running a travel magazine or not. That's why we're different and way ahead of the pack of travel magazines in the country. We're travelers first before we're writers, but fortunately we do both pretty well.

If you haven't picked up a copy of the June-July issue of TRAVELIFE Magazine, please do so this weekend. We come out on the 15th of every other month, and we stay on the stands for 60 days. So the current issue on sale at the bookstore will be selling until August 15. Then we switch over to our Aug-Sep 2012 issue, which is incidentally our fifth anniversary issue as well.

FIRST ONES TO COVER SRI LANKA

The current Jun-July issue is truly a fantastic adventure issue with Sri Lanka on the cover. I had such fun shooting this cover with the two guys who traveled with me from Manila to what seemed like the ends of the earth.

When we weren't working hard at bringing you the best coverage of Sri Lanka possible, we were just having fun exploring Sri Lanka and indulging in great conversations over very long meals.

Incidentally, Sri Lanka just got its tourism act together after decades of unrest and war. But Sri Lanka has got amazing scenery and some pretty beautiful hotels; and soon there are going to be at least 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites in this small island full of culture and ancient attractions.


I can tell you it's going to be the next "IT" destination for discerning travelers -- and please remember that you read all about Sri Lanka first in TRAVELIFE Magazine.

We're also organizing a tour of Sri Lanka for the first week of February next year. If you're at all interested, please call Meg at 8138400/ 8922620 and get yourselves on our mailing list. We'll be releasing details soon. Come TRAVELIFE with us. No one knows Sri Lanka the way we know it.

JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE EARTH

And speaking of ends of the earth, I'm headed for South Africa in a few months and so far the trip is looking simply amazing.

A friend of mine is joining the trip, but he's basically leaving all the choices to me; so I'm having a pretty good time picking out all the hotels I've ever wanted to stay in and all the restaurants I've been wanting to eat in, in South Africa. They do have some of the most interesting and dramatic hotels and resorts on the planet, as well as some pretty fantastic restaurants.



I'm also setting up private visits with two of South Africa's top wineries -- truly beautiful, grand and interesting wine estates producing some of the best wines out of this part of the world. Talk about a dream trip, and how lucky he is to be getting a bespoke Travelife trip and, of course, excellent company.

I don't even remember how we ended up deciding to do a trip together. But one day in June, there we were in two very exotic countries respectively -- I was in Turkey and then in the Czech Republic and he was somewhere equally interesting -- and by BBM we were talking about where we could go, shortlisting places and researching how to get there.

SOMEWHERE WE'VE NEVER BEEN



We'd both decided on the dates and agreed on the basic parameter: as far as the place to visit was concerned, it could basically be anywhere in this wonderful world but it had to be a destination neither of us had been to yet.

He travels as much as I do -- well, okay, perhaps a little less -- so between both of us, the world is really a bit too small. In fact, he'd literally messaged me exactly this statement once, not too long ago. We'd been talking about something and he'd said: "The world's not big enough for you and me."

Yeah. Whenever a country came up in our discussion, it was either he'd already been or I had. This really narrowed down our choices considerably.

But we did single out Peru, Kenya and South Africa as some of the countries we'd never been to and wanted to see. Maybe for next year if we end up enjoying South Africa. The North Pole got mentioned too, but I'm so not interested in this, especially when I found out how difficult it is to get there. You'll need to ride a Russian submarine or naval ship -- can you imagine that? That's so not a luxury trip.

PERU ON OUR MINDS



Peru was our first choice, actually, until we started researching routes from Manila to that part of the world. We expended quite a bit of energy looking at airline schedules and world maps; especially as he didn't want to have to fly via the States, which is incidentally the shortest route, and I certainly didn't want to go on some unknown carrier with so-so service and no flat beds on a long-haul flight. That would've been the case if we'd flown via Oceania.

SHOPPING IN DUBAI

The other option waas via Dubai, although this was a longer route. But I figured we could get some shopping done at the Dubai Mall so a stopover here wouldn't be too bad.



I said to him: "Hey, we can go to our favorite carpet store if we go to Dubai." He and I happen to have the same favorite carpet store in Dubai. What are the odds of that happening? Zero, I can almost imagine him saying, when he reads this blog entry.

THE WINNER'S SOUTH AFRICA



But after a couple of days of thinking about 30-hour+ flights to Peru and the fact that we've only blocked off about 12 days for a door-to-door trip, South Africa started to look terribly attractive to us both, especially when we began thinking about the convenience of getting there and about all the things there are to do in that beautiful country.



He wants to do a safari and see the Big 5, while I liked the idea of dramatic luxury hotels and driving through the Cape area wine country. And both of us want to spend time in Cape Town and see the new hype of Jo'burg. With luck we'll be able to do everything we both wanted in the time we've set aside for this trip, in our busy Travelife.

So that's how we ended up with South Africa. I've been doing the basic planning in between all my trips simply because no one else can really plan a trip better than Travelife. Truly. So why outsource this to someone else?

HOMEWORK COMING UP...


But I did already warn him that he'll have homework to do once I'm through with the basics. I plan to turn the itinerary over to him when I'm fairly satisfied with it, and then he can do the rest of the legwork and fill in the blanks.

There are a couple of free evenings where he'll have to find very nice restaurants for us to have dinner in -- I've already booked the best in Cape Town and Jo'burg as part of the basics, so he'll be under pressure to pick equally good choices -- and to figure out how to get us from point A to point B, among many other things.

Point A is Johannesburg and Point B is a safari destination; and, as far as I can see, the transport choices are a five-hour drive, a chartered flight or a private helicopter straight to the camp.





I'm not telling him what to do, but I hope he books the helicopter so we can literally go door-to-door. Or else he'll have to drive five hours, but this won't be too bad either as the roads are supposedly good and the scenery's fantastic. It'll be a nice adventure either way.

Just another day in our truly never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




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