Asia & Latin America
People to People Connections
Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Indonesia, Borneo, Malaysia, Dubai, India, Bhutan, The Maldives, Australia, Morocco, South Africa, Botswana, Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Galapagos, The Bahamas, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Great Britain, Italy, Sweden, Russia (former USSR).
College of DuPage – Travel & Tourism program
Over 25 years working in the luxury travel sector split between two tour operators and one resort hotel collection: Abercrombie & Kent (12.5 years); Cox & Kings (10 years); One&Only Resorts (5 years)
My travel experiences started at a very young age including frequent trips to my mother’s native country (Panama) and an eye-opening trip to the former Soviet Union in the late 1980s. I truly feel that travel is the ultimate ongoing educational tool and one that has shaped the person I am today. Creating itineraries for my clients that foster meaningful connections with people across the globe, as they cultivate their own personal passions, gives me the utmost satisfaction. Whether it be experiences in nature, art, music, food, shopping or authentic cultural encounters, I take great pride in ensuring the itineraries I produce allow each individual client to take his/her own travel dreams and make them a reality.
Most Memorable Travel Experience
It is very hard to choose only one as each experience is uniquely memorable. I would say my journey in Borneo offered an incredible diversity of experience. The exotic flora I encountered such as amazing orchids and plants (including the carnivorous Pitcher plants) and the incredible wildlife (baby orangutans, proboscis monkeys) certainly captivated me. Yet the highlight of my Borneo experience was the river journey through the jungle for a private visit in a longhouse to enjoy the day with an Iban family whose ancestors were former headhunters. Shrunken heads hung in the rafters of their home!
Recommended Right Now
Vietnam continues to offer several distinct experiences within one country. Here you may discover the ethnic minority hilltribes of Sapa, the colonial elegance of Hanoi, stunning natural scenery at Halong Bay, the ancient Citadel and tombs of Vietnamese Emperors in Hue, gorgeous beaches on the central coast and the always lively floating markets, fruit orchards and daily life along the Mekong Delta.
Cambodia offers much more these days beyond simply a visit to the temples of Angkor Wat. New resorts have emerged such as Phum Baitang which allows guests to explore the UNESCO site in Siem Reap (along with local villages, national parks and French colonial architecture) and then return to the quiet sanctuary of the resort, surrounded by its own rice paddies and luscious gardens. Additionally, you may now add on an island resort such as Song Saa Private Island, where you can walk among rainforest, watch dazzling reef fish swim under your own villa or see rare hornbills land on your balcony. Six Senses Krabey Island will open in 2017 as Cambodia’s newest luxury island resort with just 40 pool villas set around the naturally landscaped 30-acre island.
Panama is a country in rapid development having recently been given the nickname “Dubai of Latin America” thus making it an exciting time to visit. Panama City is impressive with glittering skyscrapers juxtaposed next to its charming 17th century Old Quarter (a UNESCO Heritage Site). The Panama Canal, having just undergone a recent expansion, is just 30 minutes from the city as is the vast rainforest feeding water to its lock system. Hundreds of islands dot Panama’s Caribbean and Pacific coasts. (You can swim in two oceans in the same day!) Its Pacific highlands lure visitors escaping the heat to enjoy its eternal spring climate and explore its coffee plantations, volcanoes and waterfalls (with fantastic birdwatching). Seven living indigenous cultures still call Panama their home and continue to maintain their way of life.
My most recent trip
Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand
Having visited Southeast Asia many times, this recent trip was like a return visit home. To be sure, the ancient ruins at Angkor Wat in Cambodia and the natural splendor of Halong Bay in Vietnam continue to impress no matter how many times one experiences them. This trip however, allowed me the freedom to go beyond those obligatory tourist sites. I instead enjoyed local village visits, oxcart rides and cooking classes in Siem Reap and nights in the new walking zone of Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake in Vietnam. Nights out in Thailand were spent exploring Chiang Mai and its newly trendy quarter of town on Nimman Rd. Discovering the various cafes, bars, eateries down each and every soi (alleyway) off of this street in Thailand’s second largest city never got old – and being away from tourist price tags made the nights out even sweeter. My home base at the chic Akyra Manor in Chiang Mai was the perfect place to end each day. In Bangkok I was able to slow down for a change, and enjoyed the city’s Lumpini Park with morning bicycle rides – courtesy of the stylish SO Sofitel which offers free bike rentals to its guests and magnificent park views from its rooms. Special find was in Siem Reap, Cambodia – where away from the tourist masses that descend upon the temples each day, those in the know retire to Phum Baitang Resort – an authentic yet luxurious hideaway set amidst the paddy fields and gardens where stilted villas are inspired by local design and offer a unique experience in Siem Reap. I never wanted to leave! These unique local experiences became my new highlights and filled me with renewed enthusiasm to assist others as they plan travel to this exotic corner of the world.
Four Seasons Tented Camp, Golden Triangle – Thailand
There is simply nothing else like it in Asia, offering up-close encounters with the Asian elephants in their natural habitat. In your luxury tent in the bamboo jungle you truly feel a million miles away from the rest of the world. It’s the ultimate luxury-nature escape!
Six Senses Ninh Van Bay – Vietnam
Yes it takes a flight (to Nha Trang) then a 1-hr drive followed by a 20-minute boat ride to reach the resort, BUT the end result is absolutely worth the journey. An all-villa resort situated on a dramatic bay, its white sand beaches are framed by incredible huge granite rock formations. The villas themselves take advantage of their surroundings, being set on the beach, over the water and actually built into the rocks! The resort offers a variety of experiences on water and land but its setting just makes you want to relax and take it all in.
Belmond La Residence Phou Vao – Luang Prabang, Laos
Located just up the hill from the charming town of Luang Prabang, this hotel’s calm, tranquil and traditional ambience always makes you feel at peace. I never tire of the stunning views to the mountains and countryside from its gorgeous pool, perched dramatically on a cliff edge. Best of all, it is just a short tuk tuk ride to the Old Town (a UNESCO heritage site) where you can give alms to the monks each morning and explore the various temples, pagodas, boutiques, restaurants and the popular night market.