Author: Mary Corcoran

The 3 C’s of Southeast Asia: Culinary, Culture and Crafts

I recently had the privilege of traveling to Thailand and Laos with Kay Tran, founder of V’Explore Tours and expert in Southeast Asia destinations, on a small group tour.  Our group was also hosted by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.   With an emphasis on visiting emerging destinations, this was a very special opportunity to see things few Americans do through the eyes of locals.

What an experience!  This tour immersed our group in food, culture and customs, and even hands on crafting.   Our 11-day exotic adventure took us from Bangkok to the northeast Thailand cities of Sakon Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom – from whence we traveled into small villages; then over the Friendship Bridge 2 to Savannakhet, Laos and on to its capital city of Vientiane and finally to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Luang Prabang.

Culinary  Thai-beef

Food is central to the Thai way of life.  Every day, we ate exotic tropical fruit – either displayed beautifully in our hotel room, picked up at local markets, or as the ubiquitous end to our delicious meals.  And we sampled a vast array of food – my favorite being the soups (ranging from very spicy curries to a phenomenal black chicken soup with a light and flavorful broth) and chicken or fish wrapped in banana leaf.  In the small village of Baan Nhon Hom, we participated in a cooking class (and competition) – learning how to make green papaya salad,   grilled beef (we picked up the famous local beef at market) with spicy sauce, soup with pork ribs, and a grilled fish chili paste (perfect for dipping).

Every meal was an embarrassment of riches – so much food and so little capacity for eating it all! But we sampled everything (and those with special dietary requirements were graciously offered alternatives).  In Laos, the food was milder and more subtle in flavor – with the French influence thanks to this country’s history as once a part of French Indochina.  We especially loved the Mekong seaweed – sometimes chewy and sometimes crispy.  In Luang Prabang we had the opportunity to share dessert at Paste, the Laotian outpost of the famous Bangkok Michelin starred restaurant.  My dessert, the coconut noodles, was one I’ll crave and sadly be unable to re-create.  It’s a great reason to return to this part of the world.

Culture, Foodie, Laos, Southeast Asia, Thailand, Yoga

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Wildlife-Lovers Dream Come True – Galapagos Islands

Bill and I were joined by 4 other Half Moon Bay couples on a life-transforming journey to the Galapagos Islands this month. As a travel advisor, I looked at many options and ways to experience the Galapagos – and was completely swept away by Silversea’s expedition itinerary aboard the lovely Silver Galapagos.

What Silversea offered:

• A fully inclusive experience from our US based flights to Ecuador, hotels on the mainland for 2 night in Quito and 1 day in Guayaquil, flights to the islands, and 7 nights aboard an elegant yet low-key ship

Cruise, Galapagos, South America

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Top 5 Reasons to Book a Mini-Vacation with Girlfriends: A New York Minute

Recently, I took a short trip to New York City – an action packed long weekend arranged through Bay World Travel’s relationship with New York City Vacation Packages. My friend Joanne came up from New Jersey, and 1 day into the trip I was surprised by two other friends who decided to join us for the weekend.

While I’ve gone to school in New York, worked in New York, and visited for business reasons through the year, I’ve never been a tourist in New York. I know New York is an amazing city but seeing it through visitor’s eyes provided a new perspective. Here are my top 5 reasons to make New York City a girlfriends’ getaway.

1. Convenience. I live in California so traveling across the US for a long weekend might seem to be a bit much. But honestly, flights are convenient, frequent and affordable. Plus no passport is required, and you’ll land in New York quicker than driving between northern and southern California. There are nonstop flights from the West Coast into New York’s two biggest airports – JFK and Newark – and lots of connecting flights into La Guardia and White Plains as well.

New York

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Luxury and Biodiversity: Explore The Galápagos

Top 3 Reasons to Come With Us on This Once-in-a-Lifetime Expedition

Home to Charles Darwin’s famous observations, the Galápagos islands are home to rare animal species found nowhere else on Earth. Each of the group’s many islands hosts a unique ecosystem of tortoise, finch, and countless species of sky, land, and sea.

With so many ways to see these amazing islands, we always opt for staying and traveling aboard a cruise ship. SilverSea Expeditions® offers a number of seven-day Galápagos cruises, with the perfect balance of luxury and adventure. With the best expert field guides-per-visitor ratio, SilverSea is our cruise line of choice for the Galápagos. These are the things we love about this experience!

Cruise, Galapagos

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Top 5 Reasons to Cruise to Mexico

I’m just back from a glorious 7-night cruise aboard Holland America’s MS Westerdam – joined by my sister and 2 friends to celebrate a milestone birthday.  We embarked in San Diego – bound for the lovely Mexican Riviera ports of Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta – but honestly many of the highlights were enjoyed right on board.  Here are the top 5 reasons I love this itinerary and cruise line –

1. Mexico culture immersion.  I’m not just talking about Margaritas though they were certainly featured along with a daily taco bar poolside – but the gracious Mexican ambassadors who sang, danced, and taught us about this beautiful country and culture.  My sister and I even braved a salsa and merengue dance lesson – technically not Mexican but the Latin vibe is irresistible under the warm Mexican sun.

2. Spa day!  3 leisurely sea days provided the inspiration for complete relaxation.  The hot stone massage was heaven as were the heated tile beds and steam room looking out over the gentle Pacific waves.  This Holland America ship was the most stable I’ve ever sailed on …. no rolling sensation on shore, just a gentle rocking to sleep every night.

3. Champagne Dreaming.  I fell in love with the Champagne Dream –one of Holland America’s signature cocktails.  This drink is light and refreshing but packs a punch too!   This was our go-to cocktail for the sunset. We visited several of the bars but our favorite bartender, David, worked at the Pinnacle Bar and was the super fun mixology class instructor.  Yes, my sister and I both got our degrees in mixology!

4. America’s Test Kitchen.  What an awesome partnership Holland America has with ATK.  Our America’s Test Kitchen host Abbie was just delightful and I came home with lots of practical tips and great easy fast recipes.  My husband thinks I’m an obnoxious kitchen know-it-all now!

5. Coffee break.  Smiling and gracious staff greeted us everywhere but we have a special fondness for the barista at the coffee bar – and we’d sit for minutes on port days or linger for hours overlooking the Pacific on sea days.  Great staff, good food, leisure time to enjoy the company of friends and family, and the beautiful sea sum up the Holland America cruise experience.

Interested in exploring Holland America itineraries and destinations?  It’s as easy as giving us a call to get you onboard.

Cabo San Lucas, Cruise, Mazatlan, Mexican Riviera, Puerto Vallarta