Jackie’s Dream Trip to Tahiti – Part 1

The trip started out great! All four flight connections were on time and my bags arrived when I did. I am traveling with a healing broken ankle and have to wear a ortho boot. The wheelchair assistance in the airports were awesome. I landed in Tahiti at 5 am on Thursday. It was still dark so I didn’t see much when we landed. When the sun rose it was amazing – so beautiful and smelled so good. Checked into my room at about noon. I loved it. It had a Jacuzzi tub with view of ocean, a nice balcony and a really comfortable bed. After a nap I checked out the beach. Beach was not my favorite… black sand and no loungers at all. The sand was also really hot. The Infinity pool was great though.

So I do have some kind of camera curse. I have never lost a cell phone (knock on wood) but I think I lose a camera every trip . I went to the Tahitian show at the beach and took lots of pictures and video. When I got back to the room, I only had the case (my business card was in the case so that was no help). Still hoping it will show up when I get off of the ship

My Paul Gauguin cruise begins on Saturday for a week. Going to Moorea, Bora Bora, Huahine, Taha’a. This trip is a dream come true. I do have a couple other cameras so lots of pics coming

Stephanie’s Asian Adventure – Part 2

Day one we met with our Contiki group at the hotel in Bangkok. The group consists of 31 people, which is actually oversold, so we jumped right into orientation. Our tour manager’s name is Soki, and he is from New Zealand. He gave us the rundown of how the week will work, and we finalized some paperwork. To help us get to know each other better we headed down to Khao San Road (popular for restaurants, bars and shopping) for a group dinner at one of his favorite Thai restaurants, My Darling. The food was excellent, and it was a great way to break the ice with the group. We had an early start for the next day, so we headed back to the hotel to pack up and get some sleep.

Day two was a jam packed day. Right after breakfast we headed to the Royal Palace with our local guide. Since it’s a temple and palace, proper attire is required – pants or floor length skirt and covered shoulders – which makes for a hot, sweaty day. The palace is beautiful. Every thing is so old and ornate. Our tour lasted around 2 hours, and then we headed to the river for a boat tour and catfish feeding.

blog 2 temple

There was about 2 hours left for free time when finished, which gave us enough time for lunch before we had to get ready to head to the train station for the overnight train to Chiang Mai.

The train ride was about 14 hours, and we had sleeping berths for the night. You can buy a meal, or bring your own. It’s a comfortable enough journey, and by morning we were at our next stop.

Day three we woke up just outside Chiang Mai. Another busy day was ahead of us, starting with a quick stop at the hotel for breakfast. Our rooms weren’t ready, so we headed right to Wat Phra That temple, which is on the mountain side overlooking the city. It’s such a spiritual culture here, and we all received a blessing by a monk.

When finished, we have 3 hours for free time. A bunch of the group planned on heading to Tiger Kingdom to interact with tigers, so we decided to definitely tagging along. It was absolutely amazing to be so close to such a powerful animal!

blog 2 tiger
There was just enough time left to get back to the hotel to meet the group for the optional Thai cooking class ($30 USD pp). Its starts at the market with the chef, where he explains the different ingredients. Then we were off to the cooking center, which is in a rice field. We made tom yum soup, chicken with cashew, pad thai, and panang curry. It was such a great group bonding experience where we were able to laugh, joke, and really brought us together.

blog 2 cooking

The night ended with some of us heading to a traditional Muay Thai fight. It finished pretty late, and was after midnight before we get to the hotel. I can’t believe we’ve packed so many activities already, and how much more is left. I’m looking forward to the rest of the tour, and sharing it all with you!

Stephanie’s Asian Adventure – Part 1

What a change from simple, quiet Saskatoon – After 3 flights, many airline meals, and 30 long hours, my husband and I have finally made it to Bangkok. By time we made it to our hotel, our brains were pretty fried but the journey was well worth it. We’re now in an amazing city full of color and culture. Our first night spent at Nuovo City Hotel Bangkok didn’t consist of much more than a shower and sleep, but now that we are well rested the adventure begins.

The morning starts with us heading out in whatever direction our hearts take us. We end up on a street corner talking to a friendly Thai gentleman (everyone is very friendly I might add) who helps us get a tuk-tuk to get around. For only 40 Baht we are driven around the city to various temples, a custom suit store, and Golden Mountain, which is a beautiful temple where you can get great views of the city. For lunch we stop at Patong Go, a cute little cafe, and both of us eat for only 144 Baht, which is just over $6 CAD.

After lunch, the heat is starting to get to us so we head back to the hotel for some air conditioning and a dip in the pool. Tonight we will meet up with our Contiki group to start an amazing Asian Adventure.

blog 1 food blog 1 temple 2 blog 1 temple

Jillian’s Jamaica Fun Run – Part Three

Day 5- Reggae Marathon Day!

This FAM trip that was hosted by Travelweek and The Jamaica Tourist Board is a big supporter of the Yellowbird Foundation. The Yellowbird Foundation is a non profit organization that helps out the behind the scenes tourism in the Carribean. Our team of travel agents all took part in the Reggae Marathon and raised money for this foundation all of which will be going towards a school here in Jamaica!

Today was an early day. The alarm went of at 3:30am so we could get ready for the run’s 5:15am gun time. My tummy was full of butterflies as we walked over to the start line. This was my first half marathon and I had an injured foot all week! The run was a real challenge but after 21.1km as I approached the finish line, my team was there cheering me on and I had the most amazing feeling in the world! After the run we enjoyed and had some much deserved relaxation at the Beaches resort for the rest of the day!

Jill Run

I was feeling very sore, but wanted to make the most of my day. I ate lunch at the a la carte restaurant Arizona’s. The nacho bar here was just what we needed post run, followed by delicious main courses of fish tacos and tilapia!

After lunch it was beach time. The beaches in Negril are amazing! We found some chairs and a shade hut and went in and out of the ocean. Then the kid at heart in us came out and we hit the lazy river and floated around on out tubes! Afterwards we tested out the water slides. It was an amazing day spent lounging around!

Day 6 – Sadly all good things must come to an end. Today we depart Jamaica and the +30 weather for home and the -30 weather. My body is sore head to toe from my run Saturday! I decided upgrading to economy plus on WestJet would be a great idea! Any economy plus seats that are not pre-booked are open for purchase 24hrs prior to flight time. On the flight from Jamaica to Toronto, it cost $50 and from Toronto to Winnipeg it cost $30. Well worth it if you want some extra space. Plus, you receive free food and beverages on board, priority boarding, plus more! On our flight they had no live seat back entertainment but they had tablets for rent at a cost of $5.75 for the flight. In economy plus the tablet rentals were free.

The Montego Bay airport on the Sunday was packed! The security line ups were crazy long. We decided to test out the VIP Club Mobay service. It was definitely worth every penny! The cost at the airport is $35USD per person and they expedite you through security and you get to wait for your flight relaxing in a VIP lounge with free drinks, beer, liquor coffees, juices and sodas! Plus they had a little food buffet that had parties, desserts, sushi, sandwiches and wraps. Doing the VIP Club Mobay saved us about 45 min of standing around in a line for security, gave us a very comfortable area to relax prior to flight and full bellies.

On arrival in Winnipeg, it was after midnight and I had booked myself at the brand new Courtyard Marriott right at the airport. I had a park and fly rate and had left my car there before I left. I highly recommend this hotel if you require an overnight hotel in Winnipeg before or after your flight. Beautiful hotel and rooms and super helpful staff!

And sadly that is the end of my trip! If you are thinking of traveling to Jamaica give me a call or email! Jillian@uniglobecorporate.com or 1306-934-3400.

Czarina’s South America Adventure – Part 3

Yesterday we started off early to begin our one-day Inca Trek. I was nervous and anxious but ready to go!

Our local guide, Ray, would be our guide through the trek which made me more at ease since we knew him quite well by then.

Those doing the one-day trek jumped off the train at the 104km sign. Having our first view of the trail was intimidating since it was straight uphill for the first two hours. Those first two hours were definitely the most difficult. We would walk for about 15 minutes and take two minute breaks to catch our breath. During our trek we would go through two check points where they would check our passports and our permits. This is a great way of keeping track of all the trekkers out there and looking out for their safety.

I doubt I could have done this without the support of my hubby. He was a trooper! About an hour in, he suffered from severe cramping in his quads which Ray attributed to the altitude. He just kept powering through with no complaints. So I did everything I could to keep my mouth shut and to stop the whining in my head. The truth is, this trek is not easy and you must be mentally and physically prepared for this. There were sections of the trail where you are climbing some steep steps upwards and off the sides it’s a sheer drop. I would climb those sections using both my feet and hands on all fours.

Lunch was a welcomed break at what Ray called “mini Machu Picchu”. We sat on these beautiful terraces to enjoy a huge boxed lunch. It took me a second to realize how beautiful it all was around me. I hadn’t paid any attention at all to my surroundings as we were walking; I was too busy watching my feet and praying for my legs not to give up. I was jello by then and could barely eat the sandwiches, snack bars, fruit and juice boxes. I was too worried it would all come back up. Couldn’t believe how much food Ray had carried for the eight of us.

There were two very surprising things I wasn’t expecting: Firstly, there is only one “official” bathroom on this portion of the trail and secondly, the bugs along the way were horrible! The only bathroom break was in the first couple hours and you are using a squatter. Once I learned this was the only “bathroom”, I instantly had to go again. But there is almost nowhere to hide. For the guys, this clearly wasn’t a problem. For the girls, on the other hand, we all held it in. Not fun! The bug bites I noticed after I was done the trek but they really got all of us all over our exposed legs. Apparently these tiny bugs are only around Machu Picchu and the nearby town of Aguas Calientes.

Reaching the Sun Gate after six hours was so powerful. With Ray leading the way and empowering us with his words those last few steps, he embraced all of us one by one and told us to enjoy the view and that we should be proud. I felt like crying even before I caught my first glimpse of the mystical Machu Picchu. Such a great time to arrive since the mist was just rising off the site that afternoon. Too amazing for words and too overwhelmed with a mini victory in my chest. We did it!

Czar holding a goat  Czar Machu Pichu

Jillian’s Jamaica Fun Run – Part Two

Day 3 – Today we visited 3 wonderful resorts. We started out at the Royalton Whitesands, a Sunwing owned and exclusive property. This resort was one of my favorites! It’s the former Starfish Trelawny, and it has done a total 360!! The Royalton Whitesands is a stunning resort!

Royalton Whitesands

Royalton Whitesands

Royalton Whitesands

Royalton Whitesands

We then headed over the the Hilton Rose Hall. This resort has more of a hotel feel inside…. But when you get out to the water park area that feeling totally changes!

Hilton Rose Hall

Hilton Rose Hall

And our last visit was to the 2 new Hyatt resorts scheduled to open on December 10th. The new Hyatt is the former Ritz, and again, a complete transformation. One side is a family friendly resort and the other is an exclusive adults only resort!

Hyatt 1

In the evening we did a frightful night tour at the Rose Hall Plantation. I highly recommend this tour at night – It had our entire group on edge the entire time!

Day 4 – today we checked out of our resort in Montego Bay and headed to Negril. If you want pristine beach, then Negril is where you want to go! Here we visited the Sandals Negril. This resort was exactly what one would expect: Adults only, beautiful, ultra all inclusive with so many activities to do here and a la carte dining options!

Sandals Negril

Sandals Negril

We then visited the Grand Pineapple. This is a Sandals opened resort, but family friendly and no frills. This resort is perfect for someone on a budget looking to stay in Negril for the beautiful beaches. It’s only has one small buffet and bar. This resort has a very high repeat clientele.

Grand Pineapple

Grand Pineapple

And last but not least…. We arrived at the Beaches Negril, our home for two nights! Beaches is a Sandals property also, but an altar all inclusive family version! There is nothing I don’t like about this resort!

And tonight…. The Reggae Marathon Pasta Party!!! A huge gathering event with different pasta stations serving up diner with great music getting the runners all pumped up!

Czarina’s South America Adventure – Part 2

After spending the past few days touring around the Sacred Valley, it’s now apparent to me why this is a “must see” destination for all travellers. Pisac, Moray and Ollantaytambo are all evidence that the Incans were ahead of the game in terms of astrology, farming, architecture and so on. The Incan ruins are stunning and we couldn’t have asked for better weather to tour them. We’ve had some pretty sketchy drives along some narrow cliffside roads where it’s just a sheer drop. I kept my Gravol close and my eyes shut tight on those ones… Yikes!

Our local guide, Ray, is very knowledgeable on this beautiful country he calls home. G Adventures has given back so much to the people of Peru and in turn, Peru is thriving from tourism. Although this is a slower time of year, almost all tours are booked full with G Adventures for the next couple of months.

As part of the tour, we were taken to two different projects that G Adventures have been a part of: a women’s weaving initiative and a Peruvian restaurant set in the Sacred Valley that opened in March. I’m thankful that we selected “G” as our guide. Can’t imagine doing all this on my own. I feel safe and the inclusions have been great.

Altitude was a little bit of an issue on our first day touring Pisac. Mainly I noticed I was out of breath after walking a short distance uphill. Sometimes, I felt a little disoriented and Kathy mentioned that was common when you travel from sea level to 3700m high. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one. It’s a great bonding experience for the wonderful group of people we are travelling with to exchange stories about how nauseous we all felt that first day! As our days go on, I’ve acclimatized and I’m feeling a lot better.

Tomorrow we start our hike to Machu Picchu. Wish me luck!