Sunken Garden at Buchart

Awaken Your Senses at Beautiful Buchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C

Butchart Gardens will always hold a special place in my heart. It had been 13 years since I was there last, and it was with my mother, just a couple of months before she passed away from cancer. Needless to say, I had stayed away too long. Within moments of stepping inside of Butchart Gardens, I was reminded of how truly spectacular it is! As I walked through the front gate, the delightful aroma from the blooming hyacinth hit me. It smelled heavenly, like a perfect Spring day. Butchart Gardens is situated on a bay, so when the breeze blows you can also get a hint of sea air. The two smells combined awakened my senses and made my spirit dance.

Pet Friendly

The gardens are also pet friendly, so I was delighted to be able to take Ozzie in with me. Visitors from around the globe bent down to show him some love and visit with me. There’s just no way you can be in a bad mood at Butchart.  The hardest part about going there is deciding which garden to visit first!

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Kahneeta Resort

Food, Fun & Spirits on “Distilled Weekend” at Kahneeta Resort

Looking down from the balcony of our room, I couldn’t help but marvel at the beautiful view and tranquility of the valley below. Kahneeta Resort is situated on the Warm Springs Native American Reservation and is surrounded by expansive grassy fields, red rock formations, and the crystal waters of the Deschutes River. If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all and yet still have a lot of fun activities for the entire family, Kahneeta is the place for you.

 

Distilled weekend was one of their special events, put together by their Sales and Marketing Manager, Cruz Bocanegra, who was our host for the special weekend. The event highlighted the delicious spirits of New Basin Distilling and the tasty ice cream of Sub Zero Ice Cream and Yogurt. Those partners, along with Kahneeta’s executive chef, Mike Pyell, provided us a fun filled and entertaining weekend I won’t soon forget. It also just happened to coincide with my birthday, so I, and two dear girlfriends celebrated in style and shared a lot of laughs.

Killer Whale off San Juan Island

Beauty, Fun and Tranquility on San Juan Island

I’ve been visiting San Juan Island in Puget Sound for the last fifteen years, but every time I do I find something new to enjoy. There is a little something for everyone and I guarantee you, by the time you leave, you will never forget the beauty, fun and tranquility of San Juan Island.

The ferry ride

The journey begins on the ferry ride from Anacortes. You can now make reservations ahead of time, and I strongly recommend it. You can do it easily on line with just a few clicks. The ferry ride over is beautiful, so try to make it during daylight hours. If you get very lucky you might see some orcas.

Downtown Friday Harbor

There are many fun things to do in downtown Friday Harbor. Restaurants offer some of the best seafood in the Pacific Northwest. I especially like the clam chowder at Diggers and the delicious fish and chips at Cask and Schooner Pub across the street.

Signing the guest log

The Annoying Indian Phrase that Drove Me Crazy

Doing business in Indian takes some getting used to. Indians have their own style of customer service and it’s quite different from western standards. In America, most companies will do anything to keep their customers happy. They even pride themselves, and often share stories, of going to absolute extremes to win a customer for life. We believe in leaving them with a sense of “wow”. Indian workers take a much different approach. They left me with a sense of “wow” many times, but it was the wrong kind of “wow”, as in “wow” how do they stay in business?  Perhaps it’s because of their overpopulation, and that they try to provide jobs for everyone, that leads to their “it’s not my job” type of philosophy. For example, they have bathroom attendants and people whose only responsibility is to make coffee for the office. When I got my hair styled in a salon, one person held the hair dryer and another held the hair brush. So, quite often in India, if I asked someone to do something outside of their usual job duties, the response was generally the same. “Not possible”. The only exception I saw was at 5 star hotels and some other high-end resorts that catered to westerners.

Amber Fort in Jaipur, India

10 Things I will Never Take for Granted Again After Spending a Year in Indian

After almost a year and a half in India I’ve gotten to know the country quite well. There are so many things I love about India, like the beautiful Himalayan Mountains, delicious food and fascinating culture. However, there are a number of things that I have really missed from home. These 10 things I will never take for granted again.

Toilets

India has more cell phones than toilets. There are very few public toilets, which means that public urination (by men) is common. One day, out of pure curiosity, I decided to count the number of men I saw taking a pee on the way to work. In 8 kilometers I counted 14 guys relieving themselves on the side of the road. If you are lucky enough to find a public toilet it will probably be an Indian style squat toilet. Western style toilets are even harder to find.

Hand towels in wash room

If you are able to locate a public restroom be prepared for it to be dirty, even disgusting! They don’t have the same sanitary standards that the west does. I have only found one hand dryer or filled paper towel dispenser in a public bathroom my entire time in India, and that place was operated by foreigners.

Beth playing with a school of yellow snapper fish

My Amazing Experience of Becoming Scuba Diving Certified in Thailand

I’ve have done some pretty incredible things, such as trekking high in the Himalaya Mountains, watching the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl in person, and doing the bungee swing over the Ganga River in India. But the experience I just had getting PADI certified in scuba just might top them all. It truly was a spectacular experience and would not have been possible without the wonderful staff at Kon-Tiki Lanta. Their professionalism and dedication to the sport and their clients made all the difference, and I can’t thank them enough! If you are planning a trip to Thailand to scuba dive, here is a great scuba diving guide that will tell you everything you need to know.

Day 1

On the first day we were introduced to our instructor, our equipment, and then headed to the swimming pool. I also met the other 3 members of my group. Bea and Jimmy were from Denmark, and my buddy, Chew, was from China. Nick (our amazing instructor who will soon be the topic of one of my Human Connection posts) showed us how to assemble our BCD. The Buoyancy Control Device is the main piece of equipment used in scuba. It helps control your decent and ascent and is connected to the tank and regulator. After that, it was time to get in the pool and take our first breaths under water. Wow! It is such a cool feeling to breath underwater!

Cameron Highlands Tea Plantation

The Incredible Forests, Flowers, Fruits, Veggies and Tea of Cameron Highlands Malaysia

Cameron Highlands has been a feast for my senses. Every day I discover a new plant, fruit or vegetable that I have never heard of or seen before. Cameron Highlands is a lush tropical paradise located approximately 200 kilometers northeast of Kuala Lumpur. The elevation ranges from 3,600 ft. to 5,200 ft. above sea level and the mean annual temperature is about 64 °F. During the day, the temperature seldom rises over 75 °F. It has rained hard every day that I’ve been here. The first day I was here it was sprinkling lightly and a local man was walking in front of me with an umbrella. I noticed he glanced up to the sky and then started to run. I took that as a sign so I ran for cover too. I’m glad I did because soon the sky opened in an utter deluge, but typically the sun comes out afterwards and everything smells so fresh!

The Forests

Mossy Forest is an ancient forest that they say is millions of years old. In some places of the forest the moss is several inches thick. It’s a dark and damp rain forest that reminds me a lot of the Olympic Peninsula in my home state of Washington. It looks like something out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. It’s not easy to get around in it. You have to climb over ancient stumps and giant twisted tree limbs. Our guide said that 70% of the plants in the Mossy Forest are medicinal. In fact, it’s where Tiger Balm originated. Thank goodness, the plants are all now protected.

Dharamsala Animal rescue Mobile Clinic

Dharamsala Animal Rescue: How an American Woman Found Her Passion in a Village in India

India changes people. If you don’t believe me, just ask Deb Jarrett. She was an American, turning 40 and needing a change her life. She loved to travel, so she volunteered with a charitable organization called Cross Cultural Solutions and signed up for a few weeks in India.  Fast forward nearly a decade later and she is running her own nonprofit, rescuing animals from the harsh streets of India and an important part of the Dharamsala community. Dharamsala is probably best known for being the town of residence of His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

I met Deb while on a trek in the Himalaya Mountains on our way up to Triund. It was hard to miss her big radiant smile and 3-legged dog named Jack. After only a 5-minute conversation we became friends. Her commitment and passion for helping others, whether they be 2-legged or 4-legged beings, inspires me to be a better person.

 

The beginning of Dharamsala Animal rescue

When she first came to India for a few weeks as a volunteer working with women and children, she was astonished at the mistreatment of animals, in particular, dogs. There was a poor little sickly one in the corner of the temple where she was working and no one seemed to care about it. Deb, being a woman of action, contacted a vet for assistance, and well the rest is history.

A cottage at Dudhsagar Plantation

Dudhsagar Plantation: A Botanical Utopia Hidden in the Jungle of Goa

I had an extraordinary time visiting a real Indian farm in Southeastern Goa. Dudhsagar Plantation is a guesthouse spread on about 50 beautiful acres. They have 5 cottages scattered amongst the agricultural paradise and employ around 14 people. The farm is owned by Doris and Ajit Malkarnekar who started it over 30 years ago. Doris is from Germany and still lives there. Ajit is Goan. Their son, Ashok, was my host. His wife actually lives in Indonesia. I found it fascinating that both couples are international and live apart most of the time. I guess when running a large plantation, you do what you have to in order to keep the place running smoothly. In fact, I’ve met many people in India that live apart from their spouses in order to meet obligations of extended family and work. It’s not terribly uncommon.

Accommodations

Beside the 5 cottages, the grounds also have a fair sized swimming pool and open air common dining room. It has a thatched roof and is situated just outside the main house. The food was delicious and featured many of their farm grown fruits, vegetables and spices.

The tour

Ashok gave me the grand tour and I was captivated by every amazing detail. Their main crop is coconuts and they harvest 3 to 4 times per year. They cook with their own homemade bio gas, which is basically methane made from liquefied cow dung. Cow dung is a popular fuel in India. Traditionally, many homes dry cow dung discs and cook with them year around. Sometimes it takes a little getting used to because the smell of burning cow dung mixes with the aroma of the food and is a little pungent for western senses, but food cooked on biogas does not have this odour.

The view at Olaulim Backyards

I found Paradise in the Backyards of Panjim, Goa, India

Everyone is always talking about Goa like it’s some sort of exotic dream vacation destination, so I had to find out for myself why it’s so popular. I’ve only spent three days here and I never want to leave! Goa is heavenly, and my accommodations are sheer paradise!

What and Where

I’m staying at a charming home stay called Olaulim Backyards, situated on 3 lovely acres located about half an hour outside of Panjim. Panjim is the capital of the state of Goa. Home Stays are popular in India and one of my favorite types of places. They are typically a cheaper alternative to a hotel and provide a “no frills” style of accommodations. However, Olaulim (the name of the village) Backyards is an extraordinary exception.

My Cottage

I arrived after dark, weary from a day of travel. Pirkko Fernandes, co-owner and hostess, met me with a smile at the car and introduced herself. She is originally from Finland but has lived in India for over 20 years. Her hospitality and graciousness were evident from the very beginning. I felt like I had just arrived home. She showed me to my cottage and I was immediately impressed with every beautiful detail. The bed was soft and actually had sheets (unusual for India unless staying in a 4 or 5-star hotel).  The bamboo accents and soft golden lighting instantly helped me relax. The bathroom was an open air style with a 6-foot solid mud wall around it, thatched roof and a concrete floor. It makes you feel like you are part of nature yet still have all the comforts of home.  I really had no idea though what a charming and beautiful place it was until the next morning.

 

I awoke to the sounds of birds singing cheerfully outside of my cottage. I could hear the unmistakable sound of a peacock calling in the distance and wind chimes making soft music in the cool morning breeze. I made myself a cup of coffee and then headed out to the pool area to meditate, do some yoga and watch the sunrise over the bay. It was the perfect start to an incredibly relaxing day.