For more on the Whaleman Foundation’s Newest Spokesperson read the announcement here:
From Instagram: Simply Straws Announces Angela as Newest Ambassador!
News - See more at: http://whaleman.org/angela-sun-the-whaleman-foundations-newest-spokesperson/#sthash.sveqlDs9.dpuf, adventure, angela sun, eco, green, plastic, plastic paradise, sharks, simply straws, spokesperson, travel, whaleman, whales
For more on the Whaleman Foundation’s Newest Spokesperson read the announcement here:
From Instagram: Simply Straws Announces Angela as Newest Ambassador!
by Angela Sun for wandermelon.com
Fanciful and dangerously romantic, Cartagena will entice you with promises of cultural riches steeped in its tumultuous 500-year history and leave you breathless from its beauty. A UNESCO world heritage site, this city is one of South America’s greatest cultural treasures.
IF THESE WALLS COULD SPEAK–CUIDAD AMURALLADA
Cartagena’s rich colonial heritage can be found anywhere in the Old City, Cuidad Amurallada, as it is referred to locally, but to understand the sheer magnitude of this city,teeming with nearly one million denizens, one must visit the old walls. Built on the backs of slave labor, they took over 100 years to complete. It’s no wonder swash-buckling pirates in the mid-1500s sought to conquer this prosperous trading outpost, for those five miles of massive ten-foot-thick walls, thirty feet high, concealed the riches of Spanish conquests from all of Latin America.
Within the city walls, enchantingly bright bougainvillea adorns colorful historical buildings and massive churches, curling around corners to invite you into its colonial charm. There is something magical about getting lost along the maze of narrow cobblestone streets and luscious green plazas, and feeling the warm breeze from the Caribbean Sea on your skin. People watching is a must at one of the many outdoor cafes, as is browsing in the numerous boutiques and art galleries that have helped revitalize the fifth largest city of Colombia.
In more recent years, many of the wealthier Cartageneros moved to the modern area of Bocagrande. Outside of the fortifications of the Old City, large hotels and condos line the beach alongside upscale restaurants and extensive shopping, including many emerald dealers waiting to sell you a piece of Colombia to take home. (Around 80 percent of the world’s emeralds are mined in Colombia). Bocagrande also boasts one of the few city beaches, although a trip to nearby Playa Blanca is a better option. However, if solitude and isolation is what you are pining for, be aware that in most places in and around Cartagena, you are only steps away from vendors hawking cheap jewelry, fruit, massages and other trinkets and souvenirs.
Colombia may be tainted by a drug ridden past, FARC insurgency, and kidnappings, but Cartagena is relatively safe nowadays, and the young vibrant dining scene and nightlife are a reflection of it. An unassuming foodie destination, hard-to-impress palates from around the world are flocking to taste the culinary delights offered in this Caribbean jewel, infused with local flavor, such as plantains, fresh fruits and seafood. Trendy and hip restaurants that rival South Beach, Miami serve up refreshing cocktails in the tropical heat all night long to beautiful-looking clientele.
Vallenato music (traditional music of Colombia’s Caribbean coast) can be heard everywhere, and don’t be surprised to get caught up in a spontaneous dance party in one of the plazas. Cartagena’s exciting nightlife has something for everyone. Whether you want to sip cocktails at Café Del Mar (located on the western wall and great for sunset views), salsa dance Caribbean-style, or jam to ’80s rock or house music, much of the nightlife is centered on Calle del Arsenal, in the Getsemaní area, although the Old City has plenty of options as well.
WHERE TO STAY IN CARTAGENA
The Tcherassi Hotel + Spa
To really experience the heart of Cartagena, it is best to stay within the Old City. Located in the historic center, the stylish Tcherassi Hotel + Spa is a renovated 250-year-old colonial mansion featuring expansive hacienda-style suites. Fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi’s first hotel endeavor stands apart from the rest as a journey for the senses. From the moment you walk through the beautifully appointed front doors, the fragrant smell of sandalwood and jasmine wafts lightly in the air, creating a sense of calm. The artfully sophisticated decor is rugged yet soft with bold and calming textures in each individual room tailored with Tcherassi’s unique fashion sense in mind.
Located in the hotel’s lush courtyard, the glamorous indoor/outdoor restaurant VERA features delectable Italian coastal cuisine created by head chef Daniel Castano. Indulge on house specialties like Penne Melanzana, a delicious combination of eggplant, marinara, and mozzarella or the Risotto Pescatore cooked with Arborio rice, clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid.
Pamper yourself with a soothing massage or try an energizing Deluxe Colombian Coffee body wrap at the full-service spa where the treatments are based on holistic principles. Or head to the rooftop pool for mesmerizing views of the colonial skyline and hustle and bustle below. Enjoy the cityscape vistas from the Convento de La Popa, the highest point at 150m in the city, to the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, the greatest and strongest fortress ever built by the Spaniards in their colonies.
With only seven guest rooms, this converted 17th-century colonial mansion feels more like a stylish home than a boutique hotel. The impeccable service, personal attention and hospitality make this unique property the ideal place to stay when visiting Cartagena. Ask for Mary at the front desk; she will take care of every detail and ensure your stay is memorable.
Rates from US$295 per night. A two-night minimum stay is required for weekends. To book visit here.
November 21, 2009
Its 5 am and the morning light has not quite yet broken the horizon. As a night owl, I cant’ believe I’m up at this God forsaken hour but alas, I was jetlagged, and I didn’t know what time I should be up if my life depended on it.
Like two ants traveling through an underground maze, we head out in the dark to conquer the Tokyo subway. It is eerily quiet–the morning rush hour had not yet begun. As soon as we arrive at our destination, the smell of freshly caught fish overwhelms my senses and I let my nose lead me. “If all else fails just follow all the foreigners,” my friend says. We pass by row after row of small sushi restaurants and stores selling trinkets and t-shirts. Yes, I am at the famous Tsukiji (pronounced SKEE GEE) Fish Market in Tokyo. The vast expanse of the market is roughly the size of 43 football fields and each year it handles 600,000 tons of seafood– 1 of every 5 fish caught on the planet! The city plans to move the market in the next couple of years, to a more modern building. But for now, the market still functions as much as it did in the 16th century and I am excited to catch a glimpse of the tradition!
Buyers from every culinary corner of the globe descend upon this place in the wee hours of the morning to fight and bid for the freshest and choicest catches straight from the fishing boats. Days from now, the finest restaurants around the globe will serve hungry sushi patrons the fish we see in front of us. Big fish, little fish and all sorts of other crustaceans are neatly packed on ice in Styrofoam boxes ready to be sold by the kilo.
Its still dark outside, and the incandescent glow of lights shines down on row after row of delectable raw seafood. Preoccupied with dodging speedy motorized three-wheeled carts that whiz by, the hustle and bustle of people helps me ignore the cold morning wind.
I put my amateur photography skills to the test while soaking in my first impressions of Tokyo. That’s when I spotted it. I could only imagine the eyes of eagerly awaiting sushi chefs, if they could catch a glimpse of this blue fin tuna! It its HUGE, massive! I have never seen a fish as big as this, it was twice the size of me!
As calculated and careful as an artist with his brush, the fish cutters dance around their giant prize as if to a choreographed routine, slicing and dicing at all the right places. As quickly as this giant fish was divvied up, it was packaged and rushed to make its international flight. At Tsujiki Fish Market, time is money, and there is a lot of money exchanging hands. One blue fin recently sold for $177,000 USD!
I sat there watching in amazement for about 20 minutes feeling conflicted. There is nothing better than a cut of top grade fresh sashimi, melting in your mouth. I love sushi (especially maguro and hamachi), but I couldn’t help but feel sad. I will probably never encounter a fish of this size scuba diving because there simply aren’t many left in the ocean. I read countless articles about mass over depletion of fish globally, and how over-fishing has devastated healthy populations of marine life… and I just can’t play the ignorant card.
Yet an hour later, I find myself waiting in huge line outside a small sushi restaurant for the freshest tuna over rice that I’ll ever find. Blind eye, party of one.
November 11th, 2009
No, Not Facebook and Twitter! My lifelines.
I am so annoyed. It says I’m connected to the wireless router but I can’t seem to get onto facebook. Or twitter. They are my lifelines to the outside world! How else am I supposed to stalk friends and read up on their status updates so I don’t have to call or hanging out with them?! Hey at least I’m speaking the truth. I’ve been without internet for a week in Thailand and jonesin’ for my fix. After about 20 minutes of playing around with my settings, I realize that BOTH facebook and twitter are censored in China! Public enemy number one on the Chinese government’s hit list! Blocking open source content in cyberspace is like trying to clean up all the plastics in the oceans, but leave it to the Chinese to try and suppress freedom of thought.
Ahhh…I am once again reminded that I’m in a communist country, The last time I was here were I was blatantly told that local authorities were after me in a province outside of Beijing for reporting on the AIDS problem in the countryside. Previous to that, I investigated the lack of religious freedom and persecution of Christian missionaries. Our missionary contact’s computer was confiscated and he fled the country soon thereafter our encounter. (The local authorities had been investigating him for sometime). I have had my fair share of run-ins with the Chinese government, and I didn’t intend to this time around.
With its pretty façade, Beijing puts on a good superficial show to convey its openness to the rest of the world, but it doesn’t take much to scratch beneath the surface of this beautifully manicured, new, and eerily squeaky clean city to find that EVERYTHING is monitored.
I give up trying to get online and head to out to explore the city. The bitterly sharp cold cuts through my light long sleeve wrap and yoga pants like a chilled razorblade and I feel completely exposed. I was definitely ill-prepared to battle the bone chilling 1C/32F temp. Anyone who knows me knows I’m like a tropical fish, I need the perfect temperature and environment to keep me sustained. The balmy 30C temperature in Thailand seemed light years away though it was only yesterday morning that I caught my last rays of equatorial sun.
I surrender to the outside elements and sprint to find shelter, careful not to step in the snow. Like an old friend smiling at me, the bright gleaming Starbucks logo in the brand new mega mall on Sanlitun Rd.,(an area frequented by expats and foreigners) invites me in for a non-fat sugar-free vanilla latte. As I look out the window de-thawing with my hot drink in hand I can’t help but think of the irony. The mall is home to legit retail stores like Columbia, Apple Store, and North Face, yet 10 minutes away stands one of the largest knock off markets in the world, Hong Qiao or Pearl Market. Once again, that’s China for you.
Oct 30th, 2009
Today we leave Phnom Penh by bus to Siem Reap, gatway to the temples of Angkor.
It’s a six hour bus ride, complete with funny Cambodian karaoke videos playing on the TV monitor and hard to understand tour guide. Along the roadside, villagers were selling fruit as well as fried crickets! I missed out on the fried spiders though.
At our bathroom break, two big brown eyes approach me. His little hands motion towards the bus as if we have an unspoken understanding that he wanted something from me. “Would you like some candy?” I asked him. His equally adorable little friend joins us, in matching torn and tattered attire and no shoes. Instead of handing out money, which would most likely end up in the wrong hands, I instinctively brought along some halloween candy—lifesaver gummies to be exact—to give to the kids.
In the Lonely Planet they refer to it as beggars fatigue. When visiting a country like Cambodia, it is expected that one will encounter many beggars and street peddlers. At first, I am inclined to give to all that ask, but I still feel internally conflicted about hand-outs. Would I be training kids to rely on foreigners to give them things? How harmful is a little candy? To solve the internal libra-like indecisiveness going on in my head, and really to make myself feel better, I hand over the gummies as well as the snack we received on the tour bus.
Their little hands wave at our window as we pull away from the bus stop and they seemed genuinely happy. Towering above them, a billboard reads, “Angkor is the jewel of Cambodia”. By the sheer amount of buses, planes, and boats transporting hundreds of tourists daily, I question how sparkly that jewel shines in this developing nation. Is it overshadowed by the poverty that surrounds it? Or the hordes of foreign tourists that come in the thousands to trample upon its ancient secrets? The sun sets over the rice paddies and casts a warm glow in the dusk sky. It fades to black and we arrive at our destination.
I really wanted to give him money. His was probably a victim of an acid attack, burn accident, or something worse. This older Cambodian gentleman’s gnarled up face could rival Two Face from the Batman comics. I struggle with wanting to help and also not wanting to get scammed. What’s a dollar or two to me in the long scheme of things in a country where the per capita monthly income around $70 a month, right? After a few minutes of mental debate, I end up trying not to make eye contact and walk the other direction, feeling conflicted.
As we hopped on a Cambodian style tuk tuk—a modified motorbike with seating for four –I feel the warm breeze wrap around my skin like an old worn-in sweatshirt. I was back in south East Asia! But this time it was different. I have never been to Cambodia, but I expected the same same, but different. I remember the distinct smell of trash in Asia, as it wafts by. The sound of motorbikes dominate the roads, and the fruit stand vendors hawk the freshest of exotic fruits. Bright pink dragon fruit and Aubergine colored mangosteens, and a wide variety of bananas, pineapple and mangoes colored the side of the streets as we whizzed by.
I tried hard not to think about him, but I couldn’t get the image out of my head. A deep hole sat where his right eye would have been, covered by a thin layer of white scar tissue. Half of his face looked as though it had been melted away like old candle wax. Think happy thoughts, I said to myself…but I couldn’t.
We had just spent the afternoon spent at Tuol Sleng, a school turned prison turned genocide museum in the middle of Phnom Penh. I couldn’t help but feel saddened and depressed. It was ironic. A place that used to promote higher education had become a place were educated thinkers were tortured and killed, promoting Pol Pot’s return to a simple agrarian society of peasants and workers. The atrocities of the Khmer Rouge were neatly and precisely displayed at S.21 prison. The grounds were eerily calm as we perused the cells where prisoners were tortured and held. I couldn’t help but wonder why humanity would do this to each other, and why we allowed it to still happen in places like Sudan and Uganda. If only those walls could speak, I wonder how loud the screams would be. I never made it out to see the Killing Fields, where over 20,000 people were executed and thrown in mass graves, but Tuol Sleng and the remnants of the horrible regime that killed an est. total of 2 million of their own people were enough to leave a lasting impression.
the interrogation cells where victims were routinely tortured into confession