Friday, June 29, 2012

Hostel Checklist

July 2 - Updated with photos

The bar at Francesco's in Ios, which faces the sunset every night
For a couple of weeks now I've been mentally putting together a post on how to run a good hostel.  I was inspired by the places we've been staying recently - some great, some okay, and some that could be so much better if they tried a little harder.  Hostel quality ranges depending on location, but there are some aspects that I find important in any good hostel or guesthouse.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Books for the Summer

One of the best parts of a new guest house or hostel is the book swap shelf.  I get excited every time I find one.  What books will there be?  What am I going to read next?  Some are better than others; a recent hostel had a lot of German guests, which limited my options to the few novels in English.  Others are crammed with the new blockbuster book of the summer and too many copies of Twilight.

Traveling gives me numerous opportunities to read.  On buses, on trains, in my bunk at the dorm, I can get lost in a good story.  Since the summer is quickly approaching back home, I wanted to offer a few recommendations of good books for an afternoon on the porch or the beach.  

Naxos, Greece in 2011 - I do love to read with wine and a view.
A few disclaimers:  I tend to read fiction, especially mysteries.  If a book is set in New England, the United Kingdom, or France I will most likely pick it up. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Cameron Highlands

I've realized that part of why I love the Cameron Highlands is because this all feels familiar.  This part of Malaysia is mountainous and lush, with green tea plantations rolling over the hills and cool temperatures.  It reminds me of other touristy mountain towns in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  Judging by the crowds on a recent public holiday, this seems to be a hugely popular vacation spot for Malaysian people.

Rolling hills of the BOH tea plantation

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Happily Surprised by Penang

Before we arrived in Malaysia, I assumed that Eric and I would be making a quick trip through the country.  We'd spend a few days in Penang, maybe see the Cameron Highlands for a couple days, maybe some islands on the east coast, and then we'd make a quick stop in Kuala Lumpur before flying to Indonesia or northern Thailand.  Even though Malaysia kindly gives tourists a free ninety day visa, I figured we'd only be in the country for a couple weeks.
A relaxing setting outside a restaurant
This is actually how I always pictured the British experience of colonialism,
plus a couple of gin and tonics.
It's been eleven days and I have no plans to leave.  After booking a hostel for three nights in Georgetown, Penang, we extended our stay for a full week.  I have fallen for Malaysia completely.