Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Testimonial’

What it’s like to go on safari in South Africa

Today I want to share a blog post from my friend and our Product Development Manager at Friendly Planet, Judy Poliva. Judy grew up in South Africa, the destination at the center of our Win Wild South Africa Sweepstakes. I asked her to fill us in on what makes South Africa so special and she delivered, so read on. After you’re finished, be sure to enter to win a free trip for two to South Africa on our Facebook page (now closed)!


When we were children growing up in the Johannesburg area, we didn’t realize how lucky we were. We lived within driving distance of the Kruger National Park!

Almost every year during our winter school holidays (July), my parents would pack up the car with supplies, and we would head off on a self-drive safari, for a week or sometimes two. As we got closer to the park, my sisters and I would start practicing game-spotting by looking at the herds of cattle.

But once we entered the park, the competition started in earnest: who could spot the first animal (this was usually an impala), the first giraffe, or a lion! This was a daily, all-day competition, and we never tired of it. On our journey home, we missed being on the constant look out, and the cattle didn’t seem so interesting anymore.

We would be ready at dawn to start out on our game drive as soon as the gate opened. At every rest stop, we listened carefully as travelers shared their stories of what they had seen, so that we could head off there as well. We also had to remember to close all the windows so that the vervet monkeys or baboons didn’t try to steal our things.

If we saw some cars in the distance, we headed in that direction. Or we drove around, hoping to get lucky. At night, we would watch wildlife films in the open-air theatre at the camp or listen to a lecture by a game ranger. We would fall asleep listening to the sounds of roaring lions not too far away, and wake to the gentle coos of the bush doves.

One of the most memorable of my childhood experiences was in the northern region of the Kruger National Park, a more remote area that had only one-lane dirt roads. There was no other car in sight. We came around a corner, and the road dipped down a sharp incline to a dry river bed and then up an equally sharp incline. As we neared the bottom of the dip, an elephant walking along the dry river bed started crossing the road. Then, another and another and another, a seemingly endless stream of these huge, majestic creatures. There must have been more than 10 elephants of all ages.

Suddenly, one of the larger elephants looked in our direction and raised its trunk, flapped its ears, and took a few steps in our direction. My father put the car in reverse and we slowly went back up the hill. My sisters and I were shrieking with a mixture of excitement and fear. The elephants eventually decided we weren’t so interesting after all. They continued their journey, and disappeared into the bush once more. Once again, we were alone on the road.

A picture is worth a thousand words: 5 photos that define Vietnam

We shared Friendly Planet Travel reservation agent Liz Hutchins’ first-hand account of her trip to Vietnam last year in a blog post, and more recently, her review of authentic Vietnamese cuisine. But Liz is also an amateur photographer, and took many pictures during her trip, so we thought it was fitting to ask Liz to share her five favorite photos of Vietnam with our blog readers. Scroll down to see her choices.

“As I was preparing for my first trip to Vietnam, and my first trip to Asia, I bought a 32-GB memory card. I was determined to take as many photos as possible to make sure I’d remember my fabulous experience, and I surpassed 1,500 images. Of course, I still wish I could have seen more, but that just gives me an excuse to revisit this beautiful and culturally astounding country. Allow me to share with you my favorite moments:

#1:


Everyone always asks me, “What’s the strangest thing you saw someone carry on a motorbike?” This picture shows just one of the 12 locals I saw transporting TVs on their bikes. I think 40 inches was the largest TV I saw, but the biggest cargo I saw being transported via motorbike was a full-size mattress! Sadly, I did not capture this. Other extreme cargo included a stack of cages with chickens, a 6-foot-tall pane of glass, and a family of four.

I really enjoyed riding on the back of a vintage Vespa myself on our Vietnamese food tour. Taking pictures while holding on for dear life was a bit difficult, and they all turned out blurry. But the one thing that I’ll remember from the ride is that my face hurt from smiling so much. It was amazing! (more…)

A traveler’s review of authentic Vietnamese cuisine

We shared a bit about Liz Hutchins’ first trip to Vietnam in a previous post, but Liz has more to share with us! Read on for her personal account of experiencing authentic Vietnamese cuisine.

“The most interesting food I encountered in Vietnam was the infamous durian fruit. I consider myself a pretty adventurous eater, and after hearing many stories about the world’s stinkiest fruit, I decided I had to try it.

I thought I’d be clever and try durian-flavored ice cream, and found it at Fanny’s Ice Cream Parlor in Ho Chi Minh. As I scanned the pristine ice cream selections, I noticed that the durian ice cream was not in the glass case in the front of the store, but in the back freezer. I became apprehensive, so instead of getting an entire serving, I asked for a sample to taste only. I was alone in my adventure, as no one else in my group had any desire to try it.

These signs should have tipped me off that I was in for an unpleasant experience. I had been warned that durian ice cream smelled like dirty gym socks or garbage, so I held my breath and just went for it. At first, it wasn’t that bad … different is the only way I can describe it. Afterwards however, oh boy! Every breath I took, every sip of water, every attempted bite of food, all I could do was relive that awful bite of ice cream. Sadly, I had to endure a night of illness and plain rice, as the dreaded durian got the best of me. I’m told that many Vietnamese people love it though, and the fruit is sold all over the country.  All I have to say is … consumer beware of this funky fruit.

I certainly did not, however, lose faith in Vietnamese cuisine after this incident. As they say, when one door closes, an open window with delicious smelling food wafts through it. Case in point was my amazing tour with food blogger, cookbook author, and restaurateur Daniel Hoyer, who owns a restaurant in Hanoi and knows all of the best places to eat in this fabulous city. (more…)

Going abroad for the first time: One traveler’s experience in Ireland

Today, we’re continuing to share travel experiences that some Friendly Planet Travel staff members have had while abroad. Terence talked about traveling to Tokyo, and Liz let us in on her lovely trip to Vietnam.

In our next post, we’re speaking with Kristin Wagner, a member of our Reservations team. Kristin had never left the country before, so we’ve been looking forward to hearing how her trip on our Discover Ireland tour went. We sat down for a Q-and-A with Kristin to talk about her experience in Ireland, and what it meant to her as a first-time international traveler.


FP: How was your overall experience in Ireland?

Kristin: It was just amazing. I had never traveled before, so it was my first trip out of the country.

FP: What was the experience of traveling alone like? (more…)

Travel enthusiast checks Cuba off her bucket list

Cuba was always on Mimi’s Gough’s bucket list, but she wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to check it off. So when the U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made people-to-people travel to Cuba legal, Mimi knew she had to jump at the chance to visit this fascinating destination.

Mimi is a travel enthusiast who has visited over 40 countries in her lifetime. She has traveled on escorted tours and on solo explorations, and was once a travel agent herself! Mimi and her husband went to Cuba on our Discover Havana tour in September 2012, and she wrote about her experience for the Portland Press Herald. I loved her write-up, and asked our blogging team to reach out to Mimi to hear more about her trip.

She joined us for a podcast to discuss her trip, why she chose Friendly Planet for her tour, the great people she met along the way, and the most memorable experience she had in Cuba. Listen in for these details and more.

Thanks so much for sharing your tour experience with us, Mimi! We had a great time talking with you.

The sights and tastes of Vietnam

Known for its extraordinary beauty, charming people, and delicious food, Vietnam remains a favorite destination among travel enthusiasts. Previously, I mentioned that I invited some of our staff members to share their travel experiences on our blog in order to give our readers a snapshot of some of the most fascinating places around the world. Today Liz Hutchins, one of our reservations agents, shares her account of her trip to Vietnam:

“After months of preparation for my trip to Vietnam, I knew to expect certain things when I got there: lots of motor bikes, terrific food, and sights that I have come to know from countless movies and TV shows. What I didn’t expect was that I’d immediately fall in love with this beautiful country.

As soon as I landed, I was overwhelmed by the seemingly endless swarms of motorbikes, crowds, and food. People were either bustling about or sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal. Food stands selling Pho (a dish made of broth, rice noodles, a few herbs, and meat), broken rice, and Banh Mi sandwiches were everywhere, and I couldn’t wait to try them all!

I first tried Vietnamese food around 12 years ago, and ever since, I have been obsessed. When I had my first crispy spring roll all those years ago, who would have thought someday I would be making them in a cooking class on the Mekong Delta? Vietnam is a foodie’s paradise, and every day is an adventure! (more…)

The best things Dubai has to offer

As you might know, we recently announced that we’re giving away a free trip for two on our Dazzling Dubai tour through our latest Facebook sweepstakes: “Be Dazzled by Dubai.” If you’ve never been to the city of Dubai, it’s a wonderfully exotic and lavish place for shopping, dining, and to see some of the world’s most breathtaking sights.

To give you a better sense of what you have to look forward to should you be the lucky winner of our sweepstakes, I asked our Reservations Manager here at Friendly Planet, Katherine Howard, to share her personal account of a recent trip to Dubai. Here’s what she had to share with me, in her own words:

Flying to Dubai: The flight was incredible — the service was awesome, the food was great, and the flight attendants were helpful and friendly. There was a wide variety of movies to watch throughout the flight, and for anyone who has seen Sex and the City 2, the flight attendants are dressed exactly as in the movie when the ladies fly to Dubai.

I was fortunate enough to fly in business class and it was 100 percent worth the upgrade. The seats extend flat so you can sleep comfortably on the 13-hour flight from JFK. The flight attendants also pass out mini mattress toppers to make you even more comfortable.

Sightseeing – Burj Khalifa: One of my favorite things about the trip to Dubai was the view from the top of the Burj Khalifa, currently the tallest building in the world. Opened in January of 2010, this building has over 160 floors and is 2,717 feet high. The super-fast elevator ride to the observation deck was smooth, the lights were dimmed, and there was soft music playing. When the doors opened you could see the sky. The deck’s open air and floor-to-ceiling glass took my breath away, and I felt like you could see forever from up there. (more…)

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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