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A very special birthday for April Cole!

April is the life-force of our US office and this weekend she turned 30! April has done more in her 20’s than most people do in a lifetime! A wife, a mother, a traveler, a friend, a tour consultant, an office manager and an all-around Unicorn, we are so excited to see what April does next!

Here are birthday wishes from our team for April:

 

Happy dirty, nerdy thirty April!!  I so wish all the unicorns could unite on your special day in Truckee!  I would totally make everyone dance on a pool table in your honor. I am sure you guys will rock out anyways.  You know how I know? You are awesome and you totally deserve it!

April just makes me smile. She is a supportive and loving individual. You can see it in the way she takes care of her children, her friends and her work. She deeply cares about all the aspects in her life and really invests herself into them. She reminds me to look at the positive side to things and when things get tough just push through them and keep smiling. Even writing about her is making me smile right now! 😉

Nicole, Country Director- Laos

Happy Birthday to April and I wish she has very good health, work and a happy and healthy family and I wish she has success in anything she wishes to do.

Phaeng, Tour Manager- Laos

Happy birthday to an amazing boss, friend and woman!

Embrace your new decade…I have no doubt that you will rock your thirties!

Kate, Group Tour Specialist – Truckee

Happy Birthday April!  I love your jokes- they always make me crack up. Here’s hoping for the best!  I hope your 30th will be full of happiness, new adventures, good times with family and friends, and many renaissance festivals full of bad jousting and men in doublets and tights devouring roasted turkey legs : )

Heather, Booking Coordinator- Cambodia

We just love having April in the office because she is always so upbeat and because she is such a ‘can do’ person! It is always fun to pop over to the office and catch up with April.  April we both send you our love and very best wishes for a happy birthday – turning 30 is just the start of many fun years ahead!  Much love, happy celebrating

Philippa and Dudley

Happy birthday April!! April is very smart and with work she is very clear and knows what she doing. Other things I remember about her is I felt very warmly welcomed when I visited America for the first time. Today is her birthday and I would like to wish her all the best and success in work and a great life with the amazing family she has now.

Narla, Country Director- Cambodia

April has a fun and supportive spirit. 30 is such a fun time. Have a wonderful year April!  

Michelle, Country Director- Vietnam

Could you please say hi to April for all of us from Hotel? Tell her we miss her alot, especially me!! : )

Makara and the JWBH Team

Happy Birthday to you! I wish you are happy, healthy and are fully loved from people around you, especially from me!  May you have success in everything that you wish and I hope the bad goes away from you in this new year.

Kanika, Accounts Manager- Cambodia

Happy Birthday!!! I wish a very special day for a very special person. And what I love most about you is – I know you can complete this list. I challenge you to have the best year of your life so far – here are some things that might help you along the way…All my love xx

Anna, Operations Manager- Cambodia

30 THINGS TO DO WHEN YOU’RE 30

1)      Take a road trip

2)      Take dance lessons

3)      Organise a night out with the girls once a month

4)      Go see a drive-in movie

5)      Visit another continent

6)      Sing karaoke

7)      Shout ‘’Drinks on me!’’ in a bar

8)      Visit the Grand Canyon

9)      Visit the ocean

10)   Donate blood

11)   Read a book a month (good and bad)

12)   Learn to dive/rock climb/ski/snowboard

13)   Go camping

14)   Go for a walk every week on your own

15)   Give some money to charity

16)   Go to a music festival

17)   Be naughty… at least once a month =)

18)   Build a tree house

19)   Have a party

20)   Write some letters

21)   Dance in the rain

22)   Go to a concert of someone you love

23)   Go to a concert of someone you’ve never heard of

24)   Paint a picture

25)   Buy something you really want once a month

26)   Make a new good friend

27)   Help a stranger

28)   Get rid of junk

29)   Go and fly a kite

30)   Do something that scares you

Here are some photos to remind you of all the awesome times you’ve had and will continue to have!

Ask Andrea: What’s the best time of year to visit Southeast Asia when you’re trying to make your money go as far as possible? Is there a season when the deals are best but the weather isn’t too hot? – Heather Downie

Hi Heather, good question!  I think my preference is the rainy season just before high season…so September or October.  Once November hits it’s high season and the rates all go up.  In September and October you still get low season rates,  but it isn’t as hot as April or May.  The other plus side about this time is that it’s one of the most beautiful times in Southeast Asia as everything is green and lush and the ponds and rice paddies are full of water. The downside is that travel to more rural areas can be a bit tricky as dirt roads quickly become mud bogs and you do need to have a flexible schedule in case a rain storm blows in. We’ve had quite a few honeymoons during September and it’s a great time…explore in the morning and head to your room in the afternoon for some hard hugging during the rain:)

 

The lushness of the rainy season around Beng Mealea, Cambodia

If you have a question for Andrea leave it in the comments below and your question will get answered too!

So That’s What All The Fuss Is About!

Listening to Couper while relaxing on the beach.

I got into travel because I love to travel, but until the last few weeks I think I had forgotten the abandoned joy of a true vacation.  Don’t get me wrong, we all know that I travel a lot and I thank the travel gods everyday that I get the chance to not just live in, but also explore, an amazing region. With that said, when I travel, even as a family, there’s always work involved. I know this to be true because when we checked into our first hotel in Mexico Callie immediately disappeared and returned to tell me that they had a hair dryer, a safe and she liked the view…this is her job when we do hotel inspections in Southeast Asia and clearly, like me, she had a hard time breaking away. Ask any of our guides about Callie and Couper and chances are they’ll know them, that’s because when we take family vacations in Southeast Asia we also fit in guide training!

So two weeks ago I went to Mexico and for the first time in 8 years I took a trip that had nothing to do with work. It was amazing! I played with my kids, I took afternoon naps, I ate amazing food and didn’t care about the name of the restaurant and when I didn’t feel like doing an activity I just didn’t do it, with no guilt that I wouldn’t then “know” the experience. This vacation was truly good for my soul, it was good for my kids and it was good for my business. While I know I did neglect work and I apologize if you’re one of my guests still waiting for an itinerary, I promise I am back at work now and totally focused. The reason I say it was good for business was because I once again was reminded of the joys of travel. I love arriving at a place and knowing that adventures await. I loved being there with my kids and husband as those adventures unfolded and I loved being spoiled with good food, delicious drinks and a little bit of pampering. I have always been proud of what I do, that I can create and execute true trips of a lifetime and that people trust me to do this for them, but I am even more proud now that what I just experienced for myself and for my family is what I make possible for people coming to Southeast Asia. Thanks for your patience if you’ve been waiting for my return and thanks to my team for stepping up and really taking over while I was gone and big thanks to my parents for planning it all, but mostly, thank you to adventure and to vacation, for being there when we need you!

Out for a sail on SV Happy Now, my parents and the boat, just finished their circumnavigation of the globe!

 

We’re Back!

So April and I didn’t do well at posting updates during our trip, but in our defense, we were really busy and got so much done AND, we are going to make up for it now with a day-by-day recap of our whirlwind trip…what we liked, what we didn’t like, new hotels, our favorite parts and photos galore.

Starting with:

10 Jul 09 Saigon – Arrival and City Tour
April arrives at 1005am
Andrea arrives at 10pm
Arrive in Saigon where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. In the afternoon enjoy a City Tour.

Rookie Review:
Did someone just turn the volume up? Cars and motobikes are speeding by, vendors are busy selling handicrafts and bootlegged DVDs, people are sipping iced coffee and celebrating the easily accessible WiFi at café street tables – I am certainly in Saigon. I’m not sure what exactly makes the pace of this city so fast and so vivacious, if it is just the enthusiasm of the people or all the caffeine in those iced coffees, whatever it is it makes Saigon the city that it is.

Today my guide Mr. Khoa took me on a tour of this amped up city. Khoa’s calm and intelligent demeanor was not what I expected, but it balanced the buzz of the city quite well. He crossed the crazy streets without a second thought, and insisted that I couldn’t visit Saigon without riding a motobike (I disagreed with this one!). We visited historical landmarks and museums and I was able to get a deeper understanding of this busy city.

I must admit I didn’t last long on today’s city tour having just stepped off of my overseas flight. I went back to my hotel with a full belly of fresh spring rolls (yum!) and settled into my bed. The honking, talking and buzzing of the city was able to hush away and a full night of very needed sleep was the end of this great day.

Saigon2

Expert Edition:
My day was made up of airplanes and airports, but there’s no complaining here! Vacation! That’s what I call a 24 hour flight without kids. No one spilled anything on me (spilling on myself doesn’t count), no one cried, the person sitting next to me got really drunk (sure I’ve been tempted to booze up the kids, but so far I’ve resisted), and no one sat on my lap! I watched movies, I read two books, I slept, I ate my snacks and didn’t share, it was awesome!

I arrived in Saigon without a hitch…even got a pretty good meal in the Hong Kong Airport…and I walked out of that airport and the noise and heat and Asianess hit me all at once and I felt like I was home! Even at 11pm the Saigon airport is chaotic and I am always struck that for our guests arriving for the first time it must be a bit overwhelming. Of course I was then met by our guide Khoa and I felt taken care of instantly. We caught up on the way back to the hotel, his daughter is a few months younger than Couper so we compared notes and discussed strategy.

Saigon has become so sophisticated since my first visit seven years ago. The streets are cleaner now, there are cafes and trendy shops on every corner and Khoa pointed out the new Gucci store when we hit downtown. I’m happy that Saigon is booming, but at the same time, I know it makes it harder for our guides and drivers to afford life in the city…for all the positive steps, there are always some downsides.

I found April completely out and snuck around getting ready for bed. It felt great to get horizontal and enjoy the blast of the AC, I never sleep as well without that reassuring hum.

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift

I find Father’s Day one of the toughest holidays of the year, men are just harder to shop for! This year however we’re trying to give you a great Father’s Day gift option that not only will make your dad feel good, but will also help another family in Southeast Asia. Here are some ideas on what you could get your dad this June 21st:

** He helped put you through university now show him how much that gift meant by putting a student in Southeast Asia through university in his honor. Only $500 a year for four years and your dad will get monthly updates from his student about school, volunteering and life in Cambodia. Imagine how pleased your dad will be to hear from a university student he ISN’T having to foot the bill for!

** Some men just appreciate good business. Rather than the obligatory tie this year invest $100 in our Microloan Program and help a business in Cambodia go to the next level. For those business minded dads this is the perfect way to be practical and make a difference.

There are other options on the Nikaya website to find the perfect giving back option for Father’s Day. The great thing about these gifts is your dad will be pleased to know he raised you to be interested in helping others and across the world another dad will be receiving the greatest gift ever, a chance!

While you’re at Nikaya Handcrafted you can always get yourself a little something and feel good that 10% of all profit goes to Journeys Within Our Community! Have you seen the Krama Scarves, they’re perfect for summer!

Visit www.nikayahandcrafted.com/giving-back/community-support, 100% of the donation goes to Journeys Within Our Community and we will send you a gift card to present to your dad on Father’s Day.

Best,

Andrea