Each holiday season when everyone is sharing their resolutions for the new year I like to tuck in at home with a piping hot pot of tea to review my year in travel. Flipping through thousands of pictures offers a blissful meditation and reminder of how blessed I am to zig-zag around the globe. I love reflecting on where the last 12 months have taken me so I can relive my favourite moments.
2017 began with a bang! For the first time since running my blog full time I waved Toronto goodbye and dedicated four months of my winter to photographing 76 luxury hotels in Asia. For a Canadian who loathes snow it was a blissful (albeit very busy) retreat. The remainder of my year was spent exploring corners of Canada, two road trips to upstate New York, and a luxurious jaunt to Switzerland perfect for those planning a romantic honeymoon. All images were shot on Canon EOS 6D for your hungry eyes, bon appetite!
Here Are My Best Travel Photos of the Year: 20 Postcard Perfect Destinations
I flew to Taipei just moments after NYE, meeting my sister here for a two country tour that would have us traveling as adults for the first time together. I’ve always been a lover of bustling East Asian city’s like Seoul, Tokyo, Osaka and Hong Kong so was thrilled to explore Taiwan’s capital for the first time. Pictured here is Longshan Temple which was established in 1738, making it Taipei’s oldest. It’s principally a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Bodhisattva Guanyin, but there are more than a hundred deities worshipped here, mostly from the Taoist pantheon.
In 2008 I backpacked through Southeast Asia and spent a few weeks camping out on the beach (for $5 a night in a shabby chic shed) on the famous isle of Boracay in the Philippines. I was excited to see how the island had evolved over the years after appearing on many a distinguished “best island/best beach” in the world list. My living conditions took a turn this time around, enjoying jaw-dropping views at the island’s most luxurious property, Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa. My favourite moment is pictured here, sips and nibbles just before sunset at Solana Bar perched over the resorts private beach.
Yangon’s crumbling colonial buildings offered a moody contrast to the sparkling golden pagodas which live in harmony together within a traffic choked city. I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to tour through the city’s famous Secretariat, which had been abandoned and off limits to locals after Aung San and 6 cabinet ministers were assassinated on 19 July 1947, now commemorated as Burmese Martyrs’ Day. The iconic building’s interior was open for a special exhibition via Germany’s Goethe Institute which presented a special exhibit by artist Wolfgang Laib entitled “Where the Land and Water End.”
Inle Lake is one of Myanmar’s top attractions, a mythical waterway featuring pretty pagodas, ancient monasteries, communities living on stilts, and lush floating gardens. I took the trip from Yangon with my friend Brenda, who I first met while teaching in Korea and then later visited in Bangkok. It’s amazing how you can so easily pick up on life with friends you haven’t seen in years.
The biggest draw for those visiting Myanmar are the awe-inspiring temples at Bagan. One of the world’s great sights: a vast swathe of temples and pagodas rising from the hot flat plains bordering the Ayeyarwady River, the landscape bristling with uncountable shrines and stupas which carpet the countryside in an almost surreal profusion and stretch as far as the eye can see in every direction. I snapped this picture of Bagan’s beautiful balloons while sitting on the roof of Pya Tha Da Temple. I woke up in the pitch black of night, hopped on a motorcycle, maneuvered along unfamiliar dark and dusty roads, arriving just in time for a sublime sunrise.
In 2008 I spent three weeks falling in love with Bali while backpacking. Years later I returned to romance myself at the islands most luxurious hotels, visiting over 20 resorts during a month long honeymoon inspired assignment. I snapped this memorable moment at the Bulgari Resort Bali, huffing and puffing down a flight of stairs to the resorts remote beach while clutching a glass of refreshing white sangria. This is bliss on the beach!
Four Seasons Resort Langkawi is the Malaysian paradise island’s poshest property. The resort’s imposing rooftops, breezy verandahs, spacious interiors and plentiful windows all take advantage of gentle tropical breezes and beautiful natural vistas. Accented by details that hint at the Arabic and Asian cultures of Malaysia’s melting pot, the resort’s true zen gem is it’s Geo Spa. Pictured here is the spa’s waiting room, where guests wrapped in plush white robes sit while suspended over still water.
It’s safe to say that Thailand is the most gay friendly country on earth. Acceptance of the LGBT community into everyday life is best expressed via kathoey, a Thai term that refers to either a transgender woman or an effeminate gay men. A significant number of Thais perceive kathoeys as belonging to a third gender.
If you’re keen to tap into kathoey culture be sure to check out a flamboyant cabaret referred to locally as a Ladyboy Show in Phuket . Each performance features dozens of dolled-up Ladyboys who sing and dance in extravagant gowns while lip-syncing to pop hits by Beyonce, Madonna, and Lady Gaga.
Koh Samui is Thailand’s postcard-perfect paradise island. The W Koh Samui is a vibrant all-villa beachfront resort located at the peak of the island’s north shore. The hotel’s centrepiece is jaw-dropping WooBar, offering a 270-degree view of the Gulf of Thailand. It’s here where DJ’s spin from dusk until dawn while talented bartenders craft creative cocktails.
Beyond the limestone mountains rising from Thailand’s Andaman Sea, virgin rainforests, soft sandy beaches and crystal clear waterfalls, a secluded paradise awaits in one of the world’s most enchanting destinations. Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve offers a hidden retreat in Krabi, where the charm and natural splendour of Thailand blends into a magical escape steeped in serenity and luxury.
While Krabi has been enchanting nature lovers for decades, guests at Phulay Bay quickly recognize the resort is a destination all on its own. Take a stroll through the lush property and you’ll find frothing fountains, quiet creeks, verdant gardens and gorgeous moss and wildflower flanked bridges which straddle a winding river that splashes into the sea.
On my third visit to Hong Kong I was thrilled to arrive just as the world’s most infamous art fair was captivating the city. In 2017 Art Basel Hong Kong featured 242 galleries from 34 countries. I tried to take in as much as possible in one day but my legs almost fell off from hours of standing. Get your elbows out and prepare to push through the crowds!
Each year I make a point of visiting Niagara-on-the-Lake to see how Ontario’s internationally acclaimed wine region is evolving. The most magical moment unfolded over lunch at Peller Estates Winery, as we sipped through a choir of fine wines and twirled forks through the chef’s signature pasta featuring black truffle linguini, icewine poached lobster, smoked bacon, and chardonnay cream.
In June I returned to Calgary to eat my way around the city’s finest restaurants and sip through a growing craft cocktail scene. I last visited the stampede city in 2013, enjoying a memorable meal at Chef Leboe’s lauded Model Milk. Leboe’s newest venture, Pigeonhole was crowned Best New Restaurant by Air Canada’s enRoute magazine this year and did not disappoint. The kitchen sources the finest Canadian cheeses from coast to coast, offering a pretty plate featuring honeycomb, crab apple puree and house made crackers.
No visit to Calgary is complete unless you’ve taken the time to enjoy the Rockies in beautiful Banff. We made our lives easy and booked a day tour of Banff National Park with Brewster Travel. The local operator’s most popular tour is Explore Banff which includes jaw dropping vistas via the Banff Gondola, short hike to The Hoodoos and an inspiring cruise on Lake Minnewanka. I’ve been to Banff a handful of times and never have I been so blessed with perfectly clear skies and sunshine!
New York’s Finger Lakes
In the summer I enjoyed my first road trip to upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region, famous for its wineries and cheese trail. We spent a long weekend driving through Ithaca, Watkins Glen and Corning, impressed by the regions fine wine, fancy food and stellar art galleries and museums. I was most delighted by the regions natural wonders. What a surprise to hike through Watkins Glen State Park, featuring jaw-dropping waterfalls and historic bridge stretched out across a gorgeous gorge.
Whenever I have the opportunity to visit Langdon Hall in Cambridge I jump at the chance. The celebrated Relais & Chateaux property struts her best stuff during the warm summer months. If you’re keen to romance your sweetie, Langdon Hall’s most legendary moments are shared during the hotel’s annual summer BBQ series. Tickets typically go on sale in April and the series runs from June until August. Langdon Hall’s Chef Jason Bangerter crafts a finger-licking-good series that showcases beautiful bounty harvested in Waterloo region alongside talent from celebrated chefs such as Marc Lepine, Victor Barry and Vikram Vij.
I try to pay Quebec a visit every other year and this Fall was delighted to finally strike Charlevoix off my to do list. Located a short drive outside of Quebec City, Charlevoix is famous for its foodie trails where some of the provinces finest cheese, craft beer and cider are crafted with care. I snapped this photo just outside of Baie-Saint-Paul at Azulee Organic Lavender Farm which has a wee gift shop on site that sells everything from lavender scented soap to shorbread and honey.
When I found out that DK Eyewitness Travel had just launched a new guidebook to Montreal I was excited to explore the city through a new lens. I’d been to Montreal several times over the years so skipped the typical tourist traps and treated the city like it was my home sweet home for a few days. Which translates to: I had plenty of time to enjoy leisurely sud sips as I researched a story on Montreal’s top spots to enjoy craft beer. Pictured here, a beer sampling paired with pretty poutine at Montreal’s granddaddy of craft beer, Vices & Versa.
In October I enjoyed a whirlwind tour of Switzerland which had me visiting jaw-dropping romantic luxury hotels in Lucerne, Burgenstock, Andermatt, Basel and Bern. The highlight of the trip was a 24 hour adventure at The Chedi, an alpine chic resort featuring booming fireplaces, soothing spa and drool-worthy cheese cave.
My final adventure of 2017 was a road trip in November to Rochester. Cocktail fans keen to sip themselves silly in upstate New York can find happiness at a handful of swanky bars which call Rochester home sweet home. Rochester’s craft cocktail scene is spread out across the city, with the majority of bars breathing new life into historical homes, old manufacturing facilities and moody warehouses. Prohibition vibes are the life of the party, with interiors that feature moustache waxed bartenders, walls covered in whisky, luxurious chandeliers and taxidermied treats. I snapped this picture while tucked in at the wildly popular Restaurant Good Luck which serves up thirst quenching libations accompanied by a choir of flickering candles.