Where the experts holiday: Jacki Ueng, travel blogger

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

Here Jacki Ueng – a travel blogger who focuses on solo women travelling and backpacking off the beaten path with special interests in developing countries – shares her travel highs and lows with Just About Travel readers

What do you like to do on holiday?
I love to eat and taste food from different cultures, enjoy the outdoors through walking tours and bike rides and go boating/kayaking/paddle-boarding. Any reason to get away and experience a new culture, I am always thrilled!

Beautiful Beach at Dolphin Reef, Eilat, Israel

Beautiful Beach at Dolphin Reef, Eilat, Israel

Where did you last go?
Last month, I was in Israel and also Paris. I spent a week exploring Israel (for the third time) hosted by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. It was an adventure trip, where we went bike riding, hiking and swimming with dolphins but we also got to relax at a beautiful spa at Dolphin Reef in Eilat. Then I popped over  to Paris for four days as I hadn’t been in over a decade (and that was only for a day!) and really wanted to blend in like a local and just enjoy the fine food. I stayed in the Marais district, which is known for its artistic/creative scene, shopping, and people watching of hip/fashionable Parisians/visitors. It also neighbours the Jewish district where I got to enjoy delectable falafel. Yum.

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Eiffel Tower, Paris

Do you know where you’re going this year?
I’m exploring the US a lot more and will be travelling to Savannah, Georgia, very soon. I’ve heard it’s very romantic there along the riverside. Plus  I can’t wait to try Paula Deen’s restaurant and other delicious Southern food, soul food and barbecue. Then I’ll  be meeting friends in Augusta for a charity golf tournament – well I’ll be watching them from the sidelines where I’ll be sipping champagne!
At the end of July, I will be attending Wanderlust Yoga Festival in Whistler, Vancouver for three days. It’s such a peaceful environment with kindred spirits. Next up in November, I’ll visit Argentina for a fortnight to watch the Polo Open, and more importantly taste the beef that everyone raves about. Not to mention, the men are beautiful there…

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Last year’s Wanderlust Festival in Squaw Valley, California

Of all the places you’ve been to, which was your favourite and why?
That would be Myanmar (Burma), closely followed by India and Israel, and circa 2009 before they opened up to the world. I also went in early 2013 and experienced a difference after tourism had arrived more drastically. It’s tough to really weigh out the pros & cons as there are positives and negatives in both. But it is hands down the most beautiful country I’ve been to – visiting is like stepping back in time. My favourite spot is Inle Lake, a small town by a lake with canoes, fisherman catching fresh seafood, quaint villages near by on farms, small cottages on stilts, and near the mountainous areas are good hikes. I met a monk up in the mountain who lived in a small monastery by himself and he was one of the happiest people I’ve ever met who shared some wisdom which was translated to me by our guide. Another must see is Bagan, home to over 2,200 pagodas. I rented a bike to visit the temples but you could also take a horse carriage or a hot air balloon.

Sunset in Mandalay, Myanmar

Sunset in Mandalay, Myanmar

Which destination do you wish to travel to, but haven’t yet been?
Morocco and also Cuba. I need to make both happen in the next year!

Ladies walking across the bridge in Inle Lake, Myanmar

Ladies walking across the bridge in Inle Lake, Myanmar

In your own country, what would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides?
I would really recommend my hometown of Los Angeles, but I would write my own travel guide (which I will soon!). If you only had a week, I would skip all the Hollywood Boulevard stuff such as the Wax Museum, Chinese Mann Theatre (unless that’s interesting to you), and instead go hiking and visit beach spots like Malibu, Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach. You can find the best ethnic food  – Chinese, Korean, Ethiopian, Indian, Vietnamese, Mexican, Thai – in LA, too. So much to do!

How do you plan your holiday?
I’ve always enjoyed Lonely Planet books the most, compared to the others. It just fits my style of travelling – the backpacking, off the beaten path, less pretentious kind. It’s always a good starting point but I like to venture off on my own once I arrive in the recommended area.
For booking flights, I like SkyScanner.com & Kayak.com as a starter. If I see an airline I use often (American Airline, United, Delta) – I’ll see if I can book directly, that way I can manage my flight/itinerary better and have more control.

How often do you go away?
For the last three years, I have been taking around three international trips a year and perhaps a dozen or so domestic trips. I can’t stay put and once my life becomes mundane with routine, I get fidgety and the travel bug hits!

Who do you travel with?
Half the time by myself, because most Americans cannot travel more than 2-3 weeks out of the year and, sadly, some don’t have the interest to leave their comfort zone. Even when my compatriots do get time off, they usually choose Mexico, Vegas or Europe. If I want to go somewhere, I cannot wait around for someone to go with me: I just have to go off on my own and often, solo travel is so much more adventurous and you get to meet more people! Other times, I travel with my boyfriend, family, or a friend or two. Recently I’ve taken a few press trips which is great – I really enjoy meeting fellow travel bloggers.

Where do you see tourism in your country, in 10 years?
Tourism has always been huge in America, especially for people coming from Europe. In recent years, we have received a lpt of visitors from the Middle East (particularly the Gulf countries), and Asia (especially China who are immigrating here, or investing in real estate). The US will always be attractive to tourists as there is so much to discover!

 

Thanks Jacki!
Follow Jacki’s travels at www.JackiUeng.com & youtube.com/JackiUeng. Jacki  is also the co-host on Noodle Town – a show that explores Asian neighbourhoods.

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