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The Sun Shines on Phuket Island Environs

Off the west coast of southern Thailand, Phuket Island is a paradise for beach bums and adventure seekers alike. Well known as “The Pearl of the Andaman Sea,” this tropical island is endowed with beautiful white beaches, spectacular limestone peaks and forested hills.Phuket Phangnga

Avoid the overcrowded and polluted Patong Beach, which has lost its charm, and instead book a day trip to one of the surrounding mini islands.

Phang Nga Bay is a complex network of river estuaries with dense mangrove and nipa palm forests. Protecting the shoreline are limestone cliff formations that extend up to 1,000 feet out from the sea.

Touring the area in a small motorboat or canoe allows you to explore the mysteries of the mangrove swamps and take in the natural beauty of coves, bays and idyllic remote beaches.

Many of the rock formations are hollow and conceal hidden caves and lagoons. Local guides know the secret passages, but you’ll have to get out of the boat and swim. If you can handle swimming through a tight, dark cave, it’s completely worth it. You’ll find pristine white sand beaches without a single footprint, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation. The experience evokes a surreal feeling of traveling back in time a million years.

If you want to stay in the boat, go to a limestone island called Tham Lawd, which boats are able to pass through. Look up and check out the stalactites hanging from the ceiling like chandeliers. You may even glimpse a bat or two.

If you’re the more adventuRainforest on Phuketrous type, put on a wet suit and take a day trip to the Similan Islands. About 12 miles north at Koh Bon is a 110-foot vertical wall and a step-down ridge that goes down nearly 150 feet to the sandy flats beneath. Leopard sharks are commonly seen in this area.

Another 15 miles north is Koh Tachai, with an underwater ridge that is considered to be one of the finest dives. This spot is famous for stingrays, leopard sharks and bill turtles. Whale sharks are also known to make appearances now and again.

On dry land, a three-hour drive from Phuket is the Khao Sok Rainforest. The 460 square mile nature preserve features thick native rainforests, waterfalls and an enchanting island-studded lake. There are several trails for hiking, rivers for rafting, as well as a guided safari tour. One any given day you can expect to see wild elephants, leopards, serows, guar, Malayan sun bears, dusky langurs and nearly 200 species of birds

Finally, for those looking for a nice beach to lounge on, Phuket has endless possibilities. A popular one is Karon Beach, with its unusual squeaky sand. Yes squeaky. You’ll understand once you hear it for yourself.

Comestible Survival in Cannes

Where I go in Cannes after film festival screenings is dictated by two forces: my exact whereabouts and whether I can secure free grub at a seaside soiree. If A view of the waterfront in Cannescomplimentary cold rosé and hors d'oeuvres aren't in the offing, then it's time for my old reliables.

La Pizza (3 Quai Saint-Pierre) gets the publicity for attracting journos, but Xavier Pizza (10 Rue Marceau) gets my heart. French-style thin crust, stronger-than-usual cheeses and a fresh-catch bounty on its seafood pizza make it the best around. I've gotten film writers from all over the world to try this place. If it weren't for the hike, they'd eat here all the time. It sounds crazy to pour spicy olive oil over all that grease, right? You just do it and you love it.

My drinking hangout is a nondescript two-dollar-a-glass joint catty-cornered from the train station. It's called Bar Splendide, but it's not to be confused with the bar at the Hotel Splendide (4-6 rue Felix-Faure) -- a decent two-star place (or as one guide describes: "an old-style hotel that rises above the Allees de la Liberte, just a hop from the Palais des Festivals (where the annual film fest is held) and facing the Cote D'Azur; this hotel's turn-of-the-century charm goes hand in hand with modern comforts"). Hotel Splendide

You will find reporters, flacks and marketers tipping back le vin as the night creeps on. By-the-carafe brings the tally to about a buck a glass. The more you drink, the more you ignore the shady characters emerging from the station. I sometimes bring outside food -- ham and cheese and tuna sandwiches are everywhere -- to the sidewalk tables, and I've never been hassled by the staff.

In the morning, I like to wolf down a croissant or two as I hustle to the 8:30 a.m. screening.

There is only one option as far as I'm concerned. Pains de Provence (24 Boulevard de la République), a slight climb into the foothills, serves 'em up a buttery golden brown for about a buck apiece. These could make the Pillsbury Dough Boy seek a new line of work. I get my espresso and juice for free in the Palais press bar. Hey, I'm on a budget.

For dessert, I don't want patisserie in Cannes. I want ice cream. Local stalwart Vilfeu closed its prized location on Rue des Etats Unis and now has two spots (14 Rue Bivouac Napoléon and 9 Rue Montaigne). Try the pear sorbet and the pistachio ice cream. And... You're welcome.

La Pizza

3 Quai Saint-Pierre 
06400 Cannes, France 

04 93 39 22 56

Xavier Pizza
10 Rue Marceau
06400 Cannes, France

14 Rue Bivouac Napoléon
06400 Cannes, France
9 Rue Montaigne
06400 Cannes, France
Pains de Provence
24 Boulevard de la République
06400 Cannes, France

Hotel Splendide

4-6 rue Felix-Faure

06400 Cannes, France

Related FFTraveler stories:


Durham, N.C. - Places To Go

Several years ago a producer friend attended the Full Frame International Film Festival, and gold-starred it as a "destination festival." Not only was its host city of Durham, N.C. "beautiful," he clucked, but it offered so many "Things to See and Do."Bennnet's Recruiters -- that is Raiders

Having grown up there, I'd never heard anything more preposterous. Except perhaps Thomas Wolfe's assertion that you can't go home again; any place where the grocery checkout girl asks how you'll be fixin' your Granny Smiths and pecans bears revisiting. But the hick town of my Boone's Farm-soaked youth, a tourist attraction?

The Lord works in mysterious ways.

I got to reckoning that my friend — and Durham's five and a half million annual tourists — had a point. Red clay; pines silhouetted against the Carolina sky; magnolias by the Eno River (and sass like "We Southern magnolias grow in dirt"): pretty soon I'd slopped together a mess of arguments for the Bull City's appeal, not only for its scenery, history and cuisine, but as a whole heap of culture to boot.    

Bennett Place
Soon after General Robert E. Lee's Appomattox 1865 surrender, Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston and Union General William T. Sherman met at James and Nancy Bennett's farm to effectively end the Civil War. Stick around for a week after Full Frame (April 8-11, 2010) and catch the 145th Anniversary Surrender Commemoration (April 17-18) at the exact spot where the War's largest troop capitulation was signed. Tack, anyone?
4409 Bennett Memorial Rd.
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 383-4345
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The Chapel at Duke UniversityDuke University Chapel
As Duke students know, getting high needn't involve chemistry lab. Rising 210 feet above West Campus, this neo-Gothic stone chapel has been elevating souls since the Depression. Climb up to its 50-bell tower, and if the view of Duke forest guilt-trips you over next year's Christmas tree, repent downstairs at a church service accompanied by the 5,200-pipe Flentrop Organ.
100 Chapel Drive, Duke University
Durham, NC 27708
919-681 1704

Sarah P. Duke Memorial Gardens

Everything comes up rosy at Duke University's botanical gardens, offering lovers great make out spots since 1934. Wander its five miles of paths through exotic leafy things, and toss a Frisbee on the South Lawn. Fun factoid: the 36th Parallel of Latitude cuts through here, a 1988 discovery giving new meaning to the Terrace Garden's landscaping model, the globe's seven lines of latitude. Renovation is currently underway to de-scuzz the famed lily pond stocked with Koi, comets and goldfish.
Campus Drive at Bynum St
426 Anderson Street
Durham, NC 27708
(919) 684-3698

Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University

I just happened to be visiting the Nasher when a terrific show of Andy Warhol photos was up, featuring, among other beautiful people, Nancy Nasher. The Duke grad and her family are to thank for opening their alumni association envelopes. NLemurs of  Durhamow five pavilions radiate out from a huge sky-lit hall, giving Durham a respectable museum. Permanent collections span Medieval, Renaissance and pre-Columbian art plus contemporary works with my new favorite assemblage, Petah Coyne's haunting tangle of decayed flowers, birds and found materials known as “Untitled #1111 (Little Ed’s Daughter Margaret).”
2001 Campus Dr
Durham, NC 27705  

Duke University Lemur Center
If you like the animated film, Madagascar, you'll love this research center dedicated to lemurs and other prosimian primates. Ring-tailed lemurs, galagos and even those real-life cartoons, Aye-Ayes, make up the roughly 250 frat members of Duke's best behaved animal house. Who says they're the evolutionary predecessors to monkeys, apes -- and humans? Call in advance to schedule a tour.
3705 Erwin Rd
Durham, NC 27705

Eno River State Park
Escape the quiet of Durham to the quiet of Eno River State Park, heading due northwest. Outdoor enthusiasts will find canoeing, fishing and 21 miles of well-maintained hiking trails to feed body and spirit before cracking into the gorp. To bivouac in its riverside campsite, make reservations in advance.
6101 Cole Mill Rd
Durham, NC 27705  

American Tobacco
Gone are the days when a kid could wake up to the sweet smell of tobacco spicing the town, or score a foot-long cigarette at a field trip of a cigarette factory. But not all is lost: the former Lucky Strike cigarette factory now anchors an entertainment, shopping and restaurant complex in the heart of downtown. Parent company American Tobacco Company also built the nearby Watts and Yuille tobacco warehouses, which was recycled 20 years ago as a hotspot, Brightleaf Square.

318 Blackwell St.
Durham NC 27701
(919) 433-1566

Brightleaf Square

Once used to store, age and ferment tobacco, the neo-Romanesque brick warehouses of this indoor/outdoor mall date from the early 1900's. Like Bullington Warehouse, the restored site is on the National Register of Historic Places.
905 West Main Street
Durham, NC 27701
(919) 682-9229

North Carolina Museum of Life and Science
Interactive exhibits, a railway ride and a dinosaur trail are part of the hoopla to be had at this 70-acre swath in northern Durham. Flit around the Magic Wings Butterfly House in the recreated tropical rainforest, or ferret out ampler creatures – like bats, gators and owls -- in the Carolina Wildlife zone. The Museum's newest resident is a black bear yearling named Yona, whom you'll find cavorting in the bear yard of Explore the Wild.
433 Murray Ave
Durham, NC 27704  

Bullock's Bar B Cue Inc

For folks like me who colonized Durham prior to the advent of the bagel, this southern establishment with its heavenly hush puppies gave us our daily bread. Comfort food doesn't get homier than Bullock's overcooked green beans and saucy barbecue brought out – s l o w l y – by waitresses with piled hair. Romantic décor and snappy service may be in short supply, but clear your innerds for the heaping flavors of the Carolinas preserved within these 60-year-old walls.  
3330 Quebec Dr
Durham, NC 27705
(919) 383-3211

For a related article on Full Frame Film Festival, see

What To Do in Guadalajara

Like the rest of Mexico, Guadalajara tourism is still recuperating from swine flu. This means lots of healthy bargains for those looking to slip late winter blahs and catch the Guadalajara International Film Festival in mid-March — or just hit its home town anytime.

Plus, you can make up for your Vitamin D deficiency under Guadalajara's generally sunny skies. Perched at an altitude of 5,000 feet, the capital of the state of Jalisco claims to have the best climate in North America, with the mercury hovering around 70 degrees year-round.

The first time I visited, to attend the Guadalajara Film Festival, sunshine wasn't the only thing bursting. The previous year, five gas explosions had torn through the city's sewers, mincing five miles of streets and killing more than 200 people. And in May 1993, two months after I left, an archbishop and six people were felled in a shootout, allegedly between rival cocaine cartels.

But this sort of excitement is the rare exception in a place where the biggest frictions usually involve soccer teams or mariachi guitar chords. Should you be so lucky as to find yourself in "La Perla del Occidente" ('Pearl of the West'), as Guadalajara is affectionately known, here's a quick roundup of what to see:

Catedral de Guadalajara (Guadalajara Cathedral)
Smack dab in the heart of the Centro Histórico rises the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara, framed by four colonial plazas. Its original towers were smashed in the 1818 earthquake, and the current spires sport yellow and blue tile. Built over the course of 50 years beginning in the 1560s, Guadalajara's refrigerator-magnet staple is an impressive mishmash of Neo-Gothic, Baroque and neoclassical styles (architectural terms whose formal spellings are equally diverse). This being Mexico, there's bound to be a mural inside: Here it's "The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin," by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo.
15 de Septiembre 16
Guadalajara, Jalisco
+525 33 3616 2491‎
El Instituto Cultural Cabañas (Cabañas Cultural Institute)
From the unassuming exterior of this cultural center, you'd never guess that inside lurk some of Mexico's "Wow!"-est murals. José Clemente Orozco painted them in the late 1930s to spiff up this former shelter for orphans, widows, the poor and the elderly. "The Man of Fire" is a standout among the muralist's 57 works on display alongside his smaller paintings, drawings and cartoons adoring the Institute's 106 rooms and 20 odd patios.
Calle Cabañas 8, Centro Histórico
Guadalajara, Jalisco, 44100
+525 33 3668-1647

Mercado Libertad (Liberty Market)
Pigs feet, bootlegged DVDs, unidentified fish — you'll find pretty much everything in the this maze of a covered central market at Plaza Tapatia's East end. Nicknamed San Juan de Dios after the nearby church, it's where you'll score herbal remedies for bronchitis, a broken heart and whatever else ails you.
Javier Mina y Calzada Independencia

44100 Guadalajara

Plaza de los Mariachis (Mariachi Square)
Around the corner from the market is the birthplace of mariachi music. For about $10 a song, you can get serenaded by an eight-piece orchestra. Ask someone to translate the corridos (ballads), which typically dish gossip about misbehaving neighbors, politicians and other folks who make oral history come alive.
Av. Lopez Mateos Sur No 2375

at Ave Mariano Otero
45050 Guadalajara, Mexico

Museo del Premio Nacional de la Cerámica Pantaleón Panduro (Pantaleón Panduro Museum of the National Pottery Prize)
Who was this Pantaleón Panduro that got one of Mexico's fabbest museums named after him? The father of modern ceramics in Jalisco, which is to say, in a country of pottery aficionados, a big chingón deal. Among the stunning pieces you'll encounter here, including talavera from Puebla, arboles de vida from Metepec and bruñido from Tonalá, are prizewinners from the Museum's national ceramics competition, held every June. After you've depleted your Spanish synonyms for "beautiful," stroll around the surrounding complex, now called Centro Cultural El Refugio, which in colonial times served a religious community. Keep strolling and you'll hit Tlaquepaque's craft market, where ceramic knockoffs are available for pesos you can afford. Guadalajara's Tlaquepaque suburb is well worth the schlep, with its cobbled streets and converted 19th-century abodes that now house restaurants and boutiques.
Calle Priciliano Sánchez, 191, at Calle Flórida
San Pedro Tlaquepaque
Guadalajara, Jalisco
+525 33 3562-7036

El Pantéon de Belén (Belen Cemetery)
"…when the tree destroys the tomb completely, the vampire will be free to once again attack those who stay up too late.” So goes the last line of a famous vampire tale about this historical cemetery dating to 1786. Intrepid souls may want to take a guided night tour of the grounds. The rest of us wimps can catch the crumbling tombstones in daylight, and check out the museum. Or hear more legends of haunted souls, from "The Pirate, The Lovers and The Monk" to "The Child Afraid of the Dark" and "The Story of José Cuervo."
Belén No. 684
Belén, El Retiro

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
+535 33 3613 7786
El Tequila Express
If you have a free Saturday, hop the first-class train to nearby Tequila and the factory where the Sauza brand of the municipality's namesake spirit is produce. There, some nine hours of mariachi music, tequila and beer will keep you properly hydrated. The Hacienda de San Josel Refugio, where Tequila Herradura is concocted, offers a tour elucidating everything you didn't know you didn't know about the Tequila-making process. Eat, drink, make merry — and drink some more.
Avenida Washington at Calzada Independencia
Fracc Guadalajara
Jalisco  44100


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