Hello and happy Friday! I hope you’ve had an excellent week. I’m back from my work trip to Austin, where I did manage to sneak in some fantastic barbecue! I can’t wait to go back in a week and explore more of the city with some fellow travel bloggers.
It took me a couple of days to catch up after those long work hours and a 1:00 AM flight arrival back into Philadelphia – pregnancy really takes it out of you! I’m sure the weather isn’t helping; it feels like weeks since we’ve seen the sun and with Hurricane Florence mucking things up I sometimes wonder if we’ll ever experience blue skies again. I hope that those of you in the hurricane’s path are staying safe and dry!
This week, I have a couple of longer articles for you that I found particularly interesting. There’s a bit of a theme: the fight to save and preserve something precious. In one case its an island paradise that has become overwhelmed by visitors, in another its the economy of one of the most valuable foodstuffs in the world. I hope you enjoy them!
Here’s what I’ve been loving lately:
I visited the Thai islands of Koh Phi Phi in 2011 at the end of my two-month backpacking trip through Southeast Asia. After weeks on the road, my traveling companions and I were all excited to make it to the islands’ legendary, paradisiacal beaches and spend some time relaxing in the hot tropical sun.
What we found was a gorgeous setting – clear, blue-green water, graceful palm trees, limestone cliffs covered in lush vegetation – and a swarm of people ready to party hard. Koh Phi Phi Don was already a backpacker’s haven, full of cheap accommodations, cheaper drinks, and a seemingly never-ending atmosphere of hedonism.
My favorite thing we did during our short stay in Koh Phi Phi was hire a longboat to spend the day island hopping away from the crowds. This included the obligatory stop at Maya Bay, the filming location for the
totally bizarre 2000 Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Beach.
Like Koh Phi Phi itself, Maya Bay was already a popular destination by the time we visited, but it seems that in the years since both have become overrun with people looking to experience a tropical paradise or get that iconic Instagram shot. The swell of visitors has gotten so out of hand that the government recently closed the bay completely for four months in an attempt to reverse the devastating ecological impact.
CNN travel recently explored the efforts of one Koh Phi Phi resort that is working to counteract the negative effects of overtourism on the islands. Their approach is multi-faceted, including everything from marine rehabilitation to educating locals and visitors about precious local ecosystems. It’s an inspiring story that gives me hope that someday soon a sustainable model will be put in place so that these beautiful islands can be saved and enjoyed for years to come.
After a couple of days in this party mecca, I left Koh Phi Phi in 2011 unsure if I would ever make an effort to return. Upon reading this article, however, I’ve almost changed my mind to give it a shot.
Before reading this article, there was a lot I didn’t know about vanilla. I hadn’t really thought much about the flavor, other than when I am choosing what ice cream I want or baking something that requires extract. I knew that it grew in a bean (thanks, vanilla bean ice cream!) and might have once heard that it came from Madagascar, but I had no idea how precious the crop was or how little of the “vanilla” we eat (less than 1%!) comes from actual beans.
This BBC photo essay takes you into a remote region of Madagascar, where the surging prices of vanilla have transformed the lives of the farmers who grow it and the middlemen who buy it for export. The beans are now so valuable that they are under constant risk of theft, and violence is growing as farmers struggle to protect their livelihoods. At the same time that people’s lives are improving, the moneymaking potential of growing vanilla beans is putting precious ecosystems at risk as farmers look to expand their operations into a nearby national park.
It’s a complex situation with no easy answers, and the pressures will only increase as people across the world continue to seek out natural flavors and foods instead of synthetic substitutes. For anyone interested in international development, where their food comes from, or just getting a glimpse into life in a different part of the world, this article is a must-read.
3.) Five Minutes of Babies Laughing at Dogs
Because everything sucks, here are five minutes of babies laughing at dogs.https://t.co/WDWUl0XNNx
— Randi Mayem Singer (@rmayemsinger) September 11, 2018
And, finally, for something completely light and fun – a compilation of five minutes of babies laughing at dogs that crossed my Twitter feed this week. With bad news and bad attitudes around seemingly every corner, sometimes you just need to sit back and enjoy a good baby belly laugh. Paired with some adorable man’s-best-friend interactions, it should be enough to bring a smile to your face if you need one today.
I hope you have a great week, and, again, my heart is with those of you who are or will be dealing with the effects of Hurricane Florence. Stay safe out there, friends!
What have you been loving lately?
Do you take an interest in where your food comes from?
What brings a smile to your face when you need it most?
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