Traveling in Italy: The Amalfi Coast

If you were to make a list of the most beautiful places to visit in the world, then the Amalfi coast in Italy would have to be in the top ten category.

This is the coast which is famous for hairpin turns, breathtaking views, sweet lemons (I mean sweet) charming hotels and picturesque towns.

The Amalfi Coast is situated in the southern side of the Sorrentine Peninsula of Italy. The best way to visit the coast is to fly to Naples, rent a car and drive down to Sorrento. If you make Sorrento your base camp, you can spend several days visiting the jewel towns of the Amalfi Coast at your leisure.

Start in Sorrento and drive to Positano. It is best to carry a Michelin map with you to avoid getting lost.

Before you arrive in Positano, you might want to stop at Positano Belvedere; a vantage point on the road that allows you to see the town of Positano in the distance. The view is breathtaking.

When you arrive in Positano, stop and walk around town. Chances are you have seen it in commercials. Once a small fishing village, it is now popular with the international crowd and some celebrities who stay at Positano’s 4 and 5 star hotels.

Most houses look like small boxes painted white with bougainvilleas growing along the walls.

After Positano, continue to Vertica Maggiore, and then Furore del Valle, another gem of a town. Near by is the Emerald Grotto. An emerald color cave only reachable by boat. The water of the Tyrrhenian Sea, enters the cave and the sun takes care of the rest.

Continue to the town of Amalfi and Ravello. Ravello also has unforgettable views.
In Ravello, you will see white washed houses perched on the hills with gardens planted with vines, lemon and olive trees. It is a major tourist destination, the beauty of the city, and its charm, has inspired its inhabitants and guests for centuries.

Things to see:

Ravello:

  • Villa Rudolfo
  • Villa Cimbrone
  • CathedralAmalfi:
  • St Andrea Cathedral
  • Cloisters of Paradise (Chiostro del Paradiso)

    Dining in the region:

    Sorrento and the Amalfi coast are situated in the Campania region, and typical southern dishes are likely to appear on the menus. Among those are pizza, pasta, tomatoes, eggplant, mozzarella cheese, seafood and citrus fruits.

    If you have ever had tomato and mozzarella salad, you will surely have it there. It is called “Insalata Caprese” named after the Island of Capri. The famous San Marzano plum tomatoes that grow in the region, together with silky soft buffalo mozzarella cheese, olive oil and basil, will surely make a delightful dish.

    And let’s not forget the wines. The region is rich in volcanic soil, an ideal medium to grow grapevines, and although wines from this region are not well known internationally, they are just as good as more popular Italian varieties. Wine at lunch and dinner is usually served in small carafes, but you can also order wines by the bottle.

    Don’t forget to finish your meal with a cup of dark espresso just as most Italians do.

    Resources:

    If you decide to go, arm yourself with a good map and a good guide book. My favorite travel guides are Frommers and Michelin. You can find them at any major bookstore.
    Italians are a friendly people by nature and driving around the area should not be difficult even if you don’t speak Italian.

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  • Kuala Lumpur Travel Tip – Series 3 (Weird Food)

    Malaysia has many weird food (weird even to some locals) to offer, and most of them can easily be found in Kuala Lumpur. However, each state in Malaysia offers its own special delicacy. For example, budu in Kelantan, keropok lekor in Terengganu, cencaluk in Melaka. However, all of them are easily found in Kuala Lumpur. Be sure to treat yourself with these :

    Petai – Green beens from the deep jungle, which some people say smell like methane gas. Its popularly cooked in sambal tumis ikan bilis – which is fried chili with anchovies. However, locals absolutely love them eaten raw as ulams (almost equal to the western salad). Petai is also enjoyable grilled or boiled. A typical dipping with petai is sambal (chili paste), budu (a fish sauce) and tempoyak (a paste made from durian). Budu and tempoyak themselves are also considered ‘weird’ food.

    Durian – A fruit as big as a football, covered with tough spiky skin. The pulp is pale yellow, with shape and consistency of raw brains. Smell has been compared to rotting flesh, old gym socks, or sewage. Yet the taste has been called so exquisite that a European explorer of the 1700’s claimed it was worth the journey to experience it; “the King of fruits.” Many believe it aphrodisiac and hold durian-eating parties. Most hotels, and so on, forbid it on the premises.

    Keropok Lekor – Its not what you think it is. Its actually fish sausages, normally deep fried and dipped in a sweet chili sauce (tastes almost like plum sauce). The best keropok lekor you can find is available in the state of Terengganu (where many fishing villages are). Fresh caught fish are brought to roadside stalls, where the fish are deboned, cooked and made into fresh keropok lekor you can ever find, made right in front of your eyes.

    Otak-otak – Brains anyone? Otak literally means brain. But otak-otak has nothing to do with it. Otak-otak is made by pounding fresh fish into a paste, and mixing it with chilies, coconut milk, and spices, then wrapping the whole thing in a banana leaf and grilling it. When the banana leaf chars, the fish is read to eat.

    Some are unique, but not so horrible looking. Make sure you try these:
    Lai Chee Kang, ABC (Air Batu Campur/ Mixed Ice), Longan drink, Karipap (curry puffs), cendol (colorful goodies made from starch eaten in cold coconut milk mixed with dark sugar), tapai, pulut, popia, roti canai, the tarik (literally means – pull tea), char kuey teow, and so many others.

    Enjoy!

    90 Day Interest Free Credit Card From Advanta – The Plum Killer

    Unless you haven’t been watching TV or reading newspapers for a while, you have probably heard of the hyped up Plum card from American Express. The Plum card used to be the only card that allowed small businesses to manage their cash flow operations more effectively by delaying their debt payments by up to 2 month (with no interest). The Plum card was so popular and hyped up that a lot of small business went out of their way to get their hands on it and take advantage of its benefit. So it is no surprise that other card issuers are taking a page out of American Express’ book to introduce cards with similar features.

    The latest card that comes with similar, if not better, features is the Advanta Platinum 90-Day Interest Free BusinessCard. The 90 days grace card that has just been released by Advanta allows cardholders to defer their payments by up to 3 months. Advanta makes it clear on its credit card application page that the 90 day offer is not an introductory offer, which means that you should expect no major surprises on your bill year after year as far as this feature is concerned.

    Advanta also offers generous credit limits to small business owners to allow them to use the 90 days interest free card more effectively. So you will have enough credit line to cover your business expenses and more with the Advanta interest free Platinum card. The 90 Days Grace Card comes with a set of platinum rewards which allow you to earn a point for each dollar spent with this card and use it towards travel and merchandise for your small business. In addition, there is no annual fees which sets this card apart from the Plum card (which comes with $185 annual fee).

    The only downside to the Advanta 90 day card in comparison to the Plum card is lack of any rewards for paying your bill early. The Plum card gives small business owners a larger percentage in cash back if they pay their bills within 10 days. In addition, the Plum card allows you to defer 90% of your payments for 2 month. With the Advanta 90 day interest free card, you will still be required to make minimum payments but you won’t be charged any interest fees for three months.

    While both the Plum cards and Advanta 90 day cards are designed for small businesses and start-ups, they are not for every business owner. If you are planning to put a large sum on your credit card and pay it gradually within 3 months or more, then the Advanta card might be right for you. But if you are hoping to defer your payments for 60 days only, then the Plum card is a better choice. Unlike the Plum card, you don’t have to pay your Advanta debt in full after your 3 months period is over. So that is a big plus for smaller businesses who won’t realize their cash in-flows in three months. If you are a small business or start-up owner and you are looking for a card that allows you to manage your cash flows more effectively, you should definitely review both the Advanta 90 day and the Plum card to find the card that helps you save the most for your business