Another tragedy in Thailand ... Travel news up and down California
More bad news for Thailand tourism. An Australian travel agent has been killed in Phuket, a popular holiday/beach destination in the southeast Asian nation.
Michelle Smith, 60, a travel agent from Western Australia, was killed during an attempted purse snatching on the island. PerthNow in Australia reports that "Mrs Smith had been walking with a friend, a 42-year-old woman, near their hotel complex in Kata Noi Bay, on Phuket's west coast, about 10.30pm last night when they were attacked by two men who approached on the bike.
The men had circled the pair several times before attempting to steal their handbags and lashing out with a knife when they couldn't grab them.
The second woman suffered a slash wound to her arm and was taken to hospital in Phuket, but was allowed to leave early today after receiving stitches."
Travelmole and other services report there has been a spate of bag snatching by youths on motorcycles on the island and that women walking on isolated streets are particularly vulnerable.
A young German visitor had her thumb cut off in a similar savage incident in Krabi Town, a province nearby, earlier this year
Just a few days ago, two young women from Quebec were found dead in their hotel room on the Thai island of Phi Phi, apparently victims of poisoning. Travelmole reports six tourists have drowned on Phuket beaches in the space of one month and a day, which is a ridiculously high number and makes me think there's something seriously wrong at play.
CALIFORNIA DREAMING ... ON SUCH A SUMMER'S DAY!
Hey, I'm flying out to San Francisco tomorrow for a family gathering. And I'm looking forward to cooler weather.
Yeah, it's not everyday we here in Toronto want to flee to the Golden State for lower temperatures. But even a heat lover like me is getting knocked out by the high temps and humidity in the Big Smoke the last few days.
As luck would have it, the California tourism folks stepped into the Southern Ontario oven on Tuesday for a soiree at The Courthouse on Adelaide. I also had the chance to chat with tourism folks from Santa Monica, San Diego and Sacramento, as well as Sonoma and the Livermore Valley wine area, which doesn't get enough credit and, yeah, I'm a little biased cuz I grew up not far from there.
San Diego I don't know so well, but they tell me there are more craft breweries - some 40 of them - than almost any city in the U.S. I also was told the La Jolla Playhouse has sent a number of shows to Broadway or London, including Hands on a Hardbody, Peter and the Starcatcher and Jersey Boys.
"The stereoype is conservative folks and the beach," said tourism official Candice Eley. "And the zoo and Sea World. But there's a great food and art scene, and the city has really embraced being a border city."
The pictures she showed me look more like urban San Francisco than "traditional" San Diego. Little Italy (see photo) apparently has become quite the diverse neighbourhood, and looks like it's worth checking out.
Up the road in Santa Monica, Kelly Nagle tells me the LEED certified Shore Hotel is open for biz and that the Fairmont is bringing in a new lounge, The Bungalow, which promises a "Beach Boys/Doors/Led Zeppelin" vibe, whatever that might mean.
The city has a new bike centre where you can rent bikes and also drop off your bags and rent lockers and have a shower. They have bike itineraries for folks who want to check out the beach or the local food scene or arts and culture or even spa/wellness programs.
The Expo Line, which will connect downtown Santa Monica to downtown LA via public transit, is a few years away. But the eastern Santa Monica station should open next year in the Bergamot area of town, which Nagle tells me is filled with art galleries and other fun stuff.
We here in Toronto don't hear a lot about Sacramento, the state capital, but there's a lot to like. The sidewalk cafes go on forever, and there's incredibly inventive food and a great coffee culture in town. There are some 200 wineries within an hour or so of the city, including the burgeoning Lodi area (good, old-vine Zinfandel) and the lovely Amador County wine region, which is up in the lower foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and has a ton of fun, quirky towns as well as great wine and a casual atmosphere.
I like the Livermore valley quite a bit. The town of Pleasanton is cute a button and also has fabulous cafes and shops and is home to the Alameda County Fair this time of year. Great wineries and golf courses abound, as well. Livermore used to be more of a cowboy town but has become increasingly trendy and boasts such fabulous wineries as Wente, Concannon and Steven Kent.