Each of the Hawaiian Islands has its devotees, but for scenic diversity, big is best, if you ask me.
Five times as large as Maui, its nearest neighbor, the island of Hawaii has the highest mountain in the chain, snow-capped, 13,796-foot Mauna Kea; awesomely active Kilauea volcano; Hilo, the island's funky county seat; the breathtakingly scenic Saddle Road; historic Parker Ranch; deep Waipio Valley; orchid farms; beaches; sugar mills; and Kona coffee.
Since the beginning of the year, airlines, tour companies and hotel chains serving Hawaii have been offering deals that make a Big Island visit too attractive to postpone.
Check out www.gohawaii.com and look for good rates from resort chains with lush properties near Kona International Airport on the island's beachy western coast.
Other sites to explore: www.hawaii.com; www.travel-hawaii.com; www.hawaiianairlines.com; www.pleasantholidays.com; www.nps.gov/havo/ (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park).
After a decade of political turmoil that kept travelers away, peace has broken out in Nepal.
The monarchy was formally abolished last year, leaving the little landlocked Himalayan nation a struggling young democracy, dependent on tourism for development.
That's why I want to go back to Katmandu this year. Nepal needs encouragement.
Of course, my motives aren't purely altruistic. The temperate valley encircled by rice terraces has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the exquisitely restored town of Bhaktapur; white-domed Boudhanath Temple, a center for displaced Tibetan Buddhists; eerie, shrine-filled Palace Square in Katmandu; and the Hindu ghats at Pashupatinath.
Katmandu also has attractively priced hotels, the colorful old hippie neighborhood of Thamel, world-class shopping, all the cuisines of Asia and warm, winning people.
From the centrally located valley, bus and van tours are available to Pokhara in the Annapurnas, Mt. Everest and Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
The U.S. State Department has issued a warning about Nepal, based on sporadic political unrest. But that hasn't stopped major tour companies, including Myths and Mountains and Geographic Expeditions, from taking tour groups there.
It's OK if you have to check a map to find Malacca. Almost everybody does, which is what makes the city seem so exotic and elusive.
It's on the western coast of the Malaysian peninsula, overlooking the fabled Strait of Malacca.
Malacca was founded in the 14th century by a prince from the island of Sumatra and settled by Chinese, Malaysians and Indians.
In 1511, it was conquered by the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and the English. By the 19th century, nearby Singapore had eclipsed it in importance.