Photo Of The Day: Bicycle In Penang

Penang, Malaysia, is an island that reverberates with art and history. Flickr user Lauren Irons captures the vibrancy of this fascinating destination in this image of a colorful bicycle taxi set against the bright blue walls of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion. On her blog, Lauren describes a visit filled with Hindu festivals and Buddhist temples. “Should you find yourself in Southeast Asia in the near future,” Lauren says, “I would highly recommend a trip to this charming little island.”

Do you have any colorful photos of exotic destinations? Upload your shots to the Gadling Flickr Pool and your image could be selected as our Photo of the Day.[Photo Credit: Flickr user Lauren Irons]

The Cheapest Places In America To Build Your Luxury Vacation Home

While this may come as somewhat of a shocker, the life of a travel writer is more than swanky dinner parties and African safaris. Like many other jobs, the life of a travel writer involves many behind-the-scenes moments that aren’t enviable at all: long layovers, mind-altering jet lag and all-night sessions in front of a computer screen.

Of all the problems faced by travel writers, however, one of the peskiest ones I keep running into is how to efficiently use the stacks of cash that occupy entire bedrooms of my house (please notice my tongue deep into my cheek on this one).

This is why I’m so relieved to see that CNBC just released this list of America’s best places to build your high-end vacation home. I mean honestly, I have been grappling with this for years. Once the recession hit I made the decision that I would shun purchasing “necessities” such as food and clothing and instead invest my nickels towards the purchase of an ultra-luxurious vacation home.

Now that I weigh 87 pounds and only wear underwear, I was able to reference this list and learn that if I opt to build my spacious SECOND home in Kiawah Island, SC, I can do so for nearly a third of the cost versus building the same house in somewhere like say, Hawaii ($585/square foot versus $1300/square foot).

So if you, too, are grappling with this ultra-dilemma, I suggest you check out the post and educate yourself on the benefits of constructing a place (where you’re only going to spend two weeks per year) in a state such as Wisconsin versus somewhere oh-so-typical such as Malibu.

You know where I want my second home? In a yurt on a pasture in Pucon, Chile, where my only possessions would be an alpaca wool sweater and a coffee maker. Wait – that would be my only home.

Despite scouring the article, however, I couldn’t find a yurt in Patagonia anywhere on the list. Shucks.

[Image credit: chefranden on Flickr]

Budget cuts may axe Washington historic sites

As the Great Recession drags on, more and more state programs are feeling the pinch. This includes many sites of historic interest. In the latest budget announced by Washington Governor Chris Gregiore, the state’s three Historical Society museums will all have to close.

The State Capital Museum in the Lord Mansion in Olympia, and museums in Tacoma and Spokane, would all be affected. The governor has earmarked $2.4 million to maintain the sites and their archives, but it would cost twice as much to keep them open, The News Tribune reports.

The Lord Mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and in addition to having a museum, it hosts many public events. The Washington State Historical Society Museum in Tacoma gets an average of 100,000 visitors a year.

To be fair to Governor Gregiore, she’s facing a serious problem. If she keeps the museums open, that means $2.4 million less for other programs, and then some non-travel-related blog would be complaining about her budget. But museums and historical societies are important parts of the community, not just for old-timers who want to reminisce and tourists interested in history, but newcomers who want some background on their surroundings. I’ve moved way too many times, and one thing I always do to get grounded is study the history of my new home.

I also do Civil War research, and that means I’ve seen the inner workings of many historical societies. One place you’ll often find me is the State Historical Society of Missouri. Once or twice a week my studies are interrupted by a crowd of schoolkids coming into the library to see the treasures of the archives. Some researchers grumble about this, but I’m always happy to see them come in. One object that always arouses interest is a long, thin map of the Mississippi River that unrolls like a scroll. Steamboat pilots used it to navigate the perilous waters of the river more than a century ago. The students are fascinated by it, not just because of its odd appearance but because of what it symbolizes. More than once I’ve overheard kids talking about what it would have been like to use the map to avoid sandbars, sunken logs, and dangerous currents just like Mark Twain did.

This historical society, like so many others, has had its share of budget cuts. They recently had to stop a theatrical series and a traveling lecture tour. Both were popular, but the society simply can’t afford them.

It would be a shame if they had to cut the tours. Missouri schoolkids wouldn’t get their imaginations fired by that map anymore.

[Photo courtesy Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons]