Category Archives: Destinations

Educational Road Trips Don’t Have to be Boring

Throughout the year our jobs, classes, friends, and, really, our lives overall cause a lot of stress for us. Whether it be a co-worker you can’t stand or the general annoyance of having to go back to the grocery store for the 4th time this week, getting away from the things that make us crazy is important for our general well-being.

Historically, one of the most popular ways to do this is the family road trip. Everyone packs into the car and off they go singing songs and playing car games like “I Spy”. However in our attempts to escape our stressors we have created a situation in which we are bound to stress ourselves out, and having the whole family in the car can do that. However, one way to reduce the tensions that being in such closed quarters can cause is to let everybody get out and have their own space.

Touring the countryside with your family can have some real benefits. It can provide the opportunity to bond with each other and create memories that you will never forget. Road trips also give you and your family the chance to experience the different cultures and environments that America has to offer, something that can’t easily be done from a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet. This country has a wonderful and unique history, choosing locations that give your family options for relaxation and enjoyment while allowing for the opportunity to learn and grow is important. You might want to pick a destination that combines both things to do, and room to roam.

Devils towerOne such place that fits this description is the Chickasaw Country in South Central Oklahoma. First off, this part of the state has all the activities that would draw someone on vacation; golf, spas, restaurants, performances, etc. In addition to all the leisure activities you love so much, there is also a rich Native American history in Oklahoma as much of the land is former Native American reservation land. There are many museums and opportunities to learn about this culture. One of these places, the Chickasaw Cultural Center is dedicated to the education of visitors on the history and culture of the Chickasaw people. Another positive is that there is ample space for all the outdoorsy activities; mountains for hiking and lakes or rivers for swimming. This could be a great place to blow off some steam and open the eyes of the entire family to what nature has to offer.

Badlands National ParkAnother such place would be the Black Hills and Badlands in South Dakota. While South Dakota probably isn’t your first thought when it comes to vacation destinations, it can provide a naturalistic and historical perspective to your trip. This part of South Dakota has its own Native American history as this was territory that bands of the Sioux nation occupied. In addition to this, two marvels of sculpting can be seen in this area; one being the famous Mt. Rushmore, the other being an over 500 foot statue of Crazy Horse, a once prominent Sioux leader. If you are interested in getting out and seeing the nature this is also a great place for it, because it has two very different environments close to each other. The badlands is plateau in Southern South Dakota where little vegetation grows. Not far from the Badlands is the Black Hills, a mountainous area where vegetation and wildlife thrives.

With all the pressures of day to day life it can become a priority to take the family away for a while and take a much needed break. A great road tripping location should be one that provides enough activities to keep everyone in the family occupied while also presenting your family with opportunities to explore and learn new things.

Jamaica: The Beating Heart of the Caribbean

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Negril coastline, with its famous beach in the...     Jamaica truly is the beating heart of the Caribbean: the country bursts with vivid colors, enticing, spicy spells and pulsing reggae music. Whether you’re after a totally tranquil beach holiday in Jamaica, soaking up the sun on one the many paradise beaches, or adventure filled cultural immersion, Jamaica has it all and will guarantee an unforgettable and inspiring holiday in Jamaica.

The secluded Secrets St James resort offers prime views of the stunning Montego Bay, with luxurious rooms and panoramic views of the glittering blue water. For those indulging in a romantic getaway, the adults only resort Couples Swept Away boasts a wonderfully dreamy setting, situated right on the Negril beach, a perfect place to watch the sunset while sipping on a classic Old Jamaican cocktail, made with spicy dark rum and tangy limes.

Once you’ve torn your eyes away from the paradisiacal beach view before you and muster the energy to leave that lounger, here are a few Jamaican attractions you simply can’t miss:

Realize your dream of swimming with dolphins by visiting Jamaica’s number one tourist attraction, Dolphin Cove. Surrounded by acres of lush tropical rainforest, Dolphin Cove offers you the life changing opportunity to snorkel with sting rays, swim with sharks and frolic with dolphins in the crystal clear waters of this natural bay.

For fans of the reggae legend Bob Marley, a visit to the eponymous museum is a must. Situated on the site of the musician’s childhood home,

 

the museum offers insight into every aspect into Marley’s life, set to a soundtrack of the singers best loved songs. Top Bob Marley & The Wailersoff your afternoon with some sumptuous Caribbean cuisine served in the museum’s Legend Café.

With its violent and intriguing history of slavery and black magic, Jamaica’s Rose Hall is the perfect place to satisfy your curiosity in the supernatural. Tours run daily around the legendary Rose Hall, explaining the story behind its infamous and sadistic owner notorious for witchcraft and torturous deeds. You’ll be glad to return to the calming white sands of the beach after this spine chilling tour!

No trip to Jamaica is complete without a visit to the mesmerizing Dunn’s River Falls, regarded as one of Jamaica’s national treasures. The land of River and Springs offers tourists the chance to swim in glistening pools, dive from rocks into roaring waterfalls or just recline on one of the many pristine bays that are scattered throughout the area.

After working up an appetite with all of these adventurous activities, indulge in some of Jamaica’s famed Caribbean cuisine. Bursting with spice, warmth and passion, Jamaican food is like a hug on a plate and you’ll find many authentic, family run restaurants serving fiery and flavorsome dishes. Treat your taste buds to some slow cooked jerk chicken and rice, leafy callaloo and explosive Jamaican patties for a true taste of this remarkable island.

Paradise Island: Mauritius

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Mauritius     Are you growing tired of the hustle and bustle of daily life? Do your bones ache? Are your mind, body and soul screaming for a paradisiacal place of white sand, fresh fruits and pure tranquility? Well look no further, whisk yourself away to the Paradise Island, where an affordable, luxury holiday to Mauritius awaits you. Hailed as having some of the best beaches in the world, honeymooners flock to Mauritius in the thousands, so it’s the perfect place for a romantic getaway or just to reenergize after countless rainy commutes to work.

So sit back, start practicing relaxing and have look at the most fabulous things this delightful island has to offer:

Kick off your holiday itinerary by spending at least a couple of days on Mauritius’s stunning beaches. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of a desert island film when you visit the sublime Belle Mare Beach; authentic bamboo huts line the blindingly white sand upon which turquoise waves lap. Recharge your batteries with a deliciously sweet Mauritian cocktail sipped from a coconut shell while reading the latest thriller – heavenly! If you’re feeling brave after your beach recharge, Mauritius is the perfect place to learn to kite surf, a thrilling water sport in which you soar above the ocean like an eagle. You’ll gasp in amazement as you stare down through the clear waters into expansive coral reefs, at tranquil lagoons and rugged countryside.

While in Mauritius, ditch the silver service and indulge in the world renowned street food, which is influenced by a scrumptious combination of cultures. Immerse yourself in Mauritian culture while treating your senses to a banquet as you wander down streets full of vendors offering mouthwatering culinary creations like chili pineapples, spicy samosas and seafood curries. Neither you nor your taste buds will regret this wonderful cultural and culinary experience.

Mauritius

For those who love a good cup of tea, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the verdant Bois Cheri tea plantation for an educational, and thirst quenching, day out. After a guided tour of the factory, plantation and museum, you’ll be treated to a taste bud tantalizing tea tasting session where you can purchase a range of delicious teas to dunk your digestives in after you return.

Come face to face with fearsome reptiles and amphibians in a glorious rainforest setting at The Crocodile and Giant Tortoise Park. Stroll through luxurious, tropical greenery, pet a giant tortoise and stare into the yellow and unblinking eye of a ferocious crocodile at the exciting and entertaining nature park.

Now, can you almost feel the soft breeze of a gently flapping palm leaf? Can you feel that warm, soft sand between your toes? Can you hear the roar of the turquoise ocean? Make these fantasies a reality and book your dream holiday to Mauritius now!

Island Adventures on Luscious St Lucia

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Languidly floating in the warm Caribbean Sea, the mountainous and magnificent island of St. Lucia is a perfect holiday destination for those seeking a mix of tranquility and adventure. On this richly diverse island, momentous volcanoes tower over glittering turquoise water and unspoiled beaches are bordered by dense and tropical rainforest. This incredible island offers a fabulous range of accommodation, whether you want to recline in a luxurious resort or sleep beneath the blazing stars in a traditional beach hut. For affordable luxury and stunning mountain and ocean views, we recommend the charming resort of Anse Chastanet, which boasts a poolside bar, a relaxing spa and even its own art gallery!

Babonneau, St Lucia, RainforestRamble through the Rainforest

A visit to St. Lucia’s sprawling mass of lush rainforest should be at the top of your travel itinerary. Many tour companies offer a variety of ways to explore the stunning flora and fauna of the jungle, so take your pick from one of the following exhilarating activities; defy gravity by soaring above the canopy on an adrenaline fueled zip line ride; enjoy panoramic views of the rainforest from the dizzying heights of a peaceful aerial tram; or lace up your hiking boots and trek through the rich greenery, scaling ravines and crossing creeks while keeping your eyes out for a scaly boa constrictor or brightly colored parrot.

Conquer the Volcano

Discover volcanic landscapes in St Lucia’s top tourist attraction, the Sulphur Springs Park. Explore the volcanoes crater, feasting your eyes up steaming hot springs and bubbling pools of mud – you’ll feel like you’re exploring the surface of planet Mars after walking through the intriguing park. Soak your bones in one of the numerous warm and soothing sulfur pools, reputed to have natural healing properties.

Recline on a Paradise Beach

St Lucia boasts a vast array of blissful beaches tucked away in secluded coves, flanked by lush greenery and crystal clear water. Anse Cochon is the perfect secluded spot to recharge during your tranquil St Lucia Holiday – rest your head on the silky, soft sand while flicking through the pages of a gripping novel, stopping to dine on fresh fish prepared at one of the traditional beach restaurants – it’s an utterly blissful retreat! For those with a passion for marine life, this is a splendid spot to snorkel amidst the vast coral reefs that lie beneath the glittering surface of the ocean.

Party Caribbean Style

Although totally tranquil during the day, at night St Lucia’s strong, Caribbean heart begins to beat. Every Friday night, the streets of the tiny fishing village of Gros Islet burst into life, offering spicy and sumptuous Caribbean street food and entertaining roadside acts to a soundtrack of pulsing Caribbean songs. Hurricane Hole Bar offers delicious Caribbean cocktails from a cozy hurricane shelter and bursts with a vibrant and lively atmosphere.

Don’t wait a second longer, swap your dull and dismal office for an idyllic beach and the infectious and joyful Caribbean vibe of luscious St Lucia. You’re certain not to regret it!

Songkran Water Festival Chiang Mai 2014

the crew of songkran 2014
           This is an article written by my friend and fellow Water Warrior Andy Bouchier , about our group of friends and our awesome time at songkran chiang mai 2014, I hope to see Andy’s own travel blog soon as he is an awesome writer.
Songkran Water Festival (Chiang Mai, Thailand) my favourite party I have been to

The Battalion Songkran 2014Anyone who knows me knows I like a good party. I can say I have been to my fair share of great parties in the world… foam parties, (you are covered in foam and it is all you can drink, this is a huge thing in resort Mexico), stage 13 (was a giant rock concert where you could go camping with roughly 30000 people, multiple bands over the course of 4 days), frat parties, party on Halong Bay in Vietnam, full moon party, every party on Koh Phangan, Holi Day in India, various university parties, pubcrawls, ski trips etc… All of those parties were memorable, unique and adult orientated. Many of the parties you need to be drunk to have a good time and I think the mark of an excellent party is if the majority of the people can have a great time without drinking. What Ready for a waterfight SongkranI love about Songkran is it is an all ages party. Thai people are very friendly and not creepy like many people in India can be for a party like Holi Day. So what is Songkran?

What is Songkran?

It is the new year for Thailand. A huge water fight that can take place for several days. People of all ages use anything and everything for the festival. The best place to experience Songkran is in Chiang Mai Thailand. So many people I have met last year said Chiang Mai is the place to go for Songkran. It is an absolutely insane and wild time. Last year I was in Thailand for Songkran but I was in an isolated area of the island of Koh Phangan doing my yoga Songkran waterfightinstructor course. There was a water fight at a small club called Guy’s Bar (not a gay bar, it is a place that plays trance/techno type music for roughly 16 hours straight one day a week every Friday in Haad Tien). It was a fun time but a very small crowd. Celebrating Songkran in Chiang Mai exceeded every expectation I had for the festival.

My reflection of Songkran in Chiang Mai

I thought it would be amusing to write my experience of Songkran similar to a fantasy role playing game. The characters were people I met via couchsurfing and my friend DIno. The weapons, ammo and vehicles were things I observed throughout the four days. Enjoy!

List of weaponsThe weopons Songkran Chiang Mai 2014

bucket- A cheap, entry level weapon extremely effective at close range. Quick reload time and poor long range

magic stick/one shot wonder/pimp stick/magic wand/sir Arthur’s sword/sword of a thousand truths- a powerful and accurate one shot wonder gun/magic stick (this grey stick can reload in a couple of seconds and can hit it’s mark 20 feet away
ice cream cone water gun- this silly looking gun is used to make people laugh and lower their guard. A low pressure water pistol with poor range, low storage capacity and general suck ability. Some say it can bring plus 10 luck with a plus 2 aura silly group boost

rubber duckie pump action gun- this ridiculous looking gun is extremely accurate and has decent range. Often the water backpack is in the shape of an elephant or an angry bird.

Ultimate watergun Chiang Mai Songkranlazer cannon water gun- extremely accurate and has excellent long range. Low pressure and has ample storage capacity. Most effective for long range head shots/ear shots

angry bird guns- come in all shapes and sizes. Thai people love angry bird guns

small water pistol/say hello to my little friend- accurate and short range weapon most effective for sending a message. Poor reload time and poor storage capacity

The garden gun/exterminator- high accuracy with a bonus arc shot. Perfect for shooting people over obstacles. Pros: insane storage capacity of 20 litres. Cons: yet to be determined

List of CharactersDino Songkran 2014

Dino (The Ringmaster/mystro/bucket assassin) assassin/ranger class. This guy adds an aura boost of everyone around him often encouraging people around him to do stupid shit. Dino’s name became a verb. You almost Dino’d that guy (almost killed that guy with a bucket to the face)

Austin (sleeping beauty/Austin Powers/Austin Texas/young Fabio) druid/scavenger class. Sleeps like a greek god. Starts out with no sandals or gun. A scavenger/hunter gatherer type character who takes whatever weapon he can get.

Loretta songkranJub (Jubbs/vegan alcoholic) Jester class. Adds plus 100 luck to the group. Occasional boughts of Chiangnesia and Chiangovers (Chiang is a beer in Thailand that is super powerful unregulated and grossish). Jub came home once with one sandal, no phone and no scooter. His name is now a verb. “Go Jub yourself”, “let’s get jubbed up”. This friendly character prefers watching rugby in his room and pretending to make apps

Loretta (crouching tiger hidden bucket) assassin/thief class. a chinese woman who wanted her home town to be the capital of China (only because it is in the centre of China). Doesn’t hesitate to slap people with buckets of water

Delphine (the French connection) elf class. a high energy French woman who seems to know everyone. Introduced people to a game of inappropriate touching that is apparently popular in France.

Karine- (The water fairy) scout class. Insane Delphine songkranamounts of high energy. Karine floats around Songkran often engaging in battle and losing the group. This one woman show often gets ganged up on by stray Thai people getting assaulted with bucket after bucket. She can get you excited about dirt.

Phil (Smiley) warrior class. Only person equipped to use the garden gun. A one man mortar unit. An exterminator who can outlast everyone with his amazing weaponry. Always spotted pumping with his left hand and spraying everyone with a big grin. Works out once a week and never eats rice or drinks beer.

Karine songkran 2014Frantz- (Christoph Jackman.. cross between Christoph Waltz and Hugh Jackman) ranger class. Weapon of choice is cynical French humor and the one shot wonder

Etsoku- (Japanese Badonkadonk) monk class.  Likes every picture on Facebook and often communicates in several languages

Michelle- (stock queen) elf/paladin class. will come out to Songkran maybe or may stay back to check Chinese stocks maybe. She heals people with buying spring rolls.

Anka- (mother Russia) assassin class. Who’s Anka? good question many of us didn’t know and were confused but we figured it out. Potentially ex KGB/double agent squirt gun assassin

Neil (Gabe/Bob) in his own class.  Likes to get in Andy Songkrandrunken kick fights with Jub… that should say enough

Stefan (James) ranger class. Rarely spotted, low profile Swedish guy too cool for most of Songkran but boss enough to threaten to unfriend everyone. Prefers socks with sandals

Andy (big man, big big) Orge/Druid hybrid. Prefers head shots and ear shots from a distance

Vehicles

Getting Dinoed Songkran Chiang Mai 2014Scooter- People crazy enough to drive one of these can expect to get buckets of water dumped on them regardless of speed. Young Fabio was doing a border visa run (crossing the border to get a new 30 day visa for Thailand) and got hit with buckets of water while he was going 90 km on the highway. On a scooter you can fit several people often small children with a water gun. Perfect vehicles for drive bys

Pick up trucks- often so many people on the back of a truck there is standing room only. This vehicle is perfect for having a drum barrel of ice water with buckets and magic sticks for maximum damage. This is the perfect mobile mortar unit. Walking by one of these you will almost always get hit with a pimp wand of cold water or a whole bucket of ice water

tuk-tuks- this seems to be the busiest day for tuk tuks as people rarely take tuk tuks but on Songkran people rent tuk tuks and use it as an extremely quick and nimble mobile mortar unit

Songtow- a much bigger tuk tuk but with more protection. You need to attack from the back as the only weak point is in the back of the songtow

AmmoSongkran 2014

street water barrels- These barrels often had water supplied from tap water

ice water- giant block of ice with water

moat water/gutter water- gross reused water, brownish in colour

moat ice water- gross reused water with ice

Communication device-Facebook messenger. I was hoping for something cool like a military sat phone. Almost everyone leaves their phones at home and we kick it old school before cell phones were around with blind communication in stone age times.

Day One

The first day it started the day before it actually started. Doesn’t make sense? No problem. Same same but different. I heard Chiang Mai is the place to be for Songkran and I didn’t know what to expect. Four brave expats/farangs (this is the name given to foreigners) decided to meet up and walk to the old city.

Resting up at the Busbar Chiang mai We parked our scooters at Bus Bar in the early afternoon (it’s a bar made out of buses, overlooks the river and has reasonably priced drinks). Slowly we started to walk to the old city to meet up with a group of couch surfing mercenaries. Several blocks of walking we are assaulted on all fronts. Giant empty garbage bins are used for fuel supply. Some people throw buckets of water on us. Some shoot us with a powerful and accurate one shot wonder gun/magic stick Some kids shoot with little guns. Buckets are being dunked on everyone and no one is off limits. On a scooter? Doesn’t matter you are fair game. Good thing I made the decision to leave my camera and cell phone at home and only bring some money and my GoPro camera. Cute little old people dump buckets of cold water on me…. assassins are everywhere.

The day ends with a giant party at Tapae Gate. Loud music and a very large crowd and lots of dancing. This is the day before Songkran and it is still much better than Holi Day or most of the parties I have been to in my life. Afterwards we decided to meet up at Bus Bar.

Day 2- 4 Highlights

We meet up at roughly 2pm for the next few daysThe After Party Chiang Mai songkran and stay out until roughly 6pm. There is a fairly large group of roughly 13 people. There is so many people at Songkran people get lost really easily. Trying to navigate through stopped vehicles you breathe in vehicle exhaust with walking through gross gutter water (that people probably peed in). A few times I take the one shot and suck up gutter water and shoot people in vehicles. Towards the end of days I would check my pockets for fucks to give and it turns out I had none left to give. Before the start of each day we could communicate on a time to meet via facebook messenger and usually you would have to sort through all the trash being talked on the messages to get through a meeting point and destination. Eventually we became more effective and efficient and would name the group name the meeting point for that day (it took us 4 days to figure this out though)

-Dino was overly enthusiastic and almost causes a scooter to crash as he whips buckets of water at people often in the face. One Thai girl stopped and swore at Dino and he toned it down after that

– Phil needed to fill up his insane gun maybe 3 times total.

-old people were so funny and cute during Songkran. One old guy in a pick up truck would let out this big hearty laugh while he would squirt tourists. I’m convinced old people are just much older kids as they don’t seem to care about things like little kids do.

-the children were so cute during Songkran. Often 2-3 year olds would be in a kiddie pool and would miss trying to hit anyone with their lack of coordination.

-very festive environment everywhere. Everyone was all smiles and having a great time

-I enjoyed shooting many a people in the ear/face with low pressure burst fire. Karma bit me hard and it really hurt (my ear had water in it for a couple days after)

-it was extremely tiring walking around for 5 hours a day getting buckets of cold water dunked on you on hot weather

-moat ice water is really gross but fun.

(also look for Spiderman at the end of this video)

-at one point we found a bridge and sniped people in various vehicles from above

-had a ladyboy shoot my groin area and had a gay guy pinch my arm (losing 50 pounds upped my stock even if it is members of a team I don’t pitch for… I still got it… sorta)

-concentrating full fire power on a single songtow was pretty awesome.

(also look out for the Spiderman in the dune buggy at the end of this video)

-riding a scooter in the heat of the battle was really fun and slightly scary

-Dino shot a cop… Dino don’t give a shit, Dino don’t care

-Jub tried to play the dunk tank game.

-Dino lost his bucket and got it back again.

-bumped into a guy that had the sillest glasses that squirted water from them. Very ineffective but halarious.

-I forgot how fun and cool using my waterproof GoPro camera can be.

Everyday was filled with over-stimulation. It was fun but also a very exhausting experience. It could be very loud, hot and cold, people everywhere, vehicle exhaust, gutter water. People over all ages acted like kids in a crazy water fight lasting 4 solid days. Back to back national festivals in different countries was an incredible experience. Other major parties/festivals I want to see is Carnival in Rio and that big tomato fight. Songkran in Chiang Mai is definitely an experience I would like to do again and would feel comfortable bringing kids to.

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A Thai Treat: Experience the Golden Land

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With its picture perfect landscapes, magnificent temples, hospitable locals and a cuisine that will blow you away, Thailand is a wondrous and ethereal holiday destination. In this golden land, where sunsets look like an explosion of a painter’s palette and a night in a luxury beach hotel can be purchased for just a few dollars, you’ll never be at a loss for incredible activities. Put a holiday in Thailand at the very top of your travel priority list and start planning your adventure in one of the world’s most diverse and delightful countries.

ThailandBuzzing Bangkok

Consider starting your trip in the frenetic capital of Bangkok where traffic screams and skyscrapers loom over gleaming temples, floating markets and authentic street food stalls. Bangkok boasts some seriously impressive architecture so ensure you visit the mesmerizing Wat Arun, where intricate floral designs cover towering spires, heading onto the majestic Grand Palace where you wander throughout elaborate royal chambers. Meander down the floating markets past boats bursting with succulent fresh fruit, aromatic fresh food and refreshing coconut juice, drinking in the glorious array of smells, sights and sounds on one of the many guided tours offered to Taling Chang and Bang Ku Wiang markets.

Beach Lovers Paradise

If the energizing chaos of Bangkok leaves you feeling slightly overwhelmed, take to the glittering ocean for a tranquil tour of Thailand’s glorious islands.If deserted paradise islands are what you’re looking for, then you’re in luck as Thailand offers a bounteous array of staggeringly beautiful pockets of absolute bliss. The Phi Phi Paradise beaches were made famous by the film The Beach, which depicted travelers searching for the ultimate secluded paradise. Avoid hoards of other travelers by spending a night in Maya Bay, sleeping in a hammock and staring up above into the blazing stars of the inky black night sky. For those wanting the glittering glamor of nightclubs after sunset, and soft silky sand at sunrise, Patong is your dream destination. Sample delicious Thai treats and fresh fruit juices from the vendors while staring into the bright blue sea – a perfect cure for a sore head!

Electric Chiang Mai

Few things exceed the electric atmosphere of Chiang Mai’s exhilarating night bazaar. The streets are awash with bright lights, colorful clothes and gorgeously authentic goods in this wonderful market. Bag yourself a bargain on hand crafted jewelry and local Thai goods by haggling with locals for the best deal. After the bustling excitement of the night bazaar, regain tranquility by visiting the stunning Botanical Garden which bursts with beautifully delicate Thai orchids and impressive topiary. Don’t leave without visiting The White Temple, one of the most incredible sights Thailand has to offer! It’s only a quick day trip away from the big city. The delicate beauty of the temple is staggering and the atmosphere that surrounds it is one of total serenity.

Inevitably, this brief insight into the wonderful things this diverse country offers has whipped you into a frenzy of wanderlust: embrace it! Make this dream a reality and visit Thailand as soon as you possibly can – we guarantee you won’t regret it!

Take The Train to Chiang Mai

Train to Chiang Mai

Switching Trains

I just returned to Chiang Mai from a short tour of Cambodia. I had spent 2 weeks in Cambodia with my friends from Latvia, then had the good fortune to meet up with a friend for 3 days in Bangkok. Although I travel a lot, I must say it is quite draining on your system. Don’t get me wrong I love to travel and see new things, experience new cultures, meet new people, eat interesting foods, and creatures. 😉 . But what I have realized the most stressful part of the whole journey seems to be the transport.

Riding in Turbo buses (Silver high top Vans) in Thailand for instance willThai Turbo Bus leave you with very little sleep, your hair standing on end, and as you will see when you get the opportunity, these drivers are all in training for some sort of international Grand Prix. Driving on the opposite side of the road, forcing on coming traffic onto the shoulder. Avoiding all stoplights by turning onto the intersecting road making a u-turn at full speed, then turning back onto the main thoroughfare. (actually a neat idea,,, stoplights can last in excess of 200 seconds in Thailand). That being said they in fact do an amazing job at drifting through heavy traffic.There are handles bolted on to the back of the seats, many of which have been ripped off, either by the sheer terror of the passenger or just simple laws of physics and the steel/plastic handles are unable to cope with the stress.

Siem Reap Tuktuk    Then there are the Tuk Tuk drivers, who refuse to charge anything less the double that of a taxi ride. why…??? maybe it’s just the joy of being able to ride on a smoky, loud, slow, rickety piece of hand made ingenuity..  Then the biggest problem of course with the tuk tuk drivers is that they refuse to take you to your requested destination. You ask them to take you to the train station, they take you to a tour agency trying to sell you a tour package. You ask to go to your $10 per night hotel, they take you to a $200 per night hotel, and go into great detail explaining that it is high season and everything else is booked up. Yes, for those of you who have not been in Asia this is exactly how it works and unfortunately it is not the exception it is the rule.

Ok, now onto public buses, yea you know the ones , they come with great names like “V.I.P. Bus” , “The Hotel Bus”. these tend to drive at about 40kmph. There is a thing here in Asia that it does not matter how unsafe you drive provided you drive slowly. In the dusty roads of Cambodia, 40kmph is quite fast considering you can not see further then a few meters. The toilets do not work, so they will either randomly stop at the side of the road in a field for all the ladies and gents to use the public facilities. “The Hotel Bus” which is a sleeper bus. 2 layers of beds, 1 set of beds on the floor and one at about 150cm off of the floor. 2 beds on each side narrower then shoulder width, and about 4 1/2 foot long. generallyTrain to Chiang Mai managed by some local organized crime syndicate. and all of your valuables remaining with you for the extent of the voyage is also a risk and needs to calculated into the cost of the journey. This trip I had my Iphone stolen by the Bus driver assistant while I was sleeping, less then a meter from him, In less then 5 minutes after using my phone, after getting myself folded into an endurable position, I tried to get a short nap, and could not sleep so I decided to plug my headset into my Iphone that was no longer in my pocket.  Grrr.

old train carriage So after all of these stressful travels, I decided to take the train from Bangkok to Chiang mai. I actually did hesitate before making the decision, because from my experience the train has always been a minimum of 2 hours late. And this time was no exception. This time I had the joy of stopping about 2 hours outside of Chiang mai and wait a couple of hours for another train to come pick us up, as there were some sort of engine problems. So this time we all arrived only 5 1/2 hours late. Although I would still recommend it, It really is not much like traveling at all . there is a dining car ( actually more of a party car) the beds are quite comfortable, and I have always had the joy of meeting interesting fellow travelers to share stories with on the journey. The ticket price was around Train in Lampang area850 baht (approx $26). I showed up at the train station with only about 15 minutes to spare to catch the 19:35 train, and there were plenty of tickets available on a Thursday evening. The evening went fast, met some awesome people, hung out in the party car for a bit, not that I was into the party, but the ambiance was quite interesting. I was able to get a fairly good rest, ( first time in a while) . And I got to enjoy the views of the beautiful country side of northern Thailand.

Next time I take a trip, It will either be by plane, train or the best will be on my motorbike. See a country by motorbike is a whole other story. All The Best on your next journey.. And by the Way….. Take The Train…Finally Home in Chiang mai

 

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Turkey: The Majestic Land of Shahs

Mount Nemrut Turkey
Mount Nemrut Turkey  If you want to enjoy some sunbathing and historical relics then a trip to the land of the Shahs, that is Turkey should be on your cards. I was always marveled by this country that spreads across two continents. Turkey is also the closest point between three continents – Asia, Europe and Africa. There are marvelous sandy beaches across the expanse of this great country. More than 97% of Turkey’s total landmass is in Asia and it is known as Anatolia, while the rest lies in Europe and better known as Thrace. What enthralled me since childhood was the statement that “Turkey is the cradle of cultures and civilizations”. Since the beginning of history Turkey witnessed the first major settlements. The rich cultural heritage of Turkey was enhanced with all the empires ruling these lands such as Byzantines, Seljuks, Sumerians, Hittities to the Ottomans.

 

Turkey is a land of superior beauty. It is surrounded by many seas such as Bosporus, Dardanelles, Aegean, Mediterranean, Black and Marmara seas. On my tour across the expanse of Turkey I came across sights with great beauty. Feeling that I had on seeing some of these beautiful locations are very hard to describe. I would like to share some of the places I visited during my recent tour to this marvelous land.

 

  • Lake Nemrut VolcanoNemrut: This is one of my best picks on Turkey tour. Nemrut is a site with historical magnificence. It is rightfully called the Eighth Wonder of the World. There are numerous monuments spread across the expanse of this mountain. The mountain is about 2206 meters in height and overlooks the Firat River. This is an ideal spot to take some memorable snaps. Nemrut has statues of Persian and Greek gods that were built under order of the Commagene King Antiochus. It is also the place where the remains of the ancient king rest.
  • Side: Another memorable destination. Side refers to the goddess of Anatolia. This city flourished in the early 700 B.C. and it was a center for culture, trade and science. The place has remnants of some remarkable architecture. Side’s architecture is heavily influenced by the Cretans. This site of historic importance is located east of Antalya. I took a shuttle from Antalya Airport to reach Side.
  • Sumela MonasterySumela Monastery: Nested within the rocks is a scenic monastery that holds significant historical importance. Sumela means “Virgin Mary of Soumela” and the monastery was built way back in the 4th century B.C. by two priests Sophronius and Barnabus who had seen an icon of Virgin Mary in the cave. Ever since the monastery, situated atop a steep cliff has, has witnessed the ravages of time. The frescos existing within the monastery are very beautiful. While going through these partially destroyed frescoes I wondered how many civilizations have tried to destroy its beauty. I used a tour package to get to Sumela Monastery as personal tours are hard to organize.
  • Zeugma: This ancient Turkish city was erected by Selecus, one of Alexander the Great generals. It was known as “Euphrates Selevkaya” under the Greeks, the present name was used by the Romans. The city has relics of Roman mosaics, which are superb. The tour across the city is divided into three sections – A, B and C. All the sections bear witness to the Roman architecture and cultural heritage.

 

Being a history lover these places were bound to be in my list. But my Turkish tour was not all about history it was also for merriment. So, I visited some sandy beaches at Fethiye, Kas, Gocek, Alanya and Marmaris.

 

Days fleeted passed when I was in Turkey. I was left wondering and at times felt poetic viewing the beauty of this great country.

Dive the World Maldives

maldives beach

maldives beachAre you bored with this society full of hustle and bustle? Do you want to spend some time in peace and tranquility? Then dive with me in the deep delved Indian Ocean in Maldives. I went to Maldives last summer to explore my sunny side of life in the dazzling turquoise water. I think it is the best place in the world to renew the energy cells of life which was tremendously hampered by the stress of professional and personal life. I want to share my experiences of the scuba diving in Maldives here.

Day 1: ‘Assalam Alaikum’ is the first word I heard while setting the first steps on this tropical paradise. Our flight was two hours delayed. Male International Airport is an island which has the airport and related facilities. We boarded on a speed boat and went to a sea plane to reach our resort. During lunch we had some mouth watering local sea foods such as mas Maldives Sunsethuni and keemia in that self contained resort. Then we visited a sandy beach to relax and watch the serene beauty of the blue sea. On the beach, I met a local friend from whom I got to know that Maldives has 1,190 island scattered over an area of 90,000 sq. km. The main occupation of the country is fishery and tourism. He invited me for night fishing which is the exclusive attraction of Maldives beside scuba diving.

Day 2: I woke up in the next day morning with the sweet black tea. The warm sea of Maldives was tempting me to take a dive in it. The sea of Maldives is a home to the most diverse varieties of flora and fauna. Along with that, thousands of coral reefs and colorful species of fishes enhance the beauty of the crystal clear water. As I did not carry my dive gear, I had to rent that from the resort. And the best part of this dive in Maldivian Sea is that, you don’t have to be a professional diver. Anyone can have this life time experience with the basic training given by the resorts and safari boat trainers. After my first dive, my first feeling was that I was transported to Heaven. Under the crystal clear water, I could experience thousands of species of fishes, huge mantas or Manta Ray and even sharks. Tiny shrimp crawled over our body. And the color! It seemed that no color in the palette of the universal creator was untouched.

maldives filitheyoDay 3: Maldives is well-known for its spectacular range of water sports. But for me the most attractive among them was surfing. I went to Maldives in April which is the start of surfing season. After spending hours in the Maldivian surf break, I had the experience of night fishing with my new friend. And I must say it was a nice experience. We were enjoying the peace of night under the starry sky. My friend, an expert fisher was able to catch some grouper fishes while I had to satisfy myself in sapper fishing. We ended the day by having a barbecue preparation of the fish.