Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Too Can Visit Tigers in a Natural Reserve

Granted, tigers are something that most people fear, perhaps out of pure basic instinct. They are fierce predators which often hunt at night. There are many tales going back centuries of unfortunate travellers being ambushed by tigers and as a result, their reputation has grown over time. But there is a Buddhist temple in Thailand where tigers are welcomed and are treated quite humanely. Having become accustomed to their human hosts, they are quite tame and actually respond quite well to visitors. It may sound highly unlikely, but it is true. You owe yourself an opportunity to see this unique environment known as the Tiger Temple.

New and Unusual

Tiger Temple’s official name is WatPhaLuang Ta Bua and is situated on the grounds of a Theravada Buddhist temple in Western Thailand. The monks had an idea 20 years ago that not only should tigers be protected from other predators, especially its most ferocious one, man, but that they could also be somewhat domesticated and learn to live in peace and harmony with humans. By all accounts, the experiment has been an outstanding success. The local monks hope that if the trend continues, they will ultimately be able to release some of the tigers into the wild. Hopefully, they will not have lost their killer instinct, once they are released, so that they can survive in their natural habitat.

One Big Cat

Even as schoolchildren, we learn that tigers are members of the extended cat family. They are in fact the largest of this species and certainly have the largest teeth, which is one of the reasons they are a feared predator. Interestingly enough, they seem to survive about the same amount of time in the wild as in captivity, which typically is somewhere between 24 and 26 human years. Their natural habitat had covered most of Asia, reaching as far as Turkey to the West and Russia to the east. Because they tended to be found in many areas of the world that are largely populated, they often came into contact and conflict with humans. Most of the time, the humans won. Perhaps it goes without saying that as a result, they have lost a tremendous amount of their natural habitat, with some estimates putting the loss at approximately 93%. It is therefore not surprising that the current estimate of tigers that survive in the wild range between only 3,000 and 4,000 total, worldwide. This is a species which is on the verge of extinction, if something is not done to reverse the trend.

Welcome to Tiger Temple

Given this backdrop, it is good to know that there are places such as Tiger Temple where tigers are allowed to breed and live in relative peace and quiet, without too much human interference. If you happen to visit Thailand, you can take advantage of Tiger Temple Tours to visit these animals in a tranquil and serene setting and even have an opportunity to interact with them without fear. In many ways, it could be the experience of a lifetime.

Image courtesy of: anankkml

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Destination Florida

America is a vast country and so deciding where to choose can be a daunting task. Having been fortunate to spend time as a student ravelling across the States, I would recommend Florida as a great holiday destination. Here are my top choices for a visit to the Sunshine State.

1.     Florida Keys
Key West is an island in the Straits of Florida and marks the southernmost tip of the United States. Only 90 miles from Cuba, Key West is like no other place in America. Famous for its Key Lime Pie, the local atmosphere is laidback, perhaps more Caribbean than American. A perfect destination for couples, the keys offer the ideal mixture of relaxation and activities. Turquoise seas and beautiful beaches are abundant, as is the opportunity to take a canoe through the marshlands to watch the sunset. If you’re lucky you’ll spot a few turtles.  Ernest Hemmingway also resided here, calling it home for over ten years. To reach Key West, fly into Miami and take a 4 hour drive, incorporating a seven mile long bridge.
2.     Miami
Miami is a surprising place. The picture of the place I had in my head was not the place I
visited. It’s located on the Atlantic coast in south eastern Florida. Nicknamed the "Capital of Latin America,” Florida is the second-largest US City with a Spanish Speaking majority and consequently, the cuisine is as diverse as the language. The Miami Beach Architectural District is certainly worth a visit – take this walking tour before enjoying South Beach, often called the American Riviera.
3.     Amelia Island
Named for Princess Amelia, daughter of George II of Great Britain, the island has changed colonial hands a number of times. It is claimed that eight flags have flown over Amelia Island: French, Spanish, British, Patriot, Green Cross, Mexican, Confederate, and United States. What you will find here today is a beautiful resort filled with great restaurants, shops and activities. I prefect for families or couples, this peaceful, relaxed seaport community offers 13-miles of beautiful beaches, abundant native wildlife, and pristine waters.

The weather in Florida is pretty good all year round. However, you can typically get some good deals on hotels and travel in September through to November as this is hurricane season. It might also be a good idea to sign up for flight alerts and as an Amex Cardholder you can normally get some major perks when booking through American Expresstravel online.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Using Audiobooks for Travel

For all travelers of the world, just the thought of places yet to be explored is always an excitement simply for the realm of possibilities that await you. Yes, you can have an itinerary jam packed with details from the minute your feet leave your bed/hammock/sleeping bag/etc. to the minute your head falls onto your pillow. Yes, you can research every detail of the destination you have planned for your future: the rich history, culture, language, photographs, and the alike. You can prepare for almost anything and everything but, such as life, the best part is the events you don’t plan for. This is how your story is written. In every single fiction book, not one character truly has control over his or her destiny. It is the all-omnipotent author’s control with his or her mighty pen. You, the traveller, are the character having your adventure written by an anonymous author of extraordinary credentials.

One of the most exhilarating things to do in life, and especially while traveling, is to let go of your sails and see where the wind takes you. To really get excited about the blank pages of your adventure, reading an audiobook from other seasoned travellers can put you in that mind set. Whether you choose an audiobook that tells you the stories of the destination you are about to embark or you simply just like to hear accounts of destinations you have already been to, the audiobook world is yet another destination to be explored.

Many audiobooks are read by the travellers themselves and while reading their descriptions gets most travellers eager, hearing their own voices describing the story he or she lived is just as thrilling as being there next to them as the action unfolds. The emotion and expression laced in their voices makes for a far more personal read and feeds your imagination from black and white print to the wild colors of your journey’s end.

If you plan on taking family for the awaited adventure, there are many audiobooks that can provide your children with excitement and delight. Sharing audiobooks with loved ones can create an even stronger bond between you and help lay out a clean and blank canvas ready to be painted. Even if travelling alone, listening to travellers’ epic stories are often just enough to get your feet wiggling, ready to trek.

Travel audiobooks serve as the background music to your predestination. The travelling authors of audiobooks orchestrate the most beautiful accounts to hit the part of your heart that is saved for travelling and travelling alone. To be inspired by those who choose to have a love affair with the world can prepare your eyes for the magic that is around every corner, under every leaf, within every dish, person, and event. And after a day’s rest from seeking the magic and experiencing the magnificence of your travels, maybe you, the traveller, can tell your story in an oral fashion and continue the contagious beauty of exploration.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ice Hotels

If you are looking for a true “winter wonderland” experience for the holidays, grab your parkas, cameras, and family members and head over to the nearest ice hotel!

What’s an ice hotel, you might be wondering? Well, it’s pretty simple. They are luxurious igloos, temporarily built as hotels sculpted out of snow, blocks of ice and, in some cases for safety, steel framing. This unique hotel experience lands itself in the category of destination hotels and attracts many travellers who no longer select lodgings solely because they're close to holiday spots. To bring it up a notch, hotels have become destinations to offer their guests an even more accommodating experience. Thankfully to the idea of ice hotels, arctic resorts that used to have to close up for the winter can now happily attract tourists year round.

Reconstructed annually, ice hotels are always updated to the times and offer something new each year. To experience an ice hotel is to step inside a storybook and take in the ice castle view before you. A look inside and you’ll see the lobby of ice sculptures that tower and demand attention. Further in, ice bars with friendly and warm bartenders wait for you to sit down and sip cocktails that fill up ice glassware. Since the temperatures generally range from 17-23 degrees Fahrenheit, there are many warm rooms offered to help keep guests comfortable. For those who brave the cold, the ice hotels also offer many variations of ways to warm their guests including, hot cocoa, fur, plenty of blankets, and even fireplaces.

What makes an ice hotel so special to its guests are the d├ęcor. Unlike other hotels, ice hotels create rooms with ice-sculpted furniture, art, and beds with fibre optic lights that create artistic dimension to the otherwise would-be white and clear ice and snow. Many ice hotels invite world known artists to theme various rooms inspired by movies, music, culture, and other artists alike. Some ice hotels even offer the chance to mush your very own dog pack across the hills of snow!

For many of you who are asking yourself, just how does an ice hotel work? The answer lies in the geographical location of the hotel, and not just the temperatures. These ice hotels are located near rivers where workers can freeze the water they draw in and cut the ice into large blocks before building the blocks into the structure of the hotel. It takes about five to six weeks for elaborate ice hotels to be built. As spring rolls around, the hotel melts and waits to be built until winter prevails yet again.

Some people who have stayed in ice hotels describe the experience of waking up after a night in an ice hotel as one of pure happiness while others label it as accomplishment against the harsh temperatures. However, to all travellers it is a destination that provides unforgettable aesthetics, rare architecture, and a winter wonderland memory to last a lifetime.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Five Top Tips For Grown Up Holidays

There comes a time in life when the thought of another long haul flight to a ridiculously hot location to spend time shrivelling on a crowded beach loses its appeal. Maybe it's just part of growing up, maybe you realise the wrinkles develop faster than the tan, but either way beach and bar holidays just don't cut it anymore. There's a big world out there, full of spectacular sights and experiences to explore. So here are some seasonal tips for the seasoned leisure-seeker to get away on a voyage of discovery and culture

Renaissance revealed 

There was a time when no young gentle-person was considered educated until they had taken the Grand Tour. Italy is the cradle of Western civilization, and a visit to Florence makes an ideal spring break. Home to the Medicis, Michelangelo and Dante, this Tuscan city is jammed to the brim with some of the finest artworks ever created. Botticelli's 'Birth of Venus' still hangs in the Uffizi gallery, and the streets are lined with exquisite mediaeval architecture. Stroll amongst the palazzos and piazzas, promenade on the Ponte Vecchio and retrace the glory that was the Renaissance.

Ride of the Valkyries 

Forget the Mediterranean and Caribbean, the cruising world's best kept secrets are the sub-arctic grandeur of Norwegian fjords and the stunning majesty of Iceland, land of ice and fire. Ideally timed to coincide with the equinoxes (late March or September), there is no better way to witness the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. The spectral lights glimmering over dark water can be breathtaking as swathes of green and red dance across the sky. There is more natural drama on show with calving glaciers and volcanoes spilling streams of magma into steaming seas.

Ancient grandeur 

Follow the shades of Hercule Poirot and Howard Carter on a trip down the Nile and visit the Giza pyramids, Luxor and Karnak to enjoy a taste of antiquity's most spell-binding achievements. The cooler months of the year are October through to April.

Deep ecology 

Fly south for the winter and leave the clouds and cold behind as you head to the coast of Queensland to explore Australia's Great Barrier Reef, one of the most vibrant scenes the world has to offer. Take the plunge with scuba diving lessons and drift through multi-coloured banks of coral swarming with clownfish, Maori Wrasse and sea stars in every shade. Best enjoyed as part of a reef tour, you can cruise the Barrier Reef with local guides and marine biologists for an in-depth experience.

Your own back yard 

If all this globe trotting sounds too exhausting, don't forget the wealth of history, discovery and natural beauty on your own doorstep. From the wild Cornish coast to Neolithic settlements in Orkney, the British Isles are awash with fascinating places to visit. Try pony trekking in the Brecon Beacons, walk the Ridgeway Trail to Avebury or hunt monsters in the dark waters of Loch Ness. And the best of it is, it's there all year round.

Photo by Flickr User Arian Zwegers

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tips for Solo Travelers

Solo travelling or soul searching is often a preferred choice of many globe-trotters. Back packers are seen indulging in it more regularly than package-deal travellers. Travelling alone can be the ultimate experience of self-indulgence. However, taking into the account the perils of such a form of travel like safety concerns and loneliness, a few tips about the same can make the experience a pleasant one.

Photo by Flickr user fortherock

The foremost concern of a single traveller is safety. He is more vulnerable to scam artists than people travelling in a group. Also, he has to deal with the simplest of the health worries on his own with no companion to watch his back. Small tips like knowing the exact distances and modes of commute between airports, stations and the destinations can prevent him from being “taken-on-a-ride”. If travelling alone, avoid travelling in the night and read more about places of visit for issues of safety, if any. A thumb rule is to trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

It is advisable to keep a low profile if you are a lone traveller. Attracting attention by wearing flashy clothes or coming across as an obvious tourist can mean some tricky pickles. A few white lies don’t hurt either. “I have to meet a friend at the station but don’t know the way. Could you help please?” is a safer option than poring over maps.

Being in touch ensures you a sense of belonging when you are travelling alone and peace of mind for your loved ones. Leave them a copy of your itinerary and check in periodically. International texting these days has become dearth cheap. If you are travelling with a pc, making pc to phone calls is another way of getting rid of solitude especially in the evening or during meals.
Solo dining may not be as amusing as it sounds at times. Sitting at a counter seat or at the bar in a restaurant may help.  Sometimes  when traveling we get stressed , tired and fatigue .  We have to remember that part of traveling is exploring new things , like for example if your in Hawaii pamper yourself by going to a resort , sitting by the beach and just taking in all the beauty. Bring a book you don’t mind leaving behind. Writing a journal is also a great way of savouring your travel memories later. It is important to eat well. Have a laid-back coffee or a decadent dessert once in a while. The constant vigilance needed whilst travelling alone can wear you down. 

Lastly, in case you start feeling lonely, you could cut short your ambitious itinerary and kick back for a while. You could even consider joining a group of fellow travellers or spend time in youth hostels where you could end up with some interesting company and activities to do.
A thing to remember always, be it solo or in a group, the sole purpose of travelling should be that experience of gratification at the end of it all! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Weekend Shopping in New York

There are so many reasons to spend a long weekend in New York. If you already know the main tourist attractions of the city, take this opportunity to go shopping in one of the best cities in the world for this activity. Prices are generally lower than in the UK and you'll be spoiled for choice. If you are and addict window shopper, you will certainly reach nirvana in Manhattan. 

One thing that you need to take care about before departing to New York is booking Manchester airport parking. With airport parking, you will save money to spend during your New York shopping spree. 
It is always interesting to go shopping in New York, mainly because, despite the crisis, this city remains the Mecca of shopping. Shops are open every day, usually from 10 am to 20 pm, and even later on Thursday. Moreover, one can find without difficulty many bargains regardless of the time of the year. From electronics, stereo to clothing and beauty products many products often display prices that are genuine deals, especially if you decide to travel to New York on a special day such as The Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving, that is the fourth Friday in November). The period after Christmas and New Year’s Eve is also an excellent time to go shopping in New York, as almost everything gets on sale then. 
One can easily draw a map of the shops in Manhattan. The neighbourhoods are somehow specialized in one type of shops, although you can find everything everywhere. Thus, you have Lower Broadway, particularly between 4th St. and Canal St. East, where you will find the best deals for jeans, t-shirts and sneakers. There are also a lot of discount stores in the Lower East Side. For clothing, you will find generally incredible deals in the Garment District, located between 6th and 9th Avenue from 34th to 42th Street. This is the heart of the garment industry in the United States, where one third of all apparel produced in the country is designed and manufactured. 
For an upbeat look, stroll the side of SoHo, in NoLita and Greenwich Village, where you can explore avant-garde designer boutiques, specialized in both fashion and home design. Finally, going back to Midtown and the Upper East Side, 5th Avenue and Madison Avenue are the haunts of upscale boutiques and department stores. If you do not want to spend too much money but still come back home with plenty of things, try the located in New Jersey or the flea markets such as Hell's Kitchen on 39th Street. 
You can also choose to visit some of the malls in the city if you like to find all the stores you need in one place. Two of the best malls a shopping aficionado should not miss are the Manhattan Mall and Pier 17. These are veritable temples of shopping in New York and they will certainly lure you in with their extravagance.

Finding the Perfect Slice in Chicago

Chicago has it all - world-renown architectural heritage, jazz music, theatres and plenty of Chicago hostels and cheap hotels for backpackers. One of the best things about Chicago is its unique pizza. Don’t be mistaken by the title, HostelBookers have researched (yes it means we tried lots of pizza, it was tough but we did it for you) the best Chicago-style deep dish pizza in the city. Never heard of Chicago-style pizza? Well, it’s only for the bravest of eaters, as instead of a thin crust topped with cheese and pepperoni, it’s a crust stacked extremely high with cheese and pepperoni (or anything else). Here’s a quick overview of the best places to find this Chicago wonder.


Special note needs to be given to this Chicago establishment, because it was Uno that first invented the Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Once you sample one of their pizzas, you’ll realize that their experience, which has been fine-tuned since the 1940s, is obvious. You can find locations all over the country, but the original is along the Magnificent Mile. It makes for a great lunchtime spot during a day shopping around. If it’s too packed, head around the corner to another location, that one called Due.

Lou Malnati’s

This reviewer grew up in Chicago’s northern suburbs, and my high school teacher was Rick Malnati himself, son to the late Lou. We had free pizza all the time, and it was excellent. Although Lou Malnati’s was established well after a few other Chicago deep-dish restaurants, Lou knew the business well, and when the first location opened, it opened to great reviews. Today, you can find dozens of locations all over the city.

One of the most famous and indeed one of the best-publicized deep-dish restaurants in Chicago is Giordano’s. They live up to their fame with their quintessential deep dish pizzas and ridiculously varied toppings options. Like the other restaurants listed, there are plenty of other things on the menu, from sandwiches to salads, so you won’t have to worry about taking along family members who aren’t keen on pizza. Although, there’s nothing quite like watching the mozzarella trying to cling to its pie as a slice is being lifted away.

Gino’s East

Gino’s is another Chicago landmark pizzeria. You can find locations all over the place, including in other states. This pizza is excellent, and the toppings are so thick that a single slice might be sufficient. Gino’s is particularly popular for the kids, as graffiti on the wall is allowed—that is, to write about how your visit went.

Pizano’s Pizza and Pasta

A lesser-known restaurant with one location along State Street might interest you more, and this one for good reason. They make a quality pizza for a good price. Pizano’s is an up-and-coming pizza restaurant that, for those not taken by pizza, can go for pasta!

Mangia Roma

Located on Halsted Avenue, Mangia Roma is an Italian restaurant that serves up all of that country’s typical dishes. The deep-dish pizza is excellent, and you should find the courage to tackle it. If you can’t however, this place also offers thin-crust, just don’t let anyone see you!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Getting dizzy in Sirince/Turkey

I just love to ride the Turkish minibuses called dolmus and to find great hotel deals on They depart when they are full, stop when you call out to the driver and cost very little. When I was visiting Selcuk near Epesus I happened to see a dolums which was just about to depart. Destination: Sirinci.On the spur of the moment I decided to go and have a look at this picturesque mountain village. I knew, that the place was famous for its wood carvings and for wine making as well as for the stone houses climbing up steep mountain sides and a tiny bazaar. More than enough to warrant a visit.

My first opportunity to get slightly dizzy happened already on the way there. The ride from Selcuk is only about 10 miles, but boy, what miles. Hairpin bent after hairpin bent with a deep ravine on one side and steep cliffs on the other. One wrong movement by the driver and you go either over the edge or crash into the rocks. None of which was a very enticing prospect, but I’m sure the driver knew his way with his eyes closed because he got us all there without incident. Still, I was happy to get off and catch my breath. Which was indeed needed, because the cobbled streets climb up so steeply that I sometimes wondered how the stone houses kept to the mountain side as if glued on. But they did and they were really lovely to look at. And there they were, tiny winery after tiny winery, with bottles of fruit wine displayed on wood carved racks and the owners sitting beside them inviting visitors inside for tastings. You do so at your own peril because the wine may taste sweet but it certainly has its effect.

Prudently I stopped after one tasting, not particularly liking the sweetness anyway, but the whole atmosphere is like out of a movie. I much preferred to wander the tiny bazaar which offered the usual Turkish artifacts but also some very pretty local wood carvings. The artists whittle away in front of their stalls and you can watch how a face emerges out of a piece of wood. Fascinating to look at. Even more pleasant is that the mountain folk do not believe in the usual verbal assault which so often mar a bazaar visit in Turkey. They will smile at you, perhaps make an inviting gesture with their hand pointing at their wares and that is that. You can browse at your leisure and I found some excellent olive oil soap and smooth body lotion.

The ride back was even more hair raising and for a few moments I wished I had tasted a bit more of the wine, but apart from a cramp in my clenched fists, I returned to Selcuk unharmed and one travel experience richer.

Monday, June 18, 2012

3 Tips for Single Woman Travelers

Below you'll find a series of 5 tips to help make your travels as a single women less stressful, more fun, and all around safer.  Careful preparation and planning can ensure you don't have to worry about any issues while out on the road, and these tips will help you along the way!

Take Care of the Important Documents!
You'll need everything from flight info, to passports, to travel insurance emergency numbers, and storing all of these things can sometimes become a mess.  I recommend buying a comfortable safebelt product with waterproof pouches for you to keep all your necessary documents.

Additionally, be sure to make copies of everything and store them separately somewhere else in your belongings, like in a second bag or main bag. Finally, for some extra precaution, email the scanned docs to yourself to you will have access to them online at anytime!

Keep In Touch!
Keeping in touch with family and friends on the road is essential, not only to you, but to them as well. Chances are you'll be returning one day, and keeping these relationships alive will make that return that much easier.  There are a number of cheap international calling services that allow you to make free calls at any time to your family and friends, and these can help make your trip that much easier.

Bring a Notepad and a Phrasebook!
The Phrasebook might be a given. If you are going to a foreign country and don't speak the language, you will probably need some simple phrases to get around on your day to day adventures.  A phrase book is one of the cheapest solutions to this problem! Additionally, although many backpackers will speak English, this is not always the case, so sometimes a phrasebook can come in handy with other travelers as well!

The notepad might be a little less obvious, but all I'll say here, is that you will need this one, so bring it! You'll be amazed at the end of your trip how many times you needed to quickly write something down.

In Conclusion...
Obviously there are a million and one other tips out there for staying safe while traveling, but these three are a great start and will help you get your planning underway!  Happy Travels!