WIN and Enjoy Most Thrilling Rides at Universal Studios Florida

WIN and Enjoy Most Thrilling Rides at Universal Studios Florida

When it comes to top rides that can make your adrenalin rush to new heights, it is one other than the thrilling rides at Universal Studios Florida. Even the most hardened thrill seekers will find themselves a tad challenged when they go for those rides.

Just let the Ocean-Florida team help you plan out your holiday and educate you on the best rides as well as land you with some fantastic deals. Thus, you not only make some neat savings but can pick on the most thrilling rides based on your preferences.  Top favorites include The Incredible Hulk, Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit, Revenge of the Mummy, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, Transformers: The Ride 3D and much more. You can count on Universal In Orlando  team for 24-hour services for any of your holidaying needs.

Stand a chance to win TWO tickets to Universal theme park Florida by entering this worldwide giveaway here –

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History of Santorini and why should have it on your bucket list

Santorini greece

History of Santorini and why should have it on your bucket list

Santorini is a Greek island located in the southern Aegean Sea. It is around 200 km away from mainland Greece. Santorini is a part of the 220 islands which form the Cyclades, a name given to the group of islands in the Aegean Sea. In the past, Santorini has gone through phases of development and destruction. The island has transformed from the Minoan Akrotiri (Santorini as the homeland of culture), the Bronze Age (Thera volcanic eruption in Santorini), the Ancient Period (the time of Greek takeover), Medieval and Ottoman period, World War II to the Santorini as it is today. Even though the island was one whole called Thera during the 17th century BC, today the Santorini is made up of a group of smaller islands including Kameni Islands, Aspronisi, Therasia and Thera.

Santorini greece

The island has a long history of excavation and discovery, so it is of great importance to archaeologists and geologists who are interested in historical artefacts and land formation. Santorini’s rich history has allowed it to open a number of museums and excavation sites to tourists. These sites include Akrotiri Archaeological Site, Museum of Prehistoric Thera, Archaeological Museum Fira and the Akrotiri Archaeological Excavation Site. If you are a history lover hungry to learn about the land and people around the world, Santorini must make it to your bucket list!

Santorini greece

While Santorini attracts history lovers from all over the world, its scenic beauty also helps it boost its tourism. Whether it is Venice in Italy, Honolulu in Hawai, the Maldives or Santorini in Greece, there is one thing common in all of these places, their association with romance. Santorini is not just famous as a romantic destination but has also increased the interest of tourists towards it by being voted one of the world’s most beautiful islands by 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards. The site has spectacular views of nature which offer peace and calm hence making it perfect for romantic getaways. While some of the spots on the island are busy and can be crowded such as the Red beach and the Kamari beach, there are beaches such as the Kolumbo beach which are more secluded and will allow you the comfort of some privacy with your loved one. Adding a cherry on top, it might be a good idea to enrich your experience of the island even further by renting a villa at a private beach to enjoy more exclusivity and tranquillity.

The gorgeous views of the sea and the sunset from a villa located on the seaside will help you make your honeymoon extra special. The chef, butler, private transfers and beauty and health services at your villa will not only make you feel extra special but will also give you the opportunity to sit back and relax. You may book for Santorini villas for rent including all these services on websites such as Loyal Villas Luxury.

Santorini greece

The multitude of options you have as ‘places to visit’ in Santorini makes it suitable for all types of visitors. The natural beauty, gorgeous beaches and the breathtaking sunsets can be enjoyed by not just couples but also families and individuals alike. Having activities such as hiking, boat trips and water sports such as scuba diving, the place must be a must visit on every traveller’s bucket list!


4 Medieval Cities to Visit in Romania

4 Medieval Cities to Visit in Romania

Romania, this lesser known Eastern European destination, had a tumultuous and fascinating history in the Middle Ages. Being at the intersection between Eastern empires and Western powers, there were many twists and turns, invasions and military campaigns taking place in our country. The Carpathian Mountains form an arc that offers natural protection for the famous region of Transylvania, considered the last bastion of defence against the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire’s expansion from South-Eastern Europe.

Many citadels were built in this area to protect the population against foreign invaders and settlements were fortified with defence walls and towers. Important trade routes were established between them and Saxon (German) settlers colonised the area during the 15th century bringing a new level of craftsmanship and engineering skills. This explains why many of these settlements have withstood the test of time and are now famous historical attractions.

There are 4 cities in Transylvania with a very well preserved medieval feeling that you should visit on a tour in Romania. With street planning designed for defence and fortified walls, bastions and towers for extra protection, there is much to learn here about our country’s history. You will be walking on cobbled streets filled with colourful houses before emerging into large open squares. Get ready for a trip back in time!

4 medieval cities - Bistrita

Sighisoara Citadel – #1 on the list

Romania’s best preserved historic gem, Sighisoara undoubtedly deserves the first spot. It is one of the few citadel-cities still inhabited in Europe and its streets are a genuine monument that preserve the history of our country from medieval times. This is why it has been included in the UNESCO heritage list.

Getting lost on its cobbled streets will surely make you feel like you’re in different times. You will admire buildings with a unique architecture and wonder how they lasted for so long. A particular attraction is the 64 metre-high Clock-Tower built in the 14th century to defend the main gate of the citadel but the colourful merchant houses will capture your eyes too!

sighisoara

Sibiu – the cultural jewel of Romania

Sibiu is one of the most picturesque cities in Romania which enjoyed a prosperous and relatively unscathed history. With heavy German influences, the city has always been a cultural cradle in Transylvania and nowadays it is booming with events and lively crowds. Sibiu is 800 years old and used to be a military fortress with an important role in the history of our country, located strategically at a crossing point across the Carpathians into Wallachia.

The city has plenty of legends and stories. Each townhouse belonged to various merchant guilds and businessmen that continuously upgraded and transformed them into the imposing constructions that you can admire today. On your visit you shouldn’t miss attractions such as The Council Tower, Evangelical Church, Bridge of Lies, Brukenthal Palace, Stairs Passage and, of course, the walls of Sibiu citadel. But don’t be afraid to start wondering on your own and discover less crowded streets – you’ll be surprised of the many hidden gems and spots Sibiu offers!

Besides the usual sightseeing, there are many festivals and events taking place all year long. Gastronomy, jazz, medieval or theatre – there’s something for everyone! And in 2019 the entire region of Sibiu has been declared European Gastronomic Capital to celebrate traditional Transylvanian cuisine, a combination between Romanian and German dishes.

Sibiu

Brasov – charmingly medieval

Nestled between mountains, Brasov is probably the most famous city in Romania after the capital Bucharest. Starting from the 13th century the city quickly became an important trading centre for routes leading into the Balkans and further East into Asia. Many merchants and craftsmen lived here and the rich, imposing townhouses in the Old Town area are evidence of that. The best way to discover them is, of course, by getting lost on any narrow street – including Rope Street, said to be Europe’s narrowest!

The city has a very strong medieval air to it. An important attraction in Brasov is the massive Black Church, probably the most famous gothic monument in Romania dating back from late 14th century. There are plenty of medieval sights to visit here: towers, bastions and defensive gates, all part of Brasov’s elaborate defences.

There are many other things to do in Brasov: the famous Bran Castle aka Dracula’s home is Romania’s #1 tourist attraction, so it needs no further introduction. Rasnov Citadel perched up on a hill and overlooking the plains of Transylvania should not be missed either. Nature lovers can explore Piatra Craiului Natural Park or go on a bear watching tour!

Brasov

Bistrita – Romania’s medieval hidden gem!

Bistrita is one of the oldest cities in the region of Transylvania and – unfairly – less known for its medieval history and sights. First documented in the 12th century, the city of Bistrita used to be a well-developed commercial hub due to its close proximity to many natural resources. In its prime time in history, Bistrita had a complex set of fortifications formed of 2 circular walls protecting the city, 18 defence towers and a military bastion –more than any of the other medieval cities in this list!

While not much of these fortifications have survived, medieval sights such as Turnul Dogarilor and the Evanghelical Church should not be missed.  And walking the city’s streets will reveal beautiful houses with unique architectural elements and decorations such as Peterman House, Ion Zidaru House or Silvermen’s House, all built during the 15 or 16th century.

Marius Iliescu is the founder of Romanian Friend – a local initiative promoting handpicked tours with the best local guides so travellers can discover the authentic beauty of Romania while supporting responsible tourism. Plan your trip with help from a Romanian Friend and follow us on Facebook or Instagram to see what you can visit!


driving in canada

Holiday Tips in Canada – How to Stay Safe on the Highways

Holiday Tips in Canada – How to Stay Safe on the Highways

There is a lot of activity on Canadian roads during the holiday seasons. People are moving from different cities and towns to visit friends and families in other cities and towns. The holiday is a time to stay safe so that you can have great moments with your family. This is why it is imperative to be very careful when on the road since the last thing you want is to get involved in an accident that may derail your holiday plan.

Whether you are a Canadian or a resident on a Canada ETA visa, it is your responsibility to stay safe on the road and also to ensure the safety of other road users. With that said, here is a look at some holiday driving tips you will find to be extremely valuable during this time of the years:

Ensure your car is ready

It is imperative to have a car in good condition for your holiday drives. This is a time of the year when the temperatures are very low and the car’s performance may be affected in a number of ways. This why you should do a thorough check of the car’s systems and ensure that everything is working just fine. Some of the things you will be looking at include the fluid levels.

In particular, ensure that the levels of coolants, brake fluids, windshield washer fluid, auto transmission fluid and the power steering fluids are all in good levels before you embark on any trip. You might find some of the levels are okay, but it won’t hurt to fill up everything. Sometimes it is good to be paranoid and avoid being sorry in the future.

road trip canada

Plan for the unknown

There is a cliché that you should hope for the worst and plan for the best. This saying has never been more relevant when you are planning for a trip on the Canadian roads during the holidays. One of the things you must have in your car is a winter survival kit. The Canadian winter can sometimes get out of hand and if you didn’t prepare for it adequately, you can get stranded by the roadside or hours waiting for help to come. Inside the winter survival kit, you should have essentials such as warm clothes, a shovel, ice scraper, energy bars and sand or salt, a car jack, jumper cable, and a cell phone charger.

You should also not forget to check that you have a spare tire in good condition. The last thing you would wish for is to have a flat tire only to check and see that you don’t have a spare tire. This is how to welcome a busload of frustrations on the roads while you drive during the holidays.

canada drive

Have an idea of how to get help

Should you run into any troubles on the road when you are driving during the holidays, you will be in great luck if you know how to get help. In most cases, this calls for you to have the number of a roadside assistance service whom you can call for urgent rescue should things go wrong with your car. It is, however, very sad that most drivers in Canada don’t have such contacts, and they only realize their importance when they are stuck in the snow in winter. Take note that many of that roadside assistance are usually offered through auto insurance companies. Before you hit the road, just be sure that you have a number you can always call for help if you encounter any problems in the road.

Be a smart driver

It is a fact that all accidents caused on the roads are always a result of a negligent driver. You must strive at all times not to be this negligent driver and you must be smart enough to know how not to become a victim of such drivers. All you have to do is be very careful on the road, observing all the road signs and keeping your distance with the cars ahead. You should also learn to drive smoothly at speeds you can easily control the car in case of a skid.

Winter changes a lot the conditions of the road and if you are a careless driver, you may have higher chances of crushing the car if you drive at high speeds and you lose control. And finally, don’t forget to use your common sense when driving. Avoid all the petty mistakes that might make you put yourself or other road users in trouble.

safe driving canada

Be careful when visiting malls

The holiday season turn mall parking lot into some of the most dangerous places as far as holiday driving is concerned. Since there is a lot going on, there is a lot of distracted drivers, struggles to get into free spaces and sometimes it is very chaotic to drive in and out of such places. What you ought to do is be extra careful and avoid the distraction or anything that might make you lose your concentration and risk your life as well as those of other road users.

Learn how to break on snowy conditions

You should know exactly how you must drive in a snowy condition. For example, how you lower the speed of the car or bring the car into a total stop is very important when you are driving on a snowy surface. In such conditions, it is recommended that you should first reduce the car’s speed to half, then pedal off the metal and brake gently and carefully. Don’t try sudden breaks, but instead, light pump the breaks as you would normally do under rainy conditions.

Never let your car run low on gas

This is the worst nightmare you can ever face when driving during the holiday season. Even if you were certain about your car’s consumption, you should never let the gas level indicator light up when driving under such conditions. It is recommended that for winter driving, your gas tank should be at least half tank full at all times.

driving to canada mall


Rajasthan – The Memorable Experience Of Culture And Heritage!

Rajasthan – The Memorable Experience Of Culture And Heritage!

Rajasthan is a desert state located in the northern part of India bordering Pakistan. The state was ruled majorly by Rajputana, and their culture and tradition are still reflected in every nook and
corner. There are lots of palaces, forts, and museums offering the perfect flavours of Rajputs and Mughals. There are many popular cities in the state, each offering many attractions for the tourists. For instance, Jaipur or the pink city has Amer Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Mantar, and City Palace. Jodhpur has Umaid Bhawan Palace, Mehrangarh Fort, and Ghanta Ghar. Similarly, there are bountiful of places to see in every city of Rajasthan where tourists can explore the
architecture and experience the culture.

amer-fort

Why visit Rajasthan?

There are plenty of reasons explaining why one should visit ajasthan. Some people like to understand the traditions of the old state while others like to try out the lip-smacking Rajasthani cuisine! Some of the reasons are explained below.

1. Rajasthan’s art and culture

The state is well-known for its prestigious history, from where comes the customs and culture. Atithi Devo Bhava or respective the guests like God is one of the most important aspects of Rajasthan’s culture. Visit any part of the place, and you will be honoured in the most special way! The unique, rich, and colourful culture can be seen in their traditional art form as well. Rajasthan is a land of artists as well. Their handcrafted items such as colour art, stones work, and textiles are popular all around the world. For instance, the dye prints of the state named as Bagaru prints and Sanganer prints are quite famous. In addition to this, Jaipur’s blue pottery is another interesting handicraft from this place. Rajasthani carpentry also incorporates attention to detail work, art carvings, and bright colours too.

2.Rajasthan food

he food describes many aspects of the state. Rajasthan has a unique cuisine to offer which is a right blend of flavors, rich spices, and aditional cooking techniques. Besides spicy dishes, there are many sweet recipes originated in the state. For instance, gheriya and ghewar are delicious desserts that were born here only. When it comes to vegetarian items, dal baati churma, kachori, ker sangria, gatte ki sabzi, rajasthani pulao, and methi bajra puri are some of the most loved dishes.

ghewar

Some of the non-vegetarian recipes of Rajasthan are laal maas, mohan maas, mutton banjara, aloo ghosht, and bhuna kukda. Every tourist, irrespective of the taste, can have a great time munching on the authentic sweet and spicy recipes in the state.

  1. Rajasthan festival

Every Indian festival is celebrated in Rajasthan with much pomp and show. Some of the popular religious festivals rejoiced here are Janmashtmi, Navratri, Teej, Gangaur, Holi, Diwali, and Makar Sankranti. Besides the religious festivals, there are many fairs and exhibitions held here too. For instance, Pushkar festival is organized every year and participants from all around the world enjoy unique traditions of Rajasthan. Camel dance and camel race is another interesting festival organized and celebrated with high spirits in Rajasthan.

The locals perform folk songs and folk dances in every colourful festival and spread the Rajasthani culture. Some well-celebrated festivals of the state are Brij Holi, Mewar festival, kite festival, Nagaur fair, summer festive and winter festive, Pushkar festival, and Teej festival.

  1. Rajasthan historical places

As already mentioned, Rajasthan has a prominent past. There are dozens of palaces and forts in every city in the state. Some of the popular ones are mentioned below.

  • Jodhpur or the blue city – Khejarla fort, Mehrangarh Fort, and Umaid Bhawan Palace are housed in the city. There are many ancient temples as well to visit in this Gateway to Thar.
  • Nawalgarh – Also called as the golden city of Rajasthan, some of the best places to check out are the Poddar Haveli, Morarka Haveli, and Sheesh Mahal.
  • Chittorgarh – Known as the pride of the state, some places that should not be missed out here are Vijay Stambh, Chittorgarh Fort, and Gau Mukh Kund.
  • Bundi: This is the princely city of the state is famous for Badal Mahal, Moti Mahal, and Taragarh Fort.
  • Jhunjhunu: It is one of the ancient areas of the state and the popular and historical places to visit are Rani Sati temple, Khetri palace and other havelis.
  • Ajmer: Some exclusive historical sites to check out in Ajmer include Nareli Jain temple, Adhai Din ka Jhopra, and Ajmeri Sharif.

umaid-bhawan-palace

How to travel to Rajasthan?

The land of Rajputs is well-connected to all the major villages, towns, and cities of the country. There are cheap flights, luxurious flights, all classes of train travel, and even buses that can transport you to Rajasthan in a convenient and hassle-free way. Make sure to make your reservations in advance as the cost of flights increases in a quick span of time.

Majority of the travelers and tourists choose flights as their travel mode because it saves a lot of time in the journey. There are many online portals which make the job of booking easy. Also, you can get excellent discounts during festivals and special occasions.

Where to stay in Rajasthan?

There is no dearth of accommodation places in Rajasthan. From luxury palaces and hotels to economic or budget accommodations, you can find all. Based on your requirements and financial considerations, you can plan accordingly and make the bookings.

If you are looking for a lavish stay, then palaces can be the best accommodations. Nevertheless, there are three star and four-star hotels and resorts all over Rajasthan offering the best experience and stay to the guests. Irrespective of what you choose, good hospitality is guaranteed.

You can pick up online portals to book your stay in advance as well. It is easy, quick, and offers no interruptions. Check for coupon codes while you are booking your accommodations as you can be rewarded with exclusive discounts as well. Have a wonderful experience of traditions and culture!

 


Top 5 Experiences for a Myanmar Luxury Holiday

Top 5 Experiences  for a Myanmar Luxury Holiday

Myanmar is beguiling destination which offers great inspiration to celebrate your holiday in Asia. From sundrenched tropical paradises in the south to the mysterious Himalayan mountain in the north, this beautiful country has so much to seduce its visitors. To start planning your luxury holiday to Myanmar, these characterful

Soak Up the Chaos of Yangon

Yangon is a perfect introduction of Myanmar`s culture: lively and vibrant. The city is dominated by shimmering Shwedagon pagoda, notable British Colonial Architects, exotic India town, appetizing China street foods.
To define your luxury days in Yangon, make a visit to the mentioned attractions, immerse in an exciting cooking class and immerse in the comfortable Strand Hotel which reflects the rich history of Yangon.

Northern River Journey

There are ways to appreciate the uniqueness of Myanmar. Taking a river cruise is probably the most intrigue option.
A long journey from Yangon to Mandalay which takes about 10 days highlights your experience by highly personalized on-board services, interesting shore excursions. It is not mentioned that you will have chance to view the only Unesco Heritage site in Myanmar – The Pyu ancient city which is not accessible by road.

bagan

Enjoy Bagan`s bird eye view

Bagan is simply sublime. This holy plain is famous for its varied landscapes formed by 2,500 pagodas remain from 11th century. It is the most photographed site in Asia.
The best way to appreciate Bagan is to embark on a Balloon, searching for photogenic chances. You will capture the gorgeous sunrises with bird eye panorama, floating on the air over the temple`s spire before sipping extravagant champagne.

Explore the Remote Mergui Archipelago

If you fancy to get closer to treasure of Andaman Sea then Mergui Archipelago is a place to start. You can expect much more than just beautifully sequestered beaches:  incredible diving sites, picture-perfect fishing villages, hidden inland waterfalls, lush mangrove forests and fabulous coral reefs.

Sailing Inle Lake

Inle Lake boasts undeniable romance. It is home to rustic stilt villages, green floating gardens and fascinating local markets.
One of the hand-picked experience you should soak up in Inle is to enjoy a private boat, winding through its less-visited waterways. It allows you to photograph not only the dramatic nature of Shan State but also seeing the local life your own ways.

inle lake

Dat Taw Gyaint Mountain Treat

Imagine you wake up in a private cottage over looking one of the most cascading waterfalls in north Myanmar. Dat Taw Gyaint is such a secret resort for your luxury treat.
Activities guests particularly relish includes trekking to hill tribe villages, visit coffee farm or adventure to the hill station of Pyin Oo Lwin, one the best summer escapes in Myanmar.
For a thrilling adventure designed to meet up your travel taste, Authentic Asia is a reliable local based agency to work with. You can contact them for a tairlor made tour or simply browse their Myanmar Tour Packages for further reference.

Find your own beach in Ngwe Saung

Known as the Silver Beach, Ngwe Saung is the premier choice for those who seek for intimate moments for couples or family.
Most of Myanmar Travel Experts recommend this beach for its gentle waves, world class resorts and importantly, it is not touristic. It is easy to pick a luxury resort where you can privatize your own piece of sandy beach.
It does not mean Ngwe Saung is lack of activities to make your days occupied. Whether you are keen on water sports or cultural exploration, Ngwe Saung has them all.


trip of a lifetime

4 once-in-a-lifetime trips everyone should take

4 once-in-a-lifetime trips everyone should take

 Everyone has a travel bucket list. We all have an idea of the places we want to visit in our lifetime – but some experiences are ones that are truly once-in-a-lifetime. Here are four of them to consider.

A safari in Africa

There’s something really magical about getting in touch with nature. And a safari is perhaps one of the best ways to do it – escaping to the African wilderness to observe a wide variety of beautiful, majestic animals in their natural habitat is something everyone should do at least once in their lifetime.

Head to Tanzania to experience the sprawling Serengeti, where you’ll be able to see the ‘Big Five’ – lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo and rhinos all call this national park home, and you’ll be able to witness them for yourself. It’s also the location of the famed Great Migration, the annual event where millions of wildebeest cross the Serengeti into Kenya’s Maasai Mara in search of food. The event is just one incredible feat of nature you’ll be able to witness during an African safari.

safari

A road trip throughout the USA

You’ve likely heard of people road tripping Route 66, known as the Mother Road or the Main Street of America. Spanning seven states from Illinois to California, the near-2,500 mile-long stretch is perhaps the most desired road trip route in the entire world. So why not try and conquer it yourself?

Route 66 isn’t the only reputable route in the USA, though. Depending on where you want to travel to, you could try Route 1, the Californian road that hugs the coastline for its 745 mile-long duration; the Florida Keys, where the 150-mile US 1 route takes you from Miami to Key West along the Seven Mile Bridge; or Route 20, the longest road in the country which crosses the incredible Yellowstone National Park. However you want to see America, hitting the road is arguably the best way to do it.

 

usa road trip

An escape to the Azores

 The Azores are undoubtedly one of the most underrated destinations in the world, but you simply need to discover them. An archipelago situated in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are perhaps the closest thing to heaven on Earth – luscious, sprawling forests, green lakes and beautiful hidden beaches and shorelines make for a diverse and exciting getaway.

And whether you want to simply relax and get away from the bustle of home life, or if you’re seeking thrills, the Azores can cater to both. For the latter, opportunities such as diving, hiking, mountain climbing and water sports are plentiful throughout the archipelago. It’s safe to say the Azores are absolutely one of Europe’s hidden treasures.

must trips

A walk along the Great Wall of China

Although walking along the entire Great Wall of China would take a staggering 18 months on average, it’s absolutely possible to conquer big chunks of it during a trip. Different trekking adventures and hiking opportunities are available at different points of the wall, with hostels often acting as the main source of accommodation.

Best of all, walking the Great Wall will give you an insight into China’s profound history whilst also allowing you to see parts of the country you may not have visited otherwise.

great wall of china


7 things in don det

7 Things to do in Don Det

7 Things to do in Don Det

Don Det is one amongst the most visited islands in the southern area of Laos, bordering Cambodia. Although reaching it is not easy, the peace and rural environment that you will find there certainly compensates for the difficulties of the road. As soon as you arrive at the town of Ban Nakasang, full of shops, ramshackle bars, and shabby travel agencies, you have to go to the pier to be taken by boat (1 dollar) to don det island.

Don Det is a perfect blend of beauty and adventure. It offers a range of activities, as well as very impressive landscapes. The entire environment is cool, fun, friendly and has a permanent party atmosphere. As a result, 7 things to do in don det include:

explore don det

Tour the island on a bicycle

In the island of Don Det, there are hardly any motor vehicles which is appreciated, and much so the absence of motorized noise makes this place even more special. Therefore, renting a bicycle for a dollar a day and touring the island at your leisure is the best way to feel the rural atmosphere. Also, do not forget to bring a raincoat, mosquito repellent and water for the road.

See the Irrawaddy dolphins

One of the attractions and reason why many people come to Don Det is to see the Irrawaddy dolphin, a curious dolphin in danger of extinction (there are less than a hundred in the Mekong) that usually live in coastal areas near rivers. To see them there are morning tours that can be hired on the island and the best time to observe them is the dry season, from December to May.

things to do in don det

Visit the  Railroad route

If you like hiking in palm sugar, you have a 5-kilometer route that runs through the old train tracks that the French set up here: lots of vegetation, rice fields, water oxen and small villages. But beware that the humidity and heat usually make it difficult to venture for 3 or 4 hours on foot!

Experience how palm sugar is produced

If you want to see how palm sugar is produced, this process is very famous in the area, as you have to go to the village of Ban Hinsiew, on the island of palm sugar.

Visit the waterfalls Li Phi (the trapped spirit)

The waterfalls of Li Phi in Don Det is not the most visited, but it is highly recommended to see since its proximity makes it very accessible. It’s as easy as renting a bike and taking a walk to the west island of Don Det, where they are located. There are seasons of the year that the flow drops violently, but in the dry season, there is a small beach equipped for bathing although the locals never bathe as they believe they would be entrapped by the evil spirits when they bathe in the river.

what to do in don det

Explore the Don Det Bars

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to eating in Don Det; as there are many restaurants that tickle all the fantasies. There are traditional and simple dishes from Laos, as well as Western and Indian cuisines. More or less, everywhere offers delicious and refreshing fruit, and you might even find fresh coffees from the Bolaven Plateau.

Some of the bars and restaurants further offer great views of the river, but if that’s not enough and you’re not prone to motion sickness, you can always try a floating restaurant!

Enjoy the waterfalls of Khone phapheng

On the island of Don Det and with almost 10 kilometers in length are the Khone phapheng waterfalls. They are also the longest in Southeast Asia and an excellent attraction to visit within a few hours. To go to see them, you have to go by boat since they are on a little-traveled island. And a warning: do not even think about bathing because it is totally forbidden because the flow and strength of the water is such that it makes it one of the most violent waterfalls in Southeast Asia.

bars in don det

In conclusion, although Don Det remains a destination off the beaten path of Laos, it has gained popularity through the range of fun activities and great attractions it has to offer as highlighted above.


Killing fields of Cambodia

The Horrors of the Choeung Ek Killing Fields

The Horrors of the Choeung Ek Killing Fields

One of the most touching tours of my trip through Southeast Asia was the Choeung Ek killing fields of Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. An emotional experience I must confess, as I had no idea about what happened until I visited.

One way to learn about Cambodia’s recent past and to prevent such acts of cruelty from being repeated is to visit this site of extreme horror. “Be quiet please” indicates the plaque at the entrance to the Choeung Ek killing fields, an extensive and well-tended lawn signalled with wooden slabs and a memorial whose roof reflects the style of the local temples.  The weather here is sad and heavy, but more horrible are the stories I heard next, told by the soft voice of an audio guide distributed at the entrance of the enclosure.

Apprehensive of what I would see next, I pressed the play button and remained sober throughout the narration of a little more than four hours on the stories of that place.

Before continuing with the descriptions of the tour, I think it’s respectful to share some paragraphs with you about the Cambodian revolution and what it felt like learning about the killing fields for the first time and how.

Killing fields of Cambodia
Killing fields of Cambodia
Killing fields of Cambodia

A bit of context

The Cambodian revolution began on April 17, 1975, with the evacuation of more than 2 million people from Phnom Pehn. The capital was deserted, and families were randomly divided and sent to the forced labour camps to plant rice fields and dig irrigation channel; the goal was to make Cambodia a 100% agrarian society and to double rice production overnight, something that never happened.

As young men were trained to join the militia, older men, women, and children from the age of 6 were forced to work about 18 hours a day and were given small portions of food in exchange for forced labour. The pace imposed on the peasants was so hard that thousands of Cambodians suffered the hardest of deaths: hunger.

All Western consumer goods were destroyed, money was abolished, and all real estate belonged to the state. Then Pol Pot, the leader of the movement began arresting and murdering all citizens who possessed any education: doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc. were arrested and killed along with all family members to avoid any future rematch. Most of the murders occurred in the Phnom Phen concentration camps.

The death toll of the Cambodian regime is unknown, an estimated 1.7 to 2 million people (~ 25% of the population at the time) had been executed in one of the most cruel regimes in history.

Graves from the killing fields

The visit to the extermination camps

The Killing Fields has only two buildings: a memorial to the victims of the genocide and a small museum with objects of the time. The climate is heavy and zero friendly, but rather reflects the harsh history that Cambodia has survived.

The audio guide

Right at the entrance visitors receive the audio guide and push the play button to plunge into the world of barbarities of an extremist regime that had existed. There are 18 different parades demarcated by wooden plaques that tell a little of what existed on the site during the times of the Khmer Rouge.

The first stop of the day is where the truck full of tied and bandaged prisoners would leave them. One by one, the prisoners were taken away by the “Khmer soldiers” and to save the bullets – something expensive at the time – were murdered in brutal ways like stonework on the head, hanging, cutting of throats were also done with the help of a local plant, or blows of hammer or of bamboo poles. Pretty brutal and even a little surreal.

Stories of survivors

Item 12 of the audio guide has 9 different stories, sad stories that will help you understand a little of what went on in Cambodia during those dark years. To hear the stories, I took a walk around the lake, but nothing helped ease the sadness and the agony.

Common troughs full of bones

Back on the walk, we were led through the poorly dug holes of the mass graves that housed hundreds of bodies (many of the large parts of these bodies were excavated and are now displayed in the memorial).

Some of the holes were demarcated and surrounded with bamboo racks. These ditches have plaques indicating the number of buried bodies, one of which has hundreds of headless bodies, another has bare bodies … and all have been decorated with coloured bracelets, a solemn tribute to those buried there.

Unfortunately, not all bodies had the chance to go to the memorial or earn a demarcated grave. During the journey you will see dozens of little bones that are still under the earth, wanting to gradually get out.

cambodias past

A tree as the stage of assassinations

Beside one of the pits is a large, beautiful tree, which is until you hear it conceals a terrible story. This tree served as support for hurling infants and young children to death. The Khmer Rouge believed that the best way to avoid future revenge was to murder the whole family, so little children and infants were not spared from extermination. On hearing this, my heart became small, aching and even now I struggle to understand how anyone could do such a cruel thing. What a tremendous ordeal.

Boxes with the clothes & bones of victims

On the visit, you’ll see the boxes full clothes from the dead, and boxes with bones. A sad and tense atmosphere, accompanied by the terrible explanations of the audio guide.

The magic tree

To relieve the noises of this brutality and not to frighten even the bandaged prisoners who were lined up to be killed afterwards, a loud volume box played an incessant musical melody. The magic of the tree was to camouflage the sad noises of brutal extermination.

The museum of the killing fields

The museum of the killing fields is quite small, but it has interesting things like photos of the movement’s leaders, uniforms used by the Khmer Rouge and the most common weapons used to assassinate the prisoners. The museum also has a small cinema that from time to time displays a film about Cambodia and the killing fields.

cambodia past

Memorial of genocide

And finally, we arrived at the commemorative stupa, built to preserve the memory of the victims of the extermination. A building whose roof refers to the temples of Cambodia.

The memorial contains hundreds of bones (skulls are catalogued by type of death) and clothing of some victims protected by thick plates of glass. This memorial is the end point of the visit and the beginning of a reflection in my heart on how to prevent such genocides from happening in other parts of the world.

In conclusion, not everything we see on our trips is nice. In Cambodia, a must-visit is the killing fields in Phnom Penh. As highlighted above, this site has its share of horror to tell and is also termed as one of the cruellest places in the country’s history

killing fields

Please take a minute to say a prayer for those that were taken and those left behind that had to witness this ordeal.

There is also a film that I would like you to go and watch ”First They Killed My Father”


Thailand guide

Hospitality - The Thai version

Welcome to Thailand

Hospitality – The Thai version

Having grown to become one of the world’s leading tourist magnets, Thailand has been able to attract a significant number of people from all over the world, all year-long into its beautiful terrestrial by creating social policies which consolidates its economic development. Often called the land of smiles, Thai’s are known to be some of the most hospitable and welcoming people in the world.

Thailand certainly can’t be described as an underdeveloped country, in fact, it is said to be a newly developed country being the 8th largest economy in Asia and the 2nd largest in South Eastern Asia. Its economy is largely dependent on the export of agriculture industry. The industrial sector makes up 39.2% of the annual GDP while services account for 52.4%.

This shows why tourism has become a vital contributing factor to the country’s economic growth. The International Money Fund (IMF) published a 3.9% GDP growth rate in 2017 and 4.2% in 2018. The economy has been rapidly growing with its current GDP at $601.4.

Taking into consideration the rich cultural heritage, breath-taking temples, paradisiacal sandy beaches, street foods and an exquisite nightlife, Thailand has made improvements to the wellbeing of its people by making the country a hospitable paradise for visitors.

visit thailand

The Thai problems

Socio-economic crises

The question which follows is if the Thai authorities have been able to fully utilize this economic growth prospect by impacting in the lives of its citizens. Thailand faces serious social crises as a result of the failure of its economic posture.

    • Unemployment. Not creating enough opportunity in the service sector, the Thai government have tried giving room to engage in self-indulging exercises which will generally generate income to themselves.
    • Corruption. One of the biggest problems in Thailand. The authorities have over time successfully usurped government funds which are meant for grass root development and favouring friends, family or relatives as against merited individuals. This has affected the livelihood of the common Thai citizen who has to go the extra mile to fend for themselves.
    • Security. Though Thailand is relatively safe in the urban centre most especially in Bangkok, the same cannot be said for towns on the outskirts
    • Alarm rate of teenage pregnancy. This has become a serious problem in the country. The United Nations Populations Fund in 2013 described the phenomenon as an economically destabilizing factor. The increasing number of births rates from children between the ages of 15 and 19 will, in the long run, put a strain on the nation’s economy.
    • Prostitution. Young girls over time resort to prostitution as a means of livelihood. This is as a result of the unavailability of money to the general populace.

Did you know?

The average Thai lives on a less than 7750 THB per month in Bangkok. This is equivalent to $233.30 USD and is even lesser in the countryside.

thai nightlife

Visiting Thailand?

As a tourist, the effect of the socio-economic crises may come off as good or bad news to you. Whichever it is, you need to know how to adapt to the situation and get the best out of your trip.

Your budget

Thailand is a travel hub; there are different people with diverse spending capacity. You must know which of the categories you fall under. Whatever it may be, Thailand can cater for all.

Street food VS Restaurant

Both street food vendors and restaurants offer sweet Thai delicacies, but of course, with different styles. It all depends on your preference.

The street food can cost between $1- $3 depending on how much food you order, while a restaurant will likely charge you $8 and above.

Places you might want to go

Since Thailand covers for both high end and low-end trips, here are some of the places you might want to visit, irrespective of your budget.

    • The city of Bangkok. Enjoy the Nightlife, the serene environment at day, the food, the temples and friendly faces.
    • The Thai New year. If you plan to visit the between 13th-15th April, make sure not to miss the Songkran water fight. It is an all-new experience: a three-day long water fight.
    • Hike at the Khao Yai National Park. Lush green environment, elephant gazing with a beautiful guest house. What’s not to love?
    • The temples. Chiang Mai is a place filled with a wonderful market and beautiful age long temples which are a great tourist site
    • Visit the Tropical Island.
    • Visit the Sok National Park.
    • Go to Ko Lanta

thailand white temple

Activities

Thailand is not a boring spot, during your trip, there are plenty of activities you can engage in;

    • Jungle trek. Explore Thailand and its beautiful terrestrial.
    • Learn to cook. Interesting right? But Thailand gives you that opportunity to learn its delicacy.
    • Take a night train
    • Scuba Dive
    • Visit the Grand Palace.

What next?

In all, the country is a backpack worthy experience. You can adapt to the socio-economic conditions and simply have a fun, exciting and thrilling trip. Remember, you can travel cheap or expensive. The choice is yours; Thailand still offers the best experience irrespective of its problems.