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Visayas

Philippines, Asia

Within this stunning island group is Borocay Island, home to White Beach, which is considered the best tropical beach in the world...

string(2585) "Within this stunning island group is Borocay Island, home to White Beach, which is considered the best tropical beach in the world. The Visayas is the Philippines’ main island group. Situated to the east of Palawan, and between Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south, there are multitudes of islands in the Visayas, large and small. The province of Cebu, probably the most well-known destination, comprises six of the 11 major islands in the country, and 161 smaller islands. Cebu retains much of its Spanish heritage in its historical and cultural attractions. It also provides an idyllic starting point for island hopping holidays, many within a couple of hours’ drive from downtown. Cebu City is a major gateway to the Visayas and, being the oldest city in the Philippines, it is often referred to as the ‘Queen City of the South’. Cebu’s five main cities are Cebu City, Toledo, Danao, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu (on Mactan Island). Cebu City is home to the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the oldest fort in the country, Fort San Pedro, and the restored 19th century home Casa Gorordo. Mandaue on the coast is the manufacturing centre, with the San Miguel brewery, Coca Cola plant, and a number of other factories from glass to rattan furniture and handicrafts. While in the Visayas it is a must to visit Bohol, the tenth largest island in the Philippines, famous for its Chocolate Hills comprising more than 1000 oval limestone mounds. A cruise down the Loboc River passes through the towns of Loboc, Loay and Bilar, which has a man-made forest that is home to the tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primates. Like Cebu, Bohol has a range of resorts, especially in Panglao, and also boasts dive spots. Iloilo in the western Visayas is an hour from Manila by plane. The city has wide, attractive streets and a number of historical monuments including churches and ancestral houses. The island of Negros, wedged between Cebu and Panay, is divided into two provinces, Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, each with an impressive number of well-maintained historic buildings. The province of Aklan, also in the western Visayas, lays claim to two attractions—the fantastic religious and festive zeal of the Ati- Atihan Festival, the nation’s week-long mardi gras held in January—and Boracay Island. The seven-kilometre long Boracay is widely thought of as the ultimate island in the Philippines. On Boracay is White Beach with fine white sand and clear water. White Beach is considered by many to be the best tropical beach in the world. "
Malaysia

Asia

Geographically divided into two, Malaysia has a peninsula stretching from Thailand to Singapore, and is blessed with enchanting is...

string(8689) "Geographically divided into two, Malaysia has a peninsula stretching from Thailand to Singapore, and is blessed with enchanting islands, beautiful mountains, tropical flora and fauna, as well as modern, thriving metropolises. Capital and major centres Malaysia consists of six major regions with Kuala Lumpur the capital city. Peninsular Malaysia’s central region is made up of the states of Selangor, Negeri Sembilan and Malacca, while the north is occupied by Penang, Perlis, Perak and Kedah. Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang make up the east coast, and in the south is the state of Johor. The states of Sabah and Sarawak are on the northern third of the island of Borneo. Each region has unique qualities in terms of features, local culture, food and historical sites. The people Malaysia is a fascinating mix of ethnicities, ranging from the Malays, Chinese, Indians and indigenous Orang Asli (Original People) of Peninsular Malaysia to the diverse tribal communities of Sabah and Sarawak in East Malaysia. Although the national language is Bahasa Melayu (Malay), English is widely spoken amongst the population of around 31 million. Nature Malaysia has a precious collection of national parks and wildlife reserves, which have been established to protect flora and fauna unique to the region. More than 60 percent of the country is under rainforest cover, home to over 8000 species of flora in Peninsular Malaysia alone, as well as 2000 tree species. The fascinating wildlife in the country includes elephants, rhinoceros, tigers, leopards, tapirs, sun bears, orangutans and gibbons. The designated Permanent Forest Estate covers 3.8 million hectares of virgin jungle, and more than 1.49 million hectares of conservation area. Peninsular Malaysia’s great Taman Negara National Park is one of the world’s oldest tropical rainforests. Taman Negara National Park straddles the borders of Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang, the latter part being the most visited. Endau-Rompin, which covers the boundary between Johor and Pahang, boasts many unique and endemic varieties of plants that were discovered within the centuries-old forest. These include the magnificent fan palm, climbing bamboo and the slender stemmed walking stick palm. Moths and butterflies of every kind, and deer and wild boar can be found in this lowland forest, one of the few remaining in Peninsular Malaysia. On the Borneo side of Malaysia, Gunung Mulu National Park in North Sarawak is one of the state’s most popular sites. It boasts an extensive limestone cave system— including the largest cave chamber in the world, the Sarawak Chamber—and is home to the second highest mountain peak in Sarawak as well as many plants and animal species. Kinabalu Park has the Poring Hot Springs, and Mt Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia. Another cave site, Niah National Park is one of the largest limestone caves in the world. On the wild side, Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary is set in a virgin equatorial rainforest and has rare plants, animals and birds. The sights Kuala Lumpur (KL) delights visitors with its colonial architecture, which still manages to stand out against the shining office towers and multi-lane highways. Further south, waterfront developments are changing the face of Malacca (Melaka), Malaysia’s oldest town. The island of Penang, the oldest British settlement in Malaysia, is one of the country’s top tourist attractions. It is renown for its beach resorts and the historical George Town, noted for its cuisine. Penang Hill offers a spectacular view of the island, and is particularly popular at dusk. Langkawi’s archipelago offers stunning beaches and resorts, as well as myths and legends. There are also many spectacular mainland beaches such as Cherating in Pahang, where you can watch for turtles. Over on the east in Sabah, Mt Kinabalu, the Turtle Islands, Sipadan and the national parks are the main attractions. Sarawak’s capital city is ideal for travellers, with landscaped parks and historic buildings. Where to stay There are plenty of hotels, condos and apartments in Malaysia. There is plenty of budget accommodation such as traditional Chinese hotels and dormitory-style guesthouses that can be found in most cities. The homestay concept is still relatively new, but is a great way to learn first hand the Malaysian way of life. Getting around Taxis are very common in Malaysia, and although meters are often used, it is always helpful to agree on a price beforehand. For trips to airports and railway stations, purchase coupons at the taxi counter stationed at both places. Several car rental agencies offer self-drive and chauffeur-driven cars. The national KTM train runs from Kuala Lumpur to Padang Besar in the north, Singapore in the south, and up to Tumpat on the east coast. Buses are fast and economical, and seats can be reserved fairly easily. Food and entertainment The food in Malaysia is nothing short of fantastic. There is a choice of Chinese, Malay, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Thai, Korean and Western. Nyonya cuisine is probably the most famous of these fusions and is a blend of Chinese ingredients and Malay spices. Malay food uses seafood, meat, coconut and other indigenous fruits with rice. Street stalls or hawkers are where the best local cuisines can be enjoyed cheaply. The theatrical ambience of these hawkers is like no other, with continuous demonstrations of wok tossing, teh tarik (tea pulling), the artful skill of flipping rotis (Indian bread), and barbecuing of satay sticks. As a Muslim nation, there are restaurants offering halal food prepared in religiously approved conditions. Malaysia is famous for its wide variety of tropical fruits, including rambutans, mangosteens, jackfruit and durians. Sights of roadside vendors selling fruits and other snacks are common and the prices are usually cheaper than in supermarkets, especially when the special skill of bargaining is employed. Although Malaysia is a Muslim country alcohol is widely available in bars and nightclubs, especially in capital cities and tourist areas. Nightlife in Malaysia is anything but boring. Kuala Lumpur offers a wide choice of nightspots with entertainment ranging from cultural shows to Western-style bars and discos. Hot spots include Petaling Street, Jalan Alor, the Asian Heritage Row, Bangsar and many neighbouring suburbs. Activities For those without much time in Kuala Lumpur, a city tour on the Hop-On Hop-Off bus is a great way to see the highlights. The huge Batu Caves will give tourists an unforgettable cultural experience. Golfing is on offer at 200 courses in diverse settings such as hill resorts, islands, beaches, cities, towns and off the beaten track. The diving and snorkelling off Tioman Island and Redang Island is superb, both islands boast underwater caves and incredible coral reefs. Sipadan Island, off the coast of Sabah, is said to have some of the best diving in the world. Trekking through the jungle trails of Taman Negara Park, visitors may see elephants, tigers, panthers and rhinos, although sightings are rare. A hike up Mount Kinabalu in Sabah is amazing as tourists can watch the sunrise from beneath the clouds that surround the peak. Shopping Kuala Lumpur is very good value, with a variety of fashionable products and handicrafts available from shopping complexes, department stores, boutiques and markets. The Central Market in Chinatown is a centre for handicrafts, antiques and art. Here visitors can employ their bargaining skills to get the best prices on ‘branded’ merchandise. There is also the Chow Kit Market, a Malay market with many roadside vendors lining Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman (also known as Jalan TAR). On Saturday nights, some streets are closed to traffic and host lively night markets. Visitors should be prepared to negotiate a good price and go home with a bargain! Currency The Malaysian Ringgit is usually written as RM. Tipping is not expected although much appreciated. Climate Temperatures range from 21°C to 32°C with cooler temperatures in the hills, particularly during the evenings. The east coast, Sabah and Sarawak have heavy rainfalls during November to February. The west coast of the peninsula is wet from April to October. Cool, lightweight summer clothing is best with medium-weight woollens at night in the cooler highland areas. Entry requirements All visitors need a valid passport/travel document with minimum validity of six months beyond the period of intended stay. Visa requirements vary for different countries so be sure to check. "
Cambodia

Asia

Angkor Wat is the world’s largest temple complex, consisting of sandstone temples, chapels, causeways, terraces and reservoirs. ...

string(3911) "Angkor Wat is the world’s largest temple complex, consisting of sandstone temples, chapels, causeways, terraces and reservoirs. Vast and awe-inspiring, it is a magnificent Hindu temple set in dense jungle, located 152 kilometres from the Thai border, at Siem Reap. The walls are covered in thousands of carvings of gods and events from classical Hindu mythology. It was abandoned in the 15th century when the people turned to Buddhism and rediscovered in 1861. Elephant, Dangkrek and Cardamom mountains are in the southwest of Cambodia along the northern border with Thailand and the Eastern Highlands and in the northeastern corner are the three main mountainous regions. The majority of the population speaks Khmer, a non-tonal language closely related to Thai. French is the second language and English is taught in schools. Cambodia nationalities comprise of Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham Muslims. A form of Buddhism called Theravada is practiced by the majority of Cambodians, Animism and Caodaism are also practised. Capital and major centres Phnom Penh, the capital, has a population of around 1.5 million people and, despite its tumultuous past, its crumbling colonial architecture makes an attractive backdrop to streetside cafés and the redeveloped waterfront precinct. Peaceful Udong, 40 kilometres north of Phnom Penh, was the capital of Cambodia between 1618 and 1866. The town of Siem Reap is only a few kilometres from the temples of Angkor. Where to stay International standard hotels are available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville is growing in popularity as the only beach resort destination in Cambodia. Facilities are being developed and the general increase in tourism in Cambodia has led to a boom in guesthouse accommodation. Getting around You can hire a car with a driver with taxis easily found in the cities. The tuk tuk (three-wheeled motor cycles) cyclos and motos (small motorcycles) can also be flagged down for short trips. Buses also have an effective network and they make travel to sights around Phnom Penh easier than driving. For longer trips, trains are a longer but more comfortable option. There are also boats and the most popular services operate between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Fast boats head up the Mekong to Kompong Cham, Kratie and Stung Treng. Food and entertainment Khmer cuisine is similar to Thai and there are sidewalk noodle shops, food stalls and markets. It is wise to avoid eating or drinking from street vendors. The influence of the French is manifest in the breads and frogs’ legs sold in the markets, and tea and coffee are widely available. Tap water and ‘muscle wines’ are best avoided. There is a growing number of good restaurants, including Thai, Chinese, Indian, Malay and Western, both in the capital and in towns that attract tourists. Activities There are activities such as snorkelling in Sihanoukville and elephant rides in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, but you need a guide, as landmines, bandits, and other dangers make hiking, outdoor activities, or venturing off the beaten track, dangerous. There are many leisure activities in Phnom Penh such as go-karting, jet-skiing, mini golf and ten pin bowling. A network of national parks is being established, complete with visitor facilities; Kirirom, Ream and Bokor on the south coast are the most accessible and extremely interesting. Nature The number of national parks is increasing, but illegal logging has long been a problem. Parks include Bokor, on the south coast; Ream, near Sihanoukville; Kirirom, outside Phnom Penh; and Virachay, bordering Laos and Vietnam. Endangered species which are elsewhere extinct are thought to be hidden in the more remote habitats, including elephants, tigers, leopards, gibbons, bats, rhinos and crocodiles. Butterflies, snakes and birds such as cormorants, cranes and ducks are most common."
Coral Coast & Pacific Harbour

Fiji, Pacific

The Coral Coast is 80 kilometres of barrier reef beaches, on the sheltered southern side of Viti Levu about halfway between Nadi a...

string(3652) "The Coral Coast is 80 kilometres of barrier reef beaches, on the sheltered southern side of Viti Levu about halfway between Nadi and Suva. The temperate climate and great variety of accommodation—from selfcontained ‘bure’ cottages to international five-star resorts—make it a popular tourist retreat. The resorts offer great recreational facilities, restaurants, cultural performances and nightlife, while the pristine waters and reefs create an underwater paradise for snorkelling and diving. You can throw in a line with the locals or take out a charter vessel for game fishing. There are some spectacular surf beaches too. Natadola beach is arguabley the best beach on the island and the a great place to learn to surf. Also at Natadola is the Natadola Bay Chamipionship Golf Course which annually hosts the PGA (Austral-Asia) & European Tour accredited ‘Fiji International’ Golf Chamipionships. For those wanting to take in some nature, history and culture, visit the Sigatoka Sand Dunes where shifting sands and archaeological digs continue to reveal skeletons and pottery arefacts. Fiji’s only wildlife park, the Kula Eco- Park in Korotogo displays rarely seen indigenous species. Head for the hills into the beautiful Sigatoka Valley, aptly named The Salad Bowl of Fiji, a colourful patchwork of agricultural fields, Fijian villages, Indian settlements, temples and volcanic hills. It offers spectacular scenery and a fascinating history of the Tongan tribes who were the last to resist Christianity. Sigatoka River Safari tours into the valley villages are very popular. At Tavuni Hill you can walk amongst the ruins of an ancient fort. The cave tour follows the Tongan trail to Naihehe Caves to see the spectacular rock formations and awesome reminders of the past. The same tour takes you for a river ride on traditional bamboo rafts. There is also a waterfall tour where you can learn about plant medicines on a rainforest trek, participate in authentic ceremonies with a village chief and swim in a beautiful tropical waterfall. Robinson Crusoe Island is fringed with white sandy beaches, and offers great snorkelling and Pacific isle entertainment. To get there, take a boat ride or a sea plane which is based on the river at Sigatoka Town. It is also possible to enjoy scenic flights over the coast and valley or charter a small plane for airport transfers. In the bustling town of Sigatoka, locals and tourists blend together when eating, shopping and socialising. Farmers barter their wares in the central marketplace and there are duty free shops, supermarkets, tailors, bars and cafes. There are quaint roadside markets right along the Coral Coast stretch, so even those just driving through will be able to enjoy this lovely area. On the eastern most fringe of the Coral Coast, Some 30 kilometres west of Suva, Pacific Harbour is known as Fiji’s ‘adventure capital’, famous for activities like the world-class shark dive at Shark Reef, great scuba diving in the Beqa lagoon, zip-lining, off-road buggy rides, white-water rafting in the Upper Navua gorge, and world-class surf at the Frigates offshore surf break. Pacific Harbour was originally established in the 1970s as a recreation oriented, residential community as well as a resort area. Here groups can arrange a visit to the Arts Village Cultural Centre and Marketplace for special performances, as well as demonstrations of handicraft making techniques. Not too far from Pacific Harbour is the legendary Beqa Island, home of the Fijian firewalkers who perform their ceremonies at several major Fijian hotels and resorts. "
Ubud

Bali, Indonesia, Asia

A visit to Ubud isn’t complete without going to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary south of the village which is inhabited by cheeky mo...

string(3191) "A visit to Ubud isn’t complete without going to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary south of the village which is inhabited by cheeky monkeys waiting for visitors with peanuts. Located in the lush slopes leading up towards the central mountains, Ubud is the cultural centre of Bali. A sanctuary for artisans, this quiet Balinese village is 60 minutes by car from Ngurah Rai International Airport. Ubud has a peaceful atmosphere and is a haven from busy Denpasar and Kuta. Complementing the ancient temples and palaces is the unspoiled countryside that offers picturesque rice paddies, rivers and gorgeous scenery. There are many wonderful walks in every direction from Ubud, through the rice terraces, villages, jungle gorges and grassy hilltops. Organised walks cover a variety of themes including birdwatching and exploration of historic and cultural sites. Ubud’s beautiful surroundings and gracious way of life have drawn artists from all over the globe in recent decades, some of whom have even adopted Ubud as their home. The main gallery areas are Jalan Raya, running from the Peliatan crossroads in the east all the way up to Sayan in the west; the main street through Peliatan; Pengosekan Village; Batuan Village; Penestanan Village; and the town of Mas, where the big-name woodcarvers have palatial galleries with impressive facades and enormous signs. Ubud is also known for its selection of Batik fabrics, carvings, jewellery and paintings. Ubud also has several art museums. To gain a true appreciation of Balinese art, visit Museum Neka which features mostly modern works by Balinese, Indonesian and Western artists who have worked in Bali, and also take time to see Museum Puri Lukisan—Ubud’s “Palace of Art”. Founded around 40 years ago by a group of artists and patrons from the Ubud royal palaces, it is set in a peaceful garden with fountains, statues and pools. The main crossroads in front of the Puri Saren palace is the ‘navel’ of Ubud— its cultural and historical focal point. Away from the main streets, Ubud is a quiet place featuring small lanes lined with homestays, warungs and Balinese compounds extending north and south from the main road. A visit to Ubud isn’t complete without going to the Monkey Forest Sanctuary south of the village which is inhabited by cheeky monkeys waiting for visitors with peanuts. The interesting Pura Dalem Agung (Temple of the Dead) is also located in the forest and features amazing ancient trees and sculptures. Ubud features a range of accommodations including luxury properties with great spa settings and facilities, wonderful health retreats and spectacular views. There are cultural shows on nearly every night and organised tours can be easily arranged to visit other parts of Bali. Its central location makes it easy to get from Ubud to the mountains, beaches and major towns. The main street is also lined with restaurants and cafés with a wide range of delicious foods to cater for all tastes. Although visitors often outnumber residents during peak periods, Ubud retains its charming, unhurried atmosphere and distinctive way of life of a small rural community. "
South Vietnam

Vietnam, Asia

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is Vietnam’s most dynamic city. With a population of 8.6 million, its streets are br...

string(2163) "Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is Vietnam’s most dynamic city. With a population of 8.6 million, its streets are brimming with shops, stalls and busy vendors with their wares spread out on sidewalks. Popular sights include the Doc Lap Palace, the War Remnants Museum and Notre Dame Cathedral, built in neo-Romanesque style. The central Ben Thanh Market is the best for souvenir bargains and delicious street foods. You can also visit Giac Lam Pagoda, one of the oldest pagodas in the city, and the spectacular Chinese-style Emperor of Jade Pagoda. The flat but lusciously green Mekong River Delta is the southernmost region of Vietnam and is an attractive patchwork of rice paddies, swamps and canals. The Cai Rang floating markets are the hub of the Mekong River Delta’s fishing and farming trades. These markets appear frantic but tourists should not be discouraged. Everything on sale usually hangs off the front of each boat, and bargaining is encouraged. A sampan boat is the perfect way to watch the Mekong River come alive, and tourists can expect to find everything from fish to jack fruit. The riverbank is dotted with stilted, wooden houses that are built right on the water’s edge. My Tho is a quiet city, a day trip from Saigon, with an interesting central market. Take a boat trip to explore local canals and nearby islands including Tan Long, where longan orchards are found. Further into the Delta lies the colourful town of Can Tho, the biggest city in the Mekong River Delta, with rice the most important industry. Can Tho has an array of delicious, local cuisine and photogenic floating markets nearby, and is close to the Cambodian border. Here you can also find the lively river city of Chau Doc, with beautiful sunset views from the top of Sam Mountain. Off the far southwest coast of Vietnam Phu Quoc Island has beautiful white sandy beaches and a choice of resortstyle hotels. It is famous for its black pepper and nuoc mam, or fish sauce, as well as its pearl factories. While it is not considered a prime nightlife destination, for peace, tranquility and relaxation, it is the perfect holiday spot."

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