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Luzon & Manila

Philippines, Asia

The city is a mix of old and new, of traditions and modern customs, of quaint street stalls and modern shopping malls. Luzon, w...

string(3651) "The city is a mix of old and new, of traditions and modern customs, of quaint street stalls and modern shopping malls. Luzon, where Manila is located, is the largest island in the Philippines and many of the provinces are just a few hours drive from the city. Northern Luzon is rich in panoramic views, green landscapes and old Spanish houses. Nicknamed the Summer Capital, Baguio City is a cool climate escape for Manila’s wealthy. The neighbouring city of La Trinidad, the provincial capital just north of the city, has some interesting sights. You can visit the vegetable market, climb Mt Pulag or see the well-preserved Kabayan mummies from burial caves in the north. Visit Asin, a woodcarving village with a hot spring swimming hole, natural streams and relaxing steam bath. A side trip to the tranquil mountaintop town of Sagada offers beautiful scenery and a cool climate. Its claim to fame is the hanging coffins, seen on cliff sides surrounding the town and in limestone caves. Hugging the northwestern slopes of Luzon are the provincial towns of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. There is a strong Spanish influence in Vigan Ilocos Sur, with 16th century Spanish houses lining the streets of the old section and a museum full of Spanish treasures. Antipolo is the centre of the May-time pilgrimage, while Angono is home to the Higantes Festival, held in November, when gigantic papier-mâché figures of men and women are paraded down the streets. Northern Palawan is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems in the country. The El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area showcases extraordinary flora and fauna, including mammals, reptiles, and birds that are abundant in the area. The dramatic landscape boasts of soaring limestone cliffs standing guard over crystal-clear waters, forests over limestone, and beaches with powdery white sand. Dramatic lagoons, mysterious caves, and colorful reefs are among the facets for Bacuit Bay in El Nido and Taytay Bay. A couple of hours by boat from El Nido are the snorkelling havens of Simisu Island and Cathedral Cave, Snake Island and Cudugman Cave. South Palawan is quite different to the north. Quezon is situated around 100 kilometres from Puerto Princesa, and is the nearest town to the archeologically interesting Tabon Caves, a half-hour boat ride away. Quezon is famous for its Pahiyas Festival celebrated in the towns of Lucban and Sariaya in mid-May Manila Manila has a population of around 10 million. The city is a mix of old and new, of traditions and modern customs, of quaint street stalls and modern shopping malls, of excellent museums and happening restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Although the city spreads a great distance along Manila Bay, the main places of interest are fairly central, concentrated just south of the Pasig River. Immediately south is the fortress of Intramuros (literally ‘within the walls’), once the preserve of the ruling classes. The Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church are two of the oldest churches in the country. Nearby, Casa Manila is a beautifully restored Spanish colonial home. The Cultural Centre of the Philippines is the central venue for all the diverse arts of the provinces, including ballet, concerts and stage plays. Within the complex is the stately Coconut Palace, made of materials from the coconut tree and other indigenous materials. This is also a great place to view the spectacular sunset across Manila Bay. At the huge Chinese Cemetery in Santa Cruz, tombs are fitted with crystal chandeliers, air-conditioning, kitchens and flushing toilets, to ensure comfort on the trip to paradise."
Seminyak & Canggu

Bali, Indonesia, Asia

With its central location, burgeoning nightlife and accessibility to major tourist attractions, this area is a perfect alternative...

string(2344) "With its central location, burgeoning nightlife and accessibility to major tourist attractions, this area is a perfect alternative to Kuta. To the north of Kuta and Legian, are stylish Seminyak and Canggu. There are no shortage of villas between Seminyak and Canggu luxe villas paired with five-star services and facilities offering you your own private piece of paradise. Seminyak Seminyak, has a reputation among tourists for being more sophisticated and having a more stylish nightlife than Kuta. The shopping centres and busy streets of Kuta are just 15 minutes to the south, and the more rural area of Canggu is just a 25-minute drive to the north. Seminyak has also become extremely popular for its wide range of world-class restaurants featuring all cuisines and eateries lining the beach. The multitude of upmarket boutiques, galleries, shops and markets make for fascinating shopping trips. Seminyak has become the luxury spa destination in Bali. By local standards, treatments may seem expensive but are probably half the price, or less, than you would pay at home. Most hotels offer an in-house service and in-villa treatments are widely available. Canggu Further north of Seminyak is Canggu that is widely used to refer to the eight-kilometre coastal stretch running north from the village of Berawa, just north of Seminyak, to the village of Cemagi, just south of Tanah Lot. The once rural farmland full of green rice paddy fields is now packed with luxury villas, yoga studios, boutiques, cafes, restaurants and beach clubs. Its beaches draw in surfers from all around the world. Most of the action can be found near Batu Bolong, a beach best known for its longboard-friendly break and Old Man’s, a lively beer garden and surf club. Just north of Canngu, one of Bali’s most important temples can be found. Over thousands of years, the tiny island of Tanah Lot was gradually formed as a result of erosion by ocean tides. Surprisingly modest, it comprises of two shrines with tiered roofs, two pavilions and a few small buildings. Access down to the temple is through a sideshow alley of souvenir shops and market stalls. It is a highly spiritual place, and visitors will often see people making the trip to meditate nearby or walking to the water in order to receive the ministrations of priests. "
Thailand

Asia

Situated midway between India and China in a fertile monsoon belt, Thailand shares its borders with Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodi...

string(9211) "Situated midway between India and China in a fertile monsoon belt, Thailand shares its borders with Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and Malaysia. Its east coast is on the Gulf of Thailand and the west coast on the Andaman Sea. The country is divided into four main regions: the Central Plains of the Chao Phraya River; the region of the northeast plateau; the fertile valley and mountains of Northern Thailand; and the rainforested southern peninsula. Each region has its own topographical identity and subtle differences between both the people and dialects. Capital and major centres It is worth enduring the inevitable traffic jams, pollution and humid weather to experience Bangkok, easily one of Asia’s most exciting cities. Known in Thai as Krung Thep, the ‘City of Angels’, Bangkok is the spiritual, symbolic and geographical heart of Thailand, and home to nine million people. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city and an ideal base from which to explore the mountains and villages. The region is famed for its many fine temples and handicrafts. Ban Chiang, found in the northeastern province of Udon Thani, is most fascinating for its archaeological site which was discovered by accident in 1966. Artefacts on display are thought to date back to around 3600BC. Khorat, or Nakhon Ratchasima, was part of the ancient Khmer empire, and is today a rapidly expanding business centre. Along the east coast, on the Gulf of Thailand, lies Pattaya, which offers many beaches and is popular with families. On the sunrise coast of the Gulf of Thailand are Cha-am and Hua Hin. The former has experienced a dramatic surge in popularity since the mid-80s and catering mainly for Thais, its quiet village atmosphere has become a lot livelier. Nearby Hua Hin was Thailand’s first beach resort and in the 1920s was a popular retreat for minor Thai royalty. Nowadays the King and Queen reside here when they’re not in Bangkok. Further south along the east coast, beautiful Koh Samui is covered with coconut plantations and circled by palm-fringed beaches. The twin Phi Phi islands in Krabi are famed for their unusual and spectacular landscapes, while the country’s largest island, Phuket, lies in the Andaman Sea off the country’s southwestern coast. All of these places are popular tourist destinations. The people The majority of Thailand’s 68 million people are concentrated in the fertile Central Plains and in the capital, Bangkok. An easygoing people, Thais are known for their tolerance of other cultures and friend liness to visitors. Thai people will be offended only if there is any perceived disrespect to the king or Buddhism. Constitutional since 1932, the monarchy is revered almost as much as when kings were chakravartin, or ‘lords of life’. Buddhism is the dominant religion and orange-robed monks and gold, marble and stone Buddhas are common. Nature One-quarter of Thailand is covered by monsoon forest or rainforest, and the country has an incredible variety of fruit trees, bamboo and tropical hardwoods. National parks and wildlife sanctuaries cover 11 percent of the country and contain more than 850 resident and migratory species of birds and dwindling numbers of tigers, leopards, elephants and Asiatic black bears. The sights The Chao Phraya River, ‘river of kings’, is Thailand’s most important waterway, draining some of the country’s fertile rice growing land, and providing another means of travel in Bangkok. A few kilometres inland from Bang Saen, a beach resort popular with Bangkok residents, is the Khao Kheow Open Zoo, which has more than 50 wildlife species roaming its spacious, semi-free enclosures. Stretching north from Bangkok are the picturesque Central Plains with their checkered patterns of green rice paddies. In the heart of this region is Ayutthaya, the nation’s second capital. Buddhamanthon, a Buddhist park, lies on the western edge of Bangkok. Featuring a 16.25-metre statue of Buddha, the park commemorates the 2500th anniversary of the religion. Further west is the world’s tallest Buddhist monument at Nakhon Pathom. Not far from there is the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai as is the newly popular “Tiger Temple” or Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua. South from Chiang Mai are the numerous ruined temples of Thailand’s first capital, Sukothai, founded in the early 13th century. Further north from Chiang Mai is teak country where elephants used to work in the forests. Elephants can still be seen displaying their forestry skills at several training camps. Chiang Rai is a good centre for exploring the far north where visitors will find stunning jungle covered mountains, hilltribe villages, and Doi Tung, a mountain where Her Royal Highness the Princess Mother has a hilltop palace. Where to stay While Bangkok offers some of the most superb hotels in the world, Thailand and its capital have a wealth of accommodation options, from luxury and reasonable resort accommodation to simple comforts on islands or beaches. There are also bungalows, guesthouses and more basic native style hotels in regions such as Chiang Mai. Getting around Bangkok is possibly the world’s most congested city, and its traffic jams and pollution are notorious. It is, however, very easy to find transport of all kinds, including riverboats, public buses, limousines and tour buses run by hotels, as well as taxis, colourful tuk-tuks and samlors (bicycle rickshaws) that are found throughout the country. Songthaews, vans with two rows of seats in the back, are more common than city buses outside Bangkok and run popular routes for set fares. The Bangkok Metro (BMCL-Subway) operates every day from 6am until midnight every five minutes during peak hour and seven minutes in off-peak times. It is clean and extremely efficient. The BTS Skytrain covers much of the central city and its many commercial, residential and tourist areas. It gives the added bonus of seeing the city from a bird’s eye perspective. Food and entertainment Renown for its quality and diversity, Thai cuisine is as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach. And while eating for most Thai people is an informal, social activity, even the simplest of dishes are served with a carved carrot flower or spring onion tassel, and sometimes fruit and vegetable sculptures. Meals are rich and spicy, and seafood, including crab, fish, lobster and shrimp, feature heavily. Bangkok has restaurants of all nationalities and styles, from street stalls to elegant restaurants at deluxe hotels. The Dome at State Tower, for example, has a number of trendy bars and restaurants. Outside Bangkok, there are restaurants specialising in various national cuisines as well as the typical spicy northern delicacies. In Chiang Mai, the best way to sample the local fare is to order a Khantoke dinner which features a variety of dishes served with sticky rice. Rayong and Chanthaburi on the east coast are known for their succulent seafood as well as tropical fruits including durian, rambutans, custard apples and mangosteens. Those looking for nighttime entertainment will find all sorts of action in Bangkok. Neon-lit bar districts, pubs, discos, live music, theatre, classical dance, cultural shows, night markets and many other distractions abound. Check out the night markets behind Ratchaprarop Road in Pratunam. A night market in Hua Hin displays locally produced silk and cotton items and the region’s famed ‘kanom’ Thai sweets. Activities Thai boxing, or Muay Thai, Thailand’s national sport, is fast gaining popularity worldwide. The sport is highly ritualistic, but fights are fierce and furious. The ultra fit combatants use their elbows, knees and bare feet as well as gloved fists. Professional bouts are held almost every night at either of the two boxing stadiums in Bangkok. Golf, tennis, squash, darts and table tennis are also popular, and every imaginable watersport is available at the seaside resorts. Shopping The good quality, wide variety and reasonable prices of many Thai goods have long been a major attraction for tourists. Arts and crafts range from wicker rice steamers and triangular, patterned cushions to antiques. Internationally renowned Thai silks are available in a fascinating array of colours and designs. Tailors, particularly in Bangkok, can make clothes in any fabric to high standards at low prices. There are huge, modern shopping malls and other retail shops, but it is at the colourful markets at the heart of every Thai town that visitors can have fun bargaining with vendors. Climate The climate varies from north to south. There are three seasons, with March to May reaching 40°C. June to October is the wet season and November to February is the cool season at 27°C. Casual clothing is worn by most visitors to Thailand. Respectable attire is recommended for top hotels and restaurants. Skimpy clothing is forbidden in religious places. Currency The currency is the Thai Baht. A service charge is included in most bills. Only tip for special service. Porters expect a tip per piece of luggage. Remember that a tip consisting of coins is considered offensive."
Makua Beach Kauai

Hawaii, Pacific

The fourth largest and the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is about 888 kilometres square in area, formed from one massive v...

string(3019) "The fourth largest and the oldest of the Hawaiian islands, Kauai is about 888 kilometres square in area, formed from one massive volcano of which Mt Waialeale forms the eastern rim. The main road circles the coastline with the exception of a 24-kilometre stretch at the north shore cliffs which is inaccessible. When Captain Cook came ashore in January 1778 he was received as a god. Today, visitors to this beautiful island of gardens and rainbows are greeted in much the same friendly way. Lihue, the capital of Kauai, still has few buildings taller than a coconut tree. Yet the island offers visitors all the ingredients for a perfect holiday including luxury accommodation, gourmet cuisine, a host of watersports and activities including world-class golf. Po`ipu, a leisurely 30 minutes by car south of Lihue, has been called Kauai’s playground, with its pristine beaches protected by a necklace of offshore reefs. Just one kilometre from the resort area is sailing, diving, deep-sea fishing and daily boat tours from Kukuiula Harbour. At nearby Spouting Horn, a turbulent wave action causes surf to shoot through a lava tube and out a hole in the coastal rock. This geyser sometimes reaches heights of 18 metres and more. On the west side of Kauai you’ll find what Mark Twain called the ‘Grand Canyon of the Pacific’, Waimea Canyon, 1097 metres deep in parts, with red and green vistas punctuated by waterfalls. North from Lihue you can stop off to take a ride on one of the flat-bottom river boats that takes you to the Fern Grotto. Further north past the Coconut Coast you pass by the turnoff to The Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge which shelters thousands of seabirds. Near Princeville and Hanalei, made famous by the song Puff the Magic Dragon, is Ke`e Beach. Close by are the wet and dry caves, prominent in ancient Hawaiian myth and the start of the 17 kilometres Kalalau hiking trail. Further south is Lumahai Beach the famous nurse’s beach in the movie South Pacific. On the island’s north shore the scenery runs riot, grey mists hang over the sheer Napali cliffs, waterfalls tumble into deep valleys. Much of this region and the island’s interior cannot be reached by road, so a helicopter or fixed wing plane tour can give you a perspective otherwise unobtainable. Kauai is called the Garden Island with good reason. The National Tropical Botanical Gardens in Lawai Valley and the Allerton Estate Gardens, as well as the Limahuli Gardens in the north, are among the major attractions that showcase nature at her best. Kauai’s diverse scenery has lured filmmakers to her shores for decades and such classics as Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark and of course, South Pacific mean visitors can occasionally experience déjà vu. Also Kauai is also popular with practitioners of the healing arts giving it the reputation of being a special place for those seeking rejuvenation and relaxation combined with a taste of traditional local culture. "
Phuket

Thailand, Asia

A holiday in Phuket gives travellers the chance to escape to pristine beaches, crystalline waters, sumptuous cuisine and a pulsa...

string(3041) " A holiday in Phuket gives travellers the chance to escape to pristine beaches, crystalline waters, sumptuous cuisine and a pulsating nightlife. Phuket has it all. Dubbed ‘Pearl of the South’ by the tourist industry, Phuket is Thailand’s largest, most populous and most visited island. A whirl of colour and cosmopolitanism, Thailand’s only island province revolves around and thrives on tourism but still retains a spark of the real Thailand. Phuket has a long history. In centuries past, it was an important trading post. Two centuries ago, extensive tin mining drew thousands of Chinese labourers to the island and their influence has remained, leaving the province of Phuket with the highest percentage of ethnic Chinese in the country. The southern and coastal areas of the island were predominantly inhabited by Muslim fisherman. Whether it’s world-class diving in the Andaman Sea, golf at the world standard championship courses or exciting eco-adventures in tropical forests, it is the place to extend your horizons. Take an exhilarating speedboat ride to the surrounding islands or enjoy a serene cruise around mystical Phang Noa Bay. Or why not enjoy the vibrant nightlife at legendary Patong Beach with its bewildering mix of restaurants, bars, discos, live music clubs and cabarets. Inexpensive deals abound for this stunning destination and there is a wide variety of holiday packages available that need not break the budget. Phuket is more than a provincial capital; it is also a fascinating location for enthusiastic shoppers with all kind of budgets. You will find items ranging from antique Asian art and crafts, clothing boutiques, household knickknacks to bolts of famous Thai silk with bargaining the order of the day. With its idyllic tropical weather, Phuket is a favourite with beach lovers. There are, broadly speaking, two seasons: the dry and the wet. The dry season begins in December and lasts until April, when the rainfall increases. Wet or dry, temperatures remain remarkably consistent, nestling around 30°C and always with a dash of humidity. Just a 45-minute speedboat jaunt and a 90-minute ferryboat ride from Phuket are the towering limestone outcrop of the twin Phi Phi Islands. The larger and inhabited island, Phi Phi Don attracts hundreds of visitors to stay on its lovely shores. It is paradise perfected with beautiful beaches, stunning rock formations and vivid turquoise waters teeming with colourful marine life. Without roads, there is no hustle and bustle, no reason to hurry. Longtail boats make the many secluded beaches around Phi Phi Don accessible. The sheer limestone walls of the smaller Phi Phi Leh are dotted with caves and passages and the island’s shallow blue-green lagoons and coral gardens are a snorkeller’s paradise. So whether you want to snorkel the day away, relax in the sun, dance ‘til dawn at a club, or indulge in Thai specialty cuisines, it’s not difficult to see why Phuket is considered the ultimate holiday destination in Thailand. "
Pacific Solomon Islands Honiara Honiara

Solomon Islands, Pacific

Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, which is situated on Guadalcanal, has a population of more than 67,000 and is locat...

string(1979) " Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, which is situated on Guadalcanal, has a population of more than 67,000 and is located on a coastal stretch overlooking Iron Bottom Sound. The town centre has a shopping plaza, cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. There’s a Chinatown and of course, the Central Markets. Major meeting places can be found in private clubs that welcome visitors. One of the most spectacular waterfalls in the South Pacific is Mataniko Falls, a two-hour walk from Honiara. It has many large pools for swimming and an impressive stalagmite-covered cave which is home to vast numbers of swallows. Climb Mount Austin, passing Solomon Peace Memorial Park, for sweeping views of the northern coastal plains. Other historic sites include the Red Beach on the coastal plain. East of Tenaru is the Tenaru Falls, an impressive 60-metre waterfall. And situated in a westerly direction from Honiara town is Bonigi Beach, five kilometres west of Poha. At the eastern end of Guadalcanal is Marau Sound, a coral paradise. Here there are huge reefs of coral in unique and beautiful shapes which are home to a teeming array of tropical fish and fascinating sea life. There are also giant clams and some of the world’s rarest sea shells. About 250 kilometres south of Guadalcanal is Rennell Island. On the south side of the island, the large Lake Te’Nggano contains some 200 tiny coral atolls and is home to a prolific bird population. Access to the lake is by tractor, canoe and jungle walk. The Florida Islands are the closest island group to Guadalcanal and was the prewar Solomon capital of Tulagi. It was turned into a navy shipbuilding and repair facility during the war. Savo Island is a cloud-shrouded place, and its waters house the graves of at least four ships that were sunk during the Battle of Savo. Today it is an ideal picnic spot and a divers’ paradise with its sunken ships, sleepy villages and magnificent crystal clear waters. "

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