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posted by Michael on October 9, 2014

Thai Cave

Thailand might be more famous for its idyllic islands in the South and centuries-old cultural places such as Sukhothai or Ayutthaya, but it has also plenty to offer for those who seek adrenalin-infused adventures. We selected five spots for a thrilling experience:

1. Phraya Nakhon Cave
It just takes a short 45 minutes ride by car from Hua Hin, followed by a 30 minute trek through lush gardens and forest to reach Thailand’s most magnificent cave: Phraya Nakhon. Built by the end of the 19the century, a Buddhist pavilion stands on a small hill inside the cave, giving a mystical yet spectacular atmosphere when a ray of sunlight falls from a hole in the cave ceiling, illuminating the pavilion.

Where to find? Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Prachuap Khiri Khan Province, central Thailand.

2. Tham Lod Cave
The cave is located in northern Thailand, close to the border of Burma, about 4 hours by bus from Chiang Mai. 1666 meters in length, this limestone cave features not only stunning stalactites and stalagmites, but it’s also possible to paddle by kayak around the Nam Lang River which flows inside and around it. Further, the cave is home to many bats and swifts.

Where to find? Mae Hong Son Province, northern Thailand

3. Tham Lum Khao Cave
Located a mere two hours ride from Bangkok, it’s also widely known as ‘’Snake Mountain Cave”. A majestic cave column has been formed over millions of years, resulting in being the world’s tallest at 62m. It features also a number of underground rivers and beautiful stalactites and stalagmites.

Where to find? Kanchanaburi Province, Central Thailand

4. Crazy Horse Buttress Rock
As Thailand becomes more and more recognized by climbers from around the world, the Crazy Horse Buttress should be mentioned as well here. Though its formation might look a bit daunting, climbers of every skill level will find there challenge here. And if you are not into climbing, explore the nearby Furnace Cave which requires a lot of crawling through mud!

Where to find? Chiang Mai Province, North Thailand

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Muay Thai for all
1. You don’t need to be young and in physical excellent shape to start training Muay Thai
Muay Thai is all about skills. And developing those skills need a lot of practice. Therefore make sure to ask if there are Beginner classes or designated, supervised areas for beginners. Moreover, discuss your targets with the trainer, create an exercise plan. How long will you be training? Two weeks? One month? Three? But don’t worry, your instructors and fellow students know that you’re new and nobody expects you to be in good shape. Most Muay Thai gyms offering also single classes; attend first one of those, see how the instructors, students and atmosphere is and decide afterwards. It is important that you feel comfortable for the upcoming weeks and months!

2. Show that you’re really interested in learning and practicing Muay Thai
Ask for the class timings and be punctual. How many times per day and week are training lessons? If you’re really serious about you Muay Thai, you need to train more than once a week. Be the last leaving the gym. Don’t be shy. Don’t just ask the trainers for help; get support by senior students. Ask if there are any fights in town, maybe your trainers / senior students are even participating. Perhaps you can even go with other students to those fights. Watch the techniques they’re using, ask those advanced students or trainers what mistakes the fighters are making. You literally have to breathe Muay Thai.

"After photo"

“Before and After photo”

(photo from TigerMuayThai.com)

3. Continuously improve yourself – and seek for feedback
Be ready to suck at first and consider that normal. Sure, your trainer will give you feedback, but also be open-minded and take suggestions for improvements. Ask advanced students and get your feedback/suggestions from them, because after all, you are going to spend probably a significant amount of time with them. Try to spar some time during the training with senior students. Be a good teammate to anyone and hold the safety pads, try to build up relationships. Ask for a meal plan. What do other (advanced) students consume? Any special diets? The most important thing however is that you don’t stop asking questions at any point of time.

 

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Exotic. Colourful. Diverse. Rich in flavors. There are probably dozens of words and phrases which can describe Thai food. However, once you step into the Land of Smiles, it is recommendable to make your own picture; stroll around the bustling streets of Bangkok with its countless mobile food sellers, walk through the markets of Chiang Mai or just sit in a small local restaurant in Phuket – place your order and indulge into a variety of flavors and fragrances!

We selected the 5 Must Try Dishes for you here:

favorite thai cooking
1. Green Papaya Salad – Som Tum
It’s refreshing, delicious and yes, spicy: Som Tum! Available on markets and in local restaurants, it’s almost impossible to leave Thailand without trying it. Shredded green papaya, blended with sliced tomatoes, roasted peanuts, chilli and palm sugar, you can eat this sweet-sour-spicy dish along with boiled rice in any part of the country.

2. Northern Thai Sausage -Sai Ua La Wan
When visiting northern Thailand, in particular its second largest city and cultural capital, Chiang Mai, it’s a must to try the Sai Ua La Wan – sausage. It is one of the most famous dishes you can get in the city and it’s virtually available on all markets and typical Thai restaurants. A perfect blend of spices, herbs and a good amount of chilli, making this probably one of the tastiest pork sausages you will come across.

Best Thai cuisine
3. Thai Basil Chicken – Pad Kra Pao Gai
Thai Basil Chicken is considered as the most popular dish for Thais. The chicken is stir fried and topped with basil, served with rice and fried egg. Besides chicken, it’s also available with pork or shrimps. Pad Kra Pao Gai is served from Chiang Rai in the north to the southern islands of Thailand, by street-food vendors and in local restaurants.

4. Spicy Chicken Soup – Tom Kha Gai
This extremely mouth-watering dish is made from a variety of refreshing ingredients: coconut milk, oyster mushrooms, chicken breast, chilli and onions. Tom Kha Gai is not only a fest of flavors, but on top a very healthy dish. It’s usually served with boiled rice and is available throughout the country in most local restaurants.

Amazing Green Curry
5. Green Chicken Curry – Gaeng Khiao Wan
Even when it comes to curries, Thailand has a number of delights to offer; being the most popular curry dish available in Thailand, Green Chicken Curry is served from small family-run -to top rated hotel restaurants. Its ingredients however remain mostly the same: Green curry paste, tender chicken, garlic and onion, among other exotic spices and herbs.

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posted by Michael on August 20, 2014

A follow up to our August 8 posting.  Make sure you read that one too!

Today I’m writing about 3 more stunning locations: Bunaken, Peucang, and Wakatobi.  You can find tours to these islands as well as others on our Tours to Asia page.

Bunaken 

scuba diving bunaken

 With 17,000 islands, it is quite difficult to find the perfect beach getaway in Indonesia. Sulawesi with its surrounding islands and mini-archipelagos offers without doubt some of the country’s finest beaches. Bunaken is a small island of just 8 km², located north-west of Manado, the largest city in the north of Sulawesi. You can get to Manado from Jakarta or Denpasar via Makassar. A ferry connects Bunaken with Manado and takes about one hour.

The island is famous for its clear water and large marine biodiversity, hence making it another perfect place for diving and snorkelling. Rest assured you can stretch your legs on the beach and sipping on a fresh coconut without the company of many tourists.  A must see for those seeking a unique experience.

Pecang

Wildlife of Pecuang

Pecang Island is part of the Ujung Kulon National Park, located just off the shores of western Java. It is relatively easy to reach if you enter Indonesia from its main hubs Jakarta or Bali, as you can conveniently travel overland by bus from the capital or the Island of Gods via Yogykarta and Jakarta. The island is an ideal place to stay if you are en route to Mount Krakatau. Crystal clear turquoise water invites you to jump in or to do a relaxing stroll on the beach. The beach has a direct border with its jungle forest. Don’t be surprised if you see curious monkeys running around or wild deer.

 Wakatobi

Hidden gem of Indonesia

Wakatobi can be considered as one of Indonesia’s hidden gems: these picturesque islands are located south of Sulawesi and comprises of the four main islands, Wangi Wangi, Kaledupa, Tomia and Binongko and a number of smaller ones. In order to get there you can fly to Makassar and get a connecting flight to Wangi Wangi or a direct flight from Denpasar to Tamia. Leave your footprints behind in the white sandy beach, relax under the shadow of coconut trees or go for diving and snorkelling. If you want to explore the other islands, you can hop onto one of the fast boats with regular schedule, connecting the main islands.

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Let’s face it, spending money on a sleeping location can be a big waste.  Think about it.  You spend good money, settle in, close your eyes, and hopefully don’t remember a thing.

alternatives to hotels and hostels

Gads, this hostel smells rank!

Here are 4 cheap alternatives to hostels and hotels that offer a different experience.

SwapMyCityPad.com  –   This site allows you to swap  your own flat/apartment or house with other like-minding people for a weekend or longer.

VivaStreet.co.uk  –  Going to the UK? check out this site for options. Includes B&Bs.

CouchSurfing.org   –  Not only a cheap place to sleep, but lots of local knowledge about what to do, what to see, and hidden gems.

CampingInMyGarden.com   Have your camping gear? Then check out this site. Microcamping and private gardens!

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posted by Michael on August 8, 2014

We’re starting a new series called Off the Beaten Path. Our first post in the series will cover 3 amazing locations in Indonesia.  Please see our Tour Reviews section for more information about tour operators and schedules.
Note: All prices in the posting are subject to change and/or be included in tour packages. Double check!

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat

Raja Ampat is an archipelago located at the north-west tip of Papua, the Indonesian part of the world’s second largest island, New Guinea. It comprises of more than 1500 islands and is widely regarded as one of the last real remaining paradises on earth. Why? Due to its isolation, it has been so far untouched from mass tourism. Visitors are rewarded with the sheer beauty of nature; even if you’re not a birdwatcher you will love to see plenty of unique bird species in all shapes and sizes calling only Papua their home. You can stroll around the islands with its small hills without seeing any other tourists. Oh, and the underwater world: the turquoise colored water automatically hypnotizes you! Jump in and snorkel or dive – the magical blend of corals and colorful fishes will surely take your breath away…

How to get there: from Jakarta via Makassar (Sulawesi) to Sorong (Papua) with Lion Air, Merpati, Sriwijaya Air and Express Air.

Fees: 500.000 IDR per person per year, usually to pay at the airport in Sorong. It is more considered as local area tax, in order to preserve the area.

Amazing Indonesia

Komodo National Park

Komodo Island is world-wide known for its monitor lizards, the closest living relatives to the dinosaurs. It’s a thrilling experience to see the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat- there are nearly 6000 lizards living across the three islands of Komodo, Rinca and Padar, among a number of smaller ones. The area was declared as UNESCO world heritage site in 1991. What else can you do and see? One of the lesser known things is that the park is not only home to the before mentioned lizards, but also to a number of other animals such as wild horses, wild pigs, civets and macaques and reptiles such as cobras and vipers. Further, there are fantastic areas for diving around – how about some carpet sharks or manta rays?

How to get there: by ferries from Sumbawa, but mainly from Labuanbajo, Flores. In order to reach Flores, you can conveniently fly in from Denpasar (Bali) or Jakarta.

Fees: Entrance fee: 20.000 IDR; Camera: 50.000 IDR; Video camera: 150.000 IDR; Ranger: 80.000 IDR (per group); Local area tax: 50.000 IDR

Mount Krakatau

Mount Krakatau:

Mount Krakatau or Anak Krakatau is an active volcano, sandwiched between two of Indonesia’s major islands, Sumatra and Java. It parent volcano exploded in 1883 and was one of the deadliest volcanic eruptions in history. Anak Krakatau -“Child of Krakatau “-was eventually formed beneath Mount Krakatau years later. The island has black sand beach half around the island, while the other half is virtually inaccessible as lava flows down into the ocean. Climbing up the volcano doesn’t take much time, but can be quite exhausting. Once you reached the highest accessible point, you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view over the surrounding islands.

Don’t miss out one of the highlights: the mystical yet spectacular view at night of floating lava!

How to get there: by ferries from Sumatra and Java. If you take an organized tour, buses will usually depart from Jakarta (Java) or Bandar Lampung (Sumatra). A Conversation Site Entry Permit (Surat Ijin Masuk Kawasan Konservasi/SIMAKSI) needs to be obtained prior.

Fees: Official Rangers/Guides: 250.000 IDR. Berthing fee: 200.000 IDR per boat.

Looking for other destinations? Yep, we’ve got that covered too!  More amazing photos of Asia.

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posted by TravAddict on June 3, 2014

IMG_0552Food-based tourism is on the rise, and eating the best in-season local ingredients are often a big highlight of a destination. When looking for top places to visit based on seafood dishes, it is no secret that coastal cities are generally the highlight. Seafood lovers should be sure to check out the following 5 destinations to experience some of the best meals to ever come out of the ocean.

Boston, Massachusetts, United States
It is no secret to foodies that the historical city of Boston is one of the top seafood destinations in the Unites States. The cold waters of the North Atlantic produce some of the best clams, oysters and cod to be found anywhere. The oldest restaurant in the country is located here and still serves up delicious oysters to locals and tourists alike.

Digby, Nova Scotia, Canada
Moving up the Atlantic coast to the Canadian province of Nova Scotia will allow travelers to experience some of the freshest sea scallops around. The scallop business is serious up in these parts and prices are competitive for top quality dishes compared to other regions where scallops are not so abundant.

Madrid, Spain
Even though Madrid is not a coastal city, as the nation’s capital and home of the Spanish royal family, the city has amazingly good seafood dishes. The national dish of paella is best represented here, with top quality seafood imported from other regions of the country. Due to this, it is said that Madrid tops all Spanish cities for the quality of its seafood.

Georgetown, Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
The whole Caribbean is full of top-notch seafood but the Cayman Islands has the culinary expertise of world-class chefs to prepare the dishes. As a major financial center, the capital city hosts some of the biggest power players in the world who expect only the best.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
Located on the Gulf of Tonkin in the northern part of the South China Sea, Halong Bay is an idyllic setting with numerous options for locally sourced seafood. The Vietnamese tradition of fresh ingredients and light, healthy cooking styles is especially evident in this fish-rich region.

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posted by TravAddict on April 28, 2014

Freestyle Chocolate puddingChocolate lovers have plenty of options for sampling tasty new treats when traveling. Many locations throughout the world offer new and interesting chocolate creations. If you seek a new chocolate paradise, consider a visit to one of the following locations that we consider to be off the beaten path. You may discover your love of chocolate all over again from the beginning.

1. Broc, Switzerland

Mason Cailler operates as one of the oldest chocolate factories in the world in Broc, Switzerland. Sample a delicious offering from their testing room on a guided tour of the factory.  The tour takes about 90 minutes, and it’s a great place to learn about the creation of traditional Swiss chocolate. The whole family should be fascinated by what they see, smell, and hear at the factory. Some local shops sell the chocolates that the factory produces. Be sure to stop in this Swiss village for one of the greatest chocolate experiences in your life.

2. New York City

It should be little surprise that Manhattan boasts some of the best chocolate in the world. Stop in at the Magnolia Bakery for some unmatched chocolate cakes. The cupcakes here attract cocoa connoisseurs from all over the world. After you’re done there, take a trip to Max Brenner. The hot cocoa is said to be simply stunning on a cold day. People buy it even in the heat of summer for its rich, complex taste. New York City’s streets carry aromas of tasty chocolate treats for all to enjoy.

3. Tabasco, Mexico

Tabasco, Mexico rightfully claims itself as the birth place of chocolate. The local shops combine hot cocoa with chili peppers, cinnamon, and milk. You will love the unique flavors on display for your choice of tastes. You should try all the different combinations used to accent the natural, chocolaty goodness in Tabasco. The local shop owners go to great lengths to try new concoctions. You might stumble upon a new chocolate treat that sticks with you for the rest of your life. Mexico’s premiere chocolate town welcomes all visitors with amazing offerings.

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posted by TravAddict on March 19, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmazing sights and scenery await people that take the dive into the cool waters of the Caribbean. You should definitely prepare to have your mind blown by what you may encounter. Consider visiting these five Caribbean diving and snorkeling sites for some unforgettable fun and excitement.

Sting Ray City, Grand Cayman Island

If you’ve ever dreamed of feeding sting rays with your own hands, then Sting Ray City welcomes you with open arms. This location, known all over the world, entices visitors to swim and snorkel with Sting Rays. The friendly sting rays gladly put on a show for all to see and enjoy. The delightful journey will produce lasting memories for you and your family.

Walker’s Cay at Nassau, Bahamas

At Nassau, Bahamas visitors get up close and personal with reef sharks. Those who dream of adventure will find their calling here. The Caribbean reef shark is one of the friendliest sharks you will ever meet. Your dive guide will help you to feed the shark and interact with it in an amazing way. Your diving itinerary must include a stop at Walker’s Cay in order to be complete.

The Duane at Key Largo, Florida

Many people dream of exploring a sunken ship. This dream becomes a reality at Key Largo. The Duane, a huge ship purposely sunk by the U.S. Coast Guard as an artificial reef, is home to many different colors of corals and sponges. The marine life remains on the sunken ship, especially on the railings. You will get to explore the ship and all of its surroundings during an exciting dive.

Green Outhouse Wall at Roatan, Honduras

Roatan, one of the islands of Honduras, encourages visitors with plenty of great diving activities. A canyon with brain coral, sea fans, and more inspires awe in all divers. An increasing number of tropical fish make their way to the area, and sea turtles are becoming more common. This site is a rare treat to behold.

Cow and Calf Rocks at the U.S. Virgin Islands

The biggest attraction here is the natural arches you can swim through. The ledges attached to the reef depict stunning beauty that can’t be found anywhere else. You never know when you may stumble upon some truly fascinating marine wildlife. There is plenty to see at this particular diving site, and your whole family should find something they enjoy.

The Caribbean houses many of the best diving sites in the world. The five sites listed here are some of the best, but there are also others that you could explore.

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posted by TravAddict on February 27, 2014

SEA LION 3Ecotourism welcomes you to see the natural wonders of the earth that have remained largely untouched by human hands. At present, these destinations are usually much more affordable than typical mass consumer tourism sites. However, the popularity of Ecotourism is on the rise, we suggest experiencing some of the top Ecotourism destinations now, before they start to change to accommodate the masses.  Check out these five particular locations if you are interested in learning more about ecotourism.

Galapagos Islands

Located off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands house numerous protected species of animals and sections of lands. The Ecuadorian government made all of the islands into a National Park, except for the areas where people already inhabited the lands. Some of the most impressive sights here include the Marine iguana, Galapagos sea lions, and the blue-footed booby. This preserved land is a real treat for visitors. You won’t believe all the cool photo opportunities until you arrive.

Costa Rica

An important scientific community, the New Economics Foundation, recently named Costa Rica the greenest country on earth. 25 percent of the country’s land mass is protected, with several National Parks scattered in various areas. One of those parks, Corcovado National Park, is known all over the world for its rich biodiversity. You can find red-eyed tree frogs, rare butterflies, and hundreds of other rare species. They remain undisturbed in their natural habitats, which makes them a joy to see for ecotourism enthusiasts.

Maldives

If marine ecology is your thing, then you should book a trip to Maldives for your next ecotourism vacation. Maldives waters are famous for coral reef systems that produce awe-inspiring colors. You can also find tremendous species of fish along the coast, with about 110 types of fish swimming in the cool waters. You can also see large populations of crabs, shrimp, mollusks, and more. If you love the water, this will be one ecotourism trip you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Kenya

Kenya is known as one of the most diverse countries for biology in Africa and in the entire world. It’s easy to see why. The lush rain forests of the Kakamega Forest Reserves entice visitors to spend a few days exploring the vast wilderness. If you’ve never been to a rain forest, you are in for a stunning surprise. Animals and plants of many colors, shapes, and sizes await your discovery.

Kerala, India

If you’ve been longing to go to India, now is your chance to see some amazing plants and animals. Rajamala National Park is home to the endangered mountain goats in India. You can also find nearly 25 percent of the entire country’s plant species there. This area has been called “God’s Own Country.” It’s easy to see why this name was earned once you visit.

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