Expert Travel Reviews

Adventures in Northern Thailand

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

If you are planning a quick visit to Thailand and do not want to be stuck with hordes of tourists, you should consider having a small cultural adventure.

You can start out by visiting the Hill Tribe museum, which is situated in a beautiful location by a large lake. To get there, just take the Highway 107 toward Mae Rim and turn left to Ratchamangkala Park; a short while later you will reach the museum. Here you can experience the lives of the hill tribes through the exhibits.

After you have had you fill of the museum, your next stop should be the Elephant Camp. To get there you need to get back to the 107 and drive on until you pass Mae Rim and Mae Taeng. A few kilometers after you pass Mae Taeng, you will see a turn to your left which will take you to Mae Taaman. The Elephant camp is seven kilometers down this road.
Here you can take a long ride on an elephant over mountains and through streams and lush vegetation. The ride eventually ends at an Ox cart station, and you will transfer to a cart that will take you to a large river. This is where you will transfer to a bamboo raft for long and leisurely ride down the river. Once you reach your destination, a 4×4 pick-up will take you back to the Elephant camp for lunch.

Thereafter, you can travel in the same pick-up to a Lisu Village where you can spend the night and experience tribal culture first-hand. Decent toilet and shower facilities are available, but there is no electricity. Comfortable mattresses are available and guests are advised to use ear plugs when sleeping as the roosters begin crowing around 3am.
The pick-up will come back for you in morning once you have finished breakfast and take you back to the Elephant camp. This is a quick and easy way to experience a part of Thailand that most tourists never bother to see.

2010 Hawaiian Vacation Deals

December 28, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The New Year is just about here, which means planning ahead for that relaxing Hawaiian vacation you have been dreaming of. For a limited time only, Panda Online is offering Hawaiian vacation packages to the famous Hawaiian hotel on Ka’anapali Beach.

Starting at just $309 per person, you can find great Hawaiian vacation deals that include round trip air fare from Honolulu and a three night stay at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel. An award-winning three-star hotel, the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel offers 430 guest rooms and suites surrounded by tropical gardens, magnificent mountains or the stunning Pacific Ocean. This outstanding hotel was a Gold List Award winner in the “Best Places to Stay” reader’s choice poll by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine. It was also voted the best value in Hawaii by Travel and Leisure Magazine.

During your Hawaii vacation, experience warm hospitality and enjoy air conditioned rooms at the Ka’anapali Beach Hotel.

Uganda National Parks

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Sir Winston Churchill named Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” for good reason. It is one the most beautiful countries on the African Continent with spectacular scenery, abundant wildlife, and wonderful people.

The country boasts of many wildlife parks which boom with a myriad of flora and fauna. Among the national parks you must visit are Bwindi, Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth, Kibale, Lake Mburo, and Rwenzori Mountains. Bwindi, in particular, is home to more than half the world’s population of mountain gorillas. In Bwindi and other parks, you are also bound to see elephants, buffalos, hippos, baboons, chimpanzees, bush pigs, giant forest hogs, hartebeests, leopards, lions, giraffes, crocodiles, and many species of antelopes, just to name a few. You will also encounter hundreds of species of birds, snakes, and other reptiles.

Other venues of interest include Mount Elgon, which is located on the Kenyan border and features a giant caldera, hot water springs, waterfalls, and natural caves. If you are in visiting historic sites, the source of the Nile is a must see and is located at Jinja, 60km North-East of Kampala. You can combine your visit to the source with the Kabaka Trail, which takes you through a journey of Uganda’s rich heritage. The Kabaka is the ceremonial king of the Baganda. The trail will take you through many cultural sites where you will experience authentic tribal culture with traditional dance, music, craft making, spiritual healing and storytelling, and eventually discover a forgotten Uganda.

If you are planning a visit to the country, it is best to research the locations you would like to visit. This will enable you get the maximum benefits and experiences the country has to offer.

Visiting Chiang Mai

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Situated in the Chiang Mai province, Chiang Mai City is easily the largest and most prominent of cities in Northern Thailand. When you arrive there, it may seem chaotic and confusing initially. But if you have done your research on the city and its customs, it may make you experience very pleasant.

Getting around in Chiang Mai is easy with certain modes of public transportation. Instead of taking buses, which tend to be crowded, you may try using a “dtoog dtoog”, “sarmlor”, “zeelor”, or a “songthaew”. The first two are open-air three-wheel vehicles, and the latter are four-wheel vehicles. Whichever mode you choose, always be sure to negotiate with the driver before you get in.

The culture is very protocol-oriented, so to avoid causing offence you should brush up on your knowledge of interaction with Thai’s. If you would like to say Hello say “Sawasdee Krup” for men and “Sawasdee Kha” for women. Thank you is “Kob Khun Krup” or ” Kob Khun Kha” depending on which sex you are addressing. The “Wai” is the traditional gesture of greeting and respect. The custom is that younger people must “wai” the elders first. You can perform the “wai” by placing your palms together in front of the upper chest. Avoid placing your hand on anyone’s head, and never point you feet at anyone either. You should also be mindful in any reference to the Kind and the Royal family, as the Thai people have great respect and reverence for them.

Chiang Mai is full of great culinary experiences, and the nightlife is simply bustling. There are many places of cultural interest which you can visit as well as many places of great natural beauty. Wherever you go, please adhere to the customs and values of the region so that your experience remains a pleasant one.

Guide to Albany, New York

December 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Albany, New York State’s capital, is a unique combination of diverse neighborhoods and a lively downtown section. The city, which is more than 300 years old, has also experienced tremendous growth over the past decade due to the success of its economic development program, Capitalize Albany. With the private and public funds available in its C-1 Program, Albany has also improved those sections that include a diverse blend of commercial and residential buildings, creating a small-town atmosphere that so many people enjoy.

You can visit Albany in any of the four seasons and experience architecture representing four historic centuries, including Empire State Plaza’s awe-inspiring “egg” structure and the state capitol’s Million Dollar Staircase. Locals and tourists alike also enjoy the special events, concerts, and festivals that are part of the area’s tradition. The city’s outstanding restaurants, museums, and theaters have a lot to offer as well. Out in the countryside, which is especially appealing to history buffs, you can visit the original Shaker Meeting House and the historic Pruyn House for a glimpse of the past.

The city is known as the cultural and economic core of the region and as the crossroads of various urban hubs, including Montreal, Boston, and New York City. Both its Amtrak station and Albany International Airport, which are outstanding transportation centers, make it convenient to travel here. In addition, the nearby Catskill Mountains, the Adirondack Mountains, the Mohawk River, and the Hudson River further enhance the quality of life its fortunate residents enjoy.

Acapulco City Guide

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Acapulco, located on the Pacific coast is a very popular resort area for tourists and residents alike. It carries the world-renowned mark of luxury, glamour and entertainment. People from all over travel to feel the sun and the coastal breezes as well as explore the white, sandy beaches.

Accommodations

Hyatt Regency Acapulco: Located in La Costersa, it is a great choice for business travelers and tourists. It has easy access to many clubs and fine restaurants.

Villa Vera Hotel & Racquet Club: It is an excellent location for private parties with lots of privacy. It is located between Costa Azul and La Condesa. A fine favorite of tennis players, it provides a nice night’s lodging.

El Cano Hotel: You will enjoy this impressive hotel that provides great service, wonderful beach front, and attractive gardens. Accommodations are excellent with beautiful balconies and a nice pool.

Restaurants

Baikal Restaurant: Most people would agree that this is one of the best restaurants in Acapulco. It offers outstanding views and excellent food, although a little on the expensive side.

Su Casa: This is a charming restaurant located in the hills above the city. It is casual dining with fantastic seafood and great steaks for good prices.

Nightlife

Discos: The nightlife in Acapulco literally revolves around discos, and they have some of the best in the world. They typically open at around 11 pm and they close at six pm. They have the usual cover charge of $30.00 to $35.00. This sounds shocking at first, but wait till you hear that this includes all you can drink. Not a bad deal overall!

Bars: There are many lively bars where you can enjoy a pleasant drink with your friends. Most of the bars are open-air, which makes it easy to go bar hopping as you enjoy your vacation.

Escape to Cozumel

December 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Situated a short commute away from the coast of Mexico’s Riviera Maya is the cozy island of Cozumel. The island owes much its revenue to the influx of cruise ships that arrive daily. Sometimes up to 11 cruise liners a day can weigh anchor at the West side of the island. This means there is an overabundance of day-trippers on the tourist strip that exists on the West side of Cozumel. But this shouldn’t deter your visit as there is more to Cozumel than meets the eye.

Renting a scooter costs about 350 to 400 pesos for 24 hours, and you can use these to explore most of the island. Three to four blocks inland, away from the tourist strip, you will suddenly find yourself in the “real” Cozumel where you can experience the genuine Mexican way of life. Although there are not any “must see” locations, the culture and low priced goods, great food and entertainment will be a welcome change to the hectic and overpriced activities on the waterfront.

If you detest overcrowded destinations, just scoot over to the East side of the island and you will discover a completely new world. You will not find any electricity, gas stations or telephones, but what you do get are numerous little reggae bars and side-of-the-road restaurants and blissfully people-free expanses of raw ocean beach.

Visiting Cozumel can be a relaxing experience if you choose the right places. With beautiful beaches, stunning dive sites and great culture the tiny island is truly great vacation site.

Flamingo Bay

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Consisting of over 360 islands (or cays), Exuma is a fantastic destination for vacationers. The largest of these cays is Great Exuma, known for its exceptional natural beauty and friendly people. While there are many amazing locations to visit and enjoy, the jewel in the crown for Great Exuma is Flamingo Bay.

Just a two-mile drive down from George Town, the largest city, will take you to this quiet scenic location. With luxurious villas, beautiful beaches, and a spectacular coral reef this is the ideal location to soothe your body and soul. The reef, found one mile out from the beach, works as a wave breaker and keeps a huge expanse of water calm and clear. This allows you to walk around on sandy ocean floors and swim or float in peace. Flamingo Bay is not invaded by hordes of tourists, neither is it densely populated allowing for a serene, relaxed and quiet holiday.

You can stroll around the bay and check out the boats or the view of Stocking Island. The island is accessible by Kayak and has overnight accommodation as well. For those who are not adept at kayaking, a ferry is also available. Flamingo Bay Yacht Club and Marina Hotel are located on the Marina itself, in close proximity to Port Lucaya Marketplace. The resort features Ritz Beach water park and the Pirates of the Bahamas Beach theme park if you need a little excitement. If you ever get bored, you can always visit Georgetown or try a game of golf at the 18-hole championship golf course located at Emerald Bay that Greg Norman designed.

Offering fine dining, world-class sport, upscale shopping, and unparalleled natural beauty, Flamingo bay truly is a fabulous vacation destination.

Three Travel Themed Gift Ideas

December 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Are you stumped to find a holiday or birthday gift for that “hard to shop for” person in your life? If they are frequent travelers, here are a couple of gift ideas to think about:

On-board Ship Credits: Frugal but frequent travelers who take discounted cruise vacations will love on-board ship credits. These credits can be used like cash during their trip, allowing you to help them have an even better cruise than they already would have.

Airline gift cards: Most airlines now allow people to purchase gift cards in various amounts. These can be combined with the latest airline travel deal to encourage friends and relatives who live far away to visit.

Hotel bathrobes: Have you ever received a hotel suite deal and fallen in love with the robes that are provided by luxury hotels to their high-end guests? You can purchase these robes directly from the hotels – frequently from their Web site. It’s a great way to bring the elegance of high-class travel into your friend or family member’s house.

Ummo Argentinian Grill in San Juan, Puerto Rico

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The new Ummo Argentinian Grill located on Ashford Avenue, in the Condado area of San Juan, Puerto Rico is a veritable delight in every sense. Newcomers to the restaurant are advised to try the Churrasco with Chimichurri sauce as a safe choice to start off with. The dish features the Skirt Steak which is usually overlooked in the U.S. in favor of the meatier T-Bone, Porterhouse or Filet Mignon. But with a little bit of Latin magic, the skirt steak can be a juicy extravaganza.

The Chimichurri sauce is made up of a combination of olive oil, garlic, and parsley. Adding a touch of vinegar gives it a little bit of a bite, and it is this sauce that really makes the flavors of the meat come alive. While this dish is more than enough to satiate your appetite, several side dishes including the standard and fries are also available just in case you have some room left in you. But why “waste” you palette with the usual? Try some of the local favorites and you just might discover something great. The creamed spinach, mashed yucca or tostones are amazing in flavor or if you prefer something crunchy and green, the Mesclun con tomate is a must try.

The recommended entrée choice however, is the Patagonian Sea Bass with Atlantic Clams and Tomato comfit on mashed potatoes. This dish features a hearty bed of mashed potatoes surrounded by the tomato comfit. The Bass is presented on top of the mash along with some healthy greens.

All the meals go well with the wines on offer, but if you are feeling adventurous the house special, simply titled “The Ummo” is a delight. Consisting of sake, plum wine, rum soaked fruit and a splash of strawberry, it is a refreshingly chilled treat on a warm night. The signature dessert at the Ummo is the Rogel de Dulce de Leche. More commonly known as “heaven in your mouth” by the patrons, the dessert features a caramel-like sauce made from sweetened, condensed milk, pastry wafers, and meringue.

With reasonable prices, mouthwatering dishe, and a wonderful range to choose from, the Ummo is a definite must try for everyone visiting San Juan, Puerto Rico!

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