Archive for September 2010

Discovering Asia

thailandAsia is the largest continent in the world and an ever popular tourist destination. With so many countries to choose from, each with their unique culture, traditions and attractions, it is sometimes difficult to decide where to go. Asia is too massive and diverse to conceptualize as a single digestible travel “destination”. Even defining the borders of this continent is difficult – from the mountains around the Black Sea in the west, to the snow fields of Siberia in the east, there are more people and cities in Asia than outside of it.

Thailand, China, India, Japan…….the list of destinations in Asia goes on. Thailand has its paradise islands, Buddhist temples and beautiful capital Bangkok; China has its architectural wonders such as the Great Wall, as well as sacred buildings and a unique culture; India has its own manmade wonders such as the Taj Mahal, not to mention a rich smell of spices coming from the wonderful restaurants in Delhi, and Japan has its spectacular Mount Fuji and cherry blossom trees.

Checking out the price of airline tickets online is perhaps crucial to the decision-making process. Search and comparison websites allow you to enter in the flight criteria so that you can price airfares for different destinations and book the cheapest you find. Asia’s largest airports by number of intercontinental connections include Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Mumbai and Singapore. For the Middle East, Dubai is by far the largest hub, with Doha and Abu Dhabi also having reasonably good connections.

Flights to Thailand

flights to thailandThailand has fast become one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Backpackers flock to Bangkok; honeymooners retreat to Phuket and nature seekers head to Chiang Mai. Its paradise islands, luxury resorts, charming capital and natural beauty are its most appealing assets. Thailand is the most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia, and for a reason. You can find almost anything here: thick jungle as green as can be, crystal blue beaches that feel more like a warm bath than a swim in the ocean and food that can curl your nose hairs while tap dancing across your taste buds. Exotic, yet safe; cheap, yet equipped with every modern amenity you need, there is something for every interest and every price bracket, from beach front backpacker bungalows to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. And despite the heavy flow of tourism, Thailand retains its quintessential Thainess, with a culture and history all its own and a carefree people famed for their smiles and their fun-seeking sanuk lifestyle. Many travelers come to Thailand and extend their stay well beyond their original plans and others never find a reason to leave. Whatever your cup of tea is, they know how to make it in Thailand. These features, along with the rising popularity of this country as a holiday destination mean that finding cheap flights to Thailand is not always easy.

It goes without saying that booking in advance increases the chances of finding cheap flights. However, doing a simple price check on search and comparison websites is another good way of getting bargain flights. The main airlines which operate flights from worldwide destinations to Thailand are Delta Airlines, Thai Airways International, Jet Airways and Emirates. To help you decide which airline to fly with, check out airline reviews. Search for customer feedback on airlines, airports and hotels so that you can find out about other travellers’ experiences and it will help you pick the right travel deals. Life is easy with the internet.

Cultural Travel

cultural travelThe concept of cultural travel involves immersing yourself in the local way of life and culture for a period of time. You take yourself away from the tourism inspired hotspots and instead focus on experiencing what life is like for the normal inhabitants of the country.

Some people who are into cultural travel prefer to take it to a country that is completely out of their comfort zone. These people like to have to learn a new language in order to survive and experience different beliefs, ethics and general way of doing things. However, you do not have to do it in this way but instead spend time in a country that may be the other side of the world but still shares at least the same language.

When the term cultural travel is used it should be noted that it does not mean you just go to a country and visit a museum or read some books as it is focused on the people themselves. You eat the food in the area not because it is a novelty thing that tourists do but instead you learn to cook it yourself or eat where the locals eat because it is the cuisine they have grown up with.

Cultural travel is not something that can really be achieved in a short space of time. Some may be familiar with the idea of a gap year during education or indeed a gap year after education and before work and this is the timeframe really associated with cultural travel.

With this type of trip you shall find that you do not spend vast amounts of money like normal tourists as you learn about local places which are much cheaper as they do not come with the tourist surcharge. You are spending more time there so you are living at local rates and prices for a number of things. After all you are trying to live like a local as much as you can.

Cultural travel is therefore able to be summarized as spending time living like the locals. You can avoid all of the marketing ploys aimed at tourists and get off the beaten track to experience what day to day life is really like.

The Best Diving Sites in Asia

phuket divingAsia provides some of the best diving sites in the world. In fact, divers seem to have come to some sort of consensus that regards Asia (and the Pacific Southeast specifically) as being the best in the world when it comes to top-rate diving locations. A lot of this consensus has to do with the sheer number of dive sites located in Asia. This also means that the more diving sites to choose from, the harder it is to come up with a list of the best. However, we must try…so here it goes.

Let’s begin with Thailand. The Similan Islands and Burma Banks are located up the coast from Phuket. Although due to Phuket’s popularity the waters can get busy, they seldom disappoint with their clear waters, granite islands, and sandy beaches. What makes it such a great diving spot is the fact that the islands are protected under Thai law, which shields the area from fishing. Diving is easy and navigation is simple, making for comfortable dives. Along the north end are whale shark populations, as well as several species of rays, and the leopard shark.

Papua New Guinea dive sites may be difficult to get to, but they are well worth the effort. Kavieng features current-swept channels, which attract a variety of big fish. You can observe eagle rays, mantas, tuna, barracudas, reef sharks, and oceanic white tip sharks. Kavieng is also home to miles of reef walls which drop away to great depths and are covered in big fans, sponges and beautiful hard corals. This area is also home to several World War II wrecks.

Sipadan in Malaysia is an Asian diving classic. It contains more than most, as it is at the epicenter of one of the richest marine habitats in the world. Groups of greenback and hawksbill turtles, barracuda, big-eyed trevallies, manta rays, eagle rays, scalloped hammerhead sharks, and whale sharks all call this area home. There is also a mysterious turtle tomb hidden beneath the reef in an underwater limestone cave. It contains many skeletal remains of turtles, but is dangerous for humans as well, as divers have died here. So don’t attempt this without cave experience and a first class local guide.

Raja Ampat in Indonesia provides all that could be desired in terms of diversity. The waters are home to more than 1,000 species of fish and the diving offers diverse terrain and marine life. Most dives are drift dives due to strong currents, and large schools of fish populate the region such as sharks, manta rays, mobula rays, dolphins, whales, and turtles. Some sites have huge rocks rising up from the ground and water, surrounded by barracuda and manta rays. Rare animals like the wobbegong shark can also be spotted, as well as the epaulette shark which is only a foot long and is indigenous to the region.

Finally, the tiny nation of Palau is a great dive site for jellyfish. The popular lagoon near the island of Malakal has World War II wrecks and pelagic fish. Palau’s amazing Jellyfish Lake is in the Rock Islands. Visitors can swim with millions of soft jellyfish. These jellyfish have evolved without any stinger as there is no predator in the vicinity.