Why is Everyone Going to the Philippines?

Once upon a time everyone was flocking to Thailand, and it wasn’t hard to see why, however things are changing slightly, and more and more people are heading to the Philippines instead.

Why?

Well, if you haven’t considered it yourself, here’s a few reasons why you should.

It’s cheap

Travelling around the country, as well as eating and drinking is cheap, and that’s great news for those trying to see more of this charming and beautiful land. Alcohol is cheaper than most western countries, as well as being a tad bit on the strong side, and food is plentiful for low cost too. Accommodation is budget, but clean, and you can upgrade to bigger hotels, especially in the large cities, such as bustling Manila.

It’s a friendly kind of place

The locals are warm and welcoming towards tourists, and provided you are respectful of them and their culture, then they will go out of their way to help you learn more about their way of life. It’s not hard to make friends here, and people seem to be always smiling.

Beaches to blow your mind

The Philippines is made up of over 7000 islands, and the beaches are quite frankly stunning. Think clear blue sea, almost translucent, with powder white sand, and lush green vegetation running to the beach. White Beach in Boracay is often voted as one of the world’s best, and this is just one of countless slices of beach heaven.

Wildlife is weird and wonderful

There aren’t many species of wildlife that you won’t find here, as well as some seriously strange ones too! If you love spotting birds, animals, flowers, plants, and insects, then this should be your destination.

Amazing natural sights

Chocolate Hills – just the name is enough to make you want to go! On top of this you can climb a volcano, even the world’s smallest one, as well as some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes you’ll ever be lucky enough to set your eyes on.

Weather!

November to May is the best time to visit, to keep out of the rainy season, but overall the temperature throughout the year rarely dips below 25 degrees, which let’s face it, is pretty good compared to the western world and it’s chilly winters!

Cities vs nature

Manila is one powerhouse of a city, with massive shopping malls to more than satisfy those shopping urges. Huge cities sit perfectly side by side with tranquil nature, which is a pretty amazing feat.

I could go on, really I could, but the Philippines are certainly enjoying a tourism boost. With amazing nature, wildlife, and a welcoming, friendly vibe, it’s no wonder why more and more people are heading to this sunny part of the world.

Photo Credit: john valentine ii

Visiting India With Kids

How, where and what

You might think that India is not a place to visit with your kids in tow, you might think it’s too bustling, busy, possibly even dirty, however if this is your viewpoint, prepare to have it changed completely.

Basically, India is a fantastic place to visit with your children, not only from the point of view of what they will see and do, but also because it will help them learn about a very different culture and way of life compared to their own – travel is an important way to open eyes and minds.

India is busy and it is bustling, especially if you head to Delhi, but knowing a few tricks of the trade beforehand will help make your adventure a little easier.

The colours, smells, and experiences are a true assault on the senses, so be prepared for this. Indians as a whole are very family-oriented people, so the country is very family-friendly as a result. People will be happy to help you, and will no doubt spoilt your little ones rotten, putting a smile on their faces. This is a destination that your children won’t forget, and the bright colours and noise will make it totally different from anywhere else they’ve been before.

So, let’s get down to the how, where, and what.

How

You have a few options on how to visit India, as well as how to get around. If you want to travel over a large area then trains are your best option. You might have the image of a seriously packed carriage in your mind, but rail travel has come a long way since then, and now you will find comfortable and roomy carriages, which need to be booked in advance, so a little pre-planning is needed here.

Organised tours are also a good way to see the major sights, and takes away the need to find your way around. You will find many family-focused companies offering tours to the Taj Mahal, Hindu temples, or into the countryside to find wildlife.

If you prefer to base yourself in one place, with Goa being a popular beach break destination, then this is another option to explore.

Where & what

The ‘where’ question is a very complicated one! India is huge, and where you go really depends on what you want to see and how prepared you are to travel around. Obviously the Taj Mahal is synonymous with India, and for that you need to visit Agra. You can easily find a day trip from Delhi for this, and the kids will love visiting this world-famous landmark.

Alternatively, Delhi itself is somewhere to behold. Now, if you’re taking your kids to Delhi you need to prepare them for the noise and for how busy it is. Keep a hold of hands and make sure you give instructions on what to do if you do get lost. Despite this, there are several parts of the city which are great for running off a little steam before bed, with Lodhi Gardens being one of them.

We mentioned Goa, and this is a great place for a family beach break with a difference. You can rent a bike and go on a family bike ride, or you can head off on a fishing boat. Kerala is another popular beach area for families, and the sights here truly are like something from a picture postcard. Periyar Tiger Reserve will thrill the kids, and you can head off on a boat ride here, or a guided nature walk.

Bombay is another famous Indian city, and it is very child-friendly to boot. Nehru Science Centre and Planetarium is a good place to head, as well as the Children’s Science park, for hands-on, educational fun.

As you can see, India is certainly child-friendly, so there is no reason why shouldn’t be looking to head to this magical and colourful land.

Photo Credit: Dennis Jarvis

Fancy Sri Lanka?

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country, and despite its size, it really is an assault on the senses in the best possible way. Getting around is quite easy, especially if you use the high quality train network, and exploring on your own steam is the best way to see more.

If you’re wondering what to see and do, then arranging your own bespoke independent tour itinerary is the way forward. You can do this in many ways; you could arrange it yourself, designing your own route and booking accommodation and transport along the way, or you could go through a company who put together tours of the most famous and interesting sights, so you don’t have to do the hard work. It’s basically whatever works for you, but making sure you see some of the best sights is the only way to get the most out of your time on this stunning island.

Independent tour itineraries are ten a penny, however as a sample, if you only have a week to spare, how about this particular route?

Colombo

Colombo is Sri Lanka’s capital city, and whilst you won’t find the major metropolis that you may find in other countries, you will find a more modern way of life compared to the rural areas. Spending a few days here will allow you to rest and recuperate before you go towards the more countryside-related areas on your itinerary. Next stop? Kandy.

Kandy

Nothing to do with sweets, and everything to do with culture and religion, this important area is sacred to the people of the country. Visit the Temple of the Tooth for sheer jaw-dropping sights, as well as the natural aspects of the area around it, totally located in nature’s back garden. The nearby market is a must visit, something truly colourful and diverse. There are also Sri Lankan tea plantations you can check out.

Ella

Jump on the train to Ella and check out the amazing mountain views. This is certainly one for the camera, and a quaint town to visit too.

Yala National Park

Off on safari you go! You can’t talk about Sri Lanka and not mention wildlife, and here you will see the famous elephants roaming free and going about their daily business. This is a magical sight to see, and you also get the chance to spot many other species of wildlife, flora and fauna.

Head back to Colombo

On the way back to the capital you can check out the architecture along the way, before arriving back at your starting point.

This is just one sample itinerary you can take in Sri Lanka, and there are countless more, all depending on your preferences and interests.

One thing is for sure, Sri Lanka is a treat for the eyes.

Photo Credit: YoTuT

Self-drive Safari Trips in Africa

If you’ve ever dreamed of seeing the Big 5 up close and personal then a safari will no doubt have been on your bucket-list for a while. There are countless ways to do this nowadays, as well as many different destinations too. With this in mind, have you ever considered a self-drive safari?

Self-drive gives you the option of travelling around a particular land-mass totally on your own steam, and in the case of Africa, you’re not going to get much vaster, or stunning than this!

Because of the size of the place, and the sheer once in a lifetime kind of vibe there is going on, it’s important to do it right. If you’re considering a self-drive safari trip in this wonderful and beautiful land, then check out the following advice for your upcoming trip.

Choose your vehicle wisely

Most of Africa has some questionable roads at some stage, however if you’re travelling through the popular areas of South Africa and Namibia then you shouldn’t have to worry about this too much, with tarred roads for the most part. Make sure you pick your vehicle with this in mind however, as gravelled roads aren’t uncommon, especially near to nature reserves. 4×4 is probably the best way to go here.

Pick a company

You’ll find countless companies online who are experienced in safari holidays and will help you organise your own bespoke self-drive holiday. Of course, it’s good to be spontaneous and head off on your own steam, but Africa is massive, literally, and if you want to get the best out of it then taking advice from people who know what they are taking about is the best option. Once you have picked a company, always checking out reviews beforehand, you can give them all your details and help them arrange your itinerary to suit you.

Think about the logistics

A lot of self-drive safaris involve flying to your destination, picking up your hire car, and then driving across some seriously amazing landscapes to your wildlife reserve or nature park of choice. Once you arrive at the reserve you will find accommodation to suit your needs, ranging from basic to luxurious, and your safari will generally take place on a guided 4×3 vehicle, with guides to give you advice and information on what you’re seeing, which we hope will include the Big 5!

Give your itinerary plenty of thought

You can choose South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Malawi, or Zimbabwe to name just a few, and these all have plentiful game-spotting and safari opportunities. Thrown into this we haven’t even mentioned the legendary safari drives of Kenya! You need to decide ahead of time which of these you want to visit, or if you want to visit several, in which case you’re going to be crossing borders.

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is perhaps one of the most popular and easiest to visit, and is also fantastic for game viewing. You’ll find amazing accommodation here and some seriously knowledgeable guides.

As another option, if you’re heading to Namibia, another popular choice, then Etosha is probably your best option. On your way to this fantastic wildlife reserve you can cross the Namib Desert and jaw-dropping scenery too. Etosha itself again has plentiful accommodation options, and is a year around destination, which makes your planning easier. Set on the Etosha pan, a constantly flooded area, you’ll see countless species of wildlife, as well as the endangered cheetah and black rhino.

Basically, a safari holiday is one of the most enthralling things you can do, something to really steal the imagination, and if you throw in a self-drive element too, you make this once in a lifetime.

Photo Credit: IMG_0785-2 via photopin (license)

Planning a Trip to Myanmar

Whether you call it Myanmar, or you stick to the old name of Burma, one thing is for sure – this is one part of the world which is enjoying a serious tourist boom. This is mainly down to the fact that the country has now opened up to tourists, after years of being a closed door, and it’s a good idea to head there now, before tourism changes the country beyond recognition. At the current time, Myanmar has retained a lot of its old, mysterious charm, but who knows how long that will last?

If you’re keen to visit whilst the iron is hot, here’s a few tips you need to bear in mind.

Do you need a visa?

This is something you need to look into, and if you do need a visa then it’s likely to be a 28 days’ visa you need, usually obtained from or through Bangkok.

Book your hotel in advance

Because tourism has increased, so have prices, but despite that there still aren’t places to stay in abundance. Because of this, you need to book your accommodation well in advance. It is the law that tourists can only stay in officially licensed accommodation, usually in Nyaungshwe, Nyaung, Mandalay, or Bagan. There are some high quality hotel resorts in Ngapali Beach, and Chaung Tha. It is illegal to camp, so don’t even try it!

When to go

Myanmar is hot, especially during March to May, so unless you like searing hot temperatures, stick to the cooler and very pleasant months of December, January, and February.

Consider your must-do list

It all depends on where you’re basing yourself, but there are some definite must-sees in Myanmar. Check these out for size.

Shwedagon Paya, Yangon – If you want to see real Burmese life, then this is going to show you a lot of what you need to see. This is a very important religious place of worship, as well as being a ground for pro-democracy rallies over the last few years.

Ngapali Beach, Rakhaing State – You might choose to stay here for the duration of your break in Myanmar, and this is the country’s main tourist resort, with stunning beaches and facilities for your break. Despite this fact, it’s still quite authentic and unspoilt for the time being.

Mrauk U, Rakhaing State – There is something quite eerie about this almost abandoned city with shrines, temples, and palaces to check out, smack back in the middle of a stunning natural landscape.

Inle Lake, Shan State – This is another touristic part of the country, and one that many visitors flock to. There is a lot of culture to be found here, but the tranquil waters are perfect for casting your cares away.

Mt Kyaiktiyo, Mon state – If you want to see something quite jaw-dropping then head here. What you’re looking at is basically a huge golden rock sat right on the edge a soaring cliff top, almost defying every law of gravity there is. This is a sacred spot, and one you should certainly try and visit.

Your visit to Myanmar will no doubt be magical, mystical, and beautiful.

Photo Credit: Jérémy

Off the Beaten Track in Turkey

Turkey has become hugely popular for summer package holidays, and it’s no surprise when you look at the glittering Mediterranean resorts, all situated on the south coast of the country. Despite this, you’re not likely to find that much in the way of traditional Turkish life in these places, although if you head off the tourist streets you will see a little to whet your appetite.

Exploring Turkey and its culture really is something everyone should get a chance to do, because the rich blend of history and tradition is not only magical, but really does instil a sense of humility; Turkish people are very family orientated, and everything revolves around this, something which is often lost in busier, more westernised countries.

Having said that, Turkey’s cities are very western, especially Izmir, Ankara (the capital), and the huge city of Istanbul, but you only have to go inland to see the real historic way of Turkish life, and it is this which you should be exploring first.

Turkish village life is quite famous, and it is that well-known adage of a toilet being a hole in the ground, and baby wipes being the staple ingredient in every traveller’s backpack, but this is authentic village life, and you have to embrace it. There are countless villages in Turkey, even in the cities, but the more rural areas are where you will see it in its extreme.

Here women will have to cover up, wear respectful clothes, and sometimes cover their heads, although not always, it’s really a case of seeing how you feel about things when you arrive. Trying to learn a few phrases in the language will also help.

Heading off the beaten track in Turkey could lead you to many different places, however the south-east of the country is where you will find real rugged landscapes and culture. If you are considering heading to this part of the country do be aware to check travel advice before you go, as this predominantly Kurdish area has had many troubles over the years, so always follow advice and listen to your common sense; if you do this however, you will be rewarded with a rich experience

Mardin and Diyarbakir are two of the most cultural and historical cities in this region, as well as the jaw-dropping ancient town of Hasankeyf, in the Batman Province, along the Tigris River – yes, there is a city called Batman! Şanliurfa, or Urfa to give it its shorter name, is another very cultural city to visit, somewhere you will get a real sense of old fashioned values.

Of course, you don’t necessarily have to head south-east to get a taste of Turkey’s off the beaten track destinations, as Cappadocia is another fantastic place to visit. You will no doubt have seen the picture of the colourful hot air balloons rising out of the mountainous landscape at sunrise, and this is Cappadocia in all its glory. You can even stay in a cave hotel!

Hopefully this will have whet your appetite for a Turkish adventure, and with so much to explore and experience in this huge and mysterious country, you really do have an abundance of choice.

Photo Credit: Neil Howard

Kuala Lumpur’s Best Eats

Kuala Lumpur is a foodie’s dream. Street food costs next to nothing but is an explosion of taste, with spices to blow your mind. Of course, you need to make sure you’re getting a good standard of food and always check the place you’re getting it from, but on the whole, street food is the way the locals grab their meals on the go, some even using this as their sit down evening meal – it’s that good!

Whilst you’re exploring everything Kuala Lumpur has to offer, it’s easy to try a few culinary delights along the way. Malaysian food is a fusion of every country which sits around it, meaning true flavours to reach your palate.

If you’re heading to Kuala Lumpur soon, be sure to try these five treats for the tongue.

Hokkien mee

This is a famous dish and is actually influenced very much by Chinese cuisine. This is made of Chinese noodles, derived from bamboo cane pressed yellow mee, which is then stir-fried with pork, prawns, squid, and infused with spices to give it a sharp taste, as well as dark soy sauce to gloss it over. Delicious!

Roti canai

This is a breakfast dish but really it can be enjoyed at any time of the day. A finger food you can grab as you go, roti canai consists of flour, egg, and gee into a dough, which is then cooked and forms almost a croissant-type outer layer. The inside is chewy and it is often served with other dishes, such as curry, however can easily be eaten on its own as a snack.

Asam laksa

Laksa is a popular dish with many different variations and ingredients added to it, however asam laksa is one of the most common. This is basically noodle soup but this one has flaky white fish inside, often with cucumber and pineapple too. You’ll find several different variations, as we mentioned, and another is curry laksa, which is basically what it says on the tin.

Beef rendang

Beef rendang is a dry, slow-cooked curry, which is so packed with spices you might not be sure which one you’re tasting first! Perfect for those who aren’t so keen on ‘watery’ curries, this one is full of ginger, turmeric, lime, and chilies, which gives it a true mixture of sweet and sour. Obviously made with beef, you can get many different meat variations.

Roti jala

Another accompaniment dish which can be consumed as a snack, and also made savoury or sweet. Batter is formed using turmeric and coconut milk and then drizzled to create circles and cooked. Pancake-like and delicious. Although you can serve this as a side order, it’s just as easy to grab on the go.

Feeling hungry?

Photo Credit: Hadi Zaher

Europe’s Unsung Heroes

Sometimes it’s better to be quiet and whisper about what you can offer, rather than shout it from the rooftops. Sure enough, this doesn’t help in terms of getting tourists to come to your shores, but for those who do manage to dig amongst the rubble to find the hidden gems, treasure is guaranteed.

We know that Europe is a hugely popular place to visit, made up of countries which all have specific sights to see and culture to experience, but we tend to stick to those we know, rather than looking for those lesser visited places. Just because a particular country isn’t bustling with tourists, doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out.

Here are five of Europe’s unsung heroes, those countries who might not be high up on the ‘most visited’ chart, but are certainly worth visiting.

Luxembourg – 905,000 visitors per year

Luxembourg might be small but it is rich, and rich speaks! Sandwiched between France and Germany, there are many different influences of the two countries here, which makes for an interesting blend. The scenery is fairytale-like, and is certainly very beautiful, making this the perfect place for anyone who wants to enjoy their time in nature, relaxing, and probably being waited on hand and foot.

San Marino – 139,000 visitors per year

There are cities in the world which are bigger than San Marino, but there is that old saying that ‘good things come in small packages’! What San Marino lacks in size, it makes up for in stature, with some beautiful castles and views to check out. This is a very natural country, unspoilt, and untouristic, giving it an authentic edge.

Serbia – 810,000 visitors per year

Fairytale scenery is the order of the day again here, and the former Yugoslavian country is trying to pull itself back up in touristic terms. Nightlife here is cheap, which makes it a magnet for stag dos, however the scenery certainly should be explored.

Monaco – 292,000 visitors per year

If you’re rich and have a yacht then you’ve probably already been to Monaco, however if you haven’t got a yacht then you probably won’t have been! This playground for the rich and famous is tiny, but dripping with money. Despite that, it does receive few visitors per year. The mountains roll down to the water with the glittering city for all to see. Of course, Monaco is famous for the Formula One Grand Prix, which is probably when most of the visitors arrive.

Macedonia – 351,000 visitors per year

Another former Yugoslavian country, Macedonia is growing in terms of tourism, again concentrating on the natural side of things, with scenery to blow your mind. Macedonia is very cultural and you’ll see architecture and buildings to reflect this.

As you can see, flying under radar isn’t always a bad thing; maybe you should be heading to visit one of these unsung heroes in the near future?

Photo Credit: nate2b

Cape Town – Highlights of the Mother City

South Africa is becoming increasingly popular as a destination to visit for a holiday, and Cape Town is certainly one of the most famous cities in the region. Blessed with a beautiful climate, seemingly endless sun, and more than enough outdoor activities to blend perfectly side by side with city life, Cape Town is a must visit destination.

Known the world over as the Mother City, if you’re lucky enough to be visiting this bright and beautiful city, then here are a few must visit attractions which will more than highlight your trip.

Table Mountain

When you think of Cape Town, your mind automatically thinks of Table Mountain. Synonymous with the city, this imposing, flat topped mountain looks over the city in approval, and is one of the most visited places in the area. Part of Table Mountain National Park, hiking to the top will give you stunning views of the city and beyond. If hiking sounds like too much like hard work, then the cable car is your destination, however be sure to check out a few of the 2000 species of indigenous plants on the way.

Lions Head

Another attraction located in Table Mountain National Park, Lions Head is another must-hike experience, possibly a little easier than Table Mountain, and offering just as amazing views, especially during a full moon.

V & A Waterfront

A trendy and sophisticated part of the city, this harbour area is great for all aspects of modern city life, such as shopping, dining, night-life, and entertainment. Despite the modern vibe, it looks quite olde-worlde, and it’s no wonder this is one of the most popular parts of the city to visit, for both visitors and locals alike.

Robben Island

A trip to this former prison island is a must, especially for those with an interest in history. You can book trips from V & A Waterfront, at one of the many ticket offices.

Winelands

Delicious wine and beautiful scenery? Check! South Africa’s winelands are beautiful, and very close to Cape Town. Stellenbosch is one of the most popular towns within the region, but there are many different smaller towns and villages which are equally as stunning, offering wine tasting and a chance to learn about how it is made.

Cape of Good Hope

The most south-western tip of Africa, also part of Table Mountain National Park, is a beautiful place to head, full of history, nature, wildlife, and stunning scenery. The local baboon families will entertain you, however do beware of their rather mischievous nature! You can hike and there are several trails to choose from, with something for every ability.

These are just a few highlights of the Mother City, with plenty more to keep you occupied during your stay in this bright and colourful destination.

Photo Credit: David Stanley

Five of the Best Africa-Related Blogs to Follow

We all love a good blog, and when we find one that calls out to our interests then regular updates are like nectar. If you’re at all interested in anything Africa-related, and by reading this I’m guessing you are, then the following five blogs should be ones you’re hitting the ‘follow’ button on right now.

The bottom line is that Africa is huge, it’s a continent after all, and there’s so much content to enjoy about this bright and colourful place. Whether you’re into wildlife, culture, history, environmental issues, politics, or humanitarian efforts, then you won’t struggle to find some kind of content to tick your interest boxes.

Check these five suggestions out and add them to your follow list.

Africa Encompassed

A clear and easy to follow layout makes this blog the perfect starter for anyone considering visiting Africa. Lots of destination guides help you plan your own trip, as well as information about culture, in an easy to understand format. Photos are also plentiful, which gives you a feel of the places you’re reading about.

Safari Geek

The great thing about this blog is that although it is very informative, it’s written in a quite tongue in cheek way, a little cheeky, which makes it full of humour as well as being great for learning more. The tone is written in a conversational manner, and there is content on many different countries, many different experiences, and all from a personal point of view.

Ranger Diaries

If you’re a wildlife lover then this is the blog for you. Written by experienced guides, you know you can trust the information and advice they’re giving you, and the layout is bright and engaging. You’ll find information all sorts of conservation efforts here, as well as learning more about the wildlife that call Africa home.

Africa on the Blog

There’s no denying that whilst Africa is beautiful and wonderful in so many ways, there are important humanitarian, conservation, and political issues that come attached to it. If you’re interested in these, or simply want to educate yourself a little on the other side of Africa, then this blog will help you understand more. You can also learn about what is being done to help, and how you could possibly get involved.

That African Girl

This blog is a little different from the others, in that it’s not specifically about Africa as such, but it’s about a girl born in Africa who is now living in the USA. This is a really interesting blog because it shows how she is flipping between the two, understanding the cultural differences, and highlighting the contrasts she comes into contact with. An interesting and quite funny read too.

Follow these blogs today!

Photo Credit: IMAGE_D3CE9D4A-7ED5-4D1A-BB9F-F836827D48C5.JPG via photopin (license)