Category Archives:Asia

Ski Instructor Internships in Japan: What are they like?

I still remember the tiny specks of my mother, father, and sister waving (well, I assumed they were waving) in the distance as the airplane left the runway that day. This was my gateway to change: to a whole new country; a whole new environment; a whole new season. What was my action plan? A ski instructor course in Japan with WE ARE SNO – Instructor Courses.

That was two seasons ago and counting. Back to back winters are now all that I know. Summer, what’s that? Winter is where I can live the dream of making money through my hobby.

Looking back, I never would have thought that my obsession with skiing would mean that I would base my entire life around having the freedom to ski every day.

wearesno ski instructor internships

It all started with asking myself the prevailing question, “How do I ensure that I can ski each day and for at least 50 days every season, yet still make enough money to live?” A light bulb went off – I needed to become a ski instructor!

The Course

With that in mind I promptly signed up for a ski instructor internship course I had been thoroughly researching. The icing on the cake was the ‘guaranteed paid job upon completion of the course’ ambitiously declared in the description that I had highlighted and underlined several times on the brochure. A job at the end, what did I have to lose? With that weight off my shoulders, I launched into the journey of becoming a ski instructor and the different characteristics that came with that title.

A season of laughter, tears, hard work and more laughter with some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for. The whole experience easily topped my university days that others are so quick to claim are the “best days of your life.”  Definitely worth the investment and commitment when you consider a solid internationally recognised certification ensuring a great ‘foot in the door’ opportunity for anyone’s skiing career.

Working as a Ski Instructor

Working as an instructor can be challenging, but is also tremendously rewarding. Watching my group go from ‘never evers’ to linking ‘snowplough’ turns is one of the best feelings. In your first season you generally accompany the beginner skier groups. In my opinion, first-timers may not be the most stimulating, but are, without a doubt, the most rewarding group to teach. To see someone not only improve, but thrive on a small amount of direction makes it all worth it. Not to mention the fact that you play a significant role in their skiing journey, positive or not, it is enough motivation to put the effort in!

Yes, the pay may not be extravagant, especially when you start out, and you may be teaching on the beginner slopes on a bluebird powder day, but it’s a lifestyle choice at the end of the day. Although, you can consider all of the paid après ski appointments and delicious meals out with those that you teach, and private requests that may even take you to neighbouring mountains for a change of scenery – bonus!

Resort Life

wearesno ski instructor internships

The best part of my winter experience out of my ski boots was resort life. Resort life can be defined by any off-mountain activity that happens inside the town closest to the ski field that you worked.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to experience my ‘office’ life in Hakuba resort. One of Japan’s most vibrant skiing destinations.

Off snow, we dabbled in so many cultural activities I lose count. From Fire Festivals to Sushi Sundays, it was amazing. Tokyo is surprisingly close, so when you really want a break from the resort you can head into one of the craziest cities on the planet for a few beers!

Life after the Season: Travel

Of course, life as a ski instructor has some disadvantages such as being a seasonal career choice. Although, I didn’t really see this as a negative as I saw this as an opportunity to explore this beautiful country and stumble upon something fresh and new!

Looking forward I’ll aim to add a higher certification to my list each season to begin to pave the travel pathway through to the rest of the world. Until then, Japan will always be my second home and the place where I scored the best job on earth.

Don’t Miss…The Temples of Angkor, Cambodia

Entwined in wild, thick, climbing, winding jungle in Northern Cambodia are the ancient and wondrous Temples of Angkor. Once home to a great civilisation, the temples are scattered throughout the forest with the magnificent Angkor Wat as the centrepiece. It doesn’t take much to imagine past explorers pushing through dense, all-encompassing foliage to stumble in awe upon temple after temple. Today, with human intervention, the temples are much more accessible, only a short tuk tuk ride from the commercial centre of Siem Reap. Despite this, there is still an overwhelming sense of the jungle ceaselessly striving to swallow the temples up again in a suffocating sea of green.

angkor wat

To visit the temples, a tour guide is essential and won’t break your budget – a Tuk Tuk driver and guide will set you back about $30 AUD.

Angkor Wat is usually the first stop and is in fact often mistaken as the entire temple complex rather than a single temple.

Nine tall spires jut from Angkor Wat and to access it, you must cross a moat. Made from large sandstone blocks, delicate carvings feature throughout, depicting Gods of Hindu (Vishnu) and Buddhism (Budhha) amongst many other things. Apart from gods, demons are also depicted and are discernible by their slicked back hair. After a thorough tour of Angkor Wat, a common next stop via tuk tuk is Ta Prom. A fuel stop may be necessary en route, which entails a road side vendor with a water drum filled with fuel and a tap.

angkor wot

Ta Prom is also known as the Lara Croft Temple or the Jungle Temple – Lara Croft Temple because it was made famous in the Tomb Raider movie and Jungle Temple because it’s been reclaimed by surrounding tree’s. Nature is claiming back what’s hers.

angkor wot

Ta Prom is small and intimate compared to the vast Angkor Wat but can be thick with tourists. Onwards, you’ll head to Angkor Thom and might finish with Bayon, distinguished by many big spires, each with 4 faces on top. The faces have been covered by trees throughout history but have been cleared for the inquisitive tourist.

cambodia travel guide

After an extensive examination of the temples, you will be dropped at your accommodation, thoroughly worn out but much enlightened. You haven’t visited Cambodia if you haven’t been to the spectacle that is the temples of Angkor!

 

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia: A Verdant Paradise

Malaysia is one of the most exciting countries in the world, and I always try to stop off there on my way home to visit family in the UK. Although many people immediately think of the bustling cities, in-the-know travellers head 214 km north of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to the stunning Cameron Highlands.

Cameron Highlands Attractions

The region has many exciting attractions and sites for everyone that visits. Some of the most popular attractions, other than the stunning, lush green scenery are the various types of farms. The butterfly farm, rose gardens and vegetable gardens are all popular sites. Due to its elevation, the temperature is usually relatively cool for the area, ranging from around 12 – 21 degrees Celsius.

The Highlands also has a rich culture and history, with many visitors choosing to visit several of the ancient temples that are there, including the Brinchang Hindu Temples and the Sam Poh Chinese Malaysian Buddhist Temple amongst others.

Tea is grown in abundance in this region, and there are several tea plantations that offer tours for visitors. The largest and best known is the BOH plantation. The tea grown in these plantations are distributed both locally and internationally and are of a very high quality.

Accommodation in Cameron Highlands

If you choose to take your holiday to the Cameron Highlands there are plenty of options for accommodation, ranging from budget through to luxury. We shall look at some of those options now.

cameron highlands resort

For those who only want the height of sophistication and luxury, the Cameron Highlands Resort would be perfect for you. The resort is set amongst lush tropical surrounds and tea plantations and is a peaceful and tranquil getaway perfect for couples. The scenery is truly breathtaking, and the facilities are endless at this beautiful resort. There is a pristine golf course, a spa village, a designer clothing boutique, and a snooker room amongst other things. It is a popular resort for weddings and honeymooners.

For those of you that are on a lower budget, the Country Lodge Hotel offers great rates without compromising on quality. The rooms are nicely furnished and cozy, and there is a karaoke lounge. Karaoke is a very popular past-time for Malaysians.

If you have a mid-range budget, the four-star Heritage Hotel is a Tudor-style boutique hotel in the heart of the Cameron Highlands in the town of Tanah Rata. The hotel has plenty of facilities including a fully equipped fitness centre, several restaurants, squash and tennis courts, and a health centre with spas, saunas and steam facilities. You definitely won’t run out of things to do!

Another five-star luxury resort in the area is the Equatorial Hotel. The hotel is situated on the highest accessible point of the highlands, so offers fantastic views over the region. There are four restaurants offering a range of cuisines, several bars, tennis courts, indoor swimming pool, and pool tables. It is also a great resort for the whole family, as they also have a children’s playground and games room. The rooms are large and nicely decorated, with large beds and cosy furniture. It is the ultimate mountain getaway!

I hope you have found this guide to hotels in the Cameron Highlands interesting and that it has whet your appetite for a holiday to this beautiful region of the world!

Thailand – Take to the Waters!

Looking to try something new? With over 3000km of coastline and countless rivers, Thailand is a premiere spot for water sports in South East Asia. Whether it’s surfing or snorkelling, white water rafting or sailing, no matter what strikes your fancy, there’s an unforgettable experience waiting for you in The Land of Smiles. Boasting a year round tropical climate, and prices that won’t break the bank, there’s no better place to take to the water!

Divers surfacing - Phi Phi islands, Thailand
Divers surfacing – Phi Phi islands, Thailand

In the northern region you’ll find wild mountainous jungle and enchanting waterfalls, alongside vast rice fields. To the south, you’ll indulge the senses with pristine beaches and limestone outcroppings towering over Palm Tree plantations. And you’ll always find something strange and exotic on the bustling streets of the City of Angels – Bangkok. Each distinct area has a personality and charm all its own, providing the foundation for unique memories, and because of the infancy of many of these sports in Thailand, be assured that you can easily find plenty of roads – or rivers – less travelled.

Scuba tanks
Scuba tanks

The south of Thailand is famous world-wide for its SCUBA diving, a sport which provides a door into the underwater world. A tank of oxygen strapped to your back is your key to unlock a delightful inner space adventure. Experience new and different sensations, and gain a perspective that brings with it a cool mix of quiet reflection and exhilaration. The shores of Thailand offer some of the most stunning scenery in the world, above and below the water line. Lush limestone islands jutting out of warm turquoise water, colourful soft corals and even a local whale shark population; Don’t forget to pack or hire an underwater camera, you won’t want to miss out on the photo opportunity of a lifetime.

Prefer to keep your head above water? Cable Skiing on specially built manmade lakes is quite popular. The obstacle courses will offer a challenge to just about anyone who crosses their path! Grab a paddle and helmet and get ready to ride the rapids, white water rafting on one of the many rivers in the north. Enjoy the simple relaxation as you skim the surface of the water paddling a kayak or canoe. Put some wind in your sails, windsurfing, kite-boarding or even cruising on a yacht. Hire a jet ski for a ride down the coastline in the south. Paddle your way across flat water or down the face of gentle waves on a Stand Up Paddle board, or carve some gnarly swells surfing off the west coast of Phuket. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination!

A few factors one should consider when planning a trip to Thailand; How much time do you have available? A short trip is satisfying, however, I would recommend spending as much time as you can in this amazing country, especially if you plan to travel long distances over land. Bus and train travel are my favourite ways to absorb the countryside but not if you’re time poor as both modes of transport are notoriously slow. Next, think about the climate. Thailand has two seasons in the south (hot: March- May / rainy: June – February) and three in the north (hot: March – May / rainy: June – February / cool: November to February). Certain times of year are better to visit certain areas; for instance, a trip to the North during the rainy season, will not be as fruitful as going there just after the rainy season ends, when the rivers are swollen and perfect for rafting. Always check the local weather forecasts. Interest in a specific water sport will effect what region you decide on. Let’s take a look at the different regions we will explore together; The North (everything north of Bangkok), The South (everything south of Bangkok), and of course the capital city itself.

Banana Beach Cove, Coral Island, Phuket, Thailand
Banana Beach Cove, Coral Island, Phuket, Thailand

Located 700 km’s from Bangkok, Chiang Mai is the largest city in the north. Arriving by train in the beginning of March I found myself roaming the streets, just as the hot season was starting to take a hold on the country. The northern part of Thailand is great for an escape from the heat during the hot season and subsequently locals, and tourists alike, flock to the north at this time of year. Heading north out of town on a hired motorbike, we settle in for a long and exhilarating, if not slightly terrifying at times, ride ahead of us. Armed with plenty of sunscreen and bug repellent we cruise north to a town called Pai, a well-known rafting and kayaking epicentre 80 km to the northwest. Hugging the curves of the road, zipping through the jungle dotted with a handful of subsistence farming communities, we occasionally gazed to the horizon where a red sun hung low in a hazy sky. Upon our arrival in Pai, we quickly booked a hut on the riverfront, a serene and intoxicating home-base.  As the water levels were low, we were happy to take a kayak tour down the Ping River. Paddling in rhythm, slowly meandering down the river, a gentle hum of Cicadas in the background, our local tour guide informed us on many of the native plants and animals in the area. As we entered into the more rural areas, we exchanged smiles and waves with the locals on shore, who were always friendly if not a bit surprised to see foreigners. Kayaking is a great way to get closer to nature and explore remote areas, but I’ll have to go back just after the rainy season ends in late November for an exhilarating white water rafting experience. You can also organise bamboo raft tours, which is an excellent way to see the river and local hill tribes as well.

If you have your own transport, Mae Ngat Dam is a twenty five minute drive from Chiang Mai where you’ll find lovely houseboats available for accommodation and kayaks for hire. Many tour companies operate out of Chiang Mai that can take you to Pai, Chiang Dao, near Chiang Rai or to the Nan region, all of which have excellent single or multiple day kayak and white water trips. Closer to Bangkok, Ayutthaya has some exciting kayaking options, and a great way to see the temples and stupas near the river banks in the former capital city. You can also look into the Kanchanaburi region, which offers scenic trips of the River Kwai and is only a few hours northwest of Bangkok.

With so many river systems and tributaries, the north of Thailand is a treasure trove for freshwater fishing. Aside from the rivers there are a variety of fishing holes and lakes that any angler would be foolish to miss. Some of the world’s largest freshwater fish have been caught in Thai lakes and rivers. Fishing is a huge part of Thai culture and is brightly reflected in Thai cuisine. There are many different traditional styles of fishing to be found, don’t be afraid to ask the local fishermen for some tips.. Some of the species that you can battle wits and strength with are Alligator Gar, Arapaima, Freshwater Dorado, Monster Pacu, Chao Phraya Catfish, Mekong Catfish, Giant Snakehead, Striped Catfish and Giant Siamese Carp. Growing in popularity by the minute, Bungsam Lan Lake, just forty minutes outside of Bangkok, is a fisherman’s heaven. The tour operators here can provide you with a wealth of knowledge concerning best bait mixes, tips on equipment and how to handle large fish (they might even give you a recipe to use with your catch!).

Big Buddha, Phuket Island
Big Buddha, Phuket Island

As we travel south, we may lose and/or find ourselves in Bangkok. A recent and unexpected addition to the city, the capital city now has a Flow-boarding centre. You can catch a continuous wave right in the heart of the city! Unlike surfing, you ride an artificial wave, allowing more time to concentrate on balance and perfecting tricks, rather than swimming out in the ocean, waiting for a swell. There is also a Cable Ski lake not far from Bangkok, and you can find many tour operators that can organise your trip on Khao San Road. Once labelled “Venice of the East”, there is an extensive network of canals (khlongs) throughout the city. The Chao Phraya River is a central artery for commerce and travel in Bangkok and believe it or not, it’s possible to kayak in the river, watching the city slide by! There are also many river cruises available and offer a brilliant way to discover this vibrant city.

A ride in a boat going down the khlongs is not to be missed. The largest Khlong in the city, the Saan Saab, is an ideal place to catch a water taxi ride. Not your average boat ride; whiz beneath low hanging bridges watching the crew members quickly duck, feel the spray of the water in your face, experiencing how the locals commute. Unsure if it classifies as a’ water sport’ Songkran, the festival of water is one of my favourite watery activities! The celebration happens all over the country, but the colossal water fight that unfolds on the streets of Bangkok is my personal favourite. Expect to be soaked and expect to love it! Songkran occurs at the beginning of the hot season, (April 13-15) and is a fun way to beat the heat! Three solid days of water fights all over the city… watch out for kids throwing buckets of ice water. Refreshing? Yes. Shocking? Very! Make sure to stock up on Sangsom and have a blast!

Leaving Bangkok behind, let’s head down to the eastern seaboard. First stop, Pattaya, home to a multitude of water sports and a spectacular nightlife.  If you’ve never tried Kite Boarding or Windsurfing, Pattaya is a great place to learn, the conditions are great most of the time, and there are plenty of places to have a coldie with your mates afterwards (trust me, you’ll need one!). If the winds aren’t cooperating, hire a jet ski anywhere along the beach, or soar above the landscape for a bird’s eye view, on a quick parasailing ride. I would recommend going to some of the offshore islands, if time permits, where the water is a bit cleaner. Koh Samet, an island southeast of Pattaya has some incredible sailing opportunities. A bit further south east is the gem of the eastern seaboard, the island of Koh Chang. Arriving on the island via ferry from Laem Ngop, near Trat, we catch the local bus to Hat Sai Khao where we rent a motorbike and head south towards our first dive site. The southern end of the island is not quite as touristy as the more well know dive sites at Koh Tao, or Phuket, and still offers first-rate dive sites. June through October is a great time for diving this area and be sure to keep your eyes open for playful dolphins and inquisitive turtles.

Phi Phi Islands, Thailand
Phi Phi Islands, Thailand

On the opposite side of the Gulf of Thailand let’s take a quick visit to the seaside town of Hua Hin. It’s worth doing a weekend trip here, or a rest stop on the way from Bangkok to Phuket. Water Skiing and Kite Boarding are available here, and you can rent inner-tubes on the beach for a lazing about in the gentle surf. Continuing south, you’ll want at least a week (if not more) for the adventures ahead in the lower Western Gulf, home to the infamous islands; Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao. True paradise on Earth, and excellent for almost every water sport imaginable! Ferries link all the islands to each other and to the mainland, making travel here convenient and relaxing. For the SCUBA enthusiast, Koh Tao is the place to be. Kite boarders and windsurfers will find good conditions on all three islands but the time of year dictates which side of the islands have better wind. Kayaking is readily available at all the islands and surrounding areas as it is grown in popularity in the last few years.

If you’re looking to get rural, you can arrange a trip to Ang Thong Marine National Park from Koh Samui. The park is made up of over forty islands and is largely untouched, great for Kayak, Snorkel or Scuba. Back on land heading south west, take some time to visit the lovely Khao Sok National Park. You can book single and multiple day Kayak trips through the jungles on the Sok River. True wilderness at your fingertips, you’ll hear the call of monkeys in the distance, pass ancient limestone cliffs and caves, glide by waterfalls, and if you’re lucky you might see a Great Asian Hornbill soaring overhead. The early morning is the best time for spotting wildlife.

Phuket is The Pearl of the South and it’s easy to see why when you first lay eyes on the surrounding natural beauty. If you only have a short amount of time in Thailand, Phuket is the perfect place for you, as it offers the largest variety of sports in one location. If you are looking at doing multiple activities in different places on the island, not to worry as Phuket is a relatively small island and great for motorbike riding. Regardless of what you are searching for, or where you stay, you won’t need to ride far.

Floating down a river in Northern Thailand
Floating down a river in Northern Thailand

The tourism industry is in full force on the island, and there is a tour package for just about anything you can think of. It won’t be hard to find the activity that you’re after and with so much to choose from, it can be difficult to make a choice! A piece of advice, with so many tour operators, it pays to do some homework to make sure your guides are qualified, equipment is in good shape and that you are getting the best value for money; do yourself a solid and shop around first. A bit of research will help optimise your valuable time. If you aren’t the ‘tour’ going type, you can hire gear and explore independently, just make sure you know your surroundings and can take responsibility for yourself.

The west coast of the island is typically better for surfing and the east side better for diving, but this can change with the weather. Whichever side you choose, consider starting with renting a Stand up Paddle Board and take in the coastline, getting a feel for the island and the surrounding water. It was late May when I stepped off the bus in Phuket and the waters were looking good off the east coast, so I decided to go on a 3 day live aboard dive trip around Phi Phi Island. The scenery in this area is even more striking than the pictures we’ve all seen! I think if I had more time to spend, I would have booked a week-long trip to the Similan Islands north of Phuket in the Andaman Sea.  Boat life is truly the life for me, and with such calm waters, it’s an enjoyable trip even for land lubbers! There are several dive trip options, ensuring you can find a trip that suits your needs and itinerary. In the last decade or so, windsurfing has taken off in Phuket and provides an extremely satisfying rush and requires very little gear. There are quite a few operators that hire gear and offer lessons. For the novice; when you stand up and feel the force of the wind and sail for the first time, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear.

With so much to see and do in Thailand, just remember you could travel here for your whole life and still not see it all! We have only just skimmed the tip of the iceberg on our travels together. Not only are water sports physically and mentally challenging (not to mention FUN), the simple act of being on the water builds a connection with the Earth. If you think about it, water is something that touches all of our lives; and experiencing the power and beauty of this natural element can only foster awareness in our planet and the forces of nature. Thailand is an unforgettable country and will no doubt grab a hold of you. Find out for yourself what’s around the next corner, live life to the fullest, and don’t forget to bring a towel!

 Click here to read more about Tina’s adventures on her blog. And click here to check out her amazing new travel photography page! 🙂

A Lush Oasis in a Concrete Jungle: Phra Pradaeng, Bangkok

Looking for something different to do in Bangkok? Tired of the hustle and bustle of the city streets? Then take a trip to Phra Pradaeng, a small peninsula situated on the southern side of Bangkok in the Samut Prakan district. Phra Pradaeng offers visitors a relaxing escape into another world filled with all sorts of exotic flora and fauna. This community has one of the lowest population densities in Bangkok and gives us a glimpse at a more rural lifestyle without having to travel far. A construction ban was placed on the area in 1977 in order to preserve its natural beauty, which means it is the only district in Bangkok where you won’t find any high-rise buildings. Here, you can enjoy a break from the hectic day-to-day life that the City of Angels is so well known for.

Phra Pradaeng Jungle
Phra Pradaeng Jungle

There are a few ways to get to this verdant jungle paradise, but I highly recommend taking a taxi to the Chao Praya Port in Klong Toey. From there you can purchase inexpensive tickets on a small wooden boat that whisks you across the river to the pier at Phra Pradaeng called Tha Bangkrachao. The ride is an exciting way to distance yourself from urban Bangkok and a perfect start to your adventure, with fantastic views of the city.

Riding a push bike is the best way to get around once you have arrived in Phra Pradaeng. The peninsula is criss-crossed with a labyrinth of narrow concrete passageways elevated over the klongs and swamps, which allow you a chance to explore places that you can’t reach via car. A few steps from the boat terminal you can hire your own

push bikes for the day at a very reasonable price of about $100 BHT / day. (Make sure to check the brakes, gears and tyres before you take off). There are also several push bike companies that advertise full day-trips with a knowledgeable guide, brand new bikes and meals included for around $5000 BHT.

Phra Pradaeng View from Bangkok
Phra Pradaeng View from Bangkok

Visiting Phra Pradaeng is akin to travelling back in time, to an era when Teak houses built on stilts dominated the landscape of Bangkok. There are also several attractions to hunt down as you cycle along, such as the Siamese Fighting Fish Gallery. This building has two different sections that are filled with a diverse range of fighting fish on display, and the gardens surrounding the gallery are absolutely filled with flowers and butterflies. It’s a great place to catch your breath and take in the scenery. Or why not enjoy a picnic at Pom Phlaeng Faifa Fort, built in 1815. Once a military stronghold, now it’s an enchanting place to spend the day, with gorgeous gardens surrounding ruins of the fort. The facilities are open 7 days a week, from 8am-5pm.

PhraPradaengMarket
Phra Pradaeng Market

Every weekend there is a lovely market where locals come to sell their products to passers-by. A famous lunch to be enjoyed here is Kuai-tiao Ruea , also known as “boat noodles”. There are a handful of longboats in the main Klong that serve Kuai-tiao Ruea, which is not to be missed. It’s a simple soup with rice noodles, broth, spices and assorted meats, a tasty delicacy that will win your praise instantly. Take some time to browse through the stalls at the market and marvel at the traditional handmade crafts. You can even improve your karmic disposition by making merits at the nearby Wat. For a few Baht you purchase small caged birds, or snakes, fish, eels or turtles, and release them back into the wild thus improving your karma, so they say.

Depending on what time of year your stay in Bangkok happens, there are a couple festivals that are spectacular to view from Phra Pradaeng. The area was originally settled by the Mon tribe and, to this day, it is one of the only places that celebrate Songkran (the Thai New Year’s water festival in mid-April), in the traditional Mon way. At the end of the calendar year, Thai’s celebrate Loi Krathong, the festival of light. The tradition is to float an offering down the river on a vessel made of banana leaves carrying candles and other objects in order to give thanks

Phra Pradaeng Spirit House
Phra Pradaeng Spirit House

to the river and all of its life-giving attributes. Phra Pradaeng is a great place to avoid the major crowds and enjoy the spectacle with the locals.

If one day isn’t enough for you, there are a few options for overnight stays. For a luxurious experience, consider the Bangkok Tree House with stunning architecture and views combined with a nature-centric atmosphere. For those of us on a tighter budget, there’s a more affordable option available at the Phuengnang Homestay, a lovely guesthouse equipped with a variety of amenities. Whichever you decide be sure to bring your camera and some mosquito repellent. You can rest assured that your time on Phra Pradaeng will not soon be forgotten!

Read more about Tina’s adventures on her blog.

Click on the images below to see them in full size.

Should You Risk Eating Street Food in Thailand?

As someone who declares ‘food’ as one of my main hobbies, I find it very difficult to tell anyone not to try any type of food they can get their hands on. Street food is no exception.

By far some of the best food I have eaten on my numerous trips to Thailand is from a local man or woman selling their homemade delights from their wooden cart on the street or from a stall at the market. Not only is it fresh, delicious and as authentic as it gets – it’ll cost you less than the morning paper.

Yes there is the possibility that it can result in a day on the toilet, but if you follow these tips you can practically eliminate the risk of getting sick.

1. It must be piping hot

If you’re ordering cooked food always make sure it’s steaming hot – the hotter it is the less chance that bugs and germs can survive on it.

2. It must be fresh

The main reason that people get sick from street food is because they eat food that has been sitting around for a while. Especially when eating meat and seafood, the food should – where possible – be prepared in front of your eyes and not the leftovers from the day before.

3. Avoid salad and prepared fruit

Like in most developing countries, the tap water is not suitable for drinking. Despite that, the locals still use it to wash salad and fruit – as well as use it to make ice cubes. And while their stomachs may be able to handle it in small doses – you will probably not be quite as lucky.

Fruit that has just been picked and is still in its skin is fine to eat – but avoid any that has been washed and prepared. Likewise with salads, save those for when you get home!

4. Look for locals

Just as you’d hesitate to go into an empty restaurant at home, the same goes for street and market stalls. If it’s empty while all the ones around it have people lining up – then it’s probably for a reason.

The locals naturally know the best places to eat – so if they’re there, you know it’s good. Plus, the turnaround of food is much faster when it’s busy – so it’s more likely to be fresh.

5. Enjoy!

Finally, ENJOY what you’re eating and soak in the flavours. Because, if you are sick the next day you can at least tell yourself it was worth it (sort of!).

streetfood

 

Travel Asia with Kids

When you’re heading overseas with your children you want to make sure they will both be safe and have a great time. Asia is a beautiful region of the world and a great way for your kids to experience a different culture. Check out our top five for inspiration.

Phuket, Thailand

One of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, the southern Thailand island of Phuket has something to offer every visitor. Not only does it boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world but there are endless activities and sites to see.

You and the kids will love exploring the coastline in a traditional Long-tail boat
You and the kids will love exploring the Phuket coastline in a traditional Long-tail boat

Whatever age your kids are there is little chance of them getting bored in Phuket. Although you should always take precautions wherever you travel to, Phuket is considered to be very safe for young visitors.

There are hundreds of resorts to choose from on Phuket island, many of which are specifically designed with kids in mind. Some of the activities they can get involved in include: elephant rides, boat cruises, banana boat rides, snorkeling, swimming and more.

Bali, Indonesia

In a similar way to Phuket, Bali is a destination for everyone. Hundreds of thousands of Australians head to the Indonesian island of Bali each year and despite the cultural differences it caters perfectly for families and other foreign visitors.

Activities are wide ranging and include visits to monkey sanctuaries, cultural sites, beaches, watersports and more. Bali is the perfect way to introduce your children to the traditional Indonesian culture while still giving them access to the modern amenities they are used to.

Disneyland, Hong Kong

Every kid dreams of going on holiday to Disneyland – and they’ll be thanking you forever if you take them there. One of the world’s newest Disneyland theme parks opened in 2005 in Hong Kong. Built on the stunning Lantau Island, Disneyland Hong Kong has a similar layout to other parks around the world – with four different areas: Main St. USA, Tomorrowland, Adventureland and Fantasyland.

Disneyland, Hong Kong
Disneyland, Hong Kong

Although it can be somewhat pricey, you can treat the family to a stay in one of the two resorts that are situated inside the theme park: Disney’s Hollywood Hotel and Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel. The theme park is so huge that you can spend several days there before the kids will even begin to get bored. You can then treat yourself to a day of shopping and pampering in the cosmopolitan city of Hong Kong!

Beijing, China

Beijing is one of the oldest cities in the world – but that doesn’t mean it’s only full of cultural and historical activities that the kids will probably not enjoy. China’s capital is one of the world’s most modern and cosmopolitan cities – particularly since the Olympics.

Beijing has a huge range of world-class activities that the kids will love. Take them to Fundazzle – an indoor playground that will keep younger children entertained for hours; or spend the day at Beijing’s largest amusement park – Shijingsham Amuerment Park.

Other great activities for the kids include: Milu Park (a wildlife sanctuary); Le Cool (indoor ice-skating rink); and Splash Recreation Club (indoor and outdoor swimming pools).

Taiwan

Taiwan is a little discussed place when it comes to family holidays – with most people travelling to its much

Enjoy the colourful Dragonboat Festival in Taiwan
Enjoy the colourful Dragonboat Festival in Taiwan

larger neighbour, China. However, Taiwan is full of surprises and offers you all the exotic offerings of popular Asian tourist resorts with less crowds and cheaper prices.

Taiwan is a very picturesque country with a wonderful range of wildlife and cultural activities that children of all ages will enjoy. The country is also renowned for being one of the safest destinations in Asia – which is very important when choosing a holiday destination for your family.

The Best of Bali

The beautiful Indonesian island of Bali is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With Bali flights more affordable than ever from most major Australian cities, the island offers an eclectic mix of beautiful traditions and fast-paced modern living.  We have picked five of the ultimate Bali highlights so you can see for yourself why we can’t get enough of this mind-blowing island!

Go Diving off Bali Islands

Just a short boat ride away from the south-eastern coast of Bali are not only some of the most secluded, peaceful and untouched areas of Bali but the best place for diving, snorkeling and surfing.

Just one of the colourful creatures off Bali's coast
Just one of the colourful creatures off Bali’s coast

The islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Ceningan are approximately 15km away from Bali and are surrounded by crystal clear waters and pristine white sandy beaches. Nusa Penida is the most rugged and undeveloped of the islands but is considered to be one of the world’s leading diving destinations.

There are regular boats to all three islands from a range of starting points including Padang Bai on the east coast and Sanur Beach on the south coast. You can also charter speedboats to the islands.

Enjoy the Nightlife of Kuta

The city of Kuta is by far the most popular destination included in Bali holiday packages. Not somewhere you want to go if you’re after peace and quiet, Kuta is buzzing with entertainment options throughout the day and night. Most of the island’s best night clubs and bars are situated in and around Kuta and they are renowned for their bright lights, cheap booze and latest music.

There are a huge range of bars and clubs in Kuta offering varying atmospheres including live cabaret shows, beach theme bars, traditional pubs and world-class multi-level nightclubs.

Climb an Active Volcano in East Bali

The beautiful region of East Bali is a world apart from the neighbouring city of Kuta. With quiet coastal towns and fishing villages, striking beaches and ancient temples, East Bali gives you a wonderful alternative to the fast-paced lifestyle of the island’s more popular tourist areas.

Meet the locals
Meet the locals

East Bali is also home to one of the only active volcanoes left in the region – Mount Batur. Located within the highland area of Kintamani, Mount Batur dominates the rugged skyline and offers spectacular views from the crater. The climate there is usually around 15 degrees cooler than the rest of the island so it is the ideal environment for a pleasant walk or hike.

Experience Traditional Bali Culture in Ubud

The town of Ubud is situated in the region of Central Bali – the cultural heart of the island. Despite growing tourism numbers, Ubud has retained much of its traditional charm and it is the perfect place to escape from the chaotic streets of Kuta.

Ubud is best known for its arts and crafts scene that includes talented street artists, galleries and more. Immerse yourself in the beautiful Balinese culture by visiting some of the historic temples and sites or hiking through rice paddies and lush forest. You can end your day relaxing in the hot springs at Tirta Empul in the village of Tampaksiring that date back to 960.

Get Pampered in Seminyak

For those that simply want to spoil themselves while on holiday, Seminyak is the place for you. Seminyak is the most up-market and fashionable area of Bali and despite being noticeably more expensive than other popular resort areas in Bali, it is the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Considered to be the spa capital of Bali, Seminyak has a huge range of exclusive world-class day and overnight spas and resorts. Almost all resorts in Seminyak offer an adjoined spa and even the villas offer in-villa spa services. Try a traditional Balinese massage or spend the morning practicing yoga on Seminyak Beach. Your travel agent can include trips to Seminyak in Bali holiday packages and the town is just a short drive away from Kuta.

Exploring the best of China

China is fast becoming one of the world’s premier holiday destinations for tourists from around the world. With so much to see and do, it is easy to see why.

It would take an eternity to visit all the fantastic sites and attractions that China has to offer. Nevertheless, you can visit some of the best that China has to offer, no matter what time frame you are on. Whether you want to immerse yourself in traditional Chinese culture and history, or experience the hustle and bustle of modern day Beijing, you are sure to have the holiday of a lifetime when you visit China.

View from the Great Wall of China

One of the most beautiful areas of China is Tibet, in the south of the country. Tibet is best known for it’s exquisite scenery and rich and dynamic history. Throughout the region there are dozens of ancient monuments and unique local customs that attract tourists from around the world. The region is surrounded by the stunning Himalaya mountains to the south.

For a trip back in time, one of the most interesting historical sites in China are the water towns. Visitors can enjoy viewing townships and villages that were built along rivers and canals over 1,000 years ago. The most popular ones are in Suzhou.

One of the best historical sites in China is the Silk Road. Dating back over 2,000 years, the silk road attracts thousands of tourists from across the world to it’s rich historic sites, cultural relics and outstanding scenery. The silk road was a famous passageway between Asia and Europe in ancient times. It started in Changn and ran for over 7,000 kilometers across Asia and finished on the east coast of the Mediterranean.

A high proportion of tourists to China head to Beijing, and it is no wonder when there are so many fantastic attractions on offer. As well as being the capital of China, it is home to some of the best shopping in Asia, as well as having some of the most modern and exciting facilities and attractions in the world. Not only this but it has some of the oldest and most impressive historical sites you will ever see.

One of Beijing, and indeed China’s, most visited tourist attraction is the Forbidden City. It is the world’s largest palace complex, and will not fail to impress even the pickiest of tourists. It was the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The palace is surrounded by a six meter deep moat and a ten meter high wall. Within the palace itself there are 9,999 rooms. The Forbidden City is open to tourists, and is a great insight into the history of old Beijing.

South of the Forbidden City is the world-famous Tiananmen Square. It is a large plaza in the center of Beijing and has huge historical and cultural significance as it was the location of several key events in Chinese history. Every day at sunrise and sunset, the Chinese flag is raised and lowered in a simply ceremony on the square. Some of the most significant events in the history of Tiananmen Square include: the May Fourth Movement in 1919; the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949; Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 which resulted in the massacre of Chinese protestors; and the December 9th Movement of 1935 that sparked the resistance against Japanese invasion.

For something  a bit different during your trip to China, why not enjoy a river cruise along the Yangtze River. There are numerous agencies that run various types of cruises, ranging from casual short trips throughout to romantic evening dinner cruises. It is a great way to take in the sites and sounds of this beautiful country.

No trip to China is complete without a visit to the Great Wall of China. Whether you just decide to admire the view from one spot or attempt to hike either part of all of the entire journey (this is not common!), you will never forget your visit to one of the seven wonders of the world. It was built between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to help protect the northern borders of the Chinese empire from attack by the Xiongnu. The Great Wall deservedly earns its title, as it is over 6,400 km long. It starts in Shanhaiguan in the east as far as Lop Nur in the west. The wall roughly follows the southern border of Inner Mongolia. It has been estimated that between 2 and 3 million men died during the building of the wall.

Thailand’s best adventure activities

Love a bit of rough ‘n’ tumble on your hols? Perhaps you can’t handle two weeks straight of just sitting by a pool? Well despite it’s relaxed zen-like atmosphere, Thailand is one of the world’s best kept adventure activity secrets. From trekking through the jungle to white water rafting, there’s an activity for every type of thrill seeker in Thailand! Here are our faves. Something you love that we’ve missed out? Let us know!

Elephant Trekking

Forget horse riding, elephant riding is where it’s at when you’re in Thailand! You’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting a smooth ride, but putting that aside it will most likely be the most memorable moment of your trip.

Elephant Riding in Thailan

There are elephant trekking tour companies throughout Thailand with two of the most popular places to give it a go in Phuket and Chiang Mai. You can also go trekking on the beautiful island of Koh Samui. The tours vary between destinations but you could find yourself wandering across rivers or through dense jungle – and what better way to see the country than on the back of an elephant?!

 

Rock Climbing

Rock climbing enthusiasts have been heading to Thailand for years, and in particular the town of Krabi in southern Thailand. With its famous limestone karst scenery, which is ideal for rock climbing, Krabi is also a tropical paradise.

Rock climbing in Krabi

Surrounded by some of the best beaches in Thailand (check out Ao Nang!) and a quieter atmosphere than the island of Phuket, there’s plenty to see and do besides from rock climbing.

If you want to try your hand at rock climbing (or you’re a seasoned pro!) but will be elsewhere in Thailand, there are plenty of other places around the country to do it, including Chiang Mai.

Want something even more thrilling? Try deep water soloing for the ultimate adrenalin rush!

 

White water rafting

For a more leisurely experience, try a traditional bamboo raft trip.

Bamboo Rafting Thailand
Bamboo Rafting Thailand