Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Rainbow Mountains of China! Get it on the travel bucket list!

  • China Gansu Province Zhangye
Imagine a world where the mountains are striped with candy colours and people are dwarfed by the landscape’s immensity. Such a place exists in China’s northwestern Gansu Province, where 24 million years of vibrant stone and mineral deposits have created rainbow-striped mountains.

The tinted peaks were fashioned by uplift from the Earth’s tectonic plates – the same ones that formed parts of the Himalayan range – while rain, wind and erosion shaped them into the jagged world seen today. Located around the city of Zhangye, the area covers more than 10sqkm and the vista is most dazzling after a rainfall, when the colours glow even brighter than usual. (Melinda Chan/Getty)

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An Australian Nature Vacation with red crimson trek!

Australia’s sea of crimson claws

Australia€™'s Christmas Island crab migration

(Di Masters)

Every year in late spring, Australia’s Christmas Island becomes covered in crabs when the more than 40 million red crustaceans that call the northwest island territory home start their annual migration to the sea, covering the landscape in a mass of crimson claws.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Max Orchard)

The migration starts with the first heavy rains in October, November or December. At that point, there’s enough moisture in the air for the large crustaceans, which can reach up to 11cm across, to make the arduous, five-day journey from their homes in wet inland forests to the Indian Ocean, covering up to 9km along the way.

Christmas Island
(Parks Australia)

With so many of the creatures on the move, Parks Australia works before and during the migration to protect the crustaceans by closing roads, building fences and constructing underground tunnels. Drivers are encouraged to stop for the crabs.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Tracy Wilson)

Upon reaching the sand, the male crabs dig burrows and fight each other for ownership of the shelters. When the female crabs arrive (usually five to seven days after the first males), they begin to mate, and the females stay in their beachside burrows until the last quarter of the lunar cycle. The females always wait for the first day of the last quarter – regardless of when they started the migration – to spawn and release their eggs into the sea. Researchers speculate that since this phase of the moon has the least sea level change between high and low tides, the eggs have higher chances of survival.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Justin Gilligan)

This year, the possible spawning dates (and dates of the quarter moon) are 28 November or 28 December, so the initial migration will happen seven to 18 days before, depending on the weather. The crabs tend to be on the move in the morning and early evening when the air is cooler, but any dry spells will halt the migration until wetter weather prevails.

Follow the Parks Australia blog or the Christmas Island Tourism Facebook page to get an alert at the first signs of the cruising crustaceans.

Australia’s Christmas Island crab migration
(Parks Australia)
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Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines for 2013

Just released…….   Pick up a copy of Wine Spectator magazine TODAY before they run out!  The most anticipated list in the wine world!

The tables to the right can be read as follows:  Vintage    Wine Spectator Score    Retail Price

ENJOY FELLOW WINOS!

1 Cune Rioja Imperial Gran Reserva 2004 95 $63
2 Château Canon-La Gaffelière St.-Emilion 2010 96 $103
3 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Evenstad Reserve 2010 95 $65
4 Hewitt Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford 2010 95 $92
5 Kongsgaard Chardonnay Napa Valley 2010 95 $75
6 Giuseppe Mascarello & Figlio Barolo Monprivato 2008 95 $110
7 Domaine du Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée Réservée 2010 97 $120
8 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 96 $120
9 Lewis Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Reserve 2010 96 $135
10 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2010 95 $135
11 Reynvaan Syrah Walla Walla Valley Stonessence 2010 98 $70
12 Turley Zinfandel Paso Robles Dusi Vineyard 2011 95 $42
13 Croft Vintage Port 2011 97 $93
14 Bedrock The Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley 2011 95 $37
15 Olivier Ravoire Gigondas 2011 94 $33
16 G.D. Vajra Barolo Albe 2008 94 $42
17 Alexana Pinot Noir Dundee Hills Revana Vineyard 2010 94 $42
18 Poggerino Chianti Classico 2010 93 $25
19 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay Hemel-en-Aarde Valley 2012 93 $33
20 Chateau Dereszla Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007 95 $40
21 Le Macchiole Bolgheri 2011 93 $30
22 La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva 2004 94 $35
23 Seghesio Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Cortina 2010 94 $38
24 Livio Sassetti Brunello di Montalcino Pertimali 2008 94 $55
25 Epoch Estate Blend Paderewski Vineyard Paso Robles 2010 93 $40
26 Álvaro Palacios Priorat Les Terrasses Velles Vinyes 2011 93 $40
27 Spring Valley Uriah Walla Walla Valley 2010 94 $50
28 Domaine de l’A Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux 2010 93 $34
29 R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja White Viña Gravonia Crianza 2003 93 $36
30 Lagier Meredith Syrah Mount Veeder 2010 94 $48
31 Patz & Hall Pinot Noir Carneros Hyde Vineyard 2010 95 $65
32 Bodegas Hidalgo Gitana Manzanilla Jerez La Gitana NV 91 $19
33 Ravines Riesling Finger Lakes Dry 2012 91 $17
34 Bodegas Valdemar Rioja Inspiración Selección 2010 91 $20
35 Château du Retout Haut-Médoc 2010 91 $18
36 Bodega Norton Malbec Mendoza Reserva 2011 92 $20
37 Quinta do Passadouro Douro 2010 91 $25
38 Mollydooker Two Left Feet McLaren Vale 2011 92 $25
39 Viña Herminia Rioja Excelsus 2009 93 $18
40 Château de Haute-Serre Malbec Cahors White Label 2010 92 $24
41 Red Heads Studio Shiraz McLaren Vale Barrel Monkeys 2011 91 $20
42 Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Uco Valley Reserve 2011 91 $24
43 Godelia Godello Bierzo Selección 2010 91 $14
44 Viña Koyle Carmenère Colchagua Valley Royale 2010 91 $26
45 Château Doisy Daëne Barsac 2010 94 $58
46 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Reserve 2010 94 $60
47 Viña Santa Rita Triple C Maipo Valley 2008 93 $40
48 Greywacke Pinot Noir Marlborough 2011 93 $39
49 Failla Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2011 92 $34
50 COS Cerasuolo di Vittoria Classico 2010 92 $35
51 Charles Smith Riesling Columbia Valley Kung Fu Girl Evergreen 2012 90 $12
52 Paringa Shiraz South Australia 2010 90 $11
53 Domäne Wachau Riesling Federspiel Trocken Wachau Terrassen 2011 90 $13
54 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2010 93 $45
55 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir Oregon 2011 90 $18
56 Robert Eymael (Mönchhof) Riesling QbA Mosel 2011 90 $17
57 L’Ecole No. 41 Syrah Columbia Valley 2010 91 $25
58 Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2010 91 $29
59 Donum Pinot Noir Carneros 2010 95 $72
60 Astrolabe Pinot Noir Marlborough Province 2010 92 $28
61 Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco 2007 92 $38
62 Concha y Toro Syrah Buin Marqués de Casa Concha 2010 91 $22
63 Hourglass Merlot Napa Valley Blueline Vineyard 2010 94 $75
64 Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley Rockaway Single Vineyard 2010 94 $75
65 Joh. Jos. Prüm Riesling Spätlese Mosel Graacher Himmelreich 2011 93 $42
66 Macarico Aglianico del Vulture Macari’ 2007 92 $25
67 Natacha Chave Crozes-Hermitage Aléofane 2010 92 $35
68 Chateau Ste. Michelle Sauvignon Blanc Horse Heaven Hills Horse Heaven Vineyard 2012 90 $15
69 Boutari Naoussa 2009 90 $18
70 Marcassin Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Marcassin Vineyard 2007 96 $125
71 Ashbourne Sandstone Hemel-en-Aarde Valley 2008 93 $25
72 Shafer Relentless Napa Valley 2010 95 $72
73 Achával-Ferrer Malbec Mendoza Finca Mirador 2011 96 $125
74 Lucia Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Garys’ Vineyard 2011 93 $55
75 Domaine Overnoy-Crinquand Arbois Pupillin Vieilles Vignes 2009 93 $49
76 M. Lapierre Morgon 2011 91 $30
77 Dehlinger Syrah Russian River Valley Goldridge 2010 92 $40
78 J.J. Vincent & Fils Pouilly-Fuissé Marie-Antoinette 2011 90 $25
79 Ken Wright Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District Savoya Vineyard 2010 93 $55
80 Querciabella Maremma Toscana Mongrana 2010 90 $22
81 Quinta do Crasto Douro Reserva Old Vines 2010 93 $47
82 Mamete Prevostini Valtellina Superiore Sassella 2009 91 $30
83 Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Special Selection 2010 96 $130
84 Jolie-Pitt & Perrin Côtes de Provence Rosé Miraval 2012 90 $28
85 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Coonawarra Black Label 2010 91 $35
86 Fontanafredda Barolo La Rosa 2008 95 $96
87 Graham Tawny Port 20 Year Old NV 93 $60
88 Pierre Paillard Brut Champagne NV 92 $48
89 Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Generations 2009 95 $100
90 Carlisle Zinfandel Napa Valley Hayne Vineyard 2011 93 $48
91 Mastroberardino Taurasi Radici Riserva 2006 94 $75
92 Château Larcis Ducasse St.-Emilion 2010 94 $90
93 A.A. Badenhorst Family Swartland 2009 92 $42
94 Schiavenza Barolo Prapò 2009 94 $60
95 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Garnacha Campo de Borja 2010 92 $45
96 Altesino Brunello di Montalcino Montosoli 2008 95 $120
97 Louis Roederer Brut Champagne 2006 94 $78
98 Château d’Yquem Bordeaux White Y 2011 94 $150
99 Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey St.-Aubin La Chatenière 2011 92 $48
100 Badia a Coltibuono Toscana Cancelli 2011 90 $10
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Tips for Packing WRINKLE FREE

The primary goal of packing well is to fit everything you want to take in your bag, and have it emerge at your destination looking good. First, set aside the clothes you’ll wear on the plane—whenever possible, wear the heaviest and bulkiest pieces to save room in your bag. Open a suitcase you think will fit everything you need for your trip. Flip up any compression straps (these will be used in Step #10).

Step 22 Start by placing the heaviest items on the bottom of the bag (shoes, toiletries, travel alarm, hair dryer, travel books, etc.). Stuff socks and other small items into shoes.
Step 33  Pack woven shirts and other items that are likely to wrinkle into a Pack-It® Folder, which also functions as a divider, separating heavy items from more delicate items. Not everyone has a “Pack It Folder” so feel free to save the plastic overwrap when you get your cleaning from the cleaners, that will make very nice and wrinkle free dividers for your clothes.
Step 44 Next, lay long items (pants, dresses, etc.) horizontally across the bag, leaving the excess length hanging over the sides. Place the first item so it falls to the left of your bag, the second item to the right, alternating directions with each item.
Step 55  If you’re bringing a blazer, fold it facedown into the bag, placing the arms on top and making sure not to fold through the shoulder padding. Place the blazer so the excess length hangs over the front edge of the bag.
Step 66  Roll up knit items (T-shirts, polo shirts, pajamas and other items, such as underwear, that are unlikely to wrinkle) and place them on top.
Step 77  Tuck any remaining small items (belts, rolled ties and accessory bags) into any unfilled space. Then fold the items hanging over the sides into the center.
Step 88 Continue folding in the side layers, alternating from left to right until they are all in the bag.
Step 99 If you’ve packed a blazer, fold it up on top.
Step 1010 Finally, use your bag’s compression straps to gently cinch down your clothes, smoothing as you go to ensure there are no wrinkles. This will prevent items from shifting.Voila! Your bag is packed.

Bonus tips: If, despite your best efforts, you unpack your bag at your destination and discover some unsightly wrinkles, don’t fret. Simply turn on the shower, set the water to hot, hang the item nearby, and watch as the steam makes the wrinkles disappear.

from:  travelsmith

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TOP NYC PIZZA JOINTS

The 10 Best Pizzas in NYC

lombardis_Eric__I_E.jpg
flickr/Eric__I_E
Pizza from Lombardi’s, which, despite being acknowledged as America’s first pizzeria, didn’t make the cut.

We’ve been fuming since TripAdvisor’s bogus pizza rankings placed New York fourth in the country this summer. The list–a product of crowdsourcing gone awry–proved to be ultimately useless, but in our reactionary anger, it gave us reason to mull over the finest examples NYC has to offer. From light, chewy Neapolitan rounds to Sicilian squares, archetypal “New York” slices and novelty pies, these are booming times for the city that helped introduce pizza to the United States. Certainly, no city in this great land boasts as rich a history with the foodstuff. Our take? You can bet your bottom dollar slice joint, New York is the best pizza city in America. Here’s our top ten.

johnspizzaAPASCIUTO.jpg
flickr/apasciuto

10. John’s of Bleecker Street, 278 Bleecker Street

Beyond the salty, greasy cheese and heavily charcoal-kissed crust, it’s the piquancy of John’s sauce that remains the most remarkable thing about the offerings at this standard-bearer in the NYC pizza pantheon. Opened in 1929, John’s famously eschews the trappings of traditional pizza parlors opting for table service over a slice counter. Selling pizza exclusively by the pie coupled with the restaurant’s storied history accounts for the lines, but once you’re inside, it’s well worth the price of admission for the pizza as much as for the atmosphere. With its faded murals and deeply worn wooden booths, the place is a museum.

montanarastarita.jpg
Don Antonio by Starita

9. Don Antonio by Starita, 309 West 50th Street

Keste’s Roberto Caporuscio tapped mentor and pizza demigod Antonio Starita to help create the menu at this love letter to all things doughy. Forcella may have devoted an entire failed concept restaurant to the montanara pizza, but Don Antonio’s version of the deep fried pie receives a topping of smoked buffalo mozzarella and tomatoes before being finished in the wood burning oven; the effect of smoky, milky cheese, fried dough and sweetly acidic tomatoes is transcendent, the crust superbly crisp. Together, both master and student have surpassed the majority of pizza places in New York.

motorinoVioletFaversham.jpg
flickr/Violet Faversham

8. Motorino, 139 Broadway, Brooklyn Part of the Neapolitan pizza resurgence of the early ’00s, Mathieu Palombino’s international pizzeria (there’s an outpost in Hong Kong) puts out pizzas that are respected for their ample chew and exterior char. The flavor developed on the crust allows for the chef to play around with aggressive toppings, like Brussels sprouts with pancetta and broccolini with spicy sausage and shreds of eggy stracciatella. After a structural failure at the flagship’s location, Palombino’s return to Williamsburg this past spring has proven triumphant; the pizza is as bubbled and fragrant as ever.

From: By Zachary Feldman Tue., Oct. 15 2013

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Top Rain Forests in the World

Image

Daintree National Park, Australia
This Queensland preserve, the largest rain forest in Australia, is rimmed with white, sandy beaches. The stand is thick with ferns, palms and rare conifers, some of the earliest trees to develop on Earth. Laced with rivers, streams and waterfalls, Daintree is home to more than 400 species of birds. destinationqueensland.com

Tongass National Forest
Alaska
The nation’s largest national forest covers 17 million acres in southeastern Alaska. First preserved by President Theodore Roosevelt, the temperate rain forest is home to three American Indian nations and 19 designated wilderness areas. Visitors come to see glaciers, eagles and bears. 907-747-6671; fs.usda.gov/tongass

Khao Yai National Park
Thailand
The third-largest park in Thailand harbors more than 3,000 species of plants and 320 species of birds, plus scores of other animals, including bears, elephants, bats and gibbons. Visitors frequently travel from Bangkok for kayaking, hiking and nighttime wildlife viewing. Many people stay at park lodges and cabins. tourismthailand.org

Nouabal-Ndoki National Park
Republic of the Congo
Visitors can discover a range of African animals from elephants to gorillas to antelope in this huge park, which has one of the densest animal populations in Africa. The forest covers 1,500 square miles; many parts are largely inaccessible and still unexplored. wcs.org/saving-wild-places.aspx

El Yunque National Forest
Puerto Rico
The only tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System, El Yunque is a true jungle with lush foliage, waterfalls and rivers. Chris Wille, chief of sustainable agriculture for the Rainforest Alliance, calls El Yunque “a full-on rain forest experience. It has a glorious variety of ecosystems, from the towering canopy forest in the lower parts to the highland elfin forest with its bonsai-like plants.” The forest lies on the slopes of the Sierra de Luquillo Mountains and covers 28,000 acres, which makes it the largest block of public land in Puerto Rico. It gets 200 inches of rainfall a year. fs.usda.gov/elyunque

Maya Biosphere Reserve
Guatemala
Not only is this 525,000-acre region rich in natural wonders, it’s also home to archaeological treasures like the ruins of Tikal, site of some of the oldest and largest Mayan pyramids. “It’s magical, and besides having all this culture and temples, you can also experience this wonderful environment,” Solano says. The area is a habitat for jaguars, crocodiles and howler monkeys. tikalpark.com

Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve
Costa Rica
Probably the most famous cloud forest in the world, this 26,000-acre Central American preserve harbors reptiles, amphibians and a huge variety of orchids and other plants. “It’s a wonderful rain forest experience. Most of the hotels near the park follow sustainability practices,” Solano says. 866-267-8274; visitcostarica.com

Yasuní National Park
Ecuador
One of the most biologically diverse places on the planet, this Amazon Basin park has a huge variety of trees, amphibians, birds, bats and other mammals, Solano says. “It’s a conservation hot spot.” It also preserves human diversity with several isolated native tribes. “Some of these communities have never had access to our culture.” discover.ecuador.travel

Tambopata National Reserve
Peru
This huge rain forest, home to 1,200 species of butterflies, has been threatened by gold mining, Solano says. But the growth of tourism has helped residents see the value in preserving the natural setting, which covers 3.6 million acres. “Very committed businesspeople from the community have been changing minds.” visitperu.com

Hoh Rainforest
Olympic National Park, Washington
One of the country’s best examples of a temperate rain forest, this federally protected site gets up to 170 inches of precipitation a year. The wet conditions promote growth in an area dominated by towering hemlock and Sitka spruce. It’s home to bear, elk, deer and the northern spotted owl. 360-565-3130; nps.gov/olym

** The USA Today

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Avoid Tourist Scams

Image

Europe is a surprisingly creative place when it comes to travel scams. Many of the most successful gambits require a naive and trusting tourist. But don’t think it can’t happen to more sophisticated travelers too. There are many subtle ways to be scammed — a cabbie pads your fare, a shop clerk suddenly inflates prices, or a waiter offers a special with a “special” increased price. Be smart: Know what you are paying for before handing over money, and always count your change.  

Scam artists come in all shapes and sizes. But if you’re cautious and not overly trusting, you should have no problem. Here are some clever ways European crooks bolster their cash flow. (For more examples, look in the appendix for excerpts from my Graffiti Wall message board.)

Such a Deal!

If a bargain is too good to be true…it’s too good to be true.

The “Found” Ring: An innocent-looking person picks up a ring on the ground in front of you and asks if you dropped it. When you say no, the person examines the ring more closely, then shows you a mark “proving” that it’s pure gold. He offers to sell it to you for a good price — which is several times more than he paid for it before dropping it on the sidewalk.

The “Friendship” Bracelet: A vendor approaches you and aggressively asks if you’ll help him with a “demonstration.” He proceeds to make a friendship bracelet right on your arm. When finished, he asks you to pay a premium for the bracelet he created just for you. And, since you can’t easily take it off on the spot, you feel obliged to pay up. (These sorts of distractions by “salesmen” can also function as a smokescreen for theft — an accomplice is picking your pocket as you try to wriggle away from the pushy vendor.)

Leather Jacket Salesman in Distress: A well-spoken, well-dressed gentleman approaches you and explains that he’s a leather jacket salesman, and he needs directions to drive to a nearby landmark. He chats you up (“Oh, really? My wife is from Chicago!”) and gives you the feeling that you’re now friends. When finished, he reaches in his car and pulls out a “designer leather jacket” he claims is worth hundreds of dollars, which he gives to you as a gift for your helpfulness. Oh, and by the way, his credit card isn’t working, and could you please give him some cash to buy gas? He takes off with the cash, and you later realize that you’ve paid way too much for your new vinyl jacket.

Money Matters

Any time money changes hands, be alert.

Slow Count: Cashiers who deal with lots of tourists thrive on the “slow count.” Even in banks, they’ll count your change back with odd pauses in hopes the rushed tourist will gather up the money early and say “Grazie.” Also be careful when you pay with too large a bill. Waiters seem to be arithmetically challenged. If giving a large bill for a small payment, clearly state the value of the bill as you hand it over. Some cabbies or waiters will pretend to drop a large bill and pick up a hidden small one in order to shortchange a tourist. Get familiar with the currency and check the change you’re given: The valuable €2 coin resembles several coins that are either worthless or worth much less: the 500-lira coin (from Italy’s former currency), Turkey’s 1-lira coin, and Thailand’s 10-baht coin.

Talkative Cashiers: The shop’s cashier seems to be speaking on her phone when you hand her your credit card. But listen closely and you may hear the sound of the phone’s camera shutter, as she takes a picture of your card. It can make you want to pay cash for most purchases, like I do.

Meeting the Locals

I want my readers to meet and get to know Europeans — but watch out for chance encounters on the street.

The Attractive Flirt: A single male traveler is approached by a gorgeous woman on the street. After chatting for a while, she seductively invites him for a drink at a nearby nightclub. But when the bill arrives, it’s several hundred dollars more than he expected. Only then does he notice the burly bouncers guarding the exits. There are several variations on this scam. Sometimes, the scam artist is disguised as a lost tourist; in other cases, it’s simply a gregarious local person who (seemingly) just wants to show you his city. Either way, be suspicious when invited for a drink by someone you just met; if you want to go out together, suggest a bar (or café) of your choosing instead.

Oops! You’re jostled in a crowd as someone spills ketchup or fake pigeon poop on your shirt. The thief offers profuse apologies while dabbing it up — and pawing your pockets. There are variations: Someone drops something, you kindly pick it up, and you lose your wallet. Or, even worse, someone throws a baby into your arms as your pockets are picked. Assume beggars are pickpockets. Treat any commotion (a scuffle breaking out, a beggar in your face) as fake — designed to distract unknowing victims. If an elderly woman falls down an escalator, stand back and guard your valuables, then…carefully…move in to help.

The “Helpful” Local: Thieves posing as concerned locals will warn you to store your wallet safely — and then steal it after they see where you stash it. If someone wants to help you use an ATM, politely refuse (they’re just after your PIN code). Some thieves put out tacks and ambush drivers with their “assistance” in changing the tire. Others hang out at subway ticket machines eager to “help” you, the bewildered tourist, buy tickets with a pile of your quickly disappearing foreign cash. If using a station locker, beware of the “Hood Samaritan” who may have his own key to a locker he’d like you to use. And skip the helping hand from official-looking railroad attendants at the Rome train station. They’ll help you find your seat…then demand a “tip.”

Young Thief Gangs: These are common all over urban southern Europe, especially in the touristy areas of Milan, Florence, and Rome. Groups of boys or girls with big eyes, troubled expressions, and colorful raggedy clothes play a game where they politely mob the unsuspecting tourist, beggar-style. As their pleading eyes grab yours and they hold up their pathetic message scrawled on cardboard, you’re fooled into thinking that they’re beggars. All the while, your purse or backpack is being expertly rifled. If you’re wearing a money belt and you understand what’s going on here, there’s nothing to fear. In fact, having a street thief’s hand slip slowly into your pocket becomes just one more interesting cultural experience.

Appearances Can Be Deceiving

The sneakiest pickpockets look like well-dressed businesspeople, generally with something official-looking in their hand. Some pose as tourists, with daypacks, cameras, and even guidebooks. Don’t be fooled by looks, impressive uniforms, femme fatales, or hard-luck stories.

Fake Police: Two thieves in uniform — posing as “Tourist Police” — stop you on the street, flash their bogus badges, and ask to check your wallet for counterfeit bills or “drug money.” You won’t even notice some bills are missing until after they leave. Never give your wallet to anyone.

Room “Inspectors”: There’s a knock at your door and two men claim to be the hotel’s room inspectors. One waits outside while the other comes in to take a look around. While you’re distracted, the first thief slips in and takes valuables left on a dresser. Don’t let people into your room if you weren’t expecting them. Call down to the hotel desk if “inspectors” suddenly turn up.

The Broken Camera: Everyone is taking pictures of a famous sight, and someone comes up with a camera or cell phone and asks that you take his picture. But the camera or cell phone doesn’t seem to work. When you hand it back, the “tourist” fumbles and drops it on the ground, where it breaks into pieces. He will either ask you to pay for repairs (don’t do it) or lift your wallet while you are bending over to pick up the broken object.

The Stripper: You see a good-looking woman arguing with a street vendor. The vendor accuses her of shoplifting, which she vehemently denies. To prove her innocence, she starts taking off her clothes — very slowly. Once she’s down to her underwear, the vendor apologizes and she leaves. Suddenly all the men in the crowd find out that their wallets have “left,” too, thanks to a team of pickpockets working during the show.

**  From Rick Steve’s Europe 2013 “Through the Back Door”

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The Shark Tank Water Slide!

The Shark Tank Water Slide!

The Atlantis Shark Tank Water Slide is certainly one of the coolest water slides in the world! It starts 4 stories atop a replica of Mayan Ruins (give yourself to the gods!). A quick push provides an almost FREE FALL up to 60 miles per hour dropping into a clear “tube” where you can stare directly above into the eyes and bellies of hungry sharks!

Do you dare?

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