Posts Tagged With: travel

The Backpack Life: How to Pack for 6 months abroad.

Think back to your last vacation. I bet your suitcases were so stuffed you had to sit on them just to get the zipper closed, and that was just for one week! Now imagine if you had to pack absolutely everything you needed for six months on the road, or even a year, and it all had to fit into one big backpack! That’s the challenge I face every time I head overseas for a live-in excursion to places like Costa Rica, Nicaragua, or even on a walkabout around the world for a year. Hell no, I’m not complaining — I get to live in the tropics like a beach bum and write my heart out, but packing every single possession I’ll need in a bag no bigger than a laundry sack becomes a Divinci-esque feat of science.

2013-08-01-images.jpgThe North Face Base Camp duffel bag/backpack.
It’s hard to find a backpack big enough to accommodate everything you need for a prolonged stay. Most mountaineering and hiking bags are only in the 3,500-4,500 cubic inch range, but the North Face makes an oversized duffel bag/backpack that holds about 8,000 cubic inches. It’s super durable and very roomy, with padded shoulder straps so I can throw it on like a backpack when needed. I haul it around bus stations and airports a lot more than actual wilderness excursions, so that works great.

Day pack.
I bring a regular-sized backpack to carry my laptop around, head to the beach, or take plenty of day trips. I use this smaller pack all day, every day so for this trip I chose a O’Neill Suburbia backpack because it has a laptop compartment, water bottle holder, and comfortable shoulder straps.

Clothing:

1 Pair lightweight jeans.

Flip flops.
I bring one good pair and one pair that can get wet for the beach. Reef makes some cool new flip flops that have a compartment in the sole so you can hide money or your room key. Genius!

1 Pair slip-on shoes:
Something light, breathable, and easy to slip on is fantastic in hot, beachy climates. I like my classic Vans, and Crocs makes some cool new waterproof shoes in funky designs that are much cleaner and safer because of their plastic soles.

Running sneakers.
A pair of running sneaks for working out, hiking, or if I have a big day sight seeing.

7 Tank tops.
When I first started traveling I brought too many t-shirts, but soon realized I wanted something as light and airy as possible in tropical climates, so now I load up on tank tops.

7 T-shirts.
I try to find the ones that aren’t pure cotton, which is heavier and doesn’t breathe when you sweat. One by one I cut the sleeves off my t-shirts, anyway!

3 Collared shirts.
I fit in a few short sleeve button-up shirt for those nights on the town or nicer dinners.

2013-08-01-935333100.jpg3 O’Neill Hybrid shorts/swim suits.
I used to pack several swim shorts and also bring a few pairs of normal cotton shorts, but Hybrid shorts changed that. They’re made of comfortable, breathable quick-drying material that can get wet, but look like nice dress shorts. They’re the best invention for travelers because you only have to pack half as much but can throw them on no matter if you’re going to work out, sweat, jump in the ocean, or just walk around town. I love the ones by O’Neill, which fit great and come in plenty of cool patterns.

4 Athletic shorts.

1 Baseball hat.
1 Fisherman hat.
I look goofy as Gilligan in it, but a big hat is your best friend on the beach at midday or in direct sun, where it’s easy to get heat stroke.

Socks and underwear.

Sunglasses.
I wear sunglasses most of the day when I’m outdoors, but I always seem to break or lose them, so I get a decent pair only in the $25 range. The good news is you can buy cheap sunglasses anywhere you go on the beach. I also bring a little cord to keep them on my head in case I’m kayaking or zip lining or doing something where they might fly off.

1 Comfy hooded sweatshirt.
A warm hoodie is essential for cold airplane rides, early morning trips on the water, or some nights as your only pillow and blanket!

Lycra long sleeve shirt.

Technology:

2013-08-01-photo.JPG laptop computer.

Travel adapter.
I bought one for $20 that lets me plug in my electronics in almost any country, and also acts as a surge protector for those frequent power outages.

2013-08-01-ScreenShot20130731at7.14.21PM.pngGoPro Hero 3 Black camera.
I recently converted from my jenky digital camera to a super fun Go Pro. It’s smaller than a deck of cards, has huge storage capacity and battery life, and fits into a shockproof case so I can take it over rough terrain or underwater. I can strap it to a surfboard, bicycle handlebars, or on a headgear clip while I’m getting my ass kicked in the boxing gym. I have a wifi remote so I can document the wonderment of traveling abroad in movie quality without holding a camera up to my eyes all the time, and I plan to expand my travel blog to a more-entertaining video blog.

iPhone.
Whenever I hit the road I suspend my US cell service for $10 a month, forwarding my number to Skype or GoogleVoice, but I still use my iPhone as a mini computer via local wifi, accessing apps that allow me to make calls, use GPS, a compass, translate languages on the fly, and serve as a killer flashlight.

Flash drives.
I’m paranoid about getting my laptop ruined or stolen and losing all of my data, so I back up daily on high-memory flash drives and hide them someplace safe.

2013-08-01-opplanetgoalzeroswitch8solarrechargingkit.jpg
GoalZero portable solar charger.
GoalZero, one of my new favorite companies, makes the Nomad 7, a portable solar charger that’s no bigger than a notebook. It unfolds into two panels that catch the sun and recharge my phone, GPS, camera, or MP3 player with a simple USB hookup. A separate recharger battery the size of a tube of toothpaste, the Switch 8, can be thrown into my backpack and gives my devices plenty of juice in case of an emergency or if I’m stuck out in the jungle. When that happens, and it will happen, a quick solar charge can literally be a life saver.

GoalZero portable speaker.
I listen to music 24/7 and the speakers on my laptop don’t cut it. But most mini speakers sounded like trash until I finally found a good one that is affordable and durable, with 20 hours of battery life, the RockOut 2 speaker by GoalZero. They come with a built in durable case and you can power them via your laptop, charge their internal battery, or even go solar.

2 Headphones.
One pair of earbuds and one over-the-head pair for jogging.

I bring a Tupperwear container to store my electronic accessories and twist ties to organize their cords and cables.

Work out:
I get back to basics on the road: pushups, burpees, etc., but I do bring a jump rope and a stretchy fitness band, which take up almost no room but are versatile for any-time workouts. Gymnastic rings also are easy to hook up anywhere for strength and balance conditioning.

I have an incredible trainer, Trevor Gibbs at Health Behaviors, who sets my workout plan virtually based on my natural elements, no matter where I am in the world!

Swim goggles.

Small gym towels.
I carry a little towel around with me everywhere I go to wipe the sweat away, dash through a rain storm, or even dry off after a dip in the ocean. These are great because it’s always super hot in the tropics and I sweat like… well, like a gringo in the tropics. I used to “borrow them permanently” from hotels, but I’ve since reformed and now I buy a pack.

Security:

Combo lock.
Once I settle down and get an apartment overseas I bolt a solid combo lock onto a railing or post near my front door and put my house key in it. That way I never have to carry around my key (a pain if you’re living near the beach) but I can get in any time.

I should use a laptop cable lock, but I prefer just to hide it in a ceiling panel or the bottom of the garbage can when I leave my hotel or apartment.

Likewise, instead of fancy false-bottom containers and security devices, I just hide my important stuff — passport, credit cards, flash drive, etc. in the bottom of a cereal box or hollowed-out can of peanuts.

Instead of wearing those dorky tourist money belts I just put money in the sole of my shoe.

Copies of travel papers.
I make copies of my passport, drivers license, and medical immunization card and keep them in a safe place. I also email photos of those to myself, along with credit card and bank information.

Toiletries and Medical:

Sanitizing toothbrush case.
Sanitation is always a question mark in third-world hotel bathrooms and hot, humid climates, a breeding ground for bacteria, so I bring the million germ eliminating travel toothbrush sanitizer by Violight. The case sanitizes 99 percent of germs and the battery lasts 2,000 hours! I found it in Hammacher & Schlemmer’s catalog on the airplane.

I carry around a Z Pack of antibiotics in case of severe stomach sickness, and a course of anti-malarial meds if I’m going deep into the jungle.

A few packs of Emergen-C’s come with me to so I don’t get sick with all that nasty fake air on the plane or when I’m fighting off exotic germs in my new locale.

I bring travel size toiletries on the plane to last a few days, but deodorant, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, etc. I buy when I get there.

Other:

Compression bags.
I found a cheap set that I stuffed my clothes into then rolled the air out of vents on the other side and sealed shut. These bags reduce the volume of my clothes by 30 percent and keep everything dry.

Dryer sheets.
Stuffed into my bag keep everything smelling fresh.

Twine.
It’s easy to set up a drying line anywhere I go.

Deck of cards.

Small notebook.
That I can fit in my back pocket and write whenever inspiration hits. Some times you have to go old school!

Hair clippers:
A haircut might only cost $2, but finding a barber shop in every little beach town and rural hamlet is problematic. I keep my hair shaved short so I just bring my own cheap clippers.

Believe it or not, that all fits into my North Face duffel bag/backpack with plenty of room to spare! I can always pick up bug spray, sunscreen, batteries, beach towels, etc. when I touch down. It may seem like a scarce amount of possessions for 6 months or more, but the funny thing is no matter what I pack, I never even use all of it! And by the time I’m ready to head back home my bag is always packed with different things – plenty of souvenirs, works of art, and gifts from the beautiful countries I’d visited. And those, along with the memories of the wonderful people I met and the experiences we shared, are what’s truly priceless to me!

THANKS TO: Norm Schriever!  EXCELLENT Article!

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Want to swim 44 stories up?

Want to swim 44 stories up?

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gazebo Pool.

The Gazebo Pool.

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skiing Santas? YES! Skiing Santas!

Skiing Santas?  YES!  Skiing Santas!

This MUST be the North Pole!

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Enhance Thanksgiving Dinner by Pairing the Perfect Wine

What’s the best wine for Thanksgiving Dinner?

The Top 5 Thanksgiving Wines (because just one would be ludicrous)

Top 5 Best Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner

Top 5 best Thanksgiving wines… er.. the last one isn’t wine?

Hopefully you’ll survive Black Out Wednesday and be ready for another day of drinking. While there are a few ideal turkey pairing wines, there’s more to selecting the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner than the bird. Consider the following:

    • Dinner also includes yams, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce.
    • Your house will smell redolent of turkey and pumpkin pie spice.
    • You may be on a tight budget after buying dinner fixings.
    • Ideally, you’ll be drinking all day.

wine for thanksgiving dinner

So what’s it going to be?

Thanksgiving Wine Legend

  • Crowd pleaser
  • Good gift wine
  • Will make you drunk
  • Good value

1. The Wine to Pair with Turkey

Zinfandel is America’s sweetheart. It’s the ideal turkey pairing wine because its lower tannin helps moisten even the driest turkey. Also, Zinfandel’s secondary flavors of cinnamon, clove and vanilla will put you in the mood for fall.

Green and Red Chile Valley Estate Zinfandel 2009

Zinfandel

These are our favorite turkey-wine Zinfandels that are ready to be guzzled now.

  • $25 D-Cubed Napa Valley Vineyards 2008 Zinfandel ( 14.4% ABV)
  • $22 Green & Red Vineyards Chiles Valley 2009 Zinfandel ( 15% ABV)
  • $14 7 Deadly Zins 2009 Lodi Zinfandel ( 14.7% ABV)

2. The Perfect Ice-Breaker Wine

The worst moments at a party are right when everyone arrives and they’re all standing around. Awkward. To alleviate superficial weather-talk and bullshit, just truncate it… with the sound of a pressurized cork being removed from a bottle of Champagne. Nothing says ‘let’s get this party started!’ better than the sound of bottles popping.

Treveri Cellars Brut Sparkling Wine Washington State

Champagne

Instead of classic Champagne for Thanksgiving, check out these amazing American sparkling wines that are fruity enough to stand up to yams.

  • $27 Taittinger “Domaine Carneros” Brut 2008 ( 12% ABV )
  • $14 Treveri Cellars “Blanc de Blanc” Brut ( 12% ABV )

3. The Wine to Match with Ham

While everyone is gawking at the turkey, you’re the one filling your plate up with baked ham. You might as well all admit that, for you, Thanksgiving is about pork products. You’re going to need some Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir, a light-bodied red wine, is a great choice for ham wine pairing because the high acidity cuts through the rich flavors. Red fruit flavors like cherry and cranberry work well with a juicy slice of ham.

  • $20 Alma Rosa Santa Rta Hills 2008 Pinot Noir ( 14.1% ABV )
  • $32 Raptor Ridge Willamette Valley Reserve 2009 Pinot Noir ( 14.2% ABV )

Raptor Ridge Oregon Pinot Noir 2009

Pacific Rim 2011 Dry Riesling

4. The Best White Wine for Thanksgiving Dinner

When it comes to the best wine for Thanksgiving dinner, nothing beats a glass of dry Riesling. Bright acidity tingles through all the fat in the gravy, stuffing, potatos, yams and the richness of spice in cranberry sauce. Every sip feels like hitting the reset button on your palate so you can stand to take another bite of dark meat. Disagree? They’re so cheap, I dare you to buy one and try it just to prove me wrong.

Dry Riesling

  • $9 Pacific Rim Dry Riesling 2011 ( 12.9% ABV )

5. The Best Wine with Pumpkin Pie

The best wine to pair with pumpkin pie is beer. A Belgian style beer with the essence of coriander and lots of tiny bubbles. The lightness of the beer will help scrape all that gooey pumpkin pie from the insides of your mouth. It will also offer a pleasing compliment of bitter and sweet. Trust me, after all that wine, turkey and stuffing there’s not a better way to end the dinner.

Belgian-Style Beer

  • $12 (750ml) Ommegang Brewery “Hennepin” Farmhouse Saison with citris & coriander ( 7.7% ABV )
  • $9 (22oz) Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project “Fluffy White Rabbits” Tripel Ale ( 8.5% ABV )
Pretty Things Fluffy White Rabbits American Triple Ale
Categories: food, wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can anyone say…..Dinner Party?

Can anyone say.....Dinner Party?

Does it really get any better than dining in a 16th century castle?

Categories: food, travel, wine | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stay in a Castle…. TONIGHT!

Balfour Castle sits majestically on one of the Orkney Islands of Scotland


1. The Most Luxurious Castle- Amberley Castle

The privileged guests of Amberley Castle can arrive by helicopter if they so please. Standing at over 900 years old the Castle is a historic treasure, and a luxurious destination. Four poster beds, whirlpool bathrooms, decadent furnishings, two fine dining restaurants and a spot of croquet on one of the many lawns means guests are treated like royalty. 01798 831992

Amberley Castle- Images taken from Vonessen Media

2. The Most Extravagant Castle- Stobo Castle

A suite entirely decked out in the finest cashmere? Including the walls? Nothing is too indulgent at Stobo Castle Spa Hotel, where you can even bathe in a limestone tub. Don’t expect Travelodge prices, expect to be completely gob smacked. Claiming to fuse 19th century architecture with 21st century comfort, the appearance of a modern spa lumped onto the side of a classic Scottish castle is a particularly bizarre sight. 01721 725 300

3. The Oldest Castle (in Scotland)- Culcreuch Castle

Prices come slightly back down to earth at Culcreuch Castle, where a more traditional stay is the order of the day. Built between 1296 and 1320, the castle was the ancestral seat of the Scottish clan Galbraith for over 700 years. There are ten elegant rooms to stay in the castle itself, some with four-poster beds. The décor is a vintage delight, and fresh Scottish produce is served in the castle’s two restaurants. 01360 860555

4. The Haunted Castle- Craig–y–Nos Castle

This Welsh castle holds a stunning location in the Brecon Beacons, and was home to world-renowned Opera singer Adelina Patti for some time. Now a popular wedding venue and hotel, It is perfectly positioned to explore the Welsh mountains. The castle also has a reputation for being one of the most notorious haunted buildings in the country. It acted once as a TB sanitorium and a geriatric hospital, the derelict hospital halls still remain and attract many paranormal enthusiasts. It is said the ‘aura’ of the Castle can be felt throughout the building. 01422 323200

5. The Best Shooting Castle- Balfour Castle

The setting of Balfour Castle, is quite simply stunning. Sitting on Spaninsay, one of the Orkney Islands, surrounded by it’s own woodland and coast it is a magical location. If you are keen on a spot of shooting, Balfour is one of the most elite shooting clubs in the world. Primarily seeking wildfowl, but also open for pheasant shoots in the winter months- the weather, wild birds and location make it an extreme shooting experience. 01856 711282

One of the rooms at Thornbury Castle

6. The ‘may lose your head’ Castle- Thornbury Castle

Built in 1508, Anne Bolyen and King Henry VIII stayed here in the Dukes bedchamber, you can sleep there too- unless you fear a beheading! Thornbury is the only tudor castle in the country that you can stay in. Roaring fires, sumptuous meals, and royal bedchambers allow the visitor to step back in time. The hotel even has its own vineyard which produces Thornbury wine- to be enjoyed with one of their exceptional Sunday roasts. 01454 281182

7. The Royal Castle steeped in drama- Ruthin Castle

This historic Welsh castle has had many a grand visitor, from Queen Elizabeth I to legend has it- King Arthur. The suites are suitably royal, one takes the name of the Prince of Wales, commemorating HRH Prince Charles’ visit to the castle. The history of the castle is intriguing and dramatic; King Arthur is said to have disguised himself for a romantic liaison with a mistress in Ruthin. The man who recognized him was executed on a stone block displayed in the town square. There has apparently been many a liaison here, when the wife of army commander Edward I discovered her husbands mistress at the castle- she took her fury out on the women with an axe. She was executed for her crimes and buried outside of the castle walls. Visit Ruthin for your own romantic adventure (minus the bloody end!). 01824 702664

8. The Television Castle- Hazlewood Castle

Hazlewood is better know as the set of the Sky Living’s show Four Weddings where four couples have their dream wedding created for them in the stunning location near Leeds. The castle itself was mentioned in the dooms day book of 1086, its age is reflected in the many ghost stories that accompany Hazlewood- such as a habited monk which is said to stroll around the courtyard. 01937 535353

9. The Recently Flourishing Castle- Peckforton Castle

Peckforton Castle in the heart of Cheshire has had many various purposes over the years. Work on the building of the castle was started by the Tollemach family in 1842 but was not completed until 1851. Ownership was passed down through the family, and during the war the castle was even used as a hostel for 200 physically handicapped children. It was then unused until 1969. Interest from films such as Robin Hood in the eighties, and the castles stunning impression as a location made it the popular castle hotel it is today. 01829 260 930

Dalhousie Castle

10. The Fortress Castle- Dalhousie Castle

One of the most hospitable hotels in Scotland, priding itself on a luxurious stay and a truly Scottish welcome, was not always so. Dalhousie was once a fortress standing over some hotly contested Scottish land, and has bourn witness to many historic disputes. The 13th century fortress is surrounded by wooded parkland and is magnificent in stature. 01875 820 153

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exotic Travel on a Budget. Hotel rooms for $20. REALLY?

1. Egypt


Photo: Jungle_Boy

Despite having some of the world’s best-known monuments, Egypt struggles to fill its abundant hotels. With less-than-wealthy locals far outnumbering the tourists, it’s easy to find a bargain meal or a guide or taxi driver. (They’ll find you whether you need them or not.) Admission prices for the ancient pyramids and temples are reasonable, generally ranging from $3 to $14.

Sample deals: a first-class train ticket from Cairo to Luxor for $17; a Nile-view deluxe double room in Luxor for $60 with breakfast; a private room by the sea in Dahab for under $20; entrance to the Nubia Museum in Aswan for $4; a falafel sandwich at a Cairo street stall for 40 cents. There’s no great independent travel site for the whole country but Egypt’s official tourism site is better than most.

2. Indonesia


Photo: Erik K Veland

This Southeast Asian nation is one of the most diverse and attractive destinations in the world, with a long string of volcanic islands and a range of topography and culture. It could also be the best value on the planet, with cheap hotels going for $5 a night, often right beside great snorkeling spots. Bali is the most developed island, but even there you can find plenty of deals. On Java, Sumatra, and Sulawesi, however, it’s easy to branch out like an intrepid explorer or get pampered on the cheap in the most popular spots.

Sample deals: a double room with pool and breakfast in Yogyakarta, Java for under $20; a five-day small ship cruise between Lombok and Flores islands via Komodo for $200 per person including meals; a first-class train seat from Jakarta to Yogyakarta for $25; an hour-long massage for $8-$15; a day’s motorbike rental on Bali for $10. Indo.com has a good listing of mid-range hotels in Bali and some other areas while the official Indonesia tourism site has travel info and enticing photos of the diverse islands.

3. Mexico


Photo: Tim Leffel

In mid-2008, the peso was at 10 to the dollar. Now it’s close to 13. That’s a discount of more than 25 percent in a country that was already a deal. Plus Swine Flu followed by drug gang violence on the U.S. border has meant that travelers have tremendous bargaining power on hotels and tours. To find the best values, visit the historic colonial cities or beach areas where Americans don’t outnumber the locals. (As in places where there’s no Señor Frog’s in sight.)

Sample deals: a three-course lunch at a market stand for $4; nice hotels in centuries-old colonial buildings for under $75 double with breakfast and Wi-Fi; a round of Negra Modelos for five at nearly any bar, including gratis snacks, for $10; and some of the nicest deluxe buses in the hemisphere for $6 to $8 per hour of travel. It’s a big, diverse country, but here’s an extensive set of links and the best books on one page: Mexico travel resources from Travelers-tool-kit.com.

4. Honduras


Photo: Tim Leffel

Few people knew anything about this country until it was all over the news last year when the president got forced out of office. You can find fabulous deals on scuba diving packages on Roatan Island. This Caribbean island sits next to the second-longest coral reef in the world, and every hotel seems to offer attractive package plans no matter the season. On the mainland you’ve got tropical national parks, the rugged Moskito Coast, and Copán, one of the key Mayan sites in the Americas and a great little colonial town.

Sample deals: $35 white-water rafting trips; weeklong learn-to-dive packages with room, breakfast, and transfers for under $600; a cold coconut with a straw for 40 cents; and admission to the Copán archeological park for $10. For more info, see the Honduras Tips site or Roatan Online, or see more travel prices in Honduras here.

5. Guatemala


Photo: Tim Leffel

This is only a shade farther to fly than Mexico, but it is a truly exotic destination. The descendants of the Mayans still dress in traditional clothing in the villages surrounding stunning Lake Atitlán. The Spanish colonial buildings in the city of Antigua are older than anything left standing in our historic city districts. The sprawling archeological park of Tikal is the granddaddy of Mayan ruins, and still surrounded by jungle.

Sample deals: taxis in Antigua for $4; great hotels with a view on Lake Atitlán for $60 a night; a week of private Spanish lessons including homestay starting at $180; a zipline canopy tour near Tikal for $30; three pounds of bananas or avocados for a dollar. La Ruta Maya Online is the best resource for hotels, tours, and Spanish language schools.

6. Peru


Photo: Tim Leffel

Machu Picchu alone is worth the journey, but it’s just the start in this value-packed country. Inca ruins are scattered all around the Sacred Valley, and Cuzco is one of the most attractive cities in South America. There is also hiking in the Andes, admiring colonial architecture on the streets of Arequipa, trips through the Amazon, boating across the highest lake in the world, and flying over the strange Nazca lines.

Sample deals: Bus from Arequipa to Colca Canyon – $6; a big traditional lunch and a beer for $7; simple restaurant meal in the countryside $6 for two; entrance to the Inca Museum in Cuzco for $1.50; cheap single room or hostel bed $4-$10; airport taxi in Cusco $4. Andean Travel Web is an exhaustive resource site for trekking info, hotels that are a good value, and general travel info.

7. Thailand


Photo: ccdoh1

As with Honduras and Mexico, visitor numbers plunged when Bangkok was all over the news recently, so there are plenty of deals on airfare, tours, and hotels. This is a popular destination for travelers of all budget levels. Thailand continues to be one of the best bargains in the world in terms of hotel prices, and with a well-developed infrastructure, it’s easy to get around and see what you want to see, be it historic ruins, Buddhist temples, or tropical beaches.

Sample deals: a standard double at a true 5-star hotel in Bangkok for $250 or less per night—or a cheap place to flop down and sleep for 1/20th of that price; admission to the main ruins in Sukothai for under $2; a first-class round-trip sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai for about $40; a Skytrain ticket across Bangkok for about $1.30. The hands-down best travel resource for Thailand is Travelfish.org. They also put out some great iPhone/iPad apps on specific regions and islands.

8. Czech Republic


Photo: Tim Leffel

In much of Europe, prices in the big cities are often double what you find in the countryside. This is especially true in Eastern European countries like the Czech Republic, where vacationers on quick weekend breaks have driven up hotel and restaurant prices in Prague. In the smaller towns and cities, however, the country is one of Europe’s remaining great values. Castles on hill crests, some of the world’s best beer for a dollar or so in a pub, and winding cobblestone streets without crowds—Ye Olde Europe without the new Europe prices.

Sample deals: a room at the best hotel in town across Moravia for under $100 with breakfast; fully equipped hybrid bike rental for $25 a day; sommelier guided 12-bottle tasting at the Wine Salon of the Czech Republic in Valtice for $19; a train ticket from Prague to anywhere in the country for $12 or less. The official Czech Tourism site is excellent while MyCzechRepublic has good general info on different regions plus a message board. See more Czech prices outside Prague here.

To dive in deeper on any of these cheap destinations and see the current situation on the ground, check the message boards at LonelyPlanet.com and BootsnAll.com

Categories: travel, wine | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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)

Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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)
Categories: travel | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

World Traveling Joe

Passionate About Food, Wine, & Travel

The Wine Wankers

G’day, you’re at the best wine blog ever! We're all about wine; without the wankery.

Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

Making it big in business after age 40

Leadership Freak

Empowering Leaders 300 Words at a Time

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.