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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

  Must See Places for 2014 (with just 21/2 months to go)


Travel Tips
When to Go: May-October
Where to Stay: Newer (opened in 2011) Crimea Breeze Residence is a posh, southern peninsula oasis with low-rise stucco-and-stone luxury villas, seawater pools, and a helpful English-speaking staff.
How to Get Around: Marshrutka (minibus) routes crisscross the region. Private and public bus and train routes connect most cities, and taxis are readily available. Luxury train tour options include the two-week Crimean Express Railway Journey from St. Petersburg to Yalta.
Where to Eat or Drink: Sample traditional Crimean Tatar dishes like lagman (spicy noodle soup), chee-börek (meat turnover), and plov (rice pilaf and lamb) at Harem in Yalta, Kafe Marakand in Simferopol, and, in summer, at the small beach stands and cafes in Koktebel and Sudak.
Cultural Tip: English isn’t spoken widely outside the major tourist areas. Bringing a Russian phrase book and learning a few basic phrases before your trip will make it easier to ask directions, order food, and interact with locals.
What to Read Before You Go: Lady With the Little Dog and Other Stories (1896-1904), by Anton Chekhov (2002). The legendary Russian playwright and modern short story master penned these 11 tales during his final years, spent living in a Yalta villa.
Fun Fact: Joseph Stalin stashed wines confiscated from the tsars’ palaces in the Massandra vineyard cellars, located in underground tunnels. Temporarily relocated during the 1941 Nazi invasion, these rare vintages remain the jewels of Massandra’s estimated million-bottle collection.


Notre Dame Cathedral, Marseille

Travel Tips
When to Go: June-August for beaches, April-May and September-October for comfortable temperatures and lighter tourist traffic.
Where to Stay: Walk to the Vieux Port from the sleek and affordable Mama Shelter Marseille or see the boats from your private terrace at the luxurious Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port.
How to Get Around: The Régie des Transports de Marseille public transportation network includes metro, bus, and tramway lines. Consider a tourist City Pass for one or two days’ travel, museum admissions, and tours. March-September, a batobus (water shuttle) runs between the Vieux Port and Pointe Rouge. Kitschy, blue-and-white tourist trains wind through the streets of the oldest districts.
Where to Eat or Drink: Bouillabaisse is the homegrown culinary art form. Try Le Miramar in the Vieux Port or Chez Fonfon or L’Epuisette in Vallon des Auffes.
What to Buy: Wander through the maze of indoor and outdoor stalls at the Marché aux Puces and the daily Prado Market. Shop for santons (clay crèche figures), olive and lavender soap, olive oil, navettes (small, rowboat-shaped orange or lemon cookies), and pétanque balls.
What to Watch Before You Go: The Fanny Trilogy (Marius, Fanny, Cesar), 1948 (DVD 2004). Beloved 1930s French films (English subtitles), adaptations of the plays by Marseille’s preeminent writer, Marcel Pagnol, are considered national cultural treasures.
Fun Fact: France’s newest national park, Parc National des Calanques, is located on the outskirts of Marseille. Created in April 2012, the land (lagoons, cliffs, beaches) and sea (dolphins, turtles, seabirds) preserve is accessible only by foot or boat.


Raja Ampat has been dubbed the Amazon of the Oceans. Is that hyperbole? Not really. There are single reefs here containing more species than the entire Caribbean. A mini-archipelago of rain-forest-clad islands, cays, mangroves, and pearlescent beaches off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia, this marine frontier brims with life.

Travel Tips
When to Go: Late September through early June. Be aware that mid-June through mid-September is monsoon season, with rains typically contained to the afternoon.
Where to Stay: Exclusive Misool Eco Resort is a secluded tropical hideaway on the remote, private island of Batbitim. Book your personal water cottage-on-stilts (veranda stairs lead directly into the translucent lagoon) to snorkel and dive in one of the world’s most biologically diverse marine environments.
How to Get Around: Travel by boat from Sarong to Wasai. Longboats, speedboats, motorboats, and dive boats connect Wasai to other islands. Outside the resorts, on island travel is primarily by foot or ojek (motorcycle taxi).
Where to Eat or Drink: If you’re not staying in an all-inclusive resort or on a dive boat, Raja Ampat dining options are limited to the small stores, outdoor markets, and warungs (family-run cafés/stores) in Wasai, Raja Ampat’s capital. Another option is to stock up in Sarong before traveling to Wasai.
What to Buy: In the established tourism villages Arborek and Sauwandarek local women make and sell wood and orchid bark nokens (string bags), pandan leaf hats and bags, and wood or banana fiber skirts.
What to Read Before You Go: Raja Ampat Through the Lens Of, by the Raja Ampat Research & Conservation Centre (2009).This coffee table hardcover is a 288-photo journey above and through the Realm of the Four Kings. Proceeds support local conservation efforts.
Fun Fact: On Raja Ampat’s Um Island, bats circle the blue skies by day and seagulls take flight at night. The compact island (one lap around takes about 15 minutes) is dotted with caves, home to the diurnal bats that feast on ripe fruit.

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Unique Beaches Around the World You Need to See to Believe


1. Hidden Beach, Mexico (Marietas Islands)
Swim through a dark tunnel to this secret spot

2. The Baths, British Virgin Islands (Virgin Gorda)
Hidden pools are nestled between majestic boulders

 3. Maho Beach, Caribbean
Watch planes fly right above your head

4. Boulders Beach, South Africa (Simon's Town, South Africa)
See the famous penguin colony

5. Driftwood Beach, Georgia, US (Beachview Drive, Jekyll Island, GA)
Snap photos of the amazing driftwood and ocean views

6. Glass Beach, California, US (Elm Street and Glass Beach Drive, Santa Maria Ca, Fort Bragg,CA)
Enjoy the colorful glass stones that cover the beach

7. Liaohe Delta, China (Liaohe Delta, Shuangtaizi District, Panjin 124000, China)
Seaweed has turned this beach incredibly red

8. Zlatni Rat Beach, Croatia (Bol, Brac Island, Croatia)
Nearly 580 yards long, this beach extends into the sea

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Enjoy your Holidays by going off the grid when you travel....

Ever yearn to travel old-school style, without the screens, gadgets and multitasking stress? Do away with worrying about chargers, adapters, cables, cases, insuring all your devices, and organizing foreign wi-fi plans and roaming. Instead, enjoy the moment, get out of your comfort zone, generate new ways of thinking and build stronger bonds with your family and friends. Naturally you’ll still want to remember your trip, but you can achieve that with a simple checklist: pen, paper, book, film camera.

Local faces, not Facebook

Do you really need to know what your friends and barely-friends are doing while you’re away? Leave behind the need to be validated by their ‘likes’.
Ask the woman selling mangoes in the market about how the area has changed, or the man at the ferry stop what sights he recommends. If language is a problem, bring a phrasebook, or try universities or bookshops, which often have conversation corners with eager locals who want to practice speaking your language and will share stories about their lives.

Paper maps, not Google Maps

If you have grown used to planning everything with a digital map, you might find that a paper map is actually easier to use. You can personalise it and write on it, it doesn’t take time to load or require the internet, and it can be tucked away and pulled out quickly. Best of all, looking at a larger area gives you a much better idea of where you are.
Most tourist information booths and some hotels offer free local maps, often with points of interest marked on them. Or you can try wandering around without a map and speaking to locals – you may get lost at times but you may also get to know an area properly and discover some unmapped gems.

Film cameras, not digital selfies

Unlike digital, every shot taken on a film camera costs money, so is valued and considered.
Digital cameras take multiple, deletable, quick-fire snaps that mean you can spend more time seeing the world through the lens than living the experience. When we take shots on a smartphone, our minds seem even further away from the trip, experiencing it for the sake of social media.
Taking digital photos has become the experience, and sometimes even the point of the trip. In contrast, film photos let you look back at your trip – there is space between having the experience and reliving it because you have no idea at the time what the photo will end up looking like. There is a certain thrill about collecting your prints from a photo shop (the real thing, not the software) and seeing how they turned out. A surprise great shot is something to pin up or hand to somebody. Even the failed shots are not something to be deleted but are a natural captured moment.
Higher resolution
Have you ever wondered how a high-definition Blu-ray disc can be produced from an old movie? It's because a film that was shown in cinemas 30 years ago is still of a higher resolution than most modern digital movies. The same goes for still photos. The common 35mm film of yesteryear produces shots equivalent to 25 megapixels – double the resolution of most digital cameras today. Film photos just look better.
Film processing hasn’t disappeared; in most cities you can still turn a roll of film into photos in a day, and sometimes in half an hour. In the same stores you can buy film in different speeds and ISO (sensitivity). To get that Instagram look, Holga cameras can easily add fancy effects, and in a stylish case too.

Real books, not Kindles

A book has a paper-thin display that boots instantly and never has a flat battery. You can take it to the beach, get sand and splashes on it without breaking it, and leave it unattended while you swim with little fear of it going missing. Not something you’re likely to do with an iPad or e-reader. Plus, books have that unique tactile experience – you can easily flick back and forth and know how much is left. And nothing evokes travel memories months later like picking up a book off the shelf and coming across the local bus ticket you used as a bookmark.
Yes, they weigh more than e-readers, but real books are something you can share, passing on to other people on the road, thus lightening your load. On your travels you can swap one book for another on a book-swap shelf in hostels or book exchanges. Think of that one novel you are reading as personal to your trip, and forget about the stress of a multitasking e-reader or tablet.
Post real letters, not instant messages
Staying in touch with people electronically while abroad is instantaneous but often shallow and rushed in fleeting moments, limited by texting fingers. And your two-line status message might be read by a bunch of people that you have only ever met once.
So don’t go near Twitter, Whatsapp, SMS, blogs or emails. Give somebody that flutter in their tummy when they hold a real letter from you in their hands, complete with colourful local stamps and your excited handwriting and doodles. Your letter is a little piece of another country and something for your friend to sit with at full attention, not wanting it to end, and rereading it when it does.
Meanwhile, you'll keep your head space in the country you’re visiting.
As with tweets, there is an art to fitting the words onto that postcard or opaque airmail paper – the lighter it is, the cheaper it will be to send. Leave some space for a Par Avion stamp for airmail delivery and ask to choose which postage stamp design you’d like, especially as many post offices now use an uninspiring white label.

Receive snail mail abroad, not digital likes

You can also receive real letters while overseas, to make you feel more connected with home and spur you on for the rest of your trip. It will give you a stronger form of validation compared to a few ‘likes’.
Poste restante is available in many countries: a local post office will hold mail addressed to you for you to collect, usually for up to 10 or even 30 days. Your friends and family just have to write ‘Post Restante’ on the envelope after your name, followed by the name and address of a post office in your city. In Canada and the USA (for national mail), instead of writing ‘Poste Restante’, the letter should be labelled ‘General Delivery’. In other countries the wording is different and uses the local language, so check with the post office before telling people to start writing you perfumed letters.
--by Phillip Tang from the Lonely Planet