Railey - Home to the World's Most Beautiful Beach
Singapore's State of the Art Zoo
The Three Sisters - famous rock formation in the Blue Mountains, 2 hours west of Sydney
Set on the historic River Kwai, Kanchanaburi is the perfect place to base yourself to visit some of the impressive attractions nearby, and spend a few days relaxing on a floating guest house. The bridge over the river that claimed the lives of thousands during its construction in WWII, is easily accessible from the town by either bus or taxi. Besides the historical element, there are several floating restaurants on the river that make for a great spot for lunch.
One of the main draws of the area is the impressive Tiger Temple 30km north of the town. It is a place like no other, where for a 500 baht entrance fee (around $27 CA) you can have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal and have your photos taken with the tigers in the park. The tigers have been rescued from poachers and then raised in the park by Buddhist monks. The park acts as both a breeding ground for the tigers as well as a means to raise money and awareness about their extinction in the wild. The grounds are also home a number of other free roaming animals including yaks, ostriches, wild pigs and goats – perhaps dinner for the tigers?
Appropriate dress is required for entry into the temple compound. Shoulders and knees covered for both men and women, and no bright coloured clothing that is red, pink or orange in colour. Apparently the bright colours excite the tigers, similar to the red flags used to attract bulls. The temple grounds are only open between 1pm-4pm as this is when the tigers are resting and you can safely have your photo taken with them.
The first place you visit inside the temple grounds is the main tiger attraction where at no extra cost you can be lead around by hand by one of the workers to have your photo taken with several of the dozing tigers. There is nothing quite like getting up close and personal with a tiger, hearing it breathe and petting the fur along it’s back as the employees snap photos of you. You have the chance to walk around to several of the giant beasts to pose alongside them. Only in a place like Thailand where there are no worries about the liability of such a place could such an experience take place.
After getting photo happy with the adults, it’s time to visit the cubs. Workers and tourists (for a fee) have the opportunity to play ball with the young tigers. The game is keep away as the employees and other visitors kick and throw the ball around as the cubs try their best to jump up and get it every time. When they do get it, the workers rush into to steal the ball back – they’ve only got a few seconds before the cubs rip the ball to shreds and it’s time to find a new game.
There are a few more tigers sleeping out in the shade, accompanied by workers of course, where you can grab a few more individual photos and group photos. Even though it’s a bit expensive in comparison to what else you can do with 500 baht, there is no where else in the world where you can have an experience quite like this.
After 15 months of travelling through New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia – there really is no place quite like home. After taking numerous flights around the world, to finally have someone waiting on the other end for us at the airport was amazing.
At first I thought I might feel restless and bored after being on the go for so long, but it really has been great to have a real bed to sleep in, hot showers and a home cooked meal. Who knows, in a few weeks or months I may begin to feel the desire to travel again, but for now I am putting my feet up and enjoying being at home with family and friends.
It sure is a bit different than last year, when we spent Christmas in Sydney, celebrating in 35 degree heat at the beach. Now its cold and snowy – the way Christmas is meant to be! (At least for us from the northern hemisphere).
To all of those away from home this year – embrace the holiday spirit of the country you’re in – whether it’s a white Christmas in Europe or a tropical theme in the south. It only makes coming home for next years festivities that much more special. Merry Christmas!
I have a new guest post up on GoBackpacking.com that I wanted to share with everyone, 5 Reasons to Avoid Travel. Obviously a bit of a deviation from my normal posts on my great experiences abroad, but I felt it to be relevant nonetheless because “there are times when travel is not all glitz and glamor but rather dull and dingy” To read more follow this link: http://www.gobackpacking.com/Blog/2010/12/15/5-reasons-avoid-travel/#ixzz18b8fGkuM
It’s been 15 months and 3 days since we boarded a plane in Canada and took off for the other side of the world. Now it’s time to say goodbye to the amazing people and places we seen, and board that plane heading back to Canada. But before we can get there we have a 14 hour stopover in Beijing.
We’ve been told by both the airline and other travel agencies that unless we arrange for a Chinese visa ahead of time we’ll have to stay in the airport for the duration of the layover. Not wanting to spend the money so close to home, our plan was to suck it up and watch a lot of movies to pass the time in the airport.
On route to the airport we met another passenger, Ryan, who was booked on the same flight as us and had pre-arranged for his Chinese visa so he could see the famous Great Wall of China on the layover. Needless to say our interest was sparked again, and we thought well we’ll at least ask once we land and go from there.
5 hours later we land in Beijing and make our way through customs. The airport is mostly deserted at this late hour and we’re sure there won’t be anyone around to help us with our visa. Sure enough, as we are passing through customs, the agent calls over to another officer who asks us to accompany him to a desk at the end of the ticketing line. He asks the three of us if we would like to leave the airport during our layover. Bewildered, since we’ve been told so many times that we aren’t allowed, we shake our heads and say, sure why not! And just like that all three of us get stamped out for the day.
We grab a cab into the city, not sure what will be open at 2 in the morning. It’s below zero out none of us are appropriately dressed so we end up parking ourselves at a 24 hour KFC to wait until the sun comes up. Four hours later we emerge, and start our circuit around the city. We do a quick walk passed Tiananmen Square and then walk to the Temple of Heaven.
Far more fascinating than the temple itself is the hundreds and hundreds of Chinese adults participating in outdoor morning exercise. From badminton to dance to paddle ball, there are hundreds of groups of people of all ages exercising and playing together on this chilly December morning. It is truly a magnificent sight, and something that should be adopted in North America.
Our next mission is to get a taxi to the Great Wall, since we’re too short on time to look into public transport. However, much to our surprise, no one here speaks English so trying to communicate our plans to a taxi driver is getting us nowhere. As luck would have it , a Chinese women, with perfect English, stops her bike and translates for us where we need to go and when we need to be back at the airport by. One hour later and we’ve arrived at our goal for the day, The Great Wall of China. Building began in the 5th century BC, and it now spans over 8800 kilometres; the wall covers so much ground that it can even be seen from outer space!
We spent an amazing two hours at one section of the wall walking along and soaking in the breathtaking scenery, but you could spend days exploring different areas in the different provinces of China. My only recommendation – if you’re thinking of visiting China in the winter, make sure you pack mitts and a tuque, it’s a lot closer to Canada in temperature than it is Thailand!
If you’ve got room to spare in your backpack or suitcase then a day at the famous Chatuchak weekend market is a must. It’s a market like no other, covering more than 35 acres of land with almost 10,000 stalls and selling everything imaginable from pets to scarves to spices and souvenirs. Here are some handy tips to help you navigate the market like a pro:
If you have managed to brave the journey from Thailand or the south of Laos, you will be rewarded for your efforts in the city of Siem Reap. Home to Angkor Wat, the world’s largest religious structure, the city itself is fairly modern and caters to westernized standards and needs. Accommodations range from basic backpacker digs to 5 star hotels, but for about $10 US a night you can land yourself some fairly descent lodgings.
There are hundreds of temples in the area with about a dozen or so making up the main tour around Angkor Wat. The best way to get around and see the temples is to hire yourself a tuk-tuk driver for the day who will pick you up at the hotel, plot an itinerary with you, and then drop you back off when you’re feet are too tired to see anymore. The standard rate is $15 US for the inner loop of temples and $20 for the outer loop for two people on top of the entry price of $20 US/day or $40 for a 3 day pass. While riding a bike is another option, the temples are almost 20 km outside of the city, and it’s a good distance between temples, so make sure you’re mentally and physically prepared for a long day of cycling.
Day 1 takes us to all the big temples – Ta Prohm the temple featured in Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, Bayon, a temple with over 200 carved faces, through the north and south gate of the complex and a few other sprawling temples before ending our day at Angkor itself. While Angkor is the largest, I didn’t find it to be the most striking. It’s almost so large that you can’t really get a good shot of the structure, and it’s so packed that you aren’t able to enjoy a moments reflections within its walls.
It takes a good 5-6 hours to get through just a handful of the main attractions here. The next day we start our at 5 am to watch the sunrise over central lake before heading into the outer loop of temples for further exploration. The best part about getting to the compound so early is that no one else is around for the first few hours of the day and the sun isn’t beating down on you. It is definitely worth dragging your butt out of bed at 4:30 am for the experience.
After another 5 hours we are starting to feel “templed” out and head back into town to grab a bite to eat. Psar Cha is the main market area that offers a strip of western restaurants mixed in with Khemar food and very cheap shopping. If you’re coming close to the end of your travels this is a great place to start souvenir shopping.
If you are short on time, you could rush through and see the temples in 1 day, however your feet will be killing you and by the end of it you’ll probably be cranky and be sick of seeing the ruins. A 3 day pass will allow you enough time to go back and forth between the temples and your hotel, and let you schedule some time in for shopping and the ever important foot massage.