Archive for the ‘island’ Category

Visiting Madagascar

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

For a truly exotic and unforgettable vacation, Madagascar is the perfect place.

Unlike any other place on earth, the island boasts some of the most exotic wildlife in the world and is a great destination spot for the adventurous traveler.

These are some of the must see spots.

Visit Parc National de Ranomafana.

This park is famed for the hot springs and the lemur-inhabited rainforest. Be sure to set out at dawn and take a guided trek in order to enjoy these reclusive creatures.

Then set off across the gushing river in the village to enjoy the hot tubs at the La Palmerie hotel. After pampering, enjoy the home-made banana crepes and be sure to meet Dadalira, a 106-year-old man who is a living history and loves to tell stories.

When the French colonized Madagascar, they left a lasting impression that still exists today. The Malagasy cuisine is excellent and tourists can enjoy stacks of fried dough balls, deep-fried bananas, and rice cakes from the outside food stands.

For a more gourmet experience, visit La Varangue, one of the top rated restaurants in Madagascar, located in the capital Antananarivo. The master chocolatier was recently voted as one of the world’s top five chefs and his menus are full of flavor and interesting tastes.

Camp Bandro at Lac Alaotra

Camp Bandro at Lac Alaotra is another great spot to visit. Visitors can enjoy traveling across the lake in a dugout canoe. The guide will take the canoe into the thick reeds to see the lemurs and bandros.

This destination can take a while to reach, but is well worth the journey. The camp has basic bungalows and large gardens of roses. Visitors can stay here for a reasonable price and enjoy three meals a day and traveling on the lake every morning.

There are four national parks in the rainforest, and visiting one of these locations is the best way to enjoy the exotic creatures that live in Madagascar.

Take a walk through the rainforest and enjoy the green chameleons and the giraffe-necked weevils. At night, travel through the Mirsinjo forest to listen to the frog chorus or spot the mouse lemurs. Vakona Lodge is a lemur island and houses rescured lemurs that previously lived in captivity.

Note that we talk a lot about lemurs. The lemur is an animal only found in Madagascar and nearby islands. It is somehow similar but predates monkeys but lemurs became extinguished as monkeys are a dominant species. So lemurs survived in Madagascar as there are no monkeys on the island. These are beautiful creatures to observe in the wild.
Finally, spend some time with the local people, learning about their lives and enjoying their culture.

Akany Avoka houses 120 homeless children and is one of the charities in the area. The home funds their education and teaches them valuable skills like gardening, cooking, career shops, and trains them in sustainable energy.

The English director Steve Wilkinson enjoys having visitors and is happy to show them around and meet the children. Have lunch in the cafe and learn about the work that they are doing. This is a great way to learn about the hospitality of the place and the people that live in Madagascar.

These are some of the must-see spots in Madagascar. Whether staying for a week or just a day or two, try to see at least one of these top spots. They are a great way to get off the beaten trail and enjoy the real Madagascar.

Food from the Philippines

Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Philippines is not just an archipelago that boasts its wonderful sceneries and beaches. The Philippines also has the most delicious street foods ever! As the country was colonized by the Spain and America, you can certainly find some fusions of those cultures in their dishes – that includes the food sold in mini trucks and stalls. Aside from it being delicious, some of it might not be as appealing to everybody as it ought to be. You just simply choose the food what you prefer. Below are some of the famous foods found on the streets of the Philippines.

Camote Cue/ Banana Cue

food2

There are many kinds of bananas and sweet potatoes grown in the Philippines. Some of these are perfect for frying. Bananas and sweet potatoes are covered with caramelized brown sugar and skewered using bamboo sticks. Toron is a version of fried banana with nangka that is wrapped in a spring roll wrapper, then fried.

Fish balls, Squid Balls, Tempura and Chicken Balls

These are the most common street foods. They are found in many push carts and are mostly seen near offices or schools. Pulverized cuttlefish is the main ingredient for fish balls. They are then flatten for frying. The most important part is the sauce that the vendors offer. Some of them create their special sauce. But they are mostly sweet and sour sauce, vinegar sauce or hot and spicy sauce.

Kwek-Kwek and Tokneneng

Just like the food above, kwek-kwek and tokneneng are usually sold in push carts situated near schools and offices. Kwek-kwek is boiled quail eggs that are dipped in an orange batter, then deep fried. Tokneneng is similar to that but utilizes chicken or duck eggs.

Taho

Generally enjoyed by many early in the morning, taho is sold by a door-to-door man that usually goes around early in the morning. Taho is bean curd made out of soft, silken tofu. A sweet syrup is used as topping – usually caramelized brown raw sugar and tapioca.

Halo-Halo

food1

This is a cold treat. It is a bowl of shaved ice topped with as many fruits as you want. Sweetened milk, pearls, jelly, sweet beans and corn flakes are added after you choose your own variety of fruits. This is a preferred dessert by many during the summer seasons. Ube or yam is also used to add some sweetness to it.

Green Mangoes with Bagoong

Sliced green mangoes are served with shrimp paste that are usually spicy.

Isaw

Isaw is actually chicken intestines that have been thoroughly cleaned using vinegar. The chicken intestines are then grilled under some flaming charcoal and dipped in special barbecue sauce.

Sisig

Sisig is a famous dish paired with beer. It is a dish made up of roasted pigs head, chicken liver, variety of spices, egg and calamansi. Sisig is usually served on a hot sizzling plate.

Balut

This is the most famous street food in the Philippines. Many foreigners consider it as utterly disgusting. But if you look pass its ugly appearance, it actually has a very flavorful broth (amniotic fluid) inside the egg. Baluts are hard boiled 3 weeks old duck eggs. It is packed in protein and considered as an aphrodisiac. You can eat it plain or with salt and some spiced vinegar.

Boracay: paradise

Thursday, October 29th, 2015
Boracay White Beach

Boracay White Beach

If you are used to the beaches at Hawaii, Cancun or at the French Riviera, overcrowded and overdeveloped, then Boracay is really different. If you like 5 stars hotel, please avoid Boracay.

Boracay has been voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the World, and here we are talking about a true beach, a beach where there is no visible concrete in the vicinity. As the few roads on Boracay Island are inland, the path along the beach is made of sand and earth, not of concrete and you can walk barefoot. This is not Miami beach, this is a Philippines beach still preserved from aggressive high rise building.

Yes Boracay Island is touristic. Its main activity is to cater for the foreigners visiting it. But it does not feel like the usual tourist trap, far from it. Initially this was a backpackers’ paradise in the 70s, and backpackers are still welcome. Accommodations cover the full spectrum, from the cheapest low-budget bungalows up to a few upscale resorts. And there is a highly ranked golf course.

So it does not matter your budget, you will find anything you like, except the ultra top resorts, which exist in more secluded upscale environments.

The atmosphere is a cool relaxed one, with excellent restaurants by the dozens and plenty of bars to meet your fellow beachcombers. Many of them are run by Westerners, so you will receive excellent quality and great food. The seafood in particular is abundant. Other activities include scuba diving, wind surfing, boating, fishing and trekking in the middle of the island.

The way to reach Boracay Island is by boat as it is only a short distance from the bigger island of Panay. So you will take either a small ferry or a lighter pirogue to arrive. To reach Panay you can fly from Manilla, as flying is the main form of transportation for tourists in the Philippines, as this is a large country made of 7,107 islands. The nearby Caticlan airport is the nearest, but only lands smaller planes. Another airport is further away and requires an extra bus ride.

The weather is fantastic in this south-east Asian destination, but avoid the rainy season from June to November, but even then you’ll have a good time with less tourists and less heat. The Filipino people are extremely friendly and you will make new friends easily.

Warning. If you visit Boracay Island, you might get addicted to it. Some people do not leave.

Scotland – One Country Many Worlds

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Edinburgh CastleScotland, the member country of the British-Irish council is actually a part of the U.K. The country occupies one third of the Great Britain Island, sharing an edge with England at its south border. The North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and North Channel gradually occupy the east side, west, north, and southwest of the country. Along with this mainland, the country consist of more than 890 islands that include the Hebrides and Northern Isles. Edinburgh is the capital and the second largest city of the country. Aberdeen is another popular Scotland country that is known as the oil capital of Europe.

Roman Influence in Scotland

Scotland’s written protohistory began when the roman Empire arrived in central and southern Great Britain. When the Romans occupied this place, they administered it as Britannia. Gradually with time they made several changes there, erected the great Hadrian’s Wall and this helped in reducing the distance between England and Scotland. The rulers continued military occupation in major parts of present Scotland for more than 40 years and this is when the roman culture influenced the socio-political background of the country. Moreover, the influence of Roman tradition also passed on Scotland’s culture through tribes like the Damnonii and Votadini who stayed in Scotland permanently, even when the military occupation was over.

Natural History and Geography of Scotland

The mainland of the country comprises a mass land of Great Britain that ends to the north coast of the continental Europe. The geographical center of the country lies a few miles away from the Badenoch and Newtonmore villages. The country is situated 1,344 meters above the sea level and the highest point of the country is Ben Nevis summit. The longest river of the country is the River Tay that flows within a distance of 190 km. In spite of being an island, Scotland is rich in other natural objects like lakes, isles, mountain that gives the country it’s beautiful and stunning look.

Scotland Climate

Scotland’s climate is both oceanic and temperate and it keeps changing frequently. The Gulf Stream from the Atlantic keeps the country warm and thus winter is milder there. Summer is rather wetter and cooler. The temperature of the country mostly ranges between 10 and 20 degree C.

Generally, the western part of the country is warmer than its eastern part due to the influence of ocean currents of Atlantic and comparatively colder temperature of the northern sea. Tiree is the sunniest place of the country, which is located in the Inner Hebrides. Here a total hour of sunshine is 300 during May and June. The rate of rainfall varies in different parts of the country and the western highlands of the country are the wettest place. However, rainfall is more limited in the lowlands of Scotland and there it doesn’t rain more than 800 cm per year.

Scotland Flora and Fauna

The changing climate of Scotland makes it such a place, which is rich in varied vegetation and attractive wildlife. Scotland is an abode to the world’s most beautiful birds and animals such as the hooded crow, capercaillie, Northern gannet, the sea-eagle and animals like the red-squirrel, deer-stag red, wildcats, grey seal and the the Eurasian beaver. However, as most of the country is surrounded by sea, aquatic life is more attractive here than anything else. Scotland is the only country where we see some of the best species like:

  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Arctic Charr
  • Brown Trout
  • River Lamprey
  • European Seal
  • Allis Shad

Scotland and Its Motorbike Ride

A Scotland motorbike ride is one of the many attractions that draw the attention of a number of tourists every year. There are different organizations that arrange motorbike and by-cycle ride events in the highlands and inthe mountains of Scotland. Special events are also organized for kids. Cycling Scotland is one such organization arranging the most attractive events yearly for the visitors’ and for native people as well.

The Best Places to Visit in Scotland

Kelvingrove Museum and the Art Gallery, the Blair Drummond Park, ArdnamurchanBeach, Edinburgh castle, the Glasgow cathedral are some of the popular places to visit in Scotland. However, visitors have other choices as well like Holyroodhouse, Melrose Abbey, the Whisky shop and others.

Among these, Holyroodhouse is the place where the kings of Scotland used to live. This palace was established by David the first in the year of 1128. Now the palace is used to arrange royal parties, official ceremonies and celebrations. Visitors often say that a Scotland visit is incomplete if one does n’t come to this place.

The Whisky shop is the store that collects the world finest whiskeys and it is the largest wine shop in Scotland. Earlier it was the only shop operating in Scotland but now there are branches of the same in different parts of the country.

Atlantis Casino in the Bahamas

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Vacation in the Bahamas – Exploring the Tropical Paradise on Earth

A vacation in the Bahamas is the dream of every traveler; sinking your toes into the white sands and gazing out into the horizon of the pristine blue beaches is an unforgettable experience. There is a sense of belonging and extraordinary calmness that you experience in this tropical paradise on Earth.

The Bahamas is a bunch of islands and you can either explore just one or all of these depending on your travel budget. The most popular one among these has to be the capital city, Nassau or New Providence Island. A vacation in the Bahamas is simply incomplete without a visit to the Paradise Island which is a neighbor of Nassau. You can either opt to do everything that your heart fancies here or simply kick back your shoes and do nothing but laze around all day. This tropical heaven is infused with the right dose of international glamour to make it vibrant yet rejuvenating for all kinds of tourists.

A special mention has to be given to the Atlantis Beach Resort on Paradise Island which is bound to take your breath away. This ocean-themed destination is a complete world in itself with different types of accommodations, fine dining experience and activities. You must stay at the Beach or the Coral Towers if you want to indulge and rejuvenate your senses in sheer luxury and elegance. If it is modern contemporary luxury that you seek, then head for the The Cove Atlantis and if it is a piece of historical architecture that you are after, then stay at the iconic Royal Towers.

A vacation in the Bahamas especially in Atlantis also means a gastronomic journey. This beach resort has a whopping 21 different restaurants and 19 bars so that guests can enjoy any kind of cuisine that they fancy. There are gourmet culinary delights, family meals and endless buffets to choose from to satisfy the taste buds of each person. There are plenty of activities that you can take up at the Atlantis and some of the these include watching dolphins play at the Dolphin Cay, splashing out in the 141-acre water theme park, learn about coral reefs at the Kerzner Marine Foundation, experience the wonders of marine habitat and party away into the night at the various discos and pubs.

As night beckons, your vacation in the Bahamas takes on a different turn on Paradise Island. The doors of the Atlantis Casino are thrown open to the public. The innovative design, breathtaking sculptures, skylights and interior décor is bound to enthrall you. And if this is not enough, this casino offers a world class gaming experience with more than 80 types of table games and slot machines.

And for many a vacation in the Bahamas means a declaration of love. This tropical paradise is the best place to take or renew your wedding vows. The wide expanse of the sparkling blue water, heaven above and the white sands will make anyone fall in love over and over again.

Panama: green and blue paradise

Sunday, September 27th, 2009
Pearl Islands

Pearl Islands

Panama is not the most traveled destination. But for the ones who like to pick unusual spots, this is a fantastic choice.

Here I am not talking about taking a cruise ship that navigates along the Panama canal, where the stop at Panama City is just one port along the way. Yes this can be a nice way to discover Central America, no doubt about it, but the country of Panama deserves a vacation only in Panama.

In a nutshell, Panama is great because you will find great weather, great food, a mixed culture with a unique historical background, a very high density of plants and animals, in particular birds,  a friendly population, many beaches &  islands, and more.

Let’s start with the main attraction, the canal. This is unique human construction which almost failed and took the lives of thousands of workers to be completed. The French started it but could not finish, due to a series of disasters including an epidemic of malaria. The Americans took over where the French left it and managed to join the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Note that it is necessary for the ships to cross three sets of  locks, as the Canal ascends to the artificial Gatun Lake before descending to the other side. This  is a marvel of civil engineering. Following the Canal either in a ship or by helicopter is a great experience.

Panama is mostly covered with equatorial rain forest, and it is the habitat of the largest variety of birds on earth. It also has the largest variety of trees on earth. So this is such a rich environment for nature lovers, wherever you are in the country.

Even in Panama City, if you have  a chance to walk by the Presidential Palace, it is the home of a number of bird cranes, both local and foreign. In Panama you will see all kinds of birds, in all shapes and color. Even if you are not a “bird watcher”, these birds are so beautiful when you find them.

Another attraction is Panama City itself. This is the place in Central America where you will get the best food, so do not miss it. They have a mix of European cuisines with the local touch resulting in some delicious recipes and amazing chefs.

Finally there are islands and beaches and many are fantastic. But I am going to reveal you one of the more extraordinary island resort in Panama and in the World: Hacienda del Mar.

This is a truly amazing island. Square miles aftere square miles of rain forest. Not inhabited, except for the staff and guests of the only resort of the island. As this island belongs to a billionaire, this is not likely to change.

The resort is in the Pearl Islands a few dozen miles from the entrance of the Panama Canal. It used to be an American military base and this is why this private island has miles of roads in perfect condition. But nothing else is left of the American military presence, except for a few abandoned bunkers overseeing the gorgeous panorama with smaller islands in the distance.

Try this exclusive resort. When we were there, we were the only guests, and this was the vacation of a lifetime.

Hong Kong, dear Hong Kong

Thursday, July 30th, 2009
Hong KongHong Kong

If you want to travel somewhere and if you want to visit a City, Hong Kong is one of the best choices you could ever make.

Hong Kong is unlike most Cities. Very few other cities come to mind when seeking an extraordinary place with a wide variety within it, and Rio de Janeiros could be compared to Hong Kong in this respect, but there are very few other candidates.

On Hong Kong Island, there are sand beaches, hicking trails among the luxuriant tropical forest around the “Peak”, skyscapers coming out along the cliffs, large preserved unbuilt areas, breathtaking views from the highest points, unlimited supply of the richest Chinese food in the World, the highest proportion of Roll Royces per inhabitants on earth, etc.

Unlike most big metropolis like Tokyo for instance, the land is not 100% invaded by concrete, and the natural beauty of this tropical paradise is preserved on about half of the entire surface of the Island.  So it is possible to start walking from “Central”, which is one of the business districts, and to find yourself alone in the forest in less than 15 minutes.

If you like the city aspect itself, there are choices for all tastes: luxurious shops Asian and Western, immense shopping malls on ten floors offering every known brand, local tiny shops where you can find Chinese medicine, various potteries and art pieces.

Hong Kong itself is made of Hong Kong Island which is the second largest island (after the wild Lantau Island), plus numerous smaller islands, and Kowloon & the New Territories. The most beautiful side is all these islands. You can take various boats and ferries and visit them, eat local sea food and enjoy a moment of peace in a slower paced environment. It does not feel like a big town at all over there.

Another advantage of going to Hong Kong is that it is probably the best hub to visit South-East Asia. Neighboring countries such as Thailand, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia,…, are all only a few hours away by plane, and will welcome you with open arms.