Singapore’s Top 5 Latest Attractions and Shopping Centers

Singapore may be compact but it’s one of the world’s fastest-growing cities, packed with tempting attractions and luxurious shopping venues. This unique Asian city-state has so much new to offer in 2012. The top 5 novelties are: the world’s most expensive hotel – Marina Bay Sands (2010-2011), Universal Studios Singapore (2011), Gardens by the Bay Park (2012), Louis Vuitton Island Maison (2011), and JCube Shopping Center (2012).

1. Marina Bay Sands

The Marina Bay Sands Hotel is the newest symbol of Singapore. It took 4 years to build and cost two times more than the previous most expensive hotel in the world – The Emirates Palace Hotel. Marina Bay Sands is a piece of art. The hotel’s rooftop has a stunning infinity pool – it is 55 stories up. The 150-meter pool is the world’s largest outdoor pool at a height of 650 ft – it makes you feel “on the edge of the world”. This magnificent hotel has over 2,500 luxurious rooms, indoor canal, outdoor plaza, casino, convention center, theater, crystal pavilion, and a lotus flower shaped museum. Atop of the hotel, there is an impressive boat-shaped “SkyPark” – a huge observation deck connecting the hotel’s three towers.

2. Universal Studios Singapore

Universal Studios Singapore is Sentosa Island’s #1 attraction. This is the place to enjoy fantastic rides (the Transformers, Galactica, the Mummy, and Shrek 4D), as well as stage shows, live shows, restaurants, fireworks, and much more. It’s so fun that many visitors can spend a whole day there. Note: if you don’t like long lines, get the express ticket!

3. Gardens by the Bay

The new Marina Bay garden is among the top 15 attractions in Singapore. The variety of plants and flowers is mesmerizing. The two futuristic domes – cloud dome and flower dome – are great to explore and cool down from the hot sun. The lighted concrete and steel “super trees” with plants growing from them are magical.

4. JCube Shopping Center and Ice-Rink

JCube is a fantastic new shopping center in western Singapore. This futuristic building resembles a sparkling ice cube. JCube is the newest multi-faceted and trendy hub. This chic new mall has everything you could ever need under one roof: fashion, dining, entertainment, sports (including an Olympic-size ice-rink), and more. If you are looking for an unrivalled shopping experience, do explore this new mall.

5. Louis Vuitton Island Maison

Demanding travelers will appreciate the Louis Vuitton Island at the Marina Bay Sands – a new luxury shopping destination. This is the first LV Island Maison in the world. The indescribably gorgeous glass and steel crystal pavilion sits on the waterfront. Access it via a stunning outdoor bridge, by boat, or via a tunnel and enjoy a unique and sophisticated shopping experience, mixed with art and cultural elements.

Five Reasons to do a California Road Trip

Many claim that a California road trip on the Pacific Coat Highway is an unforgettable experience for the lucky ones who will decide to do it. Whether you do it with your car, with an RV or even with a motorcycle, all you need is great company and plenty of time in order to relax and enjoy this amazing and breathtaking route. The classic California road trip, driving driving highway one aka the Pacific Coast Highway. It is probably the most amazing coastline route of the United States.

Here are five reasons why a California road trip should be on your top travel priorities:

1) The Scenary

The almost 700 mile long route that stretches from the Mexican border in the south, up to Legett in Northern California, offers incredible ocean view, landscape alteration and plenty of possible activities for the Californian excursionists who will choose to devote their time for this road trip. The variety of landscape and scenery you will encounter is unique. Rocky landscape, blue colors of the ocean, green hills along the way, amazing view and relaxing of the senses is the trademark of the Pacific Coast Highway.

2) The Pacific Ocean

While you are driving on the Pacific Coast Highway, you will have a continuous contact with the Pacific Ocean throughout the major part of your trip. Crystal blue beaches for long walks, rocky spots ideal for fishing are optimal for a short or a longer break. You can stop for camping on Jalama Beach, enjoy swimming, surfing or any other water activity you like along the breathtaking coastline of the Pacific.

3) Top Cities

If you think that you need a break from the ocean and you wish to enjoy some of the Californian cities and town’s vibe, as you travel from the North to the South you will have the opportunity to visit small villages and towns representative of the Californian way of living. Not to mention the big cities of California, like San Francisco Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara where you can do some sightseeing and visit the local monuments. The famous Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is also a part of highway number one.

4) Hotels and Restaurants

During your California road trip, you will have no worries about where to spend the night, where to rest for a while or where to find something delicious to eat. All kinds of accommodations are available from luxury hotels to cheap hostels and campsites. The food in most places is excellent and the prices, especially in places out of the highway route relatively cheap.

5) Safety

The last reason but certainly not the least is about safety. The California highway patrol is doing an excellent job and a sense of security is being established in highway one over the recent years. However, some parts of the highway can get tricky and dangerous for the drivers. So, don’t rush it! Take your time and enjoy your road trip whether you decide to cover the whole route or just a part of it.

After taking under consideration the above mentioned reasons and after the experiences of people who have actually done the California road trip, I believe that it’s worth spending some days visiting California’s unique beauties. It is without a doubt one of the best coastal routes in the world.

Italy – A Land of Many Surprises

Italy is a land of  surprises. It is a country where visitors often see only a fraction as they rush through Rome, Venice and Florence. Some probe deeper into Tuscany and Umbria and others stop for a while on a beach or at a ski resort. There are still many facets of this country completely unknown to the majority of foreign visitors. .

Much of Italy  is a land far away from the hustle and bustle of crowded cities, a country that offers the dramatic shapes of the Dolomites’ limestone towers and spires, the rolling beauty of the Etruscan hills and scenes evoking the Florentine painters. The options  do not stop there. Go south and discover the real Mediterranean wilderness, sometimes reminiscent of Anatolia, even central Asia. Hike along little known tracks near Etna and don’t miss the Gran Sasso to the north. Sardinia, to some people, summons up a sophisticated image of the Aga Khan’s beach resorts, but you can discover the desolate and magnificent hills of limestone just a few miles away from the sound of motor boats and intrusive music. And Sicily  is not just Mafia and Murder. It is also a detached fragment of the Apennines and has volcanic mountains, picturesque bays and headlands, numerous small islands and the famous flora of the Madonie mountains.

Italy needs more National Parks, but people are becoming increasingly aware that if bears and wolves, chamois and deer, vultures and eagles are going to survive, land must be made available for these creatures to live unmolested alongside the amazing diversity of plants, trees and flowers that cover Italy’s hills and valleys.

But looking at nature should not mean excluding the history of man. Walking through the countryside is a splendid way of discovering masterpieces quite different from the well-known urban wonders that tourists, as well as Italians, normally see. Etruscan cemeteries carved into volcanic rock. Byzantine churches hidden in the depths of wild limestone canyons, old trade routes crossing the Alps, hermitages and abbeys perched on top of the wildest ridges of the Apennines. Bronze age fortifications in Sardinia and traces of ancient populations everywhere – Salassi, Piceni, Sanniti, which most guidebooks hardly ever mention.

What walking, hiking and mountaineering are all about is participat­ing in the preservation of the outstanding beauty of Italy’s nature and wildlife. This doesn’t mean turning your holiday into a Save the Wolves campaign, nor are you even required to join one of the environmentalist groups, unless you actively wish to do so. But by avoiding the crowded beaches, the bustling traffic in the towns and even by dodging those huge steel edifices which seem so necessary to modern ski resorts, you are promoting and influencing the local administrations towards the right kind of tourism. Walking and exploring many of the protected areas is in itself an act of protection. All you have to bring with you is a pair of feet, curiosity, your eyes to have a good look around and you’ll end up finding more than you can imagine. Everything else will come by itself. To everyone, welcome to Italy!

Dos and Don’ts for Western Visitors in Thailand

If you are planning on a vacation to Thailand then remember that it should be fun.  However, please do not forget to respect the local customs in this country.  Westerners often fall foul of local customers and traditions and can inadvertently make mistakes that can be construed as being disrespectful.  Here are a few hints and tips to help you make sure you can enjoy your Thai vacation and make a good impression with the locals.

The Thai Monarchy

The Thai people retain a very deep reverence for their monarchy.  Therefore it is important to show respect for the King, the Queen and the Royal Children at all times.  You will notice that in many Thai cities including the shops and restaurants there will be large pictures of the King.  Never poke fun at this situation, as there have been instances where foreign tourists have been arrested for disrespecting the monarchy.

The Thai Religion

When entering religious sites and shrines in Thailand, a tourist must be correctly dressed at all times, and should appear to be neat and clean.  Failure to do so could result in you being denied entry. In some places, such as the Royal Palace, you can actually hire more suitable clothing if you have come unprepared – however, this will more likely than not be a hot and heavy style sarong.

Therefore, it is best to get it right from the beginning and make sure that you dress in appropriate and comfortable clothing from the outset. Shoulders, waist and knees should be covered, and you should wear neat and clean shoes. In the grounds of a Buddhist temple shoes are acceptable, however please make sure that you remove them before entering the chapel.  This is particularly important when entering a shrine in Thailand where there is a real Buddha statue.

The reason for this is because every Buddha image, whether large or small, ruined or not is sacred to the Thai people. You should therefore never climb up to snap a photo, nor do something that could be considered disrespectful anywhere near the Buddha statue.

When it comes to the Buddhist monks please also note that it is prohibited for them to touch a woman, be touched by a woman, or to receive something from the hand of a woman. If you want to pass something to a monk as a tourist, you must surrender it first to a man to pass over, however archaic and strange that this might sound.

Societal Norms in Thailand

Most Thai people are happy to accept a handshake, although it is done somewhat differently in Thailand.  Their traditional form of greeting is the called the Wai which is prayer-like gesture with the palms are placed together. Generally speaking a younger person must always greet an elder person in this manner and then return the greeting using a similar gesture.

An absolute must is to avoid the head area of Thai people.  Thais regard the head as the highest part of the body (both literally and figuratively), and so any contact with the head should be avoided at all times.  Never pat a Thai person on the head as this is the highest form of insult.