Category Archives: Asian Travel

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.

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.

 

National Parks in Northeast Thailand

With environmental concerns everywhere, countries are looking forward for an ecological balance and Thailand is one country which is at the forefront to maintain an ecological diversity. While the country maintains its rich Isaan heritage and culture, natural eco system is also maintained at its best which can be seen within the national parks of Thailand. The north east region of Thailand is a place filled with rich flora and fauna with Ubon Ratchathani being the major province, containing around 25 national parks which speak volumes of the eco-centric character of the country.

Khao Sok National Park

Out of these 25 national parks, Pha Taem and Kaeng national parks are the popular national parks in Thailand north east region. Both these national parks are established side by side enabling visitors to enjoy a double excitement on a single trip. Pha Taem is an amazing green landscape spread over an area of 140 sq kms, towards northeast of Ubon Rathchathani and displays a great sense of beauty and elegance. This park offers awesome rock cave paintings which depict 3000yrs of Isaan history and culture. These rock paintings were a discovery by Silpakorn University in 1981 when they were exploring this area along with their professors. Pha Taem cliff, found at the centre of Pha Taem national park, is a great rock cliff which offers an awesome bird view of Laos. You can also watch the first sun rays touching the country from this cliff.

Kaeng Tana national park is established adjacent to Pha Taem Park in 1981, towards north east of Ubon Rathchathani province and is a simple extension of elegance and charm carried forward. Both these national parks in Thailand offer an enchanting and memorable experience to their visitors. Throughout the 80kms area of the park, you find green habitation, smaller hills and enthralling water caves. Another important excitement is the Mun River which flows through this park to crosscut Mekong River on the Loas border. Deciduos forests within this region host green flora like Shorea Simensis, Shorea Obtusa along with precious wild life like wild pig, macaque, gibbon and other rare mammals. In addition, enchanting flowers seen in October and November are a delight to watch, making these national parks in Thailand the most popular ones.

Camping in Thailand is another major attraction for ecotourism freaks. People who love nature can enjoy a great stay in both of these national parks. Couples of all ages can spend their most romantic moments in Tohsang Khongjiam resort here. With an amazing bundle of thrill and excitement offered by these national parks in Thailand, your next tour should definitely include this awesome region.

Experience Thailand Would You Travel There?

Many people find that Thailand is an ideal vacation location. There is something there for everybody no matter what preferences you have. For example you will find there are many great family vacation locations as well as opportunities for fairly strenuous trekking trips through less traveled parts of the country. There are many tour groups operating within the country with many located in either Bangkok or Chiang Mai. You will find that you can also book tours into some of the neighboring countries as many of the Thailand tour groups also offer tours into Laos and Cambodia.

Some of the more popular tours that people take are those that visit the northern hill tribes. Family package beach vacations are also very popular as are trips to see the northern cities of Chiang Mai. They even offer very specific packages such as golfing holiday or an off road adventure.

Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand

Although costs have risen in recent years, Thailand is still one of the cheapest places you can vacation in Southeast Asia. While you may be able to find cheaper tours in other neighboring countries, you will find that the overall standard of accommodation will not be the same as it is in Thailand. Thailand depends on tourism and as such they have gone to great lengths to insure that their accommodations and amenities are very high quality.

When looking for the cheapest Thailand vacation packages it is usually best to contact one of the local tour companies. Although most are reputable some are definitely better than others. It is always a good idea to search online for different reviews of tour companies and see what other people have to say before you commit to using anyone. Most will pick you up from the airport, arrange accommodations and daily tours.

Most people, when visiting Thailand, visit Chang Mai, Bangkok, Sukhothai and Phuket. The hotels in Phuket rival hotels in Australia , but  at a fraction of the price and Thailand beaches are as beautiful.

 

About Big Buddha in Koh Samui

Koh Samui is the most visited island in the Gulf of Thailand. It has long been a favorite with people looking for sun, sand and good quality accommodation at reasonable prices.  When you arrive on your flight to Koh Samui, Big Buddha is hard to miss.

There is a number of tourist attractions in Koh Samui, but easily the most visited is the Big Buddha statue.

Wat Phra Yai is the name of the temple where the golden Buddha is located. It is in the north of Koh Samui in Bang Rak bay. The name of the beach is not surprisingly called Big Buddha Beach. It is a beach with a pier with regular ferries to Koh Phangan.

The Golden Buddha is on an island. There are stairs leading up to an elevated plinth where the Big Buddha is placed. The statue itself is just over 12 meters high and covered with a layer of gold. Since it is at the top of a set of stairs the impression of height is greatly enhanced. Down the stairs at either end are two long nagas or snakes that represent wisdom.

Big Buddha, Koh Samui, Thailand, Photo IMP1 via flickr.com

The main statue was erected in 1972, just a year after backpackers started arriving on the tropical island. In 2005 to 2006 more work was done. This work involved putting a Dharma wheel behind the Buddha’s head and also building a Suphannahong boat. The Dharma wheel represents the laws of Buddhism and the laws of the universe which must be attuned to each other. The Suphannahong boat is the Thai royal barge and is a reminder of the maritime tradition of the Kingdom.

It is free to go and see the Buddha. It is also no problem to take photographs. The only restrictions placed on those who visit the Golden Buddha is that they show respect by wearing long sleeved tops and trousers or long skirts.

There are a few cheap restaurants and shops around Wat Phra Yai. It is not recommended staying in Big Buddha because it is directly over the flight path of planes going to and from Bangkok. It is recommended to go and see the Golden Buddha.

The Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride

A unique way to explore the beautiful temple complex of Siem Reap –

Phnom Penh, (August 2011) – Cyclists & adventure holiday seekers from all over the world are invited to sign up to the Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride presented by CIMB Bank and experience Siem Reaps magical temple complex at a unique time when the Angkor roads are closed off to traffic. Entering its sixth year, the annual charity fundraising event, organised by Village Focus International, will take place on Saturday 3rd December.

Angkor Wat Charity Bike Ride

The Bike Race & Ride encourages participants of all ages and fitness levels to cycle through the beautiful temples of the UNESCO World Heritage Angkor Wat temple complex to help raise funds for Village Focus International’s life changing work supporting vulnerable children and sex trafficked victims.

Since the event began in 2006, it has grown each year and raised a total of US$100,000 towards empowering young people and communities break out of poverty.

Rick Reece, Director at Village Focus International said “the Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride offers bikers from around the world to join in solidarity to ride on the Angkor roads (car free) through forest, rice fields and the magnificent ancient temple complex. We encourage friends and families to cycle together and unite for a special cause.”

Village Focus International and CIMB Bank hopes the Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride 2011 will be its biggest yet this year and is aiming to raise over US$50,000 (net proceeds) and beat previous participation figures.

To sign up for the Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride or for more information please visit www.villagefocus.org/bike. You can also follow the Angkor Wat Bike Race & Ride on twitter or via facebook. Village Focus International is currently in the process of registering as a charity in the United Kingdom.

For media enquiries please contact Hayley Newnham
E: hayley@villagefocus.org
T: +855-(0)-979-594-246

Notes to Editors:
Village Focus International (www.villagefocus.org) is registered as a 501(c)(3) organization in the United States, as a charitable organization in Hong Kong, and as a local NGO in Cambodia (and pending registration for our local partner – Our Village Association– in Laos). In 2000, we became the first international organization to be founded in Laos, and began working in Cambodia in 2003. During this period, we have worked in almost 200 remote and vulnerable villages and focused on local leadership development in an effort to bring about positive fundamental social change. VFI’s annual budget has grown from US$125,000 in 2000 to almost US$2 million in 2009. In 2009, our 75 staff members served approximately 50,000 people, a dramatic increase from 15 villages and 4000 people in 2000. Despite our growth, we have remained true to our founding spirit: to emphasize and support local leadership, decision-making and ownership, in both Laos and Cambodia. Village Focus International implements three human-rights based programs in Laos and Cambodia; Protection & Empowerment of Women and Children, Healthy Villages and Local Leadership Program and Land & Livelihood Program.

Review of Angthong National Marine Park

Angthong National Marine Park makes a great day trip from either Koh Samui or Koh Phangan. It is also possible to stay in the park over-night. The park consists of 43 small islands stretching over 250 square kilometers in the Gulf of Thailand. The islands are the peaks of a mountain range that ends in the southern province of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Most of the islands are islets that are deserted. Many are odd shapes. It makes a great couple of hours cruising around the islands and admiring the dramatic cliffs and limestone rock formations. Many of the islands have names that reflect their shape such as ‘Sleeping Cow Island’. Among the islands are small coves with beautiful deserted beaches that remind one of being in a movie.

It is possible to camp over night on the beach at Koh Wua Talab. It is the biggest island in the archipelago and is also the home of the park headquarters. The island also has some trails to impressive view points.

Angthong National Park

The islands are covered in tropical forest. Due to a lack of predators (including humans) many of the animals on the islands have flourished. It is possible to hire guides and explore the interiors of some of the islands. The area contains a number of animals including macaque monkeys, langurs and sea otters. There are also several species of colorful birds to spot.

The sea around many of the islands is rich in corals. Due to its protected status as a park a plethora of marine life gathers around the corals. Dive spots such as the one near Koh Sam Sao are popular with dive schools because it is possible to see short bodied mackerel and sometimes dolphins.

The word ‘angthong’ means ‘golden basin’. It is a reference to the beach fringed inland lake found on Koh Mae Ko. It is a natural wonder of the area and worth a visit just to see the lake.

As well as trekking, camping and diving Angthong National Marine Park offers great opportunities for exploring sea caves, going kayaking and snorkeling. There is more than enough for the visitor to the park to do in one day. Many are the tourists who visit Angthong Marine Park and find themselves wishing they had opted to spend the night in the beautiful unspoiled natural surroundings of the park.

 

The best lodging options for your Thailand holidays

It is always a good idea to get your accommodation in place, before you leave for your holiday in Thailand, and Thailand has a long list of options for your stay to choose from. Starting with the very reasonable priced to the more luxurious accommodations in the highest end of the price scale. you will always be able to find something that fits your exact budget, depending how many people is in your travel party, and how close you want to stay to popular tourist destinations.

Boutique hotels

Boutique hotels is a relatively new phenomenon, they are the way for the small hotels to compete with the big ones, and you find some of the best of its kind in Thailand, some of them have even achieved international recognition, for their high quality service, comforts and conveniences that helps your stay always being a pleasant one. in most cases they fully live up to  Thailands motto of being “The land of smiles”.

Bed & Breakfasts and Guesthouses

Are you looking for accommodation in the cheaper range, a good solution is often a nice guesthouse, They offer all your basic requirements to ensure a comfortable stay. And since all cities have their fare share of guesthouses, it is never hard to find one that suites your needs. An other possibility is a bed & breakfast, which also offers great value for your money.

Home stays in Thailand

If you want to get a little closer, and really get to know the culture in your local area, home-stay is a great way to do it. Staying with a local family, you get closer to the native lifestyle, and learn a lot about it. Its a great way to get acquainted with the ways of the local handicraft artisians, that you will find in the rural areas which most home-stay options are in.

Floating homes  – Sleep on the river

An other very unique way to stay in your Thailand holiday is in a floating home, theres a lot of possibilities on the many rivers and reservoirs in Thailand. And you even see that some developeres have constructed buildings which is partly on land and partly on the water, Nothing beats the feeling on waking up in the morning on the water in the beautiful surroundings of the nature.

Other options are of course available, you can either buy or rent apartments, condoes, houses and bungalows.

 

Angkor Wat Photos

I have so many photos buried on my hard drive. Here are some of the better ones from Angkor Wat in January 2006. The place is so huge you will always hit some parts of the complex in the middle of the day when the light for photography is rubbish. I found the level of detail in the sculptures incredible

Local Transport Angkor Wat
Local Transport Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat's main moat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
The famous escape from the Temple of Doom Tree - Angkor Wat
Jungle winning- Angkor War, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Farming? Fishing? Clearing the river? Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Detail, Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Angkor Wat Cambodia