Four Must See Sights in China

The best luxury tours to China are the ones that deliver a personal connection to this fascinating part of the world. From walking along the Great Wall of China to embarking on a guided tour up the Yangtze River, the ability to spend plenty of time soaking up the culture, food and views is what makes a vacation to China the adventure of a lifetime. Delight in the exotic cuisine offered in cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Szechwan before exploring these iconic Oriental sights.

Great Wall of China

This massive fortification of brick, wood, stone and tamped earth has protected Chinese lands since the first emperor built them in 220 BC. Enhanced and extended over the centuries, this impressive edifice stretches from Shanhaiguan, the site of the only bridge across the wall, to the edge of Inner Mongolia. The most popular destinations for tourists are the passes where watch towers, guard houses and forts are mounted atop the massive structure. Though not actually visible with the naked eye from space as legends claim, the Great Wall of China is nonetheless one of the great marvels of human engineering.

Yangtze River Cruises

Wind through fascinating country and marvel at the diversity along this major waterway that passes through bustling cities, serene terraced farms with dazzling panoramic views of the landscape. The ideal months to embark on a Yangtze River cruise are April, May and September when the weather is not too hot or cold, and the downstream cruises cost a little more but allow passengers to pack more sightseeing into their days because they travel much faster. The Three Gorges legs of these tours provide stunning views of sheer mountains that dwarf the passing boats in their eternal splendour.

Terracotta Warriors

Considered one of the most significant excavations of modern times, the archaeologists are still uncovering treasures buried in 246 BC by the Emperor Qin Shi Huang to accompany him into the afterlife. Made available for public viewing in 1975, the impressive collection of life-sized terracotta figures includes not only individual soldiers but also their chariots and horses. Covering an area of 16,300 square meters, the museum is divided into three sections that houses over 7,000 soldiers and their equipment that have been restored to their original life-like grandeur. 

The Giant Pandas

For an educational tour, visitors to the Giant Panda Research centre in Chengdu are shown on-going efforts to conserve these endangered animals who are threatened by human incursion. This wilderness preserve has maintained the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside while providing research facilities to monitor these magnificent, yet charming, creatures. Here, guests can get a glimpse of pandas in their natural habitat instead of a zoo.

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The best budget eats in Berlin

Over the last decade, Berlin has seen an explosion in the number of restaurants and food stands offering food to customers eager to move on from the not-so-spectacular North German cuisine. Here are a few of the best budget eats in Berlin:

1. The Bird

Possibly the best burger available in Berlin, the Bird was founded by two New Yorkers with attitude and a passion for meat. It’s not as cheap as many of the other burger places, but for quality this high, it’s worth investing another couple of euros.

2. Hofbräuhaus

It’s a piece of Bavaria in the middle of Berlin! Stereotypes all come true as you eat bratwurst and sauerkraut, swig a litre of delicious beer and watch the men in Lederhosen play German folk music. This is the Germany of cartoons and postcards, it’s kitschy and it’s fun and you won’t regret it.

3. Delores

Delores has been such a huge success in Berlin that you might find yourself waiting a while if you arrive for lunch there. Generous California style burritos are filling and delicious, while remaining good value for money. If the weather is good, take a seat outside and watch the people of Berlin go by. If you’re looking for a cool accessory to make sure you’re hip enough for the cool Mitte district, you can hire by erento.co.uk.

4. Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebab

The Doner Kebab was invented in Berlin in the 1970s at a restaurant called Hasir in Kreuzberg, but it was perfected at a street stand called Mustafa’s, just a couple of kilometres away. The secret to it’s success is the addition of deep fried vegetables. Expect a long, long line when you get there, but the waiting time of up to an hour is worth it for the best Kebab in the city.

5. Curry 36

If the line at Mustafa’s is too long for you, walk 50 yards down the street and try the cult snack known as Currywurst. Bearing no relation to Indian curry, Currywurst is basically a sausage drowned in tomato sauce and curry powder. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s extremely popular, and a must if you want to experience a part of genuine Berlin culture.

Budget eats in Berlin
[Photo by jessica_spengler_piqs_de]

The Different Faces of Oahu

Oahu is the most visited and approachable of all the Hawaiian Islands, and for good reason. Natural beauty meets vibrant urban culture in Honolulu, the big waves of the North Shore draw surfers from all over the world, and the entire island is full of opportunity for exciting outdoor adventures. Accordingly, one can have any style of vacation, and even enjoy multiple aspects of Oahu within one visit. To fully get a feel for all the Oahu is, check out all five distinct regions of the island!

Honolulu
Waikiki, Diamond Head Crater and bustling downtown are the iconic elements of Honolulu, along with a dazzling selection of amenities like the Lotus Honolulu, dozens of other Honolulu hotels and restaurants, museums, shopping and entertainment venues. Honolulu is perfect for those looking to experience all that Hawaii has to offer in terms of outdoor activities, right alongside the hub of the city.

Honolulu City Skyline
[IMAGE: Honolulu City Skyline by markyeg]

Leeward Coast
Nestled at the foot of the 4,000 foot Waianae mountain range is the Leeward Coast, known for rural towns, off-the-beaten path beaches and a strong local vibe. Small and unassuming, the Leeward Coast boasts a few notable spots like Makaha Beach, one of the first spots where surfers began big wave surfing, and Oahu’s westernmost point at the sacred Kaena Point. Colloquially, the dramatic lava shoreline is known as the place where the souls of ancient Hawaiians leapt off into the spirit world. But this place is far from somber; the spectacular views of the Waianae coast and the Pacific Ocean are well worth the strenuous hike it takes to get there.

Leeward Coast from Ka'ena Point
[IMAGE: Leeward Coast from Ka’ena Point by rjones0856]

Windward Oahu
Separated from Honolulu by the towering Koolau Ridge, the northeastern side of Oahu is miles of lush, green terrain covered in marshes, streams and perfect white beaches. The slow pace and small population makes this the ideal spot for a quiet, reflective and authentic Hawaiian experience.

Windward
[IMAGE: Windward by Phillie Casablanca]

Central Oahu
The rich, fertile valley between Waianae Mountains and the Koolau Range is perfect for agritourists, or anyone who wants a glimpse into Oahu’s history. The famous Dole pineapple plantation, sprawling sugar cane fields and the most important landmark in Oahu: Pearl Harbor.

Ko Olina
[IMAGE: Ko Olina by coconut wireless]

North Shore
No two words are more synonymous with surfing than North Shore. The gigantic waves of winter attract the world’s top surfers, while the gentle summer waves are perfect for newbies. The seven miles of beaches offer up amazing opportunities to watch world-class surf competitions and, simply, the raw power of nature.

North Shore Sunset - Oahu, Hawaii
[IMAGE: North Shore Sunset – Oahu, Hawaii by puuikibeach]

Does traversing the island seem like a lot of work? It isn’t, and if you consider the perks of covering as much ground as possible, it really isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Hitting all angles of Oahu will round out your experience, allowing you to see the various personalities of the island. Actively seeking out the different parts will elevate you from passive tourist status to active member of the community for a spell, and you will make both lasting memories and an impression on the locals!

Top Seven Great Barrier Reef Tours from Cairns, Australia

Known as Australia’s Blue Outback, the Great Barrier Reef is a magnificent maze of nearly 3,000 individual reefs and more than 900 islands sprawling 2,600 kilometers across the Coral Sea off the coast of Queensland. Much of the reef is part of the protected Great Barrier Reef Maine Park, established in 1975, and is a haven for myriad species of coral, fish, turtles and birds.  Cairns hotel deals abound, as this lively port is a major jumping-off point for reef tours.

Sunlover Reef Cruises
Sunlover Reef Cruises offers amazing family friendly adventures at Moore Reef. After a speedy ride on Sunlover’s sleek, air-conditioned catamaran, adventurers will spend a lively afternoon of snorkeling, glass-bottom boat and semi-submersible submarine tours, and a fun-filled fish feed. Lunch and morning or afternoon tea is included.

Deep Sea Divers Den
A special roaming permit allows the guides of Deep Sea Divers Den to visit any part of the Great Barrier Reef, and the company can use 14 permanent moorings on the outer reef, allowing for a spectacular variety of dives. This PADI-5-star rated company offers day tours with up to three dives, gear and lunch, as well as multi-dive, multi-day excursions.

Mike Ball Dive Expeditions
Lots of serious divers head for Mike Ball Dive Expeditions, leading Great Barrier Reef dives since 1969. Experienced divers can choose expertly guided dives or to set their own bottom times and dive plans on multi-day, multi-dive live-aboard trips. Top-notch adventures are based on Ball’s twin-hulled, custom-built live-aboards, featuring every scuba holiday luxury from state-of-the art equipment to superb cuisine. High-quality instruction is available for an additional fee.

Ocean Spirit Cruises
Offering excellent cruises for scuba beginners, Ocean Spirit Cruises specializes in four-hour day excursions to Michaelmas Cay, as well as coral viewing expeditions at Oyster and Upolo reefs. Snorkeling and associated equipment is included, while optional guided introductory and certified dives carry an additional fee. Trips include a lavish lunch spread.

Quicksilver
With a choice of sailing tours to the lovely Low Isles or exciting dive trips to the ribbon reefs of pristine Agincourt Reef, Quicksilver Tours offers a superior choice of day trips. Winner of numerous tourism awards, eco-friendly Quicksilver has an amazing reef activity platform, super-fast Wavepiercer catamarans, and its own team of marine biologists.

Seastar
Offering luxurious five-star service on adventurous tours of Michaelmas Cay and Hastings Reef, Seastar Tours covers two amazing destinations in five fantastic hours on the Great Barrier Reef. Small, sleek boats carry a maximum of 35 passengers for more personalized service, and all trips include, tea, lunch, two guided snorkel tours, equipment, glass bottom boat tour and island circumnavigation.

Great Adventures
Great Adventures Tours offers rollicking reef adventures from sunny snorkeling expeditions to magnificent Great Barrier dives. Modern, luxurious high-speed catamarans zip over to a magnificent multi-level pontoon floating above coral gardens teeming with exotic marine life. Pontoon features undercover seating for lunch, bar facilities, freshwater showers, kids’ swimming enclosure, sundeck and semi-submerged scuba platform. Snorkeling equipment is included, and those who prefer to stay dry can observe the watery wonderland from the observatory platform or semi-submersible submarine.

10 Places in New York city to get a cheap lunch

New York, the city that never sleeps, is also home to more than its share of hidden gems when it comes to midday grub. While the Big Apple is home to some of the most renowned, lavish restaurants in the world, the city is also saturated with hidden gems that are easy on your wallet. Here are just a few spots in New York City to catch a delicious, cheap lunch before running off to catch your student flights.

1. The Tasty Dumpling
Situated in the heart of Chinatown, come here to get some of the crispiest fried dumplings you’ve ever had. The portions are incredible, at five large dumplings for just $1.25

2. Two Bros. Pizza
New York City is famous for its pizza. While many of the renowned pizzerias scattered throughout the city take advantage of their reputation by charging up to five dollars for a slice, Two Bros. has been serving the warm, cheesy slices that New Yorkers love best for just one dollar each.

3. 53rd and Sixth Halal Guys
Perhaps the most famous street vendor cart in the entire world, the Halal Guys at 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue are usually more associated with New York’s nightlife. However, they also have a cart across the street that is open for lunch into the evening. An immense platter of chicken, lamb, rice, and lettuce will cost you just $6, more often than not, it will also leave you with more than enough leftover for dinner later on at night.

4. Gray’s Papaya
Like their pizza-selling brethren, many hot dog vendors take advantage of tourists and New York’s reputation for its famous hot dogs by overcharging their customers. Gray’s Papaya, however, offers it world-famous hot dogs for $1.25 each and also sells giant cups of its various juice concoctions that will have you coming back for years.

5. Croxley Ale House
The Croxley Ale House, located on the Lower East Side, gives a simple dose of what New Yorkers love most: chicken wings and beer. Croxley’s takes pride in their incredible selection of craft beers that perfectly complement their headline act: 10 cent wings. Choose from mild, hot, barbecue, or, if you dare, “cry like a baby” sauce, and pair it up with your favorite beer for a perfect midday snack.

6. Patsy’s Pizzeria
Classic New York Pizza that is both better and cheaper than gourmet pizza places.

7. Prosperity Dumpling
A nice alternative to the Tasty Dumpling in Chinatown, the Prosperity Dumpling offers comparable dumplings at equally enticing prices.

8. Great New York Noodle Town
Some of the best noodles you will ever encounter, and most likely the most affordable as well.

9. Lucky’s Famous Burgers
A fan favorite over competing burger chains like the Shake Shack and Five Guys’ Burgers and Fries, Lucky’s Famous Burgers serve burgers and shakes that are second to none.

10. El rey de Sabador Taco Stand
Located at 43rd Street and Park Ave, they offer some of the best tacos in the city for just $2.50 each.

7 Luxury Accommodations in Thailand

If you are in search of an exciting, exotic travel destination, Thailand might be just the location you are looking for. With beautiful beaches, exciting nightlife, and warm, pleasant weather year-round, this country offers all the niceties a vacationer could ever want. The Thais are famous for their massages and their cuisine as well, which is considered to be world-class in culinary circles. With all the great Thailand holiday packages out there, sometimes it can be difficult trying to decide where you want to stay. That is why we have created a list of seven luxury accommodations in Thailand.

1. Four Seasons

Upon arriving in Thailand, many tourists sometimes become overwhelmed with the fast, hectic pace of life in Bangkok, the country’s capital. If you want to go to a more rural setting that allows you to relax and go at a slower pace, Chiang Mai is the perfect spot for you, and the Chiang Mai Four Seasons Hotel and Resort is the definition of luxury. They feature 98 villas and pavilions, all of which are furnished with beautiful Thai artwork and decorations. They also offer a variety of services, including tennis, golf, and a shopping boutique.

2. Mandarin Oriental

Some people shy away from the madness of Bangkok, while others thrive on it. If you want to experience cultural immersion in one of the most diverse and exciting cities in Asia, Bangkok’s Mandarin Oriental is the perfect place to make your home base at. Their elegantly designed rooms are the finest this city has to offer, and it’s in close proximity to many popular attractions such as the Chao Phraya River and Chatuchak Market.

3. St. Regis

Another excellent option for those who desire big city life is Bangkok’s St. Regis. Wine connoisseurs will be sure to appreciate their wine cellar, and gourmands will flock to any of their excellent restaurants. As always when you’re in Bangkok, fun and excitement is never far away.

4. Cape Sienna

If you want to see Thailand’s amazing beaches, Phuket’s Cape Sienna has everything you’re looking for. Located on the scenic Kamala Beach, this dreamy resort’s sea view penthouses offer breathtaking views that are perfect for a romantic getaway.

5. Indigo Pearl

Another excellent option for beach-goers, the Indigo Pearl is geared towards nature-lovers. Surrounded by lush tropical greenery, you’ll feel like you’re at one with the earth.

6. Napasai

If you want to experience some islands on the other side of Thailand’s coast, Koh Samui is a great place to start, and Napasai is the premiere resort there. Set on a quiet and secluded hillside, Napasai overlooks Ban Tai beach. There are also a variety of fun activities nearby, including fishing, hiking, and windsurfing.

7. Le Meridien

If you really want to go off the beaten track, yet still live in the lap of luxury, Chiang Rai’s Le Meridien is the place for you. From hill tribe trekking to spa treatments, they offer many entertaining activities while maintaining a serene, peaceful atmosphere.

Don’t Get Caught With By Travel Scams

Torrential Rain hits the TukTuk! Bangkok, Thailand,

In these difficult times, there’s a higher risk than ever before of being caught by travel scams, wherever in the world you’re heading for. From the moment you book your holiday online, through to your arrival at a foreign airport to the dodgy tourist organisations in your chosen resort or city, a scam a minute is becoming the norm.
Don’t get caught with by travel scams as it might just ruin your holiday as well as your bank balance.

Check With A Government Website

Before you leave for your exotic destination, check online to see the most-reported scams in the country you’re planning to visit. Forewarned is forearmed, especially if you don’t speak the local language. Asian and North African villains are particularly creative with their travel scams and, aided by very unfamiliar cultures, can cost you a great deal of money. As a general rule, stay alert and remember the old saying: “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!”

Check Review Sites

Review sites are a great help in determining which travel company at your destination is the most trustworthy, and which ones to avoid like the plague. For example, cheap tour bus operators taking foreign travellers across the Thai border into Cambodia have been in the news recently for inflating prices with unwanted extras. Others just take tourists money and disappear.

Taxi booth

Watch Out When You Arrive

You’re most at danger on arrival at your destination airport, with taxi touts and drivers as well as “helpful” locals insisting the hotel you’ve decided on is either closed, burned down last night or fully-booked. Imagine the scene, you disembark from one of many inexpensive air lines, go through arrivals and then the “helpful” strangers will then take you to another, far less suitable hotel where they will get commission for their introduction. Learn to be firm and, if the taxi driver you’ve approached won’t play your game, walk away and try another cab.

Bar Scams

If bar-hopping is your idea of a great night out, beware the “friendly” local girls (or boys) who sit with you and share drinks and food. When the vastly inflated bill arrives, you’ll find yourself alone and forced to pay, even if it means an unscheduled trip to an ATM accompanied by a pair of heavies. Overcharging in general is becoming more common in developing countries, so checking your final bill against a menu is the best idea.

Official Scams

One of the smartest scams is perpetrated by crooks wearing official-looking uniforms or badges, who ask to see your passport and then demand cash. If this happens to you, insist on speaking to a police officer although, in some countries, the boys in blue may also be involved in the scam. Walking away is probably the best way to deal with these characters. Calling the local police is perhaps not.

Gems Scam

Particularly in Asia and the Arab countries, pressurised selling techniques are the norm. If you’re invited by a local to an art gallery, an upmarket souvenir or jewellery store and treated like a rajah, you may be forced to buy an expensive item out of guilt. Don’t. Another shopping scam involves the promise you can sell the items for far more in your home country. The gems scam in particular is one to watch out for unless you are a serious expert in precious stones.

Water Sports Scams

Water sports are favourites for those taking an exotic break in Asia, with jet-ski scams on the rise across the continent. Skimming over the ocean takes on a new dimension when you’re faced with a huge bill on return for “damaging” the jet-ski. The recommended way to avoid this is to find another fun water sport to enjoy, although the less successful alternative of photographing every aspect of the machine before you take it out may help.