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Country/Town Visited: Bali, Indonesia
Date of stay: December 2014 - January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned with friends

Last year 2014, I began my adventure throughout Southeast Asia for 1 month with a group of friends. My first stop was Bali and I arrived at the Bali Airport located in Denpasar. My trip to Bali was amazing with friendly people and heaps of places to visit.

We spent 10 days in Bali in December 2014 and had a lovely stay at the Tune Hotel of Legian, my friend found this hotel (www.tunehotels.com). At first, we had planned to stay in a hostel, but given that my friend found this offer, the Tune Hotel seemed the best option as we ended up paying AUD 95 for 10 days. The hotel was pretty nice and their facilities included comfortable beds, good toilets, AirCon etc. It's also conveniently located just 10 minutes-walk to the heart of Kuta, this location allows easy access to convenience stores, nightlife venues, exclusive shopping, tourist attractions and sightseeing. Moreover, there was also a beach nearby to the hotel, so we went there a couple of times to enjoy the sun and beach, even though it wasn’t the best beach  

The next day we got in touch with a driver called Nikko, whose contact we got through a friend. He drove us to different places of Bali, particularly temples. We took a 3 day trip with him and it cost AUD 10 per person for each day. This does not include the cost for entry tickets. Each day we had to wake up pretty early so we can finish visiting all the places that were scheduled. On average, each trip was from 8 am until 6 pm. Nikko, our tour guide was very friendly, kind and knowledgeable, and taught us everything about the Balinese culture and what it means.

This 3 day itinerary could be a good guide to follow for others visiting Bali.

1st day: Barong Dance, Batuan Temple, Monkey Forest Temple, Rice Terrace, Coffee Plantation, Batur Volcano

Barong Dance Show Bali
Barong Dance
We saw the Barong Dance performance as the 1st part of our 1st day tour of Bali. We found it very interesting. The Barong Dance is a show consisting of a story telling dance about a fight between good and evil; however, we found that it was not necessarily to our taste. The costumes were colorful and changed according to the different stages of the play. It was fast-paced despite the pauses, which are typical in these sorts of performances.  The dance started out nice, but then half way through the dance got inappropriate and boring. We found some of the actions obscene including a rather lengthy joke based on a boar’s tail not being his member, so people of a sensitive nature might not find it amusing. It was hard for us to keep track on the story partly due to the language barrier, even though each one had a piece of paper with a translation. The play was quite pricey by Balinese standards.

Tickets: AUD 10
Location: Batu Bulan
Note: If you don’t want to pay, you can enjoy in hotels as they offer these dances with dinner.


Butuan Temple Bali
Batuan Temple

Next, we visited the Puseh Batuan Temple. The good thing about this temple is that all of the carvings are so different on the buildings and within the temples. The temple was nice and ornate. The intricacies of the teak woods that were used are amazing. It is absolutely worth spending time there.

At this temple, sarongs are mandatory to wear for both men and women and are provided by local people who will happily help you tie them on. No need to pay entrance fee, just a voluntary small amount of donation if visitors wish.



Monkey Forest Temple

The Monkey Forest Sanctuary Temple, located in the district of Ubud, is practically a must for anyone visiting Bali, particularly because of the carb eating macaques, amazing and playful monkeys that are spread along the temple. When we got there, the first thing we did was focused on taking pictures of these monkeys and some of my friends were pretty excited to play with them. However, it is not a good idea; these monkeys are pretty fast and might be aggressive if they are annoyed and might bite people and transmit diseases such as Hepatitis B.

People should also be careful with their belongings especially with their bags and purses. Monkeys can steal them. Apart from the monkeys, by walking along the temple, people can find interesting pathways that lead to see The Statue of the Komodo Dragon and The Dalem Agung Padangtegal Temple

Tickets: AUD 3
The Rice Terrace located at Tegalalang

Tegalalang Rice Terrace

After visiting Ubud’s monkey forest, we headed to The Rice Terrace located at Tegalalang in the north of Ubud. Rice Terrace is famous for its beautiful scenes of rice paddies involving the subak (traditional irragition system created in Bali). The scenery offers a sense of calm and serenity atmosphere. It is a good place to take pictures with stunning views of a green scenery which can be seen from the main road from Kintamani to Ubud and even by just sitting in the shops and restaurants located at the top of the terraces. The main feature of this attraction is to walk down the fields and explore the terraces a bit more and if you have the chance, you can usually find most of the villagers working on the rice field and see their cropping systems and how the local farmer works on it to make rice.



Bali Coffee Plantation
Coffee Plantation

Coffee plantation is a good spot to sample local blends. This coffee is the Kopi Luwak or civet coffee, which is a coffee made from the beans of coffee berries which have been eaten by the Asian Palm Civet, then pooped out, cleaned, roasted and ground for drinking.  I really enjoyed, we had a guide who was explaining us the whole process and we were able to taste different kinds of coffee with different flavours. In the end, you can buy coffee given that they have a coffee shop. I remember you can buy a bag of coffee for AUD 10 approximately.



Ubud Batur Volcano
Batur Volcano

The last place that we visited was the Batur volcano which was in Ubud. We briefly saw the volcano and it was a great stop to have a beautiful picture of the Mountain. Hopefully, the next time I will be able to do the trek on the next trip, which is one of the main attractions. Our guide told us that the walk is good for beginners and not too challenging, so an average person could walk and climb it easily if walking slowly given that if the person does not often exercise much, he or she may get short of breath. The Batur Volcano Trek usually starts early in the morning depending where you live, so it is important to have a good sleep the day before. For more information visit:
http://www.balitrekkingtour.com/mount-batur-trekking/


2nd day: Taman Ayun temple, Botanical Garden, Ulun Danu, Twin lake and Tanah Lot Temple

Taman Ayun Temple

Our second day trip, we started visiting the Taman Ayun temple, located at Mengwi. Taman Ayun translates as “beautiful garden” and is considered one of the most attractive temples of Bali. It stands on an island in a river. One of the most stunning view of this temple is the fact that it has several pagodas one behind another which it is a perfect opportunity to take a good picture of its best feature according to me. One can view the main temple from outside and climb a tall tower built in the garden for taking some great pictures. This is a beautiful temple with green gardens spread across large areas. In addition, this temple also features a separate arena for cock fight and an inner sanctum which is only accessible for locals. Less crowded temple compared to other temples.

Tickets: AUD 2


Bedugul Botanical Gardens
Botanical Garden

Then, we visited the Bali Botanical Garden. Good spot for those who like the nature and enjoy forest. In this place, a vast expansion of green lawns surrounded by different varieties of plants, cactus, shrubs and trees. If want to get more adventurous, you can do canopy, which is according to us one of the main highlights of this trip. See more at: http://www.balitreetop.com/?goto=home&lang=en

Tickets: AUD 5 (Botanical Garden Entrance Fee)

Location: Bedugul



Ulun Danu Temple
Ulun Danu Temple

Ulun Danu is one of the most beautiful temples in Bali situated in the middle of the lake and has become a favorite tourist spot in Bali. Built in 1926, this temple is one of the most famous Balinese temple, it is usually called as Bali Temple on the water given that it looks like it is floating on the water as the water level in the lake rises.

In this temple, one of the main attractive things was the fact that this temple consist of 4 temples: Lingga Petak Temple, Dalem Purwa Temple, Terate Bang Temple and Penaratan Pucak Mangu Temple. These temples are pretty beautiful to take pictures with the background of the lake.

During our visit, unfortunately we couldn’t stay for long; it was raining and had to leave after 30 minutes.

Tickets: AUD 3

Location: Bedugul



Twin Lake

After, we visited TheTwin Lake. In this area,  Lake Buyan and Lake Tamblingan, separated by a rainforest-covered  hill, are known as the Twin Lakes. This place has a good view of the volcanic heart of Bali. Volcanoes have created and shaped this island. To be honest, we underestimate to do more activities there. Our guide tour told us that we could do some nice hikes around the lakes, offering some unique viewpoints and also have the chance to see a colony of monkeys. However, we were pretty tired by them and as we saw monkeys before in Monkey forest, we decided to continue our trip to our last stop.


Tanah Temple
Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot was our last destination and it is probably the most famous temple in Bali. This temple stands just off the coast on a rock and it is quite spectacular. Most people go for the sunset, which makes a good connection with the temple to take good pictures.

Tickets: AUD 3


Location: South Kuta


3rd day: Nusa Dua, Padang Padang Beach and Uluwatu Temple

Nusa Dua
To be honest, we weren’t that delighted that much with the offers of Nusa Dua. Most of this trip, included passing plenty of all-inclusive resorts to go to the beaches. What is more, not the clearest water, dirty sand and barely palm trees. The only good thing about this part of this trip was visiting The Water Blow, which is a rock formation where waves colliding onto the rock wall create a giant splash like the water is blowing, however, as we were disappointed, we never even took pictures.

Padang Padang Beach
Padang Padang beach is located 30 kms south of Kutu, not far from the Uluwatu Temple in Bali’s northwest side. It is supposed to be the place where Julia Roberts made a film and also a surfing beach, however to be honest we felt very disappointed because the beach was filled of rubbish.

Uluwatu Temple
Finally, Our next halt was at the famous Uluwatu temple surrounded by the Indian ocean. The encapsulating ocean view, cliff hanging temple and the golden sun rays beaming from the clear blue sky made us go wow - we were overwhelmed by the beauty of nature.  In addition to these one can also see the Uluwatu cave and the kecak dance performance at an additional cost.


Useful Information in Bali:

·  The visa process is simple. 52 countries are eligible for Visa on Arrival when visiting Indonesia. When departing from Bali, you are subject to the airport departure tax which is paid in Indonesian Rupiah only, so save some bills for the trip out. The tax is AUD 20 (IDR 200,000). For local flight is AUD 7 (IDR 70,000)

· When exchanging money, let’s say just exchange AUD 20 in Australia for the taxi ride and some food. In Bali, there are numerous money changers all over. I suggest asked some staff in the hotel or tour guide where the best option to change is. Never change in these small stalls operated by street vendors, even though they offer an attractive rate, they will try to scam you when counting the money, they are super-fast and you won’t notice whether they give the correct amount of money.

· When traveling in Asia, especially in countries like Indonesia and Thailand, try to use cash instead of credit or debit cards. In fact, do not use the Travel Money Card of the Commonwealth Bank. It pays very low, offers unattractive exchanges rates and charges AUD 4 of withdrawal fee. It might be useful for some emergencies; however, I recommend using Citibank.

· Although commuting is easy, the local transportation system in Bali is not one of the best. Taking taxis are the best option but always bargain for a good price. Do not attempt to rent motorbikes given that you can be pulled over by a police officer and be fined.

· When dining out, try the local food. Nasi Goreng, Gado Gado Salad and Pepe’s Tuna were my favorite meals; however, sometimes they can be spicy. Always tell the waiter to serve without spicy sauces. They are a pretty good deal, I would say AUD 3 per dish.

Any questions please post a comment to this blog. Thanks

By: Pedro

 
 
Country/Town Visited: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Koh Phi Phi is to my knowledge the most popular islands in Thailand. The famous Maya Beach (made famous in The Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio). Destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, the island has been rebuilt and developed to an even greater extent than before. Though I’ve had a lot fun here, I personally don’t like Ko Phi Phi. I find it too built up and touristy. It’s very overdeveloped and ruined, but thousands of people visit each year and love it. Visit for yourself and decide.
Phi Phi Island viewpoint
Phi Phi Viewpoint
Phi Phi Beach
Things to do in Phi Phi

Nightlife– It is crazy. Fireshows and Thai boxing matches are regular at the beach bars. Massive beach parties. Partying is not cheap here and is one of the reasons people spend too much money here!

Shark Feeding – One of the most popular trips out of Koh Phi Phi is an early morning excursion to feed sharks. A six-hour trip will start at about $15 USD and will have you feeding black tip and leopard sharks. Most tours also include visits to coral gardens for snorkeling.

Snorkel in Maya Bay – Made famous for its starring role in the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, Maya Bay is on Koh Phi Leh and is usually included with all the island/snorkeling trips you see advertised. For those who want to see the place without lots of boats and people, you can spend a night on the island. It’s a far better way to experience the seclusion of this place.

Hike to Phi Phi Viewpoint – The twenty minute walk up to the Viewpoint will be rewarded by an amazing panoramic view of Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Don. The Viewpoint is over 600 feet high, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit to get here, but your camera will thank you! The best time to go is at sunset or sunrise.

Useful information in Thailand:

Be aware of the drugs in your alcoholic drinks, some local bartenders might put methanol in your drinks. As there are heaps of beach parties, you might be able to get in with alcohol bought at 7 eleven.

Try to keep emotional intelligence when dealing with street vendors. In Thailand, they can be rude if they think that you are trying to cheat when bargaining.

If you arrived at the Surat Thani Airport, bring some Bahts (Thai Currency) with you. I couldn’t find an exchange office in the airport so I had to withdraw money and therefore some fees were applied.

You can usually find expats working there so they can give you useful information about where to buy stuff or hire tours.

By: Pedro
 


 
 
Country/Town Visited: Koh Phangan, Thailand
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Koh Phangan is in the Gulf of Thailand and is one of the most known places for backpacking in Southeast Asia, particularly because of the world famous Full Moon Party, so be prepared for a lot of partying here. We spent one day there and it was enough according to us. You can also escape from the madness and head to the eastern or northern beaches on the island such as Haat Rin.

To be honest, the only purpose of going there was because of the Full Moon Party. At this party, each bar has its own sound system, so you’ll hear different music every few feet. The beach is lined with people selling alcohol and fire dancers putting on shows. Little booths are also set up, which sell glow-in-the-dark face paint as kids run up and down the beach hawking trinkets and glowsticks. It happens during the full moon every month.. If you miss it, there’s always the half moon party, quarter moon party, and black moon party. Really, every day is a party here... lol

Useful information in Thailand:

Be aware of the drugs in your alcoholic drinks, some local bartenders might put methanol in your drinks. As there are heaps of beach parties, you might be able to get in with alcohol bought at 7 eleven.

Try to keep emotional intelligence when dealing with street vendors. In Thailand, they can be rude if they think that you are trying to cheat when bargaining.

If you arrived at the Surat Thani Airport, bring some Bahts (Thai Currency) with you. I couldn’t find an exchange office in the airport so I had to withdraw money and therefore some fees were applied.

You can usually find expats working there so they can give you useful information about where to buy stuff or hire tours.   

By: Pedro



 
 
Country/Town Visited: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Kuala Lumpur was just an amazing city and our group spent 3 days there. We arrived at the KL Airport and managed to find a friendly taxi driver just outside of the airport who drove us to our accommodation. He charged us 20 dollars for a group of 4. We stayed at the Guest Inn house hotel, located in the golden triangle of Kuala Lumpur. The hotel was alright, I would give it a 5/10, I'd recommend you to look for other options in Kuala Lumpur.

The hotel location was pretty good and was within close walking distance to important places in KL. In this area is China Town (10 mins), street food market at Jalan Alor (10 mins), the best bar street at Changkat (10 mins), shopping centres and the famous Petronas Towers (30 mins).  Our opinions differ from each other, the staff were pretty good, they gave us useful tips to get the best out of the trip.

KL is an interesting city, but given that we spent little time there (3 days), we could have easily spent 5 to 7 days exploring. I can highlight things about Petronas Towers and Batu Caves which were worth visiting. The best places in KL for us at least. We also traveled by metro to Batu Caves as we were located in a good location we walked to different places.

Although more expensive than other parts of Malaysia, KL’s mix of cultures (Indian, Western, Malay and Chinese) creates a unique blend of food, shopping, and nightlife. Despite our short journey, I believe that KL is one exciting place and one of the best cities in the world.

The best things to do in Kuala Lumpur

Go to the Petronas Towers.- These towers definitely dominate the whole skyline of Kuala Lumpur. Tourists can take in the view from the connection of the bridges which joins the towers on levels 41 and 42. To get in the towers, visitors must pay AUD 30 approximately. You’ll need to be early as the tickets get snapped up fast.

Visit Central Market and JL Petaling Market in Chinatown.- These places are great to pick up bargains on food and clothes. They are open day and night.

National History Museum - Definitely a great place to get to know Malaysia’s culture and history. Here you can get to see a 40,000 year old human skull and an eight-sided gold coin dating back to the 15th Century. Entrance is free.

Eat.- Malay, Western, Chinese and Indian are all common in KL. The multicultural social mix in Kuala Lumpur creates an extremely varied blend of local food. Unsurprisingly, Little India and Chinatown serve amazing food at very reasonable prices.

Go up Menara Kuala Lumpur.- From the observation deck the view here is more impressive than the Petronas Towers.

Batu Caves.- KL is not only about skycrappers and tumultuous traffic, it is good to get out to the outskirts and visit nature wonders as Batu Caves. You will be rewarded after climbing 272 steps, when you get to see the huge golden Murugan Statue and the largest of the 3 caves “The Cathedral Cave”. In addition, this place is full of monkeys, so be careful as they might steal your stuff.


Useful information in Kuala Lumpur:

Food in streets is the best way to enjoy local food, it usually costs between AUD 2-4 per meal. If you are planning to sit down in a nice restaurant, a meal with drink will cost around AUD 13. Western food is more expensive, however it is still a bargain compared to Australia. You usually ended up paying no more than AUD 5.

Hostel is one of the most common places where backpackers stay. Shared rooms cost between 7-10 AUD per night. AUD 12 if they are single and AUD 20 if it is double.

The best way to get around KL is by public transportation which is excellent. Underground and monorail cost between 0.50-1,50 AUD and buses 0,50 AUD. Prices are calculated according to the distance. However, if you are staying in the city center or located in Chinatown and Little India, try to explore the city by foot. Most of the emblematic places are closed to each other.

Try to find accommodation in Chinatown, it is one of the cheaper neighborhoods and close to many attractions.

By: Pedro

 
 
Country/Town Visited: Koh Samui, Thailand
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned

Our first stop in Thailand was Koh Samui, where we arrived after long drive by bus. First, we arrived at the Surat Thani Airport and then we managed to hire a bus just outside of the airport and paid AUD 40 approximately.

MaeNam Beach
MaeNam Beach

At the north coast of Koh Samui, a beach called MaeNam Beach is located. This beach did not impress us. The water was cloudy and seemed dirty. Activities such as snorkeling seemed impossible. Stinging was kind of regular there, We thought that it could have been some jellyfish larvae or fish, but I did not see any. Maybe it was just salt water.

Anyway, back to the beach. It is long with yellow sand, not crowded, only few people there. That is something that I only liked about Koh Samui. There is a sharp descent into the sea, and it is not necessary to walk 100 meters off the shore to swim as it happens in some places.

Big Buddha Beach Thailand
Big Buddha Beach

This beach seemed to Bophut, they are next to each other. It is close to the airport, and obviously closed to the main attraction which is the Big Buddha monument (definitely worth a visit). It is also close to Chaweng Beach if you are looking for some partying. I reckon the Big Buddha Beach is fine, however I wouldn’t book a room in this are if I had the opportunity.






Chaweng Beach
Chaweng Beach

Chaweng Beach is a place for those lovers of the partying scene. In Chaweng, you will find heaps of shops, restaurants and night markets.

The sand is white and the sea water is clear; however, the beach is crowded and therefore you won’t be able to lie down in silence on the sand.

Chaweng is quite noisy at night given that there are lots of drunken tourists, cars and motorbikes. Heaps of ladyboys on the streets – In one word: “Chaos”. I recommend this place only for those party animals.


Useful information in Thailand:
Be aware of the drugs in your alcoholic drinks, some local bartenders might put methanol in your drinks. As there are heaps of beach parties, you might be able to get in with alcohol bought at 7 eleven.

Try to keep emotional intelligence when dealing with street vendors. In Thailand, they can be rude if they think that you are trying to cheat when bargaining.

If you arrived at the Surat Thani Airport, bring some Bahts (Thai Currency) with you. I couldn’t find an exchange office in the airport so I had to withdraw money and therefore some fees were applied.

You can usually find expats working there so they can give you useful information about where to buy stuff or hire tours.

By: Pedro
 


 
 
Thankfully the invention of budget airlines has worked wonders for the travel industry, meaning that more and more of us can see some of the fantastic sights the world has to offer, for a fraction of the cost! Holidays are more accessible to all these days, which can only be great news for those who struggle to find the spare cash for an annual family break.

Typically short or medium-haul destinations are serviced by many a low cost airline, offering budget travel for low, low prices. Great news!

You can cut your travel costs further by being a little clever with how you get to the airport too, meaning more money in your pocket. If you regularly book trains and coaches, maybe it’s time you gave some thought to driving yourself to the terminal door, and booking your airport parking spot with ParkBCP. This saves money and stress, which is fantastic news if you’re travelling with children! You’ll find this is a service that is available at most UK airports, including the busiest ones, with Gatwick North parking equally great value.

EasyJet, Jet2, Monarch, Thomas Cook, Ryanair, Fly Be, these are all companies who offer bargain airfares, and all you have to remain mindful of is that this is no-frills travel, so don’t expect masses of leg room, or excessive amounts of in-flight entertainment! Having said that, comfort is more than possible, and you get from A to B safely and effectively. What more could you want?

Here’s a few tips to get the most out of your budget flight.

Consider booking extra leg room
This does add a little cost onto your flight, but if you’re particularly tall, then you might find it worth the money. Booking extra leg room in advance will be cheaper than if you try and do it on the day at the check-in desk, when there may also be limited availability.

Choose your seat online
Again, there is a small fee for this, but choosing your seat ahead of time means you’re exactly where you want to be, e.g. near the front, near the back, near a toilet, on the aisle, at the window, sat together etc. Your preferences are personal.

Don’t bother with meals
I personally wouldn’t waste money on paying for an in-flight meal. Let’s face it, it’s never going to be gourmet, and if you’re only on the flight for a few hours, you can grab a meal deal in the airport and make do until you land!

Stock up on entertainment
You generally won’t have in-flight entertainment, so instead load up that tablet with games/books/apps/films etc, remember your earphones, and amuse yourself.

Arrive in good time
I have had a few occasions, especially with EasyJet, where boarding happened very swiftly indeed, so as soon as you see your gate number displayed, head there immediately!

Check the extras
Certain companies, such as Jet 2 for example, charge a fee for checking in at the airport, trying to encourage people to check in online instead. Take advantage of this if you’re able to print your boarding passes off, as this will save you time and money.

At the end of the day, a flight is a means to an end – getting you from A to B safety and quickly. No frills is no problem when you’re heading to a fantastic destination.

By: Samantha
 
 
Country/Town Visited: Thailand Overland - Koh Phi Phi, Koh Phangan, Koh Samui
Date of stay: January 2015
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned


Koh Samui

Our first stop in Thailand was Koh Samui, where we arrived after long drive by bus. First, we arrived at the Surat Thani Airport and then we managed to hire a bus just outside of the airport and paid AUD 40 approximately.

MaeNam Beach

At the north coast of Koh Samui, a beach called MaeNam Beach is located. This beach did not impress us. The water was cloudy and seemed dirty. Activities such as snorkeling seemed impossible. Stinging was kind of regular there, We thought that it could have been some jellyfish larvae or fish, but I did not see any. Maybe it was just salt water.

Anyway, back to the beach. It is long with yellow sand, not crowded, only few people there. That is something that I only liked about Koh Samui. There is a sharp descent into the sea, and it is not necessary to walk 100 meters off the shore to swim as it happens in some places.

Picture
Big Buddha Beach

This beach seemed to Bophut, they are next to each other. It is close to the airport, and obviously closed to the main attraction which is the Big Buddha monument (definitely worth a visit). It is also close to Chaweng Beach if you are looking for some partying. I reckon the Big Buddha Beach is fine, however I wouldn’t book a room in this are if I had the opportunity.



Chaweng Beach

Chaweng Beach is a place for those lovers of the partying scene. In Chaweng, you will find heaps of shops, restaurants and night markets.

The sand is white and the sea water is clear; however, the beach is crowded and therefore you won’t be able to lie down in silence on the sand.

Chaweng is quite noisy at night given that there are lots of drunken tourists, cars and motorbikes. Heaps of ladyboys on the streets – In one word: “Chaos”. I recommend this place only for those party animals.


Picture
Koh Phangan

Koh Phangan is in the Gulf of Thailand and is one of the most known places for backpacking in Southeast Asia, particularly because of the world famous Full Moon Party, so be prepared for a lot of partying here. We just spent one day there and it was enough according to us. You can also escape from the madness and head to the eastern or northern beaches on the island such as Haat Rin.

To be honest, the only purpose of going there was because of the Full Moon Party. At this party, each bar has its own sound system, so you’ll hear different music every few feet. The beach is lined with people selling alcohol and fire dancers putting on shows. Little booths are also set up, which sell glow-in-the-dark face paint as kids run up and down the beach hawking trinkets and glowsticks. It happens during the full moon every month.. It you miss it, there’s always the half moon party, quarter moon party, and black moon party. Really, every day is a party here.

Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi is to my knowledge the most popular islands in Thailand. The famous Maya Beach (made famous in The Beach starring Leonardo Di Caprio). Destroyed by the tsunami in 2004, the island has been rebuilt and developed to an even greater extent than before. Though I’ve had a lot fun here, I personally don’t like Ko Phi Phi. I find it too built up and touristy. It’s very overdeveloped and ruined, but thousands of people visit each year and love it. Visit for yourself and decide.

Things to do in Phi Phi

Nightlife– It is crazy. Fireshows and Thai boxing matches are regular at the beach bars. Massive beach parties. Partying is not cheap here and is one of the reasons people spend too much money here!

Shark Feeding – One of the most popular trips out of Koh Phi Phi is an early morning excursion to feed sharks. A six-hour trip will start at about $15 USD and will have you feeding black tip and leopard sharks. Most tours also include visits to coral gardens for snorkeling.

Snorkel in Maya Bay – Made famous for its starring role in the Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Beach, Maya Bay is on Koh Phi Leh and is usually included with all the island/snorkeling trips you see advertised. For those who want to see the place without lots of boats and people, you can spend a night on the island. It’s a far better way to experience the seclusion of this place.

Hike to Phi Phi Viewpoint – The twenty minute walk up to the Viewpoint will be rewarded by an amazing panoramic view of Phi Phi Le and Phi Phi Don. The Viewpoint is over 600 feet high, so you’ll need to be reasonably fit to get here, but your camera will thank you! The best time to go is at sunset or sunrise.

Useful information in Thailand:

Be aware of the drugs in your alcoholic drinks, some local bartenders might put methanol in your drinks. As there are heaps of beach parties, you might be able to get in with alcohol bought at 7 eleven.

Try to keep emotional intelligence when dealing with street vendors. In Thailand, they can be rude if they think that you are trying to cheat when bargaining.

If you arrived at the Surat Thani Airport, bring some Bahts (Thai Currency) with you. I couldn’t find an exchange office in the airport so I had to withdraw money and therefore some fees were applied.

You can usually find expats working there so they can give you useful information about where to buy stuff or hire tours.   

By: Pedro



 
 
Sundance Helicopters Review

Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps. There is plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to experience.  One of those unforgettable experiences is a trip out to the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

There are a handful of helicopter tour companies available in Las Vegas that offer the trip of a lifetime to marvel at the ragged cliffs which stretch to the bottom of the canyon to meet the Colorado River. The longest standing and most experienced of these companies is Sundance Helicopters. Sundance was founded in 1985 and started out specializing in tours of the famous Las Vegas strip. In 1988 they branched out to offering trips to the canyon, and with great success, the start of the tourism boom to this wonder was born.

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Sundance Helicopters carry over 200,000 guests per year and offer 16 different tours to the Grand Canyon for all budgets and time restrictions. Their fleet of 25 aircraft and a brand new terminal building make Sundance an excellent choice when deciding what company to pick. Also to note, over the next few years (until 2018) Sundance is looking to upgrade their entire fleet to the EC130T2 helicopter which will be the most technologically advanced and economically friendly helicopters to visit the canyon day in day out!

The new terminal was opened in May 2014 which is situated at McCarran International Airport, about 2 minutes drive off Las Vegas Boulevard. It is modern, spacious, and is set out with earthly structures which buffs the transition from the busy city to the scenic grand canyon. It also holds a VIP area as Sundance is the preferred provider for many various celebrities who frequently visit the area.

Our tour started when our limousine driver picked us up from the hotel and after collecting a few more guests, drove us to the terminal. The registration process was fast and simple, firstly we were weighed so that the balance of the helicopter was even, then we were given a name tag with our pilots name and the number of our helicopter. After a short wait of about 20 minutes, a look around the terminal and safety instructions, we were taken out on the tarmac to the choppers where we were personally given instruction on further emergency procedures.

Once the formalities were over, we took our seats in the spacious aircraft, blasted the cooling fan, and away we went up over the city, marveling at excellent views of the Las Vegas strip, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, then finally into the Grand Canyon itself. The flight there lasted about 45 minutes, and was complete with narration in our earphones, topped up by the pilot when there were extra things to be said and spotted.

Inside the canyon, we were treated to a champagne picnic surrounded by the massive canyon walls. Our pilots all sat with us and got to know us better (although left the champagne to the guests as there was a return flight to be had!)

The flight back was just as magnificent, (we changed seats in the helicopter so that everybody got a great view every time) as the sun was setting, we saw the colours erupting from the horizon which then blended with the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip as they were just cranking up for a long night ahead.

Once back on the ground, we were taken back into the terminal to look for our official photos ($30 including frame) and to have another look for last minute souvenirs before being taken back to our hotel in another limousine. Luxury!

All in all, a great trip and highly recommended. The whole team at Sundance Helicopters treated us like gold from start to finish and made our trip extremely memorable.

Rating 5/5

By: Jerry


 
 
Since 1945, some dudes have been climbing a greasy pole to get to a ham which is strapped to the top of it, when they do get it, the most epic tomato fight known to this world is started. This crazy event was developed possibly as a protest, or maybe a food fight between friends. Who knows?

Every year, on the last Wednesday in August, festival go-ers cram into the street at Plaza del Pueblo in Bunol (about 30mins drive from Valencia) ready to be covered from head to toe in 140 tonnes of the locals finest (or not so) tomatoes.

Until 2013, it was a free-for-all and the number or people who went to this street was unlimited, meaning that anyone could drive out there, and turn up on the day ready for action. Now, due to safety concerns, the event is capped to just over 20,000 and you need a ticket which costs 10 euro each. Unfortunately tickets sell out mega fast, so the way to go is through various travel companies which offer a day package to the event.

We went with 'Festivals all around'. A company set up by an Australian (Ash) and his local Spanish mate about 6 years ago. They specialize in festivals all over Europe, mainly La Tomatina, San Fermin (running with the bulls) and Oktoberfest.

Firstly, we went to pick up our tickets to the festival, the staff who greeted us couldn't have put us more at ease that we had chosen a good company. We were given not only information about the festival, but also the local hangouts and even recommendations on campsites in the area.

The day of the fight was here, we woke up bright and early as our instructions were to get to the meeting point at 6am for a 6.30am bus departure. There was a thousand people meeting, all sleepy eyed. Unfortunately due to the sheer volume of people, the bus system turned out to be a bit of a shambles. Eventually we got away at 7.15am en route to Bunol (meaning we had missed out on 45 minutes precious sleep!). On the bus, our tour guide explained the proceedings for the day, which involved a sangria party, the tomato fight, then the timings for the return buses to Valancia.

Once we arrived, we were headed towards a carpark where 1000L of sangria was waiting for us. Nice touch! And this was definitely a point of difference from other travel companies. Free (all-you-can-drink) sangria with some tunes pumping to wake us all up. What more could one ask for ahead of a truly memorable day.

The tomato fight itself doesn't need much explanation. Just an intense, fun, slimy war, throwing the red stuff back and forth for an hour made for an amazing morning. Friends were made, then lost when they smudged tomatoes over your head. By the end everyone was partying in the streets, all as mates. The crew from Festivals All Around were brilliant, gathering up stragglers and letting everyone know where the best spots were to get amongst the fight of a lifetime.

Once the canons sounded, the fight was over and everyone dispersed through the narrow streets of the town, past the locals who were hosing people down on the way.

The buses returned to Valencia, and this time were on time and carried a very quiet bus load of sleepy travellers home for a bit of a siesta before the night time festivities.

Next up (if you had a ticket) was the after party which was also sanctioned by Festivals All Around. The official party which was out at a resort in the middle of no where was accessed by the free buses which were all included in our ticket (not to mention a free drink if you arrived before 8pm). Sweet!

The party was pumping, multiple bar areas, plenty of food, a few dance floors and a swimming pool in case you needed to 'cool down'!

A great time was had, but time to roll. Unfortunately it was the buses that let us down. After a hard night punching the air on the DF, the last thing you want is to wait for a bus which we were told were frequent. After waiting 45 minutes one bus arrived, but due to the amount of people, it was like trying to rush onto the last life raft off the Titanic.

All in all, a great day, many memories and definitely something ticked off the bucket list, not to mention many jealous friends back home. Although the washing lady might have thought differently.

Festivals All Around knew what they were doing from the start, unfortunately the buses let us down at times, but with the sheer number of people around, not everything can run to clockwork.

Definitely a recommended package.

Rating 3.5/5

By: Jerry