Friday, November 30, 2007

Forget Phuket

You've seen the pictures of one of Thailand's main drawcards: shimmering blue water lapping along the shores of the white-sand beaches, limestone outcrops rising out of the ocean.

You may have even seen movies set around the picturesque islands. Think of The Beach, where Leonardo DiCaprio and friends discover their own island 'paradise'.

Then there's Ko Phing Kan, better known as James Bond Island since its feature role in The Man With The Golden Gun in the 1970s.

So where exactly are these postcard-perfect gems in Thailand?

It must be the tourist mecca of Phuket, right? Or Ko Samui?

Try Krabi.

"The crystal clear water and limestone and beautiful clear beaches ... for me personally I thought it was Phuket, because Thailand is always Phuket, Phuket, Phuket," says Edwardo Iswandl, a relatively recent inductee to Krabi's charms.

"But when we came here, they are all Krabi in fact. They are in the Krabi province."

Located about 800 kilometres south of the Thai capital of Bangkok, Krabi is probably best described as a younger version of Phuket.

It's Phuket 10 years ago - less commercial than its more well-known big brother.

It's a good way to be, particularly in these days of heightened environmental awareness, according to Sofitel Phokeethra Krabi Resort & Spa general manager Ove Sandstrom.

"I mean Krabi is now, it's fresh, this is really Thailand like it was in Phuket 10 to 15 years ago.

"I think they can keep it like this. Today you know you have global warming, people are becoming more and more conscious about the environment.

"So now the nature is the biggest attraction. If you want the nightlife, OK you go to Bangkok."

The local government, Sandstrom and Iswandl say, is keen to keep it that way.

"It's not exploited, because the local government had made it stricter than anywhere else," Sandstrom says. "It's the only region in Thailand where you're not allowed to exploit the beach."


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Egypt Attractions - Top 10 Tourist Attractions of Egypt

Egypt is located in North Africa and is among the top most tourist destinations of the world. No other country comes even closer to Egypt when it comes to the number of magnificent monuments, activities and historical attractions. More than ninety percent of all Egyptian attractions are lined up along the river Nile. Many places can therefore visited by taking a cruise in the Nile river (besides road and air travel). Since it is a popular tourist destination Egypt offers extensive facilities for tourists.

Top 10 attractions of Egypt are:

1. PYRAMIDS: There are more than 80 pyramids in Egypt which were built mostly between 2600 BC and 1500 BC and all are situated close to the Nile river. After the ruler died (or other prominent royal figures like queens), their bodies were wrapped and preserved as a mummy, and placed in the Pyramid. The most popular pyramids are the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx: An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years. Giza also has the largest pyramid also known as "Great Pyramid" which rises an amazing 481 feet.

2. CAIRO: It is the capital of Egypt. Popular attractions of Cairo include:

a) Khan al-Khalili market: Khan al-Khalili is one of the largest markets in the world which attracts both local's and international tourists. This is a great place to but exotic perfume bottles, Arabic clothing and other souvenirs.

b) Egyptian Museum of Antiquities: It have over hundred thousand artifacts in 107 halls. The most popular attraction is the Tutankhamun Gallery.

c) Other attractions are Pyramids of Giza (mentioned above) and Old Cairo.

3. ABU SIMBEL: It was carved out of sandstone cliffs high above the River Nile. The most famous attraction are the four colossal 20m-high statues of Ramses II guarding the entrance. When the waters of Lake Nasser to rise, UNESCO relocated them to a high ground between 1964 and 1968.

4.KARNAK TEMPLES: It is a huge complex comprising of three main temples and many smaller ones, most famous among them is the Temple of Amun. It is estimated that they were built in a time span of 1300 years.

5: LUXOR TEMPLE: The modern town of Luxor is the site of the famous city of Thebes,( or the city of a hundred gates). A row of sphinxes line the entrance to Karnak Temple. The most famous section of these temples is a huge all called the Great Hypostyle Hall.

6: SIWA OASIS: The area is famous for its dates and olives, and is one of the most beautiful landscapes and springs in Egypt. It was the most inaccessible oasis until recently. It lies 60 feed below sea level.

7: NUBIAN MUSEUM OF ASWAN: It is designed to house the fantastic collection items unearthed from the archaeological excavations during the Nubia Campaign.

8. VALLEY OF THE KINGS: The Valley of the Kings is located on the West Bank of the River Nile in Thebes. There are 62 tombs in the valley. It has two components - the East Valley and the West Valley. It is the East Valley which most tourists visit and in which most of the tombs of the New Kingdom Pharaohs can be found.

9: ALEXANDRIA: Best places to see are - Pompey's Pillar,Bibliotheca Alexandria, Alexandria National Museum, King Farouk Palace and the Roman Amphitheater.

10: SHARM EL SHEIKH: Best places to see are - Sinai Mountain, Na'ama Bay,Tiran Island, Terrazzina Beach and White Lagoon.

Other attractions of Egypt include the White Desert, Hurghada and Felucca on the Nile.

SAFETY INFORMATION: There were some terrorist bombings reported in Egypt in last few years. Check for additional information. Overall the crime rate in Egypt is low. Visitors should consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling. Egypt has high road fatalities rate so you should prefer not to drive yourself unless you feel comfortable.


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Cheonggyecheon to get facelift

Cheonggyecheon, the restored downtown stream that celebrated its second anniversary last month, is to undergo a facelift to attract more tourists by highlighting its history and culture.

The stream has become one of Seoul’s most popular tourist attractions since opening in October 2005 and has attracted more than 56 million visitors.

However, most visitors mainly stroll around the stream because Cheonggyecheon lacks facilities for cultural experiences beyond sightseeing.

To counter that, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has recently unveiled a project aimed at making the stream a center for tourism and culture in the city. It has called for the construction of a traditional Korean village, floating catwalk and other cultural facilities near the stream and spread throughout the capital by February next year.

City officials say that the project aims to draw more foreign visitors by establishing diverse cultural facilities based on Cheonggyecheon’s unique features and location.

One of the most distinctive features of the project is the planned restoration of some of the shacks, which lined the stream up until the 1970s to feature the everyday life of post-war Korea.
Shantytowns made of wooden planks covered the banks of Cheonggyecheon in the 1950s and 60s after the Korean War. Restored versions of the shabby dwellings will be displayed along with tools, such as carriers for water buckets and soft coal, a key source of home heating at the time.
Also, part of the project is "the cultural and digital Cheonggyecheon," the city said it will create a digital screen by Dec. 21, using Cheonggye waters for romantic events and a floating stage for entertainment.

People can also make romantic proposals by using the digital screen. They can run UCC images or text messages for their lovers on the so-called "wall of digital proposals" by making applications in advance.

When there are no proposal plans reserved, the huge digital screen will show artistic graphic images every night, made with water and multi-colored lasers.

In the block near the Dongdaemun fashion town, a runway stage with lighting facilities will be set up on the water. The floating catwalk and fountains will be used as a debut stage for aspiring young fashion designers and artists to showcase their works.

On another bridge near the Sewoon electronics arcade, an artsy lighting tower named "Sotdae" will rise to underscore the history of Korea`s electronics mecca in the 1970s and 1980s.

A creative studio will also open near the cluster of hardware stores alongside Cheonggyecheon to develop and showcase products of unique design and metallic processing technology.

A second-phase development plan will follow to make Cheonggyecheon a more captivating part of Seoul, according to city officials.


Like it or hump it at tourist mecca

FROM my balcony at the Noosa Crest Resort, I cannot hope for a more spectacular view across Noosa, Laguna Bay and the Noosa River. It has been years since I visited this tourist mecca nestled between the crystalline waters of Noosa Sound and the national park.

Our double-storey villa has a distinct Mediterranean feel. It sports uneven terracotta tiles, wrought-iron railings and Tuscan-style pottery and furnishings.

I fold back the entire top-storey glass doors to draw in the view. Out on the private balcony are sun lounges and an extensive barbecue area. Not far away, a rooftop swimming pool, spa and sauna glitter.

It is the perfect spot to hole up for a weekend, but it's not to be. I have the family in tow, and this weekend is all about Noosa with kids.

We start our adventures at the end of Noosa Crest's private boardwalk, where stand-up paddle surfing is taking off. The traditional Hawaiian sport promotes balance, strength and fitness. Chris de Aboitiz and Grant Cunningham have the only surf school in Australia dedicated to it.

We join their free demo day, held on the second Sunday of every month from 7am to 9am at Noosa Lions Park. It's a family affair. Even the dogs are invited, catching a ride on the front of boards. My kids are eager to hit the water and, equipped with paddle, board and a little instruction, are off to discover the calm waterways, learning to manoeuvre, turn and control their craft.

I sense that our instructor Chris, who once worked on Waikiki Beach, could cut a mean wave. But he enjoys the tranquil ripples of the Noosa River. "Many surfers also enjoy this sport," he says. "It's great for cross-training, and it brings together core strength and balance."

There's also a delicate balance between exercise and the stomach, so after some excellent fun and fitness we head to Noosa's Hastings St, where fine food abounds.

The famous precinct is undergoing a $10 million makeover, due to be completed by July 2008, so we dig deep to see what we can find.

Sure enough, the chic and the hip are all still tucked into sidewalk cafes, sipping glasses of vino.

The Massimo ice cream and gelato shop fights for best treat among fresh juices and rich baked delights.

Noosa restaurateur Jim Berardo says few places in the world have the ability to offer both "paddock to plate" and "sea to plate".

"The amazing synergy between grower, fisherman, primary producer and chef has made Noosa Australia's leading regional culinary destination," he says.

The main road through nearby Noosaville is also lined with restaurants. Indeed, the new edition of Lonely Planet Australia gives Gusto's Riverfront Restaurant, Noosaville, the thumbs-up, saying: "It trumps Noosa's classy competition with effortless style, superior service and breezy water views."

We couldn't agree more as we dined on the likes of seared Hervey Bay scallops, Mooloolaba prawn and garlic ravioli and barbecued baby veal fillets. The service is top shelf, and my daughters giggle at the charming waiter who calls them "Madam".

Back in Hastings St, we park the car and hit the beach. There is also a line-up of holiday shopping to be explored -- hats and sunnies, a new surfboard, flowing resort wear and surfer-chic swimmers.

But the kids don't put up with this for long, eager for a camel ride along the quieter Noosa North Shore.

Dave and Lyn Madden have operated Camel Safaris since 1989, winding their camel trains through melaleuca-lined bushland and out on to the huge expanse of sand and ocean of 40 Mile Beach.

Our camel, Menindie, rolls his large rubbery lips and presents a set of yellow teeth. We jump on his back and stroke the coarse hair between his ears, but are rudely rewarded with a jerking from side to side as he gets up clumsily from his knobbly knees.

From here on it's smooth sailing. We set a leisurely pace through shady bushland and on to the beach, enjoying views of seashells, coloured sands and distant Noosa.

This area has so much to offer the family: koalas and scenic walks through Noosa National Park, surf and still water activities, boats to hire, ferries to catch, markets to explore, mountain bikes and kayaks to conquer.

By the end of it, you may be exhausted and sitting on your paddle, but you will be happily grubby: it's standard procedure to get dirty on a top-notch adventure.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mana Live in Costa Rica Tonight

The popular Latin American rock band, Mana, will be performing tonight at the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibas, North San Jose, Costa Rica, performing a variety of tracks off their new album “Amar Es Combatir” (To Live is to Fight).

Fehr Olvera, the lead singer, recently told a national newspaper the message behind the rock group’s new album stating that life to love is to fight because things in life should be accomplished through love. Life should not be a combat of violence, but a combat of feelings, illusions and soul.

The Mexican band has come to Costa Rica after having already performed at venues across the Europe and the United States as part of the world wide tour and they promise that this gig will be as entertaining as the rest.

Olvera said that he admired Costa Rica a great deal and respected it as one of the most progressive nations in Central America with less corruption and violence than the others.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Coronado Beach California

Just over the bridge from San Diego is a small, tree-lined beach haven known as Coronado. The "island," as many locals call it, is really a peninsula connected to the mainland by a neck of land named the Silver Strand. Coronado is about a mile from downtown San Diego and is linked to the city by the Coronado-San Diego Bridge. Crown City, as it is called (Coronado means "crowned one" in Spanish), regards itself as a friendly, small town of wide leafy streets lined with Victorian homes and Californian bungalows ... and regards San Diego as somewhere else.

Along with the amicable, small-town atmosphere and near-perfect weather, Coronado proudly touts itself as a car-optional environment. The island is small enough to walk almost anywhere — it's only a mile from the San Diego Bay side of the peninsula to the ocean — and the Coronado 904 Shuttle (fare is $1) loops past most of the hot spots. There are also 15 miles (24 kilometers) of relatively flat paths fit for both cyclists and skaters and even more miles of bike routes along city streets.

The emblem of Coronado is the Hotel Del Coronado — a Victorian pleasure dome that instantly turned Coronado into a beach resort when it opened on the oceanfront in 1888. Other resorts followed, but today the military, not tourism, represents Coronado's largest industry. The North Island Naval Air Station, site of America's first military flying school, occupies the entire north half of Coronado, and Navy SEALs train at the Naval Amphibious Base on the south end of town.

For well over a century, Coronado's beaches have been its fortune. The main beach, Coronado Central Beach, stretches 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) behind the great houses along Ocean Boulevard. The morning crowd here includes the SEALs who run along the beach. Later in the day swimmers, bodysurfers, boogie boarders, sand sculptors, tide poolers and, from December through February, whale watchers all take to the sand and sea. North Beach attracts surfers in the morning, and at the extreme north is Dog Beach, where leashless canines can frolic in the surf.

Other beaches include Silver Strand State Beach along the road connecting Coronado to the mainland, where fire rings are provided and overnight RV camping is welcome. Coronado also offers less-crowded beaches. Glorietta Bay Beach is a grassy park and playground with a small sandy beach, and there is a vest-pocket patch of sand beside the wooden pier at the Ferry Landing Marketplace that's a good bet for a barren beach.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Fewer tourists visit Britain

One million fewer tourists visited Britain during the three months to September, compared with the same period last year, as sky-high prices, poor airports and bad weather deterred people, official figures showed.

Overseas visitor numbers fell by 10 per cent to 9.25 million – the largest quarterly fall since the fall out of September 11, 2001, when American tourists numbers ground to a halt. This time, the weak dollar, rather than terrorism, is behind the fall in numbers.

Added to this, is Britain’s increasing reputation as an unexciting, troublesome destination, compared to more exotic places in Asia.

Elliott Frisby at VisitBritain, the Government-backed agency that promotes the country to tourists, said: “The exchange rate is seriously starting to bite for many North Americans. Visits from that region are predominantly driven by price, and many Americans are choosing to stay at home.”

Americans are the most important visitors to the UK as they tend to spend the most and stay the longest, frequently travelling outside London to the Lake district and other areas that are very reliant on the tourist dollar.

Tour operators and analysts also cite “Heathrow hassle” and the increase in air passenger duty as contributors to the fall, with this summer’s airport delays and dire weather all helping to persuade visitors to travel elsewhere.

The emergence of China, Turkey, India and other exciting locations competing for international visitors is another factor.

“Competition is hotting up and people want to go to new destinations that have got the 'brag factor’ – where you can take the photos and come back home and tell all your friends. Britain just doesn’t have that,” said Mr Frisby.

David Else, the author of Lonely Planet’s guide to Great Britain, said he was sad that tourist numbers had fallen after a resurgent few years.

“My view is that Britain is not boring at all. Yes, it is expensive compared to many other countries, but it is a great place and the tourist facilities have all improved enormously in recent years – the cafes, restaurants, attractions, the transport links. Everything is getting better.”


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cemeteries as tourist attractions?

The idea of a cemetery as a place to visit in the course of a vacation, may not exactly resound with Jamaican sensitivities, but Mayor of Kingston, Desmond McKenzie, has raised an interesting idea: making the May Pen Cemetery a tourist attraction.

The fact is we're not a 'cemetery people', despite our penchant for elaborate funerals and mourning rituals. There are, however, other places where cemeteries do attract tourists, particularly if they are the final resting place of celebrities.

One of the famous sightseeing spots of Europe, for instance, is the Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, wherein lie some of the world's most celebrated artists and artistes, from centuries past up to contemporary times.

In other places, where celebrities are interred also, some tourists do find it interesting to visit the site as part of the experience of another culture.

But is our May Pen Cemetery ready for that? Most Jamaicans associate the area with inner-city neglect which we seem unable to put right.

It has been said that members of some of Jamaica's older families were interred at May Pen in the days when it was the major site for burials in Kingston.

It is posited also that the history of such families and the context of the times in which they lived could be presented in a way to attract visitors who like that sort of thing. Would that be enough of an incentive, however?

There are practical considerations which would have to be dealt with. It is not just the physical state of the cemetery which has to be improved, but the environs which surround it.

Mayor McKenzie is no stranger to the condition of the Spanish Town Road and adjacent communities. He knows, even more than most, the extent of the urban decay and blight which will require more than wishful thinking to reclaim and bring it to a standard which would make visitors, as well as locals, feel enough at ease to go in the cemetery. Perhaps, with time and effort, such an idea could bear fruit, but it certainly is not a short-term fix.

The current effort to clean up and attract public support for May Pen is but one of many in a series of several such drives. It has been tried before.

As he makes yet another go at it, this time using prisoner labour, Mayor McKenzie would do well to use his considerable leverage to put in place systems for continuity in the ongoing maintenance of the cemetery.

It is only when the facility can be accorded respect by our own people that we will have the confidence to indicate to others that we regard it as an important part of our national heritage and thus worthy of being an attraction.