Showing posts with label Caves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Caves. Show all posts

Sunday, 8 September 2019

This Tiny, but Mighty, Asian Island is Seriously Under-Hyped

Yes, Taiwan is a wallet-friendly destination, but so is Southeast Asia at large. And while most travelers crowd into Thailand and Bali, this island sitting just off China’s eastern coast remains seriously overlooked.

Amateur move, frankly. If you’re looking to boost your travel street cred, you need to put Taiwan on your hitlist.

Think: A culinary scene defined by Michelin Stars and street food in equal measure. A geographical profile that ranges from mountainous to beachy with a whopping nine national parks. Locals who haven’t yet been burned out by an influx of tourists (the nation is regularly ranked among the friendliest countries in the world). If there’s a defining keyword here, it would be “opportunity.” To surf. To explore. To experience a multi-faceted culture that hasn’t already been hashtagged to death. 

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that Taiwan, from city to countryside, is straight-up beautiful. While no list is exhaustive, here’s a few of the island nation’s finest features to get you going.
Dragon and Tiger Pagodas

To the untrained eye, the sheer number of pagodas in Taiwan can be difficult to keep straight. However, you’ll never forget a visit to the Dragon and Tiger Pagodas of Zuoying District, Kaohsiung. Situated on the banks of the man-made Lotus Pond, the staircases and walls of the twin seven-story towers depict stories about heaven and hell, among other prominent figures in local lore. Once inside, spiral staircases deposit you in an overlook above the lotus-covered water. Best practices suggest entering via the dragon’s mouth (dragons are a symbol of power and independence) and out the tiger (a symbol of courage and nobility) to maximize your good fortune.
Ho Ping Island

Take the Ho Ping Bridge (Taiwan’s first reinforced concrete bridge) to Ho Ping Island for a first-hand lesson at just how cool erosion can be. Here, the land is a series of jagged cliffs, rugged coastlines, and crazy-cool geological patterns. Pairs perfectly with an island sunset and romantic view.
Taipei 101

If Blade Runner was set in Taiwan, Taipei 101, the 10th tallest building in the world, would be where all the action takes place. Sure, you could skyrocket up to the observation deck on the 91st floor and be rewarded with crazy views of the city (at least on a clear day). But the real prize here is a view of the building itself. For the best vantage point, hike the nearby Elephant Mountain. Brace yourself -- those stairs are steep, but you’ll be well-rewarded for your effort with a sweeping sight of the futuristic district and Taiwan’s most iconic landmark.
Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum

Located in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum opened in 2011 as a home for one of the most prized relics in Buddhism, one of the Buddha’s teeth. Open and free to everyone, its visually stunning grounds include one of the largest Buddha statues in Asia (seated on a black platform to look like it’s floating at night), and eight large, multi-story pagodas. Even for non-practitioners, walking the grounds is a calming (dare-we-say) zen-like experience.
 Jiufen’s Shuqi Road

Spirited Away wasn’t a documentary, but you’d be forgiven for thinking so after visiting Jiufen, Hayao Miyazaki's inspiration for the iconic 2001 film. Along the Shuqi Road, the former gold rush town’s main drag, you’ll find colorful food stalls, red lanterns, and winding staircases that led Chihiro on her epic journey.

You’re going to want to visit this beach in the south of Taiwan for Flower Vase Rock, a large, floral-shaped outcropping just offshore. But if you’re eager for more geological adventuring, swing by Black Dwarf Cave after your swim. The limestone cave is thought to be haunted -- but even if you don’t spot a specter there’s always coal growths, scuttling crabs, and even an exhibition of wooden sculptures to enjoy.
Taroko National Park

With its dramatically sharp cliffs and the emerald-colored water of Taroko Gorge, this national park gives you a true sense of Taiwan’s tropical side. And if the area’s abundant greenery leads you to cracking jokes about Jurassic Park, know that you’re not alone. Take in the breezes at Qingshui Cliff, or take in the bucolic scene at Eternal Spring Shrine, a memorial built over a waterfall dedicated to those who died during the local highway’s construction.
Source -  Laura Studarus a Thrillist contributor

Monday, 12 August 2019

Thailand’s Ang Thong National Marine Park, the ‘new’ Maya Bay

With Thailand’s Maya Bay in Koh Phi Phi Ley remains closed indefinitely to allow the tourist-magnet some much-needed time to recover, it’s time to look for another natural wonder.

One of Thailand’s astonishing natural wonders, not as well known as Maya Bay, is the Ang Thong National Marine Park, located about 40 kilometers north west of the coast of Koh Samui. Some would argue it’s even more spectacular and worthy of at least a full day visit. 

There are many tours available to the National Park.

The Ang Thong National Marine Park is made up of 42 islands spread over 102 square kilometers. Travelers will find beautiful beaches, limestone cliffs, caves, rock formations and countless photo opportunities. Enjoy some views from the air…
It will take you about an hour to travel there from either the Surat Thani mainland or from Koh Samui by speedboat. There are slower ferry-style boat trips as well but you’ll lose a lot of time travelling there (usually for day trips) and the speedboats can get into much shallower waters.

Tours usually also squeeze in a visit to Koh Phaluai, the park’s biggest island, where there’s a popular  stilted restaurant in the island’s fishing village, serving a delicious seafood lunch.

Another popular island worth visiting is Koh Wua Talap, famed for wildlife spotting and what might just be the most beautiful viewpoint in the entire park.

FUN FACT: Though the 2000 movie “The Beach,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, was filmed in Koh Phi Phi’s Maya Bay in the Andaman Sea, the book by Alex Garland upon which the film was based was actually set in Ang Thong in the Gulf of Thailand.

Source - The Thaiger 

Friday, 28 June 2019

#Vietnam a top holiday draw in Southeast Asia

South China Morning Post has listed Vietnam among six Southeast Asian countries whose beauty is largely undiscovered.

The Hong Kong newspaper said "from stunning beaches and elephant sanctuaries to adventurous underwater activities, much of the region’s beauty has yet to be discovered" and Vietnam is recommended for those seeking "authentic travel experiences".

It described Hue, the country's ancient imperial capital that witnessed the glories and collapse of the Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945), the last feudal rulers of Vietnam, as a must-visit place for more historical activities.

"Visitors can embark on tours to explore the old temples and pagodas that make up most of the city and explore central Vietnamese cuisine with a street food tour." 

To the north of Ho Chi Minh City is the mountain town of Da Lat where adventure lovers can indulge themselves with canyoneering, white water rafting and a high ropes course, it said.

Da Lat, situated 1,500 meters above sea level in the Central Highlands, was a summer getaway for French officials who built villas to escape the heat and humidity of the lowlands during colonial times. It is now a top holiday destination providing cool respite from the year-round hot weather.
"In the mountains northwest of Hanoi lies Sapa where nature lovers can embrace the serenity of the mountains with a tour to the Love and Silver waterfalls and the historic Cat Cat village," SCMP said.

Tourists can also visit the Saturday night "love market," the Gothic stone church at the town center which is a reminder of the French missionary influence. Cat Cat village, two kilometers from Sa Pa, is home to the H’Mong ethnic people.

The SCMP list also includes Thailand, where elephant sanctuaries for rehabilitation and enticing cooking classes await visitors, the Philippines, famous for its dolphin watching, paddle yoga and mountain biking, and Cambodia, which offers travelers a snorkeling tour to see bioluminescent marine life and scuba diving.

Myanmar "is home to shiny gems that are rarely visited," the newspaper said. It also has UNESCO heritage sites and centuries-old temples.

Laos, "often overlooked when it comes to travel within Southeast Asia," it said, urging holiday-goers to visit the town of Vang Vieng north of Vientiane to experience bike tours and zip lines in the hills, cave exploration and rock climbing.
Southeast Asia is composed of 11 countries, namely Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Earlier this year, British travel magazine Rough Guides included Hue in its list of six lesser-known Asian destinations.

The New York Times recently recommended Da Lat among 52 places to go in 2019, describing it as "an agricultural El Dorado" with unique scenes of pine forests, locally grown avocados, and artichoke tea.

Vietnam received 7.3 million visitors in January-May this year, up 8.8 percent from a year ago, putting the country on track to meet its annual target of 18 million arrivals this year, according to the General Statistics Office.
Sourse - VN Express

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

#Vietnam - Ha Long Bay: Nine must-visit places

The Ha Long Bay region in Vietnam comprises nearly 2,000 islands, 59 discovered caves, as well as grottoes, undisturbed beaches and old fishing villages. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a dream come true for nature lovers, photography aficionados or anyone who loves stunning scenery and crystal blue waters.

For those of you who are planning a visit, here are the nine most important landmarks that you should not miss out on seeing:

1. The Chopstick
The Chopstick will certainly be pointed out to you if you are taking a boat trip through the bay.
Possibly Ha Long Bay’s most famous landmark, the Chopstick is a karst peak that protrudes from the water at a height of around 40 meters. Its long, thin shape is what gives it its moniker.
It is worth checking out, if purely for the fact that, in recent times, coastal corrosion has caused its base to shrink dramatically, so who knows how long it will stay upright for.

2. Ti Top Island
Located in the heart of Ha Long Bay, Ti Top Island has been long regarded as one of the premier landmarks of the region. Named after Ghermann Titov, a former Soviet Union hero in the second World War, Ti Top Island boasts a white sandy crescent-shaped beach, as well as a partially paved route up to the top of the karst, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the bay.

Due to its increased fame in recent times, Ti Top is often busy during peak times (summer afternoons). Arriving in the morning will give you a head start on the 400-step ascent to the top of the mountain, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful view without a thousand selfie sticks in the way.


 3. Bai Tu Long Bay
Sitting to the northeast of Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay is its lesser known but equally staggering neighbor. Bia Tu Long has all of the coveted caves, beaches and islands that Ha Long Bay is known for, but without the crowds or congestion.

Highlights of the area include the ancient Thien Canh Son Cave, the colorful houses at Vung Vieng floating village, the untouched paradise of Ban Chan Beach and the Cong Do area.

4. Lan Ha Bay
As with Bai Tu Long Bay, Lan Ha Bay could easily be described as a quieter, lesser-known version of Ha Long. Lan Ha Bay itself boasts nearly 400 limestone karsts, as well as 139 quiet beaches that pepper the landscape. Lan Ha Bay actually belongs to the larger Cat Ba archipelago, and like with everywhere in the region, is best explored via sailboat.

Cat Ba Island is just a stone’s throw away and boasts many vendors that rent out vessels.

5. Co To Island
Co To Island is truly one of Ha Long Bay’s best-kept secrets. You will have to hire your own boat to get there but it is more than worth it. Co To Island district consists of 40 islands varying in size. Three of the largest islands are Co To Island, Thanh Lan Island and Tran Island. They boast white sandy beaches, sparkling azure water and craggy cliffs, all with the peaceful seclusion of an undiscovered paradise.

Cheap, fresh and delicious seafood can be found at seafront restaurants and the district's larger islands offer beach activities, trekking and motorbike road trips.

6. Vung Vieng fishing village
What makes Ha Long Bay such a unique tourist destination are the people that live and work there. Small communities have lived by the waters of the bay for centuries, and four of these floating villages remain today, with its residents predominantly serving the community as fisherfolk. The most famous of these is Vung Vieng village, with its colorful houses that stand against blue waters and towering karst peaks.

The community is happy to open their homes to tourists and offer workshops and displays depicting traditional Ha Long culture. Visitors can try their own hand at traditional fishing techniques, net weaving and even learn a few things about pearl harvesting.

7. Tuan Chau Island
This newly developed area just outside of Ha Long City is perfect for those with children, or those looking for a break from relaxing on a boat or a beach.

At only 2.2 square kilometers, Tuan Chau is tiny, but it is packed full of exciting recreational activities for all ages. Attractions include dolphin, sea lion and seal shows, an animal circus, a golf course, a cultural sports center, a beach, a rural market and an ornamental fish lake, as well as villas and restaurants.

The Ho Chi Minh memorial is one of the island’s most important features, built in honor of the man himself who used to visit Tuan Chau on his holidays.
 8. Ban Chan Beach For those who prefer to travel off the beaten track, Ban Chan Beach rivals any beach in Southeast Asia in terms of beauty and seclusion. Peeking out behind Bi Tu Long Bay, Ban Chan is unlikely to be busy at any time of year, as it sits right off the traditional boat routes of the region.

Although it is isolated and quiet, activities such as snorkeling, kayaking and beach volleyball are still offered.
9. Sung Sot Cave
The Sung Sot Cave complex is home to the most coveted caves and grottoes in Ha Long Bay, and possibly the whole country. There are a total of 59 discovered caves documented on the official registrar; however, experts estimate that the number could be close to eight times that. Sung Sot Cave is the largest cave in the complex, and the most famous.

The cave itself is incredibly wide, tall and lofty, so those with claustrophobia need not worry. Stalactites and stalagmites adorn the cave’s interior, some of which have formed enormous limestone columns of different shapes over the millennia.

Take a guided tour of the cave and you will hear about the legends associated with each of its pillars, from dragons and demons to dwarves and everything in between.

Useful information

When should I go?

Ha Long Bay, much like the rest of northern Vietnam, can get surprisingly cold during winter months. Temperatures regularly drop to below 10 degrees Celsius between the months of December and February, and many homes and businesses do not have central heating.

Summer months, between June and September, can see exceptionally heavy rainfall and thunderstorms, so try to stick to the months of March and April or from late September through to early November for warm temperatures of around 25 degrees Celsius and clear skies.

Lana is a freelance writer from the UK currently residing in Hanoi, Vietnam. She has won several awards for travel writing by National Tourism Board of Vietnam. At the moment she is the editor-in-chief for a travel website about Halong Bay: 

Sourse - TheJakartaPost

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Thailand - #Phuket named second best beach in the world

Phuket is celebrating its most recent award after being named the ‘Second Best Beach in the World’ by business publication US News & World Report.

It continues to win accolades from major international media for its white sands, aquamarine waters and limestone cliffs that attract millions of travelers every year. This island was hailed as “a little piece of paradise” according to the magazine.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor, Mr. Yuthasak Supasorn, said everyone in Phuket, both public and private stakeholders should take pride in this achievement as it demonstrates the island’s appeal as one of the world’s most desirable beach destinations.

“Obviously we are delighted to win this important award. The fact the honour comes from the US News & World Report is even more gratifying given its target audience and readership.

 “In the past, Phuket has won several other prestigious awards for its beaches as well, so we are very grateful for the continued recognition.” Mr. Yuthasak added.

Phuket continues to expand its appeal as it tries to shift upmarket. It is also quickly established itself as one of the super-yacht hubs of Southeast Asia, a tropical playground for various groups of tourists who enjoy the island’s charms.

Along with its tropical appeal, Phuket beckons travellers wanting to experience its world-famous cuisine. Phuket was listed by UNESCO as a Gastronomic City in 2015 and will be included in the Michelin Guide Bangkok, Phuket and Phang Nga 2019.