Travel

Great Hiking Spots in Mauritius

The mention of Mauritius gets most people to envision white sandy beaches holding back deep azure waters against clear skies matching the color of the ocean.

Resorts are aplenty serving delicious Mauritian cuisine. But did you know that the island nation, which is a part of Africa is also blessed with lush jungles that are home to cascading waterfalls and beautiful land and aerial critters?

Let’s take a minute to thank the volcanic eruption that occurred millions of years ago to create the island.

While water-sport enthusiasts have plenty to revel in, hiking opportunities come as a cherry on the top of the cake. Its a total win-win!

Whether you’re looking to book a honeymoon package to Mauritius or travel solo, here’s presenting the most ideal places to go hiking in Mauritius.

 

Ideal Places to Go Hiking in Mauritius

Black River Gorges National Park

Expanding over 68 sq. km of land, the Black River Gorges National Park treats hikers with trails that stimulate even the weakest of sight senses. You can ascend the lush carpeted slopes of the Black River Peak and feast your eyes on astounding vistas of the lagoon down below or take the trail that leads to the enchanting Alexandra Falls or discover the marshy lands abundant with various plant species by taking the pathway close to the Petrin Centre. Too tired to walk? Hire mountain bikes and explore the wilderness here. No matter what you choose, you’re guaranteed to spot some awesome wildlife including the Mauritian flying-fox, macaque Monkeys, and the green echo Parakeet. Note that there is an entry fee of Rs. 100 per person.

 

Le Pouce Mountains

Standing tall between the Signs Mountain and the Peter Both Mountain the Pouce Mountain, is the nation’s 3rd tallest peak, situated in the north-western part of Mauritius. Here’s a fun fact: Le Pouce is a French word that literally translates to “the thumb”, thanks to the thumb-shaped pinnacle. Treks normally commence from Port Louis or St.Pierre. Once you reach the top, you’ll be treated with a panoramic view of the lush north, sugar-cane fields, and a few tiny islands in the distance. Although this is one of the easiest climbs in the country, make sure that you hire a tour guide for the best experience.

 

Lion Mountain

Lying in the Bombous Mountian belt, the Lion mountain offers a loop trail that takes about three hours to complete. While the seascapes at the mid-level offers verdant views of the surrounding valleys, you’ll be bestowed with staggering views of deep blue lagoons at the summit that just cannot be paralleled. The mountain is abundant in indigenous vegetation but here’s the big caveat – the terrain is pretty rugged so its advisable to book a tour guide to help you cross the rough patches.

 

Some Useful Information:

Best Time to go Hiking: It’s best to visit during the winter months i.e. between May to December.

Hiking Essentials: Flexible water-bottle, a hat, sunscreen lotion, a backpack, hiking boots, and a good camera (optional).

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Iceland For KIDS! Tips and Activities

Iceland is known as an extreme adventure destination famous for its volcanos, waterfalls and glaciers but that doesn't mean that it can't be a fantastic family vacation destination as well. 

In addition to all of the volcano hopping and glacier trekking that you probably already have planned...

 

Here are my Top Kid-Friendly Activities in South East Iceland:

1.) Bounce on the moss covered lava fields

Once you get even ten minutes outside of Reykjavik, you’ll see them. Rolling, green, glorious fields beckoning your kids from the backseat of your rental SUV. Pull safely over and let them loose. The moss that covers the lava field is extremely resistant and bounces back to little running feet. They can hop or run and their foot steps will feel super charged. It’s bound to add to some family fun! 

Some fields are better than others in terms of the ‘bounciness factor’ and our tour guide took us to the field pictured above. Ask your tour operator for recommendations or just rely on trial and error, there are fields almost every where you look once you are out of the city.

 

2.) Experience an Earthquake at the Earthquake Exhibition

On your way to the volcano area from Reykjavik is a solid two hour drive, you can break it up by visiting an exhibit on the 2008 Quake that shook Iceland. You can actually take a look at an 5,000 year old earthquake crack displayed under glass under ground, see what a kitchen would look like after a quake and even feel what a +6 Richter quake feels like by taking a turn in an earthquake simulator. The exhibit is free, the simulator is not. 

The exhibit is located in the same building at the Tourist Information Center in the shopping center of Sunnumörk in Hveragerdi which is about 45 km east from Reykjavik. 

 

3.) Watch skateboarders and take in the art at the local skatepark in Reykjavik

Reykjavik is an unexpectedly family-friendly city. There are a few parks around town but my favorite was the colorful skatepark in the city center. Slides for kids, skate ramps for teens and a huge spray-painted sea lion mural makes sure there is something for everyone. The park is near The Lebowski Bar which is a great place for beers for the big kids (you!) after the little ones are off to bed too.

 

4.) Make friends with some Icelandic horses

Iceland is known for it’s beautiful breed of Icelandic horses. Smaller and stockier than most horses, Icelandic horses resemble ponies and are so sweet and cute. We pulled over on the side of the road and patiently made friends with a docile-looking bunch. Farms and ranches are everywhere along the highways outside of the city so ask your tour guide if he or she has any they can recommend to visit with the kids. 

 

5.) Visit the Local Thermal Baths

The Blue Lagoon is a luxurious retreat and something very special for mom and dad but after you have spent a day relaxing at Iceland’s most famous lagoon, make it a family trip by going to a local city thermal bath with the kids. 

My favorite is the one by the sea in Reykjavik. When I was there, local and tourist families were grilling dinner on the barbeque, parents were relaxing in the hot baths and kids were running around and playing on the sand in the warm sea (it’s the run off from the thermal bath)- even though it was cloudy and cold outside! 

I can’t give specific directions to here but if you ask around to locals for where the Thermal Baths are by the beach and sea in Reykjavik, they should be able to point you in the right direction. It is about a 15 minute walk from Bus Hostel and SADCars Rental car.

 

A few tips to make your family vacation more enjoyable:

The weather varies in Iceland from windy to chilly to downright rainy and cold. Be sure to bring breatheable, layering pieces that dry quickly if wet and can be shed as the day heats up. I personally love LL Bean Kids because of their 100% Guarantee, if your kids are tougher than their gear just bring it back and get a new one at anytime- my mom LOVED this policy for us when we were little. 

Rain gear is a MUST. For little ones I recommend a full plastic rain suit, ponchos or a long rain jacket for adults (make sure it will cover your thighs as you are walking up volcanos or through lava fields in the rain) and a travel umbrella to throw in your purse for days spent exploring the city. 

Bring two pairs of outdoor shoes for the kids on every expedition. One pair of high-top hiking boots to keep out loose gravel on more intense hikes and a pair of sneakers that you know you kids feel comfortable in to change into as soon as you're off the volcano or out of the wet area. Most likely your tour guide will carry a backpack that you will be able to stash things in so you and your family can explore hassel-free but ask first.

Keep an extra pair of clothes and shoes in your rental car. Iceland is best explored by car so you will be spending a good amount of time traveling in your car or in the car of the tour company you are with- take advantage of this by stashing a small bag of extra clothes and an extra pair of comfy shoes for you (the kids shoes should be in your guide's backpack.) These will come in handy if you get soaked one of the waterfalls (like we did!) and it's nice to change out of hiking boots and into sneakers when you can. We toured with Jon from South Iceland Adventures for two days and just left our bag in his car overnight, I would assume whatever tour company you are with will let you do the same. 

24-hour daylight is hard on kid's sleeping patterns. At least a week before your tip to Iceland, start your kids on sleeping with eye masks. It feels weird and they will rip them off at first but after a few nights, the masks should stay on tight. Make it special by ordering a fun mask online like this Zombie sleeping mask or a matching Kitty night dress and mask here. 

Iceland's history is as fun as a fairytale. Look for kids books on vikings, volcanos, puffins and whales and read them together in preparation for your trip so the little one's have things to engage their imagination and look forward to on your vacation. Here's a good kid's adventure book to start with. 

Food in Iceland is mostly fish and meat-based and not exactly picky-eater or kid-friendly. However, in a pinch most petrol stations sell hot dogs and most restaurants can make kid-friendly fair if you ask. I am vegetarian and even though most of the time there was nothing veg on the menu, they were able to whip me up something wonderful at every place we ate. 

 

Iceland surprised me with how kid-friendly and family oriented the culture is and I'm sure you and your family will fall in love with it as much as I have.  

If you would like to read about the rest of my week-long Volcano Hopping adventure in Iceland, have a look here and to see my Photo Gallery on Iceland, have a look here.

Thanks and Happy Travels!

 

Travel tip shared by LindsayMC for Travel Dudes.

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Best Hikes in Yosemite National Park, California

Existing as one of the most iconic national parks in the USA, Yosemite is home to some of the best trails in the park system.

Featuring stunning meadows, lakes, waterfalls and granite cliffs; many of the park's most beautiful landscapes are only accessible by lacing up one's hiking boots and hitting the trails. From hiking bucket list worthy Half Dome to scrambling up Clouds Rest Trail, the hikes here offer something for everyone and are one of the best ways to discover the area.

Keep in mind that Yosemite is also one of the more central national parks in California, and makes for an essential addition to any California National Park Road Trip Itinerary

Ranging from easy to hard, and day hikes to backpacking, here are 10 of the best trails found in Yosemite National Park...

 

Top Hikes in Yosemite National Park

1. Vernal and Nevada Falls

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 8.8 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 2,191 Feet

TYPE: Loop

Beginning at Happy Trailhead near shuttle stop #16, hike by two gorgeous and famous falls located within Yosemite Valley. This hike starts off with a stroll along the river, followed by a steep incline until reaching the foot of the bridge. Hikers will pass by a closer look of Vernal Falls, then Emerald Pools and hike alongside Nevada Falls to the hike’s highest point. Head down the John Muir Trail in the summer for more views of Nevada Falls, as well as Liberty Cap, before reaching the original footbridge again. Portions of the JMT are closed in the winter, so head back down the same trail to the trailhead during this time of year.

 

2. Half Dome Trail

LEVEL: Hard 

DISTANCE: 14.8 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 5,164 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

Undoubtedly the most popular hike in Yosemite Valley, visitors come from far and wide for the opportunity to summit Half Dome. This endurance hike can take anywhere between 10 to 12 hours, meaning hikers should be in the best shape before attempting. The cables usually go up starting towards the end of May and a permit is required for the trail during this time. Most start at sunrise and decide on a turn around time if summitting does not seem doable by sunset. The last 400 feet are the hardest once reaching Half Dome, but the hike down is a breeze. Hikers usually opt to take the Mist Trail back down, which is the original way up, though the John Muir Trail is also an option and provides a change of scenery. For Half Dome Permits visit the National Park Service website (recreation.gov) or call the Yosemite Park Ranger Station.

 

3. Upper Yosemite Falls Trail

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 7.2 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 3,175 Miles

TYPE: Out and Back

One of the most visited falls in the park, as well as the tallest waterfall in North America, Yosemite Falls offers hikers an easier lower falls trail or the more challenging upper falls trail. Consisting of three sections, visiting Upper Yosemite Falls takes hikers about six to eight hours roundtrip. The trail is 3 miles one way starting at Camp 4 and once at the top, there’s a platform to admire the valley floor nearly 2,500 feet below. Although not as popular as the lower falls, this hike will prove to be quite satisfying once the summit is reached.

 

4. Lower Yosemite Falls Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 1.0 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 52 Feet

TYPE: Loop

Just a quick stroll up to the the falls, the Lower Yosemite Falls is one of the most popular trails in the park due to its short distance and accessibility. Kid friendly and wheelchair accessible for the first half of the loop, the trail is open year round, but can be icy in the winter — proceed with caution. Spring is the best time for viewing as the waterfall is often dry from late July through October. 

 

5. Four Mile Trail

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 9.2 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 3,612 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

Traveling 3,200 feet down to Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point, this trail features views of famous sites along the way including Half Dome, North Dome, El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, and full views of Yosemite Falls. The relentless switchbacks are not for the faint of heart - hikers can also choose to hike one direction as long as transportation is secured when reaching the end of the trail. Note that winter closures are generally in effect from November to late May or early June, so plan to hike both directions during this time of year.

 

6. Glacier Point Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 0.6 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 236 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

One of the park’s iconic destinations, visitors must park and walk a little over a half mile to the final destination. Once at Glacier Point, a picturesque 270-degree view of the valley, as well as Half Dome and three of Yosemite’s famous falls are on full display. Not much of a hike, but rather a stroll, this is a must see sight. In the winter, the road to Glacier Point is closed from November to late May or early June, but cross country skiing and snowshoeing are both welcome to access Glacier Point. Strap on a pair of either and opt to spend the night at Glacier Point Ski Hut where there are bunk beds and various amenities. A reservation is required for this accommodation.

 

7. Clouds Rest Trail

LEVEL: Hard

DISTANCE: 12.3 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 3,113 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

A heavily trafficked trail found northeast of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, this is one of the best places to enjoy the view of the famous half mountain. This granite formation requires scrambling up a narrow edge with sheer drop-offs in order to arrive at the top, which is not for the faint of heart. Hikers will pass through flat trails, switchbacks, beautiful woods, a stunning lake and of course, the daring scrambling at the end. Once done, be sure to head back the same way to the trailhead.

 

8. Sentinel Dome Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 2.1 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 456 Feet

TYPE: Out and Back

Home to beautiful wildflowers in the Spring, April through November is the best time to experience this trail and provides much worth for little work compared to many of the other trails in the park. Made famous by Ansel Adams in 1940, this trail is easy enough for most hikers. After  crossing over a stream, the hike begins on a gradual slope until reaching the summit of the dome featuring 360 degree views of the valley below. Along the way, hikers will pass by views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Nevada Falls, Half Dome, Clouds Rest, as well as endless views of the gorgeous high sierras.

 

9. Mirror Lake

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 5.6 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 334 Feet

TYPE: Loop

Perfect for nearly any skill level, this longer hike offers stunning views on an almost entirely flat trail. An easy loop around Yosemite, this trail makes it way around Mirror Lake, which is famous for its nearly crystal clear reflection of neighboring Half Dome. Surrounded by mounds of snow in the winter or colorful wildflowers in the summer, this trail is well marked and less crowded than others found in the area. Take the free park shuttle to the far east end of the valley for the trailhead, or park your car at the Ahwahnee Hotel.

 

10. Bridalveil Fall Trail

LEVEL: Easy

DISTANCE: 1.0 Miles

ELEVATION GAIN: 52 Feet

TYPE: Loop

One of the first falls upon passing through Tunnel View, standing at 620 feet tall, this short walk is a great opportunity to stretch those tired legs after a long drive up the mountain. Although much shorter than its neighbor across the way, Yosemite Falls, the mist created here is what makes it unique. When the wind blows, it appears as though a veil worn by a bride. Like most falls in the sierras, this one is best seen in the spring, but more often than not, there is water on it during the winter months as well, just not as much as other times of the year. Although the path is in fact paved, it's not wheelchair accessible due to the slight slope, but it is family friendly.

 

Yosemite Hiking Tips

Note that Yosemite is a park that does in fact receive a heavy amount of snow in the winter months.

Many roads are closed to trails at higher elevations or are only accessible by snowshoe and cross country skiing. For those still accessible, trails are slick and should be used with caution.

And year-round, all trails should always be trekked with enough water and food in case of an emergency. Although Yosemite Valley may feel very safe due to its high visitor attendance, accidents do in fact happen and hikers should be prepared for any scenario. And of course, always stay on the trail and pack everything you bring in, back out.

Remember to leave it better than you found it for future generations!

Top Reasons to Visit Romania

Romania is a country in the southeast part of Europe. This country boasts unique history, spectacular nature, surprising architecture, charming cities and castles, etc.

if you are planning to go on a vacation, but you still don’t know which destination to choose, why not consider visiting Romania? You can even explore Romania using a yacht at the French Riviera.

Here are some of the fantastic reasons why you should visit Romania

It is affordable

Although Romania is part of the European Union, it is a budget-friendly destination since your foreign money can come in handy. Prices for hotels and food are low compared to Western Europe. Some cafes and restaurants that are near tourist attractions may be a bit expensive, but they are still affordable.     Moreover, the admission fees for castles or museums are reasonable as well as transportation.

 

The people are friendly

No matter how amazing a country is, its people can make a huge difference. Romania is one the countries in Europe which is famous for hospitality and friendliness. Another good thing about Romania is that you can find people speaking English in some parts of the country. The younger people will gladly show you directions or give you advice when needed. 

 

The Danube Delta

River Danube is the second-largest river in Europe and it marks the southern border of the country before emptying into the Black Sea. It is a mark of natural beauty being a vast protected land. This river is ideal for bird watching, fishing, hiking, and boating.

If you are a nature enthusiast, then this is a must-visit destination for you. The Danube Delta is also the best and the largest preserved delta in Europe, hosting over 350 species of birds living in its marshes and lakes. It is a biosphere reserve habitat as well.

 

The Painted Monasteries of Moldova

Romania is home to one of the most picturesque places in Europe. The eight monasteries comprise of churches that date back to 13th to 16th C. Some of these monasteries serve as burial places for noble families. They are unique and well preserved.

 

Historic restaurants and delicious food

Romania is a country full of food, and the people there love food. In every corner of Romania, you will find friendly faces happy to serve you some delicious food. It’s typical soup “ciorba” is unique as well as some other dishes such as “sarmale”.

Apart from the unique and tasty food, Romania is home to very old restaurants with incredible interiors, painted ceilings, and ornate wood. The popular ones are located in Bucharest’s historic center. They include Casa Doina, Crama Domneascâ, Caru’ cu Bere, etc.

 

Breathtaking castles [including Dracula]

Romania has plenty of breathtaking landscapes and castles hidden on rocky hilltops. One of the castles includes the Bran Castle. It has a spurious connection to Stoker’s narrative. Other unique castles include Peleș castle and 14-century Corvin Castle.

The Maramureș Castle boasts towns and villages that resemble those of the Middle Ages that had the hay racks, horse carts, and wooden churches. Romania has a rich medieval history with beautiful castles.

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Top Things To Do In Crete

Crete is a wonderful place for a holiday as it has something for everyone. Crete is home to lots of Greece's cultural heritage. It's also a picturesque place that's ideal for those who like to explore.

Don't visit a naturally beautiful place like Crete without checking out everything nature has to offer.

 

1. Visit Balos Beach and Lagoon

Visiting Balos Beach and Lagoon is the first of our 10 things to do in Crete. An off road drive, which is part of the adventure, takes you to incredibly picturesque world-class beach where amazing, calm, shallow and warm water greets you.

 

2. Samaria Gorge National Park

Our second suggestion is to take in Samaria Gorge National Park. Gorgeous views, clear water and a challenging hike await you there. Safari Club Crete offer nature but with a little more excitement thrown in. You'll see wild goat herds while you travel in the mountains with a knowledgeable driver who will be more than happy to explain the Cretan way of life while giving you insights into the land.

 

3. Boat tour

While you're in Crete you should take at least one boat tour. There are loads to choose from including day cruises that take you around the island, sailing trips that take you on swimming excursions to otherwise impossible to reach places.

 

4. Semi-submarine

Go on the fantastic semi-submarine that offers tourists a chance to glimpse life under the sea.

 

5. Black Rose Pirate Boat

Augment whichever one of those you chose with a trip on the Black Rose Pirate Boat. Seeing the island from a boat decked out like a pirate's ship complete with crow's nests and a jolly roger is something that people of all ages will get a kick out of.

 

6. Sea Shark Glass Bottom Boat

The Sea Shark glass bottom boat is the 6th thing we're suggesting to do in Crete but it's quite possibly the best activity on our list. The boat itself is modern, comfortable and new so it's a great place to spend a few hours but the best feature is of course its glass bottom that will allow you to take some of the holiday's most remarkable images.

 

7. Scuba dive or snorkel

Scuba and snorkelling adventure trips are another attraction in Crete that shouldn't be missed. There's nothing quite like getting up close and personal with nature while on holiday.

 

8. Palace of Knossos

You can't visit Crete without taking a trip the The Palace of Knossos. This is quite possibly the most important archaeological site in Crete. This place was the cultural and political centre for the Minoan civilisation that populated the island between 2600 to 1400 BC. The site offers a collection of original and reconstructed architecture which combine to give you clear picture of life back in those days.

 

9. Anciient Aptera

Ancient Aptera is another important historical site. At least 4 civilisations have built on the site so you'll see a mixture of Doric temples and Roman baths along with an ancient theatre that will take your breath away.

 

10. Cycling

If you're interested in activity holidays, get in touch with Cycling Creta. Your trip can be as energetic as you like though because your guide will ride at your pace. Whatever you choose to do make sure you take plenty of photos!

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Vietnam Lunar New Year – 10 Things To Do and Don’t

For many of us younger Vietnamese, Tet always had been something very important to our families, to our culture and to our people.

However, we often don’t understand certain things that the older folks in the family usually say and do during these 3 important days of the Lunar New Year.

Just like many of the young Vietnamese living overseas, I have been through the age of wondering and struggling to find out the real stories and reasons behind each activity and behavior that the Vietnamese people do for Tet.

You may not agree with some of the believes and traditions that I’m going to list below, but reading this list will save you a lot of headache and hopefully will help you in starting to appreciate the beauty of our Vietnamese culture and traditions:

 

The 10 Do’s:

1. Say “Happy New Year” in any language that you can when you see a Vietnamese or an Asian person. In Vietnamese, it is “Chuc Mung Nam Moi,” with a big smile!

2. Give red envelopes (Li Xi), though in the old days, only married people were supposed to do this task in the new year because married people were believed to be more successful than single individuals. However, nowadays, giving away Li Xi is an act of showing your generosity and wishing the recipients luck throughout the year. Who doesn’t like getting money from those red envelopes? Because, I DO!

3. Smile, laugh often, and be energetic. Just don’t overdo the smiling and laughing because people may misjudge you as someone recently discharged from an asylum or someone on dope. Nevertheless, seeing someone with a smile on his/her face will brighten the mood of anybody on any day, so definitely do this!

4. Offer others something sweet such as candies or “mut Tet”. People believe that sweet things will bring sweetness for the rest of the year.

5. Offer the elderly a warm cup of tea if they have lost all their teeth or have diabetes. A warm cup of tea is believed to deliver happiness, warmth, and the flavorful sweet taste to the person. Vietnamese families usually gather around during Tet to just drink tea. The tea might not be warm, but love of family is surely warm.

6. Visit all your relatives. This is your golden excuse to visit your relatives and catch up with them. This is my golden excuse to meet the rest of my crowded family members to make sure that that cute chick I’m dating doesn’t happen to be my 5th cousin. (J/K!)

7. Give anything related to number 6 or 8. This is because our culture has been tied with some aspects of Chinese culture. Number 6 in Cantonese sounds like the word “Loc” in Vietnamese, which means Luck. Number 8 in Cantonese sounds like the word “Phat” in Vietnamese, which means Prosperity. I personally don’t believe in these, but I will do anything to make people happy. So, giving $6 or $8 for Li Xi would beat the $10. In the end, I save $2 to $4 for each Li Xi and still make others happy. Nice trick huh?

8. Give anything red in color, such as watermelon, li xi, dried fruits in a red box (mut Tet), etc. The color red is associated with Luckyand High Class rankings in Asian culture, especially the ones that are heavily influenced by Chinese culture. In addition, the color red brings warm feelings or hotness, like fire. So in short, red brings luck and warmth to the family.

9.  Wear new, colorful, beautiful clothes with light colors. Put those wrinkled, stinky clothes in the washer already!

10. Give the following package of fruits: custard apple, coconut, papaya, and mango. In Vietnamese, the fruits, respectively: Mang Cau, Dua, Du Du, Xo In the Vietnamese Southern accent, the fruits will be pronounced as “Cau Dua Du Xai”, which means “wishing you having enough money to spend”.

However, if you read number 4 on the 10 Dont’s List below, you will see that people usually take out the custard apple from the package due to the difficulty of finding it during Tet and the belief that 4 is a bad number. You will often see the package contains only coconut, papaya, and mango, which gives you the combination of “Dua Du Xai”, the truncated version with the meaning of “Enough Money to Spend”.

 

The 10 Dont’s:

1. Don’t show up at somebody’s house on the 1st day unless you have been invited by the house owner first. Otherwise, go on the 2nd day or at a later time. People believe that the first person who shows up at their house will bring to the family all the characteristics of that person. If a person is a successful person, the family will be successful. If the person has been unlucky last year, the family will be in bad luck all this new year.

So it is best for you to stay home until someone has invited you over. It’s their signal of telling you that either someone already has entered their house for this year or they personally like your characteristics to have you over and bring them luck. Believe it or not, I don’t think all this luck stuff is true, but I recommend you to listen to this advice to avoid being unreasonably blamed.

2. Don’t wear dark clothing or just black and white. Dark, black, and white clothing is believed to be associated with death and funerals. By the way, wear something nice and lively–it’s New Year!

3. Don’t swear, curse, trash talk, or argue. Any of these is already bad for any time of the year, not alone the New Year…

4. Don’t give presents with unlucky signs. For example: Any foods with squid or duck meat and number 4 and 7.

Squid produces black liquid, which is considered to be dirty and harmful, though the squid itself tastes super good! Ducks are believed to be stupid and their meat is dark (at least darker than chicken meat).

Number 4 is pronounced as “Tu” in the old Vietnamese language system which sounds almost like “Tu”, which means Die or Death in the old Vietnamese language that is heavily influenced by the Chinese language. Most people have mistaken the fact of number 7 being a lucky number. However, in old Vietnamese language, 7 is pronounced as “That”, which is the same spelling and same sound as the word “Lost” or “Missing” in old Vietnamese language. So in Vietnamese, number 7 is actually very bad! Not as lucky as you thought.

Oh yeah, and if you are in Vietnam, don’t eat or give dog meat during New Year. I’ll tell you the reason in person.

5. Don’t talk about negative topics such as accidents, deaths, or funerals. Who likes to talk about these things anyway?

6. Don’t ask someone to repay you a debt or loan. Wait until the next 2-3 weeks. People believe that if they have to repay or borrow money at the beginning of the year, they will have to borrow and repay money for the rest of the year. Best time of the year to dodge your debt, eh?

7. Don’t ask for “Li Xi” if it was not given. This is considered equivalent to asking the person to pay their debt. In my personal opinion, this has more to do with courtesy and politeness.

8. Don’t visit anyone’s house for the first 3 days of the lunar calendar if you have funeral in your immediate family in the last 3 years. Vietnamese people believe that the dead person in the family will not go to Hell within the first 3 years of his or her death.

Their spirit will follow the family members for 3 years before they either get tired from it or witness the fact that the family has gotten over the fact of their death. People don’t want spirits to go into their house during New Year because gods, goddesses, and Buddhas are partying it up during this time and paying less attention in guarding the house of the owners from ghosts and spirits.

So, sit home with your beloved spirit; people will come to your house to share your sadness if they are considerate. You do not want to take any stupid blame if some family sheds some blood for something that is totally unrelated to you.

9. Don’t take or ask to take things that are related to fire out of somebody’s house such as: lighters, matches, coals, fire fluid, gas, etc. Fire is considered to be the source of the warmth of the family, the desire of couple’s love. It is believed that families with fire taken away will have problems within the family. Firefighters should take 3 vacation days during Tet if their station happens to be within the Asian neighborhood.

10. Don’t take or ask to take things that are related to water out of somebody’s house such as: bottles of water, water containers, water dispensers, drinking cups, glasses, etc. People usually wish each other “Tai Loc Nhu Nuoc” or “Money and success coming in like water”.

So, taking water out of somebody’s house is equivalent to taking away their wealth. If you are thirsty, drink the water inside the house, don’t take the bottle home or you will see the owner coming to your house to take back their waterbottle with an angry face.

 

Lastly, I wish all the readers and travelers a happy new year, a successful 12 months, an amazing 365 days, and a wonderful 8,760 hours with your loved ones!

Chuc Mung Nam Moi!

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Plantation Bay Resort & Spa in Cebu Philippines

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Accommodations

Plantation Bay Resort and Spa in Cebu Philippines is one of the countries top resorts and one of the largest privately owned waterways in the world.

In this video I spend Christmas at this resort.

 

If you are looking for a accommodation in Cebu for Christmas, Plantation Bay Resort and Spa is one of the top resorts in the Philippines.

Located in Mactan Island, the resort offers lots of activities for the whole family over the Christmas holidays.

In the video I show the resort's restaurants, the lagoons and how to get there. When I stayed at Plantation Bay Resort I slept in the Water's Edge Room that has direct access to the lagoons. One of the best rooms you can stay in the resort.

My other video has the Lagoon side room. This is a great room for a romantic stay!

For Christmas they had a special Christmas Eve Buffet complete with music, singing, dancing and fireworks. It was a fantastic way to spend Christmas in the Philippines.

When I book, I look at room prices for Plantation Bay Resort Cebu on the resort's own website.

For more travel vlogs around Cebu and the Philippines please subscribe.

*All rates and conditions subject to change. Please check directly with the resort for latest info and rates.

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10° 15' 40.2156" N, 123° 58' 57.558" E
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Tips and Highlights for Visiting Zurich

Switzerland is one of those places people know from photos or postcards, but have rarely had the chance to visit.

With the allure of the Swiss Alps, towns like Lucerne and Zermatt, as well as the chocolate and the cheese, there is so much to visit in this country, it is often hard to choose!

No matter where you decide to spend your time in Switzerland, one place you will often end up is Zurich. And although most people are in a rush to leave this bustling financial metropolis, there is actually a lot to see and do. And often you can do it all in one day. The city is so compact and easy to navigate on foot.

So, if you decide to spend a day or two in Zurich...

 

Here are some of the highlights you absolutely should not miss in Zurich:

ETH & The Polybahn

The ETH is not only one of the best universities in Switzerland but it is also an amazing place to get a great view over the city of Zurich. So, I recommend you come here straight away to get a fantastic overview of the city before you start exploring things further.

The ETH is reached either by foot about 10-15 minutes uphill from the Central tram station, or via the famous Polybahn cog railway from next door to Starbucks. That means you can also stop off for a coffee before you head up on the train.

The cog railway is part of the Zurich train network, so if you buy a day card for public transport, this will also be included.

Once you arrive at the top, it is just a short walk to the ETH Polyterrasse where you can see the whole of Zurich spread out before you. This means it is also a great spot for sunset, and the great news is you can grab a drink from the student bar just below the terrace to make that susnet all the better!

 

Niederdorfstrasse

Niederdorfstrasse is the main street running through the old town of Zurich and as luck would have it, it starts right next to the Polybahn train station. As such, it is a great follow on from your ride up to the ETH.

The street winds its way through the East side of the old town, connecting to another street further own after the Grossmunster church. This actually takes you all the way to Bellevue and the Lake of Zurich, so it might take you a few hours to explore.

There are cozy side streets, small shops, cafes and bars, as well as a huge range of restaurants along here. One of which is popular with tourists as it allows you to have a Swiss cheese fondue while soaking up the atmosphere of the street. Great on a balmy summer’s night, or even on a cool winter evening when cheese fondue is really at its best!

 

Grossmunster

No visit to the old town of Zurich is complete without popping in to the Grossmunster. Not only is it the most iconic, and standout building along the river running through Zurich. But the stain glass windows inside are said to be some of the best in Switzerland, if not Europe.

There is also the opportunity to climb one of the towers and get yet another stunning view of Zurich, only this time from a different perspective. If you missed the ETH and Polyterrace, then this is an absolute must! And at only 5 Swiss francs, it is one of the cheapest attractions you will find in Switzerland!

 

Lake Zurich

Once you reach the end of the old town of Zurich, you arrive at the grandiose and scenic shores of Lake Zurich. Here you have a few options, depending on the weather and amount of time you have available.

You can take a stroll along the shores in either direction. Zurich has kept quite a lot of the cityside lakeshore available to the public. This includes walkways, public parks and benches where you can take 15 minutes to soak up the lake views, which stretch all the way to the Alps in the distance.

There is also the opportunity to go for a swim in the lake in summer. You can jump in from the park itself around Bade Enge, or you can pay to enter the swimming baths themselves. They also become a bar at night, and sometimes have entertainment.

On both sides there are also paddle boats available for rent, so if swimming is not your thing, or it’s not warm enough, you can still enjoy the water directly! And for the more adventurous, there are also stand up paddle board rentals at various points along the lake which is a once in a lifetime experience.

 

Bahnhofstrasse

Zurich is famous for the boatloads of money that are stashed in the vaults of the many banks that call this city home. And Bahnhofstrasse is where all the bankers who work there come to shop and hang out.

So, if you want to get a feeling of how it is to be rich, and even a little famous, this is the street to stroll along. Starting at the lake end of the street, you will pass the likes of Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Cartier, Omega watches, and a whole lot more.

As you reach the midway point along the street, the price of the goods in the shops starts to enter the “normal” realm. It is here that you may want to pop into some of the more run of the mill stores like H&M, Zara, WE and other brands you might already be familiar with.

Another great thing about Bahnhofstrasse is that one side of it is also the second half of the old town of Zurich. So, if you head off the main street a little you will also find even more alleyways and hidden treasures to explore.

Some of my favorite spots include:

Lindenplatz which is a spot high above the Limmat River where you can come to relax, or take one of the best photos in Zurich. It includes a view over the city and of the iconic Grossmunster you hopefully visited earlier!

St Peter’s Church is tucked away in this area, right along the river, and has the largest clockface in Europe. If you are lucky enough to hear the bells ring, you will see how impressive they are too.

 

Chocolate Exploration

Of course you came to Switzerland to sample the chocolate, so let me give you a few tips and how to find the “good stuff” while exploring Zurich.

My absolute favorite is Laderach, and they are very easy to find these days. They seem to have more and more shops around Zurich, so you certainly can’t miss them. From their main shop on the Bahnhofstrasse, to their smaller shop under the train station.

Sprungli is another absolute treasure and also scattered in various corners of Zurich. One of the biggest shops is on Paradeplatz, halfway along Bahnhofstrasse, where they also have a cafe. They are well known for their chocolates and cakes, but their most renowned item is the Luxemburgerli, which is actually a macaroon. Grab a small box of mixed Luxemburgerli, you won’t regret it.

If you want to sample some more niche chocolatiers instead, then you also have a few options. There is the Max Chocolatier near the Frauenmuster church, the Confiserie Teuscher also near the St Peter’s church and last but not least - Say Chocolate in the Europaallee, not far from the Sihlpost near the main train station.

 

Outdoor Activities

It may seem like Zurich is all about shopping, eating and relaxing, but there are actually a huge range of outdoor activities to do here. The forest is only a stone’s throw away from the city, on almost all sides, and there is a lake right in the middle of the city. And on top of that, Switzerland is definitely not flat!

The home mountain of Zurich is the Uetliberg, which is a 15 minute train ride from downtown. You can ride the train to the top and go for a walk along the ridge trail, as well as take in the stunning lake views while you are there. Or, you can hike all the way to the top from Triemli tram stop, which is again around 15-20 minutes from downtown.

The same goes on the other side of the lake where you have both the Zuriberg and Pfannensteil, great places to lose yourself in the forest for hours. Of course, you can never really get lost in Switzerland because the next town, road, train or bus is usually just around the corner.

And for those wanting to get in a little skiing while in town, that is also very easy to do. The closest resorts are either Flumserberg and Hoch-Ybrig, both around 45 minutes train ride from downtown. So, if you are here in the winter months of January or February, there is sure to be some great skiing to be had, even if you only have a few days in Zurich!

Of course, there are far more outdoor activities to enjoy if you venture even further afield, but that is for another time.

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The Best Places To Go Hiking In The UK

The UK features a lot of amazing places to go hiking, so picking just 4 places is tricky. I’ve tried to include something for everyone, from stunning strolls through the countryside, to nail-biting scrambles over ridges with steep drops either side.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

The Best Places To Go Hiking In The UK

Snowdonia, North Wales

Snowdonia features the second highest mountain in the UK, Snowdon standing at an elevation of 1,085m. Though there are lots of walks to do in Snowdonia, Snowdon is by far the most popular and not just because it’s the second highest mountain, it provides amazing views for miles. If you are considering tackling Snowdon, you’ll be glad to know there are several routes to the top of varying difficulties. The easiest being the Llanberis Path and the most difficult being Crib Goch. Though be warned the Llanberis Path is still not easy, at around 9 miles and taking between 4 and 6 hours.

Other great walks in Snowdonia you should check out are Llyn Ogwen circular walk, Tryfan and Rhosgadfan.

 

Isle of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye is located off the north west of Scotland, though there is a bridge so you can still drive over. The landscape on Skye is very rugged and untouched due to its remoteness. Due to its unique landscape, you’re likely to have seen Skye featured in a film you’ve watched such as The BFG, The Wickerman and Macbeth.

You’ll definitely want to check out The Old Man of Storr, an iconic rocky walk which features large sharp rocks emerging from the grassy slope. Although the walk only takes 1-2 hours, a good level of fitness is required.

Other areas you’ll want to visit include Fairy Pools, The Quiraing and Neist Point.

 

Lake District, Cumbria

Located in the North West of England, the Lake District is home to many bodies of water (16 in total!). The most famous being Lake Windermere, the largest in England measuring 5.69 sq miles. All of the bodies of water have scenic walks for you to explore, it’s just a matter of picking which one!

If you’re looking for a challenge, why not try and tackle one of the largest mountains in England, Scafell Pike, at a height of 978 meters. For those without a fear of heights, you’ll want to head to Helvellyn and take the route up via Striding Edge, this ridge walk will get anyone’s adrenaline pumping.

 

Peak District, Derbyshire

The Peak District is located to the centre of England so is easily accessible for people travelling from all directions, making it a popular spot for hiking in the UK. It hosts beautiful scenery in every direction, from moors as far as the eye can see to springs of water and caverns to explore.

Some the best walks to look at doing include Kinder Scout, a 14km circular walk that climbs Jacob’s Ladder, crosses Kinder Plateau and then down Grindsbrook Clough. Something a little shorter, Mam Tor at 8km is an easier walk but still provides amazing views of Edale Valley.

 

Whichever of the places for hiking in the UK you choose to visit for your next hiking adventure, you’re sure to have a great time. Make sure to check weather conditions before heading out as some walks mentioned can become extremely difficult if you’re not prepared.

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Gear Guide: Must Haves for Camping and Hiking

When the summer months come around, campers start gettting excited to carry on with their long-awaited hiking trips. Of course, every trip would be incomplete without a great selection of high-quality essential gear. Forget the cool gadgets for camping, these are the essentials, the must haves for camping and hiking.

Packing for a camping trip also depends on what kind of trip you have in mind. If you’re driving to another city or planning small day hikes from a populated town, you can carry a big stove. If you’re hiking more than 30 miles, you would prefer taking along a more portable stove that is both lightweight and easy to use.

The most suitable gear for both hiking and camping depends on weight and ease of packing. So make sure you do your homework when buying the right equipment for your perfect getaway trip. Whether you’re a beginner to hiking or a pro, we’ve got you covered.

Must Have for Camping

Tents

Tents for overnight hiking or camping are available in a variety of sizes and prices. If you want to travel long distances and prefer carrying lightweight stuff, then you should look for a swag, bedroll or a portable, lightweight, waterproof bivy sack. Bedrolls and bivy sacks are robust, shapeless and waterproof bags that can readily convert into sleeping bags and are easy to set up almost anywhere. These bags help you keep off from the ground, and those with mosquitos nets are definitely a blessing.

Search Amazon for available tents.

 

Clothing

Comfortable, weatherproof clothing is a must for your camping trip. Water resistant pants, shorts and shoes manufactured with breathable material makes climbing and trekking a lot easier. A rain jacket may also come handy in unpredictable weather. To dry yourself clean use a microfiber towel as it absorbs moisture and dries rapidly.

 

Solar Chargers

With the help of a portable solar charger, you don’t have to miss any Facebook post or email notification anymore just because your phone battery is dead. Invest in a long-lasting and durable charger that can accompany you throughout your trip.

 

Backpacks

Backpacks help you differentiate between a camping trip and a hiking trip. If you’re camping, you don’t really need a backpack, but it is a must-have if you’re planning to go on small hikes.

Backpacks fall into various categories, including day backpacks (read our list of top functional and stylish daypacks), overnights, and long trips. Make sure to purchase a backpack that fits you perfectly. If it doesn’t, you might end up with blisters and backache during the journey.

 

A First Aid Kit

Carrying a first aid kit along with you on your trip shouldn’t come off as a surprise. Stack your box with the usual aspirin, bandages, gauze, and painkillers. It’s better to do some research too before heading out. Include some camping essentials like bug sprays, Aloe Vera and moleskin for blisters and burns.

This ready-made first aid kit is ideal for camping and hiking as it is compact, organised, water-resistant, lightweight and includes over 100 items.

 

Must Have For Hikers

Hiking is comparatively riskier than camping. To have a good time you can ask a friend to accompany you on your trip.

Sightseeing Binoculars

If you have a little extra cash on your hand to spend, make sure to invest in a good pair of binoculars. You could even purchase digital binoculars that will automatically record everything you see. Sony recently launched DEV Digital Recording binoculars that work in high resolution even under water. So the next time you go back home from your hiking trip, you can boastfully tell tales of you spotting deadly crocodiles under water.

 

GPS

One of the major problems that could hinder your hiking is mediocre phone connectivity. This is a considerable risk, especially if you are heavily relying on internet and GPS connection. For long-haul hiking trips purchase software rather than your phone’s inbuilt GPS. Most smartphones have miserable battery life and are not compatible with hiking trips. A durable, long-lasting GPS unit has comprehensive geographic maps that also serve as compasses.

Garmin has a range of great handheld GPS's that are great for hiking, compare their options here.

 

Hiking Boots

What shoes you carry along, depends on the type of trip you’re planning to go for. Regular sneakers are just fine, but if your trip is long and requires a lot of climbing and trekking then you might want to pack high-performance hiking boots that provide support, protection, balance your movements, and rigidity while running and climbing.

Boots inevitably make a lot of noise, but they are definitely sturdier than sneakers. They are perfect for people who like getting their shoes dirty in the mud. While planning a hiking trip you specifically want to invest in trail runners, hiking boots and approach shoes. Trail runners are lightweight and provide very little ankle stability. They are perfect for jumping and climbing.   

Approach shoes are a combination of hiking boots and trail runners. They are suitable for climbing and have greater a life expectancy. Most people prefer approach shoes, but overall hiking boots do the job perfectly well too.

 

Hydration Material

Whether you’re hiking short distances or long, there is no such thing as enough water. Carry as much water as possible, so you stay hydrated the whole time. But if you’re backpacking, you’ll have a hard time carrying water, and you’ll require a filtration system. Holding bottles in hands while climbing is definitely risky, we suggest you purchase Iodine tablets or a hydration pack that attaches to your backpack (like this one), allowing you free movement.

 

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles, hiking sticks or walking sticks, you name it. Some hikers swear by these useful tools to help them pass through the steep landscape and provide support on rocky terrain. However, these sticks could be painful to pack, and we recommend you keep them home unless you suffer from a bad leg or knee and require support throughout your trip.

 

Paper Maps

Remember you’re out there in the wild, chances are you’ll have zero connectivity. It is reliable to carry paper maps along with you in case your phone GPS gives up on you. You can easily print a map online or purchase it at a minimum cost from the local camping station.

 

These were some of the essentials that you need to carry on every camping or hiking trip with you. They not only come handy but are also lifesaving. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy! 

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