Tourist Attractions Near Las Vegas You Should Not Miss

Las Vegas is known worldwide for its legalized gambling and never-ending partying. However, there is much more to discover about this city. Its natural side and surrounding areas are usually outweighed by the glimmering lights. It has beautiful greenery, ski slopes, unusual hiking grounds and lake activities. Moreover, this is where one of the world’s seven natural wonders can be reached from a mere half hour drive to five hours, depending on mode of transportation.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Nearly four hours northeast of the city is Bryce Canyon, where sightseeing is incomparable with its deep red, tan, golden and white tall rock spires, as well as arches giving a spectacular contrast to the clear blue skies and green forest. Absorb its bewitching rock towers and vistas or go hiking. Try and get a glimpse of a pronghorn antelope, mountain lion or other wildlife varieties. During winter, cross-country skiers also frequent the Bryce Canyon.

Zion National Park

Just a 2-1/2 hour drive from Vegas is one of the world’s most beautiful parks. Zion National Park is rich with remarkable hiking trails, cliffs that stand 3,000 feet tall and colorful sandstone. It boasts of beautiful carvings and the world’s largest sandstone walls.

Lake Mead

Lake Mead is among the largest man-made lakes worldwide. You can reach it in less than an hour, as it is located southeast of the Strip. Enjoy fun activities like swimming, boating, water-skiing, fishing or kayaking in Lake Mead waters, or hike in the surrounding area. It has shaded picnic places, RV camping grounds, hookups and three marinas. Brunch, dinner and sightseeing cruises are for those who love a romantic getaway or partying.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, which is only two hours away from Las Vegas, is comparable to a museum that speaks of geological history, Old West remnants, contemporary exhibits, as well as some plant life. On your way to Death Valley, you could stop at China Ranch, where a working family harvests dates. Another place to visit is the Spanish mission-styled Scotty’s Castle, known for its 1927 Welte theatre organ. The park has its headquarters in Furnace Creek that has a visitor’s center and lots of lodging for those who want to stay longer.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, which is also one of the world’s seven natural wonders, is only around four to five hours away by car from Las Vegas, though you can get there in less than an hour by helicopter or airplane. The most visited part of this place and also the widest, deepest and most accessible is the South rim. In addition to its scenic spots and historic man-made architecture, such as the El Tovar Hotel and Desert View Watchtower, this is where you will find the Visitor’s Center, restaurants, gift shop and lodging. A lot of visitors want to discover the Grand Canyon on their own, but there are many guided tours via airplane, helicopter, bus, jeep and other means of transportation.

Exciting Nights Out in Devon

If you spend your holidays in Dartmoor and Devon, you will have a more memorable experience if you stay at the Devon holiday cottages. The holiday cottages are clean and spacious. They also have self-catering facilities that are perfect for families or groups who spend their holidays in Devon. The holiday cottages are pet-friendly so you can always bring your dog or cat if you go out on a Devon holiday. The popular tourist spots, shopping areas, restaurant districts make the Devon cottages one of the best places to stay as it makes you feel that you are in your home away from home. There are many ways that you can spend your holidays in Dartmoor or Devon. You have the option of spending your nights in many ways, either going to the bars and club or exploring Dartmoor National Park which is popular for its night activities. Here are some places that you can go to during your vacation that will give you different experiences.

Ghost Stories and Paranormal Activities at Dartmoor National Park

England’s South Western Region is known for its historic past and is shrouded with mystery. The Dartmoor National Park is well known for having many mysterious happenings and sightings of many unknown objects as well as paranormal activities. It takes a lot of courage to walk around the park at night and for those who are easily frightened; this is not the place for you. Telling ghost stories give you a chance to bond with family and friends while you are thrilled with the prospect that these stories may really be something you will experience on that particular night. You can opt to just stay behind in your Devon holiday cottages if you feel that you may not be ready to look for ghosts or listen to ghost stories. For those who are interested though, spend an exhilarating night with the possibility of encountering ghosts or other paranormal activities that are popular in the park. At the end of the night, you can always go back and rest in your Devon cottages.

Coast Nightclub

The Coast Nightclub is an elegant entertainment spot that attracts a lot of visitors and local party people. It is located at the Lower Union Road in the popular town of Kingsbridge, which is easily accessible from your Devon holiday cottages. The public transport of Devon can take you to the Coast Nightclub with bus stops and taxi stands near the holiday cottages that allow you to easily take a ride to the nightclub. The Coast is open until the early hours of the morning and it is no problem if you want to party since the Devon cottages are nearby and it is easy to go back at the end of the party.

Costa Rica Vacation Spots: Interesting Places To Visit

The top Costa Rican vacation spots to check out are determined by what it is you want to do on vacation. You can plant yourself in one location for the duration, but most tourists bounce throughout the country to take in the abundant and diverse experiences the country has to offer.

Central Valley

This is where most Costa Rican trips start off. The Central Valley is home to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose, plus the major international flight terminal.

San Jose will probably be your “jump-off” point for the remainder of your trip in Costa Rica. However, consider spending a day or two checking out what San Jose can offer. So far as Costa Rica vacation spots go, there are a large number of museums to check out and parks to unwind in. And that is just the beginning.

Of particular note is the Central Market, or Mercado Central, which is a excellent place to experience the local culture, pick up some mementos, or stockpile some of the local gourmet coffee. There are lots of modest shops for fresh fruits and veggies, various meats, and fish. And don’t forget to stop to get a bite to eat inside the food courts.

If native culture is your thing, also explore the various museums and galleries outside and inside of the city. Shopping is plentiful, and at night, the bars and nightclubs start jumping!

Just outside San Jose, in Heredia, is the Cafe Britt coffee tour. For those who have any affinity for coffee whatsoever, check this out. You are able to tour a real working coffee farm. Coffee is cheap here — I bought 20 bags to take home with me — however it’s much less expensive in the Central Market if one makes it that way.

Northern Zone

There’s plenty to try and do while in the Northern zone. When you’re originating from San Jose, odds are your first vacation destination will be one of the most memorable and amazing – the Arenal volcano. It’s been erupting every day since 1968. The views are beautiful, and if the cloud cover isn’t too bad, you will see red-hot molten lava streaming down the side.

At the foot of Arenal in neighboring La Fortuna are several hot springs where you can relax and bathe in luxurious warmth. Together with Arenal, these hot springs are on the “must do” list. Tabacn is a well known choice, but it’s not the only option. Additionally, there are Bald and Eco Termales. We spent a late, dark romantic evening getting the most excellent neck and shoulder massage by hanging out in a sweltering, pummelling waterfall. Just awesome.

Rounding out the top adventures in the Northern zone is the La Fortuna waterfall. The 200 foot waterfall descends right into a shimmering blue-green swimmin’ hole.

North Pacific coast

Bordering the North Pacific and the Northern zone is the little area of Monteverde. You will want to stop here to take in the remarkable Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve.

Going towards the coastline, the region of Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula of the North Pacific coast is among the most sparsely populated areas in Costa Rica. Nonetheless, tourists flock to these destinations to explore the many beautiful, inviting beaches that pepper the coastline. If you ever planned to learn how to surf, consider taking a few instructional sessions with the local residents to make your dream a reality.

Scuba divers will definitely appreciate the many, readily accessible diving spots. Sea life here is as vibrant as life in the cloud forests.

If you’re basing your trip in this general vicinity, take into consideration traveling by air directly into Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia. The vast majority of North Pacific seacoast is accessible in less than an hour by car or bus.

Central Pacific Coast

The region of Puntarenas and the Central Pacific coastline mixes welcoming exotic beach locations with Costa Rica’s most famous nature preserves.

A couple of hours away from San Jose, the town of Jaco isn’t very big, but is renowned for its black colored sandy beachfront. Get a surfing lesson, or rent out a surfboard or boogie board. (I could never be bothered with standing upright, so a boogie board was more my speed.) You’ll discover a multitude of restaurants available for your dining enjoyment, and the clubs and bars stay open late. Some consider this town a “party beach.”

An hour towards the south is the popular Manuel Antonio National Park. It’s the most popular park in the country. Get there reasonably early; because only so many visitors will be let in at the same time — when the capacity has been reached, you have to wait for people to leave before you can enter.

Manuel Antonio has some of the best trails, excellent beaches for going swimming, plus some of the most diverse wildlife in the country. This helps make it one of those “must-do” vacation spots.

And here is a suggestion: book a tour guide to enhance your expedition. Our guide was pointing out lizards, sloths, and monkeys that were essentially right under our nose. It’s absolutely an amazing park.

South Pacific Coast

National Geographic calls this region the “most biologically intense place on Earth.” Costa Rica’s South Pacific seacoast has the largest percentage of land dedicated to national parks. Access is substantially improved as a result of the completion of a recent freeway project. For anybody who is interested in wildlife, take a visit to Corcovado National Park. Here is where you will see the most types of monkeys, rare wild birds, and even large cats such as jaguars and pumas call this their home. (If you’re lucky, you will find footprints.) Vegetation is more diverse than anywhere else in the country.

The Osa Peninsula is also the place to find impressive deep-sea angling, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Base your stay in Drake Bay and make your way towards Cano Island Biological Reserve for the top snorkeling and scuba diving Costa Rica can offer.

Caribbean Coast

The east coast ended up being where Christopher Columbus arrived and christened the region “Costa Rica”, or rich coast.

Contrasting the Pacific coast, the Caribbean coastline is far less developed and a lot less busy. That makes this one of the more exclusive vacation spots. It has a substantially different atmosphere versus the other parts of the country — think reggae and “rasta” culture and you won’t be too far off.

Puerto Limon is the capital in the region of Limon. It’s the main city on the Caribbean shoreline as well as a port of call for numerous cruise lines. Tortuguero National Park in the northern coast is renowned for its occupants: sea turtles. A number of species (some decreasing in numbers) utilize the pristine beaches as their nesting grounds.

Another key draw to the region (not counting the mile after mile of private beaches) is the Cahuita National Park inside town of Cahuita. With the most significant coral reef in Costa Rica, this park is renowned for its snorkeling and scuba diving prospects.

What Should You Know About South Rim Bus Tours

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, they say. This is particularly true if you think of Las Vegas exclusively as a gaming and partying destination. What you might not know is that you can enjoy a lot of exquisite excursions departing from this tremendous city.

For instance, you can book a Grand Canyon bus tour that departs from Las Vegas every morning. Many tours are designed for one day only and offer you the chance to visit the South Rim, which is part of the Grand Canyon. With South Rim tours, you can see some of the most beautiful landscapes the Canyon has to offer. You will find there are several gift shops and you will get the chance to go on a helicopter ride to the North Rim.

South Rim bus tours are comfortable regardless of your destination. All coaches have entertainment centers and provide you with spacious seating. They also feature restrooms, so stops will only be made for the scheduled sightseeing. A guide will offer you all the information you need and will describe all the visited areas. The tours have lunch included in the price and if you choose some South Rim bus tours that are more expensive, you can enjoy a champagne lunch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Most of the South Rim tours are not very expensive and if you book them online in advance, you can benefit from great prices. As the tours may get filled very quickly, it will sometimes be difficult to find a place the day before the departure. Travel agencies in the city can assist you with booking a seat on a South Rim bus tour, but this may turn out to be more expensive than booking online. Most of the tours are all inclusive, except for the souvenirs that you may want to purchase from the gift shops on the way or on your final destination.

The average price for such a tour is about $80 per person. Tours cover a huge area and the first stop is at the Hoover Dam, where you can take pictures. After that, you will enjoy a three-hour guided tour inside the Grand Canyon National Park. A stop at the Grand Canyon Village is scheduled for the restaurant, museums and souvenir shops.

For a better travel experience, you should take the bus to Hoover Dam and from there take the helicopter for a thirty minute trip over the Canyon. This will be a unique opportunity to take many astonishing pictures. After the air trip, you can still visit all the key points of the Rim for two hours and a half and have lunch there.

Don’t forget that the weather in the South Rim is very different from that of Las Vegas. In wintertime there is snow in the Canyon and in summer, the temperatures are lower than in the city because of the high elevation, so you should pay attention to the attire your choose.

If you wish a customized South Rim bus trip, you can make one according to your needs. Even though it is more expensive, a personalized the trip will offer limited edition services, fewer people on board and premium breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Regardless of the kind of tour you want to book, you will have a wonderful experience and great memories to share with your friends and family.

Travel Advice in The Lake District for Stag Weekends and Hen Parties

Cumbria is a beautiful scenic area of the North West of England and offers stag & hen parties plenty of possibilities. The Lake District is known for its vast amount of lakes and because of these outdoor based activities like gorge walking, canoeing and raft building are in abundance.

Remember though that the Lake District is a very rural national park which unlike other stag & hen do destinations such as Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool has very little public transport options to get around. For hen & stag weekends the best solutions is to car share or hire a mini bus. This will ensure that the whole hen or stag party can easily get to and from the Lake District outdoor activities.

There are many areas in Cumbria which attract hen & stag parties, with Keswick, Windermere & Ambleside being the most popular. The three towns offer some amazing views with the added benefit of bars, pubs, restaurants and other tourist attractions. Beware that in peak season the Lake District is extremely popular with tourists resulting in a lot more traffic on the roads and difficulties in securing accommodation if booked last-minute.

The Lake District is one of the best destinations for a stag & hen weekends, with its abundance of activities, beautiful scenery, quaint shops and local pubs. The main travel tip to give thought to is; choose the date carefully to ensure you avoid the peak visitor times and as such the busy roads and expensive accommodation that they bring.

Before you set off driving to The Lake District prepare your journey with both your sat nav and written notes, as signals on sat nav’s can disappear very quickly and they are notorious for sending you down small country lanes as a ‘quicker’ route, which can be hard to navigate, especially in the dark. Google maps & the AA route planner are both useful tools to help plan your route giving both traffic congestion areas as well as other hot spots.

In addition it is preferable to speak with your accommodation and activity providers beforehand as they will be able to provide you with maps and local knowledge with regards to the best routes to and from their sites.

One final tip is ensure if all else fails you have the telephone numbers (and a fully charged mobile battery!) of your accommodation and activity providers as they will be able to guide you to them.

Organiser of stag weekends, hen nights and team building activities throughout the UK.

Throw a Delightful Jungle Theme Birthday Party!

Children love Jungle themed parties with all the wild animals!

Send Jungle Party Invitations with a Poem:

“Climb though vines and canopies…

With monkeys swinging through the trees

And leopards prowling down below…

And sloths that move so very slow

Join our safari, hop on the bus..

You’ll have fun with all of us!”

Safari Jungle Party Decorations

With safari party outfits

You can have the kids dress up in 1 of 2 ways…

1. Explorers: (if they are able to wear brown/tan clothes everyone will look like a safari “team”), then you can supply the pith helmet and as a craft the children can make old fashioned paper bag vests.

2. Animals: make animal masks out of foam/construction paper, or make animal ears out of foam/paper attached to plastic headbands. Another way is to add paper ears to paper headbands that are stapled together (sized differently for each child… add the child’s name on the inside.)

It is easy to print out animal prints onto inkjet printers(zebra/tiger stripe/leopard patterns) and then cut them into triangles and make bunting which can be hung from green yarn/ribbon, (green ribbon makes wonderful curly “tendrils” if you run it over a scissor blade)
Raid the beanie baby closet and use the stuffies as decoration (always best to use what you have hanging around the house first)
Make “Vines” from twisting brown paper (grocery bags or mailing package wrap). To these the vines add “Leaves” made from poster board/green construction paper/ tissue paper.
Round up all your tropical plants (or borrow some from friends) to add to the jungle ambiance
Cut some excess greenery from the backyard and bring it inside for extra decoration
Cut out animal prints from construction paper/posterboard and tape the prints going across the floor and ceiling (for the pawprints of those tree dwellers!)
Use lots of green crepe paper strung about in addition to those green paper leaves
Hang tropical fruit (securely) from the ceiling! (bananas,mangos, even coconuts)
You can make a fake waterfall from blue plastic/paper/blue garbage bags/long tinsel/beaded curtains
Add signs around that say “Don’t Feed the Animals”, “Beware of Tigers”, “Welcome to the ____________ National Park”
You can play animal sounds in the background of the party to add to the jungle mood.
Welcome them with a potion/pill (a pez or similar hard candy) to ward off the tropical diseases such as Malaria as they enter the party… put a scare into them as they enter the “jungle”. The more you can ham it up the better (young kids love it when you ham things up!)
If you have some brown kraft paper packing tubes you can make palm trees with them – add green paper fronds at the top (fringed green construction paper).
Put up some mosquito netting

Jungle Safari Party Activities

Make binoculars out of toilet paper rolls covered with black paper and hung from the neck with yarn
Set up one wall with butcher paper or large newsprint (newspapers often sell leftover rolls very cheaply) and have all the kids paint a mural when they arrive (then it will double as an exotic decoration!)
Hide jungle animals in the house/yard and have the children “hunt” them down
Make Jungle animal Bingo cards
Do up a Jungle Quiz about the animals (It is always fun to sneak in a little bit of educational content!)
Do a Bean Bag Toss (Draw an animal with a large mouth on cardboard with a hole to toss the beanbag into)
Play “Lazy Sloths”, by playing some Jungle Music/sounds (a fun one is “The Lion sleeps tonight”) and when the music stops the sloths have to stop drop and freeze. Last one to stop moving is out!
Play monkey in the middle, or “Monkey see Monkey do” (Simon says)
Play “Eenie Meenie Minie Mo… catch a Tiger by the Toe” (kids in a circle around a blindfolded “Explorer” who says the full rhyme and then points at the ill-fated Tiger
Limbo is always fun (especially under a green vine)
Have a Tarzan Yelling/Lion Roaring/Monkey chattering contest… winner for funniest, loudest, most realistic noises… (this one can be hard on the ears! )
Hang Food items (perhaps slices of fruit) from the ceiling with yarn/twine and have the children eat them in a speed relay (no hands allowed)
Have the children eat like the jungle animals (no hands at the table!… not for the faint of heart)
Set up a Jungle Obstacle Course: (Limbo under some vines, jump over pools of piranha, throw a hoop onto a rhino tusk/elephant nose (can be made simply from painted cardboard and a paper tube)
Play Tug-o-War with one set being the “Rhinos” and the other “Elephants”
Pin the Tail on the Zebra
Peanut push from one side of the room to the other (using your elephant nose… a paper cup attached to the face with elastic)

Jungle Safari Party Food

Serve “Snakes” (hot dogs) and “tropical fruit salad” (throw in some pineapple and banana).
Serve frozen banana on a stick (dip them in chocolate “mud”)
Serve ants on a log with juice punch (call it something fun like… jungle juice, swamp water, bog water, etc)
Don’t forget the “Animal Crackers” and “Banana Runts”!

The Benefits Of Using The Grand Canyon Coach

A number of people who are looking for some recreational activities to take part in often resort to visiting the Grand Canyon area. This is mainly due to the National Park’s exceptional landmarks and wonderful scenery that give the visitors a thrilling day out. So how best to access this natural wonder? By taking a Grand Canyon coach tour, of course.

When you set out to go on a tour of any place, there are always important points or factors to consider. Among them will include the other travelers in your party as well as the things that you would like to see and do while on your tour. These factors will influence the kind of planning you do before leaving.

Out of the knowledge that different people have varied expectations while going on the tour, the buses take different routes in an effort to give tourists the opportunity to choose whichever route they feel will have the best activities and scenes to enjoy. The main routes are the eastbound and westbound routes.

The two routes have different special features that one can enjoy during the tour. Since tour bus operators know that visitors simply need to relax and enjoy the trip to its full potential, they strive to make each route as complete as possible so that you can have an opportunity to interact with the National Park and see a number of things worth writing home about.

With a good road network as well as a railway line, some people may want to take a ride by train or by coach. Whatever choice you make, you will have to decide in advance. If on the other hand you simply need to tour the train station, Grand Canyon coaches pass through the train depot and you have the option to take a walk into the area and witness a few things in person.

Besides the train depot, you also get an opportunity to enjoy yourself in the open camp grounds. This area in particular gives you a chance to interact with fellow travelers – an activity that make these trips more enjoyable. You will be able to meet and make friends with other travelers on the bus. This is a good experience and is good for people who want to improve their social lives.

At the market plazas on both the westbound and eastbound routes, you will get all the things you may need since there is a general store, a post office and a bank just to mention a few. If you have to drive into the area, you can find lots of ample parking space to leave your car and jump onto the bus.

One of the most spectacular features on the bus tour is the West Rim. This is a journey that takes you to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass bridge that stands 4,000 feet high and one that gives you a view of the canyon in all its natural glory. When walking on this structure it’s not uncommon to feel like an angel walking the sky with the magnificence of Mother Nature below. The other is the Grand Canyon coach tour to the South Rim, which can include a rim-to-rim chopper ride.

Backpacking South East Asia on an Adventurous Route

The South East Asian region of the world – especially Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos – has become increasingly popular as a destination for those travelers seeking a more adventurous holiday than can be had merely sipping fruity, ice-cold drinks at your typical beach resort. However, an adventurous trip to these developing countries raises many questions and one of the first is what route to take, which I will try to answer in this article.

Most people with enough time would like to get a taste for all four that I’ve mentioned earlier, so I’ll concentrate on a route that includes all of them. It would take about three months if you spent a few days at each stop. Keep in mind that there certainly are options available that would allow you to skip countries or even shorten the trip to fit into a more constrained timeline, but this should give you a good starting point for further research.

As far as getting around, travel by public bus, train, and boat is readily available and often full of adventure after all, traveling with a busload of chickens or the occasional box of frogs just adds to the fun, right? However, those looking for a little more comfort will usually be able to find more upscale options.

Many people that intend on doing a circuit though South East Asia will fly into Bangkok since it is a major hub. Bangkok is also rich with markets, temples, and plenty of fabulous food. Around Bangkok, there are several options for some side trips which allow you to get your feet wet. Kanchanaburi is a few hours away and is the location of the infamous bridge over the River Kwai and the Death Railway, the Erewan National Park, and the Three Pagodas Pass near the Myanmar border. If you are not going to the southern islands, but wouldn’t mind checking out the beach scene, you could also take a few days and visit Ko Samet or Ko Chang (less expensive) to get a taste of island life. Both are only a few hours from Bangkok by bus.

Once you’ve had your fill of the Bangkok area, work your way north to Chiang Mai. I like the train and it can be taken overnight, for those low on time, or during the day for those that wish to see some of the beautiful countryside. Chiang Mai is much less hectic than Bangkok, has some opportunities for great sight seeing, and also has a great cooking school! If you want to check out some smaller towns in Thailand, you can do that from Chiang Mai with a little add-on side trip. It’s a loop that goes by public bus to the wonderful village of Pai which is set up in the misty valleys that are laden with lush rice paddies, and then continues by bus or boat to Mae Hong Son, then by bus back to Chiang Mai.

In any case, from Chiang Mai, continue your journey north to Chiang Rai and onwards to Chiang Khong, which is the jumping point into your second country, Laos. You cross the Mekong River with a short boat ride and enter Laos on the opposite bank at Huay Xai. From there you immediately continue on to Luang Prabang by slow boat or fast boat (latter not recommended, unless you enjoy wearing a crash helmet), making an optional overnight stay in the rustic village of Pacbeng.

After spending a few days in Luang Prabang you could do a side trip up north, exploring the small northern villages of Laos for a few days, or just head down to the chilled-out town of Vang Vieng by bus or air. The road route to Vang Vieng is sometimes the target of bandits, so be sure to check what recent activity has been like, and then make your decision – but the safety record of air travel may not be much more inspiring!

Vang Vieng is full of fun kayaking, biking and caving opportunities, so you’ll want to plan for a few days there before moving on to the capital city of Vientiane. It doesn’t seem too exciting for a capital city, so I wouldn’t plan to spend too much time there, other than to visit the strange, but interesting Buddha Park.

Take the bus from Vientiane to Hanoi via the mountains and the Cau Treo border crossing into Vietnam. Hanoi is a very interesting place with lots to do and also offers a few interesting side trips: Sapa is a beautiful village set in the mountains, and Halong Bay, a Unesco World Heritage site, offers amazing views of thousands of mountainous karsts jutting up from the ocean waters.

In Hanoi, you can buy an “Open Tour” bus ticket that gets you all the way south to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). It has a standard set of stops, but allows you to purchase add-ons for a few dollars each, two of which I highly recommend being Ninh Binh and Dalat. From Hanoi, the first stop will indeed be Ninh Binh. Not a particularly touristy town, but the launching point to visit the spectacular Tam Coc park and/or the Cuc Phuong National Park.

From Ninh Binh, move to Hue for a day or two, then on to Hoi An to check out the amazing tailors and beaches, then to Nha Trang (a partying beach town that can be skipped if you wish), and then on to your second add-on which is the mountain town of Dalat. >From Dalat, you can do another addon stop in Mui Ne which is very quiet and good if you just want to relax and maybe poke around the local market a little bit.

The last stop in Vietnam will be Ho Chi Minh which offers plenty to see and do including a massage at the Vietnamese Traditional Medicine Institute for a couple of dollars. From there, you can cross into Cambodia in a couple ways. The first is a bus ride through some beautiful country to Phnom Penh, and the second is a boat tour through the Mekong Delta which also deposits you in Phnom Penh. Be warned though: the roads in Cambodia are dirt and very slow going, but the scenery is incredible if your backside can take it.

Phnom Penh gets mixed reviews but does have a couple of must visits before you continue: the Killing Fields and S-21. When you do move on, you again have the choice of bus or boat up to Siem Riep. I prefer the bus because of the fantastic views and the insight into the lives of the country folk – trust me, you’ll never forget it.

After spending some time gawking at the awesome ruins of Angkor Wat at Siem Riep, you can fly or bus it back to Bangkok, once again back where you started! Again, the bus is harsh, but worth it to see Poipet (I’ll say it again: not to stay, but to see) and the night-and-day change visible in a matter of a few meters when you cross from the poverty of Cambodia into developing Thailand.

There you have it. That route can be done in 3 months if you don’t choose every side trip mentioned (to do it all you’ll want to add another couple of weeks). If you work it out, you’ll find you can spend a few nights in each place, but don’t make the mistake of creating some sort of concrete itinerary. Just be aware of your time, because you will want to spend lots of time in some places, while spending little in others and you really won’t know which until you get there. Be flexible within reason, and remember: it’s all about having fun!

Once back in Bangkok, you now have the option to work your way south to the islands, and perhaps, onward to other countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, or perhaps they will have to wait until your next trip, and yes, you will want to come back.

One of the next logical questions is: What is it like to travel around these countries on a route like this? That’s precisely the experience I detail in my book Rice Crust from the Bottom of the Pot: A Journey Across South East Asia ([http://parryloeffler.com/ricecrust]). It’s full of crazy adventures, wonderful stories of my interactions with the locals, and even a few recipes collected directly from their kitchens.

Travel to Thailand Made Easy

The allure of Thailand for Aussies remains strong. Sitting just six hours flight from Perth and eight or so from the East Coast, Thailand boasts great beaches, mountain forests, temples galore, great shopping and some of the best food on earth. Add to that the seedier aspects of prostitution and the famous full moon parties and you have an entertaining mix that will leave some wanting more while others may be happy never to go back.

It’s a common first time destination for backpackers because it’s easy to get around, English is spoken widely and finding good times and mischief is never a problem. There is of course also some pretty nice beaches to sleep off the hangover on or just soak up the sun.

Seasons/When to go

Thailand is hot and humid most of the year. The most comfortable time to visit is during November till March. It rains the least and is not super hot. Thailand’s peak tourist seasons are at this time and during July and August.

The rainy season runs from roughly July to October. Rainy season gets a bad rap; during this time the more popular beaches can be littered with trash after heavy rains. Despite this the rain can be a break from the heat, and the countryside is lush and green. October tends to be the wettest time of year.

April – June and September – October typically see the cheapest room rates and the least amount of tourist traffic. Consider these times if you want the cheapest travel away from the hordes in peak season.

Getting cheap flights from Australia to Thailand

If you are planning to book the popular choice of a few days in Bangkok and five or more in Phuket or Ko Samui, it’s worth looking around for package deals on offer from the major travel agents in Australia. Like Fiji, it’s one of the few destinations where booking this way through an agent can be cheaper than booking on the net. Companies will have allotted rooms and seats on preferred airlines that can be sold very cheaply.

If you are booking yourself don’t always assume Jetstar (which flys into Phuket direct) will always be the cheapest. Thai airways, British airways and even Singapore airlines will have regular specials into Bangkok from Australia. From there you can book yourself on the domestic carriers to any of the islands (see below). From the East Coast fares have recently been as low as $600 return including tax into Bangkok low season (British Airways or Thai).

For students it’s worth checking with STA or Student flights as there are often cheap fares on this route.

The most common route would be to fly into Bangkok, spend a few days and then head out to Phuket or Ko Samui (or both). Expect to pay around $1200 inc tax for all three in low season, while its closer to $2000 inc tax at Christmas (just for flights).

Costs

On a backpacking budget allow $30-50 dollars a day in low season. It’s not as cheap as some countries in South East Asia but it’s still great value. For a more comfortable holiday, $100 a day will get you a decent hotel and have you living pretty comfortably.

Domestic Airlines

Try these carriers to get you out of Bangkok and to the popular Islands and other Thailand destinations.

Thai Air Asia – Flies domestic and international routes

Nok Air – Flies Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Trang, Loei, Udon Thani, Phuket and Nakhon Si Thammarat

One Two Go – Budget carrier with similar destination list to Nok Air. Also has offers free snacks on board.

Bangkok Airways – Flying since 1986 Bangkok air is a popular choice that flys to over 20 Asian cities. Great for Bangkok – Phuket – Ko Samui flights. You can book online and their website also offers a few discounts on accommodation.

Destination Air – A small company that offers scenic flights via sea plane and day trips around Phuket and surrounding islands like Ko Pi Pi. Minimum passenger requirements apply.

Getting into Bangkok Central from Suvarnabhumi airport/what happens when I get to the airport in Bangkok?

Soon after arriving it’s easy to change some Aussie dollars to the local currency or use an ATM (for the best rates).

As soon as you leave customs you will probably be set on by locals offering you a taxi into town. Keep cool and ignore these touts as the shuttle bus into the city costs a poultry $9.00AUD and runs from 0430 till 0030. A taxi will be more expensive. Just walk outside and look for the signs for the shuttle bus, it’s easy.

Most travellers will be staying on or near the famous Khaosan road, just tell the bus guy that’s where your headed. If you are arriving outside of the shuttle bus operating times (and many flights from Oz will) it’s still easy to get a taxi. Make sure the driver turns the meter on; it starts at about 35B. Get out of the cab if they won’t turn the metre on. Be firm about this – as elsewhere it’s a common scam for cabbies to make up the price on arrival. You will have to pay the motor toll if you travel into the city by taxi – so you will be asked for a small amount of extra cash on the way. The cost of a taxi should be no more than $12 or so Aussie dollars into the city. The airport is about 30km or 45mins by road from the centre of town.

If you consider booking a transfer in Australia it’s around $40 dollars Aussie one way, so it’s much easier and cheaper just to get on the shuttle bus when you arrive. If you arrive late then a taxi is still cheaper than booking a transfer in Australia.

If you’re staying in Khaosan Road: After getting off shuttle bus or taxi on Kao Son road, walk to the end of the road where the Monastery (Wat) is, there’s a police station off to the right, walk that way, cross the street and go down the red bricked road named Soi Rambuttri (the monastery will now be on your left). This area is far quieter than on the main drag.

Khao san Road accommodation options

In Bangkok Ko Shan road is usually the first port of call for most travellers, usually travellers on a budget. In recent times more comfortable hotels seem to be springing up all over the place. Outside of peak times it’s easy enough to just show up in this small area and book a place – though in busier times or if you don’t want to wing it booking in advance is easy enough.

The Viengtai hotel is a popular choice for young Aussies. Expect to pay around $10-30 a night.

Rambuttri Inn (15-20AUD) is a popular and comfortable place with a pool.

MyHouse Guesthouse-($10AUD) One of the better cheapies that’s nice and quiet by Bangkok standards.

With any guesthouse in this area make sure you check the rooms first, but most will be fine for how cheap they are.

For more comfortable digs most of the big name hotels are represented in Bangkok. If you have the cash the city’s most famous hotel, the Oriental is the place to be. If you can’t afford that the Royal Orchid Sheraton just down the river has great views at a much cheaper price.

Other areas of Bangkok are just as good to stay; check out Chinatown and the Sukhumvit road area.

Khaosan Road is good for first time travellers to go out or do some shopping and the best place to arrange other travel service like visas and train tickets.

Getting around Thailand

Rail/Bus

Thailand has fantastic trains and buses which are cheap, fast and easy to use. You can buy tickets from numerous local travel agents, though it’s cheaper and not difficult to buy yourself at the bus or train station. The cheapest option to get around is on the ‘fan’ buses for short or medium journeys – just leave early in the morning to avoid the worst of the heat. The cheapest rail option is third class, which can take a bit longer than the more expensive AC buses but are a fun way to get around.

Beach Destinations

Phuket

This Island of half a million people is the most visited in Thailand. It’s well serviced by flights from around Asia and has a great mix of accommodation to choose from. Staying in the heart of Phuket town on the beach will be expensive, while staying a few blocks back or 15 minutes down the road in Karon beach are the cheaper options. This is the area from which you can easily visit islands such as Ko Pi Pi (from the movie The Beach).

Ko Samui

Once a purely budget destination Ko Samui is now a fully fledged resort island. All the major hotels are here, with expensive accommodation the norm. For a budget beach holiday Phuket or Khao Lak, an hour north, are the better bets. Most Aussies will come to Ko Samui on their way over to Ko Panyang for the famous full moon parties. Click the link below for a full page on how to get there and the run down on these popular and always loose nights out. The parties are fairly commercialised these days, but still worth the trip.

Off the beaten path

There’s heaps more to Thailand than just Bangkok, Phuket and Ko Samui. It’s easy to get around so with a little time checking out places such as Khao Sok national park, Ko Chang and the Similan islands will get you away from the masses. Avoid the southern mainland town of Pattaya; package tourists, pimps, members of paedophiles san frontiers: not nice.

Yosemite is a California Travel Treasure

Roughly 175 miles from San Francisco, San Jose or Sacramento and about 300 miles from Los Angeles, Yosemite National Park affords a California vacation experience you’ll never forget. If you’re traveling here from out of state, the closest airport to the park can be found in Fresno, which is about 55 miles from the park’s southernmost entrance (near Oakhurst).

While you’ll find unparalleled opportunities for outdoor activities like camping, hiking and fishing here, you won’t be disappointed even if your tastes tend more along the lines of “civilized” activities like photography, learning about the valley’s cultural history and enjoying gourmet meals at the magnificent Ahwahnee Hotel.

If at all possible, plan your trip during April or May. In addition to missing the summer visitor onslaught, these months typically offer incredible wildflower and waterfall displays. Fall is also a good time to visit, especially if you enjoy trout fishing (September through December is peak season). Most of the park’s trees are of the evergreen variety, however, so you shouldn’t necessarily expect a terrifically colorful autumnal show.

In the winter months, you may enjoy skiing at Badger Pass, California’s oldest downhill skiing area. Be sure to keep apprised of driving conditions, however, as chains may be required. Highway 140 through Mariposa offers the lowest-elevation route into Yosemite Valley, and it is the least likely to be affected by snow and ice.

If you visit in June, July or August, be sure to pack some extra patience, as it is typically extremely crowded during the summer months, especially on weekends. Actually, plenty of patience and keeping apprised of conditions are good ideas for any Yosemite visit, no matter the season.

A free shuttle bus system operates year-round in the valley, and visitors are encouraged to use this system since parking at several park destinations during the peak season is often nearly impossible to find. The shuttle system is free (included in the park entrance fee of $10/person or $20/car at the time of this writing; see the National Parks System site for more details). It is also pleasantly open air and easy to hop on and off.

Even if you’re just visiting the park for a day, some other things you may want to add to your “to pack” list:

An extra memory card for your digital camera or extra film
Plenty of battery power for your camera
Sunscreen (frequently apply SPF 30 or higher throughout the day)
Plenty of water for everyone in your party
change of clothes (shorts/slacks, t-shirt/sweater, socks) for variable conditions

A “don’t miss” feature of Yosemite National Park is its Giant Sequoia groves. There are three separate groves: the Mariposa, Tuolumne and Merced. The Mariposa Grove is the most popular and is the largest, too, containing about 500 mature trees. (Giant Sequoias are also known as Sierra Redwoods, but should not to be confused with the Coastal Redwood found in a separate range along the state’s coast.) There is limited parking at the Mariposa Grove, and you should plan your visit for either early morning or mid-to-late afternoon. During summer months and spring and fall weekends, the Grove parking lot is usually full by 10:00am, and parking often doesn’t open up again until after 3:00pm. A free shuttle bus runs from the Wawona Store to the Grove during the peak summer season.