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Central Vietnam Central Vietnam

Vietnam, Asia

Da Nang is central Vietnam’s largest city and is home to some extremely picturesque sites including the Ngu Hanh Son (Five Eleme...

string(3909) "Da Nang is central Vietnam’s largest city and is home to some extremely picturesque sites including the Ngu Hanh Son (Five Element Marble Mountains) which lie close to the sea and have caves and pagodas, and Da Nang Beach which stretches for several kilometres between Monkey Mountain and Marble Mountain. The city of Da Nang is surrounded by the three UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites of Hoi An, Hué and My Son. Thirty-two kilometres south-east of Da Nang is the ancient town of Hoi An, an important international port from the 17th to 19th centuries and now Vietnam’s most popular destination beyond Hanoi and Saigon. Its combination of charming heritage streets and riverside setting, bustling markets, Chinese assembly halls, Japanese remnants, quaint restaurants and cafés, and local tailors and handicraft outlets, have made it a must-see for visitors to Vietnam. It is also a rapidly developing beach resort, with a huge stretch of beach just five kilometres from the town and many modern resorts. Outside Hoi An is My Son Sanctuary, the capital of the kingdom of Champa from the 5th to 12th centuries. From here, there’s a great view of Champa from the Mountain Church (Nha Tho Nui) which is on top of Buu Chau Hill in the town of Tra Kieu. Hué, located approximately a 2.5 hour drive north of Da Nang, is widely regarded as the most beautiful city in Vietnam. Hué is situated alongside a large, deep river adjacent to a mountain range. Traditionally Hué was one of the country’s cultural, religious and educational centres, and was also Vietnam’s capital from the years 1802 to 1945. The city of Hué is known worldwide as an architectural treasure with palaces, royal tombs and mausoleums, pagodas, and temples all framed by the natural landscape on either side of the Huong (Perfume) River. The ruins of its huge, moated citadel contains many interesting sites, such as the Nine Holy Cannons, the Imperial Enclosure, the Palace of Supreme Harmony and the Halls of the Mandarins, although the Emperor’s Getaway, the Purple Forbidden City, was largely destroyed during the wars. The Royal Tombs are 15 kilometres south of Hué. One of Vietnam’s best beaches, Thuan An is just 13 kilometres north-east of Hué, and from here visitors can take sampan trips up the Perfume River. From Hué, tourists can go by car to visit the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the remarkable tunnels of Vinh Moc, used during the wars. The Hai Van Pass divides North and South Vietnam. A 21 kilometre-long road over Hai Van Pass, opened at the end of the 19th century, winds back and forth to a height of 435 metres above sea level. Its name means ’Pass of the Ocean Clouds,’ since the peak of the mountain is in the clouds while its foot is close to the sea. Hai Van is considered to be the largest frontier post in Vietnam From the top of the pass, one can admire Lang Co Beach to the north and Da Nang to the south. The curving railway through Hai Van Pass is 3200 metres long with sections running through seven tunnels. There are endless forests to the west of the pass and the ocean is to the east. Hai Van Pass is a real challenge for drivers, as well as for adventurers. Dalat located in the Central Highlands region is renown for its relaxing, natural verdant environment. A popular tourist destination, it is probably one of Vietnam’s best-known vacation sites and is a popular honeymoon mecca. The many sites include Emperor Bao Dai’s Summer Palace and the colourful fresh food and flower markets. Picturesque crumbling French Villas from the 1930s dot the surrounding hillsides. Nha Trang is on the south central coast of Vietnam and arguably boasts the best beach in the country. Its turquoise waters are perfect for swimming and boat trips are available to interesting offshore fishing villages and islands including Monkey Island with diving options also available."
Micronesia Marshall Islands Diving & Snorkelling Marshall Islands

Micronesia, Pacific

Marshall Islands, also known as Majol is an island nation in the Central Pacific Ocean. There are more than 1200 islands and islet...

string(2834) "Marshall Islands, also known as Majol is an island nation in the Central Pacific Ocean. There are more than 1200 islands and islets in two parallel chains of coral atolls. Marshall Islands were settled around the beginning of the Christian era, some 2000 years ago by Micronesians. The islands were later sighted by a Spanish navigator in 1529. British naval captains explored the Marshall Islands in 1788 and did some mapping. More mapping was done by Russians in the early 1800s. U.S. and Hawaiian missionaries began efforts to convert the islanders in the mid 1800s, and even Germany had inf luence in the islands in the late 1880s. Japan seized the islands in 1914, and remained until the United States liberated the Marshalls during WWII. From 1947 to 1986, the islands remained under the jurisdiction of the United States. Then it became the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and remains friends of the USA with a Compact of Free Association. From 1948 to 1958, the US conducted nuclear tests on Bikini and Enewetak Atolls. The USA continues to be the protector of The Marshalls, and maintains a missile range and base on the island of Kwajalein. To get to the Marshall Islands, there are two major airlines f lying in daily, United Airlines and Nauru Airlines. Air Marshalls f ly routes between the Atolls in small commuter propeller planes. The only two islands that have an international airport are Majuro and Kwajalein. Boats are used to traverse between the atolls also. Government owned ships make scheduled trips between the islands, and other commercial cargo lines service the islands. Majuro has a commercial dock complex, and many of the outer islands have lagoons that ships can anchor in. Marshall Islands offers tremendous outdoor activities that are exciting, adventurous, and historic. The beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world and are surrounded by crystal clear water for swimming, snorkelling, and wildlife viewing. The water remains warm all year long. There are many historic sites from WWII scattered among the outer islands and day trips and longer excursions can be made to these sites from the capital city of Majuro. Other adventurous activities include joining in on year round cultural events and engaging with friendly locals. Visitors also enjoy shopping for local handicrafts with an array of beautiful baskets, jewelry and decorations. The islanders are known for their weaving using pandanus leaves, coconut fonds and shells. Throughout the Marshall Islands there are many choices for hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation. On Majuro you will discover a range or hotels with a variety of services and rooms. There are also many exciting opportunities to experience the outer islands and distant atolls and to meet the people of the Marshall Islands. "
Vietnam-Halong-Bay-Hotels Vietnam

Asia

Vietnam has incredible scenic beauty, featuring two main cultivated areas of the Red River Delta in the north and the Mekong River...

string(7144) "Vietnam has incredible scenic beauty, featuring two main cultivated areas of the Red River Delta in the north and the Mekong River Delta in the south. It is made up of equatorial lowlands, high, temperate plateaus and alpine peaks. Stretching over 1600 kilometres along the eastern coast of the Indochinese peninsula, Vietnam is bordered by China to the north and Cambodia and Laos to the west. Capital and major centres Whilst Ho Chi Minh City is the country’s largest population centre, the capital, Hanoi is the political and cultural centre of Vietnam. Haiphong is the Northern region’s main industrial centre and a major seaport, while Da Nang in the Central region, is promoted as the gateway to Indochina. Other major centres include Dalat in the Central Highlands, renown for its cool climate and beautiful mountain scenery and Kontum in the Central Highlands. The people Vietnam’s population is about 90% Viet (Kinh) ethnic people and the rest are 53 other ethnic groups such as Tay, Nung, Muong, Cham, Khmer, Ede, and Hoa. The native language is Vietnamese with the northern and southern dialects differing slightly from each other. Now many Vietnamese young people can also speak English, French, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity have all served to shape the rich spiritual life of Vietnam, along with the indigenous religion of Caodaism. The main temple for Caodaism is in Tay Ninh city, 90 kilometres northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. It offers daily ceremonies and educational tours. Nature Vietnam is lush and tropical with much jungle and vegetation ranging from the green Mekong River Delta to forests containing an estimated 12,000 plant species. The country’s wild fauna is enormously diverse and includes elephants, rhinos, leopards, black bears and a variety of monkeys, birds and reptiles. Ho Chi Minh City’s zoo and botanic gardens are a delightful place for a stroll, as are the tree lined avenues in the Cultural Park (Tao Dan Park). Food and entertainment Vietnam offers the opportunity to sample some truly amazing cuisine. There are said to be nearly 500 traditional dishes, ranging from exotic meats such as bat and cobra, to a variety of fish, vegetables, spices and sauces. As a guide, food in the Central region tends to be spicy, while the Northern region cuisine is mild. The Southern region has an understandable accent on pepper, as Vietnam is the world’s largest producer of the spice. ‘Pho’ is the noodle soup eaten at any time of day and ‘com’ means ‘rice dish’. Because Buddhist monks of the Mahayana tradition are strict vegetarians, many dishes contain tofu, mushrooms and raw, cooked and fermented vegetables. While Vietnamese desserts such as pastry, sticky rice and beans tend to be a little sweet for foreign palates, the selection of local fruits is amazing. Try green dragon fruit, jujube, longan, pomelo, three-seed cherry and water apple. A word of warning, smoking is still allowed in most hotels and restaurants in Vietnam, so it’s advisable to get a table outside or by a window. In Ho Chi Minh City, entertainment can be found at discos and hotel nightclubs, while bars and cafes are popular throughout the rest of the country. For a local experience, enjoy a ‘Beer Hoi’ at a road side bar. It’s cheap, refreshing and a great way to meet the locals. The sights Vietnam’s national parks include: Cat Ba, Ba Be Lake and Cuc Phuong national parks in the north; Bach Ma National Park in the Central region (sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund); and Nam Cat Tien National Park in the south to name a few. In 2003, another national park, Phong Nha-Ke Bang was recognised as a World Natural Heritage site by UNESCO. Phong Nha- Ke Bang National Park offers mountains that are ideal for climbing and exploring and it is also home to archaeological and historical relics along with a range of geographic attractions. The most recent to find favour with visitors is the Son Doong (Mountain River) Cave. Discovered in 2009, it is claimed to be the world’s largest cave. The other UNESCO recognised sites in Vietnam are Halong Bay, the imperial city of Hué, the ancient quarter of Hoi An and the My Son Sanctuary, the Trang An landscape complex, central sector of Imperial Citadel of Thang Long – Ha Noi, and citadel of the Ho Dynasty. Getting around There is a major airport serving each of the three major tourism zones: Ho Chi Minh City serves the Mekong River; Da Nang serves Hué, Hoi An and My Son; and Hanoi provides access to Halong Bay and the mountains. Travel between the three gateway cities is available by air, train and bus. Overnight travel by train or bus is a popular choice for visitors and is inexpensive and relatively comfortable. Chartering a minibus or hiring a car and driver are other viable alternatives. Cabs (some metered, some not) operate in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and most of the major cities. As a rule, it’s best to avoid travelling by car in major cities during peak hour unless you are not in a hurry. Visitors can hire cyclos (pedicabs) to get around, or there is the option to travel the way the locals do and hire a motor scooter. With a population of about 95 million, it is easy to think that all Vietnamese people own a scooter. The roads are full of them. Traffic in the major cities is something that needs to be seen to be believed. Despite the vast numbers though, scooter traffic moves like water. It is constantly flowing, sometimes fast, usually slow and occasionally it will pool due to an obstacle, but then find a way to break through and move on. Walking can prove to be a bit of a challenge, as most footpaths are lined with parked scooters, left there by the locals while they shop or eat. Shopping Vietnam is known for its handicrafts, including lacquerware, mother-of-pearl inlay, ceramics, bamboo products, jewellery, silk goods, intricately carved statues and paintings. In Hanoi, two popular areas are Hang Gai Street and Hang Bong Street which stock embroidered tablecloths, greeting cards with traditional hand-painted silk covers, water puppets, clothing and antiques. In Ho Chi Minh City, Ben Thanh Market is a good place for shopping. (Vendors will willingly bargain but as a courtesy, do not ask the price of something unless you want to buy it.) Dong Khoi Street is an arts and crafts tourist bazaar. Currency The currency is the Vietnamese dong. The US dollar is widely accepted and several big cities accept Euro. Traveller’s cheques are easily exchangeable in banks and credit cards. Climate Vietnam has three climatic zones with temperatures ranging from 22oC to 27oC. In the north, the best time to visit is between October and March. Central Vietnam is protected by the Hai Van Pass Mountains and travelling is recommended year-round. In the south, there are two seasons—dry and rainy. March, April and May are the hottest months. Lightweight clothing is sufficient for the south all year round but warmer clothing is needed during winter (November through April) in the north and in the highlands."
Pacific Tahiti Sofitel Moorea Ia Ora Beach Resort 2 Moorea

Islands of Tahiti, Pacific

Like all Polynesian islands, Moorea is enveloped in folklore. Legend has it that a golden-skinned lizard abandoned by its human...

string(2826) " Like all Polynesian islands, Moorea is enveloped in folklore. Legend has it that a golden-skinned lizard abandoned by its human parents became stranded on the reef of Emeho as it swam after them. The merciful gods turned it into the island of Moorea (which means ‘golden lizard’), one of the true jewels of French Polynesia. Only 17 kilometres from Tahiti or an eight minute flight and regarded as her sister island, Moorea is renowned for its natural beauty and tranquillity and often thought to be the inspiration for James Michener’s mythical island of Bali Hai. The island’s steep volcanic peaks rise sharply from the island’s basalt base and are best viewed from Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay. Moorea’s laid-back atmosphere provides the perfect backdrop for relaxation but the island also has a wide variety of recreational activities to suit the most active traveller. The island is home to a third of French Polynesia’s total hotel capacity, with accommodation ranging from luxury resort over-water or beach bungalows to hotel rooms and small local-style thatched roof ‘ fares’. One of the best ways to get to know this magnificent island is hire a car or scooter and tour the single road around the island, visiting secluded beaches, pineapple and vanilla plantations and small picturesque villages. The trip should take about four hours depending on how many stops are made along the way. Inland, lush forests cover Moorea’s mountains, which offer spectacular views of the island’s valleys as well as its lagoons and bays. The beautiful large garden and old colonial home in Opunohu Bay at the Kellum is worth a visit, built last century and well preserved. Opunohu valley is also home to stone marae temples and archery platforms used by Polynesian royalty in pre-Christian days. Le Belvedere Lookout Point offers an unequalled panorama of Cooks and Opunohu bays, divided by the sacred Rotui mountain. Moorea has many talented artisans whose creations are sold in boutiques around the island. Ideal for the tropical climate, handpainted pareus, sundresses, bikinis, shirts and beachwear add instant beach chic to any wardrobe or make perfect gifts. Tahiti’s prized black pearls are available loose or set in designer jewellery from jewellers and boutiques on Moorea, while the public market in Pao Pao beside Cook’s Bay has locally made shell jewellery as well as hats, tote bags, baskets and mats woven from palm fronds, pandanus and banana plants. Moorea plays host to a number of special events each year that are well worth attending, including the Tahitian Tamara’a Show. Visitors arrive by outrigger canoe at sunset, try foods cooked in a traditional underground oven, enjoy a spectacular Polynesian dance performance and stay for the bringue, or party, that follows. "
melaka Melaka

Malaysia, Asia

Steeped in cultural traditions, this charming city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich trading history and multicultural h...

string(1653) "Steeped in cultural traditions, this charming city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich trading history and multicultural heritage. Melaka is a rewarding town to explore and is about two hours from Kuala Lumpur and three and a half hours from Singapore. Many busses leave daily towards Melaka from the main bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur and the international airport. Back in the 15th century, Melaka was one of Southeast Asia’s greatest trading ports. Today visitors flock here to experience its bustling weekend night market, a booming food and art scene, and its heritage architecture. The rest of the state is a patchwork of forests, farmland and deserted beaches. A walking tour is a great way to get introduced to the city and see its major attractions and many historical sites on foot. Visit attractions around town including A’Famosa, the Dutch Square, the ruins of St. Paul’s Church and a few Chinese temples dotted throughout the city. Visitors can learn more about Melaka and its residents at the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum, the first private museum in Malaysia. The house where the museum resides was rebuilt in 1896, and it is beautifully decorated with items from around the world. The Melaka River cruise is another great way to see the sights of Melaka at a leisurely pace. The river was the main artery of trade for Melaka in its heyday when it was bustling with traders from all around the world. Some buildings from that era still stand by the river, which is also lined by old villages, or kampungs, and modern day buildings. Accommodation ranges from upmarket hotels, to hostels, and quaint guesthouses."
Maui, path near the ocean and sunset Maui

Hawaii, Pacific

This beautiful isle was born in a fiery explosion of two volcanoes. To one side of Maui is the 1764 metre Kukui and on the othe...

string(3711) " This beautiful isle was born in a fiery explosion of two volcanoes. To one side of Maui is the 1764 metre Kukui and on the other Haleakala, a 3055 metre dormant volcano with a Manhattan size crater that houses a vast desert of unusual flora including the rare Silversword. Add to this 190 kilometres of dazzling coastline, both dramatic and diverse for surfing, snorkelling and canoeing plus waterfalls plunging 300 metres, rainforests bursting with exotic vegetation and a stark lunar landscape so barren that the astronauts practised their moon landing here, and you have the extraordinary island of Maui. The dramatic variations in climate and land formations are a large part of what makes Maui so exciting. The West Maui Mountains are rugged and verdant, with jagged peaks and deeply grooved valleys hiding waterfalls. Central Maui and the slopes of Haleakala are agricultural areas where the rich volcanic soil supports sugar, pineapple and ranchlands. The south shore, except where irrigated, is desert and scrub because Haleakala snags the rain clouds and empties them before they cross her peak. The second largest of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui was settled by Polynesians and had its own ruling family. King Kamehameha’s warriors overthrew the kingdom of Maui to unite it with the other Hawaiian Islands. He made Lahaina in Maui his capital in 1802. Today Maui has evolved into a peaceful agricultural island of charm and rustic beauty, particularly Lahaina which has been restored to its previous colonial splendour. The non-profit Lahaina Restoration Foundation which began over 36 years ago has preserved and restored a rich collection of historical sites in Lahaina. The Maui Historical Society Museum in Wailuku is a delightful structure built between 1833 and 1850 and was the home of missionary Edward Bailey. Baldwin Home, built in 1838, is the oldest standing building in Lahaina and is made of thick walls of coral, stone and hand-hewn timbers. The banyan tree came to Lahaina from India when only eight feet tall. William O. Smith, the Maui sheriff, planted it in 1873 to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Lahaina’s first Christian mission. Today the banyan has 12 major trunks, varying girths and reaches upward to a height of 15 metres stretching outward over a 61 metre area. The Carthaginian, a replica of a 19th century brig which now houses a whaling exhibit, graces the harbour, which is also the departure point for a multitude of cruises and whale watching tours (in season). However, if it is off season, Whaler’s Village in Ka’anapali houses an excellent whale museum. Lahaina Jodo Mission Cultural Park, on a point of land known as Puunoa, was once a small village fronting the royal grove of coconut trees. Now the best known landmark in the area, the largest Buddha outside of Japan sits in the small park commemorating the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants in 1868. Don’t miss a journey on the famous Sugar Cane Train, modelled after the turn of the century railroads that transported Valley Isle sugar to Lahaina mills. The steam driven locomotive runs between Lahaina and Ka‘anapali and visitors can hop aboard at Puukolii and Ka‘anapali as well. While on Maui, you can explore the Maui Tropical Plantation which consists of 45 hectares of crops. Learn how to husk a coconut, create a delicious tropical fruit boat and string a fragrant lei. Then catch the Tropical Tram on a 40-minute circuit to see fruit cutting demonstrations, visit the marketplace and learn how to start your own tropical garden. At the Sugar Museum you will see the production of sugar, once one of Hawaii’s biggest cash crops, from beginning to end. "

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