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Savai’I

Samoa, Pacific

Scenic Savai’i is Samoa’s largest island at 80 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide. Less populated, it is renowned for its ...

string(2204) "Scenic Savai’i is Samoa’s largest island at 80 kilometres long and 40 kilometres wide. Less populated, it is renowned for its slower pace, natural beauty, and lava fields. Its size and lack of population make Savai’i the ideal place to get away from it all, immerse yourself in true Polynesian culture and explore incredible landscapes. Savai’i is accessible by ferry from Upolu. The island’s main town and arrival point for ferries from Upolu is Salelologa in the southeast, accessible by the main road that encircles the island. Savai’i has plenty of pristine beaches, caves, blowholes, great snorkelling, kayaking and diving. Near Salelologa, in the southeast, the Afu Aau Falls plunge down a rock face to a deep freshwater pool. Stroll across the dramatic Saleaula lava fields where molten lava from the Mt Matavanu eruption buried five villages over a century ago. In the interior, Mount Silisili is Samoa’s highest peak. In the west, the Falealupo Rainforest Preserve features the Canopy Walkway. Cape Mulinuu is Samoa’s westernmost point, according to legend, this is also the place where the dead pass into the underworld. There are several archeological sites of interest in this area including Devil’s Haden, Vaatausili’s Cave, Paepae o Apaula, Vai Sua Toto (Blood Well), Lualotooalii Pool, Spirits Meeting Ground, and Fusipotopoto Pool. Aganoa Beach, on the southeast coast, is renowned for surfing. A wide range of accommodation options are available in Savai’i along with some of the best local food experiences in Samoa. Getting around is easy. Rental cars are available or can be brought over from Upolu by ferry. All visiting drivers in Samoa must have a temporary drivers’ licence. Riding one of Samoa’s brightly coloured buses is a must-do local experience. In Salelologa, buses depart from the wharf or market. There are no bus stops, simply wait on the side of the road and wave your bus down. Bicycles are another popular way for visitors get around Savai’i, and you can hire a bike or join a guided bike tour of the island. Taxis are reasonably priced but don’t have meters so its it’s best to agree on a price at the start. "
Cambodia

Asia

Angkor Wat is the world’s largest temple complex, consisting of sandstone temples, chapels, causeways, terraces and reservoirs. ...

string(3911) "Angkor Wat is the world’s largest temple complex, consisting of sandstone temples, chapels, causeways, terraces and reservoirs. Vast and awe-inspiring, it is a magnificent Hindu temple set in dense jungle, located 152 kilometres from the Thai border, at Siem Reap. The walls are covered in thousands of carvings of gods and events from classical Hindu mythology. It was abandoned in the 15th century when the people turned to Buddhism and rediscovered in 1861. Elephant, Dangkrek and Cardamom mountains are in the southwest of Cambodia along the northern border with Thailand and the Eastern Highlands and in the northeastern corner are the three main mountainous regions. The majority of the population speaks Khmer, a non-tonal language closely related to Thai. French is the second language and English is taught in schools. Cambodia nationalities comprise of Chinese, Vietnamese and Cham Muslims. A form of Buddhism called Theravada is practiced by the majority of Cambodians, Animism and Caodaism are also practised. Capital and major centres Phnom Penh, the capital, has a population of around 1.5 million people and, despite its tumultuous past, its crumbling colonial architecture makes an attractive backdrop to streetside cafés and the redeveloped waterfront precinct. Peaceful Udong, 40 kilometres north of Phnom Penh, was the capital of Cambodia between 1618 and 1866. The town of Siem Reap is only a few kilometres from the temples of Angkor. Where to stay International standard hotels are available in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville is growing in popularity as the only beach resort destination in Cambodia. Facilities are being developed and the general increase in tourism in Cambodia has led to a boom in guesthouse accommodation. Getting around You can hire a car with a driver with taxis easily found in the cities. The tuk tuk (three-wheeled motor cycles) cyclos and motos (small motorcycles) can also be flagged down for short trips. Buses also have an effective network and they make travel to sights around Phnom Penh easier than driving. For longer trips, trains are a longer but more comfortable option. There are also boats and the most popular services operate between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Fast boats head up the Mekong to Kompong Cham, Kratie and Stung Treng. Food and entertainment Khmer cuisine is similar to Thai and there are sidewalk noodle shops, food stalls and markets. It is wise to avoid eating or drinking from street vendors. The influence of the French is manifest in the breads and frogs’ legs sold in the markets, and tea and coffee are widely available. Tap water and ‘muscle wines’ are best avoided. There is a growing number of good restaurants, including Thai, Chinese, Indian, Malay and Western, both in the capital and in towns that attract tourists. Activities There are activities such as snorkelling in Sihanoukville and elephant rides in Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri, but you need a guide, as landmines, bandits, and other dangers make hiking, outdoor activities, or venturing off the beaten track, dangerous. There are many leisure activities in Phnom Penh such as go-karting, jet-skiing, mini golf and ten pin bowling. A network of national parks is being established, complete with visitor facilities; Kirirom, Ream and Bokor on the south coast are the most accessible and extremely interesting. Nature The number of national parks is increasing, but illegal logging has long been a problem. Parks include Bokor, on the south coast; Ream, near Sihanoukville; Kirirom, outside Phnom Penh; and Virachay, bordering Laos and Vietnam. Endangered species which are elsewhere extinct are thought to be hidden in the more remote habitats, including elephants, tigers, leopards, gibbons, bats, rhinos and crocodiles. Butterflies, snakes and birds such as cormorants, cranes and ducks are most common."
Micronesia Guam Sunset Holiday Guam

Micronesia, Pacific

Like an emerald glistening in a velvet blue jewel case, the green peaks of Guam emerge from the surrounding waters of the Western ...

string(3685) "Like an emerald glistening in a velvet blue jewel case, the green peaks of Guam emerge from the surrounding waters of the Western Pacific. Guam is the largest and most southern island in the Mariana Islands archipelago in the northern area of the Pacific Ocean, covering 34159 square kilometres and with a population of approximately 167,000 people. Situated approximately 2494 kilometres south of Japan and 6115 kilometres west of Hawaii, Guam has pristine beaches, championship golf courses, world-class diving and snorkelling. Visitors can experience a variety of cultural and historical sites, outdoor activities as well as recreational events. As the largest and most developed island in Micronesia, Guam serves as a transportation and communications hub and is the gateway to Micronesia, a region of 2000 islands and atolls spread over five million square kilometres of the Pacific. Guam is also America’s airline link to Asia with an average flight time of around three hours to most Asian cities. The terrain of Guam is a startling contrast of limestone plateaus. The steep cliffs and narrow coastal shelves in the central and northern parts of the island are wonderful to observe. Volcanic hills range up to 204 metres which is the height of Mount Lamlam that is the tallest mountain in the world from below sea level as a result of Guam’s proximity to the Mariana Trench. Southern Guam features lush jungles and quiet seaside villages. The central area of the island has all the modern conveniences of suburban living, with restaurants, bars, shopping centres and international class resort hotels fronting Tumon and Agana Bays. Guam’s earliest settlers were the Chamorros who make up about 37 percent of the island population today. They are thought to have travelled by canoe from South-East Asia to the Mariana Islands, where they lived isolated from the rest of the world for centuries. The Chamorros flourished as an advanced fishing, horticultural, and hunting society and were skilled craftsmen who built unique houses and canoes well suited to this region of the world. They are also skilled in intricate weaving and detailed pottery making. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, the explorer sponsored by the Spanish court, arrived on Guam and forged a link between Spain and the Chamorros. The Spaniards’ influence lasted more than 300 years until the island became a US Territory in 1898 after the Spanish-American War. The Japanese briefly occupied the island until 1944 when it was liberated by American forces. Today, even with modern suburban living, Guam still offers abundant natural beauty. The island is blessed by year round balmy tropical weather and cooling trade winds. Stunning coral reefs and clear crystalline blue lagoons, teeming with colourful aquatic life ring Guam’s white sand coastline. Its verdant interior is lush jungle with hidden waterfalls, rivers and volcanic ridges. Guam’s natural offerings have something for everyone above and below water. There is fishing, hiking, golf, kite and windsurfing, parasailing, scuba diving, snorkelling, jet-skiing, dolphin watching and cultural tours to name but a few. History and geography have given Guam a vibrant cosmopolitan population. The charm and warmth of the people originates from the eclectic blend of Spanish, indigenous Chamorro, Asian and Western cultures. The mix of East, West and Pacific traditions and cultures is evident and is infused in the arts and crafts, language, and especially the food of this island nation. Guam is truly an undiscovered Pacific gem and deserves to be shortlisted as one of your next holiday destinations. "
Maldives

Asia

The 1190 low-lying coral islands that make up the Maldives are so small that dry land makes up one percent of the country’s tota...

string(8867) "The 1190 low-lying coral islands that make up the Maldives are so small that dry land makes up one percent of the country’s total territory. The 26 coral atoll nation is situated southwest of the southern tip of India and Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, extending across the equator in a north-south strip. Capital and major centres Malé is a small, quaint capital city and the hub of the Malé Atoll. This chain, comprising the old North and South Malé Atolls, stretches for more than 120 kilometres from north to south, but only 10 of its islands are inhabited; some used for specific purposes. For instance, Funadhoo is an island where oil is stored; Thulusdhoo has two factories, Dhiffushi is a fishing island and Kuda Bandos is a picnic island for the general public. Malé is tiny when compared to other capital cities, however, it houses one third of the total population of the Maldives. Malé is different to the other atolls in the archipelago with its high-rise buildings, paved streets and small parks dotted about the city. Seawalls surround Malé and there are no beaches although an artificially landscaped beach now stretches to the new harbour in the southwest. To the west is the Alifu or Ari Atoll, in the north is the large island of Thoddu, and to the south of Alifu Atoll is the Faafu Atoll and the island of Nilandhoo. In the Laamu Atoll are Isdhoo and Gadhdhoo, both of which feature impressive ruins. The Huvadhu Atoll is the largest true atoll formation in the world, with a huge lagoon and in the Gnaviyani Atoll is Fuamulaku, one of the most fertile areas in the Maldives. Meedhoo is located in the southernmost atoll of Seenu and is one of the rarest naturally protected atolls in the entire archipelago. The people The inhabitants of the Maldives are thought to have descended from both Southern India’s Dravidians and Aryans from India and Ceylon. Dhivehi, the national language, is Indo-Aryan in origin and found only in the Maldives. A contemporary Dhivehi culture is strong, despite many foreign influences, which range from Hindi movies and oriental martial arts, to Western music and Muslim fundamentalism. It has been an Islamic nation since 1153 AD when the king converted the entire country from Buddhism. The religion is a delicate blend of traditional and modern ideals, with women having more freedom than in other Muslim countries. English is widely spoken in Malé, the capital, and on all the resort islands, and on Seenu, or Addu Atoll, where a British air base was formerly located. Nature The brilliantly coloured coral reefs result in the Maldivian seascape being among the most beautiful in the world. Since natural fauna is sparse, the most exciting wildlife is found under the water. If you visit the Maldives, make sure you grab a mask and snorkel so that you can discover amazing corals and fish such as butterfly fish, angel fish, parrot fish, rock cod, unicorn fish, trumpet fish and bluestripe snapper. Other marine life includes molluscs, clams and crabs while sharks, stingrays, manta rays, turtles and dolphins may also be spotted. While the larger, wetter islands have small areas of rainforest, for the most part plant life is limited. The most common plants include pandanus, banana, mangroves, breadfruit trees, banyans, tropical vines and coconut palms; and the main crops are sweet potatoes, yams, taro, millet and watermelon, citrus fruits and pineapples. Tropical flowers are found in abundance and grow either in the wild or are cultivated in gardens. There are 100 species of birds, most of them migratory. Other fauna includes giant fruit bats and tree shrews, lizards, skinks, rhinoceros beetles, paper wasps and colourful butterflies. The sights The capital city of Malé is only about two kilometres long and one kilometre wide but is neatly packed with buildings, roads and public spaces. The mosques, markets and small streets give it a charm of its own. The National Museum houses exhibits of the sultans’ belongings and some archaeological discoveries, while the nearby Sultan Park is a pleasant place for a stroll. The imposing white three-storey Islamic Centre & Grand Friday Mosque holds more than 5000 worshippers and dominates the city’s skyline. The oldest of the 20-plus mosques in Malé is the Hukuru Miskiiy, famed for its intricate stone carvings. Friday Mosque on Isdhoo is more than three centuries old and features lacquered supports, flowing calligraphy and finely carved rafters. Gadhdhoo is home to one of the Maldives’ most impressive ruins, from which rises an enormous stupenda, formerly a huge, white limestone pyramid. The solitary and exceptionally fertile island of Fuamulaku produces vegetables and fruits such as mangoes, oranges and pineapples, which are not grown anywhere else in the country. Baa Atoll is famous for its handicrafts, which include lacquer work and finely woven cotton felis (traditional sarongs). Where to stay The wide variety of accommodation ranges from island resorts and hotels to modern, motel-style rooms and guesthouses, with more on offer in the high-end range. Hotel rates usually include full board. There are also yachts and yachtdhonis, specially converted Maldivian vessels licensed to sleep guests. Developed on uninhabited islands, some exclusive hotels accommodate a limited number of guests while some cater more or less exclusively to certain nationalities, notably Italian, German, French and Japanese visitors. Some resorts have better access to specific dive sites, local villages, or Malé than others and while all offer scuba diving, some are known as hardcore divers’ destinations. Bungalows equipped with modern conveniences and en suite facilities offer magnificent views. Getting around Transfers between the islands are by either dhoni (local boats), speedboat or seaplane. Transfers for visitors with confirmed reservations in the Maldives are arranged by the host. Taxis, private cars, motorcycles and bicycles are used for transport on the larger islands including Malé and Addu Atoll. There are two companies operating regular seaplane services in the Maldives. Tourism is strictly regulated, and independent travel is discouraged as it is seen as disruptive to traditional island communities. Cruising across all atolls is now allowed with a permit. Food and entertainment Almost everything needs to be imported in the Maldives, except for fish, coconut and some fruit such as watermelon and banana. Fish and rice are the staple foods of Maldivians, with meat and chicken eaten only on special occasions. While there are strict local laws against the consumption of alcohol, liquor is freely available at the resorts. The local brew, raa, is a sweet liquid from the crown of the palm trunk. Maldivian men enjoy ‘short eats’ (small snacks) in the many small teahouses. Nightlife in Malé is confined to these teahouses and a few Western-style restaurants. Various resorts offer weekly dances with live music from local musicians and tourists are encouraged to hire boats and attend the dances on other islands. Activities Seenu, the ‘second city’ of the Maldives, is the best base from which to visit traditional Maldivian island communities, while Gan is linked by causeways to the adjacent islands and a bicycle is the easiest way to get around and see village life. For those keen to learn to dive, all resort islands have schools run by fully qualified instructors, while some offer training up to professional diver level. The warm lagoon has coral gardens, turtles, shells, crustaceans and schools of brilliantly coloured fish. Trips in dhonis visit some of the best fishing grounds in the world. Night fishing expeditions for snapper and barracuda or dawn excursions seeking tuna, dolphin, fish and rainbow runners are excellent. Other pursuits include cruising from atoll to atoll in boats with bunk beds or private cabins, yachting with professional crews, waterskiing, windsurfing, parasailing, and beach volleyball. Shopping Malé is the best place in the Maldives for shopping, and has minimum duty on most items. Best buys include reed mats and lacquered wooden boxes, woven sarongs called ‘felis’ in wide black and white stripes, Chinese ceramics, electronic items and souvenirs such as coral rings and sea shells. Climate It is warm and tropical throughout the year with a cooling sea breeze. The average daily temperature is between 25°C and 32°C. What to wear Light, informal cotton and linen clothing is recommended. Most resorts do not enforce any dress regulations. In Malé visitors must wear appropriate attire and cover up. Currency The currency is Maldivian Rufiyaa. Credit cards are accepted at resorts, as well as with travellers cheques and tipping is not discouraged. "
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."
Northern Islands

Fiji, Pacific

Vanua Levu and Taveuni, respectively Fiji’s second and third largest islands, along with dozens of smaller outer islands are ano...

string(3149) "Vanua Levu and Taveuni, respectively Fiji’s second and third largest islands, along with dozens of smaller outer islands are another world from the bustle of Viti Levu and the more-touristic islands. Here discover a hidden paradise of verdant rainforests with hidden lakes, spectacular coral reefs, waterfalls and tall mountain ranges that are an adventurers’ playground. Vanua Levu is located 64 kilometres to the north of the larger Viti Levu and is accessible by air with regular flights to Labasa and Savusavu. The dry north coast is scattered with sugarcane farms, while the hillier south is dominated by tropical rainforest and huge coastal coconut plantations. Labasa is the island’s largest city, and is predominantly occupied by Indo-Fijians. To the south, Savusavu is a quaint coastal town backdropped by verdant emerald hills. Its large protected harbour is a stop for yachts cruising the Pacific. There is a growing number of restaurants and cafés on the idyllic waterfront and a number of luxurious hotels nearby. The Waisali Rainforest Reserve is a spectacular 300-acre stretch of rainforest that blankets Vanua Levu’s hills and valleys and is home to a diverse range of exotic flora and fauna as well as picturesque waterfalls and natural pools. Spectacular reefs can be found minutes from the mainland. Discover pristine dive sites at Namena Marine Reserve, or head to the island’s northern coast for one of it’s best kept secrets, the Great Sea Reef. Nearly 200 kilometres long, it’s one of the largest reefs in the world. Taveuni, the Garden Island, is Fiji’s third largest island just eight kilometres across the Somosomo Strait from Natewa Peninsula, Vanua Levu’s southeast tip. This long, lush, coconut palm-covered has, in recent years been rediscovered by those who want a more ‘natural’ vacation. The Bouma National Heritage Park protects approximately 80% of Taveuni’s land, sheltering scenic waterfalls, rivers, creeks, and canyons, which offer numerous opportunities to swim, climb, and hike. The Lavena Coastal Walk commences on a secluded beachfront sprinkled with rock-pools and small lagoons, its serene pathways navigate an unusual black-sanded volcanic beach, lush rainforest and passes through a charming Fijian settlement, finishing at the spectacular Wainibau Waterfalls where you can cool off. High in the interior mountains is beautiful Lake Tagimaucia, a 900-metre–high crater lake. A beautiful wild flowering plant named tagimaucia grows only on the shores of the lake from which it takes its name. Taveuni is a mecca for deep-sea fishing enthusiasts and experienced divers have access to some of the world’s best dive sites on Rainbow Reef that stretches for 31 kilometres. Somosomo is the port for inter-island ships and there is an airport in the north, making Taveuni easily accessible by air from the main island, Viti Levu. The small islets just off the east coast of Taveuni are home to some of the worlds most luxurious resorts. Among them, Qamea boasts wide bays lined with gorgeous white sand, palm-fringed beache backdropped by emerald-green peaks."

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