A List of Can’t Miss Attractions in Bangkok

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It is probably to be expected that most first-time visitors will begin their holidays to Thailand in Bangkok. With that being the case, I felt it imperative to offer a brief guide on what I consider to be the city’s best attractions for new visitors, or those who are pressed for time in the capital city. Obviously, this will not be the same list you may find in more comprehensive guides, yet I feel that it does represent a nice blend of the many different flavors that make Bangkok such a fascinating tourist destination.

No. 5 – Khao San Road

In all fairness, Khao San Road is probably a bit less appealing nowadays than it was in its hey-day (it has become rather overly-commercialized), but it is still an excellent place to take a stroll, and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of Bangkok. This is particularly true for first-time visitors, who may not be as put-off by the cheap clothes, fake gold watches, and pirated DVDs as would more-frequent visitors to the Land of Smiles. If nothing else, it is undoubtedly still a great spot to imbibe a few after-dinner refreshments and soak in the Bangkok atmosphere.

No. 4 – Wat Arun and Wat Pho

The famed Wat Arun and Wat Pho are not only two of the most-famous silhouettes of Bangkok skyline, but are also among Thailand’s most-famous, and architecturally-influential, Buddhist temples. I recommend visiting them together as part of a river cruise tour because, despite their relative proximity to one another, they are on opposite sides of the Chao Phraya River. Another advantage to the boat tour is that it will also allow you to include visits to the wats’ other famous neighbors in Bangkok’s famed Old City district.

No. 3 – The Floating Markets – A Glimpse into the Past

The image of Thai merchants in boats hawking their goods alongside other boaters is iconic in Thailand. This is how commerce has been conducted in the Kingdom for centuries, and you can see it for yourself at any one of several floating markets in the Bangkok area. While it is true that these markets have become a bit touristy, they’re still good fun for the first-time visitor. Just be aware that you’ll have to get up before sunrise to catch them as they start early and typically wrap up in time for lunch.

No. 2 – The Chao Phraya River

One of Asia’s greatest waterways, the Chao Phraya River holds great historical, and cultural significance in Thailand. The fact that it cuts through the center of Bangkok’s Old City also makes it an ideal route for those who wish to see the city’s main tourist attractions without dealing with the traffic that clogs the roadways.

Because river tours are such a popular attraction, they are offered from any number of sources – from the independent operators you’ll see along the banks of the Chao Phraya, to the more upscale companies you can book through your hotel’s travel desk. My personal recommendation (if your time and budget permit, of course), is to take a morning trip up to the historic ruined city of Ayutthaya, and then take the afternoon cruise back downstream to Bangkok.

No. 1 – The Grand Palace and Temple of the Emerald Buddha

Undoubtedly one of Bangkok’s most-visited attractions, the Grand Palace is a must-see for anyone on holiday in Thailand. This gorgeous, 17th-century compound has been the residence of both Siamese and Thai kings for centuries, and continues to hold a great mystique for subjects of the Kingdom. The highly-popular outer area of the Palace is particularly beautiful, as it houses mausoleums for every king of the current dynasty, and the revered Temple of the Emerald Buddha.

Out of respect to the monarchy, it is required that you wear long pants and shirts that cover your shoulders and midriff while visiting the Palace. Not to worry if you arrive dressed inappropriately, however, as there is a fitting room on-site that will loan you appropriate attire for your visit.

Looking for more ideas on your upcoming Holidays to Thailand?, then visit www.holidays-to-thailand.com and find advice on destinations, finding cheap travel, and everything else you’ll need for your Thailand Holiday.

An Introduction to Visiting Tokyo

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Images of Japan range from the ancient temples of Kyoto and Nara, to the mystical mountain shrines of the Kii peninsula, to the ultra modern skyline of Tokyo and its denizens who have a penchant for dressing like Little Bow Peep and the odd cartoon hero. People tend to either bypass Tokyo completely or spend their whole time in the city depending on their preferences and what they are looking for in Japan.

The truth is Tokyo is way more than funky clothes, luxurious inventions and earthquake resistant buildings. The truth is Tokyo, or Edo as it used to be once called, has as much tradition and customs as the other regions of Japan. Everyone who is staying in Japan, regardless of what you’re attracted to, you should plan to to check out everything that Tokyo has to offer before you move on to explore the rest of the country.

Tokyo is a growing destination that is part cutting edge and part old traditional small town that blends together in a wonderful mix of fashionable and traditional. With about thirty-three million people living in the greater Tokyo Metropolitan area it is tough to get beyond the concrete and neon front that a lot of people see and never move beyond.

If it’s your first time in the city there are a number of attractions that you should not miss. Start your tour in Shinjuku and a walk with the young generation in their quest for the latest name brands. Move on to Meiji Shrine to the south were you are welcomed into a quite forested park at the center of which sits a massive wooden Shinto shrine where, if you are lucky you’ll catch a glimpse of a traditional Shinto wedding. Exit the grounds through a large tori gate and into Harajuku and mingle with the young hip crowd dressed in costume play. Walk and take pictures with Little Bow Peep, Goth sweethearts, and the anime characters.

Move on to the more traditional areas of Tokyo (shita-machi, or lower town) and visit Asakusa area with the oldest and grandest temple in Tokyo, Sensoji. Head to Akihabara for a break back into the modern world with the latest gadgets and the peculiar culture of Maid Caf’s that have sprung up to service the Otaku (diehard fan) of the cartoon and comic genres. Loaded up with a new camera head up to Ueno Park where you can stroll amongst cherry blossom trees, ancient temples and visit the Ueno Zoo and pay a quick visit to their newest additions from China, the adorable Giant Pandas Bili and Xiannu.

As nighttime begins (no, you’re unable to do all of the above in 1 day) it is time to burrow into the endless small alleys and night fun that Tokyo promises. If you are starving visit Shinjuku, decide on a tiny alley and head down it. There are actually tons of small areas to discover and experience dinner just like the locals.

Search for a cute izakya (like a tapas bar) where you can try out a nice assortment of food and drinks. When you’re feeling buzzed hit the Roppongi or Izabuchuban wards where the night life really gets going with thousands of bars and night clubs. You should be prepared for a long night as the clubs stay open, and packed, until 4 am or so. Go wild right until the trains begin and get a bowl of miso ramen from a shop to help deal with a hangover.

Whenever you get back to your hotel, shower, take a 5 minute nap and then rinse and repeat. Tokyo has an energy that hopefully will keep you stimulated and alert your entire adventure.

You can find more great tips and advice on visiting Tokyo and the best things in Tokyo to see and do.

Tokyo Summer Guide to Drinking Beer

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Fairly recently there has been a debate in the Japanese mass media regarding “fly-jin”, a play on words for the Japanese word for foreigners “gaijin.” Though it’s a fact the tsunami and continuing tragedy at the Fukushima nuclear plant have triggered quite a few foreigners to leave the country, it is also true that a large number remained just like the Japanese.

My wife is in Tokyo (well she is Japanese), many of my foreign good friends are still in Tokyo, and significant amounts of the mass hysteria I observed at the start of the disaster was the consequence of common fear during a period when very little information was available. Now that things have settled down somewhat, the most sensible thing we can do for Japan is continue to visit, support the recovery, and let everyone realize that it is even now a secure country to go to.

There are plenty of things to do in Tokyo, but as summer and spring approaches, and the air con is sure to be in tight supply on account of energy cuts, it’s time to react just like a local and enjoy a nice cold beer, or two, or three, or….well you understand. I personally will do this as I head over to Japan in June. So this is not idle advice, but a master strategy from a long time resident of Japan.

I was told just recently that other than bottled water, batteries, and flashlights, the current most common lack in Tokyo is beer. Yes, that’s right, beer. With the leading companies having their plants in the north their production ability has been impacted. But have no fear, I always have a strategy when in involves beer. If you’re in Tokyo the following are the perfect venues to indulge in a beer while helping to improve the economy.

Our first stop is in April when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. This is the simplest of all the recommendations, if your timing is right, and fits right in with the Japanese custom of hanami, partying below the cherry blossoms. Grab a couple beers from a convenience store (yeah, they all have beer) or out of a vending machine (yup, these exist also) and visit your nearest park to imbibe under the sakura. For especially lively times I suggest Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyoen or Sumida Park.

If you are panicking at the thought of the big beer suppliers running out of supplies, don’t worry (well maybe you should worry about getting so emotional over it), there is a thriving micro beer market in Japan. In June the Great Japan Beer Festival kicks off at Ebisu Garden Hall. This is your chance to taste around 120 Japanese micro brews. If you don’t care about crowded places with a ton of beer lovers (who could hate that) this is the event for you. There are three sessions held on June 4 (11.30am-3pm and 4-7.30pm) and June 5 (12-4pm) with entrance tickets costing 500 yen each (about $5).

In case you are hoping for something a bit less crowded where you are able to sit, it is time to hit one of the scores of beer gardens that open throughout the city in the summer months. Let’s face it, Tokyo can get sweltering in the summer so I recommend going to the river front to satisfy your thirst. TY Harbor Brewery is on the intersection of Tennoz and Shibaura waterways and makes excellent ales right on location. No need to get worried about lack of production here. Better still is the fact that 10% of all sales go to assist kids in the tsunami affected zones.

Looking to find fun activities in Tokyo? Visit thingstodoin-tokyo.com to find great advice on travel to Tokyo

Deciding Where to Go on Your First Holliday to Thailand

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If you’re in the process of planning your first holiday to Thailand, you’re likely wrestling with the decision over which cities to visit. This task needn’t be a difficult one, as it is really just a matter of asking yourself what you like to do. Are you someone who enjoys a holiday filled with activities that make your heart race, or is your goal to find a nice place to unwind? Do you enjoy losing yourself in another culture, or simply losing yourself in seclusion and natural beauty? No matter which of these things you’re looking for, Thailand offers the very best of each to its visitors.

As a long-time visitor to Thailand, and part-time resident, I recommend three different locations to first-time travelers: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Phuket. Each is certainly well-known to the international tourism community, but in this article, I’ll tell you exactly why. For each of these three cities is distinctly different, offering its own unique taste of Thailand.

In a perfect world, you’ll have the time and means to visit all three of these wonderful destinations during your first holiday to Thailand. Because that may not be possible, however, this article may be able to point you toward the one or two cities that will best accomodate what you’re looking for on your holiday. As the ad campaign states, Thailand is truly “amazing”, and offers as much to the traveler as any country in the world. It is the goal of this article to make sure that you discover these treasures for yourself.

Bangkok

Thailand’s capital and largest city, Bangkok is home to an estimated 11 million people and, by some estimates, nearly 25% of the country’s total population. Because most foreign visitors arrive by air, and Thailand’s largest international airport is just outside the city limits, it is highly likely that you’ll wind up spending at least part of your holiday in the “City of Angels”. This is your good fortune, since the Bangkok is one of the world’s greatest tourist attractions.

Visiting Bangkok gives you a glimpse into all of the unique elements that make up Thailand. Towering high rises, modern super malls, and state-of-the-art architecture stand side-by-side with ancient Buddhist temples, and traditional Thai street markets selling everything from cheap souvenirs to authentic local dishes. It provides an unmistakable view of all that Thailand was, is, and will be.

Visitors of all tastes will easily find something that interests them in Bangkok. Whether it be shopping at the massive complex around Siam Square, taking a boat tour of the historic Old City along the Chao Praya, visiting the city’s multitude of historic sites (including the Royal Palace), or partying the night away in one of Bangkok’s many famous entertainment zones, you’re sure to leave the capital impressed.

Chiang Mai

One of Thailand’s most-significant cultural centers, and the nation’s second-most-populous city, Chiang Mai lives up to its nickname of the “Rose of the North”. Situated in the country’s highest mountain range near the borders with Laos and Myanmar (Burma), the city has wonderfully preserved the remnants of its historic past as the capital of the 13th Century Lanna Kingdom, continues to contribute to Thailand’s current culture by housing a thriving art scene and several of the nation’s best-known universities.

While Chiang Mai undoubtedly offers cultural entertainment on par with anywhere in Asia, its true beauty comes in its wealth of natural attractions. Just outside the city, one can find some of the world’s most-famous backpacking and hiking trails, wildlife preserves that allow you to get as close to the animals as you like, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and almost any other type of adrenaline-driven diversion you can think of.

Phuket

Located in Thailand’s extreme south, Phuket is a tropical island of peerless, idyllic beauty. Its white sand beaches, sky-blue water, and lush vegetation epitomize what most travelers envision as paradise. There is a price for this perfection, however, as Phuket ranks among the most-expensive destinations in Thailand. Nonetheless, it’s other-worldly beauty is enough to compensate for its slightly higher prices.

Your days in Phuket can include lounging on the beach, golfing on world-class courses, scuba diving, snorkeling, or exploring the island’s interior by all-terrain vehicle. By night, the island matches any other resort in the world with a variety of entertainment options guaranteed to keep you awake until the sun comes up.

As beautiful as Phuket is, it is just a short boat ride away from somewhere even more remarkable – the Phi Phi Islands. If spending a night or two in a beach bungalow on a nearly-deserted tropical island appeals to you, then Koh Phi Phi is the place to make it happen. Be sure to bring along your camera though, as these islands are some of the most-photogenic anywhere in the world.

Summary

The three cities discussed in this article represent what I call the “Big Three” destinations for foreign visitors to Thailand. You really can’t go wrong with any of them and, as mentioned earlier, ideally you’ll be able to visit all three during your holiday. If not, you’re sure to be pleased if you stick to the one or two that best fit your tastes at this time. The others will certainly still be there waiting for your return on future holidays to Thailand.

To learn more about Holidays to Thailand, stop by Devin Brindinshire’s site where you can find out all about the possible Thailand Holidays waiting for you!

Things to See in Jakarta and Yogyakarta

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It’s not every day that one gets to travel half way around the world to Indonesia, but when you do, you will wish you had done it sooner.

It won’t be possible to visit all 17,000 islands in the archipelago but Sumatra and Java should be top of the list of the ones you do see. Java is the more developed of the two, making it a lot easier to explore, and there are endless things to do in its cities, as well as a large choice of accommodation and restaurants.

The primary arrival point is Jakarta’s airport but once you arrive, it won’t be long before you notice just how congested its roads are. Indeed, a typical Southeast Asian city like Jakarta is just as crowded as any but this should not put you off. In fact before you know it, you will find the traffic to be contributing towards the city’s charm.

The National Monument is one of Jakarta’s main sites, known comically as Suharto’s ‘last erection’, in reference to the Indonesia’s second president. This giant column gives you a kilometre-wide view of the city. The National Museum strives to preserve the geographical, ethnographic, historical and archaeological heritage and is known to be the finest museum in Indonesia and Southeast Asia.

There is no better way to travel from Jakarta to Yogyakarta than by enjoying a soothing train ride along the snaking track, which takes you through luscious paddy fields. As you pass through, look out for the workers in their traditional apparel.

The city of Yogyakarta is a particularly popular stop on the west-eat route across Java. This beating heart of Indonesia’s artistic community has a wide range on show, such as elaborately primitive shadow puppets, or wayang. Keep an eye out for textile art, especially batik, and if you like art in a more kinetic form, you can enjoy a classical Indonesian ballet. The finest examples of these crafts, as well as admirable imitations, can all be bought in the stores lining Jalan Malioboro, the main shopping street.

But surrounding the city is where you will find Borobodur and Prambanam, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, one Hindu and the other Buddhist. Borobodur is Indonesia’s single-most-visited tourist attraction and for good reason. Its stupas (bell-like monuments) are built onto six ascending platforms which overlook the plain in which it sits. Built in the ninth century, it is a true feat of human engineering and a breathtaking one at that.

Indonesian cuisine is commonly served from street stalls called warungs and will make your mouth water if you like your food quick, fresh and cheap, but also of a high quality. Whether you want to sample soto ayam (chicken soup), nasi goring (fried rice), sate (satay skewers), or beef rendang (slow-cooked beef in coconut), you will find them all here. The stalls have their own specialities and like to present their own takes on these dishes.

When it comes to finding accommodation, you should look carefully for a place within your price range. A perfectly decent room can be found at a very reasonable price, but look in the wrong place and you’ll be overcharged for a place you would prefer to avoid. However, with some careful budgeting, you should have no problem finding a room suited to your finances, especially if you try your hand at bartering with the owner.

Find the right travel insurance deals for a trip to Indonesia.

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