Thailand Is a Very Beautiful Country

Mueang Thai, as local people call the nation, is an intriguing mixture of old kingdoms.

For more than five centuries, the Khmer Empire governed its properties – until ousted in the thirteenth century. At that point, the Thai Kingdom was effectively brought together and built up by King Sri Indraditya of the Kingdom of Sukhothai (1238).

From that point onward, the nation has been separated into four fundamental districts – each bragging extraordinary traditions, conventions, and attractions.

The assorted variety brings an astonishing exhibit of things to do in Thailand. Underneath she will talk about the best vacation spots in Thailand.

Top Tourist Attractions in Thailand: The Central Plains

There’s no better place to get a look at Thailand’s history and culture than around the Central Plains. In this locale is the place its capital, Bangkok, is found.

Bangkok, an energetic kaleidoscope

I whole up Bangkok with three terms: exceptional customary nourishment, old sanctuaries, and crazy nightlife.

The absolute most well-known things to involvement in Bangkok include:

Wat Pho and the rich Reclining Buddha

Fabulous Palace complex (counting Wat Phra Kaew)

Soi Cowboy: BKK’s shady area of town, for sultry nightlife

Boisterous, energizing Khao San Road (you should see it once!)

Grub at Sukhumvit Soi 38, apparently Bangkok’s best road nourishment spot

Vimanmek Mansion: combination of customary Thai design and European neoclassical style

By the time of composing, I don’t prescribe going to Wat Arun. It’s mind boggling structural subtle elements are as of now eclipsed by a broad reclamation venture. Invest your energy at other commendable Bangkok attractions!

Top Thailand vacation destinations

Day treks to the rustic edges

Have a few days to save? Escape the hurrying around by taking one of the accompanying critical day trips from Bangkok:

Ayutthaya: probably the most astounding remains in Thailand

Snack conventional pontoon noodles at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

Hua Hin: beautiful shoreline town for the individuals who don’t have room schedule-wise to investigate the Thai islands

Eccentric Wat Saen Suk: to some degree grim sanctuary depicting the Buddhist dreams of damnation

Phraya Nakhon Cave at Khao Sam Roi Yot Marine Park, a standout among the most shocking collapses the world

The previous capital of the Lanna Kingdom has transformed into an exceptionally modest, current school town. Chiang Mai’s rich history, astounding road sustenance scene, and moderately ease of living have made it a mainstream base for Western expats in Asia.

Sanctuary jumping and foodie gets a kick out of Chiang Mai

Sprinkled with more than 300 Buddhist sanctuaries, I thought, which to pick?!

In the wake of spending a few days around the city, I finished up these are the most special, must-see sanctuaries in Chiang Mai:

Doi Suthep: prominent ridge sanctuary with breathtaking perspectives of Chiang Mai and region

Wat Chedi Luang: Lanna cheddar, transcending inside the Old City’s dividers

Wat Umong: novel 700-year-old sanctuary where occupant priests wander among the woods

Wat Suan Dok: fourteenth-century sanctuary where individuals from the Lanna Royal family are covered

The most novel thing to do in Chiang Mai, however? Join a priest visit!

They are social trades, organized by neighborhood Buddhist colleges, so as to enhance the English capability of their understudies.

Priest visits are an incredible approach to become acquainted with neighborhood traditions and conventions firsthand. The MCU Chiang Mai Campus holds priest talks each week at Wat Suan Dok Monday through Friday, from 5 to 7 PM.

While Chaing Mai is one of the best vacation destinations in Thailand it is additionally home to numerous expats. In the event that you’re searching for an extraordinary base in Asia, this is certainly a probability.

Week after week reflection withdraws are likewise advertised. They begin each Tuesday at 1 PM and finish up Wednesday by 3 PM.

Did I go Sanctuary bouncing, as well as getting the opportunity to taste the eccentricities of Northern Thai cooking by going on foodie creeps?

A few dishes you should attempt in this area include:

Moo to: broiled pork tenders with a sweet, nutty flavor

Lab: fricasseed meat, pork or duck dry-rubbed with neighborhood flavors

Nam ngaio: tart tomato soup with rice noodles and pork

Nam park on: zesty Northern Thai plunge made with tomatoes and minced pork

Khao soi: Chiang Mai’s trademark! Thick Burmese-style coconut curry soup, finished with browned noodles

Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle’s tri-outskirt

Thailand’s northernmost clamoring city lays by the notorious Golden Triangle: Asia’s hotspot for opium creation.

Or, on the other hand, you could just consider it to be the place from which you can visit Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand in one day!

Past this tripoint, there’s very little to do in the zone.

I suggest you base yourself out of Chiang Rai on the off chance that you wish to visit well-known sanctuaries and take in Mae Hong Son’s sloping scenes:

Looking for nearby knickknacks at Chang Rai’s Night Bazaar

Redesigned Wat Rong Khun (White Temple): a nearby craftsman’s artful culmination

But Kwan Village Park: previous migrant slope tribe town, now settled by a wonderful waterfall

Baan Si Dum was otherwise known as the Black House: interesting accumulations of conventional Southeast Asian curious

Top Things to Do in Thailand: The Northeast

Otherwise called Isaan, Northeast Thailand is an intriguing blend of Laotian, Cambodian, and Thai societies.

It’s relative confinement, however, make it a standout amongst the most genuine districts a visitor can visit.

Gulped by the wilderness at Khao Yai

While Isaan is generally out of the way, this districts happens to be the home of Thailand’s most prevalent national stop, Khao Yai.

A whopping 70% of its 2168 km² are lavish timberland!

All the more astonishingly, however, the recreation center brags around 44 waterfalls, one of a kind natural life perception towers, surging rapids, and remarkable perspectives and climbing trails.

This makes Khao Yai a tremendous UNESCO World Heritage Site – ideal for nature sweethearts who wish to be wrapped by the thick wilderness shelter.

Thailand-attractions-Phanom-Rung Explore fascinating Khmer and Mon ruins

The antiquated Khmer and Mon ruins found in this district are a delightful complexity of customary Thai style.

I profoundly prescribe a visit to the accompanying notable destinations:

Wat Pah Nanachat for a bona fide contemplation withdraw in a woods religious community

Phu Phra Bat Park: grottoes, antiquated spray painting, and other intriguing rock carvings

Phanom Rung and Muang Tam: Hindu complex, apparently Thailand’s best-safeguarded Khmer ruins.

15 Things Not to Do in Japan

If you have plans to visit Japan, there are some things you need to know. Familiarizing yourself with some basic Japanese cultural practices will go a long way in making your trip there enjoyable. Also, you are not likely to get into trouble. Here are things you should not do based on Japan culture.

1. Don’t enter a house wearing your shoes

Are you used to walking around in your house in your shoes? Well, you might get yourself in trouble if you do that in Japan. There is a special place where you should keep your shoes before entering the house. Also, there are slippers for guests when entering a room.

2. Don’t shout on the train

Trains are very common in Japan. However, people don’t make noise while in trains. They are always silent. If you have to speak to someone, do it in a low tone. Use your earphones if you have to listen to some music.

3. Don’t use your phone on trains

As indicated earlier, Japanese don’t like any noise in the trains. You will rarely find someone using his phone to make a call in the train. If you have to use your phone, send a message or talk in a low tone so as not to distract other people.

4. Don’t eat on trains

Japanese do not eat when traveling on commuter trains. Drinking is okay unless the train is too crowded. However, in long distance trains, eating and drinking are allowed. Food and beverages are also sold in such trains.

5. Don’t forget to remove toilet slippers

Once you get to Japan, you will notice that there are slippers only used when going to the toilet. These slippers are easily noticeable since they have particular words or pictures. Always remember to remove them when entering your house or walking on the streets.

6. Don’t tip anyone

While it is common to tip anyone after an excellent service in many cultures, Japan is an exception. No matter how satisfied you are with their service, they never accept tips. In fact, someone will come running after you, returning the tip!

7. Don’t ignore someone you are speaking with

If you are talking with a Japanese person, always stay calm and attentive. You may sound impolite and rude by just failing to show that you have understood a point. Whenever speaking, show your attentiveness by talking back.

8. Don’t photograph everything

Despite Japan being a beautiful country, you are not allowed to take photos everywhere. It is advisable to always ask someone before taking photos. You must be granted permission to take pictures in museums, temples, and shrines.

9. Don’t hug anyone you meet

Hugging is common in western countries. However, in Japan, it is not. You don’t hug someone you come across in Tokyo streets. Most of the older folks don’t like the habit. If you want to hug someone, then it’s best to know their age group and whether they are comfortable with it.

10. Don’t eat or drink when walking

It is uncommon to find Japanese eating or drinking while they are walking. Even on the streets with food stalls they always find a place to sit. Now you know how to behave when you are on Japanese streets so you don’t look foreign.

11. Don’t receive a present with one hand

Whenever receiving a gift or a visiting card from a Japanese, use your two hands and bow. Then tell him thank you. On receipt of a gift, don’t open it until the person who has given it to you has left.

12. Don’t throw away trash haphazardly

Another thing you might find hard to get used to is how to handle your trash. In most cities around the world, there are a lot of trash cans however, Japanese cities are different. People are encouraged to carry their trash until they find a place to dispose of it.

13. Don’t fail to say “thank you”

The verb “thank you” is highly valued in Japan. Learn to say it after being served in a hotel or store. Familiarize yourself with how bowing is done in Japan. You must always bow and say thank you when you meet with elders.

14. Don’t write down a person’s name in red ink

In Japan, it is OK to write “goodbye” in red ink but not a person’s name. The Japanese consider it to be disobedient. Therefore, if you have to write down your Japanese friend’s name, you know which color to avoid.

15. Don’t be shy

It is common for tourists to ask for help from locals. When you get to Japan, don’t be shy or afraid of asking for anything. They are very friendly and helpful. Even when you accidentally forget something somewhere, go back as no one is going to take it away.

Ayers Rock in The Kata Tjuta National Park – The Long Climb and an Even Longer Descent

I admit that sometimes I act without thinking too much about the consequences. This caused me already several problems in my life.

As you know I spent already a few days in Uluru. One morning, after considering the pros and cons I decided to climb the Rock.

I suggest that you seriously think about it before doing it.

Ayers Rock is massive, majestic. It commands respect. It’s 348 metres high; like a 95 story building. The track to the top is more or less 1.6 km long. It’s perilous and treacherous. If you are in top physical conditions it will take more or less 3 hours to complete the “expedition”. The first part has got a chain. You can hang on to it and this will help you immensely. It is a tiresome climb and you need to be prepared. If you do not feel 100% you should give up and be happy with your decision: people died here.

About 34 people lost their lives, mainly because of heart attacks. A few people got hurt.

Do not forget the heat.

Another hazardous factor is caused by the wind.

I got there early in the morning. I did not want to accomplish my mission in the middle of the day because of the rising temperatures. I had a pair of good trainers, and a bottle of water and a wind-breaker in my little backpack, just in case.There were not too many people around.

I looked at the sky. It was blue, not too windy either. I started climbing. It was not as easy as I thought. I used the chain all the time trying not to look down.

Sometimes I had to stop to catch my breath.

I remembered clearly that I had to avoid grabbing something in case it fell. It could be fatal.

The ascent is hard, steep and, at times, scary. I used also my hands to climb when the help of the chain was not available anymore. Sometimes I stopped to look around. In the distance I could see the Olgas or Kata Tjua, which means literally ‘many heads’ in Aboriginal.

It is a group of large, domed rock formations not too far from The Rock.

I was nearly there. I could see some little pools of waters all around. Obviously it had rained recently. I noticed a few clouds in the sky. The temperature dropped a little bit.

I finally reached the top. The scenery was amazing. Awesome! I walked around, there was a huge distance of red soil all around me. I could see the round shape of planet earth. I had the feeling that I was alone in the world. It was a very intense. The immensity and the loneliness of the environment made my heart sink.

I spent half an hour on the top. It was time to descend. There were very few people around me. The weather suddenly changed. The sky was grey and it became colder.

I thought: “I hope that it is not going to rain because in this case I could be in trouble.”

I started to move downwards. It was not too difficult but sometimes I had to sit and go down like that… on my bum…

I managed to reach the chain, finally. At that stage it started to rain. The rock underneath my feet became slippery. I got scared. I had good trainers but not good enough with such a weather. I looked down. Fear: that was what I experienced. It kept on raining. Now my feet could no longer hold on to the ground. I stopped. I looked down again. There very few people.

I saw a man waiving at me. He started to climb. He must have noticed that I was facing some difficulties. After a while he reached me. Yes, he saw that I was having serious problems. He told me that he belongs to a rescue group in his hometown, he was just on holiday at the moment and he came up to help me. Lucky!

He had very good climbing and tracking boots. He was very strong and very tall. He was behind me. He told me to put my feet in front of his, because he could hold on to the ground without slipping.

We both hold on to the chain. Being robust my weight did not create him problems.

At that time it was seriously raining. What a tragedy to be there by myself I thought…

I do not remember how long it took us to reach the ground underneath us, but finally we got there. I was very happy that it was all over… He told me that I should have considered the ascent seriously before starting the climb, that I should have been more careful.

I learned a lesson I am afraid… and I was very lucky… I was very grateful to him.

There is another reason why people should not go up Ayers Rock and not only because it is dangerous. Uluro is a sacred site and the Aboriginal owners ask to respect their law and not to climb it.

The climbing route is a sacred path of spiritual significance that is only taken by few Aboriginal men on special occasions. At that time I was not aware of it. I should have been more informed and more respectful.

Homestay In Goa – What To Expect

Goa is indeed one of the best places I have chosen to be my holiday destination. There is just so much to enjoy and see here, from the rich history of the culture and fun activities. The beaches like Querim Beach, Arambol Beach, Mandrem Beach, Morjim Beach, Chapora Beach in North Goa are definitely a must visit while here because I am a big fan of sun and sand. This is one destination that has never let me down as far as having a time of my life during the holidays goes.

Accommodation in Goa is not a problem; the options are numerous. Homestays are some of my favorites because of the many benefits they come with and with so many fairy spread across the region, I always have an easy time finding my ideal homestay in the area to make my holiday as memorable and convenient as I wish for it to be. But what exactly makes homestay in Goa so attractive? If you are thinking of homestay for the first time, here is what you can expect from the properties here.

  • Lots of homestay options. If there is one thing I love about Goa is that it does not limit me to a few options when it comes to homestay. There are just so many you can choose from with some of the most popular properties being Riviera Hermitage, Royal Land Scape, Castelinhos and Parth Holiday home among many others. I advise that you check out what each has to offer so you can select a property you are bound to enjoy to the fullest throughout your stay in Goa. It has always been easy for me to select based on property type, themes I am interested in, locality and the landmarks. This way, I have always landed a property that is convenient for me in every sense.
  • Tranquil atmosphere. One of the things I have noticed about the majority of the Homestays here is that they all have beautiful relaxing surroundings. I just love how serene the atmosphere is in the properties, making it possible for me to forget all my worries and stresses. If you are looking for pure relaxation and rejuvenation like I am always seeking, then the homestays are the way to go. I enjoy coming home to my homestay after a crazy crowded day full of activities and sitting on a calm beach like Anjuna Beach, Baga Beach, Calangute Beach and Candolim Beach.
  • Comfortable rooms. Every item in the homestays here seems carefully selected to give you nothing but comfort. I also love how well equipped these rooms are and the modern to ensure I miss nothing at all during my stay. The properties all come with modern facilities to make the perfect home away from home!
  • Perfect locations. Apart from the amazing tranquil atmosphere, Goa Homestays are located strategically to make it possible for travelers to easily stumble on what they find most attractive during the holidays here. You can visit the local tourist places like Reis Magos Fort, Museum of Goa, Shantadurga Temple, Mangeshi Temple, Deltin Royale Casino etc. Whether it is the history I am interested in or the local culture and cuisine, or the beaches, there is always a perfect choice of property to keep me closer to what I love the most.

Tips For A Smooth And Convenient Bus Charter Experience

A bus charter is a bus that has a professional driver to handle tours, trips, and other transportation needs. A bus charter can be one of the best choices you make when going for a group tour to a preferred destination. With transport from one attraction to another, you will have all the time to enjoy everything in your itinerary without worries. With a professional driver on board, you can relax and enjoy and even take better care of any children you may be taking with you for the trip. A bus charter also translates into no directions challenges because the drivers are conversant with their locations and all tour sites and routes.

Considering that bus charter are many in any given destination, you need to play your role in selecting one. You may need to start by choosing a company that you can trust with your traveling needs and then make a few considerations to select the perfect bus to hire for your tour.

Get details about the driver. A professional driver is definitely a plus for your tour but you should not assume that they know everything about the sites you intend to visit; they may only know how to get there and nothing more. If need be, consider getting a tour guide to handle your other needs in case the driver is not available for such. It helps to be sure beforehand to avoid disappointments.

Consider the size of the bus. A bus charter can be as large as to accommodate 60 passengers but there are definitely smaller sizes. The higher the passenger capacity the higher the rental rates may be. Look at the size options and select a bus that caters to your group for the tour. Everyone should be comfortable including children in the group so select a good size for everyone.

Check out the amenities included. When searching for the bus charter online, you will get very good photos of the buses. To ensure that you get what you see and need, confirm that the bus you have selected is represented perfectly. For instance, confirm that the leather reclining seats you see are the actual seats you get to enjoy. Apart from confirming the features, also consider the availability of amenities such as compact restroom, DVD player, air conditioning, TV monitors and any other that matters to you. If you want internet connectivity during the tour then inquire if that is available.

Ask about allowed driving length. Most bus charters will allow a specific length of time for the driver to be behind the wheel. The legal limit can range from area to area and you should be willing to be flexible in making adjustments to your tour itinerary so you do not end up with a fatigued driver before even getting back. You, however, want to choose company and driver with a considerable allowance so you enjoy the most from your tour in your selected destination.

Traveling Is A Way Of Attaining Peace FOR The Soul

Travelling is a thrilling experience for a lot of people. It gives them the adrenaline rush they are looking for and makes them exhilarated about all that is related to travelling. The travelling lust is quite hard to resist and there are people who cross all limits of fulfilling all the wishes and desires that they hold for travelling in their hearts.

It can turn out to be an amazing experience only if one plans it perfectly and takes care of all the little to do things that should be taken care of while travelling. It is a joyous ride and it can turn out to be really amazing.

Let us have a look at some of the tips you need to know for travelling:

• MAKE A PROPER LIST

Always have a list of everything that you would be needing and pack accordingly. A list will help you remember everything that needs to be packed and you will not forget anything in the last moment. So keep everything in your mind so that everything is kept in your mind and you know exactly what all you will need while you are on the road.

• LEARN THE COMMON TONGUE OF THE PLACE

This always helps no matter where you are travelling to. If you know few of the common phrases of that place in their mother tongue it always makes it much easier to travel and makes it much more convenient as well. Therefore try to take out some time and learn just few of the common phrases that people mostly use their so the conversing gets easier.

• DON’T FORGET THE EXTRA CAMERA BATTERY

Camera is one of the most important things to carry when you are travelling. You would obviously want to take a lot of snaps of every place you visit and capture all your memories in those photographs, therefore do not forget to carry that extra camera battery just in case of an emergency. You never know when your camera might run out of its battery due to constant usage; therefore it is always safe to carry an extra pack.

• KEEP YOUR ROOM NUMBER AND HOTEL ADDRESS NEAR TO YOU

This is just in case you have to refer to it suddenly or you get stranded and you need to ask for directions. Keep these two pieces of information handy so that you can use it whenever necessary. It is for your own good and safety, therefore just be alert while you are travelling and keep the important tips on mind. This is absolutely necessary to make your trip a successful one.

Earlie Beach and The Golden Plover

Earlie Beach is a little town with about 1.300 people, in Queensland, Australia, along the Whitsunday Coast. It’s the gateway to the unparalleled Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s very popular with backpackers… and I was one of them! After arriving in the famous locality, I spent a couple of days relaxing and having a look around, trying to find out what could interest me in the area.

I simply loved the feeling of being careless free, fortunate to be in this superb part of the world.

One day, I do not remember if I was in a backpacker or in a pub, I saw an advertisement on the wall that unchained my imagination. The image of wonderful tall ship with all its sails unfurled appeared in front of me. A comment said that being on it would have been an adventure of a life time experience.

It was about a week cruise around the Whitsundays, a collection of 74 continental islands in the North-East Coast of Queensland.

I was hooked. I knew that I needed to go.

The ad also published: “Backpackers willing to help out with serving food and cleaning up will get a huge discount.” Without hesitation, I went to a travel agency and I bought a ticket immediately. I was very lucky; the ship was nearly booked out for the next weeks and they only had a few places left.

I was very excited about the trip and the ship as well. I started to gather information about my new mean of transport, which was a brigantine.

What is a brigantine? I am sorry about the technical wording but there is no other way to get around it…

It was, they do not exist anymore nowadays, a two-masted sailing vessel with an entirely square rigged foremast and at least two sails on the main mast: a square top sail and a gaff sail mainsail (behind the mast). The main mast is the second and taller of the two masts.

The ship was built in 1910 by the Ports and the Harbours of Victoria, in Australia. At that time, she was called “Plover”.

For its construction, they used the best materials: the New Zealand Kauri, a gigantic native tree, and copper fastenings.

This astonishing 30-meter vessel was one of the last tall ship on planet earth.

It is hard to describe the feeling of being on it.

Its story is fascinating. It started as a steam powered ship in Melbourne and worked at diverse jobs as fishing ketch, ferry, scallop boat and finally as a striking cruise ship.

Unfortunately, in 1986 it caught fire. Luckily nobody died while the fire was raging but the deck was destroyed. Even its superstructure was completely wrecked. The ship then was abandoned in the mud for 2 years in the Marybyrnong River. A disaster!

Providentially 4 guys from Germany and a professional rigger of Geelong, called George Herbery, had the vision of seeing the huge potential of the discredited ship.

The brothers, called Helmut, Günther and Gert Jacoby and an engineer called Ed Roleff, were ship lovers. Within 4 years and 6 months they turned the derelict into a classy and elegant sailing vessel.

It was so picturesque, eye-catching and unique that it was regularly used in movies. One was the notorious softcore “The Blue Lagoon”…

Nevertheless, the day I was impatiently waiting for to start my new journey arrived…

The ship was blue with immaculate sails. What a wonderful sight when I saw it for the first time! What a feeling to embark on this masterwork!

My imagination ran wild… The Golden Plover reminded me of pirates, black and white flags with the skull, symbol of piracy par excellence… of deadly naval battles and hidden treasures…

Not only I was on a magnificent vessel… I was going to cruise along the legendary, stunning Whitsunday Islands.

Shiny white sand beaches and turquoise waters were waiting for me…

What’s next? Just follow me… And I will show you the world.

5 Ways to Travel Solo Without Going It Alone

Solo travel has become a hot topic. Unlike “single(s)” travel, it is a broader group. It can include those who are single, married or have a partner/significant other. It may be a business person looking to add a leisure weekend or extension to a trip for work. Two stumbling blocks to solo travel can be: I. whether it is lonely to vacation as a “party of one” and ii.whether eating alone, especially dinner, is really uncomfortable.

Now having visited 68 countries and all 50 states, I have found 5 good ways to go alone without feeling you are “going it alone”.

1. River Cruise and Small Ship Cruises

I highly recommend river cruises and small ships. They are especially a good fit for a first time solo traveler. However, they are also great for well-traveled solos in two cases. That is where destinations like Cambodian boat villages are not otherwise easy to reach. Secondly, they work well in places where security is an issue.

Here are the key advantages of such river and small ships for solo travelers, they:

  • Give you time alone but a group for tours and meals
  • Can be competitively priced when compared to a piecemeal approach
  • Make unpacking a one-time chore
  • Work well with land packages
  • Often have discounted package pricing including flights

2. Select your own lodging, and take day trips.

Here are the key advantages of this independent approach:

  • Affords you the opportunity to select your own interests and travel style.
  • Provides more opportunity to interact with local residents.
  • Gives you a “day-off” when you need it.
  • Works with a range of budgets.

3. Combine both of the above approaches.

I really favor this approach when I travel. On solo travel for 17 days at New Year’s, I toured Southeast Asia. I started with a private taxi tour in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I then joined a top Mekong River Cruise on to Vietnam. On the last leg, I had five days in a 5-star hotel in Bangkok. In my last stop, I tried all 3 ways of sightseeing: 1. A large bus tour 2. A private guide and 3. Self-directed subway tour.

This blended approach puts you in the driver’s seat and:

  • Will let you set your own course while being free to pick and choose
  • Gives you a part-time group of travel mates but also time alone
  • Makes it possible to follow a budget (or splurges) tailored to what works for you

4. Sign up ahead for a class abroad.

This has become very popular now for cooking classes in France and Italy. However, for decades, language classes abroad have lured students for short-term or full summer programs. Add to that options for photography classes, skiing and scuba diving.

Here are the key benefits to this approach:

  • Provides you with a ready-made group
  • Gives you a local contact to hear what not to miss off the tourist path
  • Make it possible to connect with classmates for meals or sightseeing
  • Results in providing local contacts in an emergency

5. Join a volunteer group or exchange program.

I have done this twice. My first trip out of the US was at 18 joining 5 other girls on a summer YMCA project in Trinidad and Tobago. It was the best way to learn about day-to-day life in another country and participate in community activities.

The benefits were endless. They included:

  • Meeting local residents outside of the typical tourist path
  • Seeing distant and often more unusual destinations
  • Providing volunteer efforts to communities than may have experienced natural disasters or other hardships.

If you are new to solo travel, take a look at each of these options. You will be surprised how fast solo travel gives you the chance to make new life-long friends from around the world so that you feel you are solo to more.

Solo Travel – 10 Ways to Save on Single Supplements

In your school days, you may have found, as I did, that economics really is the “dismal science”. However, I did learn one key fact. Supply and demand drive prices. For solo travel, the surcharge or “single supplement” does vary partly in keeping with this tried and true rule. The good news? If you prowl through the Internet, you can find ways to save on solo travel when demand is down. The bad news? Reduced or no single supplement offerings are limited in number and go fast.

Here are 10 ways to save.

1. Don’t ask for one room. Ask for a “room for one’. In Europe, lodging is often sold with solo pricing. Be sure to see if it is a solo price for a standard room or a small single room. Look at the size offered for single occupants. Then consider the amount of time you will spend in your room. I often take 10-12 hour day trips abroad with almost no time spent in my hotel room except to catch some sleep before heading out again.

2. Get there first. Book even one year ahead since few slots are reduced for solos. This is really important if you go in-season. Holiday resorts and hot spots in summer may have return visitors book the next year when they check out.

3. Head to the airport when everyone else is heading home. Off-season travel is the best way to get immediate 50% off reductions. In the south of France, rates go down as fast as Sept 9. Ski resorts, like the fabled Sun Valley Lodge, have specials just before Christmas. In winter and spring, European discounts can be half-price as well.

4. Get excited about rainy weather or extreme heat and cold. You will have to think how far you want to take this. I had a thrilling short term work trip one Jan. in Siberia. I also went on tour in India during the monsoons. In some cases, the negative pronouncements may not impact your trip. A good example? The risk of hurricanes each fall is less likely to touch the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) making for better pricing. In Africa, for example, safari rates are lower during the rainy or “green” season if you can get away, and don’t mind the possibility of short, heavy rains.

5. Look for new travel providers. Hotels that are just opening or reopening after renovations have specials to gain or regain market share. The Hotel Castille in Paris, for example, had short-term deep discounts when it reopened just steps from fashionable boutiques. Thereafter, the rates increased in keeping with other high-end small hotels

6. Be a contrarian. Don’t pay a premium for what’s currently trending. Prowl the Internet for undervalued regions. If it is all the rage, prices will soar. In the 1980’s, I somehow found a Montenegro resort right off the Albanian border. Since then, Sveti Stefan, where I stayed, has been updated as reflected in its 5 star pricing. The moral of the story is get there before the crowds discover a destination.

7. If you can’t pronounce it or spell it, you’ll love the prices! Substitute the road less traveled. If you have a dream to see the Parthenon you must go to Greece. (That is unless you live in North America and would like to see a perfect replica in Nashville, Tenn.!) Regional air carriers are a good way to find out great largely undiscovered places at low prices. One example: I dreamed of Tahiti in my early post-graduate days. When rates were high there, Air New Zealand suggested alternatives: Rarotonga and Aitutaki. I took them up on it and had the trip of a life time dining out on the stories for years.

8. Scour the Internet for national and regional programs offered by tourist boards. Check ahead as they may only be available abroad. One of the best deals I found in the 1990’s was with then “Lan Chile”. From the US, I purchased three stand-by tickets for a total of $200 to go anywhere in the country. At that price, I made my way to Antarctica Chile, at the end of the world!

9. Use flexible dates to grab week-day deals. Hotels and airline rates often go up and down together. Why is that? That takes us back to supply and demand. When planes and hotels have low load factors, prices are softer.

10. Share to save. Look for tours that have no single supplements by agreeing to share. The benefit to this approach? It is a way to save if your travel dates are not flexible, and no to low single supplement deals are not available.

In any case, before you give up on fitting solo travel into your budget, look at these options.

Durga Puja: The Queen of All Festivals

India is a land of festivals. Being a secular country, there is no dearth of things to celebrate in this land of wonders. From Christmas to Eid ul Zoha, Independence Day to the Cricket World Cup, there is hardly anything that Indians do not like celebrating. Simply point us towards an occasion and we are all for it. But hidden amongst this long list of celebrations is a gem in the form of Durga Puja, something celebrated in its full glory in the Bengali community.

So, what exactly IS the Durga Puja?

Well, for the sake of clarity, Puja refers to a religious festival. However, for us Bengalis, Durga Puja is less of a ‘Puja’ and more of the embodiment of the spirit of festiveness. What exactly does that mean? Well, let us go back a few millenniums to answer that question.

The tradition of invoking the goddess Durga (or the mother, known as ‘Ma’) is first considered to have been done by Lord Ram before he went forth to battle Ravana, as documented in the epic Ramayana. However, the tradition lay dormant till about the late 1500s, when the landlords in Bengal took it up. It was finally given its final form in the 18th century as Baroyaari (or 12 friends’) puja, a term which finally came to refer to community sponsored Durga Pujas held in Kolkata.

Essentially, all parts of India celebrates this period, but in the form of Navratri. It constitutes of 9 days’ worth of fasting, which ends with Dussehra, a day where an effigy of Ravana is burned as a way to show that evils are always championed by good as Lord Ram had championed above Ravana.

In Bengal, however, the meaning of these 10 days are quite different.

My earliest memories of Durga Puja are that of waking up in the middle of the night to listen to Mahalaya on the radio. It is a programme that has been airing on the first day of the Bengali month Ashwin for more than 7 decades and 4 generations of Bengalis, forcing them to wake up at 4 am, something I still do religiously every year on that particular day. Although the magic of the scent, the half awoken self and knowing Ma is coming has somewhat diminished with the years, the idea of something so collectively powerful that it makes a whole community look forward to it still holds a great deal of charm nonetheless.

We treat Ma Durga as something more than just the goddess. While it is true that she embodies the raw power (or Shakti) that overcame evil by slaying the evil demon Mahisasur (hence the term Mahisasur-mardini), she is much MUCH more than just that. The ten days that start with Mahalaya signify her annual visit to her paternal home in Bengal with 4 of her children. As such Ma is, at the same time, a mother, a wife, a goddess, and most importantly, a member of our family. We pamper her, we respect her, we love her and we adore her. She is more than just a divinity.

To us Bengalis, she embodies our truest nature. No matter where a Bengali might be, come Durga Puja, he/she feels a connection to his/her family.

THIS is what it means to celebrate Pujo (a colloquial term for Durga Puja).

Frankly, it cannot be compared to anything else in the world. But, remember the togetherness one gets when visiting the family, or the warmth during Christmas, or the feeling you get when you visit your family after a year away? That is what Pujo means to a Bengali. It is more than celebrating a religious festival. The idea of Pujo is bringing everyone together. And what better way can there be than a mother facilitating all that? We eat, we cry, we talk, be happy and celebrate something that is practically unheard of anywhere else in the world. It does not matter what you religion is. Whether a Muslim, a Hindu, Christian, Sikh, Jain or anything in between (including atheists), if you are a Bengali at heart, Durga Puja is for you. From visiting the tens of thousands of makeshift podiums (or pandals) for hoisting Ma Durga to having a cup of tea in the middle of the night (under a tree in the local shop because it seems to inevitably rain during Puja nights these days, especially if you are out at 2 am) to dancing during the idol immersion ceremony (called Bhashan), Durga Puja is something that you have to experience at least once in your life.

Oh, and did I mention scrumptious luchi and khichudi as lunch during Ashtami and the gorgeous ladies who grace the pandals? Pujo is worth it… believe you me.

And once Pujo is done, while we are all sad, we pray for Ma to return safely to her heavenly abode atop the Himalayas. Thus begins the wait for the next Puja. Another year to spend before our dear mother comes back. Because Pujo never ends, it simply gets shifted by another year. After all, Ma is like the mother who wants you to be happy even when she is gone.

Come, be a part of this wonderful festival of togetherness.