Embrace the awe-inspiring beauty of Southland

Posted by - October 23, 2018

Whether it is through word of mouth from those who have been or from The Lord of the Rings movies that you have seen, the one thing that rings true is New Zealand is 100 percent pure.
But no part of New Zealand is purer than Southland, a natural playground of unmatched beauty in the country’s southernmost region.
Located at the base of the Earth, Southland is quite literally the world’s backyard, unspoiled and beautiful both inside and out.
Blessed with emerald rainforests, fertile farmlands, and sweeping coastlines, Southland is an unparalleled nature and wildlife destination. The rugged, beautiful coastal region, coupled with its expansive and dramatic scenery, provides a fantastic setting for adventures such as cycling, surfing, fishing, hiking, or just brisk walking.
One of Southland’s most cherished assets is its coastline which stretches a staggering 3,400 kilometers, unmarred by development. Perfect for those who want to get off the beaten track, it invites travelers to be one with nature in tranquil surroundings.
Venture Southland
Aside from harnessing its nature to create amazing experiences, the region’s landscapes make for amazing food.
A foodie destination, Southland’s free-flowing rivers and streams are trout-rich, and the cold waters of the Foveaux Strait just off the Bluff Harbour are the freshest, bestowing upon the region supreme flavour to succulent oysters and blue cod. Word on the street is that Bluff oysters are the finest in the world and it is hard to argue with that.
Equally, its sprawling green pastures are excellent for farming prime lamb and beef and producing the finest melt-in-your-mouth sheep cheese. In fact, it has been said that the best cheese rolls, a local snack and a childhood favorite, are found in Southland.
With an abundance of mouthwatering gourmet treasures, it is rather impossible for anyone to go hungry in Southland.
Venture Southland
But what inspires visitors to stay? It could be its vast array of lakes, rivers, mountains, and open plains. Perhaps it is its character-filled towns, sure to charm even the weariest of travelers. Or the close proximity between the two.
“You know, you could be in Invercargill, 15 minutes later you would be on Stewart Island. You jump in your car, in an hour and a half you may be in Manapouri,” Stewart Island Flights pilot Raymond said. A quick escape is never too far away.
Or maybe, it is the Southland folk who are always ready to greet you with a warm welcome.
If there is something that any returning visitor to Southland can agree on, it is this: in this part of the world, the people are remarkably humble and generous with smiles. It is never hard to gain a new friend as the serene surroundings and wide open spaces make for a great opportunity to find kinship.
As you strike up a conversation with a friendly local, hang on to his or her every word. You would be pleasantly surprised to find that they even have their own accent. Southland is the only part of New Zealand that does.
Venture Southland
Southland folk are relaxed, with hardly a worry in the world. And before your time in Southland comes to an end, you will discover that this characteristic is truly infectious. Why? Well, the answer is quite literally all around you.
Its relatively high latitude also means the region enjoys nearly 16 hours of daylight at the height of summer and around eight hours mid-winter. These extended daylight hours mean there is plenty of time for explorations and escapes.
Sign up for a day’s excursion out to marvel at Southland’s stunning vistas of mountains and pristine beaches for a relaxing getaway or adrenaline-fueled activities, or while away at a neighborhood pub. No matter the season, it is never really too hot nor too cold, or too starved of daylight to do anything. This keeps people active and happy, nourishing the soul and paving the way for memories of great adventures to be made.
Even when it rains, Southland’s residents view it as a glass half full. As Catlins Surf wave catcher Nick said, “I always tell people if it is raining, it’s a great day to go surfing. Because you are going to get wet anyway.”
Venture Southland
If they are lucky, surfers like Nick may meet an aquatic friend or two leaping and playing alongside him on a good day out riding the rolling waves.
“A lot of days we surf and we do have dolphins come and interact with us. The Hector’s dolphins are very inquisitive. They take every opportunity to come and check us out,” Nick shared.
Shaped by nature, Southland and its people are truly one of a kind.
So come and embrace the awe-inspiring beauty of Southland.

Where is the best Asian destination for Gen Z travelers?

Posted by - October 2, 2018

Research says this is the best Asian destination for Gen Z travelers. Are you surprised? Source: Shutterstock.
GENERATION Z (Gen Z) travelers are a new brand of young globetrotters after the millennials, shaking up the travel industry more than ever. Like millennials, they would go the extra mile for travel, with very specific needs.
Gen Z travelers grew up with the internet as an integral part of their lives. Other than internet connectivity, they also want adventure and are motivated by social media, such as Instagram.
So where in Asia would be the best destination for them?
Bespoke holiday provider The Holiday Place has put together the Generation Z Travel Index (GZTI) to provide insights to Gen Z travelers.
The GZTI analyzed “various different factors that students and those under 20 decided were important to them while traveling.”
“We thoroughly researched surveys, blog posts, social media, polls and more in order to come up with a truly exhaustive list of important factors that Generation Z considers when traveling,” The Holiday Place wrote.
The factors included things like budget, off the beaten path, eco-friendliness, and everything that makes the trip affordable, sustainable, and envy-inducing.
The Holiday Place then ranked countries around the world that offered the best of the best for categories like budget, internet connection, Instagrammability, socially conscious, eco-friendly, adventure, off the beaten track, and outdoors.
Source: Shutterstock.
For each of the categories, each country was scored from one to five, with five being the highest.
These scores are then added together to get the final GZTI score, with a total of 40 being the highest available. Countries are ranked based on their scores.
So, which Asian destination came out on top?
Japan ranked highly for budget (4.6) and Instagrammability, with a total of 92,455,882 hashtags for the country. This is unsurprising, considering how many articles there have been about the most Instagrammable places and the most Instagrammable food and drinks.
Source: Shutterstock.
The East Asian country also did pretty well for its eco-friendly and off the beaten path scores.
The Japanese government copes waste problems by implementing an aggressive recycling policy. Authorities and businesses have also adopted bioplastics to make garbage bags, shopping bags and product containers to improve their eco-friendliness.
And with an archipelago that stretches nearly 3,000 kilometers from north to south, there are heaps of off the beaten path places and roads less traveled left to discover.
Japan offers a wide range of natural sights from the drift ice in the seas off Hokkaido to the mangrove jungles in Okinawa. In between, there are majestic volcanoes, breathtaking coastlines, vast forests, and world heritage sites.
Other Asian countries that performed fairly well in The Holiday Place’s GZTI include Thailand (12), Singapore (14), India (19), and China (20).

Thai destinations you should visit before everyone else does

Posted by - September 26, 2018

If you’re wondering which Thai destinations to visit next, try these. Source: Shutterstock
IN 2015, southern Thai destinations such as Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, Hua Hin, Koh Tao, and Phuket welcomed more than 23 million international arrivals.
That is 77 percent of the national total. And of that number, only 1,4 million travelers (five percent of the national total) took the road less traveled to visit northern Thailand.
This means travelers are still only gravitating towards the popular attractions, which could result in adverse effects (such as the Maya Bay closure) if nothing is done to distribute the high traffic of tourists.
Identifying the problem, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) rolled out its latest “Go Local” campaign to promote the country’s emerging generation of destinations.
Aside from better balancing the distribution of tourist arrivals, “Go Local” also aims to even out the seasonality factor between the months of travel and encourages more travel during weekdays to reduce pressure on weekends.
TAT and the Thai government worked together to implement a series of tax deduction measures to promote leisure travel and MICE events in those secondary destinations, which stands at 55 in total, all through 2018.
Promoting secondary destinations will be TAT’s focus for 2019 as well, on top of three existing priorities: gastronomy, content marketing, and environmental awareness.
Here are some secondary Thai destinations you should visit before everyone else does. And if you have never heard of them, fret not. All the more you should be putting these on your travel bucket list:
Lopburi Located in the central region of Thailand, Lopburi is one of the oldest cities in the country, boasting many historical structures, artifacts, and prehistoric settlements.
Source: Shutterstock.
Dotted all around the province, split into the “Old Town” and the “New Town”, are well-preserved reminders of the Khmer empire times gone by, when Lopburi was still known as Lavo.
History aside, it is also known for its sunflower fields and notably proud of its monkey population of 3,000, so much so that an annual festival is held in their honor.
To get to Lopburi, you can either take a bus (three-hour ride) or a train (two-hour journey) from Bangkok.
Trat For those who are fans of the ocean, Thailand’s easternmost coastal province beckons.
Source: Shutterstock.
Bordering Cambodia and the Cardamom Mountains, Trat is home to an archipelago of more than 40 islands with white-sand beaches and coral reefs called the Mu Koh Chang Marine National Park.
The largest island, Koh Chang, boasts a lush tropical jungle, waterfalls, splendid reefs, an abundance of marine life, and a traditional Thai village with its houses on stilts.
To get to Trat, you can either take a flight (one-hour journey) or a bus (five-hour ride) from Bangkok.
Loei Nothing says “off the beaten path” like Loei, a rare gem in a largely undiscovered part of Thailand.
Source: Shutterstock.
Surrounded by mountain ranges with summits covered by fog, nature reserves which are untouched by mass tourism, and an atmosphere filled with the chorus of songbirds, Loei is a feast for the eyes and the soul.
Thanks to its elevation and topography, it is one of the few provinces in Thailand where temperatures drop below 0°C – truly a breath of fresh air for travelers.
To get to Loei, you can either take a flight (one-hour 10-minute journey) or an express bus (eight-hour ride) from Bangkok.
The project will target 10 million tourists to travel to secondary cities and communities, generating an estimated THB10 billion in tourism revenue in 2018.
The 55 provinces are Nakhon Si Thammarat, Udon Thani, Chiang Rai, Lopburi, Phitsanulok, Suphan Buri, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Nayok, Nong Khai, Sa Kaeo, Loei, Tak, Trat, Phetchabun, Chanthaburi, Mukdahan, Nakhon Sawan, Ratchaburi, Samut Songkhram, Buri Ram, Chaiyaphum, Phatthalung, Trang, Si Sa Ket, Prachin Buri, Satun, Chumphon, Sukhothai, Surin, Sakon Nakhon, Lamphun, Nakhon Phanom, Uttaradit, Ranong, Lampang, Roi Et, Mae Hong Son, Phichit, Phrae, Chai Nat, Nan, Ang Thong, Maha Sarakham, Kamphaeng Phet, Uthai Thani, Narathiwat, Yala, Phayao, Bueng Kan, Kalasin, Yasothon, Sing Buri, Nong Bua Lam Phu, Amnat Charoen, and Pattani.

Get the best out of the New Zealand summer in Southland

Posted by - September 25, 2018

Like people, every destination has its own character, be it language or culture or environment.
Some cities are mono-ethnic while others are deserving of the oft-used term “cultural melting pots.” Some countries spent years under the rule of another while a select few never knew life as a colony. Some remain resplendent in the green of its natural resources while in others, looming towers of steel and metal indicate how technology permeates its every street.
Tucked away some 1,500 kilometers east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand boasts its own brand of special. But venture to the southernmost tip of the country and you will be greeted with a warm welcome, a wealth of activities, and a chock full of fun to be had.
In a time where we often crave for places to see and things to do off the beaten track to quench our travel curiosities, there is no better destination than Southland in New Zealand’s South Island.
From its charming selection of shops, cafes, restaurants and lively bars to a great array of coastal landscapes and rugged plains in all its untouched splendor just minutes from the Invercargill city center, Southland has much to offer.
Venture Southland
Start your day bright and early as dawn breaks with a hearty serving of blue cod Buttie and Spanish style omelette at the The Batch Cafe, which is known for its comprehensive menu of delicious local food. Then, wash it down with a comforting mug of long black as you watch early birds just like yourself grab freshly baked bites from the eatery, warmly greeting each other with an enthusiastic Kia Ora, which means hello.
This is the start of your epicurean adventure that will see you eating and drinking your way around Southland while embracing Southland’s trademark southern hospitality.
And there is absolutely no rush, as the beauty of Southland is that you will always have the luxury of time.
After you have had your fill, take a leisurely stroll down the city streets and admire the striking Victorian and Edwardian architecture. Stop only to wander down the crowded aisles of a quaint bookstore or souvenir store along the way, picking up keepsakes to remember your journey by. Untouched by modernization and trends, history buffs in particular will love Southland for its interesting heritage trail that will transport you back in time.
Venture Southland
There are 10 museums around the Southland district which tell intriguing tales of the destination’s past and those who lived here through its diverse programme of exhibitions, from vintage machinery to whaling artefacts.
In Invercargill, marvel at various world-class vintage motor vehicle displays at the Bill Richardson Transport World, Classic Motorcycle Mecca or the Motorworks Collection. The Transport World boasts the largest private automotive museum of its type in the world, while Motorcycle Mecca houses the largest display of classic motorcycles in the country with a collection ranging from 1902 – 2007 and Motorworks is a unique blend of memorial to motorcycle legion Burt Munro, classic vehicle collection and retail therapy.
If automobiles are not your thing, pop by the Queens Park Gardens in the center of the city. This botanical wonderland is a walk through the history of New Zealand. With a menagerie of plants, animals, recreation and outdoor art, this is the beating heart of Invercargill and will easily fill a few hours with discovery.
As lunch time rolls around and you are getting the cues from your stomach, zip over to Southland’s port of Bluff, located a mere 30 kilometers south of Invercargill and easily accessible by bus. Home of the world-famous Bluff Oyster, the seaside town is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in New Zealand.
Venture Southland
Be sure to snap a shot of the famous signpost at Stirling Point, the most photographed spot in Bluff and a favorite for visitors. The signpost points out distances to major cities around the world and marks the beginning of State Highway 1, New Zealand’s main highway which traverses the whole length of the country all the way to Cape Reinga in the far north.
This also marks the beginning of your seafood journey as Bluff enjoys a variety of mouthwatering dining and cuisine options, including the finest produce from both land and sea.
Make a pit stop at a local restaurant, such as Oyster Cove, which offers spectacular 180 degree views Foveaux Strait, Dog Island and Stewart Island. Dig in to a sumptuous meal of Bluff Oysters, as well as locally sourced mussels, salmon, and scallops with a side of New Zealand’s finest wines. So fresh, you can still taste the ocean.
Still have room for more? Pamper your taste buds with a sweet treat of ice cream. Southland is a dairy powerhouse, and the local ice cream is a decadent balance of rich and creamy.
And it is not just your appetite that will be duly satisfied. Southland is also a delicious feast for your eyes.
Venture Southland
Renowned for its snow-capped mountains, glistening glaciers, and tranquil lakes that will wow you at every turn, Southland is steeped in wildlife and natural beauty. Bluff, for example, is known as the “Gateway to Stewart Island”, where there are more astounding sights to behold.
Stewart Island, is also fondly known by its Maori name “Rakiura”, which means glowing skies and to understand why, you will have to see it to believe it.
Hop on a ferry across the Foveaux Strait or take a scenic flight, landing on Mason Bay to Stewart Island, making sure to keep a lookout for wildlife, especially seabirds and maybe even the occasional whale. In a distance, marvel at the sight of the spectacular blood-red sunset which stretches into a smouldering pyrotechnic display.
But that is not the only natural spectacle that gave Stewart Island its Maori name.
As the region is one of the closest countries to the South Pole, if you head down south enough you may stand a chance at seeing the glorious Aurora Australis, better known as the southern lights, a popular winter activity. Destinations like Stewart Island, for example, is the perfect vantage from which to see it.
Before you retire for the day, as daylight diminishes and the air cools, venture to Ocean Beach where the best view of the brilliant stars dotting the inky night sky, unmarred by light pollution because Southland has none, awaits you. And while out staring up, down forget a glance down, as there very well may be a wild and rare kiwi foraging for its dinner.
It is hard not to fall in love with Southland.
Because the more you discover Southland, the more you discover the real New Zealand.

#MakeFirstMomentsHappen: Will you take the leap of faith?

Posted by - September 12, 2018

Afraid to travel solo? Fear of flying? Not a fan of the deep blue sea? Take the reins and do it anyway! Source: Shutterstock.
MOMENTS, adventures, and experiences don’t just automatically fall onto your lap. You have to make them happen for you.
And that’s what Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) is encouraging travelers to do through its #MakeFirstMomentsHappen campaign.
The Manila-based Philippine low-cost airline recently rolled out a video series aimed at inspiring travelers to make moments happen.
The first of the videos, “First Break“ features a young professional named Leah who is working towards taking a break with a milestone adventure to mark her birthday.
Her adventure of choice? Cliff diving at Initao, Cagayan de Oro, a beachside destination famed for its protected virgin forests, white sand beaches, and exhilarating water adventures.
Though probably not for everyone, especially those with a morbid fear of heights, her literal leap of faith is meant to encourage “everyJuan” to travel, experience destinations, and take on adventures for the first time.
[embedded content]
“It has always been our goal to support everyJuan to fly to their dream destinations. Now, we want to take things to greater heights, and share and celebrate exciting first memories and experiences with our loyal patrons,” waytogo quoted CEB Director for Corporate Communications Charo Lagamon as saying.
#MakeFirstMomentsHappen has also gained quite a bit of traction on social media, with scores of aspiring travelers hashtagging their travel bucket lists and dreams.
“Solo travel is a bucket list and a challenge for myself. I’m afraid but also excited. I guess that’s the joy of it, to explore places you’ve never been to, be with people you’ve never met and discover that this life has so much more to offer,” Twitter user @Oorangtheworld posted.
“In this world full of uncertainties and self-doubts, I want to take this chance to travel alone, to know how far I can go to chase my precious dreams. And I want to gain that self-confidence that I need to face the judgments of other people,” @anaklarissapaps wrote.
Source: Shutterstock.
CEB flies daily across 37 domestic and 26 international destinations.
Its main base is Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, with other hubs at Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Clark International Airport, Kalibo International Airport, Francisco Bangoy International Airport, Iloilo International Airport, and Laguindingan Airport.
The next part of the #MakeFirstMomentsHappen video series is expected to be released on CEB’s Facebook page.

In pictures: The idyllic town of Khao Yai

Posted by - September 11, 2018

Why you should visit this whimsical Thai destination before it becomes too mainstream. Source: Shutterstock.
PLANNING on venturing into lands anew for something unusual and quirky to do? Thinking you may have already seen the best of Thailand?
Then you need to put the idyllic town of Khao Yai on your travel bucket list.
Located three hours’ drive away from Bangkok, the Unesco World Heritage-listed Khao Yao is spread across four provinces – Saraburi (west), Nakhon Nayok (east), Nakhon Ratchasima (north), Prachinburi (east) – and is one of Thailand’s best-kept secrets.
Whether you are a nature lover or a wine connoisseur you are bound to have the best time possible and a truly memorable stay.
Khao Yai is rich in natural resources because it is blessed with a lush, mountainous landscape offering endless greens, fertile valleys, and jungle-clad breathtaking waterfalls.
Your Instagram will thank you too as Khao Yai boasts the perfect postcard-worthy backdrops for your feed.
From the rows upon rows of pastel winter flowers at the sprawling The Bloom to Thailand’s very own The Shire that will be the envy of all your Lord of the Rings-loving friends.
Source: Shutterstock
If you are big on wine tasting, be sure to get on a farm and wine trail for an enjoyable excursion to a handful of vineyards in Khao Yai’s wine region.
Enjoy the scenic views of sunflower patches and rolling hills before kicking back and settling in at the vineyard with a cold glass of award-winning Pirom Khao Yai Reserve.
And if you think could not possibly be any more that Khao Yai will have to offer, wait till you see Palio Village, a cluster of stores themed around a Tuscan village.
Be transported to a mini Italy as you stroll along the quaint neighborhood’s Italian-themed streets dotted with an eclectic mix of cafes, fashion boutiques, souvenir shops, and bakeries.
Source: Shutterstock.
Like all Thai destinations, food is also abundant in Khao Yai so when you are not busy soaking up the picturesque region, grab a meal at one of its many unique restaurants.
Savor the delectable Thai-French fusion cuisine at the stately Lookkai Khao Yai garden restaurant or visit the vintage Lan + Lee + Lar Restaurant for a traditional Thai food.
Khao Yai is also popular for its pretty cafes so be sure to put 22°C Cafe, Bunny Coffee, The Mew Cafe, 382 Space Coffee & Bakery, and The Witches Brew Restaurant on your cafe-hopping checklist.
Take a look at all the magic that Khao Yai has to offer:
Getting there: The easiest and fastest way to get there is by car and you will need a car to get around Khao Yai. You can rent one from just about anywhere in Bangkok or look up platforms like Klook or Kayak for deals.

These are the world’s most epic hikes

Posted by - August 28, 2018

So many peaks, so little time? Here are the best in the world, handpicked for you. Source: Shutterstock.
THE WORLD has no shortage of hiking sites, and thrilling peaks and Lonely Planet has just saved you some time by sieving through the thousands of peaks and walking trails to list out only the best.
In the newly-published Epic Hikes of the World guidebook, Lonely Planet’s writers collaborated to uncover 50 most incredible hikes in 30 countries that adventure travelers are bound to love.
Among the best are those located in Asia-Pacific. This includes Japan, India, Malaysia, China, Australia, and New Zealand.
Discover why they are considered the world’s most epic hikes:
Shikoku, Japan: 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku Pilgrimage The Shikoku Pilgrimage or Shikoku Junrei is a multi-site pilgrimage of 88 temples associated with the Buddhist monk Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi) on the island of Shikoku, Japan.
It involves visiting the 88 “official” temples of the pilgrimages, but not necessarily in order.
Garden of Taihoji Temple in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, Japan. Taihoji is No 44 of Pilgrimage to the 88 Sacred Temples of Shikoku. Source: Shutterstock.
The standard walking course is approximately 1,200 kilometers long and can take anywhere from 30 to 60 days to complete.
The pilgrimage is traditionally completed on foot, but modern pilgrims may use cars, taxis, buses, bicycles, or motorcycles.
Many pilgrims begin and complete the journey by visiting Mount Kōya in Wakayama Prefecture.
Ladakh, India: Markha Valley The Marka Valley trek in India is one of the most famous treks of the Ladakh region, allowing visitors to experience magical and remote Buddhist kingdom of Ladakh.
While trekking, tourists will pass through beautiful Buddhist monasteries, mountain villages, high altitude pastures of Nimaling, the high altitude peak Kangyatse, and even the odd tea “house” tent.
A traveler at a campsite along the Markha Valley trek in Ladakh, India. Source: Shutterstock.
Depending on where you start and end your trek and how fast you hike, it can take you anywhere between two to eight days.
For those who are interested, guided tours complete with five-star camping with cutting-edge outdoor equipment are available.
The shortest way of doing this trek is to start from Chilling Village and end the trek at Shang Sumdo village.
Sabah, Malaysia: Mount Kinabalu In Malaysia’s state of Sabah, also known as the “Land Below the Wind” is the country’s highest peak and the third highest in Southeast Asia, Mount Kinabalu.
Towering at 4,095 meters tall (13, 435 feet above sea level), it is a popular hiking and climbing trail, but it is not meant for newbies.
A stunning sunrise near Mount Kinabalu’s Low’s Peak, about 3,900 meters high. Source: Shutterstock.
Scaling the mountain incorporates “tangled jungle, granite ridges and barren plateaux, traversing Borneo’s highest and holiest mountain is a task that requires nerves – and legs – of steel,” Lonely Planet wrote.
However, with cozy resorts and campsites along the way, and breathtaking panoramic views for days at the peak, hikers often return to accomplish the challenging trek.
Mount Kinabalu was listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2000 for its “outstanding universal blues,” the first in Malaysia to be recorded.
Beijing, China: Gubeikou to Jinshanling on the Great Wall of China Steeped in history, the Great Wall of China is a popular hiking route with both locals and foreigners alike.
One of the most hiked routes is Gubeikou to Jinshanling, which covers Gubeikou Great Wall, the restored Jinshanling Great Wall, and the unrestored Jinshanling Great Wall.
The Great Wall of China stretches into the distance at the mountainous section of Gubeikou and Jinshanling. Source: Shutterstock.
Built in the Ming Dynasty in 1368, Gubeikou was a strategic pass of the Great Wall, offering important access to Inner Mongolia and northeast of China.
The hike takes about five to six hours, and it offers the opportunity for hikers to compare what the Great Wall may have looked like when it was initially finished versus how it looks like now.
Want to be a part of the hike? Several guided tours are available at tour-beijing.com and chinatravellers.com.
Sydney, Australia: Seven Bridges Walk Sydney’s Seven Bridges Walk is an annual event that takes participants on a 28-kilometer course which crosses the iconic bridges of Sydney Harbour to raise funds for cancer.
During this walk, you will explore Sydney entirely on foot and cross all seven of its bridges: Pyrmont Bridge (which goes through Darling Harbour), the Anzac Bridge, Iron Cove Bridge, the Gladesville Bridge, Tarban Creek Bridge, Fig Tree Bridge, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The Sydney Harbour Bridge stretching across the shore against the Sydney skyline in the background. Source: Shutterstock.
Every couple of meters or so is a photo opportunity as you will get gorgeous views of Sydney Harbour, the new Barangaroo Reserve, Darling Harbour, and Glebe Foreshore, to name a few.
Along the way, there are event villages where you can enjoy refreshments, entertainments, and facilities.
Participants can walk all or part of the course, which is a clockwise loop, meaning you can start and finish wherever you like.
South Island, New Zealand: Routeburn Track New Zealand’s Routeburn Track in South Island’s Fiordland National Park is said to be the “ultimate alpine adventure, weaving through meadows, reflective tarns, and alpine gardens.”
A world-renowned 32-kilometer hiking track, which overlaps two national parks, starts on the Queenstown side of the Southern Alps and finishes on the Te Anau side, at the Divide.
Hiking in the Southern Alps on the Routeburn Track in South Island, New Zealand. Source: Shutterstock.
Along the track, you will be rewarded with sprawling views of spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys.
There are four huts along the track – Routeburn Flats Hut, Routeburn Falls Hut, Lake Mackenzie Hut, and Lake Howden Hut – so comfortable overnight trips are possible.
Much of the Routeburn Track is accessible to independent hikers, but there are also guided tours available.
So many peaks, so little time?
Which one will you challenge yourself to first?

Lainey Loh | @laineyx
A certified daydreamer, when she's not physically travelling, she's often going places in her head. Her first love is coffee & her second, wine – & she accepts bribes in either forms. She's also entirely capable of deep conversations about life & random musings just for laughs, but do excuse her if she appears AWOL mid-chat – she's just going places in her head.

Check out this new ‘weightless’ backpack

Posted by - August 24, 2018

Backpacks are rarely comfortable on long hikes. But Lightning Packs could be about to change this. Source: Lighting Packs
WHETHER you’re hiking, running, commuting or just strolling around town, this new backpack is sure to make your journey easier.
The new HoverGlide by Lightning Packs is being called the “world’s first floating backpack.”
No, it’s not magic, just some seriously impressive engineering and a lot of forethought for the easily tired trekker.
The backpack works through Suspended Load Technology (SLT) and is attached to a sliding rail and pulley suspension system, allowing it to move up and down as you walk.
The bounce of the backpack reduces impact forces on the wearer by up to 86 percent while running and 82 percent when walking, making it 20 percent easier to carry.
The HoverGlide is also going to save you money on future physiotherapy bills as it reduces stress on your back, decreases the potential risk for injury; and Lightning Packs guarantees your neck and knees will feel the benefit too.
[embedded content]
The backpack is the brainchild of University of Pennsylvania professor and muscle physiology expert Dr Lawrence Rome.
After an extensive research process, Rome published his findings in Nature, an academic journal.
Among the findings, Rome and his university colleagues found that a HoverGlide backpack with a weight of 27 kilograms felt more than five kilograms lighter, which led them to discover that the walker uses less energy to carry the load.
So, the HoverGlide not only reduces stress on your muscles but conserves much-needed energy.
Lightning Packs has designed four different styles ranging from 28 liters to 55 liters to suit every lifestyle.
Each backpack has been military-tested on both the US Army and US Marines. They are all durable, lightweight, breathable, and water repellent.
This is what you need to know about the four different backpacks.
HoverGlide Tactical Source: Lightning Packs
This pack is best suited for emergency first responders, military personnel, and those tackling long and demanding runs.
The pack is built on a 20-inch frame, with ample pocket space for gear as well as a webbing grid that accepts MOLLE units (medic bags).
HoverGlide Hiker
Source: Lightning Packs
Lightning Packs described this bag as a “versatile, durable day or weekend pack with plenty of pockets that you can quickly access while hiking.”
Also built on a 20-inch frame, the HoverGlide Hiker has plenty of space for liquids and hiking essentials.
HoverGlide Commuter
Source: Lightning Packs
If you’re fed up of lugging a heavy laptop around, the HoverGlide Commuter is perfect for you.
The 20-inch frame is ideal for carrying your laptop, a tablet, books, art supplies, and whatever else you need.
HoverGlide Trekker
Source: Lightning Packs
The HoverGlide Trekker has the biggest of all the frames at 24 inches and has a 55-pound capacity.
This bag is perfect for multiday treks with enough space for a small tent, food, drinks, clothes, and a medical kit.
When can you grab one of these muscle-saving backpacks? Not just yet.
“We are in pre-marketing right now,” Rome told Travel Wire Asia. “Our Kickstarter campaign for HoverGlide goes live mid-September.”
If you sign up with the Lighting Packs mailing list, you’ll be invited to the HoverGlide launch event and be entered into a prize draw to win one of these backpacks.
We’ll let you know when the Kickstarter page is open so you can be part of the future of backpacks.

In pictures: The ‘flower’ of Indonesia

Posted by - August 22, 2018

There is so much beauty left to be discovered on Flores, a fascinating island on in this part of the world. Source: Shutterstock.
A WORLD AWAY from the famous Bali island of Indonesia is another world undiscovered called Pulau Flores, otherwise simply known as Flores.
While Bali is bursting at seams activities to do, places to see, things to eat, and tourists from just about anywhere in the world, Flores still sees very few tourists.
The name Flores (derived from the Portuguese word for “flowers”) is a bit of an irony as it is not particularly known for colorful blooms.
However, it is one of the best places in the region to go diving as the island’s underwater world is home to elegant manta rays, gentle turtles, the occasional shark, and colorful schools of fish.
The spot is only recommended for seasoned divers, though, as the currents here can be swift, strong and unpredictable.
If exploring the unknown beneath the crystal clear waters to discover the coral gardens is not your cup of tea, then sink your toes in the pristine powder white sands as you stroll down the beach instead.
If you have got a bit of an adventurous streak (and why would you not, after making it this far down Indonesia’s chain of islands?) be sure to visit Kelimutu, a volcano close to the small town of Moni.
Kelimutu may look like any seen-one-seen-them-all volcano but at the summit is a surprise that will be a feast for your eyes.
Three tri-colored crater lakes lay nestled at the top of Kelimutu, and each one sparkles with a different color as the result of the different gasses bubbling away under the surface.
The westernmost lake, Tiwu ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is usually blue; Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) is typically green; Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is usually red.
According to folklore, the lakes are a resting place for departed souls and those who have died will be sent to different lakes depending on their merits in life.
Then, make a pitstop at Bena, one of the traditional villages in Flores that is untouched by modernization.
Situated about 16 kilometers from Bajawa at the foot of Mount Inerie, the village boasts two rows of centuries-old traditional high thatched houses along a ridge as well as impressive stone formations and ancestral shrines.
After grabbing a cup of Bajawa coffee, take an hour’s hike from Bena to Tololela, a traditional village with altitude 650 meters above sea level located in the Manubhara village.
Like Bena, the Tololela compound is home to rows of authentic wooden houses topped by straw roofs.
Feel free to walk around and talk to the locals to learn about their culture, but remember to ask for permission before taking pictures and not just stick your camera into their faces and spaces.
There is so much beauty left to be discovered on Flores, a fascinating island on in this part of the world.
Take a look at what else it has to offer:
Getting there: The easiest and fastest way to reach Flores is by air from Ngurah Rai Airport in Bali. There are daily flights from Denpasar to Labuan Bajo (90 minutes) or Maumere (about an hour and 25 minutes).
For more information, visit the Flores Tourism website.

Should you go shark or croc cage diving?

Posted by - August 22, 2018

Is putting both the observer and the animals in great danger worth a “proud underwater selfie” with them? Source: Shutterstock.
THE NEW generation of travelers are all about experiences and venturing into the unknown because mainstream attractions and activities just do not cut it anymore.
There are a handful of adventurers who are willing to take a leap of faith and do something different while chasing the adrenaline rush on their travels and that is why adventure tourism is on the rise.
Adventure tourism can be split into even smaller niches in the tourism industry to involve dark or disaster tourism, extreme sports tourism, and shock tourism.
The one thing they all have in common is participating in dangerous situations such as bungee jumping off a tall structure, skydiving around Mount Everest, traveling across the Chernobyl zone, or canyoning across gorges and waterfalls.
It is not for the weakhearted.
But the extremities do not stop there.
Source: Shutterstock.
In the early 2000s, a new form of underwater diving or snorkeling emerged in which an observer is put inside a protective cage and then lowered to the seabed to monitor sharks from up close.
It is used for scientific observation, underwater cinematography, and more recently, a tourist activity. When it was commercialized, it was given the “recreational” name of shark cave diving.
How does it work? A “shark-proof” metal cage, built to withstand being rammed and bitten by the sharp-toothed, blazing-fast swimmers is used by the underwater diver.
In some cases, after tourists are lowered in a cage, the tour guides would use bait to attract sharks to the cage – a procedure known as chumming.
The most commonly observed sharks are the bull sharks and the great white sharks, both of which are known to be aggressive at times.
The duration of the experience can last anywhere from half an hour to an hour, depending on the tour operator and the package.
However, this controversial activity has been met with disapproval from some conversation groups, scuba divers, and underwater photographers as they consider it to be potentially dangerous.
Source: Shutterstock.
Shark cage tourism can alter the natural behavior of sharks and change how they respond to swimmers or boats.
“Dive tourism, which aims to please (meaning they want to make money) puts food in the water, which results in increased visitations from the sharks in that area. In some species, this leads to higher population numbers in the area,” National Geographic quoted Florida Program for Shark Research Director George Burgess as saying.
“Feeding of sharks has the effect that it can get rid of that natural concern between the shark and human, or, in some cases, teach them to equate the human with free food.”
Source: Shutterstock.
There have also been examples of sharks in the shallower water learning to respond to the sound of the boat’s motor, according to Burgess.
In South Australia, abalone divers have been attacked by great white sharks and divers believe that great white shark cage diving tourism has altered shark behavior, making them more inclined to approach boats.
Abalone diver Peter Stephenson has called for a ban on shark cage diving, calling it a “major workplace safety issue.”
Why is it dangerous? In 2005, British tourist Mark Currie could have ended up as a shark’s meal when a 16-foot great white shark rammed and bit through the bars of a shark cage during a dive off the coast of South Africa.
He managed to be pulled to safety by the boat’s captain, who fended off the apex predator with blows to its head.
In 2016, a similar incident occurred when a shark cage that diver Ming Chan was in during a dive off the coast of Mexico was beached by a great white shark.
According to diver Brian, whose video of the horrifying event went viral afterward, it started when the great white shark lunged at the tuna bait used to lure it to the cage.
“So this shark lunged at the bait, accidentally hit the side of the cage, was most likely confused and not able to swim backwards, it thrust forward and broke the metal rail of the cage,” Brian said.
“There was a single diver inside the cage. He ended up outside the bottom of the cage, looking down on two great white sharks. The diver is a very experienced dive instructor, remained calm, and when the shark thrashed back outside the cage, the diver calmly swam back up and climbed out completely uninjured.”
[embedded content]
More recently, a new-ish form of cave dive has emerged.
In the heart of Darwin city in Austalia, curious holidaymakers can now sign up for a face-to-face encounter with a 16-foot saltwater crocodile via an activity aptly named Cage of Death – separated by only a thin plastic barrier.
Tourists pay AUD170 (US$125) per person or AUD260 (US$191) for two pax to “marvel at their size and their prehistoric features.”
Put in the aquatic enclosure, tourists are first hoisted over the water to see the beast swirling below before they are lowered into the waters. Keepers will then feed the reptile to keep it moving around in the water.
The encounter, which lasts for about 30 minutes, promises “360-degree views of you and the crocs as our on-site photographers capture amazing images both inside and outside of the crocodile enclosures.”
Tourists are first hoisted over the water to see the crocodile swirling below before they are lowered into the waters.
Source: Expedia.
In 2015, a Dutch tourist Cynthia Spaan feared for her life when the gantry for the cage that she was in got stuck, leaving her suspended above a crocodile for half an hour.
“It knew something was going on and he was basically sitting underneath just waiting for his meal to drop,” witness Anson Segall said.
“Radios were in full use, people running back and forth.”
After running around frantically, the staff succeeded in getting Spaan out of the enclosure unharmed. Still, it was an incident that could have gone horribly wrong.
Another outfitter, Big Animals Expeditions, promotes diving with crocodiles in the remote waters of Botswana for upwards of US$14,000 per person.
“We are inextricably drawn to predators. We know how dangerous they are, but we want more than anything to get close to them. This is your chance to be in the water with an apex predator capable of taking down animals far larger and stronger than humans,” the operator said.
In their current forms, are these diving activities sustainable or will they only lead to more accidents and tragedies?
Is putting both humans and the animals in potentially great danger worth a “proud underwater selfie” with them?
More importantly, are these extreme adventure travel operators really in it to raise awareness or is it just all about the money?

Lainey Loh | @laineyx
A certified daydreamer, when she's not physically travelling, she's often going places in her head. Her first love is coffee & her second, wine – & she accepts bribes in either forms. She's also entirely capable of deep conversations about life & random musings just for laughs, but do excuse her if she appears AWOL mid-chat – she's just going places in her head.