I think Ha Long Bay, Vietnam and the vicinity is the place that I saw pictures of when I was a kid and wanted to go so badly. We will go there in 2006.
Seth and Julie were just there and described it nicely:
We have just come back from two beautiful days in Ha Long bay (gulf of Tonkin). Those that have been there know just how stunning it is, for those that haven’t, picture a flat sea green expanse of water studded with 3,000 limestone karsts jutting straight up from the water forming tiny, uninhabited “mountain-islands.” As the massive blood orange sun set behind the jagged islands the boat staff taught Seth to catch squid off the side of the boat with a handheld net (which was then steamed up for dinner).
We've been consuming mass quanities of travel-related web content as of late. I've subscribed to a number of blogs that keep a running pulse on the travel world. Here is a selection of random news and notes that caught my eye today:
Beware the Tricky Transvetites (via Travel Post).
Thai officials have warned foreign tourists about a nefarious transvestite gang whose method for robbing victims involves kissing them. As reported in this USA Today story, suspects in custody have admitted depositing tranquilizer pills under their victims’ tongues while deeply smooching. Once the pill has been placed, the hapless victim passes out, and the tricky transvestite makes off with cash, jewelry and valuables.
Singapore Airlines is starting in-flight Internet access soon, with a cost. On a related note, Radisson Hotels is offering free Internet access at all their hotels. I hope that this rubs off on other chains.
There just seems to be so many interesting things today, I can't stop blogging...
This, however, is a bit seasonal. Gadling points to a special report by the Guardian called Dark Tourism. Dark Tourism is tourism at the sites of tragedy, like Chernobyl, Dachau, Ground Zero. Professor John Lennon has written a book about it and also writes:
'Dark tourism' sites are important testaments to the consistent failure of humanity to temper our worst excesses and, managed well, they can help us to learn from the darkest elements of our past. But we have to guard against the voyeuristic and exploitative streak that is evident at so many of them. I've been to Dachau (a German concentration camp) and I'll never forget it. The horrors of the holocaust had only been things on TVs and in books, but visiting that place really gave me a dark and ominous feel. From the rusty barbed wire to the museum and sculptures, I left with this sense of wonder at how humanity could have justified such a place. Chilling.
Photo thanks to: AidanJones
I admit to a macabre attraction to Dark Tourism sites and imagine it will be a part of our trip on occasion.
If I'm not mistaken, Yahoo! is making some big moves in the travel sector. I saw two new properties recently:
Richard MacManus points to the Yahoo Trip Planner, which is part travel service and part travel sharing. As members add their trips, including lodging, sights, etc. it's added to a map and (optionally) viewable by the public. You can copy a trip as a way to start your own, etc.
At first, I thought, oh boy another itinerary planning service. Then I started looking at the public trips and realized, quite selfishly, that these trips could be really handy in helping us find ideas for specific locations.
Imagine we're about to go to France. This trip could serve as a starting point for things we might want to do in Paris.
Also, Yahoo! just rolled out Richard Bang's Adventures, which is a site devoted to chronicling Richard's adventure travels. Richard has been described to me as "the man" of adventure travel. I believe it.
Gridskipper pointed me to a new-ish blog that is, so far, doing a great job of preventing people like us from looking like idiots in foreign lands. It's called Escape Blog, and is part of the Fine Fools Network.
A couple of good take homes:
In Jordan, coffee is an important cultural symbol of hospitality. So when you are offered Arabic coffee by your host, do NOT say no. Once you are finished drinking and do not want to have more, shake your coffee cup from side to side. However, should you want more coffee, all you have to do is hold out your cup to the person who has the coffee pot.
-The land of beer has strict drink driving laws. The limit is only 0.25 mg of alcohol per litre of blood.
-Don’t flick the bird! Inappropriate hand gestures are forbidden!
-Seat belts front and rear are obligatory everywhere.
-There are autobahns WITH speed limits. Do follow them otherwise, you can get fined heavily. And you have to pay on the spot, too!
-Passing on the right is not allowed!
-It is illegal to run out of gas on the Autobahn so fill ‘er up!
-It is also customary to...switch on your hazard blinkers when approaching a traffic jam to warn those behind you.
-Some may flash their high beams to request that you let them pass.
I wonder if Jon knew these things?
Here's the breakdown:
- Mexico (19.3 million visitors)
- Canada (15 million)
- U.K. (3.69 million)
- France (2.41 million)
- Italy (1.92 million)
- China (1.81 million)
- Germany (1.75 million
- Jamaica (1.26 million)
- Japan (1.07 million)
- Bahamas (1.01 million)
I have a bit of pride in knowing that we'll be spending the vast majority of our time in places that don't make the top ten list for visits from Americans. It's not that we don't like our fellow Americans of course, we just want an experience that's not built for catering to millions of us.
Just when I feel overwhelmed by the adventure in front of us, I get reminded that there are people who take these sorts of things to new levels.
For a few months now I've been keeping up with the Australian couple (Paula and Gary Constant) who are walking from London to CapeTown, South Africa. Yes, WALKING, with feet.
Right now, they are crossing the Sahara and finding small villages along the way (some with an Internet cafe).
These folks are an inspiration. Paula does most of the blogging and she is very good at describing their experiences. I have been riveted. Here are some of their latest photos...
We've been on the lookout for other sites like this- where people have created a site to go along with their trip. I've been pretty impressed.
Here are a few I've been following for a while now and recommend:
Hobotraveller.com - Andy has been traveling for many years straight, posts often and shares lot of interesting perspectives from around the world.
Constanttrek- This is pretty amazing. This is an Australian couple who are walking (yes, walking) from London to Cape Town, South Africa. Lately they are starting their trek across the Sahara with camels.
TheRadBlog - Jon Rawlinson has gotten to be a friend lately and I've really enjoyed his site. Something unique are his videos which are impeccably edited and set to great music.
Jules and Emily - This is a Seattle couple doing a trip similar to what ours will be. They don't post often, but are fun to watch. They are currently in Japan.
Nancy White - Nancy is a friend here in Seattle who often travels and shares her experiences- often of the gastronmic variety. Yum!
We've also heard about a few more from TwinF readers: