The mere mention of a holiday in South East Asia gets you dreaming. It conjures up images of pristine, palm-fringed beaches kissed by golden sun and carefree tourists checking in their stressful life back home as they sample the good life away from it all. Although it is not as cheap to visit as it used to be, with the growing tourism trade contributing to higher prices, it is still a popular exotic destination.
More and more of us are visiting South East Asia in pursuit of this dream – this part of the world is the fastest growing tourist destination in terms of contribution to total GDP. Will we find our dream break or is the reality sometimes radically different to our expectations?
Here are five ways South East Asia can challenge your aspirations.
There are many places in South East Asia that are not as chilled out as our fantasies suggest. From touts to sellers to taxi drivers most resorts have an endless stream of people offering you things you probably don’t want.
Cities like Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam can actually feel overwhelmingly hectic. And the incidence of crime here means vigilance rather than nonchalance is your best posture, with pick pocketing and petty thefts being the most widely reported crime.
The dream of getting away from it all in your own private bubble can quickly pop. In resorts like Kuta in Bali the impact of tourism leaves rubbish that drifts out to sea, only to be washed in again with the tide.
The endemic sex tourism in Thailand and Cambodia can also puncture our innocent image. It’s harder and harder to actually get away from it all. Once quiet beaches – like Chaweng on Koh Samui in Thailand – are now serenaded by trucks with loudspeakers blasting out advertising. And once remote, picturesque villages – like Vang Vieng in Laos – have been colonised by the party crowd.
Image:Vang vieng party
As the recent flooding in Bangkok reminded us, South East Asia is certainly not all about sun. During the rainy season each year, the torrential downpours can make a very damp squib of those plans for a sun-baked holiday. Monsoon season in Southeast Asia occurs between July – October, and although dangerous, it’s actually quite a good time to travel, as tourist numbers are lower.
2013 was a year of heavy rains for Cambodia, with torrential downpours from the third week of September, which caused flash floods in at least 10 provinces. In total 374,000 people were affected and 30 people lost their lives as a result of the floods.
Sampling street food and savouring the complex spices of South East Asian dishes are indeed a delight. However many traveller’s stomach suffer more than the dreadful taste of durian (a spiny oval tropical fruit with a pungent smell) during their stay. Severe diarrhoea and sickness are commonplace thanks to the lack of proper sewage and water filtration. It’s truly hard to chill when you’re dashing for the toilet!
You might be looking forward to witnessing some of South East Asia’s exotic wildlife, but you’ll encounter more than just elephants and geckos. Monitor lizards may be a lot bigger than you expected, ranging from 12 – 310cm!
กัน-ดี-กฺว่า-แก้ (kan di kwa kae)
(Thai saying meaning an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure)
If you want your expectations to fully align with reality when visiting South East Asia, be sure to prepare and research into what South East Asia is really like. This will help you choose the timing and destination of your holiday more carefully, and prepare you for the exciting and beautiful reality so you can really enjoy the dream.
Image:Enjoy your dreams
You’re on a far-away island with a group or friends, thousands of miles away from home – all of life’s regular rules have gone out of the window. You do things that you wouldn’t normally do back home and let your inhibitions run free. Holiday tattoo, anyone?
Yes the health regulations are different, yes you’ve had more tequilas than you can remember (and there are no rules prohibiting the combination of intoxication and tattoos), but you’re feeling spontaneous, and it’s cheaper than tattoo parlours back home.
If you ever find yourself in the above situation, stop! Consider the fact that studies have shown around two thirds of holidaymakers who get tattoos while on their travels regret them. Oh, and that tribal tattoo you’re toying with is about as original and charismatic as a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ onesie.
There’s so much that can do wrong: spelling mistakes, drunken decisions, awful tattoo artists, in-jokes that are not funny a few days later.
With this in mind, here are some of the worst holiday tattoos you have ever seen…
Image :Shark Tattoo
Image :Bad Tattoo
Image:Ice cream tattoo
Image :Only God will Juge me
Image:Bad tattoo concert
Image :classic ‘mum’ tattoo
Image :Cartoon Tiger
Image:loves his job
Image :listen to this advice
Image :Tribute tattoo
Image :supposed to be Steve Buscemi
We humans just love an adrenaline rush. For many of us, watching a horror movie or riding a rollercoaster is enough of a buzz, but for some that’s just not enough to get a proper thrill. That’s when you get people skydiving, base-jumping and surfing… with sharks.
Sharks actually only kill about 5 humans each year – we are more likely to experience death by vending machine or falling out of bed, but somehow buying a chocolate bar on your break at work and sleeping aren’t considered extreme sports. And so we turn to shark surfing. Naturally.
Shark surfing is not surfing on a shark, as per the image below. It’s more like surfing very near a shark. Or multiple sharks. Because, well, some people like to do crazy things – by putting themselves in the path of potential hazards. Like sharks.
Image: surfing with sharks
Below are some of the hotspots from around the world where this extreme sport takes place:
This coast is home to around 40 species of shark, making it a hotspot for shark attacks. 34 have taken place they started counting in the 1800s. Situated in world famous West Maui, many a daredevil surfer ventures here to catch the enormous waves.
Image :Shark in wave
Home to the second highest number of shark-attacks in the world, Fish Hoek is popular with cage divers because of the huge number of sharks around. Surfers love South Africa because the choppy waters around the Cape are a perfect challenge… and some love combining the two.
Image :Shark photo bomb
This incredibly popular beach – one of the most visited in Florida – is known as the shark attack capital of the world. Luckily, the sharks themselves are spinner, tiger, and blacktip sharks – much less aggressive than the great white or the bull shark.
Image:Shark Vs Surfer
This isolated island off the coast of Madagascar has over 24 shark attacks recorded since 1980. Bull sharks and tiger sharks make their home here. There was even a ban on swimming, surfing and body boarding during the summer last year after a 15 year-old girl was bitten in half, one of 12 attacks between 2011-2013. Enter at your peril.
Image :Beach close due to shark
Did you think you would avoid sharks by surfing on a lake? Think again. Bull sharks live in this large freshwater lake a few miles inland from the coast of Nicaragua, so keep a look out if you choose to surf in this lake.
Adrenaline junkies of all stripes flock to Australia. Between the dangerous wildlife, rugged terrain and extreme sports, it is a world centre for all manner of kicks. After seven fatal shark attacks in three years – including several surfers – a shark cull has been instated off the western coast of Australia. Meanwhile, the east coast has plenty of its own shark attacks to boast, with several recent attacks on surfers. World famous Bondi Beach in Sydney is both feared and revered for its shark attacks and its popular waves.
Winter has well and truly arrived in Europe, bringing its annual dose of snow, sniffles and slippers. When was the last time you left the house without a hat, scarf and gloves? Do you remember the feeling of sunshine on your skin? The best remedy to treat this winter gloom is to jump on a plane and head to the Southern Hemisphere where our winter is their summer.
Here we talk about some of our favourite destinations to visit when you’re craving some winter sun.
Australia’s summer begins at the start of December, so how about celebrating Christmas and New Year down under? There are a number of events to look out for such as the annual 630 nautical mile Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which takes place every Boxing Day.
It doesn’t get any more Aussie than Australia Day on 26 January; celebrations include historical ceremonies, awards, parties and fireworks.
Whether you want to check out the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock or just relax on the beach, make sure that you take out some travel insurance before you depart so that you’re guarantee a hassle-free trip. Travel Insurance is extremely important when you’re so far from home, especially with all of Australia’s extreme sports and dangerous creepy crawlies.
Australia Day video:
Thailand is an extremely popular destination to visit for some winter sunshine. After a night at one of its renowned beach parties you’ll wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to Christmas and New Year in the UK.
There are a wide range of festivals and parties that take place in Thailand, which give holidaymakers the chance to forget all about the cold back home.
Loi Krathong, which is roughly translated as ‘Floating Decoration’, usually takes place in November on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. In addition to floating water decorations and Thai lanterns, there is often a firework display.
Make sure you take out the correct travel insurance when visiting Thailand to remove the stress of getting injured, losing something or having delayed or even cancelled flights.
Thai sunset video:
Image:Statue of Jesus
With all of its vibrancy, light and liveliness, Brazil is about as far away from the cold winters of the UK as you can get. There’s nowhere to celebrate New Year’s Eve like Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. If you’re planning to join the thousands of revellers in the traditional carnival celebrations then remember to pack an all-white outfit – or you’ll stand out from the crowd.
Brazil is sports mad at the moment and, in addition to the upcoming World Cup and Olympics, Brazil hosts an annual Grand Prix in the spring – sounds better than dodging the April showers in the UK, right?
It’s even more important to have good travel insurance when you’re travelling outside of the EU so make sure you arrange yours well before you travel to Brazil.
Copacabana beach video:
iOS and Android (free)
A fantastic all round travel app for the free-wheelin’ globe trotter, Expedia helps you search and book flights and hotels across the planet, as well as helping you plan and arrange your travel itinerary. In addition, users can find cheap deals on over 205,000 hotels. Handy.
Blackberry users rejoice. This app provides users with location-based information from Wikipedia. Combined with your handset’s maps function, it’s easy to while away a whole morning scrolling and clicking through an area’s history and information about local landmarks or customs.
As phone-camera quality has continued to improve, many of us aren’t bothering with a separate camera anymore. But while beach snaps or trips to the bar are handled well with many phone cameras, panoramic shots of mountain ranges or cityscapes are still a struggle. Not any more. With Photosynth, simply press the magic button and the app works its magic to create breath-taking landscape shots.
iOS and Android (free)
This astonishing app translates signs in a foreign language into your mother tongue through word recognition. Simply hold your mobile device up to printed signs, and the app will enable you to make sense of your foreign surroundings. However, its translation is limited to English, French, Italian and German. Unfortunately it’s unable to decipher handwritten notes.
Emergency numbers are essential for any traveller to have to hand, but particularly if you’re on your own. Help Call takes all the stress out of remembering to note them down. By pinpointing your location, it provides all the emergency numbers you could require. Should you be in a serious accident, the app provides a function that allows you to ring a chosen number just by shaking the device. It could be a lifesaver.
iOS and Android (free)
Every day, at midday, three trendy hotels with low-price deals arrive on your smartphone. Same-day booking is only three taps away, and the app features hotels in the US, Canada and London. More British cities are to be added soon.
Image : Hotel Tonight
Going on a road-trip but not sure where the best places are to stop along the way? Don’t miss the opportunity to use Roadtrippers, an app that helps you map out your bike or car route based on places of interest. Simply upload your itinerary and it will map out what you should see or, if you’re route is flexible, you can browse for ideas.
Image : Roadtrip
iOS and Android (free)
Remember sending postcards? Postagram is a neat way to send old-school postcards from your hi-tech device. Take a photo with your smartphone camera (or choose one from your Instagram or Facebook account) type a short message and enter the recipients’ address. A real postcard will appear in their actual postbox within a few days. Postcards cost 99 cents for US delivery, $1.99 for international addresses.
iOS, Android and Windows Phone (free)
This straightforward currency converter is a must have. Decide how much money to take with you, and check you’re not paying over the odds wherever you go. The converter tracks 160 forms of currency and keeps track of live changes.
iOS and Android (£2.99)
Struggle to organise your holiday snaps and videos upon your return? Download this nifty travel journal app, and ensure that you’ve always got something to show mum and dad when you’ve been away. Not only does it log your photos and videos, if you have GPS capabilities enabled, it’ll also create maps of your expeditions geo-tagged with photographs.
Colle del Nivolet
No one can forget the ending of the 60’s crime caper, The Italian Job.
The gold pinched from under the noses of the Italian Police, supposedly safe aboard the coach which was speeding through the Italian Alps.
As anyone who saw the ending will know, the coach skidded off the road leaving it balancing precariously over a nightmarish drop into the Alpine ravine.
The ravine is located in the gorgeous, Colle del Nivolet
Top Gear tested a Alfa Romeo 4C on the road, with much better cornering than a coach.
If you are a petrol head, it should be on your must see locations to drive before you die, list.
The Los Angeles River
The Los Angeles river has been used in a number of iconic, cinematic moments. Most memorable was the chase in Terminator 2 with Edward Furlong (where is he now) on a teeny tiny mini-mobike, being chased by the liquid metal T-1000, terminator in the semi truck and Arnie on a Harley in black leathers trying to keep up.
All combining in a rip roaring chase and leaving you to think, “I’ve seen that open sewer before?”. Compared to what most people refer to as a river, the Los Angeles river for most part of the year is a dribble. But when the rains come each year the channel turns into raging flood.
You may also recognise the location in other films too.
To Live and Die in LA
And lets not forget, the superb, Gumball Rally
Wayne Manor, or rather Mentmore Manor
In real life, Wayne Manor is an English stately home. This does not mean that Batman may be appearing in the next Downton Abbey, he may spill the tea as he flaps in from the rafters.
The house was built by Baron Mayer de Rothschild and modeled on Wollaton hall in Nottingham. The property was handed down to successive male heirs until Lord Dalmeny’s death. Unfortunately he had not put aside enough cash to pay the inheritance tax and was sold by the government to pay the tax.
The property landed in the meditative hands of the Maharishi Mhesh Yogi. Mentmore Manor then fell into the clutches of businessman, Simon Halabi who would like to turn it into a spa and hotel but the commoners in the village are revolting.
There are a quite a number of locations which we could have used for this list, but the best one is where it all happens, Kings Cross train station. A magnificent building, housing the trains which terminate their journeys coming from Scotland and the East of England. The area around Kings Cross has recently been cleaned up, it was once a haven for street ladies and drug dealers plying their trade.
The station is most famous for the young lad, Harry Potter. Platform 9¾ being the place where he catches the Howarts Express. When the books were written of course there was no plaform 9¾, but after the huge success of the films the bright, marketing sparks at the train station decided to add it, to the delights of the hordes of tourists who make the pillgramage to he hallowed spot.
Shatner has never fought Picard, even with his shirt on. But if he did it would have to be at the Vasquez Rocks an out of this world Rock Formation situated in Agua Dulce, California. Used in several episodes in Star Trek (you can find out which episodes with a few clicks, apparently Star Trek fans also use the internet). And who can forget the Gorn? Really, well here is a video to remind you.
You may be mistaken in thinking the most visually stunning part of the Tomb Raider movies is Angelina Jolie, but you would be wrong. That award goes to Tre Prohm. A Budhist temple built in the 12th century. Most people head for Ankgor Wat, but that has been cleaned up and polished for the white, pot bellied tourist. The more discerning traveller heads for Tre Prohm, which is still in the state in which it was discovered.
And the movie version.
Swollen, itchy skin? Painful red marks? Nausea? Dizziness? Increased heart rate? A bite or sting by a creepy-crawly is a sure-fire way to spoil your fun.
When you’re jet-setting across exotic countries in Africa, Asia and South America, you’re often at a higher risk of disease, infection and allergic reaction. This is because you’re spending more time outdoors and therefore more likely to come across dangerous bugs.
Travelling and being on holiday is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, and though wearing insect repellent and receiving the appropriate vaccinations are wise ways of preventing insect bites, you’re always at risk.
Here we talk you through what to expect when encountering some of the more severe and extreme insects out there, and what to do if you’re unfortunate enough to get stung or bitten yourself.
These ants are around an inch long and get their name because if they bite you it feels as if you’ve been shot. It’s said to be the most painful sting you could possibly receive. Bullet ants, also known as Paraponera, are found in Nicaragua, Honduras and Paraguay.
A colloquial term for a number of flying, biting and blood-sucking insects that live in sandy areas; sand flies can carry Leishmaniasis, a disease that causes soars on the skin and internal infections. Sand flies are common in the United States, New Zealand and Australia among other countries with desert areas.
The largest member of the wasp family, the hornet has an extremely painful sting that can also lead to more extreme outcomes, especially if you’re allergic, such as severe swelling and infection. Hornets, unlike bees, can sting multiple times. Hornets can be found throughout Europe, Russia, North America and north-east Asia.
One of the most feared insects on the planet, the black widow boasts a bite that’s around 15 times as venomous as rattlesnakes. Some of the more severe reactions can include muscle aches, nausea, paralysis of the diaphragm and fatalities. Black widows can be found in temperate regions around the world.
The false widow, which is thought to have arrived in southern England in 1879 in shipments of bananas, gets its name from its resemblance to the black widow and thus is a great cause for concern when spotted. There has been an increase in sightings of the false widow in the UK in recent months, mostly in warm, dark places like behind washing machines. Although known as Britain’s most venomous spider, its bite is defensive and no worse than being stung by a wasp or bee.
Brad Knowles and his team at Insureandaway.co.uk are sending Bob Geldof a care package to help him on his way to become the first Irishman to travel into space. When they heard the news, they thought it would be nice to send Mr Geldof a few things he can take with him to remind him of his homeland.
Bob Geldof will be travelling into space courtesy of the Space Expedition Corporation (SXC), which is hoping to send 100 people into space in 2014, albeit charging them $100,000 (£64,000) for the opportunity. The passengers will be taken into space by the Lynx X2.
It has not yet been confirmed if Michael O’Leary will also be going to do some competitive research for the airline Ryanair. Perhaps he will be asking Mr Geldof to take a notebook with him to see if they charge for the peanuts.
Also booked on the space flight is Dutch lingerie model Doutzen Kroes, and the team at Insure & Away are hoping that Mr Geldof will share his care package with his fellow passengers for the sake of a good craic.
The care package will be delivered in a special metallic flight case and will contain a bottle of Jameson Irish whiskey, a can of Guinness, a shot glass, a half-pint glass, a DVD of The Commitments, a bag of Irish cream coffee and a disposable camera so he can send a few pictures back. It is being rushed to Mr Geldof by courier.
“Insure & Away are looking at space flight travel insurance as something to add to their many services,” says Brad Knowles.
For more information contact:
0333 9000 800
La Tomatina is the ultimate food fight and if your habit is to bathe regularly in passata, then this is for you. The event attracts 40,000 people and starts about 11am, ending music and fireworks. It uses several truck loads of tomatoes. The event is held on the last Wednesday in August, in the town of Bunol in the Valencia region of Spain
Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling event is held every year in Spring, on a very steep hill in Gloucestershire. It’s being going on for 200 years and rumours are that it is a pagan healing ritual.
A large round cheese is sent off down the hill and whomever can get to the bottom of the hill first, wins the cheese. The cheese can reach speeds of up to 70 mph and has been known to cause injury to spectators. Those running down the hill can suffer from any number of injuries and the most injuries ever recorded was in 1997, when 33 cheese chasers were taken by ambulance to the local hospital.
When the inhabitants of the medieval town of Ivrea, Italy found out that a young bride, Raineri do Biandrate had cut off the head of the local tyrant with a small knife for peeling fruit. There was only one way to celebrate, throwing oranges at each other.
Although when it started, many years ago it was apples and no one knows why it changed to oranges, perhaps they were cheaper. The festival is notoriously violent, resulting in many black eyes. Although participants can look forward to the dance party and a bottle of the local wine later that night.
Do the students renting the house down the road keep you up all night with their wild partying? Do the local cats dig up your freshly planted garden? How about your next-door neighbour’s smelly cigarette smoke drifting through your open window? Although examples such as these may leave you wishing you lived somewhere different or pining for a holiday, let’s take a moment to think about the people who really do live in taxing locations. The grass is not always greener – and even if you’re just heading to these places on a holiday, you might want to check out our travel insurance policies first to make sure you’re covered for any unexpected accidents…
For 45 years this tiny house in Serbia has stood on top of a rock in the middle of the Drina River. Milija Mandić, who is known as ‘Fungus’ by his friends, built the house, which has survived many flood and been rebuilt and reinforced a number of time, back in the late 60s. Fungus reaches his home by kayak.
Not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights, Ronda in the Málaga region of Spain is split into two – the old town and the new – by a 100m canyon, called El Tajo. Houses precariously sit right on the cliff edge, with windows and backdoors opening up on to the terrifying drop.
Sinkholes are formed when the bedrock of the earth is slowly worn away by erosion until there is just a thin layer of soil or rock on the surface and a hole underneath, which then gives way to dramatic effect. Sinkholes have appeared in various locations in recent years, such as the US and Sweden, but perhaps the best known is this 30-storey-deep hole in Guatemala.
Underneath Lake Kivu, which lies between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, there are 2.3 trillion cubic feet of methane gas and 60 cubic miles of carbon dioxide. If these gases reached the surface and were released, which is thought to be a serious concern, then it could live up to its nickname as the Lake of Death.
Not much is known about this extremely remote island in Iceland, which is home to just a single lonely house and only accessible via a boat from the mainland, a rope or helicopter. Various reports suggest that the Icelandic government gave singer Bjork the island and house as a gift for her contribution to music. Day-to-day life must be ‘oh so quiet’.
This house in Cornwall in England up an 80ft rocky island off the coast of Newquay is only assessable by a suspension bridge. An elderly couple recently chose to sell the property after they decided that it was becoming too difficult to navigate the 100ft suspension bridge. It is now available for holiday rentals and has been rebranded as the House in the Sea.
This secluded house is hidden away the Äscher cliff, between Wasserauen and Ebenalp. It has been renovated and turned into a restaurant – perhaps the world’s loneliest? – and is only visited by hikers in the know.
Living near a volcano is seriously dangerous. Villagers who live close to Mount Merapi are more than aware of this – the local volcano has famously erupted a number of times in recent years. In 2010, after scientists’ warnings, people living in a 10km radius were told to evacuate. The photo shows a local woman getting on with her day-to-day life as smoke bellows out of the volcano.