Thursday, January 28, 2016

Off the Beaten Track: Ten Things to do in Tuvalu

Tuvalu is considered one of the smaller 'off the beaten track' type destinations in the South Pacific and a recent traveler's blog published by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) offers travelers an insight into 'ten things to do' on timeless Tuvalu.

The traveler's blog is a result of a travel familiarization initiative funded by the European Union to facilitate the production of travel blogs and articles to assist the tourism industry in Tuvalu recover following the severe tropical cyclone Pam, which struck Tuvalu in March 2015.

Australian travel writer Louise Southerden visited Tuvalu and captured in the traveler's blog some interesting discoveries about her visit to one of the most remote nations in the world.

SPTO Chief Executive, Ilisoni Vuidreketi, said the articles written by Louise Southerden of Australia provide wonderful insights into travel in Tuvalu.

“We thought it best to send a travel writer to Tuvalu to experience for herself the different tourism activities on the ground because we have noted that travelers enjoy stories based on real time experiences.”

“The blog on 'Ten things to do in Tuvalu' is a well written piece that provides an 'off the beaten track' experience that one would only find in Tuvalu and that's what makes this timeless paradise unique.”

“We are pleased to be able to offer travelers to Tuvalu an insight into what they can find and do and we believe that this will help tourists choose the island as one of the must-see and visit island destinations in the world.”

The traveler's blog can be found at

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Six reasons to visit Myanmar

With Myanmar now firmly in the global spotlight, demand for this charming destination has never been higher. Beautiful and peaceful, with an ancient culture, wonderful monuments and friendly people. Enjoy all that Myanmar has to offer.

Experience how the nation is changing – before it changes irrevocably

In the past few years as Myanmar has made its first tentative steps towards democracy, sanctions have been dropped and the country continues to open up more and more to tourism. But if you want to stay ahead of the pack, and experience this extraordinary destination before it becomes too touristy and expensive, now is definitely the moment to visit while the traditional ways of Asia still endure.

Take a balloon ride over Bagan

Famous for its temple-strewn plains, the ancient capital of Bagan one of the most spectacular stops along the Ayeryarwady, containing around 3,000 pagodas, temples and Buddhas, including the world’s largest reclining Buddha. If the weather is clear, a daybreak balloon ride affords breathtaking views over the World Heritage site. Or take a bicycle or a horse drawn cart in the early morning mist around the site, watch as villages come to life and experience Bagan’s temples free of crowds that typically flock later in the day.

Enjoy a room with a view and your own personal butler

According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Sanctuary Ananda offers the most luxurious cruise experience along the Ayeryarwady and it’s hard to disagree. Arranged over four decks, this floating palace boats the largest entry level suites on the river as well as one of the highest staff to guest ratios on the river, combining all the comforts of 5-star contemporary luxury with the refined elegance of authentic Burmese design.

All cabins have balconies from which to take in the timeless landscapes. But for the ultimate indulgence, the Owner's Suite features a king-size bed, separate dressing and living areas and a large private veranda. The bathroom has a monsoon shower and occupants are treated to a personal butler and private tour guide.

Travel on a boat that reflects the unique character of Myanmar

Custom-built entirely in Myanmar using traditional local materials and craftsmanship, Sanctuary Ananda’s 21 suites feature hand-woven textiles from the Shan, Chin, Akha, Naga, Karen, Rakhine, and Kachin regions. Decorative pillows, handmade furniture, and bronze Karen frog drums embellish the ship's lounge areas. Just as importantly, a cruise aboard the Sanctuary Ananda is both environmentally and culturally sensitive. Staff take great care to blend in with local customs and traditions, to employ local people and to provide insights into Myanmar’s culture and history.

Enjoy the best food in the country

Guests reiterate time and time again that some of the most delicious food in Myanmar is to be found aboard the Sanctuary Ananda. Expert chefs delicately balance local flavours and ingredients with Western fine dining, delivering a truly 5-star outcome. A signature Sandbank Dinner under a blanket of stars on the riverbank delivers a truly unforgettable experience as the night sky glistens overhead, pagodas shine in the skyline, and guests are treated to delicious Burmese delicacies surrounded by lanterns and traditional parasols.

A chance to explore the road less travelled

Sanctuary Ananda offers up an unparalleled portfolio of fascinating itineraries including a many memorable and unique excursions. The boat’s custom built shallow draft allows guests to journey in style on voyages of breathtaking beauty and discovery along both the majestic Ayeyarwady from Bagan to Mandalay visiting temples, pagodas, palaces and monasteries along the way, and also its tributary, the Chindwin, visiting places visitors rarely see – through the jungles of the north, forgotten villages, ancient towns almost to the Indian border.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Sickies highest after Australia Day

Aussies might celebrate Australia Day with more gusto than other national events, with new data revealing that sickies are more common after 26 January than after Anzac Day, Melbourne Cup and footy grand final weekends.

The survey of 2,024 Australians by Clipp, Australia's leading and fastest-growing mobile-payment and deals app for bars, pubs and their restaurants, revealed that 16 per cent of Aussies have chucked a sickie after Australia Day at least once, compared with 10 per cent on Anzac Day, 10 per cent after Melbourne Cup, and eight per cent after footy grand final weekends.

"On the flipside, 84 per cent of respondents haven't chucked a sickie after Australia Day, which is good news for employers who may have concerns about staff calling in sick," said Greg Taylor, co-founder and CEO of Clipp.  "And of the 16 per cent admitting to chucking a sickie after Australia Day, just seven per cent said they have done it 'a few times'.  Australia Day occurs at the end of a long January holiday for many Aussies, so there is little motivation to sneak in a sickie.  Unlike sporting weekends, we also tend to see January 26 as more of a relaxing day to spend with family."

Interestingly, older Australians appear to value their work benefits and entitlements more, with younger Australians leading the charge when it comes to calling in sick after Australia day. One quarter (24 per cent) of those in their 20s admitted to doing so – of that, 13% said they had done it once while 11% said they'd done it a few times.  This is closely followed by under 20s at 22 per cent (17% once and 6% a few times) then 16 per cent of 30-somethings, 12 per cent of 40-somethings, nine per cent of 50-somethings and four per cent of 60+.

When gender comes into play, males are more likely to have a sickie (17%) than females (14%), and while more admit to chucking a sickie once (9% each), eight per cent of males admit to doing it more than once, followed by six per cent of females.  Sydneysiders and Melbournians are similar, with 15 and 16 per cent respectively having admitted to taking the day off at least once after Australia Day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Thessaloniki - Greece: a National Geographic treasure

According to National Geographic, the city of Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city in the north, is among the top 20 international destinations not to be missed by travelers.

The renowned magazine, which reaches more than 8 million readers worldwide, recently released its annual travel guide for 2013, naming Thessaloniki among the top destinations worldwide and a must see place for next year.

As the magazine states, "Although the euro crisis has caused ripples of discontentment here, it's the century-old street markets filled with ripe fruits and barrels of fresh feta that symbolize this city. Tucked between relics of Byzantine and Ottoman antiquity are art galleries, bohemian nightclubs, and culinary hot spots, all part of a grassroots vision turned reality by Thessaloniki's large do-it-yourself youth culture. The best way to get the feel of this mission-driven city is on foot, walking from the ruins of Ano Poli to Aristotelous Square on the waterfront. Then cozy up to a café to nibble grilled calamari washed down with dry Macedonian wine". The article also focuses on the city port, which it calls "luminous", due to the fact that it is not closed by any gigantic construction like so many others is southern Europe.

Εxcept for a beautiful city-break destination on its own, thanks to its location, Thessaloniki is also the holiday gateway to the north Aegean Islands and the Halkidiki region, famous for its natural beauty and mesmerizing beaches, as well as a short trip getaway to famous archaeological sites, such ancient Pella and the Vergina royal tombs. Moreover though, due its 3,000 year old history, examples of its Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman past, such as Byzantine churches, included in UNESCO's World Heritage list, are scattered around the city.

This is not the first major acknowledgement received by Thessaloniki. Many more leading newspapers and travel guides have also discovered Thessaloniki in the recent past. In 2010 Lonely Planet, the leading travel guide, included the city in the top 10 destinations in the world in terms of entertainment. In 2011, the annual Louis Vuitton City Guide - European Cities publication included Thessaloniki in its list of unexpected cities, due to the unique wine and culinary experiences it offers. That same year, the New York Times included it in the top 41 destinations to be visited in 2011, while the Australian Sun Herald, added the city at its list of proposed European travel destinations.

- The full National Geographic article on Thessaloniki, can be read at the following link:

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