Monday, January 23, 2017

Retirement in Malaysia

In recent years Malaysia has emerged as an ideal spot for retirees planning to seek their retirement haven abroad.

In the latest Annual Global Retirement Index for 2017 produced by International Living, Malaysia has topped the list of all Asian retirement destinations, ranking sixth in the world after Mexico, Panama, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica and Columbia, and is the only Asian country to have made it into the top 10.

This year's report analyzed 24 countries, ranking them across a broad variety of categories including the cost of real estate, special benefits offered to retirees, entertainment and amenities, safety and stability, healthcare, climate, infrastructure, and the cost of living.

The report notes that Malaysia's robust economy delivers consistently high standard of living available to locals and expats alike, delivering a quality of life that is both cost-efficient and attractive. It's one of only three countries in Asia (Singapore and Hong Kong are the other two) where it's possible to buy property freehold. And you don't need to be living there to do it. Visitors arriving in the country will be given a three-month visa, and if you decide to buy while you are there, you can. But even if you don't, typical expat locations such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang also offer high-quality real estate at low rental.

According to the report, Malaysian cities are clean and modern, its public transport unrivaled, and its people the friendliest in Asia. And while other Asian countries offer great budget holidays, and some offer first-class vacations, Malaysia manages to cater extraordinarily well to both.

Says IL Malaysia correspondent, Keith Hockton, "In Malaysia, you'll get the best street food, restaurants and cafés in the region, and some interesting architecture that is unlike any other. The food is not just first class; it's world class. And the shopping in Kuala Lumpur and Penang is to die for. From state of the art air-conditioned shopping centers to colorful night markets, Malaysia has it all."

"Consisting of 13 states and three federal territories, there is a lot to see and do here," he adds. "It's just one of the reasons that first time tourists to Malaysia come back again and again, and ultimately end up moving or retiring here."

Indeed Malaysia has no less than four UNESCO world heritage sites  - the Lenggong Valley, the Gunung Mulu National Park, Kinabalu Park and the cities of George Town and Malacca. Says Keith, "Kinabalu Park is a bird watcher's paradise, and Mount Kinabalu is the tallest mountain in Malaysia. Sunrise seen from here is something that you will remember for the rest of your life."

Coining Malaysia as 'Great Value for Money in a Cultural Melting Pot', the report indicates that the average retiree can enjoy a life of luxury in the country on a modest budget. It also notes that Malaysia makes a perfect base from which to explore the many natural, historical, and cultural treasures that Southeast Asia has to offer.

Other benefits associated with retirement in Malaysia? The proliferation of low-cost Asian airlines in recent years has made it easier (and more affordable) than ever to explore the rest of Asia. It is also easier for retirees to fit in and socialize with locals by comparison to other countries as English is so widely spoken. Also worthy of mention is the quality of health care in Malaysia, which according to the report, is comparable to that in any First-World nation.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

World's Top Photographic Destinations

Norway in Winter (Ewen Bell)

Capture stunning images in some of the world's most picturesque locations, hone your wildlife photography skills or simply create Instagram-worthy still shots. No matter where you travel you'll be certain to bring home wonderful pictorial mementos of your trip – of breath-taking landscapes, awe-inspiring wildlife, colourful handicrafts, mouth-watering food and vibrant markets. The subject matter is endless and this bucket list is for novice and expert photographers alike.


With its breath-taking scenery and unique wildlife, Africa is a photographer's dream. Whether it's the raw, red landscapes of Namibia for still pictures, wildebeest swimming a fast-flowing river or a flock of vivid carmine bee-eaters in flight for action shots, a pride of lion on the savannah for the iconic nature photograph and the tribes of Ethiopia for unique and colourful portraits. No matter where in Africa, there is a photograph to be captured and memories to be cherished.


A voyage to Antarctica is a true trip of a lifetime and you do it in style and comfort on board Ponant's MV Le Boreal. There is no more remote or pristine destination on earth. Its wildlife is abundant and, thanks to the almost total absence of human presence, easy to get close to ensuring exquisite photographic opportunities. Icebound landscapes and rugged scenery also produce dramatic compositions and a dedicated photographic expedition led by wildlife photographer Richard Harker.

The Aussie Outback

Closer to home our own Western Australia presents a wealth of photographic substance. The rich earthy colours of the landscape in contrast with the endless blue sky are a dream through the lens. The soaring red gorges and crystal clear billabongs, the dramatic coastline plus native flora and fauna, all are beautifully captured through the lens. There are galleries of indigenous rock art and sculptural termite mounds, pandanus palms and dazzling sunsets. For action shots, there is horse riding, barramundi fishing and walking trails to follow. Create your next album on an Australian adventure.

Ladakh, Northern India

The remote and rugged landscapes of Ladakh in the high Himalaya of Northern India are a photographer's paradise and on an exclusive hosted journey you are accompanied by award-winning freelance photographer, Palani Mohan. He has travelled to Ladakh a number of times and his passion for the scenery and the beautiful people that live there is contagious. During the trip he shares his experiences and photographic skills with special workshops, lectures and hands-on guidance in the field. The journey reveals a region shaped by staunch Buddhist traditions with a history and culture more closely related to Tibet than India. The dramatic landscapes of high altitude desert, vast valleys and fluttering prayer flags are highlights while centuries old monasteries and temples reveal some of the most gentle and hospitable people on the planet. you to the rich culture and help you create your own magical photographic mementos.


Full of colour, culture, fascinating sights and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Mexico is magic for photography enthusiasts. There are ancient Mayan and Aztec archaeological ruins aplenty, charming colonial architecture in all the colours of the rainbow, dense jungles, beautiful haciendas, richly decorated dancers, colourful markets and vibrant festivals. Picture postcard shots present themselves at every turn.


One of the last travel frontiers, Mongolia is vast, remote and strikingly beautiful with no shortage of photographic subject matter.

An exclusive hosted journey to Mongolia focuses on the thrilling Golden Eagle Festival in the far west of the country where Kazakh horsemen demonstrate their skills with the prized golden eagle in fierce competition. The journey is led by award-winning freelance photographer Palani Mohan whose work has been exhibited widely around the globe. He has travelled to Mongolia four times photographing and documenting in detail the golden eagle hunters and their unique customs. An expert photographic instructor he shares his experiences and his photographs as well as giving travellers his tips on capturing landscapes and people in this extraordinary part of the world.

See also:

Photography for Travellers

"Inspiration and information to help you make the most of your travel and photography"

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Viking Cruises Overview

The Viking Difference

Designed for discerning travellers, Viking offers guests “the thinking person’s cruise” as an alternative to mainstream cruises. The Viking Difference is providing guests with extraordinarily well-designed cruises that bring them closer to the cultures of the world. Itineraries are designed for maximum time in port, often with late evenings or overnights, so guests can experience local culture at night or evening performances. Ports include both cosmopolitan cities and “collector ports,” appealing to those with an interest in history, art, music, and cuisine. And only The Viking Way brings guests itineraries that feature Local Life, Working World and Privileged Access experiences.

While onboard, guests enjoy informative talks from local experts and carefully selected lecturers in The Theater. Dining options onboard Viking’s ships elevate food as a cultural experience – the World Café features global cuisine with live cooking and open kitchens; Mamsen’s features Norwegian deli-style fare, according to the recipes of Hagen’s mother, Ragnhild, otherwise known as “Mamsen;” The Chef’s Table celebrate cuisines from around the world with multi-course tasting menus and wine parings; and Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant embraces authentic Tuscan and Roman cuisine. With the Kitchen Table experience, guests have an immersive opportunity to shop, cook and eat with the Executive Chef.

Interiors and design of Viking Cruises’ ships

Light-filled with modern Scandinavian interiors, Viking’s ships were designed by experienced nautical architects and engineers, including the same interior design team responsible for the award-winning fleet of Viking Longships®. Throughout each ship, details are incorporated to pay homage to Nordic heritage and to help guests immerse themselves in local surroundings. A glass-backed infinity pool cantilevered off the stern offers unobstructed views; indoor-outdoor spaces offer more options for al fresco dining than any other vessels in their class; huge windows and skylights blur the lines between inside and out; and a wrap-around promenade deck nods to a bygone era of classic ocean liners.

Onboard Viking’s ships, clean lines, woven textiles and light wood evoke the Viking spirit of discovery and connection to the natural world. A carefully curated collection of Scandinavian artwork adorns the walls of restaurants and public spaces. In the two-deck Explorers’ Lounge at the bow of the ships, the décor was inspired by ancient Viking trade routes and navigation methods – imagery of star constellations and astronomical maps are complemented by antique globes, astrolabes and sofas with cozy pelts. In the LivNordic Spa, the holistic wellness philosophy of Scandinavia is in mind – from the Nordic ritual of the hydrotherapy pool and a real snow room, to materials inspired by Scandinavian nature: Swedish limestone and black slate; juniper and teak wood details; recycled and etched opaque glass; and cast iron. In the Wintergarden, guests can indulge in afternoon tea service under a canopy of Scandinavian trellised wood – an homage to Norse mythology and Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life. And in the Viking Living Room, a geometric garden was inspired by the wild lichen of Norway’s Finse Mountain Plateau.

Viking Inclusive Value

Viking Inclusive Value provides a small ship experience at a big ship value onboard Viking Ocean Cruises —with every cruise fare including a veranda stateroom, shore excursions in each port of call, all onboard meals, and all port charges and government taxes. Guests also enjoy many complimentary amenities as part of their fare, including: beer and wine with lunch and dinner service; premium dining reservations; Wi-Fi; self-service laundry; access to the Thermal Suite in the LivNordic Spa; and 24-hour room service—an included value of more than USD$200 per person, per day for an average cruise.

About Viking Cruises

Viking Cruises offers destination-centric river and ocean cruising designed for experienced travellers with an interest in geography, culture and history. Featuring onboard cultural enrichment and included shore excursions, Viking’s journeys are competitively priced for genuine value. Debuting its maiden season of ocean cruising in 2015, the sophisticated state-of-the-art Viking Star hosts 930 guests on itineraries in Scandinavia and the Baltic; the Western and Eastern Mediterranean; the British Isles and the Americas. Viking will welcome Viking Sky and Viking Sun, the company’s third and fourth ship, in early and late 2017, respectively. Viking Spirit will be delivered in 2018; the yet-to-be-named sixth ship will be delivered in 2020. As the world’s leading river cruise line, since its 1997 inception the company has grown to a fleet of 64 river vessels (in 2016) offering scenic cruising along the rivers of Europe, Russia, China, and Southeast Asia. Viking has been honoured multiple times in Travel + Leisure’s “World’s Best” Awards and Condé Nast Traveller’s “Gold List” as well as recognised by the editors of Cruise Critic as “Best River Cruise Line,” with the entire VikingLongships® fleet being named “Best New River Ships” in the website’s Editors’ Picks Awards. Viking Cruises has recently been awarded as The World's Best Large-Ship Ocean Cruise Line by Travel + Leisure, 2016.

For additional information, contact Viking Cruises at 1300 845 464 (Australia) & 0800 447 913 (New Zealand) or visit . To join the Viking Cruises community online, visit

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Discover Chiang Mai - Thailand's northern gem

Explore the cuisine and culture more deeply and you'll discover that the different regions of Thailand boast their own distinctive flavours and flare. The Central Plains, Thailand's rice bowl, are characterised by freshwater-fish recipes, sour soups and curries, while the tropical South with its Muslim traditions offers bountiful seafood and dishes enriched with coconut, cardamom and cumin. I-san of course, is influenced by Lao PDR., so here you'll find hot papaya salads, cured and raw meat and simple, tasty soups, perfect for filling the bellies of the region's hardworking farmers.

But it's the food of Thailand's North that attracts the most culinary converts. This region has long been influenced by Myanmar, China and Lao PDR., not to mention the kingdoms of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. And, as kingdoms have risen and fallen, they've all left their mark on Chiang Mai's cuisine. The countryside and climate too have shaped the region's food. Cooler Northern climes mean hot chili is seldom used to disguise spoiled food – a more warming heat comes from galangal and peppers. Fewer palm trees in the region mean coconut dishes are traditionally rare while many Chiang Mai dishes have a distinctive bitter element, thanks to shoots and leaves collected in the local forests.

You don't have to stay in the city long to understand why the local pork, fermented, fried or cured is so famous. Nearly every Thai visitor to Chiang Mai comes home laden with bags of crispy pork rind to share with friends. Pork fat is also used for frying, though the health-conscious, if not the traditionalists, can usually request that vegetable be used.

Food culture in Chiang Mai is eclectic. The city is a culinary sponge with chefs and foods from around the world finding a home here, and blending in with the region's long-standing traditions. Even the city's most famous dish, Khao Soi, with its rich curry sauce is thought to have originated with Sino-Muslim traders. It's this internationalism in Chiang Mai's food that makes it so approachable to this day. The city boasts sublime international restaurants alongside the family-run snack shops and street stalls selling tasty Northern treats – indeed the food is one of the things that makes a trip to the northern capital so memorable.

Visitors short on time, or seeking specialised knowledge about the city's cuisine should join one of Chiang Mai's food tours. Among the best-known of these is the Chiang Mai Night Food Tour, an off-shoot of the award-winning You're driven around the city's best food eateries and stalls, accompanied by guides who can explain not only the ingredients and cooking methods that of each dish, but also provide a potted history of the city's landmarks. Those who have more time should join one of the cooking classes.

The tours start by the historical Tha Pae Gate and attract a range of participants, from full-on foodies to people seeking a new way to see the city. As you set off past Wat Mahawan, the evening chanting of the monks is heard in the wind; after all, Chiang Mai is a religious as well as culinary city. There are distinctive Burmese elements in the ornate architecture of Chiang Mai's temples, a reminder that the kingdom of Lanna was influenced by the Burmese for over two centuries, a period that has left its mark on the food as much as the buildings.

Padong women and girls in
traditional 'long neck' costume.
Just around the corner of the temple, stop off at the little roti stall of Auntie Dae, a famous Chiang Mai resident of Pakistani origin who, for 30 years has sold freshly-made, sweet and savoury roti with cheese or condensed milk and sugar from her little stall. These tasty snacks are both a treat and an energy boost while touring the city.

The favourites are always the popular. Phat Thai may not have originated in the north of Thailand, but if you're doing a Thai food tour, this much-loved dish can't be missed, and Chiang Mai has stalls that cook Phat Thai to perfection. So don't worry when your guide takes you down a little alley crammed with people. They're all waiting to enjoy delicious noodles served piping hot on banana leaves and covered with a thin layer of egg.

Of course, where food comes from is as important as how it's prepared. This is why the tours visit Chiang Mai's Warorot Market, the oldest in the city. Chefs come here to stock up on ingredients, and you can snack on freshly-made treats, experience the scents and sights of a bustling market, and pick up tips on choosing herbs, spices and fruits.
More: 137 Pillars House Pillars of Tranquility

The tour is great for first-time visitors, as they enjoy a guided expedition of some of the city's best sites including cultural as well as culinary attractions. Most memorable is the amazing Wat Suan Dok, founded in 1370, and home to the cremation urns of Chiang Mai's old royal family. The amazing statues of King Mengrai the Great of the Lanna Kingdom, King Ramkamhaeng the Great of the Sukhothai Kingdom and King Ngam Muang of Phayao Kingdom, pivotal characters in Thailand's history also create an impression.

The highlight of the trip in terms of Chiang Mai's culinary culture is Heun Muan Jai (The Happy House) restaurant, which specialises in traditional Lanna dishes. It is recommended to start the meal with local Hors D'oeuvres – chili dip, crispy pork, fried chicken sausage and vegetables, lightly boiled in the Northern way. Visit in the rainy season, and you can try the tasty local het pho mushroom, abundant in the local hills and here prepared in a delicious soup. Meals are served in the Northern Khantoke style, a platter which people sit around to share dishes – a lovely way to enjoy a communal meal

And the communal feel of the tour is what appeals to visitors. You explore the city knowing you'll learn something, make friends and enjoy some tasty treats along the way. This is why evenings end with a drink in a rooftop bar with a city view. It's a great chance to further friendships with fellow foodies and plan further culinary adventures.

There are several food tours as well as cooking classes on offer in Chiang Mai. Examples are and Some hotels also offer exclusive food tours for their guests.

For more information about Chiang Mai and Thailand, visit or follow us on

Sunday, January 8, 2017

What’s your #luxurytravel resolution this New Year?


Luxury Travel

It’s that time of year again. The Christmas excitement is over, waistlines have expanded and thoughts turn to reinvention, health, self-improvement and the adoption of better habits. The luxury travel experts think that travel delivers on all these fronts.

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More family time

Nothing is more fulfilling than taking time out with the family and a holiday gives the perfect opportunity to relax, remove yourself from the day to day and focus on those around you. A wildlife safari  delivers unforgettable experiences, educates young and old alike on the wonders of the animal kingdom, allows plenty of activity and adventure and above all unforgettable memories.

Give back

There is always more that can be done to benefit needy communities and respect fragile ecosystems. A&K understood this as far back as 1982 when it established Abercrombie & Kent Philanthropy (AKP). Many journeys offer opportunities for personal involvement with the projects AKP supports from leopard protection in Sri Lanka to bee-keeping in Tanzania, housing for street kids in Morocco and wells for clean water in Cambodia, and many more.

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Eat Well

Avoid a drastic diet and instead make healthy choices, like the Italians do. Their respect for fresh produce and simple flavours is to be admired. Adopt these habits when you visit the northeast of Italy where Prosciutto, Venetian bacari and white asparagus are counted amongst the regional specialities. While the focus is fine fresh food, travellers will be equally dazzled by the local art, architecture and atmospheric lodgings.

Drink less

It is said that life’s too short to drink bad wine so if consumption is to be cut choose quality above quantity. Argentinean wines are amongst the best in the world and nestling against the Andes, Mendoza is one of the world’s great wine regions. Most famous for its malbec, there’s no shortage of quality here and on a luxury travel journey, guests explore the terroir, visit leading vineyards and cellar doors, meet winemakers and enjoy ample tasting opportunities.

Perfect a skill

Photography and luxury travel go hand in hand but so often the images we capture disappoint. Try a dedicated photographic expedition to Antarctica where professional photographer Richard Harker is the resident photo coach. Throughout the journey, Richard offers everything from an introduction to taking photographs in polar climes to tips for seasoned experts with on board workshops, technical advice, hands-on tutorials and guidance in the field. Antarctica is alive with incredible subject matter for the photographer from dazzling icebergs and close-up wildlife to breaching whales and seabirds in flight. On a photographic expedition you’re sure to bring home wonderful pictorial mementos of the trip.

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