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Entries in agoda (98)

Dec042012 releases its brand new iPad app!

It’s an exciting time in the mobile hotel booking industry. It was only a generation ago that booking a hotel consisted of searching for a good travel agent, fighting with language barriers, and hoping that when you showed up at the hotel, they hadn’t misplaced the reservation that you made 3 months prior on an expensive long-distance phone call. My, how things have changed.

With the release of’s new iPad app, finding and booking a hotel has never been easier, no matter where you are – or where you’re going to. In fact, a recent survey found that almost half of mobile hotel bookers were already on the road when they made their booking! How’s that for a shifting demographic?

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A look at Chengdu’s pandas

Take a look at the adorable panda shots adorning the Chengdu Panda Base website ( Like bush babies and koalas, pandas are super cute.

Thank those big dark eyes, those tiny ears and fluffy, tubby stomach. Unlike other endangered species such as sharks, pandas spark our “parenting mechanisms”. Cue the urge to coo and cuddle the bear-like black-and-white darlings native to Chinese bamboo forests.

Cue the growth of Chengdu Panda Base. Set near Chengdu – the capital of spicy food hub Sichuan province in western central China – the base resembles a panda empire, sprawling over countless acres.

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Odd Japanese snacks

Japan routinely gets labeled weird and quirky. Its image may just be a cartoon cliché based on little, but there's joy in believing that the island nation is drastically different – even odder than England. 

Still, few would argue that Japan serves up some extraordinary dishes that make frog’s legs look tame. Take a look at the menu. Spotlighted dishes range from a poisonous fish to feral ice cream. 

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Top 5 Asian Castles

If someone says the magic word 'castle', what image springs to mind? Perhaps you think of the mystery-soaked monuments that cast their long shadows across medieval Europe. Or perhaps you think of the English king Arthur and the court of Camelot. 

But Europe holds no monopoly on castles. Asia hosts scores. Here are five of Asia’s most striking and strange castles, which transcend bricks-and-mortar, and border on marvellous. Their haunting, massive presence evokes the sound of drums and thunder. 

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Born Free in Kenya: Elsamere

In Kenya, the Rift Valley forms the basis of the country’s major geographical features, the string of lakes that lies like an elongated ribbon to the north-west of Nairobi. 

Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementaita, Lake Naivasha and Lake Magadi in the south, have all become important focal points for wildlife, especially birdlife.  

Lake Naivasha was ‘discovered' by a German naturalist called Gustav Fischer in 1883, and its name is thought to derive from a classic case of European mispronunciation. The early visitors asked their Swahili porters what the lake was called and were told 'enaiposha' which means quite simply 'the lake'.  And so, with the pronunciation slightly mangled by the Europeans, Lake Naivasha it became. 

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Monaco: All that glitters

On the sun-kissed southern coast of France sits the world’s second smallest country, Monaco. (The Vatican is the smallest, by the way). The Principality of Monaco, to use its official name, covers just 0.76 square miles, but within its small pocket-handkerchief sized boundaries, it has money and glamour and a reputation that totally outstrips its size.

A policy of reclaiming land from the sea means the country is very slowly growing in size, but it still remains the world's smallest French-speaking country. For the record, Monaco is also the world’s most densely populated sovereign country.  It has been ruled by one family, the Grimaldis, since 1297, when, according to legend, François Grimaldi captured the fortress on the strategic Rock on Monaco, dressed as a Franciscan monk.

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Guide to game drives in South Africa

Going on a game drive in the South African bush is an unforgettable experience. 

Although most wildlife in South Africa is found within the boundaries of vast National Parks, wildlife reserves and private game farms, that by no way implies they are kept in a glorified zoo.  

Hundreds of kilometers of wilderness, sometimes with drivable roads, but often-times just rough dirt tracks only suitable for 4x4 vehicles, means that most of the time the animals have the upper hand in the viewing stakes.  They live their lives deep in the forest, venturing out of the protective tree cover to go to the water holes, and it is a question of good luck and perseverance that we humans are able to see them at all. 

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Insider guide to Trekking Tibet

Tashi delek. Tashi delek,” the old lady sang out cheerfully, as she raced past me. Her wrinkled face gave me a happy, toothy grin and then she was gone, heading effortlessly for the 5,630-meter Dolma La, the highest point of our pilgrimage around Mount Kailash. 

If I’d had the energy, I would have had distinctly uncharitable thoughts.  There we were, all togged out in hiking boots, thermal clothing and expensive down anoraks, plodding painfully along, gasping for breath, while yet more smiling Tibetans, most of them elderly, and most of them wearing nothing sturdier than gym shoes and thin jackets, rushed past us in a swirl of smiles, prayer wheels and tashi deleks.  

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Insider guide to Japan's Bullet Train

Anybody wondering exactly how far Japan is ahead of the West should ride the Shinkansen, the bullet train, remembering –soberingly – that it has been in operation for nearly 40 years. 

Everything is, without saying, immaculate; the trains shiny white, silent and polished to a gleam. The ticketing operation is flawless, with not just easy and helpful reserved seating, but with conductors who bow, dressed in creamy beige uniforms with gold trim and matching beige shiny patent-leather shoes – the whole snazzy outfit in male and female versions. They know exactly which seats to approach after people have got on and off at the various stops along the line. No, “Tickets, please,” while lurching blindly from seat to seat as they do in the West. Nothing lurches in Japan, even at 200 miles per hour. 

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Insider city guide to Paris


Just that one simple word and the images come rushing, pell-mell, of a beautiful, timeless city – the Champs Elysées, the Left Bank, Montmartre, the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, which never disappoints, however often one has seen it. 

Paris is a magical city to discover, for it has something to offer everyone: superb museums, wonderful shops – though some may just be for window-shopping – restaurants galore, walks along the River Seine, a cup of coffee in a pavement café... it's difficult to avoid the clichés when describing the City of Light.

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