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Entries in travel blog (81)


varanasi: the world's oldest living city

Varanasi City

The American writer Mark Twain described Varanasi as, "older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together". Understand that Twain died a century ago in 1910. So Varanasi, which lies on the banks of the River Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is seriously old.

Varanasi, aka Banaras Benares or Kashi is also seriously holy – one of the world's most sacred cities. Find out what there is to do other than ooh and aah over the grandeur of the crumbling maze: not much, to be frank. Varanasi is more about atmosphere. Still, the temple town offers some intriguing diversions.

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sydney: taronga zoo

taronga zoo, sydney

The story of Australia's most famous zoo begins with a scene straight from Noah's Ark. Many of Taronga Zoo's original animals – including elephants – were shipped across Sydney Harbour. The animals arrived aboard a flat-top barge, herded from Billy Goat Swamp: the zoo's makeshift birthplace set amid the grounds of that sun-bleached eastern Sydney paradise, Moore Park. 

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vancouver: friday frivolity

vancouver at night

Vancouver is a strange city.  It's a great city, but a strange one nevertheless.  It’s blessed with possibly the nicest landscape in the world, sandwiched between mountains and the oceans, but it has the reputation of a no-fun city and it's supposedly difficult to meet people there.  This reputation is likely given by bitter Torontonians jealous of Vancouver’s beauty, but at any rate Vancouver does occasionally get tagged as bland.  The recent Olympics did a spot to rectify that, showcasing party after party and hosting possibly the most fun, if not the most magical Winter Olympic Games ever. 

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philippines: beautiful bohol 

chocolate hills, bohol

There are some islands that are meant to be photographed and made into postcards. Bohol, in the southern Philippines, is one such place. With its lush foiliage, curious wildlife, breathtaking beaches, and amazing sunsets, Bohol is a true gem.

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chiang mai: volunteering in the northern capital

elephant rides in chiang mai

The 2000s will go down in the annals of marketing as the century tourism without a prefix went out of fashion. I’m told my ancestors justified their holidays with hard work and an ‘I’ve-earned-it’ attitude, but these days you feel obligated to buy carbon offsets just for a visa run to Mae Sai.

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sydney: 5 great cruises

the manly ferry

Since the 2000 Olympics, Sydney city has climbed in cost and faded from fashion. Still, the Australian city retains some formidable attractions – not least the world’ most attractive harbour network.Any ride on a chunky green ferry integrated into the public transport system beats the bus by a mile.

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cambodia: inside siem reap

temple of angkor

My wife and I just got back from Siem Reap, Cambodia, to see the famed temples of Angkor.  It was a birthday trip for the wife, who chose to bring a friend.  What?  He was a nice addition; someone who had never heard our stories or our jokes.  Plus, he’s a good guy to drink with. 

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hawaii: coffee in the backcountry

hawaii's coffee tours

A coffee plantation tour is one of the best ways to enjoy Hawaiian backcountry. There are hundreds of small-scale plantations sprinkled across the archipelago, many sporting the kind of quirky names you’d expect from an English pub, and most are happy to give tours. Try a few samples and pick up gifts that your friends back home will actually appreciate. Trust me, they could do without that ready-to-ship pineapple you were eying in Oahu.

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kuala lumpur: top shopping in KL 

shopping guide in kl

I never thought I would find myself saying these words, but I think that there is too much shopping in Kuala Lumpur. It’s not only the volume of shopping centres and markets that boggles my mind – it’s also the super-size of everything. The 13 floors of retail space in Berjaya Times Square are dizzying, and it becomes hard to tell the difference between the rows and rows of handbag merchants in the Chinatown markets.

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bangkok: best eats

recommended restaurants in bangkok

Bangkok is massive.  Around 12 million people crammed into a big soup bowl of a city means you’re constantly finding great new food places.  From street corner stalls to luxurious hotel rooftops, Bangkok is synonymous with good eats.

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