About Erin Kiskis
Erin Kiskis is the Community Manager at Ruba, a new online travel site that lets users share their favorite places and travel experiences in a highly visual guide format. She'd rather spend all her time actually traveling if she could.
Her favorite places to travel are Kenya and Australia and her favorite things to do on vacation are take photos and eat bizarre and delicious foods.
Latest Posts by Erin Kiskis
The Grand Palace is one of Bangkok’s most famous landmarks. The compound includes the previous royal residences, government buildings, Wat Phra Kaew (temple containing the Emerald Buddha) and many beautiful, intricate chedi (Buddhist structures). Given the many buildings, you probably want to have a guide to explain each of the buildings as the pamphlet you get when you pay your admission does not go into that great of detail. As this is one of Thailand’s most sacred sites, there is a strict dress code: both men and women must be modestly dressed, including covering of the feet (must have socks if wearing sandals). If you are not dressed appropriately, you can rent clothes near the entrance.
Wat Pho (or Wat Phra Chetuphon, Temple of the Reclining Buddha) is the largest Wat in Bangkok, and known for having both Thailand’s largest reclining Buddha and the most number of Buddha images in Thailand. It is down the street from the Grand Palace. The gold-plated reclining Buddha is hugely impressive at 46 meters long and 15 meters high. The temple grounds include over 1000 images as well as the center for traditional Thai massage. This is probably the best place to try out a traditional Thai massage, but be aware that they are not exactly gentle. Some describe it as doing yoga without the work as the therapist moves you through a series of yoga-like poses. You might be inclined to head out after a long day of sightseeing, but I suspect that a foot refloxology massage might rejuvenate you.
This temple is considered to be the most famous and photographed temple in Bangkok, with a 250-foot-high tower decorated with thousands of tiny pieces of colored glass and Chinese porcelain. The best place to view/photograph Wat Arun is from the opposite side of the river. (It is located on the west side of the Chao Praya River while Wat Pho and the Grand Palace are on the east side of the Chao Praya.)
Pak Klong Talad
This is Bangkok’s flower market; it is similar to many flower markets around the world in terms of having lots of flowers. However, this is an open air market and there are piles and piles of beautiful orchids, lotus blossoms, roses and other flowers.
This is a HUGE weekend market that consists of a maze of over 15,000 stalls, including live animals, meat, fish, snacks, handmade paper, Thai handcrafts, music, art, clothing, prepared food, flowers, plants and more. If you get there early, it’s not as packed and not as hot, but some of the vendors are not open yet. Great place to buy gifts to bring home. Very convenient to the Skytrain’s Mo Chit station.
This floating market is about 65 miles south of Bangkok in the Ratchaburi Province. Although this is definitely a touristy thing to do, seeing and experiencing the small ‘khlongs’ (canals) filled with boats carrying fresh produce and expertly maneuvering their boats to reach customers is also a lot of fun. Over 5000 tourists visit this 100-year-old floating market each day so if you don’t feel like fighting the crowds, you can also try the Taling Chan, Bang Khu Wiang, or Tha Kha Floating Markets. Make sure you check the times, though, as these three markets have limited hours/days.
Koh Lanta Yai (Big Lanta Island) is the larger of the two islands in the Koh Lanta district. It is off the southern coast of Krabi and less well-known than Koh Phi Phi. Most lodging is one-story bungalows (whether budget or resort) located on the beach with sand paths to the beach. While other islands have a reputation for the nightlife and shopping, Koh Lanta is a more mellow, quieter island where you will spend your time exploring beaches, rivers, and caves. While Koh Lanta was affected by the 2004 tsunami, almost all businesses are back in operation.
Sangduen Chailert (Lek) founded this conservation project in the early 1990s as a sanctuary for elephants that had previously been employed for logging or performing. While there are lots of other elephant camps and parks, these elephants were rescued from horrible working conditions and allowed to live in natural family groups. Tours include stories of the elephants’ rescues as well as interactions (such as feeding and bathing) with the elephants!
By Sophia Wang
You’ll often come across barbecued or grilled snake, often on a stick, in the markets of Cambodia. Apparently so many snakes are killed to either feed crocodiles or humans that many are endangered now.
The flavour and odour of the Durian fruit is so strong it’s the kind of thing you either love or hate. I’m definitely in the latter category but you can’t deny the passion a lot of locals have for this fruit. Although it is even banned from transportation and some hotels in parts of southeast Asia because some find the odour offensive. It certainly permeates everything in the vicinity. It is native to Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei but found widely in Cambodia, and I even came across durian icecream in Phnom Penh.
Sticky rice is common around Indochina and a really good snack for eating on a long bus journey or boat trip if you don’t want to try anything too exotic. It’s also pretty filling. In Cambodia it seems they cook it inside bamboo with red bean and coconut milk so the rice is sweet and red. To eat it you peel off the skin and use the bamboo as a spoon.
Fried spiders are commonly found for sale on the plates of mobile vendors or in the markets around Cambodia. You can be walking down the street and have a dish of these thrust at you! Yes, it’s a little disconcerting and hard to believe people can develop a taste for the hairy beasts but apparently during the hardships of the Khmer Rouge regime they did. They are often fried in garlic and salt.
Crickets are another insect that became part of the national diet during Pol Pot’s regime, when other food sources were hard to come by. It’s a big industry these days and the Khmer’s still love the deep fried, crispy snacks. If you’re willing to taste them – I wasn’t so I can’t give you any specific taste information here – you are supposed to ask for a male cricket as they are apparently have a herbal flavour.
by Joanne Lane.
Nuremberg Christmas Market (Nuernberger Christkindlesmarkt) in Nuremberg
Millions of sparkling lights, a spectacular nativity scene, beautiful ornaments, carved nutcrackers, handmade toys, beeswax candles, tons of gingerbread and the smell of roasted almonds, Stollen or hot mulled wine are just a few of the things you can find at this Christmas Market. The Nuremberg Christmas Angel opens her Christmas Market every year on the Friday before the first Advent until after Christmas. Germany has more than 2,500 Christmas Markets, but this “Little Town from Wood and Cloth” is the best. The German Center for Tourism even awarded Nuremberg with the title of “Number One Christmas City”. If you would like to have a truly unique souvenir, you need to buy the “Nuremberg Plum People”, little figures made from prunes.
Love Parade (Loveparade) in Duisburg
The Love Parade, which started 20 years ago in Berlin, is one of the biggest dance/electronic music festivals in the world. More than one million people attended this gigantic party in Dortmund in 2008. Trance, House, Techno and other music styles blast from oversized speakers on trucks that usually feature local, or important, clubs and their DJs. The actual parade starts around 2pm; going on until the evening and then splitting into hundreds of after parties, transforming the entire city into one big club. This festival is not only famous for its loud music, but also for the people and their outfits. You can see colorful wigs, furry leg-warmers, body painting, kinky costumes, feathers and definitely a lot of skin. Once called” the greatest amateur circus on Earth” describes the Love Parade best. The next festival will be held in Duisburg in 2010.
Kiel Week (Kieler Woche) in Kiel
Kieler Woche is the biggest summer festival in Northern Europe and even more important the world’s biggest sailing event. But it is not only about water, sailing and ships, there is something for everybody: International foods and drinks, music, ship parades with new and historic ships, large fireworks, exhibitions, street performers like clowns, acrobats and magicians, comedy, children corners, classical performances like ballet and the Kiel Philharmonic Orchestra, sport competitions and many other exciting things to do. More than three million visitors from all over the world come to the ten-day party in the end of June. This festival is a must, if you are in the North of Germany. Kiel Week Dates: 2009: 20.06.2009 – 28.06.20092010: 19.06.2010 – 27.06.2010
Oktoberfest in Munich
Oktoberfest is probably the most famous festival in Germany and the largest fair in the world. “The wiesn” as it is also called is known for the famous Oktoberfest beer, the huge amounts of food (like sausages, sauerkraut, potato pancakes and pretzels), Dirndls and Lederhosen as well as the traditional Bavarian bands and the friendly people. The official opening ceremony in 2009 will be on September 19th at Noon in the Schottenhamel tent. The current Mayor of Munich will tap the first keg of Oktoberfest beer with the traditional cry O`zapft is! It means “It is tapped!“ in the Bavarian dialect. After that, all visitors can start to drink huge beers in the famous steins or any other drink. You should come early, around 9am to secure good seats. It is worth it, because the opening ceremony is one of my personal highlights. Another highlight is the costume parade on the first Sunday of the festivities. It is held in the morning and showcases Bavarian culture and folklore. The festival this year will last until October 4th, 2009.
Here are some dates for the future:
2010: September 18 – October 3
2011: September 17 – October 3
2012: September 22 – October 7
Carnival in Mainz
Mainz is famous for its 5th season, as the “Mainzers” like to call it. They start to prepare for Carnival November 11th. This is the official start of the season. Fastnacht, the German word for Carnival is for everybody and it is F U N. You can expect parties, big parades, costumes (from the youngest to the oldest people), music and craziness in each street. Normal people become kings and queens, famous celebrities or just clowns. There is plenty of food and drinks (especially wine) served everywhere. The biggest highlight is the parade (Rosenmontagszug). It is seven kilometers long and has about 8000 people participating in it. Candy, fruit, treats and favors fly through the air, thrown from huge floats and displays. Hundreds of musicians and bands make the people on the side of the streets go crazy. Over half million people are watching the spectacle and the whole city celebrates together. The parade is on a Monday in the end of February. This is a must for all the Carnival lovers in the world!
Built around the restored Treasury Building, this hotel offers panoramic views of Sydney Harbor and the Royal Botanic Gardens. The 509 guest rooms feature a luxurious window seat and high speed internet access. Around the clock services include gym, business center, valet, room service and concierge. For the ultimate Sydney, Australia experience, take in the views from the rooftop Club Lounge.
Sheraton on the Park:
Located opposite the tree-lined oasis of Hyde Park in the heart of Sydney, this hotel offers 557 guest rooms and suites that combine the classic with the contemporary for an overall comfortable feel. Sweeping views of the city in the health club, pool, and spa create a great setting in which to re-energize the body and soul. Breakfast is included.
Observatory Hotel Sydney:
Located near Sydney’s historic Rocks area, this hotel offers guests the highest standards in accommodation, cuisine and personal service. Each of the 99 rooms and suites has a luxurious marble bathroom with an oversize bath, double vanities, and broadband internet access. Enjoy the fine cuisine, ranging from elegant dining in restaurant to the light menu in the club-like bar.
Four Seasons Hotel Sydney:
Situated overlooking Sydney Harbor in the historic Rocks district, this vibrant and elegant hotel offers 531 rooms and suites, elegantly decorated in a luxurious contemporary style with views of the city’s most famous icons. The day spa features exclusive skincare and aromatherapy treatments.
Park Hyatt Sydney:
This hotel is located in the historic Rocks district, and boasts luxurious, spacious guestrooms with timeless style. Most of the 158 guest rooms enjoy private balconies with views overlooking Sydney’s spectacular harbor, Opera House, and Harbor Bridge. The chic restaurant takes in the fabulous view of the harbor through floor-to-ceiling folding glass doors.
Hiking Reserva Biológica Bosque Nuboso Monteverde:
Walk along the tree tops in the clouds…can’t do this anywhere else! This area has a constant mist to it, thus the name ‘cloudforest’. It is rare to suggest to anyone to go to a rainy or wet area but, its unique climate brings along unique wildlife including the legendary long-tailed Quetzal. Catching a glimpse of this colorful bird is a rare treat and an experience you won’t forget.
Santa Teresa Surf Camp:
Off the Nicoya Peninsula, on the Pacific Coast, this place is a surfer’s paradise. You can get huge swells and some days less, making it a great destination for beginners to advanced riders. The area as developed in recent years and is seeing a lot of travelers but it doesn’t take away from its natural beauty. If the surf is no good, there are great day hike in the nearby National Park, waterfalls to jump off of and lagoons to meander in. Best in dry season from January to April.
Rafting Rio Savegre:
Go rafting down this river. Costa Rica is renowned for its biodiversity. A nice river trip on the Rio Savegre, near Quepos allows you not only to get a new perspective on all of it but its also throws-in a few good thrills. Water levels tend to be better right after the rainy season, January top end of February. By mid-March and April, its still do-able but not as many thrills offered. A great activity for the whole family.
Biking Laguna de Arenal:
Take a day to ride a bike around this Lake. You can easily rent a bike in the town of La Fortuna and enjoy a day away from the crowds. Most come to this area for the hot springs but, spend a little bit more time and enjoy the views of this active volcano from all possible angles as you circumnavigate the lake.
Hiking Cerro Chirripó:
From the top of this mountain, you can see both the Pacific and the Caribbean Ocean on a clear day. Camping is not allowed in this park and there is only one refugio near the summit hikers can stay in. This makes reaching the summit a big challenge as everyone must hike the entire way up in one day, a good 8-10 hour ordeal depending on your level of fitness. After a quiet evening in the refugio, get up at the crack of dawn to see the sunrise over the mountains and hike all the way back down. If time is not an issue, it would be well worth it to spend two nights at the refugio before coming back down in order to enjoy the area a little longer, and at a pace that is not so physically demanding!
Hiking Manuel Antonio National Park:
Any time of year, this park is a great place to wander around or just relax on one of its secluded beaches. Usually, one can never guarantee to see wildlife, but this is one place you pretty much can! Cappucino monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, sloths, tapirs, iguanas, over 180 species of birds, you name it, Manuel Antonio has it and you’ll see it all in its natural habitat! A real treat and a must despite its popularity!
Mancora Beach: Mancora is mostly for Surfers and Peruvian Families with second homes. It is not full of tourists. It is though an interesting option for clients who want to add some beach to the Peru Vacation. It is a rather long drive from the airport and hotels are at most 4 star.
Aqua Amazon River Cruise: We were so happy to hear about this cruise because before there were no good upscale options for Amazon Cruises. This cruise was perfect, the rooms even have AC which is unheard of in the Amazon. We took the kids to visit a local school and gave out little packages of crayons and notebooks to all the kids, what a wonderful experience to show these manhattan kids another kind of school. The boat is working to make minimal impact on the environment. I have those details in any one is interested. The tours are not Strenuous at all so this is a great tour to take with your parents or your kids (kids over 7 are welcome).
Casitas del Colca: Casitas Del Colca is a lovely place to take in the real Peru with your family. Most tours rush your time in Colca Canyon but if you have the luxury of time this is a nice place to stay for a few days. The have some beautiful horses, a spa, art and cooking lessons. There are lovely little authentic villages and local markets, not to mention Condor Viewing in the Canyon.
Lake Titilaca: I had been to Lake Titicaca before and stayed in Puno, but I really enjoyed staying on this small Peninsula at Titilaka much more. We went to places which were not overrun with tourists, the peninsula has a nice local community which get much work now that the hotel is there and the food and service was first rate amidst a beautiful atmosphere. We include this hotel in all deluxe Lake Titicaca packages.
Macchu Piccu: The best thing to do is to take an overnight in Aguas Calientes. This way you will have time to go twice to the ruins. There are many hikes around the ruins which you can take to get a wonderful view of the ruins from above. One is the Sungate which is where I took this package. The best hotels to stay in are the Sumaq, the Inkaterra Pueblo, and the Sanctuary Lodge. You should book your trip to Peru before you go as much as you can because the best trains sell out and if you wait until you are there you will be stuck with trains that give you little time to see the ruins.
Remote Andean Village: You have to take a private tour in dry season to get to this remote village. (April to October). We drove up a narrow dirt road, but we were one of the only cars for hours as most people do not have cars. We took in some wonderful views of Sacred Valley. We visited a group of lovely ladies who weave the scarfs that you find in the Pisac Market. They offered us coffee and stories about the trips down to the market in the wees hours( they walk for hours to the market down to the valley and then back up at the end of the day) Then we went to meet a nice lady who has a room she rents out to people who want to stay with a local. We also went to see how they farm the potatoes and after this, once in Pisac Market, I had a whole new appreciation for all the people who were there selling their wares.
Guide by Monica Irauzqui
1. Marsa Alam: Marsa Alam does host a lot of Italian, Spanish, and Russian tourists by charter flight who come to sit at the resorts. But there is so much more to Marsa Alam – beautiful tent camps, opportunities to swim with dolphins, live-aboard diving opportunities, desert treks and jeep safaris to visit the indigenous people of the area.
2. Lake Nasser: Most people only see Lake Nasser from a bus window on a 3-hour ride from Aswan to Abu Simbel. Why not spend a few nights on the lake itself on a specially designed boat that can fit into every inlet. A full staff accompanies each boat, including a guide and chef. Visiting secluded temples, trekking through the dunes, and fishing are all part of the experience.
3. Gilf Kebir: To think people used to live out here. Gilf Kebir is home to endless expanses of untouched desert, cave drawings, and rocky outcroppings – perfect for the desert adventurer. It’s a multi-day journey from Dakhla and requires a convoy of jeeps to carry supplies and GPS equipment. Sitting on the border of Libya and Sudan, it has seen some ‘incidents’ in recent years, which all adds to the excitement. The picture you see is a old World War II vehicle – there are a few scattered in the area, adding another perspective to the experience. Prices start at about US$ 1500/person for a 10-night journey.
4. Kalabsha Temple – Aswan: Wow wow wow! Imagine having a temple on the edge of Lake Nasser completely to yourself. This is a rarity in a country that hosts about 10 million visitors per year. Kalabsha was one of 24 monuments moved by Unesco as a result of Lake Nasser and the High Dam. Visit it by boat for the full experience. Ticket price: 30LE.
5. Mosques of Muizz al-Deen Street – Cairo: Why visit the Mohammed Ali Mosque and Citadel, when the newly renovated al Muizz al Deen Street in the heart of Cairo features so many stunning examples of Islamic architecture and opportunities to visit functioning mosques? The street goes from Bab al Fetouh to Bab al Zuweila and passes through part of Khan al Khalili and over al Azhar Street. Many of the mosques don’t charge admission and sometimes you’ll be able to climb to the minaret for a birds-eye-view of the city. Don’t forget to tip for this service!! Beit al Suheiymi – a wonderfully restored Ottoman-style house – is also on the street and worth a visit. Guides are recommended.
6. Opera House – Cairo: The Opera House is the centerpiece of culture in Cairo, yet is rarely visited. Every week the Opera House hosts at least one performance – whether it be homegrown or imported. Ballets, symphonies, musicals, modern dance recitals – it’s all there and often for just a few dollars. A jacket and tie are required for men to gain access to the orchestra/symphony floor; however, those that don’t travel with full formal wear will be admitted to the upper balconies once the show starts.
7. Medinat Havu – Luxor: Located on the West Bank of Luxor, this temple receives hardly an visitors when compared to the more famous Vally of the Kings and Karnak Temple. The mortuary temple of Ramses III features some of the best preserved colors on offer in Egypt and is easily reachable by bicycle or private car. Best when visited with an Egyptologist. Ticket price: 30LE.
8. Red Pyramid – Cairo: The Red Pyramid is just one 1km away from the Bent Pyramid – both are located just outside of Cairo in Dahshur. Unlike the Giza Pyramids, your entrance ticket to this site includes a visit INSIDE the pyramid itself. Don’t forget that there are over 100 pyramids in Egypt and that the Red Pyramid is one of the best preserved, yet receives a low number of visitors each day. Ticket price: 50LE . There’s really no need for an Egyptologist to accompany you to the site, rather it’s best done with a private car.
1. Guiness Storehouse: An appreciation for Ireland’s famous brew can be found within the walls of St. James’ Gate. A tour of the brewery concludes with a free pint (included in your ticket price) in the Gravity Bar, with an excellent view of Dublin on a clear day.
2. National Gallery: You could easily spend a day in the National Gallery, but the one section not to be missed is the gallery dedicated to brother of W.B. Yeats, the painter Jack B. Yeats. Vibrant colors and smooth strokes will surprise the visitor who expects more muted tones and traditional scenes.
3. Dublin Castle: While the tour of the fancy, elaborate section of Dublin Castle is interesting, the best aspect is the conclusion of the tour, that brings guests to the excavation currently ongoing at the Castle. It helps to paint a picture of what Dublin would have been like centuries ago.
4. Writers Museum:If you have an interest in literature or literary history, the Irish Writer’s Museum has some rare manuscripts worth a visit. Providing a satisfying overview of the major players in Irish literature, this museum is set in a historical Georgian home on Parnell Square.
5. Trinity College, Library Long Room: A ticket to see the Book of Kells grants you access to The Long Room. An impressive display of ancient looking manuscripts lines the walls from floor to cathedral ceiling.
6. Kilmainham Gaol Historical Museum: The one tour every visitor of Dublin should take is the one offered in Kilmainham Jail. Important elements of Irish history are revealed as cells of the leaders of Irish rebellions are seen. Now a museum and the setting for a few popular films, you may recognize areas of this Dublin landmark during your tour.
by Jessica Colley, available on www.ruba.com
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