• Experience traditional China: Kunming

    China is an extraordinary place, and I think a major part of its appeal among tourists is the fact that there are just so many experiences you can have here. If it’s traditional China you’re keen to discover, the city of Kunming should definitely be high on your to-do list.

    All about Kunming

    Kunming is the capital of the Yunnan province, which is in south-west China. One of the things I like most about it is that, despite having all the features you’d expect of a modern city (skyscrapers, massive shopping centres and such), it’s also got heaps of more traditional attractions. So, in my opinion there are few places to get a better experience of China’s past and present.

    Another thing I like about it is that it somehow feels quite a bit more laid-back than many Chinese cities – something to do with the mild climate, perhaps, or its beautiful green parks.

    What to see and do

    Of course, no doubt what you’re most interested in is finding out what you can see and do while you’re here. Below, I’ve highlighted three of my favourite attractions, each of which I think has something quite different (and special) to offer. It’s worth bearing these in mind when organising your holiday to China to make sure you get an itinerary that works for you.

    Visit the Bamboo Temple

    Dating back to the Tang Dynasty, the Bamboo Temple was rebuilt in the 15th century following a fire. It is later restoration work, carried out in the 19th century, that has really helped to put this place on the map though.

    You see, back in the 1800s, Chinese sculptor Li Guangxiu helped out with the temple’s restoration, and when he did he created 500 amazing life-size – and incredibly lifelike – figures, including a series of surfing Buddhas riding on things like unicorns and crabs. It’s rumoured he modelled these creations on people he knew, almost like a caricature – and that these people were none too happy about it!

    I should probably warn you that tourists aren’t actually allowed into the room with the statues these days – but you can still catch a glimpse of them as you meander around.

    Green Lake Park

    Green Lake Park is one of the best places to go if you want to relax a little. As well as being a lovely place for walks, it’s also a great place for nature-spotting – especially if you’re planning to travel in November, since this is when the red-beaked seagulls are around.

    If birdwatching isn’t your thing, though, people-watching is a popular pastime here too. Alternatively, the roads along the park have a lot to offer too if you fancy something a little more lively, with plenty of shops and cafes located here.

    Yunnan Provincial Museum

    My final suggestion is Yunnan Provincial Museum, which is a great place to learn more about local early cultures. There are around 50,000 artefacts to peruse, including 7,000 bronze items and 4,000 handicrafts.

    While all these are very impressive, I think the highlight for most people is the fossilised humanoid teeth, which are around 1.7 million years old!

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  • Discover the geological wonders of Iceland

    When it comes to natural beauty, it’s fair to say Iceland takes some beating. After all, this magical land is largely unspoilt by human civilization, with visitors able to dive into volcanic pools, explore lunar-esque landscapes and spot a massive range of fascinating wildlife. And, as if that’s not enough, Iceland’s towns and cities are also fully deserving of their reputation as progressive cultural hubs, with tourists able to join locals in enjoying some of the best contemporary music or vibrant nightlife after a long day getting back to nature.

    blue lagoon Iceland
    Booking a cruise from Liverpool is a good way to see the country’s most spectacular sights. Here are just a few of the natural wonders it has to offer:

    Godafoss Waterfall: Located just off the main highland road, which runs to the north of the country from bustling Reykjavik, Godafoss is a true force of nature. Here the river Skjalfandafljot falls from a height of around 12 m across a width of more than 30 m. Not only does this make for a spectacular sight, especially since the waterfall is surrounded by the natural beauty of the start of the Icelandic highlands, but the noise is also something few visitors are ever likely to forget. The fact that the falls loom large in the mythical history of the Icelandic people, with the first Christians alleged to have thrown their statues of the Norse Gods into the waters following their conversion, only adds to the sense of wonder.

    The Blue Lagoon: One of Iceland’s biggest geothermal spas, the Blue Lagoon is also one of its most popular, both among visitors and locals. And it’s not hard to see why. The naturally warm waters are rich in a range of minerals, and as such are said to be highly beneficial to the health, and especially to the skin. Even if you’re fit and healthy, a bathe in the lagoon is still the ideal way to spend a lazy afternoon, with a waterside bar and café meaning you can make a whole day of it.

    The Blue Lagoon is just a 40-minute trip from downtown Reykjavik, making it a popular destination among tourists stopping off in Iceland on cruises from Liverpool, plus, in a country where tourists may be shocked by the price of things, an afternoon in the therapeutic waters also represents excellent value for money.

    Geysir: Easily one of Iceland’s most breathtaking sights, The Great Geysir, from where we get the English word geyser, is capable of hurling boiling water up to 70 metres in the air. Eruptions are by no means guaranteed (in fact, they have been known to stop altogether for weeks, if not months at a time) but nature-lovers needn’t worry, as the geyser at nearby Strokkur is much more reliable, putting on a spectacular show every few minutes. Additionally, there are dozens more smaller geysers dotted across the Haukadalur Valley, just a short drive from the Icelandic capital.

    Skaftafell: Now part of a larger national park, Skaftafell has been inspiring awe in locals and travellers alike for centuries. Here you are able to get close to Europe’s largest glacier and, if you’re into ice-climbing, you can even try your hand at scaling its frozen walls. If, however, you prefer to take it easy, the meadowland surrounding the glacier itself is perfect for walking through some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery, with dozens of small waterfalls to stumble upon and plenty of native wildlife to spot. Skaftafell is also famed for its mild climate, with the weather warm and sunny in the spring and summer.

     

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  • Reasons why living in London is great!

    Year after year people from all over the world choose to move to London. The capital city of England certainly has a great draw that attracts so many people, there are a number of benefits to living in London. Of course not everyone will enjoy living in London, city life is not always for everyone, but here is our list of why so many people choose to head there every year.

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    Fantastic job opportunities

    Regardless of what salary you are looking for then London will have it, there are jobs of all types in all industries in the capital city. Like most capital cities it is the hub for all business, tourism and arts. So if you’re looking to be a star in the West End theatre seen you will always be able to find a job in the catering industry to keep you going. London is the center of finance so there are always lots of high end jobs for people to take up.

    Travel the world

    When you are in London you are in the main European transport hub. There are various airports for you to fly from, fantastic train stations and also great bus services. Wherever you want to go whether it is in the United Kingdom, Europe or anywhere else in the world you will be able to get there from London.

    There is so much to do and see

    When you live in London you are never short of things to fill your time. There are lots of clubs and sports to join if you want to get fit and meet new people. If you love music then London is the place to be, there is everything from fantastic Jazz to rock and roll. Then there is the West End where you will be able to enjoy some of the best theatre that the world has to offer, there are a number of long running shows there. There are also a number of different things to do that are sometimes different to anything else you have done, a great example are some of the super fun treasure hunts you can go on you should check out Wildgoose if you want to have a great day out!

     

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  • Explore the Maori Culture of New Zealand

    While no longer the dominant culture of New Zealand, many people still take an avid interest in the Maori way of life and their fascinating way of life. With so many opportunities for you to experience this unique culture, you may be at a loss of where to start, so to help you along your way, here’s a guide on how to explore the Maori culture of New Zealand!

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    Maori Kai Festival

    The Maori Kai food festival is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike due to showcases of delicious natural and local foods from the Maori culture. Previously, the traditional foods that you can try in these festivals were reserved mainly for Maori functions and events!

    With the increasingly popularity and the awareness it raises, the Maoris are more than happy to let everyone experience their way of life, providing the perfect opportunity to ease yourself into the cuisine side of the culture. Furthermore, you’ll also be able to appreciate the traditional clothes and jewellery that will be worn by the Maori locals.

    Lonely Planet has described this festival as one of the highlights of the year for people in New Zealand, with it being held around the month of February. Different areas of the country give the festival a different twist, so even if you have done it before and find yourself in a different area, you will have a whole new experience!

    Pasifika Festival

    This annual festival is a celebration of everything in the Maori culture, from music to food, arts to dancing. It is without a doubt one of the most significant cultural festivals in the South Pacific and helps preserve many of the old practices of the Maori.

    The festival generally lasts for around two days and on the first day you will be treated to a concert of Pacific songs, dances and stories. The following day sees the Auckland’s Western Springs Park transformed into 10 villages, one village from every Pacific Island. This is a great opportunity to sample so many different kinds of Maori culture in a couple of days and should not be missed.

    Rotorua

    The entire area of Rotorua is steeped in Maori culture and history, making it a great place to experience! Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activity, and Maori legend states that two fire demons searching for a lost tribe leader are the cause of the heat coming from the Earth. Here, you can explore the geysers, mud pools and steam vents while there are plenty of signs and information points explaining the importance of what you see in the Maori culture.

    Te Puia

    While many of the Maori cultural festivals give you a taste of the cuisine, none of them can give you cuisine cooked in one of the most ancient Maori methods, the Steambox. The Steambox uses a favourite Maori technique of cooking the food from the hot geysers that spray out from the Earth. You simply choose what you wish to eat for lunch and watch as the Maori chefs cook the food with the heat from the geyser!

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  • The Churches of Munich

    There are few places that can match Bavaria for architectural beauty, with the castles, churches and other iconic buildings appearing like something out of a fairytale. The famous Cinderella Castle of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom was even based on one of Bavaria’s 19th-century palaces, and if you want to discover the charm of this amazing region for yourself then you can’t go wrong with a trip to Munich.

    Some of the area’s best towers and castles – including the dreamlike Neuschwanstein Castle – can be found sprinkled around the countryside and in small villages, so if you want to see them all then you may want to hire a car at Munich airport. However, there are also plenty of amazing structures to see within Munich itself, and in this guide we’ll introduce you to a few of them.

    Frauenkirche

    The two domes of the Frauenkirche have become something of a symbol of Munich since this church was built in the late 15th century. Located in the Old City, or Altstadt Lehel, its twin towers stand at a height of 99 m and offer amazing views of the city and the surrounding countryside – stretching all the way to the Alps – from the top.

    Officially called Dom zu Unserer Lieben Frau, meaning Cathedral of Our Dear lady, the building is a perfect example of the Gothic style for which Munich is so famous, and is home to the legendary devil’s footprint, which is impressed into the floor of the church.

    Kirche St Peter

    Also in the Altstadt Lehel is the Church of St Peter, which sits on the Petersbergl hill and provides a view that can rival that of the Frauenkirche. You’ll have to ascend 299 steps to enjoy it though, but the reward more than makes up for the effort.

    Originally constructed in the 11th century, the church has been expanded, redeveloped and redecorated numerous times throughout history, and is home to a number of wonderful pieces of art from various periods of Munich’s past. Large ceiling frescoes cover the church’s nave, while each side of the tower also features two clock faces.

    Theatinerkirche

    Inspired by Rome’s Sant’Andrea Della Valle, the Theatinerkirche sits in Odeonsplatz and was designed by Italian architect Agostino Barelli in the high Baroque style, with construction taking place between 1663 and 1690.

    Further features were later added by a succession of other architects, including Enrico Zuccalli who added two towers, as well as Francois de Cuvillies, who completed the Rococo-style facade in 1768.

    Asamkirche

    Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this particular building is the fact that it was built by a pair of brothers as their own private church. However, shortly after its completion in 1746, owners Egid Quirin Asam and Cosmas Damian Asam were forced to open their place of worship to the public under pressure from Munich’s staunchly religious citizens.

    Located on Senlingerstraße, near Sendlinger Tor (one of the three remaining city gates), the Asamkirche is a great example of late Baroque architecture and is typical of the sorts of buildings that can be found throughout Bavaria.

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  • Tenerife’s Top Free Attractions for Families Holiday On A Budget

    With hours of sunshine all year round and some of Europe’s best beaches, Tenerife is an ideal destination for holidaymakers. There are also plenty of cheap flights available from all major UK airports, making it perfect for anyone travelling on a budget. They say the best things in life are free, so check out our guide to the best purse-friendly attractions Tenerife has to offer. The whole family will love it!

    Beaches

    It might sound obvious, but what better place to start than Tenerife’s famous beaches? The island certainly isn’t short of golden sands and clear waters where you can soak up the sun and enjoy a swim. After all, it’s completely free to relax, unwind and top up your tan!

    Visit El Drago

    Located in a park in the town of Icod de los Vinos, the multi-headed Drago Tree is certainly unusual and is said to be up to 1000 years old. You have to pay to get into the park where this huge knarled tree is, but if you head to the town plaza instead you can get a brilliant view of it completely gratis.

    Teide National Park

    Exploring on foot is one of the best ways to discover Tenerife, and some of island’s most fantastic views can be found at Teide National Park. Its surreal volcanic landscape really does have to be seen to be believed! Alternatively, enjoy a walk around one of the island’s many promenades and coastal paths where you can enjoy an ice cream, enjoy the breath-taking views and see some of the island’s fascinating flora and fauna.

    Surfing

    If relaxing on the sand isn’t enough for you, dig out your board and take advantage of Tenerife’s excellent surfing conditions. Forget paying for pricy water parks and head to Playa Jardín in Puerto de la Cruz where you can brave the waves and enjoy all the thrills and spills of the water for free.

    Sightseeing

    Famous attractions like Siam Park don’t come cheap, so take advantage of Sundays on the island where entry to all of Tenerife’s publicly owned galleries and museums is free. Alternatively, if you’re not over there on a Sunday, try using a service like Cheapflights the online comparison website to save some money on flights for the sightseeing. It’s a great way to combine fun and learning for the whole family.

    Fiesta!

    Mainland Spain is renowned for its fiestas, and The Canary Islands are no exception! Canarians love a celebration and there are no less than 14 fiesta days celebrated throughout the year. Most shops close on fiesta days, but bars and cafes largely remain open and the main plaza is decorated with colourful bunting and a huge stage ahead of the celebrations. Once the sun goes down, local Canarian bands take to the stage to deliver performances of traditional music and singing, and the atmosphere is electric.

    Food and drink flows freely and people descend on the plaza to join in with the fun. Canarians are also renowned for being welcoming and hospitable, so tourists are always heartily encouraged to join in too.

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  • Top tips for booking a last minute travel deal

    So you’re looking to book your annual holiday and you realise that the best deal that you will get is by booking one of the last minute vacation deals like from ClubMed. This is when people can get a little nervous, they don’t like to leave everything to the last minute. There is little to worry about, if you are flexible then you will not be disappointed, you will more than likely save money and keep within your budget. Booking a last minute deal is not as simple as going on line and clicking a few buttons, there are several things for you to consider before committing to a last minute deal.

    Summer_earlybooker_13_visual-sliderPlan ahead

    If you plan ahead and do your homework then you will be well prepared when it comes to making a last minute booking. You should make yourself familiar with the type of fares that are offered by the airlines, make sure that you search through the comparison websites to find the best deals. You can also set up email alerts so that you are informed when the price either drops or increases. It’s also a good idea to sign up to newsletters from airlines, this way you will know when there are flight offers. By looking at airfares and hotel costs regularly you will know what is a good deal and what isn’t.

    Pick the best time to travel

    There will be more expensive times of the year to fly such as during holiday season, this does not mean that you have to pay astronomical prices to travel during these times. You will be able to get discounts if you choose your day carefully. For example, fridays and saturdays are more often than not the most expensive days to travel on. If you travel on the actual day of a holiday the price will be lower; christmas day and new year’s eve are usually cheaper to fly on. Check in advance to see when the most likely savings will be offered.

    Be flexible

    The secret behind successfully booking a last minute holiday is to be as flexible as possible, remember you are planning on saving money so you can’t be too picky. Of course you can have your ideal holiday in mind but be willing to compromise. Those that are most open minded are the people that will be enjoying the best last minute holiday. You may have to compromise on location, departing airport and accommodation, but that will all be forgotten when you have a fantastic family holiday!

     

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  • Advice Blog Travel Travel Tips

    Local knowledge when you travel

    European cities have a lot to offer and are very diverse. One city might be known for it’s create architecture, whilst another is more seen as a ‘Mecca’ for musicians and artists. One thing they have in common and that is the fact that most of them have a lot of history going on and that they are culturally rich. Looking at Paris or London, both places to be for fashionistas and artists. Copenhagen with it’s Freetown of Christiania which was founded by a group of hippies in the 70s. And Prague with is wide assortment of cheap and tasty beer.

    So Europe seems to be a great place to go. Momondo created this amazing interactive cheat sheet so you that provide you with all the local knowledge you need to know: trendy areas, club scene hotspots, and local knowledge such as what food to taste and what to drink.  Check it out!

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  • 5 Awesome Things to Do in London

    A day spent in London can include nearly an endless amount of possible activities! This city has something for literally everyone, whether you’re into cultural activities, eating great food, exploring the outdoors or people watching. There’s great shopping, dining and historical attractions and entertainment both on and off the beaten tourist path. So book some accommodation in London and use this list as a handy guide for spending a great day in London:

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    Chill in a Park

    There are so many green spaces in this city that you can almost forget that you’re in one of the biggest cities in the world. Chill out with a picnic and enjoy the trees, lakes, bike and walking paths and tranquil gardens. Kensington Gardens right off the side of Hyde Park is absolutely gorgeous. This is London’s largest and most famous park.

    Shop Till You Drop

    You absolutely can’t leave London without experiencing some of the world’s greatest shopping. Walk down Oxford street and take in some of the most expensive and luxurious shops in the world. Window shop in the unique boutiques on Bond Street and indulge in the glamorous lifestyle of the crowd in this area. People watching can be just as entertaining as swiping your credit card at these shops!

    Buckingham Palace

    This is an absolute do-not-miss in London! The morning is the best time to visit in order to beat the massive crowds that will gather during the day so leave your London hotel early and get your spot. Make sure to see the changing of the guard at 11:30 am, but get there early enough to nab a spot on the Queen Victoria Memorial right in front of the palace! Afterwards, you can bring a picnic to St. Jame’s Park for a nice view of the lake.

    Indulge in Culture

    London has some of the best museums in the world, making it a number one destination for anyone looking for some cultural immersion. Over 240 museums will satisfy your desire to explore everything from modern art to natural history and science, design and imperial war. There are also tons of niche museums covering interests like rugby and cartoons. Bring the kids to one of the fabulous children’s museums and watch their wide-eyed fascination.

    Enjoy a Spa

    Pamper yourself for a day during your holiday and relax your tired feet from all that walking. There are so many luxury spas to choose from in this cosmopolitan city. Enjoy all the treatments including a facial, massage and scrub for face and body. You’ll emerge feeling refreshed and renewed for the rest of your holiday.

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  • Preparation Tips for a Long Distance Trek

    Part of the fun of travel is the spontaneity and freedom it provides. However, if you’re planning a long-distance journey on foot, you’ll need to take the time to prepare a little. A long distance trek could mean anything from a two-week hike through the Andes to a six-month long journey backpacking through Southeast Asia. No matter how long the distance may be, there are a few tips that can help you start off on the right foot.

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    Choosing a Route

    The first step towards planning your trek is to choose an itinerary. The terrain, distance, and climate will help determine what you need to do to prepare, so it’s important to research these aspects of the trek before you begin. Think about the type of scenery you’re interested in exploring. Do you prefer a gentle walk around a series of lakes and valleys, or would you prefer a more challenging hike up the side of a mountain? How far do you plan to travel to get to the beginning of the hike? It’s best to narrow the route down by region and preferred terrain before you begin. You can then read reviews, books, and blogs about the trail. Be sure to stock up on hiking guides and maps for your journey.

    Getting in Shape

    With a good idea of what your route is going to look like, you’ll be able to start training for this endurance challenge. Remember that you’ll not only need to be walking for eight hours a day, potentially on steep inclines, but you’ll also need to be carrying a heavy load for much of this distance. Focus not only on building your leg muscles, but the body as a whole. Cardio exercises will help build your endurance, while weight lifting can help you prepare for heavy lifting. Even if you’re in top shape, prepare to start slowly on your hike and build up to more gruelling days, particularly at high altitudes.

    Preparing your Packing List

    What will you need to bring on your journey? If you’re travelling abroad, how will you get in touch with people? One option is to get a prepaid international SIM card from a provider like lebara.co.uk, which you can use in case of emergency. Yet in remote areas, you’ll also need to be self-sufficient. Think about health and beauty items like toilet paper, sanitary supplies, and soap, as well as adequate food and water. Dehydrated food is ideal for the trail, as it weighs less and doesn’t take up too much room. Powdered beans, vegetables, and soups can help keep you going on the trail.

    Final Preparations

    As you get closer to your final preparations, think about how you will stay in touch with the real world on a long distance journey. If you’ll be gone for several months, don’t forget to cancel your subscriptions and turn off media services. Prepay your bills or even switch over to a prepaid phone like the ones at Lebara, particularly if travelling abroad. You’ll also need to research your destination and find out if you need visas, permits, or vaccinations before entry.

    By taking the time to research your journey in advance, you can ensure that your trip runs smoothly while still enjoying the spontaneity of life as a backpacker. You’ll then be free to enjoy the renewal of mind, body, and spirit that a long distance trek can provide.

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