Monthly Archives: March 2017

The World’s Sexiest Travel Destinations

The world is full of beautiful places, many with enchanting stories to tell. But what can be said about the spots that sparkle with hedonistic promise throughout the day and come charging to life after sundown? You know what I mean: the inventive party cocktails, spectacular scenery and sun-kissed bodies a plenty. Yes, one can visit Paris for fashion, the Mayan ruins for their fascinating historical value or New York City for its pulsating energy. But when it comes to all that sizzles with a capital “S” these sexy locations are hard to beat:

    Marrakech, Morroco

Marrakech has enjoyed a positive evolution in the last few years; from a historic destination –with a rather seedy nighttime environment — to a classy and upscale community of jetsetters. Only a few hours from the fabled Sahara Desert, visitors can indulge in the curious duality of this landmark Moroccan destination: traditional marketplaces, mosques, and beautiful landscapes on one side and a modern array of dazzling restaurants, bars and clubs on the other. Be prepared to pay for your revelry, as with this rise in popularity

   Hvar, Croatia

Don’t let the picturesque rolling hills and calm, clear waters fool you: Hvar’s glamorous clientele and vibrant nightlife is said to rival that of the infamous Ibiza. This lovely island gem – arguably the most enchanting on the Adriatic Sea – features breathtaking beaches, charming medieval streets, an immense seafront promenade and a slew of trendy nightspots designed to make you drink and dance until you drop – preferably on that Croatian cutie you were eyeing all night.

   South Beach, Florida

With its pastel-colored façades, iconic neon signs, beach-body sun worshippers and a legendary nightlife scene, South Beach reigns supreme as the party capital on western side of the Atlantic. Celebrities, trendsetters, and curious onlookers alike flock to this beachfront community to live the “vida loca” on a grander scale. Spend your days frolicking on the palm tree-lined beaches then shop for colorful suggestive garments only found in Miami. When darkness falls, leave your modesty at home, dress to impress, and prepare for wild nights at any (or all) of the fashionista hangouts around town.

   Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Although not as lively as its famous neighbor Cancún, Playa del Carmen has a sensual appeal all its own. Located at the center of the gorgeous Mayan Riviera, this lovely coastal resort boasts an inviting tropical beach atmosphere complete with fire shows and moonlight serenades. Although the clubs are large and festive like in other parts of Mexico, the local bars are seductive and quiet enough to allow you to engage in friendly conversation while sipping on native tropical cocktails.

   Anguilla, Caribbean

Anguilla is made up of 33 magnificent beaches bordering the Caribbean coastline. There is never an overload of tourists or a big “party scene” and casinos are strictly forbidden. So what is the allure you might ask yourself? For starters, you can take a naughty skinny-dip in the pristine but secluded waters or gyrate your hips to the hypnotic steel drum music playing live at the best local bars. And if you happen to find yourself alone in this fantasy-like environment maybe you’ll get lucky and have the opportunity to engage in some heavy-duty stargazing – of the Hollywood variety that is.

   St Tropez, France

Imagine if you will, looking out at a sparkling-blue ocean as you sip champagne and your toes curl around tiny pebbles of white, delicate sand. Add to this a hip young wait staff ready to cater to your every whim while you stare at an impossibly large yacht floating regally on the horizon… no, it’s not a dream, just a typical summer day in St.Tropez. Since the mythical days of screen siren Bridget Bardot, international playboys and girls have flocked to this tiny resort town to experience lavish dinner parties, plush lounge bars and hush-hush after hours hijinks.

 Bali, Indonesia

On the beautiful island of Bali, visitors have the pleasure of experiencing the best of both worlds: idyllic lotus flower-filled scenery by day and heart-thumping dance parties by night. Blessed with some of the most awe-inspiring landscapes, beaches and volcanic hillsides, Bali has truly earned its famous nickname, Island of the Gods. Spend your time indulging in a world class spa treatment followed by a relaxing walk through miles of tranquil rice paddies. Then sleep. Sleep until it is time to venture out into the waiting arms of the perfect moonlit night.

  Los Angeles, California

They say that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Well, in this health-conscious city — where plastic surgery by the age of 16 seems reasonable – it’s become a bit of an obsession to have all eyes thinking of you as the fairest of all. Despite the vanity and egomania running amok, Los Angeles remains a magic fantasy land for starry-eyed hopefuls waiting for their big break as well as the formidable playground for the deal-making millionaire execs. The “anything goes” nightlife attitude would tempt the saintliest of sinners and a late-night cruise down the Sunset Strip — immediately following your latest act of debauchery — is not to be missed. Scoff if you will and try to get away but the City of Angels (and devils) will always lure you back.

  Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

It hardly seems fair to have so much beauty in one place. Rio de Janeiro’s impressive rainforests, majestic mountains, seductive samba AND sizzling-hot locals make it South America’s undisputed tropical paradise on earth. Although widely known for its outrageous Carnaval celebration in February, there is plenty to do year-round to keep your blood pumping. Hit the surf at Prainha, indulge in some sunbathing at the world-famous Copacabana beach, explore the multitude of outdoor cafés around the city or just dance, baby, dance!

  Ibiza, Spain

Often competing with Koh Phangan for the title of best party island in the world, Ibiza’s undeniable Latin flavor easily puts it ahead in terms of sex-appeal. Sure, its reputation has been a bit tarnished in recent years amidst reports of over-crowding and noise pollution, but what remains true is that few places in the known universe offer such hedonistic pleasures as scantily-clad beach festivities followed by clothes-drenching (yet curiously appealing) foam parties as the world’s best DJs take center stage right in front of you. Its infamous reputation dates back to the 1960’s when Hippies made it their own Mecca of easy-living pleasures. It has now transformed into the world’s premier party venue. Not recommended for the weak or weary as Ibiza promises to take revelers to the absolute extreme…and make them like it.

Top Cheap Travel Destinations in Asia

Asia’s always been a prime destination for gap year students and adventurers thanks to the thriving backpacker culture and cheap lifestyle. Cities like Bangkok and Hanoi have long been recognized as places where the dollar becomes positively acrobatic in its ability to stretch its value, but it seems that nowadays, travelers can travel more and spend less with some basic informal planning. All across Asia, quality doesn’t necessarily come at a price, making it easy to really enjoy the adventure.

    Taipei, Taiwan

Perhaps because of its low-key reputation, Taipei does not often get recognized for the cheap paradise it is. While taxis and hotels can be more expensive that the other places on this list, it’s the food and shopping that really matter. The endless night markets provide a way to indulge in conspicuous consumption and stuff your face on the cheap. The subway fees are also incredibly reasonable, topping off around US$2. The city contains all the international comforts of home on a great price scale, perfectly mixing ease and excitement.

   Penang, Malaysia

Malaysia tends to be left behind on must-see lists, but the country is cheap and gorgeous, and the food is delicious, providing a trifecta of reasons to visit. Penang offers a dazzling mix of cultures, architecture and food so that all visitors are sure to find something to fit their budget. Must-see museums like the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion costs just US$4 for a guided tour, while climbing Penang Hill or the Temple of Supreme Bliss is free. The wide range of culinary delights, whether from street stalls, Little India or local pastry shops keep bellies and wallets happy.

   Bohol, The Philippines

The Philippines is a country of cheap delights. Even places like Palawan and Boracay, which are no secret to hoards of tourists, remain easy to do on the cheap. Bohol is notable for it’s nature, whether man-made, like the mahogany forest, or natural, like the decidedly unnatural-looking chocolate hills. Crossing the rickety bamboo hanging bridge costs a few cents, and the Tarsier Sanctuary is an unforgettable, if short, experience.

   Sri Lanka

Yala National Park is one of the more expensive ways to spend a day in Sri Lanka, where the entrance fee, jeep rental and driver’s tip will set you back about US$30. The emphasis on natural beauty and ancient sites keep even the most restless occupied. Visit a turtle hatchery, hang out with elephants, climb Adam’s Peak and check out all eight World Heritage sites. Taking the train not only ingratiates visitors to a local way of life, but it’s also a super cheap way to travel. Hanging out of the beach is of course the cheapest way of all to laze away a vacation, and eating endless amounts of curry keeps stomachs and wallets stuffed.

   Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand’s capital remains cheap and cheerful, but it’s the northern part of the country that really satisfies wanderlust and a tight fist. Even splashing out on a hotel doesn’t necessarily mean a busted budget. Cheap eats abound, and the night markets are also wallet-friendly. In Chiang Mai, there are a plethora of free or insanely cheap things to do, many with an tinge of adrenaline to them. Cliff jump, go zorbing, or ride an elephant for nothing or next to it, and then relax at the hot springs or with a massage at the women’s prison.

   Sihanoukville, Cambodia

For a truly cheap stay, spend the whole time on the beach and just eat street food. And while that is some people’s version of paradise, doing more won’t put much of a strain on the bank account. Many guesthouses offer boat trips to nearby islands for less than US$20, or it’s possible to rent any kind of boat from kayaks to party junks for cheap as well. Answer the call of adventure with a 4X4 excursion or learn how to windsurf without breaking the bank and relax with a strict diet of cheap beer and beautiful sunsets.

   Bagan, Myanmar

Chock-full of temples, pagodas and stupas, Bagan practically comes with a foolproof itinerary. Renting a bike to explore the temple-dotted landscape is the cheapest way to spend a day, which will offset the US$300 needed to see the sunrise in a hot air balloon over the temples. Another way to see the sights is by horse-drawn cart, which is comparatively a total steal at around US$20. Like pretty much the rest of Asia, food and drinks are dirt cheap.

   Sapa, Vietnam

Vietnam as a whole is a haven for saving money. The country’s home to the world’s cheapest beer, hoi bia, and it practically requires more effort learning how to order it in Vietnamese than it does to pay for it. In Sapa, rent a motorbike for the day for around US$5 to do some exploring. Sapa is also an ideal location as it sits in the center of some of Vietnam’s best scenery. Take the motorbike and find Silver Waterfall, one of the many markets or nearby villages. Going in winter also cuts costs, as the entry visa is cheaper than in summertime.

   Vientiane, Laos

The Laotian capital resembles a sleepy riverside town more than the political center of a country, but that just adds to its charm. The capital is largely walkable or can be easily crossed with a cheap bike rental. Unlike the foreigner-packed Vang Vieng, the capital doesn’t have quite the tourist-inflated prices. In fact, a day of wandering, a nice meal, and a few beers down by the river should set you back barely a few dollars. Excitement is definitely not the name of the game, but since it’s so money-friendly, why would you want it to be?

   Pokhara, Nepal

As a backpacker haven, Pokhara has a huge array of budget, mid-range and premium hotel choices. The sheer amount of outdoor activities also make it possible to customize a cost-effective stay. The town’s a jumpoff for tons of treks, but there are plenty of other options before the big adventure. Paddle to the middle of Phewa Lake and drift the day away, see the sunrise from Sarangkot hilltop and check out Davi’s Fall, a stunning waterfall. Street food costs just pennies, and a nicer dinner will run you about US$4.

Best 5 Best Hong Kong Temple to Visit

Ditch the shopping malls and skyscrapers and delve into the city’s rich cultural heritage with a visit to one of Hong Kong’s top five temples. Nowhere is better to learn all there is to know about the hopes, dreams, fears and superstitions of this city’s industrious urbanites – especially true during Chinese New Year and important lunar calendar festival dates. While some places of worship have been given a glossy new makeover, many of Hong Kong’s oldest temples have been serving as important community gathering points for hundreds of years.

5. Lam Tsuen Tin Hau Temple and Wishing Trees

This quaint collection of villages in Tai Po has been drawing visitors to its Tin Hau Temple and two wishing trees for hundreds of years. Traditionally, festival goers would write their wishes on joss paper and tie it to an orange, which was then tossed up towards one of the banyan tree’s highest boughs – the higher the branch the better the odds of your wish coming true! As the practice became more popular, authorities stepped in to help preserve the trees and visitors are now encouraged to tie wishes to wooden racks nearby instead. Steps away you’ll find a small Tin Hau temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, which can typically be found in any ancient fishing community in Hong Kong or along the Chinese coastline. Sit down with a fortune teller here if you want to find out about that wish.

4. Man Mo Temple

Stepping into the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road is like entering another world, a realm inhabited by the venerable deities of Man (God of Literature) and Mo (God of War) who are worshiped here. Rays of sunlight cut through the rising smoke of giant incense coils hanging low from the ceiling and down onto the altars of the 10 judges of the underworld. Make sure to take in all the details – the lines of descending green Shekwan roof tiles represent bamboo and longevity, while the antique sedan chairs inside were used to carry statues of the gods during festival processions.

3. Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Although calling itself a monastery, the name is a bit of a misnomer as there are no resident monks at this eclectic Sha Tin temple. Follow the steep winding path up the hillside, flanked by 500 life-sized Arhand statues to reach the main complex and its 9-story pagoda. Here you’ll supposedly find more than 13,000 Buddha statues – but at this point, who’s counting? – and a few bodhisattvas on horseback for good measure. The main attraction, however, is the preserved body of Yuet Kai, the monastery’s supremely devout founder. Embalmed in lacquer, plastered with gold leaf and dressed in robes, the upright body currently sits on display in a glass case inside the main monastery building.

2. Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden

At Diamond Hill, only one subway stop away from the Wong Tai Sin temple, you’ll find the peaceful and serene Chi Lin Nunnery. In stark contrast to its colorful and brash Taoist neighbor, the Buddhist nunnery exudes calm and tranquility with smooth stone balustrades, lotus ponds and stunning wooden architecture. Inspired by Japanese and Tang Dynasty temples, the elegant series of halls and walkways were constructed without the use of nails, using a complex design of counterweights and dowels. Across the road, the Nan Lian Garden is a scenic oasis amid towering high-rise apartments looming up along the hillside. A relaxing stroll past ancient bonsai trees, koi ponds and meticulously landscaped gardens is the perfect antidote for those needing some time out from the hustle and bustle of the city.

1. Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple

 With its bold, red pillars and ornamental latticework, Wong Tai Sin displays all the qualities of the archetypal Taoist Chinese temple. Colorful and noisy, worshipers come year round to pray for good fortune and divine guidance from the “Great Immortal Wong.” Crowds flock here during the Chinese New Year to offer incense, make wishes and visit fortune tellers in hopes of an auspicious and prosperous year to come. Visiting the temple during this time may be interesting from a cultural perspective, but it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Throngs of people push their way through the winding temple complex in a cloud of smoky incense towards the main altar and gather around stalls selling charms and amulets of all shapes and sizes. It is certainly a once in a lifetime experience, but alternatively, an early morning weekday visit will serve just fine.

Tips for Writing Travel Articles

1. Have a clear storyline

A trip is not a story in itself, it’s just a series of events. Some of these events will be interesting (you made it up Kilimanjaro!) and some will not (you arrived back at the airport on time*). As a writer, your first job is to decide on the particular story you want to tell, and the events which make up that story.

To see the kinds of stories that get published, look at the bold line of introductory copy (known as ‘standfirsts’ in the trade) of articles in papers, magazines and websites. Try writing the standfirst for your own story, and then use it as your brief.

2. Have a goal

Some trips have a physical objective (reaching the top of Kilimanjaro, crossing Costa Rica, seeing a tiger) that gives your article direction and purpose. The reader (hopefully) sticks with you because they want to know if you’ll achieve your goal.

But many trips don’t have an obvious goal; they are more about discovering a place, unpicking its history or meeting its people. In this case, create a personal goal to give your reader a sense of where you’re taking them. Sentences like “I wanted to discover…” or “I was keen to understand…” give readers an idea of what’s to come, instead of you simply plunging them into the unknown.

3. Edit your experience to fit your story

Stories have characters, dialogue, pace, plot, suspense, drama – they need shaping and organising to hold the reader’s attention. Once you know your storyline, gather the experiences that fit it – and dump the rest. Most travel articles will be 1,000 to 2,000 words: that’s only 10-20 paragraphs. You don’t have time for detours.

4. Write an irresistible first paragraph

You can start a travel article any way you like, as long as it grabs the reader’s attention. You can use drama, humour, dialogue, (or all three) – but those first sentences must grip like glue. Most travel articles start in media res – in the thick of the story – and then backtrack to explain how you happened to be in this situation.

5. Include dialogue

“Look! There! The lions are on the prowl,” whispered Joseph. Or: we could see the lions heading off hunting. Which sentence is more interesting to read? Dialogue brings a scene to life, gives personality to the people in your story, and allows you to convey important information in a punchy way. Whenever you travel, make notes of what people say and how they say it.

6. Show and tell

‘Showing’ and ‘telling’ are two everyday storytelling techniques you probably use without realising. Showing is when you slow down your writing and describe a scene in detail – what you saw, tasted, heard, felt: you are showing the reader the world through your eyes. Telling is simply moving the story along: ‘We returned to the tents for a well-earned rest’.

Articles typically switch repeatedly between the drama of ‘showing’ and the practical economy of ‘telling’: you need both.

7. Aim to entertain, not impress

Novice writers often try to pack their writing with literary phrases or recherché nomenclature (like that). Good writers tend more to follow Hemingway’s maxim: “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” That doesn’t mean you can’t be playful and experimental: just don’t do it at the reader’s expense.

8. Use vivid language

Travel articles are peppered with meaningless words and phrases: stunning, incredible, pretty, diverse; ‘land of contrasts’, ‘melting pot’, ‘bustling’. Any of these could be applied to thousands of destinations worldwide. Try to use language that is specific to what you’re describing, and which allows readers to paint a picture in their mind’s eye.

9. Leave signposts

If you’re wandering around a strange country without a guidebook, you look for signposts. So do readers as they travel through your story. Every few paragraphs tell them where you’re going next, and remind them of your ultimate goal.

For example, you could write: ‘The next day we travelled from Tokyo to Hirosaki.’ Or you could signpost things a little, by writing: ‘It was tempting to linger in Tokyo’s restaurants, but my search for Japan’s best sake would next take me deep into the countryside.’ Aha, thinks the reader: I can see where this is going, and why – I’ll keep tagging along.

10. Give yourself time to finish

In an effort to include every fascinating tidbit, too may travel articles finish like a high-speed train hitting the buffers, leaving readers dazed and confused. With a paragraph to spare, put the brakes on and start setting up your conclusion.

Show your readers that the end is nigh. Think about where you started, and reflect on the journey. Try to sum up the experience. And – please – come up with something more inspiring than ‘I would just have to come back another time.’