Monthly Archives: March 2015

Experiences, not things: Three outstanding travel gift ideas

Standard

photo by CC user FlashBuddy on pixabay

These days, a backlash has begun against the materialism that has replaced actual thought when it comes to getting gifts for our loved ones. While it is nice to get the latest technological creation from the likes of Apple, Google or GoPro, these devices often lack the emotional context that presents used to have in prior years.

By getting your loved ones experience based gifts this year, you’ll be giving them something that grants them memories that will last far longer than the temporary rush of getting the latest gadget. To underscore the desirability of giving your family and friends a day of exhilaration instead of a new stand up blender, we will illustrate three travel gift ideas that we believe will give them one of the best (if not THE best) birthdays that they have had in their lifetime.

1) Learn how to drive a rally car

Looking to give your best pal one last adrenaline-soaked weekend before he ties the knot with his beloved fiance? Have you thought about getting your fellow lads together and passing the hat around to buy him a weekend of learning how to race rally cars.

Highly experienced and trained instructors will show him and all of you how to push street legal cars to their limit on the blessedly empty rally tracks where you needn’t worry about civilians or the police getting in the way of your fun.

2) Roll down a hill inside of a giant plastic ball

On laundry day, have you ever stopped to wonder what it would be like to be inside of a washing machine as it tumbles around and around?

In the extreme sports world, there is an activity that gives you the chance to experience this surreal sensation, as Zorbing has you enter into the inner sanctum of a specially constructed giant plastic ball, which is filled with a small amount of lukewarm water.

Once you have entered the fray, your Zorb attendant will send you down the hill on your way, giving you ten to fifteen seconds of one the most unique experiences that you have ever had in your life.

3) Float above the Earth on a hot air balloon ride

Know a special couple that could use an amazingly romantic activity to re-spark their love life? Why not give them the surprise of a lifetime by gifting them with a hot air balloon ride? Many of these encounters happen as the sun breaches the horizon in the early morning, or as it sinks into it in the evening, making for an hour or two that you will never forget. Make sure your balloon package includes champagne, as a flute or two of the bubbly pairs well with this activity.

Bangkok: 4 Things You Can’t Miss

Standard

palace

You’ve just booked your flight to Bangkok, but what are you going to do when you actually get there? It’s a city of 600 square miles: you could get lost in a heartbeat. The tons of spicy food that you can eat for days, the crazy tuk-tuk drivers that hopefully speak English, and the Grand Royal Palace are just some of the experiences that you shouldn’t miss. Don’t be surprised if you end up extending your trip after checking off these four epic items off your bucket list.

Try REAL Thai Food 

Thai food is some of the best food in the world, and where better to indulge than Bangkok? The city offers many traditional Thai culinary delights like noodle dishes, meat kebabs, and exotic fruits. Those travelers seeking more non-traditional fare can search out Angry Bird fish balls and various roasted bugs, while the truly brave can try grilled scorpion. Aside from the many traditional Thai restaurants, the experience that you’ll be begging to have imported around the world will be found in the street markets. Make sure you’re ready for a taste bud overload after munching on some of the local treats.

Tuk Tuk Tour 

The public transportation is good in Bangkok but if you want a real adventure, hire a tuk-tuk driver to take you on a tour of the city. Wind will blow through your hair while you are zipping in and out of the heavy traffic Bangkok is known for. Iconic selfie pictures are necessary, especially if you make friends with your driver.
The best English speaking tuk-tuk drivers hang around Khao San road. If you’re looking for the cheapest hotels in Bangkok, this is also the best area to look.

Thai Boxing Match 

Adrenaline junkies will get a secondary high from all the excitement surrounding a Thai boxing match. Finely-honed fighters will duke it out one-on-one in the ring and you’ll be standing on your feet encouraging your favorite fighter. The sweat will be dripping down your face but whether it’s from the Bangkok heat or all the excitement? Hard to tell.

For those fitness junkies that want to try the sport out, many Thai boxing schools are scattered all over the city. Just ask your favorite tuk-tuk driver for the best place to go.

Grand Palace

Those travelers that want to see all the opulence Bangkok has to offer should head to the Grand Palace. Centered in the heart of the city, the multiple-structure palace is the definition of luxury in Southeast Asia. The gold painted towers, hand-chiseled statues, and well-manicured landscape will create memories that you’ll keep the rest of your life. Most holidays and festivals bring large celebrations at the Grand Palace, so try timing your visit to catch it at its best.

Any history-loving travelers will be satisfied after a visit to the Grand Palace. Some buildings in the compound were built over 200 years ago with new structures being built with each coronation of a new Thai king.

This article is part of the #hipmunklove project. I would never recommend a site I didn’t use myself. I recently booked a trip to India and after looking at several providers, they were actually the cheapest.

Whistle stops on the Trans Siberian Railroad that you won’t forget

Standard

photo by CC user InvictaHOG on wikimedia

While many romanticize the process of traveling on the Trans Siberian Railroad, many people don’t realize how tedious spending seven days and nights on a train can be. Break up your trip by visiting the following whistle stops along the way…

1) Suzdal

A short trip from Moscow (relatively speaking), Suzdal will make a great first stop along the Trans-Siberian Railway, as it is a small town that has the distinction of having the most churches per capita in the country.

Preserved by the government as is dating back from Soviet times, those looking for a peek into Russian country living will be in for a treat here, as elderly women washing clothes by hand down by the river, loose livestock wandering through the streets are common sights here. Try some medovukha (a cider made from honey) but watch out for fakes – ask a local where you can find the real stuff.

2) Perm

Getting deeper into the vast Russian interior, the Siberian city of Perm may not make a favorable first impression due to its industrial appearance, but its location in the foothills of the Ural Mountains make it a great hub to enjoy a variety of recreation options year round.

Skiing, hiking and whitewater rafting are just a few activities of which you can partake, while those that are less athletically inclined can indulge in the city’s rapidly growing arts scene, which includes frequent events and a number of excellent museums and galleries.

3) Tomsk

While Siberia is a wild and interesting place, it can be hard to find a person with which an intelligent exchange can be had. Tomsk is the exception that rule, as this university city of a half million people offers much in the way of cafes, culture and boisterous nightlife.

4) Lake Baikal

Being one of the most famous natural attractions on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Lake Baikal will nonetheless surprise you with its deep blue hue, which is a shade produced by being the deepest fresh water lake in the world.

This 1,637 metre deep, 636 kilometre long rift lake contains over a fifth of the world’s drinkable water (in most places, you can drink right out of it, as its purity approaches distilled water). Camping, diving, boat trips, fishing and other outdoor activities are possible here, so take your time in this natural paradise.

5) Ulan-Ude

When it comes to religion, most associate Russia with the Orthodox Church, as its onion-bulb cathedrals are practically one of its national icons. However, Buddhism has a strong presence in the city of Ulan-Ude, a city founded in Asiatic Russia due to its proximity to well-worn trade routes with Mongolia and China.

Get the lowdown on how this faith is practiced within Russia at Rimpoche Bagsha, a relatively new temple on a hill overlooking the city. Also, the world’s largest head statue of Lenin can be found here … so you could see that if Buddhism isn’t your thing.