Consisting of 7,107 islands located in the tropical zone, there is no shortage of great beaches in the Philippines. If you combine white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and pristine nature, you get pretty darn close to an idyllic beach, but fact be told, not all beaches are created equal. So let’s take a look at what I consider to be the Top 10 Best Beaches in the Philippines:
10 – Anawangin Beach in Zambales, Luzon Island
9 – Siargao in Surigao del Norte, Mindanao Island
8 – Dakak Beach in Zamboanga del Norte, Mindanao Island
7 – Pearl Farm Beach in Davao del Norte, Mindanao Island
6 – Honda Bay Beach in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan Island
5 – El Nido Beach in El Nido, Palawan Island
4 – Camiguin Beach in Catarman, Mindanao Island
3 – Panglao Beach in Bohol, Bohol Island
2 – Pagudpud Beach in Ilocos, Luzon Island
1 – Boracay Beach in Panay, Panay Island
Obviously, with hundreds of beaches, the Philippines would likely have one to suit your liking no matter your preference. Some of the most secluded and the least known beaches could easily be better than any of the top 1- ones from the list above, but they’re still waiting to be discovered and enjoyed to the fullest. Or perhaps the fact that few know about them make them so special, in which case we best keep them a secret. Either way, hope this guide to the Top 10 Best Beaches in the Philippines was a good starting point for your journey to this tropical country.
Island nation of the Philippines has a long and rich history. The best way to experience it is through participation in festival which take the old traditions and demonstrate them to the modern world in the most spectacular manner imaginable. Here’s a list of 10 most famous festivals in the Philippines which introduces the best of the Filipino merrymaking through pictures.
10 – Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Cebu Island
9 – Pintados Festival in Tacloban City, Leyte Island
8 – Panagbenga Festival in Baguio City, Luzon Island
7 – Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon Province
6 – Moriones Festival on Marinduque Island
5 – Maskara Festival in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
4 – Kadayawan Festival in Davao City, Mindanao Island
3 – Ati-atihan Festival in Kalibo, Aklan Province, Panay Island
2 – Higantes Festival in Angono, Rizal Province
1 – Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo City, Panay Island
Festivals from the list above are celebrated annually, that means one can only experience each of them once a year. They are popular tourist attractions, captivating the eyes and the ears of thousands of tourists who often take a trip to the Philippines just to experience their chosen festival with their own eyes. As the popularity of the festivals continues to grow, the future of traditions they celebrate is certain to remain preserved for future generations.
Kolukkumalai Tea Estate holds an impressive prime. It is the highest located tea estate in the world but aside from visiting one of the world’s primes, a visitor to Kolukkumalai would also be treated with breathtaking panoramic views.
Kolukkumalai Tea Estate can be found 35 kilometers outside of Munnar, India. Built atop the precipitous ridge, the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate majestically crowns the below lying Tamilnadu plains. The tea from this 8,000 feet above sea level estate is known for its excellent full flavour which was recognized in 2005 when the Kolukkumalai tea won the Golden Leaf India Awards.
Kolukkumalai is both remote and difficult to access. To get there from nearby Munnar would take about an hour and a half but the panoramic views of the area with the rugged mountains that surround it make the trip worthwhile. Due to its remoteness, most people from Kolukkumalai have never left the area and all they know are their homes and their work in the tea plantation. Their life is simple but that’s exactly the way they like it.
The Kolukkumalai Tea is harvested and processed using traditional techniques which is one of the most important aspects that continues to draw tea enthusiasts to it. It takes seven steps to properly process the Kolukkumalai Tea and all of it is done in a factory at the center of Kolukkumalai Tea Estate that’s more than 70 years old. The seven steps of their orthodox tea making process are as follows:
One doesn’t have to be a tea enthusiast to enjoy a trip to the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate in Munnar, India. Quality, sustainably harvested tea can be appreciated by anybody, but even if all teas taste the same to you, the views offered to those who make up the hill are bound to take your breath away. Give it a try if you’re in that part of India and don’t miss out on a trip to the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, the highest located tea estate in the world.
Finally, check out the video of the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate filmed by a YouTube member who got a chance to enjoy the pristine beauty of the area:
Located on top of Vindhyagiri Hill in Shravanabelagola of Mysore, India stands the tallest monolithic statue in the world. Carved out of a single block of granite, the 60 feet tall Gomateshvara Statue can be seen from 30 km away. Gomateshvara Statue was built by Chamundaraya – a minister and poet from the Western Ganga Dynasty between 978 and 993 CE and has been a site of pilgrimage for Jains ever since.
Gomateshvara Statue depicts a Jain deity Lord Gomateshwara. Jain devotees flock to the Gomateshvara Statue every 12 years to celebrate what’s known as the Mahamastakabhisheka festival. During the festival, the statue is sprinkled with water, milk, sugarcane juice and saffron flower paste (in that order) which are brought before Gomateshvara in 1,008 vessels. The bathing of Gomateshvara Statue is followed with offerings of silver and gold which the devotees leave at the deity’s feet.
614 steps lead to the top of Vindhyagiri Hill where the Gomateshvara Statue is located. Several temples can be found along the way and at other parts of the hill. The hill is also famous for its inscriptions dating as far back as 600 CE. There are more than 800 of them at various spots around the Gomateshvara Statue.
Below is the video of Gomateshvara Statue or Bhagwan Bahubali as it is known locally. The video description states: “Monolithic statue of Bhagwan Bahubali located in Shravanabelgola, Karnataka, India. It was built by Hoysala Senapati Chamundraya around 983AD.:
Hang Nga Guesthouse and Gallery may be the official name of this extraordinary piece of urban architecture, but you won’t find any locals calling it any name other than Crazy House. And Crazy House it is. If there are any written or unwritten house building rules, then they have been all broken when Hang Nga was being designed. The architecture is so unconventional, people also refer to it as “Tree House”, “Spider Web Chalet” or plethora of other names and they are all correct as that is precisely what Crazy House in Da Lat, Vietnam looks like. At first sight, Hang Nga Guesthouse resembles a giant Banyan Tree that came alive and unearthed its maze of roots swirling randomly in all directions. Massive spider webs hang off the tree branches and once you enter the tree house, you find yourself walking through hallways and staircases that resemble fairytale caves. The intent to integrate nature into architecture is apparent. Once you have made your way up the winding stairs, you will be passing through themed rooms, such as the Tiger Room, Giraffe Room, Ant Room, etc. Hang Nga Guesthouse is a fusion of architecture found in Disney Land Castles and Antoni Gaudi’s individualistically designed buildings in Barcelona. Except that Hang Viet Nga, an architect who designed Crazy House has never been to Disney Land nor heard of Antoni Gaudi.
Hang Nga Guesthouse Location
Hang Nga Guesthouse and Gallery is located on a Huynh Thuc Khang street in Da Lat, the capital of Lam Dong Province in Vietnam. The exact address is: 3 Huynh Thuc Khang Street, Dalat, 20000, Vietnam. Hang Nga Guesthouse is still works in progress and its creator – Ms. Hang Nga still lives on site. The phone number for bookings is (063) 822 070. You can see the location of Crazy House on an interactive, navigable map below (courtesy of Google Maps TM):
City of Da Lat, Vietnam
Da Lat is a tourist hot spot for locals Vietnamese who come here for family getaways, company outings and honeymoons. Nicknamed “The City of Love”, “City of Eternal Spring”, or “Le Petit Paris”, Da Lat was built by French colonist in the 1920’s who used its elevated area as a retreat from scorching heat of nearby Saigon. Picturesque French colonial villas are scattered throughout town but French influence is also apparent from ever present croissant bakeries, cafes, restaurants or hotels. There is even a replica of the Eiffel Tower in town.
Unlike most of Vietnam, higher elevation of Da Lat makes for more bearable temperatures and less humidity. Through this fact, Da Lat is known as being the most pleasant town in Vietnam. But it is not only pleasant by the climate. Its postcard perfect setting with surrounding hills and a small lake in the center offers sceneries unseen in the rest of the country. Outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking or canoeing in this picturesque landscape are said to be the best in Vietnam.
Getting to Da Lat
If your wallet permits, you can fly to Da Lat from Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi via Vietnam Airlines. While these flights are safe, they are not particularly reliable. Cancellations are frequent and happen without notice. It is wise to check with the airport prior to going there. Flights only take about 50 minutes from Ho Chi Minh City and 1 hr 40 minutes from Hanoi.
Daily bus service departs for Hanoi via Da Lat from Sinh Cafe in the backpacker’s area in Saigon (HCMC) and the same one goes back down south from Hanoi via Nha Trang (popular beach town in Vietnam) from where it takes about 5 hours to get to Da Lat. Bus ride from Saigon takes about 7 to 9 hours depending on the time of year and road conditions.
Hang Nga Story
Hang Nga Guesthouse and Art Gallery is named after the woman who came with an idea of an extraordinary house design and brought it to life. Good thing was that Ms. Hang Viet Nga is a daughter of the late Truong Chinh – high ranking official of the Communist Party of Vietnam who became country’s second president. Building avant-guard, lavish houses seemed very anti-socialist to many party officials who put a stop to Ms. Nga’s intentions to build a house like that in the country, but being direct family with the president, she was eventually allowed to go ahead with it and come 1990, the Crazy House was born.
Thanks to her aristocratic background, Hang Viet Nga got her early education in prestigious schools in China and a PhD in Architecture from the University of Moscow in then communist Soviet Union. She was seen as a bit too eccentric upon return to Da Lat and when construction on the Crazy House began, this notion has just become stronger. Determined to bring her dream house to reality, Hang Viet Nga worked on designs, combining the elements of nature Da Lat is surrounded with, with suitability for use by people and the result is an architectonic gem that one would never expect to see in a country like Vietnam.
There are hardly any right angles anywhere on Hang Nga Guesthouse. You won’t find perfect circles there either – only curves and more curves, always intertwined with elements of nature, such as animals (a spider, giraffe, frog, ant or bear), plants (such as mushrooms) and even a pond. To this day Ms. Hang Viet Nga insists that people used to live close to nature in the past and as a result, they were friendlier and in more harmony with one another.
Every part of the Hang Nga Guesthouse is hand built by a team of local enthusiasts employed by Ms. Nga. Conventional furniture would never fit in a room with no straight lines. What started as an art gallery, was later turned into a guesthouse to help generate the revenue which was then used to pay for custom work expansions of the house required. Admission fees charged to those who just wish to look, but not stay is another stream of income. It only costs 10,000 Vietnamese Dong, which is less than $1 US (according to the latest conversion rates $1 = 18,000 Dong).
Hang Nga Guesthouse Rooms
Each room in the Crazy House is unique and themed. Each comes with its own bathroom and fireplace. Unique, handcrafted furniture complements the theme of each room. The Tiger Room bears Chinese theme and represents the strengths. The Kangaroo Room is all about the Aussies, but you don’t have to be one to stay there. The Eagle Room is a symbol of strong and big Americans where as the Ant Room represents hard working people of Vietnam. The Rooftop Room comes with no ceiling so you get to sleep with the stars. And if you like to get spoiled during your stay at the Hang Nga Guesthouse, the Bee Room with a waterfall and a massage bathtub could be for you.
Hang Nga Guesthouse Video
This three minute YouTube video gives very neat perspective on what the Crazy House looks like from the inside, including the peaks into various themed rooms:
Even though Dalat residents named the Hang Nga Guesthouse “The Crazy House” because it was out of what they would consider “normal”, they have grown to accept it as an important part of their town and a popular tourist attraction. It is without doubt a fun place to visit and an interesting experience to stay a night in. The rates range from USD $30.00 to $85.00 per day which is definitely steep for Vietnam, but you are getting a one of a kind experience that’s unrivaled not only in Vietnam, but in the world. Da Lat can be explored on foot, but if you’d like to also visit the hill tribes and enjoy their native performances, you may want to consider hiring a member of the Easy Riders team. They are the motorcycle riders who know all the places you want to see and will drive you everywhere for a fun filled day without any wasted time. And no, you don’t have to be particularly crazy to enjoy the Crazy House. It is a place worth visiting when traveling to Vietnam or backpacking through South East Asia. Enjoy!
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The ruins of Bhangarh Fort in the Rajasthan state in India are known for being the most hunted place in this south Asian country. While it’s understandable that not all people believe in ghosts, there are warnings at all entry points to the Bhangarh Fort advising people not to venture into the city at night. In fear that something terrible could happen, some of the signs posted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) not only advise against, but literally prohibit visitors from entering Bhangarh Fort at night. The sign reads in Indian language: “Entering the borders of Bhangarh before sunrise and after sunset is strictly prohibited.” If you are a ghost hunter or like visiting mysterious places, especially those known to be haunted by ghosts, then Bhangarh Fort deserves a solid spot on your “Must Visit Before I Die” list.
Bhangarh Fort Location
Abandoned fortress of Bhangarh is located between the Pink City of Jaipur – the capital of Rajasthan and Alwar, a city in the same state located about 160 km south of Delhi. Rajasthan is located in the north-west of India and it’s country’s largest state. You can see exact location of the Bhangarh Fort on the interactive, navigable map below (provided by Google Maps TM).
How to Get to Bhangarh
Nearby cities of Jaipur and Alwal are great starting points as they are major metropolitan hubs and are easy to get to. If you are already in India, you can take a train to either city, or if your budget allows, you can fly in instead. Regular bus service leaves for Bhangarh Ruins but requires about a kilometer of walking because nearest bus stop is not directly at the ruin. Another option is to take private taxes which are more expensive than buses, but get you there faster and at a time convenient to you.
The Bhangarh Story
The story (and the history) of the Bhangarh began in the year of 1573 when the fortress was established. Built by Raja Bhagawant Das – the ruler of the city of Amber, Bhangarh Fort has become the residence of Madho Singh, ruler’s second son who fought alongside his father and brother in many wars. The decline of Bhangarh Fort started in 1630 after Chhatr Singh, son of Madho Singh got killed in a violent attack. The decline continued until 1783 when the fortress and the city were completely abandoned following that year’s famine.
The Bhangarh Myths
According to one of the myths, Bhangarh was cursed by Guru Balu Nath (Baba Balanath), who originally sanctioned the construction but warned that his sacred meditating place lies nearby and should the palace reach the size which would cast a shadow big enough to reach his forbidden retreat, the city would fall into ruin. Ignorant of the warning, Ajab Singh – one of dynasty’s descendants raised the palace to a height that cast the shadow on the Balu Nath’s retreat and the city was cursed.
Another myth talks about princess Ratnavati who was so beautiful she had no match in all of Rajasthan. Marriage proposals came coming, but one day she was spotted by a tantric named Singha Sevra who was so bewildered by her beauty, he decided to use his black magic to get to her. As he was spying on the princess, he saw her servant buying perfumes for her. The tantric used the opportunity and put a black magic spell on the lotion which was supposed to draw the princess to him upon initial use.
His intentions were uncovered by a person loyal to the princess who informed her of bewitched lotion. The princess took the bottle and smashed it against the rock which came to life and rolled over the tantric killing him. Before he died, he laid a curse on entire land which came to be the following year during battle between Bhangarh and Ajabgarh. All who dwelt in Bhangarh died, including the princess.
There are several other myths and legends that explain the reasons why the fort was abandoned overnight and never re-inhabited, but they all revolve around the fact that the city was cursed and is now haunted by ghosts.
The Bhangarh Ghosts
The Government of India wanted to put the myth of ghosts haunting the Bhangarh Ruin to rest by deploying the military to patrol the fort at night. However, none of the Indian military personnel dared to participate in this ghost busting operation because the belief that it’s haunted by ghosts is so deep. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the official government body responsible for maintenance of monuments and ruins throughout the country officially recognizes the Bhangarh Fort as a place haunted by ghosts. Because of that, no accommodation if offered within the ruins and even the office of ASI was built at a safe distance from the fort, instead of within it as is the case of other similar sites.
Ghost Town of Bhangarh Video
In this video documentary, the Voice of America correspondent Steve Herman reports on the Ghost Town of Bhangarh, haunted by the spirits of the dead:
Even though Bhangarh is deserted at night, locals report that strange noises, including music and dancing can be heard coming from the ruins of the fort. The access to Bhangarh is regulated by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and by their rule, it is illegal to enter Bhangarh at night. However, several people did make an entry during forbidden hours just to get a sense of thrill associated with being in one of world’s most haunted places. Bhangarh Fort offers superior opportunities for mystery and ghost hunters to experience the ultimate adrenaline rush. The restless spirit of the magician who cursed the land watches over Bhangarh from a nearby hill during the day and comes down at night in search of a ghost of his beloved princess. Welcome to the world of Ghost Tourism.
Maldives have the ring of a very exotic destination and rightly so. This archipelago consisting of 1,190 coral islands is home to some of world’s finest beaches and world class diving opportunities. Each island of Maldives is very flat, only sticking a little bit out of the Indian Ocean. The highest point of an entire archipelago is mere 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in) above sea level. Because of that, Maldives are affected by global warming and rising sea level more than any other country in the world. From the sea, Maldives look like an oasis with palm trees growing out of the endless ocean.
Maldives Location on a Map
Maldives archipelago is located in the Laccadive Sea, 700 kilometres (435 miles) southwest of Sri Lanka. The archipelago consists of 26 coral atolls which spread over an area of about 90,000 square kilometres. 200 islands are inhabited, additional 80 islands house tourists resorts (yes, one resort on entire island, giving you complete tranquility and the feel of a private beach/island).
Maldives is the smallest country on Asian continent – both as far as population and land area are concerned. On a worldwide scale, Maldives is the lowest country on the planet – with 1.5 meters above sea level average ground level and with 2.3 meters highest point, it is also the country with the lowest highest point in the world.
You can see the location of Maldives on an interactive, navigable map below. Keep in mind that Maldives is a set of more than one thousand islands. While most are uninhabited, the country still spreads across Indian Ocean quite a bit. Unzoom the map to see entire archipelago:
Maldives islands are grouped into Atolls. There are 26 Atolls in Maldives, each consisting of a group of islands. Most Atolls are known to general public by their English name, but in native Dhivehi language they are named differently. There are 20 administrative Atoll groups in the Maldives, 10 of which are open to tourism. The list of the Atolls is below and includes its English name and Dhivehi name in the brackets:
Lhaviyani (Miladhunmadulu Uthuruburi), Raa (Maalhosmadulu Uthuruburi), Baa (Maalhosmadulu Dhekunuburi), Kaafu (North and South Male Atoll), Alifu (Ari), Vaavu (Felidhu), Meemu (Mulak), Faafu (Nilandhe Atholhu Uthuruburi), Dhaalu (Nilandhe Atholhu Dhekunuburi), Seenu (Addu), Gaafu Alifu, Gaafu Dhaalu, Gnaviyani, Haa Alifu, Haa Dhaalu, Laamu, Nyavinani, Seenu, Shaviyani, and Thaa.
Maldives Visa Requirements
Maldives are very welcoming of tourists (30% of country’s GDP comes from tourism) so everyone, regardless of which country issued their passport gets 30 day tourist visa on arrival. In order to get the visa, you must show you have enough money for the duration of your stay and a return ticket to take you out of the country. If you booked your vacation through a travel agent and have resort reservation, then you don’t need to prove you have sufficient funds. Otherwise, you will be required to have $50 per day plus $100 on top of it.
Maldives is a Muslim country. It is illegal to bring in pork and pornography. Make sure you don’t throw any of that in your luggage as it will be X-Rayed and could get you in trouble. On your way out, make sure you don’t have any sea shells or sand samples on you as exporting it is illegal.
Visa extension of up to 90 days total is possible and can be obtained from the Department of Immigration and Emigration in Male. You may be asked to document where in Maldives you would be staying for 90 days.
Getting to Maldives
The only way to Maldives is by plane. There are no boats that sail to Maldives and even once you have landed, you will be taken to your resort island by air taxi, rather than boat. Navigating among the reefs surrounding Maldives is risky and many boats and yachts saw their end trying to reach the islands. Furthermore, permits allowing foreign boats to sail to Maldives are so expensive you’re better off flying.
Male International Airport (IATA code is MLE) is on Hulhule Island which is the island located right next to the capital city of Male (as you can see on the map above).
There are 93 resorts in Maldives. Hotels only exist in the capital Male. Larger islands have fewer resorts, but majority of resorts take up their own island so beach occupation is limited to resort guests. If you seek tranquility, the farther a resort is from Male, the less populated it will be, however regardless of which part of Maldives you find yourself in, beaches will not be overcrowded. You are in fact likely to find a beach where you are all alone, separated from everyone and everything else. It’s great for unwinding and having a little time for yourself. It’s also perfect for honeymooners.
Overwater bungalows are a popular means of lodging for resort tourists and while it has its charm and should be tried by anyone visiting Maldives, it gets difficult to handle during a longer stay. If you happen to have a stormy night while staying in a bungalow, the noise from waves crashing into the stilts will make it difficult to sleep. Bungalows are also often cramped closely next to each other which makes for challenging times especially if you’re a couple on honeymoon trying to have your moment.
Most resorts are on Kaafu Atoll, with Alifu Atoll being the second busiest.
The weather in Maldives is tropical year round. Maldives are located around the equator in the Indian Ocean, providing it with climate with little temperature fluctuations. Regardless of when you visit Maldives, the temperature will likely remain within 24°C to 33°C range. Humidity is high, however ocean breezes move across the islands all the time making it more bearable as sweat gets washed away with breeze.
The highest recorded temperature in Maldives occurred in April and reached 37°C (99°F). The coldest recorded temperature occurred in January and reached 17°C (63°F).
Maldives – The Best Time to Visit
Rainy monsoon season in Maldives lasts from April to October. During that time it rains a lot, it’s windy and storms are frequent. The best time to visit Maldives would be in March, when average temperatures reach enjoyable 29°C (85°F) yet participation is low. February is the month with least precipitation, but while temperature remains tropical, it gets cold at times so on occasion you’d have to wear long sleeve shirts and may find the ocean water cold from the beginning.
Scuba Diving in Maldives
Endless coral reefs surrounding Maldive atolls are hundreds of kilometres away from highly populated, industrialized areas which makes for clear water and abundant sea life – perfect conditions for scuba diving. While scuba diving in Maldives is significantly costlier than in coastal areas of mainland Asia, the gear rented is in excellent condition and well maintained. Safety standards are strictly adhered to and guides are knowledgeable and friendly. You’d miss out a lot if you didn’t go under water on your vacation in Maldives.
Honeymoon in Maldives
I’ve mentioned it a few times before already – Maldives is a perfect destination for honeymooners. With their tranquil, desolate resorts that often take up one small island, peaceful and enjoyable honeymoon is pretty much guaranteed. This is where I’m going to go on my honeymoon, if I ever find a lady crazy enough to marry me.
Maldives – Safety for Visitors
Maldives went through rather turbulent times in recent past, but it seems that it’s all a thing of the past now. During the rule of President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, there was questionable democracy in Maldives with rigged elections and persecution of dissidents. The iron fist ruler got himself re-elected five time in a row and sent those who would question or oppose his rule to jail. After international pressure and two years of violent riots, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was defeated in what appears as Maldive’s first democratic election. This took place in October of 2008. Newly elected president Mohamed “Anni” Nasheed took charge of the country which relieved political tension and riots have not occurred since.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada advises all visitors to exercise high degree of caution when visiting Maldives stating that the situation could deteriorate anytime and do it rapidly. Canadian government also warns people traveling to Maldives that petty crime is high and one should maintain awareness of their surrounding and secure their valuables at all times.
US Department of State cautions travellers to Maldives to not engage in any political protests or other such activity during their stay on the island. US government also highlights the incident from 2007 when 12 foreign tourists were wounded in a bomb blast caused by an IED (improvised explosive device).
As a conclusion – compared to nearby Sri Lanka or India, Maldives is likely much safer in overall regard. Most tourists visiting Maldives stay on resort islands where no one, but resort visitors and workers go, separating them safely from potential problems. However backpackers and individual travellers should exercise caution and keep it low profile. Secure your valuables and don’t display signs of affluence.
Following video is a great introduction to Maldives with beautiful images of all that the islands have to offer:
And another video from Maldives. This one is not narrated. It’s just pure enjoyment:
Maldives is one of those “must visit before you die” destinations. It’s a whole different world. The islands are small and vastly flat, ocean water is crystal clean and sea life abundant. It’s a heaven on Earth or a paradise if you will. Let’s hope that extremisms will not turn it into a scary place. Maldives is a luxury destination so travelers on a budget may need to compromise but it can be done. Real adventurers may not find Maldives interesting because of its laid back lifestyle and repeated appearance. It’s perfect for those seeking tranquility, but if you like life on the move, you better look elsewhere. It’s worth a visit never the less. Even if just for a brief period of time.
List of Maldives Resorts
Adaaran “Club” Bathala on the North Ari Atoll, Adaaran “Club” Rannalhi on the Kaafu Atoll, Adaaran “Select” Hudhuranfushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Adaaran “Select” Meedhupparu on the Raa Atoll, Adaaran Prestige Vadoo on the Kaafu Atoll, Alimatha Aquatic Resort on the Vaavu Atoll, Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa, Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Anantara Veli Resort & Spa, Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Angaga Island Resort & Spa on the South Ari Atoll, Angsana Resort & Spa Maldives Ihuru on the Kaafu Atoll, Angsana Resort & Spa Maldives Velavaru on the Dhaalu Atoll, Asdhu Sun Island on the Kaafu Atoll, Athurugau Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Bandos Island Resort & Spa on the Kaafu Atoll, Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru on the Kaafu Atoll, Baros Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Biyadhoo Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Centara Grand Island Resort and Spa Maldives on the South Ari Atoll, Chaaya Island Dhonveli Beach & Spa Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Chaaya Lagoon Hakuraa Huraa on the Meemu Atoll, Club Faru, Farukolhufushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Club Med Kanifinolhu on the Kaafu Atoll, Coco Palm Boduhithi on the Kaafu Atoll, Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu on the Baa Atoll, Coco Palm Kudahithi on the Kaafu Atoll, Cocoa Island on the Kaafu Atoll, Conrad Maldives Rangali Island on the South Ari Atoll, Constance Halaveli Resort Maldives on the North Ari Atoll, Dhiggiri Tourist Resort on the Vaavu Atoll, Dhoni Island on the Ari Atoll, Diva Maldives on the South Ari Atoll, Dream Island Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Ellaidhoo Tourist Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Embudu Village on the Kaafu Atoll, Eriyadu Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Fihaalhohi Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Filitheyo Island Resort on the Faafu Atoll, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa on the Kaafu Atoll, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru on the Baa Atoll, Fun Island Resort (under re-construction) on the Kaafu Atoll, Gangehi Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Gasfinolhu Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Giraavaru Tourist Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Helengeli Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Hilton Maldives Iru Fushi Resort and Spa on the Noonu Atoll, Holiday Island (Dhiffushi) on the South Ari Atoll, Huvafen Fushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Island Hideaway At Dhonakulhi Maldives Spa Resort & Marina on the Haa Alifu Atoll, Island of Bolifushi on the Kaafu Atoll, Kandooma Tourist Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Kanuhura on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Kihaadhuffaru Resort on the Baa Atoll, Komandoo Island Resort on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Kudarah Island Resort (closed for renovation) on the South Ari Atoll, Kuramathi Maldives on the North Ari Atoll, Kuredu Island Resort & Spa on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Kurumba Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Laguna Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Lily Beach Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Maayafushi Tourist Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Madoogali Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Makunudu Island on the Kaafu Atoll, Medhufushi Island Resort on the Meemu Atoll, Meeru Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Mirihi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Moofushi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Naladhu Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Nika Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Olhuveli Beach & Spa Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, One&Only Reethi Rah Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, Palm Beach Island Resort on the Lhaviyani Atoll, Paradise Island Resort and Spa on the Kaafu Atoll, Ranveli Village on the South Ari Atoll, Reethi Beach Resort on the Baa Atoll, Rihiveli Beach Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Royal Island Resort & Spa on the Baa Atoll, Sheraton Maldives Full Moon Resort & Spa on the Kaafu Atoll, Sonevafushi by Six Senses on the Baa Atoll, Sonevagili by Six Senses on the Kaafu Atoll, Summer Island Village on the Kaafu Atoll, Sun Island Resort & Spa (Nalaguraidhoo) on the South Ari Atoll, Taj Coral Reef Resort (closed for renovation on /0/0) on the Kaafu Atoll, Taj Exotica Resort and Spa Maldives on the Kaafu Atoll, The Beach House at Manafaru Maldives on the Haa Alifu Atoll, Thudufushi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Thulhagiri Island Resort on the Kaafu Atoll, Twin Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Vakarufalhi Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Velidhu Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Veligandu Island Resort on the North Ari Atoll, Vilamendhoo Island Resort on the South Ari Atoll, Vilu Reef Beach & Spa Resort on the Dhaalu Atoll, W Retreat and Spa Maldives on the North Ari Atoll.
The Kingdom of Bhutan is one of the most unreachable countries in the world, but at the same time it is not. Perhaps a better term than “unreachable” would be “exclusive”. The exclusivity of Bhutan derives from the fact that individual tourism is not allowed there. As such, if you are a backpacker on your journey around the world, Bhutan could be vastly off your limits. That also includes frugal travellers. If you’re on a budget, visiting Bhutan will be a bit tough. I’ve decided to have a page dedicated to Bhutan Tourism Information on this blog as each traveller considering a visit to Bhutan is faces with plethora of questions that need answers. So let’s answer them.
The only way to visit Bhutan as a tourist is by paying for an organized tour purchased through an authorised travel agency. Upon payment, the official tour operator will take care of your visa and will make all arrangements which include lodging, food, tour guide, transport, porters, shows and whatever else is available or needed. If you require special arrangements such as five star hotel accommodation or a single room lodging, it can all be taken care of, but will be more expensive. Regular Bhutan tours which will take you through most popular tourist sites (will likely incude visits to Paro, including the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, Punakha, Thimphu, Jakar and Wangdue) will cost you $200 per day plus airfare and $20 for visa. This makes Bhutan a truly expensive destination that budget travellers and backpackers may not be able to afford, but it also makes Bhutan organized and gives you room to enjoy the sights unhindered by crowds of irresponsible tourists.
Unlike with most tourist destinations, the daily tariff for visit to Bhutan is set by the Bhutanese Department of Tourism and is fixed – non negotiable. That means that you either pay what they ask for per day or you don’t get to visit Bhutan. Drukair is the only airline with services to Bhutan and they will not board any foreigner (other than citizens of India or Bangladesh) without valid visa issued by the Bhutanese Department of Tourism, which is issued upon payment of all proceeds as per current daily tariffs.
High Quality Tourism in Bhutan
By restricting access to their country, the government of Bhutan does an amazing job preserving and protecting both their unspoiled environment as well as unique culture, while at the same time both remain promoted on a worldwide scale and bring foreign revenue. This a near perfect tourism model: the country is open to international tourism, but government controlled pricing for tour packages makes the country unreachable for an average tourist. As a result, pristine nature remains untrampled by boots of countless tourists, crime remains well under control, environment remains perfectly sustainable, society remains perfectly harmonious and original culture remains unspoiled.
Tourist Visa to Bhutan
The Bhutanese tourist visa is valid for 14 days and can be renewed once. You must apply for visa at least 30 days in advance through your tour operator who will process it for you. All tour operators authorized to sell tour packages in Bhutan are licensed by the Bhutanese Department of Tourism and are your sole means to obtaining tourist visa to Bhutan. The requirement is to purchase a tour which will run at a minimum of $200 per day, but includes most essentials of your stay. There is no such thing as visa on arrival in Bhutan. The only exception to Bhutanese visa requirements are the citizens of India and Bangladesh.
Getting to Bhutan
In order to get to Bhutan you will be flying in. There is only one carrier that flies to Bhutan, which is their own, Royal Bhutanese Airline called DrukAir. The service is offered between Bhutanese Paro Airport (PBH) and Bangkok, Delhi, Dhaka, Kolkata, Gaya, Kathmandu, Siliguri and Yangon. If flying from abroad, make sure you also have transit visa for the connecting country (mostly applicable for India, as Thailand and Nepal do offer visa on arrival).
If you are already in India, you may be able to enter Bhutan overland. Bus service from Kolkata and Siliguri can take you to the Bhutanese border town of Phuentsholing, which is also Bhutan’s second largest town, after capital Thimphu. While in India, it is also possible to take a train to Hasimara, which is only about 30 minutes (17 kilometres) by bus to Phuentsholing, but the railway tracks are being built to extend the train service all the way to Phuentsholing. There is no train service in Bhutan. Only buses and cars.
It is possible to combine an air travel with overland border crossing when booking your trip to Bhutan, but keep in mind that you will also need Indian visa which can take two weeks to process.
Bhutan Safety Information
Crime in Bhutan is virtually nonexistent making the country one of the safest spot on the planet. There are no official warnings for Bhutan issued by the Government of Canada or the US Department of State. Population of Bhutan is low and access for tourists is strictly regulated which makes for near complete elimination of random crime. One still needs to remain vigilant and aware of their surroundings as petty crime may occur (such as pick pocketing or purse snatching) but overall a visit to Bhutan is likely to be a safe and enjoyable one. I always cover safety information of places I refer to in Vacation Ideas and in case of Bhutan you really have little or nothing to worry about. If you can afford it, you will enjoy it.
Bhutan is also free from beggars and other annoyance of the sort. Even though on a global scale the average incomes are low, people are well provided for and don’t experience draught or other similar disasters. Education is available free to all citizens and so is health care. Smoking of tobacco is a crime and a punishable offense so be careful if you are a smoker.
The King of Bhutan
Bhutan is one of the most pristine places on the planet. The emphasis is put on Gross National Happiness and schools teach children to live in peace and harmony. While men struggle, or even kill for power in other parts of the world, in Bhutan the king Jigme Singye Wangchuck voluntarily stepped down to give room to the young blood to lead the country and his son Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of Bhutan became the king. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck doesn’t have bank accounts in Switzerland and doesn’t own several jets. He lives in a log cabin and humbly meets with his people to listen to their needs. King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck volunterily gave up his absolute power in 2008 to bring democracy to his people.
Videos from Bhutan
This video is a trailer for a movie about Bhutan and a journey of Bhutanese King to deliver happiness for his people. It talks about Bhutan being a country that’s committed to people’s happiness. It talks about Bhutan being a place where nature is sacred. It talks about Bhutanese people whose identity is rooted in their culture. The video also contains commentary from the king and other important Bhutanese people.
This second video was filmed by Bhutanese people and is a nice introduction to beauty of Bhutan. It is narrated by the Bhutanese:
Bhutan is an adventure like no other. Vast exclusivity makes it a dream destination for all avid travellers, passionate trekkers will find Bhutan pure paradise and environmentalists will have their dreams come true surrounded by Bhutan’s pristine nature that’s home to some of world’s rarest flora and fauna. Bhutan is unique and their uniqueness is well preserved by limiting the access to only high quality tourists. Bhutan is spiritual and mystical. It’s a place where ancient culture and tradition are still very much alive. Welcome to Bhutan, the land of the thunder dragon.
Paro Taktsang would loosely translate in English as Tiger’s Nest in Paro. Paro Taktsang is a monastery hence it’s sometimes referred to as Taktshang Goemba which would again loosely translate in English as Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Goemba means Monastery in Bhutanese). Whatever you call it, it’s always the same thing. It is the very landmark of Bhutan, a small country located on the slopes of The Himalayas in South Asia. Many photo collections of the most fascinating sights on Earth would feature Paro Taktsang for its breath-taking visual appeal. Paro Taktsang would also be the first thing that comes to mind of any worldly man when talking about world’s most famous monasteries. But aside from being one of world’s most fascinating places, Paro Taktsang is also one of world’s least accessible tourist destinations due to tourism restrictions imposed by the government of Bhutan. Hence only a handful of people get to see The Tiger’s Nest Monastery with their own eyes which makes it so much more “exclusive” like and special. This is also one of main reason Paro Taktsang is featured on Vacation Ideas where I specialize in introducing places none of your friends have been to.
Entry to Bhutan is vastly limited. Independent tourism is not allowed so the only way in is by purchasing organized tours from authorised tour operators upon which you will be allowed to purchase Bhutanese visa and an air ticket through the only carrier that flies to Bhutan – Drukair. This approach greatly limits the numbers of tourists that are allowed to enter the country giving much more room to serious travellers who can enjoy unspoiled beauty of this Buddhist nation.
Bluntly put, Bhutan maintains sustainable tourism policy with focus on preservation of their own cultural and spiritual traditions that reach back to ancient times. High priced, non negotiable per day tariff prevents Bhutan from getting overrun by tourists and helps them avoid potentially disastrous consequences too much traffic could have on their heritage. For tourists who can afford to pay $200+ per day for an organized tour through Bhutan this creates an opportunity to visit one of the least accessible (aka most exclusive) countries in the world. For more information on Bhutan travel visit my dedicated Bhutan Tourism Information page.
Paro Taktsang Location
Paro Taktsang is located in Paro district in south-west Bhutan. The town of Paro near which the Tiger’s Nest Monastery is located (about 10 kilometres from town) has a population of 4,500 people and is a home to many sacred sites. There is an airport near Paro which serves as main international gateway for tourists flying to and out of Bhutan. Royal Bhutan Airlines Drukair is the only carrier that flies to Bhutan. Paro valley is located not far from Thimphu, the capital city of Bhutan. You can navigate through the location of Paro Taktsang on the interactive map below:
History of Paro Taktsang
Paro Taktsang Tiger’s Nest Monastery is a hermitage built on a 1,200 meters high cliff around the Taktsang Senge Samdup cave where Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava, the second Buddha and the father of Bhutanese Buddhism) is believed to have landed on the back of tigress (hence the name of the “Tiger’s Nest”) in the 8th century (747 CE). During his journey through Bhutan and Tibet, Guru Rinpoche meditated in 13 taktsang (tiger lair caves), with Paro Taktsang being the most famous of them all. Since Guru Rinpoche declared Paro Taktsang a sacred place for meditation, the people of Bhutan eventually started to build a temple around it. The construction works on the temple were finished in 1692.
The temple remained at its original state for centuries until accidental fire on April 19, 1998 destroyed most of it. Restoration works started immediately to bring the monastery to its original look. Old photographs and diary drawings were used as reference for outer structure, but no reference material was available for some indoor paintings and sculptures making for irreversible loss of important artefacts.
Monastery on a Cliff
Paro Taktsang Monastery is built on a sheer cliff that’s 3,120 metres (10,200 feet) above sea level (enough for severe altitude sickness). The bottom of Paro Valley is 700 meters (2,300 feet) in straight drop from Paro Taktsang Monastery. It takes good 2 hours to get to the monastery from the parking lot in the valley below and while it’s a nonstop uphill hike, it takes you around the hill so it’s overall not that demanding. You can take a break from this uphill hike and recharge fluids at the cafe located half way through on ridge across from the monastery with nice views of it (hint: that’s where you take your awesome photos of Tatksang parched on the cliff). Tea or coffee is very expensive there, though and it’s not that great. The views are spectacular though. From the cafeteria you continue your walk around the hill almost giving you an impression that you are lost and going way off target until eventually you start short descend and get to the gate of Paro Taktsang. The entire monastery consists of seven temple, each of which is available for visit to tourists.
Paro Taktsang is often closed to public and if open, you need an entrance ticket. Seeing it from the outside from a cafeteria viewpoint is more than satisfactory and doesn’t require a fee. Insides of the monastery itself is nothing compared to the view of it mounted on the cliff so even if you can’t get inside or don’t want to pay, you will get a chance to get the best of it by making it up to the cafe.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery Video
The video below is a nice feature about the Tiger’s Nest Fortress (for some reason the makers of the video refer to it as the Tiger’s Nest Fortress). It’s brief and to the point. Check out the spectacular views you can expect from a trek up the cliff towards Paro Taktsang.
Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan is a sight to behold and one that will remain in your memory forever. The exclusivity of Bhutan makes it all so much special. You know you will be one of few who’ve seen Paro Taktsang with their own eyes. Overall safety and few bothering factors make Bhutan one of the most tourist friendly countries, even though it is not frugal traveller friendly (when on a budget, Bhutan becomes vastly inaccessible). If you can make an exception and cash out big for a visit to Bhutan, you will be rewarded with views of one of world’s most spectacular monasteries – Paro Taktsang. Welcome to the Land of the Thunder Dragon.
Jeju Loveland, or what’s more commonly known as Love Land Korea is a sex theme park located on a Jeju island in South Korea. The theme of Love Land is sex. Love Land is all about sex. And if Korean as well as other Asian nations are seen as prudish and reserved when it comes to open displays of sexuality, then Love Land is a front runner of the end of this stereotype. Fact be told, If as a Westerner you do travel to Asia, you won’t see any young couples passionately French kissing each other at the bus stop, which is a common picture of anywhere in the Western world. Only the most daring Asians would go all out displaying sexual affection in public. Vast majority are still pretty much sexually repressed. At least when it comes to public display of eroticism. And that’s exactly what makes Love Land Theme Park on Jeju Island, South Korea so special. Jeju Loveland goes all out, breaking every taboo by throwing raw sexuality right in each visitor’s face. Without shame, in all its raw beauty.
Love Land is located at the north part of South Korean Jeju Island and spreads across the area of two soccer fields. It’s full of statues and photographs that leave little to imagination. From large phallic sculptures, through detailed, oversized vaginas all the way to depictions of masturbation and sexual acts in various positions, Jeju Love Land opens doors to the oasis of sexual freedoms in the desert of sexual taboos.
History of Love Land
Jeju Love Land was started as an art exhibit by graduating students from Hongik University in Seoul. The project was initiated in 2002 and two year later, on November 16, 2004 the doors to Love Land Korea officially opened.
Love Land Exhibit
Jeju Love Land is located in an idyllic garden near the lake with entertaining statues all over the place. You will see two pairs of entangled legs sticking out of the lake giving an impression of a naughty couple going at it under the water. Statues around the lake range from clothed couple discreetly kissing each other, through couples giving and receiving oral sex, all the way to glory hole and depictions of various sexual positions. Two giant breast hills with nipples you can climb up on are located on the brink of the lake and if climbing sexual organs turns out to be your thing, you can also make it up on top of a 33 foot tall, gigantic stone penis.
Baengnok Exhibition Halls contain exhibitions of sex toys. It’s excessively amusing to watch Korean girls turn pulsating dildoes on and stare at the movement produced with awe.
Jeju Island (sometimes spelled Cheju Island) is recognized far and wide not only in South Korea as the Honeymoon Island. Being South Korea’s largest as well as southernmost island, Jeju enjoys South Korea’s warmest climate which helped it to became a destination of choice for Korean couples. To date, local hotels offer essentially erotic entertainment programs to get their guests in right mood and if social and cultural beliefs are still making it hard for the couple to unwind and get down to business, professional icebreakers will assist in making it happen.
Jeju Love Land is located mere 10 minutes by taxi from Jeju International Airport and can be comfortably covered in about an hour. In 2009, the entrance ticket to Love Land cost 7,000 Won per person. The park is open from 9am till midnight. Outdoor statues are illuminated at night so it’s possible to entirely enjoy the exhibit even after dark.
Jeju Love Land is strictly an 18+ amusement park only, however visitors with youngsters can leave them in provided play area for minors and enjoy the exhibit unhindered. It is not unusual to encounter actual naked bodies within the Love Land park area. Seeing actual naked skin among the figures made of stone that are undeniably enjoying themselves makes the visit to Love Land complete. Whether you are an open sexual deviant or keep your sexuality low profile, Love Land is an interesting place to visit and one not to be missed when visiting Jeju or South Korea itself. See you there.
…and check out the video with images from Jeju Loveland a guy who visited the theme park put together: