6 Reasons To Still Love Thailand

Thailand. Once a tropical and far away destination but nowadays, more than ever, a super touristic country where real adventure and authenticity seem to be disappearing and mass tourism seems to be taking over. Some travelers don’t even bother going to Thailand any more, but for me, even after three times, it is still one of my favorite Southeast Asian countries. Why? I’ll give you 6 reasons why to still love Thailand.

1. The People.
Thailand is known as the land of the smile and even though ginormous amounts of tourists have found their way to the land once known as Siam, the Thai people still remain friendly. Of course you have the general exceptions such as the merchants on Khao San Road who don’t even let you try something before buying it, but the (big!) majority of Thai people I met remain respectful, friendly, humble and do everything with a big smile.

Bangkok, love Thailand
Bangkok

2. The Food.
Okay, this one is a SUPER big cliché, but so true! I tried fresh Spring Rolls in Vietnam, ate Khmer Amok in Cambodia and love a portion of Indonesian Gado Gado, but, let’s be honest, nothing beats a Pad Thai. Thai food is so versatile, so full of flavor and even as a vegetarian you are treated to mouthwatering dishes day after day after day. And yes, food is definitely a reason for me to go to a country and that’s why I love Thailand ;)

3. The convenience.
Traveling around Thailand is easy. Did I say easy? It is super easy! Every hostel has a travel desk and in every town you’ll find heaps of travel agencies. Whether you take the bus, boat, minivan and TukTuk, everything is well planned out and you’ll always arrive on your destination. Flying is sometimes even cheaper than the train or bus (you can, for instance, fly from Bangkok to Krabi for 20 Euros) and vehicles like minivans are often of good quality. Believe me, if you’ve seen what I traveled with in countries like Cambodia you’ll never complain about a Thai minivan again…

Love Thailand
Traveling through Thailand by boat

4. The Islands.
There are so many islands in Thailand that you could easily stay for 2 months, and there is something for everyone. If you like to go partying you go to Koh Phi Phi or Koh Phangan, if you want to relax I’d recommend Koh Lanta (check our tips on Koh Lanta), if you want to get your PADI or want to go snorkeling then Koh Tao is the place to be and if you’re looking for something different then Koh Chang is where you should set sail to. And what all the islands have in common: they are beautiful.

Krabi, Love Thailand

5. The Temples.
What can I say? I love temples, and Thailand has many of them. Some people say that “after you’ve seen one temple you’ve seen them all” but I strongly disagree, especially in Thailand. In Bangkok you can’t miss the reclining Buddha and Wat Arun, whereas in Chiang Mai Doi Suthep is a definite must-go-to. But also walking into the smaller, less well-known temples that aren’t mentioned in travel guides like the lonely planet are worth wandering around.

6. The Sunsets
Yes, there are pretty sunsets everywhere, but the last few I saw during my most recent visit to Thailand were out of this world. Whether you’re in a busy metropole like Bangkok or chilling on an island, Mother Nature will treat you to some of her best sunsets ever. Order a cold Chang, get comfortable and watch the day turn into night.

Sunsets in Krabi Thailand,
Sunsets like no other

I could go on about the weather, the parties, the adventure, how the Thai people speak English and so on but I think I made my point about why I love Thailand: this country is still more than worth visiting. Enjoy! 

Love,

Evelien

*Evelien is one of our guest bloggers who currently travels and lives in Australia. Follow her on Instagram (@eefexplores) or check out her website!

Bali must do’s for first timers

In my previous blog, I highlighted some sights you should visit in Java. Even though Java is beautiful, I think an even more special place in Indonesia is Bali. Bali is quite a popular destination and once you visited this island you’ll understand why. While in most of Indonesia, Islam is the main religion, in Bali most people are Hinduists. You’ll see Hindu temples everywhere. But these are not the only interesting sights. Here’s are some Bali must do’s if you’re visiting the island for the first time.

Ubud
Ubud is the cultural hart of Bali. It has a lovely center with nice bars and restaurants. It has quite a spiritual vibe with all its great temples. The most impressive one is Gunung Kawi, an 11th-century temple complex spread across both sides of the Pakerisan river. It comprises 10 shrines that are carved into seven (!) metre high sheltered niches on each side. Once you move away from the center, Ubud also has beautiful surroundings, you can walk for example to Campuang Ridge and see beautiful rice fields.

Bike downhill from Mount Batur
This is a spectacular tour which starts in Ubud, from where you’ll drive to Penelokan, which is right next to Mount Batur. You’ll have breakfast overlooking this impressive, active, volcano and its crater lake. After this great start, you will bike downhill back to Ubud. Along the way, you’ll see little villages and visit a coffee plantation, typical Balinese houses and the well-known rice fields.

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Breakfast with a view

Dive in Amed
If you like diving, Amed is the place to be in Bali. There are lots of different dive schools that all offer PADI or SSI courses, or just regular dive trips in case you are already certified. One of the most memorable dive spots is Manta Point, close to Nuusa Lembongan. It takes some time to get there and it’s therefore also quite a pricy dive, but it will be well worth once you see massive – up to 6 metres wide – Manta’s under water. 

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It is called Manta Point for a reason!

Relax at the Gili’s
The Gili’s do not really belong to Bali, but they are the perfect getaway with their white beaches, clear blue water and amazing sunsets. You can easily get there by boat from Padang Bay. Gili Trawangan is the biggest island and mostly known for its parties. Gili Air is a bit smaller but it has a great atmosphere and is very vibrant with all the restaurants along the beach where you can eat sea food that just came out of the ocean. And if you really want some relax time the smallest Gili Meno is the place to be. All islands are home to an impressive underwater world and snorkeling or diving are great activities here. Find more info about the Gili islands here.

There you have it, just a little guide into Bali must do’s for first timers. And I’m sure there will be a second time very soon after!

Love,

Dionne

*Dionne is one of our guest bloggers from the Netherlands, currently living in Den Bosch. In everyday life she works as a marketing-communications professional. She loves to travel to distant destinations, but she also enjoys a city trip closer to home.

How to avoid the crowds at Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is undoubtedly Cambodia’s biggest tourist attraction. And this is no surprise since Angkor Wat is the biggest religious monument in the world which dates back to the early twelfth century. These days almost 5 million tourists yearly make their way over to Cambodia to wander around the temples of Angkor themselves, making it a very popular but very busy place to visit. You better think again if you ever dream of having these temples all to yourself, but there are a few tricks to avoid the big crowds and wander around in peace…

1. Watch the sunrise and leave a little early
Watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat is a definite must-do when you’re visiting these temples. Not only is it a truly magical experience when a new day presents itself by rising up against the temples, but it is also a great way to arrive at the temples early. If you want to have a good spot without hundreds of iPad and Selfiestick waving Chinese tourists in front of you, walk right instead of going straight ahead at the famous ‘sunrise temple spot’. You won’t be right in front of the temples, but you will share the view with just a dozen of other tourists. When the sun is up and you captured enough Instagram-worthy shots, head back to your Tuk Tuk driver before everybody else does. Doing this you’ll arrive at the other temples as one of the first, having the temples (almost) all to yourself :)

Sunrise at Angkor Wat

2. The further away, the better!
Ask your Tuk Tuk driver to bring you to the popular temples that are further away first. Many Tuk Tuk’s and tour buses follow a certain route, creating the perfect opportunity for you to do the exact opposite thing :) Also, if you see tons of big tour buses standing outside of a temple, ask your Tuk Tuk driver to take you to another temple which appears to be less crowded first.

no crowds at ankor-wat

3. Go back at the end of the day
Wandering around the temples of Angkor is extremely beautiful, but also extremely tiring and HOT! If you decided to watch the sunrise you will probably feel very tired around 12pm, making you want to go home and take a nap during the hottest hours of the day. If you buy a one-day-pass this pass is valid for a whole day, so you can come back to the temples in the late afternoon, when most of the crowds already have disappeared. Make sure you don’t go too late as Angkor Wat closes at 6pm.

Angkor Wat takes you back in time

I hope the three tips above will help you explore this ancient Kingdom in peace and quiet. Enjoy :)

Love,

Evelien

*Evelien is one of our guest bloggers who currently travels and lives in Australia. Follow her on Instagram (@eefexplores) or check out her website!

Did you know Cambodia is one of the world’s cheapest countries to live in? Check which countries made it to the top 5!

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4 Recommendations On Beautiful Java

Java is the most populated island of Indonesia and it has a great deal of sights which are worth a visit. You can easily travel the whole island by train, if you have the time off course, because the length of the island is about 1000 km so it does take you quite a few hours to get across. These are some of the sights I would recommend visiting:

The Dutch Jakarta
Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia with about 9,6 million citizens. A lot of people say Jakarta is too crowded, dirty (because of the smog), hot and therefore not necessarily worth a visit. But I like to think otherwise. Yes, it’s crowded and chaotic, but once you get used to that you will see this city has some great things to offer. Especially when you are interested in some (Dutch) history, Jakarta is an interesting metropolis. You can still see the Dutch influence for example in the buildings on Taman Fatahilla square. In the Jakarta History Museum you can get a glance of live in the earlier Dutch East Indies.

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Inpressive Prambanan

When you are interested in some (Dutch) history, Jakarta is an interesting metropolis.

Borobudur
Borobudur is one of the most famous sights of Indonesia. Yes, it’s full of tourists, but since it’s the largest Buddhist temple in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you cannot skip a visit. The temple is designed as a mandala and has nine platforms in total, six square and three circular, topped by a central dome. The temple represents the Buddhist cosmos. Next to a lot of tourists, the temple is also visited by many pilgrims. A pilgrim must walk every platform 7 times, clockwise and from bottom to top. This way, he or she will reach Nirvana; an ultimate state of soteriological release and liberation from rebirths.

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Highest platform of the famous Borobudur

Prambanan
Prambanan is probably just as famous as Borobudur, but this sight belongs to a completely different religion. It’s the largest Hindu temple of Indonesia and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The compound consists of more than 200 temples, but the three main ones are the Trimurti temples; the largest one (47 metres) is dedicated to Shiva, God of Destruction. The two temples next to this one are dedicated to Brahma, God of Creation and Vishnu, God of Preservation. Like Borobudur, visitors should officially enter each temple from the east side and circumambulate clockwise.

The Ijen Volcano
While a lot of people visit Mount Bromo, the most famous volcano of Java, I decided to visit another volcano during our holiday in Indonesia; Ijen. Ijen is one of the few volcano’s with a crater lake. This lake contains a huge amount of sulfur, which supports a mining operation. Miners walk down the crater about twice a day to load the sulfur in baskets and carry it up to the crater rim and down the mountain by hand. This is a very labour-intensive operation, not to mention a very smelly one. When visiting the Ijen volcano, you should wear old, very old clothes. Even after washing them for about 10 times, I could still smell the sulfur! But you will see this is all worth it when you climbed Ijen and are standing at the crater rim and see the sunrise or sunset. The view is just indescribably amazing. And if you have the guts, you can even walk down the crater when it’s dark and see the so-called blue fire, which actually is ignited sulfuric gas.

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Sunset at the top of Ijen, Java

In my next blog, I will continue my trip through Indonesia and give some insights in the interesting culture of Bali.

Love,

Dionne

*Dionne is one of our guest bloggers from the Netherlands, currently living in Den Bosch. In everyday life she works as a marketing-communications professional. She loves to travel to distant destinations, but she also enjoys a city trip closer to home.

These are the 10 most visited cities in the world

In at number one is Hong Kong! Yes, this expats city has topped the charts with 26 million international arrivals in 2015. The report was published yesterday by the Euromonitor’s annual rankings. It beat Bangkok, which saw 18.8 million international tourist arrivals. One thing is for sure, Asia is a popular Continent! Here is the full list of the most visited cities!

1. Hong Kong 26.7m
2. Bangkok 18.7m
3. London 18.6m
4. Singapore 16.9m
5. Paris 15m
6. Macau 14.3m
7. Istanbul 12.4m
8. New York 12.3m
9. Kuala Lumpur 12.2

Euromonitor rankings only has 2015 as the most recent year available to be able to create a comprehensive list. Expected is that Istanbul and Paris will vanish of the top 10 list due to the recent events in 2016. Asia will probably still top the list when the new report comes out next year. Hong Kong is doing so well not only because it’s a perfect layover between many Asian countries but the city is vibrant, has a growing food culture (not just in Chinese food) and 70% of the city is green and great for hiking. Read our DimSum report about Hong Kong.

Elke in Hong Kong
In Hong Kong 

The cities with the largest growth are:

  1. Osaka, Japan – 52 per cent rise in visitor numbers
  2. Kyoto, Japan – 48%
  3. Chiang Mai, Thailand – 40%
  4. Tokyo, Japan – 35%
  5. Agra, India – 28%
  6. Delhi, India – 26%
  7. Mumbai, India – 26%
  8. Milan, Italy – 18%
  9. Mecca, Saudi Arabia – 17%
  10. Pattaya, Thailand – 17%

Source: www.telegraph.co.uk

Love,

Elke

Laos: a little piece of Southeast Asian heaven

Laos, located cozily in between Thailand, Cambodia, China, Myanmar and Vietnam, is often one of the South East Asian countries that’s left un-visited when traveling this to part of the world. And that’s a shame, because Laos is a true gem and one of the cheapest countries to travel in. This is my Laos Top 3

Been there, Don Det
Don Det is a small island located in the south of Laos, close to the Cambodian border. The island is well-known for its beautiful scenery and relaxed hippy vibe. Staying in one of the bungalows on the island means going back to basic with cold showers and toilets that can only be flushed with a bucket. The relaxed vibe on this island is very contagious and soon you’ll be unwinding in a hammock with a fruit shake (or something more sedating) in your hand. For those who find it hard to sit still cheap bikes can be rented all over the island to go for a ride and explore the breathtaking waterfalls.

Don Det Waterfalls

Soaring through the jungle with the Gibbon Experience
If you’re up for a little more action after being completely rejuvenated at Don Det travel all the way north to go on The Gibbon Experience (www.gibbonexperience.org). Sleeping in the worlds highest tree houses, flying through the Lation jungle on a zipper-line and hiking through beautiful woods while contributing to preserving everything that surrounds you. That’s the Gibbon Experience. Of all my travels this is by far one of the most amazing things I’ve done. Make sure you make a booking in advance as the Gibbon Experience is often fully booked.

Laos

Oui oui, Luang Prabang
Luang Prabang (from where you can get on the night bus to the Gibbon Experience) is a town where French influences decorate this charming town everywhere. You can walk through Luang Prabangs enchanting streets or visit one of the many temples. About 40 minutes from Luang Prabang you will stumble upon the Kuang Si Waterfalls which are so greenish blue that you have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Take a swim in these (cold!!) waterfalls or simply walk around and enjoy the surroundings. When you get back to Luang Prabang pay a visit to the market where delicious baguettes and fresh fruit shakes are sold for just under €1,50.

Next to these three highlights Laos has so much more to offer like visiting the Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng or strolling around its capital Vientiane. I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in this partly undiscovered little piece of Southeast Asian heaven :)

Love,

Evelien

*Evelien is one of our guest bloggers who currently travels and lives in Australia. Follow her on Instagram (@eefexplores) or check out her website! All the pictures in this article were shot by Evelien.

RTL Basecamp is looking for Backpackers!

Dreaming of a trip through Asia or would you like to do it again? Well, RTL Basecamp in the Netherlands is looking for backpackers!

RTL Basecamp
So what is RTL Base Camp? It’s a new adventurous travel platform on YouTube that has created other programs like Road To Robinson, Backpackers and Extreme Road Trip. They always look for activities that the viewer has never experienced before and it is a place where boundaries are shifting. The online travel platform takes viewers on a journey around the world and offers an experience never to forget. 

Travel Blogger
This could be you!

They are looking for 2 travel fanatics that would like to travel around Asia for a couple of months. You will receive pocket money and all you need to do is to post 2 video’s a week of your adventures. Your viewers will give you several challenges so your trip will be something you won’t easily forget! Some tips: it will help a lot if you have a YOUTUBE Channel or experience with editing. Besides this, you need to be able to handle the heat (no problem there I guess) and deadlines.

To apply to this dreamjob check the website.

Good luck!

Elke

Walking tall (and blond) in China

I am 1.86 meters tall, that’s 6.1 feet. And I’m also Dutch. The women in the Netherlands are among the tallest women in the world. I totally belong to that category. I wanna share a little bit of my world with you, the world through the eyes of a tall blond woman. A lot of people make remarks about my height. It happens to me all the time; on the street, in a bar, on holiday. For a long time I felt insecure about my appearance. But now I am feeling more secure and proud than ever! Why? It gives me unique moments in unique places in the world. My most special trip where I experienced this was through South China.
What a lot of people don’t know about China is that the nature is just stunning! Their culture and nature is so different and unique. As you know the Chinese love to take pictures and they love tall blond ladies. On the flip-side they also like to spit, they don’t wait in line and their human & animal rights are nothing like we would like them to be. But I still firmly believe you should visit China.

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Famous in China

Shanghai
My trip started in Shanghai . They call it the ‘’Paris of Asia’’ . The city is surrounded by temples, good restaurants (really beautiful ones) and an impressive skyline. Often I had the feeling that the Ming Dynasty was still present, really no shortage of culture here. This city is alive! Don’t forget to go to the club Bar Rouge for a perfect view (entrance for women is free!). There are a lot of expats and foreigners in Shanghai, but they’re still not use to tall blond women like me. The admiration started, in a weird but funny way.

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The impressive skyline of Shanghai

The perks of being a tall Dutch Woman in China
They real adventure began when we  took the plane and train to Zhangjiajie. My little sister joined me for this trip. We felt like celebrities, everybody was staring at us and wanted to take a picture. We ordered the wrong tickets and we had to stand 7 hours in the train. I though OMG! Suddenly the Chinese squeezed in and created two extra seats. Our appearance gave us a seat, food and funny moments. A man talk to me for hours in Chinese, hours later I still good not understand Chinese. But sometimes you just have let it happen and let people talk, and take pictures! I will never forget this ride. We arrived and it was time to climb the Avatar mountains, to visit an old historical town and see the Li River.
I never though the movie Avatar was based on a real landscape but it is! The mountains are not floating in the sky but the mountains in The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park are unique and immense. We climbed to the top, a lot of stairs, but you can also take the cable car (like almost all the Chinese do). We stayed on top of the mountains for one night. It is a bit touristy (a lot of Chinese tourists) but definitely it’s worth to stay and explore more spots. We ate at an interesting restaurant and I said: ‘’Give me the local dish’’. That’s exactly what I got. I got myself a soup with chicken feet. Yes, this is China. Eating chicken feet is a delicacy with the Chinese so try it if you dare! (I chickened out..)

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Avatar?

The Li River
Then it was up to the Li River. We rented a bike and just explored. The next day we took a trip on a bamboo boat, and saw an impressive musical light show on the water in the middle of the mountains. What a dream location for a show. The show is put together by a famous Chinese Director Zhang Yimou and the cast are local Zhuang minority villagers. We stayed at a lovely place in Yangshuo, the Giggling Tree. The owners transformed authentic farmhouses into a guesthouse.

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Even though China and their inhabitants may feel a bit overwhelming, they mean well. They give you food, invite you for dinner and they are grateful they can have a picture with you. Yes, it was a unique and great trip.  Even though nobody speaks a word of English, it was an adventure that I would not have missed for the world. A visit to China has to be on your bucketlist!

Love,

Jolien

*Jolien is one of our guest bloggers living in the Netherlands. She has traveled all over the world and seen countries like India, China, Sri Lanka, Australië and Colombia. You can read about her adventures and tips every month!

Curious about Hong Kong? Read Elke’s mission to find the best Dim Sum here!

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These are the safest countries in the world

Whether we’d like to admit our not, the world has been coping with several new insecurities since 2009 according to the Global Peace Index. With this fact developing worldwide, travelers are seeking after safer destinations as well as feeling save in your own home country. The Global Peace Index has selected 25 countries in their 10th report, that are referred to as the safest countries in the world. 18 of which are European. So how did they select these countries and where should you feel the safest? To start off with, they looked at several points such as respective intrinsic wealth per capita, educational access, criminal justice systems, and social welfare. No, not just terrorism. (even though it has affected many countries over the last few years)

Scandinavia
Having all three of its most prominent constituent nations (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark) among the 25 safest countries in the world, Scandinavia has to be considered the safest region. Iceland and Finland aren’t officially part of Scandinavia but you can kind of consider them to be, then it would be 5 safe countries within one region and this is pretty impressive to say the least. People from Scandinavian countries are among some of the happiest people on the planet so that might count for something too.

Shopping in Stockholm
Feeling good in Sweden

Asia
This might surprise you but Asia is doing pretty well, even though the Asian countries represented are fairly small. Their the second-best represented region in the top 25 safest countries in the world. Some violations are paid with a high price in Asian countries, like it’s even forbidden to sell chewing gum in Singapore in order to keep the streets clean. Somehow this works over there and people play by the rules, making the crime rate lower.

The list
So you’re all wondering where to plan your next (safe) adventure to right? Nice to know that plenty of beautiful countries with a lot of sunshine made it to the list. The largest improvement in the region was recorded by Portugal, which built on gains last year to rise nine places to fifth globally.

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We are 2 happy campers in Portugal

RankCountryGlobal Peace Index
1Iceland1.192
2Denmark1.246
3Austria1.278
4New Zealand1.287
5Portugal1.356
6Czech Republic1.360
7Switzerland1.370
8Canada1.388
9Japan1.395
10Slovenia1.408
11Finland1.429
12Ireland1.433
13Bhutan1.445
14Sweden1.610
15Australia1.465
16Germany1.860
17Norway1.500
18Belgium1.528
19Hungary1.534
20Singapore1.535
21Netherlands1.541
22Poland1.557
23Mauritius1.559
24Slovakia1.603
25Spain1.604

To learn more about the report and to see the full list of 163 countries, please check here.
So, is your country on the list and more importantly, where do you feel save?

Love,

Elke

Obsession » The Pillow Room

What began with a trip through India and across Asia, resulted in a beautiful pillow collection. Creative director Sanne Poot was decorating her house in Singapore when she came up with the idea. She couldn’t find any nice pillows that suited her new house so she decided to make her own. She got so many positive reactions on it, that she decided to start The Pillow Room. 

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It certainly helped that Sanne has a background in fashion. She used to work for fashion brand Love Stories. Her love for fashion and style really shows in her first pillow collection. All the pillows are handmade in India and each pillow takes around 8 hours to make. Sanne makes sure her pillows are created by carefully checked factories, so she makes sure that no child labour and bad conditions apply. This is one of her main objectives. “we visited all our factories to make sure nothing shady is going on, this is extremely important to us”


Loving this colorful design!

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Some of the styles available online

The Pillow Room
Feeling tropical with pillow’s from The Pillow Room

There are pillow’s for everyone’s taste, from elegant and stylish to colorful The pillow’s are available in all 7 Bijenkorf stores, Anna & Nina, Six & Sons and Biggles plus some cute boutique stores throughout the Netherlands. Not around? No worries, you can buy them online from today onward! The pillow’s go from €29 to €89 depending on the size. We’re obsessed, no question!

The Pillow Room
www.the-pillowroom.com

Love,

Elke