Uncharted Traveller

Author - Uncharted Traveller

Going somewhere to see nothing

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“I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something….” Richard, The Beach.

That photo was a happy time at Luxor, Egypt in 2014 but I began this year with food poisoning – five days horizontal staring up at the ceiling fan. When it was over, I finished writing in the afternoon and went straight to the train station to get out of Bangkok.

What is it that’s so satisfying about going somewhere? And maybe not even knowing where that somewhere is? Why do we travel? Is it just to escape routine or maybe just to run away from reality for a while?

I boarded the sleeper train to Northern Thailand. The illness and chaos of Bangkok had taken far more than I had to give and now all I wanted for was to wake up somewhere new.

That somewhere would be in the bottom bunk of second class with the sound of a train shuffling along and a thick jungle outside the window. As I watched the first light of morning creep down through the tree’s, I thought back to how me and my mother would watch recordings of Michael Palins “Around the World in 80 Days”. That must have been where it all began, I was a small child back then and was always mesmerized by these train journeys through India in particular. The distant voices, the exotic scenery, the wonder.

I sat up looking out the window and took stock of what was happening. Distant voices chattered while an oriental flavour travelled along the carriage and the scenery became even more unrecognizable as the train kept hurdling further into the jungle. I thought to myself how we could never have imagined back then, that one day I’d be living the life we used to record on the television. The voices, the scenery, that same wonder was still there.

I used to believe that travel was all about the attractions and seeing as many places as possible but actually, when I think about the importance of going somewhere now, I see little importance of the destination. To be honest, I don’t think we ever really go somewhere to see anything at all. We just travel to see how it feels.

Experiencing the wonder of North Vietnam travel

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Waking up on a sleeper train is just about the most romantic travel notion I have ever experienced. Footsteps begin to patter through the carriage as first light touches the windows, and the soothing sound of the railway tracks continue in the same rhythm as they had throughout the night. I wonder where we are ?  I wonder what’s outside the window ? I wonder what great experiences are in store today?

After a peaceful night on the train and a luscious drive from the station up into the hills the next morning, visiting Sapa in North Vietnam feels like arriving at the last frontier against the mountains in which the Northern hill tribes live today. It’s very much a tourist town but nonetheless, it’s a intriguing mix of culture and modern influence, with a huge influx of Western travelers exploring the popular Can Cau Market as it sprawls it’s way toward the nearby river.

However, when it comes to North Vietnam travel it’s all about the outdoors, trekking and interaction with hill tribes in the region. It doesn’t take long until you begin to feel the full weight of the experience as you trek away from Sapa, and into the remote hill tribe villages of Vietnam Lao Chai & Ta Van. Rice fields and tiny villages string their way along the most incredible landscapes and it’s a very insight into traditional living to watch the Black H’mong, and Dzay people as they go about their daily lives. That being said, while it is a humbling process to see how many of the locals live in this part of the world, it is still nice to go back to the comfort of a hotel after trekking for the day.

Variety is always an important aspect to any great adventure and the next day, the Tam Duong Market provided an incredible fusion of color and character, with hill tribes from every region descending on the Ban Hon Village markets where they sell their craft and produce. There are also many photograph opportunities throughout the day, with the stunning Tram Ton Pass & Silver Waterfall being a hugely memorable sight.

Taking a tour to Sapa from Hanoi and meeting the hill tribes is just about the most authentic experience you can have in North Vietnam travel and you can be sure when you wake the next morning on the return leg of the train from Hanoi from Sapa, you will be left with even more wonder, than when you arrived in this enchanting part of the world.

Viet Bamboo Travel offer the best tour from Hanoi to Sapa which involves a 3 night stay, a tour guide and all of the above.

Explore Bali in Luxury with Flag in the Sand

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Experience the alluring splendour of a luxury trip to Bali, a beach paradise infused with luxury villas, delectable foods, and enchanting ancient temples. From the white powdered sands of Seminyak Beach, the elegant palm trees swaying in the breeze, the secluded villas and personal touches which make all the difference, the stunning sunsets over the Indian Ocean, the exquisite taste of grilled snapper à la Jimbaran and the wonder of Uluwatu Temple as it sits perched up high on a dramatic cliff side.

Explore off the beaten track in style and unwind in some of the most picturesque landscapes in the world. Bali will leave you refreshed, recharged, and in awe of everything this magical island has to offer.

Bringing luxury concierge to travel

Flag in the Sand are a luxury travel and lifestyle concierge company who focus on the fine details which make all the difference on a luxury tour to Bali, from the perfect flight itinerary, to private laundry service, specific destination advice, and even providing clients with a personal mobile phone upon arrival. Flag in the Sand leave no stone unturned, and such meaningful extras genuinely shine through on this amazing luxury tour to Bali.

Travelling in style to Bali is an experience in itself with seat upgrades for extra legroom and a private VIP line at immigration in Ngurah Rai airport but nothing can take away from the luxury accommodation waiting on the other end.

The Beach House consists of meticulously designed one bedroom villa’s located next to Seminyak Beach, the infamous stretch of golden sand with a trendy nightlife and endless charming boutiques. Words cannot accurately describe the superior nature of this incredibly luxurious accommodation and with a private swimming pool, private kitchen and comfortable lounge, the Villa’s make for a perfect escape to complete privacy and to unwind in idyllic surroundings.

Flag In the Sand local experts will always be on hand to ensure an entirely seamless travel itinerary and any additional needs. Whether it be an organized tour, reservations a recommended restaurant or even just a local shopping trip.

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Visit Ancient civilization in Bali

Another highlight on this tour of Bali, are the many ancient attractions around the island such as Pura Luhur Ulu Watu (also known as Uluwatu Temple) and Pura Tanah Lot. The first of these is a beautiful temple on the Bukit Peninsula which is located high up on a dramatic cliff side with stunning views of the ocean and lush surroundings which feature many local monkeys. Pura Tanah Lot is on the opposite side of the island and while it is often frequented by crowds of tourists, it makes for a serenely beautiful sight at sunset which makes a visit here most worthwhile. Once more, local experts are always on hand to explain the history, architecture and culture of these special locations along with ensuring a safe trip between each destination.

In the very heart Bali you will also discover the culture capital of Ubud which delights visitors with attractive streets full of intimate café’s and art galleries, while a trip to Celuk village later on is an amazing insight into the local silver trade with a wide range of hand crafted jewellery on display in this charming authentic village.

Taste the local culture

And then there is the sensational food and world class restaurants, no visit to Bali would be complete without tasting the local dishes and experiencing the beautiful setting in each of these fine restaurants around the island, handpicked by Flag in the Sand travel experts. The grilled snapper “à la Jimbaran” in the Jimbaran Bay Seafood Café and blue fin tuna in Mozaic Restaurant are two favourites amongst the fine variety of food on offer, while the glorious view from Mejekawi restaurant on Seminyak beachfront is just an example of the fine setting you can expect to surround your evening meals.

Bali is a photographer’s dream, a tasting bonanza, a haven for relaxation and a land with endless interesting attractions. Yet while it may seem and sound like a uniquely fascinating destination, nothing could ever outshine the enchanting nature of this magical place, as seeing Bali for yourself with Flag in the Sand.

You can find more details for this Luxury tour to Bali by contacting Flag in the Sand directly.

Take Advantage of These 5 Travel Card Perks

Travel card perks

In many ways, I learnt as much from customers during my time as a consultant, than I did whilst training to become a “travel expert”.

In all my time working as a Travel consultant in Calgary, Canada there were many tricks, tips and secrets I learnt along the way with regard to booking airfare or getting the most out of travel savings, but this was never more so the case than when I discovered the huge advantages of travel card perks and having not just one Aeroplan credit card, but several of the best travel credit cards.

Naturally, I met clients from all backgrounds and each of them enjoyed a varying degree of comfort but regarldess of this, most of the frequent travellers knew exactly how to be shrewd when it came to taking advantage of the Aeroplan cards which offered the biggest rewards. Whether it was the backpacker who usually sought the lowest price or the high flying business man who wanted nothing but the best airlines and upgrades, the frequent traveller always knew exactly how to get the most incredible rewards on their travels, with a minimal amount of effort.

In many ways, I learnt as much from customers during my time as a consultant, than I did whilst training to become a “travel expert”, and these encounters, along with a huge amount of “insider information” served only to help me to understand, and then identify, the best travel credit cards in the entire industry.

For example, Many travel cards in Canada require you to spend a specific amount within the first few months, but did you know that you that this is not the case with TD’s Aeroplan Infinite Visa? As long as you activate the card by using it to purchase and keep it open for 90 days, it’s yours!

Already have an Aeroplan credit card?, Get another.

Likewise, another incredible way to amass a serious number of Aeroplan points, is by having more than one card. An ex client brought this to my attention when he showed me his two American Express Gold Rewards Credit Card, why did he have two?

Put simply, you receive 25,000 air miles for free when you activate an AMEX travel card and if you apply for a second card, you will receive an additional 25,000 air miles. I need to also point out that these air miles are permanent regardless as to when or if you use the card after they have been activated.

Sound too good to be true? Well it’s not, and there’s also no risk involved with the strategy.

Morale of the story: If you plan on taking a trip anytime soon, it would make sense to start checking out the best Aeroplan travel cards on the market and then get signed up with little effort, to star reaping the rewards.

You can find a list of the best aeroplan credit cards in Canada here.

Don’t listen to them, You Are Good Enough

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“There was no thought process. It was just dark, very dark. The possibility of having to speak with another person was too much so I avoided the bars and was instead sitting on the floor finishing another beer. The decision to stay at an expensive hotel was a last ditch effort to feel better and I was sitting on the ground because it felt like a pathetic thing to do. It was easier to feel sorry for myself that way.

The carpet was cold as I leaned back up against the bed staring into space and the curtains were open for the lonely city lights to make their way in to the room. I wondered if anyone I knew had ever felt this low before. It was devastating.”

This paragraph is an extract from the book and describes the Cape Town hotel room I stayed in one year prior to when I decided to spend one year riding a bicycle alone through Africa (2014). It also goes some way to explaining the real truth behind starting the trip outside a Cape Town hotel rather than anywhere else.

I had never told anyone this as I was already busy listing to everyone telling me not to go to Africa on a bicycle, that it was dangerous, unknown or too big but simply put, I had chosen to return to the Africa because it was the scene of a nervous breakdown and this felt like the right way to face my personal demons and begin piecing myself back together. It was wishful thinking but in the end, it actually happened.

I arrived in Bangkok this week and this was another place I visited around that time when things continued to spiral out of control. All I can say right now is that everything looks very different to before and I could never have imagined the sequence of events over the past two years which have brought me to the point of feeling this way now.

I think it’s important to use this experience to reach out for anyone who may either be in a dark place of their own this new year or simply not know where they want to go in life. I was there, in fact I would still be there had it not been for all the support from so many unexpected places and the simple choice I made to stop feeling like a victim.

Finally, I had no real reason to believe any of this was possible but the fact that I am here right now has proved otherwise and so I hope that whatever it is you want this year, whether it be something or someone, that you realize you are in fact good enough and it can in fact happen if you only decide that it should.

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Ditched at the altar, Decides to travel the world

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Can you imagine? The big day is approaching and you’re feeling nothing other than a mixture of excitement and nerves; wondering where the next chapter of your life will take you? And he calls it off just days before.

Katy Colins (30) was that girl.  Her fiance pulled out of the wedding at the last minute and she was left feeling alone, confused and…….she had had enough. Katy ditched her job, sold her car and house, and decided to go travelling alone for the first time.

Not only that, but when she travelled around South East Asia, India and South Africa – she wrote and published a book about it all!

Imagine, one moment you’re about to get married, settle down and get serious; the next your hanging out on a sleeper train in the middle of a jungle.

I know which one I would prefer, Just sayin’!

Online Media: Travelling Africa has never been easier

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I first travelled to Africa back in 2008. The scenery was much the same as it is now, but the social landscape has changed with the rise of the internet, and the smart phone in particular, has grown drastically since then. I guess it’s always easy to be nostalgic but thinking back, it’s hard to believe I managed to get from one place to another without access to the online world we have today and it probably wasn’t such a great idea either, to be travelling along without any idea as to recent travel warnings or the latest on Drumbeat news.

It hasn’t changed all that much in terms of scenery, but taking a trip around Africa is more easy now, than it ever has been.

It’s not that Africa is “dangerous” but rather that it can be a difficult place to travel when nobody speaks English, when there are no road signs, when there are no buses going your direction on any given day and when you can’t get a straight answer for something as simple as the rate of exchange.

It’s also not wise to be travelling into areas without any prior knowledge in terms of whether there is any recent conflict or significant events; on one particular trip, I took a bus from Tanzania up through Kenya, completely unaware that Al Shabab had been initiating terrorist attacks in the areas. It was fortunate to have travelled without incident but in hindsight, it wasn’t very wise.

In hindsight, I genuinely believe that if I had access to modern online resources back then such as maps or travel advice, the trip would have been so much easier, not to mention a lot safer. So having now travelled extensively around the world, I can say that I no longer travel without access to certain resources anymore and by staying up to date with Google maps, currency exchange apps or up to date travel news in Africa; with the help of online media, travelling through Africa has never been easier.

Kananaskis Country: Escaping into the Cold

Kananaski Country

“ I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for, ’cause it’s not where you go. It’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something, and if you find that moment… it lasts forever”

Leonardo di Caprio, The Beach.

Winter can seem like an unpleasant time all over Canada. It teaches people to hide within the underground walkways of Toronto, to despise getting out of bed on dark Calgary mornings, and then dread leaving their working day behind in Winnipeg, for to go back out into the cold again.

Things is, as explained in a recent interview with Corporita Magazine, most Canadian’s choose a sun vacation for a Winter break as a means to escape this harsh weather, when actually, it’s not so much the cold that everyone is hoping to leave behind, but rather the lack of adventure and routine that can accompany city life.

Truth is, a Winter getaway in Canada is not only a less expensive idea but also an experience which allows you to appreciate the simple things in life and to do so in such a way that you could never learn on a sun bed in Mexico.

Leaving the routine for Winter

For anyone who has never been; the stillness of a morning in Kananaskis Country is enough to remove every single thought of Puerta Vallarta from even the most cynical of minds. Snow covered peaks provide the backdrop in the Rocky mountains and as the icy lakes begin to crack at first light, the fresh cool air serves only to emphasize that beautiful feeling when you get lost in a moment.

Because that’s really what escaping is all about; it’s about leaving the routine behind in search of that elusive feeling you get when visiting somewhere as breathtaking as the Kananaskis Wilderness.

The towns of Banff and Canmore are two places to stay near Kananaskis where comfort, ruggedness and adventure meets nature, where the embers of a fireside bring warmth after a day on the mountain and where the hiking trail outside the window, will see you rising with the sun to explore the frozen world outside some more.

Moral of the story: Kananaskis Country will make you feel alive but more importantly, it will leave you with a deep appreciation for being part of the Country on your doorstep and thankful that paradise is everywhere in life, even when it’s cold.

Ps. You can find all the best travel inspiration for more getaways in the online corporate magazine in Canada mentioned above.

Brisbane: UK tourist missing after “Drunken Stunt”

Photo by Grayline.com

A British tourist has vanished after jumping of the downtown bridge in Brisbane, into the river below.

Police reports suspect the man jumped off the bridge as a “drunken stunt” after the 30 year old man had spent Sunday evening socializing with friends.

Police officer Sean Cryer has confirmed that 4 men had been drinking in a downtown hostel when the man agreed to jump off the bridge as part of a dare.

“The young man in question … jumped off the bridge first,” he said.

“The other three fellows said he took a running jump from three or four metres away — jumped over the rail.

“They observed him go into the water, he came back up again a few seconds later, rolled on his side, went back under the water and he hasn’t been seen since.”

An extensive search party commenced following the incident.

“We’ll continue our search and rescue search until we find him,” said Inspector Cryer.

“Obviously jumping off a bridge into a river is a silly thing to do, and we’d warn against it.”

Police divers are expected to join the crew, with it having returned no leads until this point.

The parents of the British tourists have also been contacted but they are still trying to notify relatives in Australia.

Australia: Aggressive man restrained on flight by air marshall

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Simon Bowen was taking a group of students from Perth to Sydney on Sunday morning, when the incident happened.

To the passengers and staff on-board the airline it came as quite a shock, when a man became “abusive” and “violent” just a half hour into the journey.

Mr Brown, advised ABC 720 that he had requested a drink quite loudly which the staff denied and from here, the man become increasingly abusive toward the staff.

The incident escalated until apparently, punches were thrown toward nearby passengers, until a couple of people managed to get hold of the man.

“[While they were] holding the fellow, the stewardess shouted and they did have an air marshal on board who was absolutely superb in the calmness.” said Simon Brown.

The air marshal was left with no option other than to restrain the man with handcuffs for the rest of the 4 hour trip to Sydney an when they arrived, the Australian Federal Police boarded to escort the aggressive man off the plane. of the flight.