A beginner’s guide to the Islands of Hawaii

Dramatic landscapes, laid back vibes and doing the hula – it could only be Hawaii! This tropical cluster of islands is an all-year round destination with volcanic beaches, epic surf, lush rainforest and extremely friendly locals.

Not sure which island to head to or fancy the whole shabang?

No worries – It’s pretty easy and inexpensive to fly between the islands, each one possessing its own unique identity to win you over. Want to walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs, get amongst Hawaii’s surf scene and more? Read on to find out which Hawaiian Island is your perfect match. Tropical shirt at the ready!

Kauai

Known as The Garden Island, Kauai is made up of lush green jungle, impressive waterfalls and like a lot of Hawaii those oh-so-dreamy beaches. And with a tiny population of only 65,000, you really get that desirable ‘own slice of paradise’ sensation.

Kauii is home to one of the world’s most spectacular and unique coastlines, the Na Pali Coast, with towering sea cliffs and cascading waterfalls (seriously, Google it). To get up close and personal with this coastline, set off on a hike along the Kalalau Trail, take a sunset boat trip, or if you’re splashing the cash catch an open-door helicopter ride to experience a whole new perspective to this natural wonder.

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Maui

Maui is an addictive combo of jaw-dropping scenery, picture-perfect beaches and a vibrant food and drink scene. Kickstart your trip with a wander along the historic Front Street, grab a Pina Colada and dig into delicious food overlooking those rolling Hawaii waves.

Explore the dramatic black sand beach of Waianapanapa on a day trip along Hana Highway. A bit of an adventure junkie? Go cliff jumping at Waioka Pond (known as the Venus Pools) and take the scenic hiking trail that finishes at Twin Falls.

No Maui trip is complete without a visit to Haleakala National Park. This moon-like landscape genuinely feels like you’ve landed on a different planet. Head to the lookout point at sunrise for impressive panoramic views or if you’re feeling active, go hiking along the Sliding Sands Trail. Top tip – get there early to have the place to yourself!

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Oahu

Oahu is the most populated Island of Hawaii and attracts the highest number of visitors each year. Indulge in a little glamour and lounge at Waikiki Beach before hitting up the area’s buzzing night scene. Walk off next day’s hazy head with a hike up the popular trail to Diamond Head and take in sweeping views of Honolulu.

For an easy-going chilled out atmosphere, drive up to the North Shore stopping off for a feast at one of the iconic shrimp trucks YUM. The North Shore is home to some of the best surf opportunities in the world – sit back and watch the pro’s as they hang ten or grab a board and have a surf lesson of your own!

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Big Island

The perfect destination for someone seeking adventure, active volcanoes, those all-important white sandy beaches and TURTLES! The big island is BIG, so you’ll need to spend more time here than other islands if you want to see it all.

A must see is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, an international biosphere reserve and World Heritage site. It’s a chaotic landscape of geological marvels and endangered ecosystems, all marshalled by gangs of feral pigs.

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Get to know the local marine life as you kayak with dolphins, join a night dive with majestic manta rays in Kona and see turtles in Kiholo bay.

Envisioning yourself in Hawaii paradise? We don’t blame you. Well until you book your flights, pack your bag and make that dream a reality, see it through the eyes of UK band Skinny Living as they take on Oahu, Hawaii! 

West is best! Why you should work abroad in Western Australia

Oh Western Australia with your expansive coastline, dreamy white beaches all to yourself, red rock gorges and cuddly quokkas. You’re beautiful it’s true, but what’s it gonna cost us? We can’t all galivant around the world without putting in some elbow grease so how do we earn money when we’re there?

Western Australia is full of opportunity, it’s a great place to work AND travel. You can earn enough pennies to check off everything on your WA bucket list while fully immersing yourself into the Aussie way of life and making some new friends along the way too.

Still need convincing? We caught up with travel addicts Lucie, Josh and Alex after they took on the ultimate working holiday in Western Australia…

What did you learn about Western Australia?

Josh – It’s difficult to put Western Australia into words. I couldn’t believe how incredibly big and diverse the place was. From the beaches and marine life, red rock formations to forests of giant trees. It literally blows your mind every day. You will never understand the scale until you go and experience it for yourself.

Alex – I learnt why a lot of my friends live in WA – there’s so much to do and the day is only getting started once you finish your job. Also, you don’t have to spend a fortune, national parks, chilling on the beach and of course surfing are all normally free! Outside living at its best!

Lucie – Out of all of the places I’ve been so far WA has been my favourite, and I’m not just saying that! There are so many unique activities to do and the lifestyle is so different to the UK. I also didn’t realise the variety of work we could do. Organic farming, working with turtles and even a job in a chocolate factory – jobs that actually don’t feel like work at all.

western australia

Was there anything you didn’t expect or surprised you about Western Australia?

A – I never knew there was so much wildlife to see there. The Coral Coast is awesome for seeing turtles, dolphins, sting rays, whale sharks and so much more.

shark bay

L – Wow are the people nice! Every person you chat to or ask advice would be so welcoming and willing to help. We met some amazing people and great friends we will keep in contact with until next time for sure.

J – We never realised how hot it gets in the Lancelin desert! Also, how easy it is make friends in hostels and hotels there, there’s so many like-minded people in the same situation as you. Travelling is a contagious bug that seems to bring positive happy and interesting people together.

What were your favourite moments?

J – It’s hard to choose! A lot of my favourite memories were on the long road trips where we stopped to take in some insane views. I will never forget the night we stayed in a hot tub and sat star gazing in the middle of Cape Peron National Park until the early hours.

L- Thinking about the whole trip makes me want to cry with happiness as it was probably the best one in my whole life. Picking out my favourite moments is super hard! I’m a big animal lover so seeing all the cute quokkas on Rottnest Island was a highlight for sure. Also WA is a surfer’s dream with long, uncrowded stretches of beach and the waves are all yours. Conquering my fears and jumping out of a plane has got be up there too!

A –Waking up to beautiful weather every morning has got to be one! As experiences go, the highlight for me was the sunset helicopter tour over Perth and over to Rottnest. A once in a lifetime opportunity to see the fascinating city from above.

rottnest island

And the worst/ funniest…?

A – It has to be the pinnacles. A beautiful spot that we returned to later in the trip, but so much went wrong the first-time round! The cameras were malfunctioning and we were misplacing our stuff left right and centre, some of us found it more funny than others (Lucie) however we got out alive and returned later for a WA staple – the sunset.

J – Running out of petrol miles and miles from Cervantes. It’s such a vast area you have to be so prepared. The funniest…. well that’d take forever, we had a month of constant fun! It was a joke! I want to do it all over again.

L – The worst part was I had to come home! WA was mind blowing and really wish I could have spent more time there exploring.

What advice would you give to someone else thinking about a working holiday in Western Australia?

L – Definitely plan your trip! Get a planner and write down all the experiences and places you want to visit then do some research and scope out a route. That way you’re more likely to make the most of this beautiful part of the world and get to see and do everything you’d dreamed of.

A – WA has so much to offer. There’s a job to suit anybody and a ridiculous amount of activities to do, whether you have some time off and travel the coast or just want something to do in the evening Western Australia has got you.

J – Prepare yourself for an adventure of a lifetime! Australia is like no other and I am so happy and humbled to have experienced all it has to offer. I’d recommend it to anybody who fancies a change of scenery and to escape the gloomy British weather.

eagle bay

Feeling inspired? Find out more on how to work AND travel in Western Australia and the jobs Lucie, Josh and Alex tried and tested here >

The travel Yin and Yang of South America

What kind of a traveller are you?

If your idea of the perfect trip is a slow and easy ride, with time to think, chill out and disconnect a little, then South America is the ideal place to get in touch with that inner ‘Yin’.

Or if you’re more boots on, geared up to explore and why sleep when you can Latino dance until dawn, then this diverse continent is a dream destination for the ‘Yang’ adventurer and self-confessed night-owl.

So are you more yin or yang or a perfect mix of the two? Read on and find out…

YIN

Be at one with the Amazon, Ecuador

Get off the grid and into Quichua village life in the mighty Amazon. Swim in rainforest waterfalls, learn about healing medicinal plants, and glide by canoe to an animal rescue centre. Good travel karma, guaranteed.

 

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Take me to the jungle : Amazon tour 

Chase the sunset, Ilha Grande – Brazil

It’s hard not to move at speed zero when you’re on the pristine, no cars allowed island of Ilha Grande. Spend days snorkelling the Blue Lagoon, swinging in hostel hammocks and chilling on world-famous Lopes Mendes beach, with little to worry about other than whether you’ve chosen the right spot to watch the spectacular sunsets.

 

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Ready for speed zero?  Read more

Have a Nama-stay, Torres del Paine – Chile

Usually known for its wild weather and the hardcore 50 mile W Trek (W standing for windy. No, not really), Torres del Paine also has its fair share of Zzzzz moments. Strike an eagle pose in this Patagonian paradise, with daily yoga sessions, meditative lakes and breathtaking mountain tops. We’re feeling zen just thinking about it… ommmmm.

 

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Hang with the hippies, El Bolsón – Argentina

A hippie hangout since the 70s, this slice of bohemia nestled in Argentina’s Lake District is Yin heaven. Browse the artisan market, drop a beat in a drumming circle, and climb Piltriquitrón Mount to The Carved Forest – a magical outdoor gallery where local artists have carved wooden sculptures into the hillside.

 

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Sleep amongst the canopy, Manaus – Brazil

Get back in tune with you and nature as you travel by canoe deep into the jungle and uncover your new home, the eco-friendly Juma Amazon Lodge. Sleep in the treetops, spot endangered pink river dolphins, fish for piranhas and learn about the Amazon. Daily activities are arranged in small groups to have minimal impact on the forest as well as provide a truly personal experience.

 

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Fulfill your tree house fantasies? Contact us for more info

Avocado Beach! Capurganá – Colombia

Any island that names a beach after the mighty avo is a yes from us! Situated off Colombia’s Caribbean coast, seek relaxation on this tropical, remote gem of an island. Take a leisurely stroll through lush rainforest that opens onto views of blue ocean and those all-important white sandy beaches. Hungry? Pick up a handful of unique fish empanadas sold at local street stalls.

 

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YANG

Be an alternative adventurer, Machu Picchu – Peru

Get your adrenaline pumping and take on a different path to Machu Picchu than the traditional Inca Trail with the Jungle Trek. Trek through high mountain passes, cycle along ancient Inca pathways, zipline through the jungle canopy and raft along rapids. Yang heaven. Or Yin hell, depending on how brave you’re feeling.

 

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Machu Picchu i’m coming for you!  See tour

Shake it out, Rio Carnival – Brazil

Be absorbed by the infectious carnival fever as you dance day and night to the beats of Brazil. From lively street parties to the Sambadrome parade, this is something you won’t forget in a hurry (unless you had one too many caipirinhas, eek!)

 

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Ready to party? Read more

Swim with sharks, Galápagos Islands – Ecuador

Think the only way to see the Galápagos Islands is by boat? Think again. Get closer to the action as you camp in the thick of it. Hike to the summit of Sierra Negra volcano, explore lava tunnels and opt to swim with sharks and manta rays.

 

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Brave shark infested waters: See tour

Hike in Patagonian paradise – Chile

One of the greatest places to don your trusty walking boots and traverse the wilderness one step at a time. From hiking through the beauty of Torres del Paine with snowy peak views and an abundance of wildlife, to ice-trekking on the imposing Perito Moreno Glacier – Patagonia is nothing short of iconic.

 

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Boot ons. I’m ready! Read more

Surf’s up, bottoms up, Montanita – Ecuador

A party town in Ecuador with a surfing problem? This is THE place to go if you want to surf some of the best waves in South America and rave on the beach until the early hours. Every good night starts from the aptly named Cocktail Alley – a narrow street with just about every cocktail you could imagine.

 

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Biking Death Road, Coroico – Bolivia

Cheat death by cycling this epic trail. With impressive views across the Amazon (admittedly pretty hard to focus on because you’re cycling next to a 1,000 metre drop!) and 40 miles of downhill riding this adventure isn’t for the fain hearted. Just make sure you test those breaks work beforehand.

 

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No matter your travel type South America has got what it takes to leave you fully satisfied.  Find out more about what this incredible continent has to offer as well as some seriously tempting travel deals on our South America Travel guide

Behind the scenes with travel videographers 2018

A travel videographer. Could this be THE dream job?! Embarking on unknown adventures, exploring destinations and new ways of life with the ultimate challenge of capturing a place’s beauty through the lens. We caught up with Thibaud Lomenech, Lars Timmermann and Abigail Green, three independent videographers, to talk about their experience working with STA Travel and Visit The USA. The videographers got sent on three separate adventures to explore different regions of the State: Abigail to Texas, Thibaud to New York State and Lars to the Pacific Northwest. Check out their top tips and highlights below:

So let’s get the technical questions over and done with…

What equipment do you use to shoot your films?

Lars: I always chose my equipment to suit the project. For this film, it had to be easy to set up and light to carry as we were always on the go (Sony A7sii). However, my favourite cameras are made by ARRI.

Abigail: For this project and often in my profession I chose to use RED Raven cameras. It’s great for lightweight travel, handheld shooting and getting a nice RAW image with the RED look.


Do you prefer the actual filming or looking back and editing? Why?

Thibauld: It’s hard to say as both experiences are pretty different in terms of process and sensations. But if we HAD to decide, we would say filming is the best part. Everything’s still possible and everything is live, there’s a real sense of adrenaline in wanting to shoot the right angle at the right time.

L: I prefer filming because you constantly have to come up with solutions on the spot. It’s all about speed and being able to make well-informed and practical decisions quickly. That being said, I’m always amazed at what editors do with my footage in the editing room!

A: One of the most important parts of filmmaking is to understand every part of the process. It’s a lot of fun to be out there filming real people in real situations. But you can also learn a lot when you come back to the editing station and watch the footage without flashing lights, noise, dust and interruptions. Analyzing your own footage teaches you a lot for your next project. So both have their own charm.

If you had to choose one of your favorite pieces of work what would it be and why?

L: Probably my most recent work for AUDI China. It took a lot of effort and brainpower from all departments. 99% of what you see was shot on camera. The sets were all physically built and the film was shot by combining different techniques such as stop-motion animation, puppetry, remote-controlled cars and a special motion control camera system. Fun but very challenging.

Now on to the Travel aspect of filmmaking and how it inspires creativity…

What is it about travel that inspires your work?

T: What inspires me in every country or region I discover is that you rarely find the same thing twice. Whether it’s the light, the sky, the people, every place has its own visual identity. This is what I love about travel, the challenge of transcribing the atmosphere of the places I encounter through imagery.

L: Hearing new stories and meeting interesting people. The experiences I have travelling always end up in my work later somehow.

A: The changing environments, breathing in other countries air and talking to locals to help understand their way of life is very inspiring for me when creating films. Sometimes, it can be as simple as a visual response or being introduced to a new normal. As part of a relatively international filmmaking duo – I am a big believer in just packing a bag and turning up to a new destination and seeing where that takes me creatively.

What was your favourite location on the trip and why?

T: Ah that’s a tough one! But probably Lake Champlain. Even though we weren’t quite able to recreate the moment in the video, sailing across this huge peaceful lake lit up with the amazing natural light was magical. Our Guide helped make the experience truly unique by telling us about the history of the region and showing us all the hidden spots. Thanks Ben!

L: Visiting San Juan Island for sure! The island was beautiful and arriving there by seaplane in the morning was a once in a lifetime experience.

A: We travelled to so many locations it would be impossible to pinpoint just one. Two total opposite destinations we visited however would be: The Mayan ranch, Banderas and Austin. At the ranch we were surrounded by nature (zero internet too) and lived it up like cowboys with horse riding, line dancing, haybale riding and cowboy breakfasts. As for Austin, it’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for ages and the live music, ‘I love you so much’ wall, delicious food and friendly locals lived up to expectations. I’d love to go back again soon!

Did anything surprise you about the area of the US you explored and why?

T: What surprised us about the New York State is that it is so much more than just New York City! Don’t get me wrong, the city is truly mesmerizing. But I didn’t expect the diversity of landscapes, the generosity of the local people and all the activities we were able to do. From the City to Niagara Falls, Albany, Utica, Alexandra Bay, Thousands Islands and the Hudson River… All together, it was an astonishing journey across such a beautiful, welcoming state.

L: I was surprised at how versatile the Pacific North West was. The scenery was constantly changing as we drove along and it also felt incredibly undiscovered. I rarely encountered any tourists which made the experience feel more personal and authentic. I definitely felt like a true adventurer at times!

A: We were constantly pleasantly surprised by how friendly everyone was. We met and spoke with so many different people; from cowboys or cowgirls, to travelling Floridian retirees, to gospel choir singers, to an amazing re-enactment group. Everyone was so excited that we were travelling around the state of Texas and wanted to tell us their story. The first thing we did when we got home was become a walking advertisement for Texas as a vacation destination. We had no idea that there is a vast amount of diversity within the state. One day we were staying on a Mayan ranch, riding horses to a cowboy breakfast accompanied by a guitar player in the forest, and the very next we would be sipping the best wine in a fancy vineyard just an hour down the road. Drive another two hours and you’re in the incredible city of Austin – which is always alive, always open, and always as friendly as can be in the most Texan way possible.

Now you’ve gone behind the scenes, it’s time to see the final cut! Head to our USA Travel guide for the videographers magic and more travel inspiration.

How to get fit, healthy AND explore the world in 2018

You’ve smashed your January health kick, you’re losing that running motivation or you’re keen to get fit but the thought of the gym gives you the heebie-jeebies? If that’s you then we’re here to answer all your health and fitness prayers by getting that pulse pumping combined with our fave hobby – exploring the world! So pack your bags, grab your yoga mat, running shoes and let’s get physical…

Yoga Retreats>      Fitness Bootcamps >        Surf>           Trek>

Yoga Retreats

Delhi, India

Practice your eagle pose whilst gazing upon the River Ganges at the Rishikesh Yoga Retreat. With two lessons a day, delicious veggie cuisine and relaxing massages, you’ll struggle to find a reason to leave! Once you’re all yogi-ed out raise the tempo on a white-water rafting trip from Shivpuri and take a wander around a local Himalayan village for the day.

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Koh Phangan, Thailand

Explore the spiritual side of Koh Phangan with a Yoga and Meditation retreat situated in the oh-so-fancy Sunset Hill Resort. Work on that flexibility and core strength with morning and evening yoga classes before truly unwinding with a meditation sesh. You’ll even get a ‘High Performance Life’ course with feel-good vibes to take away with you when the retreat sadly comes to an end (you can’t make us leaveeee).

Fitness Bootcamps

Mallorca, Spain

For those lacking motivation and encouragement, the Mallorca Fitness Bootcamp will whip you into shape, feel the burn and kickstart that healthy lifestyle! Enjoy unlimited access to an open- air rooftop gym, UF fitness app, bike rental, nature treks and beach volleyball all in a Spanish Island paradise. Hit it hard for one week or stay up to 8 weeks and experience a total fitness transformation. Eat. Sleep. Train. Repeat!

Mallorca

Indonesia

The Mojosurf Flexi Adventure is a dream for those who get bored easy and want to try out the lot. Set in the tropical beach haven of Indonesia, choose to stay in Bali, Lombok or Nusa Lembongan where you’ll feel the motion of the ocean and learn to surf those rolling waves. Fancy changing it up? It’s all wavey baby! Swap your surf lesson for CrossFit, yoga classes, snorkeling with turtles and sunset massages to work out those kinks.

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Phuket, Thailand

Embrace the postcard-perfect beaches of Phuket with a side of high intensity training. The Thailand Fitness Bootcamp offers a range of activities and healthy meal program to get you well on the way to reaching those fitness #goals. Try out spinning, olympic lifting, CrossFit, assault courses and beach runs as well as all eyes on you PT sessions. And if that’s not enough why not give Muay Thai a go, zen out with some yoga and explore your surrounds.

Trekking

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

If you’re craving an adventure, an adventure is certainly what you’ll get if you scale Africa’s highest peak. By day, join fellow explorers and mountaineers as you hike through lush rainforests, alpine deserts and glaciers. By night, sleep closer to the stars than you ever have before.

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Hidden Costa Rica

This luscious land of tropical rainforest, mighty volcanos, hot springs and unique wildlife is a feast for the outdoor explorer. Encounter sloths and marvel at the Nauyaca waterfalls as you wander the Cloud Forest. Head to the Arenal Volcano and hike the many surrounding trails before rewarding yourself with a dip in the hot springs.

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Inca trail, Peru

You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve heard the stories now it’s time to experience this epic trail for yourself! The ancient Inca Trail leading towards Machu Picchu combines jaw-dropping scenery, lush cloudforest, the Amazon jungle, snowy Andes and a mix of Inca ruins. There’s even the chance to spot a Llama or two along the way! With a range of levels and options available, this bucket list destination can be enjoyed by all.

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So get zen, get toned, pick up a new skill or just have a freaking good time with like-minded people on one of our health and fitness retreats worldwide. No more excuses!

We know because we go: our favourite cultural hot spots in Thailand

Thailand… the destination that conjures up images of vivid blue waters, white sandy beaches and well Leonardo in the 90’s with his top off. But, whilst the beaches are next level on the beauty charts, there is so much more to this country than its idyllic southern islands. So, if you’re looking for a travel spot that’s got island hopping as well as jungle, incredible food, waterfalls, temples and then some? We think Thailand could be the one for you!

Still not convinced? Read on for some of the STA Travel crew’s favourite Thailand moments and memories that venture beyond beach bum living.

Kim Durbridge, Senior Digital Marketing Executive

Two words. THE FOOD!

Mr Kai’s in Chiang Mai, which has to be the best restaurant in the whole of Thailand. There’s always a crowd outside, Tables and chairs are set around haphazardly making a super cosy atmosphere. Everything is £2 or less. Be sure to try the northern Thai speciality of Khao Soi – a steaming bowl of tangy red curry sauce full of chicken, veg and soft noodles, topped with naughty crispy noodles. Then head to a cooking class in the area for a chilled afternoon. You get to eat everything you make!

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If you can’t make it to Chiang Mai, head to Sukhumvit’s Soi 38 in Bangkok for the ultimate initiation to street food.

Everyone heads to Thailand for the beaches first off, but it’s the food and bustling market atmosphere that will keep you hooked and returning time and time again.

Shannon Hansen, Travel Expert Western Australia

I fell head over heels for Rawai Beach in the south of Phuket. The hospitality shown at the Rawai Palm Beach Hotel was next level and nearby Nai Hairn Beach was a beach lovers paradise. But beyond this, a must visit is the local market where the fisherman come in every evening to showcase their catch. You get to choose which fish you want, and they’ll cook it for you right there.

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From my month backpacking in Thailand – Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai were my faves. There’s so many colourful temples, delicious thai food and waterfalls to bask in. The Northern hill tribes trek was fantastic, and we got to try some seriously interesting local dishes (fern anyone??).

 

Katie Heward, Digital Designer

I went to Elephant Hills in Khao Sok National Park – where you got to feed & bathe the elephants! But to add to this, you stay right on the lake and can kayak straight off from the deck of your hut. A pretty amazing view to wake up to, or have a beer at sunset listening to the jungle I think you’ll agree?

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Georgie May Birch, Digital Marketing Executive

Daily sunsets washed down with Chang’s on the Thai islands never failed to please, but for me, it was Pai where I felt most at home.

By day, cruise the quiet roads on a moped (helmets please!) in search of the best waterfall to lounge at after stopping off for a big bowl of Thai curry and green papaya salad. By night, sip on fresh watermelon smoothies and listen to the locals rocking out Jazz and Blues. Mmmmm Perfection.

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Daniel Coleman, Store Manager Australia

Kanchanaburi is amazing! It’s a fantastic place to chill out for 3 days after visiting Bangkok.

Many locally owned and run guest houses are located directly alongside the River Kwai and it’s a great spot to try local dishes, rent bikes and explore the surrounding forest. The Erawan Waterfalls are beautiful too and perfect for a wake-up refreshing dip. It’s also close to the three pagodas pass.

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The town itself has a sad history from WW2 with strong Australian connections made famous by the book and film Bridge on the River Kwai. The WW2 museum with an international soldier cemetery is a somewhat sombre experience but provides insight into the history of the region when it was occupied by the Japanese.

Rachael Porter, Digital Marketing Executive

Definitely my first scooter ride to Pam Bok Waterfall & The Land Split in Pai!

Hire a scooter out in the main town, and follow the road signs to the outskirts – the scooter ride itself is a lot of fun (especially if it’s your first time like it was mine) head to Pam Bok Waterfall first which is on the same stretch of road as the Land Split. The waterfall is set in a canyon with a swimming hole below, and there’s some low ledges for cliff jumping. Just chill there for a while and soak up the peaceful nature vibes.

On the way back stop off at the Land Split, which stopped the owner of the land being able to properly farm when it occurred – but he made the site into a tourist attraction to explore and walk through all the nature. It’s the owner who makes the visit – he ushers you to sit down and piles up loads of homegrown goods and drinks and only asks for a small donation. Then you can just lounge around in the hammocks for a while. If you hadn’t realised I love Pai!

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Jessica Uhren, Creative Studio Manager

Sleeping in straw huts with views of the mountains in Pai was a big highlight for me!

But devouring everything in sight with the locals at Chiang Mai‘s forever bustling night markets, green Thai curry for breakfast (you will learn to love this) and snorkelling off the beaches of Koh Tao are pretty well up there on the best moment list too.

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Brendan Martin, Travel Expert Germany

It’s got to be Kanchanaburi for me too.

I spent a few months working there and often found myself in one of the many cool cafes. De’Tal has great smoothies, perfect for cooling down while walking around exploring and 10 O’Clock Cafe has the best cheesecake in all of Thailand! Vegetarians are also well looked after at On’s Thai Issan, a small vegetarian restaurant on the main backpacker strip. On also offers cooking classes with groups and teaches you how to make amazing veggie Thai curries.

There are some amazing temple complexes in the area so it’s worth hiring a Tuk-tuk driver for the day to take you around some of them. The most well-known is Wat Ban Tham, also known as Dragon Temple because the temple’s entrance is through a dragon’s mouth. My favourite temple complex in the area is the beautiful Wat Tham Sua (also sometimes seen as Wat Tum Seu and not be confused with another temple with a similar name in Krabi).

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Alexx Hayward, Global Marketing Executive

As much as I love the big city chaos of Bangkok and the dreamy Koh Tao beaches, my absolute favourite Thailand memory was volunteering with children in the Sangkhlaburi district. It’s pretty far off the beaten track (no Chang singlets to be seen!) and the local make up is super diverse – there’s a huge mix of Karen, Mon, Thai and Burmese ethnicities who all call this place home.

Our volunteer tasks included making bricks, working on a new water pipe and singing along (very badly) to nursery rhymes, and we spent our spare time exploring the huge Buddha statues dotted around the district, sans annoying backpackers with selfie sticks (except for ourselves, of course). Wandering the night market was another highlight, if not a bit tricky with hardly any English menus! Apparently, the desperation for banana roti with custard is something that transcends the boundaries of language. Sangkhlaburi isn’t your usual Thailand travel brochure destination, but for us it was eye-opening and incredibly fulfilling. Totally worth adding to your Southeast Asian adventure!

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So, soak up the tropical beach lifestyle of Thailand with a S­angsom bucket in hand for sure (we have and would do it all again) but don’t miss out on the culture, scenery and history this fascinating country has to throw at you too. Head to our Thailand Travel Guide for even more Thai goodness.

11 destinations to beat Blue Monday

Cheer up chappy! We know it’s Blue Monday but blue is definitely NOT a colour we associate with being down in the dumps. How could it be when you’ve got the Philippines’ turquoise oceans, Santorini’s dome roofs and the mountain city of blue, Chefchaouen?  Here’s our top 11 destinations where you’ll be seeing things with azure tinted glasses.

Chefchaouen, Morocco

A city that’s painted blue, but won’t have you feeling a single shade of it. Wander around the tourist-free narrow alleys in the Medina and pinkie-promise us you won’t leave without trying a cup of freshly made mint tea. It’s known in Morocco to bring you health benefits that will help sip those blues away!

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The Sunday sesh: Perth’s big 5!

Do as the Western Aussies do and say ‘Catch ya’ to snoozy Sundays and hello to Sunday sessions! Whether it’s a go hard or go home (at 10pm) kind of deal, a few beers by the beach or a perfectly crafted cocktail on a rooftop, we’ve broken down our pick of the bunch to show that Perth has got you covered.

1. Cottesloe Beach Hotel, Cottesloe

Deliciously fresh seafood, a glass (or many) of Margaret River wine and some seriously glammed up individuals? This year-round Sunday sesh is a classy affair or at least that’s how it begins!

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2. The Nest at the Aviary, Perth CBD

More city dweller than beach bum? Round off the weekend amongst the skyscrapers at Perth’s largest rooftop bar. A vibrant combo of multi-coloured seating, astro-turf and feel-good vibes from live DJ’s. They even throw in a sky line sunset to ogle at, cocktail in hand.

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3. Ocean Beach Hotel, Cottesloe

After catching a wave on Cottesloe beach and a quick change from ‘thongs’ to shoes join the crowds that swarm to OBH for its banging beats and sundowners. You’ll find the beer garden rammed and kicking off until closing with old school hip-hop and RnB so be prepared to get you dance face on.

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4. Little Creatures, Freemantle

Despite its vast size, be prepared to fight for your seat at this Perth favourite! Ease yourself in with the brewery’s tasting board (one each?) before heading outdoors and digging in to a bowl of their famously moreish fries washed down with a couple of cold ones. You can even have a pre-party on the Qantas flight there and sip on Little Creatures beers up in the air.

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5. Embargo Bar, multiple Perth spots

If drinking in a converted shipping container isn’t edgy enough, Embargo throws in a roof deck, live entertainment and a selection of food trucks to force even the coolest foodie to jump for joy. If you like your booze eclectic and served up with a feast, be sure to check out this touring bar.

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So, if the January blues are getting you down, head for the most sunshine filled town in Australia (3200 hours a year) and ditch Sunday as the day of rest and make it the day of the SESH.

BUT getting to the land Down Under all starts with a lengthy flight (eek). But there’s now no need to hang around in airports… Fly direct to Perth from London Heathrow on a Qantas Dreamliner from 25 March 2018 – making cruising the sky comfortable and spacious with snacks on tap at the bar and a snazzy mood light integrated into the seat. Now THAT we can handle! Fancy exploring two destinations in one? Pit stop at the cultural hot pot that is Singapore on route. 

Head over to our Qantas flight page to browse and grab yourself a deal!

12 quirky festive events from around the world

To some of us, December is all about Mariah Carey Christmas tunes and digesting an obscene amount of food. Yet for others in the world, it’s all about steamy saunas and wearing outrageously bright underwear. In spirit of this, we’ve rounded up our 12 favourite quirky traditions and unique December events from across the globe. So, let’s get the bauble rolling…

1. Oaxaca, Mexico – Night of Radishes

If you thought pumpkin carving was bloody hard, how about trying to carve roses, animals and kings out of radishes? Eek! Noche de Rabanos is thought to have come about when merchants sculpted veg to attract housewives leaving midnight mass. Since then, it’s become kind of a big deal. The impressive vegetable sculptures are displayed in Oaxaca’s Zócalo (the main plaza) and judged on December 23rd, with the winners bagging a cash prize and serious street cred too.

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2. Japan – KFC Xmas day Launched in the 1970s to satisfy foreigners Christmas cravings, queuing up on Christmas Eve to pick up the Colonel’s fried chicken party barrel has now become a popular tradition. With sides, cake and even champagne! Why slave in the kitchen for hours when you could please the fam with a pre-ordered KFC dinner package? Japan, we’ll take note.

 

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3. Iceland – Killer cats What all fashionistas dream of hearing… in Icelandic folklore, it’s believed that unless you get a new piece of clothing for Christmas, you’ll be gobbled up by a huge black cat that scours Iceland come Christmas Eve. So, the more new clothes we receive, the safer we are right? Shopping spreeeee!

4. Philippines – Giant Lantern Festival

Star-shaped, brightly coloured lanterns, or parols, are a Filipino symbol of Christmas and can be seen hung up outside homes, along streets and even on palm trees on the beach. But if you’re looking for the best of the best, head to the Christmas capital, San Fernando City for their epic annual Giant Lantern Festival. Marvel at the individually crafted giant lanterns, made up of thousands of bulbs, twinkle and dance to the accompanying music. And we thought putting the lights around the Christmas tree was a mind-overload…

 

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5. USA – The Running of the Santa’s bar crawl

Watch the streets fill up with Santa lookalikes as they run across the finish line and raise money (and a beer bottle) for local charities. What begun as 40 mischievous, booze craving Santa’s in Philadelphia has developed into a national bar crawl with live bands, a short run and a whole load of drink specials. On your marks, get set, SANTA!

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6. South Africa – Wavescape Surf and Ocean Festival

For one week every December, Capetonian’s get together to celebrate something very close to their hearts: surf and ocean culture. This year, they’re highlighting the creative women of South Africa in a female dominated line-up of ocean-conscious events showcasing the talents of local photographers, activists and scientists. G’wan, ladies!

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7. Estonia – Steamy saunas Preparing the house for family to arrive at Christmas can be a long task. But Estonians know the perfect way to appreciate the calm before the storm and reward themselves for all their hard work: a sauna sesh. So, let’s get hot and steamy and celebrate Christmas Eve the Estonian way.

8. Hawaii – Kauai Festival of Lights Well, it wouldn’t be Christmas without a shed-load of twinkling lights and homemade decs, now would it? This festival began in honour of the awesome Auntie Josie who made Christmas decorations out of recycled materials and opened her ‘Christmas House’ up for visitors to come and marvel at them. Her multi-thousand dollars’ worth of art work can now be viewed by the public at the Historic County Building, as well as their own selection of illuminated Christmas decorations.

 

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9. Colombia – We heart yellow undies

Travelling to Colombia during New Years? Well, we hope you’ve packed your yellow undies because when the clock strikes 12, you’re going to need them! But why? Well according to Colombian tradition, wearing these banana hued briefs will bring wealth and prosperity in the coming year. So, if you’re looking to get rich quick this could be the ticket.

10. New Zealand – National Secret Santa

In New Zealand they’re taking Secret Santa to a whole new level! Since 2010, anyone can enter the national Secret Santa via Twitter and be matched with another twitter user taking part. Participants tweet hints of their interests and what they might like, and then the rest is over to the buyer to nail the perfect pressie. You can even get matched with the Prime Minister or a celeb! Pressurrrre.

TODAY’S THE DAY SANTAS! It’s #NZSecretSanta dispatch day!

Us Elves will be very busy today, so please be extra nice and extra patient with us as we get your presents on their way to you. pic.twitter.com/6q5a6QxtWB

— NZ Secret Santa (@nzsecretsanta) December 17, 2017

 

 

11. Austria – Creepy Krampus

If you’re a bit of a scrooge, perhaps Austria’s Krampus is more your vibe? Santa’s evil companion is a terrifying beast; half goat, half demon with horns, fangs, a chain and bells. So, if you’ve been bad this year jeeez get ready to run for it because according to folklore this guy is headed your way! On December 5th men dressed in Krampus costumes can be seen parading in Austria’s town centres and you can even nibble on a choccie version of the best.

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12. UK – Christmas crackers

When it comes to sitting down at the dinner table to marvel at the in-sane spread of yummy delights before your eyes, the Brits have a bicep twitching task to complete before they dig in – crackers. With the help of the person sat next to you, hold one end and pull open your Christmas cracker to reveal a tacky ASF novelty gift, awful dad joke and paper crown to regal up your Xmas outfit.

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Now you’re a pro on all things December, test your knowledge with our Facebook Live Quiz to be in with a chance of winning a travel voucher worth £500! What a way to start off 2018…For more details head here >

 

 

Binoculars at the ready! The 6 best spots for wildlife in Western Australia

Tell your pals and family that you’re headed to Australia and you’ll no doubt get remarks like “aren’t you scared you’ll get eaten by a shark/ bitten by a spider/ or boxed by a kangaroo?”.

Umm, that’s not why we booked the flight, no… and while the wildlife in Australia can be pretty deadly, there are so many fluffy critters, impressive birds and serene underwater beings to ogle at, without the risk factor.

With this in mind, here are our fave spots in Western Australia to channel your inner David Attenborough and experience the unique animals and nature that flourish there.

1. Bottlenose dolphins, Monkey Mia

Big fan of the film ‘Flipper’? Well, this is the real deal. Catch sight of the local friendly dolphins as they peruse Monkey Mia’s coast. If you’re headed out for a swim or kayak, you might get the opportunity to be at one with this flippered crew as they cruise around you.

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2. Emus and giant pelicans, Shark Bay

Australia likes its birds SUPERSIZED. Spot groups of emus playing on the beach and in the water, as well as the majestic giant pelicans that nestle on Shark bay’s shoreline.

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3. Whale sharks, manta rays and turtles, Ningaloo Reef

A triple whammy of sea life to see (and a lot more). Turtles and manta rays can be spotted year-round at Ningaloo reef, so get your go pro stick and snorkel gear at the ready for a turtle-y awesome selfie with these peaceful swimmers. But now for the big guys, from late March to late July, get ready to share water space with the incredible whale shark. One for the bucket list, there’s no doubt about it.

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4. Bat spotting, Karijini National Park

If scaling red rock formations, jumping into gorges and bathing in natural lagoons is your thing then Karijini is a must-do. This incredible ecosystem is home to a fair few Aussie animal favourites such as red kangaroos, rock-wallabies, echidnas and bats that litter the sky at dusk.

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5. Quokkas, Rottnest Island

You won’t catch a glimpse of these cutie pies anywhere else, so ‘Rotto’ is worth the ferry ride from Perth just for that! However, once you’re there you’ll soon realise you’re in some kind of WA island paradise: secluded coves with white sandy beaches, a shipwreck dive spot offshore, coral formations to uncover snorkelling, and a seriously good beer selection at the Rotto Beach hotel. Don’t want to leave? Then don’t. Stay the night and camp under the stars.

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6. Camels at sunset, Cable Beach

Yep, there are camels in the outback of Australia. Lots of camels in fact! Head to cable beach in Broome just before sunset and watch these unusual animals stroll calmly across the horizon. Think Arabian-nights but Aussie style.

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So there you have it, just a sprinkle of the unique wildlife that can be discovered in Western Australia, the rest is over to you!

Check out our Western Australia travel guide here for more info on what this diverse state has on offer.