Sunday, 15 April 2018

Papermaking in Lao: Ban Xang Khong, Luang Prabang

I love to hunt out arts and crafts on my travels, and even better, actually give making something a go. There's already plenty to do in Luang Prabang in Lao including basket weaving, pottery and embroidery (onto Hmong slippers) but of course for me papermaking is a must.

Close by is the village of Ban Xang Khong, which specialises in manufacturing and selling products made from silk and Saa Paper (paper made from the bark of the Mulberry Tree).

Whether you are just passing through, on holiday or looking for a place to source from, this area is where you will be able to fill a couple of hours admiring the handicrafts and stocking up on souvenirs.

Hand painted pictures and cards
Hand bound notebooks

There are a number of little stores run by local people still using traditional methods to create beautiful handicrafts.

What I enjoyed most is the opportunity to see items being entirely made by hand, including the Saa paper.

Ban Xang Khong - paper making
To be able to appreciate the diversity of products, you will have to wander through a number of shops, but the larger ones in the centre have the most variety.

How to get there:
Go to the North station (you can take the little wooden bridge if you go by bicycle). At the North station, continue for about 50 yards, and turn left (just after the petrol station). Then, go straight on. The village is on the left, along the Mekong. A great way to get there is by bicycle.
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Sunday, 1 April 2018

Key sights: Tirana

Albania's capital Tirana, should definitely be on your list when considering a city break as it ticks most of the boxes and is cheap.

The infrastructure is still being developed, but with its quirky buildings amidst the remnants of the communist regime, there's little indication of its grey past.

It is a very pleasant city with plenty of cultural experiences and a buzz that doesn't exist anywhere else in Albania.

In the Summer months temperatures can reach 30 degrees. So, with the beach being an easy drive away, and an expanse of sand, there's the potential to couple a visit to Tirana with a lot more. 

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Restrictions for flights in Europe, March 2018

Following on from my Think twice before considering Ryanair post I was asked whether my old post regarding Restrictions for flights in Europe, written back in 2014 was still up to date. Surprisingly it isn't too far off ... it seems not a lot has changed in 4 years.

However, by way of update, as there were a couple of airlines which are no longer in existence, read on for the latest version of the list.

If you are planning a trip to Europe sometime soon, ensure you check the latest travel restrictions before you travel.

If you are in the UK, like myself, the website, should provide details of the latest changes, although I have summarised the latest restrictions below.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

My picks from: Thailand

Planning a trip to Thailand solo, with a friend or other half, or even kids; it's one of the easiest places to travel or experience. Here's a few recommendations to help with planning a trip. Of course you can check out all my Thailand posts here but I've tried to summarise the best bits below so you can pick out what suits.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Think twice, before considering Ryanair - February 2018

The recent changes announced by Ryanair in January, removing the ability to take 2 cabin bags on board, were quite controversial it seems. The 1 small bag allowance (roughly the size of a hangbag or laptop holder) is tiny. In fact it potentially restricts most people from taking a bag at all; even a foldaway cloth bag you would now carry to avoid the carrier bag charges in the UK, is too big!

Travelling on a Ryanair flight is something I actively try and avoid, particularly after the cancellations of flights at the back end of last year that left passengers stranded and stuck making alternative arrangements.

Of course, for research purposes and, because I'm tight and didn't want to shell out a couple of extra quid at the time of booking (before these changes came in), I accepted the inconvenience of travelling with Ryanair, just this once. Now I'm regretting my decision.

As I sit crammed into the middle seat (I like the window), on reflection, I can now honestly say I'd rather pay the extra and fly with another airline, than forego the frustrations of Ryanair's new policies.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Quick list: where to find a bite to eat in Hong Kong

First timers to Hong Kong may find it difficult when trying to find a place to sit down for just a bite to eat. 

There are numerous choices to suit every budget. This is just a quick list with a handful of recommendations from my recent trip to Hong Kong, which may come in handy if it's your first time visiting.

Top tip: don't just eat dim sum, although do try it and eat plenty if you enjoy it.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

7 specialities to savour; all made in Taiwan

I remember when it seemed like everything was made in Taiwan. Plastic items, dolls, computer parts; all with the same little 'Made in Taiwan' label.

Back then it didn't really dawn on me that Taiwan was much more than a gigantic factory, or that its status as a country was so ambiguous.

These days everything is made in China, as Taiwan advanced quickly to a creation industry and those labels were replaced by 'Designed in Taiwan'. It's now the original technology pieces that dominate the export markets.

However there are some things that are originally Taiwanese, still made there, and are worth tracking down if you visit. All food stuffs of course...

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Where to visit in 2018

The 2018 recommendations from Lonely Planet (countries and cities) and Rough Guides (destinations) make interesting reading as always, and in fact, I'm able to second a few of those for sure.

As for my own list of where to visit in 2018 - it's hard to start a new year without compiling more than one. Of course I've already planned most of my travels over the next 12 months, leaving room for a little last minute flexibility as well - I'm anticipating the highlight will be India as a return visit is planned (hopefully, if the Taj is uncovered after it's recent clean up).

Rather than share my New Year resolutions, now is a good moment to look back on this time last year, whether or not my plans were ever fulfilled and share a few recommendations.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

How many countries are there?

Most people like to compare or compete in the number of countries they have visited. However, I'm not the competitive type. So, I used to have to sit and count how many countries I had visited, each time someone asked me the question. 

These days I'm not inclined to share my 'number' unless someone particularly cites an interest.

For me it's about the stories. Of course I'm going to tick things off my bucket list just like any other traveller. But the numbers don't mean much on their own. If I revisit a place I can build on an experience or share a view of how it used to be. Who cares whether I've made double figures or the Travelers Century Club; the latter only exists to make money from its members which takes all the fun out of counting in my view.

If we have to talk numbers, what's interesting is the rather complex process in which one has to go through to determine exactly how many countries have been ticked off so far. It seems to change every year, and is dependent on which governmental, academic, or agency organisation is validating the claims.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Dubrovnik 6 years on: and tips to avoid the crowds

Back in 2011, when I first visited Dubrovnik, in Croatia, it was much less touristy than it is today. Despite this, the number of visitors to this UNESCO site was still fairly high.

As I stood at the main entrance calculating the ticket price to climb the walls, I quickly determined that the contents of my blue spined guide book, should be read with caution. Prices were double, which confirmed my view regarding the speed at which information can become out of date and possibly behind the times. As a budget traveller, in those days, this wasn't ideal.

Six years on and today, at 20 Euros, a climb along those same city walls is still the highlight of a visit to Dubrovnik, so you wouldn't want to miss it. Plan a visit with caution as it's not the cheapest destination in Europe, by far.