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Ethical Tourism for the Animal Lover

The thing we love most about traveling in a foreign place is the hours stretch out, time seems to slow down, stress fades away, and you feel like a kid again experiencing new things every day. You seem to remember every moment, smell, and taste. You pay attention to more and your soul is awakened!

Our most recent travels took us to Phuket, Thailand. This is the perfect destination to soak in the crystal blue water, burn your tongue on authentic street food, drink Chang beers while songs from the 90’s blare in the background, watch elephants roam free at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, get slobbery kisses from rescue dogs at Soi Dog Foundation, and dance your heart away in the back of a crowded club while the sun comes up.

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverWhile Phuket is a relaxing paradise, it is also host to many tourist traps. The walls and back seats of tourist agencies and taxis are plastered with photos of people cuddling sedated tigers and riding on elephants. Travelers visit these places, which claim to be ethical, though their practices are far from. Thankfully, with the help of the internet and social media more people are becoming educated about the proper treatment of animals and ethical tourism.

Phuket Elephant Sanctuary

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverWe had the pleasure of spending the day at the Phuket Elephant Sanctuary, which is the first ethical sanctuary in Phuket. These rescued elephants roam on their own agenda, enjoy their newfound freedom, socialize with each other, and bathe freely in fresh water. Visitors are encouraged to observe from a distance and at the end of the tour we were given the opportunity to feed these gentle giants.

The cruel practice of conditioning the elephants who perform goes largely unseen by tourists. This brutal process is known as ‘crushing the spirit’. The elephants are kept in a tiny pen to prevent movement, with their legs tied tightly. They can be severely beaten with sharp objects, screamed at, and starved of food and water. Although many elephants spend their entire lives in captivity, an increasing number are being cared for by organizations that allow them to live in natural, big, open spaces with other elephants and with proper food and veterinary care. Ethical tourism is the only way forward for these captive creatures.

How do you know you are visiting an ethical sanctuary for elephants? Here are some tips!

Ethical Tourism for the Animal Lover1. A real sanctuary will limit contact with the elephants, with visitors observing them from a distance the majority of the time.

2. Avoid anywhere offering riding or allowing bathing sessions with elephants. It’s not natural for an elephant to be in the water all day with lots of people climbing all over them.

3. Looking on review sites and images online before visiting elephant camps.

4. Avoid any places that are using bull-hooks or chains, or lacking basic provisions

of water, food and shade.

5. Avoid any place that has elephants performing tricks.

Watching elephants getting to be elephants was an incredible moment that we will cherish forever.

Soi Dog Foundation

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverAnother common sight in Thailand are the many dogs and cats roaming the streets. We have always been passionate about dogs and cats, helping any way we can, and treating them with love and affection. Unfortunately, many people do not share these sentiments, which leads to neglect, abuse, and torture by the hands of humans.

Thankfully, organizations like the Soi Dog Foundation in Phuket, Thailand exist.

Soi Dog welcomes volunteers from all over the world as they play a hugely important role in the socialization of the animals in their care, in preparation of them becoming adoptable. They offer different volunteer programs which is worth checking out! We learned all about the facility, the dog meat trade, and of course got smothered in puppy kisses and kitty cuddles.

Ethical Tourism for the Animal LoverThe foundation works to improve the welfare of dogs and cats in Asia. Not only do they campaign for animal welfare by working with the Asia Canine Protection Alliance, but they are actively fighting the Asian dog meat trade. The images of these suffering dogs were heartbreaking, but it gave us peace of mind knowing places like Soi Dog foundation are fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves and promoting ethical tourism.

We all have different customs, beliefs, and religions, but we all bleed red. It is the cruelty, torture, and the unnecessary pain inflicted on any animal that needs to stop because all lives matter. Animals are sentient beings able to experience emotions such as fear, pain, joy, and contentment. There are documented stories of animals doing things that we find extraordinary, but it just comes naturally to them. Elephants guarding people who need help, humpback whales protecting seals from killer whales, and dogs knowing when their human companions are sad. Empathy is an emotion we share with animals, and we all need to do our part in making an effort to treat all living things with kindness. We can easily do this by making sure that we participate in ethical tourism.

Compassion can guide us to acts of kindness, and who doesn’t want to live in a kind world?

 

Asia Insider Tips Travel Planning

The Top 5 Places to Visit in Kolkata, India

If you’re planning a trip to India, make sure to schedule at least two days for a visit to Kolkata. It is one of the absolute best destinations for 2020, especially for the female traveler. This city is ancient and stocked with heritage values and world famous sights, festivals and foods — including the city’s Durga puja celebration and delicious ‘Rasgulla’. 

1. Victoria Memorial

Everybody knows where Taj Mahal is, but do you know where the same replica belongs? Victoria memorial has the same architectural design as Taj Mahal.

The Victoria Memorial was built between 1906 to 1921. It is a museum and holds some of Kolkata’s oldest photos. Inside the museum, you will see artillery that once belong to the British period. Outside the memorial, be sure to take a “Tanga” (horse cart) ride to get a full experience.

2. Howrah Bridge

The landmark of Kolkata joins Kolkata city and Howrah, and dates all the way back to British imperialism period. The world’s busiest cantilever bridge is Howrah bridge, and it stands without nut and bolts. Pretty impressive.

3. Marble Palace

The Kolkata Marble Palace was built in 1835 by Raja Rajendra Mullick with a heavy influence by Greek architecture. It is now a wonderful museum. If you want to see antique relics in bulk, then you have to visit this palace!

4. Jorasanko Thakur Bari

The famous poet/novelist Rabindranath Tagore’s house is just beside the Marble Palace. It’s a 5 minute walking distance between the two, making it a breeze to add to your itinerary. The house is a museum now and the Rabindra Bharati Museum is situated on one side of the building. 

5. St Paul’s Cathedral

Lastly, St Paul’s Cathedral welcomes you. It was built in 1839 with Gothic architecture and is the first Episcopal Church in East Asia.


There are many more places in beautiful Kolkata, India that you’re sure to discover! Happy exploring this hidden gem of a city.

Advice Asia Guides Insider Tips

What Not To Miss In Singapore Your First Time

For me, Singapore is my home away from home.  The things I adore about Singapore are often the things that tourists miss out on when they visit.  As it turns out, Singapore is so much more than just shopping on Orchard Road. 

Follow this list of things you won’t want to miss your first time visiting Singapore and you’ll get to experience everything Singapore has to offer.

1. Eat at the Hawker Centres

You will find hawker centres all throughout Singapore.  These are essentially government-regulated food courts where the locals go to eat. Here you’ll experience some of the best and most authentic dishes in all of Singapore.  

We would highly recommend you eat most of your meals at hawker centres and do your best to try different dishes each time!  Some local favorites include char kway teow, laksa, wantan mee, and roti prata.

2. Shop on Orchard Road

When most people think about what to do in Singapore, the first thing that comes to mind is shopping…  and Orchard Road is the quintessential spot in Singapore to do it! You’ll get the opportunity to shop at countless high-end shopping malls (with air-conditioning thankfully) and every brand you can think of.  In fact, most big brands have numerous shops on Orchard Road.

If you are a big shopper, then Orchard Road is an absolute must.  Even if you aren’t, it’s still well worth taking a few hours out of your day.

3. Visit Gardens by the Bay

Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay is a stunning feat of architecture found right in the heart of Singapore.  A handful of giant supertrees tower over the park. A sky bridge extends through the grove connecting two supertrees and allowing you to walk amongst the treetops.

Two massive conservatories contain two separate ecosystems – one filled with tropical plants and another packed with flowers.  It’s absolutely worth visiting and spending the S$28, but if you are limited on time consider skipping the Flower Dome.  

The Cloud Forest is by far the more impressive of the two structures, containing the second tallest indoor waterfall in the world (after the Jewel at Changi Airport, also in Singapore).

4. Shop & Eat at Chinatown

Make sure to visit and explore Chinatown.  It’s home to some of the best Chinese hawker stalls in Singapore, plus it’s a great opportunity to get some shopping done and find some souvenirs to take back home.

Make sure to check out Sri Mariamman Temple and the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.  Making it here during a Chinese festival, such as the Chinese New Year, can be absolutely stunning.  The streets will be decorated with lanterns and you can expect the locals to be festive.

5. Explore Clarke Quay and Visit the Merlion

Clarke Quay is a great spot to explore for a few hours on a nice evening.  There are plenty of upscale eateries and bars here and a river with boat rides and bridges.

A short walk will offer spectacular views over the bay towards the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and the Singapore Flyer.  You also won’t want to miss a photo of the iconic Merlion which was relocated here in 2002.  

6. Stroll Through Macritchie Reservoir Park

The Macritchie Reservoir is Singapore’s oldest reservoir and is a giant park found in the middle of the island.  Consider hiking the Macritchie Nature Trail, where you will find eleven kilometers of trails, with a full loop taking around four hours. 

Along the way, expect to encounter some cheeky, long-tailed macaques (yes, monkeys) that want nothing more than the food in your bags.  Make sure not to feed them – and be especially careful not to corner them. They are cute to look at, but they can be aggressive.

You may also come across a treetop walkway suspended 25 meters above the ground.  It’s a great way to experience the park from the sky, but consider avoiding it if you’re afraid of heights.

Asia Cruising

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

The Mekong River – the world twelfth largest river, the lifeblood and the boundary line of much of Southeast Asia. Cutting through valleys, ancient silk towns, major metropolises, monasteries and hundreds of miles of farm lands and fishing towns… exploring the Mekong River is a cultural traveler’s delight. Today, I’m sharing the highlights of my fifteen-day long exploration of Cambodia and Vietnam while cruising down the Mekong River.

Vietnam

In between visiting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, cruising down the Mekong River gave me the opportunity to see a quainter, more rural and authentic side to its people and its culture… for which I’m forever grateful. I truly believe getting off of the well-worn path of must-see cities and metropolises gives travelers a more well-rounded, fuller perspective of a place.

Cái Bè

Perhaps there’s nothing more classic on a Mekong River cruise than experiencing a floating market. Cái Bè’s market was buzzing with excitement, from the sellers and farmers bargaining amongst themselves, to the overflowing amounts of fresh vegetables, candies and more. However, just off the busy market streets you’ll find the calmer waterways lead to the heart of the village, where locals showed us their honey tea making customs and let us sample their delicacies. So special!

Sa Déc

After boarding a small boat set to explore the backwaters of the Mekong Delta, after passing many factories and floating markets, we landed on Sa Déc’s shores. Sa Déc is home to famous authors and brick factories, but what I loved most about exploring this small city was the interactions I had with the locals who were selling their handmade goods and homegrown fruits and vegetables. Having the time to speak with locals and support the local economy was so incredible.

Tan Chau

Our time in Vietnam’s silk weaving factory town, Tan Chau, will forever stay with me. In between exploring the silk-weaving looms, wooden beams and swelteringly hot conditions, we were able to again connect with the locals yet again. Their smiling faces and warm reception to us meant the world to me. It’s the small yet meaningful interactions with locals that always resounds the most with my heart.

Cambodia

Although Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat draws many, many tourists every day… I could not suggest seeing the country’s quieter side more. Every morning our excursions through Cambodia’s villages revealed a new, intimate experience I just know more travelers would love to witness on their own. For anyone looking to experience their own Indochina Tour, there are so many options and packages out there for every type of traveler.

Chong Kho

Upon crossing into Cambodia’s borders, we were welcomed into the small village of Chong Kho – best known for its silk-weaving and rich fabrics. I found myself exploring the small streets alleys filled with local children, joyfully playing in their swing sets and climbing trees.

French NGO

I truly love photographing people. Their expressions, their joy, the spark in their eyes when I make them giggle or attempt to say something in their language. I spent so much time with the children you see below, these snapshots are just glimpses into the memories I have of them laughing, jumping and walking side by side with me.

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

Kampong Cham

Kampong Cham is a centrally located hub of fishing and agriculture in Cambodia, filled with dense archaeological sights and over 200 ancient temples. You read that right! 200 ancient temples… some of which go back further than the Khmer Empire.

From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River
From Vietnam to Cambodia, Cruising Down the Mekong River

Magnificent Mekong with Viking Cruises

The grand Mekong River was a sight to behold. And having it as my morning view? Priceless. Viking’s itinerary through the Vietnamese and Cambodian river valley boasts some of the most gorgeous panoramas. But what really made me fall in love was their commitment to showcasing the authentic silk towns, fishing villages and aged beauty of the Vietnamese and Cambodia culture. Each morning I knew that my day would be filled with discovery unlike I’d ever imagine.

Viking’s lodgings and menu always leave me rested and well fed – exactly what I need before taking part on daily excursions! Traditional Vietnamese and Cambodian meals were offered daily… and as an adventurous eater, I loved the experience of tasting the indigenous flavors and authentic dishes as much as I possibly good. 

While cruising through these ancient villages and learning from the locals, I was extremely thankful for Insure Yonder’s travel insurance coverage. I’ve learned the hard way in years past that airline and cruise insurance can be super expensive and lack coverage… but their insightful and thorough coverage gave me such a sense of ease while on this grand adventure. Very thankful for the peace of mind it brought to me while enjoying these serene sights!


A big thank you to Viking Cruises for the opportunity to travel to Vietnam and Cambodia. And also a big, resounding thank you to Insure Yonder for providing us with travel insurance, in case of an emergency! 

Trip sponsored by Viking Cruises. As always, all opinions are my own. All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.

Asia

5 Easy Tips To Travel To Singapore On A Budget

As you many travelers know well, traveling is now easier because there are numerous options to save money. If you are planning to take your next trip to Singapore for a vacation or business trip, you can make things easier by staying on a budget while still enjoying every moment. The Lion City appreciates tourists, but she is not after extorting money from travelers. However, you’ll need the right tips to stay on budget because the same state has areas where you can spend all of your money within hours! Go through these easy tips to stay on budget when in Singapore.

Eat With The Locals

The first thing that many people want to do when they land in a foreign land is to taste food from the best places. Upon arrival at Changi, tourists have the option to dine in the high-end restaurants or explore the hawker’s stalls where the locals eat. The latter is highly recommended for anyone who is on a budget. The good news is that local food stalls offer cuisine that is just as good as the high-end restaurants.

Drink Tap Water

Singapore has declared all tap water to be potable! This is what locals drink on a daily basis, and they do not get sick. All you need is to bring a water bottle and refill it at any of the water points around the city. Being a hot island, the water consumption is high and bottled water can be expensive, especially if you are traveling with a big family. You should only buy bottled water when you need a flavored option.

Use MRT Tickets Instead Of The Tourist Pass

Before visiting Singapore, you should know that the rapid mass transit (MRT) is the most popular and cheapest mode of transport and that it goes everywhere. As your agent on the One Visa website is processing your travel documents, they should tell you that the tourist visa is costly and it will give you access to MRT, which you can pay many times less for by purchasing tickets at the station like the locals. This is an excellent tip for someone who is looking forward to traversing Singapore.

Visit The Free Or Cheap Parks & Places

When making the itinerary for your visit to Singapore, take advantage of numerous places that are not charged but will still give you memorable moments. Many packages only have a small charge and they allow picnic lunches that bring the cost down even further. Avoid expensive places like clubs, paid private tours, and other activities that will leave a hole in your pocket.

Do Not Be In The Wrong

Singapore has various fines for breaking the law, and this will apply to both locals and tourists! All the laws in Singapore are friendly and easy to maintain. Do not smoke, chew, or spit in public places since this will get you fined. You can research more on these laws and master them to keep friendly contact with the authorities and save money.

Conclusion

There are many ways of saving money while in Singapore. In fact, there are many more if you plan carefully. Be sure that you are doing the right thing and you will be surprised that a vacation can be so cheap.

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