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Cambodia is a land on the mend. From 1977 through 1980, the Khmer Rouge ruled the country, fanatics bent on genocide. Millions were killed and the period was put to film in the movie, The Killing Fields. Fortunately, those days are over and the country is becoming a tourist destination.

Cambodia - Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, Sihanoukville

Cambodia - Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat, SihanoukvilleCambodia is a land on the mend. From 1977 through 1980, the Khmer Rouge ruled the country, fanatics bent on genocide. Millions were killed and the period was put to film in the movie, The Killing Fields. Fortunately, those days are over and the country is becoming a tourist destination.Cambodia is a land of incredible contrast. Thick forest, mountains and pristine rivers compliment amazing white beaches. When you get down to it, however, travelers know Cambodia for two things, Angkor Wat and the nastiest roads around. But, lets not get ahead of ourselves.Phnom PenhPhnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia. The city is a combination of old French beauty and modern condominiums. The city is full of amazing Wats [Buddist monasteries], including Wat Ounalom, Wat Phnom and Wat Moha Montrei. Modern buildings surround these monasteries and its difficult to avoid a feeling that the old ways are being lost.Still, the vibrancy of the city is impressive considering the fact that it was completely abandoned for three years in the last 70s. During this period, the Khmer Rouge tried to return the Cambodian people to their agricultural heritage and evacuated all cities. The only exception, of course, is Tuol Sleng, a high school used to torture and kill enemies of the state. Just beyond the city, one will also find the infamous killing fields where thousands upon thousands were put to death.SihanoukvilleSihanoukville is a small, sleepy village on the Southwest edge of Cambodia. Fairly undeveloped, the area is an oasis similar to the beaches of Thailand. The difference, however, is the lack of tourists. Depending on the time of year, the beaches can be more or less empty and privacy assured. Rooms run between $5 and $15 a night and come with private bathrooms. If you are looking to lounge professionally, Sihanoukville is a very good place to do it.Angkor WatStunning. There is no other word for the temples of Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a temple surrounded by hundreds of others. Each is unique and worth a look. The most famous are Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Phrom. Angkor Wat is in the best shape as well as the most known. The Bayon is impressive, but the constant mob of tourist makes it a pain to visit. Ta Phrom is amazing because it has been left to the jungle, which is to say trees and the structure have become one in many areas. If you have seen Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, you have seen Ta Phrom. Personally, I prefer Angkor Wat to the Pyramids in Egypt.Roads From HellCambodian roads are evil. There is simply no other way to put it. The country is hit by monsoons every year and is still recovering from the Khmer Rouge. This combination has resulted in roads with huge potholes, missing bridges and pretty much the worst elements of Dantes Hell. Avoid them if at all possible!

Xcaret, Mexico Back To Nature or Maybe Not

Xcaret, Mexico  Back To Nature or Maybe Not

Xcaret is located roughly 45 minutes south of Cancun, Mexico. The park is advertised as an ecological and archaeological Disneyland. While there is a definite back to nature feel to the place, it is expensive and crowded with more than a slight overtone of commercialism.XcaretPronounced eshcar..it, Xcaret is an extremely popular tourist resort, perhaps the biggest one in Mexico. At first glance, the overall impression is extremely impressive. The park contains beaches, snorkeling areas, hiking areas, horseback riding, botanical gardens, captive dolphins and so on. The park is essentially a jungle and beach play area for adults and kids.Unlike Disneyland, a must see at Xcaret is the re-enactment of Mayan games. In a game resembling basketball, Mayan park staff plays Pok-Ta-Pok for visitors. For some reason, the park staff fails to take the game to its historic conclusion which involved the losers being killed. So much for authenticity!CommercialismMy biggest gripe with Xcaret is it to similar to Disneyland. First, you cant walk five feet in Cancun without someone sticking a brochure in your hand. Once you cave in and go to the park, you can expect to pay $40 to get in. After that, the giving just keeps on going. You can expect to pay for practically everything. Want to go snorkeling? You better have your own gear with you or be ready to pay. Need a beach chair? That will cost you. Horseback riding? Well, you get the idea.Should You GoDeciding whether to go to Xcaret is a personal decision. If commercialism bothers you, Xcaret may be a place to pass on. One visit was good enough for me. My bank account cant take another!

An Overview of Kenya for Travelers

An Overview of Kenya for Travelers

Kenya is stunningly beautiful African country that has seen its share of good and bad times. If you are traveling to Kenya, the following information will give you a head start.An Overview of Kenya for TravelersKenya is a crossroads country in Africa, which means a little bit of various African countries reside there. More than 40 languages are spoken and as many as eleven different ethnic groups can be identified. The religious breakdown is also very diverse. Despite this variety, the country has a fairly harmonious existence. The national slogan is harambee which loosely translates to lets pull together. Compared to other sub-Saharan countries, Kenya has historically been advanced in infrastructure and general living standards. During the colonial period, England controlled the country and developed the area. Kenyans were not allowed to participate in government, much like South Africa. As you might expect, Kenyans rebelled and eventually became independent on December 12, 1963. The Kenya Peoples Union then became the only political party and ruled until 2002. In October 2002, the National Rainbow Coalition dominated elections. Following independence, Kenya continued to grow economically and the standard of living was the envy of much of Africa. Unfortunately, corruption threw a wrench in the proceedings the country has suffered from a lurching economy for the last 15 years. In 2003, the country turned things around and things have generally improved since then. Kenya covers 224,960 square miles and is slightly smaller than Texas. The capital is Nairobi. Kenya rises from a low coastal plain on the Indian Ocean in a series of mountain ridges and plateaus which stand above 9,000 feet in the center of the country. The Rift Valley bisects the country above Nairobi, opening up to a broad arid plain in the north. Mountain plains cover the south before descending to the shores of Lake Victoria in the west. The climate varies from the tropical south, west, and central regions to arid and semi-arid in the north and the northeast. The people of Kenya are known as Kenyans. Total population is 30 million and growing at 1.7 percent a year. Ethnic groups break down as Kikuyu 21 percent Luhya 14 percent, Luo 13 percent, Kalenjin 11 percent, Kamba 11 percent, Kisii 6 percent, Meru 5 percent. Religious break down is Indigenous beliefs 10 percent, Protestant 40 percent, Roman Catholic 30 percent, Muslim 20 percent. Languages include English, Swahili, and more than 40 local ethnic languages. The literacy rate is 65 percent and life expectancy is 49 years of age. As this brief overview reveals, the country suffers the economic problems of many countries in Africa. That being said, it is beautiful place that will hopefully overcome such hurdles. It is definitely a place you will remember visiting.

Tour Ayers Rock in Central Australia

Tour Ayers Rock in Central Australia

Ayers Rock is undoubtedly one of Australia's most widely recognised icons both nationally and internationally. It is also one of Australia's most popular tour destinations, and for very good reason. Set in the stunning red desert landscape of Central Australia, it is a magnificent and magical sight that should form part of any Australian tour itinerary.Also known as Uluru, Ayers Rock is located within the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park about 400 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia. The largest monolith in Central Australia (and the second largest in Australia), Ayers Rock is more than 318 metres (986 feet) high and 8 kilometres (5 miles) around, and extends 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles) into the ground. Famous for appearing to change colour as light conditions change throughout the day and seasons, Ayers Rock is a particularly remarkable sight at sunset. Composed primarily of sandstone, Ayers Rock is infused with minerals such as feldspar that reflect the red light of sunrise and sunset and make the rock appear to literally glow in the right conditions. The Aboriginal community of Mutitjulu is located near the western end of Ayers Rock, which is sacred to local indigenous people. The rock is surrounded by springs, waterholes, rock caves and other features that figure prominently in dreamtime stories for the Ayers Rock area. Uluru is the name used by the local Pitjantjatjara people for the rock, which was named Ayers Rock by European explorers after Henry Ayers, a 19th century Premier of South Australian. Uluru has been the rock's official name since the 1980's, although many people still refer to it as Ayers Rock.The Australian Government returned ownership of Ayers Rock to its traditional Aboriginal owners in 1985, leasing it back for 99 years as a National Park. The traditional owners request that visitors respect the sacred status of Ayers Rock by not climbing it. However, they do not prevent people from climbing the rock, which remains a popular activity with many visitors. In 1980, Ayers Rock made international headlines when baby Azaria Chamberlain disappeared while her family were camping nearby. Her mother Lindy Chamberlain claimed that her daughter had been taken by a dingo (a wild dog), initiating one of the most widely publicised legal trials in Australian history.Kata Tjuta, also known as The Olgas, is a group of 36 rounded rock formations situated about 30km west of Uluru within the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park. The tallest dome of the group, Mt Olga, actually stands taller than Uluru at 457 metres. Kata Tjuta, which means 'many heads' in the local Pitjantjatjara language, is as sacred to the indigenous traditional owners as Ayers Rock. Traditional ceremonies are still conducted at Kata Tjuta, particularly at night, and many Pitjantjatjara dreamtime legends are associated with both Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta.Ayers Rock is located about 20 kilometres from Yulara, a modern tourist town of 3000 inhabitants situated just outside Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park precinct. Yulara is well provisioned with quality accommodation, shops and services, and also has an airport serviced by major airlines flying directly from most Australian capital cities.Few regions of the world can match the astounding beauty of the Central Australian desert landscape, its unique flora and fauna, and natural features like Ayers Rock and Kata Tjuta. Whether you prefer to travel in lavish luxury or on an authentic four-wheel-drive safari adventure, Ayers Rock and Central Australia have something for everyone.

South Australia's Magnificent Barossa Valley

The Barossa Valley is one of Australia's most significant wine regions. Its thriving community retains strong links to its rich European heritage, now combined with the down-to-earth Australian spirit to create a rich and diverse lifestyle in a relaxed, rural setting close to Adelaide. European farmers (German in particular) and English migrants settled the Barossa Valley from the 1850s, and their rich cultural legacy is evident today in superb Barossa specialty foods and historic architecture. Historic churches, stone buildings and cottages abound, while walking trails, reserves and forests offer easily access to breathtaking landscapes and scenery.The Barossa Valley is home to the world-famous Barossa Shiraz and Eden Valley Riesling plus other premium wines, a large range of unique regional produce, and acclaimed restaurants. The Barossa's vineyards are tended by around 500 grape growing families, many sixth-generation. There are may small boutique wineries where eexquisite wines are sold out within weeks of their launch, along with larger enterprises associated with household names such as Peter Lehmann, Henschke, Seppelt, Yaldara and Yalumba.The Barossa is located only 70 kilometres North East of Adelaide and is easily accessible by road in just over hour from the capital. From Adelaide take Main North Road (A20) to Sturt Highway and enter via Gawler and the Barossa Valley Way. Or, from Adelaide take Lower North East Road (A10) out of Adelaide and travel through Chain of Ponds in the beautiful Adelaide Hills to Williamstown in the southern Barossa. Adelaide is well serviced by domestic and international flights, and car hire is readily available at the airport. Self-drive tours to the Barossa Valley are popular. Road conditions are generally good and distances between the region's towns are small. Spring brings a refreshing vitality to the Barossa Valley, days are sunny with a crispness in the air and wildflowers abound. Summer brings an abundance of sunshine and warm days. The average temperature around 29 degrees celcius, but temperatures as high as 35 degrees are common. Autumn brings mild days, chilly evenings, and autumn leaves on the grape vines which are a sight to behold. Winter brings chilly days and cold nights when warm Barossa hospitality can be enjoyed around a cosy log fire. The Barossa Valley was named in 1837 by South Australia's first Surveyor general, Colonel William Light, after Barrosa in Spain. It was first settled in 1842 by English and German settlers, the Germans having fled religious persecution in their homeland. Before long the Barossa developed its own unique culture and life style which has continued until today. Early gentlemen winemakers established the first Barossa Valley vineyards, but wealthier families with greater financial resources soon took over and developed the wine making industry we see today. Among the first was the Seppelt Family. Joseph Seppelt turned to wine making on a large scale when earlier attempts at tobacco growing failed. Other successful attempts were made by the Jacobs, Salters, Gramps, Penfolds and Tolleys, who soon dominated the industry while smaller growers supplied grapes grown on family holdings. In this way, the Barossa Valley's agricultural production slowly changed from wheat growing to grape growing.

Cretan Tourism - Some Markets Lost, Some New Garnered!

Many changes took place across the face of earth, since the globalization began to propel the world by the late 1980s. The emerging new world order had many fast growing economies and several new regional powers to be content with. New players in the world tourism were on rise too. While Greece had always been a preferred choice for holiday making, suddenly new players began to fill up this spot as well. Egypt and Turkey in particular had their tourism infrastructure upgraded and were now drawing away a substantial amount of the Greek bound tourism inflow. A majority of these drop outs hailed from the UK and Germany, two of Greece's most influential neighbors. The two aforementioned countries were dragging them away by offering leisure and fun at slashed rates. A less occupancy rate in the rooms across Crete hotels told about this unfolding saga.However, the same trend also saw new markets emerging from the erstwhile communist states like Russia, Lithuania and Slovenia. The fall of Soviet era and the emergence of a new middle class after the initial lull had seen them sending travelers across the world. The Cypriots were also not behind and were more than willing to travel to Greece during the same period. It should be noted down that the contribution of the Cretan tourism to the nation's GDP is substantial, and it employs tens of thousands of Greeks throughout the year. "Crete hotel" s, touring agencies, banking, maritime, airline operations and the ground support for all touring parties make up these jobs. Figures for the period between 2002 and 2007 showed a 20% hike in the number of arrivals from Russia, an earlier non-entity in the annals of Greek tourism. The same stood at 64% for the Cypriots and 55% for the Slovenians, once again a pleasant surprise, keeping in mind their meager past contributions. However, the largest shot came from the Lithuanians, with an increase of 74%. According to the data available from the Crete hotels, the number of the UK and German arrivals, two of the largest Greek bound travelers, have slid down during the same period, but the East Europeans have balanced this slide - to some extent if not fully - by upping their interest for Greece.It is widely known by now, that tour operators play a key role in diverting the flow of worldwide tourism. So for example, if they saw more profits, they might get some of the Greek bound flights canceled; sell cheaper holiday packages to Egypt and Turkey to see packed up flights and hotels there. Even the Middle Eastern hotels would play a key role in charting out these events, since their tour packages, though comparable to those found in Greece, would be maneuvered to favor them. A German tourist may have to pay up to 500 Euros in Crete hotels, compared to 300-400 Euros for an all-inclusive week long stay in the four star Egyptian hotels.The role of foreign tour operators is now being debated in Greece at length and some measures may be taken to reduce their future impact. In the meanwhile though, the Cretan tourism and the Crete hotels in particular can continue basking in the background of the help extended by their East European friends.

Summary

Cambodia is a land on the mend. From 1977 through 1980, the Khmer Rouge ruled the country, fanatics bent on genocide. Millions were killed and the period was put to film in the movie, The Killing Fields. Fortunately, those days are over and the country is becoming a tourist destination.