You will LOVE Asia – 5 reasons to go

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I’ve traveled to Asia numerous times now and it’s most definitely the place closes to my heart.  The people, the food, the weather, the sites (and the exhange rate!), everything about it is just different than what we’re used to and it leaves a lasting impression.


I always recommend a trip to Asia for people that are looking for an adventure and a complete attack on the senses.  It’s a great place for first time travelers as well as return customers.


Here I will share my reasons for traveling to Asia, but take note, Asia is not for the faint-hearted:

Let Go!

Leave the luxuries behind when you travel Asia and learn to let go.  Cram your world into a backpack and get ready to be changed forever.


Everything you are used to and every social expectation will be changed and you’ll soon realise that you can get a long with a lot less.  Say goodbye to your shoes and your watch and start living! You will have to let go of your personal space, you will share bus and train rides with many others, enjoy street food amongst the hustle and bustle of Asian street life, see poverty but also learn about humility and thankfulness.  You will start seeing the world through different eyes and that is priceless.


Simplify your life

Traveling through rural Asia, you will meet the richest people in the world – with pockets filled with dust and hearts overflowing with gold.  The people around Asia live simple lives, but there is something to learn about simplicity.  These people have no need for material wealth and yet you will always see them laughing.


Be present

The East have mastered the art of no anxiety and no time.  One of the greatest gits you will get from your travels through Asia is that it will bring you back to the moment.  Sit back and enjoy life rather than rushing from one tourist attraction to the next.  Soak it in – the sunsets and sunrises, the smells and the sounds.  People always long for island holidays to get away and rejuvenate themselves, but you can do this by slowing down and discovering the peace within yourself.  A valuable lesson learned.


Slow down

Life in rural Asia moves so slowly, you will believe that it is standing still.  And it probably is!  As Oscar Wilde put it: “To live is actually probably the rarest point in the planet. A lot of people are present, that’s all.” Asia do not comply with deadlines and timelines, you are going to be forced to slow down.  In fact, throw your to do list completely out!  Asia sets its own pace and you will just have to comply!


Wherever you travel in Asia, the countries are different and each provides its own eclectic mix of people, flavours and experiences.  What I did learn is that the lessons are the same.  It’s as if there is this common thread running through the whole of Asia with ancient wisdom of how life should be lived.  Go and find Asia and experience it for yourself!


You have to see Ethiopia

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Ethiopia should be on your list of must-sees this year.  It is affordable and easy to get to, with an amazing coffee culture!  One could say Ethiopia is the top emerging African travel destination.

Ethiopia has the largest selection of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the continent.  Let’s take a closer look at 3 of them:

All photographs courtesy of Iga Motylska.


You simply have to walk through a winding passage and then through a rocky entrance to find yourself standing in front of the St George’s Church.  This particular church is the most popular of the 11 rock churches and 2 chapels that form part of the Lalibela church complex which was literally carved out of volcanic rock.  This painstaking task took 23 years and 6 months to complete and was a result of King Lalibela’s dream to build a new Africa Jerusalem.  After 9 centuries, these awe inspiring creations are still standing for us to behold.

Travellers are actually silenced by the grandeur of it all.



Though Lalibela is regarded as a very important religious and pilgrimage site, the kingdom of Aksum – which was founded more than 3 000 years ago  – was one of the world’s first Christian countries, when the religion was adopted in fourth century. You can wander amongst towering granite obelisks and admire engraved tablets before entering the royal tombs at Aksum Stelae Park.

Just across the street from Aksum, is Ethiopia’s oldest church. The walls of the cathedral are brightly painted with Bible scriptures simply because a lot of individuals were illiterate. Both sites free to enter.

Behind the cathedral you will find the Chapel of the Tablet.  This is guarded night and day as it’s believed to house the Ark of the Covenant – a gold covered receptacle for the 2 stone tablets which are actually inscribed with the ten commandments. Based on the legend, which any Ethiopian will be able to tell you, this was brought to Ethiopia by the son of Queen Sheba and King Solomon.


Ethiopia is a land of royalty. Fasil Ghebbi, also known as the Camelot of Africa, is based on the 17th century fortress city of Gondar – the former capital city. Although impressive, it’s normally Debre Birhan Selassie Church that is the most impressive.  The tiny church appears quite humble from the outside, but the insides are adorned with biblical murals, and the ceilings are painted with the faces of angels.


Coffee in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee, not Brazil, and it resonates through every part of every day living.  You don’t just grab a quick coffee, here coffee drinking is down to a long standing ritual, a fine art.  Coffee is sold to you by white cloaked female coffee sellers busy hand roasting coffee beans in clay pans on street corners, in restaurants and cafes, airport lounges and hotel lobbies. You need no convincing when that aroma grabs you!

Local cuisine

Rather than sticking to your hotel’s international meal options, try the wide selection of affordable and traditional dishes.

Christian Ethiopians fast on Wednesdays, Fridays and during religious holidays by not consuming animal products so there are plenty vegetarian options available to travelers. One of the favourites are Bayenetu, a kind of vegan, lactose free platter consisting of a big injera (pancake made from fermented teff flour) topped with Shiro (chickpea paste) and sauces called Wats. Expect large dollops of curried potatoes, spinach, beetroot cubes, cabbage, and also pureed lentils and pea stews.

Locals normally share communal meals so expect your waiter to bring a jug of water, a bucket and a towel to your table so you can wash your hands.  Also join in the local tradition of eating using your left hand only!


While Ethiopia isn’t the cheapest African nation to visit, it is still pretty very affordable for South African travellers and is frequently be found on lists of the’ ten cheapest African countries’. Local food and public transportation are also very affordable so you have no excuse to not visit this African gem!



Let’s travel to Phuket!

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Phuket is Thailand’s largest island and is situated south along the Andaman Sea.  The island is a melting-pot of Thais, Malays and sea gypsies – each culture bringing its unique charm to the island’s hospitality, cuisine and entertainment.


Think long summer days lazing on tropical beaches enjoying luxurious massages overlooking the sparkling ocean.  Phuket truly is an island paradise with its lofty coconut trees, turquoise lagoons, and romantic sunset spots overlooking the sprawling coastline. By day, wander through the Old Town, laden with historical buildings, temples and quaint shophouses. Visit Big Buddha and the intriguing museums along the way. Tour the Chalong Bay Rum Distillery or join a cooking class and experiment with the wonderful, aromatic flavours of Thailand. Hop on a long-tail boat and sail around the bays, marvelling at the floating villages set against picturesque lime-stone cliffs. Phang Nga Bay is home to over 40 islands and is perfect for adventurous scuba divers and snorkelers. The famous Phi Phi Islands are just a stone’s throw away.

As night sets in, the beaches light up with funky beach bars and fresh seafood barbecues. Patong attracts the party animals with its lively street bars, markets and poi dancing. Take in a cabaret show at Fantasea, where you’ll be treated to dazzling performances. Whatever your fancy, Phuket will thrill and delight!

The island has been enjoying a flourishing tourism trade as of recently and especially South Africans love to travel here.  Thailand is generally very affordable and a very good choice if you want to enjoy beautiful beaches, splendid cuisine and historical attractions.  BUT there is so much more to Phuket than just cheap cocktails and go-go bars.  Here is a list of things to do in Phuket:

Okay you HAVE to visit the beaches.  Think tropical greenery, bluer than blue water.  Grab your beach bats or sit back, relax and work on your tan.

Thai cooking – Thai cuisine is one of MY favourite cuisines.  It consists mostly of lightly prepared dishes, with a rice or noodle base, with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge.  If you want to make these delicacies at home, take some Thai cooking classes and wow all your friends on your return.

Yoga – Yoga is the perfect way to relax even more while getting in some exercise while you holiday.  Beach yoga is available everywhere and you don’t have to be a yogi!  Beginners are more than welcome!

Beach front bars – These beach front bars are perfect for sundowners and with Thailand’s great prices you can work your way through the money and have a jolly time.

Sightseeing – Sail off and discover the surrounding bays and islands.  Snorkeling, diving and canoeing are all activities that you can enjoy while out in the sun.  There is also a heap of historical monuments and temples to visit for a cultural injection.  For the shopaholics there are markets for days to explore and browse through.

Best time to go

Deciding when to visit Phuket is based on personal preference and your budget.  The weather is pretty much good all year round which makes it a very sought after destination.  Peak season is between November and March and attracts many tourists.  During summer, the beach towns have a rowdy nightlife, busy marketplaces and conditions are perfect for water activities.  Unfortunately high season also means higher flight prices, accommodation and shopping.  The monsoon (or wet) season is from April to October.  You can expect heavy rain showers but these don’t last very long and will clear up very quickly.  Still the perfect time for outdoor activities PLUS you’ll pay lower prices.

Health & Safety

Holidaymakers need to be vigilant at all times as pick pocketing is something that is experienced regularly.  Muggings also occur so be take extra precaution at night and never wander by yourself.  During monsoon season, beware of fierce currents and freak waves.  Drownings occur every year simply because tourists don’t adhere to the red flag warning.  If you decide to rent a scooter, make sure to know the basics and where your helmet (even if the locals don’t!).

There are no mandatory vaccinations needed but we advise a Hepatitis A and Tetanus shot just to prevent any illness due to possible water or food contamination.


Thailand is one of the countries that does NOT require a visa for South African visitors.  You can enter the country for a maximum stay of 30 days.  Make sure your passport is still valid for a minimum of 6 months after date of departure and that there are 2 blank pages available for stamps.


Mauritius: an island oasis

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Step away from the rush of urban life with a visit to the charming country of Mauritius. This beautiful Indian Ocean island nation, situated in East Africa, is famous as an island holiday destination, with a range of gorgeous beaches and islands, such as Blue Bay, Belle Mare Plage and Trou aux Biches.

Experience all that this island nation has to offer with a visit to some of its major cities and towns:

One of the major cities of Mauritius is the capital and largest destination – Port Louis. Explore this tourist hotspot and discover a blend of various countries and cultures, including India, Africa, Europe, China and the Middle East. Celebrated for its lively commercial spirit, you’ll experience a vibrant hub of activity in Port Louis.

Another major destination is the town of Curepipe, which is, though situated inland, a major tourist attraction. It offers nature lovers the Curepipe Botanic Gardens and easy access to the amazing Trou aux Cerfs crater and the Monvert Nature Park.

You’ll surely want to spend time at one of Mauritius’s scenic beaches, and for that, one of the best destinations is Flic-en-Flac. This quaint seaside town sits on the western part of the island nation, and includes one of the longest and most gorgeous beaches in the world!


Why visit Mauritius

Historic Architecture – Mauritius was ruled by the Dutch, French and the British. Visit the sites that reflect these former periods, such as the Kalaisson Temple in Port Louis, Maison Eureka in Moka and the Martello Tower Museum in Riviere Noire.

A Coastal Paradise – One of the crowning attractions of this island nation is its wonderful collection of alluring beaches and islands. Relax and soak up the sun at coastal hotspots such as Grand Baie, Trou aux Biches and Île aux Cerfs.

Exceptional Nature – Mauritius boasts a wealth of breath-taking natural areas that will be sure to astound you, such as the Black River Gorges National Park, the Frederica Nature Reserve in Bel-Ombre and Seven Coloured Earths in Riviere Noire

Best time to visit

Mauritius enjoys warm weather all year round with moderate to high rainfall. Get the most comfortable weather conditions and the lowest rainfall by visiting the island nation during the seasons of winter (May – October) and early summer (November – December). These months will give you a break from the intense heat of the rest of the summer (January – April). With the conditions offered during this time, you can still enjoy the beaches and nature areas while avoiding the crowds that come during the mid to late summer season to enjoy the perfect beach weather, as well as the high hotel costs.

Visa & Customs

You will not need a visa to visit Mauritius. Make sure your passport will be valid for six months after your return date.  For more information, contact the Mauritius High Commission in Pretoria (phone: +27 12 342 1283). The High Commission of South Africa is in the capital of Mauritius, Port Louis. Address: 4th Floor, British American Insurance Building, 25 Pope Hennessy Street, Port Louis.

Health & Safety

Before your trip, check with your doctor about getting all the routine vaccinations for travellers to Mauritius. Make sure to also receive immunisations for hepatitis A and typhoid, both of which are transmittable through contaminated food and water.

While enjoying the beautiful landscapes, lakes and beaches of Mauritius, make sure to stay alert at all times. Watch out for suspicious behaviour. Consider organising comprehensive travel insurance and confirm what activities and circumstances are not covered by your policy.

In addition, practise these basic safety tips while in Mauritius:

• Stay away from remote areas.

• When leaving your valuables in a vehicle, lock them in the boot to keep them out of sight.

• Refuse all offers of free guided tours.

• Do not use unlicensed taxis, as they are unsafe and drivers may overcharge you.