Discovering the islands of the Koh Chang archipelago

photo by CC user Keskustelu käyttäjästä:Khaosaming on

Want to give Thailand a chance, but don’t want to tangle with the mass tourism development that is so prevalent in many of this country’s resort areas?

Then plan your beach time in the islands of the Koh Chang archipelago. Below, we’ll give you an idea of what to expect in this chain’s biggest destinations…

Koh Chang

The main island of Koh Chang is the obvious place to begin, as it is the largest isle in this grouping (and the second largest in the country; only Phuket is bigger).

Not overrun by the tourist hordes like many of its cousins in the south, yet possessing all the services you need to have a relatively comfortable holiday, it is a place that many repeat travelers to Thailand have taken a liking to over the years.

From package tour amenities at White Sand Beach, to tattoo shacks and backpacker bars at gorgeous Lonely Beach, this place has an environment that can fits the desires of any traveler.

What’s more, a mountainous, jungle-filled interior promises adventure for those that love nature and trekking. With peaks that soar above 2,000 feet above sea level, you’ll also have access to a view that few others will ever lays eyes on.

Koh Maak

If all the development that is presently on Koh Chang has you disillusioned, the Thailand that you have come to envision in your head lies only several kilometres more off the southern coast of the big island in the form of a place called Koh Maak.

Rimmed by white and red sand beaches, some of which have garnered awards for being the best in the world from leading newspapers such as the Sunday Times (United Kingdom), this place has been kept pristine by agricultural land owners that use most of the island’s interior for growing coconuts and pineapples.

This has largely shut out the louder, brassier aspects of the industry, making Koh Maak a place that countless people rave about.

Koh Kood

Want to have that dream holiday to the Maldives, but don’t think you can afford it? Koh Kood, located just over 10 kilometres to the southeast of Koh Maak, offers the ridiculously beautiful tropical setting that the former island nation is famous for, all at a fraction of the price it costs.

Most of the familiar tourist distractions are absent here, leaving only deserted stretches of beach, exclusive resorts designed to spoil their customers, and dive and snorkel operations for those looking to explore the world under the water.

Pub crawling in Dublin

photo by CC user Cotton on wikimedia commons

For many folks, pub crawling in Dublin is a bucket list item that many seek to tick off before their best years get behind them. While many opt to do this during St. Patrick’s Day, any time of year is a great time to enjoy yourself here.

Just one note on accommodations before we begin: if you stay in a hotel located near the Temple Bar bars, getting to and from all the pubs on this list will prove to be a much easier task. By planning ahead, your experience here will be a very memorable one indeed…

1) Porterhouse

If you’re a self-respecting drinker, you’ll begin your magical pub tour of Dublin at the crack of Noon at the Porterhouse. Holding the distinction of being the city’s oldest microbrewery, the care that staff put into the brew that they create will be apparent from the moment you hoist your first pint of their draft.

Try their trademark oyster lager (and YES, it is made from real oysters), and pair it with their pub food, which will line your stomach for the onslaught of alcohol that is to come.

2) Southwilliam

Looking to mix it up with the youth of Dublin on your second stop of the evening? Stopping by Southwilliam pub is the way to go, as this establishment is well known by the youth of this city as Swilly.

Apart from being being a slick, nifty nickname, its name connotes what will be going on during your time … lots of raising and draining of pint glasses.

3) Foggy Dew

Making your way back to the Temple Bar area, the Foggy Dew makes an excellent alternative to the immensely popular pub from which the area takes its name.

While quite a few tourists still find their way over to this hidden gem, it is well populated by locals as well, making it a great spot for those craving authenticity in their Dublin pub crawl experience.

Like live music? Alternative and traditional Irish music goes off here almost every night, making a good choice for those that love to rock out to a band when they hit the town.

4) Gaiety

Is it getting late at night, but you aren’t ready to quit just yet? Keep the party vibe going by swinging by Gaiety.

Serving as a theatre by day, it transforms into a rancorous scene at night. With tons of people milling about and with the massive space that this structure takes up, there are no shortage of bars available where someone can wet their whistle.

From jazz to Latin music, this place is a great late night alternative for those that aren’t looking to get down to EDM or dub step.

How to be a good tourist on your next trip

photo by CC user AgnosticPreachersKid on wikimedia commons

Don’t want to be the traveler that incurs the wrath of others, be they locals or other fellow tourists? By learning how to be a good tourist, your next (or first) trip will go smoother than you ever though possible…

Take some time to learn about the local customs

Don’t be that guy or girl touching monks on the head, or walking through the middle of conservative towns with your shirt off.

Take a couple hours to research the culture of the country that you are about to visit. While web research helps, thumbing through a recent Lonely Planet or Rough Guides guidebook will give you the in-depth scoop on cultural norms wherever you happen to be going so that you don’t offend someone on the ground unintentionally.

Memorize some key phrases in the native language of the place you’ll be visiting

Just because English is the de facto language for business and aviation worldwide doesn’t mean that everyone you come into contact will speak or understand you when you impose your mother tongue on them.

Shouting at the top of your lungs won’t help either … in fact, it will make matters worse. By learning at least how to say pleasantries (hello, thank you, goodbye) in your target language, you’ll come off as a respectable person.

Extend that to situational phrases (e.g. how are you today?) will further endear the locals to you, so make that extra effort if you can.

Treat locals like human beings

People overseas are just like us. They want to be happy, prosperous, spend time with their friends and family, and live in peace.

By treating those you encounter in a developing country like second-class citizens that are beneath you, you aren’t helping them further these objectives.

By being cordial, tipping well (where warranted … don’t try this in certain parts of Asia, as it is actually an insult), volunteering where it makes sense to do so, and by being a decent human being, you will leave the people you come into contact in better shape than they were before.

Be patient, be polite, and smile

When traveling, you will inevitably run into situations that will try your patience. Don’t give into your base instincts of anger and frustration.

It may be the easiest thing in the world to do, but it will not help your situation, and it will make everyone around you miserable.

The people serving you are doing the best they can in the situation if which they are in, and even if they aren’t, how does it serve you to get upset?

Smile. You’ll be on your way before you know it, and the positive energy this creates will allow you to manage future bumps in the road more easily.

5 Top Sand Sculpting Festivals in the USA

by thehipmunk

Every year, there are numerous sand castle festivals across the United States that you won’t want to miss. The festivals generally feature live music, food booths and awe-inspiring sand creations that are sure to amaze you.

1. Headlands BeachFest

In July, the Headlands BeachFest is held at Ohio’s Headland Beach. The event brings master sand sculptors from around the world who compete to win the coveted title of “Ohio’s Master Sand Sculptor.” There is live entertainment, art booths and numerous food vendors. Best of all, admission to the event is free.

2. Blue Water SandFest

The Blue Water SandFest is three days of fun. The event takes place at the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse, alongside Lake Huron. Three sand sculpting competitions are held: the Master Sand Sculpting Contest, Advanced Amateur Contest and the Amateur Contest. You can also enjoy one of the event’s hands-on sand sculpting lessons. At the Kid Zone area, children can try their hand at sculpting sand. Tickets to the event are sold at the front gate.

If you are attending the festival, you might want to make advance lodging reservations because hotels in the area sell out quickly. The Quality Inn & Suites Port Huron is located close to the Fort Gratiot Lighhouse.

3. Long Beach Sand Sculpting Competition Extravaganza (Sandsations)

The Long Beach Sand Sculpting Competition Extravaganza, also known as Sandsations, is a festival that has taken place for over 30 years in Long Beach, Washington. The competition itself is held next to the Long Beach Boardwalk. Sand sculpting classes are held for all skill levels throughout the event. Even children are encouraged to try their hand at sand castle construction.

Hotels in the area tend to book up for the annual event, so you should consider reservations. The Cedars Ocean View Inn, for instance, is located within walking distance to the Long Beach Boardwalk.

4. Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest

For over 50 years, the Cannon Beach Sand Castle Contest has taken place on the shores of the Pacific Ocean in Oregon. The contest is a race against time to see which sculptor can create the most awe-inspiring masterpiece before the ocean’s rising tide washes it away. There are competitions for all skill levels held throughout the day. The event is especially fun for the whole family with its mix of food, music and craft booths.

The Courtyard Hotel is located within walking distance to Cannon Beach. The concierge at the hotel will be happy to assist you with any local tours, tickets or transportation.

5. U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge

The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge in San Diego takes place every year over Labor Day on the city’s B Street Cruise Terminal Pier, where 300 tons of sand is dumped so it can be crafted and molded into elaborate sculptures. The event features non-stop live music, vendors and a variety of carnival rides.

There are plenty of hotels in San Diego that are located close to the event. However, since many of them book up rapidly, reservations are recommended.

Building sand castles is fun for all ages. If you want to spend a weekend enjoying sand, music, food and fun look no further than one of these five top sand sculpting festivals.

This post was posted by thehipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind blog on October 28, 2015.