Thursday, December 15, 2022

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka Flag



Why visit Sri Lanka?
Ideal for the adventurous tropical traveler seeking to enjoy beaches, birdwatching, colonial architecture, culture, festivals, hiking, historical sites, monuments, mountains, national parks, palaces, safaris, scuba diving, temples, waterfalls, water sports, and wildlife reserves.



Sigiriya, Dambulla, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Poswiecie/Pixabay 



At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy: Buddha figurines, cane boxes, cats-eye gem, cloth woven patterns, elephant goods, masks, moonstone gem, paintings, porcelain, sapphires gem, spices, and tea.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Aluwa (dessert). Bibikkan (coconut cake). Ekor (delicacy soup). Godamba Roti (flatbread). Kalu Dodol (dessert). Kiri Aluwa (toffee). Kiribath (rice cake). Kokis (fried pastry). Kottu (stir-fry). Kool (seafood broth) Pittu (rice). String Hoppers (noodle dish). Thala Guli (sweet snack). Wattalapam (rice pudding).
  • Local Drink to Try: Arrack (spirit). Toddy (tree sap).


Colombo, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: bestbauch/Pixabay 



Fun Facts
  • South Asia pear-shaped Island nation.
  • Where the late Diana (1961 - 1997), Princess of Wales blue sapphire was mined (Ratnapura). 
  • Home to the oldest democracy in Asia.
  • Highest point, Pidurutalagala (8,281 ft).
  • Has 103 rivers.
  • Home to 51 natural waterfalls.
  • Highest waterfall, Bambarakanda Falls (863 ft).
  • Volleyball is the national sport.
  • Wilpattu National Park (northwest) is the largest national park.
  • Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation (formerly Radio Ceylon) is the oldest operating Asian radio station.
  • Most popular sport is cricket.

Nine Arches Bridge (Bridge in the Sky), Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Shivaaz RGL/Pixabay 



Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: (January) Aluth Sahal Mangallaya, Duruthu Perahera, Nallur Festival, Thai Pongal, (February) Colombo Fashion Week, Galle Literary Festival, Maha Sivarathri Festival, Nawam Maha Perahera, (March) Galle Literary Festival, (April) Easter Festival, Sri Lankan New Year Festival, (May) Vesak, (June) Abhimani Film Festival, Poson Festival, (July) Esla Festival, Kataragama Festival, (August) Bellanwila Perehera, Kandy Perahera, Madhu Festival, Nallur Festival, Sri Lankan Chess Championship, The St Anne's, Vel Festival (September) Colombo International Book Fair, Facets Exhibition, Star Party Sri Lanka, (October) Navarathri Festival, Sri Lankan Airlines Golf Classic, World Spice Festival, (November) Deepavali Festival, (December) Adam’s Peak, and Schoolboy Cricketer of the Year.
  • Holidays: Tamil Thai Pongal Day, Duruthu Full Moon Poya Day, National Day, Navam Full Moon Poya Day, Mahasivarathri Day, Madin Full Moon Poya Day, Sinhala & Tamil, Sinhala & Tamil New Year's Eve, Sinhala & Tamil New Year's Day, Good Friday, Bak Full Moon Poya Day, May Day, Eid al-Fitr, Vesak Full Moon Poya Day, Eid al-Adha, Esala Full Moon Poya Day, Raksha Bandhan, Nikini Full Moon Poya Day, Ganesh Chaturthi, Dussehra, Vap Full Moon Poya Day, Unduvap Full Moon Poya Day, and Christmas Day. 

Devils Stair Case, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Samantha Weerasinghe/Pixabay 



Good to Know
  • Considered a developing country.
  • Official languages are Sinhala and Tamil. English is widely spoken in commercial, education, and scientific environments.
  • Sri Lankan Gem & Jewelry Exchange (Colombo) has a gem testing laboratory.
  • Weligama offers gentle surfing.
  • Military maintains a significant presence in the northern region.
  • Most tourist friendly beaches are in the south and west area.
  • If a Guide takes you into a shop, shop owners may charge you more to cover the Guides commission.
  • Armed gangs are known to exists.
  • Northern peninsula is only restricted to journalists.
  • Avoid Colombo Pettah neighborhood at night.
  • Women should avoid traveling alone.
  • Credit card fraud is frequent.
  • Bentota Beach is sandwiched between a lagoon and ocean.
  • Unawatuna offers a tranquil bay.
  • January - April is considered the best time for visiting cultural sites without large local crowds.
  • Train from Colombo to Kandy offers a scenic ride (Bible Rock).
  • Hospitals tend to be poorly supplied.
  • Avoid demonstrations.
  • Tourism industry is unevenly regulated, safety inspections do not commonly occur.
  • Rainy Season (southwest) is May - July.
  • Buses tend to be crowded.
  • Knuckles Range (6,112 feet) offers lovely views of the Dumbara Valley below.
  • Posing for a photograph with your back to a Buddha statue is a serious offense, punishable by arrest and/or fine.
  • Western Kalpitiya peninsula is popular for kitesurfing.
  • Prevalent Diseases: Chikungunya, Dengue Fever, & Japanese Encephalitis.
  • Bar Reef is known for scuba diving and snorkeling.
  • Medical facilities outside the capital (Colombo) are limited.
  • Monsoon Season (northeast) is December - January.
  • Mosquito protection is strongly advised.
  • Traffic moves on the left.
  • Fooding causes roads to be inaccessible for several days.


Photo Credit: Mohamed Nuzrath/Pixabay 



This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport with six months of validity and one blank page for entry stamp.
  • Tourist VISA required.
  • Yellow Fever Vaccination required from select countries. 
  • Currency Restrictions for Entry $15,000USD/Exit: $5,000USD.
 
Subject to heavy rainfall, high temperatures, humidity, landslides, and monsoons.

  • Best Time to Visit: December - April & May - October
  • Coolest Month: January
  • Hottest Months: May - June
  • Peak Season: November - April


Dambulla Royal Cave Temple & Golden Temple, Dambulla, Sri Lanka, Photo Credit: Lapping/Pixabay 



Your Must-See & Do
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Dambulla Cave Temple, Galle, Kandy, Poḷonnaruwa, Sigiriya, and Sinharaja Forest Reserve.


Walapane Peace Pagoda, Walapane, Sri Lanka. Photo Credit: Vined Mind/Pixabay



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Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Spain

Spain Flag



Why visit Spain?
Offers something for everyone to enjoy art, beaches, bullfighting, castles, cathedrals, caves, churches, coastlines, culture, cultural events, diverse landscapes, gastronomy, golf, hiking, historical sites, kitesurfing, mountains, museums, music, national parks, outdoor cafes, palaces, shopping, skiing, spas, spectator sports, tapa bars, traditional fiestas, villages, water sports, windsurfing, and wineries.



Toledo, Spain. Photo Credit: Steven Yu/Pixabay 



At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy: Copper, guitars, handmade furniture, handmade shawls, knotted rugs, lace embroidery, leather goods, liqueurs, paintings, sculptures, pottery, swords, and wines.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Cochinillo Asado (roast pork). Fabada (bean stew). Gambas al Ajillo 
    (prawns). 
    Gazpacho (cold soup). Leche Frita (dessert). Paella (rice dish). Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes). Pisto (eggplant dish). Pollo al Ajillo (garlic chicken). Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus). Tortilla Española (omelette). Turrón (nougat).
  • Local Drink to Try: Agua de Valencia (cocktail). Barraquito (coffee). Catalan Ratafia (liquor). Cava (spirit). Clara (beer). Granizado (frozen). Horchata (chufa milk). Kalimotxo (cocktail). Rias Baixas (wine). Rioja (wine). Ronmiel de Canarias (rum). Sangria. Sherry. Tinto de Verano (cocktail). Queimada (cocktail). Rebujito (cocktail). Sidra (cider). Veterano (brandy).


Begur, Spain. Photo Credit: Enrique/Pixabay 



Fun Facts
  • Torre de Hercules (La Coruna) is the oldest lighthouse in the world (20BC).
  • Hosted the 1992 Summer Olympics & Paralympics (Barcelona). 
  • Menorca's port city (Mahon) is the birthplace of mayonnaise.
  • Europe's fourth largest country.
  • World leader in organ donation and  organ transplants.
  • World's second most visited country.
  • Transcontinental country with territory in both Africa and Europe. 
  • Mount Teide is the highest mountain peak.
  • Madrid is the highest capital city in Europe.
  • Mount Teide is the third largest volcano in the world. 
  • Has 11 major Islands: El Hierro, Formentera, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, La Gomera, Lanzarote, La Palma, Mallorca, Menorca, and Tenerife.
  • Second largest car manufacturer in Europe.
  • Six highways connect to Madrid.
  • Has the most extensive high-speed rail network in Europe.
  • Fourth highest number of UNESCO World Heritage (49) sites in the world.
  • Encierro (running of the bulls) occurs at 8AM from July 7 - July 14.


Barcelona, Spain.  Photo Credit: Joaquin Aranoa/Pixabay 



Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: (January) Granada Reconquest Festival, La Tamborrada, (February) ARCO (International Contemporary Art Fair, Barcelona Beer Festival, Barcelona Carnaval, Carnaval de Cádiz, Festival de Jerez, Gastro Festival, Madrid Carnaval, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, (March) Fallas de Valencia, (April) Feria de Sevilla, (May) Cordoba Patios Festival, Feria del Caballo, Festival de los Patios, Fiestas de San Isidro, (June) Haro Wine Festival, La Noche de San Juan, Sónar, Suma Flamenca, Verbena de Sant Joan, (July) Benicassim Festival, Festival Internacional de Musica y Danza de Granada, Fiesta de San Fermín, Fiesta de Santiago, San Sebastián Jazz Festival, The Capture of the Beasts, Vitoria-Gasteiz Jazz Festival, (August) Battle of the Tomatoes, Festival Internacional de Santander, Fiestas of Lavapiés & La PalomaMálaga Fair, Mystery of Elche, Saffron Rose Festival, (September) Diada de Catalunya, Festa de la Mercè,  San Sebastián International Film Festival, (October) Amorevore Food & Arts Festival, Feria de Otoño, and (December) Christmas Markets.
  • Holidays: New Year's Day, Epiphany, Good Friday, Assumption of Mary, Hispanic Day, All Saint's Day Holiday, La Almudena, Constitution Day Holiday, and Immaculate Conception.


Asturias, Spain. Photo Credit: Enrique/Pixabay 



Good to Know
  • Point Tarifa is considered the best for kitesurfing and windsurfing in Europe.
  • Soccer Season runs from September - June.
  • Spanish coffee is very strong, for a weaker cup, ask for Americano.
  • Lunch service starts around 1:30PM.
  • There's a 300EUR fine for violating use of a mobile phone without a hands-free device.
  • Dinner service starts around 9PM.
  • Anti-smoking Law Bans smoking in enclosed public spaces: airports, bars, casinos, cinemas, clubs, hotel lobbies, office buildings, open-decked tourist buses, restaurants, and theaters.
  • Siesta (time of rest) is from 1-4PM.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • International Driving Permit is required.
  • Requires Liability Insurance to operate any rental vehicle.
  • Considered to provide one of the highest degrees of liberty in the world for LGBT  community.
  • Rail system links: Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, Seville, Valladolid, and Valencia.


Plaza de España, Seville, Spain. Photo Credit: David Mark/Pixabay 


This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport with six months of validity and one blank page for entry stamp.


Menorca (Minorca), Balearic islands, Spain. Photo Credit: Lutz Hirschmann/Pixabay 

  • Best Time to Visit: April - June & September - October
  • Coldest Months: December - February
  • Hottest Months: July - August 
  • Peak Season: June - August

Lakes of Covadonga, Asturias, Spain. Photo Credit: Enrique/Pixabay 



Your Must-See & Do
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Albaicín, Alcalá de Henares, Alhambra, Antequera Dolmens Site, Aqueduct of Segovia, Archivo General de Indias, Atapuerca, Ávila, Baeza, Burgos Cathedral, Cáceres, Camino de Santiago, Casa Batlló, Catedral de Sevilla, Cave of Altamira, Cave of Altamira & Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain, Ciudad Vieja de Ávila e Iglesias Extramuros, Córdoba, Cuenca, Doñana National Park, Garajonay National Park, Generalife, Granada, Ibiza, La Pedrera-Casa Milà, La Sagrada Familia, Lonja de la Seda, Las Médulas, Lugo, Monasterio de Santa María de Poblet, Monte Perdido, Mudéjar Architecture of Aragon, Municipality of Mérida, Oviedo, Palau de la Música Catalana, Palmeral of Elche, Parc Güell, Pyrenees, Royal Alcázars of Seville, Royal Monastery of Saint Mary of Guadalupe, Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Salamanca, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, San Millán de la Cogolla, Santiago de Compostela, Sant Pau Art Nouveau Site, Segovia, Tarragona, Toledo, Úbeda, and Vizcaya Bridge.



Málaga, Spain. Photo Credit: Pexels/Pixabay



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Monday, December 12, 2022

South Sudan

South Sudan Flag



Why visit South Sudan?
Best known for birdwatching, culture, game reserves, hiking, lush savannas, national parks, rainforests, sport fishing, swamplands, wildlife, and white water rafting.


At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy: Amber, beaded jewelry, carved wooden statues, copper, crochet garments, grass products. hibiscus tea, masks, reed baskets, semi-precious stones, and straw products.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Aseeda (porridge). Ful Medames (bean dish). Kajaik (fish stew). Kisra (pancake). Madeeda Hilba (porridge). Mandazi (fried pastry). Moukhbaza (banana paste).
  • Local Drink to Try: Karkade Tea (hibiscus tea).

Fun Facts
  • Decades of civil war many fled to Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.
  • Forests lend mahogany hardwood.
  • Wrestling is a traditional sport.
  • The only brewery, Southern Sudan Beverages Limited went bankrupt (2016).

Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: (February) Jesus Festival, Mawlid an-Nabi, (October) Sufi Holiya Festival, (July) Independence Day Marathon, (August) Festival of Fashion & Arts for Peace, Japanese Summer Festival, (October) Hope for a New Nation, Human Rights Film Festival, and (December) South Sudan Film Festival.
  • Holidays: New Year's Day, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, Labour Day, SPLA Day, Independence Day, Martyrs' Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, Eid al-Fitr, and Eid al-Adha.

Good to Know
  • Amongst the poorest and least developed countries in the world. 
  • Rainy Season is May - October.
  • Avoid tap water consumption.
  • Water is scarce during the Dry Season (January - April) in areas.
  • Mosquitoes infest the riverbanks and swamps.
  • Travel with a copy of your passport and VISA.
  • Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings. 
  • ATMs draw on local banks only.
  • Internet service is available in major cities and towns.
  • Avoid evening exploring or travel.
  • U.S. currency prior to 2006 is not accepted.
  • Has no formal tourism industry infrastructure.
  • Landmines remain a hazard.
  • Journalists are required to report to South Sudanese Media Authority.
  • Road ambushes and roadside crime are common.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • Amateur or professional photography requires a permit (Ministry of Interior, $50).
  • Exclusively a cash society.
  • Roads tend to be impassable during the Rainy Season (March - November).
  • Avoid taking random photos in public.
  • Most buildings lack elevators.
  • Roads are narrow, poorly maintained, rutted, and unpaved.
  • Avoid travel along border areas.
  • Checkpoint bribe solicitations are common.
  • Drive with doors locked and windows closed.
  • Avoid photographing airports, bridges, government buildings, or persons in uniform, vehicles.
  • Same-sex sexual relations is illegal; punishable 10 or 14 years in prison.
  • Medical care and facilities are far below western standards.
  • Prevalent Diseases: Cholera, Dengue, Hepatitis A, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Measles, Meningococcal, Polio, Rabies, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever.
  • International Driver's License and third-party liability insurance is required.
  • Many local drivers are uninsured.

This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport with six months of validity and two blank pages for entry stamp.
  • Tourist VISA required.
  • Yellow Fever Vaccination required. 

Subject to droughts, high temperatures, and humidity.

  • Best Time to Visit: December - February
  • Coolest Months: June - September
  • Hottest Months: January - April
  • Peak Season: December - February

Ready to embark on custom and 
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Friday, December 9, 2022

South Korea

South Korea Flag



Why visit South Korea?
For travelers seeking to enjoy architecture, beaches, birdwatching, cultural performances, hiking, hot springs, mountain climbing, mountain trails, museums, national parks, palaces, shopping, snow skiing, spas, temples, traditional culture, and unspoiled scenery. 



Seoul, South Korea. Photo Credit: csk/Pixabay



At a Glance
  • Souvenirs to Buy: Amethyst, athletic shoes, bamboo goods, brassware, calligraphy goods, ceramics, custom-made clothes, cutwork paper crafts, dolls, furs, ginseng, jewelry, lacquer ware, leather goods, musical instruments, painted gourds, paintings, porcelain, pottery, silks, topaz, and wood carvings.
  • Local Cuisine to Try: Bibim Nengmyun (cold noodles). Bibimbap (rice dish). Bulgogi (marinated beef). Galbi (marinated ribs). Hotteok (fried cakes). Jajangmyeon (noodles). Jeyuk Bbokeum (sauteed pork). Jjigae (stew). Kalguksu (noodle soup). Kimchi Jjiage (stew). Mandu Guk (dumpling soup). Samgyetang (stewed chicken). Seolleongtang (beef soup). Yukgejang (beef soup).
  • Local Drink to Try: Banana Milk. Bokbunja Ju (wine). Boricha (tea). Makgeolli (spirit). Milkis (milk/yoghurt soda). Sikhye (sweet). Soju (spirit). Sujeonggwa (drinkable dessert).


Sejong, South Korea. Photo Credit: choe yongwoo/Pixabay 


Fun Facts
  • Women keep their maiden name, and their children take their father's last name.
  • World's 5th largest nuclear power producer.
  • Hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics (Pyeongchang).
  • Middle and high school aged students wear uniforms.
  • Home to the world's second best healthcare system.
  • "Korean Wave" reflects their influential pop music and TV dramas.
  • Esports reflects their competitive video gaming. 


Gamcheon Culture Village, Busan, South Korea. Photo Credit: Pixabay 



Special Holidays/Occasions
  • Annual Events: (January) Hwacheon Mountain Trout Festival, Jaraseom Singsing Winter Festival, (February) Inje Ice Fishing Festival, (March) yeongju Traditional Drink & Rice Cake Festival, Jeongwol Daeboreum Fire Festival, (April) Gochang Green Barley Festival, Gunhangje Cherry Blossom Festival, Gwangalli Eobang Festival, Hi Seoul Festival, Icheon Ceramic Festival, Jeju Fire Festival, Jeonju International Film Festival, Jindo Miracle Sea Parting Festival, Yeouido Spring Flower Festival, (May) Boseong Green Tea Festival, Gangneung Danoje Festival, Lotus Lantern Festival, (June) Haeundae Sand Festival, Muju Firefly Festival, (July) Boryeong Mud Festival, Taebaek Sunflower Festival, (August) Busan International Rock Festival, Muan White Lotus Festival (September) Harvest Festival, (October) Icheon Rice Cultural Festival, Jagalchi Festival, Jeonju Bibimbap Festival, Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF), (November) Gwangju Kimchi Festival, and Seoul Lantern Festival.
  • Holidays: New Year's Day, Seollal Holiday, Independence Movement Day, Presidential Election, Labor Day, Children's Day. Buddha's Birthday, Local Election Day, Memorial Day, Liberation Day, Chuseok Holiday, National Foundation Day, Hangeul Proclamation Day, and Christmas Day.


Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, Seoul, South Korea. Photo Credit: csk/Pixabay 



Good to Know
  • Southern tip (Jeju island) is known as the "Hawaii of Korea".
  • Cease an opportunity for an overnight temple stay to cleanse your body, mind, and spirit. 
  • Birdwatching is best between December - March.
  • Best hiking trails are in Hallasan (Jeju Island), Jirisan (north Jeolla-do), and Seoraksan National Park (Gangwon-do).
  • Ski Season is from December - February.
  • Antiques prior to 1910 may require a certificate to export.
  • Duty-Free stores are in Cheongju airports, Gimhae, Incheon, Jeju, and  seaports.
  • Monsoon Season is June - August.
  • Authorities may arrest, detain, and imprison persons believed to have committed acts intended to endanger the “security of the state”.
  • Typhoon Season is May - November.
  • Avoid tap water consumption.
  • Strict enforcement of regulations on exporting and importing: firearms, gold, narcotics, non-prescription health supplements, prescription drugs, and radio equipment.
  • Dust and pollution is an issue in Seoul.
  • Be prepared to use chopsticks.
  • Amphetamines are illegal.
  • Avoid demonstrations and rallies.
  • Motorcyclists may drive on sidewalks.
  • Keep currency-exchange receipts for departure exchange.
  • Known tensions with North Korea.
  • Requires an International Driving Permit.
  • Buildings tend to be heated via pipes embedded in the floor.
  • Culturally avoid blowing your nose in public.
  • Visiting Panmunjeom avoid wearing jeans, sandals or shorts.
  • Don't write a citizen's name in red ink; this indicates the person is deceased or your desire for them to be.
  • Seat belts are mandatory.
  • Car ferry and hydrofoil services between Korea and Japan.
  • Blood alcohol content of 0.03%/+ is considered legally intoxicated.


Dodamsambong Peaks, Danyang County, South Korea. Photo Credit: Pixabay



This international destination requires:
  • A valid passport and one blank page for entry stamp.
  • Tourist VISA required.


Yuldong Park, eongnam, South Korea. Photo Credit: friscii/Pixabay 


Subject to high humidity, high temperatures, monsoons, typhoons, and yellow dust storms.


Gold Crown Tomb (Geumgwanchong), Gyeongju, South Korea. Photo Credit: Nabin Mewahang/Pixabay 


  • Best Time to Visit: March - May & September - November
  • Coldest Months: November - March
  • Hottest Months: May - September
  • Peak Season: June - August


Jeju Island, South Korea. Photo Credit: Evaldas Daugintis/Pixabay 



Your Must-See & Do
  • UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Baekje Historic Areas, Changdeokgung Palace Complex, Getbol Korean Tidal Flats, Gochang Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites, Gyeongju Historic Areas, Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, Historic Villages of Korea, Hwaseong Fortress, Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes, Jongmyo Shrine, Namhansanseong, Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty, Sansa, Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple, and Seowon.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea. Photo Credit: Pixabay



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                                        All information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Subject to change without notice.   

Switzerland

Switzerland Flag Why visit Switzerland? Offers something for everyone art, balloon rides, canoeing, churches, climbing, cobblestone streets...