Mexico's Mayan Riviera has something for everyone
Playa del Carmen and the Mayan Riviera have an exceptional array of attractions and activities from the Mayan ruins at Tulum to the Playa del Carmen nightlife, you will love your Mexico vacation. Here is a listing of some of the popular ones:
Beaches and sport activities
This area has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Most of the beaches have been manicured and have fine white sand. The water is a turquoise blue of the Caribbean Sea.
Scuba diving and snorkelling
Just off the coast is the world's fifth-longest barrier reef. The reef, home to hundreds of species of marine life, is perfect for snorkelling. Scuba dive and snorkel in the magnificent Caribbean waters. Scuba lessons for beginners and diving tours for the pros are available. Most resorts offer scuba/snorkel tours and/or lessons. Most of the ecological parks have great areas for snorkelling.
For more information: www.sealifedivers.com
Only 45 mins from Playa del Carmen by ferry, this diver's haven is well worth the trip across the ocean. Considered among the best snorkelling and diving spots in the world, Cozumel offers magnificent coral reefs, underwater caves, and shipwrecks sites to explore. There are over 30 kilometres of coral reef, including the world's second largest reef called the Gama Reef.
Playacar Golf Club - This is an 18 hole, par 72 championship golf course designed by Robert Von Hagge. This course is carved through the lush Mayan jungle where it awaits any golfer to come and tame it. Driving range and putting green. Playacar, Playa del Carmen, Q. Roo. Tel.: +52(984)873-0624
Puerto Aventuras - Marina, Tennis / Golf Club. Features a par 36, 9 hole course designed by Thomas Leeman. Maximum length 3,236 yards. Also features a putting green. Rental clubs / carts are available. - Located on the Cancun to Chetumal highway at km. 90 Puerto Aventuras, Playa del Carmen, Q.ROO. Tel.: 52-(987) 3-5109. Puerto Aventuras also has swimming with dolphins, relax and watch the dolphin show while having lunch. Puerto Aventuras also has a marina and restaurants.
For more information: www.dolphindiscovery.com
Take a trip out of time and trek through the wild exotic jungles of the Mexican Riviera, ATV Explorer Jungle Tours is the original Playa del Carmen jungle tour. Ride an ATV through jungle paths, swim in a clear 60 foot deep cenote, explore caves, climb ancient Mayan ruins on this 2 hour tour. Right next to Playa del Carmen and Playacar, Mexico, just an hour south of Cancun.
For more information: www.atvexplorer.com
The smallest Mayan ruin site among the three, Tulum only needs a ? day. These ruins overlook the ocean and are right on a beautiful beach. This is a perfect spot for a picnic, a short swim and sun bathing. Take lots of pictures.
Wear comfortable clothing and shoes and prepare for an hour and a half drive into the jungle before reaching these ruins. Well worth the drive as there are beautiful temples and pyramids to see.
This is the most famous and grandiose pyramid of them all. Bring plenty of film and marvel at the beautifully kept grounds and the new restoration work on the pyramid. A must see Mayan ruin for culture enthusiasts. Restaurants, small museum, and tourist shops abound.
An eco-Mayan theme park for the whole family. A must see if you visit the Mayan Riviera. Prepare to spend your entire day at Xcaret as there are a million and one things to do and see. An excellent light and sound show, swim with the dolphins, snorkelling, underground river runs, sea trekking, butterfly park, a Mayan village, and much more.
For more information: www.xcaret.net
Xel Ha is a eco-park with a large lagoon for snorkelling. It is a great place for first time snorkellers. Inner tubes and life vests are free, and you can rent snorkel gear or bring your own. Amazing cave system, cenotes, lagoon and snorkelling with thousands of tropical fish.
For more information: www.xel-ha.com
Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve, one of Mexico's largest parks, covers more than 1 million acres of coastal jungle or about 20 percent of the state of Quintana Roo's land. This virgin wilderness is home and sanctuary to innumerable species of tropical flora and fauna, of which, the jaguar found here is counted as one of the many protected species. Offers eco-trekking through mangroves, lagoons and rivers. Get a close-up look of the wildlife in the reserve in their natural habitat.
Witness spectacular geological formations and swim in crystal clear fresh water in the underground caves. Spider monkeys and a serpentarium (snakes) can be seen.
For more information: www.aktunchen.com
Located in Playacar, this exotic bird sanctuary is a wonderful natural habitat for some 60 species of tropical birds that populate the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula. Scarlet macaws, flamingos, herons and may other beautiful feathered creatures can be found here.
Jardin Botanico del Dr. Alfredo Barrera
Beautiful botanical gardens sprawling with exotic species of tropical fauna in the lush Mayan rainforest. The gardens sit on 60 hectares of jungle and mangrove. A groomed loop trail provides easy walking to various collections of plants, all beautifully displayed in their natural environment. A scenic lookout tower is a bit of a challenge to climb but rewards the brave with a panoramic view from the mangrove to the sea, and out over the jungle.
Playa del Carmen Shopping
The pedestrian street 5th Avenida in the heart of Playa del Carmen is lined with boutiques filled with goods from all over Mexico and the world. With handicrafts such as fine silver jewellery to hammocks there are shops that cater to every budget.
The stores that cater to tourists typically carry items such as carved wood and stone, hammocks, leather goods, paintings and sculptures. However, there are also high-end galleries featuring artworks from San Cristobal and Oaxaca for the serious Mexican art collector.
If you'd prefer to venture off the main strip, there are funky little treasures to be found in the small plaza between 6th and 8th ave.About The Author
Jolana Klobouk is the webmaster of www.best-family-beach-vacations.com. A parent and former travel agent, she has travelled extensively for work and vacations with her family.
Luxury Hotel Rooms At Lowest Prices For Top Holiday Destinations
Whether you like to spend your holidays in the snow, sand or seaside, you can find the best hotel deals in the most popular destinations of the world. Below are some of the most popular holiday destinations with links to book luxury hotel rooms at lowest prices.
A confident mix of old and new, Amsterdam, capital city of The Netherlands, features beautiful 17th- and 18th-century buildings and boasts some world-class museums, most notably the Van Gogh Museum, and the Rijksmuseum, home to some of the world’s finest artworks, including those by famous Dutch artist Rembrandt. Nightlife in Amsterdam is as mixed as the city itself, with something for everyone’s tastes available. A trip to Amsterdam would not be complete without renting a bicycle (Holland has more bicycles than residents), or cruising down the canals by boat.
Barcelona is the Mediterranean metropolis of excellence and yet at the same time open to all cultural influences flowing in from beyond the Pyrenees. Its well-ordered and proportioned town grid has given it quarters of unrivalled beauty, such as the Gothic Quarter, Las Ramblas and the modernist Paseo de Gracia.
The capital of Belgium, Brussels, is a cosmopolitan city, with liveliness and an appeal that are intimately related to its role as a crossroads for all of Europe. The many aspects of Brussels are expressed in the four quarters of the city. The Lower Town, which extends from Manneken Pis via the Grand Place to the Botanique. The Royal District in the Upper Town occupies the area between the Warande and the Palace of Justice. In the North of the city lies the Heizel with the Atomium and Bruparck. Just outside the city centre visitors will find the Cinquantenaire park and the European District facet.
Scotland's capital Edinburgh, is perhaps the country's most alluring city, it is a fascinating place with many historical and artistic treasures, a fantastic pub scene and scenery as beautiful as the Scottish highlands. Edinburgh Castle is a good place to start your exploration of the Scottish capital. The castle is beautiful, mysterious, romantic and a reminder of the city's bloody past. Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is one of the world’s most captivating streets.
London, the capital city of England, is energetic, cosmopolitan, hectic, diverse and thrilling. It is the largest city in Europe, and is a mixture of wealth and poverty, of glitz and grime, of imposing buildings and elegant shops, of world-class theatre and incredible nightclubs. Sights not to be missed include the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, and Covent Garden.
Multicultural Melbourne is the second largest city in Australia behind Sydney. Located on the Yarra River at the mouth of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne is a city of style, of Victorian architecture, of trams, of fashion, food, theatres, art galleries, and leafy gardens. It is a sport-mad city, which hosts events such as the Australian Tennis Open, the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, and the premier horse race, the race that ‘stops a nation,’ the Melbourne Cup. The “Great Ocean Road” is a popular drive for tourists and locals alike, acknowledged as one of the world's most spectacular coastal drives, visitors can view the spectacular site of the Twelve Apostles.
Paris is the economic, artistic, historic, and cultural capital of France. It is also deeply traditional, almost village-like and in parts, a dilapidated metropolis, which houses around 2 million people. The river Seine bisects the city, the Right Bank is home to the grand boulevards and most monumental buildings, many dating from Haussmann's nineteenth-century redevelopment. The Left Bank has a noticeably different feel, it has an atmosphere of Bohemian, dissident, intellectual connotations, and it shows in Paris' best range of bars and restaurants. The Eiffel Tower is Paris’ most famous and instantly recognizable landmark. The Champs-Elysees is the city’s most well-known boulevard. Elegant and broad, it links Place de la Concorde with the Arc de Triomphe.
The capital Prague, largest city of the Czech Republic, and former capital of Czechoslovakia, is located on both banks of the Vltava River. Visitors are drawn to the 'fairy tale' characteristics of Prague, but this is only part of its lively blend of styles. Prague is unquestionably a city best explored on foot, the entire central area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city centre is like an enormous open-air museum with an interesting mix of architectural innovation including Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque, Cubist and Art Nouveau styles.
Rome combines a sense of living history with a bustling, lively capital city. It is endlessly fascinating, utterly compelling and a feast for the eye with fountains, churches, palaces and ancient monuments at every turn. From the awesome splendour of the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica oozes romance and excitement.
Visitors can experience the magic of age-old traditions, historical sites and breathtaking settings in practically every part of this unique country. The most popular tourist destination is the Swedish capital, Stockholm. The grand old city by the water is known for its unique wonders such as the Vasa Ship; its elegance and grandeur, typified by the Royal Palace and surrounds, and its wonderfully preserved Old Town, "Gamla Stan", with 13th-century roots, subterranean vaults, church spires and narrow, cobbled laneways.
Many visitors would be surprised to find that Sydney, it’s largest city, is not the capital of Australia. Built on the shores of the stunning Port Jackson, Sydney is one of the world's landmark cities, and is also Australia's oldest city. Sydney, the nation's premier metropolis, mixes a flare for groundbreaking architecture, a love of the arts and high-powered commerce. The must-do’s on every visitors list include the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Centrepoint Tower, The Rocks, Bondi Beach, Olympic Park Homebush better known as the site of the 2000 Olympic Games, and Darling Harbour.
Located on a plain bordered by the Wienerwald and the Carpathian foothills, the Austrian capital, Vienna, is a cultural, industrial, commercial, and transportation centre. Vienna owes its spectacular architectural heritage to the Habsburg dynasty that controlled much of Europe for 600 years. Of special interest are the Hofburg, or Imperial Palace, with it's 14th century Augustinian church, Imperial Apartments and Royal Chapel where the Vienna Boy's Choir sing. Many of the world's most important composers including Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, Strauss and Mahler have lived and performed behind Vienna's Baroque facades.
http://www.hotelclub.net/hotel.reservations/Vienna.htmAbout The Author
Chloe Lim is a photographer and avid traveler. She travels extensively for work and family vacations. She is always on the lookout for bargain travel deals and discount luxury vacations.
This article is courtesy of http://www.hotelclub.net, you may freely reprint this article on your website or in your newsletter provided this courtesy notice and the author name and URL remain intact.
Bahamas Real Estate Guide to Permits, Residency and More
White sand beaches, clear blue waters, tax breaks, real estate and property; the Bahamas never looked so good. And yes, I said real estate. Bahamian real estate is hotter than ever.
In 1993, the International Persons Landholding Act was put into motion to encourage foreigners to purchase a second home in The Bahamas. And it couldn’t be simpler. If a foreigner buys a single family dwelling or vacant land to be used in the construction of such a dwelling, then he no longer needs to obtain a permit from the Government prior to the purchase. He only needs to register the acquisition later with the Investments Board. Permanent residents of the Bahamas and foreigners who inherit property in the Bahamas don’t have to obtain a permit before acquiring land but must register afterward.
However, there are cases where a permit will be needed for Bahamas real estate. First, if the property is undeveloped land and of five acres in size or larger. Secondly, if the property is not a private residence, or it is not intended for development as such, a permit is needed.
In dealing with mortgages, the act is not meant to be a road block. In fact, it provides that licensed banks, trust, and insurance companies who acquire an interest in or take possession of property under a court order must register that acquisition. An acquisition by way of foreclosure under a mortgage or of land acquired by an authorized foreign state will not require a permit but must be registered.
With leases, foreigners are not required to obtain permits, register leases, or letting agreements unless they are for trade or business purposes and the term can exceed 21 years.
Not only has the government made owning a second home easy for foreigners, they have also included a condition so that a foreigner no longer pays a double rate of stamp duty; he now pays the same single rate as a Bahamian.
The stamp duty is a tax that is payable on the delivery of all real property based on the value as follows: Stamp duty starts at 2% for real estate valued under $20,000 US, but increases to 10% for real estate over $250,000 US. Payment of this tax is usually shared equally between the seller and the buyer. There is also a 1% stamp duty on mortgages paid by the borrower. The usual practice in the Bahamas is for the tax to be shared equally between buyer and seller unless otherwise agreed upon.
If you are entering the Bahamas, you must fill out an embarkation-disembarkation card which is usually provided by your travel agent, the airline, or the ship you are traveling on. A visa and passport is not required of you if you are a Canadian citizen or subject of the United Kingdom unless the stay exceeds three weeks. U.S. citizens on regularly scheduled airlines, pre-cleared for return at U.S Customs and Immigration at Nassau International Airport also do not require a visa (though proof of citizenship is required).
You are allowed a maximum stay of eight months with proper documents which includes a return ticket and evidence of financial support. If you would like to stay longer, then you have to apply for temporary residency to the Director of Immigration. If, however, you would like to make the Bahamas your permanent residence by way of Bahamas property investment, then you will have to apply for permanent residency. If you plan on working in the Bahamas, a work permit must be applied for separately.
There are different levels of residency. The first is permanent residence which requires a purchase of a residence of more than $500,000, subject to a $10,000 one-time payment. Another level of residence is that of a homeowner where no minimum purchase is required, however, your card must be renewed every year for a fee of $1000. And the last level of residence is an annual residence where, again, no minimum purchase is required but you must renew every year for a fee of $1000.
Owning Bahamas real estate sounds spectacularly easy and that’s because it is. But there are some things to keep in mind when making an investment of this size. Here are a few guidelines to help you out when buying Bahamas property:
Think location: Depending where you buy, prices will vary. On the main islands such as New Providence and Grand Bahama, prices are more than double the prices in Florida. If you’re looking for an investment property, these would be good choices. If you’re looking into buying a quiet retreat, consider something on the family islands as they are less expensive.
Have a look: Once you have decided where you would like to buy a property, the next step is to have a look at more than one property so you can get an overall picture of the market.
Take a second look: It’s a good idea to get a certified professional to look over the property just in case there are hidden surprises!
So whether you’re making an investment or buying a vacation home, the Bahamas will welcome you with open arms. All you have to do is make your ticket to paradise! About The Author
Ester Napoli: They say if you want to be happy, you have to do something you are passionate about. One of my passions is traveling and the one place I fell in love with was the Bahamas; the white sand, clear waters, friendly environment. It is paradise on earth. I enjoy all aspects of the Bahamas; the culture, the history, the countless sports and activities to keep you busy, and of course, the fabulous weather.
Always Win in the Casino Like James Bond
In the Bond film 'Diamonds Are Forever' we see James Bond confidently approach the craps table, call out a few choice bets, roll the dice, and collect his winnings under the admirering eyes of Lana Wood. 'Hey', she says, 'You handle those dice like a monkey handles coconuts.'
It's great to appear the winner in a casino. Anyone can always win. Here's how:
Set a gambling budget just the same as you would set your hotel, food, and show budget. That money you set aside for the casino is already gone in your mind, just like your hotel and food money will be gone. If you stay on or under your gambling budget you're a winner. After all, you're in the casino to enjoy the games, not try to win money to pay your rent. Bond doesn't make money gambling, he makes it from his job.
If you enjoy the 'gaming' on a budget you're a winner, win or lose. If you're trying to change your financial situation, then you are really gambling and may end up a loser.
So entertain your date with assorted games at various casinos, every once in a while slipping a twenty dollar bill into her slot machine to get her started. She'll tell everyone back home about you doing that. Now that's inexpensive PR.
Also be sure to get your date on the craps table at least once. Girls love to throw dice. And save your multiple bets for only when you or her are throwing the dice to conserve money when others are throwing and to increase her excitement and show off your expertise when you and her are rolling the bones.
Learn to play the hard ways because you don't have to place the minimum $5 bet on them. You can bet a dollar and get back 7 to 1 or 9 to 1 making you really look like a 007 skilled player.
When you call out your 'hard way' numbers, toss your chips into the center of the table where the 'hard ways' are with a quick flat spin, making it stop cold near your number instead of bouncing and rolling all over the table.
After you finish, let the dealer at the table change over your chips and then toss a five dollar chip on the table with a 'Thank you, gentlemen.' like Bond did. When your date sees you do all this she may repeat Lana Wood's line of 'Hey, you know what? You're a great guy.' About The Author
Live the James Bond Lifestyle http://www.BondLife.com
While the traditional vows endure, the ways to celebrate a marriage have changed right along with the travel industry. Today's honeymooner may be looking for value, adventure, or variety and searching for a getaway that's as exotic as a stay in a private European castle or nearby as a local bed-and-breakfast inn.
One constant is that couples are willing to spend money on a honeymoon - an average of $1,402 per couple compared to $421 spent annually on regular trips according to the Travel Industry Association of America. Young couples, age 18 to 24 years, spend the most on honeymoons, averaging $1,873. And as many as one-third of all honeymooners spend over $2,500 for that once-in-a-lifetime trip.
And while the move is back toward the traditional wedding and honeymoon associated with earlier generations, today's newlyweds are a far cry from the travelers of earlier days. "They're looking more for luxurious and romantic places, like the little out-of-the-way small hotels and inns and private castles," points out Sylvie del Giudice, spokeswoman for Les Romantiques Hotels. "They're ready for a different experience. It's the experience of a lifetime. They are choosing to go further away on their honeymoon to a different environment and that includes everything: a different language, culture, and food."
Today's couples are finding new ways to celebrate their union, creating honeymoon trends that are being felt throughout the industry.
Started in Jamaica but spread throughout the Caribbean and Mexico and into some other regions as well, the all-inclusive vacation is becoming ever more popular with honeymooners - and their families. Their "one price pays all" policy makes the all-inclusive trip more and more convenient for parents purchasing a honeymoon package as a gift for newlyweds. Air, transfers, meals, drinks, watersports, and even tips are included in the tab at all-inclusive resorts.
GETTING MARRIED ON YOUR HONEYMOON
Getting married on your honeymoon is also an increasingly popular concept in the Caribbean, where resort packages provide everything from wedding cake to music. At some properties like SuperClubs (http://www.superclubs.com), guests can enjoy a free wedding, including the minister's fee and marriage license.
MEXICO AND CANADA
The devaluation of Canada and Mexico's currencies mean an increase in honeymoon business for financial reasons. Canada is also gaining popularity as a honeymoon hotspot. Couples looking for a white honeymoon find it in ski areas such as Banff, Whistler, and Jasper, and those seeking big city culture seek out cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. The current strength of the American dollar against the Canadian also makes our northern neighbor an attractive honeymoon destination. "Canada is extremely popular as a honeymoon destination," explains Judy Love Rondeau from the office of the Canadian Consulate General in Dallas. "Your money goes 40% further in Canada. Also, honeymooners like the cities of Montreal and Quebec City because they are like going to Paris without going so far and spending so much money."
For some couples, a chance to enjoy the romance of a big city and the elegance of fine dining makes major cities a honeymoon destination. A recent study by the American Society of Travel Agents showed that the most popular city was Las Vegas. Orlando, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles were other top choices.
While some couples choose to vacation close to home, conserving both time and money, others see a honeymoon as a chance for a once-in-a-lifetime trip. For these travelers, it's the time for a fantasy journey to destinations whose very names mean romance. For these lucky honeymooners, the American Society of Travel Agents has found that Great Britain is the top European destination, followed by France and Germany.
"We see more and more honeymooners going to Europe versus the Caribbean," says Les Romantiques Hotels' Sylvie del Giudice. "People are getting married older, and they're more interested in the culture and the experience and the discovery of Europe. Or they want to go back to Europe. I deal a lot with people who went to Paris once and now want to show it to their spouse.
"They usually combine romantic cities like Paris, Florence, or Rome with a resort escape like the Riviera or Normandy or the Amalfi coast of Italy so they have the best of both worlds," explains del Giudice. "We have also noticed that honeymooners are becoming more and more adventurous and discovering new areas."
Looking for new European experiences is also bringing more honeymooners to less traditional destinations. Destinations like Portugal, Malta, and Turkey are gaining popularity.
The current trend toward adventure and eco-tourism vacations hasn't overlooked the honeymoon industry. "We have seen a number of newlyweds go on dude ranch vacations as well as our other trips like the cattle drives," says Dave Wiggins, president of Boulder, Colorado-based American Wilderness Experience. "It's the kind of thing for couples who are looking for something inspiring, something they can come back and say 'guess what we did on our honeymoon.'"
Although Wiggins has sold many honeymooners rugged adventure packages, ranging from a 10-day safari in Alaska to sea kayaking in Baja Mexico to river rafting along Idaho's Salmon River, many honeymooners favor soft adventure. "The lodge-based vacations tend to be more popular with honeymooners because they have a bed and roof over their head and a hot shower," points out Wiggins.
"We're seeing more and more soft adventure travel so we have more deluxe lodge-based options," points out Wiggins. Whether honeymooners overnight in a mountain cabin or in a seaside tent, however, he explains the popularity of adventure travel with today's travelers. "At a resort there's a lot to pick and choose, but you can find yourself being a spectator and watching the action go around. On an adventure trip, you're smack dab in the action. There's no sitting back and watching the action go by in front of you - you are the action on an adventure tour."
Finding that special quality is up to the individual honeymooners themselves. With the myriad of choices and a selection of atmosphere that ranges from white-knuckle adventure to hedonistic laziness, there's something for everybody. About The Author
Husband and wife team Paris Permenter and John Bigley edit the award-winning Lovetripper.com (www.lovetripper.com), a romantic travel magazine and resource featuring honeymoons, destination weddings, and romantic getaways worldwide.
The Exotic Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands were named after the giant Galapagos tortoises. The archipelago emerged six million years ago as a result of volcanic activity in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. These enchanted place on earth is composed of 19 islands and more than 40 islets, with white sand beaches, dark and solid rocks, unique landscapes, deep crystal clear waters, you can enjoy yourself swimming with playful sea lions around you, watching friendly sharks cruise six feet under you. All these wonderful nature makes you feel as if you are part of it all.
It has a world record of especial titles and management categories: the islands are Ecuador's first National Park; UNESCO World natural heritage Site, both the terrestrial Park and the Reserve, (the second largest and possibly the most unique in the world); Biosphere Reserve and a Whale Sanctuary.
GALAPAGOS ISLANDS LOCATION
This alluring complex ecosystem is located 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador, northwest of South America in the Pacific Ocean.
Some of the most unusual and fascinating species in the world, both terrestrial and marine, are found in the Galapagos islands. Here most of the surface (96%) is a National Park, surrounded by a protected Marine Reserve, both UNESCO World Heritages Sites.
On Santa Cruz island, the Giant tortoises can be seen at the Charles Darwin Research Station (including famous Lonesome George, the only remaining tortoise from "Pinta" island) and also in the wild, in the highlands of this Galapagos island. There are 15 sub-species of giant tortoises. Some prefer the upland zones of the large islands because of humidity, grassy pastures and small ponds to drink and stagger about. Others prefer islands with low elevations, dry terrain, and with lots of prickly vegetation like cactus. The largest populations are found in Alcedo Volcano on Isabela Island, and in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.
A total of 140 species of birds have been registered in Galapagos. About half of the resident birds cannot be seen , anywhere else in the world. You can observe shore and lagoon birds such as ducks, stilts, herons, warblers, pelicans and frigates all easily approachable, just like all the Galapagos animals.
Eight species of Darwin's Finches are found on Santa Cruz island; most of which can be observed all around the island. Charles Darwin's concepts were founded by modern evolutionists by studying the different beaks of these finches.
SNORKELING AND DIVING
The Galapagos islands are considered a world premier destination for scuba diving and snorkeling. The protected waters of its Marine Reserve have been well preserved, nearly untouched by external sources. Here the crossroads of marine currents has resulted in a unique marine ecosystem.
Although the islands are tropical, there are two markedly different seasons : the warm, humid and sunny season from December to May and the dry, windy and not-so-sunny season from June to November.
Transitional months are January, April and May. The Warm Season offers hardly any wind (so the sea is usually very calm) and the visibility tends to be better. In the Dry Season there is more wind, sometimes the sea tends to be choppy and the visibility lower.
THE MEANING OF GALAPAGOS
Amongst the first groups that came to Galapagos, we had many of Spanish origin. In traditional Castilian language, the word "Galapago" was used to describe the frontal piece of the riding saddle, and upon seeing the many tortoises the islands had in earlier years, but more important, the shape of their carapace (shell), they named this archipelago "Islands of the Galapagos". And this is the official story of the name of these islands
Visit the most complete Site ever made about the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador. You will find outstanding and solid information regarding these Enchanted Islands and the country to which they belong (Ecuador).
http://www.galapagos-islands-tourguide.com/articleAbout The Author
I am a business administrator and run my own Consulting company, I live in Quito and have been in the Galapagos Islands for more than 10 times already, I have also studied a lot about them.
The wonderful and unique wildlife and landscapes of the islands has always impressed me. That's why I decided to build a Site promoting the Galapagos so people around the world will know more precise information about this wonderful spot on Earth.
Costa Rica: Land of Natural Wonders
Costa Rica is a small country - just 75 mi/120 km separates the Pacific Ocean from the Caribbean Sea at the narrowest spot - Costa Rica still has some of the most diverse scenery in the world. Its coasts have both sandy beaches and marshy swamps, while its interior is dotted with volcanoes, dense with rain forests and abundant with unusual flora.
When you are planning your Costa Rica vacation, make sure to visit destinations like Monteverde Cloud Forest, Corcovado National Park, Tortuguero National Park or Manuel Antonio National Park. In addition, you will enjoy in your Costa Rica vacation, a wide range of adventure travel activities, including scuba diving, hiking around the Arenal Volcano area, and exploring the dense tropical rainforests.
What to do? Where to do? Fly through the rain-forest canopy on a zip line? Go white-water rafting? Climb a volcano? Laze on a white-sand beach in guanacaste and manuel antonio national park on the pacific coast or Limon on the caribbean coast? Check out colorful marine life while snorkeling? Or try to hook one on a deep-sea fishing excursion?
Costa Rica offers plenty of pleasant choices like these, especially if you're interested in nature and outdoor activities. That's why so many people have chosen to go there: In the past decade, the number of visitors has quadrupled, and tourism has become a big part of the nation's economy. Costa Rica is practically synonymous with ecotourism - travel that incorporates education about the environment and promotes preservation of natural resources. The country has a large number of national parks and nature preserves that boast a rich array of birds, mammals, reptiles and rain-forest plants. The variety of birds, in particular, is astounding: Some 850 species are packed into a relatively small area, a bird watcher paradise. Approximately 25% of the country's land has been set aside in protected areas, earning Costa Rica a reputation as an environmentally sensitive country and leader in ecological conservation.
The country has excellent conditions for a number of adventure sports, among them surfing, river rafting, hiking and scuba diving, wind surfing and mountain bike.Those who prefer a less strenuous vacation can view more than 50 volcanoes (Poas volcano, Rincon de la Vieja volcano, Irazu volcano and Arenal volcano) take boat trips down jungle rivers and float through the treetops in the world's first Rain Forest Aerial Tram, visit La Paz Waterfall Gardens, Tortuga Island, The Cafe Britt Coffee tourAbout The Author
Visit www.mytraveltocostarica.com and find the most wonderful Costa Rica vacation packages
The Best Orlando Has to Offer
So you’re headed to Orlando... but where to start? You’ll find such a wealth of fantastic resorts and restaurants it can be difficult to choose exactly what you wish to indulge in. How best can you plan a visit in which each day comes with the finest this marvelous vacation spot has to offer? In order to help you in making the overwhelming decisions of where to stay and what places to dine, here are what I believe to be Orlando’s best offerings:
Best Deluxe Resort
On Disney property it’s the Grand Floridian with its upscale Victorian atmosphere and lagoonside setting facing the Magic Kingdom. Off-property, hands-down, it’s the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes where you may never even feel the need to leave the property. At Universal, go for the Portofino Bay Hotel with its unsurpassed ambience of an Italian seaside resort.
Best Resort Pool
Disney's Yacht and Beach Club’s Stormalong Bay, a 3-acre mini water park
The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin’s lush grotto-style lagoon pool
The Volcano Pool at Disney's Polynesian Resort with its luxuriant waterfall, smoking peak, and perfect view of Cinderella’s Castle
The boulder-strewn wonderland at Disney's Wilderness Lodge with its very own erupting geyser
The lush fantasyland pool at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress cooled by twelve waterfalls
Best Home-Away-From-Home Property
The Villas at Disney's Wilderness Lodge with its Bay Lake frontage and national park character or Disney's Beach Club Villas conveniently located next door to Epcot.
Best Resort Atmosphere
Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge where hundreds of animals roam the savanna and the air is pulsating to the beat of African drums. Running a close second is Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel where guests are transported to a romantic, seaside Italian village.
Best Resort Lobby
How to choose? Three of Disney's resorts make the cut: the Wilderness Lodge, the Grand Floridian, and the Animal Kingdom Lodge, all eye-popping in their grandeur.
Best Access To The Parks
The Contemporary, Polynesian, and Grand Floridian with monorail access to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and the Ticket and Transportation Center. At Universal, the Hard Rock Hotel is just a 5-minute walk or boat ride away to Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure, and CityWalk.
Best Resort For Romance
Disney's Polynesian Resort whose lush tiki torch-lit grounds and white-sand beaches with views of Cinderella’s Castle are simply dreamy or Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel where an evening stroll along the bay with Italian arias playing in the distance can’t be beat.
Best Resort For Nature-Lovers
Disney's Wilderness Lodge, a nature-lover’s dream of rushing waterfalls, spouting geysers, and bubbly creeks, all surrounded by stately pine trees and beautiful Bay Lake.
Best Resort Lounges
California Grill Lounge found on the 15th floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort with unrivaled views of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Seas Lagoon, great for cocktails, sushi, and a view of the Wishes fireworks display.
Disney's Grand Floridian's lobby. Pick up a cocktail at Mizner’s, then head down to this magnificent oasis to relax in the cushy seating while listening to the sounds of a big band orchestra or live piano music.
Tambu Lounge at Disney's Polynesian Resort’s Great Ceremonial House. Sip on tropical drinks amid lush foliage and views of the Seven Seas Lagoon.
Territory Lounge, a rustic retreat in Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
bluezoo’s bar at the Walt Disney World Dolphin, the coolest place around.
Velvet, the ultra-hip cocktail lounge at Universal's Hard Rock Hotel.
Bar America, Portofino Bay Hotel’s sophisticated lounge overlooking the romantic piazza.
Top of the Palace Lounge, a sophisticated bar with the best views around high atop the Wyndham Palace Resort near Downtown Disney.
Palio at the Walt Disney World Swan where the Tortellini con Aragosta topped with enormous amounts of lobster is amazing, or Portobello Yacht Club at Downtown Disney for a fantastic, thin-crusted pizza followed by the Rigatoni with Italian Sausage, crimini mushrooms, plum tomatoes, black olives, and escarole.
Flying Fish at Disney's Boardwalk for Potato Wrapped Red Snapper with creamy leek fondue and red wine reduction, or the newcomer on the block, Todd English’s bluezoo at the Walt Disney World Dolphin, where seafood is taken to new heights. Off Disney property it’s got to be Roy’s on Sand Lake Road near Universal for Roy Yamaguchi’s remarkable Hawaiian Fusion cuisine.
Shula's at the Walt Disney World Dolphin, a standout for sensational Angus beef steaks cooked to perfection, or Vito’s Chop House on International Drive for the filet mignon stuffed with gorgonzola.
Best Restaurant For Romance
Victoria and Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian, the only AAA 5-Diamond restaurant in Central Florida. Here you’ll savor a sumptuous six-course meal served on elegant fine china to the accompaniment of enchanting harp music. Or try Delfino Riviera at Universal’s Portofino Bay Hotel whose breeze-swept terrace overlooks the resort’s picturesque bay and piazza. And I can’t forget Norman’s at the Ritz Carlton for fine dining in plush surroundings all enveloped in the grandeur of an amazing resort.
Best Restaurant For Kids
Children love the Rainforest Café at the Animal Kingdom or Downtown Disney where they’re bombarded with thunderstorms and noisy audio-animatronic wildlife. A close runner up is Whispering Canyon Café at Disney's Wilderness Lodge; come prepared for plenty of hoopin’ and hollerin’ and please, whatever you do, don’t ask for the ketchup unless, that is, you like a lot of attention.
Best Character Meal
Cinderella's Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom, a chance to feast in a fairytale castle with Cinderella, Jasmine, Aladdin, Belle, and Snow White. Or try the Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom for a tasty, bountiful buffet hosted by Winnie the Pooh and his friends.
Best Hip Atmosphere
Todd English’s bluezoo at the Dolphin, the coolest spot this side of South Beach, or Tchoup Chop at Universal’s Royal Pacific Resort, a knock-em-dead, Asian-inspired beauty.
Best Disney View
Arthur’s 27 at the Wyndham Palace whose drop-dead setting is only topped by its creative cuisine, or California Grill at Disney's Contemporary Resort with its picture-perfect views of the Magic Kingdom, the Seven Seas Lagoon, and the Wishes fireworks presentation.
Best Disney Resort Restaurant
Tough call. My favorites are the California Grill at the Contemporary Resort (just about anything on their exceptional menu is fantastic), Victoria and Albert’s at the Grand Floridian (particularly the Chef’s Table where Chef Scott Hunnel oversees an 11-course meal designed especially for you), and Todd English’s bluezoo at the Dolphin (try the miso glazed Chilean sea bass with warm sesame spinach).
Best Universal Resort Restaurant
Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Resort. Wonderful Asian and Polynesian-influenced cuisine in a stunning setting of bamboo, waterfalls, and a lotus-filled reflecting pool. Share the Crunchy Shrimp with butter lettuce leaves and hot & sour chili glaze, move on to the Firecracker Fresh Fish served with papaya-serrano salsa, Asian pesto drizzle, and coconut-lemongrass sauce, and finish with a slice of Banana Cream Pie topped with caramel sauce and chocolate shavings.
Best Downtown Disney Restaurant
Wolfgang Puck’s Upstairs Dining Room for dishes like Szechuan marinated "Chinois" lamb rack served with a spicy cilantro-mint sauce or the restaurant's exceptionally great Wienerschnitzel.
Best Epcot Illuminations View
Rose and Crown in World Showcase’s United Kingdom. Set your priority seating for about one hour prior to show time and pray for a table with a good view.
Beaches and Cream at Disney's Beach Club Resort serves oh-so-delicious thick shakes and malts in a frosty fountain glass with the extras on the side in the stainless steel shaker.
You can't beat the pizzas at Downtown Disney's Wolfgang Puck Cafe (choose the BLTA with applewood-smoked bacon, mozzarella, roma and sun-dried tomatoes, avocado, and chopped romaine), Downtown Disney's Portobello Yacht Club (thin-crusted and smokey flavored), or Mama Melrose’s at Disney-MGM Studios (don't miss the grilled chicken pizza with sun-dried tomato pesto, pancetta, and asiago cheese).
Spoodles at Disney's Boardwalk. I love the Egg Rotollo, scrambled eggs with chorizo, onions, peppers, and cheddar cheese rolled in Lavosh (flatbread) and served with breakfast potatoes and marinated tomatoes.
I could go on and on but I’ll restrain myself and stop here. There’s a world of resorts and restaurants just waiting to be explored. And you’ll never even have to leave Orlando to find it!About The Author
Cara Goldsbury is the author of The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World: How to Get the Most Out of the Best Disney Has to Offer available at 800-247-6553, www.luxurydisneyguide.com, Amazon.com, or your local bookstore. Visit her at www.luxurydisneyguide.com.
Hanging around in Thailand
Our trip to Thailand had been long awaited, originally planned for the winter of 94/95. My wife Karin had bought the maps and books and even packed; we were off. The balloon was ready at Thunder and Colt with a heavy duty basket tailor made for hard use overseas. And then they went bust. The delay meant that we missed the relatively short window available for flying in Thailand. So it was rainy old England for most of the winter and a rethink of the plan for us. I had been asked to go out there by Jon Nunns having previously worked for him in South Africa flying passenger ride balloons.
Jon's interest in Thailand comes from several commercial tours he's probably had the most experience of flying in Thailand. Sky balloons agent in Thailand managed to sell one of the first balloons to roll off the production line to a pair of business men who wanted to learn to fly and fly advertising banners in I come again, this time to train and point them the right way.
So after a fantastic summer passenger flying in England, it was off on a Quantas Jumbo from a snowy December Heathrow. We caught a connecting flight from Bangkok to Chaing Mai, a city in the North which was hosting the South East Asia Games, ( SEA games ) our first port of call. Jon, returning from SAGA, was there for three days to ease us into things.
Our hosts had managed to find sponsor's a cell phone company and we had a busy schedule ahead. The city was humming with activity related to the games and it was great fun to be there. We generally flew across the city in the mornings and over the main stadium in the evenings.
The stadium itself was about 10km from the centre of the city and lay under an east facing slope which of course moved into shade in the evening allowing us to fly over the stadium and away into open countryside, the mornings had the ability to take us up the slope and away to the west which was not a good idea as there was about 50km of forest and national park before the next road.
It was always fairly calm and finding places to land was not a problem. We were not alone in the air a Carlsburg balloon had been shipped in from Europe and a Cameron Gas airship from America. Strangely neither thought to visit or call the international airport 8km south of the stadium. This caused some amount of trouble as Thai's love complicated permissions to fly and neither had any. As we did have permission we were contactable and received some amount of flack from their CAA. We smoothed the path quite well for them, prison was mentioned on more than one occasion!
The airship did a fantastic job seemingly never out of the air and carrying a TV camera beaming live pictures from the stadium. During the evening we tethered next to the stadium and the airship still plodded around dropping leaflets.
Thai's are football fanatics and the Asian cup was also held during the games in the evening. Our tethers coincided with all the home team games. As Thailand progressed through the ranks tickets sold out and it started to get ugly at the gates. For the semi final the fans burnt down the ticket tents in protest and several thousand extra tried to get in causing an outbreak of police brutality.
We tethered high allowing us to see the matches and carried PR people, they tended to want to stay up a while as we had the best view in the house!
On the first and last day of the games we flew into the stadium itself, the first flight by Jon, with me on board and the last by myself. What a fantastic feeling when you drop over the edge of the stadium roof and come to a dead stop amid all that noise and then pile out again, really good fun, it comes highly recommended!
The flights over the city were also commendable. The airport required us to stay below 1000' and if we required to fly higher then we had to call them on VHF. It worked well and of course flying across temples at low level was fascinating. Chaing Mai old city lies within a square canel and contains some 300 temples in total. It was here that we aimed to overfly every day. The River Ping winds it's way to the east of the old city and was very handy for big direction changes. As a rule most wind directions could be found and staying over the city centre for an hour or so and then climbing and departing was fairly easy.
I have to say that Northern Thai's seemed more fun loving than their Southern countrymen. To this end they enjoy letting off fireworks and tissue balloons carrying balls of burning rag to keep them aloft. Not uncommon to see 10 or so cross the night sky glowing red when drinking a beer. They climb quite high as well I flew with some at 3000'. On a couple of occasions, on landing villagers let off tissue balloons in our honour. They also flew bigger ones with strings of fireworks blasting away underneath. All good stuff for balloonists to watch. The last night of the games saw the launch of in excess of 1000 of these balloons in about 10 minutes from all around the stadium, and as it was a calm night it was the prettiest balloon thing I've ever seen.
So once that was all over it was off to Bangkok eight hours South by road. Unbeknown to myself we had come to the notice of the Prime Ministers office and were sought out for a job!
The deputy Prime Minister, Thakasin Shinawat, had said on coming into office early in 1995, that by the middle of January 1996 (or 2539 as it is over there) he would sort out Bangkoks traffic problems. He has been pouring millions of Baht of his own money into what is basically an impossible task. He has also been doing all sorts of stunts to show the people that he is trying to remedy the situation.
We were asked to fly him over Bangkok to observe the traffic from the air, this being in their words, a low cost solution. Permissions obviously had to be sought. We were summoned for our first meeting with the CAA on Christmas Day, at 10 O'clock, everybody apparently finding it amusing that I was missing my Christmas day. On arriving it transpired that they didn't really want us to fly as it is a military state and they didn't want me to see anything I shouldn't. The Kings Palace is a no no to fly over as you should never have your head higher than his! However the civilian run Prime ministers office had put big pressure on and they felt they had to relent and by the way, what could we tell them about the other balloon and airship in Chaing Mai ( are you getting the picture that this is a warning). It transpired that we held the winning hand but they really had to tell us they did not like it first. There one and only request was that I didn't fly higher than 500'. Now what! a pleasure. Royal helicopters fly at 800' so that was that. I walked away on Christmas days with a piece of paper that ordered me to fly not above 500 AGL wherever I liked! A trip then to the tower at Bangkok International to let them know what was happening and pick up an air chart. They already knew all about us and wouldn't give me an air chart: military secrets and all that. If I'd known I could have brought them in England before we left!
Thus it came to pass that I was doing balloon traffic reports over the city of Bangkok with the deputy Prime Minister on board and a film crew and five TV crews following through the traffic. We flew two days doing four flights. The flights themselves were pretty exciting to the point that I wouldn't rush to do them again. The tallest building is getting on for 1000' and we flew right between a bunch of them of course stopping all the traffic as we went. For those that know we launched from just above Siam Square and flew across generally towards the Queen Siriket Convention centre and then over the river. The 500' level became a real pain in the afternoons as the OAT was some 37C and thermals were popping off all over the place I may or may not actually flown quite a bit higher at the beginning of these flights and came down when it cooled down, but perhaps I'd set the altimeter incorrectly!
So after all the fun and games it was off to train three people in total: our agent and the two business men. To start with we went off to Rayong a Province to the SE of Bangkok renowned for it's beach resort Pattaya. The guys for some reason where keen to train there. Unfortunately it proved too coastal and the sea breeze knocked out the evening flights and the land breeze in the mornings. Our permission was only for a 25 km square so we couldn't go any further inland.
Not a problem as one of the guys had relatives with a farm near Kanchanaburi, home of the bridge over the river Kwai in the west of the country. It was here that most of the training was done. It was an ideal area for ballooning, being generally flat with occasional 5-600 foot hills popping up like islands. The fields are mainly of Sugar Cane roughly three quarters and the rest are rice paddies. Everything went fine and after three return trips to Bangkok on business the guys where ready. They will be travelling to England to take their PPL's shortly.
One more surprise lay in store. Seeing as the flying into the stadium in Chaing Mai had gone so well I was asked to fly into another with a football to start The Thai football league. Not such a big deal but the stadium as 500 metres from the sea with houses all the way to it. Luck was on our side once more and after two days of strong monsoon winds on the day in question it was calm. We inflated behind a five story building which was right next to the stadium and bang on for the wind direction. The signal for us to launch was a series of fireworks the ninth being our go. At the practices which we couldn't fly into because of the wind we made sure that the marching bands had left and we had a clear stage. You know whats coming next.1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 Go, we rose from behind the building to see that everybody was still stood there,down between them all I came our official hopped out with the football and handed it to the President of Yamaha and we quickly deflated the balloon,! no way was I going to fly out of that one!
So thats briefly it, I haven't touched on the really infuriating stuff, the stuff thats supposed to add character afterwards. I'll let you find out all those bits for yourselves.
If you are interested in going out there then the man to contact In fact the head man of the brand new Balloon Club Of Thailand is:-
125/135 CHANGWATANA ROAD
FAX 584 0042
To update the story in June 04, the deputy Prime Minister became the Prime Minister and is poised to buy a share of Liverpool Football club in the UK. I have since flown in Australia, Kenya and am now back in South Africa with my own ride business. http://www.airborneadventuresafrica.com
Gary MortimerAbout The Author
A commercial hot air balloon pilot that has flown throughout the world.
Currently living and working in South Africa.
Finding discount prices on European vacations
Imagine saving 30%-40% in airfare expenses as you get ready to travel to an exciting, exotic location. How exciting would that be? Inexpensive European vacations to travel Italy and Ireland travel can be found if you're willing to do just a little research. You don't have to be an expert at hunting down the most discount airfare, just spend a little time comparing departure dates and times. European vacations to travel Italy and Ireland travel and traveling overseas is an activity that more and more people are engaging in these days, and, believe me, you can find some incredible bargains on the internet.
If you're schedule is flexible, you'll find Fantastic prices on European vacations to travel Italy and Ireland travel.
For example, when traveling to London England, you'll save a lot of money if you can go before June and after September. The summer months are the busiest. But, if you search for European vacations to travel Italy and Ireland travel during the shoulder or off-season, you'll find some cheap flights that will save you a lot of money. Why give that money to the airlines when you can use it for sightseeing or eating in nicer restaurants? When traveling overseas be sure to allow plenty of time to obtain your passport. In addition, international travel will usually require longer check-in times at the airports. You'll need to pass through customs when you arrive at your foreign destination and you'll need to do it again when returning back to the U.S.
Spend a little time doing some research on the internet and you'll be very excited with the great European vacations to travel Italy and Ireland travel prices offered. You'll be in control of how much you pay and that'll make your vacation that much better.About The Author
A failed or neglected city springs to mind when walking around Macau during the day time. Around the outskirts of the Islands the doors of modern buildings never seem to open. Hotel restaurants tend to sole customers with reluctance: public gardens remain empty except for the lone tramp rooting around in the bins, roads remain unsullied with tyre tracks and the silence is loud all around. Inside and up the hill cracked and uneven pathways run along to meet the next, weeds compliment the falling cement on graying walls. Unpainted fences balance precariously around crazy paved basketball pitches whilst graffiti gives color to an otherwise drab setting.
The Portuguese gave the place some amazing buildings when they ruled and controlled, in fact Macau was the first European Settlement in the Far East. The Portuguese beat the Dutch and the British by a hairs breadth with their establishment of this well positioned and soon to be rich trading post. Hong Kong, Singapore and .Malacca followed many years later as the British, Dutch and other nations established a presence in Far East Asia but at the beginning Macau ruled the roost. The Dutch tried many times to get hold of the Islands as did the Spanish and the British once or twice. A prize jewel had Macau become and Portugal managed to retain control throughout, only really giving it up in 1999 when they handed it back to mainland China.
China now rules Macau under what has become known as a SAR. This stands for a Special Administration Region and basically comes under the Mainland Chinese Policy of “one rule, two systems”. A status-quo in which Macau governs itself for the most part, and it makes and lives under its own laws, but it belongs to China however it is run or seen to be run.
Today it is a little paradise steeped in history and culture. Large imposing, century old structures now vie for space amongst the tattered remnants of shoddily built 20 century brick houses and classily built modern glass offices that reach to the sky. Massive and squat stone offices of a colonial era sit regally and steadfastly among haphazard and leaning towers of steel girders: gray stone snubs orange brick and the slate roofs still keep out the water were the tin cladding has long since failed.
New roads lead around the coast in smooth patterns, over long and impressive bridges they flow before swooping gracefully in arcs around flashing advertisements and over reclaimed land that oozes intent. Newly built high speed, two-lane, motorways pass futuristic glass structures and cloud hitting spirals, they zoom over decorated spanned bridges that are a feat to modern engineering, they whiz past glittering hotels that invite money to be spent and all before lowering themselves in stature to greet and pass over to times gone by.
Working inwards and upwards modern tarmac meets old cobbles as the flat ground turns into the steep climb. Little lanes hobble through culture that crowds-in upon itself. Houses of times past squash and bulge against each other and hang precariously over paths that defy the eyes to follow. Hanging baskets swing delicately from balconies that threaten to pull down the houses that they belong to, whilst open windows give glimpses to the crowded life beyond.
The modern steels and glass facades of hotels and office blocks, the colonial stone museums and Portuguese Officialdom of yesteryear that grace the flatlands around the coast are left behind when walking inland. The hilly centers of the Islands house the main population: looking at houses from many years ago the place strikes chords of a fishing village in Portugal when looking one way and China Town the next. These small houses built along old cobbled streets crowd in upon each other and bring life and activity all around.
But all is not as it seems. From the heat of the day, when cool drinks and light foods go together with a swimming pool and air conditioning, the evening brings change. From the dull and fading brick work and overgrown flowerbeds, from the graffiti and flaking paint on shop walls springs lights of dazzling proportions. From a forgotten City lying to waste in its own decay grows a glittering display of neon power, one that transforms the place and everything within. As the sun sets on the horizon people come out to play, tourists put aside their bathing towels and no longer think of cold air, workers get ready for the night ahead and hotel lobbies transform from desolate halls to crowded and bustling bee hives filled with action and intent.
Public Gardens become noisy meeting points for those going out on the town, overloaded buses groan along roads that are a mass of spinning wheels and alert taxi drivers fight for the needy customers with skill and adeptness. Policemen wipe the sleep from their eyes and come out of their cubby holes, ready and watchful for the evening ahead. Bars stock up with large muscled men who hang around the doorways with folded arms silently saying, “make trouble and you will have me to deal with”. Hopeful jewelers open their doors and invitingly offer tourists the once in a lifetime chance to buy gold at the cheapest prices in Asia, the Indian on the corner suggests that he can measure and make a suit in a day and the electronics stores beckon where they had not during the day.
But what is really going on? Aside from the tourist scene, apart from the night life and the activity that springs up after the sun hides away, what is really going on. What makes Macau what is today and why do most people prefer to sleep during the day, workers and tourists alike and what changes the city from a neglected and desolate place under the sun to a fun filled bundle of activity in the night?
It is all about Gambling. The Macau government makes seventy percent of its revenue from Gambling. Most Hotels are built with gambling in mind and thus they boast many a casino and gambling dens on its premises. Limousines carry the rich gambler to his seat for the evening, the one who has not yet sniffed defeat. Hotels lay on special packages for those with money to loose and girls lie in wait to help spend money that prospectors may have had thoughts of keeping. Bars keep drinks flowing to loosen punters stiff fingers, fast food flows to produce contentment and security in the high rollers and the large muscled men act positively when throwing out the losers.
Banks close down and turn over their business to rows upon rows of fast acting machines that spout out money like it is going out of fashion. Urgent and edgy punters queue at these machines, itching to get into the action, worried that they have no money left. Security guards watch metal detectors closely and search handbags with vigor, hidden cameras turn circles as unaware gamblers throw their money on luck and doormen’s arms ache as they ceaselessly open doors for the excited newcomers and help the defeated out. Receptionists check-in new arrivals by the hundreds as tours from Mainland China pour off trains like ants from a mole hill. Airport-staff sweat freely, as planes land in quick succession to throw out more determined miners from Taiwan, the Philippines, from Singapore and other corners of the world.
Newly arrived punters race against time to grab their bags, get through immigration and to catch a cab for their hotel and the casinos next door, above or beneath. Time is precious and time is money – money that will be spent despite dreams that suggest otherwise.
Not all arrivals and visitors to Macau are gamblers on a mission. Some visitors are genuine tourists who wonder why the city is so bare and drab during the day, those that have no idea as to the other face of Macau. And from Taiwan and other expensive Asian economies comes another bunch of visitors, the group or package tour and should one see the tour as it engorges itself from the plane, one will notice that it is all men. These men are on a mission, they will also be all over the age of fifty and the average age will probably be about seventy. This is a specially arranged tour that may for example start off from Taiwan and fly to Macau for a three day visit. And it is special in that it is for men only, that they are going to Macau to get a woman, to have three days of sex and romp and then to climb back onto their plane alone and back to Taiwan: maybe to repeat the process in a years time, if they can afford it or their wives don’t find out. Yes, another side of Macau; the availability of prostitutes who service the Taiwanese or overseas visitor or who relieve punters and gamblers of any change that they may still have jangling in their pockets after the gambling halls have shut for the night.
Prostitutes hang around doorways and exits from casinos, they balance precariously on high heels that defy gravity and they are covered in layers of make-up that gives competition to a skilled plasterer. Skimpy skirts ride high on slim legs and breasts push eagerly against tight tops that are all but not present. Little purses swing invitingly from hands that wander fleetingly as males pass by, smiles are issued freely to those that look and glares are given as those looked walk on.
Innuendos are made and promises of a new life are given as punters exit casinos for new ground or with nearly empty pockets. New entrants are given the choice of female company as they prepare to spend and while away the night and whatever one can think of it is there. Slim girls with long legs, short girls with big busts, tall girls with big busts and short girls with long legs are all around leaning against doorways and offering hope and suggestion in husky voices. Slim waists peek out as hips thrust invitingly, nipples protrude as tongues are run along lips and eyes smile to all who see. Men dressed as woman, large woman with massive breasts and large men with even bigger breasts stand in the background for those inclined and little girls with spirit and enjoyment run around touching bottoms and kissing cheeks like they are in love.
A neglected city it may be during day light hours, but prostitutes, bouncers, gamblers, airport staff, taxi-drivers, croupiers, fast food hall owners, barkeepers, bus drivers, doormen, receptionists, bankers, service engineers, thieves and security guards need to sleep during the day so that when the sunsets they will be ready for a new night of action.
And the only daylight customers are the tourists who never knew the other face of Macau and the cleaners who must make the city ready for the next plane load of enthusiastic passengers and the next train full of excited amateurs with their pockets full of cash and dreams of a rich and enjoyable future ahead of them.About The Author
Ieuan Dolby, from Scotland is an Engineering Officer in the Merchant Navy. He has been travelling the world for 15yrs on an endless tour of cultural diversification. Currently based in Singapore he writes various articles for magazines and newspapers and is working on a marine glossary.