Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Planning your trip to Denmark

Entry Requirements

Americans and Canadians need only a valid passportto enter Denmark, and are entitled to stay forup to three months without a visa. (This includes thetotal amount of time spent in Denmark, Finland,Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in any six-month period.)

Making Travel Plans - Selecting Your Hotel

Really, Copenhagen doesn’t have the best choice ofhotels. Very few have opened in recent years, andmost of those are expensive. Of the city’s older properties,there are just two five-star hotels, an array offour-stars of varying quality, and a number of threestarhotels; many of the latter are clustered in thestreets to the side of the railway station, a neighborhoodthat is not always pleasant. In general, pricesare high – there are few bargains to be found, and, asis standard in Scandinavia, the rooms are often onthe small side. Our price scale is based on a doubleroom, double occupancy, and reflects the highestlisted rate at the time of publication as quoted byHORESTA(see The Star System, below). But this isonly an estimate, and rates can be reduced by asmuch as 50% at various times.

The Star System

Since 1997, all hotels that are members of the Associationof the Hotel, Restaurant and TourismIndustry in Denmark (HORESTA), and have morethan eight rooms, have been classified on a scale ofone to five stars, based on specific criteria. Visit theHORESTA website, www.danishhotels.dk, to lookfor special rates, for information about hotel groups,and to view the criteria used in classification. A HotelGuide is also available from any Danish TouristBoard office, www.visitdenmark.com.

The Copenhagen Card

You can purchase the very useful Copenhagen Card.This discount card offers unlimited travel on busesand trains in metropolitan Copenhagen and to manyneighboring towns and cities; free admission to majormuseums and sights in and around the city; andup to a 50% discount on ferry routes connecting Zealandwith Sweden and on hydrofoils between Copenhagenand Malmö. You can purchase a card that isvalid for one day (DKK 155), for two days (DKK 255),or for three days (DKK 320); cards for children under12 are available at a 50% discount. For more information,www.visitcopenhagen.dk.

Stay & Eat With The Locals

Nyhavn, 65
Tel: 33-46-46-46, fax 33-46-46-47
www.meetthedanes.com, info@meetthedanes.dk

Housed in authentic 17th-century offices at Nyhavn,this organization can help you book hotel and private accommodation, either in advance or after you arrive in Copenhagen. The group also offers, among other things, cultural lectures, dinners in private homes, and walking, cycling and sailing tours. From May 1 to mid-September, open Monday to Sunday, 9 am to 9 pm; the rest of the year, open Monday to Friday, 9 am to 6 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 4 pm; and on holidays, 10 am to 7 pm.

What To Wear in Copenhagen

Casual clothes are appropriate for nearly every occasionin Copenhagen, including theater and most restaurants.Only in top-class hotels, restaurants andclubs, and then not uniformly, will men be requiredto wear a tie in the evening; in these establishments,women do not look out of place in something dressy.Summer evenings are long and light, but often chilly,so a sweater or cardigan is essential. Bring alightweight overcoat or raincoat, too, in additionto ordinary summer clothes – the weather has anawkward habit of changing unexpectedly. On the beach, you can go as bare as you like.Spring and autumn have many hours of sunshine,but cooler temperatures; and winter can be downrightcold. Pack plenty of warm clothes in those seasons,plus a raincoat. Comfortable walking shoes areessential at any time of year, as it is certain you willspend a good deal of time on foot, especially in Copenhagen.

Electricity in Denmark

Electric current in Denmark is 220 volts, 50Hz AC,and requires standard two-pin, round continentalplugs. Remember to get an adapter set before leavinghome, or at the airport.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Places to See in Zurich

The grossmünster
The tall twin towers of Great Minster dominate the Zurich skyline. It was from this place that the humanist Ulrich Zwingli preached the Reformation.

Address: Grossmünsterplatz
Station: Rathaus , 4/15
Tel: +41 442525949

St. Peters Church
The largest clock in europe is situated on the tower of St. Peters church and it has a diameter of 8.7 meters.

Address: St. Peter-Hofstatt
Station: Rathaus
Tel: +41 442112588


Switzerland’s greatest art gallery contains several important works of art ranging from medieval religious paintings and old Dutch masters to impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. contains paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso, chagall and Monet.

Address: Heimplatz 1
Station: Kunsthaus
Tel: +41 442538484

Le Corbusier haus

One of the last projects designed by the famous architect before his death in 1965 is home for a graphic art museum.

Address: Höschgasse 8
Station: Höschgasse
Tel: +41 443836470


The chinese garden was given to the city as a gift from the chinese town, Kunming, which is twinned with Zurich. The garden contains several plants and ornaments typical of the chinese art of creating a garden.

Address: Bellerivestrasse
Station: Chinagarten, tram 2 and 4, bus 33, 912 and 916.


This stunningly beautiful l lake stretches an amazing 40 kilometres from Zurich to the foot of the Glarner Alps. Daytrip boats give tourists a possibility to explore several villages and towns along the lakeshore. Main landing in Zurich is at Burkliplatz. contact Zurich Schiffahrtsgesellschaft
Meeting place: Bürliplatz

Tel: +41 444871333


General Information


350,000 inhabitants.

Currency :
1 Swiss franc = 100 Rappen

Opening hours:
Most shops are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 6.30pm. The opening hours on Saturday are
8.30am to 5pm.

Emergency number:
Ambulance 144
Police 117
Fire Brigade 118

Tourist office
Zurich Tourism
At Main Train Station
Tel: +41 442154000
In the summer, tourist informationis open Monday to Saturday from 8am to 8.30pm and from 8.30am to 6.30pm on Sundays. From November 1st until April 30th the closing hours is 7pm during the week and 6.30pm on Sundays.

The charming metropolis, Zürich Downtown Switzerland, offers first-class quality of life. Zürich is distinguished by its unparalleled selection of stores lining the world-famous shopping mile, the Bahnhofstrasse, not to mention its broad choice of leisure activities. Numerous gastronomic establishments in the surrounding region pamper food lovers with all manner of culinary delights. After dark, some 500 bars and clubs provide a wide variety of entertainment. Zürich is also the ideal departure point for all kinds of excursions, such as to the Rhine Falls, a chocolate factory, or the snow and perpetual ice on the Titlis mountain.

The River Limmat divides the city of Zurich into two distinct halves and it makes more sense to speak about the two banks rather than the new town / old town split. Niederdorf on the east bank is full of shops and cafés and is also home to the twin towers of the Grossmunster and the grandiose architecture of the university. The west bank is the old part of town which is centred around the Lindenhof area where the streets are characterised by fashion outlets and offices. The beautiful spires of St. Peters church and the Fraumunster church decorated by Marc chagall are nearby as well. The curving Bahnhofstrasse follows the course of the ancient

city walls and is one of europe’s most prestigious shopping streets. As Switzerland has cultivated a stability and neutrality during both World Wars, the country has built up a reputation for its banking system which for decades has been one of Zurich’s biggest industries. It is also for these reasons that today the stock market in Zurich is the fourth biggest in the world.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

What to Do Villach

Special Tours

Villach Alpine Highway * * * * *
10-mile road southwest of Villach, s (04) 242- 24-44.

This modern mountain road traverses wooded areas and contours across the rugged face of the Dobstrach massif. Marked turnouts offer breathtaking views of the Gail Valley and Julian Alps to the south. Turnout numbers 2, 5 and 6 offer particularly beautiful vistas. Near Turnout 6 is an Alpine botanical garden, open mid-June through Aug. daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. At the roadway's end, a chair lift carries hikers from 5682 ft. (1731 m)to a spot near the summit 7107 ft. (2166 m). From the lift, continue on foot, but be prepared for a high-altitude, two-hour walk. Your reward at the hike's end is a stunning panorama that includes the jewellike Carinthian lakes.

Where to Eat in Villach

Bleibergerhof *****
Bleibergerhof. South of Villach on Route 86, Untere Fellach.
Tel: (04) 244-2205-0.
Specialties: Game, beef, veal, freshwater fish.

Reservations required. Jacket at lunch, jacket and tie at dinner. Reached by car or bus from Villach, this restaurant is a hidden delight that is considered one of the top establishments in Austria. Known for its impeccable service amid tasteful surroundings, it serves both international and Carinthian specialties. The ever-changing menu contains soups, light first courses, and a variety of meat and game dishes. The wine list offers vintages from around the world.

Postillion *****
Moderate to Expensive
Hauptplatz 26. (In the pedestrian zone.)
Tel: (04) 242-26101.
Specialties: Venison pates, stews and soups, boiled beef, schnitzels.
Credit Cards: V, MC, DC, A.
Outside dining, own baking, reservations required.

With recipes adapted from cuisine served to aristocracy in the 1800s, this hotel restaurant transports guests to another era. Famous in the region for its venison, it prepares an array of specialties dressed with cheeses, butter and cream. Those more health-conscious should consider the selections of lighter fare. In July and August, guests can be seated on the flower-filled courtyard, where piano music and candlelight create a special atmosphere.

Where to Stay in Villach

Romantik Hotel Post * * * * *
Hauptplatz 26. In the Pedestrian zone, old town.
Tel: (04) 242-26101.
Credit Cards: MC, DC, A.

Secluded garden atmosphere, sauna, balcony or patio, in-room minibars, fitness center.Once the town palace of one of the richest families in Carinthia, this hotel still retains its regal air, with vaulted ceilings, an arcaded courtyard and a baronial fireplace. The exterior is extravagantly decorated with stone columns, carvings and wrought iron. Built in 1500, the manor has played host to kings and archdukes as well as an empress. There are 76 rooms and one suite; all have elegant decor plus sitting area, satellite TV, tile or marble bath (half without tub).

Warmbaderhof *****
http://www.warmbad.at/englisch/ index.htm
Kadischenallee. "^ Two and one-half miles south of Villach.
Tel: (04) 242-30010.
Credit Cards: V, MC, DC, A

Taking "the cure" draws many to the Warmbad-Villach area, and this 100-year-old hotel provides a comfortable retreat. Set in flowering gardens, south of Villach, the hotel has its own indoor swimming pool, housed in a large vaulted building, plus covered passageways that lead to the warm springs. Accommodations include 116 rooms and 12 suites, most in the hotel's modern wing; all are pleasantly furnished and have satellite TV, combination bath, robes. The hotel offers walking tours of the town and evening dances on its outdoors terrace. Closed one week in Dec.

Villach (Austria)

This bustling town serves as a railway junction linking Carinthia to Italy and Slovenia. Straddling the River Drau, Villach is within easy driving distance of Lake Ossiach, Spittal and Velden. In July and August, Villach hosts the Cannthian Summer Festival. Nearby Warmbad offers radon-laced thermal baths for those seeking "the cure." Situated in serene gardens in the center of Warmbad, the Warmbaderhof is the largest of the hotels in the area and exudes an air of quiet comfort.

What to Do in Carinthia

Magdalensberg *****
http://www.landesmuseum-ktn.at/ magdalensberg.htm
Category : Inexpensive
Address : Outside St. Viet an der Glan South of St. Viet, north ofKlagenfurt on
Route 83. W (04) 224- 2555.
Special Hours: Open from May through Oct.

Long before the Hapsburg Empire rose to power, Austria was a part of the vast Roman Empire. Magdalensburg is considered the oldest Roman settlement north of the Alps. Romans occupied this site the last century before Christ, and today excavations have revealed a Roman villa (complete with central heating), public baths, temples and a forum. Admission.

Neuer Plato *****
Category :Free
Address : Neuer Platz. Near the Town Hall, New Town.
Tel : (04) 63-53-72-23.

Don't miss seeing the Lindwurm, or Dragon Fountain, that dominates the square. Carved by Ulrich Vogelsang in about 1590 from a single block of grey schist, this snarling beast is the heraldic emblem of the city. The tale goes that Klagenfurt was built on a swamp favored by the dragon, and safety was finally ensured once the creature was slain.

Where to Stay in Carinthia

Hotels and Resorts

Romantik-Hotel Musil * * * * *

Category : Expensive
Address : Oktober Strasse 14. Town center, near Neuer Platz.
Tel : (04) 63-51-16-60.
Credit Cards: V, MC, DC, A.
Balcony or patio, in-room minibars.

Comments : Pricey but intimate (some say a bit dusty), this small hotel has earned its reputation, and rooms are booked months in advance. Located in the heart of town, the building features an oval courtyard with inward-facing balconies. The 16 rooms are unique, the eclectic decor includes Baroque, Biedermeier and rustic furnishings. Each has bath and TV with hookup to BBC news.

Schloss Hotel Worthersee * * * * *

Category : Inexpensive to Moderate
Address :Villacher Strasse 338. Head west from the center for 2 miles toward
Tel : (04) 63-21158.
Credit Cards: V, MC, DC, A.
Beach location, water sports, balcony or patio.

Built as a private villa in 1845, this hotel features a tunnel that leads to a private beach and shoreline promenade on the eastern banks of Lake Worther. The yellow mansion is trimmed with ornate woodwork and has jutting towers and balconies. Inside, the 29 rooms and five suites are modern and well-ftirnished; the best views, of course, are from those overlooking the lake. The hotel has its own dinner restaurant, a bar and a cafe. Closed Jan.

Bistro Musil * * * * *

Category : Moderate
Address : Oktober Strasse 14, W (04) 63-51-16-60.
Credit Cards: V, MC, DC, A.

Dine by candlelight in this locally popular hotel where Klagenfurters come to celebrate. Owner Bernhard Musil has been named the top pastry chef in central Europe, so be sure to try out the luscious desserts and sweets. Regional favorites, such as calves' brains and venison medallions, are served along with fresh fish.

Cafe Moser Verdino * * * * *

Category : Inexpensive
Address : Domgasse 2. North of Domkirch. Located at Moser Verdino.
Tel : (04) 62-57878.
Specialties: Pastries, light meals, snacks, coffee, wine, beer.

Cafestop, own baking, reservations not accepted. Not the oldest, but certainly a favorite with residents, who stop by for espresso and dazzling pastries. This unpretentious cafe is decorated with framed lithos and filled with marble, brass accents and lots of plush, upholstered furnishings.

Strohschein's Heuriger ****

Category : Moderate
Address :Villacher Strasse 338.
Head west toward Villach. Located at Schloss
Tel : (04) 63-21158.
Specialties: Lamb, fish, beef.
Credit Cards: V, MC, DC, A.
Closed: Sun.

Reservations recommended, jacket required. This formal restaurant's kitchens are supervised by the hotel's family owner, and the menu features regional dishes served with elegance and flair. The six-course fixed-price dinner is a superb way to tour the tastes of Carinthia. Desserts are extravagant and well worth the splurge.

Ratings on Hotels (in US$)


Very Expensive: @$300+ per night, double occupancy
Expensive: @$200+ per night, double occupancy
Moderate: @$125-$200 per night, double occupancy
Budget: @$50-$125 per night, double occupancy

Restaurants and Other Dining Establishments

Very Expensive: $150+, dinner for two not including wine or dessert
Expensive: $100+, dinner for two not including wine or dessert
Moderate: $50-$75, dinner for two not including wine or dessert
Inexpensive: $25-$50, dinner for two not including wine or dessert

Refer to the following quality chart when making your selection:

**** Extraordinary
*** Very good
** Good
* Very basic, good value

Friday, November 24, 2006

Carinthia (Austria)


This is the provincial capital of Carinthia, the region that borders Italy and Slovenia. Carinthia's sunny weather and numerous lakes make it a summer tourist center, though it seems to be visited little by North Americans. Known for its rings of streets along its former city walls (the walls were destroyed in 1809 during Napoleonic invasions), Klagenfurt lies near Lake Worther, a popular place for water sports.

Restaurants in Austria

I am providing the listings which include samplings of Restaurants in a variety of price ranges, with an emphasis on the unique or special. A night's stay at a renovated castle, cloister or former brewery will make your trip especially memorable. Throughout Austria, most prices include breakfast. During the winter, ski resorts and snow-destination hotels often include "half-board" rates in their prices. Some resort hotels require half-board when you book three days or more. Guests are provided with breakfast and either lunch or dinner in the Restaurants dining rooms. This practice is reflected in serving times at nearby nonhotel restaurants—many are not open for lunch.

Food and Drink

Each region has its specialty, with influences coming from Italy, Slovenia and Germany. Much of traditional Austrian food relies on simplicity—meat schnitzels (cutlets) are served with salads and potatoes, sometimes with soups beforehand. Tafelspitz, or boiled beef, is the most well known national specialty, although, if you are after something more unusual, you could try the Styrian specialty, bloodand- liver sausages. Game and fish are often prepared using old aristocratic recipes. The more famous Austrian chefs have taken theseold dishes and interpreted them in new exciting ways. From the most exclusive elegant dining room to the smallest stube or gasthof, there's much to enjoy.


And don't forget dessert—Austria is noted for its pastries, chocolates and cakes. Each afternoon, most citizens take a break, stopping at cafes or small sweet shops for a pastry served with coffee. Sachertorte is a staggeringly delicious, dense chocolate covered cake and is not to be missed (especially if you can get it at the Cafe Sacher in Vienna). The apple strudel is an absolute must, as is the Salzbttrger Nockerln (a souffle heaped to resemble the three mountains surrounding Salzburg). Coffee is served in any conceivable concoction; espresso lovers will believe they are in paradise.

Vineyards and breweries keep Austrians well supplied with an array of wines and beers. Klosterneuburger is perhaps the best white wine. Other choices include the popular Gumpoldskirchern and Welschrieslinjj. Red wines include Bluer, Protuffieser and Zweigelt.

In Vienna and Lower Austria, take time to visit a heuriger, or "new wine" garden. Found principally in Grinzing and other regions near the Vienna Woods, these establishments sell "new wines" made from the grapes of the current year. These full-bodied, potent wines were beloved by Joseph II. A trip to one of these family-owned taverns is a must for anyone who appreciates wines.

Of the beers, Gosser Brau is a rich brew made in Styria. It's fullbodied and fine, available in light or dark. Schwechater is tops in Vienna. Imported liquors are often exorbitantly priced,but local schnapps and fruited brandies can be found at prices that won't hit your wallet too hard. On the ski slopes, schnapps (often flavored with fruit juices or spices) warms up chilled bones. Finally, popular— especially in Vienna—bowk is a delicious summer punch made of cognac, white wine, champagne or curacao and fresh fruits, served from a bowl.


For the waiter (the person who serves you, not the headwaiter), 5 percent extra above your total; bartender, 10 percent of the drink cost; hotel housekeeper, $5 per night; washroom attendant, $2; taxi driver, 10 percent of fare; doorman, $1; porter and bellhop, $2-$5.


The international access code for both the United States and Canada is 001, followed by the area code and seven-digit local number. To telephone Austria, dial 43; time difference (Eastern Daylight) plus 6 hours.

Transportation in Austria


With change sweeping away old borders throughout Europe, Austria has become an important airport hub. Since 1989, Austrian Airlines (toll-free W (800) 843-3002 http:// www.aua.com/) has offered nonstop service from New York or Chicago to Vienna. Although flight schedules vary, many U.S. carriers require passengers to change planes in London or Frankfurt.

International carriers, such as Lufthansa and British Airways, also feature extensive Austrian service. Inside Austria, its national airline provides service throughout the country, Europe and points beyond. Austrian Air Services (a subsidiary of Austrian Airlines) and Tyrolean Airways (jointly owned by the national carrier) link Austria's cities.


Comprehensive service, efficient schedules and competitive fares make train travel the hands-down choice for thousands of Austrians and visitors alike. If you don't want to drive, the trains will carry you almost anywhere in Austria, plus the schedules are designed to mesh with bus lines, cable cars, and even boat tours. Eurail Passes (http:// www.eurail.com/)are valid in Austria, and senior citizens (women over 60, men over 65) can ride at 50 percent reduction in first- or second-class. Cars and bicycles can be rented through rail agents, and returned when you're finished at a dozen Austrian stations.


Bus lines maintain service over 19,000 miles of roads, linking rail stations with outlying villages. Buses ferry passengers (plus their luggage and ski equipment) from the valley floor to the loftier ski resorts and alpine hamlets. Discounts for children are substantial.


In the cities, taxis are designated by official seals on the taxi meters. Surcharges are to be posted in the vehicle, and supplements are charged for luggage stowed in the trunk. Set charges are the rule in many resort areas.

Driving and Roads

Austria is easily accessible by car. Main roads are hard-surfaced, and four-lane autobahns link Salzburg and Vienna, while a six-lane autobahn links Vienna with Ediltz. Mountain driving is the main challenge, with steep gradients (6 to 16 percent, or even more). Although the impressive Arlberg tunnel (nearly 9 miles long) makes it easier to reach ski destinations, even if you are an experienced alpine driver, you may want to take the train or bus to reach points at higher elevations.

Car Rental

To rent a car, present a valid driver's license, your passport—and for convenience—a major credit card. BUT YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT CAR RENTALS ARE SUBJECT TO A WHOPPING TAX, AS HIGH AS 21.2 PERCENT. In addition, you must figure in airport surcharges (6 percent for any car rented at a municipal airport). When shopping for rates, make sure you know whether the price includes all applicable taxes. Budget-Rent-A-Car, Avis, and Hertz all offer vehicles in Austria. For about $21 a day (added to the rental costs), you can purchase a "loss-damage-waiver" that allows you to waive all financial responsibility for eventual damage to your car, even if you are at fault. Drivers who pass up this coverage may be liable for up to the full value of the car in the event of an accident. Some credit cards offer loss-damage-waivers as a benefit, which could create a savings for you. The best advice is to plan your car-rental strategy well in advance.


Touring Austria by boat is a splendid way to take in the scenery. Cruising the Danube can be accomplished by luxury craft, steamship, or ferry. Enjoy a seven-day tour, a riverboat shuttle or an evening dinner cruise. Other possibilities include trips on the Rhine, the Drau, or on one of Austria's lakes. For luxury cruises on the Danube, contact Europamerica Cruises, toll-free (800) 221-4770 http://www.deilmann-cruises.com/). For excursions on Lake Constance, Tel:(05574) 42868. Lake Wolfgang and its sights are linked by the Austrian Federal Railway boat system; (06138) 2231.


Bicycle touring through the cities on miles of designated paths is a great way to see the country. From the beginning of April until November, you can rent bikes and procure passes to take your bike on most trains (the bikes ride in a special car). The cost is under $10 a day, with substantial reductions if you're taking the train to your destination. Rented bikes can be returned to almost any train station, simplifying the logistics.

Arts and Cultural Events in Austria

Music and Austria have been intertwined for centuries. Vienna is the birthplace of the waltz, and Salzburg is the ancestral home of Mozart. Austria's musical contributions to the world

include the vast repertoires of Schubert, Strauss, Haydn and Wagner, to name
only a few. Today the country is filled with musical festivals, from the renowned Salzburg Festival to countless music weekends held in small villages at the height of summer. Visiting Austria without sampling its music is like leaving without enjoying an apple strudel.

The Salzburg Festival runs from late July to the end of August, and celebrates Mozart, Strauss, Verdi and others. The Festival brings together a splendid array of concerts, instrumental recitals, Mozart matinees, serenades, ballet and sacred music. Virtuosi, duets and chamber music groups perform in the numerous halls and salons nearby, often with several events happening at once. But you won't get into the top concerts or operas without confirmed reservations made well in advance. Tickets for headline events sell out a year ahead. Plan ahead, too, to attend the Easter or Whitsun festivals.

For comprehensive information on the Festival, write directly the box office, Salzburg Festival, P.O. Box 140, A-5010, Salzburg, Austria, (0662) 8045 rtittp://www.salzburgfestival.com/ index2.html). Don't forget that, during Festival time, lodging Salzburg is at a premium—if you can't get hotel reservations, you might find room in the surrounding suburbs. Or try writing Salzburg tourist information office(Mozartplatz 5, Salzburg, Austria, (0662) 846568) to find accommodations with a local family.

Vienna hosts its own Festival from mid-May to June, while Bregenz has a July Festival that features performances on a gigantic floating stage on Lake Constance. Graz comes into its own during the Styrian autumn, featuring an arts festival with an avant-garde accent, while the area around Feldkirch honors Schubert with both spring and autumn festivals that draw famous performers from all across Europe. For information on these activities, consult the Austrian National Tourist Office, P.O. Box 1142, New York, NY 10108-1142, (212) 944-6880 (http: //www.austria-tourism.at/).

Outdoor Activities in Austria

Skiing, both downhill and cross-country, is synonymous with Austria. During winter, you also have your choice of ice-skating, curling and tobogganing, not to mention the romance of a horsedrawn sleigh ride. In the summer, visitors and residents alike hike, stroll, or ride on horseback or mountain bikes. Schools and instructors teach beginning and advanced techniques in almost any sport.

In Austria, challenging mountaineering treks are offered near all the major peaks, and almost every town and hamlet provides guided hikes and alpine tours. Golf and tennis are also popular. In the lake districts, trout fishing and water sports, such as swimming, sailing and windsurfing, prevail.

Austria - Europe's Charm

Austria has it all—sophistication, rustic simplicity, antiquities,
riches, excellent restaurants, music festivals, towering mountains, green valleys, flowers during the summer and world-famous snow during the long winter season.

Geographically, three-quarters of the country is covered with mountains. The Alps cut a curved swathe across Austria's face, sparing only sections in the south and eastern regions. Lush valleys flank the river courses, the most famous being the River Danube, Europe's longest. Austria's other rivers—the Inn, the 111, the Drau—as well as its many lakes also are extremely scenic.

Austria is bordered to the north by Germany, to the west by Switzerland and Liechtenstein, to the south by Italy, Slovenia (formerly part of Yugoslavia) and Hungary, and to the east by the Czech Republic. Austria itself is divided into nine regions or states:

Voralberg, Tyrol, Salzburg Land, Upper Austria, Lower Austria, Vienna, Burgenland, Styria and Carinthia.

In Austria Snow begins in late November and continues through May in the higher regions. Summer (which means from Easter to mid-October) brings warmer temperatures, with periodic rains.

High season depends on your itinerary. For skiers, peak times run from December through April. Many ski resorts and hotels close down during some or most of the warmer months. For Austria city touring, any time is fine, but beware that in July and August Salzburg is inundated
with music lovers who come each year to its famous festival. During all the major holidays (Christmas, New Year's, Easter weekend), throngs invade the cities and popular ski spots.

Off the beaten track, the smaller towns provide all the charm without the crush of people. Away from the major hubs, daily life retains its rustic rhythms, preserving old- world customs.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Fifty Money - Saving Tips in Australia


1. Even if you never set foot in a youth hostel, an all-time great buy is membership in the Australian Youth Hostels Association (AYHA), or its U.S. counterpart, Hostelling International—American Youth Hostels. It entitles you to a huge array of discounts. See “Youth Hostels & Backpacker Lodges” in “Tips on Accommodations” later in this chapter.

2. Try to buy a discounted ticket.Many companies, particularly airline ticket consolidators (“bucket shops”) that buy tickets wholesale, and some Australian tour companies, offer discounts for booking direct with them, rather than through a travel agent, to whom they must pay commission. Do check with the travel agent, too, to make sure you’re getting the best deal, or if you have complex traveling needs.

3. When booking a hotel room at a major chain or renting a car from a major agency, be sure to ask whether you qualify for frequentflier miles. If you have acquired a load of frequent-flier miles, they may be redeemable for award travel, lodging, and other travel needs.

4. If you are a senior or student, ask about discounts at every chance— when booking your airfare, hotel, rental car, or sightseeing tour; buying theater tickets; or visiting museums or attractions.

5. Full-time students should arm themselves with an International Student Identity Card (ISIC), which offers substantial savings on rail passes, plane tickets, and entrance fees. It also provides you with basic health and life insurance and a 24-hour help line. The card is available for $22 from STA Travel (& 800/781-4040 in the U.S.—if you’re not in North America there’s probably a local number in your country; www.statravel.com), the biggest studenttravel agency in the world.

6. If you’re no longer a student but are still under 26, you can get an International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) for the same price from the same people, which entitles you to some discounts (but not on museum admissions).

7. Before you purchase travel insurance, check that you do not already have it as part of your credit card agreement or existing health insurance policy. Check to see if your current health insurance covers you fully for medical treatment and evacuation anywhere in the world and if your credit card company insures you against travel accidents if you buy plane, train, or bus tickets with its card (see “Health & Safety” later in this chapter). Your homeowner’s insurance should cover stolen luggage. However, if you have paid a large portion of your vacation expenses up front, it might be a good idea to buy trip cancellation insurance.


8. In terms of airfare, the off-season runs from mid-April to the end of August. This is not only the cheapest time to fly from America, but it’s also the best time to visit Australia! That’s because Down Under winter (June, July, and Aug), when the days are balmy and nice, is more pleasant than the too-hot summer (Dec, Jan, and Feb).

9. Traveling on certain days of the week can save you money. Monday-to-Thursday departures can shave an extra US$60 off your airfare.

10. Consider a package. Whether you opt for an independent or group tour, package deals are terrific values because they typically include airfare (usually from Los Angeles), decent accommodations, some or all meals, tours, transfers, and other extras. The per-day price of a package (including airfare) can work out to be about the same as a night’s accommodations in a midrange hotel.

11. Look for travel agents and consolidators specializing in cheap fares to Australia. See “Getting There” later in this chapter, for a list.

12. The quickest way between two points is not always the cheapest. Sometimes airlines and travel agents release spot specials for people prepared to travel via a lengthier route, or at short notice. If this is you, scour the travel sections of newspapers, and visit airline websites for the latest deals.

13. The cheapest fares are usually the ones with the most restrictions. With Qantas’s 21-day advance purchase fare, for example, you must pay for the ticket within 21 days after booking, stay at least a week, and no more than a month in Australia; you can’t make stopovers, and you cannot change the routing once you have paid for the ticket. For many people, these conditions are fine for the trip they are planning.

14. Flying within Australia is expensive—but not if you pre-purchase Qantas coupons. The coupons can cost less than half the regular fares. Only non-Australians can buy them, and you must buy them before you leave home.

15. Because air travel within Australia is so expensive, Qantas offers discounts of around 30% off regular fares for non-Australian passport holders. To obtain the discount, quote your passport number when booking your flight.

16. If you belong to a frequent-flierclub, use your miles to contribute toward your airfare, or take advantage of any offers to buy miles at a reduced rate to reach an award level. If you are not already a frequent flier, join when you buy your ticket. The flight to Australia may earn you another trip!

17. To get even more frequent-flier miles, pay for your airline ticket on a credit card that gives you miles for every dollar you spend. Just be sure you don’t get zapped with sky-high interest charges.


18. Airfare and accommodations will take the biggest bite out of your budget, so look for package tours that include both plane ticket and 5 or more nights’ accommodations—often at substantial savings for both.

19. If you get an apartment with a full kitchen, you can save money by not eating out at every meal. Australian cities and holiday destinations are awash with this kind of accommodations. Even if you only make breakfast every morning, you could save enough to splurge on a really special meal.

20. Try to avoid visiting Australia during the country’s school holidays (see the “When to Go” section later in this chapter). Hotel and apartment rates in popular vacation spots like the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast, and Cairns in Queensland soar during the Australian school vacations.

21. Many accommodations chains offer discounted rates for customers of a particular car-rental company with which the hotel chain is partnered. When making your reservation or checking in, it never hurts to ask whether you qualify for a discount.

22. Bed-and-breakfasts are a friendly alternative to a cheerless motel room, and in Oz they’re often quite cheap. Many pretty B&Bs charge A$75 (US$49) or less for a double room with breakfast—about the same as a motel room without breakfast.

23. Youth hostels and backpacker lodges are not just for the young. Some are almost as good as resorts, with a pool, a tour desk, and Internet access, and they often offer inexpensive meals. Many have basic but clean private rooms for under A$50 (US$33) for a double. As long as you can handle sharing a bathroom, these rooms are often the cheapest comfortable beds in town.

24. YWCA has comfortable budget hotels in Sydney, Melbourne, and Darwin with private rooms, dorms, and family rooms—a cut above the average backpacker digs.

25. Many pubs, especially those in the country, offer lodging. Staying in a pub can be a money-saving option if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom (some have private
bathrooms, but don’t expect it) and coping with the din of drinkers in the bar downstairs (often until midnight Fri–Sat). The quality varies, but most rooms have a measure of historical charm. Rates can be as little as A$40 (US$26) for a double and are rarely more than A$75 (US$49); most include breakfast.

26. Most hotels accommodate kids up to age 12 (and even older) free of charge in your room if they use existing beds; if a hotel does charge extra for a child, it’s usually only A$10 to A$20 (US$6.50–US$13) at most.


27. Bus travel in Oz is quite comfortable— the buses are clean, the seats are comfortable, and you sometimes even get a video onboard. Passes from the two national coach companies, Greyhound Pioneer and McCafferty’s, represent great value, especially as some of them include tours.

28. Train fares in Australia cost about the same as bus fares, if you travel in a sitting berth (the seats recline somewhat). If you want a sleeper cabin, fares get expensive fast.

29. Countrylink, which oversees rail travel in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland, offers advance-purchase discounts of up to 40%.

30. Before you book a rental car in Australia, consider whether you really need one. In major tourist towns like Alice Springs and Cairns, travelers fall into the trap of renting a car and then letting it sit outside their hotel the whole vacation, because every local tour company picked them up at the door. If you need a car only to drive into town for dinner, take a cab.

31. Fill up your rental car at a nearby gas station before you return it, not at the much-more-expensive car rental depot’s pump.

32. Gas in cities is often cheaper on Mondays because most people fill up their tanks before the weekend.

33. Whether you go by air, rail, bus, or car, try not to backtrack. In a country as big as Australia, you can waste a lot of money retracing your steps.

34. Don’t buy maps. Most visitor centers dispense free or next-to-free maps of the area. If you are a member of an automobile club with which the Australian Automobile Association (AAA) has a reciprocal agreement, you can often obtain free state, regional, and city road maps. The American Automobile Association, and the Automobile Associations in the
U.K., Canada, and New Zealand, have such an arrangement with Australia. Pick up the maps before you leave, or collect them at the AAA offices in Australia.


35. The letters to look for when dining out in Oz are BYO, which means Bring Your Own: Buy wine or beer at the cheapest bottle shop (“liquor store” to Americans, “offlicense” to Brits) you can find, and take it with you to the restaurant. That way you avoid the markup of 100%, 200%, or more that restaurateurs are so fond of adding. All you pay is a corkage charge of about A$1 to A$3 (US65¢–US$1.95) per person.

36. Go ethnic and you’re almost guaranteed great food at low prices— Indian, Cambodian, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Italian, and Thai are all pretty sure bets. The smarter Chinese restaurants are good, but often a tad pricey, and not always BYO.

37. An advantage of going out for Asian food is that dishes are usually shared, so small eaters can get away with not ordering a whole meal for themselves (great for families). Because one Asian main course is often enough for two people, the golden rule is to order and eat one dish first, then order a second if you need it.

38. In cities, head to an Italian sidewalk cafe for tasty pasta and stylish sandwiches. A focaccia sandwich with salami, provolone cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and arugula will set you back around A$8 (US$5.20) and keep you going ’til dinner.

39. Backpacker lodges, youth hostels, and universities almost always have restaurants or cafes attached, which serve up big portions of tasty, healthy food for not much money.

40. Tipping is not necessary, although it is common to tip 5% to 10% in restaurants and round cab fares up to the nearest A$1 (US65¢). Plenty of Aussies don’t tip, so
don’t feel embarrassed about hanging on to your coins.

41. If you are traveling by car, keep a box of cereal and long-life milk in the trunk and use the hotel coffee cups as bowls. It beats paying A$10 (US$6.50) for the same thing in the hotel restaurant.

42. RSL (Returned and Services League) clubs and League clubs (as in Rugby League football) serve hearty meals—along the roast, chicken Kiev, and steak lines, with vegetables or salad, and bread and potato included—for around A$10 (US$6.50). You will have to sign in before you enter the club and put up with their uniquely lurid brand of neon-lit decor, but that’s part of the fun. Kids’ meals are about A$5 (US$3.25).


43. Australian city councils are big on providing free entertainment—for example, Sydney has free dance performances or concerts at Darling Harbour many weekends, and free lunchtime concerts in Martin Place most days; Brisbane has street performers at South Bank Parklands most weekends; and Darwin has free Sunday Jazz by the sea at the MGM Grand Casino in Dry Season. Check local newspapers for details.

44. You can often get half-price theater tickets on the day of the performance. We’ve listed halfprice ticket agencies in the “After Dark” sections of each chapter, where relevant. Matinees are often around A $8 (US$5.20), cheaper than evening shows.

45. Walking tours can be half the price of bus tours, and they give you a good close-up view of the city and sights.


46. Skincare products, cosmetics, perfume, electronics, imported designer accessories, liquor, cigarettes, and other luxury items attract high duty in Australia. If you need to buy these products, get them in duty-free stores, which can be found in capital cities and major tourist destinations. You will need to show your airline ticket and passport to buy.

47. If you buy anything expensive— jewelry, for example—ask if there is a tax-free price for international travelers. Most non-duty-free stores selling high-ticket items offer tax-free prices to international travelers who show their airline ticket and passport.

48. Aboriginal artifacts make great souvenirs and gifts, but look for the shops just a block or two away from the center of town, which sell the same items a good bit cheaper than the ones on the main streets.


49. There are no cover charges at pubs, and drinks are cheaper than in nightclubs. Some have live entertainment, pool, and sports video screens.

50. Aussies love beer any time, but it never tastes better than during happy hour, that period from around 4 to 6pm when many city bars and pubs mark drinks down to half price or less. Happy hours are especially common Thursday and Friday, but any time of the week you are never far from a pub that makes an art form of brandbased specials.

Australian Safari - The $50-a-Day Premise

Can’t believe you can really travel and stay comfortably around this huge country for as little as $50 a day? It can be done. Australia’s abundance of family-run motels, authentic country pubs, friendly B&Bs, and inexpensive ethnic restaurants offer a wide variety of great eating, welcoming accommodations, and some of the most amazing sights you’ll ever see, without sacrificing fun, comfort, and adventure to a budget.

The “$50-a-day” premise is based on the assumption of two adults traveling together who, between the two of them, have at least US$100, or US$50 per person, to spend per day on accommodations and meals. (We used a calculation of A$1 equals US65¢.) But fluctuations in the value of the Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar in recent years may mean you will get even more value for your money at the time you travel. Sightseeing, entertainment, and transport costs are extra, but we have unearthed loads of free and next-to-free ways for you to see the sights and get around without breaking the bank. Because airfare is likely to be the most expensive part of your trip, we provide tips on finding low-cost deals and packages.

But make no mistake: This isn’t a backpacker’s guide to Oz. Although the book includes the best backpackerstyle accommodations and hostels, its aim is to suggest the best places to stay and dine at the best price. In fact, if you frequent the places recommended and follow our money-saving tips on transportation and sightseeing, you’ll be traveling the same way most average Australians do. They would rather stay in a mid-priced country guesthouse that has a bit of charm, and eat at the cheap, fabulous Thai nosh-house, than pay a fortune to sit around a five-star resort’s swimming pool eating $15 hamburgers.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Last stop before Antarctica is the island state of Tasmania. Visit the Apple Isle for its beautiful national parks, stretches of alpine wilderness and gloomy forests, fruit and lavender farms, the world’s best trout fishing, and an exquisitely slow pace of life rarely experienced anywhere else. If you’re up to it, you could tackle the Overland Track, an 85km (53-mile) hiking trail between Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair that passes through highland moors, dense rainforests, and several mountains. A more leisurely option is a visit to the picturesque stone ruins of Port Arthur, Australia’s version of Devil’s Island, where thousands of convicts brought in to settle the new British colony were imprisoned and died. All of Tasmania is spectacular, but you haven’t seen anything until you’ve experienced Freycinet National Park, with its pink granite outcrops set against an emeraldgreen sea.

Australian Capital Territory (Act)

Surrounded entirely by New South Wales is the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT is made up of bushland and the nation’s capital, Canberra, a planned city similar in architectural concept to Washington, D.C. Many Australians consider the capital boring, but Canberra will surprise you. It has some of the country’s best museums and great restaurants, so don’t automatically exclude it from your itinerary.


Australia’s second largest city, Melbourne, is the capital of Victoria. Melbourne is more stately and “Old World” than Sydney, and offers an exciting mix of ethnicity and the country’s best fashion shopping. Nearby Phillip Island is famous for its Penguin Parade, where hundreds of tiny penguins dash up the beach to their burrows at dusk; and, the historic gold-mining city of Ballarat is not far away. Victoria is also the site of one of Australia’s great road trips, the Great Ocean Road, which stretches for 106km (66 miles) along the southern coast, where the eroded rock towers named the Twelve Apostles stand tall in the sea. Then there’s the inland “high country,” The Man from Snowy River’s stomping ground.

South Australia

Stretched between Western Australia and Victoria is the nation’s breadbasket, South Australia. The capital, Adelaide, is a stately place known for its conservatism, parks, and churches, and is an ideal base for exploring Australia’s illustrious wine region, the Barossa Valley. Big labels like Penfolds, Seppelts, and Wolf Blass are here, but take time to sniff out the many smaller but no less outstanding vineyards. And it’s less than an hour from the city! Bring your binoculars for the massive water bird sanctuary, the Coorong. Stay in an underground hotel in the offbeat opal-mining town of Coober Pedy (it’s too hot above ground), or order a ’roo-burger at the historic Prairie Hotel in the craggy, ancient lands of the Flinders Ranges in the South Australian Outback. The greatest of South Australia’s attractions (apart from wine, of course!) is Kangaroo Island, the best place in Australia to see native animals. In a day you can spot wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, oodles of birds from black swans to kookaburras, echidnas, and penguins. The beach teems with sea lions.

Western Australia

Distance and high airfares work against Western Australia’s tourism industry, which is a shame because this is one of Australia’s most wild and beautiful regions. The seas teem with whales in season, and thrill seekers can swim alongside gigantic but gentle whale sharks on the Northwest Cape every fall (Mar–June). This cape is home to one of Australia’s best-kept secrets, a second barrier reef called Ningaloo Marine Park, which runs for 260km (161 miles), one of the few reefs in the world to grow on a western coast. You can snorkel with manta rays here, and the diving is great. Just 19km (12 miles) off Perth, snorkelers can gaze at corals and fish on Rottnest Island, and in Shark Bay at Monkey Mia, tourists greet wild dolphins (or is it the other way around?).

In the southwest “hook” of the continent lies the Margaret River wine region. Wild forests, thundering surf, dramatic cliffs, rich bird life, and wild ’roos make it one of the country’s most attractive wine regions. The state’s capital, Perth, has surf beaches and a restored 19th-century port with a fun atmosphere and some great museums. One or two hours’ drive from the city brings you to some cute towns, like the Spanish Benedictine monastery town of New Norcia. Inland, the state is mostly wheat fields and desert, but if you have the inclination, head west 600km (372 miles) from Perth to the gold-mining town of Kalgoorlie, where you’ll find the world’s largest open-cast gold mine. With its gracious old pubs lining the wide bustling streets, it’s what an Aussie country town should look like.

In the Kimberley, you can visit the ancient Geikie and Windjana gorges, pearl farms where the world’s best South Sea pearls grow, and the charming (in a corrugated-iron sort of way) beachside frontier town of Broome. This tract of the country is so little populated and so under-explored that most Aussies never contemplate coming here. Getting around can be expensive, because it’s so vast. Near Kununurra, on the eastern edge of the Kimberley, is a million-acre cattle station, El Questro, where you can camp in safari tents, fish for barramundi, hike through the bush to Aboriginal rock art, take all kinds of active tours from horseback riding to 4WD jaunts, and dine every night on terrific modern Oz cuisine. From Kununurra you can hike into the beehive-shaped rock formation of the Bungle Bungles, cruise on the croc-infested Ord River, and tour the world’s biggest diamond mine.

The Top End

The northwest reaches of Oz (from the rocky red ranges of the Kimberley in Western Australia to the northern 3rd of the Northern Territory) encompass what Aussies eloquently dub “the Top End.” This is Crocodile Dundee territory, a remote, vast, semi-desert region where men are heroes and the cattle probably outnumber the people. In this book, we have concentrated on the Northern Territory section of the “Top End,” with the Kimberley included in the Western Australia chapter. Near the tropical city of Darwin, the territory’s capital, is Kakadu
National Park, where you can cruise past crocodiles on inland billabongs, bird-watch, and visit ancient Aboriginal rock-art sites. Closer to Darwin is Litchfield National Park, where you can take a dip in fern-fringed swimming holes surrounded by red cliffs— stuff straight from Eden. You can cruise the waterways of Katherine Gorge, a few hours’ drive south of Darwin, or explore them by canoe. Near Katherine you can learn to make your own didgeridoo, and canoe rarely explored, croc-infested inland rivers.

The Red Centre

The eerie silence of Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, is what draws everyone to the sprawling ochre sands of the Red Centre, the heart of the Northern Territory. For many, there is the delightful discovery that the lesser-known nearby domes of Kata Tjuta, or “the Olgas,” are even more spectacular (if that’s possible). A half-day’s drive from the Rock brings you to Kings Canyon, an awesomely lovely desert gorge popular with hikers. If you visit the Red Centre, try to spend at least a few days in Alice Springs. This laid-back Outback town has the best Aboriginal arts-andcrafts shopping in Australia, Aboriginal tours, a world-class desert wildlife park, stunning scenery, hikes through the stark MacDonnell Ranges, an Outback ranch to stay at, and even camel rides along a dry riverbed.


Without doubt, the biggest draw for visitors to Queensland is the Great Barrier Reef. Ogling the tropical fish, sea creatures, and rainbow-hued corals is a holiday highlight for most people. The Reef stretches more than 2,000km (1,240 miles) along Queensland’s coast, as far south as Bundaberg, 384km (238 miles) north of Brisbane. Alluring island resorts are dotted along the coast; while most are expensive, we’ve found a few that won’t break the bank. Queensland is also known for its white-sand beaches. Many of the best are on the Gold Coast in the state’s south (about an hour’s drive from Brisbane), and the Sunshine Coast, a 2-hour drive north of Brisbane. Cairns and Port Douglas in the north have their fair share of beaches, too, but be warned: Swimming in their waters can be very hazardous to your health. Deadly box jellyfish, or “stingers,” call a halt to all ocean swimming at beaches in the northern third of the country October through May. All patrolled beaches have warning signs, and the lifeguards do regular net drags to see if there are any in the water. If they find any, the beach is promptly closed. But to be absolutely sure, you should stick to the waterfront lagoons at Airlie Beach and Cairns, or your hotel pool this time of year. The jellyfish are mainly found in coastal waters and do not interfere with Great Barrier Reef activities like snorkeling or diving, as these are out of the habitat of marine stingers.

Island swimming is mostly stinger free, but be careful and take advice from the lifeguards before plunging into that inviting water.

One of the most appealing of Queensland’s destinations is the aquatic playground made up of the 74 Whitsunday Islands in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. These mostly uninhabited islands are a paradise for kayaking, snorkeling, diving, fishing, hiking, watersports, bird-watching, and bareboat sailing.

Another big attraction is the lush 110-million-year-old Daintree rainforest, just north of Port Douglas.

The capital, Brisbane, has Australia’s largest koala sanctuary (you can cuddle one if you like) and you can hand-feed wild dolphins on a day trip across Brisbane’s Moreton Bay. In the Gold Coast hinterland is Lamington National Park, a rainforested mountain region great for hiking and spotting wildlife.

New South Wales

Australia’s most populated state is also the most visited by tourists. They come to see Sydney—and who can blame them? It’s one of the most glamorous and beautiful cities in the world, with dozens of harbor and ocean beaches within and around the city, and a mixture of bushland and city development around Sydney Harbour itself. Sydney is also a good base for day trips or overnight excursions inland, especially to the scenic Blue Mountains and the wineries of the Hunter Valley.

Farther afield, a string of quaint beachside towns stretches all the way down the southern coast to Victoria. Along the north coast are remnant areas of rainforest and a more tropical air in the laid-back hangout of Byron Bay, where “Croc Dundee” himself, movie star Paul Hogan, has a home. The inland is dry and sparsely forested. Highlights include the mining town of Broken Hill (known for wildlife, art galleries, and Aboriginal influences), and Outback opal-mining towns White Cliffs and Lightning Ridge, which exist in a wacky underground world of their own.

Australian Regions in Brief

About 84% of Australia’s 19 million people huddle in cities around the coast covering a mere 1% of this vast continent. The reason is simple: Much of Australia is harsh Outback country, characterized by savannah land, spectacular rocky outcrops, hifting deserts, and dry salt lakes. In these parts of the country, the soil is poor, the rainfall scarce, and some rivers don’t even make it to the ocean. The roads that traverse the interior are sometimes barely worthy of the name, and most people choose air travel or stick to the coastal fringe.

In spectacular contrast, on the coast—particularly the east, where most people live—Nature’s bounty has almost overdone it. Here, Australia is blessed with one of the greatest natural attractions in the world—the Great Barrier Reef. There are also rainforests in Queensland, alpine scenery in Tasmania, wildflowers in Western Australia, rolling wine country in South Australia, a great coastal drive in Victoria,

Bird-filled wetlands in the Northern Territory, and countless sand beaches more or less everywhere.

Australia is made up of six states—New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania—and two internal “territories”—the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) and the Northern Territory. The national capital is
Canberra, in the ACT.

Planning an affordable trip to Australia

A trip to Australia Is an exhilarating experience, in this article I am going to cover certain essential factors in planning a trip to the kangaroo land. I will be discussing here things like, how to get there, the amount of money it will cost, the ins and outs of traveling down under; and myriad other details.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Things to Buy in Singapore


Antiques from all over Asia can be found in the shopping areas at Tanglin Road, Orchard Road and Cuppage Road and at several hotel arcades. Chinese antiques predominate, chiefly porcelain, ceramics, jade, bronze items and scrolls. Even Tang and Qing dynasty ceramic pieces may be found. Thai ceramics dating back to the 13th and 15th century are another favourite with collectors. Brass lamps, bronze statuettes, inlaid jewellery boxes are some of the Indian antiques available. Indonesian, Vietnamese and Burmese antiques may be bought here as well.


Quality hand-knotted carpets, durries and rugs from the Middle East, China, Afghanistan, Turkey, India and Pakistan are available here in Singapore. Orchard is among the many locations where this enormous range of carpets can be viewed and bought.


Dior, Channel, Yves, St. Laurent, Lanvin, Lancome, Cacharel, all of the famous brand names are to be found in Singapore's department stores and at the airport duty free complexes.


An enormous range of calculators, shaves, fans, hair-dryers, audio-visual equipment, irons, kettles and other household appliances are sold at duty free prices at the various complexes and stores located on Orchard Road, North Bridge Road. Raffles Place and Sim Lim Square.
Funan Centre along North Bridge Road and the Riverwalk Gallery are recognised sources of personal computers and computer software. Camera equipment is available at stores in North Bridge Road, High Street, Middle Road, Bras Basah Road, Orchard Road, Raffles Place and Scotts Road. Major brands such as Nikon, Cannon, and Pentax as well as professional cameras such as Leicas andHerselblads are on sale for reasonable prices. Having procurred the price list from an agent, one can shop around for the best price.


Countless shops in the Tanglin Shopping Centre, Scotts Shopping Centre, Lucky Plaza and the Chinese emporiums offer both plain and printed Chinese silks by the yard or made into the latest ready to wear fashions. Indian silks and other textiles from the region can be found in Arab Street at reasonable prices. The unique colour and design of batik make it a popular buy. Imported from Indonesia and Malaysia, it is sold in lengths, or made into clothing, napkins, table cloths and many other items. The best place to buy batik is at Arab street, Geylang Serai and the Malay village.


Footwear is an excellent buy in Singapore, from top European designer shoes to the latest in sport shoes. Orchard Road sells designer wear by the likes of Rodolfo Valentine, Bally, Giorgio Armani, and Gucci. Bargain shoes, sandals slippers and sneakers can be bought in and around Chinatown and Little India.


Exceptional gem bargains can be found in Singapore, not only in such native stones as rubies, sapphires, zircons, garnets and turquiose, but also in imported ones brought here for cutting and setting. Singapore's jeweller have a justifiable reputation for creation of fine jewellery in distinctive settings ranging from high fashion to traditional ethnic. Different shops specialise in gold, silver, precious or semi-precious gems.The Pidemco Centre on South Bridge Road is home to Singapore's Jeweller's. Traditional Indian jewellery is available along Serangoon Road.


Handbags, shoes, belts and other accessories made from crocodile, snake and lizard skins are sold in department stores and shopping complexes throughout the city.


Major shopping complexes have at least one well equipped sports store. For Scuba gear, visit Dive Asia, Sealand Sports in Lucky Plaza or specialist shops at Peace Centre. Windsurfers could try the East Coast Sailing Centre, 1210 East Coast Parkway. Water skiers are catered for at Aqua & Leisure Sports in Marina Square and Golfers at the Far East Plaza and Plaza Singapore.


Souvenirs of Singapore can be found all over from T-shirts to local handicrafts.
Gold, dipped orchids (Singapore's National flower) are a popular buy. Gold billion coins stamped with lion motifs make a valuable gift. Fine pewter ware, mugs, vases and pictures can be bought at the Royal Selangor showroom at 32, Pandan Road. The Singaporean Handicraft Centre at Chinatown Point must be visited for a wider selection of Singaporean souvenirs.


Most stores in Singapore have huge sections devoted solely to toys of every imaginable variety. Some specialist toy shops are located in the Orchard Road shopping belt, Forum Galleria and Wisema Atria housing two of the most popular shops.


Custom Tailoring: The pleasure of owning a custom made suit or dress is not a privilege reserved for the very rich in Singapore. There are thousands of establishments, small and large that can produce almost anything you want in a matter of days and at prices fairly reasonable prices. Although found throughout Singapore, the tailor shops along Coleman Street, Selegie Road, North Bridge Road, Orchard Road and Tanglin Road are perhaps the best known.

Ready to wear: Clothing is a booming industry in Singapore. Men's clothing imported from the world's fashion houses, can be obtained from department stores and shopping complexes in and around Orchard, Scolts and Tanglin Roads. For women's fashion, Singapore offers the latest from around the world, with famous names such as Channel, Claiborne and Gucci.
However, Singapore made versions are moderately priced with the local designers able to match foreign standards. These are available at many outlets throughout the city, a number of which are located at Park Mall.


Timepieces such as Kaleidoscopic Swiss watches, collector's Role watches as well as elaborate wall clocks and practical radio clocks can be picked up at excellent prices' here in Singapore.

Cultural Centre Of Philippines

Within the immense park-like grounds of this seaside complex rise the many establishments dedicated to the preservation and propagation of Philippine culture and heritage. The Cultural Centre of Philippine, (CCP) gathers together permanent displays of Philippine ethnological treasures along with recent works by modern artists. Its theaters, as well as the Folk Arts Theater nearby, host many an evening of ballet, concerts, plays, and other cultural performances. Next door is Coconut Palace, a Philippine ancestral mansion inspired and crafted mainly out of parts from the coconut tree. It is the only structure of its kini in the world. Guided tour conducted in English ar schduled every half hou from 9 to 11 am and from to 4 pm every day excep Monday. Group booking should be made at least week in advance. Th buildings of the Philippic Centre for Internations Trade Expositions (Ph Cite), as well as the adjacent Internation; Trade Centre Comple: showcase Filipino artisti and craftsmanship in the fields of weaving, basket! woodcarving, shellcral jewellry-making a metalworks, and are al venues for the exchange trade technology amoi friendly nations.


Such a cluster of opulent mansions as you see in Forbes Park and its neighbouring Dasmarinaa Village is almost unique. There is even a special police unit to guard this luxury neighbourhood. Forbes Park is in the southern part of Maka Buses marked ‘Ayala (Ave)’ go from Taft Ave or M H del Pilar St in Ermita to the Makati Commercial Centre. One can cover up 1 remaining km by taxi as Admission: to the island is S$7 adults and S$2.50 children. There are separate admission charges for the attractions.


Kusu, a small island, sacred to both Muslims and Taoists, has stunning views of the Singapore mainland and has a good swimming lagoon. Legend recounts that Kusu was a giant sea turtle which transformed itself into a large rock to save the shipwrecked sailors. Taoists make an annual pilgrimage to the Tua Pekong Temple on Kusu during the ninth lunar month. Ferries ply between the Singapore Cruise Centre at the WTC and the island, Monday to Saturday. For enquiries call 2707888 or 270 7889.


St John's Island is a large, hilly island with shaded walking paths, swimming lagoons and grassy clearings that are perfect for informal soccer. It is a popular site for weekend get aways and camping trips.


This island is a delightful retreat from the bustle of Singapore, with a rural lifestyle that has changed little in 30 years. Traditional fishing huts called kelongs are built on stilts over the sea, while orchard trees, shrubs and flowers abound. Visitors can see a duck farm, a prawn farm. One can go camping and enjoy good hiking areas. There is a lake in a disused quarry here. There is also plenty of wildlife, including the Purple jungle fowl, a wild bird from which all the world's domestic chickens are descended. A seafood restaurant here offers delicious fresh seafood. The island is accessible via the bumboats leaving Changi Point Jetty.

Places of Interest in Manila


A swathe of green cuts through the traffic of Taft Avenue all the way to Roxas Boulevard by Manila Bay, and forms an oval, more commonly known as Luneta (from lunette, small moon). Mornings find joggers and talchi exercisers catching a bit of fresh air under the trees. In the afternoons, spectators sit by the breakwater to await the best sunset in the world. Evenings are for lovers. On weekends, families picnic on the grass by the fountains, flock to the amphitheatc entertainment, stroll Japanese and Ch gardens, and frolic a: the skating ring and children's playground park is dedicated t national hero, Jot Rizal, and his s stands watch over M Bay. On the same where Rizal was exe by firing squad in If light and sound table; enacts the event witl sized statues and a rec narrative, accompani light and sound effects.


Within the 16th century walls of Intramuros, the old Spanish enclave of Manila, horse-drawn carruajes (carriages) take visitors through streets lined with Spanish colonial style houses, past old church plazas, gardens and walkways between restored puertas (gates) and baluartes (battlements). Fort Santiago, once the headquarters of the spanish forces and prison to Filipinos charged with sedition and rebellion, is now a peaceful green quadrangle with a shrine to the national here. The Manila Cathedral has been rebuilt six times since the first structure rose on that same spot in 1581. The present church retains its magnificence with the original stone carvings, rosette windows and stained glass mosaics decorating its nave and several smaller chapels. San Agustin Church, the oldest structure in the country, inspires awe with its trompe I'oeil murals, ornately carved choir loft, Baroque interiors and collection of valuable ecclesiastical art pieces. The Casa Manila, a fully-furnished turn of the century model house, depicts how a Spanish nobleman might have lived. The maze of antique and ethnic craft shops and galleries at the Plaza San Luis Complex carry items worthy of any collector's attention.


The most important defence location of the Intramuros fortress city was Fort-Santiago. From this strategic location, at the mouth of the Pasig River, all activity in Manila Bay could be observed. During the Japanese occupation in World War II, innumerable Filipino prisoners lost their lives in the infamous dungeon cells which lay below sea level. At high tide there was no escape. Dr Jose Rizal also spent his last days in a narrow cell at this fort before his execution by the Spaniards in 1896.

Today Fort Santiago is a memorial. There is an open-air theatre, the Rizal Shrine and a display of old cars which used to belong to important Filipino personalities.

In early 1988, Fort Santiago was turned inside out, with government permission, by US gold-seekers who, by excavating, hoped to uncover the legendary war treasure of the Japanese genera,! Yamashita, which was rumoured to have been hidden in the Philippines. All excavations were in vain, of course. The fort is open daily between 8 am and 10 pm


The first constructions of the San Agustin Church were destroyed by fires in 1574 and 1583. In 1599 the foundation stone for the present construction was laid. The massive church was not damaged by the earthquakes of 1645, 1754, 1852,1863,1880, 1968 and 1970, nor by the bombardment in the fighting around Manila in February 1945. San Agustin is the oldest existing stone church in the Philippines. From JL879 to 1880, the crystal chandeliers came from Paris, the walls and roofs were masterfully painted by two Italian artists, and the choir stalls were carved_by the Agustinian monks themselves. In a small chapel to the left of the high altar lie the mortal remains of Legaspi. There is a museum and a contemplative inner courtyard adjoining the church.


This cathedral, with its great cupola, is the Philippines' most significant Catholic church. It is located in the Plaza Roma at Intramuros. With the help of the Vatican, the building, which was destroyed in World War II, was rebuilt from 1954 to 1958; some old walls were restored and integrated into the new construction. The large organ with its 4500 pipes came from Netherlands and is the largest in Asia. Some old walls were restored and integrated into the new construction. The large organ with its 4500 pipes came from Netherlands and is the largest in Asia.


For an overview of what this 7,107 island archipelago has to offer without travelling outside of Metro Manila, nothing beats this 32-acre 'nayong' (village) located just 10 minutes away from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Here explore Bohol's Chocolate Hills, Cebu's historic Magellans Cross, Bicol's Mayon Volcano, Banaue's Rice Terraces, as well as the many villages, which really are a cluster of houses architecturally representative of each culturally distinctive region in the country. Museums showcase ethnological finds and local handicrafts.

Refreshment kiosks are scattered throughout the park. Around the lagoon, weekenders cast their fishing lines to try their luck with the tilapia (local trout) and couples row their boats into the sunset.


Manila's enclave of traditional Chinese shophouses and narrow streets bustles with commercial activity on and around Ongpin Street in Santa Cruz district. Jewellery stores a-glitter with yellow and gold watches; groceries brimming with fruit preserves and exotic delicacies; apothecaries with their multipaneled cabinets filled with pungent
herbs; Chinese delicatessens and restaurants with pork leg, Peking duck and oiled chicken hanging in the windows; curio shops redolent with incense; Buddhist temples and roadside shrines with their tilted red-tile roofs; and always that strain of Chinese music floating in the air, all combine to lend an air of oriental mystique to this thriving, clannish community.


This small district of craftsmen, buyers and sellers swells and swelters with the crush of humanity who carry on their trade on the perimetres of the pilgrimage shrine of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church. Sidewalk her-balists vie with amulet and charm purveyors to cure every ailment from the common cold to arthritis to diabetes. Fruits, vegetables and flowers, clothes and houseware erupt in a riot of colour. Under the Quezon Bridge (Ilalim ng Tulay), hawkers call your attention to the many capiz shell lamps, rattan bags, and other inexpensive handicrafts hanging from the ceilings of makeshift stalls.