Archive for 2011

The Creepiest Places on Earth: Abandoned Theme Parks

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

Six Flags 2012

When theme parks are working they are normally full of children and adults, laughing and enjoying a day out. However, when parks close down they take on a more sinister atmosphere and are not somewhere you would like to be alone! There are also several horror films which have had not so nice scenes played out in disused theme parks and so empty rides, unused stalls and a sense of emptiness have rather unsettling connotations. With overgrown vegetation, moss attacking the rides and rusting metal the following theme parks, although once a hive of activity and enjoyment, now stand empty while falling into a state of sinister disrepair.

Takakanonuma Greenland, Japan

Takakanonuma Greenland

This theme park was first opened in 1973 but it closed soon after due to several deaths on rides. It reopened in 1986 but never managed to grab the crowds needed to sustain it, some say this was due to the economic downturn, some say it never recovered its reputation after the deaths…

Jazzland/Six Flags, New Orleans

Six Flags

This theme park was literally stopped in its tracks in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina decided to hit North America. Ever since then it has lain in a state of decay and disarray and draws visitors from all over the globe, maybe more than when it was open and charging visitors. Ironically, the management were planning a water park at the time of the hurricane..

Okpo Land, South Korea.

Okpo Land

This theme park has perhaps, the most eerie of stories behind it. After a series of fatal accidents, the last one being a little girl who fell from a ride, the park was shut down in 1999. However, that was only the beginning as straight after it was shut, the owner fled and was never heard of again. The park has stood empty since then, with sinister rides and model characters smiling at anyone who dares to step over the gates and take a look inside..

Prypiat Amusement Park, Ukraine

Pripyat Amusement Park

It was a case of bad timing with this amusement park as on the day it opened back in 1986, the country and indeed the world, was hit with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The event rocked the planet and the amusement park could never reopen due to dangerous levels of radiation. They are still high to this day meaning no one has ventured into the park long enough to start a clear up operation.

Wichita’s Joyland, Kansas

Joyland

This amusement park ran for longer than most having opened in 1949 and running continuously until it was closed in 2003 because of financial problems. It is now sat rotting away, having been vandalised several times and overun with plants and shrubs.

Gulliver’s Kingdom, Japan

Gulliver’s Kingdom

The theme park was named and focused around the English novel Gulliver’s Travels. It never took off after opening in 1998 and so in 2002 was forced to close. It is one of the creepiest abandoned parks due to a model of Gulliver tied to the ground reminiscent of the book. It was also next to Kamikuishiki, a town that was home to the Aum Shinrikyo cult that launched a terrorist attack on Japan in 1995. Not the best recipe for success!

This eerie collection was brought to you by Chessington Holidays; Official providers of deals for short stay breaks at Chessington Hotels.

10 Unusual Holiday Destinations in Africa

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Winter is the perfect season to escape the cold temperatures of the Northern Hemisphere for sunny African holidays. Here are ten unique destinations, starting at the top of the continent and travelling clockwise.

1. Merzouga, Morocco
Merzouga is ideal for travellers who want to experience the life of a Bedouin riding a camel across the Sahara. On an overnight camel trek, adventurers can sleep under the blackest sky lit with millions of stars and then journey over the highest dunes in Morocco the next day.

2. Omo River Region, Ethiopia
This remote location in south-western Ethiopia, accessible only by a four-wheel-drive vehicle, has been undiscovered for years and is a World Heritage site. The customs and beliefs of its many native tribes have barely changed in centuries. Thrill-seekers can ride the current down the Omo River in a white-water rafting trip that lasts over a week.


A view of the Omo River, taken just nort of Omorati. (Source)

3. Bandiagara Cliffs, Mopti, Mali
This is an ideal destination for backpackers and a World Heritage site too. Visit the Bandiagara Cliffs and meet the Dogon people. The Dogon tribe/culture is believed to be one of the oldest in Africa. They live along a 150 kilometre sandstone escarpment. A lot of climbing is involved with this particular travel destination.

4. Shimba Hills Coastal Reserve, Kenya
Shimba Hills is one of the largest rainforest reserves in eastern Africa, with great numbers of baboons, monkeys, warthogs and other animals. The reserve is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with 111 species sighted. Visitors can even lodge in the birds’ habitat at the Ndovu Bonde Treehouse Hotel. There is also a guided night safari where tourists can hear hyenas howling in the darkness.

5. Virunga Mountains, Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Approximately 800 mountain gorillas are left in the world, so seeing them in their natural environment makes this one of the most memorable and unusual holidays. About 300 mountain gorillas live in this region of extinct volcanoes along the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and the DRC. Since the gorilla groups migrate within the region, it’s best to check with safari agencies to see where the gorillas are located.

6. Seychelles
With its unspoiled beaches, many visitors consider this island archipelago northeast of Madagascar the most beautiful place on earth. Winter is the perfect time for fishing, sailing and snorkelling in Seychelles’ crystal-clear water. A variety of cultural bazaars are held every day in December where visitors can shop, accompanied by bands playing Creole music.

7. Makgadikgadi, Botswana
Travellers to this region of the Kalahari Desert can walk with the Zu/’hoasi bushmen trackers for an inside look into their ancient culture. At Planet Baobab, visitors can stay in a traditional grass-hut village among ancient baobab trees. December is Botswana’s wet season and the perfect time to see the spectacular annual migration of zebra and wildebeest.

8. South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
Visitors to the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia will witness a wildlife extravaganza. The 9050km² park has over 60 animal and 400 bird species. View Buffalo, Thornicroft Giraffes, Leopards, various species of Antelope and many more in their natural surroundings. There is plenty of local accommodation and organise safaris, it is best to tour with a local guide who will use his knowledge to maximise the time on your tour.


Image above: The Mopane Forest in South Luangwa National Park. (source)

9. Chamarel, Mauritania
Southwest Mauritania is famous for its surrealistic Seven-Coloured Earth. The red, violet, brown, blue, green, yellow and purple dunes of this natural wonder were created when volcanic rock cooled at varying temperatures. At nearby Chamarel Falls, three waterfalls plummet from a table-like plateau hundreds of feet to the jungle below.

10. Quirimbas Archipelago, Northern Mozambique
The Quirimbas Archipelago, a world heritage site is a range of 27 islands off the coast of Mozambique in the Indian Ocean. This is definitely an “unusual” holiday experience and off the beaten track. It’s best to hire a boat or go on an organised boat tour, which often involves island hopping. Kayaking, fishing, diving and general relaxing are popular here and you won’t have to worry about a mass of tourists in this remote group of island paradises.

25 Must-Know Tuscan Words and Idioms

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

So you are coming to Tuscany for your next summer vacation? It is true that here is where the Italian language was born. Dante wrote his Divine Comedy in a language that was the first sparkle of modern Italian, also called “vulgar”. As a matter of fact, Tuscany does not have a dialect, which means that the official language is also the only language spoken in the region. Nevertheless, the Tuscan people have their own jargon, often consisting of archaic forms of the Italian language that survived here for reasons that only a glottologist would know. Therefore, if you studied Italian and are coming to Tuscany on holiday, you will need to know some of the most typical Tuscan expressions and idioms. This will be helpful even if you have no prior clue of the Italian language.

Bischero. Let’s start with a very Florentine word. If you are a bischero, you are a stupid. The Bischeri family lost all their wealth over a public deal everyone else profited from. Hence they became the archetype of the stupid. Grullo is also used.

Piaggia. It means uphill, and you might hear it when asking for directions.

Scesa. A downhill!

Guadagno di Pottino. You may hear it when bargaining at some street market. Pottino was a drunken wine seller who sold water and drank wine, soon ruining his business.

Strolago di Brozzi. If you are compared to Strolago di Brozzi, you are being told that what you say is quite obvious.

Vaffandomo! This is the equivalent of “vaffanculo”, only more polite and not involving foul words.

Sciapo. Means without salt, and it is often referred to bread, as Tuscan bread is unsalted, but it can refer to anything without salt.

Schiaccia. This is the white pizza base with just salt, no tomato or anything else, often used as bread. It can also be called ciaccino, schiacciata, focaccia, or covaccino.

Ciccio. In Tuscany this refers to meat. Il ciccio bono is good meat to eat!

Finocchio. In Tuscan if you are called that, you are considered to be a lucky person.

Codesto. Simply means “that one thing near you”, but only Tuscans say it this way, as all the rest of Italy says Quello, which means “that”.

Ciuco. Take offense if you are called that. It means donkey, but the implicit meaning is to be stubborn and ignorant.

Maremma…This is often used to clean up one’s cursing, especially to avoid saying profanities. Maremma maiala is what you will hear most often!

Fiaccheraio. Another Florentine-only term referring to horse chart drivers, today only available for touristic tours of the city. It derives from the French word Fiacre, which means charriot.

Becco. Another offense referring to the fact that you were or may have been betrayed by your partner in love.

Briaco. In Italian it is Ubriaco, and means drunk. Tutto Briaco is also very Tuscan, and it means completely drunk.

Barbagianni. It is referred to someone stupid, although in an endearing way.

Cencio. In general Italian it is straccio. Cencio can be a piece of cloth to mop the floor, or a fried dough pastry popular during carnival.

Fare da Nottolo. A typical Tuscan saying referring to someone pretending to be indifferent towards something he has a high interest in.

Seggiola. It is a chair, and in Italian it is called sedia.

Ito. It means gone. At times also said Vito (which can also be a southern Italian name), and in modern Italian it is Andato.

Chetati! It is an imperative request to shut up. In general Italian it is Zitto!

Granata. This is the broom, and in other parts of Italy it is called Scopa.

Popone. It is the melon, also refferred to as Melone in Italian.

Merdaiolo. Concluding on a high note, this refers to someone dishonest, untrustworthy and quite evil. It describes the job of those that in the past emptied septic tanks, often former convicts. Do not say it to anyone you do not have the intention of fighting with!

Matt writes for ThriftyTuscany.com, a by owner only website to rent villas Tuscany coast and find your wedding villa Tuscany.

Have a Globe Trotting Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Image Credit

Christmas is the perfect time to get away from it all. If you fancy an exotic festive holiday then the world is literally at your fingertips. Indulge in fantastic local Christmas meals and even pick up a few local traditions that you can bring back with you for future Christmas celebrations.

Ukhisimusi Omuhle!

Image Credit

Africa has been heavily influenced by British Christmas traditions and for the most part the only differences are in the food. It’s the middle of summer in South Africa and traditional Zulu festivals include fresh produce and plenty of salads at the Christmas meal. Christmas is important in most African counties although it is considered a time for family and quiet celebrations. The real party is over New Year with fireworks and traditional beer. In Nigeria, the cities are deserted in favour of a return to ancestral villages.

Feliz Natal!

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Brazilian and many South American countries, Christmas traditions include having a photograph taken with your family around the Christmas table, which has to display at least one 2 litre bottle of Coca Cola. Christmas celebrations start on Christmas Eve, with presents and parties, which continue until at least 3am. Christmas morning is a day to sleep in and then join the party again from noon. The person hosting the festivities has to host for two days. No Christmas party in Brazil is complete without Karaoke.

メリークリスマス!

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In Japan, Christmas is not a national holiday, although since the 1930’s it has been celebrated. Christmas in Japan means a barrel of your favourite KFC and a cream cake with strawberries. It’s not traditional to exchange gifts in Japan over Christmas, although some modern Japanese families have absorbed the tradition.

Frohe Weinachten!

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Closer to home, but completely unique, Christmas celebrations in Germany vary according to region. The biggest difference is that the exchange of presents along with a big meal happens on Christmas Eve. This was due to the influence of Martin Luther who wanted the religious message of the actual day to be observed. Its potato salad and the ubiquitous Frankfurter served for the traditional Christmas meal.

С Рождеством Христовым!

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Christmas in Russia as well as many eastern European orthodox countries is celebrated on the 7th of January. During communist rule, most Christmas traditions were moved to the New Year to avoid any trouble with the KGB.

G’Day, Mate!

Image Credit

Despite being an English speaking country, and following many British traditions, Australia and New Zealand bring a little summer sparkle to the festivities of the holiday season. Companies close for much longer in Australia and Africa over Christmas because it is time for a summer holiday, and of course, Santa’s sleigh is pulled by Kangaroos!

If you’re travelling or even living in a foreign country at Christmas time, you will have the opportunity to keep your traditions alive and indulge in some local traditions and festivities to enjoy the holiday season. You can get turkey and gammon in just about every country. Brussels Sprouts? Not so much, but who needs them to enjoy the spirit of Christmas!

This festive article was produced on behalf of HotelClub.com; where you can find family friendly hotels in Tokyo for your festivities.

$253: Los Angeles to Mexico City

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Dealazo a Distrito Federal!

Fly on Volaris
Leave on March 14, 2012
Return on April 21, 2012
We just found this Mexico City iCheap Deal through iCheapAirfares – Search here!

5 Great Thailand Dishes to Try

Monday, December 19th, 2011

A journey to Thailand often ends up being the trip of a lifetime for many a traveler. From the white, sandy beaches of Koh Samui to the mist-shrouded peaks of Doi Inthanon National Park, Thailand offers a little something for everyone. Regardless of where you go, you’ll find some of the tastiest and hottest food in any hemisphere. While you could spend years trying out everything Thailand has to offer when it comes to epicurean delights, you’ll have to prioritize and make some hard choices. Make sure you at least give the following dishes a try.

Kang Keaw Wan Gai
In English, it would be known as Green Curry Chicken. This sweet dish features chicken served with rice or noodles. The broth that accompanies the chicken contains sugar, coconut milk, fish sauce, and green curry chili. It’s essentially a stew that has one of the most unique flavor profiles you’ll ever come across, offering a little hint of everything in terms of taste.

Panaeng
Meat lovers will have a blast in Thailand, as many of the more famous dishes include generous portions of beef, pork, and chicken. Panaeng typically comes on a bed of hot rice, with the meat portion drowned in a rich but not too hot coconut cream sauce with some red curry mixed in for good measure.

Gai Pad Met Mamuang
If you’d like to ease yourself into the otherwise incredibly spicy Thai culinary tradition, Gai Pad Met Mamuang is the way to go. It’s perfect for the Westerner who’s not used to searing their tongue off every night at dinner. Comprised of pan-fried chicken garnished with vegetables and cashews, it’s familiar enough to not put off less adventurous diners.

Som Tam
Not every dish in Thailand revolves around spicy pork or seafood. Som Tam is a kind of salad that features green papaya, lemons, peanuts, green beans, palm sugar, chilies, some garlic, and fish oil. You can also get it with bla-rah. That’s not a typo. It’s a sauce made from fish and crab that’s been fermented for a period of time, often up to a year.

Pad Thai
There’s a reason it’s the national dish of Thailand. You may think you’ve had Pad Thai at your local Thai takeout joint, but nothing beats getting it straight from the source. If you’re not already familiar, Pad Thai is a melange of noodles, shrimp, egg, bean sprouts, and a number of other additional items. The exact composition varies from place to place, which is part of the fun.

Happy Trails
Stepping outside of your comfort zone can be richly rewarding when you’re traveling, whether it’s trying new activities or new foods. Thailand is the perfect place to expand your culinary horizons, thanks to the spicy and eclectic mix of exotic ingredients found in many of the foods that are available. Don’t be afraid to sample something that you ordinarily wouldn’t, because you may find you’ve discovered your new favorite far-out treat. Just know where you’re getting your grub from, and stick to semi-reputable restaurants and establishments when you order.

Josephine works for a travel agency and recommends that all her customers book all inclusive packages when travelling on their Thailand holidays as it’s a great way to save costs and allow for more spending money to see the best it has to offer!

Photo Credit: Shoops2011

$624: Los Angeles to Moscow

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Ushankas off to this deal! With average hotel rates in Moscow hovering around $200 per night, this $624 flight is seemingly the price of only three nights. In addition, use our hotel search to knock that price down!

Fly on Aeroflot
Leave on March 23, 2012
Return on April 12, 2012
We just found this Moscow iCheap Deal through iCheapAirfares – Search here!

Don’t Eat your Flight Savings

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

My top tip for budgeting for a vacation and sticking to it, is to research eateries prior to your trip. Typically, travelers research flight and accommodations ad nauseum prior to travel, but fail to read up on potential places to fill their bellies. This is a big mistake since dining will be probably be their third biggest expense after transportation and hotel.

Yes, you may get lucky, but for the most part your dining experiences will be less satisfying and more expensive. I’ve made this mistake before and kicked myself every time I’ve been hungry in a hotel lobby and clueless which direction to head for high quality, affordable grub.

Having no idea where to eat beforehand tends to lead to eating in overpriced, tourist traps, or in eateries based on biased recommendations from hotel concierge.

Once you are at your destination, researching restaurants can be a big hassle, especially if you don’t have a laptop or free WIFI in your hotel. Besides, you should be enjoying your new surroundings, not staring at your tablet. That is homework that should be done beforehand.

Remember to spend a little time researching eateries before your next trip to maximize your next vacation budget. A great place to start is Lonely Planet. Bien viaje!

$476: Las Vegas to Madrid

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Compare this price to one night in a Bellagio suite — grab this deal by the horns!

Fly on Air France
Leave on November 29, 2011
Return on December 10, 2011
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$689: San Francisco to Madrid

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Experience the real Madrid.

Fly on US Airways
Leave on October 27, 2011
Return on November 10, 2011
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