русский

Tips

Travel ingenuity from our island hopping holiday experts

How To Be Culturally Correct in Thailand

in Culture/Destinations/Tips by

Known as ‘The Land of Smiles’, Thailand is a treasure trove of cultural delights, inhabited by gracious and warm people. While Thais are known for being open, tolerant and hospitable, they may not always understand the nuances and eccentricities of other cultures. With this in mind, courtesy and respect in all your interactions with local people goes a long way.

Here are a few tips to help bridge cultural gaps and enhance your stay in Thailand:

THE DOs

Do try to wai.

This much-used Thai greeting involves a slight bow, with hands pressed together at upper chest level in a prayer-like way. Younger people will wai their elders first, and the greeting is then reciprocated. The Wai is also used to say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’, and generally to show respect.

Do accompany your wai with a hello: “Sawasdee kha” (if you are a woman) and “Sawasdee khrap” (if you are a man).
Do get travel insurance.

Accidents happen and can be even more daunting when you are away from home. Gravity’s pull on a falling coconut harms more world travelers every year than sharks do!


Do visit some temples.

Thailand is full of beautiful temples (wats) and visiting them provides a fascinating window into many aspects of daily life. Visitors are welcomed, but proper dress is expected. Good temple etiquette requires that your legs, shoulders and upper arms are covered and shoes are removed. Temples regularly visited by tourists will usually have sarongs available for those who turn up inadequately dressed, but when visiting lesser-known temples, it’s useful to bring your own.

Do be adventurous with Thai cuisine.

Thai food is usually lightly cooked and fragrant, with an emphasis on fresh herbs and spices. Sweet, sour and spicy flavours are combined to create dishes that not only taste sublime, but are beautiful to look at too. The food can get quite fiery, so let them know if you can not handle too much chilli.

Do eat with a spoon.

Most Thai dishes are served in bite-size pieces and eaten with a spoon and fork, but the fork is just used to push food onto the spoon.

Do haggle when you are market shopping.

Haggling is expected and taken as a bit of fun.

Keep Reading

Mind Your Manners: DOs and DONTs in Bali

in Culture/Destinations/Tips by

Bali is a treasure trove with plenty to discover, unique local culture and is inhabited by the warmest of people. The Balinese are so polite that most wouldn’t even dream of pointing out even the most horrendous cultural transgression delivered unknowingly by a visitor. To save you the embarrassment, here is a list of some cultural nuances which will serve you well when you visit the Island of the Gods.

DOs

1. Learn a few thoughtful Indonesian phrases such as ‘thank you’ – terimah kasih or ‘good morning’ – selamat pagi. To surprise the Balinese, say a few words of their indigenous language. ‘Hello’ is swastiasu; ‘thank you’ suksma and ‘you’re welcome’ suksma mwali. The locals will appreciate the fact that you made the effort.

2. Dress appropriately when visiting temples. The island is full of extraordinary open-air temples and everyone who visits must wear a sarong and waist sash. Frequently visited temples may have these garments available for visitors, but for smaller temples, take your own. Don’t show too much skin up, out of respect. T-shirt style coverage is perfect.

3. Take off your shoes when entering a temple, a home and often shops. Take your lead by checking the entrance for evidence of others’ shoes and follow suit.

4. Observe one of the many ceremonies that you are likely to chance upon. It is not considered rude, so feel free to watch the locals but do sit behind the priest who is easy to spot given the accoutrements of the role.

5. Ensure you buy travel insurance. Accidents happen, in the most unexpected of places. Did you know that gravity’s pull on a falling coconut harms more world travelers every year than sharks do?

6. Be sensitive when money is clearly counted out to the last rupiah in front of you. Indonesians are highly transparent with money. It leaves no space for accidental short-changing.

7. Haggle at the markets as it is expected and a bit of fun, but do so with a smile and in a polite, fun manner. Enjoy the rolling of the eyes and all the associated drama but don’t suggest unreasonably low prices. A dollar means more to a local than it perhaps does to you.

8.

Keep Reading

Blissful and Beguiling Sri Lanka

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation/Tips by

The first time I visited Sri Lanka there was a war on. Twenty-plus years, 40-plus visits and a beach house later, how things have changed! In 1997, tourists were restricted to the southwest corner of the island – from Bentota through Galle round to Yala National Park. Now the whole of this aptly named “island of serendipity”, is open for business, and what a delight it is to explore.

“Journeys are long although the distances are short,” was the mantra of my loyal driver, Lucky, back then. And he wasn’t wrong.

To get to Colombo from the UNESCO-listed Fort at Galle (only 125km) you had to endure a 4 to 5-hour journey of hair-raising overtaking along an inadequate coast road. Traffic would grind to a halt on the approaches to Colombo, and crossing the capital to reach the airport was a war of attrition.

Now, a sparkling dual carriageway whisks you from the airport to downtown Colombo in 30 minutes and Galle can be reached in just over the hour. The delightful south-coast bays of Weligama, Dikwella, Matara and Mirissa (of whale-watching fame) are in easy reach. The Cultural Triangle, with its ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, and the historic centres of Dambulla and Sigiriya, are also much more accessible.

The hill stations of Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Horton Plains are still not easy to reach by road, although the train is a popular, more relaxing alternative. But once there, the stunning tea plantations and panoramic trekking country make for a magical setting. Sit back in a planter’s chair, sip a G&T and enjoy the colonial splendour.

Pasikudah, Trincomalee and the Jaffna Peninsula were pretty much off limits to all but the brave and/or foolhardy until 2009, so visiting the stunning beaches of the east coast was nearly impossible. Gravel tracks, frequent check points, mine sappers and curfews made travel long and arduous – our worst east-to-west-coast road trip took staggering 17 hours at the height of the conflict. Today, seeing 300 wild elephants watering at dusk in Minneriya National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list, as should the spice gardens around Kandy and the crystal clear waters of Nilaveli Beach running up to Pigeon Island. 

Wilupattu National Park was closed during the war to prevent Tamil insurgents reaching Colombo and Bandaranaike International Airport.

Keep Reading

5 Offbeat Things to do in Niseko this Summer

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation/Tips by

As the winter recedes, so do the crowds that throng Niseko for its dreamy powder snow. And in their wake, they leave behind a countryside that seems to slowly stretch out and rise from its winter slumber. The grinding sound of ski ploughs and the whir of ski lifts is replaced by melodious songs of summer breeze and chirping birds. The country blooms all around, unaware of its unpretentious innocent beauty yet not needing the crowds to confirm what it already knows. That Niseko is divine in the winters, but it is in summer that Niseko truly displays its mesmerising self.

It is a step towards the unknown, but curiosity is well rewarded. If you truly want to explore the heart of the countryside, why not take a walk away from the beaten path and indulge yourself with these quirky offbeat activities instead?

Keep Reading

Beat the Rush for Powder: 7 Things to Do in Niseko

in Culture/Destinations/Families/Recreation/Tips by

The perfect snow, with adequate depth and powdery white texture – welcome to Niseko, where you can chase your ultimate powder dream. It’s the ideal place to ski, snowboard or try a host of snow-filled activities. From snowshoeing to gliding on your snowmobile, and even water-rafting in spring-time rapids, Niseko gives frozen water a good name.

Its increasing popularity as a ski-destination is further fuelled by the availability of high-end chalets for individual families as well as groups. But don’t follow the crowds. Beat the rush for powder by coming to Niseko a few weeks early to discover what the season truly offers. Explore the winter dream minus the crowds. It isn’t just about skiing!

Keep Reading

1 2 3 7
Go to Top