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Bangkok Grand Palaces & Wat Phra Kaeo

Grand Palace Bangkok

The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaeo was built by King Rama I, the first monarch of the Chakri Dynasty, as the royal compound in 1782, when Bangkok was founded. The 60 acre area surrounded by 1,900 meters (2,110 yards) white walls, consists of more than 100 uniquely beautiful buildings and throne halls with highly decorated architectural details

The Grand Palace was the King’s official residence in 1782 to 1946, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) was the last monarch to live here. Today, the royal family (King Rama IX) resides at Chitlada Palace. 

Also located in the grounds of the Grand Palace is the Royal Thai Decorations and coins Pavillion displaying examples of Thai currency through the ages and collections of commemorative coins.

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Bangkok Phra Sumen Fort

Located on the corner where Phra Athit Road and Phra Sumeru Road meet, This Fortress was constructed in the reign of King Rama I in 1783 along with 14 other fortresses and battlements surrounding the capital. Vientiane people were recruited to build this fortress. Its shape is octagonal one with three levels. Inside the walls, there are steps leading up to the fortress. Altogether, there are 38 rooms for ammunition and weapon storage.

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Bangkok Vimanmek Mansion & Abhisek Dusit Throne Hall

Vimanmek Mansion Museum

Vimanmek Mansion, a three-storey world’s largest golden teak building with 81 rooms, originally built in 1868 as a summer house on the Si Chang Island, it was moved to Dusit Hall in 1901 and, quite understandably, soon become King Rama V’s favorite place. The celebration for the completion of Vimanmek Mansion was held on March 27,1901. King Rama V then moved his residence from the Grand Palace to stay permanently at Vimanmek Mansion for five years, until the completion of Amporn Satarn Residence where he lived until his death in 1910. Vimanmek Mansion was closed down in 1935 and remained in this state until Queen Sirikit reopened in 1982 as a museum to mark Bangkok’s bicentennial celebration. 

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Most Affordable French Ski Resorts

As the new ski season beckons, it’s time to air out your woolly hats, blow the dust off your skis and grab a great deal to the slopes. In the chilly economic climate, the French Alps are still your best bet both for quality resorts and accessibility.

Just a couple of hours’ flight away from the UK, the French Alps offer a vast choice of resorts catering for absolute beginners, intermediates and pros.

Here’s our guide to the top ten most affordable ski resorts in France…

1. Les Corbier
Best for: Families
Located in the Les Sybelles region of France, the resort of Les Corbier is purpose-built, compact and traffic-free. Designed in the 1960s by architect Le Corbusier, the resort has become the fourth largest ski resort in France. Nearly all of the accommodation is ski-in/ski-out apartments and with two supermarkets in resort, self-catering ski holidays are a breeze. There are several bars and restaurants.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Residence Maeva Les Pistes is located 500 m from the slopes, the ski lifts and shops and offers fully-equipped apartments with mountain-view balconies. A week in a one-bedroom apartment for up to four people, costs from just 199 Euros.

2. Chamonix
Best for: experienced skiers
Chamonix is a much-loved ski resort due to the variety of outdoor activities you can participate in here. The summit of Mont Blanc is the third most visited natural site in the world and the mountains hosts activities such as ice climbing, alpine mountaineering and extreme skiing. There are all sorts of terrain, but this is the perfect destination for the expert winter sports enthusiast and the adventurous. Chamonix is famous for its cable car up to Aiguille du Midi as well as the panoramic restaurant at the top station of the Brevent cable car, which boasts impressive views of the Mont Blanc Massif.

Hot deal: The Residence Maeva La Riviera is located in the district of Chamonix Sud, 300 m from the Aiguille du Midi cable car and five minutes from the resort centre. Studio apartments for up to four cost from just 244 Euros for seven nights.

3. Valloire
Best for: Intermediates
Valloire offers the combination of an old mountain village mixed with modern architecture. Valloire is the best known of the Maurienne valley resorts and its narrow streets, bustling shops and various restaurants makes it a charming location for your winter holiday. The slopes spread widely across three sunny sectors and are particularly good for intermediates. 70% of the Valloire/Valmeinier ski area is above 2000m and it offers 150 km of slopes.

Hot deal: The Pierre & Vacances Chalets Valoria at Valloire is located on the heights, overlooking the valley and the resort. A high standard residence built in a style typical of the region; these spacious apartments are located 300m away from the ski lifts. Studios for up to four cost from only 279 Euros per week.

4. La Clusaz
Best for: intermediates
The French ski resort of La Clusaz is one of its kind as it is still, essentially, a genuine mountain ski village. This ski resort exudes rustic charm and an infectious Gallic atmosphere. La Clusaz offers 200km of largely intermediate slopes, above and below the treeline, and makes a fantastic base for an enjoyable, relaxed week.

Hot deal: Residence Maeva La Perriere overlooks the resort on the southern slope and is available at 320 Euros per week for a 4 person studio apartment.

5. Serre Chevalier
Best for: Snowboarders
Serre Chevalier is one of the major ski resorts in France. Located in the Haute-Alpes region, Serre Chevalier is a large valley between the Lautaret and Briancon passes. Its 13 villages and hamlets, which blend tradition and modernity, are scattered across the valley with its large skiing areas covering 250km. The resort also offers a wide range of activities for the whole family, and with its large natural terrain is also considered one of the best snowboarding destinations in France. Serre Chevalier lies at the foot of the most beautiful peaks of the Ecrins National Park and boasts approximately 300 days of sunshine a year.

Hot deal: Residence Pierre & Vacances L’Alpaga, situated in the mountain village of Villeneuve, has comfortable, spacious apartments close to the shops and ski lifts. Studio apartments for up to four people costs from 378 Euros for a week’s ski holiday.

6. Isola 2000
Best for: Skiers of all abilities
The little known Isola 2000 is a ski resort in the southern region of the French Alps that offers great skiing for all levels. This modern resort’s altitude is at 2000 meters and pisted runs reach the height of 2610 meters on the summit of Sistron where, on a clear day, it is possible to see the Mediterranean Sea.

Isola 2000 has an excellent snow record too. Snowboarding is popular in Isola and there are plenty of ‘board-friendly’ lifts and a dedicated snowboard park. There are lots of shops, bars, clubs, restaurants and supermarkets adjacent to the slopes and there are numerous cafes and restaurants should you wish to take a break and bask in the Mediterranean sun.

Hot deal: The Pierre & Vacances Les Terrasses d’Azur residence in Isola 200 is in perfect keeping with the resort’s natural environment of pines and larches. It overlooks the resort and is close to the ski runs and shops. The apartments are very comfortable and have a panoramic view over the skiing area and the Chastillon valley. Studio apartments that sleep up to four people cost from just 441 Euros per week.

7. Les Carroz d’Araches
Best for: Families
Les Carroz d’Araches is an expansive, sunny and traditional resort with plenty of terrain to suit everyone. It has the lived-in feel of a real French village and its array of pavement cafes and restaurants around the main square offers a homely and lively atmosphere.

The resort caters particularly well for families, offering excellent facilities for children so is perfect for a family ski holiday. There are good woodland runs immediately above the village for bad-weather days, with a scenic setting to enjoy when the sun shines.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Residences MGM Les Fermes du Soleil is a luxury 4-star residence, just a stone’s throw from the centre. Each apartment is designed to offer you maximum comfort with large bay windows giving exceptional views over the village, the valley or the skating rink. The closest ski lifts, 800m from the residence, are accessible via a free shuttle bus. One-bedroom apartments for 3-4 people cost from 630 Euros per week.

8. Flaine
Best for: Intermediates and families
Flaine is a high-altitude resort sharing a big, broad area of varied slopes with more rustic alternatives. Flaine is a resort proud of its Modernist and artistic design, which is a dramatic contrast to the natural landscape of the French Alps. As well as the architecture, several large public art works adorn the base of the resort, including a Picasso.

Loved by many, due to the extent of its ski area and range of runs, this is a resort ideal for intermediate skiers as well as being one of the most family-orientated ski resorts in Europe.

Hot deal: Pierre & Vacances Terrasses d’Eos residence is a brand new addition to our ski residences for the 2009/10 ski season. Built in 2008 by Intrawest, this top-of-range residence is located in a new, entirely car-free hamlet of Flaine Montsoleil and features 145 comfortable apartments.

The two buildings that make up the residence have direct access to the pistes and chairlifts, providing you with a direct link to the Flaine and Grand Massif ski areas.
One-bedroom apartments cost from just 572 Euros for seven nights and sleep up to four people.

9. Valmorel
Best for: First timers and families
A great choice for first-timers and families, Valmorel is a purpose-built French ski resort comprising several small satellite villages in the Grande Domaine. Valmorel and St Francois Longchamps together offer 165km of marked pistes.

Valmorel’s resort centre is car-free and it also scores top marks for families as most of its pistes cater for beginners and intermediates, and there are plenty of designated practice areas. The ski area is on your doorstep which means you can literally ski to your door – another big plus if you’re skiing with kids. While it is great for families, those who also want lively apres-ski should go elsewhere as there are only a handful of restaurants and bars.

Hot deal: P&V is offering seven nights in a studio apartment at Residence Maeva Planchamp et Mottet in Valmorel from just 405 Euro.

10. Alpe-d’Huez
Best for: thrill seekers and skiers of all levels.
Home to La Sarenne, which at 16km is Europe’s longest ski run, Alpe d’Huez is often thought to be the sole preserve of ski pros and adrenalin junkies. While the infamous ‘Tunnel’ run remains a must do ride for experienced skiers, the resort also has a good choice of gentler runs for beginners. The best of the less challenging slopes are found on the outskirts of the resort and there are plenty of blues and reds for intermediates.

Situated in a large sunny bowl, Alpe d’Huez is known as the ‘l’Isle au Soleil’ (‘The Sunny Island’) thanks to its high levels of sunshine throughout the year.

This resort is a great choice if you’re travelling in a group which has mixed abilities – leave the pros to La Sarenne while the novices play it safe.

Hot deal: Situated in Les Bergers district of Alpe d’Huez, the Pierre & Vacances Bergers residence has comfortable apartments and a heated outdoor swimming pool. Seven nights in a studio that sleep 3-4 costs just 405 Euros.

All P&V residences featured are ski in/ ski out and are self-catering apartments with fully equipped kitchens and cooking facilities.

Pierre & Vacances have also just launched a euro-busting offer which means customers can save up to 35 percent off all ski resorts throughout the winter season. This means, if you book fast enough you could be saving a third and spend just 55% for a weeks accommodation! And it gets better…this major ski discount can be used on all dates throughout the winter ski season including the school holidays, Christmas and New Year.

The Eurobuster deal can also be combined with any other P&V deal currently on offer, including the 20% early booking discount, leading to savings of up to 35% on your winter ski holiday.

Best Hotel Pools

Trivago, the hotel price comparison site has produced a list of the top ten hotel pools in the world.  Each of these pools has something amazing to offer – from an infinity edge pool overlooking the Hong Kong Harbor, to a secluded resort pool nestled between the Arizona Boynton Canyon Mountains – these are truly the most extraordinary hotel pools in the world.

Unlike the huge resort pools of Las Vegas, these pools are not teaming with hoards of swimmers.  This list of destinations includes secluded locations for not only your hotel stay, but your vacation.  Such examples of this are the Spanish Islands off the west coast of Africa. (Rio Calma Hotel on Fuerteventura)  Below is a list of the top ten extraordinary hotels.  For a slideshow of these pools check out Gadling.com

Intercontinental, Hong Kong
Adler Dolomiti Spa and Resort, St. Ulrich
Ubud Hanging Gardens, Ubud
Gran Hotel La Florida, Barcelona
Cavo Tagoo, Mykanos
Rogner Bad Blumau, Steiermark
Rio Calma, Fuerteventura
Golden Nugget, Las Vegas
Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa, Sedona
Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

The Fairmont Orchid: Hawaii

The Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii

Location:

The Fairmont Orchid In Kamuela, Hawaii, Is Poised On 32 Tropical Acres Within Hawaii’s Big Island. Adjacent To The Francis H. I’i Brown Golf Course, This Oceanfront Property Is One-half Mile From The Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve. Complimentary Shuttle Service Within The Resort Is Available Upon Request.

Hotel Features:

Nightly Hula Shows And Hawaiian Music Accompany The Hawaiian Cuisine Served At Brown’s Beach House, Where Menu Items Include Linguine With Kauai Shrimp And Kiawe-grilled Seafood. The Orchid Court Provides Al Fresco, Buffet-style Breakfasts And A La Carte Selections, While Norio’s Sushi Bar + Restaurant Boasts A Menu Featuring Tempura, Fresh Sushi And Teriyaki. Oceanfront Massage Cabanas And Waterfall Massage Houses Are Hosted At Spa Without Walls, Where Pampering Services Include The Big Island Coffee + Vanilla Exfoliation Treatment And The Lomilomi Massage. A 36-Hole Championship Golf Course Is Featured At The Francis H. I’i Brown Golf Course, While 10 Tennis Courts Reside At The Property’s K-swiss Resort Academy. A Fitness Center Contains Free Weights And Cardiovascular Equipment. Kayaking, Surfing And Snorkeling Are Available On Site, With Additional Amenities Including Two Lava-rock Spa Tubs, A Sand-bottomed Children’s Pool And A 10,000-Foot Oceanfront Pool. Children’s Activities Include The Keiki Aloha Program, Offering Nature Walks, Snorkeling And Arts And Crafts Activities For A Fee.

Guestrooms:
The 540 Guestrooms Feature Crown Molding, Teak-wood Furnishings, Upholstered Armchairs And Decor In Tones Of Khaki, Saffron Yellow And Pale Jade. Sliding-glass Doors Open To Private Furnished Lanais With Ocean Or Garden Views. Bathrooms Feature Dual Marble Vanities, Complimentary Toiletries, Bathrobes, Phones And Separate Showers And Bathtubs.

Expert Tip:
Every Afternoon At The Property, Green Sea Turtles Emerge From The Waters And Onto The Shoreline To Bask In The Tropical Sun. Guests May Encounter The Turtles While Snorkeling Offshore.

Kids Eat Free:
Book A Stay In Any Room Category And Meals For Children Under Five Are Complimentary And Meals For Children, Five To 12, Receive A 50-Percent Discount When Accompanied With A Paying Adult. This Offer Is Valid On All Room Categories.

Property Amenities

Business Center
Dry Cleaning Service
Children Stay Free – 17 Years and Under
Fitness Equipment
Restaurant(s)
Conference Room(s)
Bar/Lounge
Spa tub
Elevator/lift
Concierge desk
Gift shop or newsstand
Swimming pool – outdoor
Billiards
Internet public area – wireless – Fees Apply
Sauna
Wedding services
Currency exchange
ATM/banking
Computer rental
Supervised child care/activities
Rollaway bed – Fees May Apply
Technology helpdesk
Picnic area
Self parking
Full-service health spa
Ballroom(s)
Hair salon
Arcade/game room
Swimming pool – children’s
Coffee in lobby
Shopping on site
Coffee shop or cafe
Event catering
Cribs – Fees May Apply
Internet public area – high-speed – Fees Apply
Room service (limited hours)
Security guard
Barbecue grill(s)
Safe-deposit box – At Front Desk
Clubhouse
Cell phone/mobile rental
Steam room
Breakfast services – Fees Apply
Comp newspapers in lobby
Patio
Private beach
Poolside bar
Tennis court
Parking (valet) – $15 Daily
Parking (surcharge) – $9 Daily
Area Attractions

Pauoa Bay: Adjacent
Francis H. I’i Brown Golf Course: Adjacent
Puako Petroglyph Archeological Preserve: 0.5 mile
Eva Parker Woods Cottage: 1.0 mile
Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site: 6.0 miles
Kawaihae: 6.0 miles

Australia – Driving

Australian traffic rules to remember:

If you’re driving slowly – getting used to the traffic, y’know – the lane for you is the leftmost lane if there is more than one lane in the direction you’re going.

If you’re traveling on a highway or freeway, Australian traffic rules say you should stay on the left lane (or one of the left lanes if there are more than two lanes going in the one direction) unless you’re overtaking. There would be signs to remind you of this.

If you’re entering and crossing an intersection, drivers customarily defer to the motorist on the right unless he or she is stopped by a STOP or YIELD sign. At a T intersection, the motorist driving straight through has the right of way.

Don’t beep your horn – unless you’re in a situation where you need to warn another driver, for instance, when he’s about to hit you.

The speed limit in a built-up residential area has for a long time been 60 kilometers per hour (35mph), but this has been reduced in many places to 50 kilometers per hour as in the Brisbane suburbs and a number of Sydney areas. Other cities may have adopted the lower limit as well. Be watchful of posted speed limits and do check with the locals. On country roads and highways the usual speed limit has been 100km/hr (62mph) or 110km/hr (68mph), particularly on freeways, unless signs indicate another speed limit. Already, the speed limit on certain stretches of the Newcastle Highway and on Sydney’s M4 freeway has been reduced.

Some road signs to take note of:

NO STANDING. Well, sure, you can’t be standing while driving a car. What it means is you can’t stop in the area indicated except to let a passenger get in or off a vehicle, and you certainly can’t park there.

NO STOPPING. Except in the event of medical emergencies, don’t stop in the area indicated.

NO PARKING. Just what it means. You can unload and unload passengers but shouldn’t leave your vehicle parked there.

BUS ZONE. Well, leave that to the buses. Taxi zone. Ditto for taxis.

LOADING AND UNLOADING ZONE. If you’re driving a truck, ute, van or wagon, you’re allowed to park here if you’re delivering or picking up some sort of cargo. If you’re driving a passenger car, you may have to explain what you’re loading or unloading.

The Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Harbor Tunnel, and some of the highways and roads are toll ways, so have change ready to go through the tollgates quickly. A growing number of cars are fitted with transponders which allow these vehicles to drive through specially marked gates without stopping. An encoded magnetic card has also been available for some toll ways. On some toll ways, only transponders called e-Tags (and temporary e-Way passes) can be used.

Driving in Australia:

If you’re a visitor and hold a valid driver’s license (in English) from your own country, fine, you’re allowed to drive throughout all of Australia. (But an international driver’s license, if you have one, does not by itself give you the right to drive in Australia.)

If your driver’s licence is not in English, a translation may be necessary and you may also need to have an international driver’s license.

If you come from a country where motorists drive on the left-hand side of the road, there’s not much more to know, and you should easily adjust to driving in Australia by following local driving customs and laws.

If you come from the US, or from another country where people drive on the right-hand side of the road, there’ll be a bit to get used to, the main thing being that you drive on the left-hand side of the road in Australia; and that if you turn left or right, you must remember to go, as you complete your turn, into the left-hand side of the road you are turning into, instead of to the right as you’re used to.

Parking

When driving in Australia, it is important to park properly to avoid getting a ticket.

You can park off-street where no NO STANDING, NO PARKING, or other restrictions apply.

You can park at car parks or parking stations, usually at an hourly rate.

You can park where there are parking meters so long as you feed them with the right money (have $2 and $1 coins handy) and don’t overstay.

Roundabouts:

Traffic in a roundabout flows in a clockwise direction.

In a two-lane roundabout, you keep to the left lane if you’re turning left or going straight ahead.

You keep to the right lane if you’re turning right. You can also use the right lane in a two-lane roundabout if you’re going straight ahead.

You use your left-turn signal for a left turn, the right-turn signal for a right turn. If you’re turning right and are on the right lane, switch on your left-turn signal when exiting. It has become law in New South Wales that motorists must signal left, in every instance, whenever exiting from a roundabout.

If you plan to drive in Melbourne, watch out for the “hook turn” signs – and be prepared to turn right from the leftmost lane.

Weird? Some drivers think so, and some go out of their way to avoid Melbourne streets with marked hook turns.

If you’re new to hook turns, yes, it can be both confusing and exasperating, and you’re also likely to miss your turn if you’re caught in the wrong lane.

Confused?… Doing the hook:

Once you need to turn right and you see the hook turn sign, move as quickly as you can to the leftmost lane.

On the green light, move forward on this lane to a point where you can turn right into the correct lane on the road you wish to enter.

At this point, you’re blocking traffic from the left. But that’s all right because they’re stopped on the red light.

When this red light turns green, turn right quickly into the street you want to go. The stopped traffic that was earlier on your left then follows you on the green light.

Australia Tourism – Coastal

Find out more about Australia’s 50,000 kilometers of spellbinding coastline.

Wherever you find them, our white, sandy beaches are just as you imagine – uncrowded, unspoilt and utterly enticing. You can marvel at World Heritage-listed wonders, chill out at a beach retreat or just enjoy fish and chips on the shore. However you experience our coastline, the crashing waves and gentle sea breeze are all part of a lifestyle that you won’t want to leave behind.

New South Wales: Byron Bay

You’ll love our new age paradise, famous for glorious surfing beaches and a lifestyle that combines hippy chic with hedonistic fun. Here you can learn to surf with local experts, take a sunrise walk along Cape Byron Walking Track, get your gear off on the nudist-friendly Kings Beach or ride the wild surf at The Pass. That’s in between drinking lattes, analyzing your aura and getting your palm read of course.

Queensland: Whitsundays

You can’t miss the Whitsundays – 74 pristine, palm-fringed islands tucked inside the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea. Amongst the white sand and warm, aquamarine waters you can meet marine life, see rainbow-colored coral, tussle with game fish, set sail, party hard or snooze next to the sea. With only eight islands inhabited, you’re sure to find one where only your footprints touch the sand.

Queensland: Gold Coast

This iconic holiday destination offers 70 kilometers of sun-drenched beaches, World Heritage-listed rainforests, theme parks and non-stop shopping and nightlife. Meet dolphins and polar bears at theme parks, ride rolling surf or do a day trip to an island. Party all night then explore the lush, subtropical hinterland. On Australia’s ‘coast with the most’ life is all about having fun.

Victoria: Mornington Peninsula

Discover top swimming and surfing beaches, historic bayside villages and million-dollar views on this picturesque peninsula on Port Phillip Bay just an hour south of Melbourne. Trek the rugged coastline past dunes, beaches, cliffs and lighthouses. Then spot koalas on French Island, swim with dolphins and seals at Sorrento and stop for lunch at vineyards or olive groves overlooking the sea.

Tasmania: Wineglass Bay

You can enjoy pristine beaches all to yourself on the stunning Freycinet Peninsula. The most famous is Wineglass Bay, a perfect curve of white sand and turquoise sea against pink and grey granite peaks. Take in the magical view after an easy climb from Coles Bay or challenging trek from the top of Mount Amos. Or connect to this coastal paradise by going sea kayaking, swimming and scuba diving.

Western Australia: Margaret River

This famous wine growing region is also a natural paradise of surf beaches, tall karri forests, underground caves and bush tracks. The wonderful wine and food of the vineyards meet world-class waves on the 75 beaches. Swim in the crystal-clear waters of Bunker Bay, ride the crashing surf of Surfers Point, and watch whales and explore caves at Cape Leeuwin. Margaret River is a place where breathtaking scenery and good living meld into one.

South Australia: Fleurieu Peninsula

Dive or snorkel dramatic shipwrecks and marine life, visit famous vineyards or hit the surf in this coastal playground, just an hour’s drive south of Adelaide. Stay in cute coastal hamlets Port Noarlunga and Victor Harbor or the historic river town of Goolwa. Take a dip in perfect Horseshoe Bay, windsurf at Sellicks Beach or dive at Rapid Bay. See ancient forests and visit local wineries. Walk across spectacular headlands and get up close to native wildlife. No wonder they say this coat hanger-shaped strip has it all.