Thursday, August 30, 2007

G.A.P. Top 5 Responsible Travel Tips

Travel Light is serious about responsible travel because we feel it's the most fun way you can holiday. Like all our operators G.A.P. Adventures is a poineer of responsible travel and is continuing to do some great work with their Planeterra Foundation. Here are 5 resposible Travel tips from G.A.P Adventures.

Straight from the G.A.P Adventures Sustainable Tourism department, here are 5 quick and easy to-do tips for making yourself a more responsible traveller. Take a look...putting a little effort into your travels so you can be "green" is really easy!

These are 5 of my favourite tips to help everyone reduce their footprint while they are on the road. If you have any "top" tips, why not share them with everyone in our Sustainable / Responsible Travel section of our online forum?

#1 Use rechargeable batteries. Many remote areas don't have proper disposal facilities, so by travelling with rechargeable ones you'll save money and keep thousands of them out of landfills.

#2 Don't pack your "packages". Limit product packaging and bring re-usable containers for things like toiletries rather than one-time use travel size containers, which just add to waste in foreign countries.

#3 Use biodegradable products. Often available at camping or outdoor stores, biodegradable products make a big difference when visiting fragile and pristine parts of the world.

#4 If bringing gifts to a host family, school or community choose items that will have a lasting impact. Items to consider include books or sporting equipment. When bringing items like soccer or basketballs, bring a pump too so that the gear can be enjoyed again and again. Also think about purchasing such items locally to support the economy.

#5 Bring a reusable water bottle. Be sure to fill your own bottle whenever possible and think about bringing purification tablets to reduce waste from plastic, disposable bottles.

Following these simple tips will go a long way to minimizing your "footprint" in foreign countries. Hopefully you found them helpful!

Liz Manning,Sustainable Tourism Assistant G.A.P Adventures

G.A.P Adventures has amazing adventure holidays across the world from Antarctica to Zambia. Travel Light can offer you advice and expert knowledge on any G.A.P. Adventures trip.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Morocco - High Atlas Trails

Angela Featherstone travelled to Morocco with The Imaginative Traveller on their High Atlas Trails tour. Here are her thoughts.

I chose this tour because I had never travelled outside Europe or America and I wanted to see a different culture and lifestyle. I was prepared to deal with the more basic living conditions whilst trekking in order to see countryside that can be seen no other way except by getting out there on foot.

The tour began in Marrakech and the riad which was our hotel was definitely far from basic – the rooms are small but were en suite with western style facilities The riad had a lovely roof garden where breakfast was taken and drinks could be ordered throughout the day whilst making use of the sun loungers. The roof top views were fascinating in themselves as well as being able to view neighbouring courtyards and streets.

In our exploration of the souks it was sometimes frustrating as locals insisted on helping you find your way even when you weren’t lost! However everyone was good natured and they were not after money – just being helpful and friendly to a visitor. Be warned though, the entertainers in the Jemaa el Fna are there to earn money anyway they can and if they catch you taking a photograph anywhere in their general direction they’ll endeavour to get you to pay around 20 dirhams (18R) for a “close-up”.

The best value lunch we had in Marrakech was at Chez Chagrouni – a bowl of hirara – a vegetable soup and bread for 8 dirhams (R7). You are expected to buy drink as well and a large bottle of still water seemed to be 10 dirhams (R8.50) at most restaurants 5 dirhams (R4) in a shop) but anything you hadn’t drunk by the time you left you took away with you.

The best evening meal we had was at Riad Omar. This is on the main pedestrianised street of the main square – I think is is Rue Bab Agnaou (but you probably won’t find a name board anyway) It’s on the opposite side of the main square to the souks. We went here at the end of the tour with our group and the restaurant was up on the roof under bedouin style drapes. It came to the very reasonable price of 150 dirhams (R132) and this was the most expensive meal we had – usually we managed on 120 dirhams (R106).

On the trek itself, life in the remote villages for the Berber people is a sharp contrast to the city. Barren rolling desert on the first day gave way to valleys of olive trees and the houses appeared camouflaged as they are constructed from the same surrounding red soil. The trek traversed many fertile areas where orchards and vegetable plots abound. Goats graze the hillside and the main form of transport is the mule or donkey. Children call out along the way hoping for sweets or pens but provided you’ve perfected the phrase “Je n’ai pas des bonbons (ou des stylos), said with a smile they usually gave up at the village boundary. (Although at one point our group had about 15 children of assorted ages all clamouring the same thing! – it was like the Pied Piper of Hamlyn).

We walked from approximately 8.30 am until around 3pm although the lunch stop could be anything up to 2 hours (This was during Ramadan so our Berbers needed to sleep – they’d been up since 4 am to break fast before going to the mosque at sunrise).

The village houses we stayed in were exactly that – the family vacate two or three rooms for the benefit of the visitors. Our muleteers and cook who trek with us, prepare our meals and clear up as well as look after the pack animals who carry our heavy bags, mattresses and all the other paraphernalia associated with the trip.

Breakfasts were essentially bread, jam and tea although there was orange juice and cereal as well as the beginning of the week.Lunch was prepared for us en route and comprised mint tea, bread, rice or pasta or couscous and salad with either cheese or tinned fish. Dinner was prepared and served at the village house and was vegetable soup followed by a tagine and fruit as a desert. The meals were wholesome and perfectly satisfactory after a full day’s walking.

Entertainment was provided by the muleteers during the evening – they were fantastic. Anything that could be used as a drum was used as a drum – washing up bowls, cola bottles, jerry cans.

African rhythms, African mysticism, amazing scenery – barren desert through to lush plots of courgettes, maize and fruit orchards. The simple lifestyle followed by the Berbers is only simple when compared to our western values – life there is changing but whether it will be better is arguable.

Angela Featherstone

If trekking is not your thing check out Imaginative Traveller's cultural trips to Morocco at Travel Light

Early Bird discount 5%
Book your Imaginative Traveller tour with Travel Light 6 months or more prior to departure and get a 5% discount on the tour price!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Authentic Thai Green Curry

I got this recipe from Mamma’s street food restaurant just off of Soi Sam, Banglamphu, Bangkok. Mamma is a robust no nonsense Thai lady who cooks in a fiery wok on a busy street corner surrounded by at least 599 different ingredients. She makes the best Thai food for pennies and is a diva on the karaoke machine!

I learnt that it’s not only the ingredients that make a good green curry it’s the way you cook it.

Authentic Thai Green Curry -Gaeng Keow Wan-

The ingredients for 4 persons:
1 tin of coconut cream – coconut milk will not give the same results
2 large chicken breasts cut into thin strips
1 tablespoon of Thai green curry paste. Can be replaced with Red or Yellow curry paste
2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon of sugar. (Palm sugar available at many spice shops is best but ordinary sugar is fine)
Handful of sugar snap peas
Handful of baby corns cut in half lengthways
1 fresh kafir lime leaf (optional)
2 fresh red chillies sliced (optional)

The way you cook it:
This dish doesn’t take long to cook on a high heat and it’s best to stir fry with a fast hand. Plan ahead and prepare everything in advance so you can cook up a storm just like Mamma.

Firstly the tin of coconut cream needs to have been standing upright for a while so the thick coconut cream on top separates from the thin coconut milk below – do not shake the tin.

Prepare the chicken and veggies seperatly, set aside.

Mix the curry paste, sugar and fish sauce together and set aside.

Heat the wok on a medium to high heat. Open the coconut cream tin and spoon as much of the thick cream as you can into the hot wok and leave. After a few minutes you will notice that the oil from the cream starts to boil, separate and the cream starts to brown, wait until you have a lot more oil than cream.

Add the curry paste mix and quickly stir into the cream in the hot wok.

Then add the chicken and stir fry until the chicken turns white.

Add the rest of the contents from the coconut cream tin and the kafir lime leaf, bring to the boil.

Add the vegetables, cook for 2 – 3 mins or until the chicken is cooked and vegetables are tender but crunchy.

Garnish with the red chillies.

This curry is best served with plain boiled Thai fragrant rice what the Thai’s call “Kao Suai” or “Beautiful Rice”

This is as close to the authentic flavour of a Thai green curry as I’ve experienced at my dining table but let’s be honest, you really cannot beat the real thing.

Travel Light to Thailand and experience some of the best cuisine on the planet or even take a Thai cooking class as part of your holiday.

Some Travel Light Reading -
Lemongrass and Sweet Basil -Traditional Thai Cuisine

I chose this cook book because the recipes are traditional Thai and it is has been compiled by a Thai chef.
Easy-to-follow, modern approach to traditional Thai cuisine with stunning photos of the Thai way of life.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thailand should be Inspiring

When I open the travel supplement of my preferred Sunday newspaper why do all the advertisements urge me to pack my bags and go to Phuket? or pay 5 nights and stay for 7 in Pataya? Surely there is more to see and do in Thailand than that?

I know Thailand and I know what a fantastic holiday you can have there for a great price. I also know that Thailand consists of more than Phuket and Pataya and the last three couples I spoke to that have just come back from these idyllic paradise getaways say the same thing... "too crowded and over touristy".

In fact as a travel agent I will always offer an alternative, Pran Buri for example, Koh Lanta or the quieter beaches of Samui. I have nothing against Phuket or Phi Phi but if you are looking for that genuine and tranquil Thai beach experience, you may be disappointed. I always offer the alternative but invariably clients have not heard of these gems and unless I have managed to persuade them otherwise, off to Phuket they go.

How about spending a night with a Hill Tribe family or volunteering your services at an elephant sanctuary for a few days? Thailand has so much to offer but we hardly see it through the cheap uninspiring packages.

The fact is that many operators know that these packages look good, sell well and easy profit is king. Of course this is important to any business, I know, but why not show some imagination in the packages advertised? You can have a great value holiday in Thailand and get a genuine experience at the same time.

Prove it! I hear you ask. Well OK....

How about a 10 night package?
Bangkok with fully guided tours of palaces and canals
plus the famous and family friendly Lady Boy cabaret
Flight to Chiang Mai
Elephant rides through the jungle
Stay with a Hill tribe family for 1 night or not -choice is always yours
Shopping at the night market
Visit the Doi Suthep Temple
A Thai cooking lesson
Flight to Koh Samui
Relax for 4 nights in 4 star beach front bungalow -not a 500 room hotel

For R16,500 including international flights and taxes? I think that is brilliant value. Remember for Travel Light value comes from your travel experiences not from the price.

Includes above plus
All transfers in Thailand
Proffesional guides
Hotels are 3 / 4 star and chosen for there location and relaxing ambience
Homestay is genuine
All taxes are included
All transfers included
All entrance fees included
Some meals - we will not force you to eat at the hotel buffet in Thailand!

I have spent over a year travelling through Thailand in the '90s and have returned many times since I know Thailand and I know the above is a great package. In fact we just a had a family return from that trip and they called as soon as they arrived home to rave about the wonderful experience and original holiday they had.

So if you'r looking for that great holiday with a genuine experience of a country check us out at Travel Light you may just be insired.

Travel Light Reading

Rough Guides 25 Islands at R25 it's a bargain!
Make the most of your time on earth! Whether you're planning the trip of a lifetime, dreaming about going, or have already booked, check out Rough Guides selection of the 25 ultimate island experiences not to see where you could be going but to see where you should be going - from Key West and Sicily to Zanzibar, Iceland and Pulau Tioman. Covering well known and off-the-beaten track experiences, this book gives you 25 reasons to grab your passport, stop what you are doing and go.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What is Small Group Adventure Travel?

Lucky means many things to many people. I have never won a large sum of money in fact I never won anything really. I have a nice place to stay and enough to eat but I work for that so I’m not sure how much it has to do with luck. I find more red lights than green and I never get away with anything that is even slightly naughty. But I am a lucky man.
I have worked in small group adventure travel for 10 years now I have experienced many countries and sights, made real friends and learnt a great deal. Travel makes me happy and a happy man is a lucky man.

Small group adventures is a fast growing sector of the travel industry, some say the fastest, but it's a style of travel that has many misconceptions. Unlike other styles of travel such as cruising, or a beach resort the words small group adventure is quite cloudy for travellers and travel agents alike. So what I want to do, as simply as I can, is clarify what small group adventure is all about.
Adventure is the word that starts to confuse us because adventure means different things to different travellers. Think of this type of adventure as a genuine experience of a country and it’s people. So if we are having an adventure in Tuscany, for example, we would stay in a beautiful Tuscan farmhouse, meet Tuscans in a local restaurant eating great Tuscan food. Now if we were having a genuine experience in say Papua we will be trekking through thick jungle, staying in a remote village house and the food, well, it will be local.
Escorted tours in small groups.
The words group or escorted tour can conjure up visions of name badges, flag waving guides and one hour toilet stops. Small groups average 12 people of many nationalities from different backgrounds and all ages. Small groups mean more attention from guides and leaders and a lot more freedom. For most it is a relaxed way to travel that gives you freedom and expert local knowledge but takes the hassles of day to day travelling away.
The average age of one of our travellers is 18 to 70. Travellers are attracted to different destinations, level of budget and comfort. This determines what type of person travels on which trip. Generally the group you are travelling with will have chosen that trip for the same reasons as you. Will they be the same age as you? Maybe but you will find you will have a lot in common.

Small groups do not need to book big hotels. Your budget determines the facilities of your place to stay but not the comfort. People travelling on a budget will be staying in basic but clean, comfortable and central accommodation. You can afford something a little more then stay with a Maharajah in his palace or in a family run 4 star boutique hotel. You can afford the best then we will find you the best hotels hand picked for their uniqness.
Responsible Travel
The only time you can have more fun being responsible than not being responsible is travelling. Giving back to people who welcome you to their country is a responsible thing to do. How can we do this? We can use operators that take us to eat in a good local restaurants, that use family run hotels, that use local businesses to help run their trips, we could buy some souvenirs from the markets or visit some sight that is away from the crowds. We could also use operators that have different community projects help those that need help the most. We can even get involved in those projects by donations or spending a couple of days helping out on a volunteer holiday.
This, I hope, clears some of the haze surrounding small group adventures. There are many other questions to be answered I’m sure so you can contact me on the address below.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Space hotel to open in five years

A report in Hotel TravelNews says that the first hotel in space has been unveiled by a Barcelona-based architect, with The Galactic Suite opening for business in 2012, allowing guests to travel around the world in 80 minutes.

The Galactic Suite will be the most expensive hotel room to-date, costing $4 million for a three-day stay and during this time guests will see the sun rise 15 times a day. "It is the bathrooms in zero gravity that are the biggest challenge," says company director Xavier Claramunt.

Reservations will begin next year for the aluminium vessel made of five modules, which is to be launched by rockets into space and the Galactic Suite already has private investors from the United Arab Emirates and Japan.

Guests will be able to participate in scientific experiments during their stay in the hotel, 450 km from earth and the operators estimate that some 40,000 people will be able to buy a Galactic-Suite ticket.
If it's travel it's Travel Light
Travel Light Reading
A facinating read about the men that walked on the moon. I loved this book because of the the history and facts of the Apollo program and interesting interviews with the moonwalkers themselves.