Holi: A Burst of Color

Who wouldn’t love taking a day to fling handfuls of colored powder and water at friends and strangers alike in a jubilant celebration of spring, forgiveness, and renewal? Perhaps that’s why the ancient Hindu festival known as Holi is celebrated not only in South Asia where it originated, but throughout the world as well.

Luckily for us, TravelPod bloggers risk their cameras during the color fest and have grabbed some great shots for us over the years!

If you have any great photos of Holi, be sure to start up a TravelPod blog and share! We may be able to feature some more Holi shots in a future post.


Photo credit: TravelPod member allmytravels


Photo credit: TravelPod member hanjolo


Photo credit: TravelPod member tsd-india


Photo credit: TravelPod member ginenneandrob


Photo credit: TravelPod member comfortsontour

Photo credit: TravelPod member simoncardnell


Photo credit: TravelPod member hanjolo

Some participants even take before and after photos.

Photo credit: TravelPod member lou-and-ian


Photo credit: TravelPod member hanjolo

Photo credit: TravelPod member hanjolo

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10 Classic Leaning Tower of Pisa Photos

Pisa’s famous bell tower has been leaning since its construction began in the 12th century. For all we know, this tower would have toppled years ago had it not been for the valiant efforts of fearless travellers doing their part to hold it up–and snapping a photo while they’re at it. Naturally, TravelPod members are eager to help, as you’ll see below. Here isyour guide to the many ways you can get a great photo of yourself doing your part!

The Classic Save
Just helping out a tower about to fall!


Photo credit: TravelPod member europeinajar

The Finger Save
Useful in an emergency when no one else is around.


Photo credit: TravelPod member marmarwong

The Finger Push
The more mischievous cousin of the Finger Save. This one makes us very nervous.


Photo credit: TravelPod member iancarmen

The Hug
If there was ever a tower that needed a hug, it’s this one.


Photo credit: TravelPod member ashnbrieurope

The Team Save
Some things can’t be handled by just one person!


Photo credit: TravelPod member daisylou71

The Top Grab
A little to the right, please.


Photo credit :TravelPod member bigbanana

The Bollard Stand
Yes, that is what they’re called, and yes, that is why they were put there.


Photo credit: TravelPod member trishfr

The “Where Do You Want This?”
Anywhere is fine but whatever you do don’t drop it!


Photo credit: TravelPod member chris-roisin

The Header
Technically more difficult than it seems, this move may in fact draw a whistle from the ref.


Photo credit: TravelPod member edevalla

The Remote Save
Surprisingly, this one is not as common, but we like the resourcefulness!


Photo credit: TravelPod member dylanandliz

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How to Write a Great Travel Blog

So you’re all set for your next big adventure: the tickets have been purchased, your itinerary has been carefully planned out (or not!), and your new luggage is just waiting for you to start packing!

On this trip, you’d like to keep a great travel blog to share your adventure with friends, family members, and anyone else who loves a good travel story. So, what are the best ways to go about it? Here are some quick tips from TravelPod:

1. Start yesterday!

People love to read about the trip even before it starts. What is motivating you to go exploring? What are your plans and expectations? Often your readers have travelled to the same country or faced similar issues and can offer great advice before the trip starts for real. Remember, when it comes to travelling, information is key, and your readers may have lots of it to share.

A couple of entries during the planning phase of your trip will also help you get the hang of blogging while you’re still on home turf. You don’t want any technical surprises while you’re out on the road, so learn the ins and outs now.

2. Set up your blog on TravelPod.

TravelPod is the oldest free travel blogging platform around, and we have tons of experience to help you get the most out of your trip without requiring you to have any technical expertise or a friend-of-a-friend who is “good with computers.” During the TravelPod blog setup, you can create an itinerary showing where you plan to be on every day. This can help you organize your blogging and is a great way to start planning your trip.

Once your blog is set up, figure out how you’re going to update your blog. For example, TravelPod can be updated using any connected web browser, an iPhone or iPad via the iOS app, or even by sending posts as emails to a special email address. Pick the method that is right for you. Remember, you may not have access to mobile data or wi-fi many times during your trip. If blogging when you are offline is important to you, have a plan to either type your blogs into a note-taking app for transfer later, or use TravelPod’s iOS app, which works offline and synchs back to the blog when you have wi-fi access again.

3. Try to write every day.

Even a short post will help keep your readers interested and up to date on your journey. Also, it will make remembering your trip all the better many years from now if you can see what you did and what you thought about it on any day in your trip.

4. Include highlights and try to be as descriptive as possible.

The highlights will be the moments that stood out to you as something you’d want to tell a story about later. More mundane facts about the day, such as what you wore or what time breakfast was served, may seem more interesting while you’re writing them than they will to the average reader. Now, if you accidentally wore shorts and sandals to a formal wedding because you misread the invitation, that is definitely a highlight!

You want to recreate what it felt like to be in the location you’re writing about, so I’m going to channel my 10th-grade writing teacher and remind you to use descriptive language in your entry. Descriptive words that recreate the sights, sounds, and even smells of your experience are like popcorn to the hungry travel blog reader. Get inventive if you must, but the more descriptive detail, the more your comments will fill up with praise.

5. Take photos and include the best ones.

In this day and age, every blog entry should have at least a couple of photos. Uploading photos is super easy if you are using the TravelPod mobile app, but you can also upload them using the web dashboard. If you’re using TravelPod’s email blogging feature, just include them as attachments to the entry email and TravelPod will take care of attaching them to the entry. Try to include photos that relate to the events you wrote about, if you can. This really helps make the whole blog entry more cohesive and satisfying to read. Include details you want to remember about the photos in the caption of the photo, such as the name of that great pool bartender. Don’t go overboard on the photos, though! After a while, looking at too many photos starts to feel like viewing someone’s three-volume wedding photo album. Safe bet: include your best shots, and leave them wanting more!

6. Review places you stay and visit.

TravelPod has tools for leaving reviews of hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, and even attractions. By leaving a review you’re helping the next travellers to come after you, so take the time to share your thoughts. This is a great way to give back to the TravelPod community.

7. Wrap it up.

Remember that all important “Home at last!” entry at the end. Some great travel blogs end with a quick synopsis of the trip highlights, and perhaps a reflection on what you got out of the trip. For anyone interested in following in your footsteps, this is definitely the icing on the cake. Once you’re back you can continue to tweak and fine tune your blog, adding or removing photos and maybe filling in some blank days. Once it’s done, you can even order a printed book of your TravelPod blog for a tangible keepsake of the adventure.

Above all, relax and have fun writing your travel blog. If at any time it feels like a chore, take a break and enjoy the amazing sights and sounds going on all around you. The more you enjoy your trip and truly live in the moment, the better your blog will be whenever you choose to write!

Bon voyage from TravelPod!

Photo credit: TravelPod member alice-and-will (http://www.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/alice-and-will/1/1371216741/tpod.html)
Follow me on Twitter: @frasercole
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Editor’s Choice – Great Museums for Your US Trip – Part 2

If you missed part 1 in our series about museums to visit on your USA summer trip, we’ve been going state-by-state to find some shining examples of can’t-miss museums to add to your vacation plans no matter where in the United States you’re headed. In part two of the series, we’re covering the remaining states from Montana to Wyoming and highlighting some of the best sites to see on your summer holiday. We’ve whittled it down to just one favorite per state, but rest assured that there is a wealth of things to do regardless of where you’re going. If you try out our recommendations or find your own travel gems, don’t forget to share your memories on your TravelPod blog! Part 2: Montana – Wyoming

  1. Montana – Montana Museum of Art and Culture (Missoula)
  2. Nebraska – Joslyn Art Museum (Omaha) Blogger ModernNomad67 wrote “The Joslyn is well worth a stop on a cross country drive on I-80 or to be included in a Midwest travel itinerary.”
  3. Nevada – The Neon Museum (Las Vegas)
  4. New Hampshire – Children’s Museum of New Hampshire (Dover)
  5. New Jersey – The Old Barracks Museum (Trenton)
  6. New Mexico – New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe) Recommended for fans of the art style by johnrandall. “I got a great introduction into the Southwest school of art. I’ve always liked this style and I saw some of the greats on display.”
  7. New York – Museum of the City of New York (New York City)
  8. North Carolina – North Carolina Museum of History (Raleigh)
  9. North Dakota – Fargo Air Museum (Fargo)
  10. Ohio – Taft Museum of Art (Cincinnati)
  11. Oklahoma – Science Museum Oklahoma (Oklahoma City) TravelPod user pndcadena loved the variety at the Science Museum, noting “There is literally everything under the sun for science-minded individuals. Interactive exhibits and unique displays make the museum a truly amazing educational experience”
  12. Oregon – Oregon Historical Society (Portland)
  13. Pennsylvania – The Barnes Foundation (Philadelphia) “The new building that housed the Barnes collections was beautiful!”, wrote roadscholarorg. “We had a lot of time there, but I confess I probably could have stayed another hour or two.”
  14. Rhode Island – Rhode Island School of Design Museum (Providence)
  15. South Carolina – Columbia Museum of Art (Columbia)
  16. South Dakota – South Dakota Art Museum (Brookings)
  17. Tennessee – National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis) TravelPod blogger tonestar described the museum as “by far one of the best museums I have ever been to in my life… The attention to detail was phenomenal and you had chills when you saw the Martin Luther stuff. I will never forget it as long as I live.”
  18. Texas – Perot Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas) alaskalucas97 loved what the Perot museum had to offer. “This museum was too cool – everything from the solar system, to dinosaurs, to weather, robots, oil, animals…this museum had it all. It is absolutely NOT what I remember museums to be when I was a kid, No Way. It was totally cool, totally modern. Outstanding!!!!!”
  19. Utah – Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (Salt Lake City)
  20. Vermont – Billings Farm & Museum (Woodstock)
    Blogger dseals included this operating dairy farm and museum in their visit to Woodstock and called it a “must see if visiting the area.”
  21. Virginia – Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Richmond)
  22. Washington – Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience (Seattle)
  23. West Virginia – Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences of Western Virginia (Charleston)
  24. Wisconsin – The National Mustard Museum (Middleton)
  25. Wyoming – National Museum of Wildlife Art (Jackson) orlandoanne made sure to include the museum on her trip across the United States.

Looking for must-see museums from Alabama to Missouri? Check out Part 1 of our Editor’s Picks series.

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TripWow and TravelPod get a mention on TV!

Wow! Did we ever get a great Christmas’s present this year!

The tried and trusted TravelPod was highlighted on a TV talk show, Steven and Chris. We’re thrilled that TravelPod can still turn people’s heads after 10 years.

But the main focus of the piece was on our new slideshow creation tool, TripAdvisor TripWow!

In the introduction, Chris mentions that he usually sits everyone down at home and bores them with his vacation pictures, to which the presenter answers:

“Well, you’re not going to bore anyone with this!”

Great stuff!! Glad you guys like it!

Watch the clip here!! The relevant bit starts at 35:30.

If you’re not in Canada, use this page to view the video.

Once you’re done watching be sure to head over to tripwow.tripadvisor.com to see what all the fuss is about.

Happy New Years!

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Sort your entries to suit your needs

The List of Entries is the most used page by our bloggers. Since we launched the redesign last June, the list has been optimized for members that are already on their trip that add new entries as they go. We decided to order the list with your newest entries right at the top, so that you can quickly look over your last 10 entries and complete any drafts you needed to finish off.

However, this week it dawned on us that this ordering doesn’t make sense for someone who has just entered in a big itinerary for an upcoming trip. Clearly, you’re going to want your first entry (relatively the oldest) at the top when you start out on your trip.

Today we’re pleased to announce another small but helpful enhancement to the site: Sort your List of Entries by newest or oldest first!

It works exactly as you’d expect and we save your preference automatically.

TIP: You may like the “Oldest first” option when you first start your trip, but once you’ve crossed the half-way point, you’ll find that “Newest first” will be handy.

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

TravelPod Features Uncategorized

Connecting Facebook and TravelPod

We’re very excited to announce a new feature that allows you to sign in to TravelPod using your Facebook account.

The biggest benefit for you, is that you no longer need to remember a separate username and password for TravelPod. Simply “connect” your TravelPod account to your Facebook account and from then on when you’re logged into Facebook, you’ll be able to access your TravelPod blog as well.

To get started, just click “Connect with Facebook” link in the header.

This is only the first step in an ongoing effort to make it easier for you to share your travel experiences with your friends and family.

Look for more great Facebook features on TravelPod in 2010!

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Subtle improvements to the Timeline

Since we first launched the new Timeline feature then we’ve been looking for subtle ways to improve its usability while still maintaining its minimal style and cool interaction with the map.

With today’s changes, when you hover over the green dots we now emphasize the relevant city and we added a country flag that will help you scan through a trip.

You’ll also notice that the map automatically centers itself as you hover over each pin. Clicking on the pin in the Timeline now takes you directly to that entry.

These are small changes that we think improve the Timeline tremendously.

We hope you like the changes as well. Let us know in the comments.

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Transparency International’s 10 most corrupt countries in the world

Every year, Transparency International makes a list of the most corrupt countries in the world. I searched through the blogs to find out more about each one, from a travelers’ perspective.

1. Somalia

Hardiek at the border of Somalia

Hardiek at the border of Somalia

“For those of you who don’t know (almost everybody, including me up until a few weeks ago) the once unified country of Somalia is now effectively divided into three, the rump Somalia surrounding dangerous Mogadishu, the country of Puntland from which all the ship piracy of recent fame takes place, and Somaliland, relatively peaceful and open for business, connected by land to the also relatively peaceful states of Djibouti and Ethiopia.” – Hardiek

2. Afghanistan

Samcato telling home base about an explosion in Afghanistan

Samcato telling home base about an explosion in Afghanistan

“From ‘grease my palm’ to ‘oil-fill my bellybutton’: corruption has penetrated the political, economic, judicial and social systems so thoroughly that it has ceased to be a deviation from the norm and become the norm itself. Corruption had existed ever since the Taliban regime was toppled, but it has reached a historically record breaking level. Ordinary Afghans are well aware of this, the majority of the country is sorry, not because it existed but they are not in a position to benefit from bribery. Corruption has become so endemic that it is perceived as normal. Nothing is possible at the same time, everything is possible. When a job comes to a standstill it doesn’t mean there is a problem with the job, it is time to grease up some bellybuttons. If one is prepared to pay as much as needed then anything could be done. Shortcuts are introduced if one is willing to compromise. I could have thought of any word as synonyms for bribery but not compromise, Farsi and Pashto languages are rich with euphemisms for bribe. My favorite and all time fresh is ‘Shirini’, the sweetener. It is generally used when you got something done. In other words shirini is post bribery bribe. Don’t be surprised. At least I had something done, these days ordinary citizens pay bribes as much to be left alone as to get something done. They call it ‘Kharcha’, ‘paeesi chai’, ‘jawani’ and many more which are basically *bribe of survival*. Exactly this has changed everything; everyone attempts to be in a position to take a bribe as oppose to a sucker. Bribe takers are at the highest rank of the society where everybody inspires to be.” – Samcato

3. Myanmar

Markl's tour guide "Stella" spoke about the corruption in her country

Markl's tour guide "Stella" spoke about the corruption in her country

“Stella was forthcoming about the current regime and it’s appalling corruption. They have moved the capital inland and have created an insane, artificial compound where the military and civil servants live in pampered luxury. They are building a zoo, of all things there, and transporting the animals from Yangon zoo to fill it. So the people in the capital get a few old camels and the rest get shipped 300 miles inland. Civil service pensions are no better, her mother receives 100 Kyat or $0,10 a day. Stella’s bitterness was mainly reserved for the treatment of the poor who seem to have been mainly abandoned by the political rulers. The stories of aid for rural people post Cyclone Nargis in 2009 were terrifying.” – Markl

4. Sudan

Bonthorn on the road in Sudan

Bonthorn on the road in Sudan

“You have two choices when you come to a roadblock. You can play Mr./Mrs. Nice Guy/Gal and greet the officer as if you’ve known him your whole life, shake hands amicably and ask about his health, his family, their health, etc. Calling him ‘my friend’ and patting him on the back is also a good tactic (although never try this if you are female). After all the formalities are completed, he might just let you off the hook and wish you a “Good Journey”. The second option is to play dumb and pretend you have no idea what the officer is saying, although it’s blatantly obvious. Keep jabbering in English in a tone that is neither offensive nor accusing, and sooner or later, he will hopefully tire of you and your feigned stupidity and wave you on. So far, these are the two choices we’ve attempted, both at pretty successful rates. But the key is to pick one and stick to it BEFORE your car is stopped and you’re face to face with him and his gun.” – Bonthorn

5. Iraq

Rebecca.mcneal went through several checkpoints in Iraq

Rebecca.mcneal went through several checkpoints in Iraq

“After passing through numerous checkpoints, Iraqi, Pesmerga and Awakening Council fighter types we neared Mosul. Mosul was the only place that was worrisome. We passed by a truck bomb site that had killed 250 people in the recent past. We were not allowed to photograph checkpoints which were all manned with machine guns.” – Rebecca.mcneal

6. Chad

Kevandsian picked up some unexpected hitchhikers in Chad

Kevandsian picked up some unexpected hitchhikers in Chad

“Crossing into Chad was surprisingly hassle free, the police in this country have a bad reputation for being corrupt and subtracting bribes and ‘tolls’ at every opportunity. We took a hitch hiker at the request of the police and also transported a soldier to the next village. We then gave another 5 police and military personnel lifts to neighboring towns 55 kms away,becoming the essential local transport as the first truck to pass through in 6-7 days. We decided this might help avoid searches and bribes at police stops and ease our journey. They did help at one small town where the police demanded a 16 dollar fee per person for registering and stamping our passports which was eventually avoided successfully.” – Kevandsian

7. Uzbekistan

Crowdywendy's tour guide in Uzbekistan, Behruz

Crowdywendy's tour guide in Uzbekistan, Behruz

Our first morning in Bukhara introduced us to the entrenched police and official corruption in Uzbekistan. It was our first introduction to “bakeesh” or bribes to officials. At the first Bukhara bank we were told that we were not allowed in. “Why not?” we asked. It was a very large bank and there were numerous tellers open everywhere. Well, we just couldn’t. The police were stationed at the entrance of the bank and would not let people in. Well, of course with a little bribe they would… But we resisted and moved on to yet another bank, and another. Later that evening while talking with other hotel guests, we were told that it is not uncommon for locals to have to try ten or so different banks before they would be allowed entry. The young local people were openly disgusted with the practice.

Similarly, bakeesh is a common practice with the police. There are frequent road blocks throughout Uzbekistan. While we had no problems thanks to Naim calling out “tourists!” at every point we were told over and over again by locals about the road police. Apparently being a police officer on the roads is a much sought after profession. Although they are dreadfully underpaid they certainly make up for it in bribes or bakeesh.” – Crowdywendy

8. Turkmenistan

Ricka leaving the "ferry from hell" in Turkmenistan

Ricka leaving the "ferry from hell" in Turkmenistan

We loaded on-board after a trainload of freight was stowed and we were squeezed in between the carriages and the crew started to hassle us for “Security Fees”. We all had the sense to tell them to get lost! We were on at last! Another trip back into the customs hall to get our final clearance and it was back on board, passports handed over to a dodgy looking guy along with $90 and then a stagger up to the deck with our luggage. We wondered why there were loads of crewmembers smiling and laughing at us, little did we know!
The dodgy guy we gave our passports and cash to started to try to explain that if we wanted a cabin they were $100. We said no thanks, at that price we could manage the 12 hour crossing on the deck. I had a suspicion that things may not go to plan so I followed a crew down into the ship to have a look at a cabin. He showed me two of the filthyest, run-down excuses for cabins I had ever seen, with the “bathrooms” being even worse. I haggled with the guy anyway as I knew this was a “take it or leave it” situation and I settled on twenty bucks per cabin – I thought we would be needing them!” – Ricka

9. Iran

Jimsim at Persepolis in Shiraz, Iran

Jimsim at Persepolis in Shiraz, Iran

“While Sim took a few snaps of the mosque I chatted to a local soldier who was visiting the mosque. He was very young, and was very upbeat about Iran’s prospects for the future. While not stating a preference for either the hardline or more moderate of Iran’s leaders he seemed to believe that by keeping the right (positive) attitude the people of Iran would pull the country in the right direction. It was hard not to be caught up in his enthusiasm. He was also extremely helpful while we were there, happily answering the barrage of questions I had about Shiraz and it’s major attractions.” – Jimsim

10. Haiti

Mim301 on her first day volunteering in Haiti

Mim301 on her first day volunteering in Haiti

“It is so hard to believe that so many people in Haiti live in poverty because of such a corrupt government, but that the beaches and mountains are so beautiful. I guess that this is just another one of life’s great mysteries.” – Mim301

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Chris Guillebeau’s 9 overrated tourist destinations vs. 9 alternatives

Chris Guillebeau came up with the 9 most overrated destinations and then offered alternatives to each of them.

I wanted to put them to the test, so I checked out what TravelPod bloggers thought about all 18 places.

1. Niagara Falls (Thumbs up)

Donhad thought Niagara Falls was "worth the trip"

Donhad thought Niagara Falls was "worth the trip"

“We had a whole day to do all the main tourist stops …..including a trip behind the falls, the Niagara experience (a movie in the round that rains and snows on you as you watch it). Up the space needle like tower for photos, a walk along the rapids, and of course the Maid of the Mist boat ride (WOW ….and in the front of the boat).” – Donhad

Alternative: Victoria Falls (Thumbs up)

Flolafol taking in the scenery of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

Flolafol taking in the scenery of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

“Swimming in Devil’s pool, a natural pool right by the edge of the Victoria Falls, white-water rafting the Zambezi, relaxing in a great chilled backpacker, spending time with wire Zimbabwean artists teaching me how to make my own wire baobab… the program in Zambia was hard !!!” – Flolafol

2. Grand Canyon (Thumbs up)

Jimandlaura thought the Grand Canyon was impressive

Jimandlaura thought the Grand Canyon was impressive

We entered the national park around 4pm, paying $25.00 for the privilege, and stopped off at ‘Grand View’ overlook for our first sight of the Canyon. Wow…it was as awesome as it looks on the telly! It certainly dwarfs the likes of Zion Canyon. – Jimandlaura

Alternative: Sedona (Thumbs down)

Bobnkaren thought the intense tourism in Sedona was "painful"

Bobnkaren thought the intense tourism in Sedona was "painful"

“It causes almost physical pain to see stupid retail shops built so near these breathtaking cliffs. It’s criminal. It just shouldn’t be. Arizona caved on this one–this should be a national park, not the purview of the wealthy.” – Bobnkaren

3. Bahamas (Thumbs up)

Hecqs really enjoyed Bahamas' Exuma islands

Hecqs really enjoyed Bahamas' Exuma islands

About 40 miles south of Paradise Island and an hour boat ride via IslandWorld Adventures….. We reached Saddleback Cay, a part of Exuma Islands. This is another out island adventure ….. I will say the best so far I had from Nassau. Lemon shark feeding shoreside in a clear aquamarine water… we were also greeted by the local stingray….. and a little historical tour of the island….. and a moment on a sandbar…. – Hecqs

Alternative: St. Kitts & Nevis (Thumbs up)

Ri-anne.cruz loved the seaside views at Frigate Bay in St. Kitts

Ri-anne.cruz loved the seaside views at Frigate Bay in St. Kitts

“First he showed us the town of Basseterre– a gracefully revived town and capital of St. Kitts. After decades of sleepy existence, this elegant and graceful West Indies town was restored from its shabbiness. Now with careful and sensitive restoration it revealed all the original charm and preserved its Caribbean architecture.” – Ri-anne.cruz

4. Paris in the summer (Thumbs up)

Gilmoregirls was impressed by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

Gilmoregirls was impressed by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

“Arc de Triumph more impressive than I expected. Decided as this was our last nigh in Paris that we would have dinner on the Champs Elysse and this was a good decision. Waiter was the typical French stereotype, suggesting what Madam would enjoy and being very attentive. Happily food and atmosphere lived up to expectations.” – Gilmoregirls

Alternative: Paris in the winter (Thumbs up)

Clandybar found great discounts and shorter lines in Paris in February

Clandybar found great discounts and shorter lines in Paris in February

“We only stood in line for about 10 minutes at the tower, then we were up the elevator and on our way. It was just as exciting as I imagined it would be. Great views! We had sun for the first part of the afternoon but the sky got grey by about 2:30 p.m. We made it up to the very top of the tower – a bit chilly in February but totally worth it. We were lucky that we didn’t wait until Saturday as the top level was closed due to bad visibility.” – Clandybar

5. Las Vegas (Thumbs down)

Alvrez got lost amongst the Las Vegas lights

Alvrez got lost amongst the Las Vegas lights

“Afterwards we decided to show the kids the neon of the Las Vegas Strrip again, but instead got hopelessly lost (yes, even with the GPS working properly!!) and eventually gave up and went back to the hotel to bed.” – Alvrez

Alternative: Any American Indian casino (Thumbs up)

Modernoddyseus squinting at the bright lights of the American Indian casino

Modernoddyseus squinting at the bright lights of the American Indian casino

“Casinos are only fun if you make them fun. Or, if you win. Then they´re really fun. Otherwise, casinos are just a bunch of dull people who mistakenly think they´re not just throwing their money into a hole in the ground.” – Modernoddyseus

6. Dublin, Ireland (Thumbs up)

Magicwoman82 in Dublin with a Bulmer's

Magicwoman82 in Dublin with a Bulmer's

“I am just back from 6 days in Dublin and I had a wonderful time. Many of you might now that I am madly in love with Ireland (and yes with you too Fernando 😉 ) and that I have lived there for 6 months back in 2007.” – Magicwoman82

Alternative: Smaller towns in Ireland

Neason's friend, Elaine hanging around in Stewartstown, Northern Ireland

Neason's friend, Elaine hanging around in Stewartstown, Northern Ireland

“This weekend a guy in my class invited all the 3rd years up to his parents house in Northern Ireland for his birthday… The house was amazing, it used to be lord someone’s summer residence and was a very impressive Georgian manor. There were 11 bedrooms (used to be 16 but they merged some ’cause it just wasn’t necessary to have 16 bedrooms in a 5 person household), at least 3 kitchens, an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, 2 lakes, stables, gate house and a big fountain in the courtyard. And it was all furnished in antique/period furniture. – Neason

7. The Pyramids (Thumbs up)

Brianporter felt more than a sense of accomplishment in Egypt

Brianporter felt more than a sense of accomplishment in Egypt

“Few countries can match Egypt’s wealth of ancient monuments and temples; the relics of Pharaonic culture have been drawing visitors for centuries. On arrival in Port Said, we felt a sense of accomplishment, that we were about to set foot in a country that most dream of visiting. There is universal fascination with the ancient Egyptians who established a magnificent and enduring civilization that flourished from around 3000 BC to 30 BC, ruled by approximately 30 dynasties. Pyramids, pharaohs, mummies, King Tut and Cleopatra. How can you top that?” – Brianporter

Alternative: Jordan (Thumbs up)

Rose of Boydandrose floating in the Dead Sea

Rose of Boydandrose floating in the Dead Sea

“We arrive at the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea whose shores are at 420 m below sea level. It is now 3 PM and the sun is already starting to drop into the horizon. We change into our bathing suits for a quick dip in the Sea. It has a dark sandy beach leading up to the water, then a fairly rocky bottom for the first 2.5 m and then it is sandy again. We walk about 10 m into the Sea and then sit down in the water. Instantly, it feels like you are on a tire tube (except there is no tire tube). It is one of the most interesting phenomenons we have experienced. There is no way you can sink.” – Boydandrose

8. Singapore (Thumbs down)

Stevewade eating Indian in Singapore

Stevewade eating Indian in Singapore

“We are exhausted but the second we arrive we decide we need to explore. A bite to eat (tasty as fuck duck red curry!) and a beer (well a jug of tiger) later i’m down 80 quid. We decide to go to a bar full of hookers even though we’ve no money and no desire to shag hookers which was retarded. Cream’s bank card doesn’t work in any ATMs so I’m funding his trip it seems, the hookers wouldnt believe him when he said he had no money, but it was genuine. I didn’t realise Singapore was like that, the bars are full of them and they are mostly ugly and demand drinks (nae chance!). It was all a bit weird actually, I felt akward and just wanted to enjoy my pure blonde.” – Stevewade

Alternative: Malaysia (Thumbs up)

Stevewade enjoying a party in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur

Stevewade enjoying a party in the suburbs of Kuala Lumpur

“This place was way off the beaten track not another tourist in sight and certainly no white people. On the way we came across this bizzare ‘shop’ which had a long rectangular pool, around this pool were families with fishing rods fishing for shrimp, what they catch they take home to eat. Was so surreal. We also saw lots of local eateries and what we’re told is a Malay pastime, lots of people gathered in a restaurant eating and watching a film. When we reached the house we found inside a multicultural group of people from all over the world who either lived there permanently or were stopping off on their travels including a couple who have been cycling round the globe for the past 4 years. We got everyone on the rum and cokes, got tanked, talked about shit, played a great card game that involved matching patterns and grabbing a stick which was rowdy fun and we found out what everyone’s favourite dinosaur was thanks to probably the strangest opening question from a newly arrived couchsurfer. An unforgettable night and then the couchsurfer stayed with us and this morning we had a traditional breakfast in china town, me eating fried duck and rice, G chinese rice porridge wqith chicken and spices then toured round KL seeing the sights, twin towers, KL towers etc, both mightly impressive.” –Stevewade

9. Dubai (Thumbs up)

Jring stretching to reach the top of the famous Burj tower

Jring stretching to reach the top of the famous Burj tower

“On the face of it Dubai is very materialistic with a strong divide between rich and poor but beyond that there is plenty of culture to be had away from the luxury resorts.” – Jring

Alternative: Oman (Thumbs up)

Tobyh on the edge of Wadi Ghul in Oman

Tobyh on the edge of Wadi Ghul in Oman

“Well, it turned out to be about three hours round-trip, but was one of the best hikes I had done for a long time. The trail almost immediately passed over the rim of the canyon, and then hugged the edge of the canyon as it slowly descended, with spectacular views of the other side of the canyon, and the peak of Jebel Shams itself above. Not for the faint of heart, the trail was barely more than a goat path about 30cm wide, with a sheer drop off to our right – looking down, the bottom of the canyon was about 1000m below! I kept my eyes on my feet. Eventually the trail ended at an abandoned village of primitive stone huts, where some adventurous people had, incredibly, created steep agricultural terraces on the canyon side. A bit ghostly in the absolute silence of the canyon, we then re-traced our steps back to the start, stopping frequently to admire the awe-inspiring views.” – Tobyh

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Your blog stats: now updated daily

We’ve gotten lots of positive feedback about the new stats page on the TravelPod Dashboard.

You guys liked it so much, that we decided to update the numbers on a daily basis.

Your stats are now updated daily

Your stats are now updated daily

Question to the TravelPod masses:

How often do you check your stats?

Leave your answers in the comment section below.

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Turkey Local Expert profile: David Chadwick

Manzara is TravelPod’s Local Expert for Turkey. He’s always got a funny street sign to share with us or an interesting travel news update. Besides that, of course he is well versed in all things Turkey. He took the time to answer some questions about living in Turkey for me.

David Chadwick is TravelPod's Local Expert in Turkey

David Chadwick is TravelPod's Local Expert in Turkey

Why did you become a Local Expert?

Travel is very important to us. We usually plan a four-week ‘long-haul’ holiday each year, in addition to exploring Turkey where we now live. We research our holidays in deadly detail and for a number of years have been offered excellent advice from forums such as TravelPod. Becoming a Local Expert, allows me to help ‘pay back’ the superb help we have received in the past and which has ensured our holidays have been enjoyed to the full.

What are the best and worst things about living in Turkey?

There are so many good things about living here and we have had no regrets following our decision to abandon the UK Rat Race. We now enjoy a much simpler and more relaxed lifestyle; live in a safer environment; eat more healthily with so much fresh food on offer; and, of course, living in a small fishing village on the tip of the Çeşme Peninsula, we have a choice of so many spectacular beaches with crystal-clear waters for relaxation.

After living in Turkey for over twelve years, what we would have considered the ‘worst things’ in our first few years, are now considered simply ‘minor irritations’! Turkish bureaucracy, for example, can often try your patience. We used to miss some of our favourite foods but the choice of products here has grown tremendously in recent years.

What are the top five things for travelers to do outside of Turkey from your personal experiences?

(In no particular order)

1. Snorkel in the Red Sea
2. Visit Jordan and include Petra and floating in the Dead Sea on your itinerary
3. Spot a tiger, leopard and other exciting wildlife at Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan
4. Swim and snorkel off Elephant Beach, Havelock, Andaman Islands
5. Explore the paradise beaches of Zanzibar (such as Pongwe Beach) and find time to visit Jozani Forest to see the Kirk’s Red Colobos Monkey, Zanzibar being the only place in the world to see this rare, endangered (and very playful) species.

What are some of your best and worst travel experiences?

As we plan our holidays so carefully, we haven’t had any really bad experiences. The reason I spend so much time researching them is that although we don’t mind surprises on holiday, we don’t want any bad ones!

Probably our best experiences have been the superb snorkeling in the Andaman Islands (especially Havelock) and in the Red Sea, and the sensation of floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea during a visit to Jordan earlier this year was quite amazing!

I suppose the worst experience was in Sri Lanka when, on the penultimate day of our stay. We had arranged for a car and driver to take us from our hotel in Unawatuna to the capital Colombo for our flight home the following day. Looking at the map, it looked as though we would have plenty of time to visit (not enough research here, David!) Sinharaja Rain Forest – Deniyaya entrance. I think the problems began when our driver couldn’t find the Deniyaya entrance and consequently the experienced guide we were supposed to meet there. Anyway, our driver who wasn’t to be beaten ‘picked’ up a passing wood cutter and ‘employed’ him as our guide. To be honest, we didn’t see a great deal of exceptional flora and fauna apart from a few purple-faced Langur monkeys high up in the trees. But there were the leeches of course – always included in abundance in any respectable rain forest.

Tracker Elaine (always prepared for everything, clever so and so) placed plastic bags over her socks which stopped the leeches dropping down the sides of her shoes and attaching them to her feet. I didn’t and the result was typical. I had leeches all around my feet and legs. Then a long drive – five hours less would have been a bonus – to Colombo and our overnight stay. Not one of our better days out!

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I hope I am allowed to substitute the word “accomplishment” with “experience” on this occasion. Call it writer’s license. I have to go back to the mid-1970’s. I was traveling through India with a colleague monitoring foreign aid projects on behalf of UK voluntary agencies. We were fortunate enough to arrange two meetings with Mother Teresa at the Missionaries of Charity convent at 54A Lower Circular Road, Calcutta.

We met in her modest office and although a tiny, almost frail looking woman, her spirituality, gentleness and quiet determination filled the room. I shall never forget spending time at the convent, meeting the other sisters, joining them in the chapel for early morning prayers with the whole group singing “in our honour” their hymn ‘Something Beautiful for God’. A truly amazing experience.

Where are you planning on traveling in the future?

Well, we always seem to adding to the ever-increasing list of places we plan to visit. Malaysia is certainly one and possibly one or two of the South Pacific islands if our budget will allow. However, some travel decisions are suddenly being made for us. With a son now living in America and a daughter moving to Western Australia in January 2010, another two destinations are now in the pipeline!

What do you do with most of your time?

Elaine would say I spend most of my time at the Laptop! It’s not strictly true, but I keep up with the TravelPod Forum (of course!), I am Destination Expert for Çeşme on Trip Advisor; SuperMod (think that’s a misspelling of SuperMAD!) on Turkey Central; and complete the occasional questionnaire on behalf of Lonely Planet’s Travellers’ Pulse. Oh, and there’s always the next holiday to research, of course! We also enjoy quiet socializing with friends at our house or theirs. Only very rarely does this involve a bar or restaurant. Our social spending is on our overseas trips and enjoying different food in hotels and restaurants on our travels – and ensuring our shared children and grandchildren enjoy their holidays with us here in Turkey.

What’s a typical day like for you?

The answer to this depends whether it’s summer or winter. In the holiday season, we welcome guests to our two self-contained apartments in the picturesque fishing village of Çiftlikköy, close to the resort centre of Çeşme in western Turkey. Elaine is busy preparing the apartments for arrivals and ensuring the change-over day cleaning is carried out to her (very high) standards. I sort out the administration and communications concerned with inquiries and bookings, carry out airport transfers personally and offer a varied selection of full day and half day trips to places of interest – the usual’ must see’s’ of this area such as Ephesus, for example, but also visits to places well away from the usual tourist spots. The summer is also a busy time for family visits, too.

The winter months are much quieter. A time to relax, do some exploring ourselves around the region and beyond. Visiting friends or welcoming them to our home for quiet socializing over tea, coffee and home made cake. Maybe a game of ‘Rummikub’ (English version of the popular Turkish game ‘Okay’) or Triominoes. We really know how to enjoy ourselves here, you know!

Winter or Summer, I pour myself the first glass of wine at around 6 p.m. – sometimes even a gin and tonic (living dangerously now you see!) – followed by a lovely meal together and just a couple of hours television or DVD. Hope the excitement of our lifestyle isn’t too much for you all!

What’s your favourite part of the TravelPod forum?

It’s the exciting and ever-surprising variety of topics, questions and information which invariably receives such friendly, helpful and often comprehensive responses (can’t say that for all forums, you know!). However difficult and sometime bizarre the question may first appear, there’s always someone out there with something to offer.

So, to get back to the question (off topic again!) my favourite part of the forum is appreciating the wealth of knowledge and travel experience of members, complemented by the added ingredient of regular humour. Although it seems rather clichéd to say so, TravelPod Forum does achieve the feeling (for me certainly) of being part of a huge international family.

Ask David about Turkey in the TravelPod forums

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Typhoon Ketsana and Ondoy: blogs from disaster zones

The reports from TravelPod bloggers are coming in fast and furious. Travelers all over South East Asia are stranded or coping with the aftermath of Typhoons Ketsana and Ondoy.

They’re writing in from Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines with their reports of major flooding. Here are a few of the best:

Tomsara are on their honeymoon in Asia. They got caught in the storm on motorcycles in Hue, Vietnam. Some benevolent people helped them paddle their bikes to safety in boats.

Tomsara loading their motorbike onto a canoe in Hue, Vietnam

Tomsara loading their motorbike onto a canoe in Hue, Vietnam

The hurricane hit us whilst we were on the road. Horrifying conditions. We drove, leaning at steep angles into the wind. Flooded fields either side looked like to vast seas, their waves breaking over the road and splashing the bikes. The sky in the East looked black. Trees could be seen falling over, and the rain came down, across, up, under, in torrents.

We wobbled along the road which was covered with rats and snakes who had now where else to go. No one else was around, all the houses and shops boarded up. Branches everywhere. Not a moment to soon, as the hurricane passed over and the weather dropped a degree, we stopped on the outskirts of Hue.

The road was knee deep and rising, and the bikes began to splutter. Out of no-where, half a dozen locals turned up with canoes. Amazingly, they lifted the bikes in, and we all paddled and waded down the street into town. Our canoe very nearly capsized at one point, and i jumped out while Sara bailed water with a bucket.Tomsara

Kathy aka Endlesssea finds herself distributing food to the poor in Siem Reap, Cambodia after the floodwaters have subsided:

The streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia were flooded as well

The streets of Siem Reap, Cambodia were flooded as well

All of the rice paddies I saw were flooded. I have since talked to an actual rice farmer. Many rice fields can go up to a couple of weeks under flood water. More than that would result in the death of the rice plants, massive food shortages, and starvation this year. Most farmers in Cambodia are subsistence farmers, growing just enough to feed their families. There are no cash reserves to tide them over. I wonder if any foreign NGO’s (Charities) will be here with food, to help. The government does not help. The monks here are the social safety net. They will help by distributing rice – as much as they have to give, which may not be much in the poorer areas of the country.

My brave taxi driver drove through water higher than the tires to show me the damage to the city and the countryside. This flooding is unusual here. Typhoons don’t hit often. The flooding is worse in town, because people have developed and leveled the land, removing drainage ditches and holding ponds, which are a feature the farmers build into the countryside. The water has nowhere to go now. Still, I was surprised how quickly the water drained from city streets yesterday. After a night of rain, downtown Siem Reap, especially the district near the river, is completely flooded again. Many of the roads just can’t be driven upon.Endlesssea

Rjdemp are living in the Philippines for three years. They worry about the toll the floodwaters will take on the health of people in Manila and Pepeng, the next storm predicted to arrive in the area.

A street is turned into a swiftly flowing river in Manila, Philippines

A street is turned into a swiftly flowing river in Manila, Philippines

One of the big concerns that people don’t think of initially is medical concerns related to the sewage and oil that is mixed with the flood water. There is also the problem that the shelters people evacuated to had no toilet facilities and no morgues. Bodies of the dead were laid out right there in the same room. There will be a lot of bacterial ailments and worse. Another problem is going to be the breeding of dengue and malaria carrying mosquitos. I’m sure we’ll be hearing a lot more about these problems in the days to come. Time to locate the DEET we brought from the states.

There is another storm coming, Pepeng. The international name is Parma (For some reason storms are named differently here than their known names in the rest of the world). Pepeng is strengthening but the models show it heading in a more northerly direction so hopefully the rain and wind from that won’t add to the troubles here. Rjdemp

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Photo of the Week “Blue chromis”, Bel Nem, Netherlands Antilles

The colours in this photo were so intense, that I had to pick them as one of the featured photos:

6.1245369410.blue-chromis

Today we went to spots along Klein Bonaire, which is a small island on the western side of Bonaire. We started off at a site called Nearest Point. The surf was rough, which made entry a little more challenging than usual. The reef was nice, but the fish were not as abundant as they have been at some other sites. (I think I have been spoiled by Tori’s Reef!) – Drmom

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10 Breathtaking Drives Around the World

ABC News featured some of the most spectacular roads around the world. Here are the top 10 with experiences from TravelPod bloggers. What’s your favourite drive?

1. Karakoram Highway, China

Markwilliams84 ventured by bus on the Karakoram Highway

Markwilliams84 ventured by bus on the Karakoram Highway

The Khunjerab Pass is the highest paved border crossing in the world and the highest point on the Karakoram Highway. The roadway across the pass was completed in 1982, and has superseded the unpaved Mintaka Pass and Kilik Pass as the primary passage across the Karakorum Range. Due to the altitude of the Pass its closed for most of the year because of the snow, its only possible to cross between May 1 and 15th October and that’s if you are lucky and the weather is good. Very reassuringly the name Khunjerab Pass is derived from Wakhi for ‘Blood Valley’ because for centuries this crossing was used by caravans plodding down the Silk road where locals took advantage of the terrain, robbed the caravans and slaughtered their merchants. – Markwilliams84

2. Western Desert, Egypt: Cairo to Kharga

Wwatling took a tour of Egypt

Wwatling took a tour of Egypt

The major form of transportation appears to be horse carriage for us tourists- there are very few cars/taxis. Many vendors though all with great offers- but selling much the same stuff. – Wwatling

3. Grand Canyon, U.S.: Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon

One quarter of Hally_ollie at the Grand Canyon

One quarter of Hally_ollie at the Grand Canyon

From this point you can see the whole of the canyon and also the desert as well. Along the drive there were signs to watch out for mountain lions but thankfully we didn’t see any. – Hally_ollie

4. Alsace Wine Route, France: Strasbourg to Mulhouse

Bruno.toutain cycled in the Alsace wine region

Bruno.toutain cycled in the Alsace wine region

Cycling the “Route des Vins” takes you through the scenic, hillside vineyards and flowery little villages that dot this picturesque landscape. All in all, combining the region, the wine, and the cycling, you’ll get one of the most amazing and sensory experiences you could dream of! – Bruno.toutain

5. Dalmatian Coast, Croatia: Zadar to Dubrovnik

Randyandchrissy took the long way around the Dalmatian Coast

Randyandchrissy took the long way around the Dalmatian Coast

This place is beautiful. The Coastal road is worth it. You’re riding on this road that’s not too high off the water with a mountain on your left side. Nice. – Randyandchrissy

6. Savannah Way, Australia: Cairns to Broome

Fishtails04 drove through many creeks on the Savannah Way

Fishtails04 drove through many creeks on the Savannah Way

Despite attempts to seal all the gaps with tape, the fine powder had found its way in and coated the car’s contents, including ourselves – luckily I get a kick out of being grubby while camping! – Fishtails04

7. Causeway Coastal, Ireland: Belfast to Lame

Mlbalmeo exploring the causeway coast

Mlbalmeo exploring the causeway coast

The fickle rain gave way to glorious sun, and we got to experience the beauty that the north coast of Ireland is known for. Today we left Belfast and moved to our northernmost destination, Portstewart, where we got to see the so-called eighth wonder of the world, The Giant’s Causeway. – Mlbalmeo

8. South Africa: Cape Town to Mpumalanga

Elopfamily enjoyed the South African scenery

Elopfamily enjoyed the South African scenery

For the next day and a half, we explored the nearby, and very scenic, Blyde River Canyon area. This included such gems as God’s Window, the weird Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Pinnacle, and the Berlin and Lisbon Falls. The beautiful scenery was enhanced by the early morning mists that would drift through, often below our vantage point. – Elopfamily

9. Southern India: Cochin to Kovalam

Tomandanna-rose motorcycle along the mountains to Cochin

Tomandanna-rose motorcycle along the mountains to Cochin

We met the boys in Fort Cochin, after a mASSIVe but beautiful 12hr ride through stunning mountain scenery and lush tea plantations all the way from Madurai, (coincidentally meeting up with the Germans for lunch and noting the considerable wealth and abundance of tasteless pastel villas in Kerala). – Tomandanna-rose

10. Beach Highway, Mauritania: El Mamghar to Nouakchott

Hmax driving through the Mauritanian Desert

Hmax driving through the Mauritanian Desert

Our tarmac road disappeared and the truck bogged for the first time. This was promptly followed by another bog in which we all slowly learned the technique of “sand-matting” the truck across 150 metres of soft sand – which involved digging out the wheels, placing sand mats (steel 2m tracks) in front of the wheels, and moving the truck far enough along the track to allow placement of another sandmat….a slow and exhausting process in 39 degree heat. – Hmax

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