Tag Archives: adventure

5 Indisputable reasons to visit the Maldives

Almost 2 years had passed since we visited Maldives and our memories are still vivid on our eyes and heart. Maldives are simply a dream destination that you shall visit at least once in your life.

We flew in Maldives from Abu Dhabi with a superb Etihad flight and reached Male’ Airport in few hours. From there we took one of those fast boats that in less than half an hour brought us to our island: Lhohifushi Island, located in the North Male Atoll. Simply a piece of paradise. However, if you still need some further facts to convince you to visit Maldives, here you have 5 indisputable reasons to do it.

1 – The Superb Beaches

We all know that Maldives are very popular for their beaches made with fine white sand, but do you really know how beautiful they can be? Natural sand, great vegetation with palms and mangroves and the astonishing color of the water create an unique environment that you cannot miss.

The superb beaches in Maldives

Our island had superb beaches and vegetation.

2 – The turquoise sea

If the beaches are really beautiful, they are not even comparable with the variety of colors the sea water in the Maldives can offer. Light blue, dark blue and sometimes turquoise that perfectly match the clear blue sky.

Maldives colorful water

The sea water is crystal clear and offers a variety of blue/greenish colors that are astonishing

3 – The lovely accommodation and the peaceful surrounding

Our tour operator opted for a resort organized in beach villas. We thought it was a good idea to have some more privacy and an unique but we didn’t expected to have such a great stay. A few steps from the beach but immersed in a very rich vegetation. The island doesn’t have roads, hence cars passing by. There is no noise at all and after the sunset it is really peaceful and quiet.

Beach villas in Maldives

The beach villas where we stayed were lovely located and beautifully furnished.

4 – The amazing wildlife

If you are one of those people that think Maldives are only sand and beaches, you are completely wrong. There are many different species that live in each and every island. We encountered Hermit Crabs, birds, flamingos, and many fishes that populated the coral reef.

Hermit Crab in Maldives

Hermit Crab in Maldives

Maldivian flamingo

Maldivian Flamingo patrolling the sea

Threao Fin Butterfly Fish in Maldives

Snorkeling is an amazing experience in Maldives. Here with a Threao Fin Butterfly Fish

5 – The perfect sun for a long-lasting tan

Yes, of course you might want to go to Maldives for the beaches, the sea and the wildlife but definitely you want to bring home a nice and natural tan that will make all your friends, colleagues and bosses frustrated with envy. Maldives is the right place to achieve that. The sun is very strong and penetrating and, if your skin is protected in a proper way, it  turns your pale grey-yellowish-city-color in a even and healthy brown one.

The perfect tan in Maldives

The perfect tan in Maldives

5 Indisputable Reasons to Visit Seychelles

The Indian Ocean offers a wide range of tropical paradises where it is possible to spend a dream vacation immerse in the nature and enjoying beautiful beaches and turquoise waters that most of the time are really breath taking. Those destinations are easily reachable from Dubai, since they are very well connected and the flight duration is of just few hours.

Among the long list of available destinations, there is no question that the Seychelles archipelago should be at the top of everyone’s list of tropical dream vacation.  Composed by more than 150 islands of different size, the Seychelles were firstly substantially inhabited by the French during the 18th Century and proclaimed independent only in 1976 after a period of British possession.

They are the ideal destination for a romantic stay (it seems to be one of the favourite destination for European honeymooners) or for a vacation that the whole family can enjoy.

Do you need some more? Here there are the 5 indisputable reasons to visit Seychelles to definitely convince you to book your dream holiday today.

1 – The beautiful beaches

There are not only the post-card like beaches to entertain tourists and visitors that most of the time are properly maintained by the various hotels and resorts. as a matter of fact, Seychelles is characterized by many secluded beaches that can be easily reached by a short walk through the forest or alongside the beach and that are pretty much untouched by humans and could be enjoyed in their natural status. The white sand and the turquoise water together with the vegetation that grows close to the beach, make the Seychelles beaches one of the best in the world.

Beaches in Mahe island – Seychelles – Photos taken by me

2 – The amazing flora and unique fauna

The Seychelles are characterized by a luxuriant vegetation that includes mangroves, vanilla, cinnamon, lemon-grass, pineapple, coco de mer and many other trees and colourful flowers. During our stay in one of the available resorts on Mahe island, a local guy (Seychellois or Seselwa in Creole) brought us in the forest and showed to us the different variety of flowers and spices naturally available. Apparently there is also a plant that produce a red seed that if received as gift from a Seychellois brings a lot of luck.

Seychelles Flora - Mahe Island

Flowers in Seychelles – Mahe Island – Photos taken by me

Moreover, the island is inhabited by many particular animals that in most cases are endangered and as such protected. The most impressive one is the Giant Aldabra Turtle that can reach and easily pass the threshold of 100 years  of life. The one present in our resort was 104 years old and seemed to be still in good health. There is also a community of fruit bat that are characterized by a yellow head and many species of crabs always busy in excavating new tunnels in the sandy soil. Butterflies and peacock are not so rare to encounter during a sunny day.

Seychelles Fauna - Mahe Island

Seychelles Fauna – Mahe Island – Photos taken by me

3 – The diving and snorkelling spots

The favourite activity in a tropical paradise that hosts a great coral reef is certainly snorkelling or diving. The Seychelles, as all the other islands and archipelagos present in the Indian Ocean, offers a wide range of corals, tropical fishes and underwater life in general, that can be easily enjoyed by anyone. If you prefer to ‘snorkel around’, just bring your equipment with you and pay attention to avoid unpleasant encountering and to damage the fragile corals. If you are more keen to scuba diving, please consider that many resorts have available a diving centre where professional staff can assist you with equipment and providing you guides. Anyhow, there are also many local companies that organize daily trips to the best spots to visit.
Scuba diving in Seychelles

Scuba diving in Seychelles – photo from www.diverdaily.com

4 – The exploring possibilities

Other than scuba diving and snorkelling that can be done almost everywhere in the tropical  world, Seychelles has the unique characteristic to conjugate the marine activities with the possibility to explore the main land where the irresistible uniqueness of the flora and fauna can be really appreciated. There are indeed many hiking and trekking possibilities and curious places to visit (especially on Mahe island) like the waterfalls and the ‘steps to heaven’.

hiking in seychelles

Hiking Activities in Seychelles – Photos from Google Image

5 – The unique friendliness of the local people

You will be surprise in noticing that all the local people, the Seselwa in Creole, are very friendly and ready to help. Of course, someone will definitely try to get some extra dollar from you but most of them are very nice, polite and honest. I remember that the last day of our holiday we booked a taxi through the resort with the intention to drive to Victoria (the Capital) and then to go to the airport. Well the local driver was so kind to stop from time to time in some special locations to allow us to take photos and to describe the cultural particularities of the Seychellois and the island most recent history.

Once in Victoria, he brought us to the restaurant earlier suggested by the hotel concierge (Marie Antoniette) and promised to be back in one hour to pick us up. Well, he did not ask for any advance payment nor our details. He simply stated: “you will pay once we are safe at the airport”. and so we did.  Truly honest and friendly population.

Seychellois in a beach dance – Photo from Google Image

Skydiving over Palm Jumeirah

Skydiving over Palm Jumairah in Dubai

For those who do not know, I worked and lived in Dubai for almost 4 years (from 2009 to 2013), enjoying the beautiful Middle Eastern city opportunities and attractions. Unfortunately, after such a formative and intense period of my life I decided to change company and consequently city. I did almost everything in Dubai such as attending concerts, going to disco, events, inaugurations, safaris, parks, restaurants and the like, with great satisfaction and amusement.

When I finally decided to say good bye to Dubai, I prepared a final to do list of things I would have never done in a ‘normal time’ and normal conditions. Thanks to my partner, who was willing to do it as well but not alone, I found some mysterious mental energy to afford the great challenge: jump from a plane at 4,000 meters

SkydiveDubai Plane by AndreaDetto

Skydive Dubai Plane that takes jumper above the clouds.

.Well, honestly speaking, I had such a mix of adrenaline and terror in my blood stream that I barely realized that I was supposed to jump from a plane. When we arrived at the Skydiving center, I was like narcotised, not completely understanding what I had around and what I was going to do. We were asked to read and sign many papers that basically were saying that we were conscious of the fact that many things could have gone wrong and confirming that we renounced to file any lawsuit for any reason whatsoever including human mistake and equipment failure.

At that point I started realizing the potential risks that the jump had and started feeling the fear growing up . . . luckily for me, the instructor they assigned to me was Italian and talking in my own language helped me a lot in control the emotions.

After a quick safety induction wherein the instructor explained me what to do and when do it in order to have a safe experience, we moved to the runaway where the little plane was waiting for us. The very moment I stepped inside the plane, I eventually realized what I was going to do and started panicking.

1, 2, . . . Juuump! by AndreaDetto

1, 2, . . . Juuump!

My instructor showed me the altimeter that was indicating 4000 meters and then he said: “ok now, get ready for the launch because we are the second in line. When you see the guy in front of you jump, please move forward and stay in front of the open door, but do not jump.” . . . well the door opened and I saw this guy with his instructor tied on the back approaching it and . . . .woooosh . . . in less than one second they disappeared. . . . mamma mia . . . the fear was growing and it reached the maximum level when I put my head out of the plane and stared at the world under myself . . . panic . . . I was short breathing . . . and then I heard “1 . . . 2 . . . . woooosh”. . . . and I was in free fall . . . . what a strange sensation . . .rotating in the air, feeling weightless  . . . . then a new order come: “open your arms like you are flying” . . .  I was literally flying in the sky over Palm Jumairah that was quickly approaching . . .  pure adrenaline . . . “ready for the parachute?” . . .  whoooooosh . . . .  and the parachute was swung open with that sensation of being pulled from the sky towards the space . . . . And then flying easily over Dubai Marina, maneuvering the parachute until a perfectly safe landing in the dedicated area. . . .

Skydiving over Palm Jumeirah

Flying over Palm Jumeirah was something I won’t forget

Definitely one of the best and most exciting experience in my life.

Everything went smoothly, no problem whatsoever. The staff, instructors, pilots and cameramen were very professionals and meticulous in the safety check of the equipment and this reassured me a lot even though I was anyway deadly scared when I was asked to jump 😉

Once landed, a beautiful surprise come. In the price was included a video of the jump and a series of photos I personally thought to be some low level souvenir. On the contrary, the video is amazing (here) as well as the photos, some of which I posted here.

Highlights of Vietnam – Hanoi

The second place we visited during our stay in Vietnam was Hanoi, the country Capital that is some 2,000 km north from Ho Chi Minh City. Hanoi is a 3 million people city placed on the right bank of the Red river that flows from china and end in the Gulf of Tokin in the South Chinese Sea.

Formerly capital of French Indochina, became the capital of North Vietnam after the independence of the latter and after the North’s victory of the Vietnam War became the capital of a reunified Vietnam. It is the city of Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the North’s forces that lived and ruled from Hanoi the war against the French first and Americans later. The things to see in Hanoi are few and could be easily visited in one/two days stay.

The first thing your tour operator or your travel guide will suggest you to visit is the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. A big building built in a dedicated plaza where the embalmed body of Bac Ho rests. We had to wait a while before entering the room because of the long line of tourists that wanted to see the body. We did not be surprised when our guide told us that even though the official propaganda says that the body is original, rumors among the local population state that the body is just a perfect replica and the real one is hidden somewhere else. True or fake, inside the room it is not allowed to take photos, talk, keep the hands in the pocket and the body is 24h per day, 7 days per week under surveillance of armed soldiers in deep adoration.

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum - Hanoi by AndreaDetto

Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum – Hanoi

Adjacent to the Mausoleum there is the Presidential Palace, a beautiful French style building that was used as house by the French Governor-General of Indochina until North Vietnam gained independence in 1954. The legend says that Ho Chi Minh refused to live in the grand structure for symbolic reasons, preferring to build a traditional Vietnamese stilt house and a carp pond on the grounds close to the building that he nevertheless continued using as meeting place where he received state guests.

The stilt house is composed of two rooms, both of which are no bigger than 10 square meters and contains Ho’s legendary personal effects. The house does not have even a toilet being Ho supposed to have scrapped them from the original design. He used to receive food and other necessary things from the residential building placed nearby.

After the visit to the Ho Chi Minh complex, we went to the Temple of Literature, a temple dedicated to Confucius and place where the first Vietnamese national university (the so called Imperial Academy) was settled. The “Complete Annals of Đại Việt” describes the foundation of the temple as: “In the autumn of the year Canh Tuat, the second year of Than Vu (1070), in the 8th lunar month, during the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong, the Temple of Literature was built. The statues of Confucius, his four best disciples: Yan Hui, Zengzi, Zisi and Mencius as well as the Duke of Zhou, were carved and 72 other statues of Confucian scholars were painted. Ceremonies were dedicated to them in each of the four seasons. The Crown Princes studied here.”.

The place is very peaceful and meditative even though the hundreds tourists constantly wandering around, leaving the visitors to feel the contemplative atmosphere created in centuries of studies. Among the various gardens there is one particularly interesting where the Steles of Doctors were built in 1484. Those steles are a valuable historical resource for the study of Vietnam culture, education and sculpture but unfortunately out of 116 steles erected, only 82 remain depicting names, birth places and graduation date of the 1307 students graduated in 82 triennial royal exams.

In the fourth courtyard there is the “Dai Thanh sanctuary” where the altar of Confucius and his four best disciples are honoured. A dedicated orchestra plays traditional Vietnamese songs in an adjacent building to honour Confucius and the royal founders giving the chance to the visitors to enjoy a rare moment of tranquillity and admiration for the skillful use of the Vietnamese traditional instruments.

Temple of literature - Hanoi by AndreaDetto

Temple of literature – Hanoi

After the temple, our guide brought us to the ‘Vietnam Museum of Ethnology’ that is a must see for those who like to delve into the history and habits of the 54 ethnic groups that live in the country. Well the items provided in the museum are not exactly of the same historical value as Rome , Athens or other ancient cities but it gives to the visitors a good chance to understand the different habits and cultures of the various groups. Out of the 54 groups one is predominating the others: the Kinh also called Viet that represents almost the 87% of the population. The remaining 13% is represented by the others 53 groups that therefore are a very small minority. Outside the classical museum there is a nice courtyard where ancient houses and constructions have been reproduced for the visitors satisfactions.

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology - Hanoi by AndreaDetto

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology – Hanoi

During the day and half we stayed in Hanoi we had some spare time to visit the lake and the surrounding of our hotel (see the Vietnam Hotel Review post for more details). The city is very quite and nice and totally different from Ho Chi Minh City. The Tuc Tuc ride we had in the late afternoon of the last day in Hanoi was really interesting. It is curious to see how million of motorbikes could manage to drive everywhere without any particular limitation without crashing one in each other. Just like the fish in the sea. It seems to be very famous also the “Thang Long Water Puppet Theatre” for which you should book well in advance.

The show is very interesting even though is in Vietnamese and the seats are for small people, probably children. I am 193 cm and had a lot of problem to accommodate somewhere my legs.

Once finished the tour, we headed to the train station because the next step of our holiday was waiting for us: Sa Pa!!! 🙂

Highlights of Viet Nam – Ho Chi Minh City

From Dubai there is only one direct flight to Vietnam and it is an Emirates flight from Dubai to Ho Chi Min City (formerly known as Saigon). Our two weeks holiday, therefore, started and ended in the former capital of South Vietnam that still has the “capitalistic” influence of the Americans and the architecture of the French. HCMC in fact is more complex and westerly structured than the current capital Hanoi placed some 2,000 km up north and that is still a traditional socialist city.

The first thing that we noticed in surprise was the huge amount of motorcycles wandering around as fishes in the sea. We have been told that out of 9 million people living in HCMC, around 5 million use exclusively the motorbike for moving around. Most probably, the reason of this choice is the existence of a 200/300% tax applied to the car sale that makes this mean of transportation very expensive for people that averagely earn 1,500 USD per year.

The city was called Saigon but it was renamed in Ho Chi Minh City after the conclusion of the Vietnam War in honour of Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the socialist party that fought against the French first and the Americans later. surprisingly enough, we met many tourists coming from the States that wanted to visit the place where the US Army had such an hard time and caused many victims expecially with the use of chemicals weapons.

During our stay in HCMC we visited many places out of which I would recommend few that should not miss in your list as follows.

Ho Chi Minh City attractions map

Ho Chi Minh City attractions map

Notre Dame Cathedral: a Romanesque style church built during the 19th Century to support the French colonials after the conquer of Cochinchina. All the construction materials were brought directly from France. In 2005 the Virgin Mary statue was reported to have shed tears.

Central Post Office: built in the early 20th century in a neoclassical architectural style, it was designed by the famous architect Gustave Eiffel in harmony with the surrounding area.

Reunification Palace: it was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and became the symbol of North Vietnam victory when on April 30, 1975 a North Vietnamese tank bulldozed the main gate and occupied the Palace. From November 1975, Ho Chi Minh changed its name to Reunification Palace in order to celebrate the victory in the long lasted war.

War Remnants Museum: a must see museum in Vietnam with a lot of exhibits related to the American part of the war. Even though with a bit of ‘propaganda’ added here and there, the museum could help the visitor to understand the horrible atrocities committed during this ideological war that was actually started by the French.

Photos from Ho Chi Minh City by AndreaDetto

Photos from Ho Chi Minh City by AndreaDetto

 – Jade Emperor Pagoda: The Jade Emperor is in the Chinese culture the ruler of Heaven and it is one of the most important Gods in the Chinese traditional culture. It is also worshipped by Taoist and represents the Cao Dai for Caodaism. Other than the Jade Emperor there are also a fertility goddess, the Lord of Hell and even the Buddha of the future. The entire collection is somewhat of a fusion of Taoist, Buddhist and Confucian mythologies.

Saigon Opera House: a clear example of French Colonial architecture in Vietnam.

– Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee: formerly a luxurious French hotel, after 1975 has been assigned to the people’s committee. It is not open to public for visit but it is an astonishing example of French colonial architecture. In front of the palace there is the Bac Ho statue (Uncle Ho).

Cho Ben Thanh: If you seek for a local market where is possible to find some present to bring back home, you might want to visit this market (cho in vietnamese). Just be informed that there is no air conditioning inside and most of the time you can get a 75% discount after a very minimal bargain. I remember that my partner asked, just for curiosity, how much was a giant dead scorpion in a glass box. The guy replied 5,000 dong. She politely thanked the guy and walked away. “4,000 – 3,000 – ma’am 2,000 – ok, for you 500 dong” . . . everything in less than 20 seconds.

Photos from Ho Chi Minh by AndreaDetto 2

Photos from Ho Chi Minh by AndreaDetto

We managed to visit almost all the attractions by walk, however Jade Emperor pagoda is quite far from the centre and we needed to take a Taxi. We have been told that it could be risky to take a taxi in Vietnam unless it is a respectable and trust-able company as Visasun or MaiLinh. We took a Visasun taxi and even though the driver did not speak a single word of English, we managed to show him a local map and he dropped us just in front of the Pagoda. Just take note of few suggestions: ask always to have the meter on, ask someone else how much should be the fee to be paid before getting into a taxi (we asked to a waitress in a restaurant before taking the taxi) and how long it will take the journey, just to avoid any possible scam that apparently is not that uncommon.

Our Highlights of Vietnam Itinerary

Highlights of Viet Nam – Story of two weeks holidays

Originally Posted on 7th April 2014

It was the end of 2013 when we start thinking about our next holiday due to be in March 2014. We did not have many options because being based in the Middle East (myself in Saudi Arabia and my partner in Dubai), we had already explored the closest tourist destinations like Malaysia, Maldives and Oman just to name a few.

The winter season forced us to discard Europe and the monsoon season forced us to avoid Bali and other locations affected by heavy rains.

For this reason we decided to move eastwards looking for a more suitable weather and all of a sudden we decided to visit Viet-Nam. We had been told that Vietnam is a quite new destination for tourists and that it is really enjoyable but most of the Vietnamese do not speak English and therefore it would have been hard to self-organize a two weeks holiday.

Our Highlights of Vietnam Itinerary

Our Highlights of Vietnam Itinerary

For this reason, we contacted a local tourist agency (Vietnam Holidays) that organized for us the whole trip following our desires. As you might know, when you start organizing a trip you have the tendency of adding things to do and places to visit to realize later that maybe you have asked yourself too much. Our holiday was more a “tour de force” than a leisure holiday because we managed to visit 7 different cities from the North to the deep South of the Country by getting 3 internal flights and driving more than 30 hours, cruising 3 days for a total of almost 4,500 km travelled. But we loved our trip. We saw so many things. Explored so many places. Ate so many different dishes. Amazing.

At the end of the holiday we were exhausted but happy.

Incipit

I have tried my times to start a blog and eventually I managed to keep it running for more than two years. Even though I was spending my best endeavours in this project, I was getting very little satisfactions in terms of views.

I was very close the definitely give up when my partner objected that my posts were just fine and that the problem was Blogger. She recommended to switch to WordPress because it is the best in this field and hence here I am.

I will be reposting the stories I have written in the past 2 years in the attempt to re-create a sort of logical path for the reader benefit.

This blog is about an Italian that moved in Middle East in 2009 and experienced the lifestyle in Qatar, Dubai and Saudi Arabia. I have met thousands of people in these years and faced many problems and lived many adventures that I would like to share with you.

Since I lived and worked in Middle East for so many years, I would like to be your eyes and ears in this part of the world.

I decided to name the blog ‘mykaleidoscopecalours’ because our life is like one of those kaleidoscope. If you look around you will see things with different angles and colours.

mykaleidoscopeclours.wordpress.com

Our life is like a kaleidoscope. Shake it and you will see things differently.