Oahu – the easiest romantic holiday ever

Oahu. A land where swaying palm trees and aquamarine beaches meet fine dining and five star hotels. Where surfing, smoothie shacks coupled with road trips to meet dinosaurs are part of the everyday. Where honeymooners dance under the stars and couples curl up on the beach in cabanas. It’s almost too easy to turn on the wow factor on the most famous of Hawaii Islands, so if you’re looking for a getaway that is high on romance and low on effort, this is it.

One stop wonder

Oahu has long been the favoured hotspot of Aussies looking for a one stop shop – one non stop flight and you’ll be sipping Mai Tai cocktails on the beach. Even before you leave the tarmac, the holiday starts now. Hawaiian Airlines greets passengers with the ukulele playing on the plane speakers, chocolate covered macadamias on your meal tray and in some cases, a rum punch before landing. Departing Sydney and Brisbane daily, you’ll cruise to Honolulu in around ten hours, enjoying a menu designed by Executive Chef Lee Anne Wong, who has her own famed Koko Head Cafe in Honolulu. We’re talking treats like Chicken Adobo and chocolate covered macadamias. And that’s just in the main cabin. Business class menus include the likes of Crab and Sweet Corn Cakes and Warm Teriyaki Salmon Salad, with Chilled Guava Strawberry Pie for dessert. You’ll disembark at Honolulu’s open air Daniel K. Inouye International Airport terminal with a smile on your face and a few Hawaiian melodies in your heart.

Sunsets deliver

The sun sets on Waikiki Beach at 7pm in summer, tinging the length of one of the world’s most famous beaches in dappled pink and purple as it dips below the horizon. It doesn’t quite get as pink as the Royal Hawaiian’s famous blush coloured façade, but it’s a show rarely interrupted by rain or bad weather. One of the best spots to soak it up is from the manicured lawn of The Royal Hawaiian, where the famous hotel’s luau takes place every Monday and Thursday. The fading light is the backdrop for a spectacular visual storytelling of Hawaii’s past, starting with a slow, peaceful hula, before speeding things up with fire twirling and some seriously impressive hip work. The show doesn’t kick off until the sun is setting – guests spend the hour prior basking in the warm weather tucking in to a buffet of traditional Hawaiian slow cooked pork, heirloom tomato salads, Korean ribs, ginger fried rice and of course, the Royal Hawaiian’s famous pink coconut cake for dessert. Not all luau’s are created equal and  the Royal Hawaiian luau is a show stealer. The sunset is the icing on the cake.

First lady of Waikiki

Since 1901, the Moana Surfrider, a Westin Resort & Spa, has been considered the grand dame of hotels lining the white shores of Waikiki. The original Beaux Arts style building at its heart,  has all the glamour of Gone with the Wind, gone tropical – walk under the archways and ionic columns, past the grand wooden staircase, out to the open air courtyard where a mighty Banyan tree reigns over rocking chairs, outdoor bar and the pool, before sinking your feet into the sand. These days the new tower wings host additional guests, but everything retains the white, creamy tone, from the beds to the balconies. The ground floor wrap around verandah hosts the Beach Club Lounge on one wing, where guests in suites and above can pop in day and night for breakfast, snacks and canapés ­– the mini macadamia muffins in the morning are a must – and the chic Beachhouse restaurant on the other wing. Dinner here is a fine dining affair, with glasses of crisp French rosé, an Ocean raw bar with ahi sashimi, kona abalone and lobster, and a mighty Tomahawk steak that goes down a treat with creamy local garlic mashed potatoes and a glass of red. Don’t go past the chocolate s’mores for dessert; a sphere of dark chocolate cracks over vanilla gelato, graham crumbs and gooey handmade marshmallow. Unlike many of the hotels on Waikiki Beach, you can walk straight through the Moana’s front door, look past the banyan tree and see the water in front of you – you’re on the sand in a minute flat. This is the spot for unrivaled beach access, without the crowds. It feels intimate and special, and these days that’s precious.

Dish it up

If you thought Hawaii was all about burgers on the beach, think again. There are restaurants for every type of cuisine clustered just back from the beach – Asian, Italian, Mexican, American, and every kind of fusion in between. If you’re after a special meal, make a beeline to the open air rooftop of the International Market Place shopping centre. Called the Grand Lanai level, this is where you’ll find the serious food, in clever open air dining that lets you sit out under the stars or soak up some air conditioning. STRIPSTEAK WAIKIKI takes things up a notch, with an indoor outdoor bar leading into a super sleek dining room where you’ll find some of the island’s best served steak. Ask for one of the chic booths alongside the black rock walls to watch the magic unfold. Chef Michael Mina has a reputation for serving up showstoppers all around the world and he doesn’t disappoint in Hawaii. Dry aged beef, trios of duck fat chips, steak tartare with quail egg, salads made with local Waipoli greens, and a caviar ‘twinkee’ are just a taste of the menu. The flambé Maui Gold pineapple foster is flamed right at your table and served straight up in a half cut piece with haupia sorbet and vanilla-infused rum. It’s the new crepe suzette and we’re never going back.


If you want to shop, Hawaii is your spot. Unlike other American hubs where the malls are outside of town, you’re spoilt for choice without even leaving the Waikiki strip. Walk off dinner with a peruse of the International Marketplace shops – the likes of Kate Hudson’s own legging label Fabletics, Sketchers, Anthropologie, Abercrombie and Fitch await. Duck into Tesla on your way out of the International Market Place, head down the street to Macy’s, Victoria’s Secret and Sephora. If you’re after a proper mall experience, Ala Moana is only 10 minutes down the road, just past Ala Wai Boat Harbor. The good news is, there’s no need to stress about your luggage limits. Hawaiian Airlines’ bag policy will cover you, with 2 x 32kg bags for all international departures.

Meet the dinosaurs

Hop in your Jeep and head north for an hour to Kualoa Ranch for a fix of star power to up the voltage of your romantic getaway. The Private Nature Reserve sprawls over 1,500 hectares of Oahu’s most spectacular forest, valley and mountains – making it the favourite for some of the world’s biggest movies. Its major claim to fame is Jurassic Park and Jurassic World. You’ll spot classic scenes and even sets from the movies throughout the property, including jumbo sized dino bones. There’s also locations included in King Kong, Lost, Jumanji and a host of other movie shows. You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to exploring the Ranch. There are ATV tours, horseback riding tours, VIP movie tours, trolley tours – almost every type of tour departs from the ranch style home base, which feels a little like an extremely well run school camp, but it’s the ziplining tour where you get to see the real star. The rainforest. Over two hours you zip through the ‘Jurassic Valley’, across seven different zip lines and two suspension bridges, laughing, screaming, canon balling, jumping and even superman flying over trees and rivers. It’s a birds eye view up close, with the longest zip line stretching nearly 400 metres through the valley. The guides are a well rehearsed cast, sharing quick history lessons in culture, botany and history; their jokes are still fresh and their efficiency at latching you on and off each zip line in record time is impressive.

At the heart of history

Take a few hours and head indoors (yes it may sound counterintuitive, but trust us it’s worth it) to explore the Bishop Museum. Officially the Hawaii State Museum of Natural and Cultural History, this beautiful historic building dates back to the late 1800s, and is housed in what was once a boys school. These days the halls house artifacts and objects from the islands of Hawaii’s dramatic past. Everything from whale skeletons to towering Kahili feather standards are on display – with each room more dramatic than the next. Navigating the maze-like staircases is part of the fun, the building is on display as much as the unique pieces of Hawaiian history. Save time to duck across the manicured lawns to the Science Adventure Center included in admission. Big kids will enjoy simulating waves and learning about volcanoes. 

Getting there

Oahu is the easiest of the Hawaiian Islands to get to from Australia – hop straight aboard a Hawaiian Airlines flight departing daily from Sydney and three times a week from Brisbane and you’ll heading to the beach in no time. If you want to splurge and really arrive in style, try the Business Class seats on the Airbus A330 – lie-flat beds, top notch food and wine, great entertainment the whole way.

For great deals on the Hawaiian Islands, click here

Lisa Perkovic was the guest of Hawaii Tourism and Hawaiian Airlines

The post Oahu – the easiest romantic holiday ever appeared first on Out There Starts Here.

Source: Out There Starts Here | 29 Aug 2019 | 4:26 am

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Why we love Hawaii Island

Are you looking for a romantic getaway that’s big, bold and beautiful? If you want to take things up a notch, and go way beyond the typical honeymoon, anniversary or couple’s getaway, you need to make a beeline for Hawaii Island. Here’s why:


First off, yes, there is a reason Hawaii Island is known by many as the ‘Big Island’. It’s bigger than all the other neighbouring islands that make up the Hawaii Islands combined, but it has the least dense population. That means less crowded beaches, roads and sightseeing await. It also means huge variety when it comes to what you’ll see. Hawaii Island has all but four of the world’s defined ecosystems. You can go from rainforest to alpine plains in less than an hour.

Weather you can’t beat

No one likes a tropical getaway when the sun doesn’t shine, so if you want sunshine in spades, Hawaii Island’s Kohala Coast is for you. Kona and Holualoa sit perched on the Western side, blessed with plenty of sunshine year round. The Eastern side is where you’ll find the rain – Hilo is one of the world’s wettest cities – and the best base for exploring the Volcanoes National Park, but luckily there’s plenty of diversions on the Western side to keep you away from the rain. Book your plane ticket from Australia all the way through to Kona Airport with Hawaiian Airlines, and you’ll hop off in Honolulu, before heading on a quick 40 minute flight over to the island, without having to pay any additional baggage fees – you’ll get the same generous international quota of 2 x 34kg bags, even for the inter-island transfer, so you can pack clothing for all the different adventures waiting for you.

Fire and ice

If you’re a couple that love a dramatic plot line, or a good dose of adrenalin, hop aboard a helicopter tour – the volcanoes on Hawaii Island are not currently erupting but there’s still plenty of action to see when you can get up close. Hover above smoldering craters, circle round waterfalls and valleys aboard a Blue Hawaiian helicopter ride. The pilot dips through smoke, cloud and mist to get you the best birds eye view – Top Gun wannabes can go for the ‘co-pilot’ experience and help make radio calls from the front seat.

Wonders of the deep

What could possibly be more romantic than a paddle under a full moon? How about a night time snorkel with giant manta rays? Ok it’s not traditional romance, but witnessing the graceful twirls of a manta ray right in front of your snorkel is a moment you and your special someone will remember forever. In the peaceful waters of Keauhou Bay, in Kona, manta rays spend their evenings swimming around looking for dinner – boats of all sizes put out LED lights to draw in the plankton that make up their supper. Anelakai Adventures does things a little differently, launching outrigger canoe with drop down lights. On a good night, there’s only a few minutes of paddling away from the jetty before we stow our oars, drop the LED lights down into the water and hop in. We hang onto tubes strung between the hulls of the canoe and wait for the show to start. Many of the big tour operators launch floating platforms, but with just six people per canoe, we’re happily hanging on to the edge of the canoe peering down into the shallows. The stars are bright, the water is clear and the mantas frolic in one night time show we’ll never forget.

Top down

If there’s one trip to splurge on an open top hire car, this is it. Grab a head scarf and some big sunglasses, pull back the roof on an iconic Jeep Wrangler or a Mustang and feel the wind in your hair as you cruise along Hawaii Island’s well maintained and hardly used highways. On the trip from the airport up to the Waikoloa Resort area you’ll cut straight through lava fields, with the black pitted rock rising up and out in undulating waves all the way to the sea on your left and the mountains on your right. As you pull into Waikoloa, peer up at the palm tree lined road. This is heaven.

Resort life

Leave your worries at the door when you walk into the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa. Spread out across sprawling grounds, the rooms have recently been renovated to include USB charging ports, chic floor boards and luxe King-size beds that go down a treat. The infinity pool, the kids pool and the waterfall pool cluster together in front of the Hawai‘i Calls restaurant, which means freshly made cocktails are never far away, but there’s also the poolside bar for icy granitas and snacks. The cabanas are hot property, but worth every penny, with two drinks vouchers, comfy day beds and unlimited towels for $50USD a day – put your name down to hire one as soon as you arrive to make sure you don’t miss out. Settle in for a day by the pool, with happy hour kicking in at 4pm and the sun not setting until 7pm, you’ll certainly get your money’s worth of pool time.

The best looking history lesson

On Hawaii Island you don’t need to go to a museum to get a history lesson, you just need a boat. Sea Paradise sailing tours take you along the Kona coast on a 45 foot trimaran, with drinks, snacks and staff with good jokes to keep you company until you arrive at Kealakekua Bay. This is the spot where Captain Cook is said to have perished, with a stark white obelisk marking the spot just ashore from some of the best reefs around. Grab your snorkel and set out for a closer look, just don’t forget about the fish and coral below you – and don’t forget to look up at the towering cliffs. Legend has it these are the site of ancient Hawaiian burial sites. It’s a spot steeped in history. Hop back aboard for a history lesson and chilled out sail home – complete with chocolate chip cookies.



Long walks on the beach might be the height of romance for some, but let’s be more practical and grab a day bed. Lava Lava Beach Club is the perfect spot to soak up sunset. Feel the sand between your as the sun sips low on the ocean right in from of the Lava Lava Beach Club. Only a few minutes walk along the sand from the Marriott, Lava Lava has long been known for its live music sundowners, and serious ocean front location. Grab some pupus (Hawaii for nibbles) and some Mai Tais or even a bottle of bubbles and settle in for the show. If you’re down near Kona, grab an outside table at Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai– the kona coffee rubbed ribeye and a jumbo key lime pie go down a treat with the sunset.

Getting there

Ready to hit the road? Pack your bags and book your tickets with Hawaiian Airlines – don’t forgot to book your inter-island ticket when you purchase your international fare. There are flights daily from Sydney and three times a week from Brisbane to Honolulu – add on Extra Comfort seating for at least five inches extra leg room, extra amenities, power outlets, charging ports and priority boarding. From Honolulu to Kona there are flights almost every half hour 5am-11pm every day. The daylight flights are our pick as you’ll get a stunning view of the runway, located right in the heart of a volcano field.

Add the flair back into your next romantic getaway with a trip to Hawaii Island – check out these great deals for the Hawaiian Islands.


Lisa Perkovic was the guest of Hawaii Tourism and Hawaiian Airlines

The post Why we love Hawaii Island appeared first on Out There Starts Here.

Source: Out There Starts Here | 29 Aug 2019 | 3:24 am

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Exploring Thailand Filter Free in Trat, Koh Chang, and Chanthaburi

We sent travel expert, Garry Norris (@garry_norris) to experience the beauty of Thailand filter-free and show us the lesser known parts of Thailand. Exploring Trat, Koh Chang, and Chanthaburi, Garry uncovered mouthwatering chicken satay, beautiful beaches, and authentic parts of Thailand one could only dream about.


Not only is Thailand an inspirational destination, it is a tropical wonderland— full of beaches, great food, and even greater people.


My love affair with Thailand all started with my first trip in 2003. Since then I have returned pretty much every year. I fell in love with Thailand’s food, its culture, and its natural beauty. There’s just something about walking down the streets and smelling the Thai food that makes me feel a great sense of happiness.


I arrived at Trat airport, which is the gateway to this amazing province, and was picked up by a local driver who took me to a remote hotel called Centara Chaan Talay Resort and Villas Trat, located on a private beach close to the border of Cambodia. It’s always late at night when I arrive in Thailand, so I developed a bit of a ritual: I check into my hotel, call room service instantly and order some Pad Thai. And that’s what I did!


The best place to spend you’re morning at Centara Chaan Talay


A New Adventure Awaits


The next morning, my local driver collected me early for my transfer to Koh Chang. We left from Ao Thommachart pier, and after a relaxing 40-minute ferry crossing, we arrived at the beautiful island of Koh Chang.


The car ferry to the Island of Koh Chang


From the ferry terminal, it was straight to Salak Phet Seafood for lunch. They have the best Tom Yum soup I’ve ever eaten—and I’ve eaten a lot of Tom Yum. Now if I can just get the recipe!

Over water restaurant and hotel at Salak Phet


With a full belly, it was time to head to a local fishing village on the island called Ban Salak Khok, here I took a Thai Gondola boat through the village and out into the beautiful mangroves.


Exploring the Ban Salak Khok fishing village


My accommodation for the night was at the luxurious, 58-room Dewa Hotel Koh Chang. The hotel is amazing, situated on the beautiful Klong Prao Beach. It’s the perfect place to watch the sunset over the Gulf of Thailand.


Watching the sunset over the Gulf of Thailand


The next morning after breakfast, we headed to Klong Plu Waterfall and spent a leisurely hour strolling through the rain forest. After a short hike, we reached the waterfall, where there were plenty of rocky areas to lay and catch some sun.


Klong Plu Waterfall


Our afternoon in Ban Nam Chiao Village was courtesy of another ferry ride to Trat mainland. Ban Nam Chiao Village is a picturesque local village where we took a traditional Thai gondola ride through the village and out into the harbour with amazing views of Koh Chang. I returned to the village for lunch prepared at a local homestay. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten in Thailand and would highly recommend tracking this place down on your next visit. And the locals were incredibly friendly! Even though there was a language barrier, it was still an amazing experience.



Cruising the waterways


Lunch at the local homestay in Ban Nam Chiao Village


Chanthaburi Local Eats and Markets


After a restful night at the Centara Koh Chang Tropicana Resort, I was once again on the move. An hour and a half journey took us to Chanthaburi. There, we visited the Khanom Plaek Community at Khlong Nong Bua canalside to explore the dessert market. The community is a village of unusual local Thai desserts of Chanthaburi. Almost every household in the village makes an unusual dessert for visitors to try. Amongst the local desserts, there is a famous one called ‘ Kuy Ling’, which is a sweet made of taro and coconut, then rolled and cooked in water.


A local making her famed Kuy Ling dessert


With my stomach full once again it was time to head to Soi Sri Chan Road, which holds a famed gem market on the weekend. People come from all over the world to buy gems here—a great place to pick up a bargain.


A local getting his gems ready for a day at the market


Then it was a visit to the Chanthaburi Gem and Jewellery Center. As Chanthaburi is the biggest gems trade and production center in Thailand and Southeast Asia, this was a must-stop. Khanom Plaek Community at Khlong Nong Bua canalside is situated at Tambon Nong Bua, Amphoe Mueang Chanthaburi. The community’s market is open all day on Saturdays and Sundays.


That night I ventured out in search of some famed Thai Street Food’ –Som Tam (green papaya salad), Chicken Satay, and Pad Thai, all finished off with mango and sticky rice, and a bag of the most delicious sweet pineapple you’ve ever eaten. Don’t be afraid to eat the food from roadside vendors in Thailand, it’s always fresh and cooked on very hot coals.


The best chicken satay ever


Dining at the local market


After I ate what felt like all of the food in Thailand, my driver collected me and drove to my next accommodation for the next two nights, Blue Rabbit Hotel in Chanthaburi.


An Ancient Community


The morning of my final full day brought us to visit Old Town Chanthaburi Waterfront. Old Town Chanthaburi Waterfront is an approximately 300-year-old community that has been around since the reign of King Narai the Great. Currently, the area of the Chanthabun Riverside has been developed and promoted to be a center of art and cultural preservation, as well as a cultural attraction. The road along the riverside used to be a commercial area. There are classic old houses mixed with cute little modern cafes and gelato bars, this place is a must-visit if you’re in the region. The morning was completed with a visit to the beautiful Cathedral of Immaculate Conception situated on the opposite side of the river.


Chanthanaburi Old Town




After lunching at the old waterfront, it was time to hit the road again to find somewhere to escape the humidity from the wet season. We decided that Namtok Phlio National Park would be the perfect place. The park is incredibly beautiful and is home to Namtok Phio Waterfall where the locals hang out and swim. Trust me, after a walk and all this food that I’d been eating, I was grateful to relax in the refreshing water.


Namtok Phio Waterfall


The day ended with a bowl of pork noodle soup. I just tried to find a place that all the locals were eating at, and then just followed along like a little sheep. You can’t go wrong with that, right? It was amazing.


This trip to Thailand was really special. Visiting these lesser-known villages in Thailand definitely gave me a more well-rounded, positive view of this country, and I plan to return next year to discover even more.


Khob-kun-Krub (thanks in Thai), until next time


If you’re interested in booking your own Thailand adventure, check out these special offers from Expedia.

The post Exploring Thailand Filter Free in Trat, Koh Chang, and Chanthaburi appeared first on Out There Starts Here.

Source: Out There Starts Here | 26 Aug 2019 | 3:35 pm

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Exploring Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son Filter Free in Thailand

The famous white temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand

We sent travel expert, Lauren Bath (@laurenepbath) to experience the beauty of Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son, Thailand filter-free. From must-have meals to recommendations on places to see, Lauren proved that no filters are needed in this beautiful country.


Despite all the destinations I visit, I keep coming back to Thailand. Why? I’d be lying if I didn’t list the food first. I’m an ex-chef and spent many years in Thai kitchens. Thai food is delicious—an irresistible combination of sweet, salty, sour and spicy.


Food is always a motivator for me, and you can’t go wrong with Thai food. Be adventurous and you won’t be disappointed.


Also, nostalgia! Thailand was the first international destination I ever visited, and I was a late bloomer to travel. I was 26 when I first forayed from Australian shores and Bangkok was a big culture shock, but one that I embraced totally. The smells, the sounds, the chaos, the people, the food frying in the streets. It was so much, it was incredible.


And culture! No matter where you go in Thailand, you’ll see locals doing more or less what they’ve been doing for generations, going about their business. Thai people love to smile, and they love to eat. Everywhere you look you’ll see locals tucked away in small eateries slurping bowls of noodle soup, at markets with bags full of exotic ingredients and bustling through the streets laughing and chatting with friends. (Probably on their way to eat some more.)


Thai people always seem to be smiling, maybe that’s why it’s called the land of smiles?


Despite my many trips to Thailand over the years, I still hadn’t done much in the North. So, I jumped at the chance to explore Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. With only six days on the ground, I was prepared to make the most of every minute.




My adventure started in Chiang Rai, a mountainous city to the north of Thailand, close to the borders of Laos and Myanmar. Arrival was surprisingly easy, considering my assumed remoteness of the destination. One connection in Bangkok and I was there. FYI, Bangkok has one of the best systems for ‘International to Domestic’ transfers I’ve experienced in the world.


A curious Thai boy, not sure what to make of me.


I arrived in the evening, my favourite time to fly into a new city because it means I can go straight to sleep and wake up fresh to explore. I was transported to the delightful Riverie by Katathani , right on the Mae Kok River, and fell into an excited sleep. Thailand here I come…




The next day started how I always love to start a Thailand trip, with a visit to the local markets. It’s true, you can learn more about a country and its people by visiting a market than any other way. A tradition for me is to always have a local Thai omelette for breakfast on my first day, so my mission was to find a vendor.


Only the freshest and most seasonal food can be found in a local market. For cents on the dollar you can try it all – like these mini pineapples!


Don’t be afraid to really sink your teeth into the local food! If it’s cooked fresh, in front of your eyes, you’re guaranteed it will be safe. And, when you can’t find someone who speaks English, don’t be afraid to point and gesture. This is how I’ve fed myself in Thailand for years. In fact, I obtained my coveted omelette by googling a Thai omelette and showing it to a lady at the markets. Hot and fluffy, a Thai omelette is shallow fried in the wok and served on rice. I like to eat mine Thai style, with fresh chillies in fish sauce liberally scattered on top.


With breakfast out of the way, I took my time to explore the rest of the markets and topped up my stomach with a bag of the best pineapple you’ll find anywhere in the world! My remaining sightseeing adventures for day one consisted of a visit to the Doi Tung Royal Villa, lunch at local favourite ‘Khao Soi Vijittra’ and a stop in at the Chui Fong Tea Plantation. Although I loved all three, lunch was a highlight because the food was 100 percent local and authentic (at local prices), but there was an English menu! A win.

Okay, I have a confession to make. I ordered all of this for myself! Thai food addict for life!



The Chui Fong Tea Plantation is well worth a visit! Although I was more interested in taking photos, there’s also a wonderful tea house and gift store.




Day two was reserved for culture! I had planned a full day of exploration around some of Chiang Rai’s best known, and lesser known, temples. First up was Wat Huoy Pla Kang, an impressive temple complex with a white temple, a giant buddha up on top of a hill and a 9-floor pagoda. I spent my time looking around, but my favourite was the temple. I sat and lost myself to the music for a long time. According to my guide, the monks also serve a free breakfast of traditional noodles every morning, but we were too early! I like to be out at the crack of dawn.



The inside of the white temple at Wat Huoy Pla Kang was serene and lovely.


Next, we visited Wat Rong Suea Ten, the stunning blue temple, followed by Baan Dam. Baan Dam is an art museum of sorts, a collection of pieces by Thawan Duchanee and other artists. It wasn’t what I was expecting. The work is dark but intriguing. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed, I’m happy to report that a local tea house serves mango and sticky rice (a Thai classic) and nearby vendors peddle sweet, local, mini-pineapples.


Any time you see this iconic Thai sweet, order it immediately. You can thank me later.


Our day finished with a sunset at the unmissable Wat Rong Khun. I opted to visit outside of opening hours because I was mainly interested in the external structure and I wanted to avoid the crowds. The universe rewarded me with a unique sunset—well – unique to Thailand. Despite the heavy cloud coverage, we got some wonderful pops of pink as the sun sank into the mountains. You can explore these, and more, activities to do in Chiang Rai here.


A unique sunset at the famous White Temple, captured with no crowds.




Waving goodbye to Chiang Rai the following day, I was excited to finally visit Mae Hong Son. Mae Hong Son is a sparsely populated, but culturally diverse province that is home to many hill tribes. I had the pleasure of spending three days in the region, and meeting people from Black Lahu and Buddhist Karen Villages.

A young girl from the Black Lahu Village of Ban Jabo. Technology has truly spread everywhere.


I’d highly recommend a visit to Ban Jabo as there’s quite a lot to do! I spent time in the famous coffee shop, sipping my Americano whilst watching the fog roll through. I also spent a morning with a local host as she showed me the local farming lands and gathered food for lunch. This was topped off with a climb up to the intriguing coffin caves, a place with a mysterious history and long teak coffins perfectly preserved. (Although the remains have long been claimed by researchers.)


Possibly the best view I’ve ever seen sipping on my morning coffee.


An intriguing morning spent learning about local plants, farming practices and the nearby coffin caves.


I also recommend a visit to Baan Muang Pam. Here, I learned a lot about how local artisans work and service. I met a herbal medicine man, a bamboo weaver, a wood carver, and a clothes weaver. It was an interesting morning, well spent. There are heaps more activities in Mae Hong Son, so it looks like I’ll be back.


Thailand is an exceptional destination, and a naturally beautiful one, too. I challenged myself this trip to capture the raw and honest moments. I didn’t use any tricky photography skills or photo manipulation or filters; I wanted pure and authentic images to showcase all that I saw.


You can’t help but be captivated by all that you see here. And it’s impossible not to immerse yourself in it all! The food, the arts, the culture, the nature and the absolutely ‘Thai’ way of life.


Filter free and beautiful

The post Exploring Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son Filter Free in Thailand appeared first on Out There Starts Here.

Source: Out There Starts Here | 25 Aug 2019 | 11:00 am

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Couples, get ready to get caught up in Kauai

If you ask anyone who has been to the Hawaii Islands to describe Kauai, it’s always the same. Untouched wilderness. Magical sunsets. Pristine beaches. Lush rainforests. They say it with awe and tell you to go there, immediately.

When it comes to raw natural beauty, Kauai will sweep you off your feet and whisk you away for the adventure of a lifetime. If you’re looking for somewhere to escape the real world with your special someone for a few days, Kauai is calling.

Escape to the rainforest

If you’re a couple that love to get back to nature, make a beeline for the Kauai Backcountry Adventures. Their check in building is just past the airport, and doesn’t look particularly adventurous, but it’s a slick operation so within 20 minutes you’re hopping into a van, with a lifejacket, a headlamp and a helmet, and heading up into the mountains. The drive up through the backcountry is spectacular – you’ll stop at a few lookouts ­– but it’s the tubing where the scenery gets really stunning. The Mountain Tubing adventure is a half day float through the old sugar cane irrigation channels cut into the rainforest back in the 1870s. You’ll glide silently through dark tunnels, emerging into the dappled sunlight, giant trees and vines towering overhead. The flumes are the only piece of this land that’s been touched by man – all you’ll hear are birdsong and the splashes of your fellow tubers as they tip their heads back to gaze up at the canopy. A rustic picnic at the end of the float awaits, before it’s back into the van and into town.

Get ready for a tubing adventure. Image by Tor Johnson and Hawaii Tourism Authority

Be brave and zip into sea caves. Image by Tommy Lundberg and Hawaii Tourism Authority

Head to the coast

Say goodbye to cars and people for a few hours, and hello to windswept hair, dolphins and towering cliffs on a trip to the Nāpali Coast. What’s so special about a coastline you might ask? The 27km long stretch of sea cliffs will take your breath away. Rising up to more than 1,200 metres at their highest point, the cliffs are dotted with waterfalls, nesting birds and down at sea level, sea caves that the brave can enter at low tide on a boat. Not just any vessel mind you. The two hour journey aboard Captain Andy’s zodiac speed boats isn’t smooth sailing; you’ll bounce and jump around on the waves, but the small boats can duck into the sea caves long enough for you to gaze around in wonder and grab a photo before zipping back out on a wave. A visit to the whirlpool-like ‘Washing Machine’ sea cave is just the right amount of adrenalin rush. The pod of dolphins we meet on the ride back to the sleepy seaside town of Eleele on the island’s south was the icing on the cake. It’s a moment you and your special someone won’t forget.

Sun and sand

The southern end of the island is the most popular spot to set out to see the Nāpali Coast, and that alone makes it a great base for a few days, but there’s also the fact that this side of the island is blessed with bountiful sunshine. Head to the small town of Poipu and the sprawling resorts along its coastline for a few days of sun, sand and pool time. The Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort has almost too many pools to choose from, if you can tear yourself away from strolling the rolling manicured lawns along the oceanfront. Head just down the road to RumFire at the Sheraton Kauai, where the tables by the window are designed for loved up couples looking to watch the sunset with a cocktail in hand.

Surf or swim, or just watch the sky at Hanalei Bay. Image by Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson

Surfs Up

If you’re a couple that’s more concerned with catching waves than sunsets, head north, all the way around the eastern side of the island to Princeville. The region may get a little more rain, but there’s plenty of sunshine between passing showers and some of the best surfing around. Grab a board and head out to world famous Hanalei Bay, where first timers and experts have plenty of space to catch a few waves. If your special someone is heading out on a board but you’re not, walk to the jetty for the best spot to grab a few happy snaps in action – you won’t be alone, there’s always a few photographers out there. After your session, it’s not too far back into town, where a small stretch of the Kuhio Highway has been taken over by juice shacks, art galleries and cafes. The Hanalei Bread Company’s cute cottage is always busy – grab a coffee and a freshly baked muffin and sit on one of the tables nearby for an impromptu picnic date.

After dinner treats

What’s a date without dessert? You’re spoilt for choice in Hawaii – the locals definitely have a sweet tooth. There’s Malasadas doughnuts, mochi ice cream, coconut cake and chocolate covered macadamias, but there’s nothing more iconic than shaved ice? In the cute town of Kapaa, halfway down the east coast, is where you’ll find Wailua Shave Ice. The Winnebago food truck is co-owned by executive chef Brandon Baptiste, who left Michelin-starred New York restaurants to return home and take shaved ice up a notch. He uses fresh fruit juices to create an icy treat that’s just like tasting Kauai in a bowl. Now that’s a sweet way to end the day in Kauai.

Stop by Wailua Shave Ice. Image by Hawaii Tourism Authority/Heather Goodman

You can’t go to Hawaii without trying Shave Ice. Image by Hawaii Tourism Authority

Travel in style

Kauai will take you back to nature, but there’s no need not to get there in style. Try out Hawaiian Airlines Business Class for the long haul flight and arrive ready to make the most of all Kauai has to offer – we’re talking lie flat beds and that famous Hawaiian hospitality. If that’s not your style, there’s also Extra Comfort seats in economy, where you can stretch out and make yourself comfortable. There’s extra legroom, priority boarding, power outlets and amenities kits to keep you comfy while you fly. Regardless of where you sit on board, you’ll have a chance to try ‘POG’ – Hawaii’s famous Passionfruit-Orange-Guave juice. It will really help set the mood for your Hawaiian holiday because this tropical juice takes things to the next level.

Getting there

When it comes to this kind of island paradise, you might think it’s somewhere remote and hard to get to. Not so! Hawaiian Airlines flies direct from Sydney every day, and three times a week from Brisbane. There are flights almost every half hour from Honolulu to Kauai, from 5.30am through to 10pm. It’s just an extra 40 minutes flight time to add on to your journey, and you’ll even receive a handy inter island map on board so you can hit the ground running.

Days spent out on the sea with salt in your hair, or up in the mountains soaking up the fresh air, evenings drinking in sunsets and tasting local Hawaiian treats – Kauai is waiting for you.

For great deals on the Hawaiian Islands, click here

Lisa Perkovic was the guest of Hawaii Tourism and Hawaiian Airlines

The post Couples, get ready to get caught up in Kauai appeared first on Out There Starts Here.

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