Category Archives: World Travel

Dublin Christmas – Portrait of the City as a Christmas Wonderland

Story by William Brown exclusively for

Dublin Christmas Lights cc image by Sebastion Doris on FlickrA Dublin Christmas. Dublin may not be the first city you think of for Christmas or Winter travel, but the truth is – it’s a fun city to visit any time of the year. Yes, it rains in Dublin, yes, it can be cold in Dublin but are you there for the outdoors? If you are – then you’ve made a terrible mistake. Dublin isn’t the place for skiing, hiking, or other outdoor activities when it’s cold – but – it’s a city that has weathered the winter for a long time and there is plenty to do indoors at Christmas time.

More than just pubs (which are pretty fantastic anyway – there’s a reason every city in the world has an Irish Pub!) there are spas, gastronomic delights, world class cuisine and plenty of quirky, historic, or downright luxurious hotels in Dublin – like The Westbury Hotel – a five star hote in Dublin. You can relax, watch shows for a fraction of the price you would pay in London or New York, enjoy shopping, and if you are lucky enough to be there at this time of the year you can enjoy a truly Irish Christmas.

Dublin is magnificent at Christmas time. The turning on of the Christmas lights has become an annual pageant that not only switches the lights on, but also kicks up the festive Christmas Spirit like nowhere else on Earth.  More than 30 streets in the city center take part in bringing the season to life.

Whether you are old, young, with family, or on a couple’s holiday – there are numerous Christmas festivals, Christmas Fairs, and other jolly happenings from early December all the way through the New Year.

If you’ve forgotten to send out your Dear Santa letters there are special mailboxes set up just for express service to the North Pole at St. Stephens Green. Santa himself will make appearances at roadshows and malls throughout Dublin bringing elves, Rudolf, Mrs. Claus, and Frosty with him.

You can catch the Santa Experience at Dunnes Store which was voted one of the best children’s Christmas experiences in all of Ireland.  (Dunnes Stores, Henry Street, 2nd Floor, Dublin 1)

In my opinion, one of the best  Santa events is the Santa Grotto at the Dublin Zoo.  From 20-24 December kids can meet Santa, meet gorillas, meet elephants, and arts, crafts and a gift for the kids from old St. Nick himself.

For those who love European Christmas Markets, you won’t want to miss the Christmas Market at Christ Church Cathedralwhich runs for a final day on Saturday, the 22nd of December.  Handmade and festive Christmas crafts and goods are there in plenty for unique gifts and a wonderful Irish Christmas experience.  (Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin 8)

There are literally hundreds of special family Christmas events, plays, shopping center displays, and more in Dublin. Here is a pretty nice list of Christmas events in Dublin.

For the adults there are plenty of Christmas cocktail parties, Christmas jazz, Christmas spas, and Christmas events throughout the city up until the big day. And after that, they continue as New Years Events, after that, it’s St. Patricks Day events…this is Ireland after all. No shortage of excuses to grab a pint of Guinness or a fine glass of whiskey.

Wherever you are Best Wishes for Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Or if you prefer the Gaelic – Le gach dea-ghuí i gcomhair na Nollag agus na h-athbhliana! 

27 Quick World Travel Tips

Here are 27 quick tips to make world travel better. What are your quick tips for world travelers?

1) Say hi to other people who are traveling
2) Don’t flash your bling
3) Catch a cab and talk to the driver about cool things to do (Cabbies are almost always multi-lingual)
4) Scan a picture of your passport and give it to someone you trust
5) Get a nice padlock and use it when necessary (It takes two to steal: the thief and the one who left an opportunity)
6) Wear long pants during long transport
7) Look at the mattress…know what bedbugs look like
8) Stay where you get breakfast for free
9) Make sure hot water is included
10) Find paperback exchanges
world travel tips
11) Stay longer and get cheaper room rates
12) Fill out your couchsurfing profile completely
13) Look for free fruit on the trees
14) Look for language exchanges
15) Don’t leave your phone in your room
16) Bring your own condoms
17) Don’t get so drunk you can’t take care of yourself
18) Trust your instincts about people
19) Eat the local food
20) Always ask for a second price
21) Don’t wander around alone late at night
22) Don’t give up your passport
23) Bring your valuables to the shower with you in a hostel
24) Eat lots of cheese if you get diarrhea
25) A handful of nuts makes hunger go away
26) Get a haircut and a shave (or a wax and a style)

This last one is my personal opinion only.

27) Drink the water.

What are your quick tips for world travel?

6 Southeast Asia Water Adventures – #3 is my favorite!

Exclusive for Vagobond by Melissa Ruttanai Photos by Neil Friedman.

In mainland Southeast Asia, adrenaline junkies and nature lovers will discover full-throttle water sport adventures. Without mandatory deposit fees equivalent to mortgage down payments, visitors trek, snorkel, raft and kayak in pristine waters. For those seeking beaches, grottos, and limestone landscapes, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam have become prime destinations. In Southeast Asia, adventure begins where the tides meet the shore. Here are 6 Southeast Asia Water Adventures.

Kayaking in Southern Thailand’s Angthong National Marine Park

Inland Sea, ThailandFor Hollywood filmmakers, billionaires, and broke college students, the Gulf of Thailand remains a draw for many waterborne adventure seekers. Northwest of famous Koh Samui Island, Angthong National Marine Park is an archipelago of 42 limestone islands carved by tide and wind. While camping is allowed with a permit, many visitors arrange tours out of Koh Samui that include swimming island lagoons, trekking trough the mountain, and eating at a local village. During the day, explore small coves and sandy beaches. Snorkel with tropical fish and survey Koh Wua Talap, the largest island in the chain, or Koh Mae Koh that boasts a green-blue inland sea called, Talay Nai. Glide kayaks across the Koh Mae’s bay and relax to the delicate sound of your paddle dipping into gentle waters while high promontories loom like grey-green sea monsters.

Boating through Vietnam’s Halong Bay

With a UNESCO World Heritage seal of approval, Halong Bay sits on the northern ridge of a limestone chain that sweeps up from the Gulf of Thailand and Angthong National Marine Park. Here, the karsts cluster into a mystical array of gray stone, verdant brush, and boats with iconic colonial sails and rudders. Meaning “dragon descending”, Halong Bay includes 2000 islands and over 600 square miles of the Tonkin Gulf, offering visitors dozens of beaches, grottos, and caves to explore. With its high salinity, bathers can jump right from the ship into waters so buoyant there’s hardly any exertion necessary. Stretching across the water surface, visitors can drift all day among spiraling crags. Visit floating houses lashed together into small villages. Or tether broadside to local fisherman, selling giant prawns and squirming squid straight from their nets. After a day caving, pull into Cat Ba Island, a favorite retreat for Hanoians escaping the city.

Southeast Asia Resources
Southeast Asia Hostels
Hotels and Flights in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia Travel Insurance
Southeast Asia On A Shoestring
Round the World Airfare

Sailing through Daily Life on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia

Tonle SapSix miles south of famous Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, Southeast Asia’s largest lake, Tonle Sap continues to play a vital role in the life of local Cambodians. Fed by the Mekong River during the wet season, Tonle Sap remains a major waterway for commerce and transportation. Every day, ferries carry commuters and cargo across the lake on their way to and from Battambong. For US$5, travelers can gaze through a window of life on the lake, witnessing how families live in boathouses, cooking, reading, and raising children in narrow canals. Children attend floating schools on large boats with open windows and basketball courts enclosed by high fences. Families visit floating hospitals, teetering gently in the wake. Women buy fresh fish and produce from vendors rowing along peacefully.

White Water Rafting in Luang Prabang, Laos

Luang Prabang RiverLaos’ religious and cultural capital, Luang Prabang is a town known for Buddhist temples, daily markets, and a laidback pace of life. At sunrise, monks and novices traverse the UNESCO World Heritage streets. At sunset, fishing boats shift back and forth in the wake of speedboats heading to China. On one side of the town, the Mekong River skims along, a wide boulevard of fertile silt and dependable currents. On the other, Nom Khan River sweeps in from the east, offering visitors white water rafting and kayaking for any skill level. From town, tours can be arranged with door to riverside transport included. On their second day in Luang Prabang, travelers could find themselves clad in helmet and life vest, digging hard into rushing currents. Guides lead rafters through crashing white waters and ominous rocks creating whirlpools. In the reeds, Lao children play in the shallows, making the peace sign as they splash each other. Along the river, mountains as diverse as the wildlife press up against the shoreline. Stilted houses perch on slopes growing tea. Birds cut across black rock cliffs. And women plod up and down terraced vegetable patches.

Tubing in Vang Vieng, Laos

Tubing in LaosIn the 1970’s, backpackers looked around for a convenient stopover during trips between Luang Prabang and Vientiane, the capital. From this necessity, Vang Vieng burst onto the scene, offering accommodations, meals, and more recently, tubing. On the riverside, two companies rent out massive inner tubes and drop travelers off upstream for a day of lazing on the river, listening to birds, and losing all thought to mountain peaks. From these humble beginnings, the tubing trend has become the main activity in town. On the river, bars jut out from the tree line, pulsing with Bob Marley tunes and hawking cheap mixed drinks. Bars feature ziplines, mudslides, and tug-of-war pits to keep patrons docked at their shores. On the river, meet other travelers and become inspired by how many consecutive days they’ve tubed the river. Back in town, relax on triangular pillows, enjoy the mountain air, and recharge for another day on the river.

Swimming with Elephants in Pai, Thailand

Elephants in ThailandSitting on the highway route between Chiang Mai and Mae Hong Son, the little town of Pai is a major stop along the traveler’s path in northern Thailand. Here, artists absorb nature’s inspiration and Thais retreat from the bustle of metropolitan life. While there’s plenty to do on foot and motorbike, a popular activity in Pai is elephant trekking. Hotel staff can make tour reservations. In the morning, a guide escorts you to the elephant camps. The world grows quiet on the outskirts of Pai. Elephants eat bananas and throw grass into the air. The elephant trainer called a mahout helps trekkers mount the pachyderms and settle onto a thick blanket. No saddles here, riders spend the day bareback in the sun as the elephants walk through the forest. At the river, elephants suck water up their trunks, spray a cold drink into their mouths, and save just enough to splash up at their riders. Once the mahout gives a command, the elephants shake. The riders hold on tight only to be flicked like flees off the elephant’s back. Up into the air and down into the river, the riders splash, getting their cold drink too.