Exotic Vacations is a Destination Management Company that specializes in delivering memorable and exotic vacations in Sri Lanka. A team of passionate people bring to life the entire operation which was established in 2002 by its founders that enrich its functioning with their wealth of experience within travel and leisure industry…
The mission at Exotic Vacations is to provide an exclusive, highly personalized and professional service all of its clients…
Right from guest arrivals at the airport, the tour operator focuses on guest comfort and satisfaction. Luxury transport options, a choice of accommodation options and multi-lingual guides are made available for guests at every stage of their holiday.
Have you ever considered volunteering abroad? Have you ever wanted to find a secluded place in the world, still fairly untouched by mankind?
Well have I got the place for you!
Esperanza Verde (E.V.) is a wildlife refuge center and reforestation project in the Ucayali region of the Peruvian Amazon founded in 2010.
E.V. is run by Dutch couple, Olivia and Douwe who have transplanted their little family deep into the jungle where they are trying to make a real difference with reforestation and animal rehabilitation due to injury, habitat loss and the illegal pet trade.
To get to EV you need to take a 20hr bus from Lima to Pucallpa, or a 1 hour flight to Pucallpa followed by a Collectivo (Shared taxi) to the town of Curimana. Once in Curimana, it is your last chance to buy chocolate, rum and use the internet. From here you take a canoe across the river, followed by another collectivo through the small town of Las Mercedes and finally ending up in the tiny town of Bello Horizonte. Once again, you need to cross another river by canoe until finally you arrive at this small oasis in the jungle.
The total cost to stay for one whole month is just $270 USD including all food, very decent accommodation and a donation to the continuation of the refuge centre.
All volunteers are required to work 5 days per week from 8 till 4 or 5pm with a one hour break for lunch. The work consists of feeding the resident animals which includes a lot of fruit cutting as well as cleaning the animals cages from their previous feeding.
After breakfast it’s time to help Douwe with general construction work. Cages that need to be maintained or built, walls fixed, concrete poured and houses painted. Olivia may need some specialized help with cleaning, translating documents or collecting the shopping.
Over all the work is hard but very rewarding. Once you’ve finished for the day there is always a free hammock to take a snooze in, or you can go for a swim in the waterfall close by.
As of September 2013 there were 6 permanent resident animals including 2 tortoises, a sloth, a baby monkey a ground dove and a tapir. There are other animals who have been successfully released and still come back for a visit every once in a while like Igor the Tamarin monkey, and then there are released Capuchin and Squirrel monkeys who still hang around and are fed every day but do not have a cage.
Elmo the Sloth (a definite favorite with all the volunteers, he is such a sweetheart!)
Olivia and Douwe with the help of their local workers and volunteers have also managed to plant two million native trees in a fight against deforestation. They also aim to educate the locals from the surrounding areas on animal and forest conservation.
My personal experience at Esperanza Verde was absolutely incredible. Experiencing life without electricity or hot water for one month and being surrounded by the sounds of nature as it should be was something I will never forget.
Volunteering is not for the faint of heart but it is something that will stay with you forever as will the friendships that you create.
Melusine & I building a wall in the Tapir enclosure.
If you’d like to learn more about this wonderful project click here.
Can’t volunteer your time? Why not make a donation instead by clicking here.
Written by Hana de Wit
India is definitely a ‘sensory overload’ sort of place. And while holiday snaps are great as a visual reminder of what you did, what gets forgotten is the rest of the sensory experience, so before that happened to me, I wrote it down.
One major revelation from visiting India is that Indian restaurants in the UK are misinforming us. The long-held belief that Indians eat their food waaaaaay hotter than we could handle is a lie. The domino effect of that lie is that idiots then order the hottest (and most expensive) thing on the menu to prove that they can handle it. But for an authentic Indian meal, go for flavour, not heat.
We ate almost exclusively vegetarian food for the entire tour – tons of deep, complex flavours – and the hottest thing that we ate was some tandoori lamb. We ate too many excellent dishes to list them all here, but here’s a top tip: if you get the chance to have a cooking lesson as we did in Orchaa, do it. The full meal, cooked in front of us in the sitting room of a local woman, was the best food we had on the whole trip – aubergine curry, pumpkin curry, mango chutney unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before, handmade bread. The experience of sitting on her floor while her family just carried on their normal life around us is one that will live long in my memory.
It’s hard to really explain how a country feels to touch, so instead, here are a few of the textures that really stood out for me on our tour:
- Riding a camel out to the sand dunes and feeling its muscles move underneath me
- Those same sand dunes beneath my feet as we sat with a cup of masala chai and watched the sun go down
- Sitting on the dusty leather of a cycle rickshaw or tuk tuk, driving around a city
- Incredibly smooth, brightly coloured silk at the factory visit in Varanasi
However, from a purely personal point of view, I have to tell you about my top touch experience of the whole tour: a wet shave at the barber’s next to Hotel Moments in Delhi – the best wet shave I have ever had. Not only did they shave me, they also massaged my face and scalp, plus they gave my back and shoulders a much-needed and gratefully-received rub down (two weeks of minibus travel had taken its toll!) – and all for less than £1.
The smell of India’s cities takes a while to get used to. As you walk out of the airport or the train station, you can smell the heat. I don’t mean things that are warm because of the heat – I mean the actual heat. It knocks you in the face as if to say “brace yourself”.
For every waft of delicately spiced street food, there’s the slap in the face as you walk past one of the city’s public rubbish tips, handily located right outside a metro station. Luckily the smell of animal waste is masked by the fug of exhaust fumes. And then when you walk into virtually any commercial premises – shop, restaurant, cafe – the all-consuming smell is that of nothing at all, until your nose reconfigures and can start to pick out the delicious aroma of someone else’s lunch or the sweet incense burning in the corner.
For me, the sound of India is unmistakable – it’s car horns. Sure, there are plenty of other noises that fill every daylight hour and beyond (barking dogs, the world’s calmest cows, that apparently-patented foghorn noise that the IPL cricket organizers play every 30 seconds and that comes out of every TV in every bar and restaurant) but it’s unarguably the car horns that stay with you the longest. Upon arrival, the sheer noise and frequency of the horns is a real shock.
I live in London, and up until I arrived in Delhi, I thought London taxi drivers were the most horn-happy around. Not so – in India, the car horn is used as a sort of second language. It usually seems to mean “hello, I’m in a car” but can equally mean “my car is bigger than your car, get out of the way”, “do you want a lift?” and “even though I’ve been sat in this traffic jam for half an hour, maybe using my horn for the millionth time will make it move”.
But – and this is the weird thing – after a couple of days you get completely used to it. By the time we reached Jaipur on the third day of our tour, the horns were basically Classic FM – background music that you don’t even realize is playing apart from the occasional jarring dischord.
By the final stretch of the tour in Varanasi, I was picking out actual pieces of music in the horn symphony. A strain from The Man With The Golden Gun here, a long-forgotten advert there. On reflection I’d have got a better night’s sleep had the hooters not been parked directly outside my hotel window, but at the time, recognizing the middle 8 of Wonderwall was a minor triumph.
cravethewave asked: Hey, hey! I saw your reblog of my message to travelthisworld and would love some tips on how you picked up on the language so quickly?! :D Is your national tongue anything remotely close to Spanish? & How did you find trilling you R's? Hard?
Warning, this is a long reply!
So I am a native English speaker from Australia and this year I spent 3 months in South America (Peru and Bolivia). Spanish is TOTALLY different to English, being a romantic language I did find a few words/sentences hard to get my tongue around. Trilling my R’s however, I found very easy to do, just comes naturally I guess?
This tongue twister helps with some pronunciation
"Tres tristes tigres comen trigo en un trigal" - 3 sad tigers eating wheat in a wheat field.
So in a nutshell, here is my guide to learning a language in 6 weeks!
a) Be immersed in the language. Don’t spend too much time with other English speakers and if someone is bilingual you should still speak to them in Spanish regardless of how good their English is.
Only use bilingual Spanish speakers when a rule related question is necessary.
b) Find your favorite book that you know very well and read it - In Spanish! I picked up a copy of Harry Potter y la piedra filosofal. (See, you instantly learn the word for stone just from the title!)
I spent at least 1 hour every single day with a dictionary and my journal.
c) Buy yourself a pocket journal and take it everywhere! When I learned a new word, that was common in a book or necessary for daily use, it went into the journal. The first few pages should be filled with numbers from 1-1000 because this is very important to know.
c) Go somewhere rural, find a local, and stay the night (or longer!)
Now I know this one is not so easy to do but it happened to me accidentally and was one of the best things I did for my Spanish. I was forced to speak with a whole family of Peruvians, in a rural area where the accent was difficult and the people spoke very fast. They were very patient with me, but also very persistent. They wanted to get to know me, and find out what I was doing and where I was going so I needed to try really hard, with my little pocket dictionary. By the next day, I had learned a whole host of new words! (As well as made some friends!).
d) Related to the above… when you are forced to learn in a difficult environment such as deep in the jungle or in a rural village where the accent is hard to understand, the people speak incredibly fast and its hot and humid and you’re overwhelmed and tired from the effort of just trying to communicate - it’s actually the best way to learn. As soon as you get back to an area where the locals have a softer, easier accent, you’ll feel like you’ve improved instantly and it’s a big confidence booster.
All in all, keep at it. It’s very, very hard work at first. It can be frustrating and tiring but when it ‘clicks’ and suddenly it all makes sense, it’s the best feeling in the world!
Hope this helps! Let me know if you need any more help!
P.S. I’m now up to Harry Potter y el caliz de fuego!
Once the great grey heart of China’s communist regime, Beijing now boasts colourful districts that mix historic buildings with contemporary art and design. Here are three places to plug into this hip new side of the Chinese capital.
The harsh industrial landscape of this East-German-built military factory area has been transformed into Beijing’s artiest district. Giant red dinosaurs stare down onto the main street while pop-up design displays showcase the latest Beijing look. 798 Art District (named after one of the factories) is packed with galleries, studios, workshops and trendy shops and cafes.
Simply wander the streets, and take your pick of the galleries. Most open by 11am and don’t close before 5pm (many open longer). They range from the prestigious UCCA (ucca.org.cn) with some serious international art to Enjoy Art Museum (2 Jiuxianqiao Lu) with a wall full of contemporary prints (at very reasonable prices) and Woman in Love showcasing some excellent female artists.
Several of the galleries have their own cafes and there are plenty of independent eateries, mostly small, intimate and stylish – perfect places to chill out for a bit. If you are into ceramics, try Teapose, or on a nice day sit outside at C. Café (798 Zhonger Jie). In the evenings, At Café (4 Jiuxianqiao Lu), with its pizza oven, designer interior (with chopped-through brick wall) and outside tables perfectly placed for people watching, really is where it’s at.
If you fancy staying the night here, there is just one hotel, the achingly hip boutique Grace Hotel (even the soap is organic goji berry).
For further information and events listings see www.798district.com.
Not so long ago Beijing was a maze of narrow alleys flanked by traditional Chinese courtyard housing. These hutongs were the residential heart of the city. In the last couple of decades China’s modernisation has swept most of the tiny, intimate, car-unfriendly hutongs away, replacing them with high-rise concrete and glass. In Gulou however, the hutongs have survived to transform into one of the coolest areas of Beijing.
The main road, Gulou Dongdajie (not a hutong) starts off with shops full of electronics and electric guitars. It slowly morphs into something more like London’s Camden Lock – an area of vintage clothes and trinkets, offbeat boutiques and cafes. To either side are hutongs – some hung with red paper lanterns – bustling with bicycles, rickshaws and motorcycles, residents lounging about and a meandering crowd of shoppers and browsers.
Small independent shops sell everything from leather to lighters, cashmere to candy floss, calligraphic bookmarks to novelty socks, pandas (on everything) to a pig in Red Army uniform. There is a bar crawl’s worth of quirky little drinking holes. Start off with a cocktail at cosy little Mai Bar (40 Beiluoguxiang) or a whisky at wood-panelled Amilal (48 Shoubi Hutong, behind 66 Gulou Dongdajie). And if you need a snack (and have a stomach for not-perfectly-hygienic Chinese eateries) drop into Wang Pangzi’s Donkey Burgers (80 Gulou West Street). As the Chinese saying goes, ‘in heaven there is dragon meat, on earth donkey meat’.
One of Beijing’s few hutong courtyard hotels is in Gulou, the very popular 10-room designer Orchid Hotel (www.theorchidbeijing.com).
In the heart of the capital near Tiananmen Square, Dashilan is tipped to be the next designer area of Beijing. The creatives of the capital are trying to save its historic hutong buildings – including some gems of Chinese Art Deco - by filling them with contemporary art, fashion and design.
The area was the centre of Beijing’s Imperial-era commerce from at least the Ming dynasty, serving the neighbouring Imperial City (The Forbidden City) where commerce was not allowed. Dashilan’s brands adorned the heads of court officials and the feet of royalty. It became the capital’s red light district too and its West End/Broadway. It was home to Beijing’s first cinema (1905) which is still functioning (Da Guan Lou Cinema, Dashilan Street). Inside there is a small exhibition about the origins of Chinese cinema and a lively cafe.
Dashilan lies just west of Qianmen - the broad street that runs south from Tiananmen Square. Historic Qianmen was bulldozed before the Olympics and rebuilt as a neater modern copy of itself. Now home to Starbucks, Uniqlo et al, it has focused the historically-minded on protecting the neighbouring area.
Drop into the little corner wine shop (Men Kuang Hutong), open since 1900, to taste traditional ergotou (strong rice wine) or relax at the cafe at 37 Dashilan West Street (there is no English name), a jumble of wooden tables, dressers, clocks, bird-cages and photos of old Beijing (for sale). A Spoonful of Sugar (59 Tie Shu Xie Jie) has just opened as an ‘upcycling’ art workshop (creating new from old) and gallery-shop.
The same team is opening a cafe, ReUp, about 30m along the road in October 2013. The autumn will also see the arrival of several fashion boutiques and the new Ubi Gallery (contemporary jewellery and ceramics, www.ubigallery.com). Ubi is already in Dashilan but will be moving into an historic brothel building currently under restoration.
Juliet Rix travelled with Bespoke Beijing (www.bespoke-beijing.com).
I am currently looking for a reputable course in Travel Journalism.
If anyone is currently or has studied Journalism or more specifically travel journalism, anywhere in Australia then I would like to hear about it!
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I appreciate any help, feedback or information that you may have.
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Cuba is a country in motion and I don’t just mean the various modes of transport you’ll find yourself taking. The fact that Cuba is slowly changing is apparent in subtle ways, from the brand new ATM in Trinidad to the Pepsi recently shelved in city supermarkets. The country hasn’t completely opened up, but the door is slowly moving further ajar. We visited Cuba at the height of the tourist season, yet it didn’t feel overrun with tourists. To be honest, I hate to think what it will be like when it is, so my advice is to go as soon as you can. The top five reasons may not surprise you, but they are a few of the things that make Cuba what it is.
For ‘Havana Good Time’
It’s no secret that I am a city girl at heart, and Havana had me at “hola.” Reminiscent of a crumbling Barcelona with an injection of 1950′s HDR, Havana is both charming and exciting. It’s a visual city with a vibe that is nothing but catchy, and the tunes and talented people behind them are infectious.
‘Good food’ does not make this top five, but still, Havana is the place you’ll find it. Check out the paladares to start – they’re private restaurants often set in old mansions. La Guarida was one of the best meals I’ve tasted, and in the quaintest of settings. For rooftop ambience, the affordable lobster at Atelier is a winner, and to see the new wave of Cuban entrepreneurship firsthand, swing by La Pachanga for a decent burger and beer at an unbeatable price.
For the Rum
Rum might not make everyone’s list, but being the Bacardi lover I am, I was in seventh heaven in a country where rum (locally called Ron) is almost cheaper than water. Havana Club is the most popular tipple and although I’ve had a better mojito in Ljubliana, I have not had a more delicious daiquiri than that served at the Museo del Ron Havana Club. The bar here beats famous Hemingway haunt El Floridita hands down in terms of actually being able to reach it,and I actually preferred their daiquiri – sorry Ernest! In Pinar del Rio we stopped to check out the La Occidental Guayabita del Pinar rum distillery. The sweet ‘dulce’ rum made with guavas was so tasty it made its way all around Cuba and back home with me. Worth saving for a special date.
For La Musica
Cuba is a country that appeases your senses without trying. There’s always something to see, the smell of cigars and the taste of rum, but overall it’s the music creating a continuous backing soundtrack that really sets the scene. Almost everywhere you go, any time of day, there is music – and with music comes dancing! Our driver took us to a wonderful little local Casa de la Trova in Sancti Spiritus where we could dance the night away with the locals, learning the steps as we went. Likewise, our time spent at Casa de la Musica in Trinidad, where the open-air square fills with people looking to salsa, remains an evening we won’t forget soon. (Even after all that time we spent with Ron.)
For the Cubans
The people of Cuba made our trip. We were fortunate to have our vastly knowledgeable guide Conrado, who has such a passion for his country. We also spent time with locals, enjoying an impromptu jam session at the beach and staying with local families in casa particulares who appreciated the small gifts we brought with us. And ladies, if you’re looking for a confidence boost, Cuba is your country. “My beautiful flower” and “muy bonita” were regular cries to the girls in our group and said with genuine friendliness. We found the people we met to be open to answering questions, meaning we got a real insight into Cuba, its history, what it is like to live there, and what its people hope for the future. They were equally interested to hear about our lives in other parts of the world, so it made for interesting conversation. Many Cubans also rely on the tourist dollar for income, and you won’t regret spending your holiday money here.
For the Wheels
Yup, I’m talking about the vintage cars, but not just the vintage cars. It’s super fun rolling to the sounds of the motor of an old pink Chevy, and these cars rocked a few of our journeys from A to B, but most surprising were the other ways we travelled. Horseriding in Vinales was stunning, the Coco Cab along the Malecon in Havana was a blast, but power ballads in a Lada with a few of the gang in our group was probably the most memorable ride. Who knew Cuban taxi drivers could love Lionel Richie so much? I have to give a shout-out to our wonderful mini-bus driver here too – Pepino, nicknamed for where he comes from in Pinar del Rio, where cucumbers grown in abundance.
Cuba is a place I had wished to travel to all my life and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. Our G trip was a fun group of people of all ages from around the world, and my friend and I enjoyed the extra days we took to experience the beautiful Caribbean waters of the Eastern beach of Guanabo near Havana. Go now – you won’t regret it!