CAMBODIA: Travelling overland by bus from Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

CAMBODIA: Travelling overland by bus from Phnom Penh-Siem Reap

Overland Bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap:
Travelling overland on local transportation is not for everyone I’ll admit, but I’ve always felt it gives you a great opportunity to get a glimpse into people’s everyday lives of the country you are visiting. This is truly something you cannot experience flying into & out of a city and just visiting the city itself. 

So this bus ride was approximately 6 hours (very bearable) from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. As you can see above there are very clear rules (if you are doing this yourself) as to who to get from Point A to Point B 

As bus travel goes, it was actually great (much better than the bus trip we took in India in 2009!!) Started out with a boxed lunch onboard, pastry with ham and a muffin as well as complimentary water handed out. Onboard were funny ‘black market’ movies that were dubbed so badly in English, they were almost unintelligible and  at times you could see the reflection of the person filming the dubbed movie. Good times!

Loved getting to see many areas of the countryside as we drove from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap province over the course of 6 hours. Seeing people working in their rice fields, walking the water buffalo, or carrying all kinds of EVERYTHING on bikes, donkeys, bicycles – you name it and it carried something on these roads.

Yes, there’s a bike in front of this

Many places the road had been washed out by heavy rains or flooding. It’s truly amazing to see some of these rural areas of Cambodia and previously Vietnam.


Upon arrival in Cambodia we were whisked away to Tonle Sap Lake. Where the homes and storefronts along the Mekong River seemed at times unstable as they stood on stilts in the dank water, the homes on Tonle Sap Lake are entirely built around the boat itself as the main living compartment. This allows the residents of Tonle Sap to move with the dry and rainy seasons, further up and down the lake as the water rises and falls. 


Tonle Sap Lake, Siem Reap

If your life ever presents the opportunity, take advantage of an overland bus trip in ANY country as you get to see SO much more of the local country and people’s customs even from community to community!

VIETNAM: Mekong Delta Floating Markets (Cai Be – Vinh Long – Can Tho)

VIETNAM: Mekong Delta Floating Markets (Cai Be – Vinh Long – Can Tho)

I love when I visit a place and it is exactly as my imagination expects it ‘should’ be. This is thrilling and gives me some of my absolute happiest travel moments. The Mekong River and its tributaries evolved before my eyes, just as I expected. The river offers up its own style of life and watching people live out their daily lives on the banks of the river was amazing to witness and experience.

Mekong Delta, Cai Be, Vietnam (J Camsell/Copyright)

There is a great deal of poverty evident along the river as we witness people in the murky, brown ebb & flow using the waters as everything from a bathroom and wash-up area, as well as a toilet, a place to wash clothes and throw out dirty dish water, as well as a place to catch fish for eating. We are told there are no more crocodiles in these waters along the banks, but you know all kinds of snakes and water life exist in the muddy waters.

The Mekong is wide and raging at some points and slow and still at other points and just about every form of life activity is carried out on the River. You can witness life happening just about everywhere you look: petrol stations along the way, huge cranes on barges dredging sand and salt from the waters, men fishing in the low, shallow waters, shops offering caskets for sale, other factories selling rice products, coconut products and just about everything one could imagine.

The factories we visited were all family-owned and many generations would all work together to run the many operations of the business. Young men working over labour-intensive hot stoves cooking and puffing rice in black sand (the sand keeps it at a level temperature so the rice doesn’t burn) to make what we call “rice krispie” cookies, another line of women cutting and bagging the puffed rice into the single cut cookies and wrapping them in rice paper or plastic, others shaving coconut from the shell to make coconut milk we buy in cans off the shelf, and still others pressing the rice to make rice wine and rice vinegar.

Making the Rice Krispie Cookies! (J Camsell/Copyright)
Snake Oil anyone? (J Camsell/Copyright)

Amazing factories and way of life. Of course there are many larger factories that use machines to do this, but these smaller, family-run factories along the Mekong Delta will sell their products to buyers along the Delta, who then sell to even larger buyers who may sell to markets overseas. Everything in the circle of life.

Hammock stops: It is the best thing I have ever seen. To offer drivers a place to rest and take a break from the heat if they are driving any long distance, there are everywhere you can see along the roadways, these rest stops or “hammock” stops. Small places where you can pull in your motorbike and jump in the hammock for a quick nap, and you’re on your way again. Fantastic. I am in FULL SUPPORT of the hammock stop!!

We ended our day in Vinh Long area.

Contact Us for assistance with planning your travels to Cambodia, Vietnam, Asia or any place you’re interested in!

VIETNAM: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

VIETNAM: Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Lobby of Kim Do Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Sept 1, 2012 after 18 hours of travel (What a LONG flight, but travelling Cathay Pacific First class cabin makes it SO much easier)! More about that in another post…

Some housekeeping notes: 
1) VISA ON ARRIVAL in Vietnam (Cdn Passport holders): was a painless process. 

Needed: 
– $25 USD cash 
– Visa application completed (if you don’t have one, they will give you a form to complete) 
– 4×6 passport style picture 
– Visa on arrival letter from tour company you will be touring with (If you do not have this letter, VOA might be much more difficult & we suggest you contact a Vietnamese tour operator to make arrangements)

They take your application and picture, process the Visa on the spot (takes about 10 minutes) call you back up to wicket, you pay your $25USD (make sure you have exact cash required in hand). Make your way to immigration/customs, and pass through customs cheak, pick up luggage and make your way to exit, as per normal (if you have a driver waiting for you, they should be just outside exit doors with your name on sign) 

After check-in to hotel (Kimdo Royal Hotel) was located in the new tourist section of hotels and upscale shops. This is where one of my problems with travelling always happens. I truly LOVVEEE being in the guts & glory of ‘real life’ in a new city, where you get to see and enjoy the real vibe of the local scene, and get to see local people interact and run their daily lives. However, (especially in countries with less standard amenities than I’m used to) I LOVVVE being in comfortable properties (Western style to an extent with amenities I am used to at home, so I can have some comforts of home, while travelling). 

So here’s the problem: usually these nicer properties are located in areas surrounded by boutique shops and upscale restaurants that cater largely to tourists. Unfortunately in these types of areas, I find all sense of “local life and livelihood” is virtually extinct in the immediate surroundings and replaced by the whitewashed Chanel and Bulgari boutiques. Don’t get me wrong, love these shops and boutiques and LOVE fine dining (100%), but for me, there is a time and place for those, and I will go to seek those shops out, if/when I need. 

So this is my travel conundrum. Sometimes I meet my needs half way, by staying in properties in less desirable/comfortable and less touristy areas (so I can get my fix for the destination’s real life ‘feel’ & culture) or instead, in more desirable and touristy locations, (but I lose the ability to walk out of the hotel in walk into the real life culture of my destination). Anyway blah blah blah.

After getting situated at the hotel, we walk out to see what life is all about in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh. The streets don’t let me down: as soon as we turn a few corners, there is shop after shop of people offering “spa services” (massage, starting at $10 dollars!!) I declined (unfortunately) – I can’t get into letting some poor woman or man endure the distress of giving me a rubdown when I am sweaty after walking around in the oppressive heat that is Southeast Asia during rainy season. Call me anal, but I need to feel clean BEFORE I go to a “spa service” as well as after, and in the sticky, sultry heat of Ho Chi Minh city, just 5 minutes of walking gives you the standard warm-weather, sultry, skin sheen. No Massage – Thanks. 

Also it’s handy to note that EVERYONE drives a motorbike in Vietnam, well almost, but they have a very orderly chaos that takes place when the lights turn and people are coming from left & right and rarely, does anyone crash!

Dinner after arrival was a funny and somewhat cheesy dinner cruise with many tourists onboard to eat a fixed meal and watch a staged song & dance show. It was enjoyable, mostly for its comedic value as it was so over the top cheesy and campy – imagine your worst cruise line show EVER in terms of ‘typical’ and this was it. Guys dressed in marine/navy style outfits, Asian singers singing “C’mon let’s twist again.” It was quite bad, but so funny. Being extremely tired & jetlagged helps one enjoy this show to a much greater extent I think. 

Would I recommend this or pay for it? – if I had a choice, probably not as I would much rather walk around and see the nightlife of Ho Chi Minh’s streets but as a first night event, it was ok. Funniest part was the flame thrower “Britney” dancer with her go-go boots and the “Con-on less tist agin, like vee did lass summah” singer. Sorry, maybe the fatigue made me not enjoy it as I should have. Oh well, there’s something for everyone. This show under the influence of severe jetlag that evening, was not for me.

VIETNAM: Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels, Presidential Palace & War Remnants Museum

VIETNAM: Ho Chi Minh City, Cu Chi Tunnels, Presidential Palace & War Remnants Museum

Arrived in Ho Chi Minh City on Sept 1, 2012 after 18 hours of travel (What a LONG flight, but travelling Cathay Pacific First class cabin makes it SO much easier)! More about that in another post…
Some housekeeping notes:
1) VISA ON ARRIVAL in Vietnam (Cdn Passport holders): was a painless process.

Needed:
– $25 USD cash
– Visa application completed (if you don’t have one, they will give you a form to complete)
– 4×6 passport style picture
– Visa on arrival letter from tour company you will be touring with (If you do not have this letter, VOA might be much more difficult & we suggest you contact a Vietnamese tour operator to make arrangements)

They take your application and picture, process the Visa on the spot (takes about 10 minutes) call you back up to wicket, you pay your $25USD (make sure you have exact cash required in hand). Make your way to immigration/customs, and pass through customs cheak, pick up luggage and make your way to exit, as per normal (if you have a driver waiting for you, they should be just outside exit doors with your name on sign)

After check-in to hotel (our hotel, Kimdo Royal Hotel) was located in the new tourist section of hotels and upscale shops). This is where one of my problems with travelling always happens. I truly LOVVEEE being in the guts & glory of ‘real life’ in a new city, where you get to see and enjoy the real vibe of the local scene, and get to see local people interact and run their daily lives. However, (especially in poorer countries) I LOVVVE being in comfortable properties (Western style to an extent with amenities I am used to at home, so I can have some comforts of home while travelling).

Lobby of Kim Do Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

So here’s the problem: usually these nicer properties are located in areas surrounded by boutique shops and upscale restaurants that cater largely to tourists. Unfortunately in these types of areas, I find all sense of “local life and livelihood” is virtually extinct in the immediate surroundings and replaced by the whitewashed Chanel and Bulgari boutiques. Don’t get me wrong, love these shops and boutiques and LOVE fine dining (100%), but for me, there is a time and place for those, and I will go to seek those shops out, if/when I need.

So this is my travel conundrum. Sometimes I meet my needs half way, by staying in properties in less desirable/comfortable and less touristy areas (so I can get my fix for the destination’s real life ‘feel’ & culture) or instead, in more desirable and touristy locations, (but I lose the ability to walk out of the hotel in walk into the real life culture of my destination). Anyway blah blah blah.

After getting situated at the hotel, we walk out to see what life is all about in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh. The streets don’t let me down: as soon as we turn a few corners, there is shop after shop of people offering “spa services” (massage, starting at $10 dollars!!) I declined (unfortunately) – I can’t get into letting some poor woman or man endure the distress of giving me a rubdown when I am sweaty after walking around in the oppressive heat that is Southeast Asia during rainy season. Call me anal, but I need to feel clean BEFORE I go to a “spa service” as well as after, and in the sticky, sultry heat of Ho Chi Minh city, just 5 minutes of walking gives you the standard warm-weather, sultry, skin sheen. No Massage – Thanks.
Also it’s handy to note that EVERYONE drives a motorbike in Vietnam, well almost, but they have a very orderly chaos that takes place when the lights turn and people are coming from left & right and rarely, does anyone crash!

Dinner after arrival was a funny and somewhat cheesy dinner cruise with many tourists onboard to eat a fixed meal and watch a staged song & dance show. It was enjoyable, mostly for its comedic value as it was so over the top cheesy and campy – imagine your worst cruise line show EVER in terms of ‘typical’ and this was it. Guys dressed in marine/navy style outfits, Asian singers singing C’mon let’s twist again. It was quite bad, but so funny. Being extremely tired & jetlagged helps one enjoy this show to a much greater extent I think.

Would I recommend this or pay for it – if I had a choice, probably not as I would much rather walk around and see the nightlife of Ho Chi Minh’s streets but as a first night event, it was ok. Funniest part was the flame thrower “Britney” dancer with her go-go boots and the “Con-on less tist agin, like vee did lass summah” singer. Sorry, maybe the fatigue made me not enjoy it as I should have. Oh well, there’s something for everyone. This was not for me. The vid is sorta funny (See if you can make out the words).

Budapest Essentials …

It’s been called the “Pearl of the Danube” — and no wonder. For elegance and feel, Budapest easily rivals any other major capital city in Europe. The artery that defines it is the Danube, one of the world’s most celebrated waterways and also one of the most popular for European river cruising. Spend any time at all in this grand city, and it’s easy to understand why the riverbanks of Budapest — that’s right, the riverbanks — have been assigned UNESCO World Heritage status.

The first thing you need to know about Budapest: It, in effect, operates as two cities with distinctly different personalities. Buda, on the west bank of the Duna (as the Danube is called), is hilly and houses the restored Castle District, a cultural and arts center known for its famed Matthias Church, Royal Palace and Fishermen’s Bastion, a rampart that offers the best views in town. The entire district is a real scene-stealer.

Pest, on the east bank, is the hub for dining, shopping, banking and nightlife. There you’ll find the pedestrian shopping zone, Vaci Utca; Heroes’ Square; the old Jewish quarter; the not-to-miss Andrassy, Budapest’s grandest avenue; and the imposing neo-Gothic Parliament, modeled after the British version in London.

Budapest’s history dates back to the third century, when Celtic warriors occupied the area. Study the place a bit, and you’ll find yourself wondering: Who didn’t invade the city? The Romans, Magyars, Mongols, Ottoman Turks, Austrians, Germans and Soviets have all played starring roles in Budapest’s longstanding municipal drama. Hungarians are said to be famously pessimistic and cynical — maybe that history explains why. As one guide told us, “We lost all our battles, but we celebrated all our defeats.”

Budapest is a town that’s been destroyed and rebuilt over the centuries — part of the reason for its eclectic architecture. Its current skyline reflects the building programs and styles of the turn of the 20th century. For my part, I agree with Claudio Magris, who writes in his travel memoir, “Danube,” that “Budapest is the loveliest city on the Danube. It has a crafty way of being its own stage-set.”

What to See

A maze of cobbled streets and medieval courtyards, the Castle District is Budapest’s crowning achievement — literally. It hangs grandly above the city, and the lovely Matthias Church that is its centerpiece is known locally as “the coronation church.” Austria’s Franz Josef was crowned king of Hungary there in 1867 to the strains of Franz Liszt’s coronation mass, composed especially for the occasion. Today, as it has for centuries, the rampart next to the 700-year-old church offers incomparable views of the Danube and Pest. (There’s also a tourism office next to the church.) The scene of battles and wars since the 13th century, the Castle District is home to the former Royal Palace, one of Hungary’s most important national symbols.

There are shops and restaurants in the complex in addition to a number of other attractions, including the Budapest History Museum and the House of Hungarian Wines. The wine shop houses more than 700 wines from the country’s 22 growing regions. For a small fee, samples are available.
Andrassy Ut, the city’s grandest boulevard, is a 2.5-kilometer expanse, considered so special that the street was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 2002.

There you’ll find the stunning State Opera House, opened in 1884; chic boutiques and grand villas with gardens; Franz Liszt Square with its open-air cafes; and, at the very end, Heroes’ Square. No visit to Budapest would be complete without a walk around the magnificent square, dominated by the Millenary Monument. The monument is topped by the Archangel Gabriel, credited with converting the pagan Magyars to Christianity. At the base of the column are seven figures on horseback, representing the Magyar tribes.

Across from the square is the Museum of Fine Arts and its showcase of Old Masters from outside Hungary. The Spanish, Italian and Dutch collections are particularly worth a look.

The architecturally eclectic St. Stephen’s Basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in the country, and took more than five decades to build. The main attraction here is the mummified hand of St. Stephen, the first king of Hungary and founder of the nation; his hand is housed in the reliquary.
In the late 1930’s, the Old Jewish Quarter was a thriving community with about 200,000 Jews. Most perished in the Holocaust.

Today, the Great Synagogue, the world’s second-largest after Temple Emanu-El in New York City, stands tall in the now-shabby neighborhood. Seating 3,000 people and built between 1854 and 1859 by a Viennese architect, the synagogue, with its onion-shaped domes, looks Moorish. The complex also includes a Hall of Heroes, where a Monument of Hungarian-Jewish Martyrs was erected in 1991; a Jewish Museum; and a Holocaust memorial room.

It’s not in the Jewish Quarter, but the Holocaust Shoe Memorial — on the riverbank, just south of Parliament — is especially moving. The simple memorial, erected in 2005, features 60 pairs of cast-iron shoes, representing thousands of Jews who were shot on that spot by soldiers in World War II. Many fell or were pushed into the icy Danube and died.

Said to be one of the most beautiful McDonald’s restaurants on the planet, the fast-food outlet at Nyugati Railway Terminal is the largest in Hungary with its two-story Baroque interior crafted in the style of early 20th-century Budapest. Next door is the WestEnd City Center, the best shopping mall in Budapest.

The crowded Turkish baths are to Budapest what coffeehouses are to Vienna. This is where friends come to meet, gossip and relax in healing waters that are fed by the 120 thermal springs that feed the Danube. Among the most popular is Szechenyi Bath and Spa, located in a sumptuous yellow building at City Park, just above Heroes’ Square. There are indoor and outdoor pools, and it’s not unusual to see bathers playing chess on floating game boards. It’s a neat way to mingle with the locals.

Take a 20-minute detour out of the city to Godollo Royal Palace, the second-largest Baroque palace after Versailles. A favorite resort of Emperor Franz Josef and his Austrian Queen Elisabeth, the palace has a Grand Hall with marble-covered walls and gilded stucco ceilings; a Riding Hall; and the recently restored Baroque Theatre, now the venue for performances of chamber music and opera. If you’re lucky, you might catch a concert.

For a day trip into medieval Hungary, head to Esztergom, which delivers on two fronts: historical tradition and location. Situated on the scenic Danube Bend on the border between Hungary and Slovakia, this was the birthplace of St. Stephen — crowned there on Christmas Day in 1000 AD. Be sure to stop at Basilica, which was completed in the 1860’s, and the Bakocz chapel, built in 1510 by Florentine craftsmen, dismantled in the Turkish occupation and reassembled in 1823. You may also want to continue to Visegrad, whose heritage dates to the New Stone Age.

Where to Eat

Hungary has tasty national cuisine, much of it seasoned with paprika, which appears on restaurant tables beside the salt and pepper. Among the country’s signature dishes: goulash, a thick beef soup cooked with onions and potatoes; fisherman’s soup, a mixture of boiled fish, tomatoes, green peppers and paprika; chicken paprika; grilled fresh-water fish; and fried or grilled goose liver. Credit cards are widely accepted in restaurants. As for tipping, it’s customary to tip your waiter 10 percent, but be sure to check the bill first. Increasingly, the tip is included. It’s okay to tip in U.S. dollars or euros.

Long the centerpiece of Budapest’s cafe society, Gerbeaud is more than a sweet shop — it’s a Hungarian cultural institution. Known for its coffee and torte cakes, the cafe has classic high ceilings with crystal chandeliers, polished wood and marble, and thick curtains. Little has changed since it opened 150 years ago. The patisserie is sweetly situated on Pest’s Vorosmarty Square. The neo-Classical building also houses a pub with beer that’s brewed on-site, as well as a new gourmet restaurant, the Onyx.

For elegant dining, Gundel lives up to its legend. The award-winning restaurant, open under its current name since 1910, is located in a late 19th-century palace at Allatkerti Korut 2 in City Park, just a two-minute walk from Heroes’ Square. Gundel, with its innovative menu, is known — and deservedly so — for creating new spins on traditional classics. It can be a little stiff, though the formality eases up a bit during the Sunday lunch buffet. In the evening, men must wear jackets.

A local favorite for special outings, Karpatia Etterem, with its medieval interiors, will remind guests of Matthias Church. Situated in the courtyard of a former monastery, the restaurant specializes in traditional Hungarian cuisine, accompanied by traditional gypsy music, but also offers Mediterranean, Asian and Latin American fare. In addition to the restaurant, which is only open for dinner, there’s a less formal brasserie where you can grab lunch or snacks.

Budapest has a surprising number of Italian restaurants, and Fausto’s is one of the best established and most beloved. This elegant restaurant is the perfect place for a splurge, featuring dishes like lamb chops with goat cheese-flavored gnocchi and Mediterranean fish soup. For a less formal atmosphere but equally delightful Italian fare, try its sister restaurant, Osteria.

Hearty Jewish and Hungarian dishes — like matzo ball soup and roast goose leg with mashed potatoes and steamed cabbage — are on the menu at cozy Koleves (Stone Soup). The menu, which emphasizes seasonal and fresh ingredients, changes on a regular basis, and the wine list offers a selection of Hungarian options. Due to its popularity with visitors and locals alike, reservations are recommended.

Where to Stay

As Budapest’s popularity grows among visitors to Europe, its hotels have filled and rates have risen accordingly — but it’s still a bargain when compared to other major European capitals. Rates are often discounted during the winter months, when tourist numbers are down. Expect rate hikes over the summer and during holiday periods, especially the Formula One Grand Prix event held each August.

The cheapest places to stay are rooms in private homes, which the local tourist office can often help you find. There are also many inexpensive pensions and budget hotels, though these may be located farther outside the city center and lack amenities such as air-conditioning; ask before booking.

For a lavish and luxurious stay, head to the Corinthia Hotel Budapest, with its elegant historic facade and truly opulent spa (indulgences include a swimming pool, Niagara bathtubs and tropical rain showers, among others).

The property first opened as a luxury hotel back in 1896 (Josephine Baker stayed here in the 1920’s), and has since been fully restored. If your budget permits, opt for an executive room or suite; you’ll get free entrance to the business lounge where you can relax and enjoy complimentary drinks and snacks. All rooms, executive or not, offer marble bathrooms and free wireless Internet access. The hotel is comfortably located with easy access to public transportation.

Tucked away in an elegant 19th-century building is the Kapital Inn. Its four guestrooms are colorfully and stylishly decorated, and offer flat-screen TV’s, DVD players with a library of movies, free wireless Internet access and a complimentary minibar. To guarantee a private bathroom, book one of the “Deluxe” rooms. (A single bathroom is shared by guests staying in the two “Standard” rooms.) Weather permitting, breakfast is served outdoors on the lovely rooftop terrace. Note: This historic property is not wheelchair-accessible, and there is no elevator to the guestrooms.

For location and comfort, it’s hard to beat the Hilton Budapest next to Matthias Church and the Fisherman’s Bastion in the Castle District. The hotel has everything you’d expect of a Hilton: spacious rooms with flat-screen TV’s; stylish toiletries; and wireless high-speed Internet access throughout the hotel. There’s a restaurant that’s open all day and a lobby bar with views of Parliament across the Danube. Be sure to ask for a room with a view of the river.

A favorite of cruise lines, Best Western Hotel Hungaria is located near the Elizabeth Bridge in downtown Pest, so it’s close to many of the highlights. Best yet, it’s right next to Karpatia, the popular Hungarian restaurant. On-site, the hotel has two restaurants, a cocktail lounge and a fitness center. Computers are available, and there’s high-speed Internet access. The hotel also has excellent public transportation options with the Metro nearby.

The prime attractions at the Carlton Hotel are its affordable rates and its ultra-convenient location for sightseeing — it’s on the Buda side of the city at the foot of Castle Hill, just a short walk away from the Chain Bridge to Pest. Most of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance; for those that aren’t, you can easily catch the bus or Metro nearby. Rooms at the Carlton are basic but clean and comfortable enough, and the nightly rates include buffet breakfast and free Internet access.

Where to Shop

There’s terrific shopping in Budapest — at all manner of venues. Among the most popular souvenirs: hot or sweet paprika, the national spice; dried salami; Tokaji wine; Herend porcelain; cut glass; Helia, a facial cream made from the extract of sunflower seeds; embroidery; and Unicum, an herbal digestive sold in a distinctive round, black bottle with a red cross on it. As they say in Hungary, “It is good before, after and the day after.”

Vaci Utca is a wonderful pedestrian shopping street filled with gift shops, galleries, jewelers and boutiques. Also not to miss: a covered farmer’s market at the foot of Liberty Bridge on Vamhaz Korut at Vaci Utca’s southern terminus. It’s in an unmistakable building that looks like a railroad station with a yellow, green and red roof. Locals go there to buy groceries, but it’s also loaded with inexpensive souvenirs. Many of the market vendors accept U.S. dollars and euros (the local currency is the Hungarian forint), but ask first to be sure.

During the holiday season, you’ll find an outdoor Christmas market in Vorosmarty Square, just off of Vaci Utca.

Typically, shops open around 10 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. Many businesses close at 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

Need help planning your Europe or Budapest Itinerary?
We’ve been there and can help!
Contact Us to start the process.

–written by Ellen Uzelac
for the Independent Traveler.comLink to Article: 
http://bit.ly/aZA0Vn

Driving New Zealand’s South Island

A drive on New Zealand’s South Island—with its Lord of the Rings landscapes, superb local wines, and glass-and-timber lodges—is like a visit to another, more perfect world.

From November 2010
By Anthony Dennis Appeared as “Road Trip: Southern Crossing” in T+L Magazine

Days 1–2: Queenstown
November is the ideal time for a springtime tour of the South Island’s secluded fjords, wild seascapes, and remote luxury lodges. Begin in Queenstown, New Zealand’s premier year-round alpine resort, a kind of antipodean Aspen. From the airport, head into town by following the shore of Lake Wakatipu and snare the lakeside window table at the glamorous Eichardt’s Private Hotel (lunch for two $58); the seafood chowder makes for a superb lunch. After shopping for merino wool sweaters in Queenstown’s compact, lively center, drive 10 minutes along Lake Esplanade to Matakauri Lodge (doubles from $1,010, including dinner), your lakeside retreat for the next two nights. Matakauri—the newest sibling to the North Island’s Kauri Cliffs and the Farm at Cape Kidnappers lodges—has 11 spacious, light-filled suites with panoramic views of the lake and Cecil Peak, whose 5,028-foot summit is often obscured by wispy clouds. Dinner at the lodge is cooked by head chef Dale Gartland, who uses exquisitely fresh local produce: green-lipped mussels; Southland beef; organic vegetables. Stretch your legs here for another day, allowing time for a lake cruise on the Earnslaw, a 98-year-old steamer, or a half day of white-water rafting on the Shotover River, with Real Journeys (lake cruises from $34; rafting trips from $130).

Day 3: Queenstown to Te Anau (110 miles)
After a final alfresco breakfast on Matakauri’s terrace—basking in the views of the aptly named Remarkables Mountains—drive back into Queenstown and hug Lake Wakatipu as it veers south. The road will lead you past farming communities such as Mossburn, New Zealand’s “deer capital” and a source of much of the venison you’ll find on your plate, before reaching Te Anau. This is the start of the Southern Scenic Route (southernscenicroute.co.nz), one of New Zealand’s greatest, though least-known, drives, traversing a sparsely populated wonderland of forests, lakes, waterfalls, and wild coastlines. Fjords figure here, too; New Zealand is one of a handful of places blessed with the narrow inlets. Check in to the rustic-modern Fiordland Lodge (doubles from $520), owned by a veteran park ranger and designed to take advantage of the views. A three-course dinner is included in the rate.

Day 4 : Te Anau–Manapouri Loop (26 miles)
Milford Sound, New Zealand’s most famous fjord, is magnificent, but savvy Kiwis favor Doubtful Sound, which is both larger and less touristy. Real Journeys (cruises from $184) operates a daylong excursion to Doubtful Sound that starts in Manapouri, about 25 minutes from the lodge. You’ll take a one-hour boat ride across Lake Manapouri, then get on a bus to cross 2,200-foot Wilmot Pass before glimpsing Doubtful Sound glittering below. Once aboard the Breaksea Girl—a 20-passenger ketch small enough to get close to the waterfalls—look out for fur seals, bottlenose dolphins, and penguins. The day ends with an astronomy session back at Fiordland Lodge: with no major cities for at least 100 miles, the stargazing here is unparalleled.

Day 5: Te Anau to Otago Peninsula (185 miles)
Have the lodge pack you a lunch: on today’s drive, the gourmet opportunities are limited to gas station cafés and the odd fish-and-chips shop. It is worth pausing at seaside Orepuki, about a 1 1/2-hour drive south of Te Anau, where southern right whales can sometimes be spotted. Push on another 30 minutes to Riverton, established by whalers in the 1830’s and now a busy fishing village, to find a spot on the beach for your picnic. From there, bypass the unremarkable city of Invercargill and head east directly to the Catlins, a rugged region of waterfalls, blowholes, and petrified forests from the Jurassic era—beyond this remotest of Pacific shores, the next landfall is in Antarctica. The Southern Scenic Route ends in Dunedin, a Scottish-influenced college town, but you’re heading about 30 minutes further to the Otago Peninsula, where the scenery is untamed and the wildlife abundant.

You’ll reach Kaimata Retreat (doubles from $320), a remote, timber-clad lodge, via a series of gravel roads. Toast the long drive with a bottle of outstanding Central Otago Pinot Noir and chill out on the deck overlooking the inlet and the sheep ranch that clings to the precipitous, pea-green hillside across the way Day 6: Otago Peninsula to Queenstown (185 miles) The tip of the Otago Peninsula is home to the Westpac Royal Albatross Centre ( tours from $32), the world’s only mainland breeding colony for the formidable birds, which can live longer than 60 years and have a wingspan of 10 feet or more.

Afterward, follow Portobello Road back into Dunedin and to the Octagon, its appealing central plaza—that’s a statue of Robert Burns in front of the cathedral. Grab a quick lunch at the hip Mash Café (lunch for two $23), located under the eaves of the historic Regent Theatre. From here, Queenstown is a leisurely four-hour drive via routes 8 and 6 through the interior of the South Island, passing farms and former gold fields. The Dairy Private Luxury Hotel (doubles from $335) is an unpretentious boutique property and the perfect spot to end your trip (“dairy” is Kiwi for “convenience store,” by the way).

From there, the plush and amiable Botswana Butchery (dinner for two $100), one of Queenstown’s hottest tables, is an easy walk for dinner. Dishes include a range of superior steaks, venison, and lamb, as well as seafood dishes—such as Antarctic sea bass with bouillabaisse sauce—direct from the pristine waters you’ve just been admiring.

Anthony Dennis is T+L’s Australia and New Zealand correspondent.
Link to Article: http://bit.ly/rWo330

48 Hours In: Barcelona

Whether you seek beaches, shops, cuisine or culture, follow in the footsteps of Columbus and explore Spain’s glorious second city, writes Simon Calder

 

Travel essentials
Why go now?
Culture, cuisine and conviviality: the Catalan capital is superlative in every dimension. Fares are falling in line with the temperature, though the warm autumn has lingered in Barcelona this week. And the latest addition to the city’s spectacular skyline, the W Hotel, opened 10 days ago.

Touch down
Barcelona airport is on the coast 12km south-west of the city. Most “full-service” airlines, including BA and Iberia from Heathrow, use the brand-new Terminal 1. The easiest way in to the city is on the A1 Aerobus, which leaves about every 10 minutes and costs €5 for the half-hour journey to Plaça Catalunya (1).

Budget airlines, including easyJet from Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Bristol and Liverpool, Jet2 from Leeds/Bradford, and Monarch and Bmibaby, use the older Terminal 2. The Aerobus A2 from here costs only €4.25. Alternatively, walk to the airport railway station for the half-hourly service to Passeig de Gràcia station (2); while the one-way fare is €2.80, if you invest €7.70 on a 10-trip pass, you can get into town for just 77c, and connect there for any other train, tram, bus or Metro service within 75 minutes. You can also have nine more journeys on public transport when you get there. Ryanair serves Barcelona via both Girona and Reus airports, with connections by bus to the terminal at Estació Nord (3).

The most civilised way to arrive in Barcelona is by the overnight train from Paris (with connections from London St Pancras), terminating at the Estació de França (4).

Get your bearings
Plaça Catalunya (1) is at the heart of Barcelona, a vast square where the Barri Gòtic (Old Town) meets the Eixample (Extension) and Metro, bus and suburban train services converge. The main tourist office is underground on the Corte Inglés side of the square (open 9am-8pm daily, 00 34 93 285 3834; barcelonaturisme.com); other kiosks are dotted around the city.
South from here, the Ramblas weaves towards the Mediterranean, punctuated by the statue of Columbus (5) – where the explorer reputedly landed after his first voyage to the New World.
Other key locations in the centre include the ornate, palm-filled Plaça Reial (6), and the bulky and disjointed Cathedral (7), which squats on the northern edge of the old Roman city of Barcino.

Check in
I paid €30 without breakfast at the cheap and central Hostal Galerías Maldà (8), a rambling old mansion tucked inside a shopping arcade at Carrer del Pi. The most stylish property in the centre is the Grand Hotel Central (9) at Vía Laietana 30 (00 34 93 295 7900; grandhotelcentral. com), created in a 1926 building and offering facilities from bike rental to an amazing infinity pool on the roof. Double rooms start at €140, excluding breakfast. The boutique and luxury hotel specialist Mr & Mrs Smith is offering Independent readers 25 per cent off suites; see independent.co.uk/ mrandmrssmith.
The latest addition to the accommodation register is the spectacular W Barcelona (10), (Plaça de la Rosa dels Vents 1; 00 34 93 295 2800; starwoodhotels.com/whotels), perched at the end of one arm of the port, jutting into the Mediterranean. A double room costs €270 excluding breakfast.

Day one
Take a view
You need not even climb the Monument to Columbus (5) to be bowled over by the dramatic architecture of Barcelona. The column at the southern end of the Ramblas is flanked with elaborate statuary and surrounded by handsome buildings. If you wish to take the lift to the top, it opens 10am-6pm daily and costs €3.

Take a hike
Start at the Columbus Monument (5) and strike inland along the Ramblas, the main tourist avenue, which has a mesmerising range of human statues, flower stalls and pavement cafés. Halfway up, divert through the Galería Bacardi to the palm-filled Plaça Reial (6), about as architecturally uniform as the older parts of Barcelona get. Dive back on to the Ramblas, and call in at Mercat de Sant Josep (11), also known as La Boquería (8am-8.30pm daily except Sunday). It resembles a Victorian railway terminus filled with a colourful feast of fruit, vegetables and cheeses.
Watch out for some spectacular façades, and just before the Plaça Catalunya, refresh yourself from the Font de Canaletes – a ritual supposed to guarantee a return to the city.
Catch your breath at the Plaça, then head east to plunge into the Roman city. Head south on Avinguda Portal de l’Angel, which quickly narrows to funnel you into the ancient heart of the city along its continuation, Carrer dels Arcs. Just before you pass the cathedral (7) to your left, you can see fragments of the Roman walls and a reconstructed section of aqueduct. The cloisters of the cathedral are worth visiting: a haven filled with orange trees and palms, the pool in the centre has its own flock of geese. The cathedral’s magnificent nave is also worth seeing (open 10am-2pm on Sundays; 9am-1pm and 5pm-8pm on other days).

Continue south to the Plaça Sant Jaume (12), where the palaces of the municipal and regional authorities stare at each other, and turn left into the Born quarter – best sampled on Vía Argentería, which stretches down to the beautiful 14th-century church of Santa María del Mar (13). If it is open (hours are erratic) you can walk the length of it, and emerge at the far end on the broad Passeig del Born. Turn right down Carrer Rec, whose colonnades provide shade for a range of arty shops and a flavour of Cuba. The hike concludes at the breathtaking Estació de França (4).

Lunch on the run
If you have picked up a picnic, head a few metres along to the Parc Ciutadella (14). If not, wander a few blocks south to Carrer de Ginebra (15) in Barceloneta, and choose between the adjacent temptations of El Lobito at no 9 and Bar Jai-ca Tapas at no 13.

Window shopping
El Corte Inglés dominates the retail offering, with a huge department store on Plaça Catalunya (1) and another a block south of it on Avinguda Portal de l’Angel – where you will also find plenty of familiar upmarket brands. But for fascinating individual stores offering trinkets, chocolate and art, wander the length of Carrer de Petritxol (16), whose southern entrance is dominated by the retro ironmongers, Josep Roca.

An aperitif
At Taller de Tapas (17) at Argentería 51, a sharp, modern façade conceals old vaults that are ideal for conspiratorial sipping (cava is €11.85 a bottle), and nibbling of tapas: these snacks start at less than €3 a dish. If you are not inclined to fit in with the local habit of dining from around 10pm, you can easily feast here. And on fine evenings, you can sit out on the small square opposite, though you will pay a 10 per cent premium for the privilege.

Dining with the locals
At La Fonda (18) at Passatge Escudellers 1 (00 34 93 301 7515), you can dine splendidly on Catalan dishes (seafood an inevitable speciality) in faux-tropical surroundings for reasonable prices: a filling main course is typically under €20, with cheap but good house wine.

Day two
Sunday morning: go to church
Today is partly devoted to the great Catalan Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí. Start at the Sagrada Família (19) (00 34 93 207 3031; sagradafamilia.cat), an “expiatory temple” that has been under construction for over a century. Even as a work in progress, Gaudí’s startling nest of soaring steeples is Barcelona’s most recognisable symbol. Open 9am-6pm daily; admission €11.

Out to brunch
Close to the city’s cathedral, the Basque dishes at the Orio “Euskal Taberna” (20) at the corner of Carrer de Ferran and Passatge del Credit are on offer from 10am to midnight daily; you can choose from cockles, clams and cheeses, or simply €5 pastries (00 34 90 252 0522). If you prefer to lock in to a fixed-price repast, then the White Bar (21) on the corner of Carrer Princesa and Carrer Comerç (00 34 93 295 4652) offers a good solution 7.30-11am daily: an €8.50 buffet breakfast.

Take a ride
The dominant feature of the Barceloneta district is the gaunt skeleton of the Sant Sebastià tower (22), at the eastern end of the Teleférico – an astonishing early 20th-century piece of transport infrastructure that swoops across the harbour, providing the 18 or 19 passengers with superb views as it sweeps via the presently inactive Torre Jaume I (23) to the hillside at Montjuïc (24). The €9 one-way trip (€12.50 return) is very popular, and waiting times can be long.

A walk in the park
Montjuïc (24), the lungs of Barcelona, is worth exploring. Then take the funicular from the upper station down to Paral.lel on Line 3 of the Metro, and hop on the train to Lesseps, about 10 minutes’ walk from Parc Güell (25). Entering the park feels like walking into a fairy tale. The park also contains a house once inhabited by Gaudí, which is now a museum that can be visited for €5 (Casa Museu Gaudi, 00 34 93 219 3811), open 10am-8pm daily.

Cultural afternoon
When Gaudí wasn’t designing temples and gardens, he was busy creating wonderful apartment blocks on Passeig de Gràcia. Most spectacular is Casa Milà, better known as La Pedrera (26), “the stone quarry”, on the corner of Provença (00 34 93 484 5995, 10am-8pm daily, €10). Just south, another melting Gaudí masterpiece that mocks the area’s geometric neatness is Casa Batlló (26), at number 43 (00 93 216 0306; casabatllo.com; 9am-8pm daily, €16.50).

The icing on the cake
Alternatively, look down at Casa Batlló while you sip a cocktail at the 10th-floor open-air bar of the Hotel Majestic (28) at Passeig de Gràcia 68 (00 34 93 487 3939; majestichotelgroup. com). The skyline is serrated by the spectacular structures of a city where the pace of life is matched by the pace of change.

Link to “The Independent” article: http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/48-hours-in/48-hours-in-barcelona-1800398.html

Five Perfect Days in Tuscany, Italy

by Hanya Yanagihara

There are some places you can’t help but fall in love with at first sight and return to year after year. We’ve chosen some of the world’s most beloved (and touristed) destinations and, with the help of the best travel specialists in the business, have ferreted out their secrets, their treasures, their unmissable experiences. The result is a series of step-by-step trips that will surprise and delight those who’ve never been to the destination before … or who have been a dozen times. Each of our highly detailed itineraries has been vetted and perfected by a Conde Nast Traveler editor, and each can be bought as is with just one phone call. Let the romance begin.

The Challenge
Trying to describe all the pleasures and prides of Tuscany—that fecund, almost ridiculously picturesque region of central Italy—would take more pages than a single issue of this magazine, and even then, we’d just scratch the surface. So visiting the area, whose capital is Florence and which contains a dazzling number of the world’s iconic masterworks, as well as some of its most luscious wines and scrumptious foods, presents two unconquerable problems. The first is a surfeit of affection. Everyone loves Tuscany, so you will never be alone. But take heart: Do you think Goethe, Twain, and Stendhal (enthusiasts all) had those narrow streets to themselves? Going to Italy means joining a centuries-long roster of tourists. The second difficulty is one of time and endurance there is no way to see all of the region s sights, no way to linger over every masterpiece, no way to stroll every beautifully preserved hilltop town. Attempting to do so would take several lifetimes, and most of us have only a week or so.

The Solution
There are many ways to discover Tuscany, of course, but the most efficient, intimate, and unexpected is to use a travel specialist such as Maria Teresa Berdondini of Tuscany by Tuscans. She was skilled at negotiating the realities of visiting Italy and at arranging special experiences that are the stuff of every tourist s fantasy. Together, we worked out an itinerary that shows off an essential Tuscany, one that reveals the best of the region’s tastes, smells, and sights and will appeal to both the first- and fifteenth-time visitor. And while the latter may cry foul over what’s not in the trip (no extended tour of the Duomo? No visit to the area’s Etruscan ruins?), they’ll also make discoveries about an area that, even after a thousand years and countless visitors, still has its secrets.

Sadly, Maria Teresa Berdondini died shortly after I finished writing this piece. She was a wonderful resource and generous travel guide, and I know that the many people she helped to see the best of her beloved Italy felt the same sorrow I did upon learning of her death. I hope that Berdondini would feel some comfort in knowing that another of our top travel specialists, Maria Gabriella Landers of Concierge in Umbria, is carrying on her legacy and will handle all bookings that result from this trip—one Maria’s gift to the world, fulfilled by another Maria. For the Italians, who find poetry in the everyday, it seems an appropriate tribute.

Rest of the Story: http://www.concierge.com/cntraveler/articles/502973

Africa for beginners | Travel | The Guardian

A seasoned backpacker shares his tips and suggested itineraries for a memorable few weeks in southern or east Africa


by Laurence Watts
The Guardian, Saturday 21 August 2010


Take it from someone who has backpacked the length and breadth of Africa: it’s big, slow, exciting and infuriating in equal measure. Its charm lies in the simplicity of local life, the cheerfulness of its people and its natural wonders.


Travelling can be a struggle: bureaucracy and corruption can be problematic, and forget time-keeping altogether – but all this makes for roads less travelled than in other continents.


Contrary to what you might think Africa can be a pricey travel destination. Tourists stand out, so often you’ll be singled out for special attention and inflated prices. My recent four-week trip from Dakar in Senegal via Timbuktu to Abidjan, capital of Ivory Coast, cost over £2,500, even though I used public transport and stayed in fairly basic hostels. Budget options won’t always exist, so stay in them when you can.


Public transport can be unreliable and uncomfortable. The bush-taxi I took from Bamako in Mali to Conakry in Guinea broke down after three hours. The car, a Peugeot 504 estate, should have been on a scrap heap – every window was cracked, every visible inch of metal rusted. The taxi that towed us to the nearest town was just as bad. There were eight of us in my taxi, and nine inside the car in front, plus two small boys, a goat, three chickens and a motorcycle on the roof. But it’s all great fun.


Much as I enjoyed my foray into west Africa, there is much less to see than in the south and east. Timbuktu is a great place to send a postcard from but its fame lies more in its inaccessibility than in anything there is to do there. Some west African states are still recovering from civil war. In many countries in the north, such as Sudan and Libya, visas are hard to obtain, and there is little provision for backpackers. Visas are often tied to expensive – and restrictive – package tours.


Instead, here are some great itineraries based on my own travels, which could be joined together.




South Africa–Namibia–Botswana–Zambia, 4 weeks


A classic route, combining wildlife and thrills, starts in Cape Town. See Robben Island (robben-island.org.za), then take a bus (intercape.co.za) to Springbok. Stay at the hostel Cat Nap Accommodation (sa-accommodation-finder.com).


Cross into Namibia by taxi or hire car to Hobas and book a five-day hike through Fish River Canyon (nwr.com.na). In Windhoek, to the north, chill for a while at Cardboard Box Backpackers (cardboardbox.com.na), before catching a bus to Swakopmund, for sandboarding, skydiving and dune-buggying, which can be arranged at Dunes Backpackers (dunes.com.na).


The best way to see Botswana’s Okavango Delta is on an organised expedition but these are expensive. Spend a day or two cruising the Chobe national park riverfront instead – Chobe Safari Lodge in Kasane (chobesafarilodge.com) has good value rooms and camping, and can set up boat trips. End your journey on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. A 15-minute microlight flight over the falls will set you back $120, from any local travel agent. Entering the falls on foot costs $10 and the views are still breathtaking.


Nearby Livingstone is a good place to chill – Hippo’s, near the Fawlty Towers hostel (adventure-africa.com), is the bar to hang out at.


Tanzania–Kenya–Uganda–Rwanda, 3-4 weeks


Fly to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, and take the ferry from this unappealing and dusty city to Zanzibar, where life moves slower. Here you can see giant tortoises, pristine beaches and enjoy a harbourside drink at Mercury’s in Stone Town (named after Freddie, Zanzibar’s most famous son). The Flamingo guesthouse (+255 24 223 2850) is a good budget option near the old town centre.


Back on the mainland, take a bus to Moshi at the foot of Kilimanjaro. The Kilimanjaro Backpackers Hotel (kilimanjarobackpackers.com) has small but clean rooms. Five-day return tours up Africa’s highest peak can be booked locally; Shah Tours (kilimanjaro-shah.com) is good.


From Moshi it’s a short minibus ride to Arusha. From the Via Via cafe-bar (lush forest scenery within an old German fort), plan trips to the Serengeti national park and/or the Ngorongoro crater for very accessible wildlife. One budget operator based in Arusha is Nature Beauties (naturebeauties.com).


Then catch a bus to Nairobi. Kenya offers more safari opportunities, including the Masai Mara, or you could head on to Kampala in Uganda and try white-water rafting on the White Nile close to its actual source (adrift.ug). Stay in the Backpackers hostel (backpackers.co.ug).


End with a shared taxi ride to Kigali, Rwanda. Visit the Kigali genocide memorial centre (kigalimemorialcentre.org) and the Mille Collines hotel, the real-life “Hotel Rwanda” (millecollines.net); though you’ll find the One Love Project guesthouse (onelove-project.info) significantly cheaper.




Ethiopia–Somaliland, 2-3 weeks


Ethiopian airlines (ethiopianairlines.com) is one of Africa’s best, with a good hub at Addis Ababa. Stay at La Source Guest House (ethiopiahotelguide.com). Visit the palace and final resting-place of Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie, then head north to Lalibela (a two-day bus journey), to see its ancient churches carved into solid rock.


The truly adventurous can get to Somaliland (the breakaway territory on the Gulf of Aden) in three days by successive buses (Addis-Jinka-Wajaale-Hargeisa) but check the local security situation and Foreign Office advice first (fco.gov.uk). The 10,000-year-old cave paintings at Laas Geel were only discovered in 2002 – when I was there I had the place to myself. The Ambassador Hotel (ambassadorhotelhargeisa.com) arranges trips.


Link to Full & Original Article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2010/aug/21/africa-for-beginners-backpacking

Petra Introduces New Electronic Ticketing System

(zawya.com)


PETRA – This summer, Petra park officials have introduced a new electronic ticketing service, to facilitate quicker entry for visitors, according to the Petra Archaeological Park (PAP). Petra ticket barcodes now indicate the numbers and nationalities of visitors streaming into the rose-red city each day.

The system, under which officials check tickets with handheld scanners, also allows park officials to check what time tourists enter and track peak visiting hours for future management plans at the park.

According to the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority (PDTRA), future plans include an expanded electronic service whereby visitors can reserve a day and time for their visit from kiosks to be placed in Amman, Wadi Musa and Aqaba.

Under the expanded system, visitors will be required to present their tickets at both entry and exit points, so that park officials can keep tabs on the number of tourists in the ancient Nabataean city at any given time, PDTRA officials told The Jordan Times previously.

Managing the flow of visitors has been at the top of park officials’ agenda, as peak times for tour groups lead to overcrowding, particularly in the Siq, which currently serves as both the entrance and exit to the park.As part of their plans for visitors, Petra officials have considered introducing an alternate exit and imposing limits on how many visitors can enter in a given hour.

PDTRA figures released earlier this week revealed that some 53,283 people visited the ancient Nabataean city last month, a 23 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2009, when 43,147 tourists visited the site. Approximately 515,000 tourists visited Petra in the January-July period, 40 per cent more than in the first seven months of 2009, when 368,000 tourists visited the site, the PDTRA indicated.