Varanasi Aarti June 30

Where India finds Moksha

It’s not your typical vanilla holiday destination. But what it lacks in artificial grist to the common tourist mill it unabashedly makes up for in an unrefined, pulsating, kaleidoscopic, eye-popping adventure that will shock… and linger in your memory long after you have left.

experiential travel strahov monastery prague June 23

How to grow from a tourist to a traveller

In this 3-part series, astonishedXpression explores the concept of ‘experiential travel’ and how it transforms a tourist into a traveller

Vienna City Hall June 11

6 reasons why stopovers are cool!

MANY travellers do themselves a disservice by avoiding stopovers. Flying direct to your final destination suits a tight schedule, but stopover opportunities offer some very real advantages that should demand close scrutiny prior to the finalization of any itinerary. Here’s why…

Bora Bora, French Polynesia June 03

Top 8 Island Paradise Destinations

The mental canvas of a tropical island paradise unfailingly conjures a dewy-eyed look from the most fatigued of faces. Palm-fringed beaches, iridescent amber starfish on powder-white sand, sun-kissed lagoons in resplendent turquoise, coral reefs playing kaleidoscope to a rainbow-parade of colorful fish… astonishedXpression extends the shoreline of wonder with these Top 8 exotic paradise island destinations.

old man wrinkles May 27

Have you got a story you can’t put into words?

The potential symbolism of age lines on this devout servant of Caodaism seems to contradict the calm and acceptance in his expression… or perhaps it is the result of life’s harsh lessons. Who can tell…

peeing statues May 26

What can I do to find lost valuables?

THERE are few things more exasperating – not to mention financially draining – than to lose valuable property while on holiday. Maximise your chances of retrieving lost property by following these simple steps.

Pavilion Crystal Fountain May 10

Top tips for independent travel

FAR too often prospective travellers become intimidated when deciding on an international destination and subsequently invest in an organized tour to meet their expectations. And while there is a place for planned tours in many itineraries, independent travel planning offers so much more! Follow these top tips to see how independent travel can benefit you! Top […]

Halong Bay April 30

Vietnam’s top 7 destinations

VIETNAM’s history is one of conflagration. A slender hook of a nation, precariously clinging to a sliver of land between the South China Sea in the east, Cambodia and Laos in the west and a brooding China in the north. However, it is their past determination to survive the cauldron of war, colonialism and ideological conflict […]

Petronas Twin Towers sunset April 28

Kuala Lumpur still dazzles!

With Malaysian tourism set to lose RM105 million in revenue, Kuala Lumpur may just be a bargain-hunter’s dream.

Hallstatt Ossuary April 25

Finding beauty in Europe’s grisly bone churches

AT first glance, they don’t appear to have anything in common. The one is an incredibly scenic lakeside village in Austria; the other a former silver-mining town in the Czech Republic. However, like the old miners from bygone times, delve a little deeper and all of a sudden you discover they share an uncommon tourist attraction […]

Brugge April 23

Exploring the world’s canal settlements

ONE of the great pleasures of travelling is the ever increasing capacity to compare. Making neural connections between the place you’re at and locations you’ve been. These startling links may be nothing more than an emotional trigger, or it may be a more substantial physical resemblance, historical connection or even cultural crossover. The one thing they […]

Hiroshima Castle April 14

Social network strategy

THE tremendous growth in the availability and quality of cellular phones, mobile tablets and inexpensive cameras has combined with the social nature of the human race to open the travel industry like never before. Words and images flash almost instantaneously from all over the globe to inform users on social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram […]

Kiyomizu-dera November 03

Kyo-Ryori: a taste sensation

CENTURIES of honing culinary skills and the abundance of fresh produce has resulted in one of the world’s primary cuisines, Kyo-Ryōri. It is a term used to describe Kyoto’s food culture. A rich variety of culinary disciplines – Yūsoku-ryōri, Honzen-ryōri, Shōjin-ryōri, Cha-kaiseki and Obanzai – that underscores the value of Japanese food artistry on the world […]

Church of Our Lady Na Nameti October 20

Our Lady in Kutna Hora

Most day trippers from Prague visit Kutna Hora to see the fascinating Sedlec Ossuary. But, while the historically important silver mining town may have lost its mineral wealth, few realise the quaint town packs a significant punch as tourist destination beyond the obvious macabre! One highlight is the 14th century Church of Our Lady Na […]

iron knight, prague, czech republic October 15

Tragic historic time-lapse

AN imaginary time-lapse would show a young boy and girl happily growing up in 17th century Prague, falling in love against the majestic backdrop of the Charles Bridge and the Castle on the hill. However, true to the vagaries of life, the time-lapse will transition into a darker more sombre section: the gathering gloom of […]

Airport October 01

The bearable lightness of flying

I understand why business people lament the interminable hours they spend at airports and on airplanes; dead time in a dog-eat-dog world where time is money and money is God. I, on the other hand, love it! Airports, airlines, flying… while denotatively meaning one thing, connotatively it means different things to different people. In my […]

christmas market September 23

Why Bamberg?

Where?!? … is usually the first question I get asked about my intended travel destination, Bamberg. Why? … is the second. Bamberg is a small German hamlet in the historic Duchy of Franconia, north of Munich. Nuremberg is regarded as the cultural hub of Franconian lands, which may give some astute observers an inkling of […]

Okinawa Soba September 19

How to hanami

Not a forest fire but a flower fire! Spreading from south to north through Japan’s Kyushu, Honshu and Hokkaido islands, cherry blossoms or sakura conflagrate in pastel pinks to banish the shivering winter and herald the joys of spring. In Japan, this natural event is celebrated as hanami or cherry blossom viewing. It all began […]

Italy Rome Temple of Saturn September 12

Guide to the Roman Forum

THERE is one place in Rome that reverberates through the mists of time with an insistent pulse. Where momentous moments in world history occurred as a matter of course. A place that hosted raucous elections and triumphal marches; from where Emperors ruled over vast tracts of land; senators gesticulated from beneath laurel wreaths; demagogues enthralled […]

Kinkaku-ji September 09

Kyoto: Japan’s Imperial City

FROM the Land of the Rising Sun comes a city that has played a more dominant role than any other in the country’s celebrated history. A spectacular city of Emperors; a fabulous city of culture; an illustrious city that would have done its nation proud should it have symbolised the big red dot at the […]

Split Apple Rock New Zealand September 07

Kaiteriteri destination guide

KAITERITERI is a delightful seaside holiday town on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. The sheltered bay is a water paradise; the nearby Abel Tasman National Park a monument to nature! astonishedXpression recounts the best way to spend a day in this exciting destination. Upon arrival, we sluiced the road grime from our […]

Changi Airport's butterfly garden September 05

5 Reasons why Singapore is the best intro to Asia

Singapore has brilliantly positioned itself as a major hub for international travel. However, it is far from merely a transit point. The entrepreneurial nation is a superb destination in its own right and the ideal introduction for Westerners wishing to find an entry point into Asia. And these are the reasons why: Changi Airport Most […]

Pho Tai beef noodle soup recipe September 03

Invite Vietnam into your home

Some travellers buy small mementos to remind them of a wonderful time spent in an exotic location. A love of food takes home the culinary knowledge of a culture. It is truly the gift that gives on giving! Pho is the king of soups! Strange how pedestrian ingredients like beef stock, slivers of raw beef, […]

lion cub africa image August 31

Walk with Lions

ENGLISH-speaking South Africans often refer to predominantly Afrikaans-speaking cities or suburbs as being ‘behind the Boerewors Curtain’. The word ‘Boerewors’ referring to that uniquely South African beef and pork sausage; while the sentiment hints at a certain introversion, perhaps even a cultural exclusivity jealously guarded and hidden from inquisitive eyes. And you won’t go any […]

Raja Ampat August 29

The last paradise on earth?

RAJA AMPAT, also known as the Four Kings, is the world epicentre of marine biodiversity. This secret paradise lies off the north-eastern coast of Indonesia’s West Papua. The Four Kings consist of the islands Misool, Salawati, Batanta, Waigeo and over 1300 islets – most of them uninhabited. Raja Ampat is home to 75% of the […]

Junks set sail in Halong Bay August 27

Good morning, Vietnam!

THERE are several ‘must-see before I die’ places in the world. Vietnam is one of them. It is a one-stop-travel destination. Whether you’re a history buff, food fundi, culture connoisseur or nature enthusiast – Vietnam has it all! Where is it? Vietnam is an inverted S-shaped south-east Asian country in the northern hemisphere. It shares […]

Durnstein Wachau Austria Danube River August 25

Along the Danube

FAR too often, travellers zip through destinations as if they’re boxes on a customs form that needs to be ticked off. Slow right down and rent a bike to see the rustic smaller towns the large tourist buses don’t even know exist! A very popular bike track between Melk and Krems in Austria is only […]

Sun rising over ocean August 22

5 Cruise Destinations You Won’t Want to Skip

A relaxing cruise is a perfect option when it comes to planning a no-fuss vacation. Why worry about the stress of changing hotels, lugging around suitcases, and dealing with building an itinerary? Many of today’s travelers don’t realize that cruises can offer so much more than sandy beaches and fruity drinks. Cruises can take you […]

mittenwald fresco mural painting lüftlmalerei bavaria germany August 20

Into Central Europe

A tongue-in-cheek video trailer peak at a spring sojourn to Central Europe, covering the Czech Republic, Bavarian Germany and Austria. Enjoy! To see more of Central Europe, also have a look at: The Castle of Wagnerian Proportions Unique Bavarian Air Painting How to Put Flesh on a Skeleton Is This the Most Scenic Village in […]

india sunset monkey August 18

Animals in India’s urban jungle

WHILE sipping from a cup of masala chai and overlooking Udaipur’s Shree Jagdish Temple, I pondered the urban life of animals I had seen in India’s teeming cities and villages. Prior to arriving in India, I had thought the saturated presence of humanity would have almost completely displaced animal life. Boy, was I wrong! From […]

India New Delhi August 16

Seven reasons why you should travel independently

Newbie’s to international travel often ask journey experts whether to book with a tour or go it alone. The majority would opt for independent travel on most occasions, and here’s the seven reasons why you should travel independently… Risk appetite Risk management professionals bandy about terms such as ‘risk averse’ and ‘risk hunger’. Risk aversion, […]

cinque terre sunset August 14

Cinque Terre Photo Gallery

A VERY GOOD FRIEND of mine loves Firenze and inquired on Facebook as to scenic destinations nearby. Cinque Terre immediately came to mind! CT, or the Five Lands, is a string of five staggeringly beautiful villages that cling to a rugged landscape off the Balearic Sea coast. Limited transportation options in and around the villages […]

kenninji temple kyoto japan shoji garden August 13

Asia’s top tea-drinking nations

THE 8th century Chinese scholar Lu Yu described tea as “the sweetest dew from heaven”. Since this flowery declaration, tea has become the most widely consumed beverage in the world after water! astonishedXpression explores the top tea-drinking nations in Asia… China China accounts for almost one and half million tons of annual global tea production. […]

infographic travel camera August 12

Easy guide to selecting a travel camera

Confused as to which camera to buy for your next big trip? Ask yourself… Infographic designed by Vanessa Louw For further information, read Pick the Best Camera for Your Trip I love hearing what you have to say! Please brighten up my day by COMMENTING below or introducing yourself on FACEBOOK, GOOGLE+ or TWITTER! If you enjoy what […]

brisbane laser show August 10

Top three September holiday destinations

Planning a September getaway and still not sure of where to go? Review astonishedXpression’s September guide for ideas on the best destinations for this time of year. Brisbane, Australia Brisbane comes alive in September. Fireworks, among the best in the world some would argue, laser light shows, performing arts, even a Spiegeltent, all form part […]

pudong shanghai china night August 08

Shimmering Shanghai from the Hyatt

C’mon, everyone needs a bit of luxury in their life! Don’t deny it! An occasional treat, enfolding your fragile body – desperately crying out for a bit of tender loving care – into the arms of extravagant opulence, is a wonderful restorative practice. And nowhere more so than in China’s economic powerhouse, the glittering city […]

camel safari thar desert rajasthan india August 07

Glittering jewels in Rajasthan crown

INDIA is such a vast country filled with exotic destinations that any itinerary should be carefully constructed to do it justice. It is best to focus on one region rather than trying to fit too much into a finite period of time. Incredible India has too much to offer! Slimming an itinerary down will deliver […]

neuschwanstein castle bavaria germany August 05

The castle of Wagnerian proportions

IT is unlikely that Füssen would consistently feature on a Central European itinerary if not for the legacy of Bavaria’s ‘mad’ king Ludwig II. This does not detract from the small town as another lusciously scenic representative of the Bavarian countryside. After all, the town is surrounded by six lakes – a haven for water sport […]

natural bridge springbrook national park gold coast queensland waterfall August 04

Exotic whipbirds beckon from ancient rainforests

FROM the foaming surf that crash onto the golden beaches of the Gold Coast, emerald forests roll inland, steadily rising until they meet the formidable plateau of Springbrook National Park. This is where ancient Antarctic beech trees stand sentinel over breathtaking views toward Mt Warning, and where exotic birds, frogs and snakes thrive in world […]

woman praying sengakuji tokyo August 02

The temple in Japan where history’s alive

I will never forget Sengaku-ji… It was almost overpowering in its emotional intensity. I stood in frozen awe beside the final resting place of the famous 47 Ronin as mourners – more than 300 years after the event – flowed all around me to pay their respects. The true tale of the 47 Ronin is […]

mittenwald fresco mural painting lüftlmalerei bavaria germany August 01

Unique Bavarian ‘air painting’

BAVARIA is a German colossus. Germany’s second most populous state and Munich, the Bavarian capital, the country’s third largest city. It is a province of superlatives: from its rich and varied history to the modern sporting prowess of European champions Bayern Munich. But it is also a part of the world, if you take the […]

himba woman bare breasted namibia July 31

Africa’s ‘most beautiful’ people

WESTERN visitors to the remote and arid landscapes of Namibia invariably describe them as “the most beautiful people in Africa”. They exude a certain aura; a sense of diversity that is endearing rather than threatening. They are, of course, the Himba… The Himba is a tribe of semi-nomadic pastoralists that inhabit the northwest corner of […]

brisbane south bank parklands arbour ship inn July 30

Tourists take off on Segway

THE fairly pedestrian, excuse the pun, news that Queensland has become the first Australian state to legalise Segway use on footpaths and bicycle lanes have caused quite a stir in the local rag and among opposition politicians. Doomsayers have let loose with both barrels, conjuring up a range of dire predictions – from causing pedestrian […]

hanok village seoul photographers July 29

Seoul’s endangered suburb fights back

BUKCHON is a small Korean village frozen in time. Surrounded by the inevitable march for affordable housing in the northern part of Seoul, it struggles bravely for breathing space from an ever-encroaching phalanx of skyscrapers. Sadly, Bukchon is the last remaining traditional suburb in the nation’s capital. Thirty years ago there were about 800,000 Hanok […]

putra mosque putrajaya kuala lumpur malaysia July 28

Malaysia’s administrative fulcrum a feast for the eye

MOST tourists to Malaysia flying in via LCCT and speeding towards Kuala Lumpur aboard the KLIA Transit train might pause to take notice of the short stop at Putrajaya Station, but probably not. After all, they’ll either be tired after a long flight or looking forward to seeing the famous Petronas Twin Towers in what […]

kubu island baobab tree kalahari botswana salt pan July 27

Other-worldly island in a sea of salt

KUBU Island is one of the most astounding places you will ever see. It is eerie; desolate; other-worldly! British broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson once commented, this is “just about the most astonishing place I’ve ever been,” and he’s right! Kubu Island, or Lekhubu as it is locally known, is a kilometre wide granite island or outcrop […]

kubu island baobab tree kalahari botswana July 26

The island that left Jeremy Clarkson almost speechless

THIS magnificent Baobab stands on an island that Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson described as, “just about the most astonishing place I’ve ever been”. Know where it is? Post your answer in the comment field and stay tuned to astonishedXpression for a full destination report on this ghostly landscape. The mystery island revealed!

jacobsbaai west coast south africa July 25

Take on the challenge of the Cape’s West Coast

LOOKING for a day trip – or even overnighter – from Cape Town? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Explore this pictorial itinerary for a scenic, cultural and culinary outing that will enrich your experience of the fairest Cape. Destination: The Wild West Coast Your mission, should you choose to accept it, will take […]

chinese stir fry beef spring onion July 23

A taste of northern China

YOU don’t have to visit China to experience China. Food is a key characteristic of cultural identity – and also the tastiest! Follow this easy stir fried beef and spring onion recipe and whip up the flavour of northern China at home. Ingredients: 500g beef (rump or sirloin) 2 garlic cloves (finely chopped) 2T Pearl […]

fox glacier south island new zealand July 22

Off the beaten path in New Zealand’s South Island

NEW Zealand’s South Island is a botanic garden; a visual feast almost impossible to sate. From the glorious seascapes of the Abel Tasman National Park in the north to the windswept beauty of the Catlins on the Southern Scenic Route, picturesque vistas roll through like a National Geographic highlight reel on steroids. No wonder the […]

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