Thursday, May 29, 2014

Experiences Chinese Dining in Sydney

Who hasn’t tasted Asian food and fell in love with it, from Sambal of Jakarta, Indonesia, Pod Thai of Thailand and Devil’s Curry of Malaysia? How about getting a Chinese food in a foreign land? Some of the world’s best ethnic cuisines can be enjoyed right in Sydney, and Chinatown, found in the Haymarket section in the heart of town, is the place to get some of the very best Asian food you’ve ever tried. Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore wants you to taste your favorite Chinese food, even if you’re far from China. Here are some examples of food that you can enjoy while in Sydney.

Marigold. Flabby and delectable dumplings, ’Yum Cha’ of all kinds,  try it out at the street carts, however, go to Marigold to make a meal out of them. They are fresh, skillfully crafted, and flawlessly steamed.  There are more than just the exquisite dumplings to enjoy.  You can also add to your meal a large assortment of flavorsome side dishes, counting, rich and delicious beef tendon, radish cakes, and crispy broccoli in oyster sauce.

Red Chilli. It has a  spicy authentic Sichuan cuisine, you can take pleasure in a traditional meal of thoroughly prepared homestyle dishes that mark, of non-other than hot peppers!can be either kissing meat, permeating through oils, or dried and sprinkled on a collection of dishes, the heat is overt, but constantly balanced with refreshing  and creamy textures. Never forget the crispy peppered chicken.

Mustang. If you want to try something different, try Nepalese cuisine. Nepal’s food has its own unique yet comfortingly familiar tastes to enjoy. It is a combination of Chinese and Indian influences. Head north on the Pacific Highway a few towns up to Crow’s Nest, and go for Nepalese at Mustang. Also make it well worth the trip while trying it along with the excellent cuisine, offers warm and welcoming hospitality. Chicken momo is Nepal’s signature dish inspired by Tibetan cuisine, never miss the chance of trying it. it is a stuffed dumpling that is served with a savory sauce made with grilled tomato and sesame seeds. There are also superb curries of goat and lamb, and scrumptious basmati rice dishes that can be best expressed as Chinese-Indian fusion, but the sum of its parts is particularly Nepalese.

Emperor’s Garden. Well-known in Chinatown for its mouth-watering roast pork, this modest little gem of a restaurant has a stall outside as well as indoor seating so you can have a tasty bite on the go or pine some time away inside as you wish. Whether, you’ll have to try the best roast pork and duck you’ll ever try. It’s the meats that you’ll keep going back for with well-seasoned rice and veggies square the meal.

There are just some warnings to this, if you choose eating on some other restaurants, you might end up eating a non-authentic Asian cuisine that you deserve.

Related Sites…

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Crazy Festivals In The World

Harbin Ice Festival, Harbin, China. This festival happens during January. The residents of Harbin resist the bitter Siberian winter by building a city made exclusively of ice instead of staying in front of the fire indoors. Laser technology and traditional sculpting techniques are used to build the chilly metropolis, which then melts into the history books with the arrival of spring.

Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri, Saidaiji-naka, Japan. This festival happens during the third Saturday of February. You’d be surprised and not much can prepare you with seeing 9,000 near naked men fight over a 20cm-long stick. This is one crazy festival for foreigners, but that’s the aim at Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri. A priest tosses two sacred shingi sticks into the heaving mass at midnight and whoever catches, snatches and, ultimately, stuffs the sticks into a box of heaped rice will be blessed with a year of happiness. But the warning is, an aching muscles and limbs the next day. 

Songkran, Thailand happens every 13-15 April. Never mind the crowded pubs and expensive eateries because here they really splash out during the New Year. Be prepared for a three-day of oversized water guns and buckets of the blue stuff as Songkran hoses down the hottest month of the year with country-wide water fights. According to tradition, the water symbolizes cleansing, however, these days it looks like its more of an excuse to get elephants to spray unsuspecting onlookers.

Phuket Vegetarian Festival, Phuket, Thailand happens during September. Organizers of this event took to self-mortification to liven things up when they realized how boring a vegetarian festival was. There is no truth in it, because this yearly veggie fest features some really shocking displays of body piercing. It’s barely a ringing endorsement for going veggie, however very fun.

Monkey Buffet Festival, Lopburi, Thailand the festival is celebrated every 25th of November. The 3,000 crab-eating macaques found at Lopburi in Thailand gorge on much more than just crustaceans, especially as locals leave out 4,000 kilos of fruit, cakes, sweets and fizzy drinks for the Monkey Buffet Festival. Watch them stuff their faces, steal cameras, ruffle hair and clamber over anything that moves during the event or join in with sideshows of music, dance and, rather predictably, monkey fancy dress. 

Baliem Valley Festival, Papua, Indonesia
August – aside from all the city of Jakarta has to offer, this unique Papuan festival is worth a visit as well. This traces its root in the belief held by the various local tribe that war is not only a conflict of power and interest, but also a symbol of fertility and prosperity. A rich celebration of the Baliem Valley’s diverse indigenous cultures.

Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore hopes that the above information is helpful. May we encourage you to try visit Southeast Asia and experience the craziest festivals you will certainly enjoy. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Avoiding Jetlag

Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore wants your vacation more enjoyable and free of hassle, here are some advice on how to avoid having a jetlag.

Hydrate. You can quickly be dehydrated in the airplane cabins since they are dry and pressurized, this will make you feel really sleepy, what you should do is drink lots of water during the trip since it can help you ease the process. This doesn’t necessarily stop the jetlag, but it will aid the dehydration so it won’t add to your fatigue.

• Sleep. Try to sleep on the plane even for an hour or so because it will make a big difference. Ear plugs and an eye mask will help.upon arriving, when morning, having breakfast immediately after waking up on the plane or once you get into the airport—even if not hungry— will definitely help adjust your body to the idea that yes, it is now morning.

• Shift your time for long trips. Move you sleep and meal time ahead of your flight.

• Stay away from alcohol. This is a warning! Do not have too much or you’ll have a nasty headache and never properly adjust to the new time zone since the issue here is dehydration on long overseas flights.

Avoid naps. This may be painful but you should try to stay awake until bedtime in the new time zone. This will make your trip more enjoyable and productive for the succeeding days. Is it easier to stay awake outside than staying indoors, go out for a walk, the fresh air and sunshine make it much easier to stay awake.

• Stretch. It helps your body feel more normal and not as confined on a plane. This doesn’t combat jet lag per se, but it does reduce some of the scars of travel.

Don’t shift time for short trips. This tip is only for trips less than 48 hours. If you’re jetting off to Europe for a single meeting and then racing back home, it pays to stay on your home time zone.

This tips are very useful for travelers going to a different timezone, like for example you an Ozzie travelling to Southeast Asian cities such as Beijing China, Kl Malaysia or Jakarta Indonesia. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Travel Tips: Do I Need To Pack A Travel Adapter?

Imagine this scenario: You've discovered a pot of gold at the end of your driveway and can now afford your dream trip. You plan to visit Canada, Scandinavia, China, Saudi Arabia, Argentina and New Zealand.

Question: Which will you need to pack more of - shoes or adapters?

Answer: Shoes. You can't scale the Great Wall in your tango heels, but you can use one plug in all those destinations.

The world's outlets have basically remained unchanged since Homo sapiens first flipped the switch over a century ago. Socket meets plug; they hook up and create a spark. Travellers, meanwhile, have evolved. We no longer traipse around the globe weighted down by multiple adapters and converters. We have flown the nest of cords and plastic bits.

The first accessory to go: the converter. Previously, travellers needed a converter to synchronise their single-voltage Made in America item (hair dryer, curling iron, etc.) with the foreign country's high-wattage outlet. Without it, prepare for a potential meltdown. Today, most smart-gadgets and beauty products are dual-voltage and can handle a range of current strengths.

"Almost all gadgets now run on 110-220 volts and can adapt to different kinds of voltage," said Sascha Segan,'s lead mobile analyst, by e-mail from Seoul. "You can easily buy travel haircare devices that work on both voltages."

How do you know whether you need a converter? Check the manufacturer's label. If the tag has a single voltage number (110 or 120 volts), you do; if you see a combined low/high number (120/240 volts or 100/240 volts) or digits of 200 or higher, you don't.

Unlike the converter, the adapter is essential, regardless of the device. The plastic nub bridges the design divide between the US plug and the foreign socket. With it, you can use your three-pronged hair straightener in a two-holed outlet. Without it, you are stuck with curly hair in Paris or Bangkok.

Adapters are sold in myriad forms. You can purchase singlets for a specific country (Italy, Switzerland, the United Kingdom) or a multi-destination model. The superhero of adapters is the four-in-one, a quartet of plugs that accommodates outlets in North America, continental Europe, the United Kingdom and the South Pacific/Australia. It covers about 150 countries, including some former colonial nations, such as Hong Kong, Zambia and Kenya, where the UK outlet still reigns.

"India has a mix of European and South African plugs, and China has a mix of European, US and Australian," said Segan. "But most Chinese sockets take American plugs, and most Indian sockets take European plugs."

The mega-adapter is a staple for such peripatetic travellers as Lee Abbamonte, who claims to be the youngest American (35 years old) to have visited every country in the world. Abbamonte always packs a universal adapter, but he warns of outliers. South Africa, for one, features a socket shape not found elsewhere on the map. (For a list, check Magellan's online Guide to World Electrical Connections.)

For the greatest outlet possibilities, consider purchasing a wider world set. Magellan's sells a drawstring pouch filled with 13 adapters. Apple's World Travel Adapter Kit includes a USB power adapter, a USB cable connector and six plugs suited for North America, Japan, China, the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Korea, Australia and Hong Kong.

Adventurers who travel with a small arsenal of gadgets or rely heavily on their devices pack supplemental power-source boosters. Abbamonte's security blanket is the Mophie, a rechargeable battery case that extends a device's unplugged life by many hours. Segan relies on a USB backup battery and Powerstick's PowerTrip, a charger that can draw energy from a wall socket, a USB port and the sun (via solar panels). To charge several gadgets simultaneously, he throws into his luggage a Wonpro universal power strip that comes with detachable cords tipped with different adapters.

"Hotel rooms often don't have enough outlets for the gadgets I carry, or the outlets aren't in convenient places," he said. "The ability to suddenly summon six outlets at once, and to mix US and foreign gadgets on the same strip, is invaluable."

Of course, even the most alpha traveller can find herself in a jam, with a dormant gadget and no juicer to revive it. If this happens, simply inquire at the hotel front desk. Many international properties keep a small pile of adapters and chargers that past American guests forgot to take home.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

5 Most Famous Dishes You Should Eat in Thailand

Thai cuisine, like Jakarta, Inodnesia’s, is rich in traditions, flavors and ethnic mixes. These mix of Chinese food, traditional Arabic cuisine and finally, Indian, hence the use of curry and coconut milk, makes Thai food very interesting. Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore presents this must try Thai dishes.

Som Tum is a dish originally from the northeastern part of Thailand. A typical salad with the ingredients made up of papaya, peanuts and dried shrimp, tomatoes and sometimes you may find it even with crab and fermented fish. Eat it with rice instead of bread in addition with chicken. Every corner of the city offers this dish since it is the local’s favorite.

Tom Yum Kung is the national dish of Thailand. This is a soup dish that is made of shrimp, strong flavored and very salty, composed mainly of grasses, mushrooms, sometimes with seafood. If you really wanted to taste authentic Thai cuisine then it is compulsory dish to try this dish.

Khao Pad or more commonly known as fried rice. The pre-cooked steamed rice is then cooked again by frying. Usually, it is prepared with Thai Jasmine rice and it typically with a base meat or chicken, pork or beef instead of fish, such as shrimp or crabs. It has tomatoes, onions or eggs as well. They are also fried with green onions, cilantro and garlic, spices that are almost always present in any dish. It is then enriched with soy sauce, sugar and salt. Then served with chopped cucumber and tomato slices. The recipe and the composition may change slightly from place to place since it is very popular throughout Thailand.

Coconut milk is widely used in Thai cuisine, Tom Kah Kai is a sweet and sour dish made with one. It is basically a chicken soup with coconut milk, with the addition of Siamese galangal or a herb that comes from the ginger family.

Pad Thai is a dish made up of rice noodles, stir-fried with eggs, and with the addition of fish sauce and tamarind chili. Sometimes cooked with meat or fish, this is a traditional dish of Thai cuisine and well known throughout Thailand.

Warning! There are many dishes disguised as Thai cuisine and it is everywhere around the world. If you really wanted to taste the authentic one, visit Thailand and experience their beauty and their food.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Beware Of Vacation Club Fraud

Don't believe promises of extreme discounts or free travel

A lawsuit the Massachusetts attorney general recently filed against a Pittsfield vacation club and an affiliated company underscores why you should consider carefully before doing business with a discount travel company or vacation club.

A court has issued a preliminary injunction ordering the companies to stop using alleged deceptive marketing to sell travel memberships, Attorney General Martha Coakley of Massachusetts recently announced.

Coakley said the companies offered consumers free travel incentives and extreme discounts on travel, but instead charged them thousands of dollars for access to a proprietary software database that failed to provide the promised discounts.

“Vacation or travel scams offer free or discounted deals that often never materialize, and our office alleges these companies stole thousands of dollars from consumers through their deceptive memberships,” Coakley said in a statement.

The temporary injuction bars the companies from advertising free travel that in fact requires consumers to pay taxes and fees. Nor can they promote access to nonexistent wholesale travel discount or hold consumers to a three-day cancellation period when they have not yet received access to the companies’ website.

The state is seeking more than $108,000 in restitution to victims and $170,000 in civil penalties.

Over the years, we've seen many gripes about travel clubs in complaints filed with the the Better Business Bureau and such websites as and RipoffReport.
In 2012, the New Jersey attorney general sued a company and its owner for failing to provide promised deep discounts, vacation accommodations, and other travel services for which it charged one-time membership fees that ranged from $995 to $8,500, plus a $29.95 monthly charge.

Here are tips to consider if you're contemplating joining a vacation club.

  •     Check out the company at the Better Business Bureau, and by using a web search with the company name along with such words as "complaints" and "reviews."
  •      Ask about trip-cancellation and refund policies. Get the answers in writing.
  •      Request a detailed explanation of any vaguely worded descriptions, such as “5-star accommodations."
  •     Be especially wary of unsolicited promotions that come by mail, e-mail, or fax offering deeply discounted travel packages.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tech-Travel Tips for You and You’re Family

Growing concern that kids put family home at risk

Families are beginning to take more devices with them on vacation, not realizing the risks involved when taking a tablet, laptop or smartphone along for the trip.

Experts estimate that the average family now takes seven electronic devices on each trip, taking pictures, posting to social media and staying connected to friends back home.

While many adults are now aware of the risks associated with posting that you are away on vacation, experts are more worried about whether children understand these risks.

"A lot of very young kids are using Instagram or other photo sharing sites and they're taking photographs and they're sharing those photographs," says Michelle Dennedy, McAfee's Chief Privacy Officer.

Dennedy worries that these actions can increase risks for traveling families.

The safety recommendations are:
* Use only secure Wi-Fi while away
* Password protect all your devices

* Even if your device breaks down, still stay away from public computers

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Learning Holidays: Readers' Tips, Recommendations and Travel Advice

If variety is the spice of life, a visit to Luang Prabang, a World Heritage site in Laos surrounded by beautiful scenery, will excite your senses. Without having to journey very far, you can participate in numerous learning experiences.

Take part in a Mahout’s experience run by the Elephant Village and learn how to control your elephant, take her for a walk and bathe her in a tributary of the mighty Mekong. Go trekking with a guide from Tiger Trail and learn all about Hmong villages and culture. Our guide spoke very good English and gave us an interesting history lesson on the recent wars in Indo-China. He finished off with some beautiful, traditional folk songs.
Rise early for a cookery class and tour the local markets to buy your ingredients. Then back to the kitchen to concoct dishes. We came away with our recipe book and have prepared some meals at home. For those with an interest in textiles, there are wonderful courses in traditional dyeing, weaving and batik at the Ockpoktok centre.
Carole Robinson, of Manchester, wins a holiday with Vietnam Tours and Vietnam Airlines

Other letters from readers
The best learning holiday I ever had was when I decided to take my 16-year-old son away to learn to sail on the west coast of Scotland in August 2012. He has two sisters, so getting quality time with him was difficult. I thought the two of us, with a training skipper, would be an excellent way to learn together on a five-day course. This was part of a longer-term plan to take a flotilla holiday in Greece. He needed his Competent Crew ticket and I needed my Day Skipper practical as part of the Royal Yachting Association exams to be able to charter abroad.
We trained with ScotWinds ( with an ex-RAF Nimrod engineer. This meant my son would have to be accountable to a skipper from a military background, not his father. We sailed around Skye, mooring each night in a different spot and learning each day the art of sailing. The experience brought us closer together, allowing me in particular to see him as an adult with responsibilities for himself and other crew members. We subsequently chartered in Greece in 2013 and he now has the sailing bug.

Anthony Cumming, Aberdeenshire
Excellent learning holidays are offered by Arvon ( to give people time and space to write. I went on a poetry writing week to Lumb Bank, which once belonged to Ted Hughes, near Heptonstall in West Yorkshire. It’s a great setting, which gives you a sense of the countryside that moved Hughes as well as offering a week of guided tuition to aid your own writing. Arvon’s other centres are all in inspiring settings: Moniack Mhor, a converted steading near Loch Ness, The Hurst, John Osborne’s former home in Shropshire, and Totleigh Barton, a 16th-century manor house in Devon. The weeks are structured with exercises in the morning, time to write in the afternoon, and chances to hear your tutors’ work and that of a guest writer before sharing your own work at the end of the week. Before that you will have shared a lot more, including the cooking.

Chris Allen, Bucks
A full-immersion course in a foreign country helps you to achieve unparalleled results when learning a new language. Several hours of daily tuition and a home stay with a native family all contribute to a learning experience that an hour’s evening class per week in the UK just can’t compete with. For those particularly interested in Spanish, I’d have to recommend the city of Quetzaltenango in Guatemala (affectionately known by its Mayan name Xela – pronounced “Shellah” – by its residents). After extensive research and travels in Latin America, for me Guatemala stands head and shoulders above other language destinations in Latin America as the only country that teaches classes one-on-one as standard practice, meaning that you progress at your own pace and have none of the crippling anxiety of having to speak up in front of others who are more advanced than you. Not only are the classes one-on-one, they are significantly cheaper than group classes in other countries.
The gorgeous, picturesque city of Antigua is where you’ll undoubtedly be drawn to when looking into a study trip to Guatemala. Its pebble-dashed colonial charm lures thousands of aspiring linguists each year. But if mastering the language is genuinely your ultimate goal, settle for just a visit to Antigua (where English is spoken at every picture-postcard turn), and head to the highlands of Xela for a truer Guatemalan experience and an opportunity to practise the skills you learn in class.

Lucy McGill, London
I can recommend a fantastic learning holiday, “An Introduction to Maasai Culture”. You will learn so much, covering all areas of knowledge. Academically, you will pick up the basics of language in an outdoor classroom in a sandy riverbed. Socially you will learn community spirit as you drink and cook together around the campfire that you have learnt to light without matches, developing your musical talents, singing warrior songs. You will also be taught survival skills as there is no running water or electricity.

Discover how to make the most of seeing animals in their natural habitat as you are taught how to approach wild animals in safety without disturbing them, and spy skills as you learn how to walk without making a noise and how to avoid someone picking up your scent. See how to track animals and witness elephants drinking. Learn self-defence and how to make traditional Maasai weapons for hunting, such as a bow and arrow and spears. Develop your sporting skills with Maasai wrestling techniques. You will be shown how to make natural remedies for common illnesses, such as backache and colds. You will also pick up so many botanical facts.

B Grace Hindle, North Yorkshire
Time your stay at the Bedruthan hotel in Cornwall to coincide with one of the inspiring workshops on offer and go home with a new skill. Choose from a fascinating variety of activities including foraging walks, jewellery making, “the art of pork” (butchering and sausage making), preserving, screen printing and upcycling furniture. The courses run for one or two days and hotel guests pay only a small fee. When your workshop is over, relax in the sleek spa, take a scenic stroll or, if you are still keen to master new talents, seek out the surf school on nearby Mawgan Porth beach.

Martha Hales, Dorset
When studying a new language abroad try to live with a local family. Not only will you progress your language skills at an increased pace but you will learn more about the local culture, become involved with family life and make strong friendships.

Holly Gwazdacz, Bristol
If you’re a keen photographer, passionate for travel in some of the most colourful locations across Asia and want an exciting and rewarding holiday, you can do no better than a week’s all-inclusive photography workshop run by Simon Taplin and Mike Browne of Aperture Asia. I met Simon when I was working out of Singapore. A top commercial photographer, hugely amicable and talented, he unravels jargon and simplifies the photographic process, resulting in the creation of some truly memorable images. Photographing in out-of-the-way places such as Burma and Vietnam, these forays into stunning locations of diverse culture, heritage and people really are more than photography courses, they are learning experiences. Their mission is to make a positive difference to the people and the environment of destinations travelled to, and as an advocate of responsible tourism, Aperture Asia commits to contributing back to the people and places it visits, making a difference to the lives of those you meet. The experience leaves you not only full of unforgettable memories but equipped with new-found confidence and a variety of advanced photographic skills.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tips To Prevent Identity Theft When You Travel

There are plenty of things to worry about while on the road: remembering your passport, confirming your reservations, packing enough socks for a week. Add "protecting your identity" to that list. Each year, victims of identity theft lose some $20 billion in cash and valuables, and all of the unknowns of travel can make you especially vulnerable to identity thieves. So arm yourself well in advance. Here are 11 ways to protect your identity while traveling.

Beware of public computers

The days of the Internet cafe are waning, as Wi-Fi-enabled tablets and ultra-light laptops have become the norm for many tourists. But if you're not packing a lot of technology on your travels, or your computer dies on the road, or you just need to print a boarding pass in the hotel lobby, remember that public computers are hotbeds for identity theft. Never autosave information on forms, especially if you're typing in your passport or credit card number. Select "no" if you are asked to save any passwords. Delete your search history afterward. If possible, use the Google Chrome browser and open your windows in "incognito mode" (Ctrl + Shift + N, or click on the menu bar in the upper right-hand corner). Your search history, passwords, and cookies will automatically not be saved. Finally, avoid checking bank-account balances on public computers, if you can. Use your bank's smartphone app (most major banks have one), or simply limit your balance check-ins to secure ATMs.

Use secure wireless networks

Wireless Internet makes life on the road convenient, but it can also make your private info vulnerable. The free Wi-Fi networks at cafes, in hotel lobbies, and in other public places are notoriously not secure because they often lack data-encryption protections that closed networks have. All it takes for someone to do damage is an elementary knowledge of computer systems and a simple plug-in like Firesheep, which allows a user to spy on others' browser activities.

Whenever possible, stick to more secure WEP, WPA, and WPA2 networks, which require a password to log on. If you must use an open (non-password-protected) network, immediately log out of banking, social media, and email accounts when finished with each session. To prevent your data packets from being plucked from midair, use only encrypted websites (such as those with "https" in the address) when on free Wi-Fi networks. If you see a warning that a site you are entering is not secured, is risky, or contains malware, don't proceed.

Also, don't forget about your phone. When traveling, turn off your smartphone's settings that allow the device to automatically connect to nearby Wi-Fi hot spots.

Lock your smartphone

Most of us store an alarming amount of data on our smartphones: emails and text messages with personal information; photos of our family, homes, and cars; and important travel information, such as boarding passes or itineraries. While it's nice to have a digital backup of everything important, leaving this information unprotected is like rolling out a welcome mat for hackers and identity thieves. Be smart and protect your phone with a home-screen-locking password. Depending on your phone model, this may be a numerical code, a unique swiping pattern, or a fingerprint scan. Avoid obvious numerical codes such as "1111" or your birth year, and remember to change your PIN frequently; it's not that difficult for someone looking over your shoulder to guess what you're typing.

Don't give out your phone number

You will likely need to provide a home or mobile phone number for your airline and hotel reservations, but beyond that, avoid giving out your phone number while on the road. Having your digits gives an identity thief instant access to you via spammy calls; often they'll be able to look up your home address and personal information as well. A popular scam involves the caller claiming to be a representative from your bank and requesting your credit card number, so if you ever receive a phone call from someone asking to verify your credit card or bank-account number, hang up immediately. Then call your bank. Another scam that often hits hotel guests is a call reportedly from the front desk, requesting a new credit card number to secure the reservation. Never give that information out over the phone; instead, hang up and visit the front desk in person.

Use cash whenever possible

In terms of secure payment, cash is still king. If stolen, it can't be replaced (unlike a credit card), but it won't put you at risk of identity theft. When traveling, always keep a combination of cash and cards on hand. Use credit cards at airports, major chains, and shops that clearly use secure payment systems. Use cash whenever there is the slightest doubt about the security of a seller's methods (for instance, if they want to take the card to a mysterious "back room" for payment). Avoid using your debit card whenever possible; while U.S. law requires protection against unauthorized debit card purchases, those protections may not be as instantaneous or as broad as those offered by your credit card company. You may also be hit with immediate overdraft fees that could drain your savings account before you even know you are a victim.

Use ATMs carefully

If the only theft you associate with ATMs is the astronomical "convenience" fees some charge, think again. As this video from The Today Show and security expert Jim Stickley demonstrates, ATMs can be fake. Disturbingly, ATM kiosks are available for purchase online. All it takes is a bit of capital and some clever hacking, and voila, that seemingly safe street-corner ATM has now stored your credit card information. (This exact situation happened in Brazil last year, in fact.)

So be very wary of ATMs on the road. Carry as much cash as you feel comfortable having and store it in different locations on your person and in your luggage. If you do need to use an ATM, stick to bank branches during normal banking hours, or, better yet, use cash-back options at convenience stores, pharmacies, and shops. Take your travel partner to the ATM with you and have him or her stand behind you to block other people's views of your screen or hidden cameras pointed toward you. Tear up ATM receipts immediately.

If you want to be absolutely secure on the road, you can purchase a prepaid Visa card that allows you to withdraw money from ATMs with a temporary PIN. Simply destroy the card when your travels are over.

Check your credit card statements

Jewelry, passport, luggage, cash—you know you need to protect these items while traveling. Add your credit history to that list. All it takes to ruin your credit is someone running up your credit card balance or opening unauthorized accounts in your name. The easiest way to nip any credit-score disasters in the bud is by monitoring your credit card statements and credit score like a hawk before, during, and after your travels.

Federal law requires the three major credit-reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to provide you with a free credit report every 12 months. Retrieve yours through Other providers, such as or, offer a monthly credit statement for a small fee; if you're traveling internationally or if you've been a victim of identity theft before, signing up for monthly notifications may be a small price to pay for peace of mind (and squeaky-clean credit). Otherwise, the free yearly report should serve you just fine.

Clean out your wallet, pockets and purse

You may be the master of web security, but identity theft can still happen the old-fashioned way: by sticky fingers. Imagine the following scenario: You leave your wallet on your beach towel to go for a quick swim, smug with the knowledge that there's no cash for would-be thieves to take. Yet you've left a doctor's prescription, your business card, and your expired driver's license behind. Any of these documents could do surprising damage to your credit (and your livelihood) if exploited. The thief or impersonator would know which medications you're on (and perhaps your health insurance information), your work address, your phone number, and your job title. It's a good idea to always clean out your wallet or purse before travel. Discard old memos, appointment reminders, expired IDs, and even to-do lists. Shred any confidential documents such as bank statements or pieces of mail that contain your address. Not only will you travel lighter, but you'll minimize the risk of someone scavenging for sensitive information.

Lock up valuable documents

Hotel safes aren't perfect (yes, even they can be hacked), but they're much more secure than simply tossing every ID card and travel document into your purse or wallet. When you arrive at your hotel, lock up any unnecessary valuables such as passports, jewelry, and gadgets. This includes boarding documents and travel confirmation emails (or go paper-free by using a service like TripIt that stores reservations, confirmation numbers, and itineraries).

Stop your mail

Thieves don't steal mail because they like to browse your Victoria's Secret catalogs. They do it because of all the juicy personal information it contains: bank-account and Social Security numbers, even health information. Before you depart, place a hold on your postal delivery or, better yet, ask a close neighbor to collect the piles of bills, cards, and letters each day. Shred all personal mail, even credit card offers in which you're not interested. Go paperless with as many accounts as you can; not only does it cut down on waste, it makes your personal data more secure. And if you'll be away for an exceptionally long period—say, several months or more—consider renting a P.O. box at your local post office and placing a forward on your mail.

Use smart identification

While abroad, don't use your passport as your primary identification. If it is stolen, you could find yourself in a world of trouble. Not only will you be ID-less and unable to board a flight, you'll also be at risk of identity theft. Stolen passports are often sold on the black market to criminals who use them to open new bank accounts, get jobs, or participate in human trafficking. Although the local embassy can help you secure a new passport fairly quickly, you'll want to avoid putting yourself at risk in the first place. Lock up your passport and use a driver's license or an international ID for nightclubs, bars, and other places of admission.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Land of (Vanishing) Plenty

Johannesburg - At first, I thought it was a belated April Fool’s joke. There in the travel section of our sister paper, The Sunday Independent, was a photograph of a lonely, scrawny bird, trotting along nondescript road.

It was the caption, though, that almost made me laugh: “A variety of wildlife, including pheasant, can be spotted at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the heart of North Dakota’s Badlands.”

If this is what Americans clutch on to as their idea of wildlife, they are seriously deprived. Then I thought a bit more: everybody outside this amazing, disturbing and frustrating continent (which we call home) is seriously deprived when it comes to wildlife.

The Aussies may display good ball skills and live in a well-ordered society with some considerable open space but, when it comes to animals… Please. A kangaroo? A dingo? A koala?

I guarantee that if you go to London right now and spend a week there, you will not see as many birds as you will parked on my patio in Northcliff.

You don’t even have to go inside to turn on the National Geographic channel to witness wildlife drama here in Joburg suburbia. I once watched as a coucal took sparrow chicks from a nest and flew off with them. I’ve looked on as loeries and other birds chased off a gymnogene, recognising it as a deadly predator; and found pieces of a pet “silky” chicken in the tree and around the garden, indicating it was killed and eaten by something like a genet.

On a trip to Cuba some years ago, the boat captain, ferrying us to a rocky island, was in raptures about the lizards living there. Iguanas? No – even a leguaan would chuckle inside his horny scales about the little Latino lizard.

Normally, around this time of year, we like to head to the bushveld. The Witwatersrand gets cold and dry and, despite our lovely gardens, makes you long for something real – and slightly warmer. And, wherever we go, we will see animals, in as natural a state as possible, given the spreading presence of humankind.

The word that comes to mind when we sit in the bush – sipping coffee and eating rusks at a waterhole, watching even the “mundane” like kudu – is “privileged”.

By privileged I mean not that we game park visitors are advantaged by our comparative wealth (we are, in a country where there are huge discrepancies in income) but that in this age, we are fortunate to see magnificent and varied animals in their natural habitat.

Almost certainly, it will not always be this way. Our grandchildren may still get the tail end of this wondrous time, but their children will probably only get to experience Africa’s animals in zoos or on their computer screens.

This doesn’t only apply to rhino – although they are under the greatest threat and will most likely be one of the first to disappear – all the creatures that inhabit our open spaces will be under pressure from humans as time goes on.

Is there a solution? I don’t know. For now, I take the lazy way out and prefer to live in the moment.

My suggestion for this week about how to make the most of your bush experiences: less is more. Stay in one spot for longer. Ignore the rush of cars around you and the tempting feeling that a great sighting is around the corner. It may be, but there is reward in hanging around and watching… a pride of lion sleeping, paws twitching in dreamland; elephants bathing in a river; even baboons cleaning each other.

If you see a francolin at the side of the road, check it out. Look at its sometimes scatter-brained way of moving. Then smile – because such a sighting would be the highlight of your visit in another country. - Saturday Star

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Where To Go In May

May is a perfect time for a getaway whether you're on the door-sill of spring, or the autumn is approaching, or dodging the change of the seasons overall in the tropics. Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore presents a whole new destination for this month.

You will not be able to discover any place like Spain at this time of year, where the streets of Seville serve up a terrifying sight if you're a fan of centuries-old pageantry. In China on the other hand, enthusiasm - and, of course, a good soaking - is the hallmark of Yunnan's Water Splashing Festival.

In the meantime, adventurers might be enticed by a trek in the middle of South Africa's mighty 'Battlement of Spears', or perhaps even a leap in the company of manta rays off the coast of Indonesia. Although maybe you'd have a preference to travel around uber-cool Copenhagen previous to the crowds descend, or grab a shrimp and oyster po'boy for a saunter down Bourbon Street, New Orleans, in search of the spirit of jazz.

Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Aside from the beauty of Bali and if you want to avoid the city scam in Jakarta, Raja Ampat in Indonesia is a perfect getaway. With a leg on each side of the end of monsoon and the cusp of summer, May heralds splendidly comfortable temperatures for vacationing in Indonesia. With winter approaching yet to pick up for surfers, the circumstances are ideal for diving and snorkelling.

In the ‘Coral Triangle’, one of its six countries, Indonesia is bounded by one of the most diverse oceans on earth. West Papua’s enchanted diving destination Raja Ampat is one of its purest corners, audacity more than 10 times the number of hard coral species found in the Caribbean. The government declaration that Indonesia’s whole aquatic territory will now operate as a sanctuary for manta rays, consequently it’s the ideal time to come and get acquainted with these gentle giants of the sea, all in February.

If you’re a beginner in diving, you should stop by the Gili Islands to get a training before heading to more distant diving regions like Raja Ampat. There’s also a large diving and snorkelling off accessible with no trouble in Bali and neighbouring Nusa Lembongan.

But a warning though, you might got addicted to Raja Ampat’s beauty you will want to go back again and again!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Starting A Good Plan For A Family Reunion

Nothing could be more wonderful experience than getting relatives together for a family reunion, yet, similar to most things, the success of this reunion lies in proper planning.

Preparing the first get together of all your relatives can be overwhelming, however, it's easy with proper planning especially about location, accommodations and date.

Criteria to consider when choosing a destination, there are as many possibilities as there are family members.

Convenience is very critical. Choose a location near a major airport so it is easily accessible and provides service from a selection of airlines.

Activities are very important to avoid being bored. Pick an area is perfect for sightseeing and offers lots of activities. Some family might want to extend their stay after the reunion or to take side trips to local attractions. Do something different like, if you are from the west, try Southeast Asia for a change, try going to KL Malaysia, Jakarta Indonesia, Beijing China and much more must tries.

Consider the price. One must think about being practical, since exotic locations may be nice, but are not practical for a wide range of budgets, ages and interests. Decide on the area that will give you a price most families can afford. A cruise ships and resorts would be the perfect choice, they are often known for reunions because of their all-inclusive pricing packages that include meals, activities and shows. And especially that Baby-sitting is often available.

Preference is sometimes the key and the family’s hometown can be a great site for a reunion. Reaching on an agreement among relatives will help widen participation.

Several kinds of accommodations are suitable for a family reunion, from enormous resorts to cozy inns.

You'll want a place that can hold at least one big reunion dinner depending on family size. It also should have split areas so relatives can gather together as a group, detached into smaller parties or spend time as couples.

Think about that families with school-age children as they may find it easier to attend a reunion in the summer or around a long holiday weekend when picking a date and  choose the time of year with appropriate weather depending on the activities planned, choose.

Warning, the larger the gathering, the longer the planning time. It may take 18 to 24 months to put together a reunion for a large family scattered across the country.

For help, contact a travel agency experienced at arranging group tours -- expertise they can use to help put your family reunion together. A full-service travel agency, such as Westhill Consulting Travel and Tours, Singapore can provide information on locations, accommodations, transportation and group discounts.