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The Best Oahu Adventures Outside of Waikiki

Swimming with Turtles on Oahu's North Shore

Oahu is Hawaii’s most visited island and it has so much more to offer than the high-rise resorts of Waikiki along the island’s south coast.

Sure the big winter waves on Oahu’s North Shore have a huge reputation in the professional surfing world but there are also many and varied outdoor experiences all over the island for the rest of us mere mortals.

Here is a guide to the best natural adventures. Oahu is actually bigger than you might think and quite mountainous so it is best to group your experiences in the four quadrants of the compass.

Oahu’s West Coast (Leeward side)

Just six of...

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Ten Top Tips to Save on International Car Rental

save money on car rental

How to get the best car rental deals

TOP TEN TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL CAR RENTAL

Renting a car when you’re travelling internationally can give you the freedom of going where you want when you want but it can be a little more complicated than at home. Here are some tips to make it easier

1. BOOK AND PAY BEFORE YOU GO. It is best to book and pay for your car rentals before leaving Australia especially for Europe or, at the very least, book on line before renting in North America. Lock in your rate in Australian dollars and also avoid overseas transaction fees on your credit card. Don’t just turn up at a car rental desk and expect either to get a good rate or in fact any car at all no matter how much you are willing to pay, especially during July/August high season.

2. TYPE OF CAR: Don’t waste time choosing specific cars as you will only be guaranteed a similar model. In the US, the cars are automatic and generally larger than in Australia...

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Photo Friday: Trainee Geisha Playing Drinking Games in Kyoto

Trainee geisha or maiko playing drinking games in Kyoto

I took this photo of 17-year-old Tanefume, a trainee geisha playing drinking games with tourists at the Gion Hatanaka Ryokan in Kyoto. The delighted expression on her face contrasts strikingly with her formal attire and shows just how young and ingenuous she is!

The Gion District of Kyoto, with its wooden inns, restaurants and ocha-ya or traditional tea houses is the heart of the geisha quarter.

You might catch a glimpse of a geisha, dressed in an elaborately patterned silk kimono, her face painted in traditional white makeup and hair piled high with delicate decorations, as she slips through a doorway. It is, however, very expensive and next to impossible for foreigners to hire a geisha for an evening’s entertainment of singing, dancing and drinking games.

However the enterprising Gion Hatanaka Ryokan, or traditional inn, offers a traditional Kyoto kaiseki dinner in bento boxes and entertainment with two maiko, or trainee geisha.

It is an entrancing experience where you watch the...

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What to Do in Cebu in the Philippines

Cebu has warm water and great underwater life to explore on day trips such as to Nalasuan Island

Cebu is oldest city in the Philippines and now a thriving port and manufacturing center. Cebu is the country’s epicenter of Christianity and a gateway to more than 160 white-sand-rimmed islands and islets. For visitors, it offers a heady mix of Spanish-inspired culture, fabulous food, and interesting design stores as well as access to terrific snorkeling and diving.

Here are 12 must-do adventures in this friendly Queen City of the South.

  1. Eat suckling pig. Anthony Bourdain followed his taste buds to Cebu and pronounced that they make the best lechon (Spanish for “suckling pig”) in the world on his television show No Reservations. His lechon consultant was Cebu native Joel Abueca Binamica, a retired banker who writes the Market Manila blog. After the broadcast, people begged Binamica to sell his lechon commercially and now he has five bright red and white Zubuchon restaurants...
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Sydney’s Guest Houses offer Great Locations at Affordable Prices

Cremorne Manor is located in one of Sydney's prime harborfront suburbs

Cremorne Manor has a terrific location just near a Sydney Harbourside park

Have you ever considered how nice it would be to live like a local by staying in one of Sydney’s harborside or beachfront suburbs? Believe it or not there are a number of affordable guest houses offering accommodation overlooking Sydney Harbour or down the road from the beach? These ere are four delightful guesthouses that make Sydney’s flash (and expensive) CBD hotels look rather sterile.

Bondi Beach House

Just a short stroll down a quiet residential street from all the action on Bondi Beach, the classy peach stucco Bondi Beach House, tucked behind frangipani and bougainvillea trees, offers three suites, four double rooms (two with shared bath) and two single rooms all decorated in beachy chic style. There’s an airy kitchen and breakfast room and spacious front and back decks where you can relax all day long...

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Photo Friday: The Endangered Orangutans of Borneo

Indonesia's orangutans are endangered because their habitat is being destroyed

Becky is a young orangutan mother who is very skilled at teaching her baby to live in the wilds of the Borneo jungle in Indonesia. Under her silent but perfectly calibrated watchful gaze he climbs up and down the tree trunk and right to the edge of the branch she is sitting on. Becky is displaying the sort of initiative and teaching skills that are hallmarks of orangutans’ superior intelligence

Sadly, orangutans such as Becky are under serious threat due to the fact that almost 80% of Indonesia’s rainforest has been lost in the past 50 years. Australia’s neighbor is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, due almost solely to the destruction of its rainforests and carbon-rich peat lands for palm oil production.

Orangutan Odysseys

I visit Central Kalimantan or Indonesian Borneo with Australian-owned Orangutan Odysseys, the only orangutan tour company that visits all the orangutan quarantine stations in both Borneo and Sumatra...

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Photo Friday: Japanese snow monkeys

Photo Friday: Japanese snow monkey

I shot this photo in winter when this Japanese snow monkey and his friends were enjoying their hot springs baths in snow-covered Jigokudani Yaenkoen park, not far from Nagano on the island of Honshu.

These snow monkeys are Japanese macaque, a monkey species native to northern Japan and the most northern-living non-human primate surviving winter temperatures below -15 degrees centigrade.

To see the monkeys in their natural environment you walk up alongside the Yokoyu River, which is nicknamed Hell’s Valley because of its steep cliffs and hot water steaming out from the ground. It is fun to watch them going about their business…playing, eating, running around and soaking in the onsen. There is a lot of social activity to enjoy with mothers and babies and alpha males. And it is remarkable how their faces and hands and all their emotions are so like our own.

If you would like to try soaking in an onsen yourself, check out my post on Kusatsu, which is much more human friendly!

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Japanese s...
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Beechworth Victoria: Food, wine and shopping in historic goldmining town

Beechworth has rich goldmining and bushranger history and a terrific food, wine and shopping scene

A long weekend in Beechworth on the edge of the Victorian high country really ticks all the boxes.  It has buckets of gold rush and Ned Kelly bushranger history, a charming small-town streetscape, boutiques and gift shops that rival the best big city offerings, fabulous restaurants, atmospheric accommodations, and even a craft boutique brewery. It is also a terrific stopover on a road trip between Melbourne and Canberra or Sydney.

I am struck by how wide the main street is, wide enough, I am told by local historian Michael Beattie, to turn around a stage-coach, laden with gold. It’s a boulevard, really, and it’s lined with Victorian shop fronts with awnings shading pedestrians much like they did in the 1870s.

I meet Michael outside the Beechworth Information Centre, located in the heart of the Historic and Cultural Precinct. Dressed in an Akubra hat and jaunty waistcoat with fob watch, the long bearded guide, or one of his colleagues, takes visitors on guided walks around town...

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Travel Gadget Review: 4-port adaptor to charge USB appliances

USB hub + 4 makes charging at home and on the road a breeze

This ingenious  Korjo 4 port USB Adaptor is a very clever product to make charging all your USB based appliances very simple both at home and on your world travels. No more lugging all your chargers when you are on the road or having them plugged into rooms all around the house. You just plug all your cables into this really convenient USB hub.

Four-Port Adaptor Special features:

  • It is compatible with any USB charged product such as mobile phones, tablets, digital cameras, music players, GPS units, games consoles and any other items that use USB based Korjo's USB Hubcharging systems.
  • It has the ability to connect up to 4 USB devices directly to a mains socket
  • Its interchangeable plugs enable use in Australia, the European Union, United Kingdom, USA, and Japan. Basically it works in 99% of countries around the world.
  • It has an automatic voltage range between 100 and 240 volts.
  • Its output is 2.1A Max (unlike most 0...
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US National Constitution Center: the American Museum of Democracy

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A spotlight picks out an actor, arms outstretched.

I am sitting with my American-born, Australian-raised daughter in a theater-in-the-round at the fascinating US National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

We the People

“We the People… Who are we and what makes us a people?” She continues, “The American Revolution saw a home-grown army of shopkeepers and farmers take on the massed forces of the most powerful nation on earth.”

Rousing music fills the hall, dramatic images of 250 years of a revolutionary story are projected on the floor, on a screen around the perimeter, even on our faces.

More evocative words and images show how the definition of citizenship expanded to include women and African Americans and how the constitution has shaped the United States and other countries around the world.

“The most powerful vision of human freedom ever expressed and it begins with three words…We the people.”

The show ends as it began, with a question, “What will we do with the f...

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