Australia is the sixth largest nation yet has a population of only 18 million. Lying in the southern hemisphere, Australia is also the world's smallest continent and the driest. Despite the size of the country, the arid interior means that over 70 percent of the population lives in just ten major cities. THAI flies to four of the most renowned, allowing travelers to discover all that this vibrant and culturally rich nation has to offer.
Home to a beautiful harbour and the iconic opera house, Sydney is one of the world's must-see destinations. Modern and cosmopolitan it is in sharp contrast to the old world charm of Melbourne and its Victorian architecture, trams, and parks.
With the Gold Coast to the south and the Sunshine Coast to the north, Brisbane is the perfect holiday destination. The city enjoys a fabulous year-round subtropical climate and is noted for its high standard of living. Visitors can enjoy parks, galleries, a wealth of alfresco dining venues, and stunning beaches. Lying in southwest Australia, over 3000 kilometres west of Sydney, Perth is the most isolated city on earth. The easygoing ambience, historic buildings and beautiful surrounding countryside make it a rewarding holiday destination. Just to the west of the city is the Indian Ocean and the long sandy beaches of the Sunset Coast.
A country of great beauty and charm, Bangladesh is yet to reach its full potential as a tourist destination. It remains one of the few Asian countries still to be explored by adventurous travelers. Those who do visit are richly rewarded. The vibrant cities, fascinating cultural heritage, stunning countryside and pristine forests make it an engaging destination.
Known as the city of mosques, muslin and rickshaws, Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh. The city is home to over 10 million citizens and has developed fast in recent years. Dhaka is the centre of the country's industrial, commercial, and political activities. Highlights of a visit include Lalbagh Fort. Built in 1678 AD by the Viceroy of Bengal Prince Mohammad Azam it is a beautiful three storey structure with hidden passages and a huge mosque. The Sadargaht waterfront is an interesting place to visit and is jammed with motor launches and fishing boats.
Chittagong is Bangladesh's second city. Although it is an industrial centre, the city is surrounded by rolling hills and also has some fine beaches, making it a popular travel destination. It also benefits from a cooler climate than Dhaka.
Few nations have experienced both the heights and depths of humanity as has Cambodia. In two millennia, it has risen to create Angkor, one of the world's great civilizations, and suffered genocide at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. For the visitor, it is a land of contrasts, inhabited by a gentle people who are a study in survival and whose art and culture is an inspiration.
Half the size of neighbouring Vietnam, Cambodia has a fertile central plain, the rice basket of the country, bound by two mountain ranges. The mighty Mekong River spills into the enormous Tonle Sap lake that feeds the largely agrarian population with fish. Cambodia also has an extensive coastline with excellent beaches and islands.
The capital, Phnom Penh is an intriguing city in the central region and worthy of several days exploration. The country's cultural heart, however, is Angkor near the vibrant town of Siem Reap. The ancient city of Angkor, once the centre of the Khmer civilization is awe-inspiring and a must for any cultural traveler. Comprising of more than 30 magnificent temple complexes spread over a vast area, it is Cambodia's biggest attraction, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.
One of the world's oldest and richest cultures, China has enthralled travelers for centuries. Its topography spans the geographic spectrum from East Asia's longest shoreline to the world's highest mountains, and the vast deserts of Xinjiang. In between are tropical rainforests, rice paddies, great rivers, and wondrous limestone formations. China ranks as the world's most populous nation on earth and embraces 56 ethnic groups whose customs and costumes have fascinated visitors since Marco Polo carried home tales of its wonders in the 13th century.
Much of the country's allure lies in the scope of its human accomplishments: a fleet of junks that sailed around the Cape of Good Hope in the 15th century, a half dozen Silk Roads linking it with the West, the Great Wall, the terracotta armies of Xian, and Beijing's enormous Forbidden City complex comprising 9,000-buildings, many of them architectural wonders of compelling beauty. To all this, add flawless porcelain, stunning pagodas, wood and jade carvings, and exquisite Buddha images, performance art like Chinese opera, and the world's tastiest cuisines, and it is easy to understand how China offers the traveler several lifetimes of exploration possibilities.
Denmark is the smallest of the Scandinavian countries but offers travelers a varied and rewarding experience. The country has vibrant cities rich in history and culture, and beautiful, often dramatic, countryside. The region of North Sealand, just north of the capital city of Copenhagen is home to many castles and forests. The 60 kilometre-long Kattegat coast from Hundested to Helsing has some of Denmark's best beaches, steep hills, and coastal forest. Close to Copenhagen, Roskilde is one of the most scenic areas of natural beauty in Denmark, making it popular with adventure travelers and nature lovers.
Founded in 1167, Copenhagen is a stunningly beautiful and historic city. Here visitors can wander medieval streets and cobbled squares, see wonderful centuries-old buildings, explore the network of canals, dine in style and enjoy a vibrant nightlife. Highlights include a tour of the old canals. The boats take visitors through the old city and past many of Copenhagen's famous sights. The Viking Ship Museum is beside the Roskilde harbour, 30 kilometres from Copenhagen. The museum was built to house five Viking ships that were discovered in the harbor in 1962. Many other Nordic boats housed in this fascinating museum. Shoppers must visit, Copenhagen's largest shopping area and Europe's longest pedestrian shopping street. Str?get is also a popular venue for street performers. Other excellent shopping areas include trendy Vesterbro, home to chic boutiques and fashion. There are also many flea markets and craft fairs to discover in Copenhagen.
Regarded as the cultural and culinary heart of Europe, France is an engaging destination offering a wide range of travel experiences. Chic cities, inspiring countryside, beautiful beaches, vineyards and fabulous restaurants ensure a varied and rewarding holiday.
The Loire Valley is an area of astounding beauty and now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Stretching 260 kilometres from Sully-sur-Loire to Chalonnes-sur-Loire, the area is a destination in itself. Bordeaux another UNESCO World Heritage site is recognized for its outstanding beauty and architecture. Half of the magnificent city from the outer boulevards to the banks of the Garonne is under protection, making it the largest urban UNESCO site in the world. The countryside around the Bordeaux is also famed for its vineyards and great wines.
No visit to France is complete without spending a few days in Paris. Creative and cultured, Paris is an undeniably romantic city and adored by all who visit. Highlights include the iconic Eiffel Tower. Designed by Gustave Eiffel in 1889, at the time the 300 metre building was the world's tallest. Today it is one of the world's most visited monuments. A masterpiece of gothic architecture, Notre-Dame must also be seen. Construction began in 1163 during the reign of Louis VII. Another architectural masterpiece is the palace of Versailles. It was the centre of the French monarchy until the 1789 revolution overthrew King Louis 16th. A much more modern attraction in Paris is Disneyland, the only one in Europe. For cutting-edge architecture and art,visit the Pompidou Centre, a world-class modern art museum. With its exposed multi-coloured pipes, the avant-garde building is a work of art. The vibrant nightlife of gay Paris includes the infamous Moulin Rouge Cabaret in Montmartre. Enjoy dinner and see the girls perform the Can Can. The show features over 60 dancers in sparkling costumes.
With historic cities, a wealth of cultural sites, picture postcard villages and breathtaking mountain scenery, Germany enthralls visitors.
Situated in the heart of Europe and bordered by nine other countries, Germany is an ideal gateway to the entire region. Munich is the most popular tourist city in Germany. Although it is renowned for the annual world-famous Oktoberfest Beer Festival, there are many other reasons to visit Munich. Located on the banks of the river Isar, the city is a metropolis with a laidback attitude and cosmopolitan outlook. Highlights include the 15th century Gothic Church of Our Lady. The building features curious onion-shaped domes and is one of the most famous landmarks in the city. With a reputation for fine beer it is no suprise that Munich's Hofbr?uhaus Beer Hall is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Everyday it serves 10,000 litres of beer in the taproom, restaurant, banqueting hall and beer garden. A fascianting market to visit is Viktualienmarkt, Munich's largest food market. Stallholders sell fruit and vegetables, herbs, cheeses sausage, fish and much more.
Berlin is the cultural and political heart of the country. The ever-evolving city is home to wide boulevards, art galleries, markets, clubs and over 7,000 restaurants. Highlights include the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin's most famous landmark. In the past it stood in no man's land next to the Berlin Wall. Today it is seen as a potent symbol of divisions overcome. The courtyards of Hackesche H?fe are popular with Berlin's trendsetters and tourists. The area is comprised of eight courtyards designed for living and working. Built in the late 18th century, the area has been beautifully restored. For shopping, head down to Kurf?rstendamm. The top end of the street is lined with with department stores and fashion boutiques. Kaufhaus des Westens on Wittenberg Platz is the largest department store in Europe. In addition to shops selling international designer labels there is also a fantastic food hall on the sixth floor.
As the birthplace of democracy, philosophy and modern civilization, Greece has a fascinating history and a wealth of ancient monuments to discover. Present day Greece however is more popular for sun, sea, and sand than it is for its historical sites. Visitors can look forward to idyllic beaches and crystal clear waters, charming towns and villages on dreamlike islands, delicious cuisine and good local wine.
The capital city, Athens is located on the mainland. The sprawling city is dominated by its major landmark, the Parthenon, part of the Acropolis and one of the wonders of the ancient Greece. The remaining ruins date from the 4 BC. Syntagma Square in front of the Greek Parliament is a central point for access to many attractions in Athens including 'museum mile'. Here visitors can find the Benaki Museum, Museum of Cycladic Art and the Byzantine Museum. At the west end of Syntagma Square is Ermou Street, the main shopping district of Athens. Plaka is Athens' old town. Located below the Acropolis its narrow streets, Byzantine churches, homely tavernas and courtyards make the area popular with tourists day and night.
Greece includes over 6,000 islands. The most popular destinations are Crete, Corfu and Rhodes but there are many attractive and sleepy islands to explore for those seeking a relaxing escape. With a population of 500,000 Crete is the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean. The east of the island is the centre of its tourist industry while the west has high mountains, a rugged coastline and quieter beaches. Samos is a peaceful island close to the Turkish coastline. Here visitors can find large beach resorts or search out rustic villages in the hills. The island has kilometres of beaches, high mountains, and beautiful scenery.
A popular tourist destination and one of the world's most important business centres, Hong Kong Island is a thriving metropolis that never sleeps but there are also 260 outlying islands, most of which are uninhabited. The main island is spiked with tall commercial towers dwarfed by Victoria Peak with its famed steepest railway in the world. In the central district there are still many architectural reminders of the colonial era, and trams still run through the city. Top attractions for visitors include the fabulous shopping malls, Disneyland, Stanley Market Village, and the Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas. Across the harbor from the central district is Kowloon with street after street of shops, markets, and many of Hong Kong's hotels. Beyond the commercial districts of Kowloon are the fields, farmland and rustic villages of the New Territories while offshore are beautiful islands with forests ideal for hiking. Across the South China Sea is Macau, filled with architectural reminders of Portuguese colonial rule when the city was the port for Canton (Guangzhou) 100 kilometres up the Pearl River.
Mystical and seductive, India continues to mesmerize travelers with its rich culture. It is a vibrant and colourful land that assaults the senses. India embraces an enormous variety of topography, from the snowy peaks of the Himalaya to desserts and a stunning coastline. It is a country touched by every religion and every culture, each of whom have left their marks on architecture as varied as the people who created it.
Indian cities reflect the blend of Mogul Muslim and Hindu civilizations and the grand vision of the emperors who built them, and the days of British colonialism. THAI flies to five major India cities. Kolkata (known to the British as Calcutta) is India's third largest city. Founded over 300 years ago, the city has a wealth of historic and religious buildings. New Delhi is the essence of modern India. A sprawling city of over 14 million, it is the starting point for discovering the wonders of north India. Highlights include the ancient Qutub Minar mosque and the Humayuns Tomb. Once known as Bombay to the former colonial power, Mumbai is a glamorous modern metropolis and home to the huge Bollywood film industry. Visitors can shop till they drop in exclusive malls, explore markets, and enjoy the best nightlight in India. Formerly known as Madras, Chennai is located in the south and is major industrial base and port. The city is also known for its classical dance and wonderful Hindu temples. Known as India's Silicon Valley, the southern city of Bangalore is the heart of the country's IT industry. It is also India's fastest growing city. With an agreeable temperate climate and green open spaces, it is also known as the Garden City.
Indonesia is a fascinating mix of cultures, each as distinctive as the 13,000 islands that make up this archipelago nation that sweeps in a grand 6,400 kilometre arc along the equator. While the dominant culture of the 197 million citizens is Muslim, Hindus reside in Bali, and dozens of ethnic peoples populate the rest of the islands.
THAI flies to Jakarta, the largest city in Indonesia. Located on the northern coast of West Java, Jakarta is the seat of government, commerce and industry, and the gateway to the rest of Indonesia. Jakarta offers visitors luxury hotels, cosmopolitan restaurants, an exciting nightlife and modern shopping malls. Noteworthy attractions include the city's beautifully restored colonial period buildings, island resorts in the Pula Seribu and the beach recreation complex, Ancol.
Travelers visit Indonesia as much for its art and culture, as for its tropical beauty. Its rainforests hold a multitude of rare species of exotic birds as well as the orangutan, and the famous Komodo dragon.
With its rich culture, beautiful and varied landscape, seductive cuisine and fine wines, Italy is a dream destination for many travelers. Visitors can go skiing in the alps, laze on fabulous beaches, explore historic Rome, shop in chic Milan or travel the canals of Venice.
Rome is one of Europe's most fascinating and historic cities. With its wealth of grand old buildings, incredible monuments and ancient Roman ruins visitors will feel that they have entered a living museum. Highlights include the Colosseum, the site of former gladiatorial conquests. Following centuries of decay only the framework of the structure remains but it is still a magnificent sight and for many it is the symbol of Rome itself. The Piazza di Trevi is visited by thousands because the fountain was built for Pope Clement XII. Throwing a coin into the Trevi Fountain is said to ensure that you will return to Rome. Famous for its ceiling painted by Michelangelo, the Sistine Chapel is a must on any travel itinerary. The altar wall is covered by Michelangelo's magnificent depiction of the Last Supper. The nearby Vatican Museum houses one of the world's greatest collections of art with galleries stretching for over six kilometres.
Chic Milan; the centre of Italy's fashion industry, home of fabulous shops, trendy clubs and stylish restaurants. Attractions include Duomo, the world's largest Gothic cathedral. Dating from 1386, the stunning building overlooking the Piazza includes 3,400 statues, 135 spires and 96 gargoyles. The Leonardo da Vinci National Science and Technology Museum houses a collection of his incredible inventions and provides valuable insight into a man far ahead of his time. Via Monte Napoleone and the narrow side streets around it is renowned as one of the most sophisticated shopping districts in Europe. The Brera district and the streets around the Brera Academy have many interesting boutiques and antique shops to explore. The lively Via Paolo Sarpi is Milan's Chinatown and also home to many artists and craftsmen.
Situated in northeastern Asia, Japan covers 377,873 square kilometres, nearly equivalent to Germany and Switzerland combined. Japan is comprised of four major islands, surrounded by more than 4,000 smaller islands. The country's reputation as a modern nation lies in the economic miracle it created over the past five decades. Beyond the sprawling mega-metropolis of Tokyo visitors can find stunning coastlines, towering mountains, and scenic valleys. Osaka in Midwest Japan has the largest population after the capital, Tokyo. The city faces Osaka Bay and is surrounded on three sides by mountains. The city is known for Osaka Castle and as one of the best places to enjoy the Cherry Blossom Festival. Other highlights include Tenpo-zan Harbor Village with its 112 metre-high Ferris wheel, and the Asia Pacific Trade Center, Japan's largest mall. Fukuoka, also known as Hakata, is the administrative and economic centre in the Kyushu region. Each year the city hosts the Hakata Dontaku, a colorful port festival featuring by a parade of men, women and children in traditional dress. Nagoya City is a vibrant coastal city with urban parks, modern department stores and restaurants. It is also home of the world famous Edo-period Nagoya Castle.
Japan is also renowned for its skilled artisans who craft refined carvings and paintings. The artists were inspired by Japan's wealth of natural beauty that extends from the snowy heights of Mount Fuji to the Sea of Japan to the picturesque fishing villages along its shores. Forests and lakes, notably the Japanese Alps region of central Honshu, attract hikers from many countries. Equally varied are Japan's many festivals. They range from the Cherry Blossom Festival each spring to Sapporo's Ice Festival where artists sculpt monuments and figures from blocks of ice. Despite a reputation for conformity, Japan contains a remarkable range of contrasts. It is these which have ranked Japan high on the list of favourite tourist destinations.
Located at a major crossroads of Northeast Asia between two giants China and Japan, Korea has trodden its own path and pursued its own destiny. Today, the country that is often referred to as the 'land of morning clam' stands at the forefront of Asian economic development. Its success is mirrored in the gleaming buildings that line the main streets of the capital, Seoul, and in the factories of the industrial heartland that fuels its growth.
Seoul is a dynamic city that never sleeps and offers travelers a wealth of opportunities for a rewarding holiday. Seoul is regarded as one of the safest cities in the world for foreign travelers and has a low level of crime and friendly people.
Korea also boasts an ancient and fascinating culture. Down the centuries, its artisans have left their mark on the landscape in the form of beautiful palaces, pagodas, and shrines that have enchanted travelers through the ages. The displays in its museums attest to a rich outpouring of artistic energy all out of proportion to its small size and meagre resources. In the Korean countryside is home to neat farms and villages, all set against a backdrop of deep green forests and hills.
The oil-rich state of Kuwait eases tourists gently into the Muslim world. Relaxed and friendly, Kuwait City has much to offer. Visitors can explore bustling souks, peaceful mosques, or shop in extravagant shopping malls.
With an impressive yacht club and marina, and calm seas, Kuwait is considered a sailor's paradise. Nearby islands are ideal for day excursions, swimming and scuba diving. A major annual event of note is the Kuwait Pearl Diving Festival. During the festival young men demonstrate the traditional pearl diver technique of yesteryear. The festival also includes performances of song and dance.
Attractions in Kuwait include Entertainment City, an amusement park with various themed zones, rides and entertainment options. The main landmark is the Kuwait Towers just east of the city centre. The 187 metre tower features a revolving observation deck and a restaurant. The Kuwait National Museum houses a superb collection of Islamic art including rare manuscripts, and books. There is also a planetarium.
Mountainous and land-locked, Laos is the quiet backwater of South-East Asia. With a communist government exercising tight control, the country remained closed to the outside world between 1975 until the early 90's. What has since been revealed is a beautiful country populated by an eclectic mix of ethnic Lao and hill tribe groups. Today, the capital Vientiane (pronounced Vien-chan) bustles with renewed energy, and the splendors of UNESCO World Heritage town of Luang Prabang attract thousands of visitors.
Although bordered by China, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, Laos shares much of its cultural traditions and language with Thailand (which until the early 1900's controlled the territory east of the Mekong River).
Mention the capital of any Southeast Asia nation and it brings to mind a fast-paced metropolis with towering blocks of glass, concrete and steel, traffic-clogged streets, crowded shopping malls, glitzy clubs and decadent dining. Pushed up against the Mekong River, Vientiane is different; an enchanting mix of French colonial architectural gems and modern Asian shophouses. Signs of the country's turbulent history abound; the colonial legacy of the French now reduced to crumbling architectural gems, tree-lined avenues, and crusty baguettes sold in the morning market.
Vientiane has more than its fair share of stunning temples and monuments. The most significant is Pha That Luang, one of Laos' most important cultural sites. Despite having had communism thrust upon them, the people have remained deeply religious. Buddhist ritual and observance remain part of everyday life. Pha That Luang is a glorious golden monument and the location of an annual festival held in November. The spectacular temple fair features religious ceremonies, carnival games and stalls selling local crafts and food. The atmosphere is one of celebration and thousands of monks from all over Laos gather to receive alms at the site.
Patu Xai, or Victory Gate, dominates Lane Xang Road. Reminiscent of the Arc de Triumph in Paris, the imposing structure was built during the 1960s with American concrete supplied for the construction of a runway.
Blessed by nature, Malaysia is a tropical paradise of rolling hills, lush rainforests, green rice fields and rubber plantations. Hemmed on east by the Andaman Sea and to the west by the South China Sea, it boasts some of Asia's most beautiful islands and beaches. It is also a country on the move, with its cities displaying the trophies of development in the form of tall skyscrapers and modern thoroughfares, notably in Kuala Lumpur, its capital.
Three diverse cultures have left their mark on the nation, Muslim Malay, Chinese and Indians. The Malays have built beautiful mosques, palaces, and public buildings while the Chinese have constructed lovely temples and shrines. The Indian's also built beautiful temples and their wonderful cuisine. Malaysia's glory, however, is found in its many arts. Batik printing, puppet theatre, carved kris (the Malay knife) colourful boats, and distinctive kites display a lively creativity.
Kuala Lumpur, affectionately known as KL, is now one of the most colourful and cosmopolitan cities in Southeast Asia. The completion of the spectacular Petronas Twin Towers in 1998 acted as a marker declaring that Malaysia had entered the developed world. At the time the towers were the tallest building in the world, 88 floors of glass and stainless steel stretching 450 metres above KL. The city offers plenty to interest the whole family, and the range accommodation, restaurants and malls are excellent.
The most visited attraction in the city has to be the Petronas Twin Towers. Although there is no viewing deck, the building does house a shopping centre and there is a nice park at the rear of the towers. For a stunning view across Kuala Lumpur go up the Menara Tower, also known as the Telecom Tower. The 420 metre building has an excellent viewing deck. Thirteen kilometres north of KL are the Batu Caves, sacred site for Hindu's in Malaysia. The limestone caves are over 400 metres long and 100 metres high. Over 270 steps lead up to the entrance. The caves also serve as the focus of the Hindu community's yearly Thaipusam Festival, a time when thousands make a pilgrimage to the caves.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a fascinating treasure house of traditional culture and Buddhist art virtually untouched by time and development. Myanmar is the second largest nation in Southeast Asia, spanning 936 kilometeres from east to west and 2,051 kilometres from north to south, sharing its borders with Thailand and Lao PDR to the east, China to the northeast, and India and Bangladesh to the northwest. The fabulous coastline extends along the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Mottama and the Bay of Bengal for a distance of 2,800 kilometres.
Myanmar is rural nation of small towns and villages, and a diverse range of landscapes, flora and fauna. Three-quarters of the population reside in the countryside living a simple life working the land. In the far north where the Himalayas rise, mountain peaks reach almost 6000 meters and primary forest still stands. From these northern states the lifeblood of Myanmar, the Ayeyarwady River, winds its way south fertilizing the rice bowl of the country as it does so, eventually spilling out into the delta. To the north and south of the delta are white sand beaches and pristine tropical islands. In Yangon, Myanmar's largest city the golden magnificence of the Shwedagon Paya, one of the country's biggest attractions, pierces the sky with a pin prick and a prayer. The city's architecture blends Buddhist, British colonial and modern influences but remains a city with a personality that is quintessentially Burmese.
North of Yangon, Bagan is one of the world's architectural wonders with 5,000 beautiful temples on the Irrawaddy Plain, a testament to religious devotion and artistic creativity. Further north still, Mandalay, too, retains an air of antiquity and wonderful colonial architecture. The quiet hill station of Taunggyi is the starting point for an exploration of Lake Inle.
Nepal is a magical country that enchants all visitors. In terms of bio-diversity, it is one of the richest countries in the world, and equally rich in culture and traditions. Home to the world's tallest mountain range, the Himalayas, which hold eight of the world's ten highest peaks, including Mt. Everest, Nepal attracts trekkers and adventure tourists from all over the world.
The country is a vibrant mix of 101 ethnic groups and subgroups who speak over 92 languages and dialects. In Kathmandu, the capital city is the cosmopolitan heart of the Himalayan region. Situated in a bowl-shaped valley in central Nepal, the city has a fascinating history dating back two thousand years, and a refined culture. Kathmandu is also the country's modern financial and business hub. For travelers it is an exotic tourist destination, and a place of pilgrimage for the devout. Major attractions include Kumari Ghar, the temple and the residence of Living Goddess, Kumari, is situated in the vicinity of Hanuman Dhoka Palace, and Swayambhu Stupa, the most ancient and enigmatic of Kathmandu's holy shrines
To the west is the hill town of Pokhara which lies in a valley dominated by Phewa Tal Lake whose calm surface reflects the snowy peaks of the Annapurna Range and Macchapucheri, the mountain that resembles a fish standing on its head.
Few countries can rival New Zealand for lush green beauty, a temperate climate. The 'Land of the Long White Cloud' is an easygoing country with relaxed and welcoming people. The two islands offer contrast in landscape and lifestyle, the northern island boasting rich farmland, a beautiful coastline and the country's livelier towns. The north features the commercial centre of Auckland and the administrative city of Wellington, the nation's capital. It is also the home to the indigenous Maori and their fascinating Polynesian culture.
The south island is quieter, its scenery more rugged. It encompasses the vast, treeless Canterbury Plains as well as the mountain range along the western coastline that holds Mt. Cook, the jewel in its crown, and the nation's tallest mountain. It also includes vineyards and sheep farms. Beautiful lakes and myriad opportunities for treks make this a naturalist's paradise. The southern coast, an important staging point for expeditions to Antarctica, offers fishing ports and an abundance of bird life. The island's principal town, Christchurch, is one of the most refined in the southern hemisphere, its genteel respectability visible in period shops and homes.
Visitors seeking the thrill that comes from roaming through nature's beauty flock to New Zealand, discovering peace and contentment in its remoteness.
Norway, is primarily a country for those who love nature. However, there are many other reasons to visit this sparsely populated land on the northern fringe of Europe, which offers a rich cultural experience and a diverse history.
Though not a member state of the European Union, Norway is still considered as one of the world's richest on a per capita basis. It is also rated as the world's most peaceful nation by the Global Peace Index. Four major cities offers distinct appeal, namely, Oslo, where THAI flies to, is the present-day capital and financial centre, Bergen is a picturesque former Hanseatic trading port and 'gateway' to Fjordland, Stavanger is the focal point of the Norwegian oil industry, and Trondheim is a long-established centre of Christian pilgrimage, and more recently, technical research.
The breathtaking fjords of the southwest are Norway's most dramatic scenic features. Many visitors arrive on cruise ships working their way north along the coast from Stavanger via Haugesund to Bergen and the best known fjords of all; Sognefjorden, F?rdefjorden, Hardanger Fjord, and Nordfjord, which are among other notable scenic attractions in the region. North Cape (Nordkapp) is a popular spot from which to observe the Midnight Sun during the midsummer season. The North Cape Hall, built into the side of a mountain and with panoramic views out to sea, is the main visitor attraction here. The national glacier park of Ajostedal is a national park located between a fjord and a glacier known under the name of Jostedalsbreen. With more than 432 square kilometers, Jostedalsbreen is the largest glacier in Europe. Bergen, the medieval Norwegian capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with many buildings dating back from the early 17th century. Stavanger also has Europe's largest collection of wooden building.
Oslo is a city with an eclectic architectural mix of old and new, and offers world-class museums. The Munch Museum collects 1,100 paintings including "The Scream", which is among one of the best known Munch's painting. The Viking Ship Museum, which preserves three Viking ships, and The Norwegian Folk Museum, are among some of the largest cultural history museum in Norway. The principal architectures in Oslo are the Kongelige Slott (Royal Palace), Stortinget (Parliament Building), the Cathedral, and the ?kershus Castle. Boat trips on the fjord are ready to serve visitors, and the main shopping area is along Karl Johansgate, which runs from the Central Station to the Royal Palace. There are also renowed entertainment centers, such as the Norwegian Theater, the Norwegian Opera House, Konserthuset (the Concert House), and Oslo Spektrum, the main rock and pop concert venue.
The main tourist season in Norway runs from mid-June to mid-August when public transport runs more frequently, tourist sights are opened longer, and many hotels offer cheaper rates.
Situated in the heart of South Asia, Pakistan is a fascinating country with a rich history and culture. The landscape ranges from high mountains in the north to the plains of the Punjab, from hot, dry deserts of Sindh to the golden beaches of the Makran coast.
Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan is home to the impressive Shah Faisal Mosque, one of the largest in the world. Just north of the city are the Margala Hills, an area renowned hiking and an excellent viewpoint for the city below.
The former capital of Pakistan, Karachi is the largest and most populated city in the country. The city is located beside the Arabian Sea and has a fantastic natural harbor. There are many water sports to enjoy in the area such as yachting, sailing, and skin diving. The city itself is a bustling metropolis; the second largest in the world. Visitors can explore vibrant markets, shop in palatial malls, or walk along the beach.
Located in northeast, Lahore is the second largest city in the Pakistan and is considered the cultural heart of the country. It is also known for its beautiful gardens and a wealth of historical buildings. Highlights include the Old City, the Lahore Museum, and Food Street.
The Philippines is comprised of 7,107 islands of which just 11 are inhabited. Populated by friendly local people and with an easygoing lifestyle, this tropical island paradise wins the hearts of all who visit.
The capital of Manila is a lively seaside city whose modern buildings contrast with the Spanish architecture of the old town. It is the centre of government and one of the central hubs of a thriving metropolitan area that is home to over 14 million people. Attractions include Intramuros, the oldest part of Manila. This medieval Spanish walled enclave on the southern bank of the Pasig River is the location of many historic buildings and churches. The area also includes parks, galleries, shops and restaurants.
However, there is more to the Philippines than Manila. It is a vast country with lush forests and beautiful beaches fronting azure seas that conceal stunning coral reefs.
Bordered by the Arctic and the North Pacific oceans, Russia is a vast country encompassing much of Eurasia. Whether you visit the snowy peaks of the Caucasus Mountains, the historic city of Saint Petersburg, or the capital, Moscow, Russia has much to offer.
Moscow, with its population of over ten million inhabitants is a bustling, vibrant city. A city of contrast, visitors will witness the chaos of the city along with peaceful hidden areas, small churches with golden domes, monumental Stalinist buildings, fancy boutiques on Tverskaya Street, hip Moscovites wearing the latest design clothes and sipping cocktails in chic bars, and breathtakingly beautiful architecture. Must see sights include the Kremlin. Once inside, you can visit Cathedral Square, whose historic cathedrals were worshipped by the Tsars and their families. The Amory Museum holds precious relics including gold-gilt carriages and silver-threaded royal garments. Just outside the Kremlin is the famous Red Square where you can watch the changing of the guard at the Eternal Flame or visit Lenin's tomb.
Izmaylovo Market is a fascinating area to visit. The market is packed with stalls selling just about everything you can imagine, including the famous Russian dolls, rugs from the Caucasus and Central Asia, pottery, jewelry, fur hats, chess sets, toys, and Soviet-era posters.
First time visitors might start with a 3-4 hour city sightseeing tour to help with orientation, with return visits for more time at key attractions.
The cultures and character of many Asian people blend in this tiny island state. Chinese, Malay, Indian and Indonesian, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim, each retains its distinctive community identity, with diverse colourful festivals, temples, mosques, street markets, cuisines, and social customs to provide the visitor with an endless array of experiences.
Highlights include Underwater World with over 2,500 marine animals, including the world's largest display of sand tiger sharks. Shoppers will love Bugis Street - Singapore's largest street bazaar. The hustle and bustle of Chinatown is also another great shopping experience. Singapore is also known as the food capital of Asia and has some fabulous dining opportunities.
The island is also rich in natural beauty with botanical gardens, zoos, nature preserves, and bird parks that rank among the best in Asia. It is also a bargain centre for electronic, camera, and computer goods.
Spain is a country of contrast. Although is it largely renowned for the tourist resorts of the Costa del Sol, Spain has so much more to offer the adventurous traveler. With its glorious beaches, rugged mountain scenery, charming villages, vibrant cities with avant-garde architecture, and a relaxed lifestyle, Spain is totally captivating.
Located on the northeastern coast of the Iberian peninsula, Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain. Not only does the city have seven beaches, it is also the location of some of the most challenging modern architecture, ancient monuments, fabulous restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Highlights include La Ramblas, a wide pedestrian boulevard lined with cafes, restaurants and boutiques. Two palaces in Barcelona dating from the 15th century have been converted into the Picasso Museum. It houses the most complete collection of work from the artist's formative years and is the city's top attraction. La Sagrada Familia is bizarre church designed by architect Antoni Gaudi. It was started in 1882 and was worked on by the artist until his death in 1926 but remains unfinished. The startling design makes it one of the most controversial buildings in Barcelona.
Situated on a plateau, Madrid is the highest capital city in Europe. With a vibrant culture and arguably the best nightlife in Europe, Madrid is an excellent city destination. It is easy to navigate on foot with most of the sights clustered in the downtown area. Highlights include Parque del Beun Retiro, a 350 acre park in the centre of the city. Originally the private garden of Philip IV, it features lakes, fountains, exhibition halls, and outdoor cafes. During the weekend the park popular with buskers and pavement artists. Dating from 1619, Plaza Mayor is Madrid's famous central square. Today it is known for cafes, bars and music performances making it a popular place to hang out day and night. Other attractions include the Plaza de Toros, Spain's largest bullring and the site of regular bullfights.
Sri Lanka, formerly known as Ceylon is renowned for its fine teas grown in cool highland plantations in the centre of this emerald island. Not as many people know it for the beauty and wealth of culture it embraces. Its geographic contrasts range from beautiful, palm-shaded beaches to mountainous regions.
With an interesting mix of religion and culture, Sri Lanka is a fascinating place to visit. Travel the road and encounter 2,000-year-old Buddhist monuments, Hindu temples, Christian churches, and Muslim mosques; all evidence of an ethnically diverse nation.
Colombo the capital city is located on the west coast of the island. The bustling city is an interesting mix of colonial architecture and modern buildings.
The surprises and juxtapositions that confront one at every turn are emblematic of a concept at the heart of Sri Lankan culture. It is embodied in the Sinhalese word serendip, from which English derives serendipity, "the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for". This concept describes the experience of meeting its gracious people, a quality which has endeared Sri Lanka to travelers since the first sailors worked their way to the islands from across the Arabian Sea centuries ago. Sri Lanka has been charming visitors ever since.
Sweden is an enchanting country with cultured cities and a pristine environment. Visitors can discover the beauty and sophistication of Stockholm, explore medieval towns, go cruising in the Baltic and along Sweden's rugged coastline, or enjoy adventurous outdoor pursuits in the stunning countryside.
Facing out toward the Baltic Sea, Stockholm is unique and beautiful city spread across 14 islands. The city is highly regarded as fabulous shopping destination, home to an abundance of great restaurants and hotels, and a vibrant culture. Stockholm dates back over 700 years old and has many historic buildings, alleyways and squares to explore. Attractions include the old town district of Gamla Stan. With is maze of narrow cobbled streets and historic houses, the area oozes character. The Vasa Museum houses beautifully preserved ship dating from 1628 in a fabulous museum with eight large exhibitions. Another fascinating museum is Skansen Open-Air Museum. Here of 150 historical buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries have been relocated from around Sweden. The exhibits include a replica 19th-century town complete with craftsmen in period attire demonstrating crafts such as baking and glassblowing. Every December the central square hosts a Christmas market and attracts thousands of visitors. Stockholm is now regarded as one of Europe's most dynamic and exciting gastronomic cities. Its chefs are known for their creativity and there are some fabulous dining opportunities in the city.
With snow-capped Alps, Europe's top ski resorts, medieval castles and magnificent cathedrals, Switzerland is one world's top tourist destinations. Switzerland's beautiful cities are a joy to explore; rich in history and architectural gems. In November, tourist flocks to Switzerland and head for the luxury ski resorts in the mountains. The Sion Region in the heart of the Alps is one of many areas that offer fabulous skiing and luxury resorts. Sion has over 600 kilometres of ski runs as high as 3,300 metres, thrilling toboggan runs, and cross-country ski trails, making it a dream destination for winter sport enthusiasts.
With a magnificent view of the snowcapped Alps in the distance, the beautiful lakeside city of Z?rich provides visitors with wide variety of attractions. Considered the intellectual and artistic centre of the country, the city is home to 50 museums and more than 100 art galleries. It is also known for the liveliest nightlife in Switzerland. Highlights include Kunsthaus, Switzerland's most important art gallery. It houses a collection of European art from the Middle Ages through to the present day. Wander down Bahnhofstrasse, a two kilometre street of exclusive fashion boutiques, department stores and street cafes or explore the Old Town's art galleries, antique and book shops. In the evening, the area is transformed into a lively entertainment quarter. Annual events include the Z?rich Jazz Festival. The event features 16 concerts over four nights and covers the entire spectrum of modern jazz, supplemented with soul, funk and Latin.
The island nation of Taiwan offers a wide array of sights and activities to engage any traveler. Originally inhabited by Taiwanese and indigenous peoples, its population was augmented by an exodus of Chinese from the mainland after the political upheavals of 1949. The past 50 years have seen a remarkable transformation that has brought Taiwan new prosperity.
Most of the development has taken place in the capital city, Taipei. Taipei is a cultural centre, its National Museum containing an enormous collection of artworks comprising the stellar creations of Chinese artists and artisans. A stroll through its halls is a walk through four thousand years of Chinese creative accomplishments.
The rural areas are equally beautiful with numerous waterfalls and rivers, and a year-round greenness, courtesy of the rains that sweep in from the Pacific to freshen the air and land. Many visitors confine their explorations to Taipei, and thereby miss wonders that are within easy reach of the city.
The Kingdom of Thailand (formerly known as Siam), is an independent country that lies in the heart of South-East Asia. The country is bordered to the north by Laos and Myanmar, enclosed by Laos and Cambodia on the east, south bounded by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and encircled by the Andaman Sea and Myanmar on the west.
For centuries, Thailand has delighted visitors. "A city with golden spires and more than 2,000 gilt images", reads the journal of an awe-struck 17th-century traveler after seeing Thailand's royal capital of Ayutthaya for the first time. Thailand has seen considerable change since then but its allure is undiminished; it is easily the most popular travel and business destination in Southeast Asia.
The reasons are not hard to find. For one, there is an incredible scenic diversity, from azure seas and golden sand beaches to misty mountain forests. There are constant reminders of the nation's rich cultural heritage ranging from its glittering temples to its exquisite handicrafts. There is superb dining, shopping, and entertainment to fill the days and nights. But most of all, there are the Thai people with their unrushed lifestyles who take time to welcome strangers, especially in the countryside.
The capital, Bangkok, is an amalgam of the golden Buddhist temples that glitter in the tropical sun. Or encounter the unexpected in a quiet lane, a temple courtyard, a busy wet market, or deep in a canal filled with orchid nurseries. It is fine food, and a generous people for whom hospitality is a natural grace.
This is THAI's Thailand, and we know it inside and out. Which is why we can take you into its vibrant heart on Royal Orchid Holidays to meet its people and experience its beauty and cultural achievements. This section is devoted to the preliminaries of a visit and a general overview of the country. Here and elsewhere, we will show you how to enjoy it to the fullest.
United Arab Emirates
Established in 1971, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a constitutional federation of seven emirates; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Qaiwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. Four-fifths of the UAE is desert and the country features sensational sand dunes, rich oases, rocky mountains and fertile plains. With sun, sea and sand, fantastic shopping, cosmopolitan restaurants and luxury hotels, the UAE is one of the world's fastest growing tourist destinations.
The largest of the seven Emirates and the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is also one of the world's most modern cities. It is the centre of government and home to the major oil companies that have produced the UAE's enormous wealth. The skyline features some of the most spectacular buildings in the Middle East.
Divided by a river, Dubai is split into Deira on the northern side and Bur Dubai to the south. In Deira travelers will find the historic quarter of Bastakia, the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk. Highlights include the Dubai Museum which is housed within Al Fahidi Fort. Built in 1799, overtime it has served as a palace and prison. Across the river, Bur Dubai's heritage quarter includes the area of Shindagah. Here visitors can see traditional craftsmen at work.
In stark contrast to the old quarter, downtown Dubai is a gleaming modern city and home to some impressive architecture and huge shopping malls selling international brands. Annual events include The Dubai World Cup horse race, and the Dubai International Jazz Festival, the Dubai Shopping Festival, and much more.
Vibrant multi-cultural cities, charming towns and villages, and beautiful countryside define the United Kingdom. The country's fascinating history and traditions is a big draw for visitors. The UK is divided into nine distinct regions, each with its own character. The heart of the country includes the Cotswolds, the location of picture postcard villages, while the counties of Herefordshire and Shropshire along the border of England and Wales are renowned for excellent restaurants and locally produced food. In Worcestershire visitors can discover historic churches and buildings. Further north, the beautiful county of Yorkshire is rich in heritage and inspiring countryside. The city of York is a delightful city with historic buildings, a fabulous cathedral and excellent museums.
The main attraction for most visitors to the UK is London. In recent years, the city has reinvented itself as the capital of cool. A paradise for shoppers and with a reputation as a leader of fashion, visitors can explore the city's Bond Street and Oxford Street, and bustling markets in Camden Town and Notting Hill. London also has over 400 live music venues, and of course, fantastic pubs and restaurants.
Highlights include the London Eye for amazing views across the city. It is the world's largest observation wheel and a spectacular way to see the landmarks of London. Art lovers should visit the Tate Modern, Britain's national gallery of international modern art. Housed in the disused Bankside Power Station beside the River Thames, the gallery feature works by Dali, Matisse, Picasso, Magritte, Rothko, Warhol and many more.
Historic sites include the Tower of London, home to the priceless Crown Jewels. In the famous West End visitors can see Trafalgar Square, and enjoy the pubs, clubs and restaurants of Soho and nearby Chinatown. The Royal Academy of Arts and the Serpentine Gallery are also here too. A relaxing way to spend an afternoon is to walk through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, just two of London's many beautiful parks.
Covering over 9.8 million square kilometres, the United States of America is the third largest country in the world. The 50 states offer visitors an incredible range of travel options and experiences. The vast country is home to wonderful cities, stunning countryside, enormous national parks, and a fabulous coastline. The population is a melting pot of many immigrants from around the world giving rise to a rich and colourful culture.
THAI flies to Los Angeles on the west coast of America. The immense city provides a host of attractions for visitors. Some of the highlights are Hollywood, home of Universal Studios Hollywood, the world's biggest film studio and theme park. West LA is famous as the home of the stars. The area encompasses Bel Air and Beverley Hills, one of the world's most expensive residential areas. The neighbourhood also includes Rodeo Drive with its expensive designer label boutiques, trendy Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Sunset Strip, a section of Sunset Boulevard, is renowned for its vibrant nightlife. Located between Hollywood Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, Thai Town is home to the largest Thai community outside Thailand. The area has many Thai restaurants, temples, markets and shops selling Thai produce.
Another must visit west coast city is San Francisco. Since the 1960s this attractive city has been regarded as America most liberal and forward-thinking. It is regularly voted the best city in America. Unlike LA, San Francisco is a compact city and easy to get around. Its many interesting neighbourhoods reflect its rich history and culture. Highlights include the Golden Gate Bridge, the fabulous rust-coloured suspension bridge that spans San Francisco Bay. An unusual tourist attraction is the infamous Alcatraz, the one-time island prison known as The Rock. The escape-proof maximum security penitentiary once held Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. Today, the island is a huge tourist attraction welcoming thousands of visits year.
Another popular attraction in San Francisco is its network of old cable cars. No visit to the city is complete without riding the cars as travel up and down the steep hills of San Francisco. There is also a Cable Car Museum in the city. Chinatown in San Francisco is the oldest in America and the largest outside of Asia. The area is a huge tourist attraction with bustling streets, markets, temples and restaurants.
The largest and most populous of the three Indochinese countries, Vietnam is only now emerging from the effects of decades of conflict and returning to economic growth. Its fascinating cities reflect an ancient history and great cultural traditions, with reminders of the more recent French-colonial and American War periods still much in evidence.
Hanoi, the northern capital, retains its traditional character with pagodas, lakes and backstreets devoted to particular crafts like stone carving, bamboo arts, or goldsmithing. Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), a fascinating blend of Oriental and Western influences, evokes more recent memories of tranquility amidst the turmoil of its many wars. Between the two cities is some of the most spectacular rural scenery in Asia.
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