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Bangkok Book Of Secrets

Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Travelling to really far flung and exotic locations has it’s obvious advantages, such as the exploration of a totally different culture from your own, experiencing new food, hearing new music and a different language and seeing monuments you may have previously only dreamt of being near after seeing them in films or photographs. After all, the world is a big place, but as soon as you start to travel a bit, it only takes a few experiences to understand how small it really is. That being said, being comfortable, to a certain degree, is of utmost importance to many people.

There is a price to pay for all of this “exoticness” and life changing experiences and that is that you can never really know what this far flung place is like until you get there and you have to trust that you will know what to do, where to go, how to avoid potential pitfalls and make sure you don’t miss those fantastic off the beaten track spots.

Marina and I have lived in Thailand for quite some time now and have loved exploring Bangkok, both the obvious tourist spots and the not so often seen unique spots you can’t miss.

Read on for the Bangkok book of secrets to help you plan the trip of a lifetime and not miss out on anything that this amazing Thai city has to offer.

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Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Summary

Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is vastly more populated than other Thai locations. Bangkok has a daytime population of 9 million people, nearly that of Los Angeles, and the madness shows as well as being named the most visited city in the world in 2013.  It is famous for its Royal and Buddhist temples and museums as much as it’s shopping and nightlife so really is a city with something for everyone. Bangkok might sound like an intimidating city to many, and while it is easy to be overwhelmed in many cities, Bangkok (or BKK) as the Thai’s call it, really is able to keep people of all different persuasions entertained, young, old, adventurous and thoughtful.

Dating back to the 15th century, Bangkok was built around the might  Chao Phraya River which winds its way through the heart of the city to this day. While Bangkok has vastly different neighborhoods, it is, in many regards, still a quant city along the river. With the explosion of a metropolitan and hip younger generation, the city is as vibrant as ever, still holding on to its deeply religious and cultural roots while boasting some of the fastest growing trendy neighborhoods, clubs, bars and a happening music scene.

 

Accommodation

Accommodation offers are varied and range from very simple beach huts through to luxury stays at five star hotels such as the Siam Kempinski Hotel. When deciding on your accommodation consider how much time you will spend at your hotel. Is your break mainly about relaxing in a luxurious retreat with generous spa facilities and grounds for relaxation? Or is your break mainly about exploring, using your accommodation only as a base?

Finding the right accommodation will take so much stress out of your trip that it really is of great importance. Luckily Bangkok might have the widest range of accommodation options of any city we have ever been to. If you feel like saving your pennies, there are loads of hostels across the city to house the massive backpacking population that travels through Thailand. Want to step it up a bit but not break the bank? Search for boutique hotels in the Sukhumvit or downtown areas, away from the madness of Khao San Road but still close enough to everything. There are even some amazing 4 star hotels right on the banks of the river, with rooms for as little as $30 a night.

 

Bangkok Book Of Secrets Sights

Damnoen Saduak is the original floating market and despite it’s increasingly touristy vibe is still not one to be missed. While it doesn’t have the charm you might expect from the postcards you have seen, visiting a floating market is a great experience and there is no better place than Bangkok. Chatuchak is another landmark market with over 8,000 stalls trading in a diverse range of merchandise attracting over 200,000 visitors every weekend.

To regain a bit of balance, visit the calming temples of Wat Arun or Wat Po, opposite each other on the river. Both are massively popular to tourists but try to plan and visit them either very early in the morning or in the later afternoon, not only will the crowds have died down but the light will be beautiful and the temperature less intense. Just remember to bring bug spray as the mossies like to bite around sunset!

A trip to the reclining Buddha and Grand Palace cannot be missed either, but remember to cover your legs, both men and woman, and to arrive before 3:30pm, when they stop allowing visitors in. Tickets to the reclining Buddha (Wat Po) are cheap, around 100 baht, and Wat Arun even cheaper, around 60 baht, but be ready to pay 500 baht to visit the Grand Palace, and while the most expensive temple/palace to visit it is well worth it.

Getting across the river is easy as ferry boats cross regularly about every 5 minutes and only cost 3 baht one way, so don’t be stressed about catching the ferry as there are tons of great food and gift stalls around the pier to keep you entertained while you wait. We recommend getting a bowl of 30 baht noodle soup, you won’t be disappointed.

 

Bangkok Book Of SecretsFood & Drink

Tom Yum soup is the one that can’t be missed, a fiery broth like curry topped with kaffir lime leaves that is bound to get the tongue tingling. Thai street food has got a deservedly fantastic reputation and from the stalls it is Pad Thai fried noodles that draws the most interest. For the more adventurous how about eating live Shrimp? If you fancy giving it a bash then ask for Goong Ten, a strangely writhing salad that delivers a salty crunch when you bite. You should even try you hand at a Thai cooking class if you are really interested in bringing home the skills of a Thai chef with your from your holiday!

One thing you will notice in Bangkok are the endless street stalls of a vast variety of foods for every palate. One of our favorites is fresh coconut ice cream, found around many of the Thai temples. For the SUPER adventurous eaters out there, you can always try eating bugs, which you will undoubtedly find at many of the markets or popular food stalls. While not the most appetizing option for many tourists, insects are a long time favorite of many Thai’s and provide a delicious and crunchy snack for those willing to give the crickets, grasshoppers and maggots a try. Sure sounds gross but it really isn’t that bad.

 

Nightlife

If there is one thing Bangkok does well it is nightlife. Whether you are looking for the most insane night of your entire life or a quiet wine bar to sip a glass of red with your spouse, the city provides endless opportunities to get out and relax. The up and coming Sukhumvit area has some of the most trendy new bars, such as Above Eleven, a cool and relaxing bar 32 floors above the streets, and Bourbon Street, the most well known American bar in the city. For the adventurous, there is a Paris themed Absinthe bar hidden inside Sukhimvit 11’s most well known bars, but we’ll let you discover it for yourself, the journey is half the fun with this one, but when you find it and step inside the secret door you will be amazed you are even in Asia.

For the backpackers and college kids, head straight to Khao San Road, made famous by the movie “The Beach” this never ending party street is chalk full of the cheapest bars, hostels, restaurants and night clubs a kid could ever ask for. While it might not be your cup of tea, it sure is entertaining enough to visit, just leave before nightfall if you want to remain sane.

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Bangkok Book Of Secrets

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Transportation

So, “Should I rent a motorbike in Asia” is a common thought we hear from tourists, and a valid question to ask yourself when coming to this part of the world. While not all people feel comfortable driving a motorbike, especially on the wild streets of Bangkok, it really is the preferred and easiest way to get around. If with a family, children or the elderly, you might want to think about renting a car during your holiday, however in Bangkok the tuk-tuks are an especially authentic and cheap way to get around the city. While you might not fit the entire family in one tuk-tuk, there is little less exciting than running around the big city with your friends in tuk-tuks if you have never experienced this exciting Thai way of traveling. For the more traditional you can always hire a car or take the more than accommodating MRT, or metro system which weaves its way through most of the city. But seriously, rent a motorbike, they are great fun and give you a special sense of freedom and excitement.

 

**Extras**

If you really want to have an unforgettable time in Thailand and want to head home with a more permanent memory, head just 30km outside of the Bangkok city limits to Wat Bang Phra Temple famous for its Yak Sant tattoos given by monks in the traditional thai bamboo style. These tattoos are a sacred symbol in the Buddhist religion and many temple goers do not even know the tattoo they are going to receive until it is completed. Definitely for the bold, a yak sant bamboo tattoo is a special way to remember your time in the land of smiles.

Photos provided in part via Flickr and Prachanart Viriyaraks

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

 

The United Kingdom, composed of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, has always been a favourite European tourist destinations. It’s rolling country sides, vibrant cities, iconic landmarks and outstanding history, draw people in from all over the world. It’s the ideal place for a family holiday or relaxing weekend away no matter what time of year you wish to visit. We’ve loved our time in the UK and while London is amazing, if you are in the UK please make sure to travel outside of the city limits and see all there is, you will not be disappointed!

So check out some of the most scenic spots in the UK and think a little outside the box (or city) the next time you travel to the UK and find yourself in the beautiful nature that is the United Kingdom. There are few places on Earth you can travel through such lush landscapes between the sea, mountains, plans and woods, and none with such rich history.

 

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

The Lake District

As England’s largest national park, The Lake District (commonly known as ‘The Lakes’) is one of the most popular destinations for tourists in the UK. Situated in the County of Cumbria, this stunning mountainous region is visited by around 14 million tourists each year! If you’re keen on hiking or climbing, this is your spot. With rolling hills and lakes aplenty, this is definitely an area to unleash the explorer in you. Having recently being voted the UK’s most Romantic Destination, this little gem also hold host to England’s highest mountain (Scafell Pike) and deepest lake (Wastwater).

Who doesn’t want to experience all the romance of a perfect evening surrounded by beautiful greenery. Sure, England has a ton of rain, but you know what that means…. green everything! Take a chance and plan a summer holiday, you might get a little rain but you’ll never appreciate the sunny days without it!

 

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

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Cornwall

A holiday in Cornwall is perfect for those who want to escape on a relaxing retreat. It’s exquisite natural beauty is incorporated within 296 miles of both coastline and moorland. The peninsula offers golden sandy beaches on the south side and rugged, rocky cliffs on the north. One of the our best recommendations in order to indulge in true Cornish bliss is to stay in a cosy holiday cottage. Not sure weather to go for a quaint cottage or impressive manor house? Check out the fabulous guide from helpful holidays on finding the perfect place to stay. Holiday Cottages offer versatility to have a home away from home – whether that’s by taking along your dog or storing surfboards and kayaks for the next day of adventuring!

Cornwall is one of my favorite places in the UK, and as I have family from the region, I absolutely loved driving through the picturesque towns and villages imaging my relatives living there hundreds of years ago. While it might be easy to get lost along the way, embrace the freedom and simply go where the road takes you, the view will be amazing.

 

Our Top Picks For Holidays In The UK

 

The Scottish Highlands

Our final recommendation for a visit to the UK wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Northwestern parts of glorious Scotland; The Highlands. Whilst it may portray images of men in kilts, tartan and Braveheart, there is much more than meets the eye! For a truly unique experience why not try out Farm Accommodation to really get a taste for agricultural, rural life. If you’re wanting to make life-long friends and discover the ‘true’ heritage of highland crafting and farming, why not take part in the traditions and family lives. With immaculate scenery and a warm country welcome, you will see a whole host of spectacular wildlife including stags, deer, hawks and even seals along the coastline.

So there you have it, some amazing places to visit outside of London and well worth visiting thats for sure. Rent a car, ditch the city for at least a long weekend and venture into some of the most lush, colorful and friendly areas in all of Europe, but bring an umbrella just in case, we always learn the hard way!

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Photos provided in part via Flickr and Martin de Lusenet

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

The Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Last year over 10 million tourists flocked to Phuket, Thailand in search of the perfect beach, delicious food and the perfect exotic vacation. And while Phuket has the beaches, the food and the feel of paradise, it has also developed tremendously fast in the past few years and is struggling the keep up with the constant horde of visitors it receives.

Only a two hour ferry ride off the east coast of Phuket lays the Phi Phi Islands. Made up of Phi Phi Don (the main island) and Phi Phi Lay (a smaller national park), they boast some of the more iconic Thai scenes anyone could imagine. Littered with gorgeous white sand beaches, the water is always that extra bright shade of blue and the snorkeling; diving and water activities are top notch.

In our “Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island” we will give you all the information you need for a complete trip to the islands  and all you need to know to maximize your time in paradise.

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The Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island, Thailand

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How to Get There:

First things first you will need to get transportation from Phuket or Krabi out to Phi Phi Don. Boats leave daily from Phuket, most days at 9am and 2:30pm. A one way ticket will cost you just 250 baht, which a round trip ticket costing 400baht (around $13USD). Tickets are sold on almost every single corner in Phuket and you will have no problem purchasing one. Any hotel will be able to get you one, or any street stand selling tourist activities, as trips to Phi Phi are among the most desired. Your ticket will include a transfer via mini bus from your hotel to the Rassada Pier.

Make sure to buy your ferry tickets BEFORE you arrive at the ferry. If you wait until you arrive at the pier to buy your ticket, you will pay 1,000 baht round trip, almost double what it would cost to get a round trip ticket and transfer to and from your hotel. We got burned by this once, it stings.

The ferry ride itself can vary from day to day as there are about 10 ferries of differing shapes and sizes that sail daily. Some have complete mini bars, comfortable inside seats and generally comfortable accommodations. Others are more bare bones and while they will still get you there, offer less inside seating, no chairs on the deck and less than desirable toilets.  But not to worry, the ride is only about 2 hours and then you are there.

TIP: Stop by one of the many pharmacies around Phuket and ask for Dramamine, or any other pill for motion sickness. A blister pack of 10 pills will cost you around 150B and often really help with the varying degrees of rough seas. Remember to ask for the non-drowsy kind, learn from our mistakes! 

Once you have landed at the pier in Phi Phi Don you will be required to pay a 20baht island tax. This money is collected by the local government to keep Phi Phi clean and beautiful and is hardly a hassle to keep the islands looking as beautiful as they do. Does the money actually go to keeping the islands beautiful – who knows.

The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

Where to Stay:

As you walk down the pier you will undoubtedly be bombarded by Thai locals displaying laminated signs showing pictures of every type of accommodation from high scale resorts (there are only a few) to simple island bungalows (there are tons). A simple fan room can go for as little as 400baht with a private double room with AC for around 900baht. If traveling with a group of friends, try finding a dorm room option. These rooms generally offer between 4-8 beds and can cost as little as 250baht per person (around $10USD).  If you are searching for a nicer hotel, you can find a handful of “luxury options” on the island complete with swimming pools, room service and a gym.

TIP: There are no roads or cars on the Phi Phi Islands so wherever you stay just remember you will have to walk there. The lack of cars make the island experience much more enjoyable and bicycles are available everywhere. However, Phi Phi is small enough to walk anywhere, just remember you will have to carry your luggage or stay in a place that will wheel it around for you. 

For budget accommodations Latitude 34 suggests either Marine House or Ban Thai Guest House.  Both can be easily found off of the main walkway when you enter the island.

Marine House offers a quiet environment with private rooms and dorm rooms available. The kindly provide beach towels, which is super helpful when you forget yours and don’t want to spend the 300baht to buy one on the island. The staff is friendly, helpful and can do your laundry overnight if dropped off by 11am. Just remember to ask for bug spray for your room, sometimes a mosquito or two will find their way in.

Ban Thai is a very popular backpacker guest house run by Miss Lee, an energetic woman who will remember your name from the second you meet her until the minute you leave. Offering more rooms than Marine House, Miss Lee’s Ban Thai Guesthouse is a great place to stay with a group of friends as she has an abundance of twin rooms and is quite used to groups of young friends staying with here. Miss Lee has a row of computers available for those traveling light and without internet connection from day to day. 1 baht per minute.

Miss Lee is also very knowledgeable about all the local tours that are offered around the island. Whether you are looking to visit Maya Bay on Phi Phi Lay (the same beach made famous in the movie “The Beach”), take a day snorkeling trip on a long tail boat, an overnight scuba trip or a day long fishing trip, Miss Lee can set it up, reserve you a spot and make the planning effortless.

Our Recommendation: Both Phi Phi Charlie and Phi Phi Princess are owned by the same people and offer the perfect mix of location, comfort and amenities. While nothing fancy, their rooms are comfortable, have free wifi and aircon. An average double room will cost about $50 a night and adding an extra bed will cost you around $15. They also offer a family room which can sleep 4 people comfortably. Easily the best bonus to staying here is their amazing infinity pool looking out over the amazing Tonsai bay. Many chose to spend their hungover mornings and rowdy afternoons in the pool by the swim up bar, easily the best pool on the island and a great place to mingle with other travelers. The cost of the room includes a great breakfast buffet, thai and western food and both sets of rooms (Charlie and Princess) are a short 1 minute walk down the beach from Slinky Bar and Woodies, where you will most likely be ending you night.

TIP: Unless you are staying at a high-end hotel make sure to bring soap and shampoo with you, as many of the budget options do not provide them.

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Thanksgiving in Thailand, What We Are Thankful For

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What to Do:

As for activities and things to do on Phi Phi Don in the sun, the list is pretty endless. There are gorgeous beaches all over the place and its up to you how far you want to walk to find your perfect spot in the sand.  The twin beaches at the heart of Phi Phi Don are pretty spectacular but are always crowded with tourists from sun up to sun down. We suggest paying 100baht for a short 5 minute trip on a local long tail boat to drop you off at Long Beach, one of our favorite beaches on the world. Just as beautiful as the rest, Long Beach boasts way less tourists than many of the other beaches and is well worth the time to get there. You can walk to Long Beach from the main drag, but it will take about 20 minutes and is very hilly.

TIP: If you go to Long Beach visit the small restaurant on the sand and try their Penang Curry sandwich, its delicious!

The majority of visitors to Phi Phi are young backpackers and many are inspired to visit Phi Phi to visit Maya Bay and say they have been to “The Beach”. Speedboats and longtails make the trip all day long and you can rent them by the hour. The longtail boats seat about 6 comfortably and can be had for 1,000Baht an hour. The speed boats vary in size and how many people the can hold, and can go for up to 5,000baht an hour.

TIP: Bring snacks with you on any day trip to Phi Phi Lay. Remember, it is a national park and almost completely undeveloped. There is nothing more than a small set of bathrooms and a shack that sells overpriced canned beer and potato chips. Stop in one of the many mini marts before you leave and grab a back of goodies for the day.

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The Complete Guide to Phi Phi Island, Thailand

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If you want to maximize your time, or only have an afternoon to fit in all you can, we suggest taking an afternoon trip which will include a boat out to Phi Phi Lay for afternoon snorkeling (fins and masks included), a trip past the famous Viking Caves, a sunset trip to Maya Bay (so much nicer once all the tourists have left), a complete Thai meal on the boat and some include night snorkeling with phosphorescent plankton.  We recommend making sure it is NOT a full moon if you want to do the plankton snorkeling as the light, even at night, makes them almost impossible to see.

Many half and full day trips like this are available all over the island and range in price from 400b for a half day to 1,2000b for the plankton version.

Once the sun sets on the island, everything gets a bit more exciting. The volume gets turned up, and the main area of the island becomes the ultimate party playground. But before you go too crazy you’ve got to eat, and we have a couple places we would suggest to fill your stomach before you enjoy too many buckets on the beach.

Where to Eat:

Consistently rated number one is a small restaurant called Anna’s. It is located up the first side street off the main drag you find yourself on when you walk off the pier. Anyone who has been on the island more than 10 minutes will be able to show you the way. Despite its popularity, it is a small place, maybe 10 tables or so, and remains authentic, friendly and offers delicious western and Thai food. Free internet, delicious shakes and a wonderfully knowledgeable staff make this a great place for a quick bite to eat or a place to hang out for hours and relax.

The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

Breakers is as close as you are going to get to a true sports pub. Located next to the world famous Reggae Bar (which we’ll talk about next), they offer large comfortable wooden tables, an open atmosphere for anyone walking up off the street and have a wide selection of beers on tap. Their food is both delicious and fairly priced and an excellent place to meet friends, hang out and people watch or catch a game on TV.

TIP: Along with the sit down restaurants are endless rows of stalls selling all varieties of street food and no trip to Thailand would be complete without trying a few random things.  Meat on sticks is a great way to go, whether you are trying fried fish balls, spicy beef, chicken, pork, who knows, but it all tastes delicious. The kebabs and samosas are amazing as are the banana pancakes. Trust us, after a couple drinks you will try some street food, no matter how much of a stomach ache you think it will give you.

At this point we have covered getting to Phi Phi, where to stay, what to do in the sun and where to eat, so now comes the most exciting part… what to do at night!

 

Night Life:

Phi Phi is a constant party when the sun goes down, 7 days a week 365 days a year, and even if you are not a big partier, some things are not to be missed.

Most people coming to Phi Phi have come from Phuket, where the idea of going to a bar swarming with bar girls and lady boys has lost its charm (if it ever had any).  Phi Phi provides a much needed relief as there are no lady bars, bar girls or stripper poles in sight while offering some awesomely entertaining events in their place.

Before you head down to the beach for the real fun, make sure you stop into Reggae Bar, located right next door to Breakers. Offering anyone who wants to the chance to Muay Thai fight, you are sign up to fight a friend, your grandpa (yes, we’ve seen this), or a complete stranger. If you put your life on the line and enter the ring you are given the necessary safety equipment (headwear, gloves, shorts) and you will be given a free bucket of booze upon the completion of your 3 rounds in the ring. Buckets at Reggae Bar are 2 for 1, and are 400b each.

TIP: Buckets are popular all over Thailand as the fun and exciting way to drink your alcohol. The literally take a bucket, the kind you built sandcastles with on the beach when you were a kid, and load them up with an abundance of the alcohol and mixers of your choosing. Complete with multiple straws, it’s a fun way to share a drink with friends, but be warned, they are strong, you are drinking a literal bucket of alcohol after all.

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The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

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It’s wildly entertaining to watch two liquored up backpackers go at it in the ring, with rarely any idea what they are doing between them. Every 5 fights or so real muay thai fighters enter the ring and show off some amazing moves. Part acting and part real boxing it is some of the most entertaining muay thai we have seen as it is as hard hitting as the real thing with added excitement. We have seen muay thai fighters get thrown out of the ring as well as the poor ref getting a swift kick to the nuts.

When you have seen all there is to see at Reggae Bar, follow the crowds down to the beach and find yourself a seat on the sand in front of one of the many, many beach lined bars, each displaying their own fire show. “Poi” reigns king of late night activities and it is never boring to watch people play with fire. We recommend “Slinky Bar”, directly to your left as you walk on to the beach. Music pounding from all the bars, the stakes are quite high as performers juggle flaming torches, spin sparkling spools soaked in petrol and even balance on wires balancing flaming wheels on their heads. The shows start each night, 7 days a week, around 8:30pm and last late, late into the night.

If watching the performers isn’t entertaining enough for you, just wait until they bust out the flaming jump rope and flaming limbo pole, both designed for crowd participation. Those brave enough are welcome to try their hand at jumping a flaming jump rope and the super brave can even try the double flaming jump rope, or try going doubles with another brave friend.

The latitude 34 complete guide to phi phi, thailand

After the crowd has gotten their thrills from the jump rope of death, they will bring out the flaming hoop and flaming limbo pole. If you are sensing a theme here, its high stakes drinking.

Egged on by friends and a free shot for attempting either, sit back and relax watching dozens and dozens of wobbling kids jump, swerve, stumble, fall and fling themselves through the burning obstacles and dance the night away.

TIP: Once the tide goes out, it goes OUT. When you arrive at the beach past dark you will not be able to see the water at all as it has gone out sometimes up to 100 yards. (if you aren’t American and speak in meters, that’s the length of a football field… real football, American football.) Take a stroll out as far as you can walk, enjoy the striated beach below your feet and watch the pulsing lights and listen to the conflagration of music from way out in the wet sand, it’s a very cool experience.

So that’s it! You’ve got all you need to know for a complete trip to Phi Phi. You know how to get there, where to stay, places to eat and how best to enjoy yourself. If you find yourself in Phuket or are planning a trip to Thailand in the future, we highly suggest taking a trip to Phi Phi and enjoying one of the coolest beach communities we have come across. Whether you want to party til the sun comes up, relax at a quiet beach or finally conquer your fear of scuba diving, Phi Phi offers it all, all while preserving that perfect image of paradise you’ve had in your head for years.

So have fun, be safe, bring your sunscreen and take the leap!

Cheers!


Finally coming Home to Thailand

Finally coming Home to Thailand

In a couple weeks it will be 5 months since we left our little apartment in Thailand and headed for a trip around the world. Now, 137 days and 23 countries later, we are just a couple weeks away from finally coming home to Thailand. While Phuket is our adopted home, we still get excited when we get back to Thailand and this time we have a ton of cities to visit, islands to explore and villages to get lost in. So from Phuket in the South to Chiang Mai in the North, these are the places we are looking forward to visiting in the next couple months.

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Finally coming Home to Thailand

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While we live in Phuket and always enjoy spending days exploring the island, there are loads of smaller islands close to Phuket which are are excited to explore. While we love spending a holiday in Phi Phi every couple months, we have been hearing only amazing things about other, smaller islands in the south of Thailand like Kho Chang and Kho Tao, both of which we plan to visit once we return to Thailand. While we love partying in Phi Phi every now and then, we are excited to visit some more laid back islands and enjoy a weekend relaxing in the sun and not dancing the night away on the beach with college students on a gay year to find themselves. (Note: This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan a gap year, you have to!) We are also looking forward to simply enjoying parts of Phuket we rarely visit like Bangtao beach in the North of the island and getting to know Phuket Town a lot better, where we are planning to move when we get back. We are particularly to enjoy a weekend at the Foto Hotel in Phuket, one of the coolest hotels we have ever stayed at, but considering it is a photography themed hotel, anyone who knows us is probably not surprised.

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“Sukhumvit Soi 11 is an especially popular street and there is even a Paris themed bar hidden in the back of a club which only serves Absinthe cocktails!”

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While the south of Thailand is a beautiful part of the country, we also have a blast in Bangkok and never feel like we have explored all the city has to offer. While we have explored the zoo, Grand Palace and all the don’t miss temples in Bangkok, we are very excited to next explore the up and coming Sukhimvit area during our next visit. Sukhumvit is a hip neighborhood which has transformed from its slightly seedier past, to a new urban city center with hip, fresh and exciting restaurants, clubs and bars. Sukhumvit Soi 11 is an especially popular street and there is even a Paris themed bar hidden in the back of a club which only serves Absinthe cocktails! The last time we visited Bangkok we took the 14 hours bus from Phuket, which proved to be a completely terrible choice, as flight to Bangkok from Phuket can be as low as $35 US if you book in advance, and even under $60 if you book the day of sometimes. For this trip we are excited to book Bangkok hotels with Webjet, a website we have used many times but now offer great deals via their Twitter and Facebook pages, you know us, always up to date with our social media trends and channels.

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Finally coming Home to Thailand

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While the majority of visitors to Thailand will be visiting Phuket or Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the north of the country remains one of our favorite cities in all of SE Asia. Chiangmai lacks the beaches of the south and the big city feeling of Bangkok, but what it lacks in size it sure makes up for in character. Chiangmai has the laid back feeling of a college town but with so much more character. The thai life seems more relaxed, care free and open in Chiangmai, a feeling much welcomed after a busy weekend in Bangkok or the busy beaches of Phuket. Not only is Chiangmai a quieter and in some ways, authentic, it is quite a bit cheaper too. We loved our quick weekend in Chiangmai last year and enjoyed a wonderful Thai cooking class as well as an exciting trip to Tiger Kingdom just outside of the city where we got to play with tigers!

So, while we are sad to see our trip around the world come to an end, we are bubbling with excitement about all the great adventures we have left in Thailand and the memories we have yet to make!

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Hotel Review: Novotel Amsterdam City

Hotel Review: Novotel Amsterdam City

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Amsterdam is one of the most vibrant, colorful and fun cities in Europe. While Amsterdam is still a popular destinations for backpackers old and young and while each city has its thumping nightlife, Amsterdam has much more to offer than what you might have heard. We spent a few days in Amsterdam recently, and while we absolutely loved exploring the downtown area, we were excited to book a stay at the Novotel Amsterdam City, which is a short train ride outside of the city center.

 

Hotel Review: Novotel Amsterdam CityNovotel Amsterdam City has done a fantastic job of offering an absolutely beautiful building, and while it might not look like much from the outside, as soon as you step inside you will be glad you booked a stay or jealous you went anywhere else. The entry is open, inviting and colorful. Business casual doesn’t quite do Novotel justice as they take it a step further with precise and beautiful placement of design elements and splashes of color throughout the entire hotel. Bright green nooks line up against the wall towards the hotel bar/restaurant which are an excellent place to get some work done if you are looking to get out of your room.

 

iMac computers grace the lounge area which invite guests to lounge, peruse the internet and relax in the lobby area. Check in is done via personal reception booths which are manned by extremely helpful staff armed with not only all the information you would need about the hotel but about everything Amsterdam you would want to know. Different from many other European countries, the Dutch learn English in school which is a welcome relief to those English speakers traveling through Europe used to getting lost in fast speaking Italians or Germans.

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“Business casual doesn’t quite do Novotel justice as they take it a step further with precise and beautiful placement of design elements and splashes of color throughout the entire hotel…”

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The rooms themselves are tasteful, comfortable and contain the same simple design elements to make the Novotel feel just that much more modern and special. Nespresso coffee makers in each room made us fee at home and the splash of color in the throw pillows helped to liven up what could be a traditional feeling hotel room. We especially loved the TV speakers in the bathroom ceiling, nothing like listening to the news while in the shower! The internet is decent and good enough to keep you connected during your stay. One of the best features of the hotel are the free apples offered daily outside the elevators on each floor. It really is the little things that make a hotel stay memorable!

 

The hotel is complete with a full fitness center, classy bar, high class restaurant, full room service menu, conference center, coffee shop and gift shop. There is even a kids play room complete with play toys for the younger children and an Xbox for the teens. A stay at Novotel Amsterdam City is a wonderful one of the best ways to enjoy Amsterdam if you want a classy business casual environment a short train ride from the city center. The hotel is a quick 3-5 minute walk from the metro stop or a lovely 20 minute stroll into town. While sometimes it is nice to be in the center of town, a beautiful hotel in a relaxed and stylish setting slightly out of the middle of town is sometimes a wonderful choice and for us, it gave us the chance to get some work done in a comfortable and colorful setting while allowing us easy access to the wonders of Amsterdam a short ride away.

 

Rooms start at 99 euro and include free high speed internet.

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Hotel Review: Novotel Amsterdam City

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

London, England

Enjoying a Weekend Trip To London

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Visiting Europe without spending at least a weekend in London is like getting an ice cream sundae without adding a cherry on top, it just doesn’t make sense. While we had tight travel plans traveling from Ireland to Italy, we were not about to miss a weekend in London. While London might always sound like an expensive trip there are some great ways, include hotel breaks and city passes and cheap eats to help you enjoy an amazing weekend without breaking the bank.

If you are flying into London, all the major airports offer a wide variety of transportation options into the city. So whether you jump on a train, tram, taxi or bus, London is only a short ride away. The cost of transportation can set you back quite a bit during a trip to the UK, but with excellent options like single or multi day Underground passes and the London City Pass, you’ll surely save some big bucks. We opted for the two day tube pass which let us travel absolutely everywhere we wanted without thinking about it. A day pass might be 9 pounds, but it sure is better than dishing out 4 pounds for each ride.

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“A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else…” -Unknown

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As for hotels in the UK, there are of course endless options. While it is nice to stay right in the middle of London, with the tube and especially the day or city pass, no matter what neighborhood you decide to get a hotel in, you’ll be a short ride to the center of town. We opted to stay in East London an thriving, vibrant part of the city with amazing nightlife a bit away from the tourist areas. Brick Lane offers some of the best Indian food you will ever try outside of India as well as some fun and quirky bars and clubs. We enjoyed amazing kebabs at a Libyan restaurant and then sang and danced the night away on Brick Lane. If you are in the mood to dance, check out the Big Chill for some bumping tunes and if you are in the mood to embarrass yourself, check out The Archers. While you might not want to sing yourself, watching college students make idiots of themselves is good fun, plus there are a couple of old timers who are just as drunk and into it as well.

London, EnglandNo trip to London is complete without visiting all the main tourist attractions like Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the British Museum. Lucky for you, the majority of the main tourist attractions are all within easy walking distance from each other. Even though it was a classic rainy, wet and windy UK weekend when we were in town, we still managed to walk to all the main sites without getting too soaked. If you find yourself by Westminster Abbey make sure to walk over the bridge and check out the London Eye, quite an amazing ferris wheel and if you chose to take a trip and it is a clear day, you will get amazing views of the city from the top.

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The most important thing to enjoying a weekend trip to London is taking advantage of all the amazing things the city has to offer. Plan you trip, find the best hotel breaks, book in advance, take public transportation and get off the beaten path to find the best hole in the wall restaurants. London is one of the most vibrant, historic a fascinating cities in all of Europe so no matter how close of far you are, a weekend trip to London will always be worth it – we’ll even cross our fingers for you that its sunny!

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Singapore Fling: Falling in Love with Southeast Asia's Impressive City-State

Singapore Fling: Falling in Love with Southeast Asia’s Impressive City-State

 

Sure, tourists might not be able to spit or chew gum in the streets of Singapore, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have fun. There are spectacular attractions to visit, taxis are cheap, food is delicious, shopping is great and almost everyone speaks English. It all makes Singapore one of the best destinations in the whole of Asia. We recently spent a weekend in Singapore, a quick flight down from our home in Phuket, Thailand. I was shocked at the modern state of Singapore and very impressed by the city. Changi, the airport, is consistently rated in the top airports on Earth and their public transportation system is fast, clean, efficient and affordable. So whether you are on a long layover, a business trip or a romantic weekend, Singapore leaves little be to desired and loads to be discovered.

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Singapore Fling: Falling in Love with Southeast Asia's Impressive City-State

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Just Snoozing

You’re never spoilt for somewhere to lay your head, and Singapore hotels are second to none. The city’s best-known hotel is also one of the most expensive but Raffles is worth every penny. Not only does this hotel make a mean Singapore Sling, it also keeps out the riff raff at bay by applying a strict dress code. Inside the 121 year old establishment and class oozes out of every room, with spacious parlors, rattan furniture, verandahs, and ceiling fans. For more modern digs head for the Marina Bay Sands in the heart of the city. Close to the ArtScience Museum and the Chinatown Heritage Center this 5-star hotel is also within spitting distance (but don’t actually spit!) of the Gardens by the Bay which make for a spectacular view, day or night.

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photo Singapore Fling: Falling in Love with Southeast Asia's Impressive City-State Jeff Johns Founder, Latitude 34 Travel Blog e:hello@latitudethirtyfour.com | w:http://www.latitudethirtyfour.com

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Sights for Sore Eyes

Gardens by the Bay are a multimillion-dollar eco-garden project that is fast becoming the city’s signature attraction. The gardens feature sixteen steel super-trees which act as massive trellises for a range of plants. The Gardens also feature two climate-controlled domes. This allows them to provide habitats for all kinds of vegetation from rainforest to desert plants. The Singapore Zoo is a great place to spend a day but an even better place to spend the night. The zoo offers night safaris which begin at 7:30 pm and provide visitors the chance to observe nocturnal cats as well as other wildlife. There are tram rides and trails that are lit up for night walks through the grounds which offer insights into the worlds of wildlife that come alive after dark.

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Singapore Fling: Falling in Love with Southeast Asia's Impressive City-State

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Getting Your Fill

For first time visitors, one of the very best ways to experience Singapore’s culinary culture is to head to a hawker center (an open-air market offering all varieties of cooked foods) with a few bottles of Tiger beer and a serious appetite. Adventurous eaters can sample everything from Sambal stingray to oyster omelet to fish-head curry while those with slightly less adventurous palettes can munch on chicken rice, clay-pot seafood or the Singapore staple — satay. For the satay enthusiast, no visit to Singapore is complete without a trip to Boon Tat Street. This foodie destination is closed to traffic every evening to make room for the line of satay huts and the plastic tables and chairs they set up for patrons. Hundreds — if not thousands — of satays made from all types of meats are prepared each night on Boon Tat and hand-cooked over coals. Singapore has developed a reputation among Southeast Asian destinations as being a strict and sterile compared to the vibrant and ‘developing’ cultures of Bangkok or Jakarta. In reality, Singapore is one of the most enjoyable, modern and efficient cities in the world. Go and visit if you don’t believe so!

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Images by Kiwi Flickr, Jirka Matousek, jjcb and Carrie Kellenberger used under creative commons license.

Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time

Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time

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The majestic city of Rome is one of the world’s top tourist destinations. The Italian capital boasts magnificent ancient ruins, world-class shopping, great food and a thriving nightlife. If you are planning your trip to the Eternal City, you will be able to find dozen of cheap hotels in Rome online, just start looking early. With this in mind, here are some top tips for visiting Rome for the first time.

 

1. Be prepared to walk
The best way to explore the eternal city is almost certainly by foot. This however means that comfortable shoes are a must-have alongside a bottle of water, which can be re-filled at the city’s many public fountains, and a detailed city map. Rome’s historic centre is surprisingly compact meaning that you will be able to explore endless charming churches, charismatic piazzas and extraordinary architecture on foot in no time at all.

 

 

Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time2. Visit the top attractions
Rome is home to a number of phenomenal attractions including the unforgettable Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Villa Borghese Gardens and of course the Vatican City. If you are travelling on a budget, it is always a good idea to do some research beforehand in order to establish which of Rome’s main attractions offer free entrance.

 

3. Enjoy the local cuisine
Italy is celebrated worldwide for its splendid food and traditional Roman cuisine is no exception. You’ll be able to sample fabulous pasta dishes such as carbonara or amatriciana, followed by a delightful glass of wine and a classic Italian dessert such as tiramisù. When in Rome, you will want to indulge in a little homemade gelato and perhaps even try some of the newest and most exotic flavours only found in Italy.

 

4. Don’t be afraid to get lost
Although having a good map with you at all times is always advisable, don’t be afraid to explore the city’s many quaint streets and off-the-beaten track locations. Getting lost in Rome is often one of the best ways to discover the city’s hidden gems including splendid ancient churches and the many charming boutiques and quaint cafés situated in pretty Roman piazzas.

 

5. Venture outside the city walls
There is a great deal to see and do in Rome, however should you decide to venture outside the city walls you will certainly not regret it! Enchanting destinations such as Tivoli and the Castelli Romani lie just a short drive from the city and offer awe-inspiring scenery, delicious regional cuisine, splendid parks and world-renowned villas.

 

By taking these top tips into consideration, you will be well on the way to planning the perfect Roman holiday. Be sure to plan ahead in order to really make the most of your first visit to one of the world’s greatest and most exciting cities!

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Top Tips for Visiting Rome for the First Time

 

Latitude 34 Guide to Boston

Latitude 34 Guide to Boston

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Marina and I have been lucky enough to travel to some pretty far flung corners of the world, so it is great to be able and explore some great cities a little closer to home. During our time in the states between our return from Thailand and our departure for Ireland, we spent a fun filled wild weekend in Boston and explored all we could in our short few days in the city.

Having never visited Boston before (seriously? I lived in DC for 18 years and never made it up there!), we both jumped at the chance to explore Boston. My younger sister lives almost inside of Fenway Park, and while we visited in January and no games we being played, between staying with her and our amazing stay at the Mandarin Oriental, we had the perfect launching pad for our adventures.

Boston has one of the richest histories in America and we had a list a mile long of places we wanted to visit. While we unfortunately didn’t get to them all, we sure did manage to squeeze a lot into our long weekend, so we wanted to give you our complete guide to Boston!

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20140111 10. Ride the “T” – Major cities all over the world have complex and world renowned public transportation and while most have hear of the Underground in London or the L in Chicago, none are steeped in quite as much history as the T in Boston. Public transportation first launched in 1631 throughout Boston and while the T didn’t come until a bit later, quite a few of the original stops are still in daily use. A ride will only cost you about $2 and will get you to any stop on any line. The T is a perfect way to get around the city and is very cheap as well.

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“We were taught the 4 phases when sampling our beers and each given seemingly endless samples of 3 of their current beers on tap, the first of course being the world famous Boston Lager…”

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9. Visit the Prudential Center – The Prudential Center is one of the tallest buildings in all of Boston and while the base is home to one quite impressive mall, spend the $15 to take the elevator to the 50th floor for an amazing 360 degree view of the city. From the top we easily spotted Fenway Park, the vast curves of the Charles River and both MIT and Harvard. If you are in Boston on a clear day, make a bee line to the “Pru” and head to the top!

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So there you have it! We had one wild weekend in Boston and took in as much as we could. Surely one of America’s most interesting cities, there is a seemingly endless list of things to experience in the city. Have you been to Boston and think we left something off our list? Remember, we visited in the winter months so feel free to comment below with anything we missed and we wish you a wonderful time if you ever find yourself in Boston in the future!

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.H . jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all. A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh. Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!

Las Vegas Holidays - Why You Have to Take One_04

Las Vegas Holidays – Why You Have to Take One

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After living in Los Angeles for the last decade has provided Marina and I countless opportunities for weekend adventures to Las Vegas. We’ve gone to Las Vegas for my birthday, Halloween, boys weekends, New Years, girls weekends and just about everything in between. We often take it for granted, but let’s be honest every has Las Vegas holidays on their bucket list somewhere.

http://instagram.com/latitude34While Las Vegas Holidays are probably most popular for young 20 somethings, there are a surprising amount of family friendly activities away from all the glitz and glamour of the strip, although no trip to Las Vegas is complete without at least experiencing all you can of the strip during the evening hours.

So whether you are a college student, have young kids, want a romantic getaway or are retired and looking for a fun way to spend some of that hard earned cash, here are our reasons why a trip to Vegas is a must, at least once.

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1. Let Loose – Vegas is well known for its signature catch phrase “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and while that doesn’t have to mean waking up on a dark alley and not remembering a thing, a la the Hangover, Las Vegas really is a perfect place to just let loose and relax. Turn off your cell phone, unplug your computer and take yourself off the grid for a weekend!

2. The Food – Diet, what diet? Few places on Earth have as many different dining options as the Las Vegas strip, and no trip would be complete without trying as many different restaurants as you can! For some, the endless buffets are the way to go, while others prefer the romantic dining options offered by luxury restaurants in casinos like Ceasars Palace or the Ballagio. We’ve tried many restaurants, but the Spice Market buffet at Planet Hollywood is quite spectacular and not to be missed!

Las Vegas Holidays - Why You Have to Take One3. Take a Chance – No place better than Las Vegas to spin the wheel, roll the dice and try your hand at gambling. Marina and I have never been big gamblers, but when in Rome right? We love playing the penny slots as a fun way to feel a bit of excitement without risking to lose your wallet, but last time we were in Las Vegas, Marina put down $10 on black at the roulette table and walked away with $20 on one spin, so take a chance!

4. The Sights and Sounds – Vegas is simply sensory overload! From the blinking lights, street performers, the crowds, concerts, bells, whistles and non stop hustle and bustle, Las Vegas holidays often leave us feeling absolutely worn out upon our return home. However, this does not mean you should not experience it all! Take the time to walk around the strip, catch a concert or a show, see a magician and make sure to watch the fountain show at the Ballagio, they are spectacular and go off every 30 minutes.

5. Everything Else – Beyond what we already listed, Las Vegas has some great things you might not expect. When Marina and I visited a couple years ago, the Luxor had two amazing exhibits running, both the Bodies and the Titanic exhibits. We only visited the Bodies one, but man it was interesting and not at all what we thought we would get into during Halloween weekend in Vegas! Other activities include the helicopter rides over the Grand Canyon as well as visiting the Hoover Dam, only a short drive away!

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Las Vegas Holidays - Why You Have to Take One

*Post may contain info from travel partners we work with.

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jeffjohnsheadshotJeff Johns is the co-founder and editor of Latitude 34 Travel Blog. Through 65 countries on 6 continents he has accumulated a seemingly endless stream of odd information, interesting stories and helpful tips and tricks to better travel. Jeff’s goal is to visit all 204 countries on Earth before he is too senile to remember them all.

A graduate of the Visual Journalism program at the Brooks Institute, his true passions lay in honest visual storytelling, documentary filmmaking, Thai food and a good laugh.

Together with his girlfriend Marina, they run Latitude 34 Travel Blog as a source of helpful information for those who love to travel or those who simply dream of it. If you have a comment or suggestion, send them an email at hello@latitudethirtyfour.com and they’ll respond super fast!


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