Videos

Off-Roading in the Arabian Desert (VIDEO)

Off-Roading in the Arabian Desert (VIDEO)

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Dubai might just be the most fascinating city on Earth – definitely the most shiny and new, but just outside of the glitz and the glamour is one of the most vast and desolate deserts in the world, and it should not be missed if you are in the UAE, even for a couple days. When we found ourselves in Dubai earlier in the year we just couldn’t miss the chance to go off-roading in the arabian desert with Arabian Adventures, the top rated adventure tour company in the region.

It is easy to get lost in the vast malls of Dubai, the water parks on The Palm, the endless amazing restaurants, rooftop bars and even an indoor ski slope, but Dubai is unique in the fact the just a few miles outside of the city is almost absolutely nothing – endless desert sand dunes as far as the eye can see. There are a number of desert adventure tour companies, but Arabian Adventures is easily the most popular so we decided to go with them, and we were not disappointed one bit.

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Not entirely sure what to expect, we were picked up at our hotel (read our review of the Grand Hyatt Dubai) and driven about 45 minutes outside of Dubai to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, a vast protected area which only Arabian Adventures is allowed to enter. After deflating our tire pressure we drove into the sand to our first stop, a palm tree filled area where we were treated to a falcon show. While short and quick, it is truly amazing to see these amazing birds flying through the sand dunes so fast. It is easy to get distracted by the beautiful dunes and I have to admit we spent most of the time there shooting pictures of the scenery – but thats what you get when you put two photographers in the middle of the desert!

After the falcon show we strapped ourselves in for the off-roading portion of our adventure and man was it crazy! There were about 25 other SUV’s in our caravan, carefully spaced out as we ventured off across the dunes. The 4×4’s have extra installed roll bars, so hold on tight and enjoy the ride, its pretty exciting. I have to admit, like you’ll see in the video, that I got a bit “sea sick” trying to shoot video and hold on the whole time, but it was of course well worth it.

The drivers timed our adventure perfectly to get to the top of the dunes a few minutes before the sun set, an absolutely amazing scene which looks like something out of Star Wars more than less than an hour from a mega city.

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Off-Roading in the Arabian Desert (VIDEO)

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Standing on top of these sand dunes with nothing but desert in every direction is a truly breathtaking site, even with all of the other tourists and cars in the caravan. I was a bit worried before we took off that going with so many other people into the desert would cheapen the experience but it really didn’t, which was a surprise.

After the sun set the temperature dropped a bit, and while still very hot it was pleasant enough to sit outside and enjoy our night. Arabian Adventures has built an amazing little camp/village in the middle of nowhere, and while built specifically for their tours, it still holds a semi authentic feeling to it where they offer camel rides, henna, shisha, a huge buffet dinner, belly dancing show and stargazing – all included in the price of the tour. (even beer and wine!)

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Off-Roading in the Arabian Desert (VIDEO)

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Marina and I enjoyed wandering around the camp, eating amazing Middle Eastern food, smoking some shisha, Marina got henna and we really enjoyed the belly dancing performance. While not native to Dubai whatsoever, the dancing was a nice touch and entertaining – she really knew how to dance.

One of our favorite parts of the entire day was when they turned off all the lights in the entire camp, leaving us in utter darkness, the stars as bright as I had ever seen them – just cross your fingers it isn’t a full moon or you won’t get the full effect. Once the dining and dancing concludes you are free to enjoy a last drink and make your way back to your driver and SUV where you will be again dropped off back at your hotel, around 10pm.

An amazing day all in all I would do it again in a heartbeat (and actually did it again with a friend last week!). Arabian Adventures has done an excellent job of providing a very easy to plan tour into the desert which incorporates many different elements which would simply be hard to find all in one place on your own – especially on a tight timeline. For a total cost of around $100 per person – it is a very well done tour and an excellent value for the money. So strap on your seatbelt and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime!

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Off-Roading in the Arabian Desert (VIDEO)

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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! 

Flying a Seaplane in the Maldives

Flying a Seaplane in the Maldives (VIDEO)

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The Maldives are some of the most beautiful and remote islands in the world, but if you are lucky enough to visit, you will most likely have to take a seaplane to your island hotel once you land at the Male International Airport. As the Maldives are comprised of nearly 1,200 islands and spread out over a vast distance, only a few resorts are close enough to Male to have speed boats which can bring guests to and from the airport. For all the rest there is Trans Maldivian Airways, the largest fleet of seaplanes in the world who fly over 400 flights per day around the Maldives picking up and dropping off guests at the various luxury private islands resorts the Maldives are famous for.

Landing in Male you will immediately see the TMA counter and shuttles which carry passengers and their luggage to the other side of the island, a short 5 minute drive, to the TMA “airport”, a small dock with prepped with planes to take you on to your final destination. TMA has an amazingly comfortable terminal with special VIP lounges for almost all of the different luxury resorts guests. Most flights are between 20-45 minutes, and depending on your final stop, you can get off the plane in Male and be at the door of your hotel in only an hour or so.

In addition to transporting passengers around the islands, Trans Maldivian Airways also offers scenic tours around the islands. We jumped aboard one of the their flights and tagged along with them as they dropped off and picked up guests at a couple islands and what an amazing journey it was!

Once you get up high you really see how vast the nothingness is surrounding the Maldives and out of the deep blue sea can pop up the most tropical island you have ever seen with the whitest sandy beaches and turquoise waters. A trip to the Maldives might seem like a total fantasy but with a little planning and help from Trans Maldivian Airways you can have those dreams come true and be sitting on the beach, sipping a cocktail in no time at all.

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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!


VIDEO: Husky Safari in Lapland

VIDEO: Husky Safari in Lapland

 

I always grew up dreaming about going on a safari, I mean what kid doesn’t? But who would have thought I we would have ended up trying our hand at a husky safari in Finland as our first attempt at the animal adventure activity? Lapland is a huge area of land in the north of Scandinavia, and the Finnish Lapland area is some of the most pristine and magical we have ever seen. We found the tiny town of Salla to be one of the most charming little towns we have ever visited which made finding the Salla Reindeer Park a piece of cake, as it is right on the main road into Salla.

Once at the park, there are tons of activities to choose from including a husky safari, reindeer safari, reindeer racing, snowshoeing, wilderness camping and ice fishing. While we wanted to try everything, we first chose to hang out with the huskies for a morning and take beautiful ride deep into the snowy wilderness. The first thing we were told by our guide was that we were simply not dressed warmly enough, which we thought might be the case. While we had brought snow pants, gloves, hats, etc, it can get so cold in Salla, that the reindeer park has prepared themselves for under dressed tourists and offers complete snowsuits, gloves and snow boots so no one will spend the day being cold.

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Sufficiently suited up we marched outside and met our team of dogs, the most friendly pack of dogs we have ever come across. These dogs, siberian huskies, absolutely live to be outside and to run. The dogs sleep in the snow and are quite happy at temperatures of -40 celsius. Eager to get going, we took the reigns, jump on our sled and prepared to venture into the woods. The snow was coming down softly and the morning light was streaming through the trees, it was one of the most memorable mornings we had experienced in years. Marina jumped in the sled and I took the lead standing in the back, foot ready to step on the break if the dogs got a little too excited.

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 “Out away from the buildings, we raced along snow covered paths, the crisp morning air hitting our giggling faces…”

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Out away from the buildings, we raced along snow covered paths, the crisp morning air hitting our giggling faces. The falling snow muted the normal sounds and we were left with the panting of the dogs, our laughs and not much else, it was truly magical. After about 30 minutes we made our way to a clearing in the woods where we took a small break, built a fire and ate sausages, Finnish pastries and fresh coffee and hot chocolate.

The dogs, eight in total, rested in the snow, taking bites out of the powder when thirsty (a method I used quite frequently myself). The lead dogs, were the eldest of the bunch, and a pair of the pups were the offspring of one of the older dogs who lead us, a true family affair!

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VIDEO: Husky Safari in Lapland

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After our wintery meal, we packed up and headed out again, this time Marina taking the lead and myself sitting in the sled. Out through open fields, up into the mountains, through tunnels, over streams and finally back to the camp, the trip took a total of around two hours but felt like a lifetime, in the best way possible. Be the time we finished our husky safari it was not even lunch time although we had already had one of the more memorable and fun experiences of our whole trip.

The dogs were amazingly friendly, the guides knowledgable and passionate about not only the dogs but also Finland, the food delicious and the experience nothing but magical. We would go on a husky safari again in an instant, which we can as we were presented with a signed and stamped husky safari drivers license when we arrived back at the camp.

Husky safari trips at Salla Reindeer Park are either one or two hours long and start at 73 euro. The longer safaris include food and drinks.

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VIDEO: Husky Safari in Lapland

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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!

Ice Swimming above the Arctic Circle

VIDEO: Ice Swimming above the Arctic Circle

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It’s not every day that you get to jump into a mostly frozen lake between Northern Finland and Russia, but when you do, you better be ready to jump in. And so goes the story of how Marina and I ended up doing just that. While on a trip to Finland a few weeks ago, we found ourselves well above the arctic circle, in the Lapland region in a small town named Salla. Neither of us had ever been anywhere so magical, we felt like we were in a snow globe the entire time.

While we enjoyed some of the most amazing snow activities during our time in Salla, easily the most extreme experience was ice swimming. We knew a couple days ahead of time that we would be partaking but sincerely did not know exactly what we were in for. As we drove through the heavy snowfall and deep into the Finnish woods, we came upon a small wooden building with a single lamp outside, perched on the side of a massive lake. What we were in for was one of the most invigorating evenings we’d had in awhile.

The Finns have a passion for their saunas, as each house is built firstly around the sauna, and in the winter months they pair this traditional activity with its extreme opposite, ice swimming. Quickly jumping from the icy cold waters to the pipping hot (167F) sauna, we were shocked by how alive, invigorated and healthy the whole experience made us feel.

While many Finns do this up to twice a week during the winter months, and many children are raised doing variations (ie. rolling in snow if there is no lake), we might not be up for going ice swimming weekly, but much to our surprise we both would be very open to ice swimming again and there could be no better place than Salla, Finland.

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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!

Playing with Tigers in Thailand

Once we heard that Tiger Kingdom was opening a new location in Phuket, we knew we had to go again. After all, it doesn’t take much to get us out of the house and playing with tigers in Thailand! The Phuket location has tigers that were raised and trained at the Chiang Mai location and they even brought down the trainers to make the tigers as comfortable as possible. It’s always exciting to see animals up close, but Tiger Kingdom takes it to a whole new level, letting you get up close and personal with these beautiful big cats.

playing with tigers in thailandTiger Kingdom Phuket is open daily from 9am-6pm and has a buffet lunch for 550 baht (about $17 USD) which is served from 11am-3pm. If you’re in Phuket, you can ask any Tuk-Tuk or taxi driver to take you to Tiger Kingdom and they’ll know exactly where to go. Although they wont let you in if you have been drinking, they is a bar on site in case you need a drink to celebrate conquering your fears or to just calm your nerves after playing with tigers!

Prices start at 800 baht (about $25 USD) to play with just the largest tigers and the complete package goes all the way up to 3,500 baht (about $111 USD) to play with all age groups and includes a photographer who will give you 50-70 pictures from your time there. You can add a photographer to any package or age group for an additional 500 baht (about $15 USD).

Watch our video about our trip and to learn about how it works!

http://www.tigerkingdom.com

 

**NOTE: In no way do we condone the mistreatment, drugging, or general abuse of animals in any setting or in any country. That said, the rights of animals in Thailand are less supported than in many other more developed countries world wide and many animal activities in Phuket greatly lack general welfare of the animals, with many veering straight into neglect and abuse. Phuket is run by tourism and if people want to pay to play with tigers someone will give them that opportunity. We highlight Tiger Kingdom as one of the most humane places to interact with animals in Phuket that we have found. While not perfect, the animals are well taken care of and loved. We give the above information not as a statement of fact but as an opinion of the experience as it presented itself to us, so that you the viewer, can make your own ethical and moral decision if you would like to visit.

Swimming Phuket’s Largest Waterfall

The northern part of Phuket is often overlooked as the much more quiet and laid back area of Phuket, compared to the madness and tourist fueled beaches of Patong, Karon and the rest. If you have the time to explore Phuket more in depth and would like to get away from the popular areas, take a journey up to the Paklock area of northern Phuket and spend the day hiking to and swimming in Phuket’s largest waterfall.

The Bangpae waterfall is located in a national park, which is also home to the Gibbon Rehabilitation Center, also well worth the visit. it will cost you 200B to get into the park, which includes free parking and entrance to the Gibbon Center as well. The waterfall is only a short 10 minute hike up a fairly easy trail. Watch out for slippery rocks and streams that flow across the trail though. We were hiking up to the falls in flip-flops and slipped a couple times.

Thai families and groups of friends love to visit the falls and have picnics along the banks of the small stream up and down the trial. Once you get to the falls throw your bags down, take your clothes off and jump in! The water is incredibly cool and refreshing and the powerful mist and roar from the waterfall is exciting and thrilling to me in the midst of. If you are adventurous, climb the slippery rocks up the left side of the fall, grab on to the attached rope and jump down into the base of the falls!

So bring a snack, plenty of bug spray, a change of clothes and you won’t be disappointed. One of the more fun activities we have done in Phuket and a fun way to get away from the more touristy scenes if you get the chance.

Cheers!

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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 forget 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!


Dengue Fever Video – Symptoms, Treatments, and Information

When I was a kid, say eleven or twelve, if you told me that as the clock struck midnight on my 29th I would be whizzing down a dark road in the back of a Tuk Tuk on the way to the Emergency room in Phuket, Thailand with a bad case of Dengue fever, I would not have known what to say. First of all, I’ll never be 29, thats so old! But most importantly, what’s Dengue fever?

Over the course of my unfortunate experience we recorded each step of the way to give more information to others who end up facing the same set of circumstances and hopefully help point them in the right direction. Many people get a fever, the flu, chills and generally feel crummy for a day or two while traveling to exotic places, but sometimes it can be something pretty serious if left untreated.

Dengue fever is a mosquito born disease which is the result of a mosquito bite. Symptoms might not show up for 3 to 10 days after getting bit so you can never be too careful with the use of a good bug spray and a long sleeve shirt. If you have flu like symptoms and break out in an itchy red rash from head to toe, we would advise jumping in the nearest taxi and heading to the closest hospital. Dengue fever only kills 1% of the people it infects, but it can be very severe, resulting in the coughing up of blood and severe dehydration.

Make sure to know where your closest emergency room is, pray they speak your language, and know it’s never to early to get a doctor’s opinion. Many companies offer travel insurance, or if you are traveling for longer periods of time check out companies like BUPA or Cigna for overall international health insurance.

So have fun, go explore, know your surroundings, and make sure to cover up after dusk, you never can be too careful out there!

 



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