It Disappears Into Clouds – South West Australia’s Most Terrifying Adventure Travel Experience

Climbing the north face of the Eiger has always been a challenge for experienced mountaineers. If you are looking for a similar gut wrenching challenge in Australia, look no further than the South West corner of Australia.

Only it’s not a mountain, it’s a tree. A frightening monster, one of the tallest in Australia with a summit sometimes disappearing into the clouds. Even on a clear day, those on the platform at the top disappear from view.

The rewards and the fears.

If you manage to tame the 75 metre beast and reach the summit, you will be rewarded with some of the finest views in Australia. The South West corner of Australia spreads before you like a map, from the pristine rain forests below, to the majestic Southern Ocean in the distance.

But you have to climb to the summit first and when you reach the top, the hard part starts. The return journey to the ground can be even more difficult.

Therein lies the challenge. Your open air staircase is 130 thin steel bolts winding around the trunk and the only protection you have from plummeting to the ground, is a thin wire cage.

Only the brave and intrepid reach the summit. Many succumb to fear and the sheer physical challenge. On a windy day, the tree actually sways and on a wet day, the steel rungs are cold and as slippery as ice.

Have I climbed it?

Yes and no. On the first occasion, at the age of 18, I was challenged by my mates and the 3 of us reached the summit to enjoy the amazing views. But when I reached the ground, my legs were like jelly.

On the second occasion, I was on my honeymoon. It was cold and rainy and despite my bride’s protests, started the climb. Then common sense prevailed and I abandoned the attempt, reasoning that I had done it before, so had nothing to prove. As my wife said, “At the age of 30, you’re too old for that sort of stuff”.

Three backpackers in front of me also gave up after climbing a short distance. Sarah, aged 22 from Oxford described it as “Scary beyond belief.”

Where is this terrifying tree?

The Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree is on the outskirts of Pemberton, an easy 5 hour drive south of Perth. The town was once the centre of the forestry industry, but is now a thriving tourist hub with much to offer the visitor.

The wineries in this district produce cool climate wines and are surrounded by magnificent Jarrah and Karri forests. They are tucked away in the high rainfall region of the lower South West. Pemberton is the coolest wine region in the state. The climate is ideal for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties with a distinct regional flavour.


The town offers a variety of hotel and motel accommodation as well as a youth hostel just a short distance from the town centre.

Looking for something a little less challenging?

If you are overcome with vertigo at the very thought of climbing this monster and leaving your comfort zone, here is a great alternative.

The Valley of the Giants Treetop Walk is an award winning tourist attraction in the Nornalup National Park near Walpole, just a short distance from Pemberton. The walk is made of six bridges and you actually walk through the forest canopy. How cool is that?


The prestigious travel Guide Lonely Planet has chosen Australia’s South West as one of the World’s top 10 regions for 2010. It is the only Australian destination to make it into the list.

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Panoramic Los Angeles Routes by Travel Agencies in Los Angeles

Travel agencies in Los Angeles put remarkable value on the panoramic roads of it’s surrounding cities. Some people says that this journey is so scenic that it is part of the experience when traveling to your destination. I think that most people would choose to drive than fly because of this. The great combination of the scenery of the mountains and the ocean is breath taking and you will remember it forever.

Travel agencies in Los Angeles provide guided panoramic drives so guests will not miss out on the “must sees” of the place. It’s pretty amazing how pleasurable a leisurely drive could be. It’s like experiencing a live film reel of nature. It is best to pick weekends or school holidays for a long drive. The early start is recommended so that there will hardly be any traffic. Leave on a later time and chances are you will be moving slow because of the heavy traffic. The Malibu Beach, for example, is worth visiting for land adventurers as it provides a great view of the Pacific. Keep on northbound and you will see the Santa Monica Mountain tops rise out of the sea.

If you begin the day early, do not miss on the chance to take a side trip to Will Rogers State Historical Park. It is the ideal place for a picnic and also to watch polo on weekends. There are trekking trails and great landscapes with just a 40 minute walk. You could be in the LA neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. Along the way, you will find Gladstone’s, probably the most popular dining places in Malibu. Travel agencies in Los Angeles certainly understand where this spot is because of food lovers who wish to give this place a try. It’s definitely a place you shouldn’t miss out on since it is an “institution” in Malibu. It’s part of the entire driving experience.

As you keep on down that path, seashores, private and public are everywhere. You may want to stop and relish the breeze, grab a bite, take photos and get a dip. This is the superb prize following a hectic day’s trip. It’s something you shouldn’t miss out on since it’s not everyday that you will get to drive without the time pressure of getting late either for work or for an appointment. Driving is something that most vacationers fail to do due to their crammed itinerary when they go to LA. What they do not realize is that it’s completely worth it. Call travel agencies in Los Angeles and inquire about driving tour choices. It is an experience you wouldn’t want to miss.

Scenic drive tours that travel agencies in Los Angeles offer aren’t generally availed by visitors. Perhaps they think that driving is a waste of time and flying is the fastest way to move from one point to another. Although this is correct, they miss out on viewing the beauty of nature on the way. One thing is for certain, the few that avail of panoramic tours experience far more than those who decide to rush from one place to the next.

Detroit Travel – A Bicycle Tour Through Corktown and Mexicantown

My discoveries of Detroit were slowly but surely coming to an end, and I had seen so many interesting places already in my whirlwind tour over the last four days. Just before I was ready to hop across the border to Windsor again, I had one more adventure on my schedule: a biking tour of Southwest Detroit to cover Corktown and Mexicantown.

After a filling breakfast at the Inn on Ferry Street I took their complimentary shuttle downtown to Rivard Plaza, right next to the Detroit Riverwalk. At 10 am I met Kelly Kavanaugh, co-owner of Wheelhouse Detroit, Downtown Detroit’s first bike rental facility for more than 30 years. Wheelhouse also provides bicycle repairs and service and offers a variety of tours of different Detroit neighbourhoods.

Wheelhouse Detroit was founded by friends Kelli Kavanaugh and Karen Gage, two young women who have been active in the Detroit non-profit and urban planning scene for years. Equipped with advice from fellow entrepreneurs, start-up funding from the city’s micro-credit program and their own savings they embarked on their entrepreneurial venture and bought 30 bicycles which includes comfortable cruisers, city mountain bikes, kids bikes, trailers and even a tandem.

Their bikes are made by Kona, a philanthropically inclined manufacturer that donates bicycles to non-profit organizations in Africa. Along with other people I have met over the last four days, Kelli and Karen are an example of the new breed of Detroit entrepreneurs who combine their love for the city with hard work and entrepreneurial creativity.

On a brilliant but rather cool and windy October day Kelli and I headed off westwards along the the Detroit Riverwalk and quickly passed the General Motor Renaissance Centre and Hart Plaza, the civic centre of Detroit. The Detroit International Riverfront covers an area stretching from the Ambassador Bridge to Belle Isle and encompasses numerous parks, restaurants, retail shops, skyscrapers and residential areas along the Detroit River. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been raised in the last few years to revitalize this extensive area.

The Detroit Riverwalk is a recreational multipurpose path that stretches 5.5 miles (almost 9 km) along Detroit’s riverfront and provides separate lanes for pedestrians and bicyclists or inline skaters. Wheelhouse Detroit is located inside Rivard Plaza, an outdoor space that features the Cullen Family Carousel, an inlaid granite map of the Detroit River, fountains and gardens. Rivard Plaza was opened in June of 2007 and also features the Riverwalk Cafe.

Cycling west on the Riverwalk, Kelli started to tell me about her venture and about her passion for cycling in Detroit. As the city is quite spread out and a lot of the traffic concentrates on the city’s characteristic sunken expressways, the downtown area is surprisingly free of traffic congestion and cycling-friendly. In my past four days in Detroit I did not encounter any traffic jams downtown, a surprising experience when you come from a congested place like Toronto.

As we pedaled against the wind we passed by several more Detroit landmarks – Cobo Arena, the Cobo Convention Centre and the Joe Louis Arena – home of the Detroit Red Wings. Leaving the downtown area behind we headed into southwest Detroit.

The first neighbourhood that greeted us was Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood, so named after the Irish immigrants from County Cork that settled here. The houses in this area date back to 1834 and feature nicely restored Victorian homes, many of them brightly painted. Corktown also has many cool gathering spots and eateries, including the funky Zeitgeist Gallery, a bar called Nemo’s which was voted No. 3 “perfect sports bar in the US by Sports Illustrated, and LJ.’s – a hip karaoke place, as well as a wide range of other diverse restaurants.

We snaked our way through this pleasant neighbourhood and crossed over a railway bridge that provided a perfect view of one of Detroit’s most stunning architectural structures: the Michigan Central Depot, also called the Michigan Central Station. Although now abandoned and in poor condition, the Michigan Central Station is a railroad station that was built in 1913 for the Michigan Central Railroad. Its main Beaux-Arts train station is flanked by an 18 storey office tower, a monumental building whose outline dominates South-West Detroit’s skyline. Due to its sheer size and its magnificent architectural detailing, the Michigan Central Depot is still one of Detroit’s most impressive buildings, despite its sad current state.

Past the railroad bridge we arrived in Mexicantown, a vibrant neighbourhood that has undergone significant economic growth in the last few years. Kelly showed me the Michigan International Welcome Centre, a brand-new commercial development in close proximity to the Ambassador Bridge. 85 businesses will welcome visitors in The Mercado, and they will cater to locals and out-of-towners alike with a broad assortment of merchandise.

Further west we cycled by a long strip of Mexican restaurants that include popular eateries such as Mexican Village, El Zocalo, Evie’s Tamales, Lupita’s and Xochimilco. A ride through this neighbourhood revealed an extensive collection of late Victorian homes fronted by large trees. The main streets in the area are Bagley Street and Vernor Street which are flanked by numerous storefronts and eateries.

Away from the main thoroughfares and tucked into the neighbourhood is St. Anne De Detroit Catholic Church, the eighth church in this location whose cornerstone was laid in 1886. The church was originally founded on July 26, 1701, two days after Antoine Mothe de la Cadillac (the founder of Detroit) and his French settlers arrived. Today it is the second oldest continuously operating Roman Catholic parish in the United States. Nowadays the congregation includes many Hispanic parishioners who come together to worship in this impressive Gothic Revival structure.

One stop on our bicycling tour included the Hotel Yorba, which inspired the hit single by Detroit garage rock band “The White Stripes”. Today this former hotel provides subsidized housing. We started cycling back to the main road and passed by Clark Park, a large public park on Detroit’s southwest side. Cycling back east on Vernor we saw another strip of Mexican-owned businesses.

On the way back we made a stop in front of the Michigan Central Station where Kelly explained that this is the departure point for the annual “Tour de Troit” event, a 40-mile cycling tour of Detroit that has been attracting biking enthusiasts since 2001. Both Kelli and her business partner Karen have been actively involved in helping to organize this popular biking event. Attendance increased from 650 participants in 2007 to 1100 participants in 2008. Kelly explained that biking is definitely taking off in Detroit. The Tour de Troit event also raises funds for dedicated bicycle trails.

We now turned onto Michigan Avenue, one of Detroit’s main thoroughfares. Stopping regularly we had a look at various bars, cafes and galleries that populate this stretch of the road. One of our final stops was at the Old Tiger Stadium, the former home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team. The stadium was originally opened in 1912 and unfortunately partially demolished in 2008. A group of dedicated local citizens is fighting to keep the remaining portions of the stadium intact.

Our tour concluded with a ride through Detroit’s downtown business district and ended back at Wheelhouse’s location on Rivard Plaza. Given that I am an avid bicycling enthusiast myself, exploring Detroit on two wheels was a real highlight of my five-day stint in this city. Bicycling is simply the best way of discovering a city – allowing you to cover great ground at manageable speeds while getting much needed exercise. Being able to easily stop anywhere is a great added benefit for an avid travel photographer like me.

Now thoroughly invigorated I thanked Kelli for introducing me to a completely different side of Detroit and set off to have lunch in the open outdoor space in front of the Wintergarden at the Renaissance Centre. The “RenCen”, the international headquarters of General Motors, consists of seven skyscrapers centered around the 73-story central tower that holds the Detroit Marriot Hotel. This structure has also been the highest building in Michigan since 1977.

The top of the hotel holds Coach Insignia, a fine dining restaurant with the most fabulous views of the city. In 2003 GM renovated the entire complex at a cost of $500 million which added the five-story Wintergarden, a light-flooded glass-enclosed atrium that overlooks the Detroit River. I grabbed my lunch, went outside and enjoyed the fall sun and the magnificent view across the river to Windsor while reflecting on my five action-packed days in Detroit.

Shortly after I called the shuttle service of the Inn on Ferry Street and minutes later I got whisked away. I made a final stop in Greektown, one of Detroit’s most popular entertainment districts. Most of the houses along Monroe Street date back to the Victorian era and today feature restaurants and cafes on the main level. The Greektown Casino is a major attraction in the area.

This exciting morning had concluded my visit to Detroit. I picked up my suitcase, hopped in my car and took the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel back to Canada. On the way back to Toronto I reflected on what an exciting and fascinating destination Detroit had been. During these past few days I got to see so many different facets of Detroit, and I had a chance to meet several people who are truly passionate about their city. It’s always great to get to know a city from the perspective of an insider.

Detroit Travel – An Architectural Walking Tour of Detroit and a Visit to the Eastern Market

On my second day in Detroit I got a great start to the day with a scrumptious breakfast at the just reopened Cadillac Hotel: a strawberry waffle with whipped cream. That’s one menu item I can’t resist. I was enjoying the sleek decor and pleasant ambience of the Boulevard Room restaurant of this historic hotel which has just been restored to glory after being shuttered for 24 years.

Shortly after 8 am I was joined by Bob Goldsmith of Detroit Tour Connections who was about to take me on an architectural walking tour of Detroit. Bob is a Detroit native and a true enthusiast of the Motor City. In addition to his full-time profession as a lawyer, Bob dedicates his time to providing scheduled weekend walking tours, regular Wednesday walks as well as customized walking and bus tours for groups. Many of his tours are centered around specific themes, such as downtown churches, historic hotels, cool bars, places with unique art etc. His bus tours focus on such topics as Detroit’s ethnic enclaves, the city’s sports history, or the recent revitalization that has been taking place in Detroit.

To admire some of Detroit’s outstanding architecture we did not have to go far since the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Michigan Avenue offers a great view of many historic buildings. To the north of the hotel are the 13-story Book Building from 1917 and the 36-story Book Tower from 1926, which were both designed by famous Detroit architect Louis Kamper.

The 47-story Penobscot Building was Detroit’s highest building until the construction of the Renaissance Centre in 1977. Designed by renowned architect Wirt Rowland and opened in 1928, it features an H-shaped design to allow light into the offices. The Penobscott Building is connected to two earlier Penobscot Buildings dating to 1905 and 1916 with a shared lobby and shared access to restaurants and various stories on the lower levels. Looking east of Michigan Avenue we got a great view of this famous setback skyscraper which also was an inspiration for the Empire State Building, opened three years later and built by many of the same construction workers that also worked on the Penobscot.

Walking down on Washington Boulevard, we had a good look at some of Detroit’s architectural landmarks: the 1923 Lafayette Building sits east at the intersection of Lafayette and Washington and has been empty for many years. A building next to the Lafayette Building holds two famous Detroit landmarks: the Lafayette Coney Island and the American Coney Island, both offering Coney Island style hotdogs. In Detroit and other parts of Michigan, the term “Coney Island” is not only used for the hot dog but also for the diner-like food establishments that serve this popular food.

We walked by the austere Federal Court Building, or more properly named the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse, a sleek moderne style structure which sits next to the Detroit Free Press Building, an Art Deco design by Albert Kahn which opened in 1925. Then we headed east on Griswold Street where we admired the imposing entrance of the Penobscot Building.

On the other side of the Street is the Guardian Building, originally called the Union Trust Building, one of the most stunning examples of Art Deco design. Featuring abundant Aztec-style decoration, amazing mosaic and tilework, this 1929 masterpiece used to be referred to as the “Cathedral of Finance.”

The exterior domes of the Guardian Building feature decorations made by the famous Pewabic Pottery Company, and tile, limestone and terra cotta adorn the outside brickwork which consists of 1.8 million red bricks, an unusual cladding material for a skyscraper. The granite base features carvings by renowned architectural sculptor Corrado Parducci whose magnificent work also adorns the Buhl Building, the Penobscot Building, the Masonic Temple and many other landmarks in Detroit.

The interior of the Guardian Building is stunning, particularly the former banking hall with its three-storey vaulted ceiling adorned by multi-colour Aztec ornamentation and Rockwood pottery. The building is accented by different types of marble, and for the particularly rare Numidian marble architect Wirt Rowland went to Africa to reopen a quarry that had been closed for 30 years.

The southern end of the cathedral-like space features an oversize mural with a map of Michigan. Today this space is used as a retail space as the current owners decided that it was important to turn this area back into publicly accessible space. What a great move for architecture lovers! I am glad they did; as you can probably tell, the Guardian Building had quickly became my favourite. A coffee shop anchors the centre of the former banking hall, and we ended up chatting to Shawn Santo, the caf’s proprietor who also owns the Pure Detroit retail store on the east side of the building.

Leaving the Guardian Building behind, we strolled south to Hart Plaza, Detroit’s Civic Centre, also the location of the 1701 landing of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of Detroit. This French explorer played an important role in the history of New France when he landed on the shores of the Detroit River and founded a settlement by the name of Fort Ponchartrain du Dtroit. The word “Detroit” itself is derived from the phrase “le dtroit du Lac rie – the strait of Lake Erie”. By 1765 Detroit was the largest city between Montreal and New Orleans. Detroit changed hands from the French to the British in 1760, and then from the British to the United States in 1796. Lots of history unfolded right here, in the area of today’s Hart Plaza.

Approaching this space I was impressed by a giant suspended fist – the Joe Louis Fist Sculpture, created by artist Robert Graham to honour Detroit’s legendary boxer Joe Louis. The hard-surface open area of Hart Plaza holds a number of outdoor installations: a giant circle-shaped monument to the labour movement features quotes by famous labour and human rights leaders including Nelson Mandela as well as a fountain dedicated to Horace E. Dodge.

Sitting next to the walking path on the river’s edge is the Underground Railroad Memorial, “Gateway to Freedom”, designed by sculptor Ed Dwight and dedicated in October of 2001. Ed Dwight himself is an interesting story: a former Air Force Test Pilot, he is also America’s first African American Astronaut Trainee as well as a successful entrepreneur. Dwight’s sculpture highlights that Detroit was an important site in the Underground Railroad, the network of secret routes and safe houses that took 19th century African-American slaves to freedom. A similar statue by the same artist is located on the other side of the Detroit River, in Windsor, Canada. Detroit was an important point of debarcatation for thousands of enslaved Africans in their quest to escape to safety and freedom.

Heading back into the city from the waterfront we passed by the “Spirit of Detroit”, a large bronze statue that was dedicated in 1958. This statue is often dressed up in sports jerseys when Detroit’s professional sports teams make it into the playoffs. Up the street on Woodward Avenue is Campus Martius Park, one of Detroit’s most popular outdoor spaces since its opening in 2004. Local residents had expressed a strong desire for a greenspace in downtown Detroit, particularly since Hart Plaza is a primarily hard-surfaced area.

A Michigan Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument anchors the south side of Campus Martius Park; the centre holds a caf, outdoor seating and a green space that is used as a skating rink in the winter. The north side of Campus Martius Park is highlighted by the new Compuware Headquarters which opened in 2003. Compuware, one the USA’s most important software firms, relocated its head office to its new location, a successful example of business relocation into the downtown financial district.

From here we headed to the lobby of the David Stott Building, another Art Deco skyscraper dating from 1929. Designed by Donaldson and Meier, its 37 stories feature a reddish granite base, brick, marble and limestone as well as sculptures by Corrado Parducci. We then crossed over to Washington Boulevard where we walked north past several historic buildings, including the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Detroit and a Catholic church built in 1930.

At the north end of Washington we saw a grouping of historic skyscrapers including the recently renovated Kales Building, the David Broderick Tower and the David Whitney Building, many of which have been converted into apartments. This area also used to be the home of the renowned Statler Hotel and the Hotel Tuller which were demolished in 2006 and 1992 respectively. Because of its many abandoned and demolished buildings this area is often referred to as “skyscraper graveyard”.

After concluding our downtown tour Bob and I drove a few minutes east to the Eastern Market, Detroit’s historic market near Gratiot and Mack Avenues. The first farmer’s market in Detroit was opened in 1841 downtown, and additional markets were opened in the 1850s, including one on the site of the current Eastern Market. The current outdoor sales sheds date back all the way to 1891 while the surrounding brick Victorian buildings house many additional food and other retailers. Today, the Eastern Market is the largest historic public market district in the United States.

This Saturday morning the Eastern Market was hustling and bustling, and all sorts of produce, meat, spices and other products were on sale. On average the market attracts 45,000 locals and out-of-towners every Saturday. A cooking demonstration was underway and several musicians were performing live for the crowds. Halloween pumpkins, gourds and chrysanthemums were on display everywhere, providing a colourful reminder of the fall season.

Following our brief visit to the market Bob dropped us off at the Bucharest Deli where we had a delicious lunch with chicken and bean soups and vegetarian shawarmas. Appropriate strengthened after a tasty meal, we were ready for our next adventure: a walking tour of Brush Park, a historic neighbourhood in transition.

Rewarding Employees With Extraordinary Incentive Travel

Nothing provides pure bliss like getting to see an extraordinary worldly location; however, the opportunity can be very difficult for individuals to obtain. Incentive programs provide organizations a way to encourage employees to perform better and meet stated goals. Travel awards have become a common method for keeping employee spirits up as well as supplying enough motivation for improved results. Numerous destinations may be chosen when implementing this type of program within an organization. A company can offer an once-in-a-lifetime trip with a “wow factor” everyone will strive hard to receive. Employees do not have to plan the trip, worry about the expense, and have something to look forward to after they have accomplished company goals. Staff members not only get to visit an extraordinary incentive travel location, but also have the chance to gain memories they carry with them for a lifetime. This motivational factor has made travel programs one of the top choices among organizations desiring something dependable when desiring to motivate their workforce to excel.

Incentive Travel: What Makes a Destination Compelling and Motivational?

What type of locations may be chosen when putting together incentive travel programs? A destination must offer something individuals have never had the opportunity to see or experience before in order to be considered as an extraordinary location. The idea is to take someone out of the norm and put them in an area so opposite of their everyday life that they come back with completely new experiences and forever changed. This may be hard to do on a budget but is very possible with the right incentive service company. A provider researches the interests of employees, works within a set budget, and ensures everything is order for an out of the ordinary reward. Ireland, Egypt, Morocco, Turkey, Asia, Australia, and Africa are good examples of ultimate getaway destinations. Incentive travel programs offer something more than a simple trip to a common travel area. Successful employees obtain the experience of visiting locations on continents throughout the world.

Seeing the Sahara desert, riding on camelback and feeling gusts of wind is an experience not found in a backyard or even on this continent. These locations are not simply sand, they also offer rich mountain views along with beach like resort areas meaning everyone who succeeds can find something truly appealing. Who hasn’t wanted to be taken away from modern civilization for the opportunity to see the pyramids in Egypt? Exotic destinations give people the chance to experience new culture, see unfathomable sights, and to come back with a whole new perspective of their worldly counterparts. This promising experience encourages increased participation as new opportunities are offered by later reward programs. Extraordinary incentive travel locations do not have to be full of desert scenery, but these examples provide a good insight on the long lasting impact provided for an employee’s hard work. Organizations have multiple other options such as France, Germany, Fiji, or Italy. A travel company can help in choosing the best location for set goals to ensure the created program achieves the success desired by an organization.

3 Days in Heaven – Travel In Hangzhou

The first thing I have to tell you about Hangzhou is that if you are in China to travel, you have to go there. No ifs, buts and maybes, just GO! Hangzhou, together with Suzhou, is described as heaven on earth. A well deserved description for one of the most charming and lovely cities I’ve seen in China. Trust me, you will adore Hangzhou.

Hangzhou is one of those places you keep hearing people talk about, see on post cards, TV and just about every where because it is so photogenic and good looking. I was always meeting people who’d been there and receiving their looks of pity when they heard I had never been there.

Getting to Hangzhou

The trip started from Shanghai and the best way to travel to Hangzhou from Shanghai is by train. Trains for Hangzhou leave Shanghai from Shanghai Hangqiao train station. I had never been to Hangqiao train station before so I was very surprised when I arrived there to catch the 10am train. The train station looks so much like an airport you could easily believe you’ve taken the wrong turn and ended up at Shanghai airport by mistake. The station was extremely clean, excellent security and had the modern minimalist design so popular with airports.

Learnt later that Hongqiao train station is only for CRH trains, the modern fast bullet trains that are taking over short trips in China.

There is a digital display of the train’s speed above every carriage door in kilometres an hour (sorry Americans) and watching the speed sit at 343 km/h or higher was mesmerizing.

Hard to find Hotel

Being a China travel expert (I wish) I had a bed booked in advance at the Touran Hostel and perfect directions on how to get there. The plan was catch the Y2 train from the Hangzhou train station to the zoo, get off, walk 100 meters back down the road and the hostel would be to the left and impossible to miss.

First problem, there was no Y2 bus at the train station. Eventually caught the Y2 bus at a nearby hospital, got off at the zoo, walked 100 meters back down the road and looked left. NO hostel. Finally found the hostel after asking for directions from several people and I swear, I must have walked past it 3-4 times. The hostel was not hard to find, I was just being clueless.

The hostel staff were friendly, checked me in and escorted me to my room, a 12 bed dorm with only one other guest, Di Tie. Di Tie was from Harbin and was in Hangzhou opening a bar with the hostel owner. A cool guy.

If you need a place to stay in Hangzhou, I recommend the Touran Hostel.

First Day in Hangzhou

Travel objectives for that day were to explore the West Lake and to organize bike hire. Di Tie recommended a trip to Leifeng Pagoda so that became the third objective.

It was pouring rain on the first day which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I was able to see how enchanting the West Lake looked in the rain. Walking from the hostel to the southern tip of the West Lake took all of 15 minutes.

The closest bike rental station where you could get a digital swipe card for renting bikes was roughly half way up the north east side of the West Lake just before the Yonglin Gate. There are numerous bike rental stations all over Hangzhou but only a few that supply the cards.

Walking from along the lake to Yonglin Gate and visiting the Leifeng Pagoda along the way was very enjoyable and a great introduction to the West Lake and Hangzhou. Walking along the lake, the Leifeng Pagoda is impossible to miss.

Leifeng Pagoda is a Buddhist Pagoda originally built over 1000 years ago and rebuilt only 9 years ago. The pagoda was easy to visit, has great views of the lake, full of tourist and thoroughly enjoyable.

After reaching the bike hire station, I handed over 300rmb to the staff there who were very professional, explained everything to me and even chose a bike with a raised seat to be more comfortable for tall foreigner.

Nothing much else travel wise happened for the rest of that day. Rode back to the hostel on my new wheels and found a local restaurant for dinner. Back to the hostel after dinner, had a chat with Di Tie and caught up on some work.

More Rain in Hangzhou

The rain was still falling that morning but not a problem because the rental bikes had mud guards and the rain was more refreshing than wet. First stop of the day was the Pagoda of Six Harmonies, followed by a walk around the lake that included a visit to Solitary Hill and the Temple of General Yue Fei

The pagoda was only 5 kilometers way from the hostel, a pleasant 20 minute or so bike ride. Grabbed a bike at a bike station near the hostel and pedalled off down the road to the pagoda.

You can easily finish a visit to the pagoda in less than 30 minutes. Go straight to the pagoda, climb up, climb down, do a quick walk around the base of the pagoda and your done. Most tour groups visit the pagoda this way. To really make the most of the pagoda which is a top travel spot, you enjoy can yourself for at least 2-3 hours wandering the grounds, finding miniature replica pagodas in the trees at the back of the main pagoda and if you are lucky, meet the cat guarding the Goldfish Garden.

After the pagoda was a ride back around the lake to the bike rental station from the previous day. I returned the bike at the station and switched over to walking because riding around the lake is good but to see the lake properly, you need to go by foot because many parts of the lake shore are not accessible by bike.

To be honest with you, the Solitary Hill is a great walking spot and has some nice scenes of the lake but is not in itself a really impressive site. The best way to enjoy Solitary Hill is to just include it as a part of your walk around the lake.

The entrance to the Tomb of Yue Fei is directly across the road from the beginning of the Su Causeway so very easy to include in your walk around the lake. Even walking slowly, relaxing and taking my time, the Temple of Yue Fei only took 30 minutes to see. An excellent site and Yue Fei’s story is fascinating.

The Su Causeway runs from the north west side of the lake all the way down to the south side and can easily take an hour is you take your time and enjoy the walk.

The lake is big, holds a lot of boats and even has its own dry dock.

Originally planned on seeing “Impressions of West Lake”. An evening performance held on the lake. The ticket prices at 260rmb to over 1000rmb were a bit steep so I gave it a miss. Finished the lake walk at around 6:30pm so decided to call it a night, grabbed a rental bike and headed back to the hostel for dinner and a bottle of beer with Di Tie.

Last Day in Hangzhou

With only the Lingyin Temple left to see, it was time to prepare a departure from Hangzhou. Today’s plan was to go to the train station to buy an evening ticket from Hangzhou to Suzhou, treat my self to a Brazilian lunch, visit Lingyin Temple, pack my bag, return the bike rental card and catch the train to Suzhou.

The day’s schedule had been organized with excruciating care to make sure there was time for everything. According to the schedule I had over one hour to enjoy the Temple which would be plenty of time. Wrong. The temple is enormous with many really interesting must see buildings AND is a part of a much larger scenic area with many cool places to see. Normally you’d need a full day to see both the temple and the scenic area.

What followed was a whirlwind tour of the temple madly taking pictures and sprinting from one building to the next. I saw every building and was in and out of temple so fast I would have done a Japanese tour group on speed proud.

The bike rental station closed at 5pm so with the clock ticking I caught the first bus back to the lake, grabbed a bike at the nearest bike rental station and peddled madly back to the hotel. Packed my bag, said goodbye the hotel staff and set off again peddling even more madly to the bike rental station to hand in the card. Finally with sweat pouring out and heart racing, I arrived at the bike rental station handed the card in and got the deposit back with 20 minutes to spare.

Tips for Travel in Hangzhou

-2 to 3 days is enough time to visit all the sites and see the West Lake but if you can, stay for 1 or 2 days longer to indulge yourself. My only regret with Hangzhou is I did not stay there longer

-Take mosquito repellent if you plan on seeing the lake at night. The mosquitoes are veracious and every where.

-Stay at a hotel in the hills to the west of West Lake. This area of Hangzhou is much more pleasant, relaxing and in touch with the peaceful and natural character of Hangzhou. There are plenty of hostels in the area so finding one will not be hard.

Top 3 Last Minute Caribbean Travel Resorts

We know how hard it can be to plan a trip. There are so many factors that you have to concern yourself with, least of which is the budget and your actual vacation time. Below are some great tips to help you get that last minute Caribbean travel deal without messing up your budget or your schedule:

Hotel Riu Paradise Island

The Hotel Riu in Paradise Island in the Bahamas is another great last minute Caribbean travel resort with its fantastic building facilities (including a “Colony” lobby bar, “Calypso” lounge bar with terrace, and “Atlantic” Restaurant with non-smoking section and terrace), and other facilities. The main grounds of the hotel are dominated by a 300sq.m. swimming pool with an adjoining Jacuzzi, while all around it are complimentary lounge chairs, towels, and umbrellas.

Enjoy one of their 379 guestrooms with their last minute Caribbean travel bargains starting at $521 per person double occupancy. But hurry and book now. This last minute Caribbean travel discount only runs from April through June and all bookings must be made by March.

Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort & Casino

For a perfect island destination, the Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort & Casino offers the charm of the Dutch Caribbean, a magnificent beach, glittering casino, and a host of outdoor pleasures. Nestled on the soft, white sands of Aruba’s Palm Beach and surrounded by lush, landscaped gardens, this resort offers you a chance to enjoy that last minute Caribbean travel vacation with their new 2006 deals.

The Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort & Casino offers you rooms where you can relax and enjoy the delightful extras offered, including satellite television, refrigerator, floor-to-ceiling windows, and a private balcony with a spectacular view. For activities, this last minute Caribbean travel resort provides plenty of opportunity for sailing, wind surfing, scuba diving, deep sea fishing, and golf. Not only that, but after a refreshing swim in the ocean, you can simply relax and drift in the gorgeous seaside pool near it.
For their Spring Sale, Wyndham Aruba Beach Resort & Casino offers superior rooms for $634 per person double occupancy, and a $100 food and beverage credit for five nights or more.

The Fairmont Southampton – Bermuda

Imagine: lush tropical gardens, shimmering pink sand beaches, azure blue seas, and spectacular sunsets…. This is Bermuda. Royally perched on the island’s highest point, the Fairmont Southampton overlooks lush acres of land, pink sandy beaches and bountiful gardens. With its old world British charm blended so well with the new spirit of Bermuda, this last minute Caribbean travel resort offers just the right mix for the island-hopper.

Office Supplies Online For The Person On The Go – Office Products For Business Travelers

The 2000’s have seen a dynamic shift in the places where people work. Gone are the days of commuting at a standard time on regular days to a typical office. Today, work environments have evolved into a mobile workplace. The office desk has been replaced by airplanes, hotel rooms, the car, and even working from home. A new office environment is becoming prevalent – one typically inhabited by the “Road Warrior”. Smart companies today are reaching out to this new and growing market, catering to the mobile professional with office supplies online that offer unique office products to the business person on the go.

When polled about challenges in the workplace, many workers say a big barrier to productivity is being unorganized. The reality is, it’s much more difficult to keep yourself together and organized on the road than in a sterile work environment that changes almost daily. This means new products for mobile professionals need to be designed to help organization, they must be flexible for changing needs, and portable for the professional on the go.

Understanding the new market needs for mobile professionals Kensington, a strong brand in computer peripherals and cases, focuses resources and product development efforts towards this niche. A recent product introduction is ultra lightweight power adapters that let travelers charge their electronic items on a plane, as well as from a standard wall outlet. This adapter is specially developed to be extremely thin and compact so it fits easily inside a purse or brief case, and provides the power source business people need to stay connected.

Today’s road warrior must stay connected, and we all have the tools to keep us linked in while on the road — the problem is keeping them charged and ready to go. That’s where the new Kensington Ultra-Thin Notebook Power Adapter comes in. This innovative power source charges all your electronic gadgets, from cell phones and PDA’s, to your laptop computer and iPod. The secret is a slim adapter that comes with the charger designed with multiple functions using a USB power port that’s part of the unit. A super cool feature is it works not only in your office, but also in the air using a planes power source.

A mobile professional’s desk on the road is their brief case, and staying organized without becoming bogged down is no small feat. Contour computer cases by Kensington are uniquely made to keep you organized, while keeping the weight of your “traveling desk” from breaking your back. The key is an exclusive weight distribution system that uses proprietary technology to position the weight from your case to a users stronger muscle areas. This can reduce the strain, muscle fatigue and load by as much as 40%. Kensington cases are also designed with style in mind, and come in several different color and configuration choices.

The road warrior of the 2000’s cannot take their file cabinet with them on the next 6 hour drive to meet a client. They don’t have the ability to take their desk with them on the road so they’re certain to have the right document when needed. The most well know company in file folders and supplies, Smead, understands the unique needs for today, and so they focus on portable filing solutions that maximize organization needs while being flexible and transportable.

Let’s face it, organization in the office is hard…and on the road it’s a nightmare. Smead offers some very helpful hints to get you started in the right direction. First, find the right carry case, portable file chest, or rolling file cart that is large enough to carry at least a weeks amount of files. It’s crucial to find something with durable construction so it travels well, will not damage easily, and will not be open so contents can fall out if it’s tipped over. To organize your documents and file folders inside, start with Smead hanging folders and color coded tabs. Then find the right file jackets or folders to fit nicely inside the hanging folders. Smead recommends classification folders for their high capacity, the prongs provided to keep pages secure, and the multiple sections. Color coding is always a good idea, so you can quickly glance at your folders and know what color folder is the one you need.

Space limitations only allow me to mention Smead file folder products and Kensington computer accessories in this article. The truth is many other brands know the special needs of this market segment, and that it is growing rapidly. Companies like 3M, Avery, Cardinal, Esselte, Safco, Hon and Quartet.

Where do I find these cool road warrior products for the mobile professional you ask. My advice is to never shop at the retail office “superstore”. They are huge corporations that care only about profits and the bottom line. I look for companies that help worthy charities and causes, and if I’m lucky find some, like Whole Foods Market in the grocery channel, that do good work by practicing a business model of conscious capitalism. There’s even a new company selling office supplies online today that donates 50% of profits to charity.

Once you find a company you trust, support them with all your office needs – it’s well known that consolidating your suppliers saves big money. The right company will offer road warrior products and office supplies like report covers, view binders and Post-It notes, but also technology items for the office like privacy screens, shredders, laminators and digital memory. To further consolidate, look for janitorial supplies and break room items that every business needs.

I am a mobile professional traveling all over, working from home, planes, buses, trains even sometimes an office. So I have a special affinity for fellow road warriors, and know how hard it is to stay productive, organized and “powered-up” on the road. Travel safely and in good spirits, try to find an office supply company that helps you do good work along the way, and and let’s all help others as best you can.

6 Travel Photography Tips, Particularly for You Animal Lovers!

I’ll start with some happy news – my photo (shown below on the right) of my pup Knish won 2nd place in a Humane Society of the United States photo contest!! The contest was held by their Veterinary Medical Association(HSVMA) department to showcase the beauty and communicative value of a dog’s natural tail. Their goal was to help educate the public on why tail docking and other cosmetic surgeries on dogs are utterly unnecessary. I was elated to hear it won 2nd place and Knish has been slobbery with glee and strutting his cute butt with a little extra swagger ever since!

In light of In light of this unexpected honor, I’d like to share some basic photography tips thatyou can use on your travels. None of these are hard and fast rules, just guidelines. I used to paint in college but finding time for that since then has been hard so photography has become my creative outlet. I am by NO means a professional photographer. I am a mere amateur who happens to be madly in love with her camera (I use a Nikon D60 digital SLR). I’ve taken a few photography courses and I hope to keep taking more. The tips below are way too simple for any professional photographers out there. They’re for you fellow amateur photographers who’d like to step up your game a notch. Hopefully as I step up my own game, I’ll keep providing more tips. Hope you enjoy!

1. Use the Rule of Thirds.

Thisis one of the most fundamental and accepted theories in photography. To convey the best story and provide the best viewing experience, the focal points of the image (the parts of the image that are most important to the story you’re trying to tell) should be placed in accordance with the rule of thirds. If you draw 2 parallel lines both horizontally and vertically though the image you end up dividing the photo into 3 parts horizontally and 3 parts vertically (9 parts total).

The theory is that people’s eyes tend gravitate towards one of the intersecting points in the image more naturally than towards the middle of the image or any other area. So instead of having your focal point be smack in the center of the image, think about placing it near one of those intersections. In the photo of my dog, both the end of his tail and the main portion of his back, the main focal areas of this photo, fall near the intersections on the right hand side of the photo. This rule even works with close up photos. For example, if it’s a photo of a face, have the main focal points, the eyes and mouth, fall along the imaginary intersections.

Extra Tip: When taking outdoor photos, place the horizon of the picture along one of the 2 horizontal lines.

2. Change Your Perspective.

You can add a whole lotta drama to your photo just by changing your perspective a bit. For example, instead of taking a photo straight on, get down to the floor and shoot upwards, or conversely, take a photo from above looking down. This simple technique can transform your photo from ordinary to extraordinary! So think about the story you’re trying to tell, then move around and find the best vantage point to relay that story.

3. Get Up Close & Personal!

I absolutely LOVE close up images. Sometimes you just don’t need all the clutter in the background. If you’re traveling, you’ll encounter some amazing faces, both human and furry! If human, start up a conversation and get to know the person. Then politely ask if they wouldn’t mind if you took a photo of them. Most people will be flattered and it’s a great way to connect with new people. If your subject walks on four legs, they probably don’t need be asked, but be respectful nonetheless!

4. Be Creative but Keep it Simple

I often find that the most simple photos are the most creative and interesting. Sometimes there’s an amazing photo right in front of you that so easily gets overlooked. So keep your eyes open for those creative shots that others might miss!

5. Pay Attention to Lines

There are horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines. If the lines are obvious the eye will naturally follow them through the photo. Lines can add depth, movement, drama and emotion to a photo, depending on the type of line and how obvious it is.

Horizontal lines, such as a horizon line, often convey calmness and tranquility.

Vertical lines usually convey growth and strength.

Diagonal lines can add depth, movement, action and/or drama to a photo. They may not always be obvious so look out for them.

6. Get Emotional

I’m a Cancer and, for better or worse, we’re an emotional bunch so I really love to capture emotion in my photos. I find using tip #3 is a good way to accomplish this but it sometimes takes a lot more than just getting up close. It’s about capturing a moment and often the entire image, not just the subject of the image, plays into the emotion being conveyed. To create emotion, think about how all of the factors playing into the photo represent a part of the story you are telling. The person viewing it will also bring their own unique interpretations.

That’s all the tips for now animal crusaders! Hopefully we can learn more together. What I’ve learned from this post already is that perhaps I should take a few more photos of actual people when I travel. What can I say, I’m drawn to what I’m drawn to.

Miles I Have Travelled


Miles have I travelled on earth and by sea
Airliners, boats, trains and cars carried me

Buses and bicycles, skates and on foot
Of movement and travel I’ve known a lot

Over earth and oceans and clouds above
Felt urge to explore and all Nature to love

On infant’s scooters I first learned to ride
Unaware of all future rides beside

Cycled quiet roads seeing island delight
And the slow peaceful ride in a ferry at night

I’ve enjoyed riding smooth miles on a bike
Done lots of walking but failed to hitch hike

Skimmed on ice to fall from skates and crashed
Strolled in sun, and in showers of rain I’ve dashed

I’ve rowed on the Torrens and had such fun
Ferry rides on Sydney Harbour and Swan

Travelled trams and buses and taxis, too
Electric blue sparks of a trolley bus to the zoo

I’ve shared with hundreds some days on a cruise
Roamed exotic markets new foods to choose

I’ve been on catamarans and on yachts
Hearing wind in sails and talk of reef knots

Fascinated I’ve seen castles in France
Imagined ancient times and olden dance

Motor boating on tropic waters warm
Exploring the green coral islands’ charm

Scary car-ride with a short sighted friend
Whose learner’s frailties I could not offend

I’ve learned to fly in a Tiger moth old
And mastered driving a car in the cold

Experienced torrid traffic hooters
Casually ridden on Italian scooters

Driven thousands of distance over dry sands
And flown thousands of miles to distant lands

Covered many hostile miles without fright
On steamer chugged and rolled across the Bight

I enjoyed the boat trip and ocean’s sight
As I’ve gone east to west and returned by flight

The great Nullarbor Plain I’ve watched glide by
Where you’ll not see a tree if you blink your eye

As the train rushes along from east to west
Or from west to east, if it’s there you love best

Lulled to sleep by rhythm of train’s strong wheels
I’ve known train-travel and the comfort it feels!

Miles over desert to seek desert well
I’ve travelled short, brave trips on a camel

Vast stretches of deserts been seen by me
And high mountains of snowed Himalaya

Been in an olden car in high Kathmandu
Drunk with beauty of Mt Annapurna

I’ve been alone in the old part of Kathmandu
Wishing I could have had luck to meet you

Walking round London’s grey wintry city
Longed that I’d more than a day – ’twas a pity

I’ve alone sped smooth in refined limousines
And free with the wind in my hair on a bike

Midst fierce storms I’ve known rough roll of waves
I’ve known the smooth quiet flight of a glider

I’ve seen the Pacific Ocean, silvered by Moon
Molten magic, whiteness in night-time gloom

I’ve strolled promenade’s companionable ways
And run to get to a meeting on time some days

I’ve swum a few miles – yes, only just a few
In surf, river, pool, bay, coral isle too

Climbed the high island cliffs of Lord Howe
Walked through nature’s lush rainforest below

Dived with flippers below the vast coral sea
So the underwater world also revealed to me

I’ve skipped, leaped and almost floated in space
Twirled and swirled in dance in absolute grace

I’ve played lots of tennis, exercised vigorous, free
I’ve bent, tended my garden and hugged a tree

Walked gentle miles of botanic gardens and flowers
In botanic gardens spent many satisfying hours

Experienced Fiji in summer- tourists humid delight
Contrasting our country’s dry heat plight

Enjoyed miles in markets’ exotic pleasures
Buying vivid garments and many fruit treasures

Noumea was the time to stop for languid waiting,
With scarlet poincianas my great consolation

Tahiti on arrival was sultry, strange, heavy, hot
Without motivation I really didn’t like it a lot

I’ve sauntered down laneways and run a race
Ridden a stubborn old nag in a foreign place

I remember fond rides in the old fashioned tram
And yearned for the gipsy home in a caravan

I’ve had static times and simple joys of a home
Moving as inclined as all free spirits roam

I’ve danced a reel with a partner in kilts
And taken a hesitant walk on stilts

Both polka and waltz I’ve skipped and danced
Even astral travelled as I’ve slept entranced

I’ve sailed the breezes on tropic waters warm
Waters smooth, clear with no fear of harm

I’ve known hardness of bumped travel in a jeep
And suffered later in getting to sleep

I’ve slept cold, alone in a sleeping bag
On a dark starry night, on a mountain crag

Ski lifts of Swiss alpine mountains so white
Offered beautiful views from their wintry height

I’ve flown over the white snows of the Alps
And over the eternal hard grey blue of the sea

En route to Peru’s Lima and old Cusco too
And by bus weaved our way up to Macchu Picchu

Sitting there at Macchu Picchu at last, quite still
Drinking in the beauty as I know you will

When you travel the miles over land and sea
To these ancient ruins, where mists rise ethereally

I’ve heard the magic music of Andean flutes
Played in the dry high Andean Mountains

Ridden the heavy red earth of plantation trees
Of coffee – with an old nag as mount for me

Observing the red earthed farms in Brazil
Not coffee but people attract me there still

There’re many ways I have travelled the miles
So many I can hardly think to count…

Rickshaws of orient novelty commonly seen
But mean, pain-racked the poor drivers have been

Travel by Indian pull-carts does cause a joke
Until thought is given to the poor feet of the driver bloke

I love the lull of the railway click-clack
Comfort, content – going forward, not back

Many the ways to enjoy past travel days
Retained by essence of memories ways

Excited by travel, yet often tired out by it
New things been seen and delights often shared

There’re many fine travel modes I’ve been shown
Yet one remains only to spacemen known

Even dreaming, my soul astral travels space
Returning at morn with smile on my face

But the nicest movement I now enjoy
Is the pure freedom my mind flight gives me

My mind has the wings I now most enjoy
When I want to travel from here to there

Mind knows no limit, no tickets to get
Passport and route by imagination is set

Spirit enjoys natural thrill of travel to see
New faces, new places, new flowers and trees

Strange habits and customs, landscapes galore
But after a while modern travel can prove a bore

The younger travel miles satiate our soul until
We know that it’s time to change and be still

Now instead of traveller’s strong urge to roam
Is a longing for blessed place to call home

It remains that we access beauty of all travel joy
When stored in the wealth of our memory’s employ

Of the wonder, wildness, natural glory of life
We’re privileged to have known it free of strife

Our world’s now threatened in many a way
Times for safe travelling are less day by day

I’ve known many modes, movements, travelled ways
And enjoyed the many miles of my travelling days

But perhaps best of all I like walking on foot
And being old now I desire most to stay put

Time now to recline on my couch with T.V.
To let all travel experience come to me.


To remember travel, new sights and sounds
Different strange people feet touching new ground
Nature and cities north, south, east and west
All places have a great charm of their own
As we test freedom’s wings and our heart sings

Memory reminds of the wonderful wild,
The glory, the beauty of the whole world
Recalling travel delights, I lie on my couch
Mind without limit, no tickets to get,
No passport, injections or noisy jet

No effort now required for muscle, limb
No reason to worry that eyes are dim
No need rely on technology’s skill
No need to fear an accident or spill
Quite the best of all movement I now enjoy free
Is this wonderful free flight my mind gives to me!………..

Elizabeth S. Adams is known for her published “Forgotten Dreams – a collection of Poetry” with additional interests that extend to Astrology, Astronomy and mystical subjects that help us understand who we are and our place in the Universe.

To move and to travel is our expression of freedom of mind and body.