Everyone loves to travel. At least I’m sure you do, seen as you’re on this site! By getting out of our home countries, we experience life in a totally different way. I know that some of the most memorable experiences of my life have happened outside of my home country. The problem us travellers have is feeling like we’ve seen everything after just a few trips. If you know what I’m talking about, it may be from you choosing the wrong trips! Throw a little more imagination into your planning, and you’ll soak in a much larger variety of experiences. Here are three great ideas for you to mull over.
This is definitely one for anyone with a thing for history. Angkor was once the thriving capital of the Khmer Empire, a powerful ancient dynasty which survived over 400 years of war and unrest. When it was occupied, the city housed over a million inhabitants. That’s a lot for ancient Cambodia! These days, Angkor is a sprawling complex of ruins engulfed by jungle on the outskirts Siem Reap. Between 800 and 1200 AD, 72 major temples were built in the area. The surviving ruins and statues will give you an unforgettable look into one of the earliest civilizations in southeast Asia.
If you really want to take in all Angkor Wat has to offer, you’ll need a few days to explore it. In rural areas of Cambodia, they best way to get around is definitely by bicycle. Obviously, this kind of trip requires a little fitness, but you don’t have to be an Olympian! The ride from Siem Reap to the edge of Angkor Wat is only 20 minutes.
From there, you’ll have lots of breaks between your riding to take pictures and simply walk amongst the fascinating ruins. It’s possible to have your own bike brought over with you. However, if you’re staying in Siem Reap, this is just unnecessary expenses. There’s a fair chance your hotel or guest house will offer bike rentals, and if not the city is full of rental stores. If you’re from a western country, you’ll be amazed at how cheap these rentals are, too! The roads in Siem Reap can get a little busy at times. However, a lot of people use a bicycle as their main mode of transport, so you won’t have to worry too much about a serious disaster.
Once you’re inside Angkor you’ll feel like Indiana Jones. The star of the whole area is Angkor Wat, a five-tiered Hindu temple surrounded by a moat. This sight is nothing short of sublime, but for some great pictures, try to get there very early. The way the early morning sun makes the stone glint and shimmer is something magical. You’ll see immediately why this temple was so sacred to the ancient locals! The other must-see is Bayon at Angkor Thom. This is another huge temple built on orders from King Jayavarman VII. You’ll get more than a few pictures here, as the temple’s walls and towers are decorated with some gorgeous, intricate carvings. If you’re getting a little tired from all the cycling, you can stop and relax near Sra Srang, which was once the royal bathing pond.
One of seven nations in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is famous for its wealth and thriving business. It’s home to the world’s largest building, the Burj Khalifa, which stands over its imaginatively named capital Dubai City. The influx of western trade to the country has led to English being widely spoken. Still, the locals will appreciate it if you learn a few common Arabic phrases. Outside of the bustling cities, desert covers the country all the way to the sea. The whole of Dubai can see as little as five inches of rain every year. In the peak of summer, temperatures can easily exceed 40 degrees Celsius. Don’t worry if that makes you want to visit in the winter. Even then, the temperature averages around 23 degrees.
Many westerners come to Dubai simply for the hot weather and to soak in the city. Simply seeing the country is an experience in itself, but what if you want something a little more exciting? Here, you can be the first of your friends to say you’ve been doing biking through a middle-eastern desert! There are many companies in Dubai which offer quad-bike tours around certain routes through the desert. Quad bikes are very easy to handle, and can be rented to tourists fairly inexpensively. After a quick safety briefing from one of your guides, you’ll be lead on routes up and down the massive sand dunes. You’ll be absolutely stunned when you leave civilization behind, and experience the sheer size of the desert. Typically, these tours are run in the afternoon. They’ll end in a large desert tent, where your party can enjoy a barbeque, and try out various Arab traditions such as Henna and belly-dancing.
Another unique experience you can have in Dubai is camel riding. This is something you certainly don’t want to miss, even if it’s just for the pictures! Make sure to do your research before hiring a guide, though. Camels are common agricultural animals in Dubai. Because of this, there are certain people who will offer Camel excursions without the right handling experience. Camels can act erratically if they’re mounted by an unfamiliar person, so ask some of the local guides for recommendations. On the right camel with the right handler, you’ll get an amazing experience of the country!
Perhaps Cambodia and Dubai are a little too hot for your tastes? You can always make sure you keep cool with a skiing holiday. You may have been on these kinds of trips before. Unless they’ve been in Courmayeur, then you’re missing out on all kinds of skiing experiences. This is a town which is centred totally around skiing. You won’t be able to walk much of a distance from your hotel before you see a ski shop or someone wearing full gear. When you try out some of their amazing slopes, you’ll see immediately why all of the locals share this one obsession!
The town’s cable car station will bring you up to Plan Checrouit, the hub serving a large area of pistes. There are facilities where you can store your gear overnight before heading back into town. This isn’t exactly necessary, but will save you lugging everything back to your hotel at the end of the day. Even if you don’t have much experience skiing, Courmayeur has some great pistes. Be warned though; the gentler slopes get extremely popular. Even experienced skiers will have fun on the great reds and blacks they have running off from Plan Checrouit. If you get bored of bombing down these, however, then go looking for some of the brilliant local off-piste areas. The very top of the lift system is known as the Cresta d’Arp, and it’s here you’ll find the start of three itineraries. These are Dolonne, the Val Veny which stands at the foot of Mont Blanc, and the village of Labalme. Most of the off-piste areas will be fine for an experienced skier. However, make sure you take some precautions. It’s easier than you’d think to get lost around this resort, and there’s always a slim risk of avalanche. Here’s a more detailed guide from Momentum Ski Make sure you find a local, established guide before going anywhere off-piste.
After tiring yourself out on the slopes, there’s a lot to see and do in Courmayeur town. This is full of quaint cobbled streets, delicious Italian delis, and intriguing antique shops. The booming tourism in the area has made for a lot of tacky shops, too. Keep looking though, and you’ll be sure to find a store that’s worth the visit. If you’re looking for places to eat, then the Maison Vieillie is certainly a one-off experience. This is a restaurant in an old, converted shepherd’s hut, run by the one-of-a-kind chef Giacomo Calosi. Eating here is a little pricey, but makes for a truly remarkable experience. You can book for Calosi himself to pick you up on his snowmobile, and drive you right to his place! After enjoying a delicious meal in the beautiful rustic interior, he’ll drive you back. This return journey isn’t for the faint of heart. The high speeds you’ll reach going downhill are really something! Regardless of where you eat, Courmayeur is one skiing town which you certainly won’t regret visiting!
I hope I’ve given you some more inspiration for your travels with these three suggestions. Remember that as incredible as these trips are, they’re only three tiny pockets of the world! If you maintain an open mind when planning your next trip, you’ll have a much more enriching experience. You might feel trapped by the looping routine of pool, beach, bar. Use your imagination. Soon, you’ll have a trip under your belt which totally surpasses the average tourist’s experience. Whichever corner of the globe you choose, make the most of it and stay safe!