Monthly Archives: August 2016

10 Best Places to Watch the Sunset in Worlds

Watching the sun set seems like a rare treat with all the day-to-day nonsense, but it’s possible to make it a real luxury by seeing the sun melt into the horizon from a spectacular location. Whether from a mountaintop, next to the ocean, on a glacier or at the top of a skyscraper, looking to the west has never been so inspiring than from these 10 incredible vantage points.

1. Santorini, Greece

The Greek island of Santorini is all that remains of an ancient volcano that once exploded leaving a huge volcanic caldera, now filled with water, at its center. Visitors know they’re in for something special as soon as their boat pulls into the harbour, with the island’s cliffs rising vertically hundreds of feet straight from the sea. The island’s settlements sit perched on top of these cliffs and every sundown thousands of people come out to watch the sun dip below the horizon and witness the colorful hues juxtaposed against the white buildings of Santorini and the blue Aegean Sea.

2. Uluru, Australia

Rising out of nowhere, the massive monolith dominates the outback and the eye. Visitors can watch spellbound as the rock’s light show cascades through otherworldly reds, oranges, yellows and pinks, reflecting the clouds and sky above. It’s also possible to walk around or climb the sandstone giant. Sunset is when the rock literally glows, though, and practically pulses through the light changes, cementing its status as the heart of Australia.

3. Tanzania

Home of the Serengeti and Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania is achingly beautiful. The luminous sunset sets off the wide spread acacia trees and occasional herd of animals, looking like something straight out of The Lion King. From Barafu Camp on Mt. Killimanjaro, the sun sets into a sea of clouds, giving the impression that you may well be in heaven. If the sky clears, climbers can see both the stars above and the lights of Moshi from 10,000 feet below for double the glow.

4. Atacama Desert, Chile

Valle de la Luna, or Moon Valley, is a popular area for visitors to see the sun set and the stars glow. The otherworldly look of the endless rocky outcroppings and sand dunes emits a rather forbidding feel, and the slashes of color that light up the sky at sunset offer one last hint of warmth before the cold really settles in. Seeing the moonrise and cosmos simply heightens the fantastic appeal. Alternatively, drive up to the El Tatio geysers, the highest geyser plain in the world, to see the sun sink into the sand dunes.

5. Maui, Hawaii

There’s really no wrong place to watch the sun go down on Maui. Pulling over on the way back from Hana to watch the sunset is just the cherry on an already perfect day, while simply enjoying a beer next to the beach is also pretty ideal. There’s the chance to chase the sunset on Mt Haleakala. The list could go on and on, but it’s really just enough to know that it’ll be nothing less than stunning from whichever location you choose.

6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia

One of Asia’s most beautiful ancient sites, Angkor Wat is enchanting all day long, but at sunset, it’s like the whole reason for this being built suddenly becomes clear. There are more than 30 vantage points to see the sunset, from hilltops to a gondola ride. From nearly every available point, visitors can see the sky turn from searing yellows and oranges to much more mellow purples, which is pierced only by the ridged tops of the temples and the “oohs” of others standing near.

7. Tahiti

Sunset doesn’t get any more picturesque than on the South Pacific island of Tahiti. The last bits of daylight filter through the palm fronds, before pulling back and throwing vibrant warm hues across the sky. In no time, the palm trees, hills and the occasional boat are nothing but silhouettes, turning the show into distinct parts that equal the sum of a spectacular sunset.

8. Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge may have mysterious origins, but there’s no doubting that there’s definitely a celestial element to it. On clear days, the sunset is always spectacular, but it certainly deserves extra attention on the solstices and equinoxes when modern-day Druids, Pagans and visitors pack in to witness what the ancients saw thousands of years ago.

9. Empire State Building, New York

This one’s a must for rom-com lovers everywhere. Cemented by Sleepless in Seattle as a place of true love, the Empire State Building evokes a feeling that everything will be alright, especially when watching the sun go down over one of the most vibrant cities on Earth. And who knows, maybe certain someone will be waiting up on the viewing deck.

10. Taj Mahal, India

Dulcet tones of yellow, orange and pink enhance the warm glow of the Taj Mahal at sunset. With such a saturated palette against the white marble and delicate carvings, this striking sunset is a paragon of romance, and one that will whisk away any negative thoughts, along with the sun, into the night.

10 Best Green Hotels in Worlds

Green hotels aren’t just huts on the beach — and if they are, these exceptionally modern green hotels have luxury in their corner. These ten are just a sampling of a stunning array of how far the eco culture has come and how it can provide a dreamy honeymoon or adrenaline-filled getaway for every type and budget.

1. Chumbe Island Coral Park Eco-Bungalows, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Chumbe Island cleverly mixes rustic charm with a sort of ultra modern Robinson Crusoe-type adventure, with open-air bungalows, crystal clear snorkeling and a heavy emphasis on environmental education. The unpopulated island only accepts a maximum of 14 guests at a time, immediately giving the place an exclusive feel. The luxury, though, comes in the form of being next to one of the last unspoiled coral reefs in Africa and at being one with nature. The park maintains a strict standard of making almost zero impact on the surrounding land. This includes solar power, composting toilets and an impressive system of filtering rainwater for the washrooms and then cycling that out to nearby plants.

2. h2hotel, Healdsburg, California, United States

From top to bottom, LEED gold certified h2hotel is a prime example of eco-friendly chic. Many of the building blocks were sourced from nearby, and 85% of the leftover debris was recycled. Minimalist yet cozy guest rooms contain bamboo flooring, organic sheets and towels, and glass carafes made from recycled wine bottles. Both the bar and restaurant source local food and drink for fresh and refreshing dining. Solar panels heat the pool and washrooms, and the living roof filters rainwater, some of which is then used in an art installation downstairs. Guests can further reduce their environmental impact by using the hotel’s complimentary bikes to visit the local wineries.

3. Morgan’s Rock Hacienda and Ecolodge, San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Family owned and family and honeymooner-friendly Morgan’s Rock sits in the middle of a 4,000-acre jungle and next to a mile-long private beach. Sea turtles are a year-round staple, as are howler monkeys and sloths. In addition to ziplining through the pristine forest or getting tipsy on the beach, visitors can lend a hand with the daily operations by helping out at the organic farm in the morning and enjoying the fruits of their labor at the dinner table. Morgan’s Rock supplements its farm-to-table meals with food from local farms and vendors, which aligns nicely with its commitment to local education and preservation. The 15 three-sided bungalows that were constructed by a sustainable Managua-based company are an adventure in themselves, as they rest on cliff-side treetops across a suspension bridge.

4. San Camp, Kalahari Desert, Botswana

San Camp provides five-star accommodation in an oasis on the decidedly less hospitable Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. Calling the six custom-built canvas lodges tents doesn’t fully define the romantic, elegant design among a surreal landscape. Each tent is made from sustainable Zimbabwean teak, and the furniture is crafted by local artisans. Solar energy powers almost the entire sight. Perhaps best of all, San Camp knows the value of leaving while they’re ahead — the camp packs up at the end of every dry season, leaving almost no trace behind except for the same tracks that every jeep uses on the way out to reduce land disruption.

5. Treehotel, Harads, Sweden

Treehotel turns typical luxury a curveball with a unique, offbeat setup in the middle of nowhere. A few miles from a village of 500 and set in the middle of a forest, the hotel features five cabins, or rather, treehouses. Treehotel took great pains to build these cabins into the trees without disturbing the surrounding environment and allows visitors a one-of-a-kind experience without a giant carbon footprint. The wooden floors contain no trace chemicals, and each cabin features underfloor heating, LED-lighting, combustive toilets and hydroelectric power. In addition to a guilt-free stay in a UFO or cone-shaped or mirrored box cabin, visitors who pass through in the colder months can dine on the ice, snowshoe and possibly catch a showing of the aurora borealis.

6. Saffire Freycinet, Coles Bay, Tasmania

With colors and sweeping curves that reflect the landscape, Saffire Freycinet almost becomes one with the incredible views from every window. Between the on-site farm and nearby ones, local produce colors the extravagant meals. The resort planted 30,000 native plants to help restore the once-battered landscape, and the buildings, designed by a Tasmanian architect and filled with locally made furniture, limit light pollution and collect and conserve rainwater. One of the best (and most extravagant) ways of getting back to nature includes dining on fresh-caught oysters and sipping local white wine while still in the estuary.

7. Whitepod, Aigle, Switzerland

Almost 4,600 feet above sea level and at the beginning of the Swiss Alps, White Pod features 15 igloo-esque pods that dot the pristine landscape. The pods are low-impact, and the resort puts a heavy emphasis on low electricity and water consumption, using renewable resources and educating guests on environmental protection. The airy pods come with a wood-burning stove and tons of natural light. Luxury is just a few steps away, with the main pod-house offering massages, a Finnish sauna and a Japanese bath. In the winter, skiing is obviously the main draw, along with dog sledding, treks and paragliding. The summer season offers hikes and dog karting, bringing a sense of summer camp to sustainable luxury.

8. Tierra Patagonia, Torres del Paine, Chile

Set just outside Torres del Paine National Park, Tierra Patagonia is an eco haven for eco-adventurists. Quite impressively, the setup requires no air-conditioning in summer and barely any heating in winter. The soft curves of the hotel’s architecture juxtapose the jagged mountain peaks that dominate every window view. Lenga wood comes from a sustainable rainforest, and the majority of furniture is also locally made. Tierra Patagonia also plants one tree for every visitor, helping along the reforestation efforts after the January 2012 forest fire.

9. Six Senses, Con Dao, Vietnam

Six Senses cares for its guests, the environment and its neighbors in equal measure, making it a truly guilt-free splurge. The hotel puts a portion of its mineral water sales towards building a clean water supply for the local school, buys its food from local vendors, and works with suppliers that share its views on sustainability. The family friendly hotel itself is built for maximum airflow, reducing the need for air-conditioning. Bikes are available for sightseeing. Golfers can even aim for the water, as the golf balls biodegrade in 48 hours and release fish food. The pools, crystalline waters and private atmosphere seal the deal for an unforgettable stay.

10. Adrère Amellal: Desert Ecolodge, Siwa, Egypt

Step way, way back in time at Adrère Amellal, where beeswax candles replace electric lights and the crisp desert nights stand in for air-conditioning. Set in the protected Siwa Oasis, the ecolodge was hand-built using a mixture of stone, salt water and clay, and blends into the shade of a giant yellow rock mountain. Except for the modern bathrooms and comfortable, locally made beds, the place looks like it hasn’t changed in thousands of years. Leave modernity behind while dining on local organic fruit and veg, and learn the value of an early bedtime and sunrise wake-up call.

5 Best Temples in Hong Kong

Ditch the shopping malls and skyscrapers and delve into the city’s rich cultural heritage with a visit to one of Hong Kong’s top five temples. Nowhere is better to learn all there is to know about the hopes, dreams, fears and superstitions of this city’s industrious urbanites – especially true during Chinese New Year and important lunar calendar festival dates. While some places of worship have been given a glossy new makeover, many of Hong Kong’s oldest temples have been serving as important community gathering points for hundreds of years.

1. Lam Tsuen Tin Hau Temple and Wishing Trees

This quaint collection of villages in Tai Po has been drawing visitors to its Tin Hau Temple and two wishing trees for hundreds of years. Traditionally, festival goers would write their wishes on joss paper and tie it to an orange, which was then tossed up towards one of the banyan tree’s highest boughs – the higher the branch the better the odds of your wish coming true! As the practice became more popular, authorities stepped in to help preserve the trees and visitors are now encouraged to tie wishes to wooden racks nearby instead. Steps away you’ll find a small Tin Hau temple, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sea, which can typically be found in any ancient fishing community in Hong Kong or along the Chinese coastline. Sit down with a fortune teller here if you want to find out about that wish.

2. Man Mo Temple

Stepping into the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road is like entering another world, a realm inhabited by the venerable deities of Man (God of Literature) and Mo (God of War) who are worshiped here. Rays of sunlight cut through the rising smoke of giant incense coils hanging low from the ceiling and down onto the altars of the 10 judges of the underworld. Make sure to take in all the details – the lines of descending green Shekwan roof tiles represent bamboo and longevity, while the antique sedan chairs inside were used to carry statues of the gods during festival processions.

3. Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Although calling itself a monastery, the name is a bit of a misnomer as there are no resident monks at this eclectic Sha Tin temple. Follow the steep winding path up the hillside, flanked by 500 life-sized Arhand statues to reach the main complex and its 9-story pagoda. Here you’ll supposedly find more than 13,000 Buddha statues – but at this point, who’s counting? – and a few bodhisattvas on horseback for good measure. The main attraction, however, is the preserved body of Yuet Kai, the monastery’s supremely devout founder. Embalmed in lacquer, plastered with gold leaf and dressed in robes, the upright body currently sits on display in a glass case inside the main monastery building.

4. Chi Lin Nunnery and Nan Lian Garden

At Diamond Hill, only one subway stop away from the Wong Tai Sin temple, you’ll find the peaceful and serene Chi Lin Nunnery. In stark contrast to its colorful and brash Taoist neighbor, the Buddhist nunnery exudes calm and tranquility with smooth stone balustrades, lotus ponds and stunning wooden architecture. Inspired by Japanese and Tang Dynasty temples, the elegant series of halls and walkways were constructed without the use of nails, using a complex design of counterweights and dowels. Across the road, the Nan Lian Garden is a scenic oasis amid towering high-rise apartments looming up along the hillside. A relaxing stroll past ancient bonsai trees, koi ponds and meticulously landscaped gardens is the perfect antidote for those needing some time out from the hustle and bustle of the city.

5. Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Temple

 With its bold, red pillars and ornamental latticework, Wong Tai Sin displays all the qualities of the archetypal Taoist Chinese temple. Colorful and noisy, worshipers come year round to pray for good fortune and divine guidance from the “Great Immortal Wong.” Crowds flock here during the Chinese New Year to offer incense, make wishes and visit fortune tellers in hopes of an auspicious and prosperous year to come. Visiting the temple during this time may be interesting from a cultural perspective, but it is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Throngs of people push their way through the winding temple complex in a cloud of smoky incense towards the main altar and gather around stalls selling charms and amulets of all shapes and sizes. It is certainly a once in a lifetime experience, but alternatively, an early morning weekday visit will serve just fine.