Derek Freal

Derek Freal

" ǝʌıʇɔǝdsɹǝd ɹǝɥʇouɐ ɯoɹɟ sƃuıɥʇ ǝǝs oʇ ǝʌol ı "
Derek is a perpetual wanderer, cultural enthusiast, and lifelong traveler. He loves going places where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, as well as places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo (supposedly its healthier and more efficient). Say Hello On Twitter!

Exploring the fjords and glaciers. Embracing the midnight sun. Breathtaking scenery and one of the homes of the Northern Lights. A vibrant sauna culture. Yes, Norway is known for a lot of things. However the country is not known for its one-of-a-kind museums, eccentric artists and lust for liquor. But maybe it should be. The next time you find yourself in Oslo, make sure to check out at least one of the unique and offbeat destinations:

  But first a gift for all you Pinterest addicts...

All the quirky, unique and offbeat things to do in Oslo, Norway

The Mini Bottle Gallery

When you think of a glass bottle collection, do you think or of ships and other miniatures inside of bottles? Regardless of which answer you picked, this is the place for you! Welcome to The Mini Bottle Gallery, the only museum of its kind in the world. It is home to over 50,000 bottles of all shapes, sizes and designs.

The unique and offbeat Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo, Norway, is home to a collection of over 50,000 bottles, the world's largest

The owner is a fourth generation descendent of the Ringnes brewery founders and one of Norway's most affluent businessmen. His love of bottles started as a kid upon receiving a half bottle of gin as a gift and has grown over the years into a massive collection.

In spring of 2000, Ringnes purchased a building in the heart of Oslo, and three years later the museum opened. Most bottles are full of alcohol but others have fruits, berries, even animals. Public hours are limited to between noon and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays only, however private visits for large groups can be scheduled in advance for alternative days.

  Official Web Site

Light fixture made out of old glass bottles at the unique and one-of-a-kind Mini Bottle Gallery in Oslo, Norway
Looking up at a light fixture on the ceiling made from colored glass bottles

Torggata

All those beer and liquor bottles have you craving a drink? Head on over to Torggata, specifically the blocks in between Youngs Gate and Hausmanns Gate. 6-7 years ago this was a seedy street full of trash, graffiti and drug dealers. Now it is full of trendy new restaurants and bars, and street art has replaced graffiti. Yes, Torggata has quickly become one of the hippest parts of Oslo.

The shit shop on Torggata in Oslo, Norway
Restaurants, bars and stores that sell shit. Welcome to Torggata.

Cobblestone streets. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Outdoor diners enjoying the day. And a strong emerging nightlife. This is Torggata, where McDonald's struggles and exotic foreign cuisine florishes. Jaime Pesaque, the renowned Peruvian chef with restaurants in Lima, Dubai and Milano (just to name a few), now has one in Torggata as well: Piscoteket

The entire area is full of restaurants serving different cuisines from around the world, and most of these also serve alcohol as well. However there are plenty of dedicated bars to. Just go for a stroll and stop in whatever place catches your eye. Guarantee you'll have fun!

Norwegian Museum of Magic

Traditional museums have a tendancy to be boring, it's okay, we can all agree here. That's why it is our duty as travelers to support all those strange, quirky and one-of-a-kind museums scattered around the world. My rule is this: if the museum name makes you think "WTF" then you're obligated to go inside.

Over the last two decades more and more professional magicians are worrying that their trade is dying. Some magicians are revealing the secrets behind popular tricks, to inspire a new younger generation to follow in their footsteps. Others are devising newer and more elaborate stunts with the help of modern technology. Meanwhile in Norway a group of magicians began collecting magician memorabilia to tell their story.

Free entrance to the Museum of Magic in Oslo, Norway when you attend one of the Sunday magic shows

By 2001 this collection of posters, props, photographs and gear had grown so large it needed to be moved to its own apartment (exterior pictured above). Thus Norsk Tryllemuseum, the Norway Museum of Magic, was officially born.

Note: The museum is only open on Sundays from 1pm-4pm with a magic show at 2pm. Ideally, you are supposed to go for the show and enjoy the museum as a "free bonus".

  Official Web Site

  More Unique & Offbeat Museums Around The World

Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park

Gustav Vigeland was one of Norway's most esteemed sculptors and nowadays is known throughout the world. His easily recognizeable work are thos iconic statues of human beings doing, well, human things. Vigeland was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.

In a deal with the Oslo government, Vigeland agreed to donate all his future works to the city. By the time he passed away in 1943 this was over 200 sculptures. Together they cover a sprawling 80 acres and comprise the largest sculpture park in the world created by a single artist. The pinnacle of all this artwork is a 14-metre tall monstrosity known as The Monolith. Carved entirely out of granite, 121 writhing bodies for a human totem pole obelisk.

The Gustav Vigeland Installation at Frogner Park -- 212 statues that make up the largest sculpture park in the world created by a single artist. And one of the cool, quirky and unique sights to see in Oslo, Norway

The park is open 24 hours a day and entrance is free, however it is quite popular with both locals and tourists, so try to avoid visiting at peak hours.

  Official Web Site

Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum

That's right, Gustav Vigeland had several brothers, one of which became a famous artist: Emanuel Vigeland. Although he never attained the same level of fame as his older brother, he was nonetheless an accomplished sculptor, painter and stained glass artist.

The mausoleum itself is an intriguing homage to life, death and sex, all rolled into one. It was originally intended to be a museum but halfway through Emanuel changed his mind and decided to combine mausoleum and museum into one. Shaped like a small church with bricked up windows, the acoustics of the building are so powerful that speaking loudly is simply not possible.

The Emanuel Vigeland Mausoleum is one of the cool, quirky and unique sights to see in Oslo, Norway

When Emanuel passed away 1948 he was creamted and ashes placed within a low-hanging niche above the entry. The end result is that every guest of the mausoleum has to bow down to Emanuel on their way out.

  Official Web Site

Of course this is only the tip of the glacier of things to do in Oslo. For more advice and information for what to do and where, check out this Norway travel guide....and have fun!

What other unique or quirky Oslo sights are there?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides     More On Norway

  flickr   //   iammadforit   glimeend   vidariv   aaslex   BONO

Many vacationers in the United States head south during the summer months to the most southeastern state of Florida. Florida offers many exciting attractions to offer tourists during all parts of the year. With mild winters and sunny summers it's no wonder it's called "The Sunshine State." If you want to spend some days chilling out in the sun and getting a tan, here are some good recommendations for laid back hotels.

Party the Day Away Near Panama City

Panama City is a great place to base yourself for family and college spring breaks. Panama City Beach, or "PCB" as young party goers like to call it is adjacent to Panama City. Panama City Beach is a stone throw away from Panama City and provides vacationers with amazing beaches. For the younger crowd, there are a countless number of beach bars and clubs located on the strip. If partying and drinking the day away is not your thing, try heading into the heart of Panama City and strolling around St. Andrews State Park for some peaceful time with nature.

Take a Break in Fort Myers Beach

Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, Fort Myers provides visitors with fantastic beaches, surreal sunsets, and clear water. Known as a family destination, many visitors will flock here during spring break and the summer months to watch the waves roll in and listen to the sounds of the Atlantic Ocean To break away from the crowds head to the less populated Lovers Key State Park, located on Lover's Key. However, expect many honeymoon lover's on this white sand beach.

Sunset at Fort Myers Beach in Florida
Image via Flickr by Matthew Straubmuller

Relax in Jacksonville

The sunny state's largest city has plenty of places to relax at. The city has a large bustling city center that will be sure to entertain visitors, but the cities largest appeal are the barrier islands and beaches one can chill out on. The first of the islands one should head to would be Amelia Island. If you're looking to splash out and chill on a beautiful Florida beach then look no further than Fernandina Beach.

Catch Up on Your Sports in Gainesville

Gainesville is home to the Florida Gators or the University of Florida. If you're headed here you're likely ready to catch America's greatest sport, at one of it's best institutions for college football. There are numerous hotels to chill out here after all the day at the stadium or the something a little more relaxing such as the Butterfly Rainforest. Butterfly Forest features hundreds of different species of butterflies that is sure to impress anyone and make for a great escape.

Leaving Florida? Head to Bossier City

So you have spent all your time in Florida and getting ready to pack up your vacation? A great place to get a real taste of the Southern United States is Bossier City, Lousiana. Bossier City is in the northwestern part of the state and is home to over 62,000 residents. Visitors can promenade along the Red River and pick a good hotel to set base at while exploring the Barksdale Air Force Base followed by a night of fun in one of the cities four riverboat casinos.

This post was originally published on The World Pursuit on June 11th, 2016 by Cameron and Natasha.

The beauty of the U.S. mountain states lies in their diversity. Imagine climbing some of the highest mountains in the country or driving through a wide expanse of desert lands — or hiking through beautiful canyons and jumping into a blue lagoon. You'll fall in love with the beauty. Here are some destinations in both the northwest and southwest regions of the mountain states.

Flagstaff, Arizona: Base of Your Adventures

Flagstaff is a city graced with diverse landscapes: picturesque deserts, serene mountains, and pine forests. It is the entry point for your Humphrey's Peak adventure and the Grand Canyon. Alternative destinations are the Wupatki National Monument and the Walnut Canyon National Museum, where you can immerse yourself in the rich history of the area. Finding great hotels in Flagstaff should be the least of your concern. At DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Flagstaff, your comfortable bed ensures a sound sleep. Plus, you'll get a complimentary cookie upon check-in.

Salt Lake City, Utah: Home of Canyonlands

For a city, there is none more geographically gifted than Salt Lake City, which lies between the Wasatch mountain ranges and Great Salt Lake. You can explore the nearby Canyonlands National Park to explore. Take in the buttes designed by the Colorado River. If you prefer knowing the city more, check the architecture of Temple Square, the Salt Lake Tabernacle, and in Utah State Capitol, to name just three. If you're on a budget, you can find cheap Salt Lake City hotels. For its strategic location, Residence Inn by Marriott Salt Lake City – Downtown makes everything within reach and is affordable.

Saint George, Utah: Love by the Border

Situated in southwestern Utah, Saint George is near the border between Utah and Arizona, making it an ideal location for travelers who have long road trips in mind. Trek through Snow Canyon Park, and wait for the gorgeous sunset. Visit Sand Hollow State Park, the Mojave Desert, or the Pine Valley Mountains. You can easily find affordable hotels in Saint George. For example, The INN at Saint George offers great comfort for a very reasonable price.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado: A Dip in the Hot Spring

Hearing the name Glenwood Springs may make you think of the huge Glenwood Hot Springs Pool. Imagine dipping your tired body in welcoming warm water. It's an instant cure for your sore muscles after a day of hiking around the Hanging Lake Trail or enjoying Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. If you're looking for upscale Glenwood Springs hotels, try The Hotel Denver, situated near the train station. This hotel provides great breakfast choices, and its rooms are elegant and comfortable.

Billings, Montana: The Thrill of the Magic City

Billings, the largest Montana city, is not nicknamed the Magic City for nothing. The name came from the city's rapid growth, and Billings continues to grow. For leisure and business travelers alike, there are many things to do here. Pictograph Cave State Park and the Rimrocks appeal to the adventurous, while the Western Heritage Center and the Yellowstone Country Museum interest the history lovers. If you're looking for Billings hotels that fuse the historical and the exciting, the Northern Hotel may be the perfect place for you.

Mountain state destinations are among the most exciting in the U.S. So go ahead and pack so you can find your own adventure.

  Featured photo by Annette Kirk via trover.com

  This post was originally published on Backpacking With a Book by Jona.

Some time ago, we posted a list of 16 must-see places before you die—or, in other words, an ideal travel bucket list. But while it can take a lot of time, money and effort to check these places off, it's also never a bad idea to add a few more destinations to the list. You might live to be 100, but you're not going to see too much of the world. That's just not really possible!

So here are five more must-see places to include in your plans.

1. Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, Cambodia, a destination that should be on everyone's travel bucket list

Often mysteriously ignored as one of the world's most incredible sights, Cambodia's Angkor Wat is an ancient temple of the Khmer Empire that at one point lorded over a vast portion of Asia. Although, as Nomadic Matt points out, it's not a lone tourism destination. That site offers detailed travel tips for a huge range of places all over the world, and notes that there are several temples in the area worth visiting. But the chance to tour Angkor Wat in particular is breathtaking. It's a massive, ornate temple built into a jungle landscape, and you can actually take a tour through it, rather than simply look at it from afar. The article from Nomadic Matt also mentions that a nicer hotel room in Siem Reap, the closest major city, will only cost about 50,000 KHR, or roughly $12 per night.

2. Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe, one of the most beautiful places in the USA

As far as travel destinations go, the U.S. is known largely for its big cities and fun beaches. Too often the beauty of the country, particularly in the western and northwestern regions, is ignored. And nothing exemplifies that beauty quite like Lake Tahoe. Known for some of the best skiing in the U.S. and as a pristine natural getaway during the rest of the year, it truly is a stunning place to visit. Accommodations are expensive pretty much across the board, but no matter when you go it's a trip you won't forget.

3. Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal in Agra, India, a destination that should be on every travel bucket list

The Taj Mahal is frequently mentioned as a bucket list destination, though it didn't make our last write-up. It's recognized all over the world as a stunning feat of architecture—but it's more than a fancy building. Lottoland's hub for the EuroMillions lottery recently wrote up its own bucket list travel article, and pointed out that the Taj Mahal is actually a tomb (whereas many might assume it's a palace). The construction was completed by Shah Jahan in the 1630s to honor his wife. Now, it stands as one of the true wonders of the world, and a must-see stop on any trip to India.

4. African Safari

An African safari should be on every travel bucket list!

Simply put, an African safari is one of the most incredible experiences you can have while traveling. You'll encounter gorgeous landscapes and fascinating wild animals, and ultimately feel a sense of both peace and adventure that's difficult to find anywhere else. Different countries and national parks throughout Africa provide different sights, but with a little bit of research into the country's best safari destinations, you can likely find something that appeals to you. Sometimes that might mean a traditional safari with a chance at seeing all kinds of animals; sometimes it means a trek to observe a specific type of primate; and sometimes it may even mean a river cruise where you'll spot crocodiles, hippos, and elephants cooling off.

5. Faroe Islands

Faroe Islands, Denmark, a top-rated destination for your bucket list

Iceland has been mentioned so often as an up-and-coming travel destination in recent years that it's hard to imagine it being underrated any longer. The word is out about Iceland. So if you like the idea of a northern Atlantic island getaway, but you prefer someplace off the beaten path, you should probably check out the Faroe Islands. Located almost exactly at the midpoint between the UK, Iceland, and Norway, these beautiful little islands are more accessible than they might sound. Rugged coastal areas, winding roads, and gorgeous seaside (and lakeside) views pretty much set the tone for a vacation focused on hiking and sightseeing, though the islands are also known for their own cuisines, as well as occasional events like music festivals.

It's no secret that travel is addicting. You cannot take just one trip and then return home without wondering what other spectacular sights, foods and experiences await. Expanding markets like India and China are unleashing more than a hundred million tourists into the foreign travel market a year and still growing steadily. The of rise social media influencers and digital nomads have shown the public that it is possible to travel and have a successful career. That combined with the abundance of professional travel bloggers and vloggers are inspiring a new generation of informed travelers.

Navagio Beach aka Shipwreck Beach in Greece

But once the travel bug bites, what do you do?

Find a way to incorporate work into your travels. In this digital age where so much can be done from a phone or tablet and wifi is never far away, it is easier than ever to work online.

Take amazing photographs?   Consider selling your photos online. You don't even need a portfolio or blog, just join one of the popular stock photography web sites. Alamy and Shutterstock are two of the most popular, both with photographers and customers. Already have a web site? Check out PhotoShelter or SmugMug. In fact here is a great guide on the most profitable places to sell your photos online.

Native English speaker? Bilingual?   English speakers are in demand in a lot of non-English countries. TEFL courses can be taken in person or online, and likewise classes can be held in a physical room or via Skype. Hell some countries don't even care if you have no experience or degree, just that you are a native English speaker. (Like Vietnam!) Professional translation services are also in demand because, let's be honest, Google translate just isn't that reliable.

Already well-traveled or know one location VERY well?   Become a tour guide or travel agent. Several veteran travel bloggers have started their own tour companies. Use your knowledge and eperience to help other people have a rewarding and worry-free trip.

That's what my friends Gunjan and Pranjali did.

Gujan and Pranjali of Tripoetic at Yellowstone National Park in the USA
Gunjan & Pranjali at Yellowstone

After having lived in the United States and traveled around Asia and Europe, Gunjan and Pranjali moved back to India. As more and more Indians are acquiring both the means and the motivation to travel abroad, they soon found themselves using their knowledge to help plan trips for friends and family. Soon they realized their next logical step was to turn this into their career.

Everyone starts off as a tourist and, if they visit enough places, eventually become more traveler than tourist. Travelers learn more, appreciate more and experience more than tourists. That is hands-down the most rewarding way to travel.

The beauty of having an experienced traveler help plan your trip is that they can use their knowledge to ensure that your trip is more of an authentic travel experience, rather than getting caught in an unenjoyable tourist trap. With India's outbound tourism market growing at record numbers, there is no better time for Gunjan and Pranjali to start building toward the future. And thus Tripoetic was born.

Gujan and Pranjali of Tripoetic in Athens, Greece

Using contacts and friendships from their travels around the world, not to mention all their experiences from planning their own journeys, these two travel addicts are now planning trips for all sorts of people with many varied backgrounds. Every trip is custom planned based around your interests, goals, must-see sights, timeframe, budget and of course stomach. (That's right, if you want to make sure you can have your favorite comfort food once every other day, Tripoetic will ensure that an appropriate restaurant is worked into the itinerary.)

Beyond just simply making reservations and handling transportation, Tripoetic takes it one step further by provided extra little services to make your journey smoother. For example, every traveler is also given a daily sightseeing itinerary -- kind of like a miniature guide to everything nearby that might be of interest to you. After all, nothing worse than getting home and learning that you not only missed out on a spectacular site, but that you actually were within minutes of it and didn't even realize.

If you are thinking about heading abroad for the very first time and are a little nervous or only have a short time to pull off a perfect vacation, make sure to get with Gunjan and Pranjali at Tripoetic. They'll handle everything to ensure that you have a wonderful trip.

  Remember: The beauty of travel is that it is a powerful force towards economic uplifting and great tool for putting foreign money directly in the hands of the locals who need it the most -- but only if we avoid the massive international chains and trust in local, family-owned businesses. Travel far, buy local. And always trust in your fellow travelers. Because as Mark Twain famously said, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

Multi-colored volcanic lakes. Haunted resorts. The world's largest mud volcano. The world's most elaborate funerals. An abandoned chicken church and other abandoned structures. Yes, this is Indonesia Off The Beaten Path.

When I arrived in Indonesia for the first time ever, I assumed one month would be long enough to see all there was worth seeing. HA! How wrong I was. Here it is many years later and I'm still finding new places to travel in Indonesia.

Indonesia is one of those countries where for every one place you visit, you learn of two more places that you have to visit. You're never done. There is always more.

Unfortunately most visitors stick to the same overcrowded sights and miss out on all the amazing, offbeat and unique sights and activities just around the corner from popular tourist destinations. My job is to keep you from doing just that. So save this list! The next time you find yourself in Indonesia, make sure to visit at least a couple of this unique, offbeat destinations:

The World's Largest Mud Volcano

  Not far from Suarabya

In May of 2006 a drilling accident in Sidoarjo resulted in the formation of a mud volcano. Mud has been flowing out ever since, swallowing up everything nearby. Ten years later and the mud is still flowing, the victims have only been compensated a fraction of what they were promised, and the drilling company has weaseled its way out of all responsibility. What remains has turned into a one-of-a-kind off the beaten path attraction.

The manmade Sidoarjo Mud Volcano totally screwed things up for the people of that town. Surprisingly few people know about it though. That's why it is one of the unique, quirky and off the beaten path things to do in Surabaya, Indonesia
More photos can be found on Inside Other Places

You won't find any signs or entrance lines, but you may find locals who will charge you a few rupiah to see the sights or to be your motorcycle tour guide. As long as they don't ask for something completely unreasonable, just go for it -- they need it more than you in this case.

  Sidoarjo is located 25km south of Suarabya and the mud volcano is located on the south side of town near the river. It's pretty hard to miss. This is what it looks like from above:

Aerial view of the Sidoarjo Mud Volcano as well as the damage to surrounding residents and roads

Although mud flow has dropped from 100,000 cubic metres per day to less than 10,000m3/day, scientists estimate that it could continue erupting for another 20-30 years.

The Abandoned Chicken Church

  Not far from Yogyakarta

Aerial view of the Chicken Church of Magelang, one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia

Move over Borobodur, you've got some competition! Another place of worship has risen up past the jungle treetops just 2 kilometres away. The story begins in 1989 when an elderly man visiting his wife's family in Magelang was struck with a "vision from God" that told him to build a church atop this particular hill. So he bought 3,000 square metres of land on Rhema Hill and built this omnistic (open to all religions) church shaped like a chicken. (Or as he called it, a Dove.) The church finally opened its doors for a few years in the mid-1990s but it wasn't long before money dried up and the property was abandoned. Designed to look like a dove, the church so much resembles a chicken that it is known to the locals as Gereja Ayam ("Chicken Church").

Aerial view of the Chicken Church of Magelang, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia

Given the Chicken Church's prominent location atop a hill just a couple kilometres further down Jalan Raya Borobordur past Borobordur, it's not too hard to find. However if you get lost, just ask any local, "Dimana Geraja Ayam?" ("Where is the Chicken Church?") Oh and dress accordingly as it does require a short hike through the brush and up the hill.

The Tri-Colored Lakes

  Not far from Komodo National Park

The tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu Volcano, Flores, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia

Kelimutu Volcano has a good reputation with tourists of Indonesia who make it as far East as Flores and Komodo National Park. However few outside of this niche group have ever heard of Kelimutu Volcano, also known as the Tri-Colored Lakes. The mountaintop is home to three crater lakes of three different colors! The westernmost lake, Tiwu Ata Bupu (Lake of Old People), is blue, Tiwu Ko'o Fai Nuwa Muri (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) in the middle is green, and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is red. Of course their colors have been known to vary slightly, which researchers assume is from fluctuations in the gases from the volcano.

Aerial view of the three-colored lakes of Kelimutu Volcano, Flores, one of the unique and offbeat destinations in Indonesia
Aerial view of the tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu via Michael Day

The Tri-Colored lakes of Kelimutu were not discovered until 1915 and the last official eruption was in 1968. However water in the lakes was boiling for several days back in 2005 and again 2013. As geologists worry that the next eruption could destroy the tri-colored lakes, research there is ongoing.

  Given everything, I recommend visiting sooner rather than later. And staying one night nearby so that you can catch the sunrise from Kelimutu.

Witness A Tana Toraja Funeral Ceremony

  Far from everything. In Sulawesi

A Torajan funeral can last for weeks! Definitely one of the unique and one of a kind offbeat destinations in Indonesia
via Arian Zwegers

The funeral ceremonies of the Toraja people are certainly not off the beaten path anymore -- they've been covered by journalists, photographers, researchers, bloggers and cultural preservationists before. Many, many times before. However no list of unique and offbeat activities in Indonesia would be complete without mentioning them.

In Toraja culture, a funeral is more a celebration of life than a mourning of death. The most extravagent event in their entire lives is, ironically, their funeral. They are elaborate affairs that can last for weeks and cost a fortune. People in Tana Toraja work and save their entire life not for their future, but for their funeral. Sometimes funerals are even delayed for years after the deceased has passed in order to give the family time to raise the remainder of the money necessary for these grand events. During this time in limbo the body will wait patiently inside the family home, waiting for its burial....up on a cliffside.

In Tana Toraja the deceased are
via Arian Zwegers

Yes, rather than bury their deceased in the ground, Torajans place them inside of a wooden coffin and hang it up on a cliffside. Sometimes these are just propped on the side of the rock wall. Occasionally childrens' coffins are just suspended by rope. However if the family is wealthy enough, they will carve out a miniature cave in the rockface with enough room for several family members. A handcarved wooden effigy is then placed outside and facing away, to watch out over the land and protect the deceased.

Nusa Penida Island: Like Bali Was 40 Years Ago

  Not far from Bali

Nusa Penida Island, Bali's hidden paradise -- and one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia

In between Bali and Lombok lies a small little island known as Nusa Penida. It is a pristine paradise, home to several small villages, plenty of deserted beaches, and only one hotel and one bungalow complex. Nusa Pendia is Bali's Hidden Paradise. Thanks to minimal tourim the traditional way of life still exists here. It's like Bali was 40 years ago.

Come here for a few days to escape the tourists and the touts. Rent a motorcycle and explore the island. It actually takes several days to cover every road, village and beach. Up north you'll find countless seaweed farms that are a photographer's dream. There is even a Buddhist temple inside of a cave! Even as I type this, I'm still wearing the bracelet I got from the priest during my blessing there back in 2014.

Seaweed farmers hard at work on Nusa Penida Island, Bali's hidden paradise -- and one of the unique and off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia
Seaweed farmers hard at work on Nusa Penida

  Don't miss Tanglad, the mountaintop village of Nusa Penida. It is known throughout Indonesia for its colorful tenun fabric, which is still handmade to this day. Learn more here.

The Controversial Equator Monument

  Not far from Pontianak, Kalimantan

The Pontianak Equator Monument is not actually on the equator. That is why it is one of the unique and offbeat destinations of Indonesia.
via Stefan Krasowski

While most of the Indonesian archipelago lies south of the equator, this invisible line cuts Kalimantan in half. Just a few kilometres north of the town of Pontianak lies a monument that is supposedly on top of the equator. Or was. Much like the fake equator monument in Ecuador, GPS has since revealed that this location of this monument is not on the real equator. Another small marking has been erected a slight distance away that is supposed to signify where the equator has "moved" too, but this too is debated. Regardless, the monument still stands and is definitely worth stopping by for a photo opportunity if you find yourself in the neighborhood.

The Abandoned Beach Resort

  Not far from Denpasar, Bali

The abandoned Beach Bountry Club Bungalows on Gili Meno are one of the unique and offbeat destinations of Indonesia.

As a result of the terrorist bombings in Bali in 2002, international tourism temporarily stopped and the Beach Bounty Club Bungalows never officially opened. These 26 luxury bungalows and their grounds have ever since remained quietly stuck in time as nature gradually takes back over. Located on the southwest coast of Gili Meno, they are not hard to find. Most likely you will have the entire place yourself. Ferries are available from Lombok or fast boats from Bali -- at both Sanur Beach and Padangbai.

  There is another abandoned resort located on Bali that suffered a similar fate in 2002 before it could ever open its doors. Located on the mountainside near Bedugal Lake lies the Taman Rekreasi Bedugul, also known as the Ghost Palace Hotel, this place is far creepier than the Beach Bounty Bungalows.

Of course these are but a fraction of all the amazing things to do in Indonesia. Take my advice and definitely book the longest trip possible. And no matter where you decide to visit, check out Traveloka.com for cheap hotels throughout Indonesia.

  Know of any other quirky or off the beaten path destinations in Indonesia?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides

As many of you know, Corey and I have been traveling the world for nearly nine months in Southeast Asia, and our go-to places to stay are always affordable and on-budget. But recently, we got a taste of luxury when my mom gifted Corey and me with an executive room at a 5-star hotel in Singapore for my birthday.

For the entire weekend, we wined and dined without a worry or care in the world. At the end of the weekend, we promised ourselves that we would "treat" ourselves to experiences like this more often during our travels, whether that's in the States or abroad. There's no greater feeling than being pampered while you're visiting a new city.

And since we plan to visit California when we return to the U.S., there's no time like the present to do some research! With that in mind, here are a few recommendations for luxury hotel destinations in cities across California.

Glendale: Loews Hollywood Hotel

Though less expensive options exist in Glendale for luxury, I cannot get enough of the Loews Hotel experience. I'm spoiled by the few staycations I had at the Atlanta hotel, and so I would wholeheartedly recommend this one, too. One of the many treats of a luxury hotel is the ability to take advantage of its amenities. Exhale Spa is one of the many treats that you'll find in Loews Hollywood Hotel, because you can engage in sweat-inducing group fitness classes and indulge in spa treatments all under the same roof.

Marina Del Rey: The Ritz-Carlton

Image by Fuller Travels via Trover.com
Image by Fuller Travels via Trover.com

The Ritz-Carlton has always had the reputation of white-glove service, and it's regal in its own right. What makes this hotel unique is not the access to multiple hotspots and beaches or its prime location on the marina; it's all in the small details that they offer that make The Ritz-Carlton different. Special touches like housekeeping twice a day with a turn down service, on-demand movies, terry cloth robes and private balconies for each room will make you want to stay in the hotel all day long. Alternatively, you can explore other luxury hotels in Marina Del Rey.

Napa Valley: Auberge Du Soleil

The Auberge Du Soleil is on my dream list of places to stay when I visit Napa Valley again. Its proximity to V. Sattui (one of my favorite wineries), its Michelin-star restaurant focusing on Mediterranean cuisine and the 7,000 square-foot spa that focuses on holistic treatments for wellness all draw me to this place. I'm sure if I stay here on my next vacation, I may never leave Napa Valley.

Carlsbad: Park Hyatt Aviara Resort

Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, California
Image by Katie Dillon via Trover.com

If you're seeking a true vacation destination where you can unwind, look no further than the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad, California. There are many dining options featuring various cuisines from across the world, but you don't have to venture outside to enjoy your food because there's 24-hour in-room dining. You can stay active by playing tennis and golf on their property or take off to enjoy activities like hot-air ballooning or wine tasting. And, if you're traveling with kids, the resort offers plentiful distractions for them to partake in like their kids' academy, DVD library and babysitting services.

Sacramento: Inn and Spa at Parkside

The Inn and Spa at Parkside offers luxury bed and breakfast accommodations (you can certainly find other options for Sacramento hotels on Hipmunk's website), and it's definitely not a place to miss if you're traveling to Sacramento. There's a concierge service that will offer recommendations on what to see and do in the area, spa services that include massages and facials and a daily social hour in the evenings. With complimentary breakfast in the morning and a charming atmosphere, the Inn and Spa at Parkside will be hard to pass up.

Where do you like to get away and get pampered?

  This article was originally published on A Taste Of Our City on April 13th.

With its contemporary suburbs, ultra-modern skyscrapers, and historic architecture, the Northeastern USA, is among the most eclectic U.S. regions. These period-designed Northeastern B&Bs will show you just how harmoniously the past and the present thrive here.


Image via Trover.com by Michael Kercsmar

Beautiful Old Mansions in Ithaca, NY

Tourists visiting Ithaca will not only enjoy the scenic Cayuga Lake, but will also find sophisticated old B&Bs for luxuriating. Among those most noteworthy boutique mansions in Ithaca is Rogues’ Harbor Inn. Built with fieldstone in the early 1800s, this Greek Revival country inn is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It offers period-styled rooms with European duvets and luxe toiletries. Stay here to enjoy its acclaimed microbrewery and its walking-distance access to downtown attractions.

Neoclassical architecture lovers will find the 19th-century Argos Inn a fitting option. Argos Inn's rooms come with floor-to-ceiling windows, local artwork, antiques, smart TVs, and rainfall showerheads. Be sure to head to the sunroom in the morning for a sumptuous complimentary breakfast.

Homey Stays in Stamford, NY

Family-run bed and breakfast outlets dominate the historic Stamford village. There is The Colonial B&B at Stamford NY, which features elegant wood-floored rooms reflecting Caribbean and European design. Hot breakfast here can be enjoyed in-room, in the dining hall, or by the pond. Guests who are hiking nearby trails can request for packed breakfast.

Sumptuous homemade breakfasts are also among the highlights of a stay in Stamford Gables, a homey countryhouse in Northwest Catskills. A previously abandoned property, it was refurbished to create three light-filled rooms, each showcasing elaborate woodwork, private baths, and cable TV. Hattie's Room comes with a large walk-in shower; the West Room, with a garden tub.

New England Charm in Newport, RI

If you crave New England's olden charm, go to Newport. Its scenic harbor houses boutique inns fashioned in New England architecture, such as Hotel Viking, which was built in the 1920s. Rooms here are furnished with period furniture and bedding. Upgrade to a suite if you fancy elegant fireplaces and pull-out sofas. For leisure, dip in the indoor pool, drink cocktails at the rooftop bar, or indulge in rejuvenating treatments at the on-site spa.

Wyndham Bay Voyage Inn is another noteworthy hotel along the harbor. Its tan brick walls and shingle architecture seamlessly blend in with Newport's colonial landscape while offering condo-style rooms with pull-out beds and whirlpool tubs. Indoor and outdoor pools are available for use, along with BBQ grills, a theatre, and a game room.

Modern Convenience and Olden Charm Mix at Roanoke, VA

Roanoke accommodations, are a mix of the old and the modern, with contemporary hotel chains like Holiday Inn coexisting with quaint lodges like the Colony House Motor Lodge. This 1950s family-run lodge off Route 220 feature modest and relaxing rooms with microwaves, mini fridges and cable TV. Suites with separate living rooms and kitchens are also available for bigger groups. Complimentary privileges include access to a seasonal outdoor pool and Continental breakfast.

18th-19th Century Accommodations in Lancaster, PA

Lancaster in Pennsylvania has its own share of historic accommodations. Built in 1882, Lovelace Manor Bed and Breakfast boasts an elegant Victorian design, with its etched doors, ornate porches, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Apart from in-room DVDs, guests can use an extensive video library and a game room, as well as a 24-hour pantry filled with soda, tea, coffee, and snacks.

If you prefer a personal home than a bed and breakfast, check out this 1927 one-bedroom brick home in historic Strasburg via Airbnb.

  This post was originally published on Filipina Explorer on April 14th.

Planning a visit to London? After booking your flight and picking the perfect London hotel, the next item on the list is figuring out where to dine in this British metropolis. London is packed with everything from expensive, swanky restaurants to ultra-affordable, no-frills street vendors. The great thing about this city is that whether you dine in luxury or while just lounging on a park bench, you can enjoy some truly delicious food.

But what should you eat while you're there? You'll be bombarded with international cuisine options and hearty English dishes everywhere you turn. Tantalizing smells will waft from street carts, cafes and restaurants alike, all of which make it more difficult to decide what to eat. But on a limited jaunt in this city, you'll want to make your menu selections carefully. It's important to enjoy the traditional flavors this city serves up without missing out on some of the more exotic offerings.

To help travelers make the most of every meal in London, we've put together this hassle-free guide to the city's best dishes. Use this menu to make sure you don't miss out on the incredible flavors that London has to offer during your visit.

Top foods to try in London infographic

  This article was originally published on IHG on May 9th, 2016.

Singapore is a small island city-state, which means that it quickly gets boring for uninformed travelers. Three days in Singapore, and you have literally done it all — or so you might think.

But the next time you find yourself passing through Lion City, drop your bags off at a nice hotel in the best part of Singapore and then knock a few of these offbeat activities off your travel bucket list:

Explore Pulau Ubin, the Last Kampung

Pekan Quarry on Pulau Ubin, one of the offbeat things to do in Singapore

Singapore is a sprawling metropolis — at least the main island is. However, up north, next to Malaysia, lies the smaller island of Pulau Ubin. Known as the Last Kampung of Singapore, this island is the only place you can still see the traditional village houses of the past. Only around 100 residents remain today, surrounded by lush flora and diverse fauna. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails to explore and quiet beaches to relax on. Definitely a nice retreat from the city life in Singapore!

Haw Par Villa, the Hellish Theme Park

Haw Par Villa is an intriguing and bizarre religious theme park that has become a strange tourist attraction. It is one of the many offbeat things to do in Singapore

Dating back to 1937, Haw Par Villa has earned itself a reputation as Singapore's most bizarre tourist attraction and religious theme park. Originally known as the Tiger Balm Gardens, it was built by two brothers, the same duo who created Tiger Balm rub. The park was designed to teach Chinese mythology, but over the years it has evolved into an over-the-top collection of over 1,000 multicolored statues and giant dioramas depicting various — and often gory — scenes from Chinese history, folklore, and legends. Haw Par Villa might not be off the beaten path anymore, but Singapore doesn’t get any stranger than this!

G-MAX Reverse Bungy, 5 Gs of 360-Degree Fun

The G-MAX reserve bungy is a wild ride and one of the cool, quirky things to do in Singapore

Located right on Clarke Quay, this is one activity that every visitor to Singapore has seen but few ever try. The G-MAX reverse bungy is like nothing else you have ever experienced. Strap yourself in, and get ready. After being slingshot up in the air, reaching speeds of up to 100 km/hr, riders bounce and fly around in what G-MAX politely refers to as a "swing" — ha! This experience is so uncommon that I recommend having someone else film your ride. Besides, at 45 SGD, it's the cost of two drinks in Clarke Quay — and definitely more worth it.

Selfie Coffee, Where the Name Says It All

Selfie Coffee prints a proto of you on the foam of your coffee. Just one of many the offbeat things to do in Singapore

To make a long story short, a Taiwanese company developed a machine that prints photos onto coffee foam. Of course, the next logical step is to use this for selfies instead of trippy designs. If you don't mind paying a hefty premium for your coffee and waiting a few extra minutes (yes, even longer than usual), you just might be a perfect fit for Selfie Coffee. And where else in Singapore would it be located than the hipster hotspot that is Haji Lane?

Visit Kranji, the Fabled Singapore Countryside

Leave the cement jungle behind and head out to Kanji, one of many the offbeat things to do in Singapore
The road to Kanji at sunset

Up in the northeastern corner of Singapore lies Kranji, the Singapore countryside that many tourists do not even realize exists. Yes, there is a part of the main island that isn't a cement jungle! Here the jungle is still thick, and small farms are scattered among it. The biggest and best-known is Bollywood Veggies and its Poison Ivy Bistro, which serves what is arguably the freshest food in all of Singapore. There are also several nearby parks and nature reserves worth exploring, including Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Kranji Reservoir Park, and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

Get out and explore the countryside of Kanji, one of the offbeat things to do in Singapore

Beyond just greenery and fresh foods, Kranji also has plenty more to offer. Horse racing takes place every Friday and Sunday at the Singapore Turf Club, conveniently located right next to the Kranji MRT Station. The Kranji War Memorial pays homage to all the fallen soldiers from all the nations who helped defend Singapore from the Japanese during World War II.

Singapore may be small, but the harder you look, the more you find. What other offbeat and quirky sights or activities would you recommend?

  More Offbeat Travel Guides     Singapore Blog Archives

  flickr // Kai Lehmann   Wild Singapore   Walter Lim   Schristia   Lin Hoe Goh   Kurt Siang

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