Commercially available drones are opening up a new world of travel pictures and videos on social media. Spectacular views that would otherwise require a plane or helicopter ride can be achieved by travelers with just a few pieces of gear. Drone users should be sure to check local regulations before unleashing their cameras, though. The travel possibilities for great footage are endless, so we’ve narrowed down five of the best aerial views in the world. They’re definitely better with a drone camera, but there are plenty of options for lower-tech viewing as well.

Temples of Bagan, Myanmar

Bagan, Myanmar

On the banks of the Irrawaddy River and in the shadow of the Rakhine Yoma mountain range, 2,230 Buddhist temples rise out of the mist. This is Bagan, one of the most magically beautiful sites in the world. Built in the 11th through 13th centuries, only half of the original temples have survived the combination of earthquakes, erosion, and the Mongol invasion. The stunning temples feature frescoes and carvings, but only a few dozen are actively maintained. The natural setting and sheer number of temples mean that the site is best viewed from the air. The classic Balloons over Bagan runs hot air balloon flights at dawn, starting at $320 per person. Plan ahead, though, because trips book up months in advance.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Mosi-oa-Tunya (Victoria Falls), Zambia/Zimbabwe

The Zambezi River defines border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and creates one of the world’s most spectacular waterfalls. The river is 1.25 miles wide when it goes over the falls, and it drops 354 feet, almost twice the height of Niagara Falls. The rising mist can be seen from 12 miles away, and inspired the local Kololo name Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means “the smoke that thunders.” (Scottish explorer David Livingston named the falls for Queen Victoria when he discovered them in 1855). The mist can obscure the view during the summer rainy season, so wait until November when the falls are dryer to plan a trip. Get drone’s eye view of the river and the falls yourself with a helicopter tour from Zambezi Helicopters.

Bungle Bungle Range, Australia

Bungle Bungle Range, Australia

Located in Purnululu National Park in the western Australia, the Bungle Bungle Range is made of up of huge sandstone mounds that rise up to 820 feet out of the desert. Layers of silica, algae, and other sediments produce a multi-colored striped effect on the beehive-shaped structures, and the colors can vary with the seasons or the weather. The climate and geology make the 350 million year old range completely unique in size, shape, and appearance. The aerial view is fantastic, but make sure to research drone regulations before flying. For those of us without the equipment, helicopter flights leave from nearby cities and start at $269 from HeliSpirit.

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt is often called the “Pearl of Austria,” and it truly deserves the name. It sits nestled between the snow-capped eastern Alps and the glassy and mirror-like Hallstätter See, contrasting the striking natural setting with quaint local architecture. Located in the Salzkammergut region, this tiny city of less than 1,000 people has been producing salt since the 2nd millennium BC and is home to some of the world’s oldest salt mines. To add to the old world charm, cars are not allowed in the city during daylight hours between May and October. In the absence of a drone camera, taking the ferry across the lake provides the best view of the scene.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay sits east of Hanoi in the Gulf of Tonkin, and is famous for the towering limestone islands that dot the coastline. The archipelago contains over 1,600 islands, carved by the constant erosion of the sea into caves, arches, and towers. Most of the islands uninhabited, and the mist and fog that rise from the bay contribute to its mysterious quality. The name, which means descending dragon, comes from a local legend that holds that the islands were created when Mother Dragon sent her children to protect Vietnam from invasion. The pearls that dropped from their mouths became the islands, and prevented the invaders from entering. Boat cruises are a popular way to see the islands, but the relatively new seaplane flights can provide a drone-worthy view, and start at $275 per person.

  This article was posted on Hipmunk's Tailwind blog by The Hipmunk on October 29th.

Published in Travel Technology

I have been an adrenaline junkie as far back as I can remember... having already gone skydiving, bungee jumping and hang gliding to name a few... I am still seeking my next rush!! My little sister has been asking me to come on an adventure for a while now, eager to one day skydive with me. I am however, not prepared to jump out of a plane with my sister just yet. So I brought her, as test, to the World's Tallest Slingshot in Orlando, Florida to see if she was really ready to roll with the "Big Dogs"!

Looking at this slingshot, it really doesn't seem too bad. However, being thrown into the air well... let's just say that's another story. I am pretty sure my eyes rolled into the back of my head, but overall it was an enjoyable experience for just 25 bucks!!!

After viewing the video, I must say my little sister is definitely on her way to being able to handle some of my adventures. Who knows.. Maybe even skydive! I chose to refrain from commenting on my friend sitting next to me and my sister... I think he embarrassed himself enough in the video... don't you think? After all, we definitely couldn't see Jamaica from the slingshot. :)

So, if you desire a quick thrill without paying a whole bunch of money... Check out the Slingshot. There are tons of other videos of celebrities doing it, and some people even fainting (check on youtube)... So don't take it lightly.

Nonetheless, I found that my sister may have what it takes to be a part of my adventures and I checked something off my bucket list!! 2 birds with 1 stone! #boom #winning

  Check out more photos in the scrapbook

Published in United States

In times of economic meltdown and global hardship, people are wishing on their lucky stars for a bit of good fortune. So it seems only fitting really that some people are turning to the more 'alternative' methods of the 'dark arts', AKA voodoo, to help them out.

In some of the more traditional markets here in Mexico, tucked in between the bustling vegetable and fruit stalls and herb stands in the labyrinth of narrow alleyways, you'll find bizarre market traders selling weird and wonderful spiritual help-me-outs.

Colourful and creepy good luck charms and figurines, potions, spells, ointments, elixirs, herbs, amulets and candles are all crammed onto busy shelves offering different magical powers to target specific issues in every day life.

Some trinkets are said to bring good luck, while others are said to offer protection. Some of the potions are meant to be drunk like tea or mixed with holy water; some powders are spread out on the ground in the shape of figures or signs; some herbs are burnt; and some powders are thrown over lit candles while the user whispers their wishes during rituals.

Magic potions for every occasion in Mexico
A flicker of luck anyone?

Wouldn't it just be amazing if these potions actually worked?! Want a successful business? Want that crazy woman/bloke to leave you alone? Wish they were dead?! Just add boiling water and two sugars. The spells are sold in small envelopes similar to those that normally contain teabags. And they cater for a huge range of predicaments.

Some claim to help businessmen and women keep clients; some claim to help you get a pay rise at work; some target generic fears; and some claim to assist you in getting someone to love you. Others apparently help to 'send someone away' who has been cheating on you; and some also claim to bring 'death' to a person boasting a "reinforced dust formula."

Magic potions for every occasion in Mexicobr>A spell to stop your man from cheating

God only knows what ingredients are used. A quick search on Google highlights 'dried snakes' skin' and 'cactus' as being just some of the ingredients used in such concoctions. Mexico, like many other countries around the world, is a deeply spiritual place.

>Religion is closely related to folk traditions, intertwined with mythology and magic. While the vast majority of people do attend church to pray for luck, it seems a great many people here do trust in the more magical and mysterious methods.

Personally speaking, as a Brit these sort of potions have certainly never been on any one of my weekly shopping lists.

  1. Bread.
  2. Milk.
  3. Bananas.
  4. Spell to help me find a job.

But hey, anything's worth a try right?!

All this aside, it actually wouldn't be right to talk about all these weird and wonderful things and not mention UFOs. A number of people I have spoken to here in TJ claim to have seen "weird shapes" or "lights" in the sky. Everyone seems to know someone who has seen a UFO.

Jacky's mum and dad claim to have seen several - one here in the sky above the house, and a couple in Mexico City where they once lived.

The relative proximity to New Mexico and the notorious 'Roswell' only help to fuel the fire of belief of aliens visitors. News reports here on Mexican national television also seem to show amateur footage of UFO sightings on regular occasions.

This one, in October last year, was a huge talking point among Mexicans after the footage emerged:

The volcano shown is just outside Mexico City which is one of the busiest places on earth. Hence it the sight attracted a large audience. Mexico is said to be a 'hotbed' of UFO sightings with more sightings than most other countries in the world.

Is the truth stranger than fiction? Decide for yourself. I'm off for a cuppa (of Tetley as opposed to a love potion).

Published in Mexico

Passed All The Towns & Barangays, Headed For The Jungle!

We were traveling through Quezon province headed towards Agos-Agos barangay near the coastal town of Infanta on an 8-hour drive past Manila to the eastern side of the island. And you better believe it was a trip! This was my first experience at spending a full week literally living in the jungle, with almost everybody in bamboo-type huts, no running water and no electricity. We had a few neighbors with intermittent electricity, usually 4-6 hours a day at most, and they were usually the families with little shops built into their huts. These shops will sell small snacks, toiletries, cigarettes, even beer or (the fancy ones) ice.

Even though I only had a faint idea of what I was getting into, there was one aspect I was a little worried about. No, not meeting the girlfriend's parents and extended family for the first time. No, I was more scared about what I would be eating during this trip. Luckily my cast iron stomach ended up having no issues. Although to be fully honest there was one dish that I repeatedly passed on, balut. While supposedly delicious, I found balut too disgusting to try — despite countless people, even little girls hardly old enough for school, all swearing that it's "so so good!"

Balut in the Philippines

Balut is a fertilized duck or chicken egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. You see, chickens gestation period is about three weeks, so halfway through that you raid the henhouse to collect your eggs and boil them. Balut is common, everyday food in some other countries in Southeast Asia, such as in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, balut is mostly sold by street vendors in the regions where they are available. They are often served with beer.

What you do is slam the flat end of the egg against a table or other flat surface, then suck the partially formed mass of feathers and beak out with your mouth. All the locals seemed to quite enjoy this delicacy, and even some of the young girls proclaimed how delicious it was. I myself decided to pass. Repeatedly.

  [ UPDATE ]   In January 2014 I finally ate balut and captured it all on video. Watch out for the 1:30 mark, where I gag and nearly throw it all up ;)

Anyway, I'm rambling. Agos-Agos is a very small barangay in the eastern part of Quezon province and the only reason I even spent time there was because it is where my ex's family lives. To even get to the barangay requires traveling a stretch down this rough dirt path (I can't even call it a road, and its certainly not on any map) that you can reach by following the only road west out of Infanta, the only nearby village. Just when you think there is nowhere left to go you come upon small clusters of bamboo huts and various trails connecting them. Some of the trails were so narrow it was hard to get our little vehicle down it. People there either walk or use motorcycles.

My hut in the Philippines
Home sweet home...in the jungle...in the middle of literally nowhere

There are no big places, nor even any medium-sized ones. The houses are small buildings made of usually bamboo although a few of the lucky ones had cinder-blocks and a corrugated metal roof, never more than one-story tall. The house my ex was raised in (along with her three siblings and parents) is maybe 15-ft square absolute tops, with a plywood wall dividing it in two main rooms. A couple sheets of plywood are slapped upright in one corner for the bathroom, which is again just a couple buckets of water. There is a small corner in the back that I guess would be the kitchen, with a water pump out back.

A few years ago they got electricity for the first time, thanks to the efforts of the current Governor Arroyo, who worked her hardest to uplift the country and bring power to the places without. I have not been back in almost two years now, since the ex and I split, so I have no idea if the planned improvements have continued.

Hut in the Philippines jungle
Our neighbors across the river have a freakin' mansion!

A ten-minute ride away is the town of Infanta. There is not much there, but at least it is a real village that has been in existence for nearly 200 years, complete with a small hospital, several churches, and plenty of streetside vendors and marketplaces. There are no jeepneys in towns like this, only trikes and motorcycles.

It was very interesting my first time there with Claire. Whether walking around or riding on the back of a cycle, everybody stopped and stared at me whenever I passed by. It was like I was the first white guy they had ever seen in life. Suppose that is entirely possible, actually. There are no airports near here and were not any resorts until recently. Even now I believe the total count is at just two or three, and they are located down the street from Infanta on that little peninsula.

Claire and I went into town every other day, usually just for minor things like fresh meat for the day. One afternoon her family asked if there is anything special I would like to eat while there. Having already tried most of the local food, I went for something I love but had not had, despite seeing an abundance of pigs around the barangay: bacon. So her brother went into town and came back with a chunk of — no, not bacon but pork fresh from the slaughter and threw it in a drawer. I'll be damned if that thing didn't sit there at room temperature for about 16 hrs before it was cooked the next morning. I was a little skeptical eating it with my eggs and rice but it had some damn good sauce on it (oh, you thought I would be skeptical about it sitting out all night?) and actually was not bad. And I didn't get sick from it either!

Water Bison in the Philippines jungle
Water Bison...mmmm dinner. Wait, he's a pet!!

So does that mean we eat him now or wait until later?

I tell you, to this day there have only been two times in my life where I have gone a week without pooping — and this my friends was the first! (The second wouldn't happen until two years later, in 2011.) I thought about "oh crap what am I going to have to do if I have to poo?" the first minute I saw the pail and laddle in the bathroom that made up toilet / shower. My answer to the problem was to simply watch my intake of food.

One thing I have long since noticed when traveling is if you eat less processed food and other unnatural bullshit, your body maximizes the food intake, using all it can. The end result is less waste and therefore you have to "drop a load" a lot less than the average American. Eat McDonald's or Taco Bell all day and night, you could take three, four dumps a day — maybe more! That's easily 20+ loads a week! Anyway, moving on...

Now I thought prices were cheap in Olongapo and Barrio Barretto. Wow, Infanta had them beat threefold! Stuff cost pennies and it was awesome. And the coast is just minutes away, the beach is pristine and free from tourists — so heavenly! Now this is what I like, not places like Angeles City.

Yes, Infanta is just far enough away from Manila to be off the beaten path and therefore inexpensive and tourist-free yet also close enough to still be feasible. Like fishing? Got it. Like good Filipino food? Oh boy do they have it! Want to live like a true Filipino? Well what are you waiting for, go visit Infanta!

Published in Philippines

Nearly everyone on this planet, traveler or not, has at least an idea of roughly what Machu Picchu is so I'll just summarize the basics. Built and occupied by the Incas from the early 1400s to the late 1500s, this lost city is arguably the crowning achievement of the Inca civilization. Totally unbeknownst to Spain during their conquests, Machu Picchu sat undisturbed until it was discovered in the early 1900s.


The iconic Machu Picchu shot ;)

Since that time many of the ruins have been reconstructed and the place has become a tourist sensation known worldwide, seeing an average of 75,000 visitors a year. The entire 125-sq-mile national park is known as the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, which includes South America's most famous hiking trail, the Inca Trail, within its borders.

If you have not yet hiked the Inca Trail, I'm going to take a wild guess and say it is on your bucket list. It is on the HoliDaze Ultimate Travel Blogger's Bucket List (TBBL for short) -- but then again with 366 items, you have to have some stereotypical things on there. Well have no worries my friend, there are a good 150 different tour companies and groups offering excursions to Machu Picchu, most of them located in Cusco.

But along with that many tour companies come tourists, most of which book during the dry season (June-September). If that's when you will be going plan on booking a couple months in advance, as the trail and Machu Picchu can see the majority of its yearly visitors during these peak months. Additionally, due to the extreme elevation differences of Peru and the lack of oxygen at such high altitudes, you should spend at least a day or two in Cusco upon initial arrival -- if not three or four -- before attempting to move on to the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary.

If you choose to go all in for the authentic Inca Trail hike then you will have two choices: the 2 day / 1 night package, or the 4 day / 3 night package. Which one you choose really depends on 1) how much you love the mountains; 2) whether or not you are a photographer (the landscape shots offered on the larger trek are phenomenal!); and 3) how tight your wallet / schedule is strapped.

Prices can vary significantly from place to place, but remember that you always get what you pay for -- especially in foreign countries. You can expect to spend around $100/day for an adult participating in the group tours (less for kids I'd assume but I don't have any info) after ticket, fees, tips, etc. Additionally, they also have private tours available for a more hefty fee.

  In closing, I will leave you with a video taken from Machu Picchu. It is a short clip from the first season of An Idiot Abroad and if you have never heard of that show, I suggest you look it up. Anyone who loves travel will get a kick out of it....And at the same time probably be a tiny li'l bit envious that it is not you on the all-expenses-paid journey but rather this strange funny little man named Karl Pilkington who is laughably out of place and wants nothing to do with foreign travel...or everything anything out of his British tea-time comfort zone for that matter.

  Have you ever hiked the Inca Trail or is it still on your bucket list? Share comments below!

Published in Peru

The Whole World Wants To Know... What Now?

The world was shocked less than 48 hours with the news that Kim Jong-Il has died suddenly from a heart attack -- although many different people are shocked for many different reasons. Many were caught off-guard by this announcement simply because it was the first major news story of 2011 NOT to break on Twitter. And yes, undoubtedly there is grief in North Korea, no doubt, but I believe others there are also breathing a sigh of relief. View the video below and judge for yourself.

At the same time, I'm sure still others in North Korea see this at their opportunity to wrestle the reins from the supposed new leader, Kim Jong Il's youngest son Kim Jong-Un, reputedly 29 years old and hereby deemed "Great Successor." And of course you also have officials here in the West, hoping that maybe now will finally be the beginning of the end of their North Korean issues. But what about South Koreans? Maybe a twinge of hope that a peaceful reunification just got one step closer...?

While I have yet to visit the DPRK firsthand, my first trip is -- well, provided their stance on tourism does not change in the next few months -- scheduled for April 2012, going to catch the North Korean Centennial. In the last couple years I have become fascinated by what is undoubtedly the most ethically homogenous country in the world. And, until just 48 hours ago, I was convinced that I would have the opportunity to view Kim Jong Il's North Korea. While I am sure Kim Il-Sung's Korea was a better one, the possibility of radical and rapid changes now the Kim Jong Il have passed cannot be overlooked. I do not mean prosperity overnight, but policy changes towards tourism, politics, foreign relations, etc.

While it is not my place to criticize any of the DPRK's potentially questionable actions, that does not mean I am blind to it all. I have watched every documentary and news special ever released on North Korea, past, present, and future. And while everyone out there wants to shove their predictions and beliefs down your throat, I feel it is much smarter to provide you with the evidence and then decide for yourself. If you really are curious about North Korea, these documentaries are some of the best (for different reasons) and will give you all the background information you need:

  • North Korea: A Day in the Life [2004] A 48-min North Korean documentary that shows the life of a "normal" Pyongyang citizen -- if by normal you mean 'military upper class,' then yes... Wildly interesting and informative though!
  • Crossing The Line [2006] Highly Recommended! British documentary about James Dresnok and the other Americans that defected to North Korea during the first half of the 1960s. It covers Korean history and post-war sentiments, the hatred the defectors Americans had to incur while at the same time being made stars of propaganda films by a young Kim Jong Il, and even takes you all the way up-to-date in modern Pyongyang.


The breathtaking spectacle that is the Mass Games

  • A State Of Mind [2004] Another British documentary, this one following two girls as they performed for North Korea's Mass Games. Again highly interesting, if not at what they show but at what they do not show.
  • Welcome To North Korea [2001] Shot entirely from footage gathered during a "normal" tour of North Korea, this will give you a basic glimpse at the most of DPRK us foreigners could ever hope to see.
  • Independent news specials that are also noteworthy:
    -Frontline: Kim's Nuclear Gamble
    -North Korea: Undercover In The Secret State (CNN)
    -Nuclear Nightmare: Understanding North Korea (Discovery)
  • Children Of The Secret State [2001] I loathe to even mention this title as it is one of the oldest and most mainstream of all DPRK documentaries. Footage from it has been re-used in EVERY single North Korean documentary since its release -- you have probably seen parts of this without even realizing it. Full of raw, uncut, and often shocking footage smuggled out of NK, this documentary tells the story of British journalists attempting to meet with an undercover smuggler of raw North Korean videos and one of North Korea's most wanted "criminals" while documenting how the North Korean Underground Railroad operates.
  • If you still need more to watch, check out: Kimjongilia, Friends Of Kim, and Seven Days In North Korea.

All of these documentaries and others are available for streaming and/or download via numerous online sources. Also consider searching for "North Korea megapack" -- it contains 16 documentaries in one quick and easy download. Additionally, you can also view the full list of documentary films about North Korea to see if you can find any others that you might have missed.

In closing, I wonder what further details to Kim Jong Il's "heart attack" will be released in the future. Probably not too much at all, considering the secretive state's track record. I am more curious as to the future of North Korea. Unfortunately, only time can will tell...

 

  Take a look at the news footage showing North Korean citizens and government employees weeping at the death of Kim Jong-Il. Some of it looks a little strained...not like the true grief that was experienced whenever Kim Il-Sung died. But what are your thoughts?

  How do you feel about North Korea and/or the death of Kim Jong-Il? Have you seen any of these documentaries or maybe even been to North Korea? Share your thoughts with us below!

Published in North Korea (DPRK)

Login to The HoliDaze to submit articles and comments or register your blog.