So there I was, up at 6:00am. There was no need really. I had nowhere to go or nothing to do for another good 2 hours. Everyone in the house was asleep. So obviously, like any highly social individual in this day and age I logged on to Twitter. Maybe it was my last nights trip to the airport to pick someone up, but I was in a travel mood so I started tweeting about Things2Know and Stuff2Do when you travel. Somewhere after the 4th or 5th tweet I could see this becoming a post for the blog. I have been really lazy in finishing up my posts from the recent Caribbean Cruise so this proved to be a perfect excuse. I will not stick to the Twitter format of limiting each entry to 140 characters, but will keep it as concise as possible.
Stuff2Do - Hong Kong Disneyland - is an excellent theme park especially for smaller children (Ages 1-5). I have had the opportunity and pleasure of having visited all the Disney's in the world, and HK Disney is by far the best for the tiny members of the family. I took my daughter there on her 1st Birthday (2 years back) and she was able to enjoy pretty much all the rides (with adult supervision) barring the roller-coaster and the Driving School. Extremely family friendly there should be no worries about the facilities as you can find pretty much everything (baby rooms, stroller stands, medical) you might need at different locations in the park. Make sure you take a stroller with you for the little ones as there is quite a bit of walking you have to do to get around. Good walking shoes are also recommended. To make the holiday memorable, stay at one of the two Disneyland Hotels for a few nights.
So, if you have a tiny tot in your house and are not sure where to travel with a child, head over to Disney HK, a place of fun for the young and young at heart.
Things2Know - Taxi Rip - Me and my family have had some unfortunate instances when it comes to hiring a Taxi in Singapore and Hong Kong. The first few times we went to Singapore (and we love going there) we were over charged by the taxi drivers. So, two little tips can help you from getting ripped; Firstly, check with your Hotel to get an idea of the approximate cost to your destination. Make sure you ask about any extra charge they might have for luggage or a night charge. This way you will have a rough idea of what needs to be paid (keep in mind traffic delays can always increase the cost). Also if you are carrying a phone, keep the Hotel's phone number handy and in case you feel you are being ripped off, you can always call the Hotel (if you took the taxi from the hotel) and have them talk to the cab driver. Secondly, as a rule of thumb, always note (or as I do, take a picture) of the Taxi's number plate. Worse case scenario if you do end up paying more, you can always come back and get help if you have the car number.
Insiders Tip - Taxi drivers in India unfortunately aren't all that great either. So once again rent through your hotel where possible. Most important, when arriving at New Delhi airport, make sure you take the Delhi Police organized Pre-Paid Taxi as they are the safest and charge you the right amount.
Stuff2Do - Take A Punt - When in the wonderful town of Cambridge, England make sure you keep the afternoon free for some punting. A leisurely ride along the River Cam is a must do in my book of travels. For the adventurous and to an extent suicidal individuals, you can hire a boat and be your own punter. For the more relaxed individual, let the professionals do their job. You will also be helping the local student population as most of the students work as punters to earn extra cash. You find the students spread across the main touristy areas enticing you to take a punt, so to speak, but remember to bargain because we were originally offered £10 per person and £5 for my then 2-year old daughter, but eventually ended up paying £7 p/p and Saanvi (my daughter) went for free. Also do not feel bad about it. I mean by bargaining all that you are doing is providing these young minds with business acumen that only real life situations can provide.
Your punter will also be your source of entertainment and information giving you an inside (well technically outside :-) look at the city's colleges and their rivalries and friendships. So, what you can do in the end is give a tip to your punter provided you enjoyed your little boat ride (although it is not expected).
Things2Know - One Man's Family Day is Another Man's Nightmare - Now, don't get me wrong, Singaporean companies have this wonderful event where they call the families of their employees free of charge to one of the numerous theme parks or leisure centers for a day of fun. What that accounts for is say Singapore Zoo having an extra 8000 people than normal on a Family Day. We learned this the hard way when we reached the Jurong Bird Park to be greeted by a tremendous crowd. The remainder of the day was spent avoiding stepping on people's food (every stretch of land was being converted into a make shift picnic area by the families) or standing in lines to see an event. You can forget about the birds or the peace and calm one might experience when in-between nature. So here is a small tip, CHECK!, Check when you book your tour that no family day is taking place on that day. One thing interesting did happen as a result of the family day. We got to see President S. R. Nathan as he was the chief guest and I can only thank God that he travels with less than half the security our own Indian President has.
Things2Know - Mind Your Luggage - The train route from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central is notorious for pick pockets and luggage stealers. Always keep your luggage close to you, specially light items like laptops, purses, bags. The baggage thieves are trained professionals and work in groups at times. So, if right after finding out your bag is missing a person tells you he saw someone running in one direction, do not count out the opposite direction.
My parents had the misfortune of having their briefcase stolen at Amsterdam Central Station while they boarded the TGV to France. Although they lost their passports, but were lucky enough that there was no money in the briefcase. On a slightly positive side, they found the Police to be extremely helpful.
Stuff2Do - Are you happy to see me, or is that a camera in your pocket? - Something I realized during my long summers spent in Birmingham, UK and even at home in India is that you need to have a camera with you all the time. I've realized that there is always something happening around you that you would want to take a picture of. Street performers, a funny sign board, foods and drinks, the weather and light and it's effect on buildings, people, ... The list is endless. I for one am always borrowing my wife's iPhone to take pictures, something she detests as she has to keep taking it out of her purse (which I bought for her mind you :-). So I strongly recommend that you either carry a phone with a darn good camera or invest in a small point and shoot camera for your everyday needs.
Things2Know & Stuff2Do - So, lastly the most important tip is to carry with you the most effective weapon that each and every traveler should have. Make sure you use it often and without a hint of doubt. What is it then? Well it's your SMILE!