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August 15, 2017

#NoFilterNeeded: How to take the perfect shot at Asia’s most Instagram-worthy travel destinations   

Asia is home to some of the world’s most Instagrammed locations, so Cathay Pacific roped in some experts to share the 10 top spots and how to take that envy-invoking shot.

1. Visit Chiang Mai’s ‘Umbrella Village’

Bor Sang Village in Thailand is one of the few places in the world that known for creating beautiful and delicate “Sa” paper umbrellas and parasols. Visitors to the village, located just outside the charming city of Chiang Mai, are greeted by a sea of beautiful and intricately designed umbrellas, just waiting to be captured and added to your Instagram feed.



Bypass the Instagram filters when the goal is to convey the natural colours and vibrancy of a scene. Try to use the manual photo editing functions instead to manipulate brightness, contrast and warmth, to achieve a more pleasing effect.

2. Take a selfie with Confucius

The Temple of Confucius in Beijing is the largest Confucian temple in China and was built in 1302 A.D. While this temple is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Beijing, the sheer size of the complex along with its many intricate and fascinating features means there’s always a unique angle to capture that others may not have thought about.



Use your individuality to your advantage when it comes to snapping a pic of popular attractions – play with angles by taking photos from unusual vantage points, like a bench or even while lying on the ground.

3. Snap a new profile pic in Shanghai’s ‘Slaughterhouse’

The 1933 Slaughterhouse in Shanghai is a delightfully eerie four-storey Gotham-Deco building made of concrete, glass and steel. Formerly an abattoir, the building was designed for efficiency, but it’s style and aesthetic make it an architectural wonder. As the last of its kind in the world, the Slaughterhouse is a must-see for ‘grammers visiting the city.


Compose yourself; with the angular concrete design and many interlocking stairways of the Slaughterhouse, it’s important to have a strong focal point in the frame to direct the viewer’s eyes to a subject. Take some time to understand what you want your photo to “say” to the viewer, before taking it.

4. Strike a top of the world pose on Lion Rock

The top of Lion Rock in Kowloon, Hong Kong, is the perfect place to capture the classic city-scape photo – just remember to take a friend along who can snap a picture of you against the stunning backdrop! The 2.8 kilometre hike from Wong Tai Sun is well worth the effort, if only to catch a glimpse of Hong Kong’s incredible skyscrapers, Victoria Harbour and lush greenery against the backdrop of the hazy hills beyond.



Take advantage of natural light which offers the best contrasts and shadows you can achieve without the use of a filter. Make sure you hike on a clear and sunny day so you can capture Hong Kong’s skyline in all its natural glory, without those pesky clouds getting in the way.

5. Take an ‘Instawalk’ through Old Phuket Town

Old Phuket Town in Thailand was established in mid-19th century and, aside from being a hotspot for local delicacies and artisanal ware, it offers a variety of amazing photo opportunities. It’s a vibrant marketplace with a diverse array of people and local culture buzzing about and going about their day amid well-maintained Sino-Portuguese buildings lining the streets. Blink and you might miss an opportunity for the perfect shot – but the chance to take a great photo here is never far off!


Candid photos are often the most interesting, so avoid the static posed picture here and opt for an “active” picture instead – this is when we get to see the true character of people within their environment come to life.

6. Add a classic island selfie to your travel album

Escape the Bangkok’s bustling city centre and head for the Thai island of Bang Krachao. Known as the “Green Lungs” of Bangkok, this lush and tranquil oasis is an ideal escape for the wandering traveller in search of a little ‘me time’ – and a little ‘gram time too! Go on a hike along the winding trails, or rent a bike and cycle around if you like.


Even if you’re a particularly proficient cyclist, as a tourist you may not be familiar with traffic patterns or unwritten road etiquette in a city you’re visiting for the first time. Attach a filming device or camera to your bike or helmet and capture the action safely.

7. Catch a glimpse of a virtually untouched fresh-water waterfall in Bali

Take a dip in the pristine and refreshing valley at the bottom of the Benang Stokel Waterfall, located in Lombok, Bali. This 20-metre high waterfall is surrounded by a wall of lush greenery and a variety of vegetation, and is just an hour’s drive from Mataram. Get a friend to snap a few photos of you frolicking in the water as the falls gush down from above, because every Bali Instagram feed needs a waterfall!



Lighting is key when it comes to capturing great nature shots. Early morning and evening outdoor lighting tends to be softer, creating an aesthetically pleasing hue of colours.

8. Take your followers on a tour of Nguyen Hue Street in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

For those who enjoy people watching, Vietnam's Nguyen Hue Street is the place for you. The street leads to the stunning French colonial style city hall and is lined with a range of exquisite boutiques and cafes, forming the perfect backdrop for a Ho Chi Minh by Night photograph.



Increase engagement with your Instagram posts by improving your hashtags to help more people find and appreciate your posts. Think about what people would search for, and be sure to leverage existing hashtags that are already trending.

9. Indulge your techie side in Tokyo

Akihabara, also known as Akiba, is considered the birthplace of the “Otaku” fan culture, which refers to a specific group of young people in Japan who are obsessed with tech and pop culture, such as the Manga and Animé genres. Anyone looking to photograph something a little different is bound to find the perfect ‘gram in Akiba – from costumed comic heroes to modern architecture.


Make use of the rear-facing camera instead of the front camera that is most used for selfies – the rear-facing camera offers a higher resolution, resulting in sharp, high quality images.

10. Take a picture-perfect boat ride along the Yamazaki River

The Yamazaki River in Nagoya, Japan, is ideal for capturing picturesque nature shots of glistening water lined by lush cherry blossom trees – just be sure to visit during spring, when the cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. There is also a variety of tantalising food truck stops to enjoy along the way that the foodie photographers will love!



Position your phone horizontally when taking photos. Landscape shots allow you to include more scenery in the picture, which you can then crop based on the details you want to display. Remember, the best photos tell the viewer a story.

GO HERE WITH SURE: Light up your Instagram feed with your own Asia shots. Sure Travel’s airline partner Cathay Pacific flies daily from Johannesburg to Hong Kong, with connecting flights onwards to every corner of Asia. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or visit the online flight search / call 0861 47 48 49. 

#TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz: Answer

Where in the world can Trafalgar take you? 


Gambling, a goddess, a king and almond cookies…welcome to the “Vegas of China” – the Macau Special Administrative Region, the Chinese home of gambling and glitz.

A Portuguese colony for more than 300 years, the city of Macau is a swirl of cultures, making it a sought-after day trip or overnight stay on a Hong Kong trip.

Although Macau has moved on from its European colonial days and now falls under China, it is governed under a “One Country, two systems” formula. An agreement was made in which China promised that its political and economic system would not be imposed on Macau. The city therefore maintains its own currency and border controls and flights from mainland China to Macau are still treated as international flights. And its why Macau can get away with allowing gambling, legally, within Chinese borders.

Feeling lucky?
To say that gambling in Macau is a big thing would be a massive understatement: it is said that there are more than four times as many gambling tables per 1 000 residents than hospital beds. The city generates more revenue from gambling than anywhere else in the world – even Vegas (its gambling tables pump out about seven times the revenue generated by “The Strip” in Las Vegas).

Go big at the Venetian Macao
The landmark of Macao’s own strip is the Venetian Macao, the largest casino in the world. It’s hard to miss, being the third largest Hotel building in Asia and the sixth largest building in the world (according to the floor area).

Not a gambler? There are plenty of other highlights to discover: culture, beaches, fortresses, churches, temples, gardens and excellent museums – take your pick.

Don’t miss the Fortaleza do Monte, a Unesco World Heritage Site that forms part of the “Historic Centre of Macau”. The fort was constructed between 1617 and 1626 on the 52-metre tall Mount Hill to protect the properties of the Portuguese Jesuits in Macau, mostly from pirates.

Fortaleza do Monte
Another must-see is the A-Ma Temple. The temple existed in 1488, long before the city of Macau came into being, and is an exemplary representation of the true diversity of Chinese culture as it is inspired by Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism and multiple folk beliefs. Locals actually believe that the name “Macau” was derived from the deity Matsu (the goddess of seafarers and fishermen) worshipped at the temple.

A-Ma Temple
And don’t forget the food. With its cultural diversity drawing influences from Chinese, Portugal and Europe, it is a place where you can indulge in Chinese congee for breakfast, enjoy a Portuguese lunch of caldo verde soup and bacalhau (cod) fritters, and dine on hybrid Macanese fare such as minchi (ground beef or pork, often served over rice) for dinner. However, almond cookies are regarded as the king of Macanese snacks and are among the top three must-buy gifts of tourists.

Many flavours, one destination. Tuck in.
Also, don’t be surprised if you hear alternate versions of Portuguese or Creole while walking the streets. Macau has its own dialect of Portuguese called "Macanese Portuguese" and a distinctive creole generally known as "Patuá".

Want to experience this unique destination? See it from the inside with Trafalgar's four-day Hong Kong and Macau Experience.

August 14, 2017

Play the #TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz!


Simply guess…

Where in the WORLD Trafalgar can take you:

* I am known as the Las Vegas of the East.
* I am the only city in my country where it is legal to gamble.
* I have a history of strange names: I was known as Haojing (meaning “Oyster Mirror”) and later as Jinghai (meaning “Mirror Sea”).
* I have my own dialect of Portuguese.

Think you know the answer? 

To enter

1. Put your answer in the comment section of the competition post Facebook.
2. Add the hashtags: #TravelTuesday #Trafalgar after your answer.
3. Share the competition post on your own Facebook page.

It’s really that easy! The winner will be announced on social media tomorrow.

Terms and conditions:
1. One winner will be selected at random from the correct entries.
2. The judge’s decision is final and no further correspondence will be entered into.
3. The winner will receive a R350 Sorbet voucher, courtesy of Trafalgar Tours.
4. The voucher will be posted to the winner by Trafalgar Tours.
5. Prizes not claimed after two weeks will be forfeited.
6. Competition is open to South African residents only.

August 10, 2017

Qatar waives visas for South Africans

Qatar’s tourism authorities have announced that they will allow visa-free entry for citizens of 80 countries – including South Africa – effective immediately.

Citizens of these 80 countries no longer need to apply or pay for a visa. Instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued free-of-charge at the port of entry, upon presentation of a valid passport with a minimum validity of six months and a confirmed onward or return ticket.

The cultural hub of Katara, Qatar
South African travellers are eligible for a 30-day visa valid from the date of issue. The visa entitles the holder to spend 30 days in Qatar, during either a single trip or on multiple trips. There is also an option to apply for an extension of the waiver for an additional 30 days (multiple-entry waiver).

No visa is good news for South Africans wanting to take advantage of Qatar Airways’ offer of complimentary hotel stays and/or city tours on qualifying air fares. Ask your Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49.

Qatar's inland sea

August 9, 2017

#TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz: Answer

Where in the world can Trafalgar take you? 


What’s in a name? Well a lot if it’s Bangkok you’re talking about: it’s traditional name is “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Yuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit”. Directly translated means: “The city of angels, the great city, the eternal jewel city, the impregnable city of God Indra, the grand capital of the world endowed with nine precious gems, the happy city, abounding in an enormous Royal Palace that resembles the heavenly abode where reigns the reincarnated god, a city given by Indra and built by Vishnukam”. Even Thais find it a bit of a mouthful and usually refer to Bangkok as Thep Maha Nakhon or Krung Thep, or City of Angels to Anglophiles.

Another popular name for Thailand’s capital is “Venice of the East”, owing to the fact that Bangkok used to be a city of canals and the original buildings were on stilts. While most canals have been filled and paved over, there is still very much a Venice feel to the city, with its floating market where traders ply their wares from traditional longtail boats. And, just as Venice is sinking, so too is Bangkok at a rate of two to five centimetres a year – thanks to heavy urban development.

More than anything, though, Bangkok is a city of extreme contrasts. Ranging from spectacular temples to the vibrant and famously risqué nightlife, from the many orange-robed monks walking its streets to its busy corporate centre. This is clear from the city’s most famous attractions, which include the Grand Palace, Buddhist temples such as Wat Arun and Wat Pho, and the nightlife scene at Khaosan Road and Patpong.

A fun way to explore the temples is to use the local currency. All Thai Baht coins have all the temples stamped on their back, all found in Bangkok. You can visit them all in one day using the coins as clues.

Also stop in at  Yaowarat, the local Chinatown. It is the world’s largest Chinatown, home to over a million Chinese people, and one of the most vibrant places in Bangkok to shop and eat. Speaking of markets, a trip to Bangkok is incomplete without visiting Chatuchak Weekend market. Divided into 27 sections, it is one of the world’s biggest weekend markets and a heaven for foodies and bargain-hunters.

It’s no secret that Bangkok is one of the biggest foodie destinations in the world. Who would have thought that Mango and sticky rice makes for the most delectable flavour combination? You will find several permanent mango dessert stores throughout Bangkok and it is a must-try dish.

Salty, spicy and a little tangy, the “morning glory” should be another dish on your foodie list. Made from water spinach, it is a good idea to pair it with pork neck and a spicy Thai sauce. For a night out, try one of Bangkok’s famous dinner cruises. Mix your dining with a disco-themed cruise or opt for something more romantic and subdued offering live performances onboard.

Stopover on your way to the Thailand’s amazing beaches, or make a trip of it. Whichever you choose, make sure you see this City of Angels.

Experience the city with many names and experiences. See it from the inside with Trafalgar Tours’ 14-day Treasures of Thailand package.

August 8, 2017

6 ways travel boosts #GirlPower

Though the gender pay gap persists in some industries (yes, sadly, in 2017), the good news is that we pavement-pounding ladies are making some serious cash and spending it on seeing the world like never before. When it comes to travel, these days, we’re in charge of all the financial decision-making and have some pretty notable purchasing power. In fact, women make 80% of all travel decisions.

Photo © AdobeStock
Whether it’s a solo trip or a girl’s getaway, more women are discovering the liberating effect of travel. Kelly Jackson, general manager of youth travel brand Contiki, explains why:

1.  Solo travel = self-growth 

“In the decade since the Eat, Pay, Love phenomenon, a growing number of women are opting for a little soul-searching solo travel. These days, there’s no shortage of inspiring female explorers who are taking charge and transforming their lives through travel,” says Jackson.

Photo © AdobeStock
Not only do you learn about the people, culture, architecture and history of foreign places, you learn about yourself. With the help of GPS technology and apps, independent female travellers are less daunted by the idea of a solo adventure.

2. Trips with purpose enrich lives

Travel offers the chance to interact with female-focused organisations worldwide, allowing women to empower both themselves and other women in their journeys. Many community development trips include initiatives that allow travellers to enrich women from less advantaged parts of the world through educational and infrastructure-building opportunities.

“Through our TreadRight Foundation and our MeToWe association, we offer our guests the chance to volunteer and make real change in the communities we travel through,” says Jackson. “Our MeToWe volunteer trips can be done in India or Ecuador and are a one-of-kind experience connecting our travellers with local families and their extended community,” says Jackson.

3. Adventure trips test grit

It’s no secret that female travellers are swapping the swanky spa and beach vacations for more experience-filled adventure trips.

An escape from the daily grind is also increasingly a chance for women to challenge themselves physically – whether that means climbing a mountain (anyone up for Machu Picchu?), heli-skiing or white water rafting down a wild river.

4. New connections grow global networks

Making new friends is one of the best side effects of travel, and you’ll gain confidence as you network and bond with other driven women.

This means that, not only will you have a tour guide if you ever happen to be in a newfound friend’s city, you’ll also make valuable business connections in our increasingly global economy.

5. Friends feed the soul

A little oestrogen-filled conversation is always good for the soul. There’s something empowering and therapeutic about ladies-only trips.

Not only is there no shortage of laughter and inside jokes, they also offer quality time to exchange stories, goals and challenges with the leading ladies in your life.

6. Travel can become a business

Travel has also offered an opportunity for countless female travel bloggers to turn their passion for travel into a lucrative business, as they share their experiences, tips and seasoned insights with fellow travel-loving followers.
Kristin Addis, on the job    Photo ©BeMyTravelMuse
Like Kristin Addis, who quit her job in finance to become a full-time solo female traveller and now blogs from Be My Travel Muse. Blogs like hers are a powerful platform for women’s voice to be heard.

GO TRAVEL WITH SURE: Inspired to push the boat out and let travel change your world? Ask your Sure Travel consultant about packages with Contiki or sister companies’ Trafalgar Tours and Insight Vacations, or call 0861 47 48 49.