August 31, 2017

10 reasons to stopover in Istanbul

1. AYA SOFYA

The Hagia Sophia (or Aya Sofya) is another of Istanbul’s top architectural wonders. More than 10 000 artisans and labourers worked non-stop to build this domed behemoth, and they did it in record time: five years, 10 months and four days. Built in 537 AD, it was the Roman Empire’s first Christian Cathedral and is one of the greatest surviving examples of Byzantine architecture. Marble pillars hold up the curved domes, while walls were richly decorated with intricate mosaics depicting the Virgin Mother, Jesus, saints and emperors and empresses.




That is until the Ottomans conquered Constantinople and converted the church into a mosque in 1453 and the mosaics and other artwork depicting Christianity were plastered and painted over with beautiful Islamic artwork. And so it remained until Turkey became an independent republic in 1923, and a few years later the mosque was converted into a secular heritage site. Restoration work has been underway ever since and the Byzantine mosaics have been slowly uncovered.

2. FREE ACCOMMODATION & FREE VISAS

Turkish Airlines is offering passengers with a transit time of 20 hours or more free accommodation in Istanbul, so you can stopover for free, gratis, mahala. The offer is valid for all passengers departing from South Africa en route to desintaions in Asia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. Economy class passengers receive a free one-night stay at a four-star hotel, while business class passengers are eligible for a two-night stay at a five-star hotel. Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant for details, or call 0861 47 48 49. And you can get a free visa for Turkey in just five minutes online. Test it out for yourself here.


3. TOPKAPI PALACE

Built between 1466 and 1478 by the sultan Mehmet II, Topkapi Palace is the biggest and one of the most popular sites to visit in Istanbul, but perhaps not for the reasons you would think. Yes, it’s an incredible piece of architectural work, but it’s the stories and legends that are the real attraction.



Lonely Planet summed it up best: “Topkapı is the subject of more colourful stories than most of the world's museums put together. Libidinous sultans, ambitious courtiers, beautiful concubines and scheming eunuchs lived and worked here between the 15th and 19th centuries when it was the court of the Ottoman empire. A visit to the palace's opulent pavilions, jewel-filled Treasury and sprawling Harem gives a fascinating glimpse into their lives.”

4. STREET ART

Walk down any street in Istanbul and you’ll see street art peeping out from behind doors, hiding around corners or boldly splashed over triple story buildings. There are sun-dappled courtyard cafés that double as street art galleries and whole districts where graffiti artists of all genres have used walls, buildings and street posts as their canvasses.



For the best street art head to: Istiklal Street, the Tünel area, Karaköy and Kadıköy. If you’re an iPhone user, download the StreetArt-Istanbul app which provides a map along with info on the artist. Also check out the Instagram account @istanbulstreetart.

5. THE BOSPHORUS 

A river cruise on the Bosphorus – the narrow strait that famously splits Istanbul between two continents, Asia and Europe – is an essential to any serious traveller’s list. Don’t forget to look out for Maiden’s Tower, a tiny tower perched atop an islet in the middle of the Bosphorus that dates back to the Byzantine period.



One of the tower’s many legends is that an emperor built it and exiled his beloved daughter there, to protect her from a prophesy that she would be bitten by a snake and die before she turned 18. Thinking he’d outsmarted the oracle, the emperor took his daughter a basket of fruit on her 18th birthday to celebrate. Of course a snake hiding in the basket bit the daughter, who died in her father’s arms.

6. THE BLUE MOSQUE

You can’t go to Istanbul without visiting the Sultan Ahmed Mosque – or the Blue Mosque as it is commonly known, owing to the 20 000 hand-painted ceramic tiles in blue-hued tulip designs that line the interior of the mosque.



The mosque took seven years to build back in 1609 and is famed for its five main domes, six minarets and eight secondary domes. Quite how they managed this architectural feat 400 years ago is astounding.

7. SPICE BAZAAR

An indoor market of 85 shops stacked wall-to-wall with plump rolls of multi-coloured Turkish delight, sticky baklava, barrels of spices, nuts, dried fruit, tea, Turkish coffee, jewellery and souvenirs.

 


Locals will tell you the Spice Bazaar is a better bet than the Grand Bazaar, which has become something of a tourist trap.

8. FOOD & COFFEE

The Turks like to eat, and eat, and eat. On every street corner of Istanbul you’ll find vendors selling simitci (like a bagel), freshy roasted chestnuts, roasted sweet corn. And that’s just for snacks inbetween mouthwatering main meals such as mezze platters, Kuzu güveç (a type of casserole) and Döner kebap.



For dessert (because there is always dessert), there seem to be more Turkish delight and baklava shops than people in this city of 14.5 million. And waffles; hundreds of waffle shops luring you in with their sweet scent. You need to enjoy these sweet treats with freshly-brewed, thick Turkish coffee, of course.

9. SHOPPING

Lamps, silver jewellery, leather jackets, Turkish rugs and bags, spices, teas, coffee, sweet treats…This is the bounty Istanbul is known for by mainstream shoppers and it can be found at the markets (head to Grand Bazaar or Spice Bazaar) and plenty of streetside shops.



But for serious shopaholics and fashionistas, there are secret treasures to be found in this city. Walk down side streets and discover local designers’ originals, vintage shops aplenty and high street shops selling haute couture. Go with an empty suitcase.

10. HAMAMS

Ah, the famed Hamam (traditional Turkish bath). These are found all over the city, but if you want the real McCoy, it’s best to avoid the very popular ones and find a hamam (or hamami) off the beaten tourist track.



Like the Tarihi Galatasaray Hamami down a narrow side street off the main shopping road of Istiklat Street. Here every inch of you will be steamed, scrubbed, foamed and rubbed down with some serious vigour. Leave your inhibitions at the door and enjoy.




GO HERE WITH SURE: Ask your nearest Sure Travel consultant about great fares from Turkish Airlines, or search here / call 0861 47 48 49. And remember, if you book a ticket with Turkish Airlines before 30 September with a Sure Travel agency, you could win R10 000 cash. Click here for details. 



August 29, 2017

#TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz: Answer

Where in the world can Trafalgar take you? 


FRANCE!

Vive la France! While France is certainly not a perfect country (remember Marie Antoinette and the whole Bastille debacle?), it certainly does have a lot of things going for it. Which is why it is the most visited country in the world, attracting more than 83 million tourists annually.

Besides the obvious attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, renowned Louvre and Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, France is loved for its joie de vivre (joy of living), and for its quirks.

An architectural triumph: Arc de Triomphe 
Like the Tumbleweed Hotel found at Shakespeare and Company, where prospective guests must write a biography and help out for an hour or two a day around the store to get a spot in one of the 13 beds. Here’s the best part: the beds are concealed as bookshelves during the day.

Disneyland Paris is, of course, amazing, but for a slightly less Americanised joy ride head to Musée des Arts Forains, a museum of antique carnival objects. Here you are invited to ride on 100-year-old carousels and experience the wonder and weirdness of amusement attractions from 1850 to 1950.

Take a whirl at the Musée des Arts Forains 
France – and Paris, in particular – is famed for its romantic attraction. When in the “City of Love”, look out for love locks, a modern take on an old tradition whereby sweethearts inscribe their names or initials on a padlock, attach it to a public structure and throw away the key to permanently seal their love. Also pay romantic pilgrimage at the 416 square feet Le mur des je t’aime (I Love You Wall) in Jehan-Rictus Square, created as a rendezvous location for lovers and a lasting monument to eternal adoration. The wall features the words “I love you” in 311 different languages, including all 192 languages of the United Nations. And if you really wanted to elope with a dead person, you can do it in France – simply issue a request to the president.

Love at the I Love You Wall
When it comes to France’s culinary offering, foodies will have more than enough happening to keep them happy, from fine dining to intimate cafés, France has them all. However, if you are looking for some more intriguing dining experiences make your way to Dans le Noir and dine in complete darkness. Also check out La Recyclerie. In stark contrast to the many famed and decadent eateries in France, La Recyclerie places its ethos on those three famous R’s: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Pick a café...

Whether its baguettes and berets or petanque and wine that draw you to France, discover this amazing destination with Trafalgar with the seven-night European Traveller package. Speak to your nearest Sure Travel consultant, or call 0861 47 48 49.


Play the #TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz and win!

WIN! A R350 SORBET VOUCHER

Simply guess…

Where in the WORLD Trafalgar can take you:



* I was the first country to introduce a public transport system.
* Up until 2012, there was only one stop sign within my borders, yet today I have more roundabouts than any other country (30,000 in fact).
* I have a law which prohibits my people from calling their pigs Napoleon.

Think you know the answer? 

To enter

1. Put your answer in the comment section of the competition post on 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 22, 2017

Top 10 selfie spots in South Africa

Majestic mountaintops, dramatic seascapes, wildlife and never ending landscapes... There’s nothing that makes your friends turn green with envy more than a “wish-you-were-here” selfie, and South Africa offers the perfect setting in spades. All you need to do is insert yourself into the picture.

1. Valley of Desolation, Graaff-Reinet

Photo © Carlota Maura/Shutterstock
You’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve touched down on mars when you arrive at the Valley of Desolation, just outside the small Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet. Sheer cliffs tumble down into the valley, punctuated by columns of dolerite rock that stretch precariously 120 metres into the air. These geological sentries are the result of hundreds of millions of years of erosion, evidence of the wheels of time that grind away oblivious to our triumphs and tragedies. Feel insignificant and marvel at the forces of nature surrounding you, then tag your friends.

2. Augrabie Falls, Northern Cape

Photo © SA Tourism
If you’re after thundering waterfalls and a lunar-like landscape, Augrabie Falls in the Northern Cape ticks all the boxes. The best time to whip out the selfie stick is when the Orange River is in full flood, with rainbows blooming above the deafening roar of the falls that plunge 53 metres into the river below.

3. Table Mountain, Cape Town

Photo © AdobeStock
Yes, it’s Cape Town’s most clichéd landmark but its iconic status is well earned, especially when you are standing on the (relatively) flat top that earned this hulk of rock its name. It’s nearly a sheer drop to the city bowl 1 000 metres below, where the shimmering Atlantic Ocean and Signal Hill make up a wide-angle vista that’s hard to beat. Just watch your step as you walk backwards to fit it all in frame.


4. Addo Elephant National Park, Eastern Cape

Photo © Martijn Barendse/Flickr
Whether you self-drive through the park or stay in one of the wooden cabins, you’re guaranteed to see elephants in close proximity at the Addo Elephant Park. Like, metres-from-your-car-window close. These majestic creatures are typically docile and uninterested in humans, not to mention it will be hard to miss this member of the Big Five lurking in the background of your shot. But if an ellie starts flapping its ears, it’s a good time to put the camera away and get going.

5. Nelson Mandela Capture Site, Howick, KwaZulu-Natal

Photo © SA Tourism
Set amongst the rolling hills of the Midlands in KwaZulu-Natal, the capture site marks the spot where police caught Nelson Mandela on 5 August 1962, ultimately leading to his 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island. A contemporary sculpture was built in 2012 which, at first, looks like a random collection of steel poles. But as you get closer along the specially designated walkway, the poles line up to produce a beautiful profile of South Africa’s most enduring icon, and the perfect opportunity to snap a pic with Madiba.

6. Waterfall Bluff, Wild Coast

Photo © Wild Coast Tourism
This is where the mountains literally meet the sea in a series of waterfalls that cascade over the edge of sheer cliffs into the ocean. The waterfalls are fuelled by the Mkhambathi River that flows all the way inland from the Drakensberg Mountains, creating a geological rarity. If the tide is low and you’re feeling brave, you can take a shower on the beach under the falls or in one of the many pools. Further north the ocean compresses all it’s might into a huge blowhole that sends plumes of water 50 feet into the air right behind you as you grip and grin. Waterproof camera recommended.

7. Hogsback, Amatola Mountains



Some JRR Tolkien fans claim this village high in the Amatola Mountains of the Eastern Cape was the inspiration for Tolkien’s Middle Earth, with its misty forests and shire-like appearance. But it’s a tenuous connection at best, or Tolkien had a remarkable memory for a three year old – that’s how old he was when his family left for England. This hasn’t stopped residents from embracing the claim and it shouldn’t stop you from visiting the charming hamlet with its distinct flat-topped mountains, abundant waterfalls and magical forests. If that’s not enough, just ask yourself where else on earth you’ll be able to snap a selfie in “Hobbit Lane”?

8. Cape Point, Cape Town

Photo © CT Tourism
Despite the popular myth, this is not where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet (that’s about 200 kilometres east at Cape Agulhas), but Cape Point is still a dramatic jaw-dropper. Stand next to the lighthouse straddling the point where huge cliffs plunge into the thundering ocean below and say cheese, or stroll along pristine beaches where ostriches and buck dash over the sand dunes. Just keep an eye out for the baboons as you auto-focus – they’re probably raiding your picnic basket in the background.

9. Namaqualand, Northern Cape

Photo © Adobestock
From August to September every year, the barren fields of Namaqualand north of Cape Town explode in a riot of colour as flowers of every hue come into bloom, marking the start of spring. Words don’t do justice to this rolling kaleidoscope of colour covering hills and fields that go on forever. Take a photo instead.

10. God’s Window, Mpumulanga

Photo © AdobeStock
Even the most jaded selfie-snapper will be left in awe as they peer down into the lush Blyde River Canyon from God’s Window. Billed as the highlight of the Panorama Route, this viewpoint looks over the largest “green canyon” in the world and offers spectacular views of the Lowveld, stretching all the way to the Kruger National Park in the distance. Guaranteed to make anyone a believer.

Pack your selfie stick and go exploring South Africa this Spring. Speak to your nearest Sure Travel consultant about great offers for local getaways, or visit www.suretravel.co.za / call 0861 47 48 49.

August 21, 2017

#TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz: Answer

Where in the world can Trafalgar take you? 




DUBLIN!

Pretty awesome and totally underrated, that’s Dublin – a vibey place to visit.

Dublin is synonymous with Guinness, and with more than 1 000 pubs in the city there’s plenty of opportunity to taste the famous dark ale. Be sure to stop in at one of the world’s oldest pubs, The Brazen Head, which dates back to 1168. Great news is that the locals in Dublin love visitors and they would rather buy a beer for a stranger than for a local. Just keep in mind that it is an offence to be intoxicated in public (police can – and do – issue on-the-spot fines).



Still on the subject of Dublin’s dark ale, the Guinness Storehouse is not only the historic headquarters of the beer giant, but it is also a hugely popular tourist attraction in its own right. Thanks to the lease contract it’s unlikely to be going anywhere soon – the world’s most famous brewery was originally leased for a mere 45 Irish pounds per year…on a 9 000-year lease.

If you are a hopeless romantic, then forget climbing the Eiffel Tower in Paris or floating in a gondola down the Venice canal ways, Dublin is the spot. In fact, Dublin is so romantic that the remains of St Valentine, the patron saint of love, are stored at the city’s Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, along with a shrine to the revered saint.

In Dublin, you don’t have to concur mountains to prove your love to your significant other. Ditch the proper climbing gear and pack a pair of tekkies instead. The Dublin “mountains” are not really mountains at all. The highest, the Sugarloaf, only reaches a height of 423.5 meters, which means it doesn’t actually get official mountain status. Perfect for a light ramble.



Fans of famous authors such as Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, James Joyce and of course George Bernard Shaw and WB Yeats will delight in the fact that all of these authors were former residents of the city. In honour of the city’s great contribution to historic literature, Dublin has even been listed as a Unesco City of Literature - one of only six cities in the world.

Another top spot not to be missed is Dublin’s O’Connell Bridge. The bridge is famous throughout Europe for its unique dimensions. It is one of the only bridges in the world to be wider than it is long. Not a bad achievement considering that until 1863 the only river crossing was a rope bridge that could hold just one person at a time. O’Connell street is also said to be one of the widest in Europe, measuring a whopping 49 metres across.



And, yes leprechauns do exist. Or at least in Dublin they do. Visitors interested the myths and legends of the cheeky, green-suited little lads should make their way to the city’s Leprechaun Museum. One of Dublin’s most unique attractions, the museum transports visitors into a wonderland of Irish folklore, complete with a “shrinking tunnel”, a giant Alice in Wonderland-style tearoom and the chance to hunt for pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.



Find your own pot of gold in Dublin with Trafalgar Tours. See it from the inside with the 8-day Britain and Ireland Highlights package. 



Play the #TravelTuesday with Trafalgar quiz and win!

Win a R350 Sorbet voucher!

Simply guess…
Where in the WORLD Trafalgar Tours can take you:



* I am a city in Europe, but you can also find places in the US and Australia that carry my name.
* I have the youngest population in all of Europe: approximately 50% are younger than 25.
* More than 1 000 pubs call me home.
* My name means “Black Pool”.

To enter

1. Put your answer in the comment section of the competition post on 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 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.

 

TOP TIP

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.

 

TOP TIP

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.

TOP TIP

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.

 

TOP TIP

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!


TOP TIP

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.

 TOP TIP 

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!

 

TOP TIP

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.

 

TOP TIP 

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.


TOP TIP

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!

 

TOP TIP

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? 


MACAU!

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!

WIN! A R350 SORBET VOUCHER

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