Tag Archives: travel

The Beach was a influential travel movie for Thailand…. did it inspire you to go?

The beach

The beach on Conde Nast

“A seen-it-all slacker (Leonardo DiCaprio) staying in a Bangkok hostel gets a secret invite to an island whose tall cliffs and dense tropical canopy have conspired to hide the most gorgeous sun spot in the world. As a piece of storytelling, The Beach falls short of the novel by Alex Garland from which it was adapted. But Phuket and Phi Phi Leh—the two beaches where the movie was filmed—are well-cast as places beautiful enough to drive a person nuts.” – Sarah Kerr, Conde Nast

The beaches of Thailand are certainly a wonderful lure to get us hooked, but the country is so much more than just crystal clear water, and stunning islands….to be fair though, for many of us that is enough. With a varied menu of water sports to keep every waterspouts enthusiast entertained: snorkel with whale sharks in Ko Taoof, climb the stunning sea cliffs of Krabi, swim in the surf of Bang Saphan Yai, kiteboard in Hua Hin, or restore your energy at any of the gorgeous Spa resorts.

However, for many people their first taste of this friendly and fun-loving, tropical paradise comes in the form of a delectable Thai meal and you can rest assured that the food only tastes better when you get there. 

Thai cuisine, reflects the varied elements of Thai culture: it is generous and warm, revitalizing and relaxed, jovial yet subtle, cultured and historic.

In this Buddhist nation, religious devotion is visible everywhere. Pristine temples play host to colorful and ubiquitous festivals, banyan trees wrapped in blessed cloth honor the residing spirits, small fortune-bringing shrines are dotted around homes and businesses, and car dashboards decorated with garlands ward off traffic accidents. This undercurrent of devotion bridges the divide between a continuous sense of tranquility and the day-to-day craziness. Delve into this aspect of the local culture by attending boisterous religious festivals, drift through underground cave shrines, climb up to scenic hilltop temples and attend meditation retreats in Chiang Mai.

However, if you really want to delve in and experience a more immersive trip, then add a  give back element. At Hands Up Holidays, we specialize in giving you this deeper cultural learning opportunity, whilst you improve the lives of orphans who’s parents may not be deceased, but who are unable to care for them. Work to improve the living situation of these children and teach them new skills and games so that they have opportunities in life that their parents could not offer them.  Laugh, joke and make new friends.

If you have children you might want to consider assisting at a project that is helping to rehabilitate former working elephants. It may put a stop to you ever wanting to ride an elephant again, but it will give you the indelible memory of working directly with these beautiful animals.

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Tourism is vital to Haiti’s economy – The Independent

In the following article, Simon Calder, travel guru writer from the Independent (www.independent.co.uk/travel/simon-calder/tourism-is-vital–to-this-wrecked-islands-recovery-1871976.html) makes a good point on the importance of tourism to help rebuild Haiti, although I would argue that this still needs to be done in a sensitive, responsible way, and for an even more beneficial and enriching experience, contain a voluntourism component:
“Guilt makes awkward baggage for the holidaymaker. From self-reproach about the impact on the planet of a flight to the sunshine, to the twinge of remorse about supporting human rights abuses by visiting China, many of us would prefer to leave our consciences at home.

But in a part of the world that has fallen victim to a humanitarian disaster, should the very notion of tourism be abhorrent? One in five respondents to an online poll conducted yesterday by CruiseCritic appears to think so. They described the return to Haiti’s Labadee Beach of cruise ships as “in poor taste”.

Now, from an ethical perspective you can criticise cruise lines for reducing tourism to a caricature. A vessel the size of a housing estate drifts around the Caribbean, her kitchens serving up absurd quantities of food in a region where many go hungry. She destabilises communities by delivering thousands of visitors at the start of the day then scooping them up before dark, before embarking on the next futile arc in the never-ending circle of indulgence.

You could also question the benefits to passengers of making scant and superficial visits to islands that deserve weeks of exploration, and disparage the way that Royal Caribbean markets “Labadee®”, its “private paradise” on the north coast of the island of “Hispaniola” – presumably a more marketable concept than the nation of Haiti, which has leased the stretch of shore to the cruise line. Yet even as the dead are being dragged from their wrecked homes, and the living are scavenging for food and water, you cannot fault the benefits to the people of that benighted country of hosting cruise ships. In the short term, the vessels are bringing in food, and Royal Caribbean has promised to donate its revenue from the visit to the rescue efforts. And in the long term, only tourism can save Haiti.

Tourism is a remarkable force in rebuilding nations torn apart by nature or war. It does not divert scarce resources: the beautiful beach at Labadee has little value other than as an earthly approximation to heaven. The industry provides plenty of jobs, and requires only modest capital; many residents on the neighbouring island of Cuba make modest incomes by letting out rooms to curious travellers. And despite the “take only photographs, leave only footprints” mantra (beloved of people who describe themselves as travellers, not tourists), visitors tend to leave something more tangible: foreign currency, a commodity essential for Haiti’s reconstruction when the emergency funds dry up.

When the tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day, 2004, thousands of people – both locals and tourists – were killed on the island of Phuket. But the following morning, one of the isle’s dive businesses that had been spared by the arbitrary fortune of geography started taking out clients as normal. Some – including the distraught relatives of foreign victims – may have seen this as repugnant profiteering, but Thai survivors regarded it as the beginnings of the renewal of an enchanted island.

Everyone (apart from those whose knowledge of geography is gleaned only from cruise brochures) knows now where Haiti is. It will not be long before curious visitors stray across from the Dominican Republic, or hop over from Cuba. Some will be disaster tourists, the sort who could hardly wait to see Sarajevo once the shooting stopped. But most will tread softly, befriend local people and spend freely. Indeed, the best way to counteract a troublesome travel conscience is to set a course for Haiti. And any ship will do.”

Well said, Simon.

What is voluntourism?

Voluntourism is a subject that is near and dear to my heart, as I am the founder of Hands Up Holidays (www.handsupholidays.com) and we focus on trips that blend eco-sightseeing with a taste of volunteering.

You don’t need specific skills, but if you do have some, we will try and match them wherever possible.

You don’t need to sleep on the floor…most of our trips are in 4-5* accommodation.

You don’t need to volunteer for 3-4 months…our trips are designed in careful consultation with local communities so that you can make a positive impact in 3-5 days.

All volunteer costs and materials are included in the trip price.

For example, one trip we offer is a 9 day trip to South Africa:

Days 1-3 Guests enjoy Cape Town’s scenic delights such as Table Mountain, the Cape Peninsula, and the Winelands

Days 4-6 Guests go into an AIDS orphanage and help relieve the daily burden of the permanent care-givers by assisting with cleaning, washing, repairs and renovations, thus freeing up the care-givers to focus on looking after the children.

Days 7-9 Guests go on a safari to a luxury game lodge to spot the ‘Big 5′ and other animals.
Travel philanthropy is a related subject, and as far as I can tell, the main difference between this and voluntourism is that with voluntourism trips, our guests actively get involved in volunteer projects for 3-5 days and pay a donation to the charity, whereas in travel philanthropy, guests do not get actively involved in a project, although they will visit it and then sponsor it.
Essentially they have the same ends: to transform lives through travel… both the travellers’ and the local peoples’ lives, and as ongoing sponsorship and passionate advocacy is a key aim of our trips, we share that in common with Travel Philanthropy.

From Hands Up Holidays’ perspective, it takes actually engaging with communities in a meaningful way by interacting through volunteering to capture the hearts and minds of our guests to want to be ongoing sponsors and advocates, but if people can reach this end without volunteering, then that is great as well.