On October 1, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Bali is a vacation paradise for kids and their parents. You’ll find plenty of activities that the whole family can enjoy. When (or if) the kids get tired of the water, here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors say are the best things to do with kids in Bali:
1. Visit Bali Treetop Adventure Park. Set in the Bali Botanical Garden, this unique park offers a bunch of fun circuit challenges designed for kids as young as four. The challenges involve Tarzan swings, zipwires, footbridges and more.
2. Sign up for a cooking class. See if your resort offers cooking classes or choose one that does if something like this interests you. The one at Amandari involves a trip to a local market followed by a multi-course meal. If older kids are interested in cooking, it’s a great way to learn about the local culture and enjoy mouthwatering cuisine you prepare together.
3. Visit the Monkey Forest. There are a ton of monkeys in Ubud, but they are mostly hanging out in the Monkey Forest, which makes visiting them convenient and easy. The monkeys roam free, so watch your sunglasses.
4. Go to Bali Safari and Marine Park. You can’t go wrong with a zoo in a tropical paradise that houses elephants, tigers, leopards, komodo dragons and more.
5. See Bali Bird Park. Among the 1,000 birds and 250 species, you’ll see local birds as well as some from Africa and South America. The kids will enjoy seeing some outrageous looking birds.
On October 1, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Here’s what our Forbes Travel Guide editors say are the best things to see and do in Bali:
1. Hit the beach. It’s why you’re in this island paradise. Seminyak is a great place to enjoy the beach. It has white sand and a charming town with lots of restaurants and shops, which brings us to our next thing...
2. Shop. The shopping in Bali is as diverse as the landscape of the island. Seminyak is great for boutiques that sell beautiful crafts. The Klung Kung Markets on Saturday, a 45-minute drive from Ubud, are also great for antiques and local handicrafts. You’ll be tempted by sterling silver jewelry, wood carvings and beautiful sarongs.
3. See some wildlife. Whether it’s through snorkeling and seeing the fish in their natural habitat or on a trek through the Safari and Marine Park to get a glimpse of some white tigers and leopards, Bali offers you the chance to get up close and personal with nature.
4. Hike. Bali is beautiful and you will only truly grasp the truth in this statement if you get out into the mountains and rice paddies of Ubud. The tiered irrigation system is incredibly tranquil and the people seem to be among the happiest on earth. Put on your sandals, hire a driver and go.
5. Eat. From every part of the pig to fresh fruits and vegetables, food in Bali does not disappoint. Be sure to check out Naughty Nuri’s for its legendary ribs and Ku De Ta for a gourmet breakfast with a view.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Burma became Myanmar and Rangoon was changed to Yangon in 1989 when the country fell under the rule of a widely maligned military junta that stayed in power until 2011, when it was formally dissolved. The variations in spellings and pronunciations came out of the country’s years spent under British rule, so while you can use whichever ones you’d like, choosing one name over the other has historically been a political act. For example, the United States has regularly referred to the country as Burma instead of Myanmar as a way to call into question the junta’s authority.
Though a new government has been put into place, many officials from the previous junta are still in positions of power. Still, international relations are quickly changing – the U.S. recently lifted long-standing sanctions on the country – so it’s likely that nomenclature differences such as these may soon fade.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Myanmar is known for its dazzling rubies, but gem scams are somewhat common and purchasing these precious stones can be tricky unless you know how to spot the differences between a fake and the real deal. If you do decide to shop for rubies or other gems, we feel it’s important to note that many rubies are often obtained through slave-like working conditions and that all precious stone purchases are supposed to be properly documented with receipts.
Our Forbes Travel Guide editors instead suggest that the best thing to bring home from Yangon are pearl necklaces, handmade longyis (for both men and women) or one of the many beautiful antiques found throughout the city in markets, small shops and roadside stalls. When you buy such items directly from a vendor, your tourist dollars will almost certainly go to the right place (as opposed to a government-sponsored store) and help the local economy, so purchase such souvenirs without a trace of regret.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Those familiar with the robust flavors and spices of Thai and Indian food will find many similarities in Yangon’s Burmese cuisine. While tasting your way through the local dishes in this spellbinding city, make sure to seek out our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ five favorite food experiences:
1. Sugarcane Juice. When you see somebody turning a crank at a large metal contraption on the street and grinding what looks like thick, creamy yellow stalks, this is your cue to pull up a stool and order a cup of freshly “squeezed” sugarcane juice. It’s incredibly refreshing on a hot day and not as sweet as you might think – think liquid powdered sugar with a hint of lime.
2. Mohinga. Mohinga is a satisfying Burmese fish-and-noodle soup and national dish that locals often indulge for breakfast. It’s served at restaurants and street stalls throughout the day – one of our favorite spots to slurp a bowl of it down at is Feel Myanmar Food.
3. Mont let Saung. Tapioca, rice, coconut and sesame seeds drowned in coconut milk make up this sweet, refreshing dessert. Shwe yin aye is another tasty variation made with seaweed, coconut milk, tapioca, sugar, rice flour and ice.
4. Lahpet. These are pickled tea leaves served in salads as well as drunk in green or black tea. Lahpet is a local favorite, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to try it in many different varieties.
5. Burmese-style Indian. Try Burmese takes on popular Indian specialties such as biryani, chapati and falooda. If you want to enjoy it with some kind of protein, seafood is generally safe in Yangon thanks to its location near the coast, but we advise sticking with pork and poultry if you travel north to Mandalay just to be on the safe side.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Don’t expect much of a lively nightlife scene in sleepy Yangon, a laid-back city still emerging from years of rule by an oppressive junta that at times enforced dusk-to-dawn curfews and other strict rules. With that said, there are a few wonderful spots for kicking back a few cold drinks after a hot day exploring the city.
For a taste of expat life in Yangon our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend heading to 50th Street Café Restaurant and Bar for international dishes, happy hour drink specials, free Wi-Fi and a chat with the foreign aid workers and journalists who frequent this cozy spot. For more glitz and glamour and a glimpse at what might be in store for Yangon in the coming years, The Space Bar is a modern club with a sleek bar area and comfortable outdoor seating. Many of the city’s luxury hotels, including The Strand Yangon, also have stately bars frequented by an affluent international clientele.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:While you should be sure to have plenty of open space on your memory card for all the photos you’ll be snapping of Yangon’s spectacular sites, there actually aren’t too many attractions in the city so you should be able to see the major ones in just one day.
Our Forbes Travel Guide editors suggestion getting an early start to your day, when the sun is still low and before the temperature precipitously rises, with a walking tour through Yangon’s winding streets, where you’ll pass crumbling architecture and get a feel for the deeply religious nature of the locals. If you want to do it yourself without the assistance of a guide, mine the Yangon City Heritage List for suggested spots to seek out, including government offices, the old railway station and various pagodas. Stop for some traditional Burmese food at Feel Myanmar Food or Happy Café and Noodles, then hail a taxi and head to Chaukhtatgyi Paya to see the massive indoor reclining Buddha – ask your driver to wait for you since taxis are often few and far between in this area.
Afterwards have your driver drop you off at Bogyoke Aung San Market, where you can browse pearls, rubies, silks and much more – this is one of our favorite shopping experiences in Yangon. Give yourself enough time to wrap up your afternoon watching the sun set behind the truly stunning Shwedagon Pagoda, considered by Buddhists as the holiest place in the country. Linger as long as you’d like, then finish the day in style with a gourmet dinner and glass of wine at upscale Le Plenteur.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Centrally located Bogyoke Aung San Market offers the best shopping opportunities in Yangon. A quick browse through the stalls at this sprawling market will yield everything from handmade longyis to gold and gems priced at a fraction of the cost they’re sold for in most other parts of the world. Burma is known for its rubies, but the purchase of these and other precious stones is regulated by the government and should be done with official certification.
The market is also a popular place to change American dollars over to kyat, the local currency. (Burma does – finally – have some ATMs, but at the moment they are only for local account holders.) The exchange rate often differs from one money changer to the next, so feel free to try and negotiate the best rate possible and to try a different vendor if you’re not happy with the offer.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Though Yangon doesn’t have many attractions specifically geared towards kids, younger travelers will enjoy seeing most of the major attractions in Yangon just as much as you will. Here are our Forbes Travel Guide editors’ picks for the five best things to do with kids in Burma’s former capital city:
1. Shwedagon Pagoda. This spectacular sacred site has great appeal for visitors of all ages. You’ll see local families praying and lounging around this towering gilded pagoda, which has lots of open space conducive to exploring. Don’t forget your camera – and a near-empty memory card – and try to time your visit around sunset.
2. Chaukhtatgyi Paya. What child would not love to stand before a 240-foot long reclining Buddha? This is one of our favorite attractions in Yangon and is well worth the short venture out from downtown – just be sure to ask your taxi driver to wait for you since taxis are not widely available otherwise.
3. Bogyoke Aung San Market. While the majority of the goods for sale at this market are geared more towards adults, kids will still find all sorts of games and baubles to beg you for. After winding your way through the stalls, look for one of the many gigantic metal juicers lining the road outside and stop for cups of fresh sugarcane juice.
4. Swimming. If your hotel does not have a pool, you and your little ones can take a break from Yangon’s dusty heat by taking a dip in one of the city’s three public pools: Kandawgyi Swimming Pool, Kokkin Swimming Club and the National Swimming Pool.
5. Kandawgyi Lake. A lush 110-acre park that’s popular for strolling and picnicking wraps around this beautiful lake, where kids will be fascinated by the golden Karaweik barge that’s parked near the eastern shore. There’s also a zoological garden with an amusement park and aquarium, though the condition of the zoo’s facilities may trouble some animal lovers.
On August 29, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:It should come as no surprise that in deeply Buddhist Burma the two main attractions in Yangon for locals and tourists alike revolve around that religion – bring your camera because both are truly special places. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors think you should be able to knock off the five best things to do and see in Yangon in two days or less:
1. Shwedagon Pagoda. You could easily spend hours basking in the peaceful ambience that blankets the area around this gilded 325-foot tall pagoda. It’s purported to house a number of Buddhist relics, including hair from Gautama Buddha, and attracts hordes of locals and tourists alike. The pagoda is particularly magical around sunset.
2. Chaukhtatgyi Paya. Giant reclining Buddhas are not particularly rare in Asia, but this one is well worth seeing. Make sure to check out the Buddha’s crown, which is encrusted with diamonds and other precious stones. You’ll need to hire a car to get out here, and make sure to have your driver wait for you as it will be difficult to find a ride back after your visit.
3. Bogyoke Aung San Market. A visit to this market is easly the best shopping experience you’ll have in Yangon. Here you’ll find longyis (Burmese-style skirts) for both men and women, pearls, gems, jewelry, handicrafts and much more. Haggling is expected, but do keep in mind that most prices are already rather low compared to Western standards.
4. Aung San Suu Kyi’s House. Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest on and off for 21 years, but was released in November 2010 and is now a member of parliament and allowed to travel outside of Yangon. A visit to her house was nearly impossible until recently, so a drive by her abode – and ultimately prison – is very much worth the trip.
5. Architectural Walking Tour. A stroll down Yangon’s busy streets, past former government buildings, the old train station and other crumbling structures, will yield a fascinating – and photogenic – look at the city’s deep ties to its British colonial past. Hire a guide, or do it yourself by locating sites on the Yangon City Heritage List.
On July 31, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Most people envision beaches and partying when they think of Bali, but we think a trip with only these components will leave you wanting more — and Bali has so much more to offer. Of course there are beaches and partying, but the sand is actually black in some spots and the partying can be a bit much for the faint of heart. If it’s beach time you seek, bypass Kuta and drive to Seminyak where the sand is mostly white, the water is blue and the shopping and restaurants abound. To really see Bali, make your way over to the hills and rice fields of Ubud. Plan on doing some yoga, hiking or biking along the rice paddies and maybe enjoying some spa time. Eat good food. Spend time with your loved ones. Talk to the locals. You’ll see what Bali is really all about.
On July 31, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Cheesy as though it sounds, the best thing to bring home from Bali is a sense of peace and calm gained from time spent waking up with the sun, going to bed when you’re tired, reconvening with nature and somehow finding your inner happiness. That said, bringing home a relic to remind you of this peace and calm is a great idea. You might want to have it in a piece of silver jewelry or in a beautiful craft created on the island. Our favorite big-ticket item is a custom-made carved door. You can have it shipped from Bali and turn any entrance of your house into a reminder of the amazing experience that is Bali. Ubud is also peppered with art galleries depicting Balinese landscapes and wildlife that could make for a wonderful gift or reminder.
On July 31, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:An island with a distinct local culture that attracts travelers from around the world, Bali has some amazing food experiences. Here are a few to put on your list:
1. Seafood on the beach. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors loved the freshly caught red snapper at White Sand Beach. For something a little less remote, eating seafood on the beach at Jimbaran Bay is a must. All the restaurants serve pretty much the same thing; you pick out what you want from the seafood tanks and pay by the pound. Go for a swim, grab a table and a cold beer, and dig into a seafood feast.
2. Indus. Located amidst a peaceful hillside overlooking the Tjamphuhan River in Ubud, Indus serves up a changing international menu that’s expertly conceived and prepared. The atmosphere is elegant but relaxed, and the popular restaurant offers a free shuttle to and from the center of town.
3. Naughty Nuri’s. It’s dark and smoky at this roadside joint, but it’s also absolutely delicious. The roadside pork place in Ubud is where local chefs go for barbequed ribs and fresh tuna sashimi.
4. Casa Luna. This casual restaurant has some of the freshest, most innovative café food you can expect with Balinese and Mediterranean influences.
5. Ku De Ta. The modern food and chic ambiance at this beachside hotspot cannot be overstated. Eat there once and you’ll want to do it again and again.
On July 31, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:Bali is a large island, so if you only have one day to see it, you’ll probably want to hit the beach. Seminyak is by far the best spot for beaches, shopping and food. (Ubud and the outer mountainous regions are perfect for hiking among the rice paddies.) In Seminyak, start your day with breakfast and an oceanside view at Ku De Ta. Take it easy and go for a stroll along the beach prior to hitting up the shopping along the main drag. Follow up a casual lunch at Café Bali with a visit to a temple — Petitenget, Tanah and Uluwatu are good options. Finish your day with dinner at one of Forbes Travel Guide’s recommended restaurants, topped off by a cocktail at Ku De Ta, which doubles as an evening hotspot.
On July 31, 2012Natalie Bailey answered the question:We told you to steer clear of Kuta, but if you’re looking for some serious nightlife, this is the beach that guarantees a raucous evening. Make sure you’re up for this version of clubbing — it’s quite the party with techno music — before you go. If a cocktail in an upscale bar is more your scene, then Ku De Ta offers delectable drinks along with a peaceful oceanfront patio and lounges where people congregate as the sun goes down. Up in Ubud, you are best not seeking out nightlife, but quietly finding your Zen. The further you go into Bali, the further you get from the rowdy bar scene.