Floating Down River in Yangshuo, China on a Bamboo Raft

The scenery in Yangshuo (near Guilin), China was great. Floating down the river on bamboo rafts was wonderful. I floated down a second river the day after the first because I liked it so much.

River, Yangshuo, China

I was happy with, Amy, my guide for Yangshuo. Her son was the driver. I don’t usually use guides but for China I am glad I did (it is very difficult to get by compared to Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.). Th costs were much more than those places without a guide but the charges were reasonable. If you can afford it, I recommend getting a guide and Amy was good.

Continue reading

Finding Places to Stay to Stay with Decent wifi

For many people connection to the internet has ceased to be a desire and has become a requirement while traveling. Getting a sim-card for your smart phone, or tablet, may suffice. Or using that connection to tether your laptop to may work.

But often that isn’t the best solution and you want a hotel with broadband that is really broadband and hopefully they don’t add fees for what seems to me a basic expectation today (or at least not ludicrously expensive as some fancy hotels charge for an internet connection).

Agoda notes what hotels offer free wifi and in general I like Agoda. The comments can sometimes help identify if the hotel has good, mediocre or bad wifi. Trip Advisor has some decent information on good hotels.

But for years I have asked for and looked for someone that will integrate information on what the actual wifi experience is for hotels. And if they had it (I never found any) then I wanted to be able to use it as a filter.

I found a site that is working on providing wifi quality data for hotels and tweeted about it: Hotel wifi test. And Speedspot noted they have what they think is an even better offering. It does seem a bit more complete to me, but both are pretty lacking for details on places I visit most.

So far they seem to have the largest amount of data on the most popular cities in rich countries – which isn’t surprising. Hopefully they will add more data soon on the places I want to go. We need more of this kind of data so we can make informed decisions and chose hotels that provide services modern travel want (decent wifi).

While the travel sites are at it I also wish they would let me filter for what I care about – a good nights sleep which means quiet rooms. They should really let us set our own criteria for agony and then provide results (Hipmunk style). Maybe we have to wait for Hipmunk to do it.

Related: Worse Hotel Service the More You Pay (2010)Travel photos blog

Hippodrome Casino in London, UK

The Majestic Hippodrome Casino (London, UK)

A place rich in history and culture, this beautiful establishment stands to be more than an entertainment mecca.

photo of London Hippodrome

Photo of London Hippodrome by Paul Hermans

Looming over London since 1900, the London Hippodrome has seen and adapted to all of the different phases of British culture. Found on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square – two of the most renowned places in all of Westminster – this old building is one of the most recognisable destinations for both London locals and tourists.

The name “Hippodrome” was used for many different music halls and entertainment centers in its time, however, the iconic Hippodrome in London is among the last few survivors. Originally built as a centre for circus entertainment and variety shows, the building once held a 230 ft. 100,000 gallon water tank for aquatic performances. This architectural marvel once became known for high-flying, death-defying circus acts and live performances unrivaled by any other establishment in London.

Its status as a circus was short-lived, however, as it was soon converted into a music hall that ran record-breaking shows from 1909-1951. All this before the Hippodrome was transformed into the Talk of the Town, an illustrious nightclub that featured a host of the most famous stars of their time, including The Jackson 5, Tom Jones, and Shirley Bassey. The Hippodrome also received the distinction of being named as one of 12 venues which had made the most important contributions to jazz music in the U.K. 2008 saw the theatre turned into a stage for the international burlesque cabaret “La Clique”, which successfully ran for four months until 2009, when the theatre closed down to make way for new developments in the Hippodrome’s future.

In 2012, amidst a growing demand for casino gaming and online gambling portals illustrated by Amaya Gaming’s acquisition of Intercasino and other Cryptologic brands, the Hippodrome reopened as one of the largest casinos in London. The Hippodrome Casino boasts of being the entertainment venue in London, with live sporting event coverage, music shows by the world’s top artists, and promotions with the biggest brands and names.

But while the casino is sure to be a wonderful place for any gamblers, those simply looking to experience old London will also enjoy visiting the Hippodrome. The majestic building has an exterior made from red sandstone, brick, and terracotta, all arranged in a free classical style with Ionic pilasters supported on elongated brackets. As though the building wasn’t large enough, entrepreneurs Jimmy and Simon Thomas also acquired the neighboring Cranbourn Mansions and built this apartment block into the design of the renovated casino. It’s truly an architectural marvel, and one that has stood the test of time.

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat is the largest Hindu temple complex in the world, situated at Angkor, Cambodia, built by King Suryavarman II in the early 12th century as his state temple and capital city.

Angkor Wat complex with reflection in pond

As the best-preserved temple in the Siem Reap area, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since its foundation – first Hindu, dedicated to the god Vishnu, then Buddhist. The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture.

carving at Angkor Wat

As you would expect this UNESCO world heritage site is amazing. It is very large with a huge temple. The carvings are exceptional and numerous. I was there in the slow part of the season and while there were lots of people, there was plenty of room.

I went to Angkor Wat on 3 days. I was going elsewhere for a sunset visit (on my first day) but as it was cloudy I decided to go to Angkor instead (saving the sunset for another day) and get some photos in the nice light late in the day. I went to see the sunrise and continued on with my guide. Then I went back late in the afternoon on one of the other days – there was a bit more sun so I hoped for better photos and also it is huge, there is plenty to see.

photo inside Angkor Wat

Looking at my photos now they don’t convey the size of Angkor Wat. This last photo is taken inside the building several floors up above ground level. Angkor Wat is an absolutely wonderful destination and is surrounded in the larger temple complex (over a site 400 km square) by several other world class sites.

Curious Cat Travel Blog

I have enjoyed travel since my parents dragged me around the world as a toddler.

I have been posting information about my travels online for over 10 years in various places including Curious Cat Travel Destinations, Curious Cat Travel Photos, Curious Cat Travel Photo Blog, Living in Malaysia, Singapore Travels and more.

This blog will allow me to collect updates relating to travel in one place. Over the next year I hope to have quite a bit added to the various Curious Cat travel resources. In the last year a great deal of work has been done to get things ready, including quite a bit on the main web site for Curious Cat Travel Destinations. And this blog has been a long time in the making.

A photo from my current trip, in China:

photo of green rice teraces in China