The Road less Travelled…. Bangkok to Yangon

With the recent opening of four border crossings, travelling overland from Thailand to Myanmar has never been easier as it is now possible to travel by road all the way from Bangkok to Yangon, using roads rarely used by tourists that will provide you with glimpses of life that seem to be suspended in time.

You will cross from Thailand at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border and enter into Myanmar’s Kayin State, homeland of the Karen people. In both countries you will pass through spectacular scenery that changes as you travel, revealing mountain passes, rural villages, bustling market towns, shimmering temples and vast green rice paddies.

Highlights along the way include Bangkok and the former capitals of Ayuthaya and Sukhothai in Thailand, and the town of Mawlamyine in Myanmar, where British colonial buildings face stunning views of the Thanlwin River, not far from the world’s largest reclining Buddha. The golden rock of Kyaikhtiyo, perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, and the town of Hpa-An that is surrounded by stunning karst mountain scenery where farmers still travel to market with horse-carts are highlights along the route in rural Myanmar. You then reach the historic city of Bago where you can meet monks in a monastery to learn about their daily lives, before then continuing on to reach the capital of Yangon.


For more details please contact Footprints at

Bangkok Returning to Normal…

Happily, protesters in Bangkok have now started to dismantle their barricades in key parts of the city, so hopefully the bevy of negative headlines about safety in Bangkok that has swamped the media in the past few months will now disappear – for despite the impression that Bangkok has been a city under siege, nothing could have been, or is, further from the truth.

And despite a delicate political impasse that has put a question mark over the future of Thailand’s (now interim) government, life and business in the vast majority of Bangkok, and throughout the rest of the kingdom has been perfectly normal through the past few months. And hopefully now that the barricades are coming down, the selective images and footage of street marches, police battling protesters and clogged intersections will now be replaced by reality: tourists and locals eating, socializing, shopping and enjoying all this vibrant city has to offer.

To be sure, there are political issues in Thailand. There have been protests, mostly peaceful, which may continue. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee has moved its supporters to Lumpini Park in Bangkok’s business district where they are gathered, quietly and orderly, listening to speeches and watching a giant screen.

There isn’t the slightest hint of trouble, and Bangkok is a far cry from the situation in the world’s real trouble spots such as Kabul, Kiev, Baghdad and Beirut, and in fact, it is not even close to the situation in New York, Chicago or other major western cities where assaults and concerns about personal safety are everyday issues and occurrences.

Hopefully, Thailand’s political issues will be solved in the coming months as the two sides are talking and there is confidence the impasse will end soon. In the meantime, it is perfectly safe to visit Bangkok and the rest of Thailand and do the same things travellers have always done in this friendly, welcoming city and country. For in reality, life and tourism in Thailand, other than for some minor traffic inconveniences in Bangkok, has been continuing throughout the past few months in a completely normal manner.

Good News for Travellers to India!!

In an significant development, the Government of India on Wednesday cleared two initiatives, visa on arrival and electronic travel authorization for travelers originating from almost anywhere on the globe. For all those travellers who have had the unique pleasure of attending their local visa office in North America and spending a good portion of their day standing in line waiting to submit their visa application documents – only to then be refused for the most minor of errors (photo on the wrong kind of paper or with the wrong background, not enough of the should ers in the photograph, too much of the shoulders in the photograph, minor typo on the form, etc., etc…)

To be implemented from early October 2014, the electronic travel authorization process will allow foreign travelers to apply for a visa from home and receive an online confirmation in five working days, and to then obtain their actual visa upon their arrival at the airport in India. And this visa-on-arrival with electronic travel authorization will be available to citizens of 180 countries (including Canada and the USA) and will be implemented initially at nine airports including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad, Goa and Trivandrum.

Global recognition for Indonesia

The Derawan Islands in the province of East Kalimantan have made the National Geographic Traveler’s “Annual Best of the World” list for 2014.

The list features 20 global destinations and “reflect what’s authentic, culturally rich, sustainable and superlative in the world of travel today”. This year, for the first time ever, National Geographic invited well-traveled online readers to participate in creating the “Best Trips” list. The participants were asked – via social media – to nominate one place using the same criteria; sustainability, culturally minded, authentic, superlative, and timely.

Considered one of the best dive destinations in the world, the Derawan Archipelago comprises 31 islands and a marine territory that is home to an abundance of sea life including rare and endangered giant green and hawksbill turtles. Marine experts have identified over 870 species of fish at the location ranging from tiny pygmy seahorses to giant manta rays and four unique species of stingless jellyfish which swim upside down.

Aman Resorts Opening in Vietnam

Many of our favourite properties in South East Asia belong to Aman Resorts, and now the newest property in their collection will be opening this month in Vietnam.

The first Aman in Vietnam, the ‘Amanoi’ is a contemporary beachside resort alongside an Aman spa. It is situated on the coast of Nui Chua National Park, overlooking beautiful Vinh Hy Bay. Protecting more than 29,000 hectares of coastal and marine habitats, Nui Chua is situated in Ninh Thuan province, northeast of Ho Chi Minh City.

The resort will have 31 pavillions, a number with private swimming pools, and five villas, each providing a combined living/sleeping area and a timber sundeck with sun loungers. And each Aman Villa consists of four or five free-standing bedroom pavilions as well as living and dining pavilions and a large private swimming pool. A live-in housekeeper and cook meet all guest’s needs.

The resort has two swimming pools – the Cliff Pool next to the Central Pavilion, and another at the Beach Club. Overlooked by magnificent granite boulders, the Beach Club is located on a pristine white-sand beach and provides a dining area, dressing rooms and a range of water sports equipment.

For more details and rates, please contact the Footprints office or visit

Witness the surreal Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, Thailand

At the Vegetarian Festival in Phuket, you can see traditions of the past come alive as the Chinese gods (Giu Ong) descend from the heavens to reside on the island for nine days in October. (Oct 4 – 13).

The festival is a time for spiritual and physical cleansing, paying respect to ancestors and receiving blessings, and is the year’s most significant cultural event in Phuket and a fabulous display of religion, culture, food and people.

During the festival one can rise early in the morning to watch the ceremonies and rang song (literally ‘body of the spirit’) at work. The mediums will go in to a trance and later the rite of self-flagellation will begin. This is not something for the faint of heart as sharp objects and needles are inserted into devotees’ faces and even their tongues. While they are possessed by the spirits they claim not to feel any pain. Other forms of flagellation include being hit with cloths soaked in hot oil and walking on fire. Loud noises from firecrackers and magical elements of the mystical, human, and religious, all blend into one surreal street parade. This is one festival will even hold well-seasoned travellers in awe.

Rabat – overlooked but worthwhile….

What a difference a little recognition makes. Travellers have long overlooked Morocco’s low-key capital of Rabat, instead being seduced by the heady sights and sounds of Marrakech, the beauty of the Atlas mountains or the adventures awaiting in the dunes of the Sahara, but now that is beginning to change with Rabat beginning to gain awareness amongst international travellers.

Last year the city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means the word is just starting to get out about what the UNESCO folks call Rabat’s “fertile exchange between the Arabo-Muslim past and Western modernism.”

The city is home to an historic old town featuring the magnificent twelfth-century Hassan Mosque and a picturesque medina overlooking the Atlantic with largely hassle-free shopping. And just a short distance from there is Rabat’s charming French-built new town with its wide boulevards and lovely cafes. A shiny new tramway links the capital to its sister city Salé, while a new airport terminal means the city has become much more accessible. Rabat is hitting the proverbial travel radar, but it’s far from overrun – which means now is the time to go!

For more details on travel possibilities to Rabat, or other still undiscovered gems in Morocco, please give us a call or take a look at the Moroccan tourism board’s excellent website at


Now that’s a trip!!!

For intrepid travellers the world over, and those that like to keep a running total of the countries that have visited around the world, here is a treat…

Graham Hughes, a self-described “adventurer, filmmaker, travel blogger and TV presenter from Liverpool,” spent 36 months travelling to all 201 countries in the world and has distilled it all into four minutes, with a ‘shout out’ to each country every second. Check out the video below…

His journey set a record for Guinness World Records for visiting “every sovereign state on Planet Earth without flying.” Taking a look at his video you will see that while his red hair grows longer and gets shorn along the way, his battered travel hat never changes. For more details on his adventures, take a look at his website…

Seva continue it’s good work in Nepal!

Seva, the Vancouver based aid organization that works with global partners to operate its sight program in 3rd world countries, has opened a primary eye-care centre in the remote district of Bajura, Nepal, over 1,000 km away from the capital of Kathmandu. This is the last region in the country without access to eye care, and the inauguration of the centre will mean Seva, its donors and the people of Nepal will realize their longtime dream to establish a primary eye-care facility in every region of the country.

For those of you who do not know about Seva and their amazing work in providing critical eye care to some of the poorest on our planet, please do take a look at their website for more background (Seva –, or for more detail on the opening of the newest clinic in Bajura, Nepal, please take a look at this recent article from the Vancouver Province. (

A fabulous ‘Real Life’ Experience in New Delhi…

A short time ago I had the privilege of spending part of an afternoon in Delhi taking a walk with my young guide from the Salaam Baalak Trust. It was a tremendously moving and uplifting experience, and I would highly recommend a visit to the ‘trust’ for anyone trying to gain a greater understanding of “real” life in the major cities of India. (Footprints Travel is of course an active supporter of the Salaam Baalak Trust, and for those wishing to make a donation, please see the trust’s web link at the bottom of this entry for more details.)

Here’s a little more background on the project….

The Salaam Baalak Trust City Walk aims to make the story of the children of the street heard and to give us a view of their world through their eyes. Participants of City Walk get to go on a journey through the enchanting streets of the inner city of Paharganj and the area around New Delhi railway station, led by a child who was once living and working on the streets. This walk takes you on a journey through the backstreets of Delhi with a child who has been fully trained as a local guide. It’s a unique way of providing an insight into the lives of these children and an opportunity for them to improve their communication and speaking skills.

The confidence and witty smiles of these guides have little trace of the years spent on the streets of New Delhi. The past is however, very much present on the Walk. For the guides, it is a walk down the memory lane, the places held dear to them and how they faced the odds to survive to be where they stand proudly today. Whether your guide is Satender, Ajay, Iqbal, Tabrez, Tariq or any other City Walk Guide, feel free to question and learn as much as you can of life on the streets. And you might realize, as you walk along, that the distance you covered was much greater than that between the New Delhi Railway Station and the SBT office.

So come, join us to take a walk in the back alleys of Delhi. Be careful though. Dreams have a way of rubbing off!

For more information please see: