World's Top Travel Destinations

TripAdvisor's 2015 Top Destinations

First Published in 2015 TravelNowSimply.com

The world's largest travel site, TripAdvisor, just came up with their annual rankings for the world's best travel destinations for 2015, called the Traveller's Choice Award. There were 469 destinations chosen worldwide based on feedback received from TripAdvisor travellers.

These destinations are historically and culturally rich and offer excellent sightseeing opportunities with quality hotels and restaurants – based on TripAdvisor reviews that stretch over a period of 12 months.

Here are the top 10 destinations in the world:

1. Marrakech, Morocco

2. Siem Reap, Cambodia

3. Istanbul, Turkey

4. Hanoi, Vietnam

5. Prague, Czech Republic

6. London, England

7. Rome, Italy

8. Buenos Aires, Argentina

9. Paris, France

10. Cape Town, South Africa

Source: TripAdvisor

Here are the top 10 destination in Asia:

1. Siem Reap, Cambodia

2. Hanoi, Vietnam

3. Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

4. Bangkok, Thailand

5. Kathmandu, Nepal

6. Hong Kong, China

7. Hoi An, Vietnam

8. Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia

9. Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia

10. Beijing, China

Source: TripAdvisor

Among Asian destinations, Siem Reap in Cambodia takes the first spot, which is also ranked as the #2 top destination in the world. About half of the top Asian destinations are located in Southeast Asia. To view the complete list, visit TripAdvisor's 2015 Traveler's Choice Ranking.

Phuket - The Pearl of The Andaman

Phuket – The Paradise Island of Thailand

 

One of the most beautiful places in Asia, and possibly the Eastern Hemisphere, is Phuket. The Island of Phuket is also one of the southern provinces of Thailand and it occupies the entire island. Roughly the size of Singapore, the island is connected to the mainland of Thailand by a bridge. Phuket, while once known for its tin and rubber, is now one of he most popular tourist areas in all of Thailand, getting most of its income from tourism.

Turbulent History

As with most places that had European contact during the Age of Discovery, Phuket is no different. During the 17th century, the Dutch, English and French all arrived at the island to trade with the island thanks to its rich supply of tin. The island was eventually heavily controlled by the French, who were expelled in the 1688 Siamese Revolution. While they attempted to take the island back in 1689, their efforts failed within a few years. Things returned to relative normality for the island for the next century until the Burmese attacked in 1785. After a siege that lasted an entire month, the Burmese retreated. It was thanks to Than Phu Ying and her sister Mook that the attack failed. They were warned by a British East India Company captain that there was an attack coming. Ying, who was the widow of the recently-deceased governor, mustered what forces she could to defend the island. After the siege, both became local heroes and are still remembered to this day with statues on the island. Eventually, in 1933, the island became a province in Thailand, which it remains as to this day.

Amazing Landscapes

It is not hard to see why so many groups wanted this island; it is beautiful. The island has many mountains on it, with the Phuket mountain range running from the south to the north in the western part of the island. While the island is roughly 570 square kilometers, it has a stunning array of landscapes that will keep you exploring for years to come. Roughly 70 percent of the island is covered with mountains, while the remaining 30 percent of the island in the central and eastern areas is flat. The island has no major rivers, but there are nine brooks that provide water to thousands. Forests, along with oil and rubber plantations, cover 60 percent of the island, and sandy beaches can be found on the western coast of the island. Eastern beaches tend to be muddy, but you can still enjoy yourself there. Now, if you want to see one of the most stunning sunsets in the world, you would need to journey to the southern part of the island to see the sun set over the ocean at Brahma’s Cape.

Great Weather

Since Phuket is just north of the equator, it has amazing weather. The average high temperature of the island during the year falls between 29C/84F and 33C/91F. Average lows are what many in the northern hemisphere call highs, with temperatures ranging from 23C/73F to 26C/79F. Between November and April, you can expect things to be pretty dry. When May comes along, the monsoon season begins and rain can be expected from May until October usually.

Since the tin industry has faded to the background on the island, tourism has taken over as the biggest industry in Phuket. While in Phuket, you can expect to see a lot of tourist attractions and tourist centers. Since the 1980s, beaches have become heavily developed to accommodate tourists. This has not been for the bad though, as Fortune Magazine declared Phuket as one of the World’s Top 5 Retirement Destinations. The vast majority of the westerners who live in Phuket are retirees.

To streamline and minimize blog maintenance, I will be discontinuing maintaining the Travelnowsimply.com website (however, I will still hold the domain). I will gradually move all articles from this site to Ahmed Dawn Dot Com site. This article originally published on the above website on May 8, 2010.

Scoot Airlines Review: Instead of Buying Business Class, Do This.

Scoot Flight: Singapore to Melbourne Boeing 787-800

This leg of my four-country trip from Singapore to Melbourne, Australia, I decided to fly a low-cost flight instead of business class. Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary Scoot seemed to be a good option.

I was contemplating Scoot’s business class called Scoot Biz, but decided to go for Scoot in Silence. And I was glad I did.

My flight was 3 hours late. But the delay appeared on the screen at the last moment when people were already at the counter. There was no one from Scoot to be found anywhere to confirm the delay. I saw that some people started sleeping on floor at the waiting area near the gate counter because it was already midnight.

After a long wait, I boarded the plane and was happy that I chose Scoot in Silence. It costed me around $80 for the seat selection in the Scoot in Silence quiet zone. I had my seat right behind the business class section after the divider. There was no one in front of me and even the seats next to me were empty.

Scoot in Silence does not allow kids under 12 and the seats are better than economy with 34-inch peach rather than 31-inch regular economy. And being in the 1st front row bulkhead seat in Scoot in Silence, I had no one sitting in front of me and I literally had infinite leg stretch space.

The Scoot Biz cabin was right in front of me and I noticed the seats are not lie-flat business class; it’s more like premium economy. They just have a little more space in between and in front compared to my seat. Definitely it’s not worth paying extra for business class. You will get the best value for your money if you spend around $80 (Canadian) and pick a seat in the Scoot in Silence zone, especially where there are no seats are in front of you.

I ordered food online months ahead and its quality was not bad. The overall cleanliness of the aircraft exceeded my expectations, including the bathrooms, and I did not find anything to complain about.

 Except for the delay and the absence of anyone from Scoot to properly communicate with the customers, everything else was a pleasant experience, and I won’t mind flying again with Scoot.

How to Get from Singapore Changi Airport to Downtown or City Hotels

Singapore Airport to Downtown Hotels

There are many ways you can get to Singapore city or downtown hotels from the airport. Some of these options are expensive. Today, I will talk about the best and cheapest way to reach your hotel from Singapore airport.

Taking the City shuttle costs only $9 and it will take you to most of the downtown hotels or city centre. Once you pass immigration and customs, look for the City Shuttle concierge desk near the exit gates. If you can’t find it, ask someone or look for a huge red fan on the ceiling. The concierge desk is near the big, red fan.

You will have to purchase your ticket using the self-service kiosks. If you need help, just ask the concierge and they will show you how to buy a ticket.

Once purchased, wait near the concierge desk. The driver will come and pick you up. The city shuttle runs every 15-30 minutes. You can also book your return trip from the hotel to the airport with the driver or by calling their phone #. Check the Singapore Airport Website for updated information.

My trips on the city shuttle both times (airport to the hotel and back) were pleasant. I was the only one on the shuttle and the driver gave me a lot of information about Singapore. So it was like I paid only $9 each time but had better experience than taking a taxi.

I have a video on the whole process. Watch it here and you will see how easy, cheap, and efficient taking the city shuttle from Singapore’s airport to the city.

Singapore Travel Diary (Part 2) : Impressions & Highlights

Singapore Travel Blog: Part 1

Next Day: A Busy Day Sightseeing

Next day I had a tour arranged from 9 to 1. The tour operator picked me up at the hotel and it was very busy day for the next few hours. I visited popular places like:

Little India
China Town and the ancient Thian Hock Keng Temple
Marina Bay and Singapore's iconic Merlion
National Orchid Garden (part of the Singapore Botanic Gardens)
And much more

Singapore is very neat and clean city. Its downtown has lots of skyscrapers and has the look and feel of a downtown in a western country. I noticed that the skyscrapers and tall buildings have different styles and poses different from the architectural beauty of skyscrapers in New York or Toronto. I liked it because it looked different than what I was used to seeing in North America.

I will not detail each place I visited because I captured most of it in my video and pictures and you can see them on my YouTube and Instagram.

Maxwell Hawker Centre Singapore - Famous Street Food

Maxwell Hawker Centre is a famous street food court in Chinatown, Singapore. This is the best place to try Singaporean dishes served by various street food stalls in one place. There are tables and chairs to sit down and enjoy all the food under the same roof.

You will find street food stall like Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken that was endorsed by celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and the Michelin Guide. But there is always a lineup, so I decided to try the next one without a lineup. I was told that any stalls in Hawker’s Market would taste as good as Tian Tian.

Any items here are extremely cheap and the taste and quality are mind blowing. I tried the famous Hainanese chicken rice and it cost me only $3.50. Another time I was planning to try the hotel buffet, but it was way expensive at $70. So I walked about 15 minutes to another street food complex and had 7 items only for $5.80. It was so much that I couldn’t eat it all and tipped the server, which made her day.

Singapore: Time to Leave

My 2 days in Singapore are almost over and I am heading to the airport for Melbourne, Australia. I found Singapore to be a very clean and beautiful city. You will not see any homeless people on the street and everywhere is very neat and clean.

I heard laws are very strict in Singapore. For example, you cannot eat on the street while walking or even chew gum. If you are eating at a street food vendor, you will have to finish eating there.

I will be taking a low-cost airline, Scoot, owned by Singapore Airlines and I will write my experience in the next blog.