Why you should AVOID the Tiger Temple

Comments 2 Standard

Imagine going to Thailand and being able to not just see tigers, but pet them and take photos with them? I am sure many of you would love to experience this, which is why the Tiger Temple in Bangkok is one of Thailand’s most popular places to visit.

Unfortunately, the temple is not all what it seems, as the so called sanctuary is known as being exceptionally cruel to these beautiful creatures.

On my trip to Thailand a few years ago I was unbelievably excited to have the chance to visit the temple and have the opportunity to actually sit with tigers. I thought it would be a fun experience and certainly something I would never be able to do in New York!

Once I arrived, I walked over to the area where they take pictures of you with the tigers. It was basically a tiger line up. The area had about 10-14 different sized tigers grouped together and chained to the floor. You then go around and take photo after photo with each tiger.

The first tiger I sat next to, appeared to smile for the photo and then I noticed he was chained to the floor. And why wasn’t he moving? Is he even breathing? Maybe he is sleepy from laying around in the heat? Hmm, off to the next tiger, same story with this one. Then I moved onto another one, who was completely comatosed. They picked his head up and placed it in my lap. I felt like I was holding a deceased tiger. He was limp as a noodle and just fell into my lap. After that, I realized that something was wrong and I didn’t want to be apart of it. I left the photo area and pulled my tour guide aside to ask him what the real story was behind the place and what I found out was appalling.

tt

tt1

tt2

The tigers are indeed drugged, malnourished and treated poorly. They are left outside in the sun all day without shade while countless tourists take photos with them, so that the people who run the temple can make a profit. When they are not laying outside for photo-ops, they are confined in a small cage. This is supposed to be a wildlife sanctuary!

The profits are also supposed to go to help save the animals, but it turns out that this is also a lie. It is simply a profit making exercise and to make money for other projects such as opening a Tiger Island to expand the business.

Once I got home, I did some research and found out that there is a lot of controversy surrounding them for these issues, along with others such as illegal trade and breeding.

As I was waiting around for my tour group, they started to do an exercise program with the tigers. The workers let the tigers out into an area where visitors can watch them “exercise”. Their version of exercising is by taunting the tigers by hitting them with a prop such as a ball tied to the end of a long stick to get them to jump around. At times they were just poking them with sticks to move around and as if it could’t get any worse, you could pay an extra fee, so that you could be apart of it by also taunting them with sticks.

So this is where I start to beg, please DO NOT visit this tiger dungeon!! I feel sick to my stomach that I gave my money to this place and took photos, until I realized the horror that what was occurring before me. I wasn’t the only person on my tour that was upset by this experience. Many people complained, so the guide told us about an alternative option, Tiger Kingdom. This establishment treats them properly and the profits actually go to helping tigers. I was skeptical but after visiting, I immediately noticed healthy, awake, tigers roaming around. Don’t believe me? Click the HERE to read about my experience.

Playing with tigers in Thailand

Comments 2 Standard

There is a lot of controversy over the tiger attractions in Thailand. It is a known fact that one of the most popular, the Tiger Temple abuses the animals and does not treat them properly. Fortunately they are not all like this, so I decided to visit Tiger Kingdom, where I saw no signs of abuse. Granted, it could of course happen behind the scenes that we are unaware of, but I did some research and was unable to find any red flags.

When I went, I felt like it was a legitimate place and I had a great experience.

There were four different sized tigers; smallest, small, medium, big (and woah that’s big!). You can pay to see all sizes or just a particular one. They are held in huge “cages”, not trapped in a small enclosed space all day or chained down. The word cage is actually a misleading word because the area was so large it was more like a huge play pen with trees and bathing pools.

First, I went to see the smallest tigers. They were adorable! I was hesitant to go near any of them since they were jumping around and playing. Do not think for a second that they are allowed to do this, because they were declawed or had their teeth scraped down or removed. They have not been altered at all. I tried to hold one of them but he was too hyper so I laid besides him, petting and playing with him.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

tk1

Then, I went to visit the big boys. As I walked up to see them, a worker pulled up a fence and let me into their play pen. It was unreal. As soon as I walked in, one of the tigers walked past me without flinching. I felt like I was thrown into a meal pit. I hop they ate already! What did I get myself into? You have a guide that is with you at all times, who tried to entice them to come over to us for a photo. We finally got one to come over and sit next to me, but he eventually got bored and decided to walk off after a few photos. Oh… and scared the crap out of me (as you can tell in the photos below)! There I was, smiling for the camera with the tiger sitting next to me until he suddenly got up and walked off. Talk about giving me a heart attack!

tk13

tk9

tk10

tk11

tk12

Afterwards, I went to see the small tigers. Surprisingly, they were the most hyper of the groups I saw. I was with a large group of girls so we sat on a log, watching two of the tigers playing with each other. One of the workers took photos of us watching them play until one of the tigers decided to come over and say hi. As you can imagine, a tiger running over to a group of girls was pretty hysterical. Everyone jumped up as an initial reaction and of one the workers got some great photos in the moment!

tk7

tk8

tk5

If you do decide to go to one of these attractions, then I would recommend Tiger Kingdom. Not only did I have a great time, but the tigers were awake, alert and not being mistreated. I did have a few nervous moments, so this is not for the faint of heart, but it was a fun, unique and daring experience that I will never forget. Who else can say they hung out in a tigers playpen?

tg2

tk

Schönbrunn Palace

Comments 12 Standard

Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Austria was once the summer residence of the imperial family. I am sure you heard of Marie Antionette! You can roam the grounds and amongst other things venture into her room which is among the 1,441 rooms of this infamously extravagant palace!  The gardens are jaw-droppingly beautiful, extending to 1.2km wide and 1km in length. No wonder it is one of the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites! Fun Fact: Schönbrunn means beautiful spring.

IMG_3706

Cost

The gardens are free to enter, however if you want to go into the palace, you have to pay € 11,50. If you purchase the Sisi Ticket, then you get entrance into the Schönbrunn Palace, Imperial Furniture Collection and Hofburg Wien for € 25,50. The Hofburg Wien includes the Imperial Apartments, Sisi Museum and the Imperial Silver Collection, so I think the Sisi Ticket is definteily worth the extra cost.

Strudel Lovers

If you want fresh, authentic strudel on the Schloß Schönbrunn grounds, go to the Court Bakery which is a vaulted cellar beneath the Café Restaurant Residenz. You can watch a Strudel Show, where pastry chefs make authentic Viennese apple strudel. Afterwards, you can even sample a piece. If you do not want to watch the show, you can just go and purchase yourself a lovely warm piece of strudel. I did and it was delicious!

IMG_3726

I did not realize how enormous the grounds were so unfortunately, I did not have enough time to explore all of the palace and gardens but now I have an excuse to go back! If you decide to go, plan to stay the full day so you get to explore everything.

IMG_3715

IMG_3713

IMG_3709

IMG_3665 IMG_3667

IMG_3669 IMG_3689

IMG_3712

IMG_3716

IMG_3705

IMG_3703

IMG_3700

IMG_3685

IMG_3718

IMG_3723

IMG_3724

IMG_3664

 

10 packing guidelines for your trips

Comments 23 Standard

If only packing was as simple as throwing a bunch of stuff in a suitcase and dashing off to the airport! There are many TSA guidelines that are essential for you to know, along with many other things you need to take into consideration while packing for your trip such as things you can do to help yourself in the event of your suitcase getting lost and ways to help prevent that simply traumatic experience from occurring.

1. Take off old airline tags – You don’t need the tags from all the places that you have flown to previously on there and it could lead to confusion for the airline staff, which in the worst case scenario could end up at a previous destination! Just remember with airline travel it is always better to be safe than sorry!

2. Put your contact information inside and outside of your bag – If your luggage happens to get lost or stolen, you have far more chance getting it back if you have your contact information inside and outside of your bag.

3. Make your checked luggage unique – In order to make my bag easier to identify on the luggage carousel, I used to use a brightly colored hair scrunchy (yes, I said scrunchy!) tied around my handle. I have now upgraded and bought a bright pink key chain to put on the case. Basically, use something that is easy to spot and will set your bag apart from others.

4. Make sure you know your airline’s bag policy in advance of travelling – Most airlines allow one bag free to check in on international flights and also allow one carry on bag. Domestic flights let you take a bag in flight, but often charge you to check in a bag. Each airline has it’s own policies, for example Jet Blue allows you to check one bag in for free, however if your airline doesn’t you could end up paying up to $100 in fees to check in your bag.

5. Make sure that your two carry on bags are legit carry on items – You are usually allowed two carry on items. One can be a small suitcase or duffle (there are clear size limits, which are enforced) and the other is your personal bag such as a book bag or purse. I have seen many people try to bring two duffles (one being a little smaller than the other) or a duffle and a small suitcase and try to claim the smaller one as their personal bag. That is not going to fly (pun intended!). They will make you check one of the bags in and you will have to pay for it, so don’t try to trick the system, it simply wont work!

6. Try to weigh your bag at home – It is always hard to tell if your bag is over the airlines check in weight limit which is usually 50 pounds. I used to lay it on a scale which is not the most accurate method, however it is certainly a good guide. I recently bought a new bag which has a handle that lights up if it is over the airline weight restriction. It is one of the best things I have ever bought!

7. Check your on board liquid size – You are allowed to bring shampoos, lotions, perfume, etc but it has to be in a bottle no larger than 3.4 ounces. Otherwise, they will throw it out and I know you don’t want to see your favorite perfume or cologne tossed out! I bought 3.4 ounce bottles from a regular drug store in the airline section which came to be extremely handy. I just pour what I need for my trip. Many times you wouldn’t need a whole bottle anyway so it also has the added benefit of saving that all important luggage space.

8. Don’t over stuff your carry on – Many people don’t like to check in so they over stuff their check in bag. There are bag placeholder examples at security and at the gate that they will make you put your bag in, if it doesn’t fit, they will make you check the bag in. It doesn’t matter if the bag itself is the correct size, if it is overstuffed and they see it and you will be out of luck. If you happen to get away with it and get on board with your bag, but it doesn’t fit in the overhead you will have to check it in on the plane.

9. Always bring your valuables on board with you – I never pack anything that I wouldn’t want to lose (not that I would want to lose any of it, but you know what I mean!). Make sure to keep your passport, jewelry, electronics, money, credit cards, etc with you. I don’t think you would want to take the chance in case something gets stolen when it’s not in your sight or if your luggage gets lost.

10. Pack to be prepared for the worst – Hopefully, you never get your bag lost or stolen, but you should be prepared in case you do. I always spread out my clothes between my check in and carry on bag. This way if something does happen, I have clothes and other things I would need in my carry on. It might not be as convenient to have stuff separated, but you’ll thank me later if something does happens!

bag

Tips for the London Eye

Comments 26 Standard

The London Eye in you guessed it… London, England soars 443 feet high. After it was built in 1999, it was the world’s largest ferris wheel, however when the Star of Nanchang in China opened in 2006 it surpasses it at a whopping 520 feet. The London Eye has 32 capsules that hold up to 25 people for a 30 minute ride. I was a little hesitant to go on it once I realized that most of the capsule was transparent, however it provides you with an unbeatable view of London, so I decided to be brave!

Be warned the wait times can be long. You could waste the best part of your day waiting in lines that could range between 1-2 hours or more. Not only was the line huge, but the estimated time was completely off. From the time we joined the line they said it would be 30 minutes before we got on the wheel, however it ended up being almost 90 minutes. If I would have realized that, I would have invested in a Fast Track ticket which allows you to get head of the line. If you don’t have the time (or patience) for the wait, then I would suggest purchasing this ticket. It is £29.50 vs the standard ticket price of £20.95.

To save time and money, buy them online. As well as getting them cheaper, you also won’t have to wait on an additional line to buy your tickets. Furthermore if you are planning on visiting multiple attractions, such as Madame Tussauds, SEA LIFE London Aquarium or the London Dungeon then you can buy them together with a special combination ticket package. You can save up to 40% if you purchase multiple attractions at once.

Once you do get on the wheel, the views are simply stunning, which made the wait time completely worth it. As you can see from my photos below, there is a long wait for a reason!

IMG_2778

IMG_2780

IMG_2784

IMG_2786

IMG_2808

IMG_2793

IMG_2794

IMG_2795

IMG_2797

uk1

IMG_2798

IMG_2811


IMG_2728

The DOs and DONT’s of Amsterdam

Comments 23 Standard

When you are a tourist visiting a place like Amsterdam for the first time, there are always things about the city that you may not have thought. Hopefully this article will help pull back the veil on some of those things and give you some insights into what are “must see’s”, while you are there.

DON’T go to coffee shops for coffee, they actually rarely sell coffee them. What you will find there is marijuana (although I am sure you knew that already). These shops were introduced in the 1970s in order to keep the soft and hard drugs separated. The most popular one, The Bulldog is a chain placed around the streets of Amsterdam, as much as a McDonalds is in New York. So if you are looking for a cup of coffee, you might just want to go to a Starbucks!

A1

DO go on a bike riding tour to see more of the countryside. I wanted to spend some time away from the hustle of the city and check out some of its natural beauty. This is a great option, because you have someone leading you around the outskirts of the city who can teach you something about the place as you ride around. An even bigger plus is that you wont have to worry about getting lost! If you are not into tours and are good with maps (unlike myself) you can rent a bike and venture out on your own. On my tour, I saw residential towns, canals and of course windmills! The scenery is at times spectacular and it certainly made my trip feel more authentic.

IMG_2850

DON’T take pictures in the Red Light District. The area is exactly what you picture from movies and stories. Narrow streets lined with glass doors allowing you to see half naked women standing around waiting for someone to come into their room. It is obviously not something you see often, so many tourist try to take photos but I am warning you.. don’t!! Not only are there signs everywhere, you are being watched. The men that work with these women (also known as pimps) stand on the rooftops and walk through the streets making sure you don’t take any photos. If they spot you, they will approach you. You might not see them but they are around and I promise, you wouldn’t want that happening to you. I saw some of these men and they are pretty intimidating looking!

no-cameras-allowed-sign

DO take a cruise on the canal. This is a great, relaxing way to see different parts of the city. We also had a guide that told us a lot of interesting facts and pointed out specific landmarks such as the Anne Frank House. When I started my tour it was still light and as we went on I got to see the awe inspiring sight of the sun setting over the city and turn to night. In addition to this I also received two drinks, so I observed everything while relaxing with a lovely glass of wine. Bliss!

A4

Here’s looking at you, Casablanca Hotel

Comments 12 Standard

In the heart of Times Square, Casablanca Hotel is the perfect location for anyone visiting New York City. It doesn’t matter what you want to do in the area.. find something to eat, catch a broadway show or sightsee, it is all within a few minutes walk of the hotel. If you do decide to venture out of the immediate area, there are plenty of cabs and subway stations just steps away. It is little wonder that Times Square is referred to as “The Center of the Universe”!

IMG_4279

IMG_4277

IMG_4273

Not only is the hotel is an ideal location, but it also has plenty of complimentary perks that you can enjoy such as a continental breakfast in the morning, cookies, pastries and beverages all day and wine and snacks every evening. Since I arrived there in the evening, I was just in time for some lovely wine! After a crazy day of traveling and sightseeing a glass of wine goes down perfectly. Everything is served in Rick’s Cafe, which was decorated to compliment the holiday season since my visit was in December. There is even an outdoor porch area incase you want to get some air.

IMG_4226

IMG_4244

IMG_4252

IMG_4247

IMG_4229

IMG_4250

IMG_4263

IMG_4266

The suite we stayed in was a really nice size and had a living room, plus a separate bedroom with two beds, which my friend Jeanine and I were relieved to see, so we did not have to share a bed. There was also a complimentary bottle of prosecco waiting for us when we arrived. After we came back from dinner, we watched a movie in our living room and popped it open!
IMG_4193

IMG_4219

IMG_4202

IMG_4205

IMG_4214

IMG_4282

In the morning, we went downstairs to enjoy the breakfast. I wanted to stay on the healthier side, so my plan was to just have a yogurt with some fruit, however I have to admit my that sweet tooth and love of carbs got the better of me! I ended up having a bagel with cream cheese and almond croissant along with my coffee. The breakfast pastries were calling my name so I had to have one of those, which was truly delicious! I MIGHT have gone back later and taken a chocolate croissant. You have to try them all right? 😛

IMG_4288

IMG_4284

IMG_4294

Thank you to Casablanca Hotel for providing our stay. All opinions are, as always, my own.