Photos coming soon! When we re-launched The 3 Star Traveler we lost many of the original photos from posts. Lori is gradually working her way through past posts and uploading the photos once again. Check back soon!
Katie of the travel blog Tripbase has started what will prove to be a productive game of blog tag. She is challenging us travel bloggers to create a list of our three best kept travel secrets. Once the lists are completed, a Creative Commons document will be compiled with all kinds of travel secrets. There is quite a list of experienced travelers that have been tagged so stay tuned. I’ll be sure to share the scoop when it’s done.
I was tagged by one of my favorite foodie travel blogs The Road Forks. Akila originally tagged my food blog Fake Food Free where I do talk about travel, but I think this post is a better fit right here at The 3 Star Traveler. It is about time I get things rolling!
My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets
Ilha do Mel, Paraná, Brasil
When visiting Brazil, head south my friend. Past Recife, Bahia, Rio and Sao Paulo, all the way to the southern state of Paraná. Brazil is an incredibly diverse country; much more than I ever knew before living there the past two years. The south may lack the popular beaches and blue waters of the north, but it makes up for it in rich, diverse culture, amazing food and natural paradise.
Ilha do Mel (island of honey) is located about a 2.5 hour drive and 30 minute boat ride east of the capital city of Curitiba. An island free of motorized vehicles, this natural wonderland is by far one of the best kept secrets of the locals who live in the area. Beaches around the island are separated with rocks and vegetation just screaming to be hiked and climbed. I did just that on my 30th birthday last year.
There are plenty of beaches to relax on, but the island also has landmarks to visit such as a lighthouse, fort and ecological reserve if you choose to do a little hiking during your visit. When you get hungry stop at Toca do Abutre near Braslíia. Enjoy the view while you snack on camarão frito (fried shrimp), casquinha de siri (stuffed crab) and ice cold cerveja. Plan ahead if you travel there during the South American summer especially around Carnival time as there is a daily limit for the number of persons who can visit and stay on the island.
Patara Elephant Farm Chiang Mai, Thailand
Thailand is not without plenty of tours that involve elephants, but none of them are like what you will encounter when visiting the Patara Elephant Farm. Let’s just say you will be doing a bit more than patting them on the trunk and your ride won’t involve one of those saddles that look like it was pulled straight from the circus.
The farm’s web-site states, “Yes, we are different!” and that could not be more accurate. This Thai owned and managed farm focuses on health-care and breeding management to ensure that the Asian elephant does not become extinct. They act as a rescue organization as well, taking in those elephants that have been mistreated through their use as a tourist attraction on the streets of Thailand. The funds generated from visitors help keep the farm up and running.
If you take advantage of the Elephant Owner for a Day program be ready to work. Your day will begin in the middle of a gorgeous rice paddy where you will hear a story about the importance of the elephant in Thailand and just how shockingly close this creature is to extinction. You’ll be assigned to a trainer who will be with you for the day and finally you get to meet your elephant.
After feeding him or her and performing a daily health check, you’ll climb into the creek and give the equivalent of a sponge bath. Next you are up, riding them bare back throughout the forests of northern Thailand. Up and down mountains, through clay-like mud and down primitive roadways. You’ll stop for lunch next to a creek while the elephants play in the water. Your feast will be some of the most traditional and authentic Thai foods you will likely have on your entire trip. Next you too can swim with your elephant and then you will be back up for a ride making your way to the farm.
The tour lasts an entire day from about 7:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and is truly a life changing experience. I would, however, recommend a few things. Do a couple weeks of core strengthening workouts to help your back during the ride (I’m really not kidding), wear bug spray and stay hydrated, but don’t drink too much as potty breaks are few and far between.
Experience Bali on the Morning Journey in Ubud
Many people go to Bali for the beaches, but having had plenty of beach on our Southeast Asia trip we chose to spend three nights in the arts and cultural center of Ubud. Yes, the center of the city is still highly touristy, but if you want to get a sneak peak of real life there make your way over to Tegal Sari and sign up for the Morning Journey. You can participate even if you aren’t staying at the hotel.
A mere 15 USD per person will enlighten you and inform you regarding the Balinese culture more than you ever thought possible. A local guide will take you to a village outside Ubud where you will visit many housing compounds including a local art school. There your new view of this amazing place will begin to form as you learn about the Hindu religion, cultural practices and local foods.
Speaking of local foods the second half of the experience involves a rather rugged hike through the rice terraces and forest. You’ll learn about rice production, identify fruit trees and may even get lucky enough to have a local farmer climb a massive palm tree barefoot to cut you a coconut for a mid-afternoon refreshment.
The day lasts from about 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and you’ll finish up with a lunch provided by the hotel. You’ll leave wishing you had a few more days to spend with these wonderful people learning more intimate things about their intriguing culture.
Now I have to tag five other travel bloggers (which also happen to be five of my favorite reads) to share their 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets.
On the Fringe – The life of Global Gal in China with notes of ex-pat experiences and travel adventures.
Rubber Slippers in Italy – The ex-pat stories and travel tales of Rowena from Hawaii as she takes on all Italy has to offer.
Chez Loulou – Entertaining stories, beautiful photos and a taste of life in the south of France from a U.S ex-pat perspective.
Gastroanthropology – The social science of food along with tales of travel and cooking from a U.S. ex-pat living in London.
Kyle Hepp (Just Married Chilean Style) – Beautiful photos and straight forward stories from a U.S. ex-pat living in Chile turned world traveler.