Escape Worldwide is a long haul travel agent based in the UK. We specialise in various destinations such as Thailand, Kenya, Tanzania and Cuba and many of the places we feature have been visited by us. See http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk for more info!
For a holiday with adventure, Escape Worldwide's Karen
Stewart swapped Wanstead for Malaysia and the island of Borneo, where she
discovered glorious beaches combined with intriguing wildlife.
Borneo is on a lot of people's must-see list of places
because of its beaches, wildlife – most famously the orangutan – jungles and,
for the more energetic, mountain climbing. It's a really special place, and
while it's not the easiest to get to, it's well worth the effort. Consider
spending a few days in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, on the way
to Borneo, visiting the Petronas Twin
Towers, Chinatown and the great markets, then fly over to Kota Kinabalu,
the main town in Sabah.
Borneo's geography is quite complicated, with the one
island split between three countries, but while the Malaysian side of the
island is far smaller than the Indonesian side – the third country, Brunei, has
a really tiny area – far more visitors head to Malaysia, and the province of
Sabah receives most of these.
The town of Kota Kinabalu, or KK as it's often known
(they seem to like shortening town names in Malaysia), is a bustling place with
plenty of interest, some great restaurants and a relaxed feel – it's certainly
far less hectic than Kuala Lumpur (KL). There are some beautiful beaches along
the coastline either side of the town, so you can stay close to the centre if
you want to try the local restaurants and do a bit of shopping, or base
yourself out of town on one of the glorious beaches a bit further away if
you're looking for a more relaxed stay.
Over on the east coast of Borneo is the town of Sandakan,
where the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is
located, and this is definitely worth visiting either for a day trip or
overnight. The centre has been helping to release rescued orangutans back into
the wild since the 1960s, with many of their residents coming from areas of
Borneo that have been cleared for logging, from illegal hunting activities, or
from being kept as pets. Orangutans are so rare and so mesmerizing that a
centre like this is such an important place – many visitors are really moved to
see some of the younger orangutans being hand reared by the staff, on
their gradual way back into the jungle.
One of the leading places to stay in Borneo is the beautiful
Shangri-La Rasa Ria, a gorgeous hotel set on the beautiful sands of Dalit Bay.
The whole area around the Rasa Ria has a very relaxing feel, but the highlight
is their very own orangutan centre, a 64-acre site that allows guests to
see these amazing creatures up close. Here you can actually get closer to the
orangutans than you generally can at Sepilok, which is a good sign for Sepilok
as it shows their programme is working, with the animals gradually moving back
into the jungle areas of the centre.
Some of the younger residents of the centre at the Rasa Ria
can be particularly curious about the visitors, and they swing on the ropes to
take a closer look. If you visit the centre, don't be surprised if one of the
orangutans comes within a few inches before the rangers intervene.
There's more to Dubai than skyscrapers and luxury hotels,
says local travel agent Mark Haughton of Escape Worldwide. The city also acts
as a hub for destinations across the Indian Ocean and beyond.
Dubai is one of the Middle East's most dynamic cities, and
one that has seen more change in the last decade or so than anywhere else on
the planet. Major construction projects, including offshore islands, the famous
man-made 'palms', huge shopping centres and even the world's tallest building –
the 829-metre-high Burj Khalifa - have turned Dubai from a fairly small town in
to one of the world's most visited cities.
It's a great place to start a holiday, with water parks,
beaches, museums and superb shopping in the form of the historic souqs as well
as the more modern outlets, with the likes of the Dubai Mall, three times the
size of our own Westfield Stratford City. Spend a few days exploring the city,
or a little longer to take in the beach too, before moving on.
It's then a case of deciding where you want to head to after
a stay in Dubai, and the choice couldn't be wider. In less than 30 years the
airline of Dubai, Emirates, has built up a network that links the city to over
120 destinations across the world, many lending themselves perfectly to a
holiday combining Dubai with beach resorts, bustling cities and more. As the Emirates
network is so comprehensive, holidays that combine Dubai with other places tend
to be extremely flexible, so you can suit your own timescale.
The islands of the Indian Ocean are very well served by
Emirates from Dubai, with regular connections to Sri Lanka, the Maldives,
Mauritius and the Seychelles. The beautiful islands of the Maldives offer one
of the most popular combinations with Dubai, twinning its quality hotels and
renowned service with pure indulgent escapism, where there's nothing to do but
relax. From the moment your flight from Dubai arrives at the airport you'll be
straight into the island's way of life – there can't be many airports where the
runway is right on the beach.
If you're looking for something more than just beaches to
complete your holiday, then Sri Lanka is a superb option. Away from the coast,
the island's interior is crammed with interest, including the ancient cities of
the north, the cultural heartland of Kandy in the centre and the beautiful
mountain scenery and tea plantations further south. Spend a few days exploring
with your own car and driver – a flexible and great value way to go at your own
One of the newest routes from Dubai is to the Thai beach
resort of Phuket. Holidays to Thailand have always been flexible, so why not
combine Dubai and Phuket with a few nights in the chaotic capital Bangkok, or
in the northern countryside around Chiang Mai, before finishing off on the
beach in the south of the country.
Dubai is a great place for a holiday, but combine the city
with other destinations and it's easy to turn a great holiday into the trip of
Please help us settle an office argument - whose is the best
Ever since we had some of our favourite photos enlarged to put on the wall of
our Travel Lounge, there's been an ongoing argument in the office as to who's
photo is best. Have a look at our favourite photos and let us know what you
Karen at the Taj Mahal in India
"This is the best photo because of its composition and
artistry - plus because I took it! Getting the reflection right in the pool was
tricky, but it worked a treat when a group of colorfully dressed local ladies
walked in to shot, rather than the group of backpackers who'd just moved on! I
love this photo so much I've had it enlarged and is now on the wall at home!!
"This photo is more about the experience than the photo
itself, although getting a shot when the cheetah was bearing her teeth while
the cubs were looking in the right direction helps! Just after I took the photo
the mum came along to our vehicle to use us as a lookout post - clearly the
roof of our vehicle was a better vantage point than the hillock she's standing
on in the photo!"
"Taking a photo of the vast Victoria Falls from a
helicopter is no mean feat, so this is my entry - capturing the spray from the
Falls along with the crashing water is quite difficult as the spray can get so
much you can barely see the waterfall itself! I also took some photos when I
was standing on top of the Falls, on the far bank on the right hand side in this
photo, but it was so scary they didn't do it justice!"
Darren talks about one of his fav places.... Bangkok..Thailand
Thailand is probably my favourite country of all those I've visited, and it's one I've been to the most - I went twice this year alone, taking in the beach resorts of Phuket and Koh Samui, plus spending a few days on Bangkok, one of my favourite cities anywhere!
This time I stayed at the Rembrandt Hotel, which is really well located for zipping around Bangkok on the skytrain, the monorail network that keeps moving when the City's terrible traffic grinds to a halt. The best thing I find is to get a day pass for the skytrain that costs 100 Baht (about £2) which lets you travel all day - it's easier than getting a ticket each trip! The Rembrandt Hotel has a superb Indian restaurant on the top floor, and dining here comes with a spectacular view across Bangkok - the food's pretty good too!
On this trip I did a bit of sightseeing in Bangkok and went back to the Grand Palace and Wat Po - these are two of Bangkok's most famous sights and I hadn't been to either for years! Wat Po is also known at the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, and houses a 43-metre long gold-covered Buddha statue - along one wall of the temple is a row of over 100 bowls, and visitors are encouraged to drop small coins in to each bowl to bring them good luck (here's hoping!)
On this trip I also went to see a hotel that I hadn't been to before, the Centara Grand at CentralWorld, and popped in to the nearby Pratunam Market - Bangkok has dozens of markets and loads of shopping centres (a few new ones open each time I visit!) but Pratunam Market has been there for ages. It's not as glitzy as some of the newer options, but it's a superb place for bargains, especially clothes. Next time I go to Bangkok I'll have to buy a bigger suitcase!
We've had a busy start to the year and already its becoming clear that a couple of destinations are in favour this year.
Safaris in Kenya and Tanzania are proving to be as popular as ever and remarkably good value. Safaris in Africa do really create memories of a lifetime and everyone in the office has been on safari and we just can't stop talking about them.
I'm a huge fan and below is a picture I took of a stunning Cheetah when on was on the Masai Mara last:
Cheetah on the Masai Mara
The wildlife in Kenya is simply stunning and seeing the Big 5 is pretty easy. Tents and Lodges are very comfortable with all the creature comforts us humans insist on.
Holidays to Thailand are yet again proving massively popular, largely I think as they are such remarkably good value for money and the standard of accommodation pretty impressive. We've always been such big fans of Thailand and I think that help us win Top Asia Agent in 2012 from the tour operator Travel2.
Bangkok is pretty much a must, it's a fun lively city with plenty to see and do, though personally a maximum 4 nights here would be enough, anymore and I think you'll go mad! They say you shouldn't but riding in a Tuk Tuk around Bangkok is great fun...I loved it.
Tuk Tuk's in Bangkok
After a stay in Bangkok then head to one of Thailand's amazing beach resorts. Thailand has a beach resort for everyone from the peaceful remote retreats such as Koh Lanta and Koh Samet to the lively resort of Pattaya and Patong in Phuket. Why not come two, say a week partying in Phuket and then a few days chilling in stunning Koh Phi Phi.
I'm a big fan of the beach resort Hua Hin, I find it has a great Thai feel, with plenty of great bars and restaurants and a fantastic night market. It's less commercial than the like of Phuket and a great place to relax but with still enough to do in the evening.
Other areas such as Cuba and the Maldives are doing well this year. We work closely with key tour operators so much so we were awarded the Kuoni Holidays Specialist Agent of the Year in 2012!
Wherever you travel to in 2013 we hope you have a fantastic time and create memories that last forever!
Oh and don't forget if you are in the Wanstead or South Woodford area don't forget you can always pop in for a cuppa and a chat. We've been to many of the places we offer and love to talk about them!
In 2012 we did a lot of travel, for research honest! One of Darren's favourites was Oman:
“For a spot of winter sunshine late last year I had a long weekend in Oman, where temperatures were in the mid 30's - just perfect for lazy days in the pool! I stayed at the Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton hotel and a local landmark - there aren't many hotels I've been to where the local Sultan has a floor all to himself (not even the hotel's manager has been to the 9th floor, apparently!) Oman is a beautiful country and Muscat itself is a fascinating town - the area has some beautiful hotels but if you can drag yourself away from the beach then I'd really recommend exploring Muscat for a half a day. The Grand Mosque is a beautiful example of Arabic architecture, while the Downtown area of Mutrah has an excellent Souq that looks like it hasn't changed for hundreds of years - I bought some spices and a rather lovely stained glass light fitting that seemed like a bargain!
The Al Bustan Palace itself is somewhat glitzier than most hotels I've stayed in, and its luxury extends from the 18 metre crystal chandelier in the lobby (the biggest in the world, apparently!) right through to the ice-cold drinks and fruit skewers brought to your sunbed. The out & out relaxation was only broken when a helicopter started circling overhead, but I guess that's what you must expect when your staying in a genuine Sultan's palace!” Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk