Tuesday, 28 July 2009

London 2012 - Working by the Olympics building site

Escape Worldwide’s offices are located in Stratford, East London, home of the 2012 Olympic Games. Over the past months we’ve gradually watched various venues being built, and with the Olympic stadium being just a 15 minute walk from our office, it’s been an interesting period – if somewhat chaotic! With three years to go, the pace is hotting up.

So here we are, 2 years after the initial announcement was made that the world was coming Stratford in 2012, and we have to admit, from our window we are very impressed with what has been going on. We’ve had a lot of disruption to normal life, with unannounced road closures causing traffic chaos being commonplace, noise from the demolition and reconstruction process becoming quite draining, and a semi-permanent layer of dust and dirt over everything, but the area is undergoing a really major transformation, so it’s nothing we didn’t expect.

Just outside our office block, Channelsea House, is a walkway and cycle path called the Greenway, which weaves its way through a few miles of East London. We are on the section that leads from the nearby underground station to the Olympic area, so this area is currently undergoing a major facelift - in fact the contractor that is doing the work is in the office next door to ours! They seem to be getting on with it well and lots of it has been resurfaced and being prepared for planting. One main problem though, is that we can’t have our windows open most of the time for all the noise coming from just outside - maybe the London Development Agency would like to treat us to some cooling fans!

The most impressive development, however, is in the distance from us - the Olympic Stadium, which we have seen take shape over the past months. It’s less than a mile from the office so we get a pretty good view, and can see the continued progress on almost a daily basis – just last week, the final pieces of the main support structure were put in to place.
At the start of the process, Channelsea House was earmarked to be demolished to make way for new walkways linking the nearby underground station to the Olympic Stadium. On the other side of the building, we overlook the Channelsea River, which links through to the River Lea, and this was to become a recreational area for boating and other activities. After various consultations and revamped plans (one even suggesting we just lost one end of our building including the lift shaft and front door – the planners don’t seem to have thought that idea through too carefully!) it was finally decided to leave things as they are, and scale back the plans for walkways and boating lakes. It’s good news for us as we didn’t really want to relocate, so the less disruption on our doorstep the better.

To be honest, I think all of us in the office were a little sceptical that we would ever see a stadium let alone so well in advance of 2012, especially after it seemed to take months to decided if our building was staying put just for a bit of greenery! For local people like us it has been hard work, the amount of extra lorries etc on the roads and road closures has meant getting to work can be a real nightmare - and it’s only going to get worse! Still, credit where credits due, from where we sit the stadium does look pretty impressive.


Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Facebook - Everyone's in it!

Everyone I know seems to be on Facebook, so not wanting to be left out Escape Worldwide has created a little page there!

Check it out at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/London-United-Kingdom/Escape-Worldwide/6825384971

Why not become a fan, we love seeing the numbers go up!



Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Creating a twin centre holiday

Creating the perfect twin centre holiday requires the combination of a number of factors, and with our experience we can put together the ideal itinerary.

The first thing to consider is time, and how much of it you have. In many destinations, if you try to do things too quickly your memories will only be a blur, but if you spend too long in certain cities, things may get a bit much. Also bear in mind your total duration, of course. In busy cities such as Bangkok, three or four nights would be ideal to get to grips with it and to take in the main highlights – if you tried to do it all in a day you probably won’t remember much, but stay too long and the traffic will get to you! In Singapore, however, where things are more organised, a shorter trip will allow you to take things in without getting too hot & bothered.

Next thing is location. If you’re only looking at a short stopover before hitting the beach, then the location of your hotel is an important factor when it comes to making the most of your time. In Dubai, for example, stay in Deira or on Sheikh Zayed Road if you’re only in town for a few nights, as most of the city’s attractions can be reached easily from here. Beach hotels may have a more glamorous outlook, but if you spend most of your time travelling to the sights, then you’re not making the most of your time. In Hong Kong, a short stopover in an Island hotel may leave you spending more than you would had you been in Kowloon – many of the Island’s bars and restaurants charge a premium for their central location, in the heart of the business district, where expense accounts normally pick up the tab.

Cost, obviously, is also an important factor. Turing a beach holiday in to a twin centre itinerary is easy if you’re already flying via your second location, but often, adding in a new location involves more flights with different airlines, and costs can start to increase considerably. If you’re flexible, ask us for the best deals. A great example of this is Bali, where flight options change quickly.

The combination of Hong Kong and Bali is cost-effective when the cheapest flight seats are available, but as soon as we’ve sold out of these, prices increase quickly. However, travelling via Bangkok tends to be great value year-round, especially with cost-effective hotels in Bangkok starting at around £ 18 per person per night. There are also great deals with Singapore Airlines from time to time, making Singapore the best value twin centre combination, but at the moment, Malaysia Airlines are the most cost-effective, so if you’re flexible, a Kuala Lumpur plus Bali twin centre works best. It’s all down to the best deal for when you’re travelling, as to which is the best value combination.

The best way to your perfect twin centre holiday is to ask someone who’s been – and that’s us!

Have a look at the places we can offer at http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Or some more specialist websites:

Thailand: http://www.thaiescapes.co.uk
Asia: http://www.asiaescapes.co.uk

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Wild man of Borneo and the Beach!

Karen visited the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre when she was on holiday in Borneo.

“Ever since I’ve worked in travel I’ve had a fascination with Orang Utans, and have always wanted to see them in the wild. Every time I’ve booked a holiday to Borneo I’ve got quite excited at the possibility of going myself, so when two of my friends suggested we went on holiday to the Far East together, I persuaded them to include Borneo in the trip!

We spent a few nights at the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru, a lovely hotel set close to Kota Kinabalu town but right on the beach – a perfect combination of high standards and relaxation plus local restaurants, bars and shops close by. One of my friends spent a few days diving while we chilled out on the beach – an ideal way to relax after a hectic few days shopping and sightseeing in Kuala Lumpur!

We’d booked an overnight trip to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, located a short flight from Kota Kinabalu on Borneo’s east coast. The centre is a sanctuary for orphaned and sick Orang Utans from the surrounding area, and visitors can get close (but not too close!) to these amazing creatures. The younger ones seem permanently curious but always sleepy, as they spend time with the centre staff.

As the younger Orang Utans become older, the process of rehabilitation in to the wild begins, and we were lucky enough to visit the jungle around the centre to see the Orang Utansd learning how to live in the wild once more. Seeing them in the centre was very special, but seeing these majestic creatures in the wild was even more so!

We were so impressed with the Sepilok centre and the work they do that we decided to sponsor one of the residents, so now Sogo the Orang Utan has three new friends in the UK, as well as her jungle friends in Borneo.!

For holidays to Borneo visit http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/asia/destin/Mbor.shtml

View our Borneo photo gallery: http://www.farawayescapes.co.uk/gallery/Escape%20Worldwide%20Borneo%20Photo%20Gallery/

Friday, 10 July 2009

A few place that Escape Worldwide has visited!

Just some of the places that the staff at Escape Worldwide have visited:

Exploring Cape Town

Following a recent visit to South Africa, Mark ended up in Cape Town after a week-long drive along the Garden Route:

“South Africa is such a diverse country that a drive through part of it turned out to be really rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable. I’d never done a driving holiday before, but I really liked the flexibility and independence, being able to go where we wanted, when we wanted. Picnics on the beach for breakfast (as dolphins swam past on one morning!), seafront cafes for a quick break, stops to take in the view over False Bay to the Cape of Good Hope or to see the penguins at Betty’s Bay, just because we wanted to!

We’d driven about 1500 km from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, via Knysna, Wilderness, Arniston and Hermanus, arriving in to Cape Town from the winelands at Stellenbosch and the Cape of Good Hope National Park. After the best part of a week on generally peaceful roads and in small towns, Cape Town was a bit of a culture shock! We drove in via the Lion’s Hill pass at Table Mountain, which gives you a spectacular view of the city (coming in on the main highway from the airport makes the city to feel quite industrial) but as it was Friday afternoon and rush hour was kicking in, it was best to get off the roads as quickly as possible. We were staying on St George’s Mall in the heart of the city centre, so we were able to explore most areas on foot.
Cape Town has many different facets, and a good way to take them all in is on the ubiquitous open top bus, which links the city centre with the Waterfront, Table Mountain and some of the outlying beaches – a perfect combination of highlights. First stop was Table Mountain, as the skies were clear and the top was visible – the weather can change very quickly and the cable car only runs when the clouds move away, so we were straight up. Despite my dislike of heights and a cable car that rises at an alarming rate while rotating (close your eyes if you’re anything like me!) we made it to the top for some simple stunning views back down to the city on one side and along the Cape Peninsular, where we’d been the previous day, to the other.

The bus took us on via the Kirstenbosch Gardens to the Atlantic Seaboard, where we stopped off for lunch at Camps Bay. A lovely stretch of sand is a local magnet for fashionable young things, so feeling well out of place we headed back in to the city. The city centre is fairly quiet at the weekend, so we headed to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a development of hotels, shops and restaurants that merge in with what is still a working harbour. After a spot of shopping for a few bottles of wine that we’d spent an afternoon in Stellenbosh conducting extensive research in to, we headed for the nearest bar to soak up the sunshine and the atmosphere in this most delightful, fascinating city.“

For holidays to Cape Town visit http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/far/destin/AFsosc.html

View our Cape Town photo gallery: http://www.farawayescapes.co.uk/gallery/Escape%20Worldwide%20Cape%20Town%20Photo%20Gallery/

For all of our holidays visit: http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Bargain Hunting in Chiang Mai Thailand

Karen spent some time experiencing Chiang Mai’s excellent shopping options!

“Chiang Mai is one of my favourite parts of Thailand – I love the mix of modern and ancient, with beautiful temples next to buzzing street markets and funky bars. The shopping here is fabulous – there’s everything from modern department stores and glitzy shopping centres to night markets and the renowned night bazaar – it’s a shoppers paradise!
I was staying close to the night bazaar in Chang Klan Road – each evening this area of Chiang Mai comes to life as the street is lined with shops and stalls selling everything from souvenirs to clothes – there’s a huge range of goods with what I can only presume are less-than authentic credentials, including CD’s and DVD’s, t-shirts, handbags, sunglasses and watches. Prices here seem cheaper than Bangkok – even though Bangkok itself seems remarkably low when you first arrive! This is a good location to stay in if you visit Chiang Mai – it’s a short taxi ride to the old city, and a 10 minute walk to the river, where there are some excellent restaurants and bars – I even did a dinner cruise along the river, which was great fun!
A friend I was visiting in Chiang Mai told me about a new street market that’s recently opened, located in the old city close to the Phra Singh temple, a local landmark. The market only operates once a week, whereas the night bazaar is daily, but the quality of goods here seemed really high, and there were some imaginative souvenirs for sale. There’s also an excellent food area serving cheap and tasty meals and snacks – I had a superb plate of mee grob, Thai crispy fried noodles, with a cold bottle of Singha beer (a personal favourite of mine!) all for £ 1.50!

Next day I headed off to one of Chiang Mai’s glitzy new shopping centres, for some air-con retail therapy. The Central Airport Plaza is only a 10 minute tuk-tuk ride from the night market, but is a world away in terms of style. There’s a branch of Central department store, plus dozens of other shops, an aquarium and a cinema. There’s excellent local food in the basement, although after a little while window shopping I headed back over to the more local – and to my mind more Thai – street markets. Fun, cheap and easy – my idea of perfect shopping!”

For holidays to Chiang Mai visit http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/thai/destin/cnx.shtml

For all the holidays we offer go to: http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk

Friday, 3 July 2009

Escape Worldwide - Latest Holiday Special offers

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A place we have been....The Maldives

Darren visited the Maldives last year:

“The Maldives is one of those destinations that’s never really interested me, so when the opportunity came up to go, I was fascinated to see what all the fuss was about – and I was so glad I made it! Much as I love beach holidays, I also like things to see and places to visit while on holiday. The thought of spending a week or two on one island, in one hotel, doesn’t really appeal – I need local restaurants to try, local bars to discover and shops to buy souvenirs in. I’m not very good at lazing around and doing nothing, be it on holiday or at home!
As the Maldives doesn’t really offer this style of holiday, I was a little apprehensive – but I shouldn’t have been! The first thing that struck me was the sheer beauty of the place – I hadn’t realised that beaches and the sea could be so stunning. Small islands often encircled by white sand, clear blue seas teaming with coulourful fish – there are no dramatic landscapes, no historic sights and no cultural buildings to speak of, but the simple beauty of the islands is really breathtaking.
Alarmingly, I got in to the whole ‘no news no shoes’ thing very quickly, and found myself chilling out where normally I’d be getting out and about and seeing the sights. I somehow managed to lose almost an entire day without really realising – a short stroll to a sandbank, a bit of snorkelling and a bite to eat, and suddenly the sun is sinking in the sky and it’s time to change for dinner!
Before I visited the Maldives I really wouldn’t have said it was for me, but I could really get used to doing absolutely nothing on holiday!”

Check out Darren’s Maldives photo gallery at http://www.farawayescapes.co.uk/gallery/Escape%20Worldwide%20Maldives%20Photo%20Gallery/
For more details of holidays to the Maldives visit http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/ind/destin/mle.shtml

See all our holidays at http://www.escapeworldwide.co.uk/