Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Escape Worldwide

Well another year has passed already and here at the Escape Worldwide Long Haul Holidays we have had a great year with plenty of travel, which we love the most.

I myself  have been to Cape Town and the Winelands in South Africa, also Sri Lanka, The Maldives, Dubai and the beaches of Florida. Yep plenty of amazing places, all in the name of research of course. All the places I have visited have there own special magic.

With Dubai I was lucky enough to stay the stunning Atlantis the Palm which was simply brilliant and well worth a visit especially for families as the waterpark there was simply fantastic.

I loved both Sri Lanka and the Maldives with the highlight for me, climbing Sigirya Rock Fortress, it was a bit of a challenge but well worth it when you get to the top, with simply amazing views and the remains of an amazing Rock Fortress! The Maldives again was simply stunning a real jewel in the Indian Ocean and a truly magically place for a honeymoon.

The Stunning Maldives
Mark in the office has been to Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi and Khao Lak in Thailand, Cape Town, Mauritius and Namibia, so again a pretty busy year. Again some simply great destinations with I think Namibia being his highlight. With amazing wildlife and stunning scenery Namibia is indeed unique. The stunning sand dunes at Sousseveli are breathtaking. An on a great road trip cross the Tropical of Capricorn.

Mark at the...well you can guess

Karen ventured to Cape Town, Winelands, Durban and a safari in South Africa and also went to the Maldives. Karen did plenty of research in South Africa, from what we hear she sampled plenty of bottles of wine! 

Amazing Cape Town

We love to travel and try to do as much as we can every year so who know what 2014 will bring.

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic well traveled 2014.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Monday, 18 November 2013

Darren's just got back from the Atlantis The Palm in Dubai......

Darren has just got back from staying at the fantastic Atlantis the Palm:

Driving up the trunk road of the Palm in Dubai the Atlantis dominations the horizon, and to be honest I was a little unsure if I'd like the resort as it looked very big and possible a bit soulless. The driveway to the hotel was full with other guest being dropped off and entering the lobby was a bit overwhelming with all the people whizzing around.

Check was pretty quick and efficient which was a surprise as the lobby was so busy and I found the welcome extremely professional and friendly. Things were looking good!

I was taken to my room with was lovely, very spacious with great views over the Palm and also the main swimming pool. The room was very clean and the quality of the furnishings very good, with all the facilities you could need for a comfortable stay.

I have to say the hotel was a lot less themed than I was dreading and not tacky at all. After I settle in I head to the pool for a few hours chilling. The pool was spacious and bearing in mind the hotel was full there was not shortage of sun loungers.

The hotels has plenty to see and do with the main focus being the simply amazing Ambassador Lagoon home to an impressive array of marine life. The lagoon has numerous view areas and after a while you find yourself captivated but this underwater world.

In addition there is the amazing Lost Chambers tell a story of the Lost City of Atlantis, numerous bars and restaurants and impressive Spa. Another highlight is the Aquaventure Park which is home to some simply fantastic rides. Not only did I chil on the lazy river and feed stingrays but also went for it, yep the Leap of Faith ride, with a drop of over 9 storeys..... it was nerve racking but boy what a ride!

Though my stay at Atlantis was short I was pretty impressed. I initially thought that the resort would be to themed and possible due to it's size would be a little average on the food quality and service, but this certainly wasn't the case, the food was simply amazing, with plenty of choice and of a high quality and the service, well deserving of it's 5* rating!

I would defiantly recommend and stay at the Atlantis again.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Hawaii.... a long way from the UK but well worth a visit!

Darren is a big fan of Hawaii: 

It’s a very long way to Hawaii, so once you’re there it’s worth taking in more than one of the six magical islands that are open to visitors. First stop for many is the island of Oahu, spending most of their time in and around Honolulu and Waikiki, but to get a true taste of Hawaii you’ll need to head over to one of the other islands.

Don’t dismiss Oahu as being just the high rise hotels of Waikiki Beach – it’s true, Waikiki is wall to wall hotels crammed in to a fairly average stretch of beach, but there’s something about the place that’s a little intoxicating, with great restaurants, relaxed bars and quality shopping, beautiful sunsets and a stunning setting - no trip to Hawaii would be complete until you’ve been to Waikiki!

Elsewhere on the Island there’s plenty of interest. Honolulu itself has been voted the most liveable city in the US and it’s easy to see why – it’s fairly small and easy to get around, plus it has a near-perfect climate and it’s full of interest. Fans of ‘Hawaii Five-0’ will recognise buildings such as the Ali’iolani Hale (used as Five-O Headquarters) with the statue of King Kamehameha just outside, while the Aloha Tower gives great views over the downtown and harbourfront areas.

Just outside Honolulu is Pearl Harbor, site of one of the most important events in World War II. The Arizona Memorial and its visitor centre are particularly moving, while the USS Bowfin submarine is really interesting, if a little claustrophobic.

Further afield on Oahu (although you could easily drive the whole island in a day) leave the city behind and take in some of the Island’s incredible scenery. The North Shore has become one of the world’s most famous surfing venues, while the east coast is dominated by dramatic scenery that’s been used in films such as ‘Jurassic Park’ and on TV in ‘Lost’.

Oahu is very much the American side of Hawaii, but as it’s only been the 50th state of the US since 1959 it’s easy to see a more traditional side of things, where connections to Polynesian neighbours such as Tahiti and Fiji are more obvious than those to the US mainland. The island of Maui is perhaps the most beautiful in the archipelago, with stunning beaches and a dramatic volcanic interior, while tiny Kaui has some of the most varied landscapes imaginable on such a small island. Our favourite is Big Island, for its laid-back pace of life, stunning coastline and dramatic scenery dominated by volcanoes.

As its name suggests, Big Island is the biggest of all of the Hawaiian Islands, and a few days with a car will allow you to explore away from the beaches. The island is dominated by Mauna Kea, the highest mountain in the Pacific, one of the best locations in the world for star-gazing – the clear air above the clouds away from light pollution means the summit of the often snow-capped peak is home to a number of the world’s leading high-tech telescopes. A visitor centre at 9,000 feet is easy to reach by car, but if you’re heading higher take a breather here to avoid altitude sickness!

Big Island’s number one attraction, however, is Volcano National Park, a dramatic, unpredictable place of bubbling lava and steaming craters, where eruptions have been continuous since 1983. Certain parts of the park become off-limits as activity starts up, but at the moment visitors can walk along the floor of Kilauea Iki Crater, see the plumes of smoke from the Halema’uma’u Crater and take the Chain of Craters Road to see where the lava flows have made it to the sea. Dramatic, exciting and unnerving all at the same time!

Finish off your Hawaiian adventure on the beaches of the Kona coast, where the relaxed resort of Kailua seems a million miles from hedonistic Waikiki. The area is famed for its Kona coffee, but our top tip is the local beers from the Kona Brewing Company – brewery tours are free, or just relax in the brewery gardens with a cool Longboard lager or a Castaway IPA as the sun sets on another perfect day in paradise.

Don’t miss…The Big Kahuna breakfast at the Cheeseburger in Paradise diner, where the kitsch Hawaiian d├ęcor and great views of Waikiki Beach combine.

Don’t miss…Take a helicopter over Volcanoes National Park to see the latest eruption from the sky – the brave (or stupid) can opt for a ‘no doors’ flight!

One to avoid…Lunch. Portions tend to be huge, so if you managed breakfast (with a side of pancakes) and are heading for dinner, we’d skip lunch entirely!

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Dusk at Ayres Rock, Australia

Darren was relives dusk at Ayers Rock:

We leave the hotel, the Outback Pioneer which is pleasant enough with a huge outside BBQ and head off, by coach into the national park. Somehow I had in my head that you could see Ayers Rock from everywhere, miles around but surprisingly no, you have to go a fair way into the park before you come across it.

You can't help but be in awe when you first see it shooting out of the ground in it's flat surroundings. The immediate reaction is to take a hundred and one pictures, all of which I’m sure would look the same, but never the less you are at Ayers Rock!

Darren at Ayres Rock

The sun would be setting in about an hour so we've still had time to make our way to the main viewing area, not before knocking back the well received glass of red wine. Once at the main viewing area the view of Ayers is amazing and with the sunny slowly beginning to set behind me I felt sure that Ayers Rock will live upto my dreams!

It's at this point, staring at this amazing monolith, that you release you are not alone as you are soon joined by another few coach loads which is disappointing as ideally as the sun sets on this magical rock  you feel that you should be in solitude. Also when you have a  student saying to her boyfriend, “gee it's just a rock”, you realise that this might not be the magically experience you had flown half way around the world for!

It's not until the sun is on it's final decent that all the people around you seem to vanish as the mystical monolith starts to change from a dullish red colour to the most amazing orange. It's almost as if it is reflecting the burnt orange colour of the setting sun and as you watch you release Ayres is much more than just a rock and why the local Aboriginal tribes worships it. Slowly the burnt orange transforms into a dusk reddish grey and the sun finally vanishes into the night sky, leaving just a silhouette.

Sunset at Ayers Rock truly lived up to my expectation, well worth the journey, one of life much do’s! 

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Vietnam a must see destination

In recent years, Vietnam has established itself as a popular holiday destination in the Far East. Mark explores the sights and sounds.

Vietnam is a destination that combines incredible scenery and a varied history with vibrant cities, great food and exceptionally friendly people. This is a country of contrasts, and none more apparent than that of its two main cities, the elegant and charming capital Hanoi and the vibrant southern powerhouse Saigon. Both are well worth a few days to explore, and Vietnam's geography makes it easy to start your journey in one and finish in the other.

Hanoi's French influence is apparent in its elegant buildings and tree-lined avenues – the Old Quarter is a fascinating place to wander through. The pretty Hoan Kiem Lake is a good place from which to get your bearings, with the photogenic Rising Sun Bridge crossing the water. Close by, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is most popular with Vietnamese visitors, who come to see Uncle Ho's final resting place, while his nearby former home gives you an insight into the life of the country's most famous leader of recent times.

Emperor palace complex in Hue, Vietnam

Saigon – or Ho Chi Minh City – is very different to Hanoi, where the climate is steamier and the pace of life is far more frenetic. Modern Saigon congregates at the designer boutiques close to the Opera House, while the more traditional side heads to Ben Thanh market for groceries, clothes and plenty more. The Reunification Palace is one of Saigon's most striking buildings and is now a museum, preserved pretty much as it was when the Americans left in 1975, while buildings such as the post office and Notre Dame Cathedral show the city's French influence. The fascinating War Remnants Museum is quite possibly the most moving museum you're likely to visit, one that really brings home the effects of war. Make sure you have time to take a trip out of the city to see the Cu Chi tunnels, a mind-boggling series of over 250km of tunnels that criss-crossed the region at the height of the Vietnam War.

Central Vietnam is home to some of the country's most beautiful scenery and interesting towns, with the gems of Hue and Hoi An being linked by the beautiful Hai Van Pass. The former capital of Hue is home to numerous tombs of emperors, several beautiful pagodas and the remains of the Citadel. Hoi An is perhaps the most interesting of the two, with its restored wooden buildings and long history of seafarers giving it a charm that's hard to resist. A half-day walking tour of the World Heritage-listed Old Town will take in the key sites, including the famed Japanese Covered Bridge and the Fujian Chinese Assembly Hall.

With over 1,000 miles of stunning coastline, Vietnam is also home to some beautiful beaches, from the diving paradise and nightlife of Nha Trang and the restaurants and bars of Mui Ne, to more peaceful spots such as Ninh Van Bay or the relaxed Quy Nhon, famed for its seafood. Both Hoi An and Hue have beaches close by, making them great options for a holiday that combines sightseeing with beach time.

Vietnam is a charming and fascinating country, one that's steeped in history and packed with interest, and a trip there will leave you planning your return before you've even left.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

India....such a magical place

As Escape Worldwide celebrates its 11th birthday, the team take a look back at some of their favourite destinations. Karen Stewart recalls a trip to northern India, when the story of the Taj Mahal brought a tear to her eye.

There are some places in the world that you feel you know even if you haven't been, and the Taj Mahal is one of them – it's such an iconic building that everyone knows what it looks like, but when you actually visit you're really blown away by just how beautiful this place actually is.
I was part-way through a trip to see the highlights of northern India when I visited the Taj Mahal – it was my first trip to India and a real eye-opener to this fantastically diverse country. I began with a few days in Delhi, which acts as the main gateway to northern India and is a good place to get started, before moving on to Jaipur, which I have to say was my favourite part – there's something about the atmosphere there that I can't quite describe, but just makes it really worth visiting.

Touring India can be quite a tiring experience as there's so much to take in – it's such a hectic place and just walking down the road can be an experience. The roads can be very busy, so getting around can be slow at times – don't try to do too much. But then, just when you're getting a bit tired, you arrive at somewhere as stunningly beautiful as the Taj Mahal, and you quickly remember how wonderful this place is.
It's fair to say that the Taj Mahal is among the most visited sites in India, so you're unlikely to get much in the way of peace and quiet here – forget having a 'Princess Di' moment to yourself. From a distance the Taj Mahal takes your breath away, but it's only when you get up close to it that you can really appreciate the detail involved. The bas-reliefs on the walls, the calligraphy on the gates and the gemstones that are inlaid into the interior walls all come together to produce the most beautiful building imaginable. Seeing the beauty and hearing the love story behind it brought a tear to my eye.

Taj Mahal in Agra, India

The entrance to the Taj Mahal itself is through the landscaped gardens, with a reflecting pool running through the centre giving another perfect photo opportunity – be sure to bring plenty of film, memory cards and batteries with you as you're bound to take more photos than you thought was possible.

I'd recommend taking a guidebook too as there's so much to take in here – the history of the building, the story behind it, the meaning of the architecture and the construction of it – that you simply won't be able to remember all the detail. If you can find a quiet corner, re-read some of the stories, just to ensure you've really appreciated why this place is quite so special.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Thailand - Land of smiles

Thailand is one of the most beautiful, charming and diverse countries you can visit. It's also one of Asia's best-value holiday destinations, says Mark Haughton of Wanstead travel agent Escape Worldwide.

Thailand's diversity makes it a fascinating place to visit, where you can take in ancient temples and modern cities, deserted beaches and non-stop nightlife, stunning countryside and plenty more – all in one trip. Holidays to Thailand are very flexible, so it's not just a two-weeks-on-the-beach kind of place, you can do as much – or as little – as you wish.

Most visitors start their Thai adventure in Bangkok, the capital and by far the largest city, with the best flight connections from the UK. It's a hectic place with lots to experience – there's everything from ancient temples and grand palaces to vibrant markets and lively bars, and while it's a full-on city that's not to everyone's taste, it's an easy place to fall in love with. It also offers some of the best-value, high-quality hotels of any city in the world, so you can start your holiday to Thailand with a spot of luxury without breaking the bank. A few days in Bangkok will give a good overview of the city, but trying to do things too quickly can be draining.

Reclining Buddha, Wat Po in Bangkok, Thailand

If you find Bangkok to be too chaotic, head north to Chiang Mai, Thailand's second city, or to the hills and mountains around the border of Burma and Laos – the fabled Golden Triangle region. Chiang Mai has some of the best markets in Thailand, it's a great location for cookery courses and is also home to some of its most beautiful temples – climb the 309 steps to Wat Suthep, the city's most important temple and one that seems to be made out of pure gold. Further north from Chiang Mai the Golden Triangle marks the area where Thailand meets Burma and Laos, with stunning scenery along the banks of the Mekong. This is a great area for getting off the beaten track, visiting local hill tribes and seeing another side of this diverse country.

Thailand is renowned for its beaches, and no trip to the Land of Smiles would be complete without a relaxing stay on a stunning stretch of sand. All of Thailand's beach resorts are quite different, which adds to the diversity and charm of the country. Head to Pattaya, Chaweng or Patong if you want plenty of nightlife, or to one of the islands, such as Koh Samet or Koh Lanta, if you're in search of total relaxation. The traditional resorts of Hua Hin and Khao Lak offer a less commercialised alternative to the larger resorts and are great locations for sampling some traditional Thai cuisine. Phuket is the largest and most visited resort, but even on this one island you have everything from late-night clubs to deserted beaches.

The food in Thailand is one of the best parts of a trip there – mouth-watering seafood, fiery curries and sublime fresh fruit are some of the highlights. Keep an eye out for seasonal fruit, such as rambutan and mangosteen, the biggest prawns you're likely to come across and a use of chilli that will make your eyes water just thinking about it.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Adventure in Borneo, Malaysia

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.

An Orangutan at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre

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.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dubai - A holiday with a difference

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.

The Burj Khalifa in Dubai

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 pace.

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 a lifetime.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Thursday, 28 March 2013

We need your help... which is the best travel photo?

Please help us settle an office argument - whose is the best photo?

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 think:

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!!

Mark on the Masai Mara in Kenya 

"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!"

Darren flying over Victoria Falls in Zambia

"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!"

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Bangkok in Thailand

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!

Darren at Wat Po - the reclining Buddha

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!

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays

Thursday, 21 February 2013

2013 a great year for travel - Safari in Kenya, Holidays to Thailand and more

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 safari on the Masai Mara with Escape Worldwide
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.

After the fun and excitement on safari then you should really take a couple of days to kick back and chil on a stunning white beach, so try Mombasa on the Kenyan Coast or the tropical island of Zanzibar in Tanzanaia.

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.

Thailand Holidays from Escape Worldwide
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! 

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Oman.. one of our favs in 2012

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!)
Darren at the harbour in Muscat, OmanOman 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

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Honeymoons in 2013

Driving safaris in Kenya

As the wedding season approaches, Escape Worldwide takes a look at some of their most popular destinations for honeymooners.

If your idea of the ultimate romantic honeymoon is to be alone with just the love of your life, then look no further than the Maldives. Hundreds of tiny islands scattered across the Indian Ocean, the Maldives is a stunningly beautiful destination where romance comes easily. Lazy days on the beach, beautiful sunsets and understated service are the order of the day here – forget sightseeing and partying! Resorts do vary quite considerably, and as you can’t really leave your island once you’re there its important to get the right one for you. Larger islands tend to offer a range of facilities and more of a village feel, ideal for those who like a little more activity, while some islands are little more than a dot on the horizon, perfect for a real get-away-from-it-all. From the moment you land at the airport, the beauty and romance of the Maldives really does take your breath away.

For a longhaul honeymoon that won’t break the bank– and for a destination that’s fantastic at including extra touches to turn a holiday in to a honeymoon – Thailand is hard to beat. It’s a great value destination anyway and one that’s awash with stylish, quality hotels, but it’s easy to make your budget go a long way in Thailand. Keep an eye out for hotels that will offer complimentary touches such as room upgrades and spa treatments to help celebrate your honeymoon. Thailand excels at world-class hotels where the service is second to none, plus there’s a really good range of hotels that will give you high standards at a great price – pool villas are a bit of a Thai speciality, where your individual villa comes complete with your very own swimming pool, and they can sometimes cost little more than a standard room. With plenty of flight options and competitive hotel prices, Thailand tops the ranks for unbeatable honeymoon value for money, but without compromising on standards.

Many honeymooners look for a holiday that will give them memories of a lifetime, and one of the most popular options for this style of trip is a safari in Africa. Spend a few days exploring the game parks of East or Southern Africa before hitting one of the glorious beaches along the Indian Ocean coastline, hopefully spotting the‘Big 5’ on the way. Kenya is at its best from July to October when the annual migration is in full swing, when millions of wildebeest, zebra and other animals head to the Masai Mara to create the greatest wildlife show on earth. The East African coastline also boasts some of the world’s best beaches, where recent hotel openings have raised standards too, or perhaps head further afield to the likes of Mauritius or the Seychelles.
A honeymoon is a once in a lifetime holiday, and with so many destinations to choose from, the hardest decision for many couples may be knowing where to start!

Top Tip…if you’re tied to departures dates – perhaps a Sunday evening departure for a Saturday wedding –consider a destination served by multiple airlines to give you flight flexibility. Dubai, the Far East and the Indian Ocean lead the way.

Top Tip…take a copy of your wedding certificate with you, as some hotels will include freebies for honeymooners such as room upgrades but they may ask for proof! Generally, travelling within 6 months of getting married will class as a honeymoon.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays 

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Happy New Year from Escape Worldwide

A Happy New Year from everyone at Escape Worldwide. We had a great 2012 and we all managed to travel tons, all in the name of research of course.

Mark went to Mauritius which he loved and saw loads of properties. He was particularly taken by the Long Beach Resort Mauritius which he found was of a great standard with a good all inclusive package and also good sized rooms. So much so he's planning to go back next year on his own holiday.

He also went to Kenya again and as well as going on safari he also visited the brand new Swahili Beach Hotel in Mombasa which is a stunning 5* resort on Mombasa's south coast and if a great standard, cascading swimming pools and great restaurants.

Karen also made it to Kenya last year and went on safari on the Masai Mara and also Amboseli National Park which she hadn't visited before and simply loved being in the foothills of Kilimanjaro.

I managed to travel a fair bit, I made it to Mauritius, Taba in Egypt, Koh Samui in Thailand and Oman. In Koh Samui I stayed at the Centara Villas Samui in one of their stunning pool villas, stunning and such great value!

All were simply fantastic and well worth a visit in 2013.

We also finished the year on a high winning Kuoni Specialist Agent of the Year 2012 and also Travel2 Asia Agent of the Year 2012!

Everyone at Escape Worldwide hopes you have a fantastic 2013 and have simply amazing travels.

Escape Worldwide - Home of Long Haul Holidays