Ubud shopping – a unique Bali experience

Ubud shopping – a unique Bali experience

Mystical Ubud has long been a focal point of Balinese culture. Nowadays it’s a vibrant artisanal hub with countless workshops, specialty shops and a renowned art market. Ubud shopping is an undeniable attraction for Bali holiday makers with a love of unique handcrafted jewellery, homewares and fashion.

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Hawaii Traveller Information Guide

Hawaii Traveller Information Guide

Unforgettable is what Hawaii is. Astonishing volcanic mountains, teeming emerald jungles, and glorious coloured sand beaches come together in the birthplace of surfing. The group of islands combines an awe-inspiring experience of nature with top notch standards in accommodation, cuisine, shopping and entertainment.

 

Getting to know the Hawaiian islands

 

Visitors to any of Hawaii’s six main islands are spoiled for choice. Visit two islands? More? Which active volcano to tour? Hike or mountain bike? Track down exotic birds or migrating whales? View the towering mountains and coastal cliff faces from the water or from the air? Relax on the beach and deepen the tan, paddle a kayak or play golf? Whether it’s deciding between tackling the surf or joining the spectators to watch the big wave competitions, or choosing between sushi or barbecue, mocktail or Mai Tai, the choices are as exciting as they are endless.

Most travellers land on the island of Oahu, location of capital Honolulu and the fabulous hotel and resort city of Waikiki beach. The Aquarium and Zoo are popular with families, while surfers can ride Waikiki waves or visit the islands many famous breaks. Every kind of outdoor adventure is available to make the most of the incredible scenery.

Adventure lovers fly to Hawaii Island for the hot lava action at Kilauea Volcano. As ‘Big Island’ of the group, it has the most diverse landscape, with exotic tropical jungles, Hawaiian cowboy country, snow dusted mountains and luxury beach resorts.

Maui is a mecca for hikers, divers, surfers, beach lovers and whale watchers. Visit the sleeping giant, Haleakala Volcano, and island hop by ferry to mysterious Molokai and Lanai.

Breathtaking Kauai is home to the stunning Waimea Canyon with its laid back paddling tours on Wailua River. Or marvel at the spectacular Na Pali coast pictured at the top of the page.

 

Hawaii travel facts

 

Australian tourists can travel to Hawaii for up to 90 days without a visa, however requirements are changeable so check the US Department of State website.

Hawaii is warm to hot year round. Low season through October & November has lowest rates and fewer tourists, but can be dry and hot.

The best time to visit are shoulder months, May & September, when rates are reasonable and temperatures are mildest.

Peak season sees highest rates and biggest tourist numbers, especially around Christmas and Easter. December through February are the wettest but the best months for surfing and whale watching. June through August are hottest with an average high of 31°C.

Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines, Jetstar and American Airlines fly direct to Honolulu International Airport from Sydney, with connecting flights to the other islands.

Oahu’s Honolulu International Airport (HNL) is just over 30 minutes from Waikiki Beach, and connecting flights to the other islands take less than an hour. Hawaii Big Island has two airports, – Kona (KOA) and Hilo (ITO), and a lot of travellers who tour the island land at one and depart from the other.

Your holiday package may include airport transfers. Otherwise, local operators provide convenient shuttle services to resort areas. Car hire is available all over Hawaii, and the roads are good and relatively uncrowded.

Local currency is the US dollar. The Australian dollar currently buys approx. 0.76 USD, but check for the latest rates.

Hawaii activities for an amazing holiday

Hawaii activities for an amazing holiday

Hawaii’s scenery is some of the most stunning on the planet. Dramatic volcanic ranges, soaring ocean cliffs, and postcard perfect beaches meet teeming jungles. Enjoy the incredible natural wonders on a day tour or any of the many Hawaii activities available. Driving tours are a breeze on Hawaii’s well maintained roads. Plus, when you’re ready to relax, there are plenty of fabulous dining, shopping and resort experiences to choose from.

 

Nature loving Hawaii activities

 

Ride a mule along the world’s tallest sea cliffs to Kalaupapa National Historic Park on Molokai. The path leads to the historic St Damien’s colony and makes an unforgettable encounter.

If you love hiking, the islands have incredible national parks and scenic trails. For instance, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Big Island with its moon landscape around Kilauea volcano’s active crater. Or climb to the top of Diamond Head near Waikiki Beach. Perhaps take in sunrise and the panoramic views from the from the summit of dormant volcano, Haleakala on Maui.

Hanauma Bay, Oahu (pictured top) is a snorkelling paradise. Or try a snorkelling and sailing tour on the spectacular Na Pali coast of Kauai. Adventurous visitors can get up close to the dolphins and explore sea caves on an ocean kayak tour.

Big Dave’s outrigger canoe tours to the reef off Waikiki Beach might become one of your favourite Hawaii activities. The canoes are big enough to take whole families. Guests have the thrill of paddling and catching waves with an instructor on board.

 

Surfing Hawaii

 

The birth place of surfing is a great place to take your first surfing lessonSunset Suzy on the Oahu North Shore offers family friendly surfing lessons in a cove that’s home to sea turtles. Surf shops across Hawaii offer boards for hire.

What’s more, the islands are famous for their surf spots. Oahu alone offers 30 different surf breaks within a few kilometres of Waikiki, and the North Ahore has 100 different breaks within 12 km. Not to mention the big name competitions. If you’re a fan of tow-in surfing, pencil in a visit between October and December. That’s when professional big wave competitions happen on the Oahu North Shore. Otherwise, try the island of Maui at Peahi, aka ‘Jaws’.

 

Living it up Hawaiian style

Honolulu city holds a one hour authentic hula concert at at the Kuhio Beach Hula Mound four evenings a week. Find a spot on the grass to enjoy the show. Visitors say the best and most authentic Hawaiian feast, or ‘luau’ is the one at the Polynesian Cultural Centre on the Oahu North Shore. In addition, the centre offers fun day time activities for learning about traditional Polynesian skills that are suitable for all ages.

For more urban style fun, Waikiki has a number of super sized shopping malls and cinemas, as well as the Waikiki Aquarium and Honolulu Zoo.

Also see our Hawaii Traveller Guide

 

Chiang Mai Traveller Information Guide

Chiang Mai Traveller Information Guide

Let your senses be your guide in Thailand’s exotic north. A thirteenth century city that retains its original moat and corner bastions, Chiang Mai is capital of a mountainous province 70% covered by forest. The mild climate makes it a perfect destination to explore Thai arts and culture, its natural beauty, or to simply unwind.

 

Charming Chiang Mai

 

Chiang Mai is packed with history and cultural attractions. Mountaintop Wat Prathat Doi Suthep is the most famous of city’s 300 Buddhist temples. Climb the 306 steps or take a lift to visit its famous chedi (stupas) and its expansive terrace that overlooks the city.  Described by some as the region’s most atmospheric temple, Wat Phan Tao is built from local teak and houses an exquisite gold statue of the Buddha. Wat Phra Singh, the Lion Buddha temple is a major site of reverence for Thais and features fantastically ornate carvings.

Take advantage of the vast selection of outdoor activities and mountain and jungle tours in the surrounding province. With Lanna Kingdom Tours you can befriend elephants, zipline through the forest canopy, or go white water rafting on a one day adventure tour. Other popular activities include bamboo rafting, jungle and waterfall hikes, and visits to hill tribe villages. Back in town, enjoy some downtime with an invigorating Thai massage.

Shopping in Chiang Mai is another uniquely Thai experience, with traditional crafts and textiles a specialty. The city’s markets are great spots to haggle with local vendors for handicrafts and souvenirs. Choose from Chiang Mai night bazaar, Saturday Walking Street near the Southern entrance to the old city, and a lively Sunday Walking Street. Talat Ton Phayom and Talat Warorot are markets where the Thais themselves shop. Also look out for the Fair Trade stores selling authentic hill tribe crafts.

Otherwise, be in the city for one of its many festivals. Mid April, the Songkran Festival celebrates the Thai New Year. Around November, Thais make floating offerings and beautiful sky lanterns for the colourful Loi Krathong festival.

 

Chiang Mai travel facts

 

Read our Thailand traveller information guide for info on visas.

There are no direct flights from Australia to Chiang Mai International Airport, but plenty that fly via stops in Asia. Chiang Mai is a one hour flight from Bangkok, or a twelve hour train journey. Sleeper carriages are available for overnight train trips. Get around town by tuk-tuk.

The best times to visit are July to February. March to June are the hottest months and the air can be dusty, however there are fewer tourists. July to September are the wettest months, while October to February are the driest and most popular months to visit. October to February are also coolest. Day time temperatures stay in the low to mid twenties, and you may need a jacket at night.

Chiang Mai activities for an unforgettable holiday

Chiang Mai activities for an unforgettable holiday

Thailand’s enchanting northern city is a cultural hub packed with temples and marketplaces, and surrounded by mountain wilderness. Chiang Mai activities range from urban wanderings in the old town, to countryside adventures exploring National Parks, wildlife sanctuaries and hill tribe villages.

 

Thai immersion Chiang Mai activities

 

A number of museums help visitors learn about Thai traditional life. Another way is to mingle with locals at the marketplaces and try some local cuisine. You’ll love learning to make delectable Thai dishes from fresh grown produce at the Thai Farm Cooking School, and love eating them even more.

 

The temple city

 

Of Chiang Mai’s 300 or so temples, 13th century Wat Chiang Man is the city’s oldest and features a magnificent gold and crimson interior and rare Buddha statues. Unique Wat U Mong was built into a hill in the 14th century, with chambers and tunnels located underground.  Opulent ‘royal grade’ Wat Phra Singh (pictured top), is called the ‘Lion Temple’ because of the lion statues guarding the entrance.

Mountaintop Wat Phra That at Doi Suthep is about a 25 minute drive out of Chiang Mai. It features a grand 300 step Naga serpent staircase to the temple complex. (You can also make the ascent via a lift.) Its terraces provide an expansive view of the city, and the complex has an impressive gold chedi (stupa) and exquisite emerald Buddha. Visitors are welcome to sound the temple gong – one of the largest in the world.

Chiang Mai’s ageless teak temples, Wat Phan Tao and Wat Lok Molee, feature golden Buddhas and intricate gold and wood carvings. They could be the most serene and atmospheric in Chiang Mai. In addition, Wat Lok Molee has a beautiful chedi  and a collection of unusual sculptures. The carved animals from the Chinese zodiac on the temple’s lawns are particularly charming.

Chiang Mai’s world famous Loy Krathong festival takes place each November, with beautiful floating offerings and sky lanterns.

 

Outdoor fun

 

Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountainous National Parks featuring caves, waterfalls and jungle hikes. The range of  activities is enormous, from mountain bike tours, to visits to elephant camps or hill tribe villages.

Humane activities which avoid harm to elephants, gibbons and other wild animals are increasing in popularity. Lanna Kingdom Tours offers tours to a sanctuary where visitors can help feed and bathe the elephants. The same company offers white water rafting, ziplining and bamboo rafting tours.

 

Shopping galore

 

Markets and handicrafts are a specialty. Browse the stalls at the coolest time of day at the Chiang Mai night bazaar, or the popular Saturday and Sunday Walking Street markets on weekends. Locals shop at Talat Ton Phayom and Talat Warorot markets.

Baan Tawai is a ‘creative village’ of small craft shops and workshops about an hour’s drive from the city. It’s less crowded than the markets and can be slightly cheaper. Perhaps worth hiring a car and driver to make the trip.

Baan Celadon on Sankamphaeng Road specializes in traditional Celadon ceramics, including fine tableware and ornaments.

Thai Tribal Crafts is a fair trade store selling attractive handicrafts and textiles at reasonable prices. Otherwise, visit the local craftspeople with disabilities at work at the Healing Family Workshop.

Chiang Mai certainly has plenty of tailors ready to measure you up and run up some new outfits or suits.

Finally, when it’s time to unwind, indulge in one of the incredible eateries, and the numerous spas offering massages and other pampering treatments.

Fabulous Bali shopping – Kuta area

Fabulous Bali shopping – Kuta area

Travellers love Bali for its luxury accomodation deals, great beaches, magical sights and exotic culture. The incredible Bali shopping is a delectable bonus that keeps them going back. Shoppers head to the markets and workshops selling colourful handicrafts, art and textiles. Others love to browse for fashion, furniture and homewares at higher end shops.

 

In the shops

 

Bamboo Blonde in Seminyak sells relaxed and colourful fashion for enjoying Bali’s resort and party life. Otherwise, find the perfect swimsuit in the amazing range at Blue Glue. The Kerobokan store also sells gorgeous resort wear and accessories. Biasa is an elegant resort wear label by an Italian designer and has boutiques in Seminyak and Sanur. Mums and kids can find fab fashions in the same store at Indigo and Rose in Kuta and Seminyak.

The Buddha Gallery, Seminyak, has an incredible collection of antique Buddhas and other Buddhist statuary in wood or bronze. For locally made designer homewares, it’s difficult to go past Hobo. The Orchard Shop in Kerobokan sells beautiful furniture and decor items that furnish five star resorts and hotels around the world.

The Kuta Beach area also has plush, air conditioned shopping malls, stocking all the big brands.

 

The Bali shopping holiday experience

 

Some of the island’s retailers provide an experience that goes beyond shopping. Australian brand Deus Ex Machina’s store in Canggu (north of Seminyak) is part workshop, skateboard mecca, art gallery, shop, bar and café. Custom surfboards, skateboards and bicycles are made onsite. Ogle the custom built motorcycles or order one for yourself.

Drifter Surf Shop and café in Seminyak stocks the big surf labels for men and women, plus some smaller edgier brands. Stay for lunch or a snack and check out the books, surfboards and memorabilia.

 

Hitting the markets and workshops

 

It’s worth travelling out of the Kuta, Seminyak area to Bali’s renowned art markets in Ubud, Guwang or Sukawati. Shoppers can also visit the many artisan workshops located around those centres. Specialties include wood and stone carvings, crafted batik, and hand woven ikat fabrics. Carved Buddhas, toys, clothes, souvenirs and trinkets are popular buys. The shops in and around Kuta have many of the same goods, but prices tend to be higher. Serious shoppers hire a car or van with driver to make the trip. Some operators offer market or arts and crafts tours to make it all easier.

Handmade silver jewellery is another Bali speciality. Some silver workshops, like Studio Perak in Ubud, welcome visitors and offer classes.

 

What you need to know about Bali shopping

 

Can I bring it back to Australia? Check the Australian Customs website for restricted items. For example, wooden and woven items have to be presented to Customs to make sure they don’t contain bark or insects.

Bartering is the customary way of doing business at markets and local shops, however prices tend to be fixed at retailers in shopping malls, boutiques etc. It’s best to ask if you’re not sure. The vendors first price is often up to twice what you end up paying (three times is rare but not unheard of), but there is no rule. Keep the exchange rate in mind. The price you settle for is bound to be a bargain compared to what you might get at home.

You may need to ship some larger or heavier items home or to their intended destination, so factor in the price of shipping and transit time.

See also Things to do in Kuta, Seminyak Nusa Dua