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English: Night shot of Golden Gate Bridge and ...

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Mark Twain was once inaccurately attributed to saying, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." San Francisco, home of sour dough bread and the Golden Gate Bridge, is fondly known for its hilly streets, hippie culture, wacky weather, and one of the most crooked streets in the world. San Fran may be a bit chilly for the sunshine state of California, but the moderate temperature makes it quite enjoyable for the rest of the nation to vacation.


Alcatraz


The famous island of Alcatraz only housed inmates for 29 years, but its legacy lives on in infamy as is consequently one of San Francisco's most popular tourist attractions. History's most notorious criminals such as Al Capone and Robert Stroud have graced its mysterious walls and the island also holds evidence of the Civil War and American Indian Rights Movement.  You may be surprised to know that the island is also home to rare plant species, thousands of birds and marine wildlife. Make sure you book a boat tour early because it is known to sell out!


Fisherman's Wharf


San Francisco, also known as the 'City by the Bay', is known for Fisherman's Wharf which is packed with beautiful sights and things to do. If you're a morning person; head to Fish Alley where the seafood is transported directly from the fishing boats to the vendors at the crack of dawn.  Also, make sure to catch a glimpse of the sea lions at Pier 39 and visit the Aquatic Park and Maritime Museum. The wharf gives you spectacular views of Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.


Ride a Cable Car


The first cable car went down Clay Street August 2, 1873 at 5 am and for $6, you can still ride one of San Francisco's symbolic vehicles today. It's hard to pass up the opportunity to take a ride on a moving piece of history. If you are interested in learning more about these unique automobiles, stop by the Cable Car Museum on Mason Street.


Lombard Street


At a 40 degree slope with 8 switch backs, Lombard Street is famous for its extreme crookedness. Watching the buzz of cars and bikes drive up and down this crazy pass is a favorite for those visiting the area. Get a front row seat yourself and take a walk on the twists and turns.


Bus Tours


Because of the characteristic sloped roads in San Francisco, get the most out of the charming city by hopping on a bus tour. Open air double decker busses are available which will take you through Lombard Street, Chinatown, Union Square, City Hall and other must-see attractions.


Ghirardelli Square


The holiday season is a great excuse to satisfy your sweet tooth and head to Ghirardelli Square located right off the pier in San Fran. Ghirardelli is famous for its signature chocolate treats and wine. Grab a cup of hot chocolate to warm up and look out for the talented street performers close by.


by Molly Nelson, Contributing Author

Khao Sok

Image by Adrian Whelan via Flickr

It is about that time of year where the winter frost is just around the corner. We sit in our offices dreaming of breaking free and living a tree-top lifestyle like Tarzan and Jane.  Satisfy your jungle fever by setting sail to Khao Sok National Park, deep in the heart of southern Thailand for a beautiful adventure. Get lost in limestone cliffs, waterfalls, wildlife and a rainforest full of history, while taking in the scene from your tree house hotel.


Jungle Trekking


Khao sok is home to one of the oldest rainforests in the world. Because of Khao Sok's equatorial position on Earth, it has been unaffected by the ice age and thus receives the highest level of rainfall in Thailand, which makes the adventure all the more exotic. Experience the enchantment of a guided tour on foot; a variety of routes are offered for all ability levels and ages.


Canoeing, tubing and bamboo rafting


If you are looking for a tranquil canoe ride, Sok River is your best bet. The river has a slow moving current allowing you to enjoy a scene filled with limestone cliffs and wildlife. Let the guide do all the brunt of the work while pointing out animals for you to marvel at. On the river are herons, snakes, frogs, lizards, kingfishers and birds, plus the locals doing laundry and fishing along the river.If you are interested in paddling your own canoe, Cheow Larn Lake in Khao Sok is the perfect spot to do so. Known for its stunning turquoise waters, caves and floating huts, opt to stay overnight if you wish.


Stay in a Tree House Hotel


If staying in a floating hut does not strike your fancy, consider a treetop hut in the forest. Looking for a romantic getaway? Honeymoon tree houses are available for the utmost in privacy. Wake up to the call of the Gibbon Monkeys and sound of the rainforest for a truly unbridled experience. Various day and night tours are also available if a night in the jungle life doesn't tickle your fancy.

 

Relax

Taking a vacation is all about unwinding and relieving yourself from everyday stress and distraction. Why not kickback at a guesthouse and take in your surroundings? Whatever you choose to do while at Khao Sok, it is almost impossible to not enjoy yourself.

 

by Molly Nelson, Contributing Author

Statue of Liberty National Monument, Ellis Isl...

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In honor of Veteran's Day (and the sacred 11-11-11), we thought it only fitting to bring you the best attractions in the US that make you proud to be an American. Welcome to nostalgia: it's not all iconic apple pies and red, white and blue. November 11, 1918 is remembered as the culmination of "the war to end all wars," World War I when a cease fire between the allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Thank you to all those who fought for our freedom. What American icon is on your must-see list?


The Statue of Liberty


With a history as fascinating as the monument itself, the Statue of Liberty symbolizes democracy and international friendship. Designed to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence, sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi gifted Lady Liberty to the city of New York in 1885 to protect the harbor. With symbolism throughout the piece, the seven rays of her crown represent the seven continents and her tablet is inscribed with JULY IV MDCCLXXVI.


Mount Rushmore     


A symbol of hope and freedom, Mount Rushmore plays host to almost three million visitors a year from across the country and around the world. They come to marvel at the majestic beauty of the Black Hills of South Dakota and to learn about the birth, growth, development and the preservation of our country. With four of the most influential presidents of all time commemorated in stone for all to see, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln's revolutionary legend lives on in the spirit of all that visit.


The White House


For more than 200 years, the White House has been more than just the home of the Presidents and their families. Throughout the world, it is recognized as the symbol of the President and of the United States. The landmark of the nation's capital began when President George Washington signed an Act of Congress in December of 1790 declaring that the federal government would reside in a district "not exceeding ten miles square...on the river Potomac." Self-guided are offered a few days a week to give visitors a peek inside the world of the administration from the Oval Office to the Blue Room.


USS Arizona Memorial


As if you needed another reason to head to Hawaii, take a moment to pause at Pearl Harbor to remember those killed in the tragic bombing of WWII. The resting place of 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors on the USS Arizona, the submerged ship is visited by more than one million people annually and accessible only by boat.


Hoover Dam


Bordering Arizona and Nevada, the Hoover Dam was constructed in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River during the Great Depression. Costing over 100 lives, it was controversially named in honor of President Herbert Hoover. Located 30 miles southeast of Las Vegas, close to 1,000,000 visitors a year take the tour and millions more drive across the dam.


Liberty Bell

Tradition tells of a chime that changed the world on July 8, 1776, with the Liberty Bell ringing out from the tower of Independence Hall summoning the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence by Colonel John Nixon. The Liberty Bell gained iconic importance when abolitionists adopted it as a symbol of the end to slavery.

Empire State Building

The Empire State Building was named by the American Society of Civil Engineers one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. The 102 story skyscraper was designed in the art deco style and for 40 years was the world's tallest building. Visit at night for one of the best views of the NYC skyline every Thursday through Saturday from 10 to 1 am with romantic city views and a live saxophonist are on the 86th Floor Observatory.

Pinnawela elephant orphanage

Image by stachelig via Flickr

Pearl of the Orient, Teardrop of India, Resplendent Isle, Island of Dharma, Ceylon and Serendib: all names referring to an island country full of rich culture, history, beautiful countryside and Buddhist traditions. Discover Sri Lanka attractions and their Asian allure.


National Museum


Are you drawn to ancient artifacts, antiques, archeological artifacts and cultural history? Take a stroll through Sri Lanka's National Museum located in the country's largest city Columbo. Established in 1877, the National Museum exhibits 4,000 palm leaf manuscripts and the regalia of Kanyan Kings dating as far back as the 17th century.

 

Anuradhapura


Uncover more of Sri Lanka's history by visiting the ancient sacred city of Anuradhapura located in the jungle 130 miles (205 km) north of Columbo.  Hire a bicycle or travel using a 'Tuk-tuck' through the ruined palaces and monasteries, carvings, sculptures, and dagobas (domes built to enshrine sacred relics). 

 

Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage


Witnessing a herd of about 60 elephants roam freely over 25 acres of abundant forest is really quite magical. The famous attraction, known as the Pinnawela Elephant Orphanage is situated in the countryside on the hills of Kegalle on the way to Kandy. Visitors are welcome to assist in feeding the baby elephants before their led to their daily baths.


Beaches


Sri Lanka is known for its divine southern beaches. Enjoy the amicable ocean between the months of October and April when the monsoon has moved on. Hikkaduwa is a popular spot for scuba diving because of its plentiful array of coral and tropical fish. Also, make sure to visit Kudawella which is known for a blow hole which throws large columns of water into the air when the ocean waves break on the rocks.

 

Sacred Tooth of Buddha


Delada Meligaway or Temple of the Sacred Tooth, is located in Kandy, a city full of Buddhist history.  The golden-roofed octagonal temple was built between 1687 and 1707 and legend has it the incisor was stolen from the Buddha as he lay on his funeral pyre.  It was taken to Sri Lanka and hidden in Princess Hemamli's hair. The temple is connected to the Pattiripuwa (Octagon) which originally was used as a prison and now holds a collection of palm-leaf manuscripts.

 

by Molly Nelson, Contributing Author

 

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