Maria and Katerina, It’s all trip to me – Lonely Planet’s travel blog


Maria and Katerina exploring their home city of Athens © It’s all trip to me

While the life of a full-time traveller may seem like an idyllic existence, it’s not for everyone. Ties to home – from family responsibilities to a budding career – might keep us from committing to a nomadic way of living, but it certainly doesn’t mean travel is off the table.

We caught up with Pathfinders Maria and Katerina from It’s all trip to me to talk upcoming adventures, all things travel blogging and how to fit your trips around a nine-to-five.

Give us the low down on your blog…

Myself and photographer Katerina both love to travel and have always been very fond of consulting travel blogs to plan our trips. To us, a travel blog always seemed like a brilliant way to record our travel memories and help others create their own at the same time. So we combined our passions for writing and photography and here we are now, hoping to inspire people with full-time jobs like ourselves to travel more and see the world one trip at a time.

Describe your travel style in three words…

Immersive, budget-splurge-balanced, short-term.

Top three places you’ve visited?

That’s a really hard one but we’ll give it a shot. Tuscany in Italy, the Nile Valley in Egypt and London in the UK.

Catching the sunset in London Catching the sunset in London © It’s all trip to me

What destinations are on your 2019 bucket list?

We’ve already planned two separate trips to Poland (Warsaw and Krakow) as well as a trip to Istanbul, Turkey. We’ve just started planning our big 2019 trip: two weeks exploring the regions of Puglia and Basilicata in Southern Italy. A couple of short trips to London and Romania are also on the table as well as at least two Greek Islands in the summer. And towards the end of 2019 we are planning our first ever trip to Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand. It’s going to be an amazing year of travel magic!

A lot of travel bloggers quit their jobs to hit the road; you do things a bit differently. How do you fit your travels around your nine-to-five?

Who wouldn’t want to travel the world full-time? However, we can’t afford to do so – at least not at the moment. But we wouldn’t let our day jobs hinder neither our passion for travel nor our desire to blog about it. We make sure we spend all our vacation time (25 days per year), public holidays and as many weekends as possible travelling. We plan a two-week trip to someplace new once a year and a 10-day island vacation every August to recharge our batteries. Those aside, we also go on shorter trips either abroad or in Greece (where we’re based) throughout the year.

Andros in Greece is one of Maria and Katerina's top choices for an island escape Andros in Greece is one of Maria and Katerina’s top choices for an island escape © It’s all trip to me

What advice would you give someone who thinks they don’t have enough time to travel?

There is always time to travel! It all comes down to setting priorities and planning ahead. First of all, it’s important to save vacation time for travel. We know that sometimes life gets in the way and we may be tempted to use our vacation time to tend to unfinished business or simply stay at home and rest. We feel that vacation time is hard-earned and should be reserved for travel.

Secondly, when travelling on a tight schedule it’s very important to have pre-planned itineraries so as not to waste any valuable time during the trip itself. Lonely Planet guidebooks and travel blogs packed with tips and info are the best sources of inspiration and valuable tools for people with limited travel time.

And last but not least, travel requires adjusting to a new mentality and seeing things from a different perspective. It doesn’t have to take loads of money or time to travel. Start by playing tourist in your own hometown and discover all its hidden gems, the way we do in Athens. Then go on and plan weekend breaks or three-day getaways. Soon you will realise that you actually have time to plan that longer trip you always dreamt of.

Why do you love travel blogging?

Through travel blogging we’ve learnt more about ourselves and discovered skills we never knew we had, which are constantly developing. Our favourite part of travel blogging though, is that it offers us many opportunities to meet like-minded people from all over the world. No gift is greater than having friends across the globe!

If you’re a member of our Pathfinders community and would like to share your story, drop us an email at pathfinders@lonelyplanet.com and tell us what exciting things you’re up to on your blog.



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Cancun Airport Transportation: How To Get From Cancun to Playa del Carmen


The beach town of Playa del Carmen is one of the most popular places to visit in Mexico. Located in the region known as the Riviera Maya and right on the Caribbean, it’s home to plenty of white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Thankfully it’s very easy to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, making this beachfront destination very accessible. 

The Cancun International Airport is a major hub, with tons of options for direct flights. You can fly directly here from all over North and South America and some places in Europe. It’s a super convenient place to travel to and also very close to Playa del Carmen, which is just 68 km (42 miles) down the road.

Best of all, Cancun airport transportation runs like a well-oiled machine. It’s very easy to get from the Cancun Airport to Playa del Carmen — and all of the resorts in between. 

I’ve made the trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen a few times now and can speak from experience that it’s a breeze. Before you know it, you’ll be kicking back and relaxing with a margarita in your hand. As a matter of fact, you can even grab one of those as soon as you get out of the airport. Viva Mexico! 

In this detailed guide to Cancun airport transportation, I’ll go over all the best options to help you get down to Playa del Carmen so you can enjoy all that the town has to offer. From exploring nearby Mayan ruins, to chilling out at beach clubs, to snorkeling in cenotes, there are plenty of awesome things to do in Playa del Carmen once you get there.

Cancun Airport Transportation Info

You’ve just landed in Cancun and you’re headed to Playa del Carmen. What are the transport options? As it turns out, you’ve got quite a few choices for how to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. 

First of all, I should mention that the Cancun International Airport is actually south of Cancun proper. It’s located in between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, so you don’t even have to go to Cancun if it’s not on your itinerary. You can just head straight from the airport to Playa del Carmen, which usually takes around an hour.

Before we get into the details of each option, let me tell you what NOT to do.

Under no circumstances should you accept a ride from a random person in the arrivals hall. They are not legit taxi drivers and they will at the very least rip you off.

To be honest, I wouldn’t even bother with taxis at all. Sure, you can definitely get a taxi from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. It’s just really expensive and will most certainly involve some haggling. In my humble opinion, it’s best to just forget about taxis altogether for this trip.

Now that you know to avoid taxis, let’s get on with the Cancun airport transportation guide.

Here are your best options on getting from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, including info on prices and times. 

Cancun to Playa del Carmen By Private Transfer

The first option on our list is a private transfer. This is the best for those who want to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen as quickly, safely and comfortably as possible. 

The price of a private transfer depends on the type of vehicle and the number of people in your group.

The cheapest option is a Toyota Hiace van or a similar vehicle. For 1-3 people, the cost is $60 one way or $110 round trip. The price for 4-6 people is $70 one way, or $120 round trip, and for 7-9 people it costs $85 one way or $135 round trip.

ride from cancun to playa del carmen

As you can see, this is actually a great deal, especially if you have a big group. Buying a round trip private transfer with a group of 7 ends up costing even less than the local ADO bus! If you’re flying solo, it’ll be more expensive for you, but if you want to get to the beach ASAP, it’s still a good option. 

You also have the option of booking a luxury vehicle (Suburban or similar) for your private transfer. These fit 1-6 people and cost $99 one way or $175 round trip. For the same price, you could also get a 16-seat Sprinter van if you have a really big group.

If you really want to splash out on your trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, it’s even possible to book a limo. The Chrysler is $299 one way or $525 round trip and fits up to 11 people. The upgraded Suburban holds 14 and costs $375/$599. If you’re here for a special occasion, this may be the way to go!

cancun airport transfer to playa del carmen

SEE PRICES & DEALS FOR PRIVATE TRANSFER

I should note that these prices are only available when you book online in advance. To book your trip, click here to check out the various options I described above. 

When you factor in the cost of getting from the bus station in Playa del Carmen to your accommodation, a private transfer really is a great deal, especially for a group. Even if it costs a little more, it’s worth a few bucks to not have to deal with those con artist cab drivers that hang around the bus station. 

Cancun To Playa del Carmen By Bus

The main company running this route is ADO, and they also travel to several other destinations in Mexico.

There are now four terminals in the Cancun airport. They only use Terminal 1 for charter flights, and most international travelers arrive at either Terminal 3 or the shiny new Terminal 4. You can catch the ADO bus headed to Playa del Carmen at all of them except for T1.

The ADO bus runs from Cancun to Playa del Carmen every 20-30 minutes from 8AM until around midnight. There are also two different buses in the middle of the night if you have a late arrival. You can check their website to find exact times here.

You can buy tickets for the ADO bus inside the airport right after you go through immigration and customs. They have a stand near where all the rental car companies and tour operators are set up. Alternatively, you can just get yourself out to the bus stop and grab a ticket from the stand there. 

A one-way ticket from Cancun to Playa del Carmen on the ADO bus costs 208 pesos (about $11) as of June 2019. You can pay in cash with either USD or pesos, but you won’t get a great exchange rate if paying in dollars. Most of the stands also accept cards unless their machine is down. 

where to eat tacos in playa del carmen mexico

The ADO buses are usually very punctual, but sometimes traffic causes delays. Unless you arrive in Cancun at 4AM, you should never have to wait too long for a bus. Both international terminals have a little bar near the bus station where you can sit down and grab a snack and a drink while you wait.

One thing to consider if you choose to take the bus is that you might also need transportation to your hotel from the bus station in Playa. The taxi drivers that wait outside the bus station there charge some ridiculous rates to tourists, so just be prepared. It’s honestly worth it to walk a few blocks and just hail a cab on the road unless you have a ton of luggage.

There are plenty of excellent Playa del Carmen hotels that are located within a few blocks of the ADO station. Be sure to check the location of yours before choosing how you’ll get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.

Cancun to Playa del Carmen By Rental Car

If you like having your own wheels, there are plenty of rental car companies at the Cancun airport. Rental cars in Mexico are very affordable and allow you to be in control of your trip.

Renting a car is a great option for those who plan to take a lot of day trips from Playa del Carmen. Within a few hours of the city, you can visit ruins, cenotes, adventure parks, colonial towns, and so much more. Sitting around waiting on buses or haggling with cab drivers can take up a lot of time and effort. It’s so much easier to just jump in the car and go.

First of all, you’re probably wondering if it’s safe to drive in this part of Mexico. While it’s definitely true that there are some parts of Mexico you probably don’t want to be driving in, the Riviera Maya isn’t one of them. This area is very heavily policed and is generally a safe place to travel around.

As long as you stick to main roads and drive mostly during the day, you should be just fine driving here. Just make sure you always roll up the windows, lock the doors, and don’t leave valuables in plain sight when the car is parked. 

The drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen is a straight shot down Highway 307 and is quite easy. Your accommodation in Playa del Carmen may include free parking, but if it doesn’t there are plenty of places to park in town.

transportation from cancun airport to playa del carmen resorts

Of course, you always have to worry about insurance, and in Goats On The Road’s experience, they had to pay a mandatory fee/insurance when they rented a car for a month in Manzanillo — which really added to the rental cost.

Some rentals include liability insurance but many of them don’t. You’ll need to be sure to read the fine print of the agreement to see what is and isn’t covered. If you decline the insurance, you’ll have to put a large hold on a credit card.

Whatever you decide to do with insurance, be sure you check the car carefully for any dents and scratches. Take pictures if you spot anything and be sure the company marks them down. The last thing you want is to be charged for something you didn’t even do.

Almost all rental cars in Mexico are automatic. They drive on the right side of the road here, so it’ll be familiar for those from the US and Canada. One thing that may shock you here is the driving style, as some seem to think they’re racecar drivers on the highway from Cancun to Playa del Carmen.

One thing to be aware of when driving in this part of Mexico is the gas scam. You don’t fill up your own tank here, but rather have workers at the gas station do it. Unfortunately, many of them try to take advantage of tourists by not starting the meter from zero or by swapping out larger bills for smaller ones. Just be very alert when filling up the tank so you don’t get conned.

Another thing to take into consideration is the extra cost you’ll incur from tolls and parking. If you plan to travel to places like Tulum and Chichen Itza, you’ll definitely end up spending some extra money on both of these. Be sure to keep cash (Mexican pesos, not USD) on you for these expenses. 

Transportation From Playa del Carmen to Cancun Airport

Sadly, all vacations come to an end at some point. When you have to get back to the Cancun airport, you can use the same options I listed above. 

Playa del Carmen to Cancun by Private Transfer

If you’re going to go this route, you might as well buy a round trip ticket in advance. As I mentioned earlier, you get a pretty good discount when buying round trip tickets from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. Or, if you didn’t purchase a private transfer on your way to PdC, but you want one on the way out, you can just purchase a one-way ticket. 

The only reason I would say not to buy a round trip ticket is if you have an open-ended trip and you’re not exactly sure of your departure date.

Or perhaps you’re planning on moving around and not coming and going from the same place. Many people like to visit other towns like Tulum or Valladolid when traveling in this part of Mexico, which I highly recommend if you have the time!

Playa del Carmen to Cancun by Bus

Just as it is when traveling from the airport to town, the ADO bus has a few options in the middle of the night. It starts running regularly at 7AM with buses leaving every 20-30 minutes.

On the way out of town, you can catch the bus at either the main tourist terminal near 5th Avenue or the other one on 20th. Buses leave from the first one and make a quick stop at the other. Just choose whichever one is closest to your hotel. 

There’s no discount for buying round trip tickets on the ADO bus, so you might as well just buy a one way in both directions. You don’t even need to buy the ticket in advance as buses run so frequently. Just show up at the station and get on the next bus.

Be sure to leave nice and early, though, as you never know what traffic is going to be like on the way to the airport. The ADO bus stops at Terminal 4 first and then goes to T3 and T2, so take that into consideration. 

Renting a Car

If you rented a car for your trip, you’ll want to be sure to head back to the airport nice and early. You’ll have to return the car and make sure there are no surprises with your bill before flying out. 

Personally, I’ve never rented a car in Mexico (but, Goats On The Road, Nick and Dariece have). I just don’t find it necessary since public transportation is so good here.

That being said, I’ve had several friends rent a car from the Cancun airport to explore the Riviera Maya, and none of them have had any problems with false charges or anything like that. Just make sure you go over the car with the company to ensure there are no damages that you’re responsible for. 

how to get from cancun to playa del carmen

Conclusion

How you choose to travel between Cancun and Playa del Carmen all depends on your group and preferences. Do you want to get to your accommodation as soon as possible? Do you want a more comfortable ride? Are you travelling on a strict budget? The type of transport you choose will depend on your personal circumstances. 

A private transfer is the best option if you’re on a shorter vacation and want to maximize your time in Mexico. It’s also a great option for those who aren’t on a tight budget, want door-to-door service or are in a group. The bigger your group, the better deal you’ll get.

It might even work out to be about the same price as the bus depending on how many people you have. It’s also nice having the peace of mind that someone will be waiting for you as opposed to the other way around.

Plus, if you’re staying at a resort that’s actually a 15-20 minute drive from the bus station in Playa del Carmen, you’ll end up spending about the same as you would on a private transfer after you factor in cabs to and from the bus station.

For those traveling in a group, a private transfer is definitely a solid choice. 

If you’re a solo traveller on a budget, or if you don’t mind waiting around and sorting out transfers from the bus to your accommodation, then taking the ADO bus is a good option for you. 

If you really want to rent a car, you can wait until you get to town and sort it out there. You’ll most likely find a better deal on rental cars on the ground than you would if you booked online. Plus, renting from the airport is always more costly.

I hope this guide helped you figure out your Cancun airport transportation. However you decide to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, I hope you have an awesome trip there. Chill out on the beach, stroll along 5th Avenue, feast on street tacos, dance the night away in the clubs, and enjoy your holiday! 

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Cancun Airport Transportation: How To Get From Cancun to Playa del Carmen



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Leading 8 Skills Every Fantastic SEO Professional Have To Prosper

SEO professionals originate from a range of histories

Some are designers, some are entrepreneurs, some typical marketers, some journalists, some even utilized to be rappers.

At my company, our SEO group has been winning a lot of job as well as expanding recently so I’ve been investing a lot of time talking to candidates for open functions.

SEO professionals have diverse abilities, however there are a couple of things I seek in every prospect.

This isn’t really an exhaustive listing, and also I’m sure there’s a lot of individuals available who have succeeded without these abilities– but what enjoyable would certainly a checklist be without some conflict?

Right here are the leading 8 skills I look for when working with an SEO.

1. Important Thinking
This is a tough one to determine, however it’s vital for SEO pros to be able to have an analytical mind that’s capable of separating relationship as well as causation.

I want an SEO who can understand the “3 What’s”:.

  • Exactly what occurred
  • Why “what happened” took place
  • Exactly what we need to do concerning it

There are many methods to determine this, however I stop short of asking them to identify the shortest means to go across a bridge with a common flashlight or the traditional lightbulb trouble.

Rather, I’ll provide hypothetical interview questions to assist me recognize their believed procedure.

Some example meeting concerns include: “Assume you and also the client differ on what we need to do. Walk me with that meeting with them as well as your approach to it?”.

Another one is “Account simply emailed a customer’s new web site. They wish to know if we can help their SEO. Exactly what are the first number of things you check out?”.

And also my favorite is: “I need you to open a workplace in Albania. You’re in fee of getting it done. What’s your initial step?”.

There are no best or wrong response to these inquiries, yet they aid me obtain a suggestion of a candidate’s mind and how they assault troubles.

I intend to see that they recognize the problem from numerous angles and utilize information as well as logic in their choice making.

2. Talking & Writing Ability
An SEO specialist that can do their very own keyword research and author material that includes it is incredibly better.

We typically aren’t simply discussing writing write-ups similar to this one or talking at conferences though.

I want an SEO who could encourage internal teams as well as clients to do the ideal thing which originates from talking at meetings as well as composing decks, case studies, POVs, and so on. Every one of those encompass speaking and also creating abilities.

SEO needs not just self-confidence however the capability to boil down complicated concepts as well as ideas down into principles that non-SEO individuals could recognize and make decisions with.

3. Technical & Programming Skills
I’m certain there’s going to be some discussion about this. I’m just as certain there’s tons of SEO pros doing a kickass task right now without any shows knowledge whatsoever.

The reality is, they could be doing much more of a kickass task with some shows understanding.

As SEO professionals we make suggestions concerning web page rate, making, lazy loading, server side redirects, microdata tagging, and basic HTML tags.

All of these conversations go easier if you can speak with the designer and offer insights as opposed to simply needs.

Understanding where the developer is originating from when they push back is amazingly valuable at fixing up distinctions.

Estimating the degree of initiative vs. the SEO influence is additionally vital. I’m not claiming SEO pros have to be able to write code, yet they need to understand the coding effects of the modifications they request for and what that requires for the designers, what the usual mistakes and arguments are, as well as how you can overcome them.

There are literally hundreds of insane technological points that come to be simpler to discover with some fundamental programming expertise, also. Like lazy packing as an example.

Much of the typical plugins will certainly use a srcset quality however not a src characteristic for images– and also Google won’t be able to see those. I know that, because I examined them all and also implemented them all– points I could not have actually done without some programming expertise.

Technical knowledge additionally supplies the ability to make your life easier– whether it’s writing a quick Python script to automagically include hreflang to your XML sitemap or a PHP-based internet form to automatically produce backlinks for you (do not do this.).

4. Social & Drinking Skills
Over the course of my occupation, I’ve made numerous wonderful partnerships and found out a lot just by hanging out at the meeting bars. To do that, nonetheless, you can not be a creep and also you need to be able to agree others.

If you invest your bar time saying concerning national politics you’re mosting likely to miss out. You’ll additionally need to have the ability to hold your alcohol or respectfully decline– as numerous excellent SEO specialists like to drink.

Suggestion: the seminar bar is never the place to search for a brand-new girlfriend/boyfriend but it’s a fantastic area to talk about SEO theory and also tactics.

No one wishes to hear about that a person particular trouble that just applies to your site as well as takes 10 minutes to discuss (unless you’re getting the beverages). However, they will certainly love to find out about brand-new as well as interesting points you’ve seen or done.

5. Analytics Skills
SEO specialists can save a lot of time if they can log into Adobe or Google Analytics and pull their very own data.

A fundamental understanding of service KPIs is additionally required for appropriate SEO technique.

I provide my groups the opportunity to obtain Adobe and Google Analytics licensed because even if they aren’t pulling the data, the understanding aids– but additionally, most of the moment we wind up pulling the data.

If you aren’t able to draw as well as section information, you’re most likely missing out on some insights.

6. Excel Skills
Drawing the data isn’t enough. Often you should manipulate it a little bit to get the insights you need.

I’ve satisfied a great deal of SEO pros that can not do the easiest jobs in Excel.

Vlookups, Concatenates, and also IF statements (amongst actually 473 various other functions– seriously there’s 476 integrated Excel features) must be part of every SEO’s toolset.

Over the course of my occupation, I’ve produced many Excel templates that aid address daily issues.

Whether it’s transforming a Screaming Frog crawl right into an XML sitemap, gauging formula modifications as well as their effect with GA/Adobe data, creating personalized CTR by position curves, or rapidly bucketing search phrases from search console right into brand/non-brand or by product teams, Excel is indispensable.

7. Drive, Motivation & Adaptability
Things I both love as well as dislike about operating in SEO is that it doesn’t simply turn off at 5 p.m.

Marketing isn’t really among those tasks that you leave at the office every night. It remains with you in your brain.

To really be a terrific Las Vegas SEO expert these days you need to have the inner drive that requires you to maintain understanding.

Whether it’s a brand-new programming language, a new structure (WordPress, React, Angular, etc), a brand-new online search engine requirement like Schema or AMP, or understanding machine learning, there’s constantly something to find out.

The candidates that leap to the top of my working with checklist are the ones that have their very own side project sites or that develop their own devices to solve their issues. For example: making use of the web designer devices API to automate information pulling as well as formatting for records. I simply hired that individual.

SEO additionally needs flexibility and thick skin. Our market modifications, and sometimes we have to admit to clients that directory site entries, PageRank sculpting, link disavows, or various other points we when suggested aren’t really the most effective suggestion any longer.

It’s regarding placing the client’s goals initially– occasionally ahead of SEO revenue chances. (I informed you I was mosting likely to start a debate in the tweets leading up to this write-up.).

8. A Sense of Humor
We deal with a lot of ups and downs in the SEO market– as well as often at a fast pace.

It’s vital to often take a step back as well as remember that we aren’t conserving lives, we’re simply doing marketing.

As demanding as the job can be, a lot of it can wait til tomorrow. A sense of humor goes a long way towards making our work a great deal much more delightful and effective.

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Taiwan – Lonely Planet’s travel blog


Louise at the Longshan Temple in Taipei © Louise Bastock

Louise Bastock, Assistant Editor at Lonely Planet, recently returned from a trip to Taiwan.

Tell us more… When I used to think about Taiwan, the dominant images in my mind would be of its capital city Taipei, specifically the skyscraper-studded skyline against a blue or lilac sunset, or the twinkly Tokyo-esque lights of its streets and lanes. But, beyond this vast metropolis, there is so much more to discover. Blasted up from the ocean by volcanic activity, Taiwan is a fertile ground for breathtaking natural landscapes. With that in mind, I set off for northeastern Taiwan to explore the island’s capital as well as its wild wonders, and expand the image in my mind’s eye of what this tiny island nation has to offer – spoiler alert: a lot!

Taipei's skyline snapped from the top of Elephant Mountain Taipei’s skyline snapped from the top of Elephant Mountain © Louise Bastock

Good grub? The stand-out superstar of Taipei’s skyline is Taipei 101; formerly the world’s tallest building, it bursts through the high-rises like a futuristic bamboo shoot and was the perfect setting for dinner on our first night. Despite her humble origins, first operating from a Taipei back alley diner in 1977, the owner of Shin Yeh restaurant now commands the 85th floor of Taipei 101, serving up elegant, contemporary creations inspired by traditional Taiwanese home-style cooking.

Chefs making dumplings at Din Tai Fung, Taipei Delicate dumpling work at Din Tai Fung © Louise Bastock

Though seemingly a far cry from the glamour of Taipei 101, my second favourite meal was, surprisingly, at a shopping mall, beneath the tower itself. Prepare to battle wayward queues and huge crowds of hungry people if you want to eat at Din Tai Fung. This Michelin-starred restaurant (yes, you heard right, a Michelin-starred restaurant in a shopping mall) is famed for its xiǎolóng bāo (steamed pork dumplings), but, in all honesty, absolutely everything they brought to the table was insanely delicious. With windows looking into the kitchen, you can spend hours digesting your dumplings and watching the chefs meticulously craft these bite-sized beauties.

Northeastern Taiwan is a blanket of green forest Northeastern Taiwan is a blanket of green forest © Louise Bastock

Quintessential experience… With so much nature to see – from marble cliff faces to emerald oceans of forest – hiking is a quintessential experience in northeastern Taiwan. Our first taster was the 500-step slog up Elephant Mountain in Taipei – totally worth it to watch the sunset over the city and get my own snaps of the skyline. We also hit the hiking trails that lace through Taroko National Park (roughly a three-hour drive from Taipei). The scenery is wilder here and even though it can get blustery on the peaks, the strong wind does help disperse some of the eggy smell from the region’s sulphuric vents – a small price to pay for hiking around hot spring territory.

Louise's private hot pool at the Gaia Hotel Louise’s private hot pool at the Gaia Hotel © Louise Bastock

Any incredible accommodation? Speaking of hot springs: our last night was spent in the stunning Gaia Hotel, where each room came equipped with its own personal hot pool. After a long day of hiking and thigh-busting stair climbing (stairs are synonymous with hiking in Taiwan), it was a dream to be able to flop from bed to bath (grabbing a glass of wine en route) and recline in style in the comfort and privacy of my own room.

Louise jumping off a rock face into water Louise proving there is such a thing as TOO MUCH enthusiasm © Louise Bastock / Love Wilds Co., Ltd

If you do one thing… don a wetsuit and helmet and give river tracing a go. Known in other parts of the world as canyoning, this activity earns its more poetic moniker in Taiwan; without wishing to geek out too much, the landscapes here could easily have been plucked from the pages of Tolkein’s The Lord of The Rings (Rivendell, eat your heart out).

We spent a whole afternoon wading through the Sa Po Dang river in Hualien, jumping off huge boulders, squeezing through tight crevices and scaling small waterfalls before stopping for tea, snacks and snorkelling around a secluded turquoise pool. It’s a fantastic way to not just view the landscapes from afar, but to get in amongst them and experience them up-close.

Louise eating at huge portion of chocolate ice cream at the Modern Toilet Cafe Shocked and a little squeamish, Louise was ultimately delighted at her dinner © Louise Bastock

Bizarre encounter… From fine dining in spellbinding landmarks, soaking in my private hot spring and revelling in Mother Nature’s gifts, I leave you with Taipei’s epic toilet cafe! Enlisting every faucet – oops, I mean facet – of bathroom decor, the Modern Toilet Restaurant is a veritable playground for anyone with a sense of humour – and, at times, a strong stomach. After excusing myself from the table to use the actual bathroom, I was crying with laughter on my return to find on my delicately chosen chocolate ice cream piled in huge swirls, sprinkled with all manner of brown biscuits goodies, came served in a yellow porcelain squat toilet. If, like me, you think this might just be the best place in the whole world, bag yourself a souvenir from their shop which sells all manner of poop-themed paraphernalia.

Louise Bastock travelled to Taiwan with support from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and China Airlines. Lonely Planet contributors do not accept freebies in exchange for positive coverage.



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Turn Fantasy Into A Reality


Written by Goats On The Road

Goats On The Road is a website designed to show people how to turn travel into a lifestyle. We cover everything from how to save money to travel tips, travel hacks and how to make money on the road. Follow us as we travel the world and share our findings with you.

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How cheese is made- Cheese cutting machines

Have you ever wondered how cheese is made? We asked a cheese factory to send some images, and they send us a video of the production line with a cheese cutting machine.

The machine is fully automated and it has a production capacity from 10 metric tons to thousands of tons of white cheese like feta cheese or haloumi cheese per month.

The cheese lovers chefs discuss a dreamlike taste, of those not described in words, which is a sensation of all the senses that in one bite you understand the richness of the flora of their place of production.

It is true. Everyone agrees that the best cheeses in the world are non-pasteurized, that is, made with non-pasteurized milk. Countries such as France and Switzerland produce and export large quantities of unsalted cheeses and their prices are particularly high.

In Greece they were banned. And, as is done with anything forbidden, so the unsalted cheeses have acquired their own myth. Their taste became divine, heavenly, and their benefits to the organism are numerous, able to regenerate you.

From mouth to mouth travelled the news of the producers who made dewy cheeses to buy them informally and therefore at a low relative price.

The truth is…

What is true, however, and what is extravagance? Is it unadulterated cheeses or not? Also, is it dangerous? The answers came randomly, like a thunderbolt in the sky, by Christos Apostolopoulos of the Reading University of Great Britain and chairman of the Association of Greek Dairy Industries.

As far as the hygiene rules laid down by the law are concerned, they are different for self-producers – small breeders, who produce some quantities of cheese exclusively from their own milk and putting them on the local market – and different and certainly stricter for the large dairies, which manage an unlimited amount of milk, not just from their own flocks, and they can also sell their products all over Greece and the rest of the world.

Smells and tastes interesting

The ubiquitous favourite cheese boasts 222 mg of calcium per portion of 30 grams. This portion also contains 7.62 grams of protein and contributes to a balanced meal.

There is no cheese better than the Greek cheese named “feta“.

See more about cheese production to the Kateris website blog.

 

 

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Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski Got an Epic Makeover — From a Drag Queen


Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski Got an Epic Makeover — From a Drag Queen | InStyle.com

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are the stars our destination? – Lonely Planet’s travel blog


Wonderings: rambles through and reflections on travel… this month, James Kay considers tourism’s final frontier: space © Joe Davis / Lonely Planet

Aside from a few forays to France, the furthest my maternal grandparents travelled was Pembrokeshire, Wales (repeat visits to a wind-buffeted static caravan in Croes-goch, if you must know). Just a generation later, my parents’ peregrinations had encompassed most of Western Europe.

As of writing, I’ve visited about 50 countries (I counted them up once, but have forgotten the total), most of them during two spells of backpacking – first across the US, then around the world – plus others as and when the opportunity arose.

My wife has been to twice that number of destinations, and I’d wager that a significant proportion of the people who comprise Lonely Planet’s extended community – staff and contributors, followers and fans – have led equally footloose lives.

The trend continues, too: my son, four, and daughter, one, have already visited many more places than my grandparents did in their entire lives. In fact, Harvey probably covered more miles in utero than they managed in total.

Our expanding horizons

You can visualise each generation’s expanding horizons as a series of concentric circles, like ripples spreading out from a stone dropped in a pond; assuming that trend doesn’t go into reverse (which is possible, of course, given variables like climate change), where will the edge of my children’s known universe lie? Just as I have explored the far side of this planet, might they explore the far side of another world?

It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. As it often does, the stuff of science fiction has become the stuff of science fact: the race for space is more competitive now than it has been at any time since Neil Armstrong took that famous first step on the surface of the Moon, an epoch-defining moment that happened 50 years ago this July.

An astronaut walking on the Moon with the Earth rising in the background Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon 50 years ago; what’s the next ‘giant leap for mankind’? © Caspar Benson / Getty Images

From moonshots to Mars

The US government recently vowed to revisit our lonesome natural satellite within five years, but the real action is arguably elsewhere as a trio of companies bankrolled by billionaires – Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Elon Musk’s SpaceX – compete to conquer the final frontier.

The obstacles are formidable; the progress is remarkable. Whether or not we witness commercial space travel take off in 2019 (in both senses of the phrase), the expert analysis of Stanford University’s Professor G. Scott Hubbard – a former director of NASA’s Ames Research Center – suggests that we stand on the threshold of a new era.

After the moonshot, the US wants to send astronauts to Mars. And then? Because we won’t stop there. Michael Collins, who piloted the Apollo 11 Command Module around the Moon as Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bounded across its sterile surface, expressed this ever so well: ‘It’s human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand,’ he said. ‘Exploration is not a choice, really; it’s an imperative.’

Or as another Buzz might say: to infinity and beyond.

The Grand Tour redux

So will my children ever enjoy a Grand Tour of the Solar System, as envisaged in NASA’s charming Visions of the Future posters? (Do check them out.) Will they stand in the shadow of Mars’ Olympus Mons, which rears to more than twice the height of Everest? Will they gape at the raging auroras of Jupiter, hundreds of times more powerful than our own Northern Lights? Will they sail the methane lakes of Titan, Saturn’s most enigmatic moon?

Alas, no. If it comes to pass, such a journey would be the preserve of a privileged few for many generations; just as the original Grand Tour of Europe was restricted to the aristocracy, so a round-trip of our galactic neighbours would remain beyond the reach of all but a coterie of plutocrats for the foreseeable future.

There’s a fair chance, however, that my children’s generation will see the curvature of the Earth from a sub-orbital flight, and some of them might, just might, leave a footprint on the Moon (thanks to Wallace and Gromit, Harvey already spends a lot of time speculating about this possibility).

A young boy looks at the surface of a planet from the window of a spaceship Will our children’s children evolve into a spacefaring species? © James Whitaker / Getty Images

A mote of dust

In his exquisite book Pale Blue Dot, Carl Sagan predicts we will eventually evolve into a spacefaring species, exploring the Milky Way in much the same way as we once sailed this planet’s uncharted seas. But there is nothing triumphalist about his vision; in fact, that dot – the Earth photographed from the Voyager 1 spacecraft; ‘a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam’ as Sagan describes it – proves to be a profoundly humbling sight.

It’s a stance shared by the UK’s current Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees, who argues that we should avoid the term ‘space tourism’ altogether. According to Rees, that formula of words gives us an excuse to ignore the perilous predicament of our planet, misleadingly implying that we could start again elsewhere once this world has been utterly exploited and exhausted.

Space excites me; perhaps it excites you, too. I think that’s because, from Star Trek to Star Wars, our culture often depicts it in a way that fits neatly into a traveller’s conceptual model: it’s the realm of the new exotic, the absolute last word when it comes to getting off the beaten track we call… home.

You can no more suppress our species’ longing to reach the stars than prevent a curious child from exploring the boundaries of its world. Sooner or later, we will boldly go – and not just astronauts or the ultra-rich, but ordinary people like me and you. But when we do, amid all the excitement, let’s not forget our point of origin.

In the words of Sagan from 25 years ago, let’s remember that: ‘Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves … Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.’

A lonely planet indeed.



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Professor G. Scott Hubbard on space tourism – Lonely Planet’s travel blog


In this guest post, Stanford University’s Professor G. Scott Hubbard – former Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, founding editor-in-chief of the New Space journal, and author of Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery – looks at whether the travel industry is heading for the final frontier.

Having been active in the US space program for 45 years, both with NASA and now Stanford, I’ve seen many proposals suggesting that personal space travel is right around the corner. While this topic has been discussed in science fiction for more than 60 years, making such an experience a reality has been hampered by significant obstacles, both technical and financial. However, during the last decade or two, the world has seen the emergence of wealthy space entrepreneurs who have hired top-notch engineers. Those teams may well now be on the verge of creating space travel for the (well-heeled) extreme adventurer.

Will you ever see this view from a spaceship’s window? © Michael Hopkins / NASA

Where is outer space?

The usual definition is that space begins at 100 kilometres/60 miles above the surface of the Earth where air is almost non-existent, and the clutch of gravity can be escaped. As a practical matter, NASA awards astronaut wings for any pilot that exceeds 50 miles even if he/she does not orbit Earth. (This is called a sub-orbital flight). For comparison, the US Space Shuttle flew at about 300 kilometres/188 miles); the International Space Station (ISS) orbits Earth at 250 miles; from the Earth to the Moon averages about 238,000 miles, and Mars is nearly 140 million miles away! All of these distances and destinations represent some form of space travel, but as you might imagine, the degree of difficulty increases radically the further one goes. As of this writing, over 500 people have been to space as defined above; the vast majority (355) on the Shuttle. But only 18 people have flown to the Moon. And of those, only 12 have walked on the lunar surface. No human has ever travelled to Mars.

What is a space tourist?

All of the people cited above had extensive training and were a member of some nation’s space program. Currently, only the US, Russia and China have the independent ability to launch someone into space. The notion of a private citizen with little or no special training going to space went from science fiction to fact with the trip by billionaire Dennis Tito to the ISS in 2001, aboard a Russian vehicle. A total of seven people have made this journey for a reported cost of USD$20m to $40m per trip. Clearly, this expense is out of the reach of all but the ultra-wealthy. So what about some less ambitious (and less expensive) trip to space – the travel to 50 to 60 miles in a so-called sub-orbital trajectory?

Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo takes off for a suborbital test flight © GENE BLEVINS / Getty Images

Who’s in the game?

Space tourism as a trip to the edge of space (50 to 60 miles) with immediate return received a major boost with the Ansari X-Prize, which awarded $10m to any non-government group that could ‘build and launch a spacecraft capable of carrying three people to 100 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, twice within two weeks’. The prize was won in 2004 by a team funded by billionaire Paul Allen (the co-founder of Microsoft) using a design by the iconoclastic engineer Burt Rutan. The team was joined by another billionaire – Richard Branson of Virgin Group fame. Shortly after winning, Branson announced that a new company, Virgin Galactic, using the Rutan design, would soon begin offering sub-orbital flights for six people (and two pilots), providing four minutes of weightlessness. Another company, XCOR Aerospace, formed during the same period, began to develop a smaller vehicle that would carry one pilot and passenger. Finally, the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos founder of Amazon, quietly created the company Blue Origin with similar goals in 2000. In the sparse public reports from Blue Origin, their first market is sub-orbital tourism, followed by orbital flight and trips to the Moon. Bezos has said he is spending about $1bn a year on Blue Origin.

What’s the price point?

Virgin Galactic has given a price of about $200,000 per person. XCOR Aerospace (which has since suspended operations) planned to provide a similar flight for reportedly $50,000. (Independent surveys have indicated that extreme adventure with a price tag of $50,000 would begin to attract a great deal of interest.) Blue Origin’s price tag is said to be $250,000. It is worth noting that the other high-profile space entrepreneur, Elon Musk and his company SpaceX, has not entered the sub-orbital business. However, in a public speech in 2016 (which you can read in New Space for free), Musk predicted he would be able to send individuals to Mars for about $140,000.

People watch as a SpaceX rocket takes off from Canaveral National Seashore People watch as a SpaceX rocket takes off from Canaveral National Seashore © Paul Hennessy / Getty Images

What are the risks?

Travel to space is inherently risky, but then so is climbing Mt Everest. During the 135 flights of the Shuttle program, there were two major accidents with loss of crew and vehicle: Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003. By that measure, the chance of dying in a trip to orbit is around 1 ½%. One would assume that a sub-orbital flight would be safer, but the initial flights of Branson’s Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo have already produced one test pilot fatality. High-speed rocketry with propulsion of controlled chemical explosions is still a challenge. In addition, there are the biomedical risks of subjecting a ‘normal’ population to some of the rigours of space travel: high accelerations up to eight times Earth’s gravity, weightlessness where some experience debilitating space sickness and greater than average radiation exposure. Fortunately, experiments by Dr James Vanderploeg from the University of Texas indicate that individuals of ages 18 to 85 with a variety of common issues (artificial joints, controlled hypertension, pacemaker implants, etc) can easily withstand simulated trips using ground centrifuges and parabolic aeroplane flights. This can also be read in New Space.

When will this happen?

The sub-orbital space tourism community has collectively been surprised that it is now almost 15 years since the X-Prize was won, yet there are no regular flights of SpaceShipTwo or the New Shephard of Blue Origin. The answer mostly lies in the realm of technical issues; in a way, it is ‘rocket science’. Virgin Galactic has struggled to find a propulsion system that will operate smoothly to propel the six passengers to at least 50 miles. However, a very recent successful test in February of 2019 gives an indication that Virgin Galactic may be almost ready. Blue Origin has been very secretive about their progress, but it appears from test flights that the New Shephard is also nearing operational status.

Barring another accident, I think 2019 will see the first tourist flights to the edge of space and back. All it will take is $200,000 and the willingness to sign an ‘informed consent’ document!

To find out more about space entrepreneurship and innovation, check out the New Space journal. Professor Hubbard’s book, Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery, is available from the University of Arizona Press, as well as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.



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Tantric Sex Techniques

Tantric Sex Techniques

In other parts of the world, especially in the west,  people frequently see sex as a source of recreation instead of being a means of transformation. The goals are different, where the goal may be to achieve orgasm rather than to pleasure our mate or to connect with them to a fuller extent.

Professional women (Athens call girl or Athens call girls) work as sex partners and most times luck the pleasure of making love.

The problem with viewing sex and love making in the way, say experts, is that the entire procedure has a very distinct beginning and ending, with the pinnacle or climax occurring somewhere in between, and having an average life span or duration of 10 to 15 minutes.

When you stop to consider that many women can take upwards of 20 minutes just to reach a state of full arousal, this type of approach to making love can be very and deeply unsatisfying.

By contrast in the Tantric approach to making love, the entire sexual experience is viewed more as a dance with no real beginning or end point.  It is for this very different reason, approach and perspective that Tantric gets its fame, allowing the couple to enjoy the present moment of exquisite union.

The advantage of this approach also is that since it does not have a defined beginning or end, it further teaches the couple how to extend the peak of their sexual ecstasy so that both men and women can experience much stronger and deeper orgasms, frequently allowing both to experience several orgasms in a single sexual encounter.

One of the common problems with men is the problem of premature ejaculation, but the leading teachers of Tantric say that men who experience this unpleasant episode can learn the methods to allow them to extend orgasm, and with practice, even to be able to fully enjoy multiple orgasms.

One of the most prominent and well known people who practice and advocate Tantric is the musician Sting, who credits his fulfilling sex life to Tantric, combined with the essential ingredients of love, trust, and mutual respect.

Again, most people need to change their view of sex to fully enjoy the benefits afforded by Tantric. You may wish to work on the following exercises which will help you connect with your body as well as your partner in a new and profound way.

One of the keys is that you need to stop focusing on intercourse as the ultimate goal, but instead focus on simply enjoying the act of giving and receiving pleasure using a gentle touch and loving communications and words.

Communication is a key component. Communicate with your partner to find out what they find to be the most arousing. It may not be what you assume it to be.

In Tantric courses, for students who want to fully engage themselves in this art and become expert in the higher levels of satisfaction and pleasure, they spend weeks practising the Tantric intimacy exercises without necessarily engaging in intercourse.

Many of these students or women (Athens call girl or Athens call girls) who work as professionals, have discovered that experiencing these erotic exercises with no pressure to “go all the way” helps to release sexual guilt, builds a new foundation of trust, and sends a wakeup call to their sex drive!

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