As more travellers head to Burma (Myanmar) after the much publicised political reforms, World Discovery would like to take this opportunity to remind clients and customers to ensure their US dollars are crisp and clean. Unlike the rest of the world, only pristine US dollar bills are accepted in Burma. Torn, worn, excessively folded, or ripped bills will not be accepted. Even if travellers find exchange places that accept damaged notes, traders are likely to only offer 50 per cent of the value of the bill. You are also advised that due to past counterfeiting, U$100 dollar bills with serial numbers starting with AB or CB are not accepted. This advice is especially important as ATM machines and credit card transactions are still in the transition phase as the government works with local financial transactions to get widespread credit card payments into place. Mastercard can now be used in 36 CB Bank ATM machines – including Yangon International Airport – but electronic transactions with other cards are still being developed.
Preparations are underway for one of the most important festivals in Laos next month when devotees celebrate Boun Khao Chi (Makhaboucha). This religious celebration commemorates the day when 1,250 monks gathered spontaneously without prior knowledge to listen to the Dharma of Lord Buddha following his enlightenment in which he laid down the first monastic regulations and predicted his own death. This year’s festivities will be held on February 7, during the third full moon of the lunar calendar. The festival is marked by grand parades of candle-bearing worshippers circling their local temples, merit-making, and much religious music and chanting. It is traditional for devotees to make a special bread of sticky rice, coated with egg, and offer it to the monks. The festival is traditionally celebrated most fervently in the capital Vientiane and at the Khmer ruins of Wat Phu, near Champasak.
In December Governors’ Camp in Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve celebrated its 40th anniversary. The camp has come a long way from its humble beginnings. In 1972 Aris and Romi Grammaticas would spend every weekend travelling down to the Mara in their Renault 16 to explore the fabulous site they had found, peg out the tents and plan the camp. Aris was a visionary, his friends thought him crazy, telling him often “no-one will actually want to pay to stay in a tent”, but undeterred they persevered. Aris pioneered many of the special touches that safari goers enjoy in camps Africa-wide today and Governors’ grew to become a globally recognised and trusted brand, a benchmark for African safaris.
Aris developed the camp and his safari concept further, starting the first Hot Air Ballooning operation in a national park. Again his friends warned him not to go there and yet again Aris’ vision proved right and many followed in his footsteps with Hot Air Ballooning on offer in all major national parks today. Governors’ grew and he added more properties to the collection. Ever the ambassador, Aris brought the Masai Mara into millions of people’s homes worldwide through his collaboration with the BBC and their hit series ‘Big Cat Diary’ as well as many other wildlife films.
Aris made sure he always nurtured a good, close relationship with his community neighbours. He listened to their wishes, mediated their disputes and ensured that they saw a fair return for the tourism on their doorstep. Aris passed away in 2011 but his legacy continues through the camps he created, which has allowed so many to experience and explore one of Africa’s iconic wildernesses.
World Discovery’s Governors’ Safari starts at £2150 for 6 nights.
The world’s longest high-speed rail route has officially opened, linking Beijing to Guangzhou, the southern commercial hub of China. The first bullet train left Beijing on Boxing Day 2012 and travelled at a speed of 300kph (187mph), more than halving the travel time between the two cities. The route, which would usually include 35 stops … Continue reading