Shaun is a Web Content Editor for the Audley website. He has travelled extensively, including Europe and further afield to Canada, USA (including Alaska), New Zealand, Australia, The Middle East, plus over a dozen countries covering East and West Africa. The highlights of his travels include camping in the desert near the little known pyramids of Meroe in Sudan, visiting Mountain Gorillas in Democratic Republic of Congo and sea kayaking in the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand. Working on the website day-to-day continues to fire his interest in travel and a motorcycle trip through South America along the lines of "The Motorcycle Diaries" remains an ambition.
Articles by Shaun Embury
Last year I travelled to Vietnam on an Audley trip and stayed at the deluxe Fusion Maia resort. My two nights spent there were unforgettable for several reasons: the location on My Khe Beach, the modern and spacious Pool Villa I had to myself, delicious Vietnamese food, charming staff and perhaps most memorably, my first ever spa treatment.
I’ve just seen that the Fusion has taken the top honours in the “Best Luxury Boutique Spa” continent category at this year’s World Luxury Spa Awards. Now, I’m no expert in spa treatments (the Fusion still being my one and only experience of them), but I will admit to their very soothing qualities. In fact if you stay there relaxation is pretty much guaranteed as you will receive two free treatments each day for the duration of your stay thanks to a team of 60 trained masseurs.
Finally, if lounging around the Fusion all day being pampered gets too much for you then jump on the hotel’s free shuttle bus for the 20 minute trip to the ancient town of Hoi An. As well as strolling around this UNESCO heritage site you can also take advantage of the Fusion Lounge, the sister proper to the Fusion Maia, where in a delightful setting in the middle of town you can enjoy its restaurant and a bar, hire a bicycle, you can even enjoy more award-winning spa treatments!
Our Vietnam specialists can create a tailor-made trip for you to Vietnam, staying at the Fusion Maia and visiting places like Hoi An. Call them now on 01993 838 140 or contact us online. Alternatively, browse our Vietnam itinerary ideas, which also include prices.
Charlie Read, Audley’s Southeast Asia Regional Sales Manager, has just returned from his ninth visit to Vietnam (we do say our specialists speak from experience!). Here, he recounts his highlights including some of the more unusual activities he got up to, some of which we are now offering to clients who wish to visit this delightful country.
Let’s face it driving abroad can be a scary experience for those who’ve never done it but the rewards of flexibility and freedom the open road offers soon outweigh this initial reaction. However if you’ve not swatted-up on the local traffic laws there’s always the potential for your journey to become both costly and dangerous. In fact a recent survey by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) found that 40% of Briton’s driving abroad are not aware of even the most basic regulations in other countries, such as speed and drink drive limits.
To help alleviate the problem the FCO has just launched a new driving app, presumably aimed at this 40%. I’ve had a look at it (link below) and while it does give some useful information don’t expect a comprehensive Highway Code for each country, it’s more of a portable aide-mémoire.
Don’t forget! Our specialists will be happy to advise you on the best destinations for an Audley self-drive holiday as they have not only visited these countries in person, in many cases they will have driven the routes as well.
We often get emails from those who wish to put their trip into words such was the impression it left upon them. Here is just one such case in which Grace Hui describes an event she participated in while on a recent Audley trip to Malaysian Borneo.
She’d already visited the Sepilok Nature Reserve, a haven for the endangered orang-utan, and travelled down the Kinabatangan River to spend two nights at the Abai Jungle Resort. Here she was surrounded by exotic wildlife as well as the more mundane, such as the wild bearded pig locally known as “Junior” who would appear like clockwork every dinner time.
Perhaps her most vivid memory however came near the end of her trip when she took part in a two-day climb to the top of Malaysian Borneo’s highest peak, Mount Kinabalu. It’s this event which she recounts here.
I descended the narrow steps below St Monica’s Guesthouse and found myself in a small underground vault hewn out of the rock with hefty wooden beams covering it. In the semi-darkness just ahead was a large waist high stone platform, bolted to which were lengths of rusting iron chain. It was these that held in place its human cargo. I was in Stone Town, on the island of Zanzibar, following some of the physical remnants of the slave trade.
A two minute walk from here I found myself staring at an incongruous sight: an English-style Anglican cathedral called “Christ Church”. It was built over the island’s largest slave market, the alter apparently positioned over the exact spot where the whipping-post stood. I went in and on the left-hand side against the fourth pillar was a large wooden cross with a simple inscription. It read: “This crucifix is made from the wood of the tree under which Dr Livingstone died at Chitambo village, Hala, Zambia 1873, and under which his heart buried [sic].”
I’d been travelling in Africa for six months, first down the continent’s French-speaking western side, through places like Mauritania, Benin, Ghana and Nigeria. Now I was journeying down its eastern flank, passing through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and into the game-rich parts so beloved by the wildlife documentary makers, places like Kenya and Tanzania.
Seeing this cross and reading its message was my first tangible connection to the great Victorian explorer, missionary and slave trade abolitionist, David Livingstone. A few weeks later our paths would cross again, quite literally, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Liz and Robert Morris recently returned from an Audley trip to Cambodia, in which they saw not only the rich culture and beautiful buildings and temples of this magnificent country (I speak from experience), but also the stark reality of the grinding poverty many people have to endure daily, particularly children.
Determined to do something to help, Liz wrote an email to one of our Cambodia specialist’s, Laura, detailing how she is trying to make a difference. This included setting up her own fundraising page and creating some nice slideshows on YouTube, one of which she narrated herself and which I’ve included above.
No, Namibia hasn’t just seen an influx in Hollywood A-listers but it should see a few more star-gazers after the NamibRand Nature Reserve was officially recognised by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as one of the world’s best places to view the night time sky.
The Arizona-based non-profit IDA was set up in response to human-made light pollution. Each year the problem has grown exponentially and we’re now at the point where there are very few places left that truly enjoy views of an ink black sky that our ancestors would have seen each night.
The NamibRand is the continent’s first international dark-sky reserve and now joins a handful of other places like Mont Mégantic in Canada, and Aoraki Mackenzie in New Zealand. Of course it has much more to offer than this: it is one of Africa’s largest private reserves, and having some of its best guides is therefore a good place in which to learn about the flora, fauna and history of the desert.
If you’re a keen amateur astronomer or if you just like looking at the stars, why not combine it with a safari to the NamibRand, staying in one of the stunning camps or lodges, in one of Africa’s most varied of countries?
The programme recounts an event that took place 36 years ago when gunmen from the Moluccan Islands took a class of primary school children hostage in Holland. They wanted the Dutch government to support them in their claims for independence from Indonesia. One of those children, Geert Kruit, who was nine at the time speaks of his ordeal which eventually ended with the deaths of two hostages and six of the hijackers.
Don’t worry if you miss Sunday’s broadcast as you can listen to Witness on the BBC iPlayer.
Sarah is one of Audley’s most experienced Southeast Asia specialists but outside of work it is photography that keeps her particularly busy. Based in the Cotswolds, Sarah’s photography really took off whilst travelling in Southeast Asia and Australasia and has since become something of a passion.
Her first book, A year in the life of Westonbirt, published in 2009, is now in its second edition and she has held several exhibitions of her work as well as organised and judged a number of landscape photography competitions. She also regularly writes for leading photography magazines.
In 2009, wishing to pass on her knowledge and enthusiasm to others, she set up Image Seen, offering landscape photography workshops throughout the UK. She was also one of the judges in Audley’s recent photography competition in which our clients sent in their best photos in a variety of different categories.
To see more of Sarah’s work visit http://www.sarahhowardphotography.com/