Trudging through the snow and slush these last couple of months, all I could think about was how warm all the people in the Southern Hemisphere must be right about now, lying on the beach, not having to wear three sweaters, fingers not freezing as they reached for their house keys…. Heaven.
So you could understand how shocked I was when I read on CNN this week that only 30% of US citizens even have a passport. And of that, 50% of these trips are either to Canada or Mexico. Further, they claimed that most Americans don’t even use all the vacation time they’re given!
Why not? You all work hard,and deserve a much needed break. So we at HelloBeautiful thought it it would be a good idea to highlight 5 of the best must-see international destinations. Now you have no excuses not to finally take some time off work and experience the world. No excuses!
Tokyo is more than just the capital city of Japan. Tokyo is one of the capital cities of the world. The population of over 12 million is in direct contrast to the beautiful scenery and idyllic islands surrounding the metropolis. In one day you could fight your way through thousands on the crowded city streets, and half an hour later be sitting quietly admiring the Cherry Blossoms as well as the stylin’ and very distinctive fashion of the young Tokyo locals.
If you are only there for a short break, you have to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market, which although not officially open to the public, is a buzz of activity, where thousands of tonnes of fish passes hands in an early morning frenzy. And, as is tradition, you must finish the morning with a sushi breakfast. What could be more Japanese than that? For a change of pace, the Asakusa Shrine should be your next stop. It’s a perfect example of the traditional Japanese architecture and quite frankly is simply breathtaking. Be sure to get a lot of snaps of the gate to the shrine, which has stood since 1618.
For nightlife, the Albatross Bar is something you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. With only enough room for a handful of people, the tiny bar over three floors, where the waiters hand you drinks from a chute in the wall, is a must do. Just take care not to fall in the chute after a few too many! But if you do get a bit over-refreshed, never fear,Tokyo has the largest concentration of ‘love hotels’ in the world, where you can book hourly, for a quick rest or… whatever.
Great Barrier Reef.
Made famous in ‘Finding Nemo’, Queensland Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is breathtaking, and interestingly, is the world’s largest reef system and can be seen from space. Ancient and beautiful rain forests, meet up with pristine beaches under threat from coral bleaching and the environmental impact of humans.
In the G.B.R, the choice is yours of what sort of holiday you wish to have. You can scuba dive, fish, swim, mountain bike, walk and snorkel, or you can simply relax on the beach and do nothing. The over 900 islands and resorts allow you to do (or not do) whatever you like.
As an added bonus, the locals are unpretentious and the quintessential Australian stereotype, with the suntanned skin, tank tops and Akubra hats. And being in the southern hemisphere certainly doesn’t hurt either. What better way to escape a near freezing snow filled winter, than by relaxing on the sun drenched beaches of Queensland?
Food. Food. Food. What more needs to be said? From the street vendors selling barbequed goods to the chaotic and colorful Chatuchak Weekend Market or the very upmarket celebrity restaurants, Bangkok is all about the food.
But if for some crazy reason you do need more motivation to get there besides food, then how about the Grand Palace, an entire palace made of gold, complete with numerous gigantic buddhas and artworks dating back centuries.
Or the fact that just outside the city you can visit an elephant sanctuary and get up close and personal with both the elephants and the villagers who live with them.
Or what about the floating markets, where you can jump aboard a boat and shop for everything from hand-made jewelry to spices and fresh fish. And if shopping is your thing then it is impossible to look beyond Bangkok as you can spend thousands in the designer boutiques, or pick up souvenirs and replica designer handbags and sunglasses for next to nothing.
If you can drag yourself away from the shopping stalls or the restaurants, then another uniquely Bangkok-esque thing to do has to be the famous Patpong region and the equally infamous, adults-only ping pong shows *shudder* (google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about). And another thing- drinking, just like everything else here, is insanely cheap. How can you resist?
In the heart of Tuscany, Florence is a Renaissance town to die for. Cobble-stoned streets, gelati, red wine, pizza, Italian mamas making homemade pasta, Vespas, whatever cliched Italian things you can think of, Florence has in abundance. The town squares seem like they are pulled straight from a movie, and whatever it is you’re doing that day, in Florence you can’t help but to take it slow.
Florence also has Leonardo Di Vinci and Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s statue of David can be seen in the Accademia gallery and art pieces from all the other masters can be seen in any number of the countless galleries and museums the city has on offer. The city also has seemingly countless churches and cathedrals. None which is more grand than the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo), which holds 20,000 people and is filled with elaborate paintings and statues.
Around every corner in Florence, you can’t help but to gasp at the sheer age and beauty of everything. Everyone has seen images of the Ponte Vecchio, the bridge built in 1345, which today still sells gold and silver jewelry. Even if you don’t care for shopping (I’m sure there is at least one person), the sight itself is astounding. As is the sight from the Bell Tower, a vantage point from which all of Florence can be seen.
But even if sightseeing isn’t really your thing, and you would prefer to just eat and drink your way through your vacation, Florence has you covered. The center of town has wine and cheese tours, so you can go home saying that you drank red wine in the countryside of Tuscany.
Russia generally has a pretty bad rep in the USA because of its Soviet history. All I can say, is that if you hold it against them, you’re truly missing out. Moscow has something to please almost everyone. Amazing architecture at St Basil’s Cathedral combines with world renowned theatres and concert halls showcasing not only Tchaikovsky and Chekov, but young, new composers, amazing ballets and the magnificent fine arts museum.
The Kremlin, is a absolute must see. Aside from the buildings themselves being awe inspiring, it also kinda reminds you of being in Aladdin. Until that is, you march on over to Lenin’s Tomb, to see the final resting place of the founder of the Soviet Union. It is then, that the true magnitude of actually being there and being allowed to visit the Red Square really hits you.
But it’s not all old buildings and ballet. With a bustling emerging nightlife, Moscow is home to some of the world’s largest nightclubs, and Tverskaya Street is considered a great place for celeb spotting, as it’s home to a lot of great boutiques and fancy hotels.
Russia does suffer bitter winters though, so the best times to go are between May and September,where you can expect temperatures of 73F- 86F. A perfect way to spend a couple of weeks of your vacation if ever I heard one.