The Biggest Party in The World – Photos From Rio Carnival 2017

The Carnival in Rio De Janeiro is bigger than all of the carnivals around the world put together! I couldn’t fathom the scale of this statement until I experienced it for myself this February. While Carnival parties take place for 3 weeks across neighborhoods in Brazil, the grandest event is held at Rio Sambadrome on Carnival Sunday and Monday.

Never Ending Parade

The stadium is bustling with 75,000 spectators spread out over a little less than half-a mile. The parade begins at 10pm and ends at 6am. 6 samba-schools parade each night with a total of about twenty-four thousand participants. Each samba school has 45 minutes to make it across the stadium with their floats and dancers. Each samba school has to parade with a minimum of 2,000 members and a maximum of 4,500 merry makers.

Elaborate Floats

Every samba school has at least 10 floats that tell a story and are elaborately decorated with lights, motion and dancers. Some of them are as high as 3 stories! The floats I saw had ice cream, super heroes, toys, farmer, turtle, and music themes.

Outrageous Costumes

The Brazilian women who dance samba in front of the floats are some of the most talented dancers in the country. Their scantily designed costumes are embodies with lots of feathers, as they shake their bodies to the rhythm across the stadium in high heels. Samba girls have to be in excellent shape. They diet, exercise and practice for at least two months leading up to the event.

Tickets and Logistics

There are five types of tickets available for the Samba Parade in Rio: Boxes, Dress Circle, Grandstands Seats, Back Stall Seats, and Specially Handicapped. Children under 5 do not require tickets. Tickets can be purchased in Sectors 1-11, sector 5 and 9 being the most central ones.

Sambodromo Grandstand ticket prices start are $115-400 USD. This area has uncovered stadium style seating, but offers panoramic views of the entire parade. Sambadrome Special Boxes carnival tickets costs at an average range of $600 – 2,200 which includes food, drinks and company of celebrity guests. Carnival tickets go on sale in December and the earlier you buy, the cheaper they will be.

I went to see the Access Group performance on Friday night which consisted of 7 of the best samba schools as part of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival Gold Group. The performances are pretty close to those in the Special Group that perform in the Grand Parade on Monday, and the winners are chosen to participate in next year’s Special Group. Tickets for the Access events are much cheaper. I bought my ticket in Section 5 Grandstand for $20 online. Note: tickets at travel agencies are generally much more expensive.

It is advisable to take a nap on the day of the event so you can stay up all night. The facility sells snack foods and beer, but I saw many people bring coolers full of snacks and to-go cocktail jars. It is ok to take photos and videos. Unlike other crowded places in Rio, it is actually quite safe at the Sambadrome so you can bring your expensive camera. Carry some cash for snacks and taxi back. Many roads are blocked during carnival so transportation can take longer and be a bit more expensive.

~ Photos by Amanda Villa-Lobos, a native of Rio de Janeiro and official Go Eat Give photographer.

Highlights From The New York Times Travel Show 2017

We are back from The New York Times Travel Show where I spoke, signed copies of my books, and networked with dozens of travel companies from around the world. This year, it was a record breaking show with 30,099 participants and 560 companies representing over 170 countries!

On Saturday, I spoke on a panel called Global Travel Tips for Women moderated by April Merenda, owner of Gutsy Women Travel, along with Cheryl Benton of The Three Tomatoes, and Lea Lane, author of “Travel Tales I Couldn’t Put in the Guidebooks. We discussed best-practices for women traveling solo, including popular destinations (Cuba, Morocco, Bali), safety and money saving tips.

Later that afternoon, I spoke to over 50 people interested in volunteer traveling at Meet The Experts area. It was amazing to see so many people were interested in more meaningful travel rather than pure vacations. I hope they will turn up at one of our Go Eat Give trips soon!

I also signed copies of Beato Goes To Greenland and Beato Goes To Indonesia at the New York Times Bookstore. It was a humbling experience sitting next to travel legends Arthur and Pauline Frommer with my own books.

Some of our travel partners you may already know of were also there at the show. In 2016, Amanda and I traveled to Chile with family-run Vermont based company Yampu Tours and Philippines Tourism.

In the Travel for the Mind, Body and Soul section, we ran into our friends at the Art of Living Center in Boone, NC where we organized a yoga retreat last spring for Go Eat Give.  

Indian Tourism got the award for the most creative booth. They were giving out free samosas and mehndi (henna tattoo). What’s not to love?

Travel to India with Go Eat Give in 2017

This year, we are looking to partner with more tourism departments and tour operators and have plans to bring you stories from South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, Georgia, Croatia, New Zealand, Russia, Uzbekistan Puerto Rico, St Lucia, British Virgin Islands, Arizona and more. Stay tuned by subscribing to the blog.

Beach, Buddha and Pagoda – How To Spend 5 Days in Myanmar

Myanmar (aka Burma) has only recently opened to tourism after lifting an embargo on foreign visitors. Tucked away in the South Asian peninsula, the country is unknown to most western tourists, except for it’s communist politics followed by a fight for democracy led by female activist Aung San Suu Kyi. A deeper dive into Myanmar’s history opens up a rich pandora of culture, religion and architecture spanning thousands of years. The country is biodiverse with beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers and forests. While it is difficult to see Myanmar in just a few days, I managed to capture a few highlights through my lens.

Yangon, the capital, is where I spent most of my time as our ship was docked there was three days. Sailing into the Irrawaddy River Delta gave way to views of muddy brown waters with nomadic fisherman on traditional boats, followed by golden domes popping out from bare villages. The city, itself is pretty small, with business buildings, hotels, tea shops, gardens and lots of pagodas. Having been cut off from the rest of the world, you won’t find any name brands or chain restaurants here. People still dress traditionally in sarongs (called longyi) and put bright creamy paste (thanaka) on their faces, while crouching on low stools on the street side cafes eating fish curry and steamed rice. It is easy to walk around, taxis are cheap, though traffic can be bad at times.

Chaukhtatgyi Buddha Temple houses one of the most revered reclining Buddha statues in the country. Though the original statue was built in 1899, it has been modified and reconstructed few times until the 1970s.

Dominating the Yangon skyline, Shwedagon Pagoda is spectacular by day and night. Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, and perhaps the oldest Buddha stupa in the world, built between 6-10 centuries CE. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours to wander around the complex of temples to absorb their splendid beauty, and maybe you would feel like spending a few minutes in silence or meditation.

In the evening, head over for dinner to Karaweik Royal Barge. Karaweik Palace was constructed in the shape of a barge as a symbol of Burmese culture and arts. It serves international buffet with cultural performances. Other restaurants I tried were Yangon Tea House, a casual and hip Burmese/ Indian restaurant, and Feel Myanmar, a traditional place where you can pick and choose your food and quantity. This is a great venue to safely try a lot of Burmese dishes that you may have seen on the streets as well.

On the other side of Yangon’s cosmopolitan city, is the township of Dala. This is the place to go if you want to see daily life of the locals – where they live, shop, study and pray. Most people cross the river on ferry boat to work in the city. Walk through the wet markets, visit a monastery, stop by an orphanage, and ride on a trishaw.


From Yangon, take a short flight to the city of Bagan, in the eastern province. It is said there were over 10,000 religious structures built in Bagan between 9-13 centuries, though only 2,000 of them still remain today. Shwesardaw offers a great lookout to many of these temples spread across the archeological area.

Though there are dozens of other temples in the area worth visiting if you have the time, Shwezigon Pagoda built by the Mon Dynasty, is covered with more than 30,000 copper plates (originally gold). The pagoda houses four huge bronze statues of Buddha, and contain his original footprints.

Lampi Island is the only marine national park in Myanmar, home to over 1000 species of animals, plants and marine life, as well as occasional sea gypsies. Here you can take a private zodiac cruise to visit the mangroves.

Further south is Shark Island, a secluded natural island perfect for snorkeling, swimming, and relaxing on the white sandy beach. There are a number of beaches and exclusive beach resorts in Myanmar, that offer opportunities to see the rich coral formations and marine life.

Located at the Myanmar-Thailand border, is the charming town of Kawthoung. With strong Indian and Muslim influences, it is a town on a hill where you can walk around and explore within a day. Kawthaung is also the starting point for Myanmar-based cruises to the vast Myeik Archipelago.

My trip to Myanmar was possible through Silverseas Discoverer Andaman Sea Expedition cruise. I was on their inaugural sailing to Myanmar, a country that should be added to your travel bucket list!

There is a Haunted Island in India

As the sun was setting over the Andaman Sea, an old ferry packed with people made the ten minute journey across from Port Blair to Ross Island. Given that no one lived on Ross Island, I was confused why so many people were going there, that too as it was getting dark.
As I approached Ross Island, I saw the Indian tricolor flag waiving through a thick canopy of tall coconut trees. My guide told me about the Japanese bunker off the dock. The island was occupied by the Japanese during World War 2, as they fought against the British.
Soon enough, we were surrounded by wild animals – deer, rabbits, and peacocks, who are the only residents on the island. A lady wearing white salwar kameez (Indian attire) with a bright orange scarf started feeding the deers, addressing them as “Baba Baba…” The deers came running to her as if they heard a familiar voice, and ate sliced bread right from her hands. My guide informed me that this lady goes to Ross Island everyday only to feed the deers, so they are familiar with her. She hands me a piece of bread and asks me to feed the deer. I do as instructed. The deer’s wet lips touch my fingers and soon a group of them surround me.
There is nothing but ruins on Ross Island now, but up until India received it’s independent, it was the Administrative Headquarters of the British East India Company, and a good spot to keep a watchful eye on the Central Jail in Port Blair. Remains of a church, bakery, clubhouse, printing press, water reservoir, etc. can still be seen on the island, mostly covered by overgrown tropical plants and algae. At it’s peak, the British general enjoyed the opulence and pristine environment offered by the island and called it “The Paris of the East.” Now, it looks like a scene from a scary movie.
The island has seen its share of bad fortune as well. In the 1700’s the settlement was nearly wiped out due to high mortality rate, then turned into a hospital, a sanatorium and a penal settlements. And a terrible earthquake shattered all structures in 1941. There was a deadly fire at some point too.
So why were all those people on the ferry going to Ross Island? Though there is not much to see (unless you like a stroll through scary ruins), there is a nicely done sound and light show in the evening that shows the history of the island. Just make sure to bring a flashlight, plenty of mosquito spray, and enjoy the show!
What is scariest place you have ever been to? 

A Fresh Look at The Alcatraz of India

Growing up in northern India, I had some familiarity with Andaman and Nicobar Islands only through my history and geography books. These group of islands are a part of India and located 1200 kilometers south east of the country, almost halfway between Indian and Thailand. Actually, the only other thing we were taught in school about the islands was that it was also called Kaala Pani (meaning black water) or the point of no return. More on that later.
Point is, no one I knew went to the islands. I had never met anyone from there and though I was Indian, I couldn’t have told you 5 facts about the Andaman and Nicobar Islands until recently.
In November 2016, I went on a 11-day “Andaman Sea Expedition” aboard Silver Discoverer, an adventure cruise ship. Departing from Phuket, Thailand, our first port of call was Port Blair, India.
The 36 group of islands have been inhabited by Africans, Asians, Danish, Austrians and the British for the past 60,000 years. They have a population of 450,000, most of whom are Indian descendants of the political prisoners, and refugees from Bangladesh. A few dozen native tribes also remain, and are heavily protected by the Indian government to ensure their survival.
When I arrived in Port Blair, it appeared like any other small city in India. There were crowded streets with people and animals manipulating traffic around bikes, rickshaws, and street hawkers. Shops at Aberdeen Market sold everything from colorful India saris, pearls and gold jewelry, to batteries and cheap tupperware. There was a church, mosque, Hindu and Sikh temples, all within a few blocks from each other. The aroma of Indian spices frying in hot ghee (the process is called tadka), milky spiced chai served in small glasses, made to order dosas (lentil and rice crepes) for $1, and mithai (sweets) shops selling colorful squares and balls made with milk powder, brown sugar and dried fruits…all were too familiar to me.

70 Indian Rupees = 1 USD 
Only if you paid attention to the scenery driving along the Sea Shore Road, you would know that you are on an island surrounded by the Andaman Sea. A canopy of coconut and palm trees marked the coastline against the blue waters. At the Water Sports Complex, there was a small children’s park, swimming pool, water sports center and not much of a beach, though ferries took passengers to other islands which were more apt for leisurely beaching and sunbathing.
The unique thing about Silverseas cruise line is that they offer in-depth itineraries that include culture, history, sightseeing and leisure activities built into the tour costs. There were only 75 passengers on my ship and we were bused off to see the local sights.
 
The main site in Port Blair is Cellular Jail, a solitary confinement prison that was built by and for Indian political prisoners under the rule of British East India Army. The generals decided that this is as far and remote they could send away any individuals threatening to raise their voice for independence from the British and freedom for India. Due to its location and inhospitable environment, it was believed that no prisoner sent to Cellular Jail would ever return alive. This was the Alcatraz of India.
Visiting the jail’s campus felt morbid and emotional. There were names of my forefathers and people from all over India who had sacrificed their lives to make India the largest free democratic country in the world. There were tiny cells with nothing but   bare walls. In the center of the garden was a podium where the prisoners received their punishments, and eventually were hanged. Needless to say, food, healthcare and hygiene were luxuries they were awarded at rare occasions.
It was later discovered that there were two brothers at the jail during the same time, but never saw each other.
The Zonal Anthropological Museum had a good collection of photos of tribal people, depicting their culture, dwelling, clothing, and festivals. The four main tribes in the area had no contact with the outside world (even humans from mainland India) until the 1960s. Even now, visitors to the islands are not allowed to go to the reservations.
After almost 70 years of freedom, Port Blair remains an island populated by forced immigrants and refugees. They look, talk, dress and act like any other mainland Indians, yet many of them carry a sad past in their recently family history, with a reminder in their backyards. For me, Port Blair was not just another port of call, it was an educational journey into my own country’s past, one that’s memory is fading away over the years.
Have you returned to your homeland to discover a part of history that you did not know about? Share your story below in the comments section and inspire our readers….

Go Eat Give Artisan Box – Gifts That Give Back

For the first time, we are offering a curated artisan gift box for this holiday season! Go Eat Give has partnered with GlobeIn, an online marketplace that offers handcrafted products sourced from direct relationships with artisans as well as vetted partner organizations. By buying on GlobeIn, you are supporting artisans from around the world and in developing countries where, after agriculture, artisan goods are the second largest source of employment.

globeinHere is what I have handpicked for the Go Eat Give box…

DIRECT TRADE COFFEE FROM NICARAGUA

A socially responsible dark roast that’s as unique as it is complex. This Direct Trade blend of Nicaragua’s finest estate varietals offers an experience like no other.

Boca Java sources their Nicaraguan single origins coffees via Direct Trade relationship with a family-owned, environmentally-friendly coffee farm that was established in the late 1850’s.

PURE GROUND VANILLA FROM MADAGASCAR

Lafaza’s Pure Ground Vanilla contains only hand-selected Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans that have been sun-cured and dried to remove nearly all of the moisture in the pod. The beans are then ground to a fine powder and sealed for freshness. Its superior quality and unique flavor makes a convenient and delicious addition to baked goods, spice rubs, coffee, tea, specialty drinks, smoothies, dry mixes and can be used in many recipes as a substitute for vanilla beans or vanilla extract. With no preservatives or additives, this is an all-natural, organic and gluten-free product.

SPOON REST FROM PALESTINE

Add a splash of Middle Eastern flair to your countertop with this hand painted spoon rest from the Palestinian Territories. The ornate floral design is an aesthetic staple of Palestinian heritage.

Hebron is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, with archeological finds dating back some 5,000 years. Shards of ancient pottery may even bear floral patterns similar to the classic Palestinian design curling delicately across your new spoon rest. Nour Diba, whose skillful painter’s hand deftly tends to the design’s fine eddies and curves, is an employee of Hebron Glass, a family company of glass and ceramic handicraft employing 60 artisans.

ORGANIC LEMONGRASS LIP BALM FROM ZAMBIA

Ingredients: organic beeswax, organic coconut oil, organic sunflower oil, organic jojoba oil, lanolin, organic lemongrass oil, organic peppermint oil, organic rosemary oil, vitamin E.

As a company, Zambeezi is committed to providing the people of Africa’s pristine subtropical forests sources of income other than timber and strip mining, sources more sustainable for people and land alike.

KITCHEN TOWEL FROM TURKEY

This 100% cotton towel absorbs water faster than a regular towel, dries quickly, and folds up small–perfect for drying dishes in your kitchen. Plus, it has tassels!

Hatch, a rare female who has mastered the craft of weaving (traditionally done by men) is a member of Atlas, a growing organization of weaving families in Buldan. Membership with Atlas enables weavers to earn a living while keeping a deep cultural tradition alive and sharing it with the world—and with your kitchen!

HANDWOVEN BASKET FROM MEXICO

These decorative and whimsical baskets make beautiful home storage options, lending a pop of color and handcrafted warmth to children’s bedrooms, bathroom storage, kitchen countertops or as gift packaging for loved ones. Baskets measure 6″ diameter x 5″ tall.

For the people of the Mixteca region of Mexico, basket-weaving is a way of life that also sustains life. On the outskirts of Oaxaca City, Doña Martina Garcia and her group of eight artisan basket weavers produce roughly 700 baskets per month. For each artisan involved, basket-weaving means a stable monthly income used for building a house, starting a small business, or purchasing food and medicine.

Get the Go Eat Give curated artisan box for only $50 inclusive of shipping within U.S. through GlobeIn. It makes for a great hostess gift, a special treat for someone who likes to cook or travel, and the best part is, you will be supporting 6 families around the world by purchasing this box.

You can also gift someone a monthly subscription to GlobeIn, through which they will receive a new theme box each month! Subscriptions cost $35-40/ month.

Santa, Sleighs and Igloos in Finland

Do you believe in Santa Claus? What if I told you that the letters you address to “The North Pole” actually make it to a small town in Finland, where Santa and his helpers sit at their desks and read each and every letter? You probably won’t believe me, thinking it was a made up kids story. But really, it is actually true and I have seen it with my very own eyes!

I flew to a city called Ivalo, in northern Finland, located inside the Arctic Circle. Even in April, there was snow as far as my eyes could see. Reindeers appeared wandering around the alpine forests, as I took a 30-minute shuttle ride to Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort in Lapland.

Most people say they have never heard of Lapland, until I mention the “igloo hotel.” The iconic photo of a village dotted with glass igloos glowing against the twilight sky in wintery wonderland, has appeared across many social media posts. I had only dreamt of going there myself someday, and here I was.

igloo resort finlandThe shuttle dropped off the passengers at a log cabin used as the reception area. We fetched our keys and were told to use the sleighs kept outside to carry our luggage to our respective cabin rooms or igloos.

While it was snowing heavily outside and temperatures dipped under 30F (“unusually warm for this time of the year” they informed me), I dragged my wooden sleigh to my cabin.

laplandThere are three kinds of rooms at the resort. The first and most popular are the glass igloos, available in two sizes – sleeps 2 (with toilet, no shower) or 4 people (with shower and toilet). The igloos have limited space to store luggage and almost no privacy, since they are made entirely of glass. Though you have to walk through the snowy cold weather to get to the igloo, once inside, it is nice and toasty.

The second option is to get a log cabin. Here, you can get a very comfortable king size bed, kitchenette, breakfast area, as well as a personal sauna. Now, that’s luxury! For those who cannot decide between the igloo or the cabin, there is the Kelo Glass Igloo, which combines a cabin with an igloo, so you get the best of both worlds. Store your luggage in the cabin, enjoy a nice hot sauna, and sleep in the igloo at night.

kakslauttanen_kelo-glass_igloo_rgbPicture yourself lying in bed, looking at the sky, while the Aurora Lights dance around in their green, orange and red hues. That is the main reason to come here. In Lapland, you can see northern lights almost every night from August-April, in their full splendor. The resort also offers activities “Aurora Hunting” on snow mobiles or reindeer sleighs.

During the day, guests can enjoy winter sports such as cross country skiing, dog sledding, hiking, riding snow mobiles, and more.

dsc06915For lunch, there is always all-you-can-eat soup (two choices) and homemade breads. Dinner at the restaurant is also quite good. The menu features local ingredients and Lappish dishes, such as reindeer stew, Alaskan crab, grilled salmon, and stewed cloudberries.

reindeer & salmon

The resort is actually quite large and worth exploring for a few hours. First, you want to visit Santa’s house. Here, resident Mr and Mrs Claus live, meet guests and participate in activities through the season. The Celebration House is where Santa throws elaborate parties. It is also used for weddings and events. There are other small workshops, an ice chapel, and of course, the local wildlife. Couple of dozen reindeers live on the property.

Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is one of it’s kind. It was started by a visionary, Jussi Eiramo. While on vacation, he discovered this patch of beautiful area where he could camp and see the Northern Lights almost every night of the year. So, he opened a souvenir shop about 40 years ago, then made ice igloos for people to stay at, and later designed the first glass igloos using unique Finnish technology.

Today, Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort is a bucket list destination for those who seek adventure, romance and off the beaten path travel. It is a place where families flock to in the winter to celebrate the holiday season, party with Santa, and enjoy the essence of the North Pole.

Where In The World Do You Want To Move To?

Last night, the immigration website for Canada crashed due to too much traffic. Apparently, that is the first country Americans think of moving to (almost every 4 years) especially during election time. Most of them do not end up making the jump across the border though.

This time it’s different. A lot of my friends started planning their move few months ago, getting disenchanted by everything happening in America – the quality of education & healthcare, lack of job growth, frequent shooting incidents, divided political system, etc. I am referring to people who are born and brought up in the U.S., not immigrants. Some are looking for a better place to live, some for adventure, and others just want to get away from the hatred they see around them.

So, has the thought of moving abroad crossed your mind? Do you know where you would like to go to?

Here are some criteria I would recommend considering when looking to move to a new country…

English Speaking – Language is no longer a barrier in today’s world, as many counties have English as their primary language, if not the language they do business in. These countries have 90% or more of the population English speaking – Ireland, Philippines, Caribbean (Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Bermuda, Trinidad), New Zealand, UK, Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, and Malta. Source: Wikipedia.

Darker the green - more English speakers
Darker the green – more English speakers

Economy – Where in the world are all the jobs? According to projected nominal GDP, the top economies in 2021 will be China, the U.S., India, Japan, Germany, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, the U.K. and France.

Entrepreneurship – For millennials, this is an important factor as many choose to work for themselves in meaningful businesses. How entrepreneurial a country is based on how connected it is to the rest of the world, provides easy access to capital, skilled labor force, technological expertise, transparent business practices, well-developed infrastructure and well-developed legal framework. Germany, Japan, US, UK, Canada, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, Singapore and Australia top the list.

Safety – Families with kids are looking to bring up their kids in a safe environment, with “gun free zones” and a relatively peaceful population. Finland, Qatar, UAE, Iceland, Austria, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Singapore are rated as the safest places to live in the world. Source: WEF

Education – Again, if you have kids, you want them to be able to receive a good quality education within the public school system. Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland spend the most money on education as a percentage of their gross domestic product, according to the World Bank.

Cost of Living – Clearly, you want to move to a place that is affordable. Perhaps you want to buy a home or maintain the same lifestyle. South and Central America have a good lifestyle/ cost balance and especially appeal to retiring Americans, while Scandinavia is the most expensive place to live. Note: cost of living is not the same as quality of life. Source: NUMBEO

Most expensive place is marked by Orange - Medium is Yellow - Cheapest is Green
Scale shows most expensive places to live in Red

Adventure – Research shows that a chance to break away from the normal rhythms of daily life reduces stress and improves health and well-being. Brazil, Italy, Spain, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Greece, Costa Rica, Portugal and Mexico top the list of countries that offer enough opportunities to explore. Source: U.S. News

Quality of Life – Each year, there are Best Places to Live rankings posted. Often times, you will find some of the same countries listed over and over again. Canada, Australia and 7 European countries including Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg are rated in the top 10. Source: U.S. News

Environment and pollution is a big factor for me. Here is a chart showing where you can still find clean air on planet Earth.

map-view-pollution
Green – good, Red – bad

What is the single most important factor you would look for in your new home country? Leave a comment below...

5 Reasons Why I Could Live in the Philippines

What did I like most about the Philippines? Well, a lot of things! Beautiful beaches, quiet islands, fresh fruits, friendly people, to name a few. Each day, I thought about what it would be like to live here and thought about the five most compelling reasons I would want to move to the Philippines.

Mangoes Grow Year Round – Mangoes, undoubtedly, are my favorite fruit. I have been known to eat a lot (record 15 in one sitting)! Growing up in India, I use to anxiously wait for summers when mangoes were available. In the Philippines, there is no one season for growing mangoes. The tropical weather allows good quality production year-round. As a result, you can get fresh mango juice, fruit, yogurt, desserts and anything else you can think of. Dried mangoes from Cebu are world famous and even available in grocery stores across the US.

Coconuts Are Everywhere – Philippines is the largest producer of coconuts in the world. It is a spectacular sight from an airplane to see rolling hills full of coconut trees on many of the islands. Whether you are driving, walking or visiting a home, there’s a pretty good chance you can find a fresh sweet coconut readily available. Coconut water is good for circulation, blood circulation, skin, provides energy, healthy for the heart and helps with weight loss. Where else in the world can you find a superfood for only $0.20?

coconuts in philippinesFilipinos Have The Fountain of Youth – Well, not a fountain as such, but most Filipino look at least 10-20 years younger than they actually are. I asked a few people I met about the reason for their young appearance, and they replied that it was staying happy, always smiling and not stressing too much. “You must exercise your face muscles a lot” one lady told me. In fact, all of the Filipinos I met were very friendly and smiling all the time.

philippines travel

Freshness in Seafood is Redefined – I have turned into a pescetarian over the years and when I walk into a restaurant, my eyes go straight to the seafood section of the menu. In the Philippines, many of the restaurants would display your choices of fish, lobster, crab, shrimp, sea shells, etc. (live in tanks or on ice). You simply pick out what you want and how much of it, and the chef does the rest. I ate the biggest king crab of my life (at 4 pounds), which was still alive when I placed my order.

seafood in manilaBudget Friendly Spas – Self care in the Philippines is a priority. Every mall, hotel and street corner has a spa, and most of them are no frills but offer really good service. Skilled professionals can do deep tissue, Swedish, or a local version of head to toe massage, leaving you totally relaxed. At $20 a massage, you can definitely afford to hit the spa a few times a week.

philippines spasPhilippines is an English speaking country. Even in the most remote places, people speak very good English, which makes it relatively easy to get around and interact with the locals. Other factors that make Philippines an attract place to live include – affordable cost of living, ease of finding domestic help, and year-round tropical weather. There’s also option to live in the bustling western capital of Manila with beautiful waterfront high risers, golf courses, international restaurants, and some of the biggest malls in the world; or at some of the isolated islands where you can enjoy quiet beaches, surf, swim, snorkel, and karaoke with the islanders at night.

 

The Best Summer Scenery From Armenia (Photo Blog)

Though Armenia is a small country (141st largest in the world), it has a lot of diverse landscapes. From snow capped mountains and alpine lakes, to dry deserts and lush green valleys, there are lots of micro climates within Armenia. Our Go Eat Give photographer, Amanda Villa-Lobos took over ten thousand pictures while traveling around the country last month. Here are our top 10 scenic views for you to enjoy…

caucus mountains
Volcanic regions in the Lesser Caucasus mountains and Armenian highlands.
Mount Ararat
Mount Ararat is the highest peak in Armenia. Parts of it are located in Turkey and Georgia.
Tatev monastery Armenia
Tatev monastery stands against a beautiful backdrop in the southern part of the country bordering with Iran.
canyon in Armenia
Canyoning, rock climbing and hiking can be enjoyed all over the country.
Lake Sevan
Lake Sevan is a nice place to relax, swim and eat fresh catch such as crayfish and whitefish.
Lake Sevan Armenia
Get an aerial view of the area while paragliding over lake Sevan.
novak-monastery
The canyon where Novak monastery is situation looks something like Utah.
wings of Tatev
Aerial view of the valley from Wings of Tatev, the longest non-stop double track cable car in the world.
tombstones
Khachkar at historic cemeteries, or Armenian cross-stones, give lots of good information about daily life.
marmashen-monastery
Marmashen Monastery 10th-century Armenian monastic complex consisting of 5 churches.

Has this inspired you to travel to Armenia? Read more blog posts from our visit.

~ Photos by Go Eat Give photographer, Amanda Villa-Lobos.