Christmas Market in Gamla Stan

I have already written about this year's various Christmas Markets around Stockholm... but I made a stop yesterday at the main market in Gamla Stan (old town) and I thought I would post some information and pictures to get you inspired! I call it the "main market" as it is the one that is the most well-known, open daily (11am to 6pm) and is very centrally located on the picturesque square Stortorget in the old town.
Being surrounded by the beautiful architecture of the medieval buildings that surround the square adds to the ambiance... with extra holiday atmosphere when it snows! Strolling around between the stalls, you will find ornaments, decorations, candies, toys, knitwear as well as food like herring, sausages, gingerbread, jams & jellies. You can also buy a cup of glögg (spiced hot mulled wine) and some candied almonds to snack on.
This market is open daily until December 23rd. It can get quite crowded in the late afternoons on the weekdays as well as during the weekends. I was there on a Monday early afternoon and there were no crowds! The easiest way to get there from the Hotel Rival is either to walk (15-20 minutes) or take the subway to Gamla Stan (two stops on the red line).
...wreaths and...
...much more!

Save Your Thai Visa Fee And Spend It On These Awesome Experiences In Thailand

We all know how nerve-wracking and tiring it can get while applying for a visa to visit your favourite country on vacations. Worse, if you don’t organize well and miss out on some documents, your entire vacation is ruined. Not anymore! With Thailand announcing a waiver on visa fee from December 1st 2018 till January 31st 2019, which basically means you will be saving Rs 4400 if you’re an Indian citizen, it’s time to plan a trip to the country. Imagine all the things you can do with the money while you’re on the trip. And trust us, you can do a lot!

Before you rush off to book your tickets, read up on all the things you can do to entertain yourself in under INR 4400:

1. Become A Human Slingshot

Human Slingshot PattayaIthaka | Ithaka

Experience the most thrilling ride of your life in Pattaya. Fly through the air as a ‘Human Slingshot’ for an adrenaline pumped activity. This unique adventure is the only slingshot experience in entire Asia. Just try it now and you’ll thank us later.

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Cost per person: INR 3080
Where: Pattaya

2. Discover Bangkok Behind The Scenes On A Cycle Tour

Whether you are enthusiastic about Thai food or culture or architecture, or just history, this tour will help you get to know Bangkok on an entirely new level. The tour follows the path of the formation and development of Bangkok — from the ancient temples and small communities where traditional ways are still maintained to the skyscrapers lining up the city’s horizons. Discover the abandoned 18th-century temple, witness the lives of local people, and get a feel of the mesmerising nature as you ride a cross-river ferry.

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Cost per person: INR 2300
Where: Bangkok

3. Shop Till You Drop At This Floating Market

This country’s offbeat experiences are famous all over the world. So, next on the list is Damnoen Saduak Floating Market whose overwhelming beauty will make you fall for it. Every day thousands of locals and tourists visit this 100-year-old market to shop, eat, and enjoy the lively ambience. Our suggestion, start your tour early morning to avoid crowd and heat. Enjoy watching coconut brown sugar being made by locals while riding on a long tail boat through small canals, local fruit plantations, and houses.

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Cost per person: INR 999
Where: Damnoen Saduak, 105 kms from Bangkok.

4. Plan Four-Island Hopping Tour From Krabi To Discover The Beauty Of Thailand

Imagine lounging on a soft sandy beach with cerulean blue ocean in the background while sipping a glass of pina colada. Now, that’s some scenery we have painted for you and that’s exactly what you can do on this tour. Discover what a beauty south-western Thailand is when you travel to these four islands- Poda, Koh Gai (Chicken Island), Koh Tub, and Koh Mor. And you can go for snorkelling and swimming with fish. It will be the most memorable trip of your holiday.

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Cost per person: INR 1999
Where: Krabi

5. Swim With The Sharks At Sea Life Ocean World

The Ocean World is more than just an attraction; it’s a life-long experience that visitors take home. Built below the famous Siam Paragon Mall, Sea Life Ocean World is one of the largest aquariums in Southeast Asia, boasting over 30,000 fish and marine creatures from around the world. The variety of aquatic lives include sharks, piranhas, dolphins, manta ray, and much more. You’ll be surprised to discover the range of ocean adventures this place has to offer.

If you have a diving licence, you can also swim with sharks. Now, that’s one hell of an adventure.

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Cost per person: INR 1400
Where: Bangkok

6. Spend A Fun-Filled Day At Dream World

Located just outside the city, in the province of Pathum Thani, Dreamworld Theme Park is a great getaway if you are on a family vacation. We suggest you to try their water rides and thrilling sky coaster to feel the rush of adrenaline running through your veins. If you are a selfie-lover, do check out their enchanting landscape gardens featuring alluring waterfalls, grand statues, etc. to make your photos Instagram worthy.

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Cost per person: INR 2450
Where: Bangkok

7. Get The Local Experience Of Bangkok With A Tuk-Tuk Tour

This tour isn’t like any other city tour. Here’ you’ll get to mingle with the locals, try drool worthy local dishes, and get a ride on an amazing tuk-tuk on the busy streets of China Town. That’s not all. Once you are done with all these fun activities, head straight to a mountaintop to witness the most magnificent sunset of your life with a captivating panoramic view of Bangkok old town.

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Cost per person: INR 2100
Where: Bangkok

8. Get Mesmerised By Simon Cabaret Show

A Thailand trip is just not over without watching an extravagant cabaret show. It is the perfect example of Phuket’s world-famous nightlife. The rich and entertaining performances by ladyboys will leave you awe-inspired. Enjoy the cutting-edge equipment, intricate costumes, talented artists, and exquisite performances coming alive in the cabaret.

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Cost per person: INR 1799
Where: Phuket

9. Explore The Unexplored On Coral Island

When it comes to Thailand, island hopping is a must. And Koh Larn aka the Coral Island is perhaps one of the most beautiful islands in the country. It is actually a group of small islands located a few miles off the coast of Pattaya. The serene surroundings, crystal clear water, beautiful beaches and extensive coral is what marks the beauty of this island. If you take the Coral Island tour, it will also offer you activities such as parasailing, jet-ski, underwater sea-walk and snorkelling. So, all you need to do is just chill and unwind.

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Cost per person: INR 720
Where: Pattaya

10. Click A Selfie With The Stars At Madame Tussaud Wax Museum

You might think what’s new in this wax museum? Well, you can hug, kiss, and even touch the statues here. Yes, it’s an interactive museum. Now, that’s something very different.

Strike a pose with the US President and the first lady or click a selfie with the latest addition- Anushka Sharma. A day out at this museum is definitely worth it!

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Cost per person: INR 1350
Where: Bangkok

11. Get One with Nature at Doi Inthanon National Park Tour

Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand, is also known as ‘the roof of Thailand’. A picturesque road trip to the most peaceful place in the country is a must. You can visit the sacred Wat Phra That Si Chom Thong, the musical Wachirathan Falls, or just go on a jungle trek at Aang-Ka. The choice is all yours!

It’s really a visual treat for all the nature lovers.

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Cost per person: INR 4199
Where: Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai

12. Plan a fun-filled Phi Phi Island Tour from Phuket

Become a part of Thailand’s natural sights on Phi Phi Island. Take an early morning ferry from Phuket to spend most of the day on the island. Snorkel with turtle and fish or enjoy a swim in the turquoise blue water or simply fall head over heels at the beautiful Phi Phi beaches. The island is a perfect fit for any kind of traveller- a nature seeker, adventure junkie, chiller traveller or a foodie.

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Cost per person: INR 3900
Where: Phuket

13. Try Scuba Diving If You are an Adventure Enthusiast

Get ready to unwind yourself in the nature’s paradise called Koh Tao Island. Start by relaxing on the beach, followed by exploring the fascinating aquatic life by opting for scuba diving. You are going to love it if you have a knack for adventures. Swim near the rocky reefs and colourful corals which make this place idyllic for a dive.

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Cost per person: INR 4125
Where: Koh Tao

The post Save Your Thai Visa Fee And Spend It On These Awesome Experiences In Thailand appeared first on Ithaka Travel.

Thailand Visa Is Now Free For All Indian Citizens

Yes! You heard it right. Our beloved travel destination, Thailand, just waived off its visa on arrival fees for Indian citizens.

Starting from November 13th, the Thai government has announced a temporary exemption of visa fee for India along with other 20 countries. So, if you are wondering where to celebrate the New Year, you now know where you should go and party. Just another reason to welcome 2019 in a grand fashion.

Thailand is one of the hottest tourist spots in the world. In order to boost the tourism in the country, the Thai government has decided to take this traveller-friendly step. Until now, the visa fee was charged at a price 2000 TBH (equivalent to INR 4400). Not anymore. Thanks to the new rules, it’s time to pack your bags once again and head to the party capital of Asia.

However, there is a small catch. You can only stay in the country for 14 days as per the visa stipulation and the ‘free visa on arrival’ is applicable only from November 13th 2018 to January 13th 2019.

If you are from one of the following countries, then your travel to Thailand will be hassle-free — India, China, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, Andora, Bulgaria, Bhutan, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Fiji, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Romania, San Marino, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

So, what are you waiting for? Go, start planning your trip!

The post Thailand Visa Is Now Free For All Indian Citizens appeared first on Ithaka Travel.

New Year’s Eve in Stockholm 2018

Let us take a little break from Christmas and concentrate on New Year's Eve. It is just around the corner! If you are visiting the city during this holiday, then I hope you have started figuring out your New Year's Eve plans because some restaurants are starting to fill up already. This is not an evening when you want to "wing it" when it comes to dining & dancing! Here are some things you should be aware of when making your plans.
  • Restaurants- Quite a few restaurants are closed on the 31st. The ones that are open generally serve a traditional multiple course menu called nyårssupé and nothing else. It can be anywhere between 3 and 9 courses and cost anywhere between 500 and 1200 SEK, depending on the restaurant. This means that going out for a simple dinner or quick bite will probably be problematic unless you are looking at pubs or fast food establishments. These nyårssupé dinners are popular and the restaurants tend to fill up, so don't leave it to the last minute! Most of these restaurants have two seatings during the evening... an early (5-8:30pm) and a late (8:30pm-12am). There are actually a select few restaurants that serve a regular menu and it seems that there are more of these every year. If you are staying at the Hotel Rival, contact us as soon as possible for help in making arrangements! Every year we have guests that stop by around the Concierge desk at 7pm on New Year's Eve looking for help in making restaurant reservations and are surprised that almost every restaurant is fully booked. Don't make the same mistake! Our Bistro is open and we will be serving our popular seafood smorgasbord with two seatings. If you are staying at the hotel, you need to book this in advance as we have limited seating! Click here if you wish to book the hotel package with dinner. 
  • Nightclubs- Here it is important to plan ahead as well. Tickets to the parties at the nightclubs can be pre-purchased in advance. If you don't pre-purchase a ticket, you can end up standing in long lines in subzero temperatures! Here are some of the larger nightclub parties this year as well as a few restaurants: Stureplansgruppen (an umbrella group that runs several nightclubs), Café Opera and Södra Teatern. These are the more posh nightclub venues... there are, of course, many smaller parties going on at different venues. Click here for a list and more information about gay & lesbian parties on New Year's Eve.
  • Taxis- These are notoriously hard to catch on New Year's Eve... especially after 11pm. This is because of the huge demand. Most taxi companies don't accept prebookings because they don't want their cars tied up waiting for people who don't show up. There is also the option of Uber here in Stockholm. You don't have to worry about being stranded though... the subways will be running all night long. If nighttime subways aren't your thing, just make sure that you are within walking distance of your hotel. Stockholm isn't that big so this isn't that hard to accomplish. And remember... be careful when catching taxis in Sweden!
  • Fireworks- Locals will be setting off their own fireworks throughout the city, especially at midnight in the parks & squares. The official fireworks will be shot off above the harbor (eastern side of Gamla Stan). The best places to see the fireworks are along the waterfront, by the City Hall, on Fjällgatan or Monteliusvägen. Some places will be quite crowded but you will still be able to see the fireworks! These afrementioned places are all within a 5-20 minute walk from the Hotel Rival
  • Skansen- Once again, this is the center of Swedish holiday tradition. This is the countdown spectacle that is televised and shown around all of Sweden on TV... kind of like the Swedish version of the ball dropping at Times Square. There will be music and speeches and, of course, the official countdown. Skansen is also a great place to see the official fireworks! To be honest, I'm not sure how much someone who doesn't speak Swedish will get out of the event as most of the program is in Swedish... but it is an option. The program starts at 11:10pm and ends at 00:10am. Be aware that it is outdoors (see below)! 
  • Weather- Remember that it is winter in Sweden. Temperatures can vary between 5 and -10 degrees Celsius (41 and 14 degrees Fahrenheit) around this time. There might be snow or not. Dress accordingly when you are out. You can always keep your eye on the weather site a couple of days ahead of your arrival to get a better idea of what the weather will be like. 
The Hotel Rival- our Bistro, as I mentioned, is open. If you have dinner plans somewhere else, stop by before or after for a drink. The bars will be open until 2am. There will be a DJ playing and the square in front of the hotel is a popular place for the locals to light their fireworks. I am sure the DJ will play this song at some point during the evening... 

12 Items To Watch Out For While Shopping In Thailand

Shopping in Thailand is a delight, especially if you love variety. The country is known for its long and crowded markets lined with options that can make you go crazy. But amidst all the chaos, here are 12 items to look out for if you want to take back a souvenir that’s authentically ‘Thai’.

1. Clothes

Love being up-to-date with fashion trends? Then shopping in the streets of Thailand will be a treat for you! The general dressing sense of Thailand is modest but oh-so-trendy. Garments on the rack consist of lot of linens. So, markets are filled with flowy, comfortable dresses tailored in the cool and fresh fabric. Note that it is easier to get smaller sized clothes in the island country as people in Thailand have a smaller frame.

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Where: For the basics, check out clothes from AIIZ (a popular Thai brand). Those looking for classy, Zara-like trends should make a beeline for Pomelo Shop, a beloved Thai fashion brand found in every mall.

2. Fruit Soaps

Personal care in Thailand revolves around have a glowing, healthy skin. So, the country has a wide range of special skin care products. And, that’s why the Thai love the natural, fruity punch of goodness on their skin too.

Tip: Don’t forget to bargain.

Thais dig fruit soaps. And, you should too! The current hot favourite is the Mango fruit soap. So, if you pass a shop or stall selling fruit soaps, buy them for your friends and family without a second thought. You won’t regret it.

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Where: Asiatique, Chatuchak weekend market and Pratunam market in Bangkok and street shops in Pattaya are hot-spots for fruit soaps.

3. NaRaYa Bags

The local brand NaRaYa is known for the fabric of its bags. Bags and pouches of NaRaYa are Thailand’s favourite from the high-end local chain. It’s a great pick-up if you are looking for a classy and exotic souvenir.

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Where: All major malls in Bangkok have NaRaYa bags.

4. Everything Elephant

Elephants are always in trend in Thailand. You will find wooden carvings, dress patterns, bags and whatnots with elephant prints. What’s great is that all these are beautiful works of art and it is authentic to Thailand. So, if you want to bring home a piece of Thailand, pick up an item denoting an elephant.

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Where: Gift shops all over Thailand.

5. Wooden Toad That Attracts Wealth

A toad carved out of the wood of Acacia tree is considered auspicious by the Thai. The instrument makes croaking sounds like that of a toad, and that – the Thais believe – attracts wealth and spectacular harvest during the monsoon. So, if want to use some luck to get rich, buy the toad!

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Where: Native market lies in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. But it can be found in markets all over the country.

6. Thai Alcohol

Another thing that you won’t find anywhere else but in Thailand is the local alcohol. There’s the Magic Alambic rum, Chalong Bay rum, and Sang Som whiskey that are local to Thailand. You will also find international brands here, but they are heavily taxed and expensive. As a wise shopper, stick with the national drinks and take home some to share a bit of Thailand high with your dear ones.

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Where: Koh Samui is the place for the flavourful Magic Alambic rum. Visit the distillery or any gift shop of a popular hotel to find it. Phuket is the place for Chalong Bay rum and Sang Som whiskey.

7. Multipurpose Thai Triangle Pillow

A unique item in Thailand is a pillow which looks like a triangle load that can unfurl to make a mattress. This is a great item of home décor. It’s thoughtful. And, you get it only in Thailand. So, don’t forget to pick up one of these multi-taskers during your shopping spree.

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Where: Phuket is the go-to place. As these pillows are bulky, you can place an order with country specifications on their filling and get them delivered at your doorstep.

8. Inhaler

Not every day do you find an inhaler on a tourist’s shopping list. But there’s a reason why we recommend it if you are in Thailand. We’re not sure if it’s the climate or the temperature, but a blocked nose is a common ailment in Thailand. And, the demand has created an effective supply of inhalers. So, if you suffer from rhinitis, don’t forget to pick an inhaler from Thailand. You will be amazed by how useful it is!

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Where: Poy-Sian Nasal Inhaler can be found in every departmental store in the country. It’s effective.

9. Thai Silk

Buying silk from Thailand has one USP, you get them in the brightest shades suited for the tropics. Thailand produces commercial silk from domesticated eri silkworms and glossy, mulberry silk from Bombyx mori. The coveted variety in Thailand is the mulberry silk in bright colours that you won’t find anywhere else. So, if you’ve got a fixation for silk, make it a point to browse through the silks of Thailand.

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Where: Best outlets are the Jim Thompson shops. They are present all over the country.

10. Snail White

The popular brand of skincare essentials is said to be made of real snail secretions. This peculiar ingredient is believed to work wonders on the skin, especially in maintaining the youthful look. A word of caution, though, like any skincare product, this one too should be first tested on your skin. But for what’s it worth, and just because you are in Thailand, no harm in trying, right?

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Where: Found in almost every beauty shop all over the country.

11. Coconut Products

In Thailand, one thing is common between oil, monkey statues, and even chimes — coconut! The country loves its coconut. So, apart from coconut oil (which is common), you will find many other products made of coconut. You will get high-end products like aromatic coco water. So, if you are in Thailand, do not return without having a piece of it in your bag.

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Where: Koh Samui is the place for the best coconut products.

12. Lip-Smacking Seaweed

Cannot fathom how seaweed can be delicious? Well, you ought to try the flavoured, crunchy ones that come in packets in Thailand. This delicacy, which sells like chips, won’t be found elsewhere. So, if you want to take back something for your foodie friends – seaweed (it tastes so close to bacon!) it should be.

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Where: Tao Kae Noi Seaweed in various flavours like chicken larb, spicy grilled squid is available at all supermarkets in Thailand.

Markets of Thailand are extensive. Don’t forget to wear comfortable footwear and clothes on your shopping day. And, when in the field, don’t forget to watch out for the above 12 items. Your trip is indeed incomplete without at least one of these!

The post 12 Items To Watch Out For While Shopping In Thailand appeared first on Ithaka Travel.