Tag Archives: traveling with a disability

5 important factors to remember when you travel with a pre-existing medical condition

Travelling is such an amazing experience that everyone deserves to be able to enjoy it if they wish to. Sometimes, if you have a pre-existing medical condition or disability, it can be tempting to avoid travelling as you may feel that the organisation and execution of a trip is too difficult. However, if you consider these 5 important factors, you too can have the travel experience you deserve!

 

Hand holding a miniature of planet earth.

Packing

Sunscreen, swimwear, a selection of books to read on the beach, and your medication. Consider everything you might need while you are on your trip, thinking specifically about whether the temperature or humidity may cause any problems that will require different equipment to your everyday provisions. Although it may seem inconvenient, it’s better to pack more than you need, than to find yourself without something vital when you are in another country that may not sell it. There might even be a language barrier that makes communicating exactly what you need quite difficult.

 

Airplane flying

Talk to the airline

If you are travelling within the EU, airlines are required to support you in your travels, through what is known as ‘Special Assistance’. You should aim to contact the airline with at least 48 hours’ notice so they can prepare for your arrival. Let them know what assistance you need with things, such as getting through the airport, boarding the airplane, and so on. If you are bringing a mobility scooter onto the plane they will need to know about this so they can store the battery correctly and ensure they have the space.

Medical information

Before you travel, ask your GP for a letter that has information on it around your health condition(s) and medications. Keep this on you at all times (it might be useful to get a photocopy just in case!) so that if you are asked for any information, you have anything written down. Unfortunately this is often something that GPs charge for, however, it’s a small price to pay to be able to keep all your things with you. There are some medicines that will require a personal licence to take out of the country, so be sure to discuss this with your doctor as well.

 

appla computer, passport and digital camera

Where are you going?

The world is your oyster, but before you decide on a destination, it is wise to check out a few things. For example, how accessible is the public transport in the area (we have plenty of information on our blog about this!), and are you close to a hospital or medical facility if you should need it? Check on the quality if the health care provisions in the country you are travelling to as it can vary wildly.

 

Let’s go!

One of the most important things to remember when you travel with a pre-existing medical condition is that travel is good for your mind, body, and soul and you deserve to enjoy it! Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it, and most hotels will be happy to do anything to help you feel more comfortable and safe and enjoy your trip.

 

So, what are you waiting for? Make sure you consider these factors and then get booking! There is so much to experience, so why not start now?

 

Do you have any top tips for travelling with a medical condition? Let us know in the comments.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

6 Things to Look Out for When Planning Holidays for Elderly Disabled

Our parents have always been the ones preparing us when there is a forthcoming holiday. They determined the destination, are the ones who determined what you will need for the trip and in some circumstances the things to do when you travel. When the parents or other family members are disabled and in need of assistance, it is upon their loved ones to ensure they are living comfortably. According to Senior Living Help, old age comes with various challenges including limited mobility and need for assisted living. This is the case even when it comes to going for holidays.

 

Are you planning to go for a holiday with disabled senior citizens? There are some special things you need to arrange for even before you depart your home. Here, we will cover the things to look out for when planning and traveling on holidays with disabled seniors.

 

elderly man taking a photograph

 

  1. Look Out for Special Packages for the Disabled Seniors

 

Everywhere you go nowadays, you can find special packages meant for senior citizens. This includes in the travel and tours industry.  Your travel advisor will let you know about the disabled traveler’s packages. Some hotels and tour operators will offer disabled seniors special prices, allowing you to save more money. These packages are often available to encourage the seniors to travel and also to encourage their loved ones. Those traveling with seniors are advantaged since they get to enjoy special pricing.

 

elderly couple holding hands

 

  1. Make Arrangements for Travel Vans with Special Aid Equipment

 

Disabled seniors and disabled persons, in general, will have some special requirements when traveling. For instance, they require arm support and spacious vehicles to ensure they are comfortable. These should be arranged to make sure they enjoy their holiday stay. It is important that you confirm with the travel advisor that the company offering you a holiday van will cater for these special needs. Don’t generalize or take chances assuming that there will be an available van for your travel needs. This will be an important part of your holiday experience and therefore it is important that you prioritise this.

 

When you are traveling by air, let the airline know when you are booking that you will need special services for the disabled. Some of the airlines will demand an additional fee to offer this while others have special seats for the disabled seniors. Ask prior to checking in and confirm that all arrangements are made to avoid surprises at the waiting lobby when you are told they didn’t know about your special needs. Email them, and call to confirm that what you need will be available. You might also ask for a written confirmation.

 

  1. Choose the Travel Destinations That Suit Disabled Seniors

 

You don’t want to take disabled seniors to destinations that they will not enjoy. Many senior citizens who are disabled are limited in what they can do. To make sure you have chosen appropriate travel destination for the disabled senior accompanying you, ask them first the things they would love to do. At this point, you might want to involve them in determining the actual destination. Then, you can come up with a list of things to do in those places and let them choose the most exciting activities. Third, confirm with the travel agency making travel bookings on your behalf that the disabled senior in your company will be allowed to take part in the specific activity. Also, ask about the entry fee to some of the places you will want to go sightseeing and confirm availability of special aid and equipment for the disabled person to enjoy the trip. There are companies that offer tailor made travel arrangements for the disabled. These companies can be the best in offering you advice when it comes to places to visit and things to do for disabled seniors.

 

elderly women in front of the sea

 

  1. Check out the Special Gear Needed for Disabled Senior Travel

 

For senior living at home, you have all the gear you need to support the disabled senior citizen. When traveling to destination away from home, you will be required to carry special gear.  In some instances, there is an option of leasing the special equipment like wheelchairs. Leasing wheelchairs might help you save on luggage and baggage fee at the airport. But how convenient will that be? Consider that the disabled senior is already used to the types of equipment they have been using like wheelchairs and walking aids. It might be hectic trying to find the similar alternative when you want to lease the equipment. Therefore, you might want to start the leasing process early enough just to be sure you have what you need before the actual travel dates.

 

  1. Travel Documents Needed for the Disabled Travelers

 

Make sure that before your travel date, everyone accompanying you including the disabled travelers have the right documentation. These documents typically would be the exact same travel documents for you and the disabled senior citizens, such as a passport or travel Visa.

 

  1. See the Doctor Prior to Confirming the Bookings

 

Before you confirm the bookings, let the doctor okay your travel arrangements. This might not be necessary for everyone, but at least for the disabled seniors, make sure that the senior citizen you are traveling with will be able to take the trip. Your doctor will know the condition of the disabled senior and also advise you on things not to do while traveling. In addition, your doctor will be best suited to give you emergency referrals in case the disabled senior develops some complications while on holiday.

 

elderly man visiting the doctor

 

With these travel tips for disabled seniors, you will be able to go on a holiday with your elderly companion. Ensure that you adhere to doctor’s advice and that you follow the above tips when arranging for the holidays.

Article written by Holly Klamer.

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Graham’s trip to Rome

At the beginning of September, I attended another Seable’s Holiday to Rome. This was, yet again, another fantastic and memorable trip.

Our small group set off on another adventure travelling to London Gatwick Airport to catch our flight. On arrival at Rome Fiumicino Airport we were met by Damiano and Emma who would be our guides for the holiday.

We had four fantastic days exploring Rome, some of the mainstreams and more iconic locations followed by places known mainly by locals.

Lake Albano, nearby Castel Gandolfo, a very nice and clear big lake where we had a fantastic swim, hired a Kayak and pedal boats to explore it.

Kayaking on Lake Albano

 

We visited an organic farm where we had a fantastic freshly cooked meal prepared using only organic ingredient from the farm. Whilst at the farm we saw some friendly cats who certainly enjoyed the attention we gave them, and even our leftover food. After the meal the nice man at the farm took us to meet the donkeys, there was a Mother, Father and two little babies.

Organif farm, donkey and nice farmer

The visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican City, was unforgettable. We had a touch tour which enabled us to feel different pieces within the building. Throughout this tour we each had a headset that could scan point on the map and describe to us what we were looking at. We then headed outside to hear the Pope’s speech. To read more about the Vatican click here

Graham touching sculptures in St. Peter Basilica

We also took a tour around the Vatican Museums where a nice lady assisted us throughout our visit. She explained a lot about the Vatican Museum and its history. As part of this tour we were also able to go into the Sistine Chapel. Once in there, you have to remain silent and the use of cameras and mobile phones is not allowed, in fact every few minutes you would hear a person reminding you about this rule. When in the Chapel we were lucky enough to be able to touch, unlock, open and close the Sistine Chapel door.

We also took a walking tour around some of Rome’s most famous Piazzas, including Piazza Navona, the majestic Pantheon and the well know Trevi Fountain. Unfortunately, we were unable to go to the Spanish square and its steps. We then headed to the Coliseum, we could not go to the top level as this was not safe. But from the level we were, we were able to see the ruins and also to look inside the Amphitheatre.

Posing in front of the colosseum

Our final full day in Rome consisted of a tour of a big farmers’ food market where we sampled some more Italian food and purchased ingredient to make fresh pasta in an Italian cooking class. In this session we made our own dough which we used to then produce fresh pasta. We were shown how to make ravioli, tortellini and tagliatelle, which we would then have for lunch with a traditional pasta sauce.

Local farmers' marketArticle written by Graham.

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Vietnam and Cambodia – The Great Adventure

I am Emma, from Seable Team, and I have just returned from the most incredible experience in Vietnam and Cambodia and, guess what,  I can’t wait to share it with you all.

It was an inspection trip of the 2 countries to help us plan a future holiday for a group of Blind and Partially sighted travellers.  We partnered with a Vietnamese tour operator who carefully planned a detailed itinerary for the 3 weeks.

In the following blog, I will be sharing with you the details of our trip.

VVietnam Lonely Planet Guide Book

Day 1

Flight from London Gatwick to Doha-Doha to Hanoi.  The start of our 17-hour journey began and to say I was excited was an understatement.  I love a long-haul flight at the best of times, but I have to say that Qatar airlines was up there with the best of them.  The seats were comfy and with 2 meals and unlimited drinks on each flight, we were well fed, watered and even managed to get a good amount of sleep before we landed in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Landing in Hanoi at 7am, we couldn’t wait to meet our guide and get started with the day. We were met by our guide Thomas and he took us straight for a traditional Vietnamese breakfast-Pho.  He told us he was taking us to one of the best Pho in Hanoi and we couldn’t wait to try it.  After what can only be described as the best beef Pho of our lives we had a quick iced coffee and then headed to our hotel.

We had a couple of hours sleep, as by now the jet lag was starting to catch up with us.  We got freshened up and went for a welcome lunch with Linda, the lady who organised our trip. It was a wonderful lunch with more food than we could eat, including the start of our holiday obsession with spring rolls.

We were free for the evening to explore Hanoi….YESSS! When they told us it was a busy night market, they were not lying.  It was crazy! Rows after rows of market stalls selling everything from bags to magnets.  I felt like it was Christmas morning and was far to over excited.  Hanoi’s evening market square was filled with noise and smells from the street food, it was overwhelming. Not forgetting to mention it was still 30 degrees at 10 pm at night, talk about sweating!!

Also, something I wasn’t prepared for was the obsession with Karaoke!! Street after street you would find someone singing surrounded by a group of people, it was amazing.  I would have been temped to join in, if it wasn’t for the fact that I am beyond tone deaf.

It was an incredible introduction into Vietnam and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of the trip had to offer.

Busy road in Vietnam at night

Day 2

We were picked up at the hotel by our guide at 9 am and drove to a near by village called Bat Trang.  It is about 13km south east of Hanoi, on the Red River and is a village famous for the making of Ceramics and a long-standing trade village.  The artistry of Bat Trang is well-known throughout Vietnam for its beautiful ceramics that have been created for over 700 years.

Our guide gave us a tour of a family Ceramics factory where he told us about the history and methods of their business.  It was fascinating to get an appreciation for such a long-standing tradition within this family.  Imagine us in the gift shop, knowing everything was hand made in that very building, we could have bought it all!

We the made our way to a family owned lacquer factory, where we were taught about the process of lacquering wood to make exquisite pieces of art.  The guide carefully explained each process and the skill required.  It was a very interesting tour and again the gift shop made it hard for us to leave.  It was only day 2 and we felt like we were bringing back the whole of Vietnam with us already!

After the tour, we went to the Hanoi streets for a walking tour.  Going through the hot sticky streets filled with rows after rows of spices, herbs, vegetables, fruit, meat and fish.  It was an explosion for the senses with all the smells mixing together.  Getting to try all the local grown vegetables and fruit and smell the freshly picked herbs was a great experience.  Also, something I haven’t mentioned yet was the amount of people on scooters riding around the streets.  I was very glad to have our guide with us to help us navigate the streets.

After a delicious lunch we went to the Hanoi Temple of Literature which was the first University of Vietnam built in 1070.  With its incredible history, buildings and gardens it was a great tour.

We then went over to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, where the nation’s founder’s body is preserved.  The colonial Presidential Palace, which was originally the French Governors office and a fine example of French architecture in Hanoi.  It was very interesting to hear about the history but lacking in any tactile experience with us not being allowed to touch anything within the buildings.

In the grounds there was the One Pillar Pagoda, built in the 11th century in dedication to Buddha of Compassion and reminiscent of a lotus blossom rising from the pond.  I really enjoyed getting to walk up the pagoda and sending a wish off to Buddha.

That evening again we ventured into the crazy streets of Hanoi and found a street food stall selling fresh crabs.  We sat eating and drinking beers whilst listening to one of the many karaoke singers, it was perfect.  As we were making our way back to the hotel, we got our first experience of a tropical thunder storm-we bought a couple of ponchos (to cover us from the rain) from a market stall and ran through the rain home; it was a brilliant and funny end to a very busy day.

Vietnam Street Food

Day 3

Picked up at 8am from our hotel by our guide for our trip to Ha Long Bay with an over night stay on the boat.  It’s listed as one of the new 7 wonders of the world, so we had high expectations. The drive was 3 hours long with a stop half way at a local service station. We were in a mini bus with the other travellers who were coming on the boat with us, so it was a great opportunity to chat with them and get to know them.  The guide for the excursion was called Ha and was fantastic.  She had brilliant English, as well as knowledge and history of Ha Long Bay.

We embarked on the Oriental Sails Cruise, which was an elegant boat with 3 floors and a wonderful open terrace.  Our room was a good size with one big window, looking out onto the waters of Ha Long Bay.  I couldn’t wait to see what the excursion had to offer.

Once everyone had settled into their rooms and freshened up, we went to the dinning room for lunch and the boat headed to Vung Vieng, a fish village along the limestone islands of Bai Tu.  Dinner was an impressive feast, with dish after dish coming out.   We all ate a little bit too much, but it was worth it.

After lunch we had the option to either go in a bamboo rowing boat around the fishing village or to take a kayak and follow a guide.  Damiano and myself were feeling slightly more adventurous and so we chose to go kayaking. I think we made the right choice as it was a great experience.  Ha guided us through the waters of the floating fishing village and as we kayaked, she told us about the history of the village and how they are sustainable.

Returning to the boat, we had a spring roll cooking class, where each of us had a go at making one and then we got to eat the final product.  This was a great interactive activity for everyone on board.  Dinner was served after, again it was a feast with traditional Vietnamese cuisine.

After dinner some guests did some singing and dancing whilst the others got involved in the squid fishing off the side of the boat. We went for the night squid fishing, but unfortunately, we had no luck in catching anything; we shouldn’t give up our day jobs! We called it a day and headed off to bed.  I have to say, I don’t have the strongest sea legs and I was a bit nervous about sleeping on a boat as I have a slight sea sickness issue, but I can honestly say it was one of the best night’s sleep I have ever had (I think the slight rocking actually sent me to sleep like a baby).

Kayaking in Hanoi Bay

Day 4

The next morning, we woke up early at 6am for a Tai Chi lesson on board the terrace.  I have never done Tai Chi before and I found it very peaceful.  With the music and his voice telling us what to do, it was great and got us all ready for a big breakfast, ready to start the day.  We then headed towards Thien Canh Son Cave and beach.  After a short climb up some steps on the island, we reached the cave.  It was full of limestone stalagmites which were wonderful to touch (some of the limestone we were unable to touch as it effects the development however), and Ha told us all about the way in which the cave came to be about. Then we made our way back to the boat and started the journey back to the harbour. Ha Long Bay was a real experience and one that I will always remember.

After our return to the harbour we made our way to the airport, where we flew to Da Nang airport.  It was an hour flight from Hanoi and went super quick, by the time we were in the sky, we were landing already.  We were met at the airport by our guide and driver, who took us to our hotel in Hoi An, about 40 mins from the airport.  We arrived late and so checked in and called it a night.  The hotel was beautiful, covered in lanterns and I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning and start exploring.

Hanoi Dragons

Day 5

Waking up in Hoi An felt fantastic and I couldn’t wait to start the day. Breakfast was great and the hotel was as wonderful as I was expecting in day light.  It had a lovely pool and spa area with lanterns everywhere.  We were met by our guide Chanh who took us to our first activity of Lantern making.  We had a brief introduction into the history, shape and colour of the lanterns as wells as the many stages of making them.  We then got to have a go at making our own.  I have to say I really enjoyed making mine and felt like a pro.

From the lantern making, we made our way to the Hoi An walking tour visit.  A quick drive took us to the main attraction spot of Hoi An being the iconic 400 year old covered bridge which a Japanese styled temple is based on.  It was a little bridge and full of history, great for some photos.  Then we continued to the Museum of Trade Ceramics, a Vietnamese style wooden house which has showcased ceramics since 1858.  The Tan Ky House which has had a long standing 200-year-old Chinese merchant residence.  We were welcomed with a refreshing cup of local tea, which was much needed in the mid-day heat and then a tour commenced with much history of the residence.

We walked next to the Ong Temple, which was built for worshipping an ancient Chinese general who had been admired for his bravery, loyalty and justice-Guan Yu.  It was built in 1653 by the Chinese settlers and was a fantastic temple.  It was very tactile, with every part of the temple able to be touched and the smell of incense was incredible.  Then we strolled around the market stalls selling baskets full of vegetable, herbs and spices.  We then were taken to a restaurant by the river for a wonderful dinner.

The afternoon was free for us to explore the markets and what else Hoi An has to offer.  When researching Hoi An, we read that it was the best place for tailor made clothing and so we weren’t going to miss this opportunity. We googled the top-rated store and we made our way, feeling like we were on a mission. We decided on the type of suit we would like and the colour and fabric, then it came to barter the price.  You must be strong and have an idea of a price you are willing to pay (google helped us with this) and then it was time to measure.

Hanoi Bay

Day 6

After having a big breakfast, we were met by our guide outside the hotel to set off on our next adventure in Hoi An. Our plan was to visit Tra Que Village for a Farmer workshop and cooking class.  After a quick 15-minute drive from the hotel, we arrived in the village and were met by fields and fields of different shades of green.  We were welcomed with a basil seed cool drink and given a farmer’s uniform to dress up in, including a traditional Vietnamese hat to keep the scorching sun off our heads.  Our second guide for the day from the village, gave a brief explanation of each vegetable and herb as we walked around the fields, stopping to smell and pick the herbs as we walked.  He often would give us one to smell and ask us to guess the herb-which turns out to be much trickier than we would have thought! We joined in gardening activities in preparing the land, fertilizing the seaweed, raking the ground, sowing, watering and finally picking the vegetables that we would need to use in our cooking class.  It was a fantastic tactile experience to get to have a first-hand go at the farming and learn how the locals grow their produce.

Back at the restaurant area of the farm, we were given an apron and chef hat ready for our cooking class. We were taught how to make spring rolls, chicken in a clay pot and local savoury pancakes filled with prawns and chicken.  It was a wonderful cooking class, filled with detailed descriptions of how to make each dish.  Once prepared, we made our way to the cooking station to cook the food ready for us to eat.  The instructor was great fun, helping us flip the pancakes and even add some fire into the cooking.  The heat from the kitchen was incredible on the hot day but it was so worth it when we sat down to eat the food we had made.  The meal was delicious, full of garlic and chilly with the fresh veg we had just picked only an hour ago.  It was a great morning and I loved every second of it.

That afternoon we had a free afternoon and so we thought we would check out the local beach only 10 minutes away from our hotel.  With what seemed like an endless beach of white sand, it was met by the beautiful blue waters of the South China Sea.  After quickly picking two sunbeds next to the sea, I ran into the cool waters.  I have to admit that being in 40 degrees heat is wonderful but I was certainly missing going into the sea to cool off and so this was a welcomed visit.  The waters were calm and clear.  Once I had cooled off, I headed to my sunbed, ordered a cocktail and laid in the last bit of the afternoon sunshine, it was heaven!

As the sun was starting to set, we walked down the beach to explore it a little before heading back to the hotel.  The beach was incredibly busy with all the locals, this was a much cooler time of day and it seemed to be the perfect time to come to the beach to avoid the scorching mid-day sun.

Back at the hotel after we had eaten enough street food to feed 10 people, we decided to try out the hotel spa, to finish the day off nicely. It was a beautiful area at the top of the hotel, filled with wonderful smells of flowers.  We both had a traditional Vietnamese massage, which was fantastic.  At the end of the hour, my lady sat me up and continued to style my hair into the most beautiful plait, which was unexpected but a lovely surprise. We both left feeling incredibly relaxed and ready for a much-needed sleep.

 

Day 7

I could have stayed in Hoi An forever but unfortunately we had a morning flight to Ho Chi Minh to catch.  Saying goodbye to our guide and driver, we waited in De Nang’s Airport for our flight.  After a small delay of a couple hours, we were on our way to Ho Chi Minh for our next adventure.  The flight was only one hour and went by incredibly quickly.  We were picked up by our guide and driver and the first stop was for some dinner.  We were taken to a lovely restaurant in the city centre.  It was empty and we had the whole restaurant to ourselves which was an experience.

We started our drive to Mekong Delta which is 2 and half hours from the city.  The car was very comfy and the drive went by quickly enough, stopping once in a local service station.  The car could only take us so far, and then a boat had to take over.  We made our way onto the boat ready for a short 20 mins boat ride to our Homestay for the night.  The homestay was far grander than we were expecting, with a very big open entrance area, filled with extravagantly decorated furniture.  The family owning the homestay greeted us and took us to our room, which was a big room that was simple, clean and cool.

Due to our later arrival because of our delayed flight, our guide slightly altered the itinerary and offered to take us on a late afternoon bike ride around the village where we were staying.  It was a great opportunity to explore our surroundings.  With fields of green, local houses, dogs, birds and more fruits and flowers in the trees, it really was an experience for all senses. The cycle ride lasted for about 40 mins and it felt great to do some exercise after sitting all day.

Back at the homestay, we freshened up and made our way to the kitchen to help the family prepare our evening meal.  The two women of the family showed us how to help them prepare our meal, which can only be described as a feast.  A little table was set up on the terrace at the front of the house, next to the river and it was like something out of a movie.  The two of us sat at the table while the ladies kept bringing out different dishes they had prepared for us.  From spring rolls, fish, chicken, rice, noodles; to say we were full was an understatement! Our guide also during the meal, brought to us the family’s home-made rice wine-it was pungent and had a real kick to it.  We had a shot of rice with every new dish that was brought out to us and it quickly got us tipsy.  Once we had successfully finished dinner we practically crawled over to the two hammocks set up beside us and laid in them as our dinner went down.  It was a wonderful way to end the day!

Cooking in Vietnam

Day 8

The morning started with a home-made breakfast and after the night before I thought I would never eat again but somehow, we both managed a full breakfast.  We said our goodbyes to the family of the homestay, with a big thank you for their wonderful hospitality. Our guide leaded us towards the boat and went through the plan of the day.  The first stop being a local clay pottery workshop tour at the Brick Kilns, where we got to learn about how the local people create beautiful potteries from clay.

Next stop was a local workshop, where we got to see how they made rice paper, coconut candy, pop-rice and pop-corn, with us getting to have a go at every opportunity.  It was fun to try and make the sweets and even more fun to try them once they were made! The guide described the different wines and let us try a little bit of each, it was still only 10.30am and each wine is about 40 percent proof-it was a fun morning.  My jelly legs were definitely feeling the wine!

We made our way back on to the boat and went on a lovely boat ride through the Mekong River to the local restaurant for our dinner.  We ate local fish and vegetables and had a little rest after eating.  I think the morning rice wine had made me sleepy. Once we had had a rest, back on the boat, we made our way further up the river.  Eventually we stopped at the side of the river and we swapped onto a much smaller rowing boat. We were given a traditional Vietnamese hat to help us shade from the intense sun and we headed off for a tour on the rowing boat.  The lady stood at the back of the small boat and rowed us through the small water paths of the Mekong River, past the local houses lining the waters.  It lasted about 30 mins and it was a very peaceful experience, hearing only the water splashing around us as we glided through wild untouched water ways.

The boat ride brought us back to our bigger boat, which we made our way back onto and headed to a local music stop.  The tables had plates of different fruit on them for us to refresh ourselves with and local tea.  We sat and listened to the locals sing whilst we took a rest from the travelling and hot sun.

After making our way back on the boat, we got to the car and started the journey back to Ho Chi Minh City.  It was the evening by the time we arrived and after checking in to the hotel, a quick change, we headed out to explore Ho Chi Minh at night.  Our guide told us that the city is famous at night for its big hotels and roof top bars.  He told us of a couple that are a must try, for fantastic views of the city at night and so we made our way to find them.  We went into the Bitexco building, which is the tallest in Ho Chi Minh and went up to floor 52 to the Heli Bar.  The waitress guided us to a small table against the window and it made you feel like you were on top of the world.  It was incredibly high and the lights of the city sparkled below us.  A live band was playing as we ordered 2 (expensive but worth it) cocktails and enjoyed the experience of being the highest people in Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Min City - Night - Skyscrapers

Day 9

Greeted by our guide, we were ready for a day of exploring Ho Chi Minh by day.  The first stop was at Cho Ion, the Chinatown of the city but unfortunately it was going through renovation and so most of it was closed. We quickly went to our next stop being the Fito Museum.  It is a traditional Vietnamese museum which told us all about the medicine used in the past and included a replica pharmacy where we had the opportunity to dress up as a doctor of medicine in Vietnam.  Damiano, of course was the first person in the group to dress up and have a go at playing the role. The museum was full of history and great information where we got the opportunity to learn all about the history of medicine in Vietnam.

After the museum, we had a quick lunch and then headed to the Reunification Palace, which was the former residence of the President of the South of Vietnam until the end of April 1975.  It was an incredible Palace filled with grand rooms and at the bottom of the Palace, were the bunkers used during the war. Unfortunately, the Palace was not the most tactile visit, with most of the rooms roped off, however the guide did a fantastic job of telling the story of the history within the Palace.

The tour then took us to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a neo-Romanesque cathedral constructed between 1877 and 1883 using bricks from Marseilles and stained-glass windows from Chartres.  It was very strange to be standing in Vietnam and looking at the Notre Dame, thinking you could be in France not Vietnam. It was an incredible building that has stood the test of time from the French reign over Vietnam.  Next to the Notre Dame, was the famous Old Saigon post office, where we got the opportunity to send some post cards back home. Last stop for shopping was at the French built Ben Thanh Market, which dates back to 1870.  It was a maze of stalls selling everything you could imagine.  After picking up some souvenirs, we made our way back to the hotel, where we rested and got some food. Tomorrow was a big day for us, as we were going to CAMBODIA (wahhoooo), and I could barely sleep with the excitement!!!

 

Day 10

Waking up at 6.30am read for a big day of travelling because this was the day we made our way to CAMBODIA! We were both incredibly excited and I have to admit I was a bit nervous about the journey there, as I had read a few stories about crossing the border and it not being the easiest thing to do.  We made our way to the bus station and checked in for our bus. We had to fill out 2 forms with our personal details and pay 35 dollars each for the visa to cross the border.  I paid and handed over our passports to the guide from the bus company who came on the bus with us to Cambodia.

The bus was comfy with big seats and we were given a bottle of water and breakfast (2 pastries each) which was a nice surprise. We got comfy for the next 7 hours journey, stopping half way at the service station which was just before the Cambodian border.  Once we reached the border, the guide told us where to walk to once off the coach.  They called us one by one, checked our visas and passports and then we were met by the coach on the other side; it was as easy as that! Once everyone was back on the coach we continued the rest of the journey to Phnom Penh.  When we arrived at Phnom Penh, our driver met us and took us directly to our hotel to check in. We were free to explore by ourselves for the rest of the afternoon and evening as our guide for Phnom Penh, would be meeting us in the morning.

That evening we went out with the aim to find some street food and see what Phnom Penh has to offer at night.  The streets we busy with many bars and it all was a bit of a maze. After the day of travelling we were tired and after we have walked for a while exploring the night life we decided to just get some food and beer and made a slow walk back to the hotel.

Cambodia Phnom Phen

Day 11

Our guide met us ready for a busy day of touring Phnom Penh.  Mr Chey spoke fantastic English and got us excited for the day ahead.  The Royal Palace, was first on the list and the guide explained the rules of dressing before entering the Palace.  All women have to cover to their knees and arms to the elbows.  It was an extremely hot day and having to cover up made me feel like the warmest women on the planet, but it was worth it as the Palace was extraordinary.  It was built by King Norodom in 1866 and it was extremely extravagant with gold everywhere and the Silver Pagoda was also located in the Palace grounds.  The flag was flying high to let us know that the King of Cambodia was in residence, which was a very exciting moment to know we were that close to the King.  The guide gave use an informative tour of the grounds of the Palace.

Next, we went to the National Museum, which is one of Phnom Penh’s true architectural gems.  It was designed in Khmer style in 1917 by famed French architect Georges Groslier and Ecole Des Arts Cambodians. The building was great; however, the tour guide at the National Museum had very limited English and we were unable to touch any of the monuments, which made the tour very limited.

After a quick stop in the local Cambodian post office, we sent another post card home then made our way to Wat Phnom.  This is the first pagoda to be built in 1373 to house the Buddha statues discovered in the Mekong by a woman named Penh.  In the temple at the top of the pagoda, after doing the ceremony and praying, there was a lady there telling people fortunes.

Walking along the Sothearos Blvd it had a great view of the city and was an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air at Chaktomouk River bank. Then we had dinner at the River side restaurant, with a local Cambodian dinner.  It was wonderful and great to enjoy a rest after a jam-packed morning.

Once dinner was done, we made our way to our afternoon activity with the guide.  We were going to the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum.  I have to say I was slightly apprehensive about this tour, as I was unsure of how it was going to be. The Killing Field was one of the sites where there were brutal executions of more than 17,000 individuals, most of whom first suffered through interrogations, torture and deprivation in Toul Sleng Prison during Pol Pot regime from 1975-1979. I was very ignorant about my knowledge about the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and I learnt a lot from our guide during this tour; however, it was a harrowing tour that will stay with me forever.  We walked through the field of where the mass graves once were.  The details of the Killing Fields were shocking and incredibly sad. They have a building inside the killing field, holding all the skulls found when the fields were excavated.  It is an experience that you cannot really prepare yourself for, to stand in front of 10,000 skulls. It was extremely daunting and brought home the realisation to the extent of the deaths that happened right where I stood.

A short drive from the Killing Field, took us to Toul Sleng Genocide Museum-S21 prison.  This prison was previously a high school and used as a prison by Pol Pot’s security forces and became the largest centre for detention and torture during the rule of the Khmer Rouge. Inside the prison, along the walls were photos of every person that were kept within the prison.  As you walk through rooms of faces upon faces of all the people killed, everyone visiting the prison is in silence and the experience is eerie and uneasy.

On our way back to the hotel, it started to rain like I had never seen before, seriously crazy rain! The roads were quickly flooded turning into streams and I felt terrible for all the people on scooters that were getting soaked as they travelled beside us.  By the time we had made it to the hotel, it had turned into a typhoon with the wind and rain at full force whistling around us.  That evening we decided to stay in at the hotel rather than try and brave the weather because let’s face it, you would have to be nuts to want to go out in that weather. It was nice to get to just chill for an evening and get ourselves ready for another big journey the next day.

 

Day 12

We had breakfast and then were picked up by our driver who took us to the bus station, for our next journey to Siem Reap.  It was a similar coach to before, comfy with water and breakfast provided.  The journey was 6 hours with a stop half way at a local service station. The food looked incredible, as we looked on from a far unable to buy anything.  Thankfully the journey went quickly and we were in Siem Reap before we knew it.

Our driver met us at the bus station and drove us to our hotel in Siem Reap.  It was a beautiful hotel with incredibly friendly staff.  We had a free afternoon and evening, so we bought two tickets for that evening and then made our way to have to street food-as by now we both were super hungry (I was hangry).  We made our way to Pub Street, filled with shops and food stalls.  After picking where to eat, we ordered some things to try that we had not eaten before.  One of them things being crocodile, which was like a fishy chicken and I feel bad for saying that I liked it but it was quite good.  We decided to walk to the circus as it was showing on the map as only 15 mins-I would recommend to take a tuk tuk as the walk was at the side of a busy dirty road but we made it after carefully navigating our way there.  It was a very organised event, selling popcorn, ice-cream and cocktails as you walked in.  We were guided to our seats and waited for it to start.  It had a fantastic atmosphere, with everyone sat around in a circle and each person was given a hand fan to keep you cool from the heat. The show was brilliant, filled with crazy acrobatic stunts and fire shows. I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it was a great experience.

By the time we were leaving the circus, it was raining again and so we decided to get a tuk tuk back to the centre, costing $4 but you will have to barter it down. The night was finished with an ice cream roll, (which is something I’ve wanted to try for a while) and then headed back to the hotel as the next day was a busy tour day.

 

Day 13

I was incredibly excited for the visits in Siem Reap, as I love Temples and the history behind them.  Our guide met us at our hotel early in the morning and our first Temple we went to visit was called Angkor Wat.  It is a world heritage site since 1992 and is famous for its beauty and splendour.  On our way we stopped to buy our tickets for the temples-it was one ticket for all the temples we would be visiting on that day and they took our picture for the ticket. Our faces were on our own tickets and we were ready to visit the first temple.

Angkor Wat did not disappoint! It is one of the 7 wonders of the world and it really felt like it. It took your breath away with the impressive magnitude of the temple. The guide asked if we would be happy to go on the non-traditional tour and keep away from the crowds, which we loved and immediately said yes.  He took us to the east entrance and it was nice and quiet.  As we made our way towards the main temple, the guide stopped us at any great photo opportunity and it felt like we had our very own photographer with us.  He told us the history of the temple and took us on a tour of the inside of the temple. He told us whenever we were allowed to touch the walls, carvings and statues making it a real interactive tour.

We next went to Ta Prohm Temple, one of the area’s most beautiful temples and where the movie Tomb Raider was filmed.  At Ta Prohm, it was incredible to see the trees take over the old temples, it was a real nature vs man made.  Walking through the ruins, again the guide would stop and take some great pictures and get us to feel the fallen tomb stones and they lost their battle against the huge roots from one of the trees.

We had lunch at a local restaurant next to the river, and after walking in the heat all morning we had really worked up an appetite.  The Cambodian food was fantastic with fresh fruit juices, chicken curry, sticky pork, rice and of course spring rolls (we couldn’t eat a meal without a spring roll now).

Finally, we went to Angkor Thom, which is the antique capital of Angkor Thom 12th century, with its huge statues at the south gate depicting the churning the ocean of milk.  Bayon Temple is unique for its 54 towers decorated with over 200 smiling faces of Avalokitesvara the Phimeanakas. You can feel the faces as you walk through the temple. Our guide told us about various gods, goddesses, and other-worldly beings from the mythological stories and epic poems of ancient Hinduism (modified by centuries of Buddhism).

Our tour for the day was over, so our guide took us back to our hotel and we were free for the evening.  We thanked our guide for a great day and said our goodbyes.  We had a rest until the evening, where we made our way back to the night market streets.  Damiano’s friend was visiting Siem Reap, Cambodia and so we met him and went for a local meal.  He ordered all the local traditional dishes for us to try, and they were delicious.  After a great evening of food and company, we headed back to the hotel-I was shattered.

Angkor Wat

Day 14

Our driver picked us up and took us to the airport in Siem Reap, where we waited for our flight to Ho Chi Minh.  As we walked to our plane, we quickly realised that our plane was the very small one with propellers.  I walked onto the tiny plane and as we made our way to the 2 seats, we strapped in ready for the flight.  It was a bumpy ride but quickly over in an hour and a half.

Reaching boarder control in the airport, I wish I could say coming back into Vietnam was as easy as it was going into Cambodia, but unfortunately it was not.  After queuing in serval different ques and filling out forms, we finally made it to the front.  For the visa coming into Vietnam from Cambodia you need a passport photo and to pay $25 each-we had no photo or money!

Our journey to Phan Thiet had finally started and we were ready for the 5-hour drive-apart from we hadn’t eaten from 8am that morning and it was now 4pm and we were extremely hungry! We eventually arrived in Phan Thiet and thanked our driver for giving us such a smooth and easy journey.  We were staying at the Romana Resort for the next 3 days and it was a fantastic break in the trip.

 

Day 17

We started the journey back to Ho Chi Minh.  We stopped half way into our 5-hour journey at a local service station and they were serving boxes of mini pancakes.  I immediately bought a box and they were wonderful. Arriving in Ho Chi Minh at around 9.30-10pm we went straight to our hotel and rested until the next day.

Vietnam Flag

Day 18

This was our last day in Vietnam and we wanted to make sure it was a good one.  We weren’t flying back to the UK until 7pm that day and so we had the whole day to do one last thing. The Cu Chi Tunnels.  The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Củ Chi District of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong‘s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters.

The tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels was led by a local guide who walked us through the networks of tunnels and we even had the opportunity to go down into some of the tunnels.  I was too scared but Damiano went down into the small space and crawled along the tunnel.  At the end of the tour we had the opportunity to shoot one of the guns. We picked to shoot an AK47 and had 5 bullets each.  It was expensive at $25 for the ten bullets but what a rare chance to do something you would never otherwise get to do.  I went first and nervously pressed the trigger and that was enough for me. I have learnt that I am definitely not a natural born shooter.  We were given tea and local yams (as they were grown there at the tunnels during the war) to end the tour.

Meeting our driver, we then made our way back to Ho Chi Minh airport to head off on the 19-hour journey home ahead of us.  The drive to the airport took 1 and a half hours and we were quickly there.

Qatar are a wonderful airline and it was a great first flight, with us being comfy and well fed.  We were soon in Doha and with only a 3-hour layover, we were soon on our second flight back to the UK.  With only 8 hours between us and UK soil, I could practically smell the grey London air.  I slept for most of the flight, which was fantastic.

Our Vietnam and Cambodia adventure was over.  I felt sad that it was over, but I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it.

I hope you enjoyed reading about our big adventure and stay tuned for more adventurous blogs!!

Thanks again,

Emma

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

Masuma’s Adventure in Lanzarote with Seable

This week’s blog has been written by our guest Masuma who came with us on the magical island of Lanzarote, the northernmost and easternmost island of the Canary Islands.

 

Dragging myself out of bed on Tuesday morning at 1.45am was the least pleasurable part of the holiday! However, several hours later and over 1600 miles away from London I landed in a landscape described to me as black lava rock fields and white-washed houses. I was met by Damiano from Seable and Marialaura at the arrivals area of the airport. They were our guides for the trip. Whilst we waited for my friends to arrive we acquainted ourselves with each other.

 

With a jammed packed itinerary for the week ahead, knowing that all the planning and organising was being taken care of by Seable, my friends and I were in good spirits and looking forward to unwinding from the Monday to Friday work routine.

 

My first enjoyment came with the freedom of being able to go for a run on the sandy beach of Playa Los near our hotel without needing to be guided. The sound of the sea alongside me provided a sense of direction, and the wind in my hair and the changing texture of the sand on my feet was exhilarating. Knowing that our guides were nearby provided a comforting safety net.

Our visit to Timanfaya National Park involved an underground sensory experience simulating how it might feel to experience a volcanic eruption. After walking and exploring the Martian-like landscape we got to see the geothermal demonstrations. Steam gushed out of the ground with a whoosh sound a moment after water had been poured into a hole. Our guides provided us with running commentary throughout the day, but also allowed enough time for me and my friends to spend time together.

We also had the opportunity to do some sea kayaking. As it was something I hadn’t done before, I was a little apprehensive, but once I was in the kayak with my instructor the worries disappeared, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. This day was a day of firsts for me as I also tried snorkeling. After I got over the fear and the panic I felt when putting my head underwater I came to like the sensation. The instructors on the day provided the right level of support and were not at all overbearing.

 

Other activities we took part in included horse riding and tandem cycling, which were equally thrilling. We also had the opportunity to make some bath salts, which I’m very much looking forward to using.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do a fair amount of travelling with my family to countries like India and Egypt, as well as with friends to European cities including Rome and Cologne.  However, I was yet to go on holiday with just my VI friends, until recently.  Having Seable to organise all the arrangements from excursions to travel whilst abroad, as well as having sighted guides meant I could fully relax and unwind.

Seable provides tailored holidays for blind and partially sighted people.  This can range from a relaxing break to something more active.  It’s your holiday, it’s your choice!

 

Article taken from: https://eastlondonvision.wordpress.com/2018/07/20/masumas-adventures-in-lanzarote-with-seable/

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

Accessible Tourism for All Comes to Thailand

In February of this year, Seable, aided by the Thai tour operator, Nutty’s Adventures, came to Thailand bringing a group blind and partially sighted travellers from Victa, a very well known charity from Milton Keynes, UK. Their 12-day tour took the  group of tourists to both the North and South of Thailand. The tour was definitely a wonderful and rewarding experience for the participants and also proved to Nutty’s Adventures, that with some careful planning and hard work Thailand could become a successful tourism destination for all people, regardless of any disabilities they may have.

While plans are being made to promote Thailand overseas as a “Tourism Destination for All”, the first course to train licenced Thai tour guides in the right way of handling blind and partially sighted guests has just been held in Ayutthaya from 19-21 June.

This training course was planned with the support and cooperation of the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA) and valuable assistance was provided by Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK. which was asked to act as a consultant and provide the relative manuals.  The course was conducted by Nutty’s Adventures and the Thailand Association of the Blind.

The course was fully subscribed and more guide training will be organised in the future and in October and November Nutty’s Adventures will go to Europe to promote Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All in Germany and then globally at the World Travel Market to be held in London in November.

Everybody involved sees a great future for accessible tourism for all in Thailand and are determined to work together to make it happen.

What Nutty’s Adventure said about SEABLE:

At Nutty’s Adventures we have just  completed our 3-day training course for guides working with blind and partially sighted guests. It was an enormously rewarding experience for all. Everybody learned a great deal and found time to have a good time too. Now we all look forward to developing Thailand as a Tourism Destination for All.

We wish to give special thanks to Seable Accessible Active Holidays from the UK and the Thailand Association of the Blind for their valuable assistance in making this course the great success that it was.

 

 

 

We would like to thank everyone involved in this project,  as it showed the world how much time, effort and passion Thailand as a nation is  devolving to the “accessible holidays” cause.

Thailand is indeed becoming an accessible travel destination that all Visually Impaired travellers should consider, and this is thanks to passionate individuals like the guys at Nutty’s Adventure,  at the Thailand Research Fund (TRF) and the Thai Responsible Tourism Association (TRTA).

Thank you all.

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

The Best Blogs About Disability

For this week’s blog we searched the web for interesting blogs about disability.

 

One of the most amazing things about blogging is that it gives people a platform to share their thoughts and connect with the world.

 

Blogs are educational and a great way for dispelling myths about the various disabilities, as through them the blogger can talk about their life and hobbies opening the doors to a world that often is very different from the one of the reader. Blogs can also function as a way to educate, to inform and to explain how to overcome certain obstacles or find priceless information.

 

So, here some of the best with a description straight from their ABOUT ME page:

 

 

Martyn Sibley

My name is Martyn Sibley. I am a regular guy who happens to have a disability called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). This means I cannot walk, lift anything heavier than a book or shower myself. Nonetheless I run Disability Horizons, am the author of ‘Everything is Possible‘, I have a Degree in Economics & a Masters in Marketing. I love adventure travels (including an epic visit to Australia), I have great people in my life (including my soul mate), I drive my own adapted car, run my own business, have flown a plane, enjoyed skiing & SCUBA diving, and live independently on earth.

http://martynsibley.com/

 

White Cane Gamer

I’m a stay at home dad with a passion for gaming, programming and to be honest, little skill in either category. That doesn’t stop me from loving both however and wanting to improve.

I have two lovely children, one boy and one girl. The person that granted me these two lovely bundles of joy is my wife, I refer to her as Anime online, a nickname she acquired while playing Stronghold Kingdoms with me, due to her love of Anime, a game she still enjoys playing to this day.

https://whitecanegamer.com/

 

Carly Findlay

Carly Findlay is an award winning writer, speaker and appearance activist. Carly has the rare, severe skin condition called Ichthyosis. She writes on disability issues for publications including ABC, Daily Life and SBS .She was named as one of Australia’s most influential women in the 2014 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards. She has appeared on ABC’s You Can’t Ask That and Cyber Hate with Tara Moss, and has been a regular on various ABC radio programs. Carly is currently writing her first book – a memoir.

http://carlyfindlay.com.au/

 

Blind Intuition

Welcome to my blog blind intuition! My name is Sarah and I am a Thirtysomething year old wife to Cameron and mother of two boys – Archer and Griffin.

In July 2015 after the birth of my son Archer, I became legally blind. During my pregnancy, it was discovered that I had benign tumours growing on my optic nerve. When Archer was nine days old, I underwent a 7 1/2 hour long brain surgery to remove the tumours;  when I woke up my world had changed, I was legally blind.

I created  Blind Intuition as a platform to process the trauma experienced from losing my vision suddenly and the impact it had on my family and myself. Blind Intuition not only tracks my progress in regaining my independence, but strives to breakdown preconceived ideas about people who are blind or have low vision. Blind Intuition is a parenting, travel,  healthy living and lifestyle blog that demonstrates how life goes on after blindness and can be embraced and lived to the fullest.

http://www.blindintuition.com/

 

Life of a Blind Girl

My name is Holly and I am 22 years old. I am a York St John University Graduate. I am a lover of music, concerts and all girly stuff. I have been blind since birth, due to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). My disability has made me the person I am today and has given me so many opportunities which inspired me to start this blog. The portrayal of disability can often be negative, but I believe that there are so many positives of having a disability, in my case a severe visual impairment. My visual impairment is the reason behind this blog.

https://lifeofablindgirl.com/

The Mighty

The Mighty is a community of people sharing real stories and commentary about living with disability, disease and mental illness. As well as having some great articles, it’s also a place to connect with others and has helped lots of people to feel less isolated.

https://themighty.com/

 

My Disability Matters

Dale Reardon is the Founder of My Disability Matters

I am the founder of My Disability Matters. I want MDM to be your place to come to for information and advice on issues that are important to you. It is also a place to meet new people, make friends and have some fun.

I am 47 and have been blind since the age of 17. My seeing eye dog Charlie is 9 and is my fourth dog.

For a long time I have been involved in disability advocacy. I personally believe the disability community needs a place to gather for discussion around disability issues with a community willing to share information and experiences.

https://mydisabilitymatters.club/

 

Since there are so many blogs that deserve to be shared we will publish a second part next week with more amazing stories.

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

What the Thai say about Seable

This February Seable took a group of blind and partially sighted travellers from VICTA to Thailand, for many it was the first time outside Europe. What was impressive was the resonance this trip had on the Thai press. Along with being greeted by the Tourism and Sports Minister Weerasak Kowsurat, we were also interviewed by several newspapers that highlighted the importance of our trip for the booming Thai tourism. Below the transcription of a beautiful article titled “Bringing sights to the blind” from the Bangkok Post, written by Suchat Sritama.

 

Bringing sights to the blind

 

Last group picture in Phayao

Group picture in Phayao

 

 

A group of visually impaired and blind tourists from Britain have visited and explored attractions in Thailand for the first time, marking the host’s readiness for more niche markets from Europe.

Seable Holidays, a travel company based in London that specialises in tour arrangements for disable people, worked with Ayutthaya travel agency Nutty’s Adventures to bring the group of 12 to attractions in seven provinces during a Feb 11-21 trip.

The group visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phayao, Ayutthaya, Phuket, Trang and Phatthalung.

This was the first time the two companies have jointly hosted a special-needs group from Britain in Thailand. It was also the first time these visually impaired travellers ventured outside Europe.

 

Niche market

Damiano La Rocca, founder of Seable Holidays, began working with Nutty’s Adventures two years ago after meeting at the World Travel Mart in London.

Nutty’s Adventures has participated in the annual tourism trade fair and placed Thailand on the global map with special offers for disabled tourists.

“We came to survey tourism products in Thailand before hosting an 11-day trip for our clients,” Mr La Rocca says.

His company had been looking for destinations outside European markets for blind and visually impaired customers after years of touring Britain and Europe.

“Generally we don’t want to bring our customers to packed or crowded cities, but we focus on taking them to explore traditional culture and local attractions,” Mr La Rocca says.

He says Thailand has high potential to serve niche markets not only from Britain, but also from other countries in Europe and the rest of the world because the country has a variety of unique tourism offerings.

“Seable Holidays is planning on catering to disabled tourists from other countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Italy to come to Thailand in the near future,” Mr La Rocca says.

According to Mr La Rocca, 600,000 blind and visually impaired people live in Britain. He estimates the total number of blind and visually impaired in Europe at 3 million, and they are all potential travellers.

 

Damiano La Rocca and the Thai Minister of Tourism & Sports Weerasak Kowsurat

 

 

To cope with the expected influx of demand, Seable Holidays plans to introduce new routes in Southeast Asia, probably starting with Bali in Indonesia.

Expenses may fluctuate, however, due to the various services and additional facilities needed.

The average cost for the 11-day trip is 3,000 baht per person per day, or 33,000 per person per trip. This cost excludes the subsidy given by Britain’s Population and Community Development Association.

Nithi Subhongsang, chief executive of Nutty’s Adventures, says Thailand is ready to extend to niche markets, including for disabled and blind tourists.

“Having a group of 12 blind and visually impaired people might not generate huge income for the business, but this can uplift the country’s image as a friendly destination for all,” Mr Nithi says.

He says Thailand can promote many other local activities and attractions to these niche markets.

Mr La Rocca and Mr Nithi have urged the Thai government to invest in tourism facilities and accessibility to accommodate disabled tourists.

They also asked the government to educate officials and those involved in the tourism industry to better understand disable tourists and the concept of tourism for all.

 

Love for Thai culture

Matthew Clark, one of the visually impaired tourists on the trip to Thailand, says he’s impressed with Thai culture and the local food, as well as Thai hospitality. He suggests that suppliers such as attraction and travel operators consider tailoring special programmes for disabled people.

“If Thailand can offer [special-needs facilities], the country will be able to become a popular destination for all,” Mr Clark says.

The tour group explored the village of Baan Dok Bua in Phayao province, walking along the natural trails and meeting face-to-face with locals.

“We have tried and learned many things, such as how to make chicken coops while learning the history of cockfighting and how to farm rice organically,” Mr Clark says.

In the South, the group learned how to make phon, a local drum, and practised playing it, and got hands-on experience in wickerwork made from krajood, a local variety of sedge.

The group also visited a bamboo garden where there was a performance of Manohra, an ancient southern dance and musical performance, and later visited the community shadow-puppet centre, where they had the opportunity to try making shadow puppets themselves.

Prachyakorn Chaiyakot, vice-president of the Thai Responsible Tourism Association, says the TRTA was formed in 2017 by a group of travel agents interested in responsible tourism. The association has 15 members across the country.

“Our association is set to run business with true responsibility,” Mr Prachyakorn says. “Our aim is to bring tourists into local communities and generate income for local people, preserve the environment and drive community sustainability.”

The association says it will continue to work with tour operators in domestic and overseas markets to boost responsible tourism.

In the long term, the association hopes to promote tourist attractions in hundreds of districts across the country and aims to have at least one member per province.

 

Market research needed

 

 

Supawadee Photiyarach, director of the targeted research division at the Thailand Research Fund, says the fund will help provide market research, especially for product development in secondary provinces to serve niche markets, including blind and visually impaired people.

“In order to ensure that locals earn a greater share of the profit from tourism and tourists can experience rare products, market research is necessary,” Ms Supawadee says.

She says many local products and activities can be developed and promoted to be new attractions not only for disabled or blind people, but for everyone.

“Thailand is one of the most-visited countries in the world,” she says. “This is our opportunity to offer a wide range of products to serve different tourist groups.”

Tourism is a key engine for the Thai economy. The industry has expanded substantially over the past five years and makes up 13% of Thailand’s GDP in 2017, according to research published by the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

Thailand ranks third in revenue from tourism globally, and the country is in ninth place for foreign tourist arrivals, according to the SET.

Among SET-listed companies in the hospitality sector, it was found that Airports of Thailand Plc had the highest market capitalisation among globally listed companies operating airports, while Minor International Plc’s market capitalisation ranked 28th for companies operating hotel and restaurant businesses worldwide.

SET-listed companies classified in the tourism-linked sector had a market capitalisation of 16% of the bourse’s total market capitalisation at the end of 2017.

 

Article written by Suchat Sritama

https://m.bangkokpost.com/business/news/1418386/bringing-sights-to-the-blind

Photos by Nutty’s Adventures

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

For this week’s blog, we have asked VICTA to tell us about their latest trip with SEABLE, when we explored the REAL Cyprus. Here’s the account of their experience:

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

 

For VICTA’s first international trip of 2017 we travelled to the beautiful island of Cyprus.  This was a dual location trip, with the first half spent on the coast in Paphos and the second half in the Troodos mountain range.

 

After a very early morning and a long day travelling, our group were thrilled to spend a relaxing afternoon by the pool in the sun. This was a great chance for the group to carry on getting to know each other, and catch up with old friends. In the evening we went out for a traditional meze style dinner. We were able to sample all the classic Cypriot dishes, including halloumi, lamb stews and moussaka.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Trying our hands at traditional pottery making

 

 

For our first full day in Cyprus, we visited ‘The Place’, a traditional Cypriot art and craft workshop. Here, we are able to meet some local crafters and have a look at what they produce. One item of particular interest was a traditional weaving loom. Participants were able to feel the thread and the shape and size of the loom, to get an idea of how weaved items are created.

 

After exploring the workshop, we were able to have a go at making our own mosaic fridge magnets. This was a really fun activity and resulted in a very personal memento of the trip. Then it was time to meet the potter’s wheel! This was a first for most of the group, and resulted in a lot of laughter and some very nice looking pots. The afternoon provided more opportunities for leisurely Cypriot gastronomic delights, and soaking up the lovely Mediterranean sunshine.

 

For our last day in Paphos we visited the Paphos Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We spent several hours exploring the site, learning about the Roman Mosaics and remains of Roman Villas. One member of the group even did a short performance for us in the ancient Odeon! After a delicious lunch (seafood of course), we enjoyed a wonder around the old harbour and had a chance to do some souvenir shopping.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Paphos Archaeological Park

 

On Saturday we set off for Troodos, calling in at a winery, where it would have been rude to turn down the complimentary Commandaria tasting. After lunch, we went for an energetic hike through the beautiful Troodos mountain range, experiencing new sights, smells and sounds.

 

VICTA discover the REAL Cyprus

Hiking high in the Troodos Mountains

 

The following morning we set off to Troodos Botanical Gardens to learn more about the geographical significance of the area. There were plenty more plants to feel and smell, and it made for an interesting comparison to botanic gardens in the UK. In the afternoon we visited a rose factory, and discovered more uses for rose oil than we could have ever imagined! This of course led on to another retail therapy opportunity.

 

All too soon the trip was over and it was time to go home. For half of the group this was their first VICTA international, and for one of those it was his first time ever on an aeroplane! It was great to explore this fabulous country together, and to witness old connections being strengthened, and new friendships being created. Not long until we get to do it all over again in Sicily!

 

By Felicity Poulton
Lead Activities Coordinator VICTA

 

 

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.

 

 

When Seable took on Thailand – Accessible Holidays for Blind and Visually Impaired – Part 2

Seable has been on an incredibly exciting mission for the last 3 weeks to our new destination; Thailand.

The team from Seable that went on this journey was myself Emma, Holiday Tailoress and CEO Damiano La Rocca.  We set out on this trip with one mission…..TO COME BACK WITH AN EXCITING ACCESSIBLE HOLIDAY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO THE BLIND AND VISUALLY IMPAIRED.  I, myself could not wait to get started and show all that we had to offer upon our return.

So here is the second part of our trip to Thailand:

Day 4

 

We woke at 6am to go a see a celebration with the monks in the local temple.  This was a very spiritual experience and something that I felt very lucky to be part of. We then went back to the home stay to have breakfast. After breakfast, we got picked up outside the house by a longtail boat and went on a boat cruise to the Island City of Ayutthaya.  The boat was great to feel the breeze and splashes of water on such a hot day and to also get to see the different houses all along the riverside.  After 30-minute boat trip we arrive at our day room, dropped our bags off and headed out on a cycling tour of the Historical Park.  Trust me when I say I was slightly anxious about cycling in 35 degrees but I am so glad that I did it.  It was such a great way to get to visit all the sights around the city.

 

 

After freshening up back in the day room and picked up our bags we headed to the train station-picking up food from the street stalls on the way-we waited for our overnight train to Chiang Mai.  This is where Nun said her goodbyes and saw us off on the train for our 13-hour journey.  She was a fantastic tour guide with great knowledge of the city and we thoroughly enjoyed having her as our tour guide.

 

I have never been on an overnight train before and was unsure as to what to expect but it over exceeded my expectations.  It was new and very clean, with surprisingly comfy beds. I had a great night’s sleep.

 

 

Day 5

 

Arriving in Chiang Mai at half 7 in the morning we were greeted by our next tour guide Jimi.  He then drove us for 3 and half hours to Chiang Khum, stopping on the way to visit local sites.  We went to Amphoe Wang Nuea waterfall and the local hot springs, Mae Kahjan Geyser.  When we arrived at Chiang Khum, went to the local guesthouse where we would be staying that evening, dropped our bags off and headed out to go and visit the local temple and experience the ‘Tai Lue’ culture and way of life.

 

That evening we went to a local’s home and had a traditional ‘kantok’ dinner which is a traditional northern dinner at Baan Tha Sop Van.

 

 

Day 6

 

We woke at 6am and walked into the local village to go and see how the villages work in the morning.  We got to help a woman make her local rice crackers, which I thoroughly enjoyed-albeit I was not very good at it but she was so friendly and smiled through the whole experience. We then walked through the rest of the little village and visited a small local market where we tried sticky rice that had been cooked in bamboo and was Damiano’s favourite from then on.

 

Back at the local guesthouse we had a ‘American breakfast’ and then went back to the house where we had the meal the evening before.  She had invited us back as she asked if she could dress us up in traditional clothing for the ‘Tai Lue’ culture.  This will be something that I will never forget-we were dresses up in the beautiful clothing and I also got some fantastic jewellery place d on me, which was very exciting.  Many locals were there and it then felt like a photo shoot, with us standing, sitting to then us sitting on the bed to being in the kitchen pretending to cook dinner.  Not only was it something that was a once in a life time experience but it was funny.  I felt incredibly lucky to be stood there and with the opportunity we were given.

 

Once we were changed we went downstairs of this wonderful home and they did weaving to make clothing and bags plus much more.  So we got the chance to see how they made the clothes that we had the opportunity to try on.

 

 

Saying good bye to the wonderful people we got in the car and drove up into the mountains to go and visit the Buddha images carved into the cliffs at a cave temple.  This was fantastic and would be brilliant for our clients as it was all touchable and very tactile.

 

We drove to our next home for the evening in Baan Dok Bua, which was a very modern homestay owned by a doctor and a nurse from the local hospital.  They were wonderful friendly people who made us feel right at home.  We quickly got freshened up and changed ready to go on a sunset Gondola cruise on Payao Lake.

 

 

Day 7

 

We woke early for a walk around the local village and we saw a 500 year old tree, which is very special to the village.  After our walk we had breakfast and then set off for a tractor tour of the community and it was a great way for us to see how the village has come to win national awards for the best self-sufficient village economy.  It was clear to see why, from the farmer fields, a family that produced gas from the rice shells and basket weaving.  With the tractor, they then took us up into the mountain and we went on a jungle walk.  The noises from all the insects was incredibly loud.  With hundreds of insects all around, it was a moment where you must take a minute to realise where you are and take it all in.  It was so dense and green and I loved every second.  It would also be such an amazing thing or our clients as the noises of the jungle were just incredible.

 

We had a picnic in the forest which was made by one of the locals for us and we instantly added it onto the list of things for our clients to do.  Fantastic. We then slowly made our way back to the homestay where we cooked dinner together with the owners.  She gave us a basket and some scissors and took her into her garden, where we picked some vegetables and used then in our dinner.  It was so fresh and tasty and amazing to see how they are so self-sufficient.  We had and early night as the next day we were to make our way back to Chiang Mai.

 

 

To be continued…..

For any other travel advice or guidance, feel free to contact us and to learn more about our active accessible holidays, click here.